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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 2

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-11

(2) Christ’s Example on the Way through Humiliation to Exaltation (Philippians 2:1-11)

After earnestly and eloquently entreating them to stand together in harmony (Philippians 2:1-4), he holds up to view the person of the Redeemer (Philippians 2:5-6), His state of Humiliation (Philippians 2:7-8), and His state of exaltation (Philippians 2:9-11)

1If there be therefore any consolation [exhortation] in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any1 bowels and mercies [compassion], 2fulfil ye [make full] my joy, that ye be like-minded [mind the same thing], having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind [with one soul minding the one thing]. 3Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other [others] better than [superior to] themselves. 4Look not every man2 on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5Let this mind3 be in you which was also in Christ Jesus; 6who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7but made himself of no reputation [emptied or divested himself], and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a [the4] name which Isaiah 10:0 above every name; that at [in] the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things [beings] in heaven, and things [beings] in earth, and things [beings] under the earth, 11and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


Philippians 2:1. If there be therefore any exhortation in Christ (εἴ τις οὖν παράκλησις ἐν Χριστῷ). Οὖν goes back to the preceding thought (Philippians 1:27-30). He now exhorts them to be united in the present conflict, in which they as well as himself are engaged, that the joy which he has felt on account of their harmony may receive no check. Εἰ presents what is actual as hypothetical for the sake of the conclusion, as in Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:4; Ephesians 3:21; Colossians 1:23; Colossians 2:20; Colossians 3:1. We are to supply ἐστί, but not also ἐν ὑμῖν (Meyer). It is to be taken for granted that such exhortation (παράκλησις), which by ἐν Χριστῷ (Philippians 1:26) is defined as based upon Christ, as having its sphere or element in Him, is found richly in the Apostle; but he adopts this mode of expression in his humility. Comp. Romans 15:30. [The A. V. renders παράκλησις consolation, but that sense destroys the difference between this clause and the next. The meaning here is: If those who are in Christ may address to each other exhortations and entreaties with a right to expect that they will not be unavailing, then fulfil, etc. We may carry forward the idea of ἐν Χριστῷ to the other clause.—H.]—If any comfort of love (εἴτι παραμύθιον�). According to 1 Thessalonians 2:11 : ὡς πατὴρ τέκνα ἑαυτοῦ παρακαλοῦντες ὑμᾶς καὶ παραμυθούμενοι; and 1 Corinthians 15:3 :παράκλησιν καὶ παραμυθίαν, this ἅπαξ λεγόμενον must denote consolation of love, friendly address, or encouragement which springs from love, as described by the genitive. We are to refer the above without doubt to the Apostle. [The Apostle would say: If it be a characteristic of true love that it is ever ready to comfort or encourage those for whom it is cherished, then comply with my request and thus manifest your love to me.—H.]—If any fellowship of spirit [or the Spirit] (εἴ τις κοινωνία πνεύματος). The article being omitted, we cannot compare this expression with 2 Corinthians 13:13 : κοινωνία τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος, and explain it as fellowship with the Holy Spirit (Bengel, Meyer); but the κοινωνία, which was described in Philippians 1:5 with reference to its object or outward action, is described here in its inward sphere: fellowship of spirit among themselves, and with the Apostle, by virtue of which exhortation and entreaty readily find response and acceptance as addressed to each other. That this fellowship of spirit is a gift of the Holy Spirit, is only pre-supposed, not stated. [The absence of the article does not decide against the other view; for πνεῦμα as being of the nature of a proper name may have the article or omit it. See Winer’s Gramm., p. 122. Most interpreters understand the Holy Spirit to be meant.—H.]—If any bowels and compassion (εἴ τινα σπλάγχνα καί οἰκτιρμοί). The first substantive (Philippians 1:8) denotes the seat, the source, of the second; the second being in the plural represents the individual proofs, the acts as repeated, manifold. See Winer’s Gramm., p. 176; Colossians 3:12; σπλάγχνα οἰκτιρμοῦ, lect. var. (οἰκτιρμῶν). Thus the fellowship or participation (κοινωνία) in the third clause appears in its action and effects. [The two nouns give intensity to the idea. The Apostle intimates in terms of the greatest delicacy that any reluctance to grant him the favor for which he so earnestly pleads, would have all the effect upon his feelings of unkindness and cruelty.—H.] The first two clauses we are to refer to Paul, the other two to the Philippians; the implied affirmation of the several conditions (εἴ τις. … οἰκτιρμοι), as respects both Paul and those addressed, enforces the exhortation (πληρώσατε) which they severally introduce. It is incorrect to regard the first and third as objective, and the second and fourth as subjective motives (Meyer), or to refer all four to the Philippians only (Meyer, Schenkel). That we are to supply χαρά, from Philippians 2:2, in each of the conditional clauses (‘si quod (gaudium) consolatio amoris,’ etc.), according to Bengel, is inadmissible.

Philippians 2:2. Make full my joy (πληρώσατέ μου τὴν χαράν). The Apostle has joy already, and it only remains that this should be full and complete (comp. Php 1:9; 1 John 1:4; 2 John 1:12). The Philippians are to make it so by allowing his appeal to prevail with them (first two clauses), and by maintaining and exhibiting the virtues to which he exhorts them (last two).—He sums up the whole as it were in one word: That ye mind the same thing. Ἵνα represents the harmony of the Philippians (τὸ αὐτὸ φρονῆτε), as sought by them in order [as one of its attendant aims] to fill up the measure of Paul’s joy. According to Philippians 3:15; Philippians 4:2; Romans 12:16; Romans 15:5, minding and striving after the same object are meant.—This is more closely defined, first on its ethical side: Having the same love (τὴν αὐτὴν�). As possessors and dispensers of that love which in its object, purity and strength, is essentially the same, they should be of one mind.—Secondly, the trait or conduct appearing on its intellectual side is: Being of one accord (A. V.), or like-minded, pondering the one thing (σύμψυχοι τὸ ἓν φρονοῦντες). With reference to the object had in view, the τὸ αὐτό represents it as a single thing, and the question they consider is, what one thing is necessary; and further, the personal unity which corresponds to this unity of aim, becomes prominent, as in Philippians 1:27 : μιᾷ ψυχῇ,. Tittmann (Syn. I. p. 67) correctly observes: ἰσόψυχος est qui eodem modo est animatus (like-minded); σύμψυχος autem, qui idem sentit, unanimis (harmonious); σύμψυχοι esse possunt, qui non sunt ἰσόψυχοι; sunt igitur σύμψυχοι οἱ αὐτὸ φρονοῦντες. Sed τὸ ἓν φρονεῖν est unum velle, in uno expetendo consentire. In this earnest exhortation the accumulation of terms and phrases cannot surprise us. It is incorrect to regard σύμψυχοι as independent, the subject of a separate predication (Oecumenius, et al.). To these two positive qualifications correspond the negative ones in Philippians 2:3.

Philippians 2:3. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory.—Μηδὲν κατ’ ἐριθείαν for bids whatever is without or against τὴν αὐτὴν�, while μηδὲ κατὰ κενοδοξίαν forbids whatever violates τὸ ἓν φμονεῖν, μιᾷ ψυχῇ. On the first substantive see in Philippians 1:17; on the second, Suidas: ματαία τις περὶ ἑαυτοῦ οἴησις (Galatians 5:26, κενόδοξοι); κατά denotes rule, motive (Winer’s Gram., p. 401). Without question it is more simple to continue φρονοῦντες from the preceding verse (Winer, Gram., p. 587) than to supply ποιοῦντες (Erasmus, Luther, et al.), or even to construe it with the following ἡγούμενοι (Hölemann).—The positive (Philippians 2:2 b) is opposed here to the negative (Philippians 2:3 a).—But in lowliness of mind (or in humility) let each esteem others superior to themselves.—Ἀλλά marks strongly the opposition. The instrumental dative (τῇ ταπεινοφροσύνῃ) corresponds to κατά with the accusative. See Winer’s Gram. p. 402, note 2. On the substantive see Ephesians 4:4; Colossians 2:18; Colossians 2:23; Colossians 3:12. Ἀλλήλους ἡγούμενοι ὑπερέχοντας ἑαυτῶν teaches that humility fixes its eye on another’s excellences, and judges him from this point of view. Bengel: Jure et dotibus fieri id potest, non extreme tantum, sed per veram ταπεινοφροσύνην, cum quis per abnegationem oculos avertit a suis prærogativis et alterius dotes, quibus prior est, studiose contemplatur.

Philippians 2:4. Look not every one on his own things, but every one also on the things of others (μὴ τὰ ἑαυτῶν ἕκαστοι σκοποῦντες, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ ἑτέρων έκαστοι).—The sentence presents a general principle. The unusual plural ἕκαστοι, which is emphatic in each number, but especially in the second, where it stands at the end, indicates that this should be true of every member of the church. Τὰ ἑαυτῶν, τὰ ἑτέρων, signify in general res, causa, as in Philippians 2:21; 1 Corinthians 13:5 (τὰ ἑαυτῶν); 1 Corinthians 10:24 (τὸ ἑαυτοῦ, τὸ τοῦ ἑτέρου), 33 (τὸ ἐμαυτοῦ, τὸ τῶν πολλῶν), τὰ being used, and not τὸ, in order to mark the multiplicity. It is also to be noticed that ἄλλος denotat alium, nulla diversitatis nisi numeri ratione, ἕτερος non tantum alium, sed etiam diversum indicat (Tittmann, Syn. I. p. 155 sq.). While in the above passages ζητεῖν is employed, we have here σκοποῦντες (Philippians 3:17). Hence, according to the context, we are to think of the gifts and excellencies of others before our own, and of their advantage, interest, as well as our own. This distinction, however, comes out more clearly in view of what follows. Ἀλλὰ καί after μή limits or softens the antithesis. We are to think also of the things of others, hence not merely and exclusively of them. It is selfishness only that is forbidden. [“We are to look,” says Lightfoot, “beyond our own interest to that of others.”—H.] See Winer’s Gram. p. 498. It is incorrect to deny this distinction between ζητεῖν and σκοπεῖν so as either to find no reference to gifts and excellencies (Meyer), or to think exclusively of these (Calvin).

Philippians 2:5. Let this mind be in you, or, according to the better text, have this mind in you (τιῦτο γὰρ φρονεῖτε ἐν ὑμῖν).—Paul confirms his exhortation to unity by showing what self-denying love and humility are, as illustrated in the example of Christ. Τοῦτο has as its correlative ὅ in the following clause, while ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ answers to ἐν ὑμῖν. Hence the meaning must be in animis vestris, but not intra vestrum cœtum (Hölemann). [For the force of γάρ see notes on the text.—H.]—Which was also in Christ Jesus (ὁ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ιησοῦ sc. ἐφρονήθη). Καί also, i.e., as well as ἐν ὑμῖν.

Philippians 2:6. Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.—Ὅς has for its antecedent Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, and points to His antemundane state, as Philippians 2:7-8, refer to His earthly existence, and Philippians 2:9-11 refer to His subsequent glorified condition. The subject is the ego of the Lord, which is active in all the three modes of existence. It is the entire summary of the history of Jesus, including His ante-human state (Meyer). Hence neither the λόγος ἄσαρκος alone, nor the λόγος ἔνσαρκος, is to be taken as the subject. The emphatic participial clause (ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων) connects itself with the principal clause (οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ), and the participle must be taken as imperfect, not as present (Umbreit, Studien und Kritiken, 1828, p. 594). The finite verb ἡγήσατο, from its import, requires us to think of a resolution or decision to which what is stated in the participle stands related as concessive in accordance with the sense of the whole passage. (Comp. 2 Corinthians 8:9, ἐπτώχευσε πλούσιος ὤν); hence neither causal (Rheinwald et al.) nor merely temporal (Meyer). If now we regard strictly the connection and drift of the context, which is to bring before us Christ’s example, as a testimony in behalf of that humble self-denial which promotes harmony, and against the ἐριθείαν and κενοδοξίαν which destroy it, the meaning of this difficult passage cannot be mistaken. The words in themselves are plain, Ὑπάρχων, stronger than ὤν, denotes Christ’s pre-existence, ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ. According to Mark 16:12 (ἐφανερώθη ἐν ἑτέρᾳ μορφῇ), and in accordance with its use elsewhere, μορφή must be understood of the outward form, “species externa,” and this as defined by θεοῦ, which must be understood as not of the person of God, the Father, but only of the Godhead,—is a divine morphe or form, that of a God. Comp. Philippians 3:21; Romans 8:29 : σύμμορφον. The μορφῇ θεοῦ corresponds to μορφὴν δούλου, Philippians 2:7, as ὑπάρχων has its parallel in λαβών there. Bengel well observes: ipsa natura divina decorem habebat infinitum in se, etiam sine ulla creatura illum decorem intuente. Comp. John 5:37 : εἶδος αὐτοῦ (of God); John 17:5 : τῇ δόξῃ ᾖ εἶχον παρά σοι; Colossians 1:15 : εἰκὼν τοῡ θεοῦ; Hebrews 1:3 : ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ. It is incorrect to regard it as equivalent to φύσις, οὐσία (the Greeks, Augustine et al.), status (Calov, et al), and to hold that Jesus, when He was on earth, caused His δόξα to be recognized through the medium of His words and works (Luther, et al), of His miracles (Grotius, et al), and in the transfiguration (Wetstein). [“Though μορφή,” says Lightfoot, “is not the same as φύσις or οὐσία, yet the possession of the μορφή involves participation in the οὐσία also; for μορφή implies not the external accidents, but the essential attributes. Similar to this, though not so decisive, are the expressions used elsewhere of the Divinity of the Son: εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ, 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; and χαρακτήρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως—τοῦ θεοῦ, Hebrews 1:3. Similar also is the term which St. John has adopted to express this truth—ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ.” It may be added that the word is fitly chosen for the expression of the Apostle’s idea. For though μορφή denotes properly the outline or shape of an object, and not directly the substance or nature of the object, it yet presupposes the existence of that nature or reality, of which it is the manifestation, just as the figure or shadow implies a body or substance which determines the figure or outline. Besides, to deny that Christ’s μορφή or form as God, agreed with the reality, would oblige us to deny also in the next verse that His form or condition as a servant agreed with the reality, and this would destroy the force of the Apostle’s reasoning. The condition in both cases presupposes the corresponding nature or reality, and is called μορφή precisely on account of that condition. The Apostle seems to have chosen this peculiar word because he would provide in his mode of speaking for the fact, that though the state or manifestation was changed, the nature or essence of the personality remained unchanged.—H.]—The expression οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο is more difficult. It denies a precedence of self, as is the case with those τὰ ἑαυτῶν σκοποῦντες (Philippians 2:4). In its connection with ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, and its position before ἐκένωσεν ἑαυτόν, it points to a decision in a negative form before the incarnation. Hence it is not the same as οὐχ ἥρπασε, which did not for a moment enter into the thoughts of Christ. Ἁρπαγμός may, like πειρασμός, βαπτισμός, signify the act of robbery; and it would properly denote this according to the rules of derivation (Winer’s Gram. p. 93); but usage allows it to be taken as res rapta or rapienda (Brueckner against Meyer); just as χρησμός may be non vaticinatio sed vaticinium, χρησματισμός et negotiatio et id quod hac perpetratur, so here also ἁρπαγμός=ἅρπαγμα (Tholuck: Pfingstprogramm, 1847, pp. 17–19). Whether the meaning is res rapta or rapienda, the context must decide. Here now ἀρπαγμόν is predicate in its relation to τὸ εἰ̄ναι ἴσα θεῷ as the object (Winer’s Gram. p. 323). On this construction καὶ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν βιάζεται βιασταὶ ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν in Matthew 11:12 is very instructive. Ἁρπάζειν is not a heroic exspoliare, but a violent appropriating to one’s self, of which the object is τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ. This is therefore not “spolium, præda,” but “res rapienda.” The emphasis falls here on εἶναι; ἴσα (not ἴσα—see Winer’s Gram. p. 177) is an adverbializing accusative (Bengel), but different from ἴσος, since it denotes several relations of likeness, and from ἴσος, since it does not point to a likeness of person, as John 5:18 (ἴσον ε̇αυτον ποιῶν τῷθεῷ), but to the equality of Christ’s condition with that of God’s. What is meant by this expression appears from Philippians 2:10-11 : it is the κυριότης of the Lord, His worship in the church, in heaven, and upon earth. Hence the difference between ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων and τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ is that the former denotes the Lord’s mode of existence, as a divine existence for Himself apart from the world and before it, the dignity of the Son, founded upon His eternal origin or generation from the Father, but the latter His existence as the King of His people in the realm of the Father, at His right hand. It is entirely like Ephesians 1:20-23; John 5:22-23; John 20:28; Matthew 28:18-20. Accordingly it must signify “rapiendum non duxit.” For the former (μορφὴ θεοῦ) was His from eternity, while the latter (τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ) He had not as yet obtained. He was already enjoying the former before He had received the latter. It is not correct to regard the object of ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο as identical with what is stated concessively in the participial clause (Luther, Meyer, et al), or ἁρπαγμόν as equivalent to “præda, res rapta” (Ambrosius, et al.), “spolia” (Erasmus, Rheinwald, et al.), “holding tenaciously” (Hölemann), “concealing” (Matthies), “a triumphant display” (Luther, et al.), nor are we to understand by εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ “plenitudinem et altitudinem dei” (Bengel), “vitam vitæ dei æqualem” (Van Hengel), or “identity with the Father” (Rilliet). It is entirely fanciful to scent Gnostic allusions in ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ, ἴσα θεῷ εἶναι, ἁρπαγμός as also in ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε and ἐν ομοιώματι, σχήματι εὑρεθεις (Philippians 2:7), and in ἐπουρανίων,ἐπιγείων,κατὰ χθονίων (Philippians 2:10), (Baur) as Brueckner shows (Ep. ad Phil. Paulo auctori vindicata, p. 15 ff.) in his exposé of the difference between the doctrine of the Gnostics and the present passage, and of the contradiction between Baur’s earlier and his later representation of this doctrine, and also Ernesti (Studien und Kritiken, 1848, pp. 858–924; 1851, pp. 595–630), with admirable acuteness and learning. Yet the view advanced as a conjecture by Umbreit (Studien und Kritiken, 1828, p. 595) and earnestly maintained by Ernesti, that this passage is to be explained out of Genesis 2:3, is unnecessary and untenable.

[The view of τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ (adopted above by Dr. Braune) as= the κυριότης, or worship of Christ in the church, in heaven, and on earth” (Philippians 2:10-11) which He did not claim for Himself in His pre-existent state, makes the self-denial of Christ negative merely, not positive, as the Apostle’s use of the example would seem to require Moreover, if this equality with God Which Christ forbore to arrogate to Himself before the incarnation be the same as the sovereignty which God conferred on Him after His humiliation and sufferings and death, as a reward for such self-devotement (see Philippians 2:9 and Hebrews 12:2), we cannot regard such an equality as, properly speaking, subject to acceptance or rejection till the antecedent historical condition has been fulfilled.—We subjoin a summary of the views of some of the later writers in our own language on this important passage. The meaning which Bishop Ellicott prefers is: “He did not deem His equality to God a prize to be seized, but emptied Himself, etc.; in other words, He did not insist on His own eternal prerogatives, but, on the contrary, humbled Himself to the condition and sufferings of mortal man.” See his Commentary on Phlippians (in loc.) for the grounds of this interpretation.—Prof. Lightfoot presents the philological details at some length. Instead of ἁρπαγμός, “the more usual form of the word is ἅρπαγμα, which properly signifies simply ‘a piece of plunder,’ but especially with such verbs as ἡγεῖσθαι, ποιεῖσθαι, νομίζεινν, etc., is employed like ἕρμαιον, εὕρημα, to denote a highly-prized possession, an unexpected gain.” He adduces examples of this usage from some of the later Greek writers. “It appears then from these writers that ἅρπαγμα ἡγεῖθαι frequently signifies nothing more than ‘to clutch greedily,’ ‘prize highly,’ ‘to set store by,’ the idea of plunder or robbery having passed out of sight. The form ἁρπαγμός, however, presents a greater difficulty; for neither analogy nor usage is decisive as to its meaning: (1) The termination -μος indeed denotes primarily the process, so that ἁρπαγμός would be ‘an act of plundering.’ But as a matter of fact substantives in -μός are frequently used to describe a concrete thing, e.g. θεσμος, χρησμος, φραγμός, etc. (2) And again the particular word ἁρπαγμός occurs so rarely that usage cannot be considered decisive. Under these circumstances we may, in choosing between the two senses of ἁρπαγμός, fairly assign to it here the one which best suits the context. The meaning adopted above satisfies this condition: ‘Though He preexisted in the form of God, yet He did not look upon equality with God as a prize which must not slip from His grasp; but He emptied Himself, divested Himself, taking upon Him the form of a slave.’ The idea is the same as in 2 Corinthians 8:9, δι’ ὑμᾶς ἐπτώχενσεν πλούσιος ὤν. The other rendering (adopted by the A. V.), ‘thought it not robbery to be equal with God,’ disconnects this clause from its context.5—Alford translates: ‘who being’ (originally) ‘in the form of God regarded not as self-enrichment His equality with God.’ He observes (1) that ἁρπαγμός holds the emphatic place in the sentence; (2) that this fact casts τὸ εἴναι ἴσα θεῷ into the shade as secondary and as referring to the state indicated by ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων above; and (3) that αρπαγμός strictly means, as here given, the act of seizing or snatching—not from another, but for one’s self. Dr. Wordsworth paraphrases the thought thus: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who subsisting from eternity in the form of God, did not think His own equality with God (τό εἴναι ἴσα θεῷ) was a spoil which He had usurped wrongfully, and of which He might justly be divested by another, or which on principles of justice He was Himself obliged to give up to another,” etc. The following is Professor Eadie’s paraphrase of the meaning: “The Apostle affirms that Jesus, in His pre-incarnate state, was ‘in the form of God;’ and adds, that He thought it not a seizure, or a thing to be snatched at, to be on a parity with God, but emptied Himself. Now, it seems to us very plain that the parity referred to is not parity in the abstract, or in anything not found in the paragraph, but parity in possession of this form of God. He was in the form of God, and did not think it a thing to be eagerly laid hold of to be equal with God, having or exhibiting this form. The apostle adds, ἀλλ’ ἐαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν, but emptied Himself, and the clause is in broad and decided contrast with ἁρπαγμὸν ούχ ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα τῷ θεῷ. That is to say, the one clause describes the result of the other. It was because He did not think it a seizure to be equal with God, that He emptied Himself. He did not look simply to His own things—the glories of the Godhead; but He looked to the things of others, and therefore descended to humanity and death. His heart was not so set upon this glory, that he would not appear at any time without it. There was something which he coveted more—something which He felt to be truly a ἁρπαγμός, and that was tie redemption of a fallen world by His self-abasement and death. From His possession of this “mind,” and in indescribable generosity He looked at the things of others, and descended with His splendor eclipsed—appeared not as a God in glory, but clothed in flesh; not in royal robes, but in the dress of a village youth; not as Deity in fire, but a man in tears; not in a palace, but in a manger. … And in this way He gave the church an example of that self-abnegation and kindness which the apostle has been inculcating, and which the Lord’s career is adduced to illustrate and confirm” (Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle to the Phlippians, pp. 108, 9).—For a list of monographs on this difficult text the reader may see Meyer’s “Briefe an die Philipper,” etc., p. 63 (1859), and Wiesinger’s Commentary on Philippians (Eng. trans.), p. 61.—H.]

Philippians 2:7. But emptied or stripped himself, and took upon him the form of a servant (ἀλλ’ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε μορφὴν δούλου λαβών). The ἀλλά introduces the antithesis (not tamen, nihilominus, quin potius). The first member corresponds to the second in Philippians 2:6, and the second here to the first there; and at the same time unfolds further the antithesis to οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο. In opposition to the not thinking of an act stands something done: in opposition to the unwillingness to rob another stands a giving up on His part; and in opposition to the thing which He does not even wish to arrogate to Himself stands His own person which He surrenders. This last contrast appears in ἑαυτόν, which precedes with emphasis, in opposition to ἑαυτῷ τι, and hence not Himself in opposition to another (Meyer, et al.), as the relations in the case and the context show; since the equality with God (τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ) was not to be seized from men or angels, nor could God be deprived of it, but He, the Son, by His own might and will could seize upon it, although it would not be withheld from Him by the Father.—Ἐκένωσε=κεν̀ον ἐποίησεν, exinanivit, divested Himself, i.e., of that which He had, ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, hence of the form of God, of the divine mode of existence. Since He has emptied Himself of this, as the word properly means, the μορφή is not something merely external, and since He has given up only the ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, it cannot be an evacuare of the person, as if that now had in it no longer anything divine—no δόξα which remained to Him (John 1:14; Colossians 2:9); hence the nearer limitation by μορφὴν δούλον λαβών, which is itself more closely defined. The antithesis is Still μορφὴ θεοῦ, and δούλου is chosen, because according to the context (ἴσα θεῷ Philippians 2:6, comp. Philippians 2:10-11) the κυριότης belongs to the θεότης. It is the becoming man, or the incarnation that is meant, as the sequel declares, and since λαβών (which is contemporaneous with ἐκένωσε as in Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 1:13) must be taken as a modal limitation of the verb (ἐκένωσε), this emptying of Himself (κἑνωσις) is the Lord’s incarnation. It is incorrect to deny here the becoming man, the act of incarnation, and to find only His position as a servant indicated (Schenkel), for in this case μορφὴν δούλου λαβών must follow ἐν χήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος, and could not stand at the beginning; Observe too, that the δούλου is without the article, and hence it does not mean the servant of God, in the sense of the Messiah. The following also are incorrect interpretations: libenter duxit vitam inopem (Grotius), miseram sortem, qualis esse servorum solet (Hölemann), semet ipse depressit (Van Hengel), veluti deposuit (Calov), non magis ea usus est (Clericus), since the subject of discourse here is not anything within the human life of Christ, the laying aside of the δόξα, or abstaining from the full use of it.—And was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man (ἐν ὁμοιώματι�). These two clauses plainly belong together. They serve more closely to define μορφὴν δούλου λαβών Bengel: forma dicit aliquid absolutum, similitudo relationem ad alia ejusdem conditionis, habitus refertur ad aspectum et sensum. Δοῦλος is more exactly defined by ἀνθρώπων,ἄνθρωπος; ἐν ὁμοιώματι,ὡς, correspond to μορφήν and indicate the difference between the Lord in the form of a servant, as the son of man, and men. He is not indeed purus putus homo, but the incarnate Son of God. Τενομενος denotes a becoming, the human individual development, and preserves the λαβών from being mistaken as a merely outward assumption. Hence ὁμοίωμα is to be understood of the inner and outer, the spiritual and bodily life, and ἐν points this out as the sphere of His development, and the dative σχήματι as the respect in which, or rule according to which, He is found as man. Winer’s Gram., p. 215. By σχῆμα (vultus, vestitus, victus, gestus, sermones et actiones. Bengel), is denoted the outward manifestation which is indicated by εὑρεθείς (not equivalent to ὤν), was recognized by all who came into contact with Him. Comp. 1 John 1:1-3. ὡς ἄνθρωπος Theodoret observes: ἡ γὰρ�, αυ̇τὸς δὲ τοῦτο οὐκ ἦν,τοῦτο δὲ περιέκειτο. Bengel: Vulgaris, ac si nil esset præterea, nec inter homines quidem excelleret; nil sibi sumsit eximium. It is incorrect to regard ὁμοίωμα and σχῆμα as indistinguishable synonyms (Heinrichs, et al.), or the latter as dignitas (Grotius), dress (Elsner), γενόμενος as natus (Rilliet), ἀνθρώπων as a designation of the debile et abjectum (Hölemann), of the infimæ et contemtæ sortis (Wolf), or of the first human pair, because He like them was peccati expers (Grotius).

Philippians 2:8. He humbled himself (ἐταπείνωσενἑαυτόν). The humiliation described by ἐκένωσε, which took place in His incarnation, because He thereby passed over from the divine into the human mode of existence, is now particularly noted. Here observe the asyndeton, the verb being also connected with ἀλλά, while the position of the verb before the pronoun renders it emphatic. The general description (ἐκένωσε) gives place to the particular one (ἐταπείνωσεν). Hence there is no climax here (Meyer), nor does the latter exceed the former (Schenkel), nor does it refer to any humiliation below the dignity of man (Hölemann).—It is more closely defined by the following: And became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Hence it is inadmissible to find in the preceding participial clause (Philippians 2:7) the nearer limitation of ἐταπείνωσεν (Wiesinger), since this cannot be separated from the participial clauses belonging to a ἐκένωσε, while ἐταπείνωσεν receives now its limitation. It is not without reference to μαθεῖν ὑπακοήν, His learning obedience or subjection (Hebrews 5:8), that γενόμενος precedes. It is not stated to whom He became ὑπήκοος, since the design was to mark the μορφὴ δούλου, form of a servant, according to its nature. If it were more exactly defined the object would be God (Philippians 2:9; Romans 5:19), not men (Grotius). The extent to which this obedience was carried appears in μέχρι θανάτου, unto death (Acts 22:4; Hebrews 12:4; Matthew 26:38). Hence it is not a temporal limitation (Van Hengel), nor is it to be joined with ἐταπείνωσεν (Bengel, et al.), Θανάτου δὲ σταύρου, a construction like σοφίαν—σοφίαν δὲ οὐ τοῦ αἰω̄νος τούτου in 1 Corinthians 2:6 (Winer’s Gram., p. 443). Δέ often brings forward something new, a more precise statement as opposed to something to be denied or rejected. It is opposed here to the idea of a natural or common death. Death by crucifixion was a punishment for slaves, criminals, outcasts, and hence increased the degradation. Τουτέστι τοῦ ἐπικαταράτου,τοῦ τοῖς� (Theophylact). See Galatians 3:13.

Philippians 2:9. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him (διὸ καὶ ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσε). This was a consequence and result (διό) of the self-renunciation and the self-abasement of the Son. To this act is joined (καί) that of the Father. On the expression see Hebrews 13:12; Romans 1:24; Acts 10:29; on the thought Hebrews 2:9-10; Hebrews 12:2. The language here involves an idea of merit on the part of Christ and of recompense on the part of God. The verb marks the antithesis to ἐταπείνωσε μέχρι θανάτου σταύρου, and the preposition in the verb (ὑπερύψωσε) indicates that it is an exaltation corresponding to the ὑπεράνω πάντων in Ephesians 4:10. The reference is to the resurrection and ascension, the end of which was His sitting down at the right hand of God (Matthew 28:18; Mark 16:19; Acts 7:55-56; Ephesians 1:20-21; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 8:1). The view of Grotius is incorrect: eum multo sublimiorem fecit, quam antea fuit, for the Saviour was not sublimis on earth (Philippians 2:7-8), and did not become sublimior than He was before the creation of the world (Philippians 2:6), and besides ὑπέρ will not bear that signification. Bengel: Exinanitionis priæmium justissimum est exaltatio (Luke 24:26; John 10:17); neque ea non potuit illam consequi (John 10:15); quæcunque Patris sunt, filii sunt; ea non potuere ita Patris esse, ut non essent filii (John 17:5); Christum Christus exinanivit Christum deus exaltavit (1 Peter 5:6) eumque facit pariter deo.—And given him the name which is above every name. Καί introduces the explanation of the ὐπερύψωσε, by which was obtained the εἶναι ἴσα τω θεῷ (Philippians 2:6) which Christ would not seize for Himself. Ἐχαρίσατο αὔτῷ, denotat, quam accepta deo fuerit exinanitio (Bengel). Τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα (Winer’s Gram., p. 140) designates the well-known name which transcends every name, which according to the context is received and borne in heaven and on earth, since it is the nomen cum re (Bengel), which is everywhere manifest and recognized, and includes the adoration of the person of Christ in its divine dignity. It is thus not mere dignitas (Grotius), or the particular name of Jesus (Michaelis), or κύριος (Van Hengel).

Philippians 2:10. That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow.—Ἵνα points out the purpose of this exaltation, which reaches its fulfilment, not by a single step, but gradually. See 1 Corinthians 15:25-26; Romans 14:11; Isaiah 45:23. Ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι stands emphatically at the beginning, and marks the ground and occasion of the πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ. The bending of the knee presents “plastically” (Meyer) the act of adoration. Ephesians 3:14; Romans 11:4; and comp. ἐπικαλεἰσθαι τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου (Acts 7:59; Acts 9:14; Acts 9:21; Act 22:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Romans 10:12-13; 2 Timothy 2:22). It is therefore not merely adhibito nomine Jesu (Van Hengel), since indeed Psalms 63:5 : ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου�, is said of prayer to God, nor is it merely a circumlocution for ἐν Ἰησοῦ (Estius), or equivalent to εἰς τὸ ὄνομα, the glorification of His dignity (Heinrichs), or quoties auditur nomen (Erasmus).—Of beings in heaven, and beings in earth, and beings under the earth—comprises the entire realm of worshipping creatures. Τῶν ἐπουρανίων are the angels (Ephesians 1:20-21; Hebrews 1:4; Hebrews 1:6), τῶν ἐπιγείων, men upon the earth, τῶν καταχθονίων, the dead in Hades. The following are incorrect classifications: οἱ δίκαιοι, οἱ ζῶντες, οἱ ἁμαρτωλοί (Chrysostom); the dead, the living, the embryos (Stolz); homines sortis nobilioris, mediocris et infimæ (Teller). The words must not be taken as neuter (Beza), nor is there in καταχθονίων a reference either to the demons (the Greeks, Erasmus), which Ephesians 6:12 forbids, or to the souls in purgatory (Catholics).

Philippians 2:11. And that every tongue should confess (καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσεται).—To the outward, inarticulate expression καί adds still another, the eloquent homage breaking forth from the heart and confessing itself to Him. What the bending of the knee indicates, the tongue expresses (Wiesinger). In πᾶσα the three categories (Philippians 2:10) are included as in πᾶν γόνυ. To refer it therefore to πάντα τὰ ἔθνη (Theodoret) is erroneous, as also to take it proomni idiomate (Beza).—That Jesus Christ is Lord.—Ὅτι introduces the contents of the confession. Ἰησοῦς Χριστός is the subject, and κύριος the predicate, and precedes in accordance with the scope of the context: the kingship is to be pointed out of which the realm is unlimited (Ephesians 1:23; Eph 4:10; 1 Corinthians 15:25; 1 Corinthians 15:28). It is not to be limited to rational creatures (Hölemann), or to the Church (Rheinwald, Schenkel).—To the glory of God the Father (εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός) belongs properly to the verb, not to the predicate κύριος (Bengel), from which it is separated by the subject. It presents the end, purpose, of this adoring confession. It is therefore not the same as in gloria (Vulg.) or even, θεῷ (Van Hengel, who takes ὅτι as causal), as if ἐξομολογεῖν meant laudibus celebrare. [In θεοῦ πατρός the first term denotes a relation which God sustains to all His creatures; the second denotes one, which is peculiar to those who believe on His Son (comp. Galatians 1:1). On the universality of this confession see the last paragraph under Doctrinal and Ethical.—H.]


1. The motives urged in teaching and exhortation are first objective, based upon Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit; and secondly, subjective, as dependent on the character of individuals. Both of these concur in the case of him who teaches and exhorts, and of those dependent on the instructions and exhortations. The objective motives occupy the first place, and to these we should always appeal first of all. Among them stands in the foremost rank the example of Christ, which Philippians 2:5-11 bring into view especially. Among the subjective motives are love and compassion, important beyond comparison with others, for they answer to the objective which come from God, who is love, and to the character of sin, which is an evil, an injury, against which we must be preserved. All other motives are, as it were, crutches, which, as adapted to a sickly self-love, must be finally thrown away, e.g., regard for the judgment of others, fear of punishment, hope of reward. For with human nature as it is, one would not willingly do right, if, without doing so, he could be happy; and he would rather do wrong, if no harm should come to him from it.

2. The Apostle appeals to various motives for the maintenance of unanimity in the Church. But the unanimity which he seeks is moral rather than intellectual. It is not uniformity, but only the possession of a common centre, around which each one moves in a common love, which, however, may exhibit different degrees of strength and purity in different individuals, just as the centripetal force is capable of manifold gradations.

3. Among the bonds of this concord is humility, which in its two-fold intellectual and moral sphere, recognizes clearly both its own gifts and those which others possess, and does not allow one to esteem others less than himself, but prompts him with a sense of his own unworthiness to regard them more highly, because their unworthiness does not concern him. It is characteristic of humility that it has its centre outside of itself, and includes the great whole of which it is a member within itself; while pride makes the individual himself the centre, and not only breaks loose from the whole, but stands opposed to it, and so becomes the source of all discord and enmity.

4. Parry spirit and vain glory are excluded. The former misuses its neighbor, the latter its own possessions and those of the world; the former presses others down in order to raise itself; the latter draws others to itself in order to please them. The one exalts itself at the expense of others; and the other at the expense of its own real worth; patty spirit often brings into action great talents and energy; self contents itself with the mere appearance. However sharply the former may spy out the weaknesses of others and the advantages of particular relations, it is yet sure to destroy itself; or it may be happy in the present moment, while blinded to the evils which follow in its train.

5. The example of Christ is here presented to the Church with a fullness and completeness such as is found nowhere else. The whole life, not merely the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 2:21-25), enforces the doctrine, that we ought to deny self in humble love towards our neighbor, and only in such a way desire to share in his glory. If Christ existing in the form of God (ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, Philippians 2:6),not seeking the things of Himself (τὰ ἑαυτοῦ σκοπῶν), but also those of others (τὰ ἑτέρων, Philippians 2:4), resolved not to seize for Himself the sovereignty of a God over His creatures (Philippians 2:6), but in love (ἐν�, Philippians 2:2) and lowliness of mind (ταπεινοφροσύνῃ), ennobled and exalted those of mankind, made through Him in His image, and emptied Himself (ἐκένωσεν ἑαυτόν) by becoming a man (Philippians 2:7), obedient in all things, even unto the death of the cross; and God has now exalted Him as the object of worship (Philippians 2:9-11); then we also have no other way open to us to the glory with Him, except through humble self-denying love in fellowship and unity with the brethren.

6. [Neander:—That we rightly understand the use made of the example of Christ, as the model after which the Christian life is formed, we must first endeavor to bring the model itself clearly and distinctly before our minds. Before the eye of the Apostle stands the image of the whole Christ, the Son of God, appearing in the flesh, manifesting Himself in human nature. From the human manifestation he rises to the Eternal Word (as John expresses it), that Word which was, before the appearance of the Son of God in time—yea, before the worlds were made; in whom before all time God beheld and imaged Himself; as Paul in the Epistle to the Colossians calls Him, in this view, the image of the invisible, i.e., the incomprehensible God. Then, after this upward glance of his spiritual eye, he descends again into the depths of the human life, in which the Eternal Word appears as man. He expresses this in the language of immediate perception, beholding the divine and the human as one; not in the form of abstract truth, attained by a mental analysis of the direct object of thought. Thus he contemplates the entrance of the Son of God into the form of humanity as a self-abasement, a self-renunciation, for the salvation of those whose low estate He stooped to share. He whose state of being was divine, who was exalted above all the wants and limitations of the finite and earthly existence, did not eagerly claim this equality with God which He possessed; but, on the contrary, He concealed and disowned it in human abasement, and in the form of human dependence. And as the whole human life of Christ proceeded from such an act of self-renunciation and self-abasement, so did His whole earthly life correspond to this one act even to His death; the consciousness on the one hand of divine dignity which it was in His power to claim, and on the other the concealment, the renunciation of this, in every form of humiliation and dependence belonging to the earthly life of man. The crowning point appears in His death—the ignominious and agonizing death of the cross. Paul then proceeds to show what Christ attained by such self-renunciation, thus carried to the utmost limit, by such submissive obedience in the form of a servant; the reward which He received in return, the dignity which was conferred upon Him. Here, too, is presented the universal law, laid down by Christ Himself, that whoso humbles himself, and in proportion as he humbles himself, shall be exalted.—H.]

7. Concerning the person of Christ, the passage before us states the following truths: (a) His ego, His essential entity, is an antemundane person, who had a divine mode of existence (ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων). He is thus to be conceived of as existing within the being of God, as πρὸς τον θεόν (John 1:1), yet not merely as a thought, a principle, but as a person, λόγος ἄσαρκος. (b). Before the world was, before any creature existed, there was still wanting to Him who is ἴσος θεῷ, the τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ, a kingdom, and a people over which He might rule as the Anointed One at the right hand of the majesty of the Father, (c) He gave up His μορφὴν θεοῦ, the form of God, not His ego, not the possession of the glory, the κτῆσις of the δόξα. He assumed a servant’s form (μορφὴν δούλου), not sin, in becoming man. With the incarnation His humiliation began, in which He exhibited obedience even to the death of the cross, the shameful death of a slave. Within the human life also, which began with the incarnation, there were degrees of exinanition or self-divestment from Bethlehem to Golgotha. (d) He humbled not His nature, but only His personal existence, Himself, by the assumption of human nature and by His entrance into the life of men, so as to subject Himself to ignominy and death. He thus humbled Himself not through the obedience, but in the obedience which He rendered to the Father’s will, without sin, even in the most extreme trials that befell Him. (e) Such merit was followed by exaltation, which consisted in this, that He now became as κύριος, the object of worship for the whole realm of created spirits unto the praise of God the Father. (f) Into this position of exaltation the Father has placed the loved and loving Son. (g) In the worship of Jesus Christ the glory of the Father is constantly to be kept in view, as is the case in the public prayers and collects of the Evangelical Churches of the Reformation.

8. Our passage teaches nothing concerning the relation of the divine and the human nature, and of their attributes, to each other, of the relation of the two natures to the personal unity, or of the κτῆσις, or possession of the divine δόξα, or glory, to the χρῆσις, or use, of the same. Here we have opened to the efforts of Christological inquiry a wide and important domain which was measured and is measured or limited only by the fundamental conditions or outposts of Christianity, such as the hypostatic union, and based upon this the real communion of natures, which includes both the divine δόξα, as opposed to Ebionitism, Pelagianism, Socinianism, Rationalism, and the human development against Docetism and Romanism, and so the immutability as well as the self-limitation of the absolute God.

9. History of the interpretation of the text and of its doctrinal application. (a) The ancient Church almost throughout, before and after the Council of Nicæa, taught that the λόγος ἄσαρκος did not retain the divine δόξα for Himself, for His own advantage, while yet He did not cease, as λόγος ἔνσαρκος, to be what He was. His incarnation was not a yielding up of His divinity, but an assumption of humanity, which was taken up into His divinity. Only Ambrosiaster, Pelagius, Novatian, maintained opposite views. (b) The middle ages honored the divine nature at the expense of the human. Thomas Aquinas admitted only an outward development, in age and wisdom, with reference to men to whom He daily gave new proofs of it. (c) The Reformation harmonizes in general in the true confession of faith, yet the Lutherans, upon the fundamental principle, finitum capax esse infiniti, which the Reformed (Calvinists) denied, extended further the doctrine of the two natures and conditions of Christ. Thus Luther, led by his doctrine on the Lord’s Supper, concludes from the form which Christ possesses, exalted at the right hand of God (which is conceived of, not as a place of abode, but as a mode of existence), that the humanity was taken up into the divine glory, and that from the incarnation onwards the condition of humiliation appears more as a veiling, self-limitation, that of exaltation as a complete, visible revelation of the divine life. So in the Formula Concordiæ, VIII., which, by “its very indefiniteness allows room for further examination,” concerning which see Frank, Theologie der F. C., III., pp. 165 ff. The controversy of the theologians of Giessen and Tübingen, since 1607, did not concern itself about the κτῆσις, the possession of the divine glory, which was undisputed, but only about the χρῆσις, the use of it. The former, Menzer and Feuerborn, with the F.C., maintained a κένωσινχ ρήσεως, the latter, Haffenreffer, Thummius, Nicolai, only a κρύψιν χρήσεως, in respect to which the Decisio Saxonica, 1624, places itself on the side of the Giessen theologians, without reaching any very important result. (d) The modern development of Christology began with regarding the Son of God, the pre-existent God-man, as being in the perfect man (Goschel), then attempted to conceive of the same as becoming the God-man (Rothe, Dorner). Thomasius (Christi Person and Werk, II., § § 40, 43), following Hofmann (Schriftbeweis II.), went farther, since he supposed a self-abdication of the real attributes of the divine nature, amounting to a συγκοπή of the divine life of the Logos, or a sleep-like unconsciousness, and thus both impaired the unio personalis and assumed an exclusion of the Son from the Trinity during the earthly life of Christ. Gess (Die Lehre von der Person Christi), and Georg Ludw. Hahn (Theologie des N. T. 1.) suppose a self-abnegation also of the immanent, attributes, while Schenkel (Die Christ. Dogmatik, II.) does not proceed beyond the mere human nature, and falls into Socinianism. Others again revive Apollinarism. Comp. Dorner, Entwicklungsgeschichte der Lehre von der Person Christi, II., pp. 1203 ff.

9. The correct standpoint even for our time which, in the effort to conceive of the human development of the Redeemer, is in danger of lowering His divine personality, is shown by Chemnitz: Reliqua vero, quæ vel quæri vel disputari possunt, et in verbo non habent expressam patefactionem, cum magni hujus profunditatem in hac vita exhaurire et pervidere non possimus, ita me differre et rejicere ad magnam illam cœleslem, æeternam et illustrem scholam, ubi gloriam Christi salvatoris et fratris nostri ad faciem sicut est videbimus. Nec propter ea, quæ explicare non possum, ab illis, quæ expresso verbo patefacta sunt, discedere me debere. Hæc responsio, si videbitur rudior, simplicior et puerilior, non pugnabo, sed scio veram, certam, firmam et omnium tutissimam esse. It is important to hold fast the ethical and practical sense of the passage, and to deny neither the constant unchangeableness of the divinity of the Son in itself (John 1:1; John 1:18; John 3:13), nor His real, loving, self-denying, and self-abasing entrance into fellowship with sinful humanity in life and in death (John 1:14; John 17:5).

10. [The final and universal acknowledgment of Christ’s sovereignty (Philippians 2:10) is affirmed also in Romans 14:11. All the hosts of heaven and the myriads of the human race who still live, or have lived, or shall live, are to “bend the knee” before Him who bears the “name which is above every name,” who, as the Apostle John has said, wears “the title written on His vesture and His thigh, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ ” (Revelation 19:16). But this language is to be understood in harmony with the teachings of other passages. “Even the enemies of Christ,” says Dr. Tholuck, “who reject the gospel, acknowledge the reality of His power, if they are unable to resist the decisions of His justice, i.e., if at the end of the world they are excluded from all part in the blessings of His Kingdom; while those who have repented and submitted to His claims are received to the joys and the rewards of heaven. Both classes in this case yield to Him the homage of their submission. But according to a just distinction which some of the older writers have made, that of the one is obedientia ex animo, i.e., a voluntary, hearty obedience; that of the other, obedientia cum tremore, a subjection reluctant, extorted by fear.” Viewed in this light, the passage in our Epistle is parallel entirely to that in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10. (Disputatio Christologica de loc. Paul Phil. II. 2 ff.—H.]


Motives (Philippians 2:1), aim (Philippians 2:2-4), and method (Philippians 2:5-11) of a Christian teacher, a spiritual father.—We must ever start from what we have in order to get forward and upward. First, fulfil thine own duty, which should be to thee a pleasure, not a burden, and then lay hold of the good that is in others, be it ever so little, or merely supposed to be there; yet assume it, use it without complaint or mistrust.—Truth is one, simple, and yet so infinitely rich that there can be unanimity and yet no monotony, like the harmony in a choir of many voices. Most controversies in the church have moved and still move around the germ of the truth, around the fundamental doctrine, but do not touch exactly the thing itself. They have reference only to the human confirmation of the truth, its mediation through conceptions, or mode of apprehension, and affect not the Christian character of the individual, provided only he abides in love.—Not, how art thou esteemed by thy neighbor, but, how dost thou serve him, is the main point.—He is great who humbles himself in obedience, but disobedience dishonors and degrades; the former recognises the higher will, and looks forward to the glorious end; the latter is concerned only with itself, and does not get beyond self.—Self-seeking is a deadly plague to the soul.—The example of Jesus Christ instructs, directs, leads, makes the way of the cross a path of light; He went no other way, and the Christian also, His disciple, may not go a different one.

Starke:—If we would make people religious we must not use the wheel and the sword in the church, or fight them with the iron Bible, or preach fables; but build our exhortation upon Christ, the fellowship of the Spirit, the fellowship of God, for such arguments pierce through bone and marrow.—Love of honor in a preacher is a baneful poison, a prolific source of dissension in the church of God.—Self-seeking destroys country and people, churches and schools, cities and houses.—Who has knees to bend, let him bend them! Christ is the One most worthy of glory, the One whom we can never fully honor.

[Robert Hall:—Christianity was never intended to destroy the different stations and gradations of life; but it is intended to destroy that arrogance and superciliousness with which rank and splendor are too often borne. As it teaches the poor humility and submission, so it teaches the rich humanity, gentleness, and compassion. In this respect it merges all distinctions (Philippians 2:3).—H.].

Rieger:—He who exalts himself above others, thinks that others also must accommodate themselves to him, acts as if they must regard his rights and their maintenance as of the first importance. With respect to the self-abasement of Christ, the language always was: He humbled Himself in order to show His obedient, willing spirit; but with reference to His exaltation, the language is: God has raised Him up, placed Him at His right hand, etc., in order to distinguish Him as the Author and Finisher of our faith, the pioneer in the way of faith by which we must now come to God.

Schleiermacher:—Unity of mind among all Christians can be nothing else than unity in the knowledge that Christ is the Redeemer of the world, and in the disposition to recognize Him as such, and to accept Him as Leader in the way of salvation. 1) In what respects especially the Redeemer is our example. 2) How can we imitate this example?

Heubner:—It is characteristic of the Christian that he does not think highly of himself, but is disposed to regard others as more important, more deserving. He acknowledges gladly their excellencies and gives way to them. Such humility towards men, unaffected, and yielding the pre-eminence which pride arrogates to itself, flows from humility towards God.

[Neander:—One’s judgment of another (see Philippians 2:3) is not within the control of his own will. How can he esteem his brother higher than himself, if this is not in accordance with the truth, if he cannot but perceive in himself excellencies which are wanting in the other, and defects in the other from which he himself is free. Is humility to be grounded upon falsehood? Most certainly not. But there is here presupposed, as resulting from the development of the Christian life, a pervading temper of heart, of which such a judgment of one’s self in comparison with others is but the necessary and natural expression. The Christian’s love will lead him first of all to discern what is good in another; to discover even in his blemishes his peculiar gifts, that in which he is really superior to himself; while on the other hand, through a self-scrutiny, sharpened by the Spirit which quickens him, he detects with rigorous exactness his own faults. And this self-rigor, united with love, will give leniency to his judgment of whatever may obscure the divine life in others.—H.].

Passavant:—Strife and vain glory are pests in hearts, houses, families, congregations, cities, the state, the church.

As the Epistle for Palm Sunday (Philippians 2:5-11).

Rautenberg:—The Mediator crowned with praise and honor on account of His sufferings and death. 1) By the world before God; 2) by God before the world.

Zeiss:—Royal image of the Christian who consecrates his life to the Lord; 1) Humility of heart is his costly’ adornment; 2) the blessing of love his joyful delight; 3) pleasing God his exalted aim; and 4) harvesting of the seed his heavenly reward.

Law and Testimony:—What a Christian shares with his Lord Jesus: 1) the cross; 2) the glory. Conditions of the church of Christ; 1) its servitude; 2) its glory. The palms which we strew in the path of the Lord Jesus: 1) That we believe in the Crucified One; 2) that we trust in the Exalted One. The five-fold hosanna with which we prepare the way of the Lord Jesus: hosanna (1) of humility, (2) of patience, (3) of faith, (4) of prayer, and (5) of hope.

Prohle:—The Epistle on Palm Sunday an earnest reminder of the entrance into the passion week. It reminds us, 1) of the cross and death of Christ; 2) of His innocence and holiness; 3) of His divine dignity; 4) of His complete subjection to God’s will; 5) of the triumphant end of His sufferings.—The traits of a true imitation of Christ: 1) Humility; 2) Self-denial; 3) Obedience unto death.


Philippians 2:1; Philippians 2:1.—ἔι τις σπλάγχνα is found in א A B C D E F K L. It is either a solecism (Tischendorf N. T. ed. VII: maj.) or a mistake (Winer, el at.) of Paul or of the transcribers for τινα. [Wordsworth makes here the just remark (in opposition to a possible extreme): “But this text, among others, affords evidence that it is not a sound principle of criticism, to limit the data for determining the readings of the N. T. to the most ancient extant MSS., and that it is necessary to extend the range of inquiry to the cursive MSS. and other collateral aids.”—H.]

Philippians 2:4; Philippians 2:4—ἕκαστοι has stronger support in A B F G, et al., than ἓκαστος in א C D E, et al.

[3]—τοῦτο γὰρ φρονεῖτε is found in D E F G; γάρ is wanting in א A B C, probably because ἕκαστοι was added from Philippians 2:4. [“As Philippians 2:5 begins an ecclesiastical lecture, and as the explanative force of γάρ (= ‘verily,’ ‘as the case stands’) might not have been fully understood and have led to the omission of the particle, the reading γάρ seems slightly more probable” (Ellicott).—H.] א ABC* read φρονεῖτε, others read φρονείσθω. [The former is also grammatically the more difficult, and therefore more likely to be original.—H.]

Philippians 2:9; Philippians 2:9.—τὸ ὄνομα in א A B C; the article is omitted in D E F G, et al.

[5][Professor Lightfoot states his objections to the rendering of the A. V. in an extended note in his Commentary at the end of chap. 2.—H.]

Verses 12-18

God helps believers in their endeavors to imitate Christ

(Philippians 2:12-18.)

12Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of (or for) his good pleasure. 14Do all things without murmurings and disputings [doubtings]. 15That ye may be [become]6 blameless and harmless [pure] (the) sons [children] of God, without rebuke,7 in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation [generation], among whom ye shine [appear] as lights [luminaries]8 in the world, 16holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. 17Yea, and if [But, if also] I be offered upon [in] the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy [rejoice], and I rejoice with you all. 18For the same cause (also) do ye [also] joy [rejoice], and rejoice with me.


Philippians 2:12. Wherefore, ὥστε, refers to what precedes, as in Philippians 4:1. See Winer’s Gram. p. 301. Ὑπηκούσατε is correlative with γενόμενος ὑπήκοος, and τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν corresponds to Philippians 2:9-11. The exhortation borrows its coloring indeed from Philippians 2:8-11, but, like the example of Christ adduced as an illustration, it reaches back to the entire course of thought (Philippians 2:1-11), and hence does not attach itself merely to Philippians 2:11 (Schenkel), to the last thing discussed (Philippians 2:6-11, Meyer) or to Philippians 1:27 ff. (De Wette).—My beloved (ἀγαπητοί μου) shows the Apostle’s joy and deep interest in them (Philippians 2:2).—As ye have always obeyed (καθὼς πάντοτε ὑπηκούσατε) singles out the act on the part of the Philippians, upon which he now builds his hope that his exhortation will not be in vain. Mihi ad salutem vos hortanti, ipsique deo (Bengel). The context requires this explanation.—Not as in my presence only. Μή belongs to the following imperative (κατεργάζεσθε); for if the negative belonged to ὑπηκούσατε, with which Luther wrongly connects it, οὐ would have been used. Ὡς, according to its use in a participial clause, points out a possible idea of the Philippians, that such compliance with Paul’s admonition must be necessary only in his presence. See Winer’s Gram. p. 617. Hence it is not a term of comparison (Hölemann).—But now much more in my absence (ἀλλὰ νῦν πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἐν τῇ�̣ μου) urges the stronger necessity for self-exertion, because they are left to themselves, without the assistance of the Apostle who is now far distant. Quia ego vobis non adesse possum, ipsi vos curateeo magis (Bengel).—Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου refers (as in Ephesians 6:5) to that tender conscientiousness, that fear in the presence of the omnipresent God, which feels that no effort or solicitude can be too great. It does not refer to a servant’s relation (Bengel: servi esse debetis, examplo Christi, Philippians 2:8), nor to spiritual pride (Rilliet), nor to resignation to God’s will (Matthies). Τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν marks the salvation as that of the Philippians themselves (ἑαυτῶν not being here used for ἀλλήλων, Flatt, et al.), who in this case ought to regard the things of themselves (τὰ ἑαυτῶν σκοπεῖν) as the glorious end of the κατεργάζεσθεῶ. On ἐαυτῶν see Winer’s Gram., p. 150 sq. Κατεργάζεσθαι: means to bring to pass (perficere usque ad metam, Bengel), for which energetic perseverance is requisite. The mode of this is indicated by ὑπηκούσατε, as also by the example of Christ (Philippians 2:8).

Philippians 2:13. For it is God who worketh in you (θεὸς γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν ἐν ὑμῖν). The Apostle strengthens his exhortation here by reminding them that if they disregard it they will not merely suffer personal loss, (τὴν ἐαυτῶν σωτηρίαν), but strive against another, the Highest, whose work and working they would disturb and bring to naught. It confirms the entire exhortation, though it designates only the τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν specially as their aim and labor. Thus it is neither a ground of encouragement (Chrysostom, Meyer, et al.), nor an incentive to humility (Calvin, Schenkel, et al.); for it is not designed to confirm exclusively either κατεργάζεσθε or μετὰ φὸβου καὶ τρόμου. Not with standing God’s activity, which is shown by ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν to be constant, and by ἐν ὑμῖν to be exerted in the hearts of individuals, every one should be careful both as to what he does or omits to do. Of God it is not said that He effectually works (κατεργάζεται) to will and to do, since He does not indeed accomplish this result in all: but He is only said ἐνεργεῖν, because where it is effected, it is not without His assistance; which of course to be effective (κατεργάζεσθαι) requires obedience on their part (ὑπακούειν). Hölemann wrongly explains ἐν υμῖν as intra cœtum vestrum [and others ‘among you.’—H.]. What God works is especially —Both to will and to do, καὶ τὸ θέλειν καὶτὸ ἐνεργεῖν. The first is the self-determination, the second the personal exertion: both take place in the heart of the believer. The first originates, the second carries out in the life; both are conditions of the κατεργάζεσθαι.—Of or for his good pleasure ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας is a nearer limitation of ἐνεργῶν. God’s working has its ground within Himself (His εὐδοκία), and is not occasioned or controlled by anything out of Himself, and in man. The article defines the disposition as well known. Comp. Romans 15:8 : ὑπὲρ�. See Winer’s Gram. p. 383. [The preposition ὑπέρ does not represent the εὐδοκία as the mere ratio of the action, or the mere norma according to which it is done, but as the interested cause of it; the commodum of the εὐδοκία was that which the action was designed to subserve (Ellicott).—H.]. On εὐδοκία see Philippians 1:15; Ephesians 1:5. The meaning of ὑπέρ cannot be κατά, secundum, nor can the εὐδοκία of the Philippians be meant (Erasmus, et al.)

Philippians 2:14. Do all things without murmurings and doubtings. Πάντα is limited only by the context: all which is to be done in reference to salvation, for which God gives the willing and the working. [The verb (ποιεῖτε) here comprehends in its full compass suffering as well as doing. The patience with which the Christian endures the trials to which God may call him illustrates his character not less decisively than the habit of active obedience.—H.] Ποιεῖτε marks only the act, the nature and mode of which are determined by the disposition of the doer (χωρὶς γογγυσμῶν καὶ διαλογισμῶν). The preposition denotes, like ἄνευ (1 Peter 4:9) a separation, but the difference between them is, that the former represents the subject, the latter the object as distant. The Philippians ought to be distant, separated, from murmurings and doubtings; ἄνευ would indicate that these ought to be far from the Philippians (Ephesians 2:12); and see Tittmann Syn., 1, pp. 93–97. The distinction between the two substantives is, that the first (γογγυσμοί) belongs to the unwilling, weak, and still stubborn spirit, the second (διαλογισμοί) to the doubtful spirit, which does not see its way clearly. The former proceeds from the will, the latter from the intellect. Schenkel refers the first to the defiant, the second to the timid heart. Bengel supposes the ἄμευπτοι in Philippians 2:15 to refer back to γογγυσμοί, and ἀκέραιοι to διαλογισμῶν. We are not to understand by the latter term disputation, controversy (Wieseler, Erasmus, et al.), contrary to the usage of the New Testament. This word is not to be limited, as e.g. to God only (Meyer, et al.), to superiors (Estius, et al.), or fellow Christians (Calvin, Wieseler, et al.). [As γογγυσμός is the moral, so διαλογισμόν is the intellectual rebellion against God (Lightfoot).—H.]

Philippians 2:15. That ye may become blameless and pure. Ἵνα marks the end, γένησθε the way, which is a becoming, a process of development. Ἄμεμπτοι, unblamable, those (according to the Greek form) in whom there is nothing to blame (1 Thessalonians 3:13), represents the moral integrity as manifesting itself outwardly; ἀκέραιοι (from κεράννυμι), unmixed (Romans 16:19; Matthew 10:16), presents ‘the same according to its inner character’ (Meyer). The first is that from which we can judge of the second, for it is the condition of it; the inward answers to the outward.—Children of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation [not nation as in the A. V.—H.] Τέκνα θεοῦ sums up both predicates, such are they as Christians: but in Christ (Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:5) they should become ἄμωμα (without μώμος, Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:22, in quo non est, quod reprehendatur), or ἀμώμητα (from μωμάομαι, 2 Peter 3:14, qui reprehendi non potest), and this in spite of and in their actual circumstances. Μέσου (here as a preposition, see Winer’s Gram., p. 471) γενεᾶς σκολιᾶς καὶ διεστραμμένης. Comp. Act 2:40; 1 Peter 2:18; Matthew 17:17; Luke 9:41. Γενεά is used de ætatis alicujus hominibus. The first adjective describes the outward, dishonest, perverted demeanor; the second the inward, distorted character. Manifestly there is an allusion here to a passage in the important chapter which serves as a basis of prophecy (Deuteronomy 32:5): ἡμάρτοσαν οὐκ αὐτῷ τέκνα μωμητά, γενεὰ σκολιὰ καὶ διεστραμμένη.—Among whom ye shine as luminaries in the world. [The active (φαίνειν) means to shine (see John 1:5; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 1:16); but the middle means to appear, as in Matthew 18:27; 1 Peter 4:18 and James 4:14. The A. V. does not always observe the distinction.—H.] Ἐν οἶς belongs ad sensum to γενεᾶς (Winer’s Gram., p. 141). The verb, φαίνεσθε, not φαίνετε, describes their becoming visible, being recognized as God’s children. Hence it is not lucetis (Bengel), still less is it the imperative (Pelagius, Erasmus, et al.). [Christians were not to be, but now actually were, as luminaries in a dark, heathen world (Ellicott).—H.] The apostle calls to their mind what they are, in order that they may show themselves to be such. But ὡς φωστῆρες introduces a new figure, to designate the immoral character of the world: Christians are the stars, illuminators, ἐν κόσμῳ, in the world, which in itself is as dark as night. Hence ἐν κόσμῳ is not to be joined with φαίνεσθε (De Wette), nor is φαίνονται to be supplied (Rilliet, et al.); neither is it equivalent to “in the heavens” (Rheinwald), nor is it dat. commodi, “for the world” (Storr). [This form (φωστῆρες) occurs elsewhere in the N. T. only in Revelation 21:11, where it has the same sense.—H.]

Philippians 2:16. Holding forth the word of life, presents the mode of the φαίνεσθε. Δόγον ζωῆς receives illustration from the connection which exists between life and light (John 1:4 : ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς): life is light, Christ is the life (John 6:48; John 14:6) and the light (John 8:12; John 9:5; John 12:46), and indeed the source of them; His followers are also light, but it is a derived light (Matthew 5:14); the essence of the gospel is light (Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:12), and the life is in the word, and as the thought breaks forth in the word, so also the light and the life. Accordingly ἐπέχοντες is used and not merely ἔχοντες. The Christian holds forth the word of life, living it, living out what is living within him. Hence τῷ λόγῳ προσέχοντες (Theodoret) is incorrect, for we have not the dative (Acts 3:5); and so also is “holding fast” (Luther).—The aim and result is: That I may rejoice in [or, more literally, for a rejoicing to me against] the day of Christ (εἰς καύχημα ἐμοὶ εἰς ἡμέραν Χριστοῦ). Comp. Philippians 1:10; Philippians 1:26. The cause of his rejoicing then will be: That I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain (ὅτι οὐκ εἰς κενὸν ἔδραμον οὐδὲ εἰς κενὸν ἐκοπίασα). The first expression, which recalls the contests of the stadium or race, denotes his zeal and the wide reach of his activity (not confined to one place); the second (derived from κοπός, toil) indicates the labor and effort which his ministry involves. The modifying οὐκ εἰς κενόν follows: in vain, i.e. without fruit or result (2 Corinthians 6:1; Galatians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), which thus occasions the repetition, and does not merely arise from his feeling of joy in the consciousness that such is the result (Meyer).

Philippians 2:17. But if also I be offered. Ἀλλά introduces an antithesis which εἰ shows to be conditional. What this antithesis is, καὶ before σπένδομαι shows. [“My labors have been severe, unintermitted. But not content with this I am willing (if that is reserved for me) to suffer a martyr’s death.”—H.] The meaning of σπένδομαι is: I am poured out as a drink-offering, presented as a libation, as in 2 Timothy 4:6. Comp. Numbers 28:7; Numbers 15:4 sq. [The present tense represents the act as in progress. “If I am being poured out,” etc.—H.] The libation-wine, set apart from its common use, serving as an expression of joy (Psalms 104:15; Ecclesiastes 10:19), as an image of quickening grace (Proverbs 9:2; Isaiah 55:1), as a sweet savor (2 Corinthians 3:15; Romans 15:16), serves to represent the Apostle (separated from them by his δεσμοί), as giving up his personal and official ego, his life and his desires, pouring out in a martyr’s death his blood as a sweet savor. The Apostle’s death by the sword is here alluded to, the present marking it as impending (Philippians 1:20). Καὶ connects this death by martyrdom with ἔδραμον and ἐκοπίασα, his sufferings with his labors; the latter have not been fruitless, and the former also shall not be so.—Hence the following is added: Upon (in) the sacrifice and service of your faith. Ἐπί points to the circumstances of the σπένδεσθαι; this takes place in τῇ θυσίᾳ καὶ λειτουργίᾳ. Both are united under one article, and are hence conceived of as a unity. The second is the priestly service (Luke 1:23; Hebrews 8:6), hence the first is the act of offering, not victima (Wiesinger). The offering itself is designated by the genitive: τῆς πιστέως ὐμῶν, with respect to which the Apostle exercises his priestly functions, presenting it to God, while he himself is the accompanying drink-offering, since his blood is poured forth. As the former results in his glory, so now this results in his joy. [The Hebrews, in offering their sacrifices, poured out often a libation or drink-offering at the same time. See Exodus 29:40; Numbers 28:7. The costume of the thought in this passage is evidently derived from that practice. The faith of the Philippians, according to the Apostle’s allusion, is viewed as a sacrifice which they have brought to the altar for the purpose of presenting it to God. The Apostle himself with reference to his agency in their salvation, officiates as the priest who offers this sacrifice for them. The act of presenting it is styled here a λειτουργία, i.e., as the word imports, a sacerdotal service, or ministry (see Luke 1:23; Hebrews 8:6). Paul declares now, in the ardor of his affection for the Philippians, that if it be necessary in order that he may discharge his priestly office more perfectly, or that the sacrifice of their faith may be more acceptable unto God, that his blood should be shed as a libation for them, he is willing to die in their behalf. He has in view the possibility of his martyrdom, and the effect which he hopes may result from that event, in strengthening their faith and preparing them for heaven.—H.] Rilliet’s rendering of σπένδομαι, I am sprinkled, is incorrect, for it is the present tense; ἐπί has not the sense of “to” (Wiesinger), or super (Van Hengel), since θυσία is not victima. There is no antithesis here to Philippians 1:25 (De Wette), of which no reader would readily think, for what intervenes (Philippians 1:26 to Philippians 2:1 sq.) makes that connection at too remote places, or to Philippians 1:25, as if he had hoped to live to see the perfection of his readers, but now supposes the opposite (Meyer, Wiesinger, et al.), or as if he had thought at first that he should live to see the coming of the Lord (Van Hengel) which is not here in question. It should not be joined with the following χαίρω (Bengel).—I rejoice, and rejoice with you all, χαίρω καὶ συγχαίρω πᾶσιν ὑμῖν. Theophylact οὐχ ὡς ὁ�,ἀλλὰ καὶ χαίρω ὅτι σπονδὴ γίνομαι Paul rejoices in the prospect of a martyr’s death; but not for himself merely; he rejoices with the Church also, which will thus experience and acknowledge the blessing of martyrdom. Meyer, contrary to the usus loquendi of the New Testament (Luke 1:58; Luke 15:6; Luk 15:9; 1 Corinthians 12:26; 1 Corinthians 13:6, where it means in each case to rejoice with others) takes συγχαίρω as congratulor together with the Vulg., Bengel, et al. [This is also Lightfoot’s interpretation.—H.]

Philippians 2:18. For the same cause (τὸ δ’ αὐτό, governed by the verb) presents the cause of the joy to which in conclusion he earnestly exhorts them from his example. [Instead of being grieved that they should be such gainers at his expense, he would have them share his joy in being permitted to yield up his life with such gain to himself and such benefit to them.—H.]—Do ye also rejoice, and rejoice with me, καὶ ὑμεις χαίρετε καὶ συγχαίρετέ μοι. These are imperatives, not indicatives (Erasmus). The following explanations are wrong: gratulamini mihi, libato (Bengel); subauditur κατά with τὸ δ’αν̓τὸ (Beza); τὸ δ’αυτό=ὠσαύτως (Rheinwald, Rilliet, Wiesinger, who cites Matthew 27:44). Bengel: martyrii præstantia.


1. A great blessing rests upon fellowship with Christians, whether they be mature or not (Philippians 2:12), for it tends to the development of Christian character and life; but not merely upon fellowship with those who are present to the senses: the spiritual man ought to make his influence reach to the absent also. The more he does this the better.

2. In connection with faith which comes from the preaching of the divine word (Romans 10:17 : ἡ πίστις ἐξ�, ἡ δὲ�), obedience is demanded (ὑπακοή, Philippians 2:12 : ὑπηκούσατε). This gives keenness to the tender conscience, which dreads to disregard or to seem to cast contempt upon God and His gifts (μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου). Quamvis enim gratis in uno Christo per fidem apprehenso servemur, tamen per viam justitiæ ad salutem contendere nos oportet, cum filii dei ejus spiritu ducantur (Beza), hence they must follow, because in His strength they are able to do it. We belong to God through Christ, and we should, by obedience to Him and to His word, prove this relationship.

3. Our salvation is as much God’s work as our own. The beginning of a new life in the soul is entirely an act of God, which the Holy Spirit effects in our spirit, but not in our consciousness; yet in such a manner that we become conscious of it as an act of God. We do not create ourselves men; God creates us (Harless, Ethics, p. 229). He works in us constantly the willing and the doing. But we can resist Him, withdraw ourselves from Him. He does not work irresistibly, determinatively. But because He works thus in us, we may not remain idle, we must be fearful lest we lose this work of grace, fearful on account of our weakness, and the dangers in and around us, and must cherish and follow this willing and working effected by God.

4. [Neander:—Paul always represents the salvation of man as something which can be accomplished only through the grace of God as the work of God in man. But he adds (Philippians 2:13) a more exact designation of the temper of heart with which Christians should work out their salvation, viz., “with fear and trembling.” This would not be appropriate if he were speaking of what lay merely in the hand of man, in which case all would depend upon his own strength. It is because Paul is conscious of the weakness and insufficiency of all human strength, because he presupposes that man can do nothing without God, and must constantly watch over himself, lest through his own fault he lose the aid of divine grace, without which all human efforts are in vain; it is for this reason that he designates this temper of mind as one of fear and trembling, as the feeling of personal accountability and helplessness, of insecurity and instability in ourselves, by which we may be ever admonished to continual watchfulness, and to ever-renewed waiting upon God as the fountain of all our strength. Hence, as the ground of such an admonition, he appeals to this consciousness that we can of ourselves do nothing, that it is God who alone bestows upon us the power to will and to perform what is needful to our salvation; that all, indeed, depends upon his sovereign will. This feeling of dependence, the ground-tone of the Christian life, is ever to be maintained. It is this which must combat the presumption of a vain human self-reliance, which, finding itself deceived in the result, so easily gives place to dejection and despair. (See Philippians 2:12-13.—H.].

5. The goal is reached by a gradual process (Philippians 2:15 : γένησθε). Renovatio non est talis mutatio, quæ uno momenta statim omnibus suis partibus perficiatur ac absolvatur, sed habet sua initia, suos progressus, quibus in magna infirmitate perficitur. (Gerhard, loc. xii. 9, § 126). Fiunt in conversione inchoaliones similes conceptioni, non tamen solum concipi, sed et nasci opus est; nihil tamen horum fit sine gratuita del misericordia (Augustine).

6. Φόβος καὶ τρόμος may not be omitted, for in the renovatio just as full a view is given of the magna potentia Dei as of the magna infirmitas hominis. But γογγυσμὸς καὶ διαλογισμός must be absent, for the first springs from self-confidence, contentment with one’s self, the second from mistrust towards God and His gifts as the source of power; the first excites a sullen will towards God, the second turns the confused spirit away from God, and ends in despair.

7. Every Christian has a mission in the world, to let his light shine round about him, and to be anxious that the darkness of the world, though it is around him, shall on this very account not be and remain in him.
8. The word of God must, as a word of life, manifest itself actively in the personal traits of the Christian, that there may be an eloquent sermon without word of mouth, in the still, noiseless walk and character.

9. As death is no loss to the Christian, still less is the martyr’s death, which is rather a ground and cause of thankful joy for the Church and for the martyr himself.


The work of thy salvation is (1) God’s work wrought upon thee and in thee; (2) the work of the Church, within which it takes place; (3) thine own work, since thou consentest to it.—God does not give thee the flower and the fruit of salvation, but the seed, the sunshine and the rain. He does not give houses, nor yet beams and squared stones, but trees, and rocks, and limestone, and says: Now build thyself a house. Regard not God’s work within thee as an anchor to hold thy bank firmly to the shore, but as a sail which shall carry it to its port.—Fear thy depression and faint-heartedness, but take courage at thy humility before God. Consider God’s gifts, thy employment of them, the final reckoning before Him. Ever become more and more what thou really art, a light in the world.—Even in sorrow and the deepest pain, overlook not the reasons for joy.

Starke:—Behold the character of righteous children, scholars, and hearers, who in their parents and teachers really see God, and therefore are obedient, as well in their absence as in their presence, since they have the everywhere-present God before their eyes and in their hearts. Our Christianity does not lead one to hide himself in deserts and convents, and thus to remain blameless, but in the midst of the perverted, degenerate world to guard himself from sin. Such knighthood will God have from us.—When the joy of the children of this world ceases, then the joy of the faithful first really begins; and the ability to rejoice in extreme sufferings, even in death itself, is a proof of the truth and excellence of the Christian religion.

Rieger:—We ought never to forget the danger of being lost, to which we are exposed so long as we live in a body of sin and death, and amid the temptations of the world; and therefore we ought not to regard ourselves as beyond fear and trembling.—God does not compel and overpower us by His working, like a block. Man can do nothing without God, and God will do nothing without man and his awakened will.—As surely as God does nothing against His honor, so surely will He do nothing against our salvation.—Doubting is opposed to faith, murmuring, to love. Even now at the departure of favored children of God, the grace which has been made known in them sweetens perceptibly all sorrow over their loss, and prevents any wish to bring them back again.

Gerlach:—The believing Christian is awakened and moved by God’s power. It is mighty in him. But he ought also to give himself up to it without reservation, neither opposing God’s will by murmuring, a disposition directly contrary to it, nor concealing his disobedience behind doubts, subtleties, and questions.

Schleiermacher:—We ought to fear and tremble for ourselves as soon as we perceive the thought of future blessedness becoming dim in our souls, or the longing for it becoming languid in our hearts.—Every one who has such fear of that which may bring upon us adversity, every one who through this fear denies the Redeemer before men, should consider that it was the will of our dying Redeemer that His followers should take His cross upon them as their own. But we can take it upon us only in the faithful and unwearied service of truth and goodness, and of all that we recognize as the will of God.

Menken:—The willing is of God and the ability to do is of God; but the using, the action, the life in conformity with such divinely awakened willing and divinely bestowed ability, is ours, is dependent upon us, upon our faithfulness.—He who could think that God indeed works in him the willing but not the performing, or that to-day he gives the willing, but the performing not until after days and years, or even not until the future life, would in that error utter a falsehood concerning God, and would deny Him.—No disposition of heart in which love and faith are wanting accords with the spirit of truth and holiness.—So also no work is good and pleasing to God by which love and faith are injured.—There is something lovely and benevolent about a man who performs every good deed as freely, as joyfully, as kindly, as if it had not been a duty at all, as if no law had enjoined it, no fear compelled it, as if, instead of proving difficult, it had cost no self-denial and no effort, as if it had sprung forth with delight and joy from his very nature, from the rich treasure of his goodness and his love. How ungracious and unlovely on the other hand is every word, and work, and endurance, in which we detect compulsion, secret reluctance, and vexation, an inward, restrained murmuring, that says to us plainly enough: all this would not be done, were it not compelled.—The worth and the good conduct of the child of God should not be the pitiable product of favorable circumstances, not that miserable, godless virtue which is ever dependent on outward circumstances, and changes as often as they change.—The Holy Scriptures contain not an empty, unpractical theory, not a rule for those who dwell in heaven, but instruction for us who live in the midst of the world, who are on the field of battle, and whose life, on account of our own inward character and relation to the world, can be nothing else but a struggle, and who can attain to freedom and peace only through manifold victories.—It was in general characteristic of the Apostle to be moved, awakened, strengthened and exalted by nothing so quickly, so deeply, so powerfully, in the depths of his heart, as by a glance forward to the day of Christ (Philippians 2:16).

Heubner:—With real Christians there should be no need of any Mentor, of any higher power whose presence alone could compel them to obedience; they should do the right, no matter whether any one sees or not. With many, doing right is but an eye-service, and with such the law itself is at bottom only one more bugbear.—Christianity does not enjoin anxious scrupulousness and gloomy self-mortification, but it forbids bold assurance and defiant self-confidence. This thought—it is possible for thee to lose thy salvation—can never be fearful enough to us. We should tremble at the idea—it is possible for thee to be cast off from God.—Man must strive as though he could do all, as though all depended on himself. Joy and love in obedience characterize the Christian as a child of God, as a son in distinction from a slave.—Christians should stand in contrast with their age, should constitute the élite, and serve as models for others around them.—The fickle sparkle at times; the truly pious burn evenly on.—The service of sin consumes also—but it destroys the best part of the man.

Passavant:—Fear and trembling, before the face of the thrice Holy One; before an unholy world, which ensnares us on every side with the allurements of sin, so that we become partakers of its sins; before ourselves, before this heart which, consciously or unconsciously, joins so readily with Satan and the world in lust and malice, which conceals within itself so many a lust, so many a lie, and so many a power of evil—a manifold tinder of destruction.

Meyer:—Only blessed! is the inscription over every pious Christian’s door, as it is over the pastor’s study, over font, altar, pulpit, grave. Strive that thou mayest be blessed.—(1) Your salvation your care; (2) your salvation God’s work. The defiant heart has heard the admonition to penitence, “work out!”—the timid heart the assurance, “it is God!”


Philippians 2:15; Philippians 2:15. Γενέσθαισ in א B, et al. has better support than ἦτε in A, et al.

[7]Ibid. Ἅμωμα, found in א A B C et al., is better supported than ἀμώμητα, but as the more common form in the N. T. might more readily displace the latter, than the reverse.

[8][Ibid. The Greek for luminaries (φωστῆρες), says Lightfoot, is used almost exclusively of the heavenly bodies. It occurs again in the N. T. only in Revelation 21:11, where also it should be so rendered.—H.].

Verses 19-24


The conduct of the companions and assistants of the Apostle

( Philippians 2:19-30)

Timothy and his approaching mission to them

(Philippians 2:19-24)

19But I trust [hope]9 in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. 20For I have no man like minded, who will naturally [sincerely] care for your state. 21For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. 22But ye know the proof of him, that as a son [child] with the [a] father, he hath served with me in [for] the gospel. 23Him therefore I hope to send presently [immediately]10 so soon as I shall see11 how it will go with me. 24But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.


Philippians 2:19. But I hope (ἐλπίζω δέ) in spite of the martyrdom, (σπενδέσθαι, Philippians 2:17) which he apprehends. He regards a favorable result as possible, but only because he hopes in the Lord Jesus (ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ) who is the ground of his hope (1 Corinthians 15:19), so that he is confident of being able to dispense with Timothy, and to send him shortly to them (Τιμόθεον ταχέως πέμψαι ὑμῖν). This also took place, since the second epistle was written to him after this. Ταχέως is limited by Philippians 2:23. The simple dative ὑμῖν is stronger than πρὸς ὑμᾶς, not merely equivalent (Van Hengel), for the latter is only local, while the former marks his longing for the Philippians—their attachment to each other.—That I also may be of good comfort, gives the purpose (ἵνα) of the mission; κἀγώ, found only here, refers to the effect of the letter in allaying the anxiety of the church concerning Paul, who also needed the same alleviation with respect to them (εὐψυχῶ, also found only here), for the church is exposed to many dangers (Philippians 1:27-30; Philippians 3:1-21; Philippians 4:2).—When I know your state. Γνούς indicates definite knowledge, the object of which is τὰ περὶ ὑμῶν. He needs and expects to receive through Timothy good news as well as certain information. He ascribes special importance to Timothy’s communications, for not only had Epaphroditus been a long time away from Philippi (Philippians 2:25-30), but he wished also to learn the effect of this present letter, and Timothy understood him perfectly, and was aware of all that concerned and interested the Apostle.

Philippians 2:20. For I have no man like-minded, οὐδένα γὰρ ἔχω ἰσόψυχιν. [The comparison here is between Timothy and other persons, not between him and Paul; since the object of the remark clearly is to state why the Apostle sends Timothy rather than any one else.—H.]. This last reason alone he makes prominent, and hence unfolds it still further.—Who will sincerely care for your state. Ὅστις describes the character of Timothy: such a one as that, etc., and ἰσόψυχος (found only in this place in the New Testament), referring through ἔχω to the Apostle, is more closely defined in its mode of action, entirely like φίλος ἴσος τῇ ψυχῇ μου (Deuteronomy 13:6). Γνησίως marks the uprightness and purity, the freedom from false, self-seeking arts, by which he will show his solicitude for them (τὰ περὶ ὑμῶν μεριμνήσει) when he comes. The sympathy with which he will enter into their relations and circumstances (τὰ περὶ ὑμῶν, not τὰ ὑμῶν, 2 Corinthians 12:14), your estate, your possessions. [The verb is future with reference to the concern for them which Timothy would manifest on his arrival among them.—H.]

Philippians 2:21. For all (οἱ πάντες γάρ) answers to οὐδένα. The article merely denotes a limitation. Those only are referred to who, from their situation being in the Apostle’s immediate circle at the time, would be compared with the like-minded (ἰσόψυχος) Timothy.—Seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s (τὰ ἑαυτῶν ζητοῦσιν, οὐ τὰ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ), hence do not act sincerely (γνησίωζ.) Comp. Philippians 2:4. We are not to think of the hardships of the journey to which they preferred their own comfort (the Greeks), or that οἱ πάντες is equivalent to “many,” “the most” (Grotius, et al.), or that they are Philippensibus cogniti (Van Hengel), or that the word ‘more’ is to be understood with ζητεῖν, (Erasmus), although self-seeking has its gradations. No reference is made to those designated in Philippians 1:15; Philippians 1:17. It would not have occurred to Paul to send any of them. Those spoken of in Philippians 1:14, might be of the number. Of those mentioned in Colossians 4:10-14; Philem. Philippians 2:24, Demas probably is the only one who was with him. This view seems to be confirmed by the fact that the Apostle cannot send Timothy away immediately (Philippians 2:19; Philippians 2:23).

Philippians 2:22. But ye know the proof of him (τὴν δὲ δοκιμὴν αὐτοῦ γινώσκετε). Timothy was indeed known to the Philippians, and had been with them (Acts 16:1; Acts 16:13; Acts 17:14); hence the verb is indicative, not imperative (Vulg., cognoscite). On δοκιμήν, indoles spectata, see Romans 5:4; 2 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 9:13.—The proof consists in this: That as a child with a father, he hath served with me, ὅτι ὡς πατρὶ τέκνον σὺν ἐμοὶ ἐδούλευσεν. Instead of saying simply ἐμοί, he proceeds with σὺν ἐμοί in a variatio structuræ (Winer’s Gram., pp. 422, 577), in order to indicate that he is speaking of a service shared with himself, which is more nearly defined by the additional clause: for the gospel (εἰς εὐαγγέλιον), its advancement, (comp. Philippians 1:5).

Philippians 2:23. [By μέν here Paul opposes his sending of Timothy to his own coming as he hopes (δέ, next verse).—Οὖν, therefore, since the Apostle would be thus relieved (εὐψυχῶ, Philippians 2:19), and Timothy (τοῦτον) had such qualifications for the service. Both grounds of the inference should be recognized.—H]. What follows here defines more closely the ταχέως in Philippians 2:19. [The “shortly,” “speedily” there, is relative with reference to the result of the crisis of which he now speaks as near at hand.—H].—Him therefore I hope to send immediately, (τοῦτον μὲν οὖν ε̇λπίζω πέμψαι). Τοῦτον sums up the characteristics mentioned in Philippians 2:20; Philippians 2:22.—So coon as I shall see how it will go with me, (ὡς ἄν�). For the form ἀφίδω instead of ἀπίδώ, see Winer’s Gram. p. 45. It is like ἀφελπίζοντες in Luke 6:35. The verb, according to its signification, points to the distance (prospicere), to see forward to the issue; it indicates his tender anxiety to send Timothy as soon as possible. Ὡς, as, in point of time, and with ἀν, as soon as ever his relations change, or there is a definite prospect of the issue, one or the other of them will come.—Ἐξαυτῆς sc. ὥρας (Acts 10:33; Acts 11:11; Acts 21:32; Acts 23:30), emphatic limitation of πέμψαι. [He would send Timothy at once on being able to make him the bearer of good tidings. As Lightfoot remarks ὡς ἄν. … ἐξαυτῆς is=at once when.—H.]

Philippians 2:24. But I trust in the Lord (πέποιθα δὲ ἐν κυρίῳ). Δέ answers to μέν in Philippians 2:23. Although he hopes he will be able to send Timothy, yet he has confidence in the Lord (Philippians 2:19): That I also myself shall come shortly (ὅτι καὶ αὐτὸς ταχέως ἐλεύσομαι); thus not merely Timothy, but he himself will come to them. Comp. Philippians 1:25-26; Philem. Philippians 2:22. [The Apostle expects not only to be set at liberty as Timothy will be sent to inform them, but to be able to use his own liberty for the purpose of coming to them.—H.] Here also there is an alternative, a presentiment of death and a hope of freedom, a wavering between martyrdom and a restored, free activity.


1. Friends should maintain fellowship with each other even when they are far apart in body. This is essential to the true welfare of each.
2. Letters and messengers are the means of communication, but in each case truth is our ultimate reliance as in personal intercourse, and this is found in its full extent only where there is a deep interest in the cause of Christ, and where selfishness does not reign.
3. Greater than the sorrow for weak and false brethren should be the joy over one true friend.

4. Even the apostolic church and the apostles had to suffer from the selfishness which hindered their complete prosperity: perfection is not reached at the beginning but only at the end.
5. Hope and confidence are to be based only upon the Lord, and are justifiable even in time of trouble, even when our hopes are not realized in the form that we expected, when indeed the future is shaped for us in exact opposition to our ideas.


Where love for the brethren is founded on faith in the Lord—the basis of true fellowship—there will a lively hope in Him as the Ruler of the world manifest itself, giving confidence that the course of events shall result in the welfare of the church and of the individual. We see this illustrated in the case of Paul imprisoned at Rome, who, though of a melancholy, choleric temperament, was always hopeful. Candor in judging persons and things is as great as it is rare. It is based on perfect purity. Even the subtlest selfishness pales before it. A teacher in the church, a minister of the word of Christ, has especially to guard himself from selfishness, both in its most refined and its noblest forms.—Hope in the Lord, and hope all that thy heart desires, if it find pleasure in the Lord, but reckon not upon thy heart or thy hope.

Starke:—Not our own, not our humors, not our desires, but what is Christ’s will, the advancement of His kingdom, must we seek as paramount in ourselves and in others, if we would be saved.—Since there is so many ‘a slip between the cup and the lip,’ we ought to speak cautiously of future events, saying: l hope so, if God will, etc. See James 4:13 ff.

Schleiermacher:—All special love of one person for another, so far as it is truly brotherly, must be purely Christian.

Menken:—Such a man as Paul, in his holy, heavenly disposition, in the quiet, true greatness of his character, in the earnestness, purity and majesty of his life, his willing and his working, could not have many equals.

Heubner:—True friendship is rare; for a friendship such as makes two hearts one, requires not merely a similarity of certain general principles in duty and religion, but a similarity of inclinations, sentiments, and of essential principles. No one has more false friends than Jesus. Thus how rare, even among Christ’s servants, is an entirely pure, unselfish mind! The coarsely selfish serve their belly, Mammon; the more refined their honor, their system, their school.


Philippians 2:19; Philippians 2:19. [Our English Version often confuses the renderings of ἐλπίζω and πέποιθα with each other. See the notes on Philem. Philippians 2:23, p. 23 (Lange’s Series).—H.].

Philippians 2:23; Philippians 2:23. [“Presently,” by an old English usages “immediately,” as in 1 Samuel 2:16; Matthew 26:53. See Eastwood and Weight’s Bible Word Book, p. 38. This change in the meaning of the English word conceals from the reader the relation in which “shortly” (ταχέως) in Philippians 2:19, and “immediately” here (ἐξαυτῆς) stand to each other.—H.].

[11]Ibid. [On the form ἀφίδω, see the Exegetical Notes below.—H.].

Verses 25-30

2. The return of Epaphroditus to them

(Philippians 2:25-30.)

25Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor, and fellow-soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. 26For he longed [was longing] after you all, and was full of heaviness because (that) ye had heard that he had been sick. 27For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.12 28I sent him therefore the more carefully [speedily], that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. 29Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation [honor]: 30because for the [sake of his]13 work (of Christ) he was nigh unto death, not regarding14 [hazarding] his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.


Philippians 2:25. Yet I supposed it necessary—ἀναγκαῖον δὲ ἡγησάμην. Δέ points to the sending of Timothy and the visit of Paul, which may indeed be near at hand, but still are uncertain, more especially Paul’s visit. Philippians 2:26 states the reason for his supposing it necessary to send him.—Epaphroditus (Ἐπαφρόδιτον) is not mentioned elsewhere, and is not identical with Epaphras, (Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:12; Philem. Philippians 2:23). [Epaphras had his circuit of labor in Phrygia or Asia Minor (Colossians 4:12), while Epaphroditus, as we see here, had his circuit in northern Greece or Macedonia. The names, however, are not decisive, as they may be different forms of the same name.—H.] The name signifies “lovely,” “charming,” and was not uncommon (Tac. Ann. VI. 55; Seut. Domit. § 14). He was no unimportant person to Paul and the Philippians. The Apostle, it will be noticed, commends him very highly.—My brother, and companion in labor, and fellow-soldier (τὸν�).—The pronoun belongs to all three nouns. The first designates him as the partner of Paul’s faith, the second as his partner in office or labor, the third as sharer of his conflicts and dangers; a climax proceeding from a more general to a more definite relationship. On συστρατιώτης, see Philem. Php 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:3-5. On συνεργός see Philippians 4:3; Colossians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 3:9. On ἀδελφός without ἐν κυρίῳ (Philippians 1:14) see Philippians 1:12; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 3:13; Philippians 4:1; Philippians 4:8; Philippians 4:23; Colossians 1:1; Ephesians 6:23.—But your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.—Υμῶν, as emphatic precedes (opposed by δέ to μου), and belongs to both substantives (ἀπόστολον καὶ λειτουργὸν τῆς χρείας μου). The first designates him as the deputy or messenger of the Philippians, as in 2 Corinthians 8:23. It cannot mean here an Apostle (Vulg., Erasmus, et al.). The second designates him as the servant of the Philippians, and his errand is more fully defined by τῆς χρείας μου, so that we have it stated by whom and for what purpose he was appointed. The word is general in its meaning, as in Romans 13:6, where rulers are called λειτουργοί, while in Philippians 2:4 δίακονος is used. So also λειτουργία in 2 Corinthians 9:12, λειτουργεῖν, Romans 15:27, have a general signification.—To send to you (πέμψαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς, not ὑμῖν, as in Philippians 2:19).—The verb does not signify remittere (Grotius: simplex pro composito). The idea of sending back yields entirely to the idea of sending away.

Philippians 2:26. For he was longing after you all.—Ἐπειδή introduces the reason of his mission (comp. 1 Corinthians 1:21-22; 1 Corinthians 14:16; 1 Corinthians 15:21).—Ἐπιποθῶν ἦν πάντας ὑμᾶς. marks his constant longing for the whole church and its individual members. An intimate acquaintance with the church and close relation to it are presupposed. Though the Apostle would gladly retain him, yet he is induced to send him to Philippi, lest this longing which had seized him after his sickness, should bring on a relapse in his weakened state. The imperfect is used with reference to the time of their receiving the letter, and of the arrival of Epaphroditus; for at the time of writing he is still in the state of mind described. [Whether he suffered this sickness at Rome, or on his journey from Philippi to Rome, is uncertain. Perhaps the latter view agrees best with the probable interpretation of Philippians 2:30.—H.]—And was full of heaviness, because ye had heard that he had been sick.—Καί adds still another reason. Ἀδημονῶν (from ἀ privativum and δῆμος, ‘foreign,’ ‘wretched,’ like the German “elend,” without country, homeless, in distress, as in Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33, the reason of which is: διότι ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἠσθένησεν. How the Philippians had heard this, and whence Epaphroditus had received his information, is not known, and is in no way indicated.

Philippians 2:27. For indeed he was sick—καὶ γὰρ ἠσθένησεν.—[The καί, says Lightfoot, implies that the previous ἠσθένησεν understates the case.—H.] This addition confirms the report of his sickness which they had received, and at the same time supplements it: nigh unto death (παραπλήσιον θανάτῳ). This is an adverbial limitation, but neither elliptical, so that ἀφίκετο is to be supplied (De Wette), nor a solecism (Van Hengel).—But God had mercy on him (ἀλλ’ ὁ θεὸς ἠλέησεν αὐτόν).—His recovery is, in the estimation of the Apostle, first of all an act of grace towards Epaphroditus.—By way of supplement he then adds: And not on him only, but on me also—οὐκ αὐτὸν δὲ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐμέ. Δέ introduces something explanatory, as in Philippians 2:8, and often. See Winer’s Gram. p. 443.—Lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.—Ἵνα introduces the purpose of the ἠλέησεν: μὴ λύπην ἐπὶ λύπην σχῶ. The λύπη which still remains is his bonds, his imprisonment, and consequent suffering (Philippians 1:12-26); the other, which has been removed, is the distress occasioned by his companion’s sickness and apprehended death. Si ad vincula accessisset jactura amici (Grotius).—The view that one sorrow (λύπη) springs from his sickness, the other from his death, is incorrect (Chrysostom, Erasmus, et al.).

Philippians 2:28. I sent him therefore the more speedily, or earnestly, i.e., with the greater despatch (σπουδαιοτέρως οὖν ἔπεμψα αὐτόν).—The οὖν refers to the recovery of Epaphroditus, and to his intense longing after Philippi, which are the reasons for his speedy departure. With the comparative must be supplied: “than I should have done, had you not been disturbed by hearing of his sickness” (Winer’s Gram. p. 243). Comp. Philippians 1:12.—The Apostle’s purpose is: That, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice (ἵνα ἰδόντες αὐτὸν πάλιν χαρῆτε).—Paul wishes the Philippians to rejoice anew, since their anxiety on account of the illness of Epaphroditus was removed. Πάλιν belongs to χαρῆτε, since as a rule it stands either before or immediately after the word to which it belongs. See Gersdorf, Beiträge, p. 491 sq. It should not be joined with ἰδόντες, especially as he was not sent that the Philippians might see him again.—The joy of the Philippians will react upon the Apostle: And that I may be the less sorrowful (κἀγὼ�).—“There is a delicate blending here of his own interest and sympathy with that of the beloved Philippians” (Meyer); quum sciam, vos gaudere (Bengel). While he is in bonds he cannot be ἄλυπος, but yet he is less sorrowful (ἀλυπότερος), since the sorrow (λύπη) with regard to the anxiety and condition of the Philippians is removed.

Philippians 2:29. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness.—The προσδέχεσθε, emphatic by position, requires a reception of Epaphroditus (αὐτόν), which shall most fully correspond (οὖν) with Paul’s purpose in sending him (Philippians 2:28, ἵνα—χαρῆτε), and one which shall be worthy of a Christian church (ἐν κυρίῳ, and comp. ἐν κυρίῳ�, Romans 16:2); for it should be with all joy (μετὰ πάσης χαρᾶς), without any admixture of chagrin or discontent on account of the sickness of Epaphroditus, or of his coming too soon or too late.—And hold such in honor (καὶ τοιούτους ἐντίμους ἔχετε). Theophylact remarks very justly: ἵνα μὴ δόξῃ αὐτῷ μόνῳ χαρίζεσθαι,κοινῶς παραίνει πάντας τοὺς τὴν αὐτὴν�. Yet he has Epaphroditus in view as the individual of the class referred to (Meyer). Hence the suspicion that the Philippians were inclined to undervalue others (Wiesinger, with reference to Philippians 2:3) has no support here.

Philippians 2:30. Because for the sake of his work he was nigh unto death—goes back at once to the person intended. The reception and honor required for Epaphroditus, are based upon (ὅτι on his work (διὰ τὸ ἔργον); for this and nothing else brought upon him the severe illness (μέχρι θανάτου ἥγγισεν; and Philippians 2:27, ἠσθένησεν παραπλησίον θανάτῳ). Under τὸ ἔργον we are to understand, according to the context (Philippians 2:25 : ὑμῶν�; and Philippians 2:30 : τῆς πρός με λειτουργίας), the commission assigned to him by the church as the bearer of their gifts to the Apostle, and his zeal in the performance of that service. Hence it is not his activity in teaching, opus a Christo ei demandatum (Van Hengel); or labor for the gospel (Schenkel); or the enmity of Nero (the Greek interpreters), both of which are opposed to the context, since Philippians 2:25 designates Epaphroditus as Paul’s συνεργός and συστρατιώτης on account of his office and conduct in general, not especially in Rome, while the latter view contradicts also the history (Acts 28:30-31). Whether we are to limit his work to his sojourn at Rome (Meyer) may be doubted. Why may it not include his journey also, which certainly was an arduous one?—Hazarding, or staking his life (παραβολευσάμενος τῇ ψυχῇ) states the way in which he came so near losing his life. This verb occurs as seldom elsewhere as the other reading (παραβουλευσάμενος); yet that (παραβολεύσεθαι) has a less familiar sound than παραβουλεύεσθαι, and has also better witnesses, and a sense that offers itself less readily. Παραβολεύεσθαι is αράβολον εἶναι, “to be a fool-hardy” or “reckless person,” as περπερεύεσθαι is πέρπερον εἴναι, “to he a boaster, braggadocio” (1 Corinthians 13:4). See Winer’s Gram. p. 93. Τῇ ψυχῇ is dative of the respect in which (Winer’s Gram. p. 215). It is his life, not money, property, time, which he put at hazard, or (to keep nearer to the word) squandered. We see in this prodigality the measure of his zeal. Whether the season of the year, his haste, means of travel by land and water, were concerned in the case, is not indicated, is simply unknown. Παραβουλευσάμενος would mean male consulens vitæ (Luther), since he regarded his life so lightly). Tischendorf. (ed. VII. maj. II. p. 473) compares Cæsar (Bell. Gal.): adeo esse perterritos nonnullos, ut suæ vitæ durius consulere cogantur, and the verbs παραφρονεὶν, παραλογίζεσθαι, and finds this rendering the more suitable, because there is then only temeritas, not guilt, in a holy work. Yet we are the less to assume the reproach of a censurable temeritas in παραβολεύεσθαι, from the fact that the watchers by the sick15 in the ancient church were named parabolani (from παραβάλλεσθαι, whence παράβολος and then παραβολεύεσθαι, are derived); yet certainly the name implied no reproach, but was meant solely to recognize their, fearless courage. The conclusion states the object of the participial clause.—To supply your lack of service toward me. Ἵνα introduces the motive for such exposure (παραβολευσάμενος τῇ ψυχῇ) which is that he might fill up, (ἀναπληρώσῃ), etc. Parallel to this is 1 Corinthians 16:17 : ὅτι τὸ ὑμέτερον ὑστέρημα αὐτοὶ�. Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:9; Philemon 1:13; also Colossians 1:24 : ἀνταναπληρῶ τὰ ὑστερήματα τῶν θλίψεων τοῦ Χριστοῦ. The verb denotes not merely filling, but filling usque ad Gram, and being emphatic by position, gives prominence to the act. The object is τὸ ὑμῶν ὑστέρημα, which differs from τὸ ὑμέτερον ὑστέρημα, by bringing to view the lack of personal ministration as defined by the genitive (τῆς πρὸς μὲλειτουργίας). The service (λειτουργία) according to the expression itself, and the context, is the pecuniary relief or supplies which the Philippians could not bring and present in person, but were obliged to remit through Epaphroditus. Luther: “in order that he may serve me in your stead.” The apostle finely and delicately views the absence of the Philippians as a deficiency in that service, and bespeaks their grateful sympathy in the affliction of their delegate who had performed his mission with equal courage and skill (Meyer). [In designating the absence of the Philippians in the presentation of their gift as something which was wanting to make it complete, he expresses no censure, but shows merely his affection for those of whose personal intercourse he found it so painful to be deprived, (Schenkel).—H.] Hence it is incorrect to join ὑμῶν with λειτουργίας, to understand this last word in general of every service (Rilliet: les services, dont j’ avais besoin) in disregard of the limitation furnished by the context, or even as res necessariæ, and τὸ ὑμῶν ὑστέρημα as defectus qui subvenitis (Hölemann.)


1. The best men and Christians often show a union of opposite virtues; for example, Epaphroditus. The finest delicacy of soul, which if alone might seem excessive and effeminate, allies itself to a manly courage, which sets at naught life itself. The deepest love of the church does not exclude a most faithful attachment to its great Apostle, nor anxiety for the present moment forbid sympathy for a distant community. One may reverence and acknowledge superior men, and yet give all the glory to God alone; may be anxious for his own soul, and yet give himself to the welfare of the church, and the common service of its membership.
2. God looks not upon the individual merely in his sorrow. Every instance of God’s help is an act of His compassion for the sake of others, as well as of the sufferer; because we are members together, and have joy whenever God causes any one member to rejoice.
3. [Rev. J. Trapp:—Epaphroditus was sick nigh unto death, and Paul distressed on that account. This should not have been if St. Paul could have cured him, as he did others. This shows that the Apostles cured the sick, and did miracles, not by their own power, or at their own pleasure, etc.—H.]


All that thou doest with respect to others regard as a duty which the Lord Himself demands of thee. By the faithful performance of duty, rightly apprehended, thou dost promote the welfare of those with whom God has placed thee.—Above all be a brother to thy neighbor, and thou wilt be his helper not in joys and labors alone, but also in suffering and victorious endurance. Observe how clear a vision true Christian love has in all our relations, even the most difficult, and how strong it is even in the most trying times. The thread which we are to grasp, to hold firm, never escapes its sight; nor does strength to do what is right, and what is salutary, and beautiful, and lovely at the same time, fail its arm. Whether God’s hand smites thee or preserves thee, still feel the pity of the Father’s heart which stretches out the arm and lifts the hand.

Starke:—Neither nature nor grace produces stoics, unsusceptible men; but the susceptibility of friendship, which already exists between kinsmen and friends, is sanctified and perfected by grace.—Unbelief looks to nature and medicine as the only remedies in sickness; faith looks to the providence of God also, by virtue of which He comes to the aid of man’s nature, as well as of medicine and care, with a special influence and blessing.—When believers look upon one another, they see also the inner, renewed nature, through the covering of the outer man; and because a tender love exists between them, the sight of each other refreshes, quickens them.

Rieger:—We must not expect grace to lift us above all alternations of feeling into a state of entire tranquility.—It is a mistake to suppose that one must be equally well equipped at all times. Even in the holy soul of our blessed Saviour there were changes of feeling.

Schleiermacher:—At the bottom of all love between individuals there must be love for the entire body to which they belong as living members; on the other hand, this love for the whole body is the consequence of affection for the individuals.

Menken:—One might think that this tenderness of feeling on the part of Epaphroditus went almost too far; on the contrary, we are to notice also here that one possessed of such extreme sensibility may yet be a strong man, and that a very tender heart may nevertheless be a very firm heart. It was not a trifling act for a Christian, one of a sect everywhere spoken against, everywhere hated and oppressed, which found no protection under Jewish or Gentile rule, to travel from Philippi to Rome in order to carry aid to a Christian teacher, an Apostle, yea, the hated and now imprisoned Paul, over whose approaching death his enemies were already rejoicing, and take his stand publicly before the world, by the side of this man, and say, “I am his friend.”—They knew that by faith and prayer one can move heaven and earth, but they did not regard faith and prayer as amulets, or talismans, that are able to expel all darkness and distress from a Christian’s life, and to raise him above all humble waiting on God’s help, above all subjection of his own will to God’s will.

Heubner:—Life, especially the life of a faithful servant of Christ, possesses great value. For such a life we ought to pray; and it is an act of God’s grace when it is preserved to the church.

Passavant:—If one were separated ever so completely from all other men, still he is a warrior and combatant, since in his own heart are the worst enemies of his heavenly peace.


Philippians 2:27; Philippians 2:27. Ἐπὶ λύπην in A B C D E F, et al; ἐπὶ λύπῃ K has but sight support.

Philippians 2:30; Philippians 2:30. The manuscripts give ἔργον alone, or in connection with κυρίου(א A), Χριστοῦ (B), or θεοῦ, also with the article. Probably all the additions are glosses. [For the absolute use of τὸ ἔργον see Acts 15:38. “The authorities being very evenly divided, neutralize each other. All alike are insertions to explain τὸ ἔργον” (Lightfoot). Ellicott is inclined to retain τοῦ Χριστοῦ.—H.]

Philippians 2:30; Philippians 2:30. Παραβολευσάμενος in א A B D E F G, et al; παραβουλευσάμενος in C K L, and some other manuscripts. The first lectio is the more difficult, See the exegesis. [meyer, Ellicott, Alford, Wordsworth, Lightfoot adopt παραβολευσάμενος.—H.]

[15][The most natural supposition is that Epaphroditus brought upon himself this sickness, which was so nearly fatal, in consequence of some special exposure on the journey, or of the fatigue incident to travelling with such despatch, in his impatience to reach the Apostle. It does not comport so well with our ideas of Paul‘s character to ascribe it to his “anxious attendance on the Apostle at Rome” (Ellicott). Paul did not exact, hardly was willing even to accept, such self-denying services from others. For exemplifications of Paul’s delicate regard for the safety, health and comfort of others, the reader may see Dr. Howson’s Lectures on the Character of St. Paul, pp. 78–83 (London, 1864).—H.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Philippians 2". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/philippians-2.html. 1857-84.
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