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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 2

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4068. A.D. 64.

The apostle

(1,) exhorts the Philippians to unanimity and candour, and a tender care for the interest of each other, by various moving arguments, and particularly by the generous and condescending love of the Lord Jesus, of whose humiliation and exaltation he discourses in a very affectionate manner, Philippians 2:1-11 .

(2,) He urges them to be diligent in the business of their salvation, in consideration of God’s working in them, Philippians 2:12 , Philippians 2:13 ; and to be exemplary and instructive by their example to the world, and a comfort to himself, Philippians 2:14-18 .

(3,) He assures them of his readiness even to die for their advantage, but expresses his hope of being set at liberty, and restored to them in person, in the mean time promising them a visit very soon from Timothy, Philippians 2:17-24 .

(4,) He informs them, for their immediate satisfaction, he had sent Epaphroditus; of whose late sickness and ardent love for them, he speaks in very affectionate terms, Philippians 2:25-30 .

Verse 1

Philippians 2:1. The apostle, in the latter part of the preceding chapter, having exhorted the Philippians to walk worthy of their Christian profession, by having their conversation according to the gospel; and, as nothing is more required by it, or can be more suitable to it, than mutual love among the followers of Christ, he here beseeches them, by every thing most affecting in Christianity, to fulfil his joy, by exercising that love. If there be therefore any consolation in Christ And his grace, in his person and offices, in his humiliation and sufferings for you, or in his exaltation and glory. This is not an expression of doubt, but the strongest affirmation that there is the greatest consolation in him, 2 Corinthians 1:4. If any comfort of love In the love of God to you, or in your love to him in return; if any fellowship of the Spirit Any communion with the Father and the Son, through the Holy Spirit dwelling in you; if any bowels and mercies Resulting therefrom; any tender affection toward each other, or any compassion for me, now a prisoner for Christ, fulfil ye my joy To all the other causes of joy which I have concerning you, add this also, and make my joy complete; that ye be like-minded That ye be alike disposed; that ye esteem, desire, and pursue the same thing, even your high and holy calling, as το αυτο φρονητε seems here to signify, it being explained in the following clauses as implying having the same love, being of one accord; συμψυχοι , united in soul, or animated with the same affections and intentions; το εν φρονουντες , minding; that is, delighting in and aiming at one thing, namely, the glory of God, or the honour of Christ, in their salvation. It is justly observed by Macknight here, that the word φρονειν , rendered to mind, has different meanings in the New Testament. Sometimes it denotes an act of the understanding, Acts 28:22: We desire to hear of thee, α φρονεις , what thou thinkest, Galatians 5:10; That, ουδεν αλλο φρονησετε , ye will think nothing differently. Sometimes it denotes an act of the will, Philippians 2:5; τουτο φρονεισθω , Let this disposition be in you which was even in Christ. It signifies also to set one’s affections on an object so as to use every means in one’s power to obtain it, as Colossians 3:2; τα ανω φρονειτε , Set your affections on things above, and endeavour to obtain them. Philippians 4:10, I rejoiced that now at length, ανεθαλλετε το υπερ εμου φρονειν , you have made your care of me to flourish again.”

Verses 3-4

Philippians 2:3-4. Let nothing be done among you through strife A spirit of contradiction or contention, which is inconsistent with your being like- minded; or vain glory Desire of praise; wishing to draw the eyes of others upon you, and to make yourselves the subjects of discourse and admiration which is directly opposite to the love of God: but in lowliness of mind In unaffected simplicity and humility; let each esteem other better than themselves Which, on one account or another, you may know almost every one to be; being better acquainted with your own sins, weaknesses, and defects, than you are with those of any others. “The apostle does not mean that we should reckon every person, without distinction, superior to ourselves in natural talents, acquired gifts, or even in goodness; but that we should, by an humble behaviour, acknowledge the superiority of those who are above us in station or office; or who, we are sensible, excel us in gifts and graces. For general expressions are always to be limited by the nature of the subject to which they are applied. Besides, we cannot suppose that the apostle requires us to judge falsely, either of ourselves or others.” Macknight. Look not every man on his own things Only, so as to regard merely his own convenience and interest; but every man also on the things of others Being concerned for their welfare, both temporal and spiritual.

