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Blessings Surely Belonging to Christians
The "ifs" of Php_2:1 were not meant to question, but to be a plain statement of fact. The word "since" might better suggest the meaning to modern readers. Paul is listing things which should cause Christians to be united. First, there is a consolation in Christ. Literally, Vine says the word means "a calling to one's side". Christ calls us to come to his side by doing his will. We are thereby released from our burden of sin. We can look forward to entering the kingdom of heaven at his side as well ( Mat_11:28-30 ; Mat_7:21-23 ). Also, Christ is at our side to plead our case, which is the meaning of the word "advocate" in 1Jn_2:1 .
Second, God has comforted us lovingly in our time of affliction. Paul described God as the "God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God" ( 2Co_3:3-7 ). Third, we have the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The idea is that we are in partnership with the Spirit ( Act_5:32 ). Our mind becomes like His through reading the word. Fourth, there is the tender mercy and compassion God has for us. The King James Version has "if any bowels and mercies." The Greek word for bowels was their expression for the seat of the emotions, which would be comparable to our word heart. Certainly, God gave man the one gift that touched the deepest part of his emotions. Jesus told Nicodemus, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" ( Joh_3:16 ). Because God had such mercy and compassion, we ought to have the same for our fellow Christians.
Completing Paul's Joy Through Unity
The Philippian church had already given Paul much cause for rejoicing ( Php_1:4 ; Php_4:1 ). He pleaded with them to complete his joy by being united in thought, love, work and purpose. Even elders are not to be self-willed ( Tit_1:7 ). Christians agree in Biblical principle. That agreement can form the basis of a working relationship,which would produce a likemindedness ( Php_2:2 ).
To avoid division, they would have to avoid selfish ambition, or the promotion of a party spirit for personal gain (1:16; 3Jn_1:9-11 ). Conceit is very similar to selfish ambition. It is a desire to have self lifted into a high, honored position in men's eyes. In place of these things, we should be humble, which is another way of saying lowliness of mind ( 1Pe_5:6 ). We should learn to appreciate, even look for, the good qualities of others. We should always treat the other man as one who is worthy of our service ( Php_2:3 ).
Consideration for others' needs, in the Christian life, must come before self. As Paul told the Roman brethren, "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another" ( Rom_12:10 ; Joh_13:34-35 ; 1Jn_3:10 -ll, 18). Of course, this is not the interest shown by a busybody, but the genuine concern of one who would help another bear his burdens ( Php_2:4 ; Gal_6:2 ).
The Mind of Christ
In continuing the ideas of unity and the consideration of others which promotes it, Paul refers to Christ. He wanted the Philippians to have the same disposition, or attitude as Christ. To live like Christ, one must think like Christ thought and live accordingly ( 1Pe_2:21 .) Before Christ came to earth, he existed as the very essence of God. We might say it was his nature to be God. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation" ( Col_1:15 ; Heb_1:3 ; Joh_5:17-18 ; Joh_1:1-3 ). When Paul describes our Lord as the firstborn, in this passage, he means the preeminent one. Jesus did not exploit, or hold on to at all cost, his equality with God, but was willing to give it up for the sake of man and in obedience to God ( Php_2:5-6 ).
To do that, he had to give up the power, glory and worship which belonged to him as God. The American Standard Version says he "emptied" himself. The idea is that he sacrificed his glory and took the nature of man. John told the early church, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" ( Joh_1:1 ; Joh_1:14 ; Joh_17:5 ; 2Co_8:9 ). To come to earth as a man, Christ truly had to empty himself of all the splendor of the Godhead.
There are two senses in which Christ took the form of a servant. First, man was created as a servant. His whole existence is fulfilled in obedient service to God ( Ecc_12:13 ). When Jesus took man's likeness, he took the form of a servant. Second, he came to serve man, not be served ( Joh_13:1-17 ; Luk_22:24-27 ; Mark 9:35; 10:43-35 ). As God, he did not have to die, but he chose to lay down his life for our sakes ( Php_2:7-8 ; Joh_10:17-18 ; Heb_2:14-15 ). He did it because of the joy that would result from his sacrifice, despite having to suffer the worst death known ( Heb_12:2 ; Deu_21:22-23 ; Gal_3:13 ). To come to earth, Jesus gave up the form that naturally accrues to being God and took the figure of a man ( Joh_4:24 ; Luk_24:39 ). Jesus is now glorified man, which we hope to be one day ( 1Jn_3:2 ).
God Has Exalted Christ
Jesus prayed just before his death that God would glorify him again as he had been glorified before the world was ( Joh_17:5 ). Because Jesus lowered himself to lift man up, God exalted him more than ever before ( Rom_1:3-4 ; Mat_28:18 ). Remember, Jesus taught that the man who humbled himself would be exalted ( Mat_23:12 ; Luk_14:11 ; Luk_18:14 ). The "name" God gave Jesus would appear to be that of Lord. Man had lowered, or humiliated, Christ as much as he could, but God raised him up to be master of all who would be saved ( Php_2:9 ; Joh_14:6 ; Act_2:32-36 ; Eph_1:22-23 ; 1Ti_2:5 ).
Isa_45:23 says every knee will bow to God. Clearly then, Paul is ascribing deity to Jesus when he says every knee will bow at the sound of his name ( Php_2:10-11 ). We can recognize Jesus now and submit to him, ( Rom_10:9-10 ; Mat_10:32-33 ), thereby becoming one God will confess in heaven. Or, we can wait and acknowledge him as the conquering Lord who has come to reclaim his own. Thus, we would make ourselves one of his enemies who will be made subject to him at the time of his second coming ( 1Co_15:24-26 ). The choice of the time when we will confess his Lordship is left up to us. In either event, we should remember when man confesses Jesus as Lord, God is glorified ( Joh_17:1 ).
