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Philippians 1

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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I. Address and Apostolic Greeting to the Church of Philippi and its Ministers, vers, 1, 2: II. Thanksgivings and Prayers, with the Reasons for them both, Philippians 1:3-11: III. Notice of the Progress of the Gospel in Rome; of the Apostle’s desire to die and be with Christ; Words of Encouragement under the opposition of Adversaries, Philippians 1:12-30.

Verse 1

Philippians 1:1. Paul and Timotheus. The apostle includes Timotheus with himself in the greeting, because he had been his companion on his first visit to Philippi, and so would naturally be known and dear to the church there (Acts 16:1), almost in an equal degree with St. Paul himself. How highly the apostle valued his companion may be seen from Philippians 2:19-22, where allusion is made to those labours of Timotheus which were known to the Philippians.

the servants (i.e., bondservants) of Jesus Christ. Not a few old Greek words are dignified by the use made of them in the New Testament. Among the number may be counted this word for ‘slave.’ When Christ is the master, the service, though there is no promise that it shall be easy at all times, is perfect freedom. So there is pride in being called the slave of such a Lord.

to all the saints in Christ Jesus. This title ‘saints’ or ‘holy ones’ is given in the New Testament to all those who are ‘being saved’ (Acts 2:47), i.e., who have entered on the way of salvation. There is therefore no reason to be surprised at the employment of the word, although in some Epistles where it is used the apostle has to rebuke those whom he has named ‘saints’ for errors of various kinds. The sanctifying work of the Spirit is not complete as soon as it is begun.

which are at Philippi. We have no notice of the growth of the Philippian church, but from Philippians 1:5 below we may conclude that the work which St. Paul began had gone on without intermission, so that in ten years the small band, of whom Lydia the purple seller was at first the most important member, had grown into a considerable community, and was, as we clearly gather from this verse, completely organized and supplied with a ministry. Therefore those to whom the apostle had entrusted the work must have been diligent labourers.

with the bishops and deacons. It is clear from the New Testament usage that the word for ‘bishop’ was in these days synonymous with that for ‘elder.’ The latter was used first, because it came naturally to the mouth of a Jew. So that ‘presbyter’ or ‘elder’ would be used almost as a matter of course. The duties of the office were described by the term ‘overseer,’ i.e., bishop; but as a title that word was not so common in the earliest days of Christianity, and is never found so used in Scripture. Where we have ‘bishops’ mentioned (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7), there ‘presbyters’ are omitted. When many churches came to be under the supervision of one chief presbyter, he was naturally named ‘overseer’ or ‘bishop.’ The deacons were those officers of the church who discharged such duties as were given to the seven chosen at the time of the murmuring of the Hellenists against the Hebrews (Acts 6:1). These were the almoners to the needy first of all, and guardians of church funds. Afterwards, as is usually the case, their duties were augmented; though, as is seen in the account of Stephen, the seven were employed in preaching to the people, as well as in their business capacity as the ‘servers of tables.’

Verses 1-2

Address and Greeting, 1, 2.

In this greeting, St. Paul, writing to a congregation to which he was much attached, and which had shown great zeal and love toward him, does not sneak so much in the character of the apostle with authority, but as their founder and the friend of the whole church, whose ministers he salutes in a manner not found in the other Epistles.

Verse 2

Philippians 1:2. Grace unto you. Although St. Paul has not called himself an ‘apostle in writing to this church over which he had so much reason to rejoice, he yet employs the apostolic form of words in his benediction. According to the most accepted MSS., the words are not found in this complete form in St. Paul’s first written Epistle (1 Thessalonians 1:1), though they stand there in the A. V. But, as will be seen from the marginal references, the form was nearly fixed from an early date. The grace is first invoked, without which the rest of the benediction cannot be made good, and by the mention of this grace, the Holy Spirit is included in the benediction as well as the Father and the Son, and thus the blessing of the Trinity is the apostle’s invocation.

and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament peace was the blessing most constantly invoked (cf. Numbers 6:26), and ‘grace’ is used mainly in the phrase ‘to find grace in the sight of God or man, when some blessing is spoken of as bestowed (cf. Genesis 6:8). God’s first revelation had not made known to man the doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and till that was revealed and promised, words like these of St. Paul could have no place. In this is one part of Christ’s fulfilling, that is, making complete, the law. The peace of the old covenant blessing is retained, the grace is the greater light of the new covenant.

Verse 3

Philippians 1:3. I thank my God. This expression is very frequent with St. Paul, and indicates the light in which he looked on God’s dealing with him. He could see that all was of God’s grace, and so his life was a constant eucharist

upon all my remembrance of you. It was not that on every occasion on which the apostle’s thoughts went back to the Philippians he felt thankful, but the whole course of the remembrance, as their Christian progress was reviewed by him since his earliest preaching among them, gives him reason for thankfulness. It is this which makes the tone of the Epistle so jubilant. The apostle’s heart is overflowing with thankfulness to God, and happiness in the manifestation of their love to himself.

Verses 3-11

Thanksgivings and Prayers, 3-11.

The apostle gives the tone to his Epistle in this opening clause. He is thankful for what he knows of the past conduct of the Philippians, and looks forward with confidence. But the strength to perform is from God, and therefore he mingles his rejoicing with constant prayer. God, who began the good work, will carry it forward; this St. Paul knew from his own experience, and the Philippians are sharers in his grace. He prays for their increase in love, in knowledge, in sincerity, which growth can be only made manifest through bringing forth fruits of righteousness in their lives.

Verse 4

Philippians 1:4. Always in every prayer of mine for you all. We see here how the apostle’s thankful-ness manifested itself. There was cause for joy over the Philippian church. Feeling this, St. Paul comes to God with supplication, that as they now stand, so they may continue, and only change to a greater advancement in grace and holiness. Of course concerning the new converts the apostle could know nothing but from the reports brought by Epaphroditus and others, but they are all become his brethren in Christ, and therefore all have a claim, a right, to a share in his prayers.

making my supplication with joy. The joy would have many sources. It would come in part from the retrospect of the history of the Philippian church to which he has just alluded; and in part from the most recent manifestations of their love during his present imprisonment.

Verse 5

Philippians 1:5. for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel. The preposition requires a fuller rendering than is given by the Authorised Version. There the sentence indicates a state of rest; that they with St. Paul were living under the Gospel. He meant much more than this. He spoke of a state of progress and advance. In their own persons they had been growing daily more and more into the spirit of the Gospel, and thus they were his fellows, for he was ever pressing forward, and never counting himself to have attained. But not only in their own spiritual life was this fellowship manifested, but in their labours for the spread of the Gospel. There must have been a zeal in the Philippians akin to that of the apostle himself, to bring about so great a result as is indicated by the language of this letter. The Gospel had been furthered in themselves, and also in the people among whom they lived. In this they and communion or fellowship with St. Paul, whether he were absent or present.

from the first day until now. And this fellowship had been continuous, from the time of that first act of Christian love, when Lydia constrained the strangers to come and abide in her house, to the sending of relief to his necessities in Rome. These were the outward visible signs of the inward spiritual grace.

Verse 6

Philippians 1:6. being confident of this very thing. The apostle speaks from the depths of his spiritual experience. The good work had been begun in himself, and carried on by the grace of God, so that he confesses (1 Corinthians 15:10), ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’ It is the sense of this which makes him confident for the Philippians.

that he which began. The reference is to the first acceptance of the Gospel by the Philippians. The seed then sown, though exceeding small, God will not suffer to be without fruit. But the apostle will not forget, nor have his readers forgot, that though Paul may plant, and Apollos may water, yet it is God that giveth the increase.

a good work in you. The work of bringing you to salvation through the Gospel of Christ. The work within you is a true comment on the narrative of the Acts, where we read ‘the Lord opened the heart of Lydia that she attended to the things which were spoken of Paul.’

will perfect it, bring it to a thorough completion. This was no doubt the old sense of perform, but it is a weaker word now. The Greek is a strong expression, the same which is used (2 Corinthians 7:1) for perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

until the day of Jesus Christ. ‘The day of the Lord,’ or ‘the day of Christ,’ is used by the New Testament writers for the time when Christ shall come to judgment, and the expression is so used on the warrant of Christ’s language (Luke 17:24), ‘So shall the Son of man be in His day.’ There is no doubt that among the early Christians there was an expectation that the day of judgment was very near. St. Paul corrects the undue apprehension of the Thessalonians in this matter (2 Thessalonians 2:2), and in the present verse the expression must not be taken as intimating that the Philippians, to whom this letter was sent, would live to see the day of Christ. What the apostle means is, that God will carry on and complete the work in such wise that it shall be ready for the judgment whenever that may come. They may die or be alive, of that he says nothing, only he feels sure that ‘living or dying they will be the Lord’s.’

Verse 7

Philippians 1:7. even as it is right. The apostle has just grounds for the opinion which he has expressed. He has seen and valued God’s work within them, both from their behaviour towards himself and their labours for the spread of the Gospel, and hence he knows that the same grace which has been able to make him strong, has been bestowed upon them, and will continue to be given, because they have proved themselves worthy of it

for me to be thus minded. The phrase is the same which occurs below in Philippians 3:15, and is somewhat more than ‘think.’ It implies a settled state of feeling which is not likely to be disturbed.

concerning you all. For though he was a stranger to many of them, yet the reports of Epaphroditus had assured him that the church was moved as it were by one spirit.

because I have you in my heart. The next verse shows that this is the true sense. The apostle longs after them all. He proceeds to give the reasons why they have such a hold upon his thoughts and affections.

inasmuch as both in my bonds and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. These words have been taken in different senses, according as they have been thought to belong to what goes before, or to what follows them. Those who have joined them with the preceding words have given the sense as follows: I have you in my hearty both in my bonds; while I am here in my prison I do not forget you; and in my defence, when I am called upon to plead before the tribunal of Caesar, I do not forget you even there. In this sense the word for ‘defence’ is used, 2 Timothy 4:16. But when this view of the words is taken, it becomes necessary to understand the whole of the last clause: when I plead before the Emperor and thus maintain the cause of the Gospel. But the Greek seems to require that both defence’ and ‘confirmation ‘should be closely joined with the words ‘of the Gospel.’ It appears better, therefore, to take them as signifying that the Philippians have had the same kind of lot to bear as the apostle himself, and have joined with him in spirit in defending and confirming the Gospel of Christ. That they might be said to be sharers with him in his bonds, we can understand from the concluding verses of this chapter, where we read that it was given unto the Philippians in behalf of Christ (and therefore it might fitly be called a grace) not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, and that they had themselves the same conflict which they had seen in Paul (when he was a prisoner at Philippi), and which they now heard to be in him.

ye are all partakers with me of grace. What has just been said is confirmed, because the verb, which in Philippians 1:29 is rendered ‘it is given,’ is cognate with the noun here used for ‘grace,’ and might for fulness’ sake be rendered ‘it has been graciously given.’ That the God of all grace may call His servants to suffer for a while is seen from 1 Peter 5:10. For as Christ was made perfect through sufferings, His servants may only look to be made perfect, stablished, strengthened, and settled by the same discipline.

Verse 8

Philippians 1:8. For God is my witness. He knows my heart, which you cannot know, and that I appeal unto Him is the greatest pledge of the truth of what I say.

how greatly I long after you all. The warmth of the apostle’s affection is very marked in this Epistle (cf. Philippians 4:1), where, as here, the feeling is called forth because they are his joy and crown in the Lord.

in the tender mercies of Jesus Christ. The Authorised Version gives the literal rendering of the word, but to an English reader it is seldom understood. The word translated ‘bowels’ was in Greek applied to the nobler portions of the interior organs, the heart, liver, etc., as opposed to the entrails, and in them was supposed to be the seat of the affections, especially those of love and pity. There was something of the same idea, though not so strictly defined, among the Hebrews, as may be seen from the language of many passages in the Old Testament (Genesis 43:30; 1 Kings 3:26, etc.), so that the rendering given above conveys the sense of the apostle. But there was also no doubt combined with this the notion of tender intimate union, and it should not be allowed by any translation to slip away. The apostle spake of Christ living in him (Galatians 2:20) in the same kind of language as Christ Himself had used (John 17:21), and the thought that the whole Christian brotherhood was one body in Christ influenced the choice of such words as this to express the intimate union and communion of those who by one Spirit were all baptized into one body.

Verse 9

Philippians 1:9. And this I pray. Hitherto we have heard nothing of the subject of the apostle’s prayer. The mention of the joy with which he made his supplication turned his thoughts aside, and so far he has dwelt only on the reason for that joy, the constancy of the Philippians in the faith, the certainty of God’s aid to them, and his own affection. Now we come to that for which he prays.

that your love may abound yet more and more. He asks for them the highest Christian grace, ‘the greatest of these is love,’ and that it may be ever growing within them. And this Christian love, to express which the Greek word seems to have been specially conserved, and only applied by the heathen to that kind of affection which involved self-sacrifice, is to be exhibited towards all men. It is not for himself that St. Paul asks it, but that it may extend and embrace every one who may be, or become, a brother in Christ.

In knowledge. This is not the simple word for knowledge which in St. Peter’s list of Christian graces (2 Peter 1:5) is part of the series of which ‘love’ forms the culminating-point; but implies that process of adding ever more and more to the spiritual insight which comes from a diligent prosecution of all that is already known. It is a knowledge which increaseth more and more unto the perfect day.

and all discernment. The Christian is placed amid circumstances which constantly call upon him to make a choice. The apostle supplicates for the Philippians that they may be able to do this rightly. The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and by the two nouns the apostle seems to intend to express spiritual insight, the inner growth of heavenly light; and wisdom in the world’s concerns, of such a kind as may keep men from an evil choice in any of its ways.

Verse 10

Philippians 1:10. so that ye may approve the things that are excellent. Thus their discernment will do its work. To approve, that is, to put to trial, and reject if they be not worthy, all things which offer themselves in the life of men. Such rejection of what is bad implies the acceptance of what is good. Things that are excellent (lit. things that differ) is an expression used only of those things which differ in the way of superiority. Hence ‘prove the things that differ’ is to ‘approve those which are excellent.’

that ye may be sincere. The figure in the Greek word is of something that will bear scrutiny under the bright light of the sun. By making constant choice of the things that are excellent, the wayfaring Christian comes ever nearer to such a condition.

and without offence. The sense is both active and passive; having nothing at which others may stumble i.e., giving no offence in anything; and also void of offence within themselves, blameless as well as harmless.

till the day of Christ. See above on Philippians 1:6. That thus they may be prepared for the judgment whenever it may come.

Verse 11

Philippians 1:11. being filled with the fruits of righteousness. This will be a result of the state mentioned in the previous verse. Men cannot be sincere and void of offence without making their character known by their works. And the apostle prays for his congregation at Philippi that they may be like the good ground which brought forth fruit ‘a hundred-fold.’ There is much to be said for the singular number ‘fruit.’ It gives the idea, which is the true one, that the fruit of righteousness is uniform,

which is through Jesus Christ. Thus St. Paul prevents any thought that this fulness of good fruit will be their own work.

unto the glory and praise of God. That God thereby may be praised and glorified, first by those who through Christ have been aided to bring forth fruit to abundance, and then by those who see their good works, and are led also to glorify the Father in heaven.

Verse 12

Philippians 1:12. So that my bonds have become manifest in Christ. So that it has become known that the reason why I am imprisoned is because I am a preacher of Christ. Thus he points out how the cause of the Gospel was served by his chains. Many who would never have cared to inquire about Christian teaching were prompted to do so when told of this as the reason for the apostle’s imprisonment. Thus Christ’s name and word were spread abroad from that hired house where he was bound,

throughout the whole Prætorium and in all other places. The praetorium was a name given primarily to the tent of the commander-in-chief in a Roman camp. Then it was employed for the residence of any Roman governor, as the hall or palace of Pilate (Matthew 27:27; Mark 15:16), or for the military quarters in the palace of Herod (Acts 23:35), but in Rome it was the name given to the barrack of the praetorian guard, which Suetonius ( Tib. 37) tells us was a place specially assigned to those soldiers by Tiberius. By the frequent change of the guard who was chained to him, and who would be kept in that service only for a turn of a few hours, the news of St. Paul’s imprisonment, and the cause of it, had been widely published. It was a novel charge, and so likely to arrest attention, and the apostle would be sure to publish the knowledge of Christ to all who came in his way. The expression ‘all other places,’ though seemingly hyperbolic, is not without its interest when we remember that one of the traditions concerning the first publication of the Gospel in Britain ascribes it to Roman soldiers who may have been the hearers of St. Paul in his prison. The Revised Version renders ‘throughout the whole praetorian guard and to all the rest,’ thus making the reference to the persons rather than to the place. The usage of prætorium in other passages of the New Testament seems opposed to such a translation, though the latter words in the Greek are such as would be used of persons ‘all the rest.’

Verses 12-30

The Progress of the Gospel in Rome St. Paul’s desire to depart His Exhortation and Encouragement to the Philippians, 12-30,

In spite of St. Paul’s imprisonment, the Gospel has not been bound, and even those who are not sincere in their preaching of it, yet are a joy to the apostle, because a faint light is better than heathen darkness. But yet he would fain go out of the world and be with Christ, but his heart tells him that this is not to be his portion: he is to abide in the flesh for the sake of the churches. He accompanies the statement of this conviction with an exhortation to stedfastness and unity, while he bids them have no fear from adversaries. That adversaries assail them is a happy sign. God of His grace permits His faithful servants not only to believe in, but to suffer for, Christ.

Verse 14

Philippians 1:14. And that most of the brethren in the Lord. ‘Brethren in the Lord’ or ‘in Christ’ (Colossians 1:2) is not the common expression in the New Testament, and seems to signify no more than the usual ‘brethren.’ It is clear from what follows that it includes all who in any way identified themselves with the cause of Christ, whether their adherence were very sincere or not.

waxing confident by my bonds. When they saw Paul still earnest in the preaching of Christ in spite of the suffering which it had brought upon him, they were more induced to believe in the reality of his teaching, seeing him thus supported under afflictions.

are more abundantly bold. They might have been bold under other circumstances had they heard the Gospel from St. Paul while he was at liberty, but the apostle seems to declare that in the present case they are more courageous than they would then have been.

to speak the word of God without fear. All the oldest MSS. add ‘of God.’ Of course the sense is the same whether they be added or omitted. The two forms are found in the same narrative (Acts 4:4; Acts 4:31).

Verse 15

Philippians 1:15. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife. In St. Paul’s time, as well as in other days, work professing to be good has not always been done from a pure motive. There would no doubt be many professing Christians in Rome long before the arrival of St. Paul, for strangers of Rome were among the crowd in Jerusalem at Pentecost. When, however, St. Paul arrived, the fame of his work and sufferings could hardly fail to draw the attention largely to him, and it would seem as if some of the Roman Christians, aggrieved at this, had taken up the position of partisans, and though still preaching Christ, held themselves apart from the apostle.

and some also of good will. Really seeking the salvation of their hearers. This is the good will of the Gospel.

Verse 16

Philippians 1:16. The one do it of love. This verse and the following are interchanged in the oldest MSS. ‘The one refers to those last mentioned, who were truly stirred by the Christian grace of love, and preached from that cause only. And while their love was exhibited towards those who heard them, it was also shown towards St. Paul.

knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. These men recognised the apostle’s mission, that he was the appointed champion of the faith of Christ, and that God was working through his bondage for the wider publication of the glad tidings of the Gospel.

Verse 17

Philippians 1:17. But the other proclaim Christ of faction. Here is an explanation of the envy and strife. The word rendered ‘faction’ (Authorised Version, contention) properly implies ‘self-seeking.’ And we know that from the earliest times the Christian communities were troubled by those who sought adherents only that they might glory in their number. St. Paul found much trouble of this kind from the Judaizers in the Galatian congregations, and it was the same spirit which was at work here in Rome.

not sincerely. Their motive was not a pure one, though they might call themselves preachers of Christ.

thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds. This is the rendering of the oldest Greek text. The received text gives ‘to add affliction to my bonds.’ The affliction which is here meant must perhaps be judged of from the character of those who intended to rouse it up. They were men actuated by a spirit of self-seeking, and could perhaps only understand St. Paul’s work in the light of their own. They would have found it a sore trouble had others attempted to take on them to do that which they regarded as their special work. So it may be they judged of St. Paul, and imagined that their work would be looked on with jealousy by him, and thus affliction be roused up for him because while he lay in prison, others were making themselves heard and known. This certainly is an appropriate sense with the verb ‘to raise up,’ for the idea in it is often of waking up something that is asleep, as the feeling of jealousy might be supposed to be.

Verse 18

Philippians 1:18. What then? i.e., what is it then? What is the outcome of all their conduct?

only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed. The feeling expressed in these words of St. Paul may be com-pared with our Lord’s lesson to His disciples (Mark 9:39). John had told Him how they had forbidden one who was casting out devils in the name of Jesus, and who yet followed not with them. But Jesus said: Forbid him not, such a man cannot lightly speak evil of me. St. Paul must have had some thought akin to this when he thus answers his own ‘What then?’ He must have felt that though the preachers might be of no right feeling towards himself, yet there could only be gain to the people of Rome by the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus. And so he continues.

and therein I do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For the population of the imperial city could not have too many preachers of Christ in it. If we may take the apostle’s description of the heathen world given in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans as a true picture, and there is no doubt it was so, all who would go forth in the name of Christ and tell the story of His life and death and its object, were to be welcomed from whatever motive they did their work. It was not as in the case of the Galatian church, where men were being led from a pure to a debased form of the Christian religion. Then the apostle has no word of joy for those who preached that the only way to Christ was through the door of the Mosaic law. Rather he has no words strong enough to express his anger at them, and wonder at the infatuation of those who hearkened to them. But to have Christ preached at Rome, even though the preacher were a self-seeking Judaizer, was a clear gain and source of congratulation, when the city was in the degraded moral condition in which it lay in the days of St. Paul.

Verse 19

Philippians 1:19. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation. The apostle means by ‘this’ the whole course of opposition from which he was made to suffer. For though he is joyful that Christ is preached by any means, yet he would be much more rejoiced were it all done in purity of spirit. Therefore his rejoicing is not without its attendant pain. But he will make the opposition an occasion for more fervency of spirit and purity of motive on his own part, and thus he will be carried onward in the work of his own salvation.

through your supplication. He is sure that when the Philippians know of his affliction from these jealousies of insincere Christians, they will give him their prayers, and that these will be answered by a greater outpouring of grace in his time of need.

and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This was the only true relief in his trouble, more of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. So will his own work in preaching Christ’s Gospel be purified and made effective.

Verse 20

Philippians 1:20. According to my earnest expectation and hope. The apostle has two things in his mind

first, the preaching of the gospel of Christ; second, his own salvation. In reference to the former he is earnestly expectant that he shall never be put to shame by the opposition of his adversaries. This feeling makes him able to rejoice in the midst of all their envy and strife: his hope looks farther on, to his own salvation. But he enjoys both these. He awaits the future both of his work on earth and of his call to heaven without fear.

that in nothing shall I be put to shame. The only way in which the apostle could be put to shame was by the frustration of his labours and hopes. He knows in his heart in what spirit he has laboured, and so feels confidence in God that his labour will not have been in vain.

but that with all boldness. The peculiar boldness intimated in the original is ‘freedom of speech.’ It is a favourite word for the free preaching of the first apostles (cf. Acts 4:13; Acts 4:29; Acts 14:3; Acts 18:26, etc.). Such boldness could only be the Quality of one whose work had not been frustrated, but to whom the Lord had constantly witnessed as He did to St. Paul.

as always. For since his conversion the apostle had never ceased to teach and preach.

so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body. We should naturally have expected some concluding sentence in which the apostle would speak of himself. That I shall not be put to shame, but that with all boldness I may ‘speak.’ But here St. Paul changes the form of his speech, and puts forward only that for which he constantly laboured ‘that Christ may be magnified.’ When he says ‘in my body,’ he means, by all his powers, by everything that he can do or suffer in this present life.

whether by life or by death. In life the preaching of Christ’s gospel would be the means to St. Paul of magnifying Christ; by his death, if it came now at the hands of the Roman power, he would be as a victim offered up to Christ. Thus he speaks himself (2 Timothy 4:6), in that later imprisonment which was followed by his martyrdom: ‘I am now ready to be offered.’

Verse 21

Philippians 1:21. For to me to live is Christ. My life will be His service wherein I shall consequently enjoy His grace and help. So that it will be work for Christ done through Christ who strengtheneth. This to the zealous apostle was a source of spiritual comfort, but not so great as that of which he next speaks.

and to die is gain. The former was to have the support of a spiritual communion in this world: this is the greater bliss of being ever present with the Lord. It is the sense of this gain that leads St. Paul to say to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:18), when speaking of the approach of the day of Christ, ‘Comfort one another with these words.’

Verse 22

Philippians 1:22. But if to live in the flesh-if this is the fruit of my work. It is not easy to give with certainty the force of the Greek in this verse. But the rendering here recorded seems best to suit with the context. St. Paul has just spoken of the great gain of dying. Now the thought seems to arise: ‘Yet suppose that the means whereby my labour can bring forth its fruit, is only to be secured by my continuing to live in the flesh, then I should desire that such fruit should be secured.’ We know how anxious the apostle’s soul was ever for the fruit of his labour. ‘That I may have some fruit among you also’ was his constant thought and frequent utterance. We can therefore well see how he would be drawn by this desire to forego for a while the greater gain which death would bring. For though death might be gain to him, the fruit of his apostolic labours might be eternal life to many brethren in Christ. He says ‘to live in the flesh,’ thereby to distinguish the unbroken life into its different stages.

then what shall I choose, I wot not. I would fain, he means, choose death; but when I am in doubt whether my labour and its success do not call for my longer stay in the flesh, I dare not make the choice. The other rendering of the whole verse may be thus understood. ‘But suppose that to live in the flesh be my lot,’ suppose God appoints me to a longer life in this world, ‘this is the fruit of my work,’ a way of bringing my labours to a fruitful issue; I know this, for I must constantly follow on what I have already done, ‘and so what I shall choose I know not,’ for God by preserving my life is giving me larger opportunities of work for Him, opportunities which I know not how to refuse.

Verse 23

Philippians 1:23. But I am in a strait betwixt the two. The verb is one which the LXX. use (Job 36:8) of ‘those who are holden in cords of affliction,’ and the apostle describes himself as thus holden and constrained of (i.e., by) the two things, death or the continuance of life that his work may bear its fruit. Each wish draws him in its own direction.

having the desire, which I have already expressed by saying that ‘to die is gain.’

to depart and be with Christ. He views the world as a place of temporary sojourn, not as a home, and so he uses to describe his departure a significant term which implies that he will be like one who has only been detained here, as a ship is held for a time to its moorings, or a tent in its position by ropes, which it was always intended some day to cast loose and go away. He says ‘be with Christ,’ as though he looked forward to the presence with Christ at the moment of his departure. So in another place he speaks (2 Corinthians 5:8) of absence from the body as being equivalent to ‘being at home in the Lord.’ And even where the state between death and judgment is spoken of as sleep, we read (1 Thessalonians 4:14) of them that are fallen asleep in (or through) Jesus. All these passages must be taken into account before it is decided that the intermediate state will be a time of unconscious sleep. ‘To fall asleep’ is used for death, and ‘to be asleep’ is thus equivalent to ‘death;’ but the phrases are employed to describe the passage from this world to the next, not as a definition of the nature of our existence in the world to come.

for it is very far better. He cannot forget the greatness of the gain, though his love for the salvation of men may reconcile him to forego it. So, in this further allusion to life with Christ, he intensifies his language by a doubly expressed comparative.

Verse 24

Philippians 1:24. yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake. He now approaches a reason which confirms him as to what his lot will be. He sees that there is much which lies before him, which God is showing that he would have him do, and the sense that the churches will be the better for his life, and need his continued care, brings with it the certainty that God will not yet call him home.

Verse 25

Philippians 1:25. And having this confidence: that it is needful for the Philippians that he should live on in the flesh.

I know. He uses this expression in the sense of ‘I feel certain,’ of an inward persuasion or conviction, which we cannot doubt that he often felt brought into his mind through the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He is not speaking of any express revelation by which he has been informed of what is in store for him.

that I shall abide, i.e., tarry in life, spoken generally. He then proceeds to the specific language.

Yea, and abide with you all. No doubt his mind passes to the whole care of the churches which came upon him daily, and he sees not without some consolation the further prospect of spending and being spent for Christ’s service.

for your progress and joy in the faith, i.e., for your advancement in the faith and consequent joy therein. For though the Christian’s road may be a hard one to travel, and oft need help from those who have advanced farther in the faith, yet every advance is a new joy in the sense of darkness made light, temptations conquered, and a nearer view of God and Christ.

Verse 26

Philippians 1:26. that your glorying may abound in Christ Jesus in me. The noun here used, ‘glorying,’ and its kindred verb, are favourite words with St. Paul. They signify primarily ‘boasting,’ but like so many words which have been taken by the New Testament diction for its own, they have received a modification of meaning. The Christian man may boast, but it can never be of himself, but of what in mercy has been done for him, and such boasting becomes a glorification of his Lord. Hence the apostle’s sentence means that the Philippians may have more and more cause for such boasting in Christ Jesus for His grace bestowed, and so their glorying may be said to be in Christ Jesus. But St. Paul’s own lessons and example and prayers will be a means for attaining the grace of Christ, and so he is able to add ‘in me.’ The boasting will be of what the Lord hath done, and the help thereto will be Paul’s continuance in the flesh.

through my presence with you again. We know from a later Epistle (1 Timothy 1:3) that the apostle did make another journey into Macedonia, and we cannot doubt that the visit to the Philippians here anticipated was paid.

Verse 27

Philippians 1:27. Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ. ‘Conversation’ of the Authorised Version is used very frequently for a different Greek word, and so should not be employed here. The sentence is best understood from the literal rendering, ‘Behave as citizens worthily of the Gospel.’ From the first, Christianity was shown to be a fellowship and communion, and the figure of citizenship is not unfrequently employed to represent its character. The citizen must remember that he docs not live for himself alone, that he is under a law, enjoys great privileges, which in turn lay upon him great responsibility. A man so minded will know that in his actions the interests of others are involved as well as his own, and will by that knowledge come to deserve the title of ‘brother’ so much adopted by the first Christians. As Christ in the Gospel fulfilled the law by giving, as in the Sermon on the Mount, its complete significance to every precept, so the Christian who aims to live worthily of the Gospel will not rest content with what was said ‘to the men of old time,’ but will be ever seeking to hear Christ’s voice and to follow when he hears the ‘I say unto you’ of the Master.

that whether I come and see you or be absent. Even when the apostle regained his liberty, it was but a small portion of his time that he could give to the Philippians alone. He would come and see them, but after that, other duties would call him away.

I may hear of your state. The Greek is literally ‘the things about you,’ and seems to imply a deep interest in the whole life of the congregation. All their surroundings as well as their doings and condition were of account in the mind of him whose children they were in the faith.

that ye stand fast. He is coming to the thought that the Philippians are not without their adversaries, and that they, like himself, have to do battle for the faith, and so in his exhortation he uses the language of the conflict, and urges them to stand their ground against all foes.

in one spirit. This is the only real way to stand fast, that all be moved by one impulse. Of this God is the giver; but the apostle is thinking of the hearts of men, rather than of the Spirit of God.

with one soul. Better than ‘with one mind.’ And in the present context, our thoughts can hardly fail to be carried to the earliest days of the church (Acts 4:32), when the whole multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul. and so great grace was upon them all.

striving together for the faith of the gospel. The figure is from athletic combats, and signifies being fellow-combatants, fighting all on the same side, and thus it becomes an expansion of the ‘one spirit’ and ‘one soul’ which precedes, though of course it also implies that they are united with St. Paul also, This word is only used here and below in Philippians 4:3, but the apostle has a similar word (Romans 15:30) of being joint-wrestlers in prayer to God. The various rendering, ‘with the faith of the Gospel,’ represents the faith as being engaged in a contest with unbelief, and the Philippians as taking part in the struggle for the cause of the faithful. But it seems better to take ‘the faith’ as that for which all the members of the church are joint-combatants, rather than to make it a fellow-struggler with them. ‘The faith’ is more commonly used alone for the Christian religion.

Verse 28

Philippians 1:28. and in nothing terrified by your adversaries. We are not definitely told who these adversaries were, but as in Philippians 3:2 the apostle gives strong warnings against the Judaizers, and these are the only persons against whom he does speak, we seem justified in concluding that they are the persons here meant. We can see from what took place at Antioch (Acts 15:0) the kind of terror or scare which such teachers would produce; and that the teaching of the Judaizers was a trouble to the Gentile converts, we can learn also from the words of St. James when giving the decision of the council.

which is for them. The freedom from all alarm on the part of the brethren would be a token or omen of the result for both parties.

an evident token of perdition. When they behold no effects from their assaults, they feel that they have lost all power over you, and this shall be a proof that their cause and themselves with it are to be destroyed. And as the Christian’s rest is to be looked for (1 Thessalonians 1:7) when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, so in ‘perdition’ is meant that destruction which shall consist in being banished from the presence of the Lord at the day of judgment.

but of your salvation. The spirit of confidence within the heart shows that the trust is known to be rightly placed. So to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:5) St. Paul speaks of their persecutions as a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that they may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which they are suffering.

and that from God. For from Him only can come the boldness which can render you nothing affrighted. So take your sense of courage as God’s witness within you that you shall be saved.

Verse 29

Philippians 1:29. Because to you it hath been granted. On this grant and its gracious nature, see above on Philippians 1:7. The word is used by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 2:12) of the things that are freely given’ to us by God.

in the behalf of Christ, and as the sufferings are undergone in behalf of Christ, it is by Him that His warriors are supported in their trials, and so there is proof that their help is from God. Thus the suffering becomes evidence of sonship.

not only to believe on him, but also to suffer in his behalf. The sentence is shaped as though St. Paul had at the outset meant to speak of the sufferings first: ‘It is given you to suffer in behalf of Christ;’ but the change which is introduced by the thought ‘not only to believe on Him’ necessitates a repetition of the first portion of the clause, ‘in his behalf.’ ‘In his behalf’ implies for the sake of all that will help to spread His gospel.

Verse 30

Philippians 1:30. Having the same conflict which ye saw in me. What they had seen of the apostle’s sufferings must have been during his imprisonment at Philippi (see Acts xvi 19). The conflict, though called ‘the same,’ need not be taken to imply that the Philippians were exposed as he had. been to the danger of arrest and scourging, but that they had to endure sufferings, and that their cause was the same. They were soldiers under the same Master, and each had a share in the conflict. This word implies primarily the struggle for a prize in some athletic contest, a figure which the apostle elsewhere uses for illustration of the Christian’s position in this world. He is fighting for the mastery, and there are many adversaries.

and now hear to be in me. They had been told of his imprisonment, and for that reason had sent Epaphroditus to Rome with their gifts, and they would hear still more from Epaphroditus when he returned to them and delivered the apostle’s letter.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Philippians 1". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/philippians-1.html. 1879-90.
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