Verses 5-6

Philippians 2:5-6. Let this mind The same humble, condescending, benevolent, disinterested, self-denying disposition; be in you which was also in Christ Jesus The original expression, τουτο φρονεισθω εν υμιν ο και εν Χριστω Ιησου , is, literally, Be ye minded, or disposed, as Jesus was. The word includes both the mind and heart, the understanding, will, and affections. Let your judgment and estimation of things, your choice, desire, intention, determination, and subsequent practice, be like those in him; who being Υπαρχων , subsisting; in the form of God As having been from eternity possessed of divine perfections and glories; thought it not robbery Greek, ουκ αρπαγμον ηγησατο ; literally, did not consider it an act of robbery, ειναι ισα Θεω , to be equal things with God He and his Father being one, John 10:30; and all things belonging to the Father being his, John 16:15; the Father also being in him, and he in the Father. Accordingly, the highest divine names, titles, attributes, and works, are inscribed to him by the inspired writers: and the same honours and adorations are represented as being due to him, and are actually paid to him, which are given to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit. “As the apostle,” says Macknight, “is here speaking of what Christ was before he took the form of a servant, the form of God, in which he is said to have subsisted, and of which he is said ( Php 2:7 ) to have divested himself when he became man, cannot be any thing which he possessed during his incarnation, or in his divested state; consequently, neither Erasmus’s opinion, that the form of God consisted in those sparks of divinity by which Christ, during his incarnation, manifested his Godhead; nor the opinion of the Socinians, that it consisted in the power of working miracles, is well founded.” The opinion of Whitby, Doddridge, and others, “seems better founded, who, by the form of God, understand that visible glorious light in which the Deity is said to dwell, 1 Timothy 6:16; and by which he manifested himself to the patriarchs of old, Deuteronomy 5:22; Deuteronomy 5:24; and which was commonly accompanied with a numerous retinue of angels, Psalms 68:17; and which in Scripture is called the similitude, Numbers 12:8; the face, Psalms 31:10; the presence, Exodus 33:15; and the shape ( Joh 5:37 ) of God. This interpretation is supported by the term μορφη , form, here used, which signifies a person’s external shape or appearance. Thus we are told ( Mar 16:12 ) that Jesus appeared to his disciples in another μορφη , shape, or form: and Matthew 17:2, Μεταμορφωθη , He was transfigured before them; his outward appearance or form was changed. Further, this interpretation agrees with the fact. The form of God, that is, the visible glory, and the attendance of angels above described, the Son of God enjoyed with his Father before the world was, John 17:5; and on that, as on other accounts, he is the brightness of the Father’s glory, Hebrews 1:3. But he divested himself thereof when he became flesh. However, having resumed it after his ascension, he will come with it in the human nature to judge the world. So he told his disciples, Matthew 16:27. Lastly, this sense of μορφη Θεου , is confirmed by the meaning of μορφην δουλου , (Philippians 2:7,) which evidently denotes the appearance and behaviour of a servant.”

