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[8. Conclusion of the Epistle ().
(a) To unity, with especial mention of Euodia, Syntyche, and others ().
(b) To joy, confident in the power of prayer, and resting in the peace of God ().
(c) To conformity with all that is good after the apostolic model ().
THANKS FOR THE PHILIPPIAN OFFERINGS.
(a) Declaration that he could not claim them of necessity ().
(b) Grateful remembrance of their former liberality ().
(c) Blessing on their present sacrifice offered through him to God ().
GREETING AND BLESSING ().]
(1) Therefore.—By this word, just as at the conclusion of the description of the “depth of the riches of the wisdom of God” (in ), or of the glorious climax of the doctrine of the resurrection (in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57), St. Paul makes the vision of future glory to be an inspiring force, giving life to the sober, practical duties of the present time. For the faith, which is the root of good works, is not only “the evidence of things not seen,” although already existing as spiritual realities, but also “the substantiation of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1).
Dearly beloved and longed for . . .—The peculiar affectionateness of this verse is notable. It is curiously coincident with the words addressed years before to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:19), “What is our hope and joy and crown of rejoicing? Are not ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .? Ye are our glory and our joy.” But it has just the addition natural to the yearnings of captivity: they are “longed for,” and that (see Philippians 1:8) “in the heart of Jesus Christ.” The “crown” is here the garland, the sign of victory in the apostolic race and struggle of which he had spoken above (Philippians 3:12-14). The crown of glory, of righteousness, and of life, is usually described as future (see 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10), and this is the case in the Thessalonian Epistle. Here, without excluding that completer sense, the reference is also to the present. The Philippians are St. Paul’s crown, as the Corinthians are his “seal” (1 Corinthians 9:2)—at once the proof of His apostolic mission and the reward of his apostolic labour. In both aspects the present is the earnest of the future.
(2) Euodias.—The name should be Euodia, as is seen by Philippians 4:3. Of Euodia and Syntyche nothing is known. Many strange attempts have been made to find symbolism in these names. Evidently they were women of note, leaders at Philippi, where, we may remember, the gospel was first preached to women (Acts 16:13), and the church first formed in a woman’s house (Acts 16:14; Acts 16:40). We may note the many female names—Phœbe, Priscilla, Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Julia, the mother of Rufus, the sister of Nereus—in the long list of greetings to the Church of Rome (Romans 16).
(3) I intreat.—This rendering is too strong. It is, I ask, or request. The word means properly, to ask a question; secondarily, to make a request on equal terms, as of right. Hence never used (except, perhaps, in 1 John 5:16) of prayer from us to God.
True yokefellow,—This obscure phrase has greatly exercised conjecture. (1) It is curious historically to note the opinion, as old as Clement of Alexandria, that St. Paul referred to his own wife; but the opinion is clearly untenable in the face of 1 Corinthians 7:8; 1 Corinthians 9:5. (2) The word is never elsewhere applied by St. Paul to a fellow-Christian, and must denote some peculiar fellowship. Many guesses as to its meaning have been made. Some refer it to St. Luke, who seems to be in the history closely connected with Philippi; others to Lydia, the first-fruits of the gospel in that city. Perhaps the most likely supposition is that it may refer to Epaphroditus, the bearer, perhaps the amanuensis, of the Epistle, who had certainly come to help St. Paul to bear his yoke of suffering, and in whose case the sudden address in the second person would cause no ambiguity. (3) But a not improbable conjecture is that the word is a proper name—“Syzygus”—a’name, it is true, not actually known—and that the word “true” (properly, genuine) means “Syzygus, rightly so-called.” It is obvious to compare the play on the name “Onesimus,” in Phlippians 1:11.
Those women . . .—It should be, help them (Euodia and Syntyche), inasmuch as they laboured with me. The word “laboured” signifies “joined with me in my struggle,” and probably refers to something more than ordinary labour, in the critical times of suffering at Philippi.
