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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 1

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

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Verse 1

I. INTRODUCTION, Philippians 1:1-11.

1. Inscription and greeting, Philippians 1:1-2.

1. Paul associates Timothy with himself in the salutation, as he does in 2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1, and in both epistles to the Thessalonians. He accompanied Paul on his first visit to Philippi, and was afterward there alone. See Acts 16:1; Acts 16:12; Acts 19:22.

Servants Bondservants, belonging to Christ as their Master. Note on Romans 1:1; Luke 7:2. The official designation of “apostle” is not used here, perhaps because the genuineness of St. Paul’s apostleship had never been called in question at Philippi, as in some other places, but more likely because of the deep affection which existed between him and that Church.

All Without exception they have all a place in his large heart. The word is used of purpose, as in Philippians 1:4; Philippians 1:7; Philippians 1:25.

Bishops The same then as presbyters. These officers are specially recognised in the inscription, as if quietly to cheek a tendency to an undue personal assertion, of which we shall find evidences.

Verses 1-3

Address and Greeting, Philippians 1:1-3.

BY a pleasant climax St. Paul includes in his address not only Philemon, but his household and his house-church. Yet as soon as the greeting closes, he drops all reference not only to his own associate, Timothy, but to all addressed, save Philemon alone. He cannot address a note to Philemon and leave Philemon’s Christian circle unnoticed. In that circle St. Paul is truly at home; with gentle humour he plays upon their names; and he unceremoniously directs them to prepare lodgings for himself, not doubting that his personal coming is an object of their prayers.

Verse 3

2. Thanksgiving and prayer in their behalf, Philippians 1:3-11.

3. Remembrance The apostle’s remembrances of them, taken separately and as an entirety, led him on every occasion of them to devout thanksgiving to God. The ten years of their acquaintance and intercourse had left no disturbing thought or feeling in his soul.

Verse 4

4. Prayer and request are the same word in the Greek: in every prayer making prayer for you.

Verses 4-7

Devout recognition of the richness of Philemon’s Christian character, Philippians 1:4-7.

From this point all are forgotten but Philemon, who is addressed in the second person singular. And preparatory to the great request of Philippians 1:10 Paul testifies the high tone of Philemon’s Christianity, grounding the request in his Christian fellowship.

Verse 5

5. Fellowship The ground of the thanksgiving is now stated. It is not their fellowship of love with one another, wrought by the gospel, but their fellowship in reference to the gospel, with all who sought its success. It was their warm sympathy and ready interest in every thing pertaining to its service, at home and every-where. This had been one of their marked characteristics from the day when Lydia, their first convert, received the gospel; and a fresh proof of it the apostle had just received by the hand of Epaphroditus.

Verse 6

6. Confident So uninterrupted and uniform in this respect had their past history been, that it was a reasonable expectation that their future would be of the same blessed character, but developing with time into a more beautiful maturity. This full persuasion deepens Paul’s joy, and the more so as he contemplates its final fruit.

A good work Plainly, the fellowship just mentioned. Begun in them on the divine side by God, and maintained and growing for ten years, there was good ground (derived not from a theological belief in infallible perseverance, but from the present evidences of their case) for expecting its continuance under his gracious guidance unto the end. Does not God always incite young converts to this same spirit of active interest in the cause of the gospel? And, if so, why should it not abide and grow, keeping the Church in lively sympathy with plans and labours for the conversion of the world?

Day of Jesus Christ See note, 2 Thessalonians 2:2.

Verse 7

7. Meet Right to cherish this confidence for them all because of his deep love for them.

My heart As the seat of the affections and centre of his entire soul, (note, Romans 10:10,) which, as if a capacious room, held them all. And this love, though partly personal, was chiefly for them as sharers with himself in the grace of suffering and struggling for the gospel. They sympathized with him in his bonds, which he was then wearing, and also in his efforts during his imprisonment to win converts to Christ, as well as in the judicial defence of himself as the ambassador of Christ. Besides, they had their own sufferings, Philippians 1:29.