Verse 7

Philippians 2:7. But Or, nevertheless, as αλλα frequently signifies, and is rendered in our version, particularly Mark 14:36; Joh 11:15 ; 1 Corinthians 9:12; Galatians 4:30; 2 Timothy 1:12. This is mentioned, because the critics, who would render the last clause, he did not covet, or catch at, a likeness to, or equality with God, build much of their argument on the opposition of the two clauses, and the force of this particle αλλα ; as if the sense were, He did not affect this equality, but humbled himself; an interpretation which, as Bishop Burnet well observes, “is extremely cold and insipid, as if it were a mighty argument of humility, that though Christ wrought miracles, which they strangely think to be signified by the phrase of being in the form of God, yet he did not set up for Supreme Deity!” But the truth is, the power of working miracles is never, in Scripture, styled the form of God; and, indeed, were this all that was intended by that phrase, both Moses and Elias, and our Lord’s apostles, might, upon that account, be said to have been in the form of God; seeing both Moses and Elias wrought many miracles on earth; and Christ declared concerning his disciples, that they should work greater miracles than he had wrought. Made himself of no reputation Greek, εαυτον εκενωσε , literally, he emptied himself; divested himself both of the form of God, and of the worship due to him as God, when he was made in the likeness of men. In other words, he was so far from tenaciously insisting upon, that he willingly relinquished, his claim: he was content to forego the glories of the Creator, and to appear in the form of a creature: nay, to be made in the likeness of the fallen creatures; and not only to share in the disgrace, but to suffer the punishment due to the meanest and vilest of them all. He emptied himself: for though in a sense he remained full, (John 1:14,) yet he appeared as if he had been empty; for he veiled his fulness, at least from the sight of men; yea, he not only veiled, but in some sense renounced the glory which he had before the world was: taking, and by that very act emptying himself, the form of a servant To his Father and to his Father’s creatures; yea, to men, even to poor and mean men, being among his disciples as one that served. And was made Or born, as γενομενος may be properly rendered; in the likeness of men Subject to all our wants and infirmities, and resembling us in all things but sin. And hereby he took the form of a servant; and his doing this would have been astonishing humiliation, even if he had appeared possessed of the wealth, power, and glory of the greatest monarch; but it was much more so, as he assumed human nature in a state of poverty, reproach, and suffering. This expression, it must be observed, born in the likeness of men, does not imply that Christ had only the appearance of a man: for the word ομοιωμα , rendered likeness, often denotes sameness of nature. Thus Adam is said, (Genesis 5:3,) to beget a son in his own likeness, after his image; and Christ, ομοιωθηναι , to be made like his brethren in all things, by partaking of flesh and blood, Hebrews 2:14-17. Or, In the likeness of men, may mean in the likeness of sinful men, as it is expressed Romans 8:3; made subject to all those pains, diseases, and evils which sinful men endure. The antithesis in this passage is elegant. Formerly, Christ was in the form of God; but, when born into the world, he appeared in the form of a servant, and in the likeness of men.

Verse 8

Philippians 2:8. And being found in fashion as a man A common man, without any peculiar excellence or comeliness. The word σχημα , rendered fashion, includes all the particulars of a person’s outward appearance; such as his figure, air, looks, clothing, and gait. The word is also applied to things inanimate, as, (1 Corinthians 7:31,) the fashion of this world passeth away. He humbled himself To a still greater depth: for his condescension to the rank of low life among sinful mortals, wonderful as it was, did not content him; but he became obedient To his Father; even unto death The greatest instance both of humiliation and obedience: and to no common form of dissolution, but to the ignominious, as well as painful death of the cross, inflicted on few but slaves, or the vilest malefactors. “The reasoning in this passage is beautiful. The Son of God did not proudly continue in his high station, but descended from it for a while, and placed himself in the lowest condition among men, serving every one with the humility and assiduity of a servant, or bondman, as δουλος signifies. Then, in obedience to his Father, (John 6:38,) he finished his services by suffering the painful and ignominious death of the cross as a malefactor, for the salvation of the world. Having this great example of humility and benevolence set before them by their Master, his disciples, who are above their brethren in station, should not on every occasion behave as their superiors; but, laying aside their dignity, they should cheerfully perform in person to their inferiors those offices of kindness and humanity which their distress requires; especially when the assistance wanted by their inferiors is of such an urgent nature that it admits of no delay.” Macknight.