Clement.—From the time of Origen downwards this Clement has been identified with the famous Clement, bishop of Rome, and author of the well-known Epistle to the Church at Corinth, of whom Irenæus expressly says that he had seen and been in company with “the blessed Apostles,” and who in his Epistle refers emphatically to the examples both of St. Peter and St. Paul, as belonging to the times “very near at hand;” but dwells especially on St. Paul, “as seven times a prisoner in chains, exiled, stoned,” “a herald of the gospel in the East and the West,” “a teacher of righteousness to the whole world,” and one who “penetrated to the farthest border of the West.” (See his Epistle, Php. 5)
The fact that he was at this time working at Philippi—considering that Philippi, as a Roman colony, was virtually a part of Rome—is no objection to this identification; nor is the chronology decisive against it, though it would make Clement an old man when he wrote his Epistle. The identification may stand as not improbable, while the commonness of the name Clemens makes it far from certain.
Whose names are in the book of life.—For “the Book of Life,” see Daniel 12:1; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 21:27. From that Book the name may be blotted out now (Revelation 3:5; comp. Exodus 32:33) till the end fixes it for ever. There is (as has been always noticed) a peculiar beauty in the allusion here. The Apostle does not mention his fellow-labourers by name, but it matters not; the names are written before God in the Book of Life. If they continue in His service, those names shall shine out hereafter, when the great names of the earth fade into nothingness.
(4) Rejoice in the Lord . . . and again I say, Rejoice.—The original word is the word always used in classical Greek (see the corresponding word in Latin) for “farewell” (i.e., “Joy be with you!”), and this verse is obviously a resumption of Philippians 3:1, after the digression of warning. But the emphasis laid on it here, coupled with the constant references to joy in the Epistle, show that St. Paul designed to call attention to its strict meaning, and to enforce, again and again, the Christian duty of joy. It is, of course, a “joy in the Lord:” for only in the Lord is joy possible to any thoughtful mind or feeling heart in such a world as this.
(4-7) St. Paul returns once more to the exhortation to joy so characteristic of this Epistle. But it is a joy in the sense of the Lord’s being at hand. Hence it turns at once to thanksgiving and prayer, and finally is calmed and deepened into peace.
(5) Your moderation.—The word here rendered “moderation,” properly denotes a sense of what is seemly, or equitable, as distinct from what is required by strict duty or formal law. Such distinction the world recognises when it speaks of what is enjoined, not so much by duty as by “good taste, or “right feeling,” or (with some peculiarity of application) by “chivalrous” feeling, or the “spirit of a gentleman.” Here it denotes the general sense of what is seemly in a Christian tone of character. In 2 Corinthians 10:1 (where it is translated “gentleness”) it is ascribed emphatically to our Lord Himself. But the usage of the New Testament appropriates it especially to the “sweet reasonableness” which “gentleness” may well designate. Thus, in Acts 24:4 it clearly signifies patience, or forbearance; in 2 Corinthians 10:1 it is associated with meekness; in 1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 3:2, with peaceableness; in 1 Peter 2:8, with kindness; in James 3:17 the word “gentle” is placed between “peaceable” and “easy to be entreated” (or rather, persuaded). This spirit is, no doubt, “moderation;” but it is something more. It may refer here both to the exhortation to unity in Philippians 4:1-3, and to the exhortation to joy immediately preceding. It would help the one and chasten the other.
The Lord is at hand.—A translation of the Syriac “Maran-atha” of 1 Corinthians 16:22—obviously a Christian watchword, probably referring to the Second Advent as near at hand; although, of course, not excluding the larger idea of that presence of Christ in His Church of which that Second Advent is the consummation.
(6) Be careful for nothing.—An exact repetition of our Lord’s command, “Take no thought” (in Matthew 6:25; Matthew 6:34). The prohibition is of that painful anxiety which is inevitable in all who feel themselves alone in mere self-dependence amidst the difficulties and dangers of life. It is possible to sink below this anxiety in mere levity and thoughtlessness; it is possible to rise above it by “casting our care on Him who careth for us,” and knowing that we are simply “fellow-workers with Him” (1 Peter 5:7; 2 Corinthians 6:1). Hence the Apostle passes on at once to speak of the trustfulness of prayer.
Prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.—By “prayer” is meant worship generally, so called (as in common parlance now) because in this state of imperfection prayer must be its leading element, as praise will be in the perfection of the future. (See Acts 2:42, where “the prayers” are among the essential marks of church membership.) To this general word is subjoined the distinction of the two great elements of worship, “supplication with thanksgiving.” The very expression, however, shows that, though distinct, they are inseparable. (See Ephesians 6:18, and Note there.) Both words “prayer” and “supplication” have the article in the original, and may probably refer to the recognised worship of the Church.
(7) The peace of God—i.e. (like the “righteousness of God,” “the life of God”), the peace which God gives to every soul which rests on Him in prayer. It is peace—the sense of unity in the largest sense—the “peace on earth” proclaimed at our Lord’s birth, left as His last legacy to His disciples, and pronounced at His first coming back to them from the grave (Luke 2:14; John 14:27). Hence it includes peace with God, peace with men, peace with self. It keeps—that is, watches over with the watchfulness that “neither slumbers nor sleeps”—both “the hearts and minds” (or, more properly, the souls and the thoughts formed in them), guarding our whole spiritual action, both in its source and its developments. It is “through Christ Jesus,” for “He is our peace (Ephesians 2:14), as “making all one,” and “reconciling all to God.” The comprehensiveness and beauty of the passage has naturally made it (with the characteristic change from the “shall” of promise to the “may” of benediction) the closing blessing of our most solemn church service of “Holy Communion” with God and man.
(8) True . . . honest (better, venerable; see margin).—Truth is the inherent likeness to God, who is Truth. Whatever is true in itself is also “venerable”—i.e., as the original word, usually rendered “grave” (as in 1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Timothy 3:11; Titus 2:2) etymologically signifies, it claims a share of the reverence due primarily to God; it has in it a certain majesty commanding worship.
Just . . . pure.—“Just” is (as St. Paul’s habitual usage of “justify” shows) righteous in act and word, as tested by the declared will of man or God. “Pure” is righteous in essence, in the thought, which cannot be thus tested—showing itself in what is just and indeed perfected thereby, but in itself something holier still.
Lovely . . . of good report.—Both words are peculiar to this passage: in both we pass from truth and righteousness to love. “Lovely” is that which deserves love. The phrase “of good report” represents a Greek word which is commonly used for “fair-sounding,” or “auspicious” and “acceptable.” It is therefore the outward expression of what is “lovely,” winning the acceptance which loveliness deserves.
If there be any virtue, and . . . praise.—Still there is the same antithesis—“virtue” is the inherent quality; “praise” is virtue’s due. But the word “virtue,” so frequent in human morality, is hardly ever used in Scripture. In fact, the only other case of application to man is in 2 Peter 1:5, where it stands between “faith” and “knowledge,” and seems specially to signify the energy of practice by which faith grows into knowledge. The reason of this is clear. To the very name of “virtue” clings the idea of self-reliance—such self-reliance as the Stoic philosophy (then the only dominant system of Roman opinion which had any nobleness in it) made its essential characteristic; and that idea is, of course, foreign to the whole conception of Christian morality. The occurrence, therefore, here of an appeal to “virtue” and to “praise” seems strange. We notice, however, that it is introduced by a new phrase of mere hypothesis (“if there be,” &c.), which may be taken to mark it as an outlying consideration, occupying a less firm and important ground. Probably, therefore, it is an appeal to the lower conceptions of the society, so characteristically Roman, around them: “Nay, even if there be any truth in the virtue and praise of mere human morality,” &c.
(8, 9) Here, repeating the word “Finally,” the Apostle again draws to a conclusion, in a comprehensive exhortation to stand fast in all that is good on the foundation which he had laid in the name of Christ. The exhortation is marked by the reiteration of affectionate earnestness, in which, however, we may (as always) trace an underlying method. In each pair of epithets there seems to be reference both to an inner reality and to the outward development, by which it is at once manifested and perfected. In both St. Paul would have them grow up to perfection.
(9) Ye have both learned, and received.—The reference is here to St. Paul’s teaching, which he “delivered” to them (see ; Galatians 1:12) as a message, “received” by revelation of God, and which they “received” accordingly.
Heard, and seen in me.—Here the reference is to his example, as subsidiary to his teaching and confirmatory of its truth.
The God of peace.—The inversion (compared with Philippians 4:7) is striking. To have the “peace of God” with us is much; to have “the God of Peace” Himself with us is more. With this promise the Letter itself ends. What follows is but postscript.
(10) Now at the last.—There is in these words an expression of some hitherto disappointed expectation, not wholly unlike the stronger expression of wounded feeling in ; 2 Timothy 4:16. At Cæsarea St. Paul would have been necessarily cut off from the European churches; at Rome, the metropolis of universal concourse, he may have expected some earlier communication. But, fearing to wound the Philippians by even the semblance of reproof, in their case undeserved, he adds at once, “In which ye were also careful (before), but ye lacked opportunity.”. Epaphroditus would seem to have arrived early, almost as soon as St. Paul’s arrival at Rome gave them the opportunity which they previously lacked.
(10-20) These verses form a singularly graceful and dignified postscript, acknowledging the offerings of the Philippians sent by Epaphroditus, in a tone mingling apostolic commendation and blessing with a true brotherly thankfulness.
(11) I have learned.—The “I” is here emphatic. There is evident reference to the habit peculiar to St. Paul, and made by him his especial “glory” (1 Corinthians 9:14), of refusing that maintenance from the churches which was his of right. Compare his words to the Ephesian presbyters, “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities” (Acts 20:33-34).
Content.—The word (like the corresponding substantive in 2 Corinthians 9:8; 1 Timothy 6:6) properly means, self-sufficing. Such self-sufficiency was the especial characteristic claimed by the Stoics for the ideal wise man of their philosophy—a characteristic full of nobleness, so far as it involved the sitting loose to all the things of the world, but inhuman in relation to human affections, and virtually atheistic if it described the attitude of the soul towards the Supreme Power. Only in the first relation does St. Paul claim it here. It is difficult not to suppose that he does so with some reference to a philosophy so essentially Roman in practical development.
(12) Every where and in all things.—The original has no such distinction of the two words. It is, in all and everything; in life as a whole, and in all its separate incidents.
I am instructed.—The word again is a peculiar and almost technical word. It is, I have been instructed; I have learnt the secret—a phrase properly applied to men admitted into such mysteries as the Eleusinian, enshrining a secret unknown except to the initiated; secondarily, as the context would seem to suggest, to those who entered the inner circle of an exclusive philosophy, learning there what the common herd could neither understand nor care for. A Stoic might well have used these words. There is even a touch of the Stoical contempt in the word “to be full,” which properly applies to cattle, though frequently used of men in the New Testament. Perhaps, like all ascetics, they mostly knew how “to suffer need,” better than how “to abound.” But a Marcus Aurelius might have boldly claimed the knowledge of both.
(13) I can do all things.—Properly, I have strength in all things, rather (according to the context) to bear than to do. But the universal extension of the maxim beyond the immediate occasion and context is not inadmissible. It represents the ultimate and ideal consciousness of the Christian. The first thing needful is to throw off mere self-sufficiency, to know our weakness and sin, and accept the salvation of God’s free grace in Christ; the next, to find the “strength made perfect in weakness,” and in that to be strong.
