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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 2

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-30

Philippians 2:1-2 . If there be therefore any consolation in Christ. Brethren who are joined in the Lord, professing the same faith, and despised of the world, are expected to comfort and encourage one another. If there be any comfort of brotherly love, in the common warfare and hope of salvation; if there be any fellowship of the Spirit, in the tender sympathies of the heart, in all the afflictions of the saints, who live and die in the same faith; if any bowels and mercies, towards me, bound with a chain, and in daily suspense between life and death; fulfil ye my joy, to see you all of one mind, of one accord, having the same love one towards another that you had in the days of your first conversion. Unity is the character of Deity, and concord is the glory of the church.

Philippians 2:3 . Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory. Any measure which divides the church in opinion is a doubtful measure; and any disputed points which wound the affections, cost more than the value of dry opinions. Any parties that may strive for the preëminence, often connected with private interests, had better consider that they may wrangle and dispute till there be no church, and till their own souls be in imminent danger of damnation.

Philippians 2:4 . Look not every man on his own things, his own humour, or his private interest; but let him, as a steward, a minister, or deacon, look at the glory of God, and seek the common good of all the church. If otherwise, the sophisms of argument, like tinsels, will wear off, and then the baser metals will appear.

Philippians 2:5 . Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who pleased not himself to be a highpriest, but in all things did the active and the suffering pleasure of the Father. Endeavour to imbibe all the excellencies of his temper, while you read his words, and the words of his inspired servants. Matthew 11:29.

Philippians 2:6 . Who, being in the form of God, Ος εν μορφη Θεου , thought it not robbery to be equal with God: esse instar Dei, to be the like of God. On the grand points of faith, the apostles speak as the prophets, for all their words were weighed and examined by the jews. “Awake, oh sword, against my shepherd, and against the man my fellow.” Paul might have Zechariah 13:7, and other places in his eye, for עמת ummath designates equality of perfections; of position, as the right and left hand man on the bench, or in war. Also a quality of duty, as in 1 Chronicles 25:8, where the courses of the priests and levites kept watch and ward in the temple. Equality of perfections; “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father.” John 10:15. The Saviour also said to Philip, who had seen his perfections displayed in miracles, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” John 14:9. Zechariah repeats the same sentiment in Zechariah 12:8. “The house of David,” the shepherd and prince, “shall be as God,” the Elohim, “as the angel of the Lord before them.” As Jehovah, the angel in the desert, marched at the head of the Hebrews, so in the latter day he shall be כ אלהים ke-Elohim, as God, and head over all things to his church, and fill all things. Erasmus, the first of our modern critics, reads to the same effect. Ut esset æqualiter Deo, that he might be equally God with the Father, as is the faith of all the catholic church.

Philippians 2:7 . But made himself of no reputation. Declining all the regal and the priestly pomp, he was made flesh, in the likeness of men; and wore the form of a servant, that he might do the will of the Father, as the prophets had foretold. Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 52:13. He suffered privations in common with men, hunger and thirst, weariness and pain.

Philippians 2:8 . And being found in fashion as a man, he did more; he stooped to fulfil all the pleasure of the Father in the death of the cross. It was great humility to bear the form of a servant, but to despise the shame of the cross was the consummation of obedience.

Philippians 2:9 . Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, as he had said, “Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Psalms 110:1. The beauty of the argument lies in the contrast between the humiliation and the exaltation of the Saviour. He had made himself of no reputation; now he is above all reputation, having a name above every name. His holy name had been covered with obloquy and reproach of the foulest kind; now, at his name the gentiles bow, the heavens rejoice, and hell trembles. The Arians here are driven to great straits. Grotius, in several places, makes one throne for the Father, and a minor throne for the Son. We have no reply but one; the notion is novel in the church, and those who know the Lord will not receive it. Dr. Doddridge also has translated the text to mean, that Christ was exalted to “the most eminent dignity,” a gloss which gratifies the Arian, while it seems not to offend the orthodox. Erasmus, who certainly understood Greek much better, says that most commentators “explain the word hyperupsosen (hyperupsoo) vehementer exaltavit. Hence Ambrose, wishing fully to express the Greek term, reads, superexaltavit.” This agrees with the name of Christ, as being above every name. Pagninus, Beza, Piscator, and Vorstuis all read, In summam extulit sublimatem. Dr. Doddridge therefore cannot be commended for his obvious lukewarmness and circumspection, especially as his reading is not supported by any authority. If the Lord Jesus be allowed to sit at the right hand of Gabriel, as his construction would imply, he would then be exalted to “the most eminent dignity” any creature could enjoy. But who with this Arian notion would say with the dying Stephen, Lord Jesus receive my spirit.

Philippians 2:11 . That every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, or in the glory of God the Father. A declaration that the whole gentile world should be converted to the christian faith, and call upon the name of the Lord Jesus, conformably to all the ancient predictions and promises made by the prophets. And if this was done to reconcile all things in heaven, and in earth, beware, oh Philippians, of the dread account you, and all others, must give, who make parties and divisions in the happy circles of christian societies, through strife and vain glory.

Philippians 2:12 . Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, be obedient in all worship, in all brotherly affection, and in all your conflicts to defend the faith, with all carefulness and trembling, as knowing whom you serve. Be progressive in holiness, be valiant in the fight, and confident of victory.

Philippians 2:13-15 . It is God who worketh in you to will and to do. He endues you with power to delight in doing all his good pleasure. Do all things in concord, let not a murmuring or unkind word escape your lips, that you may stand, as the sons of God, irreproachable at the bar of a perverse generation, and shine as lights in the world. This will be my joy and my glory, as well as yours, that I did not run unsent, nor labour in vain.

Philippians 2:16 . Hold forth the word of life to a world dead in trespasses and sins; fight the good fight of faith, that we all may rejoice together in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Philippians 2:17-18 . Yea, and if I be offered up, the sacrifice and service of your faith. Σπενδομαι , that is, “poured out,” or poured on, as wine was poured on the sacrifices. Paul had an idea of decapitation, which ultimately fell to his lot in the course of about five years, when he was beheaded at the command of Nero. He uses two other words, θυσια thusia, a sacrifice, oblation, or victim, from viciendo, to bind, the living sacrifices being often bound to the altar. Λειτουργια , a ministry, a service. Under those three ideas our blessed apostle regarded his martyrdom. By the Spirit of prophecy he foresaw the manner of his death, that his blood would be poured out; that his martyrdom would be a sacrifice for the truths he had preached, and a seal of the gospel; and that it would be a service done to confirm the faith of the churches. In those victories, he adds, I joy, and rejoice with you all, to see truth confirmed, and the saints established in their most holy faith.

Philippians 2:19-23 . But I trust to send Timotheus shortly unto you. Acts 16:1-5. As soon as I see how it will go with me. Paul still speaks of the future with deference and submission.

Philippians 2:24 . I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. The words of deference and delicacy which Paul uses respecting his liberation for the present, and his ultimate martyrdom, indicate that he did not now see those events so clearly as he afterwards did, when he wrote the second time to Timothy, saying, “I am now ready to be offered up, and the time of my departure is at hand.” 2 Timothy 4:6. His soul wished to revisit the church, now countless, in proconsular Asia, and in Greece. But St. Clement states to the Corinthians, [see the fragments to Acts 28:0.] that “he travelled to the utmost boundaries of the west,” and received at Rome the long promised crown, on his return to that city.

Philippians 2:25-30 . I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus. The Philippians had sent this beloved minister with money to Paul, while a prisoner at Rome, who was so zealous in serving the cause in which he suffered, that he superinduced so severe an affliction as to occasion a report of his death. Paul sends him back with the highest encomiums, as a brother in the ministry; as a fellow soldier in the noble army of confessors and martyrs, and made him the bearer of this most invaluable epistle; a treasure far surpassing what the Philippians had so seasonably sent to Rome. REFLECTIONS .

Next to the grace of regeneration, unity and concord are the first glory of the church. St. Paul was ready to be a martyr, but he did not dare to tempt martyrdom. He therefore charges his children by the consolation he felt in Christ, by the comfort of love shed abroad in his heart, by the fellowship he still maintained with them in the spirit, by the bowels of mercy he cherished towards them as a father, and claimed from them as children towards a parent in bonds, that they should fulfil his joy. This was that they should be unanimous in their affairs, that where a variation of opinion prevailed they should have the same love, be of one accord and of one mind. The church being one body, and one spirit, should have no discord. It should not be governed by majorities, like worldly societies; we should always forbear awhile, till the minority can be kindly won over to think and act with us.

Christ is the grand and perfect pattern of all our active and passive obedience. Though he was, as Chrysostom reads the Greek word, morphe, in the substantial form of God, and coëqual in the divine essence; yet he annihilated himself, so to speak, in fulfilling the Father’s pleasure. He chose an abject state; he did more; he obeyed unto death, even to the most reproachful death of the cross. Here indeed is the greatness and grandeur of redeeming love to fallen man, that Jehovah’s fellow, begotten of the Father before all worlds, should clothe himself with our flesh, and die on the cross for sinners. Here is love without example, and merit without measure. Here is the title to preëminence of exaltation, with which no celestial power can dare to become the rival. God therefore hath highly and most justly exalted his spotless humanity into the midst of the throne, and caused every knee to bow in heaven, in earth, and in hades, at the name of Jesus; and every tongue, in all ages and nations, shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Hence we may learn this grand point, that pure religion consists in an entire devotedness to the will of God; and by the glory which resulted from Paul’s persecutions, and those of ancient saints, we ought also to learn a perfect acquiescence in all the afflictive pleasure of the Great Supreme.

There is a harmony between grace and will. God works in us both to will and to do. If we see, it is by the divine light; if we love him, it is because he first loved us; and love prompts us to resemble God, and to seek the salvation of man. Now, seeing grace is so active, we ought of a ready mind to coöperate in every work of faith and love. The conditions of perseverance require seriousness, humility, and all diligence to make our calling and election sure. So St. Paul exhorts the Hebrews: chap. Philippians 4:1.

The love of the primitive christians, and of Epaphroditus is admirable. No sooner did the saints at Philippi, the mother church of Greece, hear of St. Paul’s situation at Rome, than they sent him money, accompanied with the most fervent prayers for his safety. Epaphroditus risked his health and his life to honour and help the apostle in confinement. Oh that this love may ever reign in the bosom of the faithful, and be in them an everlasting bond of union, and the image of heaven opened on earth.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Philippians 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/philippians-2.html. 1835.
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