Verses 9-11

Philippians 2:9-11. Wherefore Because of his voluntary humiliation and obedience, and in reward thereof; God hath highly exalted him In that manhood in which he suffered and died. Greek, υπερυψωσε , super- exalted him, or exalted him to a dignity higher than that which he possessed before his humiliation. By becoming man, therefore, or by consenting to be united to the human nature for ever, “the Son of God lost nothing in the issue. Nor is this all; besides restoring him to the visible glory and dignity which he formerly possessed, (Philippians 2:11,) God conferred on him a dignity entirely new, the dignity of being the Saviour of the human race; and hath obliged all the different orders of intelligent beings throughout the universe, both good and bad, to acknowledge his dignity as Saviour, as well as Lord.” For it follows, and given him a name above every name Namely, the name of Jesus, mentioned in the beginning of the next verse. “This name is above all the names of dignity possessed by angels and men, because of the power and authority which are annexed to it. Thou shalt call his name Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins. Even the name of Creator is inferior to this name; inasmuch as it was a greater exertion of goodness in the Son of God to save men by his humiliation and death, than to create them.” Some contend that the name above every name, which was bestowed on Christ at his exaltation, was the name of God’s Son. “But seeing, by inheriting that name, as the apostle tells us, he was originally better than the angels, (Hebrews 1:4,) he must have always possessed it by virtue of his relation to the Father. Whereas the name Jesus, being the name of an office executed by the Son, after he became man, it implies a dignity not natural to him, but acquired. And therefore having, in the execution of that office, done on earth and in heaven all that was necessary for the salvation of mankind, the name of Jesus or Saviour which his parents, by the divine direction, gave him at his birth, was confirmed to him in a solemn manner by God, who, after his ascension, ordered angels and men to honour him from that time forth as Saviour and Lord, Hebrews 1:6. Thus understood, the names prince, emperor, monarch, government, power, throne, dominion, and every other name of dignity possessed by angels or men, is inferior to the name Jesus, which God bestowed on his Son, on account of his having accomplished the salvation of the world by his humiliation.” Macknight. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow That all creatures, whether men, angels, or devils, should, either with love or trembling, be subject to him; of things in heaven, earth, under the earth That is, through the whole universe. There can be no doubt that the first of the expressions here used, επουρανιων , rendered things in heaven, signifies angelical beings, over whom Christ is made sovereign, Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 1:21; but whether the latter terms, επιγειων και καταχθονιων , rendered things upon earth, and under the earth, may not, as Doddridge observes, relate to the living and the dead, rather than to men and devils, has been queried. Inasmuch, however, as the latter term answers to Homer’s υπενερθε , Iliad, 3. line 278, which signifies the shades below, it seems probable that by it the apostle both denotes the souls of those who are in the state of the dead, over whom Christ reigns, (Romans 14:9,) and also the evil angels in Tartarus, (2 Peter 2:4,) who shall be constrained to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, Governor, and Judge of the universe. And every tongue Even of his enemies; should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord Of all creatures, as well as a Saviour of men; to the glory of God the Father Who hath constituted him, in the human nature, Governor and Judge of all. Thus all the powers exercised by Christ, and all the honours paid to him, are ultimately referred to the Father. In these two last clauses there seems evidently to be an allusion to Isaiah 45:23, Unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.

