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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 2

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-4

Php_2:1-4 . Unity and Humility.— An exhortation based on the help that Christ gives, the word rendered “ consolation” meaning help of various kinds, especially in the form of encouragement. This comes from Christ and so does compassion. The source of them is His love. That should lead to unity of mind, the absence of factiousness— always a danger in a Greek community ( 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 *)— and the unselfish humility that gives a preference to the honour and interest of other people.

Verses 5-11

Php_2:5-11 . The Kenosis and the Exaltation.— The word Kenosis has become a technical term in Christian theology for the self-emptying of Christ. Its origin in that relation is derived from the present important passage, where we read that He “ emptied (Gr. ekenô sen) himself” ( Php_2:7 ). The previous verses leading up to this passage indicate its spirit; the example of Christ is to be cited in order to enforce the duty of humility and the opposite to self-assertion. Paul would have his friends cultivate the same mental disposition that was in Christ. In illustrating this he first speaks of our Lord’ s original condition previous to His life on earth as being “ in the form of God.” The word rendered “ form” indicates essential characteristics, therefore real Divinity. Nevertheless He had no ambition, for He did not grasp at equality with God, for the original word (RV “ prize” ) means literally “ booty,” such as a robber might seize. On the contrary, He emptied Himself of what He already possessed, came down to the essential characteristics of servitude— the same word for “ form” being used again. This seems to mean that certain Divine qualities were abandoned and certain human limitations accepted when Christ was seen in the likeness of a man. This last expression does not mean that He was not a real man, that He only assumed a human appearance (a view known in theology as docetic (p. 916 ), for merely apparent, not real humanity). Although the words would bear that signification, the context, as well as Paul’ s plain teaching about Christ coming in the flesh ( e.g. Romans 1:3; cf. “ born of a woman,” Galatians 4:4), forbid it; for Paul has just said that He took on Him the essential form, i.e. the real characteristics of a servant. Moreover, the apostle goes on to speak of Christ’ s death as an actual fact. This he takes as a further stage of self-limitation, especially since it was the shameful death of crucifixion. Christ submitted to it in obedience to the will of God. Therein lay its value in God’ s sight. Then, in return for this self-emptying, culminating in the obedience that went as far as submission to crucifixion, God honoured Christ by giving Him the highest of names, viz. the name “ Lord,” in order that He might receive the homage of the whole universe.

The above line of interpretation differs from some other interpretations: viz. ( a) Luther’ s view that the whole passage refers to the life of Christ after the Incarnation. Against this, note that the passage moves in the historical order of events. ( b) The idea that the equality with God was a previous possession implied by the “ form” of God. This gives a non-natural idea to the word rendered “ prize,” which means something to be seized, and not at present in hand. ( c) The denial that the “ form” of God was given up. This makes the Incarnation, as assuming the “ form” of man, an addition to the previous state, not a self-emptying, and therefore runs counter to the drift of the passage.

Verses 12-18

Php_2:12-18 . Work and Sacrifice.— In view of this wonderful example Paul exhorts his readers to be even more diligent in his absence than they had been when he was present with them. If this is all done without any complaining or quarrelling— such as Greek factiousness might produce— they would shine as lights in the dark pagan world. Then, even if Paul were martyred, his death would be an offering to God added to the sacrifice and service their faith was producing.

Verses 19-30

Php_2:19-30 . Timothy and Epaphroditus.— Paul proposes to send Timothy in advance of his own expected visit, that he may obtain encouraging news about them. There is no one else to send, the others being too selfish to undertake the errand. Paul has already sent back the Philippian messenger Epaphroditus, who was distressed at hearing how concerned his friends at Philippi were at his illness. It had been a serious illness, nearly ending in death. But God had mercifully restored him, that this additional sorrow might not come on Paul and his friends.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Philippians 2". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/philippians-2.html. 1919.
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