Verse 8

8. God is my record His witness, able to testify of his yearning love, so intense that it was as if it were out of the very heart of Christ .

Verse 9

9. This I pray The prayer (Philippians 1:9-11) is for their continual increase in love to Christ, his cause, and his people; that love which underlay their fellowship with the gospel, the subject of the thanksgiving, and also made them willing partakers with himself in suffering. Yet not in the love alone did he desire growth, but more in certain adjuncts which are always necessary to its best direction and most useful employment. Love may be very pure, honest, and full, and at the same time impulsive, misdirected, injudicious, and even injurious. So he prays for its increase in knowledge a full knowledge of the truths of the gospel, by which they would readily detect any perversion of, or addition to, them.

And in judgment Doubtless the moral judgment, or spiritual insight.

Verse 10

10. That ye may approve Love thus balanced by intelligence and quick moral perception, and so increasing more and more, would render them prompt to distinguish between things that differ as to right and wrong, and so to approve the excellent, whether in opinions, measures of Christian work, men to do the work, or personal life. The application is very broad. The end sought by this increase goes deep and reaches far.

Sincere Pure. The original means judged of in sunlight. In clear sunlight defects and flaws are easily detected. The soul that in the bright light of God’s presence shows no spot, is sincere in the sense of this passage.

Without offence Blameless in external life, the previous term referring to the internal. This is a blessed state in which to live; a necessary state for the day of Christ. This, however, is only negative.

Verse 11

11. Filled with… fruits of righteousness Here is the moral state into which God brings the justified soul, the fruits of which is found in the graces, tempers, activities, and godly life that are indispensable to the fullest Christian development. This fruit is the proper product of the new nature, and is possible only through Christ. Men in whom it appears always bring glory to the God whose grace works such great results. This is the positive side of Christian growth, and implies the employment of the whole nature in active obedience to the will of Christ.

Verse 12


1. Results of his imprisonment, Philippians 1:12-18.

12. Understand The Philippians had shown their anxiety in his behalf by sending Epaphroditus to him, who, in addition to bearing their gift, was, beyond question, charged with numerous messages of sympathy and love. No doubt they wished to receive definite information of the apostle’s circumstances from himself. His situation had become truly more grave than formerly. He probably no longer enjoyed the comparative freedom of living in “his own hired house,” but was confined to the barracks of the pretorian guard. His imprisonment was a grievance to himself, and in itself promised no advantage to the gospel. Yet now he writes that things with him, more than was to have been anticipated, have turned out to the furtherance of the gospel. Good news about the gospel is for them the best news about himself.

Verse 13

13. My bonds in Christ The first result of his imprisonment was a correct and wide-spread intelligence of its true cause and character. We prefer to read, my bonds have become manifest in Christ. Men had come to know that they were connected with Christ, and endured in his service; and that Paul himself was not seditious, turbulent, or a traitor.

All the palace Probably the pretorian camp is meant, the barracks of the imperial lifeguard, perhaps including the detachment quartered near Nero’s palace. The word is never used for the palace of the emperor. See note on Acts 28:16, and the cut of Rome.

All other Literally, and to all the rest. Very likely the people who had become familiar with his case; as to-day we say, “every body else.” Soldier after soldier had attended him, to whom he had spoken of the great salvation; visitors Jews, Christians, and pagans had freely received from his lips the “things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 28:31. Thus soldiers and visitors had learned the true cause of Paul’s imprisonment. To them Christ was preached.

Verse 14

14. Waxing confident A second result was the increased boldness of Christians in preaching.

Many Rather, the greater part. Naturally, the peril of their great leader would inspire hesitancy and wariness in his friends, but his brave endurance of his situation, his persistent discourse concerning Christ to all comers, and his heroic readiness to die for him, kindled anew their courage and zeal, and multiplied their labours.

Verse 15

15. Some indeed preach The next three verses show a painful contrast between two classes of Christian preachers at Rome. Both preached Christ; but one class, different from those just mentioned, are moved by envy toward the apostle; the other by love for him. The latter, the brethren described in Philippians 1:14, work under the conviction that he is divinely set for the defence of the gospel; the former are animated by party spirit, here called contention, as against the apostle.

Not sincerely Their intentions were not pure, as the next words show. Respecting this anti-Pauline faction at Rome we are largely left to conjecture. They were not Jews, or Judaizers, for Paul held and denounced them as subverting the gospel, which he does not do here. On the other hand, he rejoices in the result of their work

Christ is preached while he complains of their self-seeking spirit and improper motives. On the whole, we think the key is supplied by the epistle to this same Roman Church, (Romans 14:0, where see notes,) written five years earlier, where we learn of the existence among them of an Oriental asceticism, enjoining abstinence from animal food and wine, and imposing its injunctions as laws of Christian piety. Still adhering to their petty heresy, and magnifying it to a test of what they think orthodoxy, notwithstanding its pointed condemnation by the apostle, its advocates now in their turn refuse to recognise him as God’s appointed defender of the gospel. They would propagate their mongrel system with personal detractions of the apostle, but still calling themselves Christians, and as such preaching Christ, though in pretence and insincerity.

Verse 18

18. What then? Nothing, so far as the personal feeling of the apostle is concerned; yet much, in that in every way of preaching, whatever be its motive or spirit, whether it be in pretence, covering its real purpose, or in truth, Christ is preached. His great soul rises above the petty opposition to himself, in the knowledge that the name of his Master is more widely proclaimed. In this he rejoices, and, with his eye on the future, adds, yea, and will rejoice.

Verse 19

2. Paul’s feeling as to the final issue, Philippians 1:19-24.

19. For I know Not whether his opponents may accomplish their purpose, but that this wider preaching of Christ will contribute to his salvation, whether he shall live or die. It cannot, then, be temporal deliverance that he is expecting, as is further evident from its dependence on the supply of the Holy Spirit. Of the various interpretations of σωτηριαν , we think the context requires the reference to eternal salvation, which will surely be won if Christ shall be magnified in him. He, however, makes his salvation dependent on the double means of the prayer of the Philippians for him, so high is his estimate of the intercessions of his brethren, and the help supplied by the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sends to believers.

Verse 20

20. According Confidently looking out upon the future, the apostle expects, just as he hopes, that in nothing in no point or thing to which his life has been devoted shall he be ashamed; brought to shame through any failure on his part. Its opposite is, Christ shall be magnified in my body, to which he will contribute by all boldness of speech and conduct. His opponents could not prevent that in his body, in one way or the other, either by his life or his death, would the kingdom of Christ among men be advanced, and so could not destroy his joy or defeat his salvation. To magnify Christ had always, hitherto, been the grand purpose of his life, and so now also, in the present crisis, in a closer imprisonment, under the detractions of brethren, and in the growing savageness of the emperor Nero, when perils are thickening around him, does he hope to magnify him in his body, whether by life, or by death: if by life, through preaching; if by death, through an impressive martyrdom.

Verse 21

21. For to me So far as he is personally concerned, it is a matter of indifference whether he shall magnify Christ by living or by dying. To him personally, to live is Christ: his whole life, whether in prison or in freedom, with all his energy of body and soul, is consecrated to making Christ known as the only Saviour.

To die is gain That is, the paradisaic life is an immeasurable gain over this earthly life. And if, instead of speedy release, he shall die a martyr’s death, it will be known that he died for Christ; and so, in either issue, Christ will be magnified in his body. Yet as to himself, persecuted, suffering, imprisoned, death is more desirable than life. To die is aorist, to have died; pointing to, not the dying, but the state after death, the being with the Lord.

Verse 22

22. Fruit… labour Besides this personal view, there is his relation to his apostolical work. Continuance in life implies a continued ministry, with its precious harvest of souls saved and believers comforted, so that he is quite at a loss to say what his personal preference would really be.

Verse 23

23. In a strait I am held fast by the two: namely, to live or to die. With their powerful motives, they are as if two mighty opposite forces were crowding upon him. His personal desire leans toward departing. The word for depart means to loose, as a ship lets go its fastenings to the shore.

Such is the Christian idea of dying.

With Christ The apostle certainly believed that in death his soul would leave his body, and immediately be with Christ, for only so could death be gain. The soul is not, then, annihilated in the death of the body. See note on 1 Corinthians 15:14. It does not go with it into the grave, or lie in unconsciousness awaiting the resurrection, or float around in the air, but, like the dying thief, departs to paradise to be with Christ. See notes on Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4. It was in the disembodied state of both that the thief was in paradise with Christ. That the imparadised soul is now with Christ, though he be in the highest heaven, see note on 2 Corinthians 5:6; 2 Corinthians 12:4.

Far better He who has faithfully finished his earthly course and safely reached heaven, has won all. No wonder that the holy apostle felt the drawing away from the service here to the fellowship and the glory there.

Verse 24

24. More needful Here is the consideration on the other side, the necessity of his stay for the Church offsetting his personal desire.

Verse 25

3. Paul’s hopes of his Philippians, Philippians 1:25-26.

25. Having this confidence So fully was he persuaded of this necessity, that however uncertain he might be as to what he ought to choose, he felt it certain that he would remain and again visit Philippi. The return to them of their apostle could have had no other result than the enlargement of their faith, and the increase of their joy.

Verse 26

26. That your rejoicing Such an increase of faith and joy because of his coming again, would be good ground for their abundant joy in fellowship with Christ, whose servant he was, whom they were permitted again to see and hear. The apostle, in saying “ I know,” should not be understood as assured by revelation or prophetic insight into his own future, but rather as expressing the deep persuasion and earnest hope of his own mind, because his liberation seemed to him so important for the Church. In Philippians 2:17, he seems less confident. There is no record of a visit to Philippi after this period, but the probability of such a visit depends upon the decision of the question whether he was released from his present imprisonment. See Introduction to 1 Timothy.

Verse 27

III. EXHORTATIONS, Philippians 1:27 to Philippians 2:18.

1. To a befitting Church life, Philippians 1:27-30.

27. Only There is one indispensable condition on the part of the Philippian Church, in order to this joy.

Your conversation The Greek term embraces the whole moral life. They are citizens of a spiritual country, and as such they are to live as good citizens ought. The reference here is to their Church life, which they are to live worthily of the gospel which began it in them. The manner of it appears in four particulars, which the apostle desired to find true in their case, whether he should come and see them, or, remaining absent, should hear. (1) Firm unity in a common spirit, thought, and purpose; (2) with one mind, soul, feeling, and interest; (3) striving together, and mutually, as spiritual athletes, for the vital faith which the gospel gives; (4) in nothing terrified, like frightened horses, but standing with steadfast courage against all opposition. Such a Church is strong anywhere and in any age, and only such a style of conduct is worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Verse 28

28. Adversaries Persecuting enemies of the gospel. The calm courage of the Christian martyr has more than once opened the eyes of persecutors to the reality of their own sin. They may not always see it, but it is the divinely appointed token of coming destruction to themselves and salvation to the faithful.

Verse 29

29. For unto you Steadfastness in suffering foreshadows eternal glory, because they are called to the grace of suffering as well as the grace of believing.

Given At conversion, as a free bestowment of grace for Christ’s sake, as are all spiritual gifts. It is a double gift: (1) to believe in Jesus, which saves, and (2) to suffer for his sake. It is as truly a privilege to suffer for Christ as it is to believe in him; and blessed are they who can receive both as given in the behalf of Christ.

Verse 30

30. The same conflict The old persecution continued.

Saw… hear They knew of the arrest, the scourging, the prison, and the stocks, as Paul had endured them at Philippi, and they had heard of his situation at Rome. Their long struggle was like his own, and was to be heroically endured unto the end.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Philippians 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/philippians-1.html. 1874-1909.
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