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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 2

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

If (ε). Paul uses four conditions in this verse, all of the first class, assuming the condition to be true.

Comfort (παρακλησις). Rather, "ground of appeal to you in Christ." See 1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1.

Consolation (παραμυθιον). Old word from παραμυθεομα, persuasive address, incentive.

Of love (αγαπης). Objective genitive, "in love" (undefined as in Philippians 2:1).

Fellowship (κοινωνια). Partnership in the Holy Spirit "whose first fruit is love" (Galatians 5:22).

Any tender mercies (τις σπλαγχνα). Common use of this word for the nobler ςισχερα and so for the higher emotions. But τις is masculine singular and σπλαγχνα is neuter plural. Lightfoot suggests an error of an early transcriber or even of the amanuensis in writing ε τις instead of ε τινα.

Verse 2

Fulfil (πληρωσατε). Better here, "fill full." Paul's cup of joy will be full if the Philippians will only keep on having unity of thought and feeling (το αυτο φρονητε, present active subjunctive, keep on thinking the same thing).

Being of one accord (συνψυχο). Late word here for the first time, from συν and ψυχη, harmonious in soul, souls that beat together, in tune with Christ and with each other.

Of one mind (το εν φρονουντες). "Thinking the one thing." Like clocks that strike at the same moment. Perfect intellectual telepathy. Identity of ideas and harmony of feelings.

Verse 3

Through vainglory (κατα κενοδοξιαν). Late word, only here in N.T., from κενοδοξος (κενοσ, δοξα, Galatians 5:26, only here in N.T.), empty pride.

In lowliness of mind (τη ταπεινοφροσυνη). Late and rare word. Not in O.T. or early Greek writers. In Josephus and Epictetus in bad sense (pusillanimity). For ostentatious humility in Colossians 2:18; Colossians 2:23. One of the words, like ταπεινος (Matthew 11:29) and ταπεινοφρων (1 Peter 3:8, here alone in N.T.) that Christianity has ennobled and dignified (Acts 20:19).

Better than himself (υπερεχοντας εαυτων). Present active participle of υπερεχω in intransitive sense to excel or surpass with the ablative, "excelling themselves." See Romans 12:10.

Verse 4

Looking (σκοπουντες). Present active participle of σκοπεω from σκοπος (aim, goal). Not keeping an eye on the main chance for number one, but for the good of others.

Verse 5

Have this mind in you (τουτο φρονειτε εν υμιν). "Keep on thinking this in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (ο κα εν Χριστω Ιησου). What is that? Humility. Paul presents Jesus as the supreme example of humility. He urges humility on the Philippians as the only way to secure unity.

Verse 6

Being (υπαρχων). Rather, "existing," present active participle of υπαρχω. In the form of God (εν μορφη θεου). Μορφη means the essential attributes as shown in the form. In his preincarnate state Christ possessed the attributes of God and so appeared to those in heaven who saw him. Here is a clear statement by Paul of the deity of Christ.

A prize (αρπαγμον). Predicate accusative with ηγησατο. Originally words in -μος signified the act, not the result (-μα). The few examples of αρπαγμος (Plutarch, etc.) allow it to be understood as equivalent to αρπαγμα, like βαπτισμος and βαπτισμα. That is to say Paul means a prize to be held on to rather than something to be won ("robbery").

To be on an equality with God (το εινα ισα θεο). Accusative articular infinitive object of ηγησατο, "the being equal with God" (associative instrumental case θεω after ισα). Ισα is adverbial use of neuter plural with εινα as in Revelation 21:16.

Emptied himself (εαυτον εκενωσε). First aorist active indicative of κενοω, old verb from κενος, empty. Of what did Christ empty himself? Not of his divine nature. That was impossible. He continued to be the Son of God. There has arisen a great controversy on this word, a Κενοσις doctrine. Undoubtedly Christ gave up his environment of glory. He took upon himself limitations of place (space) and of knowledge and of power, though still on earth retaining more of these than any mere man. It is here that men should show restraint and modesty, though it is hard to believe that Jesus limited himself by error of knowledge and certainly not by error of conduct. He was without sin, though tempted as we are. "He stripped himself of the insignia of majesty" (Lightfoot).

Verse 7

The form of a servant (μορφην δουλου). He took the characteristic attributes (μορφην as in verse Philippians 2:6) of a slave. His humanity was as real as his deity.

In the likeness of men (εν ομοιωματ ανθρωπων). It was a likeness, but a real likeness (Kennedy), no mere phantom humanity as the Docetic Gnostics held. Note the difference in tense between υπαρχων (eternal existence in the μορφη of God) and γενομενος (second aorist middle participle of γινομα, becoming, definite entrance in time upon his humanity).

Verse 8

In fashion (σχηματ). Locative case of σχημα, from εχω, to have, to hold. Bengel explains μορφη by forma, ομοιωμα by similitudo, σχημα by habitus. Here with σχημα the contrast "is between what He is in Himself, and what He appeared in the eyes of men" (Lightfoot).

He humbled himself (εταπεινωσεν εαυτον). First aorist active of ταπεινοω, old verb from ταπεινος. It is a voluntary humiliation on the part of Christ and for this reason Paul is pressing the example of Christ upon the Philippians, this supreme example of renunciation. See Bruce's masterpiece, The Humiliation of Christ.

Obedient (υπηκοος). Old adjective, giving ear to. See Acts 7:39; 2 Corinthians 2:9.

Unto death (μεχρ θανατου). "Until death." See "until blood" (μεχρις αιματος, Hebrews 12:4).

Yea, the death of the cross (θανατου δε σταυρου). The bottom rung in the ladder from the Throne of God. Jesus came all the way down to the most despised death of all, a condemned criminal on the accursed cross.

Verse 9

Wherefore (διο). Because of which act of voluntary and supreme humility.

Highly exalted (υπερυψωσε). First aorist indicative of υπερυψοω (υπερ and υψος) late and rare word (LXX and Byzantine). Here only in N.T. Because of Christ's voluntary humiliation God lifted him above or beyond (υπερ) the state of glory which he enjoyed before the Incarnation. What glory did Christ have after the Ascension that he did not have before in heaven? What did he take back to heaven that he did not bring? Clearly his humanity. He returned to heaven the Son of Man as well as the Son of God.

The name which is above every name (το ονομα το υπερ παν ονομα). What name is that? Apparently and naturally the name

Jesus , which is given in verse Philippians 2:10. Some think it is "Jesus Christ," some "Lord," some the ineffable name Jehovah, some merely dignity and honour.

Verse 10

That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow (ινα εν τω ονοματ Ιησου παν γονυ καμψη). First aorist active subjunctive of καμπτω, old verb, to bend, to bow, in purpose clause with ινα. Not perfunctory genuflections whenever the name of Jesus is mentioned, but universal acknowledgment of the majesty and power of Jesus who carries his human name and nature to heaven. This universal homage to Jesus is seen in Romans 8:22; Ephesians 1:20-22 and in particular Revelation 5:13.

Under the earth (καταχθονιων). Homeric adjective for departed souls, subterranean, simply the dead. Here only in the N.T.

Verse 11

Should confess (εξομολογησητα). First aorist middle subjunctive of εξομολογεομα with ινα for purpose.

Lord (Κυριος). Peter (Acts 2:36) claimed that God made Christ "Lord." See also 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 10:9. Kennedy laments that the term Lord has become one of the most lifeless in the Christian vocabulary, whereas it really declares the true character and dignity of Jesus Christ and "is the basis and the object of worship."

Verse 12

Not as in my presence only (μη ως εν τη παρουσια μονον). B and a few other MSS. omit ως. The negative μη goes with the imperative κατεργαζεσθε (work out), not with υπηκουσατε (obeyed) which would call for ουχ.

Much more (πολλω μαλλον). They are not to render eye-service only when Paul is there, but much more when he is away.

Work out (κατεργαζεσθε). Perfective use of κατα (down) in composition, work on to the finish. This exhortation assumes human free agency in the carrying on the work of one's salvation.

With fear and trembling (μετα φοβου κα τρομου). "Not slavish terror, but wholesome, serious caution" (Vincent). "A nervous and trembling anxiety to do right" (Lightfoot). Paul has no sympathy with a cold and dead orthodoxy or formalism that knows nothing of struggle and growth. He exhorts as if he were an Arminian in addressing men. He prays as if he were a Calvinist in addressing God and feels no inconsistency in the two attitudes. Paul makes no attempt to reconcile divine sovereignty and human free agency, but boldly proclaims both.

Verse 13

Which worketh in you (ο ενεργων εν υμιν). Articular present active participle of ενεργεω from ενεργος (εν, εργον) one at work, common verb from Aristotle on, to be at work, to energize. God is the Energy and the Energizer of the universe. Modern scientists, like Eddington, Jeans, and Whitney, are not afraid to agree with Paul and to put God back of all activity in nature.

Both to will and to work (κα το θελειν κα το ενεργειν). "Both the willing and the working (the energizing)." God does it all, then. Yes, but he puts us to work also and our part is essential, as he has shown in verse Philippians 2:12, though secondary to that of God.

For his good-pleasure (υπερ της ευδοκιας). So Whitney puts "the will of God" behind gravitation and all the laws of nature.

Verse 14

Without murmurings (χωρις γογγυσμων). See on Acts 6:1 for this late onomatopoetic word from γογγυζω, to mutter, to grumble.

Disputings (διαλογισμων). Or questionings as in Luke 24:38. The grumblings led to disputes.

Verse 15

That ye may be (ινα γενησθε). Rather, "that ye may become" (second aorist middle subjunctive of γινομα, to become).

Blameless (αμεμπτο). Free from censure (μεμφομα, to blame).

Harmless (ακεραιο). Unmixed, unadulterated as in Romans 16:19.

Without blemish (αμωμα). Without spot, "unblemished in reputation and in reality" (Vincent).

In the midst of (μεσον). Preposition with genitive.

Crooked (σκολιας). Old word, curved as opposed to ορθος, straight. See on Acts 2:40.

Perverse (διεστραμμενης). Perfect passive participle of διαστρεφω, to distort, to twist, to turn to one side (δια, in two). Old word. See Matthew 17:17; Acts 13:10.

Verse 16

As lights in the world (ως φωστηρες εν κοσμω). As luminaries like the heavenly bodies. Christians are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14) as they reflect the light from Christ (John 1:4; John 8:12), but here the word is not φως (light), but φωστηρες (luminaries, stars). The place for light is the darkness where it is needed.

Holding forth (επεχοντες). Present active participle of επεχω. Probably not connected with the preceding metaphor in φωστηρες. The old meaning of the verb επεχω is to hold forth or to hold out (the word of life as here). The context seems to call for "holding fast." It occurs also with the sense of attending to (Acts 3:5).

That I may have (εμο). Ethical dative, "to me as a ground of boasting."

Verse 17

And if I am offered (ε κα σπενδομα). Though I am poured out as a libation. Old word. In N.T. only here and 2 Timothy 4:6. Paul pictures his life-blood as being poured upon (uncertain whether heathen or Jewish offerings meant and not important) the sacrifice and service of the faith of the Philippians in mutual service and joy (both χαιρω and συνχαιρω twice in the sentence). Joy is mutual when the service is mutual. Young missionaries offer their lives as a challenge to other Christians to match their money with their blood.

Verse 19

That I also may be of good comfort (ινα καγω ευψυχω). Present subjunctive with ινα in purpose clause of the late and rare verb ευψυχεω, from ευψυχος (cheerful, of good spirit). In papyri and ευψυχε (be of good cheer) common in sepulchral inscriptions.

When I know (γνους). Second aorist active participle of γινωσκω.

Verse 20

Likeminded (ισοψυχον). Old, but very rare adjective (ισοσ, ψυχη), like ισοτιμος in 2 Peter 1:1. Only here in N.T. Likeminded with Timothy, not with Paul.

Truly (γνησιως). "Genuinely." Old adverb, only here in N.T., from γνησιος (Philippians 4:3), legitimate birth, not spurious.

Verse 21

They all (ο παντες). "The whole of them." Surely Luke was away from Rome at this juncture.

Verse 22

The proof (την δοκιμην). "The test" as of metals (2 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 9:13). Three times they had seen Timothy (Acts 16:13; Acts 19:22; Acts 20:3).

With me (συν εμο). Paul's delicacy of feeling made him use συν rather than εμο alone. Timothy did not serve Paul.

In furtherance of (εις). See Philippians 1:5 for this use of εις.

Verse 23

So soon as I shall see (ως αν αφιδω). Indefinite temporal clause with ως αν and the second aorist active subjunctive of αφοραω. The oldest MSS. (Aleph A B D) have αφιδω (old aspirated form) rather than απιδω.

How it will go with me (τα περ εμε). On the force of απο with οραω (look away) see Hebrews 12:2. "The things concerning me," the outcome of the trial. Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 4:19.

Verse 24

In the Lord (εν Κυριω). Not a perfunctory use of this phrase. Paul's whole life is centred in Christ (Galatians 2:20).

Verse 25

I counted it (ηγησαμην). Epistolary aorist from the point of view of the readers.

Epaphroditus (Επαφροδιτον). Common name, though only in Philippians in N.T., contracted into Epaphras, though not the same man as Epaphras in Colossians 1:7. Note one article τον (the) with the three epithets given in an ascending scale (Lightfoot), brother (αδελφον, common sympathy), fellow-worker (συνεργον, common work), fellow-soldier (συνστρατιωτην, common danger as in Philemon 1:2). Μου (my) and υμων (your) come together in sharp contrast.

Messenger (αποστολον). See 2 Corinthians 8:23 for this use of αποστολος as messenger (missionary).

Minister (λειτουργον). See on Romans 13:6; Romans 15:16 for this ritualistic term.

Verse 26

He longed after (επιποθων ην). Periphrastic imperfect of επιποθεω (Philippians 1:8), "he was yearning after."

You all (παντας υμας). So again (Philippians 1:5; Philippians 1:7; Philippians 1:8).

Was sore troubled (αδημονων). Periphrastic imperfect again (repeat ην) of the old word αδημονεω either from an unused αδημων (α privative and δημος, away from home, homesick) or from αδημων, αδησα (discontent, bewilderment). The Vocabulary of Moulton and Milligan gives one papyrus example in line with the latter etymology. See already Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33. In any case the distress of Epaphroditus was greatly increased when he knew that the Philippians (the home-folks) had learned of his illness, "because ye had heard that he was sick" (διοτ ηκουσατε οτ ησθενησε), "because ye heard that he fell sick" (ingressive aorist).

He was sick (ησθενησε). Ingressive aorist, "he did become sick."

Nigh unto death (παραπλησιον θανατω). Only example in N.T. of this compound adverbial preposition (from the adjective παραπλησιος) with the dative case.

Verse 28

Ye may rejoice (χαρητε). Second aorist passive subjunctive with ινα in final clause of χαιρω, to rejoice.

That I may be the less sorrowful (καγω αλυποτερος ω). Present subjunctive with ινα and comparative of old compound adjective αλυπος (α privative and λυπη, more free from grief). Beautiful expression of Paul's feelings for the Philippians and for Epaphroditus.

Verse 29

In honour (εντιμους). Old compound adjective (εν, τιμη), prized, precious (Luke 7:2; Luke 14:8; 1 Peter 2:4; 1 Peter 2:6). Predicate accusative. Noble plea in behalf of Christ's minister.

Verse 30

Hazarding his life (παραβολευσαμενος τη ψυχη). First aorist middle participle of παραβολευω (from the adjective παραβολος), to place beside. The old Greek writers used παραβαλλομα, to expose oneself to danger. But Deissmann (Light from the Ancient East, p. 88) cites an example of παραβολευσαμενος from an inscription at Olbia or the Black Sea of the second century A.D. where it plainly means "exposing himself to danger" as here. Lightfoot renders it here "having gambled with his life." The word παραβολαν (riskers) was applied to the Christians who risked their lives for the dying and the dead.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Philippians 2". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/philippians-2.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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