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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 4

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


In this Chapter, Paul closeth his Epistle. It consists chiefly of Exhortations. The Apostle's great Joy at the Prosperity of the Church.

Verses 1-3

(1) ¶ Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. (2) I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. (3) And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

What a lovely frame of mind Paul enjoyed? And how continually we find proofs of it, in his writings. He hardly knows how to express himself, in shutting up his Epistle to the Church, in terms sufficiently strong, to show his affection. Brethren, dearly beloved, and longed for; my joy, and crown. And again he repeats, dearly beloved. Reader! do not overlook in it, the change grace wrought: neither in the effect, on Paul's mind, forget the source, in God's grace. He that was once breathing out nothing but threatenings, and slaughters, against the disciples of the Lord; now unable to find words of sufficient tenderness. Acts 9:1 . And, Reader! while not overlooking the cause; connect with it, for every other occasion, of the Lord's people, how easily the same grace which converted Paul from a Lion to a Lamb, can convert the souls of his redeemed, from darkness to light, and from the power of sin and Satan, to the living God.

We have no account in any other part of Scripture, concerning those Persons Paul speaks of: Euodias, Syntyche, and Clement. No doubt, members of the Church at Philippi; and of the body of Christ. But let not the Reader overlook, how sweetly the Apostle intimates their union, and interest in Christ, in having their names in the book of life. This is the first, and predisposing cause, of all the blessedness of the Church. The names, by which is meant, the Persons of Christ's mystical body, are all given by the Father to the Son; are all known by him, and loved by him, from all eternity. And Christ's love of them, in redeeming them, washing them in his blood, watching over them, and carrying them, through all the time-state of their being here below, until he brings them all home to glory: all, and every Covenant mercy in Christ, ariseth from the first, and original source; they were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4 . And hence, from the same everlasting love, and on the same account, all the blessings they receive, from the quickening, and regenerating grace of God the Holy Ghost, with all his gifts, and graces, from the first moment of God's electing love, until grace is summed up in glory: the whole, and every one, springs from hence, their names are written in the book of life.

Not that God needs such records, as we do, in our transactions in life; but it is spoken in accommodation to our apprehension of things. It is expressive, both of God's purposes, and decrees; and of the personal choice the Lord hath made, of every one. Sweet, and precious truth! And, so infinitely important is it, in the view of Christ, that he bid his disciples rejoice more in the assurance of it, than even the devils being made subject to them through his name. And, beyond all doubt, it is an infinitely greater motive for joy: just as much as a cause is beyond an effect. See Luke 10:20 ; Hebrews 12:23 .

Verses 4-7

(4) Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. (5) Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. (6) Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (7) And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

These Apostolic exhortations, very sweetly, and seasonably follow what Paul had before said, of the names of the Church being written in the book of life. For who but must rejoice, yea, and rejoice alway, when conscious of such an eternal sonship in Christ? Reader! the people of God have reason to blush, when anything for a moment damps their joy, from the trifling events of this dying world. Children, of the King eternal, immortal, invisible, going home to their Father's house; can there be a single affliction, or sorrow, sufficient to induce distress, while these vast thoughts are cherished in the mind? Every moment lessens our abode here, and brings us nearer to our everlasting inheritance. So fast are we hastening on that even since I began the first line, in this observation, I am by so much further on, towards the glorious open view of God in Christ. Is not this enough to make every regenerated child of God rejoice, and to rejoice alway? Is God my Father, who hath chosen me in Christ that I should be holy, and without blame before him in love? Hath he from everlasting predestinated me with the Church to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself? Am I accepted in the Beloved, have redemption in Christ's blood; the forgiveness of all my sins, according to the riches of his grace; regenerated by God the Spirit, and sealed, unto the day of redemption: and shall I cease to rejoice alway; and when God the Holy Ghost by his servant saith also, again I say rejoice? Reader! do you not behold in these things, what an everlasting source, of the most heart-felt rejoicing there is, when the Lord the Spirit hath brought all these things home to the believer's conscience, and formed Christ in the heart the hope of glory? Do you earnestly desire to participate in this joy unspeakable and full of glory? Do then, as the Apostle saith, and look up to God the Holy Ghost to enable you so to do. Be not poring over difficulties, in flesh and blood; but give all diligence to make your calling and election sure. So the Apostle taught the brethren. And, if a brother, so he speaks to you. For if ye do these things, that is, make your calling and election sure, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. See 2 Peter 1:10-11 . and Commentary.

How very blessedly the Apostle speaks, of the nearness of the Lord, of the believer's casting all his care upon Jesus, of bringing all before him, of leaving all with him, of besieging the throne and mercy-seat of Jesus unceasingly, both with supplication, and thanksgiving. And, with what a blessed promise, the passage closeth: the peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Reader! bear with me, while I remind you again and again, (for I need to be continually reminded myself,) that these blessed Scriptures are not Paul's, but the words of God the Holy Ghost. Paul is but the penman of them. It is God the Spirit which endited them; for all scripture is given by inspiration of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 . We are too apt to lose sight of this. And when, we do, we forget with it, that the promises in Christ Jesus, are not yea, and nay; but yea, and Amen. 2 Corinthians 1:19-20 . The one before us, is on this account, sweet. The peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Verses 8-9

(8) Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (9) Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

What a beautiful train of exhortation is here given to the Church, as the blessed, and sure consequences to all that went before. And what a train of the most gracious effects flow from the doctrines of grace, when received into the soul, and acted upon, by the blessed influences of God the Holy Ghost? Who will venture to charge the doctrines of grace, as leading to licentiousness? when, in fact, they are the only real check to the corrupt passions of men, to keep from it. When a child of God is truly, and savingly called by grace, and regenerated by the Holy Ghost; then, and not before, is he brought into a capability of showing the faith of the Gospel, by his life and conversation. Make the tree good (said Jesus) and his fruit, good. Matthew 12:33 . And it is one of the first, and leading principles of the Gospel, that a change of heart must take place, before the child of God can bring forth fruit unto God. Reader! if you know anything of a work of grace having passed upon your own foul, you cannot but know this. And that scripture is fully confirmed in your own experience. If ye by the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. No man can mortify the deeds of the body any other way. Romans 8:13 ; Psalms 22:29 .

Hence it should be observed, that these exhortations from the Holy Ghost, are given to the Church, and to the Church only. To exhort the unregenerated to things that are true, things honest, or just, or pure; would be like bidding the Ethiopian to change his skin, or the leopard his spots. Some there are, indeed, that are mighty fond of this general address, of exhortations to good, and invitations to come to Christ, and offers to take Christ, being made to the carnal world, to allure them, as they call it, to faith, and repentance. But this they do, because they know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God. They are ignorant of the plague of their own heart, or they would not so reason. They place more stress upon the power, and ability of the creature, to turn himself to God, than either the word of God, (or their own experience, if they attended to it more,) warrants. Hence, they call upon the world at large, and exhort them to good works. They make offers of Christ to such, in direct contradiction to Scripture: and, instead of inviting, as Jesus did, the weary and heavy laden only; and as his servants were commanded to do, the thirsty; they invite all. Reader! I beseech you for a moment to consider this subject, and, if the Lord be your teacher, you will soon discover the fallacy of it; and learn, that such men are guided by the pride and vanity of their own heart, (as if they possessed the power of persuasion,) and are not taught of God.

And, first. Let the Reader look over the whole volume of Scripture, in both Testaments, and he will discover, that all the exhortations, like those of Paul to the Church of the Philippians, are confined to the people of God. There is not a word of exhortation given to the nations among whom Israel sojourned, in the Egyptians, Amalekites, Moabites, Babylonians, or in short, any of the people of the earth. On the contrary, the Lord declared, that his people were a special people, to be everlastingly separated from them. And, as it was in the Old Testament dispensation; so is it under the New. Invitations to come to Christ, And exhortations to follow Christ, are addressed only to the Church. Paul's exhortation in this place begins, finally brethren. And all his Epistles, are to the faithful in Christ Jesus, and the called to be saints. See Philippians 1:1-2 . and Commentary, And to such, in whose minds Christ the Spirit hath wrought a saving conversion; those exhortations sent by the Spirit, are made blessed by the Spirit, and his grace enables them to obey them.

Secondly. As exhortations for adorning the doctrines of God our Savior in all things, are addressed but to the called in Christ Jesus: so, the promises of grace for power to perform them, are given to no other. All the promises of God in Christ Jesus, are yea, and Amen. All is your's, saith the Apostle, if ye be Christ's. But upon no other terms, is there a promise given. Cast out the bond-woman and her son, is the language of the Holy Ghost: for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. 2 Corinthians 1:24 ; 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 ; Galatians 4:22 . to the end. Upon what grounds can men make offers of Christ to the world at large, in the face of these scriptures? It is like holding money to the view of a prisoner looking through his iron window on those passing by; but holding it out beyond all possibility of his reaching it.

Thirdly. As exhortations to follow Christ, and invitations to come to Christ, are wholly confined to the people of God: so offers of grace, are never found in the word of God as given to any other. When the Apostles, after the descent of the Holy Ghost, were ordained to the ministry; their first sermon was wholly to this amount. There were multitudes of Jerusalem-sinners, which heard their preaching; but, while they preached as the Lord Jesus had commanded them, Christ to all the world; offers of Christ were made only to his people. The discriminating feature is strongly marked in their sermons. The promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off; even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Acts 2:39 . And when Paul, under the same ordination, preached at Antioch, his words were these: Men and Brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among ye feareth God: to you is the word of this salvation sent. And what was the result of this preaching? This scripture records. As many as were ordained to eternal life believed. As many as were ordained to it; whether of the stock of Abraham, or of the Gentile Church, in whose hearts God had put his fear, believed. While the multitude of unbelieving Jews, contradicted, and blasphemed. Acts 13:0 throughout. Galatians 3:14 to the end.

I expect that great opposition will be made to this statement, if it so happens, that my Poor Man's Commentary should fall under the eye of any of the Pharisaical characters I have been alluding to. But these things affect me , not. Those evidences I have brought, are sound, and scriptural. To show such men, that the powers of persuasion they think they possess, are more sound without meaning, as to do by them, as by the idols of Micah: taking away their gods, and what have they more? Judges 18:24 .

But, say they, did not Christ give command, that the Gospel should be preached to every creature? To which, I answer, with holy joy and thankfulness: Yes! praises to his name, he hath. And, by the preaching of his everlasting Gospel, he hath in numberless instances, gathered to himself, as he said he would, his sheep which are scattered abroad. And here is the blessedness of it. Wherever his sheep are, to whom he sends his Gospel; he gives a blessing to the Gospel sent, in causing his sheep to hear his voice. John 10:27 . And we know, and from Scripture authority, that the same Gospel preached by the same Preacher hath the different effect according to our Lord's statement. Paul, when making manifest the knowledge of Christ in every place, was a sweet savor of Christ in them that were saved! and a sweet savor in them that perished. 2 Corinthians 2:14 , to the end. Yea, when Christ himself was the Preacher, there were multitudes whom the Lord said, could not hear his word. John 8:42-43 . Were offers, of grace made to such? Can any man seriously believe, that Jesus invited them?

If men would, or could, read their Bibles under God the Spirit's teaching, they would soon discover, the mighty difference, between preaching the Gospel, and inviting men to Christ, or making offers of Christ, whom God invites not, and to whom no offers are made. Preaching the Gospel, or preaching Christ, which is one and the same, is to be done to the mixed multitude, as the Apostles did. And the reason is given in the divine word. Because the children of God are scattered abroad. And, where the Lord sends his word, we may safely conclude, the Lord hath children to gather from among them, by his word; and he will own, and bless it to them. But we nowhere read, that the Apostles made offers of Christ, but where, as discerners of spirits, 1 Corinthians 12:10 . they saw, that those before whom they preached, had faith to be healed. See a beautiful instance: Acts 14:8-10 . It is indeed, the province of men, when ordained by the Holy Ghost, to lift up Christ, as Moses lifted up the Serpent in the Wilderness. And men, truly ordained by the Holy Ghost, will do so. But they will go no further. Moses himself went no further. He lifted up the serpent, as a type of Christ: but we read of no offers, no invitations, no persuasions. These are the special gifts of God, and not man. Hence, Paul, after strongly reprobating false preachers, cried out: for do I now persuade men, or God: or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. Galatians 6:18; Galatians 6:18 .

Reader! ponder well the subject; for it is highly important. If seen would, or could discern, between preaching Christ, which, as I said before, if truly ordained by the Holy Ghost, they are directed to do; and offering Christ, which is little short of blasphemy to attempt: they would shudder at the latter, and go forth with the deepest humility, and not fleshly pride, to the former. And yet, so little apprehensive are some of these self-taught men, of the vast difference, in the work; that they not only offer Christ without reserve, to all they meet, both in their preachings, and writings; but they urge their hearers, or readers; to an instant accepting, and to lay hold of the present opportunity, lest another should not be afforded them. If the subject was not so truly solemn as it is, one might be tempted to smile, at such ignorance, and presumption. As if their persuasion, and not God's grace, was the cause of acceptance. And as if that grace depended upon the will of man, to improve it, in the moment of man's offer, or it would be lost forever. Oh! what a different statement the Lord the Spirit gives, of those, who received Christ which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13 . See Colossians 3:12 . and Commentary.

Verses 10-23

(10) ¶ But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. (11) Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (12) I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (13) I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (14) Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. (15) Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. (16) For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. (17) Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. (18) But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. (19) But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (20) ¶ Now unto God and our Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (21) Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. (22) All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household. (23) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

We have much to enlarge upon in those verses, if the limits of this Poor Man's commentary would admit. But I must study shortness. It is blessed to observe the affection subsisting between the Apostle, and the Church. What their liberal hearts sent him, in his imprisonment, is not said. But Paul's heart seems to have been full of it. He calls it, an odour of a sweet smell; a sacrifice acceptable, and well pleasing to the Lord. And there can be no question, but that Jesus looks on, knows all, and regards all: Matthew 25:40 . I admire the confidence with which Paul speaks, that their want should be all supplied. My God; saith he, shall supply. Observe the ground; My God. When a child of God can truly call God, his God, in Covenant; he brings in all Covenant-engagements as security, on which he bottoms all, for time, and for eternity. God hath engaged to be his people's God in Christ. And, therefore, they do but give him the credit of a faithful Covenant God, when they lay hold of him by faith, and depend upon him for the accomplishment. God's promises, are not as some mens' faith is, a yea, and nay gospel; but all his promises are, yea, and Amen, in Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 1:20 . Let not the Reader overlook this for himself, if so be, his faith is grounded on the same security as the Apostle's. When a child of God can say, my God! like Paul, a fullness of earthly accommodations, or a scantiness, will both be sanctified. Christ, in a providence of good things below, will then bring no danger. And, if Jesus comes to any of his redeemed ones with a cross with him, the child of God will find a blessedness, in lodging both: Paul could do all things through Christ. And blessed be God, from the same cause, so can you, and I!

One more word on this Chapter. Though Nero, (who is here called Caesar, as those emperors all were in those days,) was a most bitter enemy to Christ's people; yet, in his very household, Jesus had his chosen. Oh! what wonders are in discriminating grace! And, so dear to the heart of the Apostle was each saint of God, that he salutes everyone personally. Yes! Jesus calls each of his sheep by name: and so will Paul honor them. John 10:3 . Salute (saith he) every saint in Christ Jesus. No doubt, there were many poor ones in the Church at Philippi, as there were at Jerusalem; Romans 15:26 . and as there are, in every Church of Christ's to this day. But in Christ their One glorious Head, they are all equally dear, and equally beloved. Let everyone, saith Paul, be saluted, as the jewels of Christ. Oh! the loving, and tender heart of our great Apostle!

Let not the Reader overlook, neither fail, if so be he can, from the same cause, to join in the thanksgiving, and praise, of the Apostle with which he folds up his letter to the Church. It is blessed, always to close all we say, or write, or do, with praise to God, and our Father. including the whole Persons of the Godhead through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Verse 23


READER! before we close our attention to this precious Book of God, let us bend the knee together, and unitedly look up to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for all our mercies in Christ. What an invaluable treasure, the Holy Spirit hath here given to the Church, in this blessed portion of his holy word! Oh! what precious views of Christ! Oh! what encouragement, and comfort, in him, to all his people. Lord the Spirit, do thou, in rich, free, and sovereign mercy, make the whole savor of Christ; which is in it, an engrafted word which is able to save the soul.

Faithful Paul! thou hast faithfully recorded, under the Lord's enditing, this sweet Scripture. The Lord counted thee faithful, putting thee into the ministry. And the Church finds cause to bless a faithful God for thy faithfulness, in thy preaching, and writing. Thou hast found the blessedness long since, of the two great points, which in the days of thy pilgrimage thou didst pant after: to win Christ, and to be found in Him: And all the faithful in Christ Jesus seek the same for their portion. Blessed Master of Paul! give each of thine grace, so to win thee, and so to be found in thee here by faith, that, ere long, all thy Church together, may live on thee in glory forevermore. Amen

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Philippians 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/philippians-4.html. 1828.
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