Through Christ which strengtheneth me.—The word “Christ” is not found in the best MSS.; it is a gloss, perhaps suggested by 1 Timothy 1:12, where we have exactly the same phrase, “Christ Jesus, our Lord, who hath enabled me.” The same word is used in Ephesians 6:10, “Be strong (strengthened within) in the Lord.” In this sentence we have the world-wide distinction between the Stoic and the Christian. Each teaches respect for the higher humanity in the soul; but to the one that humanity is our own, to the other it is “the Christ within,” dwelling in the heart, regenerating and conforming it to Himself. The words of St. Paul are but a practical corollary to the higher truth (comp. Philippians 1:21) “To me to live is Christ.” In this consciousness alone is any thoughtful teaching of “self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-distrust,” intelligible and coherent.
(14) Ye have well done.—Properly, Ye did well, in sending the offerings. In this, says St. Paul, they “did communicate with his affliction,” that is (see Philippians 1:7), they made it their own, helping him to bear it, by sympathy and sacrifice for his sake. The whole is an illustration of his own words (Acts 20:35), “It is blessed to receive” what is lovingly given; but it is “rather blessed to give.” He had the lower blessedness, they the higher; and he rejoiced that it was so.
(15) Now ye Philippians know also.—Properly, But ye also yourselves know. The mention of the proper name is always emphatic (comp. 2 Corinthians 6:11); here it evidently marks the dignity of their exclusive position of benefaction.
In the beginning of the gospel.—At the beginning (that is) of the gospel to them and their sister churches in Macedonia. The time referred to is his leaving Macedonia for Athens and Corinth (Acts 17:14). At Corinth we know that he received offerings from Macedonia: “That which was lacking to me the brethren who came (when they came) from Macedonia supplied” (2 Corinthians 11:9). His language to the Thessalonian Church (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8) precludes all idea that any part of this contribution was from Thessalonica; we learn here that it was from no other Church than Philippi. It is probably to this gift that reference is made; though it is of course possible that some contribution may have reached him at the time of his actual departure in haste after the persecution at Berœa.
Communicated with me as concerning . . .—The metaphor here is drawn from commercial transaction. Literally the passage runs, had dealings with me on account of giving and receiving; “opened (so to speak) an account with me,” not of debit and credit, but “of free giving and receiving.” There is possibly an allusion (as Chrysostom suggests) to the idea embodied in 1 Corinthians 9:11, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things?” (Comp. Romans 15:27.) In the one respect he had all to give, and they to receive; in the other the relations were reversed. But if there be such allusion, it is kept in the background. The prominent idea is of the Philippians, and of them alone, as givers.
(16) Even in Thessalonica.—Not only after he left Macedonia, but even before that time, when he had just passed from Philippi to Thessalonica. At Thessalonica, as at Corinth—both very rich and luxurious communities—he refused maintenance, and lived mainly by the labour of his own hands (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8). But it appears from this passage that even then he received “once and again” (that is, occasionally, “once or twice”) some aid from Philippi “to supply his need”—that is (as in all right exercise of liberality), to supplement, and not to supersede, his own resources.
(17) Fruit that may abound (rather, abounds) to your account.—The metaphor is still kept, hardly disturbed by the introduction of the word “fruit,” since this is so constantly used in the sense of “recompense” that it readily lends itself to pecuniary associations. There is, says St. Paul, “the fruit” of reward, which “is over” as a surplus, or rather a balance, “placed to their account.” Their gift is a token of love and gratitude to him; but, as Christian almsgiving, it is something more, and what that something more is will be seen hereafter, when all accounts shall be finally taken. The idea is not unlike that of Proverbs 19:17, “He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and behold, what he layeth out it shall be paid him again.”
(18) I have all, and abound.—The original is stronger, I have all to the full (as in Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16), and more than to the full. “I have all, and more than all, I need.” Yet not content with this, he adds, “I am full,” thoroughly complete in all things. The exuberance of courtesy and gratitude is strongly marked.
An odour of a sweet smell.—See Ephesians 5:2, and Note there. Here St. Paul adds at once an explanation of the meaning of this metaphorical phrase, in the words, “a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.” Comp. Romans 12:2, “a sacrifice holy, acceptable to God.” The word “sacrifice” used in both cases is the one which properly signifies a “bloody sacrifice,” and in relation to such sacrifices the idea of propitiation naturally occurs to our minds; since we know that “without shedding of blood is no remission.” But it is clear that here it belongs to the class of Eucharistic or free-will offerings; for it is simply an offering made freely, in grateful love to God and man; and exactly in this sense we find, in Hebrews 13:16 (in close connection with “we have an altar”), “To do good, and to communicate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” In the Epistle to the Romans it is, on the other hand, used for that which the burnt offering typified—the absolute self-dedication of the sacrificer, body and soul, to God. (See Note on Romans 12:2.) To 1 Peter 2:5, where all Christians are called “a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God in Jesus Christ,” both senses may be fairly applied. It may be noted that most superstitions in the Church as to the spiritual value of either of these forms of sacrifice, have come from confusion between them and the true or propitiatory sacrifice.
(19) My God.—The expression is emphatic. St. Paul had accepted the offerings as made, not to himself, but to the God whose minister he was. Hence he adds, “my God”—the God, whom ye serve in serving me.
All your need.—Properly, every need of yours, spiritual and temporal.
In glory.—We have already noticed the constant reference to “glory” in the Epistles of the Captivity. Where the word relates to God in Himself, His “glory” is His true nature as manifested to His creatures; where it refers to man, “glory” is the perfection of man’s nature in the communion with God in Heaven. Here the latter sense is obviously to be taken. The “supplying of every need out of the riches” of God’s love can only have its consummation in the “glory” of the future. That it is “in Christ Jesus” is a matter of course; for He is to “change even our body of humiliation to be fashioned like unto the body of His glory” (Philippians 3:21).
(20) Now unto God and our Father . . .—The doxology of this verse seems suggested by the very use of “glory” in the previous verse. “Glory” may be derivatively the privilege of man; but “the glory” (for the original has the article here)—the essential and incommunicable glory—must be ascribed to God alone. Whether we supply here the word “is” or “be” matters not. His it is; to Him let it be ascribed. Such doxologies are common with St. Paul (see Romans 16:27; Galatians 1:5; Ephesians 3:21; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 4:18); always with the addition of “for ever and ever,” or literally, for the ages of the ages, throughout every age till time shall be no more; always in close connection with some declaration, not so much of the majesty, as of the wisdom, and still more the goodness, of the Father.
contain the salutation and blessing. The salutation is very brief, as compared, for example, with the corresponding passage in the Colossian Epistle (Philippians 4:10-15), naming none, either of those saluted or those joining with St. Paul in the salutation. The omission in the latter case may perhaps be accounted for by the words above (Philippians 2:20-21), in which, with the single exception of Timotheus, St. Paul declares dissatisfaction with those near him, because “all seek their own, and not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.
(21) The brethren, which are with me.—The list of those who were with St. Paul at one time or another during his imprisonment may be gathered from the Epistles to the Colossians () and Phlippians (Philippians 1:23-24); where see Notes. How many of these where with him at this particular time we cannot tell. They are distinguished from “all the saints”—the body of the Church in general.
(22) of Cæsar’s household.—The “household of Cæsar” included a multitude of persons of all ages and ranks and occupations. Dr. Lightfoot, in a very interesting excursus on this verse, remarking that these Christians of Cæsar’s household are alluded to as if well known to the Philippians, has examined the various names mentioned in Romans 16. (three years before this time), and finds many of them identical with names actually found in sepulchral inscriptions, as belonging to members of the “domus Augusta,” or imperial household. These were earlier converts; but, wherever St. Paul’s prison was, he can hardly have failed to gain through the prætorians some communication with the household of the emperor, whose body-guard they were; and the allusion here seems to show that for some reason these Christians of Caesar’s household were in an especial familiarity of intercourse with him. Probably, therefore, he had added from that household new converts to Christ; and he mentions this here, as he had before spoken of his bonds being made manifest in the “prætorium” (Philippians 1:13), in order to show the Philippians that his very imprisonment had given special opportunity for the spread of the gospel.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Philippians 4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension