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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Philippians 2

Verse 1

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

Comfort (παρακλησιςparaklēsis). Rather, “ground of appeal to you in Christ.” See note on 1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1.

Consolation (παραμυτιονparamuthion). Old word from παραμυτεομαιparamutheomai persuasive address, incentive.

Of love (αγαπηςagapēs). Objective genitive, “in love” (undefined as in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

Fellowship (κοινωνιαKoinéōnia). Partnership in the Holy Spirit “whose first fruit is love” (Galatians 5:22).

Any tender mercies (τις σπλαγχναtis splagchna). Common use of this word for the nobler ςισχεραviscera and so for the higher emotions. But τιςtis is masculine singular and σπλαγχναsplagchna is neuter plural. Lightfoot suggests an error of an early transcriber or even of the amanuensis in writing ει τιςei tis instead of ει τιναei tina f0).

Verse 2

Fulfil (πληρωσατεplērōsate). 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 προνητεto auto phronēte present active subjunctive, keep on thinking the same thing).

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

Of one mind (το εν προνουντεςto hen phronountes). “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 κενοδοχιανkata kenodoxian). Late word, only here in N.T., from κενοδοχοςkenodoxos (κενοσ δοχαkenosτηι ταπεινοπροσυνηιdoxa Galatians 5:26, only here in N.T.), empty pride.

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

Better than himself (υπερεχωhuperechontas heautōn). Present active participle of huperechō in intransitive sense to excel or surpass with the ablative, “excelling themselves.” See Romans 12:10.

Verse 4

Looking (σκοπουντεςskopountes). Present active participle of σκοπεωskopeō from σκοποςskopos (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 προνειτε εν υμινtouto phroneite en humin). “Keep on thinking this in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (ο και εν Χριστωι Ιησουho kai en Christōi Iēsou). 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 (υπαρχωνhuparchōn). Rather, “existing,” present active participle of υπαρχωhuparchō In the form of God (εν μορπηι τεουen morphēi theou). ΜορπηMorphē 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 (αρπαγμονharpagmon). Predicate accusative with ηγησατοhēgēsato Originally words in μος̇mos signified the act, not the result (μα̇ma). The few examples of αρπαγμοςharpagmos (Plutarch, etc.) allow it to be understood as equivalent to αρπαγμαharpagma like βαπτισμοςbaptismos and βαπτισμαbaptisma 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 ειναι ισα τεοιto einai isa theoi). Accusative articular infinitive object of ηγησατοhēgēsato “the being equal with God” (associative instrumental case τεωιtheōi after ισαisa). ΙσαIsa is adverbial use of neuter plural with ειναιeinai as in Revelation 21:16.

Emptied himself (εαυτον εκενωσεheauton ekenōse). First aorist active indicative of κενοωkenoō old verb from κενοςkenos 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 ΚενοσιςKenosis 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 (μορπην δουλουmorphēn doulou). He took the characteristic attributes (μορπηνmorphēn as in Phlippians 2:6) of a slave. His humanity was as real as his deity.

In the likeness of men (εν ομοιωματι αντρωπωνen homoiōmati anthrōpōn). It was a likeness, but a real likeness (Kennedy), no mere phantom humanity as the Docetic Gnostics held. Note the difference in tense between υπαρχωνhuparchōn (eternal existence in the μορπηmorphē of God) and γενομενοςgenomenos (second aorist middle participle of γινομαιginomai becoming, definite entrance in time upon his humanity).

Verse 8

In fashion (σχηματιschēmati). Locative case of σχημαschēma from εχωechō to have, to hold. Bengel explains μορπηmorphē by forma, ομοιωμαhomoiōma by similitudo, σχημαschēma by habitus. Here with σχημαschēma the contrast “is between what He is in Himself, and what He appeared in the eyes of men” (Lightfoot).

He humbled himself (εταπεινωσεν εαυτονetapeinōsen heauton). First aorist active of ταπεινοωtapeinoō old verb from ταπεινοςtapeinos 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 (υπηκοοςhupēkoos). Old adjective, giving ear to. See note on Acts 7:39; 2 Corinthians 2:9.

Unto death (μεχρι τανατουmechri thanatou). “Until death.” See “until blood” (μεχρις αιματοςmechris haimatos Hebrews 12:4).

Yea, the death of the cross (τανατου δε σταυρουthanatou de staurou). 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 (διοdio). Because of which act of voluntary and supreme humility.

Highly exalted (υπερυπσωσεhuperupsōse). First aorist indicative of υπερυπσοωhuperupsoō (υπερhuper and υπσοςhupsos) late and rare word (lxx and Byzantine). Here only in N.T. Because of Christ‘s voluntary humiliation God lifted him above or beyond (υπερhuper) 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 ονομαto onoma to huper pan onoma). What name is that? Apparently and naturally the name

Jesus, which is given in Phlippians 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 τωι ονοματι Ιησου παν γονυ καμπσηιhina en tōi onomati Iēsou pan gonu kampsēi). First aorist active subjunctive of καμπτωkamptō old verb, to bend, to bow, in purpose clause with ιναhina 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 (καταχτονιωνkatachthoniōn). Homeric adjective for departed souls, subterranean, simply the dead. Here only in the N.T.

Verse 11

Should confess (εχομολογησηταιexomologēsētai). First aorist middle subjunctive of εχομολογεομαιexomologeomai with ιναhina for purpose.

Lord (ΚυριοςKurios). 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 τηι παρουσιαι μονονmē hōs en tēi parousiāi monon). B and a few other MSS. omit ωςhōs The negative μηmē goes with the imperative κατεργαζεστεkatergazesthe (work out), not with υπηκουσατεhupēkousate (obeyed) which would call for ουχouch

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

Work out (κατεργαζεστεkatergazesthe). Perfective use of καταkata (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 ποβου και τρομουmeta phobou kai tromou). “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 υμινho energōn en humin). Articular present active participle of ενεργεωenergeō from ενεργοςenergos (εν εργονenκαι το τελειν και το ενεργεινergon) 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 (υπερ της ευδοκιαςkai to thelein kai to energein). “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 Phlippians 2:12, though secondary to that of God.

For his good-pleasure (huper tēs eudokias). So Whitney puts “the will of God” behind gravitation and all the laws of nature.

Verse 14

Without murmurings (χωρις γογγυσμωνchōris goggusmōn). See note on Acts 6:1 for this late onomatopoetic word from gogguzō to mutter, to grumble.

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

Verse 15

That ye may be (ινα γενηστεhina genēsthe). Rather, “that ye may become” (second aorist middle subjunctive of γινομαιginomai to become).

Blameless (αμεμπτοιamemptoi). Free from censure (μεμπομαιmemphomai to blame).

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

Without blemish (αμωμαamōma). Without spot, “unblemished in reputation and in reality” (Vincent).

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

Crooked (σκολιαςskolias). Old word, curved as opposed to ορτοςorthos straight. See note on Acts 2:40.

Perverse (diestrammenēs). Perfect passive participle of diastrephō to distort, to twist, to turn to one side (διεστραμμενηςdia in two). Old word. See note on Matthew 17:17 and note on Acts 13:10.

Verse 16

As lights in the world (ως πωστηρες εν κοσμωιhōs phōstēres en kosmōi). 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 πωςphōs (light), but πωστηρεςphōstēres (luminaries, stars). The place for light is the darkness where it is needed.

Holding forth (επεχοντεςepechontes). Present active participle of επεχωepechō Probably not connected with the preceding metaphor in πωστηρεςphōstēres The old meaning of the verb επεχωepechō 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 (εμοιemoi). Ethical dative, “to me as a ground of boasting.”

Verse 17

And if I am offered (ει και σπενδομαιei kai spendomai). 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 χαιρωchairō and συνχαιρωsunchairō 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 ευπσυχωhina kagō eupsuchō). Present subjunctive with ιναhina in purpose clause of the late and rare verb ευπσυχεωeupsucheō from ευπσυχοςeupsuchos (cheerful, of good spirit). In papyri and ευπσυχειeupsuchei (be of good cheer) common in sepulchral inscriptions.

When I know (γνουςgnous). Second aorist active participle of γινωσκωginōskō f0).

Verse 20

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

Truly (γνησιοςgnēsiōs). “Genuinely.” Old adverb, only here in N.T., from gnēsios (Phlippians 4:3), legitimate birth, not spurious.

Verse 21

They all (οι παντεςhoi pantes). “The whole of them.” Surely Luke was away from Rome at this juncture.

Verse 22

The proof (την δοκιμηνtēn dokimēn). “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 εμοιsun emoi). Paul‘s delicacy of feeling made him use συνsun rather than εμοιemoi alone. Timothy did not serve Paul.

In furtherance of (ειςeis). See note on Phlippians 1:5 for this use of ειςeis f0).

Verse 23

So soon as I shall see (ως αν απιδωhōs an aphidō). Indefinite temporal clause with ως ανhōs an and the second aorist active subjunctive of αποραωaphoraō The oldest MSS. (Aleph A B D) have απιδωaphidō (old aspirated form) rather than απιδωapidō

How it will go with me (τα περι εμεta peri eme). On the force of αποapo with οραωhoraō (look away) see note on 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 Κυριωιen Kuriōi). Not a perfunctory use of this phrase. Paul‘s whole life is centred in Christ (Galatians 2:20).

Verse 25

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

Epaphroditus (ΕπαπροδιτονEpaphroditon). 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 τονton (the) with the three epithets given in an ascending scale (Lightfoot), brother (αδελπονadelphon common sympathy), fellow-worker (συνεργονsunergon common work), fellow-soldier (συνστρατιωτηνsunstratiōtēn common danger as in Phlippians 1:2). ΜουMou (my) and υμωνhumōn (your) come together in sharp contrast.

Messenger (αποστολονapostolon). See note on 2 Corinthians 8:23 for this use of αποστολοςapostolos as messenger (missionary).

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

Verse 26

He longed after (επιποτων ηνepipothōn ēn). Periphrastic imperfect of επιποτεωepipotheō (Phlippians 1:8), “he was yearning after.”

You all (παντας υμαςpantas humas). So again (Phlippians 1:5, Phlippians 1:7, Phlippians 1:8).

Was sore troubled (αδημονωνadēmonōn). Periphrastic imperfect again (repeat ηνēn) of the old word αδημονεωadēmoneō either from an unused αδημωνadēmōn (αa privative and δημοςdēmos away from home, homesick) or from αδημων αδησαιadēmōnδιοτι ηκουσατε οτι ηστενησεadēsai (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” (ηστενησεdioti ēkousate hoti ēsthenēse), “because ye heard that he fell sick” (ingressive aorist).

He was sick (παραπλησιον τανατωιēsthenēse). Ingressive aorist, “he did become sick.”

Nigh unto death (παραπλησιοςparaplēsion thanatōi). Only example in N.T. of this compound adverbial preposition (from the adjective paraplēsios) with the dative case.

Verse 28

Ye may rejoice (χαρητεcharēte). Second aorist passive subjunctive with ιναhina in final clause of χαιρωchairō to rejoice.

That I may be the less sorrowful (καγω αλυποτερος ωkagō alupoteros ō). Present subjunctive with ιναhina and comparative of old compound adjective αλυποςalupos (αa privative and λυπηlupē more free from grief). Beautiful expression of Paul‘s feelings for the Philippians and for Epaphroditus.

Verse 29

In honour (εντιμουςentimous). Old compound adjective (εν τιμηentimē), 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 τηι πσυχηιparaboleusamenos tēi psuchēi). First aorist middle participle of παραβολευωparaboleuō (from the adjective παραβολοςparabolos), to place beside. The old Greek writers used παραβαλλομαιparaballomai to expose oneself to danger. But Deissmann (Light from the Ancient East, p. 88) cites an example of παραβολευσαμενοςparaboleusamenos 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 παραβολανιparabolani (riskers) was applied to the Christians who risked their lives for the dying and the dead.

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Philippians 2". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.