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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Philippians 1

Verse 1

Php 1:1. The account of starting the church at Philippi is given in Acts 16, and the reader should now take time to study that entire chapter before going further with these comments. This epistle was written in Rome, under circumstances similar to those connected with the one to the Ephesians, for Paul was a prisoner in chains on account of the persecution of the Jews in Palestine (Acts, chapters 22 to 26). Timotheus is another form for Timothy, who was a faithful companion of Paul in his travels (Act 16:1-3), and hence with whom the brethren at Philippi would have some acquaintance. Paul mentions him as joining in the loving saluation to the church. The epistle is addressed to all the saints, which means all the Christians in Philippi since the two words mean the same. The salutation includes both official and unofficial members, because the quality of being a saint is not an official one. However, the apostle makes special mention of the two and only classes of officials in the New Testament church. Bishops is another name for the elders or rulers over the congregation, which will be fully discussed at 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2. Deacons. The work of these officials is explained at Act 6:2, in the first volume of the New Testament Commentary.

Verse 2

Php 1:2. Grace is from CHARTS, and one part of Thayer's definition is, "kindness which bestows upon one what he has not deserved." This phase of the word explains why the apostle specifies that it is the grace from God he is wishing for his brethren, since all of God's favors are bestowed upon man undeserved by him. They are bestowed only through the Lord Jesus Christ. That is because the sacrifice of Christ provided the way for God to maintain his justice and at the same time extend this unmerited favor to humanity. Peace is from EIRENE, which is used 90 times in the Greek New Testament, and is rendered by our present word 88 times. As it applies to individuals, Thayer defines it, "peace between individuals, i.e., harmony, concord." As to disciples and the Lord he defines it, "the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatever sort it is."

Verse 3

Php 1:3. The original Greek word for remembrance is so rendered 3 times in the King James Version, and by "mention" 4 times. The various translations and commentaries differ as to their preferred rendering. The truth is that the difference between them is slight. However, I believe the connection favors the marginal rendering, namely, the word "mention." In Rom 1:9 and Eph 1:16 this Greek word is used in virtually the same kind of connection, and in each of those places it is rendered "mention." The verse could well be understood as if it said: "Every time I have occasion to mention you in my prayer, it is with thanksgiving Tor what you have meant to me in my service to Christ." Several verses following bears out this thought.

Verse 4

Php 1:4. Request with joy. The rec- ord of helpful service extended to Paul by the Philippian brethren enabled him to expect further good work by them. Hence his requests were made with the joyful feeling that God would giant his requests for them.

Verse 5

Php 1:5. One of the things for which Paul believed God would bless the church at Philippi was their fellowship in the Gospel. The first word is from KOINONIA, which means anything by which one person shares with another the same experience. This can be done either by direct joining with him in the activities concerned, or by support of the same by contribution of money and other necessities of life. From the first day means the first of their acquaintance with Paul in his work among them, in which he got them started as a church of Christ. Until now indicates they did not cease their support of him as soon as he left their community. Chapter 4:16 shows they sent contributions to him more than once when he was in Thessalonica.

Verse 6

Php 1:6, The pronoun he refers to the Lord, to whom Paul gives the credit for all the good work accomplished at Philippi. Will perform it. The apostle's confidence in the faithfulness of the brethren prompts him to say this, for as long as disciples are faithful, He will continue to help them in their good work. The day of Jesus Christ literally means the coming of Christ, but it is equivalent to saying that He would be with them as long as they lived.

Verse 7

Php 1:7. In the preceding verse Paul expresses his confidence in the perseverance of the Philippians to the end of life, thereby obtaining the continued favor of the Lord. He now affirms that such a feeling about them is meet or natural, and then gives his reason for the statement, nairely, that they were constant in their fellowship with him under the grace or favor of God. I have you in my heart. The marginal rendering of this is, "you have me in your heart." I have consulted a number of translations and they are about equally divided between the two renderings. However, the Englishman's Greek New Testament gives the same as the margin. Since that work is a literal word-for-word translation I would prefer its form of the rendering. The difference, though, is not great, for the thought is that Paul and the brethren had a heartfelt interest in each other with reference to the great work of the apostle. Bonds refers to the chain that made Paul a prisoner, but which did not keep him from making a defence of the Gospel, which refers primarily to the first proclamation of it. Confirmation means the assurances which the apostle gave of the truth of the preaching, which he accomplished through his Inspiration and miraculous power.

Verse 8

Php 1:8. Record means a witness; the apostle means that God knows all about what is in his heart with reference to the brethren at Philippi. Bowels is from SPLAGCHNON, which Thayer defines, "bowels, intestines." But it is used figuratively in the New Testament, which Thayer explains as follows: "In the Greek poets the bowels were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tender affections, especially kindness, benevolence, com-passions; hence is equivalent to our heart, tender mercies, affections, etc." As the apostle uses the term, it means that he longs after the brethren with a tender affection like that of Christ.

Verse 9

Php 1:9. A meaningless love would be of no avail for any persons concerned. Paul wishes the love of his brethren to grow according to knowledge. Judgment means discernment or recognition of what is morally proper. The apostle prayed for such progress to be made by the brethren, and he wrote this epistle as a help along that line. Php 1:10 Php 1:10. Approve means to try or test (by the scriptural standard of right and wrong). Excellent denotes things that differ from others for the better. The complete thought is that they may be able to recognize what is better after making the lawful test. Such a course would prove them to be sincere, which would also keep them approved by Christ until he came again.

Verse 11

Php 1:11. The same thought as the preceding verse is expressed in this, but in different words. Being filled means the brethren were working in the Master's vineyard faithfully, and the result was a full crop of righteousness. Which are by Christ Jesus denotes that no good works can be done except as are authorized by Him. Such works will always reflect glory and praise to God, for he has willed that all service must be done through the Son.

Verse 12

Php 1:12. The things which happened unto me. This includes Paul's entire experience of persecution, beginning with his arrest and binding with a chain, and the unfavorable events being thrown around him since being in Rome. He did not wish his brethren to be unduly disturbed over the report of his situation, hence he made the present explanation which might well be expressed by a familiar phrase, "evils are often blessings in disguise." Such is the meaning of his statement that the happenings had fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel. The several verses following give the details of his remarks.

Verse 13

Php 1:13. Bonds refers to the chain by which Paul was made a prisoner, and it was manifest literally since he had an actual metalic chain fastened to his body. In Christ is said because the apostle's persecution was on account of his service to Him. Palace is from PRAITORION, a military term, and is defined by Thayer at this place, "the camp of praetorian soldiers." Paul was under guard of the soldiers, even though permitted to occupy a house which he hired for himself (Act 28:30-31). Under these circumstances he would come in contact with a great many persons of various ranks, and to those who came within the sound of his voice he preached the Gospel, the subject because of which he was wearing the chain.

Verse 14

Php 1:14. Waxing confident by my bonds. The brethren coming and going could see the chain attached to Paul's body, and could also behold his unwavering faith in Christ. Yes, they could see the chain and also hear him as he preached the Gospel to those who came near him. Such an example had the. effect of strengthening their own faith, and causing them to go out among the people and repeat the sweet story of the cross. In this way Paul meant his persecutions had produced the good effect of furtherance (advancement) of the Gospel.

Verse 15

Php 1:15. Some is general, but cannot apply to the persons mentioned in the preceding verse, for Paul speaks of them in a favorable way. Doubtless they were the Jews who had professed Christianity but who were inclined to Judaism. Such characters would naturally envy Paul's great work among the people who had heard him. Preach Christ. This is indefinite as to how much of the Gospel they preached. We are sure, however, that what was preached was correct, or else Paul would not have rejoiced in it as he does in verse 18. But these Juda- izers spread the word that this Christ whom Paul was preaching was the Messiah of the Old Testament. This would be objectionable to the Romans since the predicted one was coming into the world as a king. With the mistaken idea that it was to be a temporal kingdom, the Romans would resent having such a king advocated among their people.

Verse 16

Php 1:16. The one refers to those of the preceding verse who preach Christ from envy and strife. Paul adds a word to their motive which is contentions, and according to Thayer this word has the idea of such activities as are practiced by what is familiarly called a "politician." It is easy to see why they would do that kind of public teaching, for it would rouse the opposition of the Roman citizens. That in turn would bring forth an inquiry as to who had introduced such propaganda into the community. Upon being informed that it was Paul, it would enrage the Roman leaders (as the Judaizers thought), and cause them to do something that would add affliction to the bonds already fastened upon the apostle.

Verse 17

Php 1:17. The other means the ones in verse 15 who preached Christ of good will. Seing that Paul was set (determined) to proclaim and defend the Gospel, these brethren were encouraged to join in the good work.

Verse 18

Php 1:18. What then? This denotes that Paul is about to draw a conclusion from the foregoing facts, namely, that in either case he is glad that Christ is preached. Great abuse has been made of this circumstance by some who wish to apologize for the erroneous methods that are used in the religious world for the spreading of the Gospel. It is claimed that if Paul would rejoice in the work of these evil persons, then we should rejoice in what is done even by un-scriptural organizations for the spreading of truth. It should be noted, however, that what these envious preachers proclaimed was the truth their motive only was what was wrong. Also, no unscriptural organization or methods were used in their work, while the modern use of this case is to justify the institutions of men in their professed teaching of the Scriptures.

Verse 19

Php 1:19. The pronoun this means the same as the things in verse 12, with the additional items pertaining to Paul's conduct under the circumstances. Shall turn [out] to my salvation. The last word has a wide range of meaning, and the primary definition of the original is given by Thayer, "deliverance, safety, preservation, salvation." The word can apply to physical or spiritual deliverance, and to the present or eternal age. The connection in each case must determine the particular application of the term. In Paul's case it may well be taken in both the physical and spiritual sense. The epistle was written when Paul was a prisoner the first time, and we know that he was actually delivered from his chain and permitted to go out among the churches. Through your prayer. No doubt the brethren prayed for his de-liverence as the church did on behalf of Peter (Act 12:5). And the supply of the Spirit of Christ Jesus. Of course the prayers of Christians would avail nothing except they were offered in connection with the Lord's plan. The spiritual salvation of the apostle would also be on condition that he be true to Christ regardless of how the situation might terminate

Verse 20

Php 1:20. Earnest expectation is from one Greek word, and it means virtually the same as hope that is used here, except that it is a more intense word, implying some anxiety. The whole statement means that it is Paul's earnest expectation and hope, etc. He means to conduct himself in such a way that he would have nothing of which to be ashamed. Instead, he is determined to continue his present boldness in preaching the Gospel, regardless of whether he was permitted to live, or would be put to death by his persecutors. By submitting his body to whatever his enemies might decree against him, whether it be life or death, he would be doing honor to Christ. Magnified is from MEGALUNO, and Thayer's explanation of the word in this passage is that Christ would "get glory and praise" from the service that Paul's body would be rendering by this devotion.

Verse 21

Php 1:21. If Paul is permitted to live in the flesh, he will use his time for the service of Christ. But if his earthly life and service are cut off by the enemy, he will not be to blame for it because he will die in a good cause. That is why he says in the last phrase, to die is gain. If a man loses his physical life for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, he will gain the reward of spiritual life (Mat 16:25).

Verse 22

Php 1:22. The pronoun this refers to the service for Christ mentioned in the preceding verse. On the basis that if he lives he will serve Christ, he will expect the gain also mentioned as the fruit of his labor for Him; said gain to come after death. Since both parts of the proposition--life of service and gain after death--are important, Paul is undecided as to which he prefers. Tot not is an old expression meaning "know not."

Verse 23

Php 1:23. Strait means Paul was under pressure from two different desirable experiences, which were of such a character that he could not have both at the same time. One of these is stated in this verse, which was to department and to be with Christ. Of the two desirable experiences he says this would be far better. This gives us a very significant truth. We know that Christ was not personally on earth, and hence to be with Him it would be necessary for Paul to leave this earth. That would require him to leave the fleshly body as the next verse clearly shows. This disproves the materialistic theory which claims that man is wholly mortal, and that when he dies, everything about him dies and hence would remain wherever the body does. The passage teaches also that after a man's body dies, the part of him that departs from this world is conscious. Furthermore, if such a man was a faithful servant of the Lord until death, he will have an enjoyable consciousness after death, else it would not be far better to depart.

Verse 24

Php 1:24. This verse states the other thing that was causing the strait or pressure in which Paul found himself. To abide in the flesh is equivalent to saying he would continue to live on the earth in his fleshly body. More needful for you expresses the reason why this side of the strait was regarded as something that was desirable in the mind of Paul. He knew that after death he could not continue to serve his brethren personally, for the only assistance they could receive from him would be the good example and teaching that he would leave in their memory. Of course such a benefit would be available to all true disciples as long as the world stands.

Verse 25

Php 1:25. Having this confidence. That is, being confident of the truth of the statement in the preceding verse. Things that were "more needful" for the church would be more important than something desirable to Paul personally. For that reason he was sure that he would remain a while longer for their furtherance (advancement) in the faith, and the joy that such advancement would give them.

Verse 26

Php 1:26. Paul was made a prisoner in Rome two times (2Ti 4:16), and this epistle was written when he was there the first time. He was released and permitted to go out among the churches for a while. I shall quote from Smith's Bible Dictionary as follows: "In this epistle [the one to the Philippians] Paul twice expresses a confident hope that before long he may be able to visit the Philippians in person. (Chapter 1:25; 2:24.) Whether this hope was fulfilled or not has been the occasion of much controversy. According to the general opinion the apostle was liberated from imprisonment at the end of two years, having been acquitted by Nero in A.D. 63, and left Rome soon after writing the letter to the Philippians." The release of Paul would be regarded as an answer• to the prayers of the church. This would cause their rejoicing to be more abundant. In Jesus Christ for me denotes their rejoicing would be in regard to Paul and his victory through Jesus Christ over his enemies.

Verse 27

Php 1:27. Conversation means conduct or manner of life, and becometh is defined to denote that which is becoming or suitable to a thing. The sentence means for them to conduct themselves in a way that shows respect for the Gospel of Christ. Such conduct would become known to others, so that Paul would learn about it even though he never got to see them again. The apostle did not write this in a spirit of doubt, for these brethren had already shown such kind of faithfulness (chapter 2:12). The subject is mentioned as a kindly exhortation from a loving apostle. Stand fast in one spirit has the same meaning as unity of the Spirit in Eph 4:3. With one mind denotes that each mind is being guided by the same rule, and that rule is the one provided for them by the inspired word. Striving together is from one word that Thayer defines, "to strive at the same time with another." The idea is that all the brethren would join their forces in the contest for one cause. Faith of the Gospel means the "one faith" Paul mentions in Eph 4:5, which is made known through the Gospel.

Verse 28

Php 1:28. A glance at the next verse will help in arriving at the meaning of this one. The verse starts with for, which indicates that a reason is about to be given for the statements of the preceding passage. Since the servants of Christ are the ones who are given the honor of suffering for Him, the very fact that they are having such an experience, and are holding firm under it, is proof that they are the accepted of the Lord. That is why it means so much to these Judaizing enemies of the Philippians, to observe that they are in nothing terrified by the persecutions. It means that they (the Philippians) are the Lord's faithful servants and hence are heirs of salvation. By the same token it means that they (the adversaries) are threatened with perdition for their enmity against the true disciples of Christ.

Verse 29

Php 1:29. It would be foolish to pretend that any physical enjoyment can be had from persecution, for the bodies and sensibilities of Christians are like those of all other human beings. Their joy comes from what such experiences indicate on their behalf. The thought is well stated in Act 5:41 where the disciples rejoiced because "they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" All of this supports the comments on the preceding verse.

Verse 30

Php 1:30. Conflict is from AGON which Thayer defines, "a contest." The Christian life is likened to the athletic contests that were so common in old times. Paul means these brethren were engaged in the same contest that he had encountered in their presence (Acts 16 th chapter), and in which he is now engaged as they had been informed.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Philippians 1". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/philippians-1.html. 1952.