Philippians 2:12-13 , Wherefore Having spoken of Christ’s astonishing humiliation and exaltation, by which he hath procured salvation for us, the apostle proceeds to exhort them to diligence in the use of the means necessary in order to their partaking of that salvation. My beloved, as ye have always hitherto obeyed Both God, and me, his minister, with respect to all my instructions and exhortations; not in my presence only When I was at hand to put you in mind of what God requires; but now much more in my absence When you have not me to instruct, assist, and direct you; which absence, as it is owing to my bonds in your cause, ought to increase the tenderness of your concern for my comfort. Work out your own salvation Which, though begun, is not finished, and will not be finished unless you be workers together with God. Herein let every man mind his own things: with fear and trembling That is, with the utmost care and diligence; and in the reverential fear of God, a watchful fear of your enemies, and a jealous fear of yourselves; lest a promise being left you of entering into his rest, any of you should come short of it, Hebrews 4:1. For You have great encouragement to do this; since it is God The God of power, love, and faithfulness, who has promised that his grace shall be sufficient for you; yea, the merciful, forgiving, and long- suffering of God, who is with you, though I am not; and worketh in you By the illuminating, quickening, drawing, renewing, and strengthening influences of his Spirit, in and by the truths, precepts, promises, and threatenings of his word, enforced often by the pleasing or painful dispensations of his providence; both to will and to do of his good pleasure Not for any merit of yours: or, of his benevolence, as υπερ ευδοκιας may be properly rendered. His influences, however, we must remember, are not to supersede, but to encourage our own efforts, and render them persevering and effectual. Observe, reader, 1st, The command, Work out your own salvation; here is our duty: 2d, The motive by which it is enforced; for it is God that worketh in you; here is our encouragement. And O what a glorious encouragement, to have the arm of Omnipotence stretched out for our support and comfort! “According to the Arminians and moderate Calvinists, the word ενεργει , inwardly worketh, does not in this passage signify any irresistible operation of the Deity on the minds of men. but a moral influence only. For of Satan it is said, (Ephesians 2:2,) that ενεργει , he inwardly worketh in the children of disobedience; and, Romans 7:5, we have the effectual working of sinful passions in our members; and 2 Thessalonians 2:11, ενεργειαν , the energy, or inward working, of error. These passages, they think, no one understands of a physical, but of a moral working, which leaves men accountable for their actions, and consequently free agents. They likewise observe, that if God inwardly worketh in men by any influence which is irresistible, and to which no co-operation of theirs is necessary, there would be no occasion for exhorting them to work out their own salvation, since the whole is done by God himself.” They observe further, “that notwithstanding the operations of the Spirit of God have a powerful influence in restraining men from sin, and in exciting them to piety and virtue, no violence is thereby done to human liberty. This they infer from what God said concerning the antediluvians, (Genesis 6:3,) My Spirit shall not always strive with men; and from the apostle’s command, not to quench nor grieve the Spirit; for these things, they say, imply that the operations of the Spirit of God may be resisted, consequently that in the affair of their salvation men are free agents, and must themselves co-operate with the Spirit of God; which, they affirm, the apostle’s exhortation in this passage evidently supposeth.” Macknight.

Verses 14-16

Philippians 2:14-16. Do all things Especially all good offices to each other, not only without contention, (Philippians 2:3,) but even without murmurings At your duty, or at one another; and disputings With each other, or altercations, which are real, though smaller, hinderances of love. It seems the apostle had in his eye not so much obedience in general, as those particular instances thereof, recommended Philippians 2:3-5. That ye may be blameless In yourselves; and harmless Toward others: the sons of God The God of love, acting up to your high character; without rebuke Αμωμητα , maintaining an unexceptionable character; in the midst of a crooked Guileful, serpentine; and perverse Froward or obstinate generation Such as the bulk of mankind always have been; crooked by a corrupt nature, and yet more perverse by custom and practice: among whom ye Who know the truth and walk according to it; shine as lights in the world Or, as luminaries, as the word φωστηρες signifies, being the name given to the sun and moon by the LXX., Genesis 1:16. Doddridge renders the clause, “Ye shine as elevated lights in the dark world about you;” thinking, with Mons. Saurin, that the expression is used in allusion “to the buildings which we call light-houses, the most illustrious of which was raised in the island of Pharos, where Ptolemy Philadelphus built that celebrated tower, on which a bright flame was always kept burning in the night, that mariners might perfectly see their way, and be in no danger of suffering shipwreck upon the rocks which they were to pass in their entrance into the haven of Alexandria.” Holding forth To all men, both in word and behaviour; the word of life The doctrine of eternal life made known to you in the gospel, by which you have been directed to steer safely for the blessed haven of glory and immortality, and whereby they may receive the same benefit. That I may rejoice. As if he had said, This I desire even on my own account, for it will greatly increase my rejoicing in the day of Christ The day of final judgment; that I have not run Or travelled from place to place in the exercise of my apostolic office, declaring the gospel of the grace of God; in vain, neither have laboured in vain In the work of the ministry, but that the great end of it has been answered, at least in part, to the glory of God, by your salvation and usefulness in the world.

Verses 17-18

Philippians 2:17-18. Yea, and if I be offered up Or, poured out, as σπενδομαι properly signifies; upon the sacrifice and service of your faith Greek, θυσια και λειτουργια ; the former word properly signifies a sacrifice, and the latter the performance of any public service, especially that pertaining to the worship of God. The apostle alludes to the Jewish sacrifices, which were prepared for the altar on which they were to be offered, by the Levites and priests, and on which, or on the meat-offerings that accompanied them, were poured oil and wine, which was the σπονδη , or libation, Exodus 29:40-41. Thus the apostle, representing himself as a priest, and the Philippian believers, and other converted heathen, as sacrifices prepared and offered for God’s acceptance through his ministry, speaks of his blood as a libation, which, costly as it was, he was willing to pour out on these sacrifices, if this might tend, in any degree, to confirm the faith of these Gentiles, establish them in the truth, and thereby render the oblation of them more acceptable to God. I joy and rejoice with you all Or, I rejoice and congratulate you all; that is, if while I am thus, λειτουργων , ministering as a priest, or employed in preparing and offering this living sacrifice, my blood should be the libation poured out upon it, I should rejoice even thus to die in your service, and for the confirmation of your faith. The apostle’s manner of speaking well agrees with that kind of martyrdom by which he was afterward offered up to God. For the same cause do ye joy and rejoice with me As I rejoice at the prospect of my sufferings for your good, so do you rejoice, or congratulate me also, on account of them; for, while suffering the last extremities in a cause like this, I am happy, and ought to be regarded as an object of congratulation rather than of condolence. Instead, however, of for the same cause, το δε αυτο may be rendered, after the same manner; and then the sense will be, Rejoice you as I do, when ye suffer for the gospel, and partake with me in the joy arising from fidelity to Christ.

Verses 19-21

Philippians 2:19-21. But I trust in the Lord, &c. Though I should not be surprised if my work and testimony as an apostle should end in martyrdom, yet I do not immediately expect such an event, but trust that the Lord will effect such a deliverance for me, as that, not needing Timotheus so much here, I may be able to send him shortly to you, that, whatever my condition may be here, I also, or I yet, may be of good comfort, may be refreshed, when I know from him your state That is, your steadfastness in the faith, and your love to one another. For I have no man Namely, none now with me; like-minded Ισοψυχον , alike disposed, or equally affectionate, with him in all respects; particularly in love to you; who will naturally care for your state With such genuine tenderness and concern, even as nature teacheth men to care for their children as themselves. It appears from Acts 27:1, as Macknight observes, that Aristarchus and Luke accompanied the apostle to Rome. And, during his confinement there, other faithful assistants came to him, who, we have reason to think, were equally well disposed with Timothy to take care of the Philippians’ affairs. We must, therefore, suppose that at the time the apostle wrote this, these faithful teachers were not in Rome, having probably left that city for a time on some business. For all but Timotheus seek their own things; namely, their case, safety, pleasure, or profit. Amazing! in that golden age of the church, could St. Paul thoroughly approve of one only among all the labourers that were with him, of which it appears, from Philippians 1:14; Philippians 1:17, there were many? And how many do we think can now approve themselves to God? And not the things which are Jesus Christ’s Not having his interest so affectionately at heart as not to neglect it in some degree at least, out of regard to their own secular welfare. They who seek the things of Jesus Christ, will sadly experience what the apostle here says: they will find few helpers like- minded with themselves, willing, naked, to follow a naked master.

Verses 22-24

Philippians 2:22-24. But ye know the proof of him You know what experience you and I have had of him, who was with me, as well as Silas, in that memorable visit which I first made you, Acts 16:1-12. You then saw that as a son with the father He uses an elegant peculiarity of phrase, speaking partly as of a son, partly as of a fellow-labourer; he served with me in the gospel Neglecting no occasion of doing, in the most affectionate manner, whatever might lighten either my labours or my sufferings. Here, as Doddridge observes, “we learn the kind of intercourse which should subsist between the younger and more aged ministers of the gospel. The young ought to listen to the counsels of the aged, with the respect which is due from a son to a father; and the aged ought to love and patronise the young, and study, by their instruction and example, to qualify them for supplying their places in the church when they are gone.” Him therefore I hope to send If, as has been supposed on Philippians 2:20, Aristarchus, Titus, and Luke were absent at this time from Rome, Timothy’s presence with the apostle was the more necessary. But as he daily looked for their return, he hoped to be able to send him to Philippi, as soon as he should know how it would go with him with respect to his imprisonment, or what issue his appeal to Cesar would have. But I trust in the Lord That in mercy he will deliver me; and I shall shortly come to you myself This he seems to have added, lest the Philippians might have been too much afflicted by what he had said concerning his death, Philippians 2:17.

Verses 25-27

Philippians 2:25-27. Yet I supposed it necessary to send Epaphroditus Back immediately, who is near and dear to me as a brother and companion in labour A fellow-labourer in the work of the Lord; and fellow-soldier “So he seems to call him, to show how full of danger the work of the gospel was in that age, to those who executed it faithfully; and that the sincere preachers of it, together with the martyrs who sealed it with their blood, formed a noble army commanded by Christ, which was successfully warring against idolaters, and the other powers of darkness who were in opposition to God.” But your messenger The Philippians had sent him to Paul with their liberal contributions. For he longed after you all Namely, to be with you again, and further useful to your souls; and was full of heaviness, because he supposed you would be afflicted at hearing that he was sick As he could not but know how affectionately you love him. He was nigh unto death In all human appearance; but God had mercy on him Restoring him to health; and on me To whom his death would have been a great affliction; lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow Lest the sorrows of my imprisonment and my other troubles should be increased by the addition of my grief for his death. Doubtless the apostle had prayed for his recovery, and probably it was in answer to his prayers that Epaphroditus had been restored. We see, however, in this instance, as we may see in many others recorded in the New Testament, that those who, in the apostolic age, possessed the power of working miracles, could not exercise it according to their own pleasure, but according to the direction of the Holy Ghost: otherwise St. Paul would most certainly have healed Epaphroditus, who, as is insinuated Philippians 2:30, had fallen into this dangerous sickness through the fatigue which he underwent in assisting the apostle. Miracles of healing were generally wrought for convincing unbelievers.

Verses 28-30

Philippians 2:28-30. I sent him therefore the more carefully Or, speedily, as σπουδαιοτερως here signifies; that seeing him again In a state of health, ye may rejoice May be comforted after your trouble; and that I may be the less sorrowful When I know you are rejoicing. Receive him therefore With affection and gratitude, being assured that his long absence was owing, not to want of love to you, but to bad health; and hold persons of such a character, whatever their station of life may be, in great estimation. Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death It appears from the last clause of this verse, that by the work of Christ here, the apostle partly meant his personal attendance on the apostle in his bonds, and the various services he performed for him, with his sundry journeys by land and sea on his account: but it is probable that he included also his labours in preaching the gospel in Rome, and in the neighbouring cities and villages, with his carrying the apostle’s messages and instructions to the disciples, his watching over them, visiting such of them as were sick, and other similar offices.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Philippians 2". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/philippians-2.html. 1857.
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