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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 2

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Verse 1

Php 2:1

Philippians 2:1

If there is—[This implies no doubt of the existence of the following motives, but is simply a tender form of appeal to what is well known to exist.]

therefore—[This is generally connected with: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27), so that the notes of steadfastness and unity there are here ex­panded and based more definitely upon humility and abnega­tion of self.]

any exhortation in Christ,—[Paul opens this weighty sec­tion with an impassioned appeal to the deepest Christian ex­periences of his readers, and it was calculated to prompt to action and endurance.]

if any consolation of love,—Comfort springs from love and its source. The followers of Christ by giving proofs of their ardent love to each other in cases of distress alleviated the sufferings of the persecuted. Of this the apostle says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are com­forted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound unto us, even so our comfort also aboundeth through Christ. But whether we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or whether we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which worketh in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: and our hope for you is steadfast; knowing that, as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so also are ye of the comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

if any fellowship of the Spirit,—People are said to be in fellowship when they are so united that what belongs to one belongs to the other, or what is true of the one is true of the other. Incongruous elements cannot be united. The human heart is said to be full of the Spirit when its inward state, its affections, and its acts are directed and controlled by him so as to be a constant manifestation of his presence. Christians are par­takers in common of the same mind as God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit and of the blessings arising therefrom. If they have any partnership in the life and blessings, then they are ready to listen to Paul’s plea for unity, for he “spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21).

[The Holy Spirit is the unifying personality in the church. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). He alone can bring order out of chaos and preserve harmony in the body of Christ. Unless the Holy Spirit rules, there is excitement and confusion.]

if any tender mercies and compassions,—This is an appeal to their knowledge that God had tender sympathy for them and abounds in service toward them and that the same tender spirit of affection and mercy for one another should be excited in them.

[“Mercies and compassions” serve to emphasize the thought. The appeal is to their hearts. He sought their sympathy in his condition and in his aims. Very naturally he felt that he had a right to their sympathy. To withhold it under the circumstances would have been unkind and cruel. If they had such feelings as are wont to spring up in the soul through the love of Christ, then they would move forward in the way pointed out.]

Verse 2

Php 2:2

Philippians 2:2

make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind,—It was Paul’s highest joy to see them like-minded with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He beseeches them by the consideration given in verse 1, that as persecuted Christians they should make his joy complete by being moved by the same love, being in perfect agreement one with another. He had suffered so much lor them, and they had shown such unremitting regard for him by following with their prayers and contributions that he felt impelled to make this appeal unto them.

having the same love,—It is a unity resting on the love of Christ which engenders the love of Christ.

being of one accord, of one mind;—In every letter that Paul wrote to the churches, he pled with them for the unity of the faith, oneness of mind and purpose, perfect accord in the work they should do! For division and strife are themselves sinful, and bring ruin and destruction as their fruits. To the Corinthians he said: “Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Such was the plea for harmony and unity among the children of God at all places. It is just as essential today that unity be preserved as it was then. Christians do not often divide over what God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit have said. Divisions come almost always in reference to things not taught in the word of God. Theories, practices, and methods unknown to his word are introduced, and over these men divide and strive.

The way to prevent this is given by Paul: "If ye died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, do ye subject yourselves to ordinances, Handle not, nor taste, nor touch (all which things are to perish with the using), after the precepts and doctrines of men?” (Colossians 2:20-22). The divisions into parties among Christians have arisen chiefly over questions not taught in the scriptures over the doctrines and commandments of men, introduced into the church. Paul says these are all to perish with the using, or as some translate, “for the destruction of those using them,” and asks, “why be subject to them, why use them, when they bring evil and no good?” The principle everywhere taught is, union among the people of God and with God is to be main­tained by walking in the ordinances and appointments of God, rejecting all inventions of men. “Thou shalt add nothing to, diminish nothing from the appointments of God” has been the watchword of acceptable service to him from the beginning. Paul in saying, “if any fellowship,” did not imply a doubt as to its existence, but it expresses a strong assurance that it did exist, to which the Philippians’ own experience would attest It was an appeal to their knowledge.

Verse 3

Php 2:3

Philippians 2:3

doing nothing through faction—[A factious man is one who seeks by unscrupulous and subversive methods to gain his own ends. He is active in promoting factions and dissensions. There is no greater foe to unity than this spirit It causes men to take sides on any question and mars their oneness of aim. The moment a man falls into a factious temper and thinks so much of promoting his own selfish ends, and makes it his chief business to object and find fault, he becomes an dement of discord to every one with whom he may be identified. If there is to be any real unity of mind and heart, the factious spirit must be crucified.]

or through vainglory,—This is the desire to triumph one over another. Men sometimes become excited one against another, so that one opposes a thing because the other favors it. They form parties, and act from party feeling. Such a state of mind is condemned here, and in every letter written by the Spirit of God to the churches.

but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself;—So far from pursuing this course, let each cultivate a meek and lowly mind as to himself and learn to esteem the virtues and good qualities of others.

[The Greek word here translated lowliness of mind is also translated humility (Colossians 3:12), and lowliness (Ephesians 4:2). In the two cases, just men­tioned, where the word occurs it comes before meekness and long-suffering, showing that it is only by a wise and lowly estimate of ourselves that we come to know what is due to others. Humil­ity, then, describes the spirit of one who has come to the knowl­edge of himself in relation to God, and it is, therefore, primarily a Christian grace and not a social virtue. There is no trace in it of the weakness associated with the term in pagan literature. On the contrary, it is the badge of the strong, the first test of a truly great man. For it was the one specific virtue and quality which above all others explains the work and character of Christ, our Savior, who “humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death.” It was the special creation of Christ himself; it was he who brought the new spirit into the world and illustrated it in his own person because he was “meek and lowly in heart.” (Matthew 11:29).]

Verse 4

Php 2:4

Philippians 2:4

not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.—This means more than to look to the material good of others as well as yourselves. Look to their conditions, surroundings, and the influences brought to bear upon them, and endeavor to see things as they see them, and it will enable you to sympathize more with them in their trials and troubles, and you will come to esteem them the more highly. This is what Paul meant by saying: “I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Seek to promote the well-being of others in all things. In doing this one gains his own truest good.

Verse 5

Php 2:5

Philippians 2:5

Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:—The exhortation to them is to cherish the spirit of Christian fellowship among themselves which corresponds to the fellow­ship they enjoyed in Christ Jesus.

[It was not an appeal to Christ as the outstanding example of humility that was in question here, although that is implied all through the passage that follows. It is not the Jesus that walked on earth but the Christ incarnate and exalted that is in Paul’s mind, and the unity that he pressed upon the Philippian church was to be achieved by the growth of that spirit of fellowship which it had already experienced in its rela­tion to Christ himself. The foundation truth of the exhortation is that Christians must become like Christ in character; apply the same rule to themselves that they see and approve in Jesus. It is not always that Christians put Christ into their business and social relations, or feel the same call for consecration that they love to note in him. The keenest zeal may be displayed in re­ligious work, accompanied by singular laxity in common concerns of daily business and social intercourse. Some people are piously humble on the Lord’s day, but follow the ways of the world during the week.]

Verse 6

Php 2:6

Philippians 2:6

who, existing—This relates to the existence of Christ before his manifestation in the flesh as he appeared to those in heaven who saw him. [The word existing calls attention to the essential being of Christ, corresponding to the idea embodied in the name of Jehovah, and thus implying what is more fully ex­pressed in the following words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” (John 1:1).]

in the form of God,—Christ was “the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance.” (Hebrews 1:3).

[The word form is to be carefully distinguished from fashion (which de­notes the mere outward appearance which we frequently desig­nate as form); in this there is no notion of a body or form for God, but simply the character of God in his real essence. Christ is described as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15). John 1:1 applies Word as the ex­pression of God. Christ had the essential attributes of God’s nature, actual deity.]

counted not the being on an equality with God—This refers only to relations which describe our Lord’s essential and there­fore eternal being in the true nature of God. Jesus could not give up his essential character of Sonship. He was the Son of God in the preincarnate state. He was the Son of God after he became the Son of man. Of him it is said: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).

a thing to be grasped,—[He did not consider this state of equality with God, his glory at the right hand of his Father, a thing to be held on to at any cost when, by giving up the glory and holding on to the nature of God, he could enter upon his redemptive work for mankind.]

Verse 7

Php 2:7

Philippians 2:7

but emptied himself.—He emptied himself of all glories, laid aside the honors of his Father’s throne, took upon himself the form of man—the nature of the seed of Abraham, took part of flesh and blood, lived among the lowliest of men, and served in the humble walks of life

taking the form of a servant,—He was not only made in the likeness of men, but partook of their nature, bore their infirmities, took on himself the form and filled the office of a servant. He was servant of all.

being made in the likeness of men;—He was made in the likeness of men in general, men as they actually are. [Hence the key to the meaning is to be found in the following passages: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3); “Where­fore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his breth­ren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17), and “For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). It would have been an infinite humiliation to have assumed humanity, even in unique and visible glory; but Christ went beyond this, by deigning to seem like other men in all things, one only of the multitude, and that too in the station which con­fused him with the commoner type of mankind. The truth of his humanity is expressed in the phrase “form of a servant”; its unique and ideal character is glanced at when it is said, "in fashion as a man.”]

Verse 8

Php 2:8

Philippians 2:8

and being found in fashion as a man,—He still further humbled himself and became subject to death, even the most shameful of all deaths, the death of the cross. [Fashion here refers to the outward appearance of Christ, the appeal that he made to the senses, to human observation—his outward appear­ance was altogether human.]

he humbled himself,—[This expresses plainly and simply the fact of the humiliation of Christ. In outward fashion he became as one of us, though he ceased not to be on an equality with God. His whole humiliation from the incarnation to the cross was his own voluntary act: “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18). That stupendous act of self­sacrifice wholly transcends the reach of human thought. The difference between the greatest king and the meanest slave is absolutely nothing compared with the abyss that separates hu­manity from deity. That abyss beyond measure is the measure of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. He despised not the carpenter’s shop of Nazareth; he shed a new dignity on labor by his own example; he gave a new glory to humility which had no glory hitherto; he was content to obey. His obedience extended through every detail of his most holy life.]

becoming obedient even unto death,—He still further hum­bled himself and became subject to death, even the most shameful death of all deaths, the death of the cross. He tasted the depth of human weakness, shame, ignominy, and woe, that he might “be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” (Hebrews 4:15). He “can bear gently with the ignorant and erring, for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.” (Hebrews 5:2). Jesus partook of our nature, clothed himself with flesh and blood, be­came subject to death, “that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15). All the humilia­tion and suffering were endured to rescue man from the conse­quences of sin, death, and destruction from the presence of God forever.

yea, the death of the cross.—Jesus humbled himself to the end and met death as a condemned criminal with all the shame of the cross. He went down to the bottom of darkness, the very depth of humiliation and shame. The body of one that hung on a tree was accursed according to the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 21:23), and Paul knew this well (Galatians 3:13). The Jews stumbled at the cross of Christ, the Greeks thought it foolishness, but Paul came to see in it the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:23-25). Jesus saw the shame of the cross and felt it keenly, but he endured it for the sake of “the joy that was set before him” when he reached the goal and finished his atoning death. (Hebrews 12:2). There­fore Jesus despised the shame. The cross has come to be his crown of glory.

Verse 9

Php 2:9

Philippians 2:9

Wherefore also God highly exalted him,—Because he thus humbled himself to lift man up, God was highly pleased with him and exalted him beyond the state of glory which he enjoyed before the incarnation.

and gave unto him the name which is above every name;—Gave unto him the name of more honor and glory than any other name of heaven or of earth. He had descended into the grave to lift man up. God exalted him much more highly than he had ever been. Jesus as he approached the sufferings that awaited him prayed: “And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:5). But God exalted him higher than he had been before. To give him a name was to give him authority and honor and glory above every name in heaven or on earth.

Verse 10

Php 2:10

Philippians 2:10

hat in the name of Jesus every knee should bow,—God so highly exalted Jesus above every other being that all things in heaven and on earth and under the earth bow the knee to him. To bow the knee is to worship and implore a divine being.

of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth,—Beings in heaven, or angels and spirits of just men made perfect, all the human beings on earth, and the fallen spirits of the universe will do homage to him as Lord of all.

Verse 11

Php 2:11

Philippians 2:11

and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,—For the tongue to confess is to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, is to acknowledge his supremacy. I do not understand that all who thus own him do it for their own salvation.

[The Lordship of Jesus came to be the test of loyalty. The password in the dark days of persecution came to be “Jesus is Lord.” This was the Shibboleth of the faithful. It is even so yet. Vain is the praise of those who refuse to bow the knee to Jesus and to con­fess him as Lord. “No man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3). To confess Jesus as Lord was the mark of a true believer.]

to the glory of God the Father.—The spirits from the lower regions who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord do it to the glory of God and to their own shame and ruin—they pay the penalty of their sin in everlasting ruin. And in that ruin they confess Christ as Lord, and themselves as sinners lost and undone by their rebellion. Those who willingly confess him on earth will receive the reward. They and the spirits of the heavenly world confess him to the glory of God, and are blessed in the confession and service they render. After the humiliation of Christ, he was exalted to the throne of God and crowned with glory and honor in heaven and on earth forever.

Verse 12

Php 2:12

Philippians 2:12

So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed,—[This is the secret of all the joy in this epistle. In the church there, his words as spoken in Christ’s name had aroused them to a diligent effort to put them into practice. He had no cause for grief of any kind over them.]

not as in my presence only,—[Of their early zeal he had been a witness, he now pleads that he may not learn that his presence among them was necessary to sustain their zeal, but that they will prove it to have been of a true nature, a zeal for Christ by their steadfastness while he was away from them.]

but now much more in my absence,—He exhorts them to be more faithful and earnest in their obedience, because they are now deprived of his presence and help and there is need of greater diligence on their part. This certainly was a wonderful church which so lived as to enable Paul to say: “Even as ye have always obeyed,” “from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:5).

work out your own salvation—To work out one’s salvation is to comply with the conditions on which God has promised to save. To so live in accordance with God’s word that he will be fitted to be saved. The thing for man to do is to fit himself for salvation, then God will save him. He can be fitted for salvation only by complying with the law God has given to discipline and fit him.

with fear and trembling;—To work out salvation with fear and trembling is to fear God with such reverence and awe that they seek to do his will and tremble lest they should fail to un­derstand that they may do it. Jehovah says: “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2). [These words occur only three times more in Paul’s epistles, and always in reference to obedience. (1 Corinthians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 7:15; Ephesians 6:5). The fear is not exactly the fear of God, but of the greatness of the task and of the possibility of failure. We are to exhibit the utmost solici­tude lest we fail to heed the instruction: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12), and “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3).]

Verse 13

Php 2:13

Philippians 2:13

for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.—When a man with reverence and awe does the will of God, it is God in and through him working to will and to do after his good pleasure. Just as when the son follows implicitly the directions of the father in doing the work the father commits to him, it is really the father through the son doing his own work according to his own will; the father is working through the son. When man gives himself up to God to walk as God directs, God works through him to do his own good pleasure. If man refuses the obedience, God may overrule his rebellion to accomplish his purposes; but he does not work in or through him or bless him.

Baptism as an act of faith is a declaration of distrust of self and of trust in God. It is an act in which the believer declares distrust in self and commits himself—heart, soul, and body—to God. It is not a work of man. So far from it, it is a solemn declaration that he is dead and not able to work or do anything of himself; he henceforth commits himself to God. He will let God work through him. To follow the law of faith is for man to do nothing of his own, but to submit through faith, with fear and trembling, to the will of God—to walk in the works of God. To do God’s work allows no room for boasting. It is to seek blessing in walking in the word of God; it is to receive blessing and strength from God in God’s appointed way.

Verse 14

Php 2:14

Philippians 2:14

Do all things without murmurings and questionings:—Men are inclined to murmur and complain at duties which God has laid on them. But God requires them to put away murmurings and questionings; he does not accept grudging or unwilling service. Even if the service is to suffer like Christ, while the flesh may draw back from the service, the spirit should be willing to do the will of God, should be willing to suffer for his sake. What God requires should be done as he requires it, without questioning upon the part of any. [Both words are used gen­erally and they need not be limited to opposition to God’s will alone. They equally applied to the daily lives of the Philippians, and to their intercourse with one another (1 Peter 4:9; Acts 6:1), they were to live blamelessly and irreproachably before the world. Such murmurings and questionings would mar their love toward Christ and their brethren. They must avoid these sins if they would have the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5).]

Verse 15

Php 2:15

Philippians 2:15

that ye may become blameless—To do these things cheerfully, gladly, without questioning the requirements, dispensa­tions of God alone enable us to be blameless before him. [To be blameless is to be without fault or stain. To be correct in the externals of life. It is said of Elisabeth and Zacharias that “they were both righteous before God, walking in all the com­mandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” (Luke 1:6). And so it was the desire that these brethren should meet all their duties and discharge all their obligations and in all their inter­course with their fellow men be irreproachable.]

and harmless,—[This refers to the internal purity, simplic­ity, and sincerity which ought to characterize all followers of Christ. To be harmless is to have the innocence of character which has no admixture of evil thought or desire in it. Thus these Philippian Christians were to be outwardly and inwardly correct that they might be no hindrance nor scandal to the name of Jesus Christ; and inwardly correct because no mere outward correct­ness can long be maintained without inward correctness. These traits are distinguishing marks of the children of God, and they should be cultivated and honored. If the followers of Christ would only see to it that their lives are all blameless and harmless, the cause of Christ would make greater progress.]

children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,—The children of God can be without blemish while they are living in the midst of the people who are perverse in their disposition, rebellious in their spirit, and who walk not according to the straight rule laid down by the Master. [It is of very great importance always and everywhere to be without blemish; but when surrounded by people whose views of truth, whose ideas of life, and whose general course of conduct are always wrong, it is of importance beyond estimate to be right- minded and straightforward and clean.]

among whom ye are seen as lights in the world,—They were to shine as lights in the world by holding forth in their lives and in their teaching the word of God. The law of God is a lamp to our feet.

[Jesus said to his disciples: “Ye are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14). So Paul says here. In both instances, of course, the idea is of a reflected light. In the highest sense of the words light belongs only to Christ. (John 1:4; John 8:12). The two figures are blended here. Christians are the lesser lights of the spiritual world—always dim in comparison with the shining of the Sun of Righteousness, but they are still lights. Though they can give only borrowed radiance; they are yet the clearest luminaries which not a few behold. More people have no other conception of Christianity than that they actually see in the lives and doings of professed Christians. They do not go to Jesus Christ, and look at the truth as he speaks it out and lives it out; they do not yield up their minds and hearts to his teaching and come under his guidance, and let him take them forward into the knowledge and fellowship of “the law of the Spirit of life,” as revealed in the scriptures, but they watch Christians, and draw their inferences and reach their conclusions from the type of character which they illustrate—“they are the Bible the world reads and studies.” If Christians exemplify a new life, if they bring forth the fruits of the life in Christ, they are the luminaries in whose light the multitude will sometimes come to rejoice.]

Verse 16

Php 2:16

Philippians 2:16

holding forth the word of life;—The word of life is the message of salvation set forth in Christ, and goodness and blessed­ness by him. It is that teaching given by those who spoke as the Holy Spirit moved them. It was for Christians to hold by it, or to hold it out—the expression may have either meaning; and both senses are here. In order to give light there must be life. And the Christian life depends on having in it the word, quick and powerful, which is to dwell in us richly in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. [This is the secret of the blameless life; and so those who have this character will give light, as holding forth the word of life. For while the word and message of life is to be owned, professed, and proclaimed, yet the embodiment of it in the Christian is the main point here, the character being formed and the practice determined by the word believed.]

that I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ,—The day when they shall meet Christ when he comes again and give account for the deeds done in the body. [The frequent use of the words—“the day of Christ”—shows how definite and im­portant in the mind of the early Christians was the coming of the Lord. For in that day and not till then will the good work which God is now doing in his people’s heart be completed and mani­fested. For the day of the Lord’s return his servants wait when he will present to himself the spotless church. And towards that consummation tends our present growth in the spiritual life.]

that I did not run in vain neither labor in vain.—[Paul de­sired proof in the light given by his readers to the wicked and sinful world that his own strenuous efforts and frequent weariness for them had not been in vain. Such proof would be to him a ground of triumphant confidence in God. And this exultation would reach forward to that day, ever present to Paul’s thought, when the inward spiritual life began on earth and manifested imperfectly here will receive its full and visible consummation in the light of eternity, and earthly toil receive its abundant rec­ompense.]

Verse 17

Php 2:17

Philippians 2:17

Yea, and if I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith,—He adds this to show the spirit he had imbibed from Christ. If the sacrifice of his life was needed to make their faith and service acceptable to God, he would rejoice.

I joy, and rejoice with you all:—[He was glad to make the offering of his life, if this supreme sacrifice was demanded. He would not shrink back, but would meet it gladly, if this, and all the more readily since he could have his joy with them. He was glad on his own account that he had been the instrument in their conversion.]

Verse 18

Php 2:18

Philippians 2:18

and in the same manner do ye also joy, and rejoice with me.—[There were two offerings in Paul’s contemplation—his own, as he was poured out on the sacrifice; the offering of the faithful lives of the Philippian Christians which they themselves would make. He did not intimate whether the power of Rome or his own continued toils should be the agency employed to pour his life forth. Both offerings were subjects for joy. He could not restrain his triumph at the one, and in like manner he bade his brethren feel equal joy at the offering which he was making and being strengthened to make unto his Master.]

Verse 19

Php 2:19

Philippians 2:19

But I hope—[He had just spoken of the possibility of his own death, which his language suggests as possible; but that con­viction now, as elsewhere in this epistle, seems to yield at once to the opposite expectation of a speedy release, or at least of such an improvement in his affairs that he could dispense with the presence and service of Timothy for a season.]

in the Lord Jesus—[This is equivalent to through the Lord Jesus. It was to the Lord Jesus he looked in all his need. He realized that he could not even hope for anything except in com­plete subjection to the Lord’s will. It was in him he hoped, as in the Lord his whole life moved. The Christian is a part of Christ, a member of his body—the church. His every thought and word and deed proceeded from him, as the center of volition. Thus he loved the Lord and hoped in him. He had one guiding principle in acting and forbearing to act, “only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39).]

to send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.—The proposed visit of Timothy to Philippi had a double motive. First of all the thought of the encouragement that the coming of Timothy would produce among the Philippians, an encouragement that was all the more needed perhaps because he had just touched upon the pos­sibility of his own death. But he himself was also to be cheered and comforted by the news that Timothy would be able to send him on his arrival at Philippi. His beloved son in the gospel was to be his representative among them and was to give them that guidance and help which his own enforced absence prevented him from giving.

[Also and if the worst happened and death came to himself Timothy was to comfort them in their sorrow concerning his fate. It was not the first time that he had under­taken on Paul’s behalf a mission of this character. He had been sent from Athens to encourage the church at Thessalonica in the face of persecution (1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:6), and later on from Ephesus to Macedonia and thence to Corinth when Paul himself was unable to pay these churches a promised visit (1 Corinthians 16:10).]

Verse 20

Php 2:20

Philippians 2:20

For I have no man like-minded, who will care truly for your state.—He meant, of course, like-minded with Timothy. This is a high tribute to the fidelity of Timothy, but he richly deserved it. He was such a friend that he was generally anxious about the Philippian church. He was with Paul when the church was established there, and would naturally have a great interest in its prosperity.

Verse 21

Php 2:21

Philippians 2:21

For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ.—The most of the teachers near Paul at the time of writing this epistle looked after their own interests, not feeling the interest of the disciples at heart. He contrasts them with Timothy. It is a sad state of affairs that at the present time the majority of the preachers are more anxious for their personal aggrandizement than for honoring Christ and saving men. [It seems that when this epistle was written Paul was separated from most of his intimate friends and fellow workers, and that only two of these are mentioned—Timothy and Epaphroditus. But we learn from other epistles written from Rome that there were several other brethren with him during this portion of his im­prisonment. It is almost certain that Luke and Aristarchus were in his company, and that they remained with him until after the epistles to the Colossians and Philemon had been written, and they show that Mark, Aristarchus, Justus, Epaphras, Demas, and Tychicus had been added to their number. (Colossians 4:10-14; Philemon 1:23-24). It is probable that before this epistle was written most, if not all, of these had left Rome on different missions assigned to them by Paul. Tychicus had been sent to Colossae (Colossians 4:7-8), and it is likely that he was accompanied by Epaphras and Mark who was at that time contemplating a visit to that district (Colossians 4:10). So if these were away from Rome, engaged in the Lord’s work they were not included in the number who “seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ.”]

Verse 22

Php 2:22

Philippians 2:22

But ye know the proof of him, that, as a child serveth a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the gospel.—Timothy in their midst had proven his worthiness as a minister of Christ, by laboring with Paul as a child would labor with his father. He partook of the same spirit of self-denial and fidelity in Christ and for the salvation of men that Paul showed. His loyalty was impeachable He stood ready to serve Christ any­where.

Verse 23

Php 2:23

Philippians 2:23

Him therefore I hope to send forthwith, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me:—At the time this epistle was written, Paul was awaiting the outcome of his trial, which he hoped would result in his acquittal. Just as soon as the verdict was rendered he would send Timothy with that information. If he should be condemned to death, he would of course have no further occasion for Timothy’s services, and if he should be acquitted, he could then spare Timothy’s services for a season to visit them and give them full information and encouragement.

Verse 24

Php 2:24

Philippians 2:24

he Lord—[With Paul this expression was far more than a mere form. It was a recognition both of the providential and spiritual government of the Lord. He recog­nized that the accomplishment of any purpose depended on his will and felt that his life was in his hands. Still he was in danger and the issue of the trial was doubtful, but he was confident it would end in his release. Yet that confidence was conditional and was centered “in the Lord” as was all else in his life. He believed that the Lord’s will and his purposes were to be fulfilled in his life, and with that thought in mind he rested his case]

that I myself also shall come shortly.—[We do not know certainly what he meant by the term shortly. The uncertainty as to what whim might strike Nero was an uncertain thing to count upon. It is not likely that he now contemplates going on to Spain as he had once planned. (Romans 15:28). His heart now turns to his old field of labor. (Philemon 1:22). His long imprison­ment in Caesarea and Rome had made it very necessary for him to set things in order there. Those grievous wolves of which Paul warned the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29-30) had taken advantage of his absence and were causing much trouble and confusion among the churches in Asia. Philippi also makes a strong appeal for his presence and assistance. It is now ad­mitted by nearly all those who are competent to decide on such questions that Paul’s appeal to Caesar terminated successfully; that he was acquitted of the charge laid against him; and that he spent some years in freedom before he was again imprisoned and condemned to death. But farther, we must admit not only that he was liberated, but also that he continued his apostolic labor for some years afterward. For the historical facts men­tioned in the epistles to Timothy and Titus cannot be placed in any portion of Paul’s life prior to or during his first imprison­ment in Rome; and that the style in which those epistles are written and the condition of the church described in them forbid the supposition of such a date. Consequently we must acknowl­edge that after his Roman imprisonment he was at liberty at Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), Crete (Titus 1:5), Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3), Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20), Nicopolis (Titus 3:12), and that he was afterwards a second time a prisoner in Rome (2 Timothy 1:16-17).]

Verse 25

Php 2:25

Philippians 2:25

But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus,—Epaphroditus was a messenger of the church at Philippi to Paul during his imprisonment at Rome, who was entrusted with their contribution for his support. He had been very ill, and it was very necessary that he should be sent, for he would hardly recover thoroughly, while longing to return to his home, nor could the Philippians be happy till they saw again their messenger, whose work in their stead had cost him a severe illness, and nearly his life. He must return at once.

my brother—He is called a brother as a member of the body of Christ.

and fellow-worker—He labored with Paul to spread the gospel among those who knew not the Lord. The term is used of Aquila and Priscilla (Romans 16:3), of Timothy (Romans 16:21), and of Titus (2 Corinthians 8:23).

and fellow-soldier,—[This shows how full of danger the work of the gospel was at that time to those who executed it faithfully; and that the sincere preachers of the gospel, together with the martyrs who sealed it with their blood, bring before us a noble army commanded by Christ, which was successfully warring against infidelity and other powers of darkness which were in opposition to God.]

and your messenger and minister to my need;—As Timothy was intended to be a special messenger from Paul to the Philip­pian church, so Epaphroditus had come as a special messenger from Philippi to Paul in prison in Rome. He was undoubtedly, personally, in sympathy with the special object of his mission—ministering to Paul’s needs. As the love of Christ, as it takes possession, opens the heart to the needs of all men, so it certainly opened the heart of Epaphroditus to the need of his brother in bonds, of the founder of the Philippian church, of the truest and bravest of Christ’s servants. For his sake he was willing to leave beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, and brave the dangers of the voyage. And it would be with peculiar tenderness and interest that he would deliver to Paul the loving messages of the beloved church and their fellowship in his need.

Verse 26

Php 2:26

Philippians 2:26

since he longed after you all,—In his sickness he longed for the friends and brethren at home, especially so since they had heard of his sickness, and doubtless manifested great interest in him.

and was sore troubled,—The strength of sore troubled will be recognized from its being used of Christ’s agony in the garden (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33), and nowhere else in the New Testament, The strong character of the expression is not unsuited to the feelings of one who has been very ill at a distance from all his friends, and during convalescence feels that home is the only place in which he can thoroughly recover.

because ye had heard that he was sick:—[There can be no question that a considerable time had elapsed since Paul’s arrival at Rome before these words were written. The Philippians first had to learn of his need, to make their collection and send it. After the arrival of Epaphroditus in Rome he fell sick, for Paul implies that he had exerted himself and so brought on his illness. This becomes known in Philippi, and the anxiety of his friends in Philippi had been reported to Paul.]

Verse 27

Php 2:27

Philippians 2:27

for indeed he was sick nigh unto death:—[Such an ill­ness must also have continued over an extended period of time. The words here used indicate that the report which reached the Philippians had come short of the reality.]

but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow.—God was merciful to spare the life of Epaphroditus, and it was likewise a mercy to Paul lest the sorrow for the loss of so worthy a friend should be added to the sorrow of his imprisonment and trial. The passage, over and above its interest as an example of the strong personal affection which belonged to Paul’s nature, and harmonized with his deep Christian love, is noticeable in showing clearly that his power of miracle, great as it was, was not his own, to use at his own will. When it was needed to be “the signs of an apostle” (2 Corinthians 12:12), it was given; and at special times, as at Ephesus (Acts 19:11), it was given in special fullness. [But this instance, together with the case of Trophimus, of whom Paul says: “Trophimus I left at Miletus sick” (2 Timothy 4:20), is clear proof that the power of performing cures, and of working miracles, was a power which only was given to the apostles occasionally, and did not at all depend upon their own will. He would undoubtedly have healed Epaphroditus if he could. Nor, if the power of working cures had awaited his disposal, would he have left Trophimus at Miletus sick.]

Verse 28

Php 2:28

Philippians 2:28

I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.—He was the more careful, more delighted, to send him at once to them, that when they saw him, they might rejoice at his recovery, and it would lessen the sorrow of him­self to know that they were relieved of anxiety for him.

Verse 29

Php 2:29

Philippians 2:29

Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy;—Paul exhorts them because he had been zealous in sending him to them so soon as he was able to travel to receive him with joy. It would be joy of the whole church for the restoration to health and to them of the member whom they regarded so highly. It would be a joy with thanksgiving because they had in mind how gracious the Lord had been in saving his life.

and hold such in honor:—As there were not many such faithful brethren to be found, he exhorted them to set high store by Epaphroditus when he arrived.

Verse 30

Php 2:30

Philippians 2:30

because for the work of Christ—"The work" is a New Testa­ment phrase for the preaching of the gospel. (Acts 15:38).

he came nigh unto death, hazarding his life—This bears testimony to his worth and to the truth that he came nigh to death because he risked his life to supply needed help to Paul, and in proclaiming the word.

to supply that which was lacking in your service toward me.—[This represents him as encountering the labor and danger which attended on Paul’s circumstances with full free will, and an entire disregard of consequences to himself, such as only true devotion could supply.]

This would naturally endear him much to one of Paul’s temperament, and who showed such gratitude for all favors shown him.

[The bonds by which men are held together in Christ are strong because they are bonds in truth, righteousness, and in aspiration which take souls forward into the light and glory of God. When men are held to each other by the ties of selfishness, or some fierce hate which is cherished in common, or by vices and crimes which are cherished in common, they are liable to fly asunder at any moment Faith and love and purity are cementing energies. Faces set alike toward heaven, and hearts set alike on the things of Christ, always insure an increasing fellowship and sympathy. If Christian men ever divide, as they sometimes do, and become alienated from each other, it is not because there is any natural tendency in “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” to work separation of heart from heart and life from life, but for the reason that, in these instances, selfishness or prejudice or passion or inability to see clearly has been too much for the measure of Christian character that has been attained. It is not because they are Christians; it is because they are so imperfect in their character—so feebly developed, and so far from what they ought to be, that the disciples of Jesus are ever led to entertain ill feelings toward each other, and mutually to say hard things. Christ is love, and love is a bond of union. Paul and Timothy and Epaphroditus and the faithful hearts who were behind them had their oneness and sympathy in Christ.]

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Philippians 2". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/philippians-2.html.
 
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