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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Philippians 4

 

 

Verse 2-3

SECTION 10. — ABOUT EUODIA AND SYNTYCHE.

CH. 4:2, 3.

Euodia I exhort, and Syntyche l exhort, to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, I request thee also, true yoke fellow, assist them; women who in the Gospel joined with me in my struggle, with Clement also and the rest of my fellow-workers whose names are in the Book of Life.

A new matter abruptly introduced.

Enodia, Syntyche: names of women, both found on inscriptions. Grammatically they might also perhaps be names of men. But no such men’s names are found elsewhere: and women are expressly referred to in Philippians 4:3, where the reference must be to these two persons. This mention by name suggests that they held a prominent place in the Church, and that the conduct which evoked this appeal was serious and notorious. Whether, like Phœbe (Romans 16:1) they were deaconesses, we do not know. They recall to us Lydia and the women who used to meet for prayer at Philippi when Paul first went there: Acts 16:13-14. The exact repetition of the appeal suggests that it was needed by both women, and equally.

The same mind: as in Philippians 2:2. It implies that they were conspicuously of different mind, i.e. that they had openly quarrelled.

In the Lord: the encompassing element of the hoped-for reconciliation. It is to be no mere human agreement, but a concord flowing from contact with the one Master.

Philippians 4:3. Yoke-fellow: e.g. oxen under one yoke; often used in Greek for a wife and for persons in any way joined together.

True, or genuine: as in 1 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; cognate word in Philippians 2:20 : one who is actually what his name describes. Either the man referred to here was indicated orally by Paul to Epaphroditus, or there was some one at Philippi who would be at once recognised as intended by this term. In other words, this phrase needs a key which has not come down to us. The yoke-fellow may be Epaphroditus himself whom in Philippians 2:25 Paul calls his fellow-worker and fellow-soldier and who occupied a unique position as messenger from Philippi and bearer of this letter. If so, these words pay honour to him as one worthy to be called a sharer of the Apostle’s toil. But this reference, not being itself evident, would need to be explained to Epaphroditus. It has also been suggested as early as the time of Chrysostom that yoke-fellow is a proper name, and that Paul added the word true to assert that the man was worthy of his name. [Notice its emphatic position before the substantive qualified.] This suggestion is supported by the proper names around, Euodia, Syntyche, Clement. If such a name existed in the Philippian Church, the reference would be caught at once: and the epithet true would be understood. The name, which we may write Synzygus, is not found elsewhere. But many Greek proper names occur only once: and we cannot suppose that all are preserved. A suggestion of Ellicott, that Paul refers to the chief of the bishops at Philippi, is most unlikely. For we have no hint, except possibly at Jerusalem, of any one raised so completely above his fellow-presbyters as to be accosted by Paul with this title. The only explanations, therefore, are the two noted above, the one implying a private indication of Paul’s meaning, the other implying the existence at Philippi of a man bearing a name not found elsewhere. Neither of these explanations is unlikely. But, between them, our data do not enable us to decide.

Assist them: join with them in grappling with the difficulty caused by their quarrel: same word in Luke 5:7. The pronoun them is feminine, referring evidently to the two ladies mentioned above. Paul wishes this true partner in his own toil to render help towards their reconciliation.

Women who etc.: a description of the past services of these ladies, in support of this request for help. [ αιτινες introduces a class of persons to which these women belong, this involving a reason for helping them.]

Joined-with me in my struggle: literally, joined with me in an athletic contest: same word in Philippians 1:27. Paul’s gratitude remembers the severity of the struggle in which they came to his aid. This gave them a claim to help from his friends.

In the Gospel: 1 Thessalonians 3:2; Romans 1:9 : cp. fellowship for the Gospel in Philippians 1:5. They joined with Paul in his efforts to spread the Gospel, efforts severe like those of athletes. The hardship involved in evangelical effort at Philippi, we learn from 1 Thessalonians 2:2. And not only with Paul but also with another whom he mentions by name, Clement, did these ladies co-operate. Nay more. So eagerly did they join in every good work that they associated themselves with Paul’s other fellow-workers: cp. Philippians 2:25. This proves that their co-operation was not, as is often the case, prompted by personal friendship. They were ready to assist all sorts of Christian workers. Yet these excellent ladies had quarrelled. Possibly, as so often in all ages, their eagerness in Christian work led them in different and opposite directions, and thus caused collision. And now, along with the record of their excellence, this blemish stands against them on the imperishable page of Holy Scripture.

That Clement is mentioned by name, implies that in some special way these ladies were associated with him. Probably his name recalled some incident giving them a further claim to help. That Paul speaks here of help in the Gospel, suggests that Clement was a preacher of the Gospel. All else is unknown.

Origen in his Comm. on John vol. vi. 36 identifies this Clement with the author of the extant Epistle of Clement: see my Corinthians App. i. But the commonness of the name and the total absence of connecting links forbids the inference.

The Book of Life: as in Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27; cp. Luke 10:20. In Exodus 32:32-33 we have a book of God, a register of His servants: similarly Psalms 69:28 Book of Life or living ones… written with the righteous. Possibly the N.T. use of the word may have been immediately derived from Daniel 12:1, where we have a register of those who will rise to eternal life. While mentioning only one of his fellow-workers, Paul remembers that other names unmentioned by him are securely recorded among the heirs of salvation.

These verses give an interesting glimpse into early church life. We have the struggle involved in preaching the Gospel, Paul’s various helpers in this work, and the two ladies who rendered assistance to him and to his brave comrades. Then steps in human imperfection. The ladies quarrel: and their quarrel comes to the ears of the prisoner at Rome. It is so serious as to demand mention in his letter to the Church. But the mention is only a recognition of their excellence, an exhortation to unity, and a request for help in the work of reconciliation.


Verses 4-9

SECTION 11. — SUNDRY EXHORTATIONS.

CH. 4:4-9.

Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I will say, rejoice. Let your equity be known to all men. The Lord is near. In nothing be anxious; but in everything, by prayer and by supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all thought, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus.

As to the rest, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things honourable, whatever things righteous, whatever things pure, whatever things lovely, whatever things of good report, if there be any excellence and if any praise, take account of these things; what things also ye have learnt and accepted, and heard and seen in me, these things do. And the God of peace will be with you.

A series of exhortations, without grammatical links: cp. Romans 12:9-18.

Philippians 4:4. Rejoice in the Lord: as in Philippians 3:1. It takes up, after the interposed matters of §§ 8-10, the thread then suddenly dropped.

Always: the new feature in this verse. Constancy is a distinguishing mark, and a measure, of Christian joy. To rejoice in the Lord always, is to rejoice when all earthly joy is withdrawn; and when the light of earth shines most brightly, even then to find our highest joy in the Master’s smile. A noble example in Habakkuk 3:17-18. All other joy is subject to change. But they whose joy is an outflow of union with a Master in heaven walk in the light of a sun which never sets. And their joy is a safeguard against the perils both of earthly joy and earthly sorrow.

Again I will say: emphatic repetition, revealing the importance, in Paul’s view, of Christian joy. Of such joy, he is himself, as every page of this Epistle testifies, an illustrious example.

Philippians 4:5. Equity: a disposition which does not press to the full the claims of absolute justice; but, tempering these claims by a generous reasonableness, is satisfied sometimes with less than is due. It is discussed at length in bk. v. 10 of the Nic. Ethics of Aristotle, who explains it as being akin to justice but better than justice. It is eminently a Christian virtue: and the disposition which presses our claims to the full extent allowed by justice is eminently non-Christian. Paul bids us so to act that all men may see and know our generous reasonableness. Therefore we must treat all men with equity.

The lord is near: at His second coming. For the Day of Christ was ever in Paul’s thought: Philippians 1:6; Philippians 1:10; Philippians 2:16. And he has just referred to His expected return. Probably had Paul known that long ages would elapse before the return of Christ, he would not have used these words. But it is unsafe to infer from them that he confidently expected to survive His coming. The greatness and the certainty of that event, for which we to-day like Paul centuries ago wait eagerly as the consummation of all our hopes, occupied his entire field of view; and obscured completely the secondary question of time. If Christ be coming, to bring in by His presence the eternal day, then to our thought in all ages the Lord is near.

The nearness of the coming of Christ is a strong dissuasive from the grasping spirit which made needful the foregoing exhortation. They who look for His appearing will not demand, from dying men around them, the last farthing they owe. Cp. 1 Corinthians 7:29; James 5:7.

Philippians 4:6. Anxious: not the forethought which enables us to guard against coming troubles, but the useless and painful care which merely brings the sorrows of to-morrow to spoil the pleasures of to-day. See under Philippians 2:20.

In nothing: absolute prohibition of all anxiety of every kind. Same prohibition from the lips of Christ in Matthew 6:25-34. See under 1 Corinthians 7:32. This anxiety arises from the common delusion that our happiness and well-being depend upon the possession of material good. It injures our body; and, by filling the mind with earthly care, blocks out the elevating influence of heavenly things; and exposes us to the terrible temptation of seeking in forbidden paths relief from present distress. This peremptory command, so difficult to obey, assures us that all anxiety is needless.

But in everything: exact positive counterpart of the foregoing negative exhortation. It is virtually Paul’s remedy for anxiety.

Prayer and supplication: same words together in Ephesians 6:18; 1 Timothy 2:1; 1 Timothy 5:5; Psalms 6:10; Daniel 9:21; Daniel 9:23. The word prayer is used only in reference to God, and denotes every kind of verbal approach to God.

Supplication, or petition: earnest request for some special good, whether from God or from man. See Philippians 1:4 Paul bids us go in every difficulty to God in prayer and beg from Him the help we need.

With thanksgiving: same connection in Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:1. Thanks should be an element in our every approach to God, and be associated with every petition. Thus will memory of benefits and answers to prayer already received aid our prayers by stimulating a confident hope of good things to come.

Requests: things asked for. Same word, and the cognate verb twice, in 1 John 5:15.

Made-known to God: i.e. we must put our wants into words, as though He needed to have them made known to Him. Thus God puts Himself by our side as our friend that we may have the relief of pouring into His ears our tale of sorrow. By so doing, we grasp the consolatory truth that God knows our need.

Notice Paul’s remedy for anxiety. In every difficulty we must tell our case to God. We must put it in the form of request for help. This request must be mingled with thanks for the innumerable mercies already received. In the light of these mercies, of God’s promise to answer prayer, and of His loving sympathy, anxiety cannot live.

Philippians 4:7. And the peace of God will guard etc.: blessed result which will follow the use of this remedy. It is not a prayer but a prophecy.

Peace: inward rest arising from absence of disturbing causes within or around us, a happy consciousness of absolute safety. So Romans 1:7; where see note.

Peace of God: not with God as in Romans 5:1. Rather compare John 14:27, My peace I give to you. The words of God distinguish this peace from all other by pointing to its divine source and nature. Cp. righteousness of God in contrast to their own righteousness in Romans 10:3. It is the profound calm of omnipotence which fills the breast of God and which nothing can disturb, which He gives to, and by His presence and power works in, His servants. It shuts out all anxiety, which is always a result of felt helplessness. As the Giver of this peace, He is called in Philippians 4:9 the God of peace.

All thought: literally all mind: same word in Romans 1:28; Romans 7:23; Romans 7:25. It is the mental faculty which looks through outward appearances to the underlying realities. This peace, because divine, goes further than man’s mind can follow or comprehend. It passes the thought not only of those around but of those to whom it is given, who wonder at their own peace in the midst of sorrow or peril and acknowledge it to be a gift and work of God. Same thought and a cognate word in Ephesians 3:20, beyond all things which we ask or think. It is true that whatever comes from God surpasses human thought. But the peace of God is here expressly said to do so because it is found, not only in heaven where we expect it, but amid the anxieties and unrest of earth. And the unexpected contrast between storms around and peace within evokes surprise.

Shall guard: shall keep with military power; either from injury, as here and 1 Peter 1:5, or from escape as in Galatians 3:23; 2 Corinthians 11:32. Since anxiety exposes us to spiritual peril, the peace of God, by excluding anxiety, guards from peril. Breathed into us by infinite power, it is itself almighty: and, filling our hearts, it will guard us on every side from all evil. Just so the Roman garrisons in frontier towns guarded them from attacks of enemies, and enabled the inhabitants to carry on in peace their daily work.

Our hearts: those inmost chambers whence come thoughts and actions. See under Romans 1:21.

Thoughts: the products of mental activity. Same word in 2 Corinthians 11:3, The peace of God will guard the hearts of His people so that sin shall not invade them, and their thoughts so that doubt and fear shall not trouble them.

In Christ Jesus: His divine personality being a bulwark sheltering them from evil. This implies that the peace of God is definitely a Christian grace.

Thus Paul guarantees the effect of the remedy he proposes. He bids us take to God in prayer, with gratitude for past mercies whatever now causes anxiety. And he assures us that if we do so we shall have, instead of anxiety, a peace which is God’s work and gift; and that this peace will be itself a protection guarding our hearts from the entrance of evil and guarding our thoughts from taking a wrong direction. This divine safety is ours in Christ Himself the home and refuge and bulwark of our spiritual life.

Philippians 4:8-9. Concluding exhortations to meditation in Philippians 4:8, to action in Philippians 4:9 a: followed in Philippians 4:9 b by a promise.

As to the rest: same words and sense in Philippians 3:1, introducing words which cover all that Paul has left unsaid.

So many things as; suggests number and variety in each of the following classes. Notice the stately six-fold repetition.

True: words, acts, and disposition corresponding with reality, especially with the eternal realities, with which our thought and conduct must ever be in harmony, as opposed both to falsehood and to error. It includes, but is much wider than, truthfulness. Cp. Ephesians 4:21; Ephesians 5:9; 1 John 1:6.

Honourable: deserving and gaining respect. It suggests the dignity which pertains to conduct worthy of Christ. Only, in N.T., here and 1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 3:4; 1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Timothy 3:11; Titus 2:2; Titus 2:7.

Righteous: agreeing with the authoritative standard of human conduct; as in Philippians 1:7; Ephesians 6:1.

Pure: unstained by evil of any kind, as in 2 Corinthians 6:6; 2 Corinthians 7:11; 1 Peter 3:2; 1 John 3:3.

Lovely: only here in N.T. Sirach iv. 7; xx. 13. It denotes the attractive sweetness of Christian excellence.

Of-good-report: cognate word in 2 Corinthians 6:8 : whatever sounds well when spoken of.

If any etc.: an hypothesis which every one admits to be true, and which if true supports this exhortation. If there be such qualities, as undoubtedly there are, their existence makes them worthy of attention.

Excellence, or virtue: common in classic Greek for excellence of any kind, moral, mental, bodily, or merely material; this looked upon as giving worth to its subject. In N.T., only 1 Peter 2:7; 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:5. Possibly the reason of its rarity is that the N.T. writers look upon human excellence, not as inhering in man and giving him worth, but as wrought in him by the indwelling Spirit of God.

Praise: outward verbal recognition of excellence, which is inward and essential. It corresponds with of-good-report. Excellence covers the five preceding details. If there be any intrinsic human excellence, and if it have among men any recognition of its worth.

Take-account-of: reckon them up, so as to estimate and appreciate their worth: same favourite word in Philippians 3:13. Paul bids his readers calculate the worth of various kinds of moral excellence. And, feeling how many and various are its elements, he goes into detail and bids them contemplate actions, words, and dispositions which correspond with reality; and which therefore claim and gain respect; those which agree with the eternal standard of right; and are unstained by pollution; those which possess the charm of moral beauty; and which when mentioned secure for themselves name and fame among men.

Philippians 4:8 is Paul’s commendation of the science of Ethics. Only by careful meditation can we distinguish and appreciate moral worth. This is the real value of Christian biography. It sets before us in a variety of forms the various elements of Christian excellence. And this value is not destroyed, although the worth of a particular memoir is lessened, by occasional overstatement. Even if the portrait be overdrawn, it sets before us a model worthy of imitation.

Philippians 4:9. To the exhortation to ponder the foregoing virtues, Paul now adds an exhortation to practise them; and supports this last by his readers’ previous acceptance of his moral teaching and by his own example. Not only are these virtues worthy of being taken account of but the Philippian Christians have also already learnt them and have accepted them as good.

Learnt: intellectual apprehension.

Accepted: moral approval, as in 1 Corinthians 15:1, etc. Probably these virtues were learnt from the lips of Paul. But it was not needful to say this. From whomsoever learnt, they had been understood and approved.

Heard: not to be joined to the foregoing, to which it would add nothing, but to the words following. ‘Not only have ye learnt and accepted these virtues but ye have also heard and seen them exemplified in me,’ viz. in Paul’s verbal intercourse with them and in the life he had lived before their eyes. Happy they who can speak thus to their pupils. Such can with authority say do these things. Thus by the lessons already learnt and approved, Paul urges his readers to practise the virtues he has just bidden them to ponder.

To the above exhortation, as in Philippians 4:7, Paul adds a promise: and God shall etc. Where God is, there is peace, viz. the peace of God. He is therefore the God of peace. So Romans 15:33; 1 Corinthians 14:33.

With you: as in Romans 15:33. The Giver of peace will ever be with those who keep His commands.

Paul cannot conclude his letter without again and more emphatically bidding his readers to rejoice. And in their joy he bids them, in view of the near approach of the Great Judge, to treat all men not merely with strict justice but with reasonable fairness, He bids them dismiss all anxiety; and, in order so to do, to take to God all causes of anxiety, mingling their prayers with thanks for past mercies, All that now remains is covered by two exhortations and a promise. Paul bids his readers ponder the various forms of moral excellence, But in so saying he remembers that they have already learnt and approved the virtues he bids them ponder. And he reminds them that they have seen these excellences exemplified in himself. He exhorts them to practise what they have learnt and seen; and assures them that in so doing the Author of peace will Himself be their companion.


Verses 10-23

SECTION 12. — PHILIPPIAN LIBERALITY FAREWELL.

CH. 4:10-23.

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at length ye have revived your thought on my behalf; for which also ye were taking thought, but ye were without opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want. For I leave learnt in whatever circumstances I am to be content. I both know how to be abased and I know how to abound. In everything and in all things I have been initiated into the mystery both to be filled with food and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want. For all things I have strength in Him who gives me power. Nevertheless ye did well that ye had fellowship with me in my affliction. Moreover, yourselves also know, Philippians, that in the beginning of the Gospel when I went out from Macedonia no church had fellowship with me for the matter of giving and receiving except ye only. Because even in Thessalonica both once and twice ye sent for my need. Not that I seek for the gift, but I seek for the fruit which is increasing for your account. But I have got all things, and I abound; I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things from you, an odour of a sweet perfume, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours, according to His wealth, in glory, in Christ Jesus. To God, our Father, be the glory for the ages of the ages. Amen.

Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. There greet you the brethren with me. There greet you all the saints, especially they of Cæsar’s household.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

This section contains the specific occasion of the Epistle, viz. the gift brought to Paul at Rome from Philippi by Epaphroditus, added almost as a postscript to the far more important matters mentioned above.

Philippians 4:10. I rejoice, literally rejoiced: when the gift arrived from Philippi. Paul himself does what in Philippians 4:4 he bid his readers do, This keeps up the tone of joy which runs through the Epistle: so Philippians 1:4; Philippians 1:18; Philippians 1:25; Philippians 2:2; Philippians 2:17-18; Philippians 2:28-29; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:1; Philippians 4:4; Philippians 4:10.

In the Lord: as in Philippians 3:1. The joy occasioned by the gift from Philippi was no mere human emotion, but was distinctly Christian, i.e. prompted by union with the Master.

Greatly: calling marked attention to a cause of special joy; cp. Matthew 2:10.

Now at length; suggests delay. But not reproach: for the delay is at once and satisfactorily explained.

Revived, or burst forth-again: as a branch puts forth new shoots. So did the Philippians produce, by this gift to Paul, a new development of spiritual life.

Thought or thinking: same word as in Philippians 1:7; Philippians 2:2 : mental activity for the good of Paul. This was the specific matter of the new development: touching your thought on my behalf.

For which: viz. the well-being of Paul, represented as the mental basis or aim of their thought. Not only had their Christian life burst forth now into a new practical development of care for Paul, but even before this their minds were at work in the same direction: ye were also taking thought.

Ye-were-without-opportunity: apparently, without means to send a contribution. The opportunity was afterwards found in the journey of Epaphroditus, whether it was undertaken expressly to carry the gift or for some other purpose. In the former case, the circumstances which made the journey possible were the opportunity; in the latter, the journey itself. Possibly poverty may have been the hindrance; and better circumstances the subsequent opportunity. But an approaching journey of Epaphroditus to Rome for other reasons is the easiest explanation.

Thus Paul mentions the delay, and apologises for it. The new shoot reveals continuous life, latent before, but now assuming visible form. The gift was somewhat late. But its lateness was caused not by want of loving care but by lack of means to carry thought into action. At last the means had been found: and the consequent outburst of pent-up love had filled Paul with joy.

This delay implies that, when the relief from Philippi arrived, Paul had been a long time in want, For the news had reached Philippi, and after some delay a gift had been sent to Rome. It is difficult to suppose that this time of want includes the two years (Acts 24:27) at Cæsarea. And, if not, Paul must have been many months at Rome when he wrote this Epistle. This is therefore an indication of its date. See Introd. v.

Philippians 4:11. Not that: introducing, as in Philippians 3:12, a safeguard against misinterpretation.

By way of want: as though his words were prompted by deep need. The expression of joy in Philippians 4:10 might seem to be the voice of a starving man whose distress had been unexpectedly relieved. That this is the explanation of his glowing words, Paul denies.

For I have etc.: proof of this denial.

Content: or literally self-sufficient. The cognate substantive occurs in 2 Corinthians 9:8; 1 Timothy 6:6 : a simpler word, in 2 Corinthians 12:9, where we have the same thought in another form. The syllable self- states not the source, but the inwardness, of this sufficiency, in contrast to external possessions. Its divine source is stated in Philippians 4:13. Aristotle, Nicom. Ethics bk. i. 7, defines the self-sufficient to be that which even by itself alone makes life worthy of choice and needing nothing. This definition we may accept. That is self-sufficient which has in itself whatever is needful for its highest well-being, and is therefore independent of everything external to itself. Christian contentment is not a narrowing down of our desires to our poor possessions, but a consciousness of infinite wealth in Christ, in whose hands are all things already working for His servants moment by moment their highest good. He who has this consciousness is independent of his environment. His sufficiency is in himself.

In whatever circumstances I am: including the dungeon in which Paul wrote these words, and in which before the arrival of Epaphroditus he had been in actual want. Paul’s contentment was not natural but acquired.

I-have-learnt; suggests gradual acquirement by the toilsome effort of the learner. But the task has been accomplished.

I: very emphatic. In this school each must learn personally and for himself.

Philippians 4:12-13. Exposition in detail of Paul’s self-sufficiency. Having learnt, he says I know. The lesson learnt, he then unfolds.

To-be-abased: same word in 2 Corinthians 11:7, where it is the exact opposite of being exalted; so Luke 14:11. It includes every kind of going down, whether into poverty, or dishonour, or prison, or sickness, or the grave. This downward path Paul knows how to tread so as not to slip, so to descend that every step down be spiritual elevation. This knowledge many have not. Consequently adversity produces in them gloom and repining and fear and resentment and rebellion, thus doing them serious spiritual harm. E.g. many have lost their confidence in God and their spiritual life through commercial disaster. But the real cause of this ruin is not adversity which is powerless to injure those who understand its source and purpose, but want of knowledge. He who has found in Christ the full supply of all his need can take these perilous steps with safety.

I-know-also; adds to the foregoing, with stately repetition, its necessary complement.

To-abound: to have more than we need. It is a counterpart, not to abase, which would require as counterpart exalted, but to the special kind of abasement which Paul had been enduring, viz. poverty. Many who passed unscathed through adversity are ruined by prosperity. For they are satisfied with material good. This ruin is caused by their not knowing how to rise in wealth, fame, power, and yet remain lowly in heart. But Paul had learnt even this difficult lesson. Consequently, he was beyond reach of injury from either the ups or downs of life. He was independent of the uncertainties of the world around; and therefore self-sufficient.

Philippians 4:12 b is a fuller exposition of Philippians 4:12 a; as is Philippians 4:12 a of Philippians 4:11 b.

In everything and in all things: things around looked at individually and collectively. In whatever position I am, and in whatever combination of circumstances.

Initiated-into-the-mystery: cognate to the Greek original of our word mystery. See note under 1 Corinthians 3:4. The use of this word here sheds light upon the cognate word already found in 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 4:1; Romans 16:25, by suggesting that Paul refers, not to a mere secret, but definitely to teaching known only, like the Eleusinian mysteries, to the initiated. It thus embodies a development of Paul’s earlier teaching. Paul is telling us how he came to know how to be abased etc. He had been led into the secret chamber of God and had there learnt that which is known only by those whose eyes and ears God opens. Notice the gradation: I have learnt, I know, I have been initiated into the mystery.

Both… and, both… and; suggests the completeness and the unity of the secret Paul has learnt.

To-be filled-with-food: i.e. satisfied. Same word in Matthew 15:33; Matthew 15:37 etc. It suggests that in prison Paul had been in want of food.

Hungry: exact opposite of the foregoing. This contrast is a specific case under the more general contrast in Philippians 4:12 a. It is followed by a restatement of the more general contrast.

To-abound: to have more than we need.

To fall-short or to-be-in-want: to have less than we need. Same word in same sense in 2 Corinthians 11:9 etc,

Philippians 4:13. Triumphant summing up of the practical result of what Paul has learnt. He knows: therefore he is strong.

All-things: very emphatic: it includes abasement, hunger, abundance.

Strength: spiritual muscle and force, In the Christian struggle Paul was like a man in robust bodily health and strength. For all things within the horizon of duty and desire, he has unlimited strength.

In Him who gives me power: Christ, in whom Paul lives and acts, and whose power (2 Corinthians 12:9) rests upon him, He is to Paul not merely the bulwark protecting him on every side by its own strength, but an all-pervading and life-giving personal element breathing into him His own omnipotence. From this inward union with Christ is derived the strength which fits Paul for all things he has to do. The strong man helps the weak by bearing his burden for him. Christ helps us by breathing into us a strength which makes our burdens light.

The word Christ, (A.V.) appears in the margin of the Sinai and Clermont MSS. and in nearly all the later Greek copies. This suggests the origin of a large class of various readings, viz, that they were explanatory glosses, afterwards incorporated into the text.

This great assertion must not be diluted. Whatever lies within the horizon of duty and necessity and desire, Paul can do. To him as to God there is no question of can or cannot. In Christ Paul is morally omnipotent, But, just as God’s inability to lie (Hebrews 6:18) does not in the least degree limit His infinite power, (for lying is contrary to the divine nature and therefore outside the horizon of divine action,) so Paul is strong only for that which Christ would have Him do. All else is outside Christ, the sphere of his strength. But within the limits of the personality of Christ lay Paul’s whole action, thought, and life. Consequently, this limit was no limit to him. And he felt himself endowed with infinite strength. To him therefore the burdens of life were light; and its toil was easy.

These words embody an important secret into which Paul had been initiated, and which enabled him to sink or to rise without spiritual injury. He knows how to be abased because he knows that underneath him are the Everlasting Arms: he can therefore go down into the depth without fear and without damage. He can rise without danger: for he knows that God who raises him will guard His servant from the perils of exaltation. He is therefore safe. Neither height nor depth can separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Notice the four steps in this great climax. Paul has learnt: therefore he knows: he has learnt the secret: consequently he can do all things.

Philippians 4:14. Nevertheless etc.: a corrective on another side to the corrective introduced in Philippians 4:11. Although it would be an error to suppose that Paul’s joy was prompted by his deep need, he by no means valued lightly the gift which supplied that need. He says that his readers did nobly.

My affliction: Paul’s hardship at Rome, which was relieved by the contribution from Philippi. This involved monetary loss, and therefore some degree of hardship, to the Christians there. They cheerfully submitted to this hardship, and thus became partners (see under Philippians 1:4; Philippians 3:10) with Paul in his affliction. In so doing they did well.

Philippians 4:15-16. Additional facts, known to the readers and casting light upon the fact just mentioned.

Also yourselves know: as well as Paul. He thus supports the foregoing statement, not by new information, but by an appeal to knowledge shared by himself and his readers.

Philippians; gives definiteness to this appeal by naming the persons appealed to.

In the beginning of the Gospel: thrust prominently forward, contrasting conspicuously with the gift just acknowledged the liberality of days long past.

These words are explained at once by those following. They take us back to the time when Paul first preached in Europe; and remind the Philippians that their present action was only continuance in a path entered at the beginning of their Christian course. We find the same words in the Ep. of Clement, ch. 47 (see my Corinthians p. 528) referring to the time when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians.

When I went out from Macedonia; grammatically may refer to an event contemporary with, or following, Paul’s departure from Macedonia. [See Winer’s Grammar § 40, 5a.]

From Acts 17:15 we learn that some Macedonian Christians, apparently from Berœa, went with Paul out of Macedonia to Athens. The words before us imply that then or soon afterwards the Philippian Christians sent money to Paul. Whether this was the gift mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:9, we do not know. If, hearing that Paul had gone to Corinth, they sent to him there a deputation with a gift, this would explain both Philippians 4:15 and 2 Corinthians 11:9. For it would be a gift in the beginning of the Gospel after Paul had left Macedonia. Or, less probably, the gift from Philippi may have reached Paul as he was leaving Berœa for Athens. In any case, the contribution here mentioned is an important coincidence with 2 Corinthians 11:9 : for this passage proves that Paul did not refuse gifts from friends at a distance.

Had-fellowship: simpler form of the word in Philippians 4:14. They became partners with Paul.

For an account of giving and receiving: purpose of this partnership; similarly Philippians 1:5, fellowship for the Gospel. They entered into partnership with Paul in order to have with him dealings about giving and receiving, i.e. about transferring money from one to the other. Paul leaves his readers to remember that the giving was on their part, and the receiving on his; merely saying that both sides of the transaction were present to their mind and purpose. This explains abundantly the words here used, without involving the idea of spiritual recompense as in Romans 15:27.

Except ye alone: an example splendid in its solitariness. Not only did their spiritual life at once take this form: but the example thus set was at first not even imitated by others.

Philippians 4:16. Because even etc.: a definite fact confirming the foregoing negative statement.

Even in Thessalonica: in addition to, and earlier than, what they did when Paul went forth from Macedonia. A close coincidence with Acts 17:1, which tells us that Thessalonica was the first city at which Paul lingered after leaving Philippi. During the few weeks (Acts 17:2) spent there, the Philippian Christians sent twice to supply his need: a wonderful proof of the influence upon them of his preaching. Truly their liberality dated from the beginning of the Gospel.

Once and twice; lingers over the repetition of this kindness. This second contribution in so short a time is very significant. Others would have thought that one gift was all that could be expected from them. But even a second present did not exhaust the liberality of the Philippian Christians. For, apparently, they sent to him another shortly afterwards to Corinth.

My need: as in Philippians 2:25, Paul’s poverty (cp. 2 Corinthians 11:8) owing probably to his inability to maintain himself

(2 Thessalonians 3:8) while preaching at Corinth.

Philippians 4:17. Not that; introduces a corrective to Philippians 4:15-16, as do the same words in Philippians 4:11 a similar corrective to Philippians 4:10. Each corrective supplements the other. Paul’s joy about the gift from Philippi (Philippians 4:10) was not prompted by his deep need. And his appreciation of it (Philippians 4:15-16) was prompted, not by eagerness for money, but by eagerness for his readers’ spiritual profit.

The gift: whatever from time to time, as circumstances determine, their liberality might prompt; this looked upon as a definite object of thought.

I seek for the gift: an abiding state of mind which Paul disavows.

But I seek for: stately repetition.

Fruit: as in Romans 1:13 : the reward of the Philippians’ liberality; this looked upon as its organic outworking according to the laws of the Christian life, Day by day, as one act of liberality follows another, this reward is increasing.

For your account; recalls the same words in Philippians 4:15, for account of giving and receiving. While the Philippian Christians entered into partnership with Paul in order to have dealings with him in a matter of giving and receiving, a harvest of reward was growing which was reckoned to their credit. These last words, and Paul’s constant reference of reward and punishment to the Great Day, indicate that to this he refers here: so Philippians 1:6; Philippians 1:10.

Philippians 4:18. An added statement containing another reason why Paul does not desire a gift; viz. that his wants are completely supplied.

I have all: or better, I have to the full all things.

And abound: not only supply but overflow.

I-am-filled full: of all material good. Notice the climax: I have all, l abound, I am filled full.

Having received etc.: means by which his needs have been fully supplied. This clear assertion that Epaphroditus had brought to Paul a gift from Philippi explains Philippians 2:25; Philippians 2:30.

An odour etc.: a comment on the gift from Philippi, revealing its real significance.

Odour of perfume: Ephesians 5:2; Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18; Leviticus 1:9; Leviticus 1:13; Leviticus 1:17, etc.: a frequent O.T. phrase picturing the acceptableness of sacrifice to God.

Sacrifice: as in Romans 12:1.

Acceptable, well-pleasing: a climax. Same words in Acts 10:35; Romans 12:1-2; Romans 14:18; 2 Corinthians 5:9. Since all these phrases are frequently followed by the word to-God, it probably refers to all of them. To God a fragrant perfume goes up and a sacrifice is offered which is acceptable and well-pleasing to Him. Apparently the gift from Philippi was only kindness to a prisoner in poverty at Rome. But whatever is done to the servant is done for the Master: and whatever is done for Christ brings abundant recompense. This gift is therefore a seed producing already a harvest of blessing for its generous donors; and a sacrifice laid on the altar of God. The sacrifice is fragrant tn the mind of God: it is a gift He will receive and be pleased with.

Philippians 4:19. Philippians 4:18 has brought the gift from Philippi into the presence of God. This reminds Paul of the recompense which will follow it.

My God: as in Philippians 1:3. The recompense will follow because the prisoner at Rome stands in a personal relation to God.

Supply, or fill: same words as filled-full in Philippians 4:18, which it recalls.

Will-supply: a definite promise, as in Philippians 4:7; Philippians 4:9.

Every need: of body and spirit; every necessity and every yearning of their whole nature.

Need of yours: corresponding to my need in Philippians 4:16.

His riches: a favourite conception of Paul; Romans 2:4; Romans 9:23; Romans 11:33; Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8; Ephesians 3:16. It is here a picture of God’s ability to supply our need, as a rich man can remove the present want of the poor man: cp. Ephesians 3:20.

According to His riches: measure of the promised supply. This will not only come out of the wealth of God but will correspond with its infinite abundance. Consequently, every need will be supplied.

In glory: locality or surrounding element of this supply. Same words in similar sense in 2 Corinthians 3:7-9; 2 Corinthians 3:11. It is the splendour which will surround the final reward and triumph as in Colossians 3:4; Colossians 1:27; Romans 5:2; Romans 2:7; Romans 2:10. Amid the brightness of the great day, every need and every yearning will be gratified.

In Christ: in virtue of our inward union with Him. The abundant supply will be in glory, as its visible clothing evoking admiration; and in Christ, as its encompassing, all-pervading source and element. Cp. same words at end of Philippians 4:7.

This great promise makes even the half-conscious yearnings of our nature to be themselves a prophecy of future blessing. For their complete satisfaction in the glory of heaven is pledged by the wealth of God.

Philippians 4:20. Outburst of praise evoked by the promise in Philippians 4:19; and marking the close of the topic introduced in Philippians 4:10.

To God, our Father: literally God and our Father; i.e. God who is also our Father. See note under Galatians 1:5. As ever, Paul’s song of praise is directed to the Father. In these words he acquiesces in the eternal recognition of the grandeur of God manifested in His mercy to men. This recognition he seals by a final Amen.

Philippians 4:10-20 preserve for us one of the most beautiful incidents in the story of Paul or of the early Church. From them we learn that his imprisonment at Rome was aggravated by poverty, that he was not only in prison but in want. All this reached the ears and moved the hearts of the Christians at Philippi. But either from straitened circumstances or more probably from lack of a messenger they were for a time unable to render the help they were eager to give. At length an opportunity occurred.

Epaphroditus offered to take their contribution to Rome. On the way he fell dangerously ill. Indeed he risked his life in order to discharge his mission of mercy. But the gift from Philippi arrived safely at Rome, and supplied at once and fully the prisoner’s need. Paul was filled with joy. But his was not the joy of a starving man suddenly relieved. His happiness was not dependent on the kindness of far-off friends. For he had learnt the secret of the Christian’s poverty and suffering. To him the presence and smile of God were an all-sufficient supply of every need and a source of infinite strength. The prisoner’s joy is distinctively Christian. He knows that this gift is seed from which already an abundant harvest is growing up for the donor’s enrichment. Being prompted by loyalty to Christ, it is a sacrifice laid upon the altar of God, an acceptable sacrifice filling His courts with pleasant perfume. And it will be repaid, as will everything done for God, by a full supply of every need in the splendour of heaven.

Paul remembers that this was not the first gift from Philippi. Very soon after he founded the Church there the brethren sent him money while preaching the Gospel in the city of Thessalonica; and that not once but twice. And apparently shortly afterwards they again sent him money to Corinth. Consequently, their action now is but continuance in a path entered at the commencement of their Christian course. It is only another outflow of that spirit of brotherhood which, as Paul said in Philippians 1:5, they had manifested from the beginning. In monetary help they set the first example; an example which others were somewhat slow to follow. Nay more. We learn from 2 Corinthians 8:1 that in the great collection for the poor Christians at Jerusalem the Churches of Macedonia were very conspicuous. Our thoughts go at once to the acknowledged liberality of the Church at Philippi, the earliest of the Macedonian Churches founded by Paul. And we cannot doubt that they who set the first example in Macedonia of Christian giving were equally prominent in the contribution for Jerusalem. Indeed the liberality of Macedonia must have been in great part an imitation of the example set by the Church at Philippi. If so, then as so often since, men who were eager to contribute money for the need of a beloved teacher were also ready to do so for unknown, but suffering, Christians in a far-off land. Thus 2 Corinthians 8:1 is an important coincidence with Philippians 4:16.

It is worthy of note that the Church marked by this constancy of liberality, not only presented nothing needing from Paul even a word of rebuke, but affords the noblest of the many pictures of early Christian Churches reflected in his Epistles. In the apostolic age the Church at Philippi stands supreme in its spotless beauty. And to the generosity of that Church we owe this letter, written to acknowledge it, and all the untold blessings it has conveyed to thousands of the servants of Christ. Little thought the faithful ones at Philippi that the gift they so readily sent to relieve the Apostle’s distress would enrich the Church of Christ in all ages with a priceless treasure. Never was there a more wonderful proof that they who do good do better than they think.

Philippians 4:21-22. Salutation. To the Church collectively is committed a greeting for every member of it: greet ye every saint. We may expound either every saint in Christ Jesus, noting their relation to Christ as in Philippians 1:1; or greet in Christ Jesus every saint, noting a definitely Christian greeting. Since the word saint is already sufficiently definite, this latter exposition which would give spiritual emphasis to the greeting is somewhat the more likely. So 1 Corinthians 16:19, and probably Romans 16:22.

Why, writing to a Church so much beloved, in which there must have been so many persons well known to him, Paul does not add greetings to individuals, we do not know. Possibly, where all (Philippians 1:4; but compare Romans 1:8 and contrast Romans 16:3-15) were so good, Paul was unwilling to give special prominence to any; or preferred to give them less prominence by sending personal greeting orally by Epaphroditus.

The brethren with me: those more closely associated with Paul in prison, and thus distinguished from all the saints, i.e. the church members at Rome. Same words in similar, though perhaps slightly different, sense in Galatians 1:2. These companions are called brethren, although

(Philippians 2:20) they do not fully share the Apostle’s spirit.

Cæsar’s household, or house: either the emperor’s palace, or its inmates of all kinds from his relatives and state officials down to the humblest slaves. Between these meanings the difference is very slight. So Diogenes Lærtius (Lives of Philosophers bk. v. 4, 3) says that Demetrius was of Conon’s house. Paul’s words assert that even in the home of Nero, perhaps the most corrupt spot on earth, were Christians. The servants of the palace were very numerous and various; and even the lowest of them would naturally, among others of the same class, be proud of his position.

Possibly this special salutation was occasioned by the closer contact of the members of the imperial household with the prisoner of the Prætorian Guard.

Philippians 4:23. Paul’s farewell, almost word for word as in Galatians 6:18. REVIEW OF THE EPISTLE. The prisoner at Rome, over whose head hangs the sword of a capricious tyrant and whose imprisonment had been aggravated by poverty, writes to the Christians at Philippi to acknowledge a gift which has completely supplied his need.

To beloved brethren, Paul has no need to assert his official position, and simply places himself beside Timothy as a servant of Christ. But the officers of the Church have, for reasons unknown to us but probably creditable to them, the unique honour of definite mention in the opening salutation. After the salutation, Paul’s first thought is thanks to God for the universal excellence of the Christians at Philippi, which makes prayer for them a delight and encourages a just and loving confidence of their final salvation. These thanks are followed by prayer for their growth in knowledge and in usefulness.

The anxiety of the Philippian Christians calls for news about the imprisoned Apostle, about his circumstances and his feelings. His apparent misfortunes have, by inspiring confidence in the Christians at Rome helped forward the preaching of the Gospel. This gives Paul abiding joy. And this joy is not destroyed by the fact that some preach Christ out of ill-will to the Apostle. Their hostility pains him the less because he knows that it is working for him spiritual good, and is therefore helping his eternal salvation. This reference to Paul’s inner thought becomes a reflection on the page on which he writes of his utter uncertainty of life and death, and of the profound and equal calm with which he views each side of this tremendous alternative.

From himself Paul now turns again to his readers. One thing only he begs from them, that they play their part as citizens of the Kingdom of God in a way worthy of Christ. This will require from them persevering courage and united effort in face of their enemies. On unity the Apostle lays special emphasis; and warns against the subtle forms of selfishness so fatal to it. As a supreme example of unselfishness, he points to the incarnation and death, and subsequent exaltation, of the Son of God. He also warns his readers that upon their conduct depends their salvation, and begs them so to act as to be lights in a dark world and an eternal joy to himself. To him, every sacrifice for them is an abiding joy.

Paul then commends Timothy, his proved and faithful son in the Gospel, whom he hopes soon to send; and Epaphroditus who at the risk of his life had discharged the mission entrusted to him and had thus rendered to the Apostle eminent service. He bids the Philippian Christians receive back with due honour their faithful messenger.

With this commendation Paul was closing his letter. But, for his readers’

safety, he adds a warning, viz. against Jewish opponents and Jewish self-confidence. In such confidence Paul might himself indulge: but his knowledge of Christ has made it impossible. He has no present attainments in which to rest; but is eagerly pressing forward to a goal still beyond him. He bids all who claim to be men in Christ to imitate his example. A sadder warning follows. Some church-members, by their worldly and sensual spirit, prove themselves to be enemies of Christ. This unworthy Spirit Paul rebukes by pointing to the expected Saviour and the complete change which His coming will bring.

Next follows a word of kindly expostulation with two excellent ladies whose quarrel was the more serious because of their Christian activity. Then come charming words of spiritual exhortation and of wise counsel.

Lastly, Paul speaks at some length about the gift which prompted this letter. The gift filled him with joy; not because of the poverty it relieved-for Paul has learnt a secret which makes him superior to the burdens of life-but because of the harvest of blessing which already it is producing for his readers, and because it is an acceptable sacrifice to God, who will supply in the glory of heaven the givers’ every need. A few words of general greeting close the Epistle.

In the pages of the Epistle to the Philippians we see reflected the most attractive picture in the New Testament of Christian life and a Christian Church. Scarcely a word of reproof disturbs the joyous outflow of Paul’s warm affection. And this affection finds equal response in the abiding and loving care of the Philippian Christians for Paul. Among the Apostolic Churches they hold indisputably the place of honour. And to thousands of men and women tossed about by the uncertainties and anxieties of life, this letter, written in a dungeon at Rome under the shadow of the gallows yet everywhere vocal with exuberant joy, has been the light of life. As our gladdened eyes turn from that far-shining light to rest for a moment on the broad and silent pastures where once was the busy Roman colony of Philippi, we see fulfilled in ancient prophecy: THE GRASS WITHERETH, THE FLOWER FADETH BUT THE WORD OF OUR GOD SHALL STAND FOR EVER.

 


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Bibliography Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on Philippians 4:4". Joseph Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jbc/philippians-4.html. 1877-90.

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Saturday, December 7th, 2019
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