The Importance of Obedience
As we saw in the last lesson, Christ's life stands as the greatest example of obedience. Because of Christ's example, Paul challenged the Philippian Christians to obey. The writer of Hebrews said, "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" ( Heb_5:8-9 ). Paul urged the brethren to have such obedience as a constant goal in their lives.
Christ is going to punish those who do not keep on obeying the gospel ( 2Th_1:7-9 ). Those in the church at Philippi had started well on the road of obedience with Paul present. In this letter, he expresses a desire for them to continue even in his absence. "Work out" carries with it the thought of working to full completion. It is like working out a math problem. In other words, do not stop until you have attained the final goal of salvation. It is evident the inspired apostle believed in individual accountability.
In fact, Paul wrote of his concern for his own salvation. "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" ( 1Co_9:27 ). Similarly, the Hebrew brethren were warned to be aware of the danger of drifting ( Heb_2:1-4 ). No wonder Paul told those at Philippi they ought to hold God in awe and tremble at the possibility of failing to do his will ( Php_2:12 ; Isa_66:2 ). "Therefore let him who thinks he stans take heed lest he fall" ( 1Co_10:12 ).
God Works In Christians
When Christians submit their lives to God's will, it can be said that God works in them ( Php_2:13 ). The Almighty works in them through his great plan for man's salvation. "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth" ( 2Th_2:13 ). God also works in Christians as they live for Christ each day. Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" ( Gal_2:20 ).
The follower of Christ needs to carry out his works for God without complaint or question. To do otherwise is to risk giving others grounds for just criticism. Also, God is not pleased with those who murmur. "Nor murmur, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer" ( 1Co_10:10 ).
Christians must have a pure character. If their actions involve no wrong and their motives are free from wrong, the name of the church will not be hurt because of them. This will also help Christ's followers to be more like God in nature every day. They will stand out as examples of good in the middle of wicked people. The truth will thus be held forth for the world to see. Paul told the brethren that living in the way just described would mean his labors in Philippi would come to a fruitful end at the judgment. Christians can only be the light of the world when they hold up the word of truth ( Php_2:14-16 ). Remember, Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" ( Mat_5:16 ).
Paul's Willingness to Sacrifice
Paul had so absorbed Christ's qualities that he was ready to die that the greater sacrifice of their lives of faith might be enhanced. He saw his death as a drink offering poured out on the altar. Often, drink offerings preceded other sacrifices to God. Paul rejoiced over any opportunity to serve. He knew they would likewise rejoice in opportunities to serve as he served, thus joining him in sacrificial service to God ( Php_2:17-18 ).
Paul was able to broaden his service to the various churches by sending faithful messengers to them. He hoped it would be the Lord's will that Timothy could soon be sent to check on the welfare of the church at Philippi. When he had delivered word from Paul to them, he could report back to the apostle the things he had seen in the church. It is obvious Paul expected the report to be good, as he said it would comfort him ( Php_2:19 ).
Of those available to him, Timothy was the one Paul could depend upon to be concerned only for the welfare of the church ( Php_2:20 ). He told the Corinthian brethren, "Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do" ( 1Co_16:10 ). Paul's confidence in this young preacher can be seen in the descriptive words he uses in several letters. He called him a fellow worker, "true son in the faith" and a brother who had preached among the Corinthians ( Rom_16:21 ; 1Ti_1:2 ; 1Ti_1:18 ; 2Ti_1:2 ; 2Co_1:1 ; 2Co_1:19 ).
When Paul's concern for the church at Thessalonica could no longer be contained, he said, "we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith" ( 1Th_3:1-2 ).
Others sought only their own personal gain. But Timothy, like a coin or precious metal which had been proven genuine, was known as one who loved the church as dearly as Paul, his father in the faith. As soon as Paul knew how his trial would go, Timothy would be sent. Perhaps all other helpers had been sent on missions by Paul. Paul believed in God's providence and felt sure he would soon be released so he could visit Philippi firsthand ( Php_2:21-24 ).
It is possible Epaphroditus was the one who carried this letter to the Philippians. "Your messenger" could be translated "your epistle" if he was the one sent. He was a brother in Christ, a co-worker in furthering the gospel, and one who had fought side by side with Paul in defense of the gospel. He was their apostle, messenger, sent on a mission to Paul. Evidently, he was the one sent with provision for Paul's needs (4:10, 18). He likewise stayed with Paul to attend to further needs which might have arisen ( Php_2:25 ).
It appears Epaphroditus' physical sickness made him homesick. His longing for home was intensified because he heard that they had learned of his illness. Paul said he nearly died. He thanked God for his recovery. Why did Paul not miraculously heal him? Coffman reminds us of "the purpose of miracles which were never given for the personal needs of God's apostles and preachers, but only for the purpose of 'confirming the word'" ( Php_2:26-27 ; Mar_16:20 ).
The writer of Hebrews asked, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs ans wonders, with various miracles, and gifs of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" ( Heb_2:3-4 ).
When Epaphroditus had recovered, Paul sent him home. Paul knew such an action would bring joy to those at Philippi, Epaphroditus, and himself Paul could have been selfish and kept him for personal service, but got more joy out of knowing the brethren's minds were eased. The apostle directed the church to receive their messenger back with gladness and to hold him in esteem. After all, he had risked his life in Christ's service on their behalf ( Php_2:28-30 ).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Philippians 2". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent