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CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 2:1. Consolation in Christ.—Exhortation would be better, inasmuch as consolation anticipates the comfort of the next phrase. Comfort of love.—Encouragement which love gives. Fellowship of the Spirit.—“Participation in the Spirit” Meyer’s remark is, “This is to be explained of the Holy Spirit.” Beet intimates a widening of the idea—“brotherliness prompted by the Holy Spirit.” Bowels and mercies.—On the former term see Philippians 1:8. The word for mercies denotes the yearning of the heart, though, it may be, there is no ability to help.
Philippians 2:2. Fulfil ye my joy.—“Fill up” my cup of joy. See Philippians 1:4. Likeminded.—“General harmony, … identity of sentiment” (Meyer). On this verse, with its accumulations, Chrysostom exclaims, “Bless me! how often he says the same thing!”
Philippians 2:3. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory.—The verb is suppressed in the Greek, a construction more natural and more forcible than to connect the nothing with the preceding clause. “Partisanship and pomposity.” For the ruin of how many Churches are this pair responsible! In lowliness of mind.—A rare flower, scattering its fragrance unseen. “It was one great result of the life of Christ (on which St. Paul dwells here) to raise humility to its proper level; and, if not fresh coined for this purpose, the word (for ‘lowliness of mind’) now first became current through the influence of Christian ethics” (Lightfoot).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 2:1-50.2.4
Christian Unity an Occasion of Joy.
I. Christian unity is a striving after the Spirit of Christ.—“That ye be likeminded” (Philippians 2:2).
1. Manifested in loving consolation to those in distress.—“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love” (Philippians 2:1). If the pagan expressed unity by those who dwelt in one village and drank of one fountain, how much more real is the union of those who drink of the same Spirit and practise the lovingkindness of the one Christ. A striking evidence of the unity of Christianity is seen in its sympathy everywhere for the poor, the sick, and the unfortunate. It is Christ-like to comfort and help the distressed.
2. Manifested in spiritual fellowship.—“If any fellowship of the Spirit” (Philippians 2:1). Christians are one by their communion together, flowing from their joint participation in the same Spirit. The union of hearts is more real and stable than the external union expressed by creeds and contracts. The Spirit is the unifying power of Christendom.
3. Manifested in compassion for the suffering.—“If any bowels and mercies” (Philippians 2:1). Christianity is a mission to the suffering. Before the Christian era there were no hospitals and infirmaries, no cure for the afflicted poor. Unselfish benevolence was almost unknown. Nothing is more remarkable than the spirit of tender compassion that Christianity has breathed into social and national life.
II. Christianity is opposed to a spirit of faction and empty boasting.—“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory” (Philippians 2:3). The message of the gospel is one of peace and goodwill to all men. It is foreign to its spirit to exalt the interests of party or of self; it seeks to promote a universal and all-pervasive charity. The Germans have a legend connected with the terrific battle of Chalons between the Visigoths and the Romans against Attila. The bloody work of the sword was done, the plain was strewn with heaps of the slain; but for three nights following—so ran the story—the spirits of the slain hovered over the scene and continued the strife in the air. The like has been done again and again in the party strifes and controversies of the Church. Unity is impossible where contention and vanity have sway.
III. Christian unity is strengthened by the maintenance of a humble spirit.—
1. In comparing oneself with others. “In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3). The man who walks humbly with God, realising his complete dependence on Him, will not unduly exalt himself, and will highly esteem others, as knowing that they are equally with himself dependent on God for their abilities. Instead of fixing your eyes on those points in which you may excel, fix them on those in which your neighbour excels you: to do this is true humility. The excellencies of others are better known than their defects, and our own defects are better known to ourselves than to others. A sense of personal short-coming will keep us humble. Humility is a special product of Christianity. The whole Roman language, with all the improvements of the Augustan age, does not afford so much as a name for humility; nor was one found in all the copious language of the Greeks, till it was made by the great apostle.
2. In considering other people’s interests as well as your own.—“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:4) The truly humble are thoroughly disinterested. The work of the meek and lowly Jesus is the loftiest example of disinterestedness. He looked to the things of others rather than to His own. In unselfishly seeking the good of others we promote our own. When Augustine was asked, “What is the first thing in religion?” he answered, “Humility.” “What is the second?” “Humility.” “And what is the third?” “Humility.” Speaking of pride, Augustine truly said, “That which first overcame man is the last thing he overcomes.” Humility is a strong bond of Christian unity.
IV. Christian unity is an occasion of great joy.—“Fulfil ye my joy” (Philippians 2:2). The weak spot in the disposition of the Philippians was a tendency to quarrelsomeness; hence he insists upon unity. They had given him joy in the other Christian excellencies they possessed; he asks them to complete his joy in cherishing the grace of unity. “Behold,” exclaimed tho rejoicing Psalmist, as he contemplated the union of the Jewish tribes, “how good and how pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” The bundle of arrows cannot be broken while it remains a bundle. Tacitus, an ancient Latin historian, says of the Germans, what sceptics and others find true of Christians, “Whilst fighting separately, all are conquered together.” The strength of the Christian Church lies in its consolidation.
1. Christian unity is of supreme importance.
2. Is absolutely necessary to represent the Spirit of Christ.
3. Is the cause of much joy to the anxious minister.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 2:1-50.2.2. Unity and Concord in the Church.—
1. As unity and concord is necessary in itself and at all times, so is it most necessary in suffering times: the enjoyment of Christ’s presence, the reaping of any spiritual advantage by the communion and love of the saints, fellowship with God through the operation of the Spirit, depend upon it.
2. The success of the gospel will be matter of joy to a public-spirited Christian, even in the midst of his own crosses and sufferings.
3. That unity and concord among the Churches may be solid and lasting, there should be unity of will and affections, of designs and endeavours, and in opinion and matters of judgment.—Fergusson.
Philippians 2:3. Humility an Antidote to Contention.—
1. The lust of vainglory, whereby a man pursues more after the applause of men than to be approved of God, is the mother of contention and strife, and unfriendly to union and peace.
2. The grace of humility does not consist in an affected strain of words and gestures, but, being seated in the heart, makes a man think meanly of himself and of anything that is his.
3. So conscious should we be of our own infirmities, so modest in the esteem of our own graces and virtues. so prone to charity, that we ought to esteem any other, for what we know of him, to be better than ourselves.—Ibid.
Philippians 2:4. Looking on the Things of Others.
I. One school in which we learn the lesson of unselfishness is the home circle.
II. Another way in which God teaches us the same lesson is through the experience we gain in the intercourse of daily work.—We divide men into the selfish and the unselfish—those who work for self and think of self, and those whose labours are for other men.
III. We are taught to consider other men by the perplexities and confusion which arise when we think only of ourselves.—The modern philosophy is true so far when it says that man is nothing in himself, but only a bundle of relations, the meeting-point of many influences. Those who fix their attention upon the meeting-point forget what makes the man. Probably there is no more confused or miserable man than the self-analyst.—A. R. MacEwen.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 2:5. Let this mind be in you.—The apostle’s word reminds us that he had already counselled his readers to be likeminded amongst themselves. “Each to each, and all to Christ,” this verse seems to say. What follows—to Philippians 2:11—is the very marrow of the gospel.
Philippians 2:6. Who, being in the form of God.—R.V. margin, “being originally.” Form here implies not the external accidents, but the essential attributes. Similar to this, but not so decisive, are the expressions used elsewhere of the divinity of the Son (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). Similar is the term “The Word.” Thought it not robbery.—“Did not deem His being on an equality with God a thing to be seized on—and retained as a prize” (Ellicott). “Yet did not regard it as a prize, a treasure to be clutched and retained at all hazards” (Lightfoot). This interpretation of the two eminent bishops is accepted by the R.V., the Speaker’s Commentary, and is the common and indeed almost universal interpretation of the Greek Fathers (Lightfoot, flatly contradicted by Beet). Meyer (followed by Beet), Cremer and Hofmann contend for the active meaning—“robbing.” To be equal with God.—The Jews considered Christ’s peculiar claim of Sonship as a “making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
Philippians 2:7. But made Himself of no reputation.—R.V. “emptied Himself.” The emphasis is upon Himself. In contrast to the idea lying in “robbery”—that of emptying the treasures of some one else—it was Himself whom He made bare. And took upon Him the form of a servant.—By taking the form of a slave. Note the antitheses in these verses (6, 7), “being in the form of God,” “took the form of a servant,” “equality with God,” “emptied Himself.” And was made in the likeness of men.—Lit. “becoming in similitude of men.” The word “likeness” (A.V. margin, “habit”) differs from “form” and “fashion.” There is, of course, no support for the Docetic teaching that Christ was only seemingly a man.
Philippians 2:8. In fashion.—The entire outwardly perceptible mode and form. Men saw in Christ a human form, bearing, language, action, mode of life, wants and their satisfaction, in general, the state and relations of a human being so that He was recognised “as a man” (Meyer). “Form” (in Philippians 2:6-50.2.7) is that which is intrinsic and essential. “Fashion” is that which is outward and accidental. Became obedient unto death.—Does not mean that He humbled Himself so as to become a cringing slave to the King of Terrors; but that His obedience to God went to the uttermost limit—as far as death—even the death of the cross. That is, the death of the accursed, the death reserved for malefactors. Jewish hatred still speaks of Christ as, “The man who was hung.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 2:5-50.2.8
The Humiliation of Christ a Pattern of Supreme Unselfishness.
I. The humiliation of Christ was no violation of His divine essence.—“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:6). Thought it not a prey to be seized upon. As He was in Himself truly and properly God, it could be no object of desire or ambition to claim equality with God. Being God He could not undeify Himself. His divinity remained with Him through the whole course of His self-imposed humiliation. It was this that constituted both the mystery and the greatness of the humiliation.
II. The humiliation of Christ was a voluntary incarnation in human form—“But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). He emptied Himself, not of His divinity—that was impossible—but of the outward and self-manifesting glories of the Godhead. He took the form of a servant by being made in the likeness of man. He remained full of divinity, yet He bore Himself as if He were empty. A native preacher among the Oneidas, addressing his fellow-converts, said: “What are the views you form of the character of Jesus? You will answer, perhaps, that He was a man of singular benevolence. You will tell me that He proved this to be His character by the nature of the miracles He wrought. He created bread to feed thousands who were ready to perish. He raised to life the son of a poor woman who was a widow, and to whom his labours were necessary for her support in old age. Are these then your only views of the Saviour? I will tell you they are lame. When Jesus came into the world He threw His blanket around Him, but the God was within.”
III. The humiliation of Christ reached its climax in a career of obedience even unto death.—“He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). He fulfilled all the demands of law and of God. He shrank not from death—death in its most shameful and ignoble form, the death of the cross. He was numbered with the transgressors—not an honourable death, but like the degrading execution of criminals. He went to the realm of the dead and revolutionised it. Hitherto death had reigned supreme, an unbroken power. The prison-house of the dead was fast locked. None returned. Now One comes there who has the keys of Hades and of death. He opens the door and sets the captives free. “Meekness in suffering, prayer for His murderers, a faithful resignation of His soul into the hands of His heavenly Father, the sun eclipsed, the heavens darkened, the earth trembling, the graves open, the rocks rent, the veil of the Temple torn—who could say less than this, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God’? He suffers patiently; this is through the power of grace; many good men have done so through His enabling. The frame of nature suffers with Him; this is proper to the God of Nature, the Son of God” (Bishop Hall).
IV. The humiliation of Christ is an example of unselfishness to all His followers.—“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). The apostle does not put forth himself as an example, but Christ. Christ gave His all for us, and we should give our all to Him, and our best service for the good of others. No one can follow Christ until he has first found Christ. Some try to imitate Christ before they have savingly found Him. To look at Christ as our Example only, and not as our Redeemer, is not to see Him as He is. Without faith in Christ as our Redeemer we cannot really follow His example. Without the grace of Christ there can be no imitation of Christ. A little girl once presented to a celebrated statesman a small bouquet of ordinary flowers, the only one she could procure at the season. He inquired why she gave him the bouquet. “Because I love you,” the child answered. “Do you bring any little gifts to Jesus?” he asked. “Oh,” said the child, “I give myself to Him.”
1. The unselfish are always humble.
2. The humble are patient in doing and suffering.
3. Humility is the pathway of exaltation.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 2:5-50.2.8. The Incarnate Deity.
I. That Christ did not seek to retain an appearance of divine glory and co-equality.
II. He divested Himself actually of His appropriate and descriptive ensigns of divine nature and government.
III. He entered upon a course of responsible subordination.
IV. He united Himself to human nature by a perfect incarnation.
V. He stooped to the most extreme depression of state.
VI. He reduced Himself to the necessity of death.
VII. He yielded to death in a peculiar form.
1. How admirable is the expedient of the Redeemer’s incarnation!
2. What a sublime example does the conduct of the Saviour afford.—R. W. Hamilton.
Philippians 2:5. The Christian Temper the Same Mind which was in Christ.
I. Some things in which we cannot consider Christ as an example.—All those graces in us which suppose our guilt and fallen state could not be exemplified to us by our Saviour.
II. Some things related of Christ we must not pretend to imitate.—What He did under the character of Messiah was peculiar to Himself, and not designed to put us on doing likewise.
III. Why Christians should copy the mind and temper of Christ.—
1. It was the design of God to set His Son before us as the model of the Christian temper.
2. He was a pattern admirably fitted to be proposed to our imitation.
(1) He was an example in our own nature.
(2) His circumstances and conduct in our nature adapted His example to the most general use.
(3) His example was perfect, so that it has the force of a rule.
3. The relations in which we stand to Christ and the concern we have with Him lay us under the strongest engagements to endeavour a resemblance. He is our friend, our Lord and Master, our Head, our Judge, the model of our final happiness.
1. Christianity in its main design is a practical thing.
2. We see the advantages we have by the gospel beyond any other dispensation for true goodness.
3. How inexcusable must they be who are not recovered to a godlike temper and conversation by this most excellent dispensation!
4. With what care and attention should We study the life of Christ!—J. Evans. D.D.
Christ our Pattern.
The mind of Christ was a pure mind.
A self-sacrificing mind.
A lowly mind.
A forbearing mind.
A constant mind.
A prayerful mind.—Preacher’s Magazine.
Philippians 2:6-50.2.7. Christ the Redeemer.—This which the Son of God did and underwent is the one fact of heaven and earth, with which none in creation, none in history, none in your own personal being, can for a moment be compared, but in the presence and in the light of which all these ought to be contemplated and concluded—that it is the great object of faith and practice. Of faith—for upon the personal and hearty reception of it as the foundation of your life before God, that life itself, and all its prospects, depend; of practice—for high above all other examples, shining over and blessing while it surpasses them, is this mighty example of the Son of God. Oh, brethren, how the selfish man and the selfish woman and the selfish family ought to depart from such a theme as this, downcast for very shame, and abased at their unlikeness to the pattern which they profess to be imitating! Oh that this question might be fixed and rankle like a dart in their bosoms, even till it will take no answer but the surrender of the life to Him, and, by the daily grace of His Spirit, living as He lived!—Alford.
Philippians 2:8. Christ’s Crucifixion—
I. As an historical fact.—It is quite certain.
II. As displaying in its circumstances every variety of human character.
III. As accompanied by striking prodigies.—The darkened sun, the quaking earth, the cleft rocks, the rent veil, the opened graves.
IV. As furnishing an illustrious example of the passive virtues—Taught us how to suffer and to die.
V. As being the brightest manifestation of self-denying and self-devoting love.
VI. As constituting the sole meritorious cause of human salvation.—Who is the sufferer? The Son of God. Why does He suffer? As a prophet, as a martyr, as an example? Yes; but chiefly as a sacrifice for sin.
VII. As producing the most wonderful moral transformations.—On individuals, on communities, and on Christendom.—G. Brooks.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 2:9. Highly exalted.—A word much stronger than those, e.g., in the Acts, which describe the raising up of the murdered Lord of life. We trace the descent step by step to the last rung of the ladder; by one stupendous act (Romans 1:4) God graced His Son with unique honour and dignity (Ephesians 1:21).
Philippians 2:10. That at the name of Jesus.—Not at the mention of the name Jesus, but in the name of Jesus. For illustration of the phrase see Christ’s own words, “in My name” (John 14:13-43.14.14, etc.). Every knee should bow.—The outward symbol of an inward submission or recognition of superiority. By what language could the apostle express the exaltation above creaturely needs if not by this? If used of a creature, it would be blasphemous. The jealous God does not allow bowing down in worship to any but Himself. As Pliny said, Quasi Deo.
Philippians 2:11. Should confess.—“Proclaim with thanksgiving” (Lightfoot). It is the word which describes the frank admission [of wrong, Matthew 3:6]. That Jesus Christ is Lord.—The emphasis is on “Lord.” The specific Christian profession of faith is “Jesus is Lord”; its opposite, “Anathema Jesus” (1 Corinthians 12:3 and Romans 10:9).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 2:9-50.2.11
The Exaltation of Christ—
I. Was a divine act.—“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him” Philippians 2:9). As a recognition of the humiliation and obedience of Christ, God exalted Him to the throne of mediatorial sovereignty. As Bengel puts it, “Christ emptied Christ; God exalted Christ as man to equality with God” (Compare Psalms 8:5-19.8.6; Psalms 110:1; Psalms 110:7; Matthew 28:18; Luke 24:26; John 5:27; John 10:17; Romans 14:9; Ephesians 1:20-49.1.22; Hebrews 2:9).
II. Was the acquisition of a name of pre-eminent dignity and significance.—“And given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus” (Philippians 2:9-50.2.10). Jesus is the same as Joshua, or Jehoshua, only framed to the Greek pronunciation and termination. Joshua, who brought the hosts of Israel into the rest of Canaan, was originally called Hoshea, but it was changed into Joshua or Jehoshua, by an addition of the first syllable in the divine name Jehovah, perhaps to intimate that not Joshua of himself, but Jehovah by him, would complete the deliverance and rest of Israel. The name Jesus means Jehovah-Saviour, or Jehovah-Salvation, and Jesus is so called because He saves His people from their sins. The name cannot be given to any other being; it belongs solely and absolutely to the one Jesus. “Here we should probably look,” says Lightfoot, “to a common Hebrew sense of name, not meaning a definite appellation, but denoting office, rank, dignity. In this case the use of the name of God in the Old Testament to denote the divine Presence or the divine Majesty, more especially as the object of adoration and praise, will suggest the true meaning; since the context dwells on the honour and worship henceforth offered to Him on whom the name has been conferred. To praise the name, to bless the name, to fear the name of God, are frequent expressions in the Old Testament.” The name of Jesus marks the pre-eminence of Jesus—it is the “name above every name.” That name wields the mightiest power in the world to-day. A modern writer of reputation has said: “There is a wave—I believe it is only a wave—passing over the cultivated thought of Europe at present, which will make short work of all belief in a God that does not grip fast to Jesus Christ. As far as I can read the signs of the times and the tendency of modern thinking, it is this—either an absolute silence, a heaven stretching above us, blue and clear and cold, and far away and dumb; or else a Christ that speaks—He or none. The theism that has shaken itself loose from Him will be crushed, I am sure, in the encounter with the agnosticism and materialism of this day.” The name of the exalted Jesus is the salvation of the world in more senses than one.
III. Entitles him to universal homage.—“Every knee shall bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-50.2.11). Beings above, below, and on the earth shall acknowledge the supremacy and deity of Jesus, and unite in a universal and consentaneous act of praise and worship of His divine majesty. On the door of the old mosque in Damascus, once a Christian church, but now ranked among the holiest of the Mahometan sanctuaries, are inscribed these remarkable words: “Thy kingdom, O Christ, is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.” For more than twelve hundred years the inscription has remained unimpaired by time and undisturbed by man. What is it waiting for? Already a Christian Church has been founded in that ancient city, and the gospel is preached there every Sabbath. The world’s submission to Jesus is drawing near.
Lessons.—The name of Jesus—
1. Is unique in its reputation.
2. In its moral influence among the nations.
3. In its saving power.
4. In the homage Paid to it.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 2:9-50.2.11. The Name of Jesus: its Exaltation and Power.
I. The Saviour’s exaltation (Philippians 2:9).—He was exalted by His resurrection from the dead, His ascension into heaven, and His glorious session at the right hand of God, whence He now discharges the high functions of Prophet, Priest, and King.
II. The Saviour’s name.—“That at the name of Jesus” (Philippians 2:10). Jehovah, the Saviour.
1. The supreme eminence of the name.—“A name which is above every name.”
2. Pre-eminent because no other being could receive the title.
3. Pre-eminent because there is no other name that has the mysterious virtue of saving as this.
III. The power of the Saviour’s name.—
1. In saving the sinner.
2. In commanding the homage and worship of all, and in eliciting the universal acknowledgment of His deity (Philippians 2:10-50.2.11).
We learn a lesson of humility.—
1. Because Christ humbled Himself for us.
2. We should humble ourselves on account of past sins.
3. Humility leads to exaltation.
Christ Worthy of Universal Homage.—
1. The Lord Christ, having abased Himself for our redemption, was exalted by the Father to the highest pitch of glory.
2. The name which is above every name is said to be given to Christ, because His divine majesty, before hid, was now manifested and the human nature so highly honoured that that person who is man is true God, and is to be acknowledged as such. 3. However small a part of the world acknowledge Christ to be the Lord, His glory will grow till all reasonable creatures in heaven, earth, and hell subject themselves to Him, and the giving of divine honour to Him does in no way impair the glory of God the Father.—Fergusson.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 2:12. Ye have always obeyed.—Obedience describes the attitude of the mind of these Philippians in presence of the commanding truths of the gospel: “Obedience” or “obedience of faith” is found several times in the epistle to the Romans; and in 2 Corinthians 7:15 stands in close connection with “fear and trembling,” as here. Fear and trembling.—Such an apprehensive desire to be right with God as is figured by bodily tremor.
Philippians 2:13. For it is God which worketh in you.—This sentence removes all merit from the most punctilious diligence, whilst it as effectually takes away the paralysing fear of failure to which “workers together with God” need never give place.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 2:12-50.2.13
Salvation—God’s Work and Man’s Care.
I. Salvation is a personal blessing.—“Your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12). If Christ died for all, then He-died for me and I may be saved. It matters little, if others are being saved unless I am saved myself. It is impossible to be genuinely interested in the salvation of others unless we are saved ourselves. Salvation deals with the individual; it gathers its trophies one by one. “I have read of some seas,” writes Bunyan, “so pure and clear that a man may see the bottom, though they be forty feet deep. I know this river is a deep river, but it is not said that we can see no bottom.” The comparison implies that a man with good eyes may see the bottom. So, then, we shall look down through these crystal streams and see what be at the bottom of all. The bottom of all is that we might be saved. “These things I say,” saith Christ, “that ye might be saved.” What a good, sound bottom is here! This salvation admits man to a wealth of blessings impossible to estimate. Salvation should therefore be sought by every man earnestly, believingly, promptly.
II. Salvation needs constant personal care.—“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
1. The Christian worker is surrounded with spiritual perils.—The apostle has referred to these perils in warning the Philippians against pride, selfishness, faction, and vain boasting (Philippians 2:3-50.2.4). To secure his salvation the believer must not only work, but work with circumspection, with vigilance, with fear and trembling. “God does not give 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, rocks, and limestone, and says, ‘Now build thyself a house.’ Regard not God’s work within thee as an anchor to hold thy bark 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” (Lange).
2. Personal care the more necessary when deprived of the oversight of a loved teacher.—“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence” (Philippians 2:12). The Philippians had shown a spirit of ready obedience both to the apostle and to God, and they are urged to increased diligence. The apostle’s “absence did not make the obligation less imperative, but it demanded more earnestness and vigilance from them in the discharge of the duty. His voice and person were a guide and stimulant and excited them to assiduous labour, so that his presence among them wrought like a charm. And now that he was not with them, and they were left to themselves, they were so much the more to double their diligence and work out salvation with fear and trembling—with distrust of themselves, earnest solicitude in every duty, humble reliance on divine aid, with the abiding consciousness that after all they come far short of meeting obligation” (Eadie).
III. Salvation is a divine work.—
1. God is pleased to work in us to create a right disposition.—“It is God that worketh in you to will … of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). The desire for salvation and the disposition and will to seek it come from God. As the sun warms the earth and helps the flower to grow and bloom, so the Spirit of God warms the heart and calls forth the growth and blossom of Christian graces. God does not take out mental and moral apparati and put in a new set, like the works of a clock; but He encourages us to use the powers already within and breathes upon us the vitalising influence of His Spirit, so that we produce results in harmony with His will.
2. God is pleased to work in us to confer the moral ability to work.—“God worketh in you … to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Some men have ability to do great things, but have not the disposition; others may have the disposition, but not the ability. In the work of our salvation God gives both the disposition and the power. Because God works in us we may work; because He works in us we must work out our own salvation. The means of salvation are within our reach; it is our part to use them. How does the miner get out of the pit? There is a string at the bottom; he pulls it; a bell at the top rings; a rope, worked by a steam-engine, is let down, and in this way he ascends to the top. A man gets down into the pit of trouble; he cannot get up himself; he must ring the bell of prayer; God will hear it and send down the rope that is to lift him out. Man can do nothing without God, and God will do nothing without the willing co-operation of man.
1. Salvation is possible for every man.
2. Salvation may be secured by man yielding to the divine influences working within him.
3. If man is not saved, it is his own fault.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 2:12-50.2.13. Divine and Human Co-operation in Man’s Salvation.
I. The salvation to be wrought out.—Salvation simply means deliverance. It may be either temporal or spiritual, or both. The process of salvation is to be continuous.
II. In the work of our salvation divine and human co-operation is necessary.—Illustrated in the products of nature, in works of art and skill.
1. God works in us by the light of His truth.
2. By appealing to us with the influence of powerful motives.
3. Works in us by the influences of His Spirit.
III. Seek to ascertain to what extent we are indebted for our personal salvation to God working in us.—Our salvation from first to last is from God; that we are saved by grace, yet not so as to destroy our own effort. He produces in us the will and power. We are to exercise the will and power by repenting, believing, and living a life of holiness.
IV. Why we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.—Because of the possibility of our unfaithfulness. May be too sure of salvation, and too doubtful.—J. C. Symons.
The Active Exertion of Man in working out his Salvation harmonises with the Free Grace of God as being the Sole Author of it.—There are two facts connected with the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt—their preservation in the wilderness, and their settlement in the land of Canaan—to which I would solicit your attention.
I. That all was done for them by God, and is to be ascribed solely, from first to last, to His almighty power and grace.—
1. The means by which the establishment of the Israelites in the promised land was effected were evidently beyond the reach of human agency.
2. Even in those particular cases in which the active exertions of the Israelites were employed as the means of their deliverance or success the whole is ascribed to God.
(1) He gave them courage to fight against their enemies;
(2) He gave them success by sending, terror into the hearts of their enemies.
II. That although God thus did everything for them, He did it in such a way as to bring every power of their minds and bodies into exercise, and to render their own activity absolutely necessary to their preservation and success.—Illustrated in the passage of the Red Sea, and in the first battle of the Israelites with the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8).
1. As the deliverance of the Israelites and their establishment in Canaan was wholly of God, so the salvation of every sinner is to be ascribed solely and entirely to His mercy and power.
2. As God required the Israelites to be active, watchful, diligent, ardent, and strenuous in their exertions to overcome difficulties and to defeat their enemies, so He requires His people to make their calling and election sure, to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.—Although God does all for us in the matter of our salvation, yet He places us in situations where we must exert ourselves or perish.—Anonymous.
The Co-operation of Human and Divine Agency in our Salvation
I. This co-operation of divine and human energies has place in all the most important facts and pursuits that make up the history of man.—
1. It is true of the commencement of our being.
2. Our growth and education are the result of the same joint agency.
3. This fundamental law reigns over all the works of man.
II. What does God accomplish and what does He demand of us in the joint working out of our salvation?—
1. God works in us by the light of His truth.
2. By the power of motives.
3. By the energy of His Spirit.
III. What is the intent and object of these divine operations?—
1. They are not designed to transform the character as, when after conversion, they are media of sanctification.
2. Human co-operation is the indispensable condition of progress.
3. Will and do. These describe the duty of the unconverted man.—S. Olin, D.D.
Man’s Work and God’s Work.
I. This salvation is begun when we believe in Christ, but it requires to be worked out.
II. The fact that God works in us renders our working possible.
III. The fact that God works in us should make us fear and tremble.—R. Abercrombie, M.A.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 2:14. Do all things without murmurings.—Without mutterings, as men who in cowardice dare not speak plainly what they think. We must consider the warning as against God on account of what He imposed on them both to do and to suffer. And disputings.—The word goes much deeper than the restricted meaning of “disputings.” It seems here to mean without first entering upon scrupulous considerings as to whether you are under any obligation thereto, whether it is not too difficult, whether prudent, and the like (Meyer).
Philippians 2:15. That ye may be blameless.—Sons of God they are already; they are now to become worthy sons. In the word “blameless” we have the idea of a character in which no grace is defective (Hebrews 8:7 is a good illustration. If the first covenant had been faultless, a second would have been superfluous). And harmless.—Christ’s own counsel. “Be harmless as doves.” Lit. the word means unmixed, unadulterated, and figuratively, artless. Of sophistries and the deep things of Satan he would rather they were in happy ignorance (Matthew 10:16; Romans 16:19). Without rebuke.—Vulgate, “immaculatum.” The word is originally a sacrifiical term. It describes the victim in which the keen inquisitorial eye of the official inspector has found no fault. So (1 Peter 1:19) of the Lamb of God, in the whiteness of spotless innocency. Crooked and perverse generation.—St. Peter uses the former word in his indictment of the men of his own day (Acts 2:40), and to describe cross-tempered masters (1 Peter 2:18). The Rabbins take the term “perverse” as used in Ecclesiastes 7:13 (LXX.) to denote those bodily deformed. Here, as in our Lord’s use (Matthew 17:17), of a moral nature all warped and knotted. Ye shine as lights in the world.—R.V. “ye are seen,” A metaphor from the heavenly luminaries (Genesis 1:14; Genesis 1:16; Matthew 5:14).
Philippians 2:16. Holding forth the word of life.—“If we are to look for any metaphor it would most naturally be that of offering food or wine” (Lightfoot). Why it should be at all events wholly unconnected with the preceding image in “lights in the world” one does not quite see. There is nothing objectionable in the thought of a star holding forth its beam to the mariner, or the benighted wayfarer, and it has the advantage of continuity of the metaphor in the verse previous. That I may rejoice in the day of Christ.—As good news of his convert’s fidelity was like a new lease of life to the worn apostle (1 Thessalonians 3:8), so his sweetest hope was to be able to stand before his Lord with his children by his side. Have not run … laboured.—Athletic terms familiar to St. Paul’s readers.
Philippians 2:17. If I be offered upon the sacrifice.—R.V. margin, “poured out as a drink-offering.” Whether the reference is to the cup of wine poured over the heathen sacrifice or the drink-offering of the Jewish is doubted, and is of little consequence, since in either case his meaning would be clear enough. And service.—Priestly function (Luke 1:23).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 2:14-50.2.18
The Lustre of a Blameless Life—
I. Suppresses all murmuring and doubt as unworthy of the children of God.—“Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke” (Philippians 2:14-50.2.15). As the sons of God, distinguished by so high and holy a calling, believers should be blameless and pure. Their spiritual integrity should lift them above the cause of blame. To be pure and blameless they must not yield to the spirit of dissatisfaction and doubt. “No matter what may tend to excite this spirit, it must not be indulged, whether the temptation to it be the divine command, the nature of the duty, the self-denial it involves, or the opposition occasionally encountered. There was neither grudge nor reluctance with Him whose example is described in the preceding verses, no murmur at the depth of His condescension, or doubt as to the amount or severity of the sufferings which for others He so willingly endured” (Eadie).
II. Sheds a guiding light in the midst of a dark world.—“In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-50.2.16). The Philippians were to be a light and guide to their fellow-citizens, a people made up of Jew and pagan, moved by tortuous and perverse impulses. Nothing would please them: give them one argument, they cry for another; tell them of the simplicity of the gospel, they prefer you should dwell on its mysteries; speak of its power, they ask you to expound its charity. The children of God are to society everywhere what the heavenly luminaries are to the world—they are to diffuse light, and guide the way to a better life. The star which led the wise men to Christ, the pillar of fire which led the children of Israel into Canaan, did not only shine, but went before them. Believers shine by the light of the word which they hold forth, and that light is the guide to others. Virtue should shine in cities, not in solitudes. The Christian’s duty is here among men; and the nearer he draws to his fellow-men, so that his religion be real and true, the more good he is likely to do them. On the north coast of Cornwall and Devon is a lighthouse, which first of all was placed high upon the cliffs, where the mists and fogs often obscured and hid its brightness from the passing mariner in hours of the sorest need. So they took it down and built it afresh on the rock out at sea, amid the waves of that dangerous coast, there to shine where it was most necessary.
III. Supplies a prolific theme of ministerial joy.—
1. A joy complete when his work is finally appraised. “That I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain” (Philippians 2:16). The apostle had run with the eagerness of a racer in the Isthmian games—the prizes he sought, the souls of men; he had laboured with strenuous and persevering diligence—the wages he sought, the souls of men; and now looking by anticipation at the results of his apostolic toil, in the light of the great day of Christ, his greatest joy will be that his efforts have not been in vain. His joy then will be, not in the number and wealth of the Churches he founded, but in the spiritual progress and advancement of the members. The results of work for Christ are often in this world obscured and confused; but in the day of Christ all will be clear and the work seen in all its beauty and dimensions. The joy of success is often checkered and interrupted in this life; but yonder the joy will be complete and full. We shall share the joy of the conquering Christ.
2. A joy not diminished though life is prematurely sacrificed.—“Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all” (Philippians 2:17). The apostle’s image is that of an altar, on which the faith of the Philippians is laid by him as priest, while his own blood is being poured out as the usual drink-offering or libation. In the near prospect of martyrdom he has no gloomy anticipations. Death will not terminate his joy, but accelerate it, as it will admit him to realms where all is calm and joy and peace. Such is the triumph of the Christian spirit; it can rejoice in tribulation and in the very presence of death.
3. A joy in which his converts may share.—“For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:18). So far from being dispirited by the prospect of his martyrdom, the apostle calls upon them to share his joy on account of the success of the gospel. How often in the changeful experiences of life are joy and sorrow mingled together. “Joy lives in the midst of the sorrow; the sorrow springs from the same root as the gladness. The two do not clash against each other, or reduce the emotion to a neutral indifference, but they blend into one another, just as in the Arctic regions, deep down beneath the cold snow with its white desolation and its barren death, you shall find the budding of the early spring flowers and the fresh green grass; just as some kinds of fire burn below the water; just as in the midst of the barren and undrinkable sea there may be welling up some little fountain of fresh water that comes from a deeper depth than the great ocean around it and pours its sweet streams along the surface of the salt waste” (Maclaren).
1. A blameless life is the product of the grace of God.
2. Is a rebuke to the wavering and inconsistent.
3. Evokes the congratulations of the good in both worlds.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 2:15-50.2.16. Christians Examples to the World.—
1. Divisions and strife grieve the Spirit and darken those evidences of sonship which believers in a calm and peaceful temper of spirit used to see most clearly.
2. We stop the mouths of enemies when our conversation is such as may discover to others their failings, and point out that good way wherein they ought to walk.
3. Suitable practice joined with profession puts such a majesty and splendour on truth that every Christian is to profane men as the sun and moon are in the firmament.
4. The glory put on gracious souls at the day of judgment will add to the glory and joy of faithful ministers.—Fergusson.
Philippians 2:16. The Word of Life: a Living Ministry and a Living Church.
I. To apprehend the life of the Church we must apprehend the life of its Head.
II. A living ministry.—
1. Requires confidence in the office and work itself.
2. Distinctness of purpose.
3. A quick and profound sense of the nature and dignity of the soul.
4. One that preaches more than moral decency: preaches piety, regeneration, and faith.
5. Must not be afraid to assert what passes its own reason.
III. A living Church.—
1. A safeguard against dogmatism.
4. Is a body whose life is the life of Christ in the soul.—F. D. Huntington, D.D.
Philippians 2:16-50.2.18. The Joy of Ministerial Success—
I. Sustained by the assurance of the final approval of his heavenly Master.—“That I may rejoice in the day of Christ” (Philippians 2:16).
II. Cheerfully sacrifices life itself in the successful prosecution of his work.—“Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all” (Philippians 2:17).
III. Shared by those who profit by his ministry.—“For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:18).
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 2:20. No man likeminded.—A.V. margin, “so dear unto me,” evidently because the same word is used in Psalms 55:13. “Likeminded” with whom? “With me,” says Meyer, that is, “having the same tender feeling towards you as I have.” Who will naturally care.—Not of necessity, nor grudgingly.
Philippians 2:21. All seek their own.—Interpret how we will, this is a bitter sentence. We are apt to be severe on those who have other engagements when we feel our need of friends.
Philippians 2:22. Ye know the proof.—The character that shows itself under strain or testing (Acts 16:1; Acts 17:14; Acts 19:22; Acts 20:3-44.20.4). As a son with the father.—R.V. “as a child serveth.” The older man and the younger had slaved for the gospel; as for some dear object of desire a father and his son may be seen at work together.
Philippians 2:24. I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.—The apostle, in personal matters, is on the same footing with the most obscure Christian. When his friends forsake him he must bear it with what fortitude he can. When darkness surrounds him he must wait God’s time—no prophecy lifts the veil.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 2:19-50.2.24
A Projected Christian Mission—
I. Prompted by anxiety to promote the spiritual welfare of the Church.—“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state” (Philippians 2:19). We have already gathered, from our study of this epistle thus far, that the apostle was solicitous about the spiritual state of the Philippian Church; and this visit of Timothy was preparatory to his own coming to see them. He turns from the sadder side of his own likely martyrdom to the more hopeful prospect of once more being in their midst. The true minister of Christ can never forget his people, whether present among them or absent; and his principal anxiety is to know that they are growing in grace and Christian usefulness. He seeks to keep in touch with them by letters or personal messengers, and the theme of his communications will be based on their mutual interest in the cause of Christ. His movements and wishes concerning them are all based on the will of Christ.
II. Committed to a trustworthy messenger.—
1. A messenger in genuine sympathy with the anxiety of the sender. “For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state” (Philippians 2:20). Timothy is of such a nature, has a soul so like my own, that when he comes among you he will manifest a true regard for your best interests. This choice evangelist was a native of Lycaonia, in the centre of Asia Minor. Faithfully and lovingly taught by his mother, a pious Jewess, to long and look for the Messiah promised to the fathers, he was led, on Paul’s first visit to these regions, to recognise in Jesus of Nazareth the great Deliverer and to accept Him as his Saviour. On the apostle’s second visit, four or five years afterwards, finding Timothy highly commended by the Christians of the district, he took him as his companion, to give such aid in missionary work as a young man could, and to be trained for full efficiency as a preacher of the cross. From that time onward we find him in constant connection with the apostle, either as his companion or as carrying on some special ministerial work which Paul had entrusted to him. His close fellowship with the apostle gave him opportunites of becoming familiar with the great reading themes of the gospel, and with the high aims and motives with which his teacher was constantly animated.
2. A messenger free from a self-seeking spirit.—“For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Philippians 2:21). Among the other members of the Church likely to be entrusted with such a mission there was no one like Timothy—so devoted, so whole-hearted, so unselfish. The early Church was not less free from imperfections than the modern Church; the self-seeking spirit is as permanent as human nature. When a certain bishop was asked by an acquaintance what was the best body of divinity, he did not scruple to answer, “That which can help a man to keep a coach and six horses.”
3. A messenger whose fidelity has been tested.—“But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel” (Philippians 2:22). Paul does not say that Timothy served him—though that was true—but served with him in the gospel, showing filial affection and willing obedience. The simplicity and unselfishness, the mellow Christian wisdom, the patience and gentleness of the apostle, fitted in with a charming meekness, unselfishness, and affectionateness in his young friend. The apostle watched with joy the maturing grace of his beloved companion and fellow-labourer; and Timothy was thankful to God for giving him such a friend. The courage and fidelity of the young evangelist had been tried in times of difficulty, and of this the apostle and the Philippians had had many proofs. The Church was therefore ready to welcome him with confidence and respect. The minister should be faithful to the gospel at all times. Oliver Millard, an earnest and popular preacher of the reign of Louis XI., attacked the vices of the court in his sermons, and did not spare the king himself, who, taking offence, sent the priest word that if he did not change his tone he would have him thrown into the Seine. “The king,” replied Oliver, “is the master to do what he pleases; but tell him that I shall reach paradise by water sooner than he will by post-horses.” This bold answer at once amused and intimidated the king, for he let the preacher continue to preach as he pleased and what he pleased.
III. To be followed by a hoped-for personal visit.—“Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly” (Philippians 2:23-50.2.24). Until his own fate is determined, the apostle seems desirous to keep Timothy with him; but as soon as he learned the issue, he would despatch his trusty messenger to Philippi, and cherished the hope of coming himself. Whatever the result may be, martyrdom or liberty, the apostle calmly and firmly trusts in the Lord.
1. The good are ever devising plans for the benefit of others.
2. An earnest spirit inspires others to holy toil.
3. The best virtues are strengthened by Christian work.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 2:19-50.2.24. Ministerial Anxiety for the Welfare of the Church.—
1. The crosses and comforts of a Christian, endued with a truly public spirit, depend not so much upon those things which concern himself, as those which are of public concern to Jesus Christ and His Church. 2. A minister imitates the apostles in watching over their flock when the state of souls is the object of his care, and when the care arises, not from constraint, but from love to the party cared for.
3. Our own things and the things of Christ are often in two contrary balances.
4. The calling of the ministry is a service, and ministers are servants of Christ, for the Church, and not lords over their faith.—Fergusson.
Philippians 2:21. The Life of Christ the only True Idea of Self-devotion.—A refined selfishness is one of the worst antagonists of the Church of Christ.
I. It may consist with all the Church requires as a condition to communion in her fullest privileges.
II. But it extinguishes all that ever produced any great work in Christ’s service.
III. The secret of that stupendous self-devotion which saints in all ages have manifested is—they set up the life of Christ before them.
IV. The customs of life and all the current maxims and unwritten laws of society maintain so tyrannous a hold even over good minds that high and generous tempers are chilled into inaction.—H. E. Manning.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 2:25. Epaphroditus.—Brother, work-mate, comrade-in-arms, Church-messenger, and serving-man. What a designation! St. Paul thinks him worthy of all the honour (Philippians 2:29) that the Church can give, and he himself immortalises him by this unusual estimate of his personal character and work.
Philippians 2:26. Was full of heaviness.—The same word is used of our Lord when in Gethsemane—“He began to be very heavy.” Its etymology is an open question. Grimm, following Buttmann, says it means “the uncomfortable feeling of one who is not at home.” If this, the almost universally accepted derivation be the correct one, it is a beautiful idyll we have presented to us. A convalescent, far from home, as his strength returns feels the pangs of home-sickness strengthen and eagerly returns to dispel the misgivings of those made anxious by tidings of his critical illness.
Philippians 2:27. Nigh unto death.—Or as we say colloquially, “next door to death.” God had mercy on him.—St. Paul speaks after the manner of men, as we could not have dared to say anything else if Epaphroditus had died. The cry of woe so often heard by Christ was “have mercy.” Sorrow upon sorrow.—“He does not parade the apathy of the Stoics, as though he were iron and far removed from human affections” (Calvin).
“When sorrows come they come not single spies,
But in battalions.”
Philippians 2:28. The more carefully.—R.V. “diligently.” “With increased eagerness” (Lightfoot). How difficult it must have been for St. Paul to relinquish the company of so worthy a man we do not realise; but he who gives up is worthy of the friend he gives up, for neither of them is consulting his own wishes. “Love seeketh not her own.” What a contrast to sordid Hedonism—old or new! Ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.—A variation on the theme of the letter—the sum of which is, as Bengel says, “I rejoice; rejoice ye.” “What an exquisitely chosen form of expression! “A prior sorrow will still remain unremoved,” says Lightfoot; “but if he cannot go so far as to say he will rejoice, the alleviation of the loss of such a friend’s society is the fact that they have him again.”
Philippians 2:29. Hold such in honour.—Learn to know the value of such—“grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel.”
Philippians 2:30. For the work of Christ.—What noble self-oblivion the apostle manifests! He thinks more of the cause dear to his heart than of his own comfort or even life. Not regarding his life.—R.V. “hazarding his life.” There is the difference of a single letter in the long word of the R.V. The word of the R.V. means “having gambled with his life.” Just as today a visitor to Rome in the autumn must run the risk of malarial fever, so Epaphroditus, for the work of Christ, had faced that, and other dangers as great, probably. The A.V. would mean “as far as his life was concerned he followed an ill-advised course of action.” To supply your lack of service toward me.—Does not mean that they had been remiss in their attention. They did not lack the will, but the opportunity.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 2:25-50.2.30
A Devoted Christian Minister—
I. A valued associate of good men.—“Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellow-soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants” (Philippians 2:25). Epaphroditus had been sent by the Philippian Church with a gift to Paul, and, pending the proposed visit of himself or Timothy, he employs him as his messenger. The commendation of Epaphroditus indicates the apostle’s high estimate of the character of the man—a Christian brother, a colleague in toil, a fellow-soldier in scenes of danger and conflict. The work of the Christian minister brings him into contact with the noblest spirits of the times.
II. Full of sympathy for the anxieties of his people.—“For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick” (Philippians 2:26). It may be that Epaphroditus was the more anxious to return to his people lest the rumour of his sickness should have disastrous consequences on the state of his Church, that some parties between whom he had mediated should take advantage of his prostration and fall again into animosity, or it may be that he might dispel the distress and sorrow of his people on his own account. This longing to see his people reveals a womanly tenderness that some men might call weakness. Paul did not so regard it. He knew the manly robustness of spirit, the decision, energy, and devotedness that had made Epaphroditus his honoured companion in labour and fellow-soldier; and to him the element of softness and sweetness brought out in the languor of the recovery exhibited a new charm. “The best men 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” (Lange).
III. Exposed himself to great risk in the eager discharge of duty.—“For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; … I sent him therefore … that when ye see him again ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful” (Philippians 2:27-50.2.28). The sickness of Epaphroditus was probably brought on by the risks and exposures of his journey from Philippi to Rome. It was no easy task for a Christian, one of a sect everywhere spoken against, hated and oppressed, having no protection from either Jewish or Roman rule, to undertake such a mission, carrying aid to a man in prison, who was bitterly hated by many, and over whose approaching execution they were gloating with a fiendish satisfaction. But Epaphroditus braved all the privations and sufferings of the perilous enterprise, and would not hesitate to acknowledge publicly before the world that the prisoner he sought to help was his friend. Paul fully understood all the perils of the adventure and that it had nearly cost a valuable life; he thus specially acknowledges the mercy of God both to himself and the Philippians and the mitigation of their mutual sorrow in the recovery of Epaphroditus. “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” (Heubner). “It is a fine thing,” wrote Sailer, “if you can say a man lived and never lifted a stone against his neighbour; but it is a finer far if you can say also he took out of the path the stones that would have caught his neighbour’s feet. So did Feneberg, and this his doing was his life.”
IV. Highly commended for his character and work’s sake.—“Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me” (Philippians 2:29-50.2.30). Words of highest eulogy, coming from such a source, and uttered under such circumstances. How tender, unreserved and unselfish are the apostle’s commendations of Timothy and Epaphroditus, and how large and loving the heart from which they came! Even with these friends, so dear and needful to him, the aged servant of Christ, worn with labour and suffering, is willing, for the work of Christ, to part, and to be left alone. And this man was notorious, a few years before, as Saul the persecutor. What wrought the change? The glorious gospel of the blessed God. The faithful, conscientious, self-denying minister of the word cannot fail to win the esteem and love of his people.
1. A Christian minister has many opportunities of usefulness.
2. Should cultivate a generous and sympathetic nature.
3. Should be faithful in all things.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 2:25-50.2.28. Anxieties of Ministerial Life.—
1. Ministerial employment is a painful, laborious work, and faithful ministers who are standard-bearers or sentinels, and march in the front, before the Lord’s people, have a peculiar battle of their own for truth and piety. The Lord sometimes suffers His servants to fall into desperate dangers, that His mercy may be the more seen in their delivery.
3. Courage under sufferings for Christ, and rejoicing in God, may consist with moderate sorrow and heaviness.
4. The weights and griefs of the godly do prove an occasion of rejoicing afterwards, so the grief which the Philippians had because of their pastor’s sickness and apprehended death ended in joy when they saw him in health again.—Fergusson.
Philippians 2:29-50.2.30. Heroic Devotion to Christ—
I. Is wholly absorbed in the work of Christ.
II. Risks life in serving the cause of God.
III. Should be held in highest esteem.
IV. Should be joyfully acknowledged in whomsoever manifested.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Philippians 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany