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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Philippians 4

 

 

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Verse 1

1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

Ver. 1. Dearly beloved and longed for] What heart melting language is here! Ministers must woo hard for Christ, and speak fair, if they will speak to purpose: "though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee, yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee," Phlippians 1:8-9. How often are men fain to sue for that which is their own; and how heart glad if by fair entreaties they can gather up their debts!


Verse 2

2 I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

Ver. 2. I beseech Euodias] A couple of disagreeing sisters, whom the apostle seeketh to reconcile, and it was a wonder if they could resist his rhetoric. Oh that I could but once find you together one (saith Austin of the differences between Jerome and Ruffinus); I would fall down at your feet with much love and many tears; I would beseech you for yourselves, and one another, and for weak Christians’ sake who are offended thereat, you would not suffer these dissensions to spread, &c. Hei mihi qui vos alicubi reperire non possum, &c.


Verse 3

3 And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

Ver. 3. And I entreat thee also] All men should contribute their help to the composing of differences, and bring their buckets, as it were, to quench this unnatural fire, when once kindled.

True yokefellow] Not Paul’s wife (for he had none, 1 Corinthians 7:7), but either the husband of one of the afore mentioned women, or some special and principal pastor at Philippi.

Which laboured with me in the gospel] Not by preaching, but by partaking of the combats and difficulties that I there underwent, with masculine spirits. Significatur certamen, quale est athletarum, saith Estius. In these good women, besides their sex, there was nothing woman-like or weak.


Verse 4

4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

Ver. 4. Rejoice in the Lord] That is the true and only joy (said Mr Philpot the martyr), which is conceived not of the creature, but of the Creator; to this all other joys being compared are but mournings, all delights sorrows, all beauty filth, &c. Other joy besides this may wet the mouth, but not warm the heart; smooth the brow, but not fill the breast.

And again I say, Rejoice] No duty almost more pressed in both Testaments than this of rejoicing in the Lord. It is no less a sin not to rejoice than not to repent.


Verse 5

5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Ver. 5. Let your moderation] Or equality, such as was that of David, Psalms 26:12. The scales of his mind hung equal, giving him liberty in all occurrences to enjoy himself. All immoderations are enemies to health; so they are also to the quietness of the mind. (Hippocrates.) Against these (as against poisons) there be two kinds of antidotes, prayer and patience, the one hot, the other cold: the one quenching, the other quickening. The word το επιεικες, here used by the apostle, properly signifieth moderation in law businesses, or in laying claim to a man’s own right, the preferring of equity before extremity (Arist. Ethic. v. 10), as holding utmost right to be utmost wrong. Summum ius summa iniuria. Austin tells us that it was grown to a proverb among his countrymen, Ut habeas quietum tempus, perde aliquid. For a quiet life, part with some part of thy fight, as Abraham did, Genesis 13:9.

The Lord is at hand] To right you and recompense you, to pay you for all your pains and patience. Iudex pro foribus, saith St James, James 5:9.


Verse 6

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Ver. 6. In nothing be careful] Or care for nothing, viz. with a care of diffidence and distrust. {See Trapp on "Matthew 6:25"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 6:26"} &c.

But in everything by prayer] This is the best cure of care. "Cast thy burden" (or thy request) "upon the Lord," said David, Psalms 55:22; "and he shall sustain thee." Remove thy trouble from thyself to God by virtue of that writ or warrant, and then all shall be well. "They looked unto God, and were lightened," Psalms 34:5. Luther in a certain epistle of his to Melancthon complaineth thus: Ego certe ore pro te, et doleo te pertinacissimam curarum hirudinem meas preces sic irritas facere: I pray for thee, but to no purpose so long as thou givest so much way to carking cares.

Supplication with thanksgiving] We should come to pray with our thanks in our hands, standing ready with it, as Joseph’s brethren stood with their present, Genesis 43:25. In the old law, what special request soever they had to make, or what sacrifice soever to offer, they were commanded still to come with their peace offerings. Prayer goes up without incense when without thankfulness. The Church ascends daily to her beloved Christ in these pillars of smoke, Song of Solomon 3:6, for she knows that unthankfulness hindereth much the restful success of prayer. And the apostle seemeth here to hint that God taketh no notice of their prayers that do not in addition give thanks.


Verse 7

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Ver. 7. And the peace of God] Prayer hath virtutem pacativam. "Acquaint thyself with God and be at peace," Job 22:21. Pray, "that your joy may be full," John 16:24. David prays down his distempers, Psalms 6:1-10, Psalms 116:1-19, and then cries out, "Return to thy rest, O my soul;" he rocks himself asleep in this sort; and sets all to rights often times, even then when his heart was more out of tune than his harp. Would you then have that peace of God, that most precious jewel that ever the heart of man was acquainted with? do as you are here advised: 1. Pray for what you want, and give thanks for that you have: (a sacrifice of praise is called a "pay offering," or a "peace offering," because peace ensues upon it.) 2. Be always doing something that is good, as Philippians 4:8-9, for as every flower hath its sweetness, so every good union hath its comfort. This is so true, that very heathens (upon the discharge of a good conscience) have found comfort and peace answerably. How boldly did Abimelech bear himself upon his integrity; and what a blessed composedness had holy Noah, who was righteous in his generation, and therefore sat mediis tranquillus in undis.

Shall keep your hearts] φρουρησει, keep as with a guard, or as in a garrison. Solomon’s bed was not so well guarded with his threescore valiant men, all holding swords, Song of Solomon 3:7-8, as each good Christian is by the power of God without him and the peace of God within him. This peace, like David’s harp, drives away the evil spirit of cares and fears; it soon husheth all. God can soon raise up in his an army of powerful thoughts and meditations, so as their very inward tranquillity arising from the testimony of a good conscience (called here, their minds), and the sweet sabbath of spirit, the composedness of their affections (called here, their hearts), can make and keep them secure and sound, yea, bring aid when they are close besieged by sin and Satan.


Verse 8

8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Ver. 8. Whatsoever things are true] This is that little Bible, as the eleventh to the Hebrews is by one fitly called a little Book of Martyrs. In this one verse is comprised that Totum hominis, whole of man, Ecclesiastes 12:13; that Bonum hominis, good of man, Micah 6:8. For if ye do these things here enjoined, ye shall never fall, but go gallantly into heaven, as St Peter hath it, 2 Peter 1:10-11.


Verse 9

9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Ver. 9. And heard, and seen in me] Est aliquid quod ex magno viro vel tacente proficias. The very sight, nay, thought, of a good man often doth good. Whereas the tongue or heart of a wicked man "is little worth," Proverbs 10:20. If their thoughts and discourses were distilled, they are so frothy they would hardly yield one drop of true comfort.

And the God of peace] "Not only the peace of God," as Philippians 4:7. Austin somewhere fisheth a mystery out of the word pax, peace, which consisteth of three letters, saith he, to note the Trinity, from whom is all true peace. Others have observed that all the letters in Jehovah are quiescent, be at peace, letters to teach the same truth.


Verse 10

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

Ver. 10. Hath reflourished] ανεθαλετο. It had deflourished then for a season, and withered, as an oak in winter, Isaiah 6:13, and as a teil tree whose sap is in the root. The best tree may have a fit of barrenness. So may the best men suffer some decays for a season; the spiritual life may run all to the heart, as a people conquered in the field runs to the castle. Howbeit, as Eutychus’s life was in him still, and he revived, though he seemed to be dead, and as trees in the spring grow green again, so do the relapsed saints.


Verse 11

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Ver. 11. In respect of want] The wicked in the fulness of his sufficiency is in straits, Job 20:22. Contrariwise, the godly man in the midst of his straits is in a sufficiency. "He hath all things," as having the haver of all things.

For I have learned] In Christ’s school, for nature teacheth no such lesson.

" Optat ephippia bos piger, optat arare caballus."

Horat.

The labourers were not content with their penny, Matthew 20:13. They that have enough to sink them, yet have not enough to satisfy them; as a ship may be overladen with gold and silver, even unto sinking, and yet have compass and sides enough to hold ten times more. It is God only that fills the heart, and maketh a man say truly with Jacob, and not feignedly, as Esau, I have enough, my brother. Esau had a deal, but Jacob had all, because he had the God of all (Rabb-li, Col-li, Genesis 33:9; Genesis 33:11).


Verse 12

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

Ver. 12. I know both how, &c.] Sound bodies can bear sudden alternations of heat and cold: so cannot distempered bodies.

Both how to be abased] So Chilo (one of the seven wise men of Greece) said to his brother, who took it ill that he was not chosen to be one of the judges, I know how to be injuriously dealt with; but I hardly believe him. {a} Socrates also could tell Archelaus, that offered him large revenues, My mind and mine estate are matches. {b} But flesh and blood could never carry him so far, for all his saying so. It is God alone that fashioneth a man’s heart to his estate, Psalms 33:15, as a suit of clothes is fitted to the body.

I am instructed] μεμυημαι, I am initiated; I am a young scholar, newly entered in this high point of heavenly learning of Christian practice. I have entered into religion, as it were, I have consecrated myself (the word is wondrous significant) and am religiously taught it; I see it is a mystery, but I have got the mastery of it.

To suffer want] Either patiently to wait for what I desire, or contentedly to lack what God denieth.

{a} εγω μεν επισταμαι αδικεισθαι. Laert.

{b} Arrian. apud Stobaeum.


Verse 13

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Ver. 13. I can do all things] A Christian walks about the world like a conqueror, having power given him over all, Revelation 2:26-27. It was a vain brag of that heathen prince that caused it to be engraven upon his tombstone, παντα ποιειν εδυναμην, I could do all things. (Cyrus Major. Arrian.) None can say so but the man in Christ, without whom also he himself can do nothing, John 15:5. Suffer nothing, as the word ισχυω here used properly signifieth.


Verse 14

14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

Ver. 14. Ye have well done] For hereby as you have sealed up your love to me, and engaged me to pray for you (as for Onesiphorus, 2 Timothy 1:16), so you have gotten a good testimony to yourselves that ye are members of Christ’s mystical body. The tongue is far enough from the toe, the heel from the head, yet when the toe or heel is hurt, the rest of the members sympathize and seek help for it. So here.


Verse 15

15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

Ver. 15. But ye only] One poor Philippian shamed a hundred close fisted Corinthians. Araunah gave like a king, 2 Samuel 24:23, and is therefore crowned and chronicled: Zechariah 9:7; "Ekron shall be as the Jebusite," that is, as this famous Jebusite Araunah, that parted with his freehold for pious uses. (Tremel.)


Verse 16

16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

Ver. 16. Ye sent once and again] Charity’s fountain runs fresh, More perennis aquae, and is never dried up. "The liberal man deviseth liberal things," and holdeth that only his own that he hath given to others. Hoc habeo quodcunque dedi, saith Seneca (De Ben. vi. 3).


Verse 17

17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

Ver. 17. Not because I desire a gift] As those cormorants that "with shame do love, Give ye," Hosea 4:18, as if they could speak no other but the Doric dialect, the horse leech’s language. St Paul was none of these.

That may abound to your account] For God keeps an exact account of every penny laid out upon him and his, that he may require it; and his retributions are more than bountiful.


Verse 18

18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.

Ver. 18. I have all] viz. That you sent, and I give you an acquittance, which the Greeks, from the word απεχω here used, call αποχη. Compare Proverbs 3:27.

I abound, I am full] As a bird with a little eye, and the advantage of a wing to soar with, may see far wider than an ox with a greater; so the righteous with a little estate, joined with faith and devotion, may feel more comfort and see more of God’s bounty than one of vast possessions, whose heart cannot lift itself above the earth. They say, it is not the great cage that maketh the bird sing. Sure we are, it is not the great estate that brings always the inward joy, the cordial contentment. A staff may help a traveller, but a bundle of staves may be a burden to him. The greatest thing in the least compass, saith one, is a contented mind in a man’s body; which if a man have, deliciosius vivit etiam is qui teruntium non habet, quam si in unum hominem confles sexcentos Sardanapalos, he hath all things, though he want everything.


Verse 19

19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Ver. 19. But my God] Whom I serve as an ambassador in bonds, Ephesians 6:20, and therefore surely he will repay you the sums you have sent me.

Shall supply] Gr. πληρωσει, shall fill up, as he did the widow’s vessels: Shut the doors upon thee, saith the prophet, 2 Kings 4:4. It was time to shut the doors, when one little vessel must overflow and fill up many greater.

According to his riches in glory] All God’s supplies to his come tipped and gilt with a glory upon them, saith one. Providences below, graces within, heaven above; as they have a lovely scarlet blush of Christ’s blood upon them; so they are rayed upon with a beam of divine love to them that are in Christ.


Verse 20

20 Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Ver. 20. Now unto God] Paul cannot mention God’s bounty without a doxology.


Verse 21

21 Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you.

Ver. 21. Every saint] A great encouragement to the meaner to be so respected.


Verse 22

22 All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.

Ver. 22. All the saints salute you] Christianity is no enemy to courtesy. God’s scholars are taught better manners than to neglect so much as salutations.

They that are of Caesar’s household] When Caesar himself lived and died an unconverted caitiff (wretch) and a castaway. So did Seneca, for aught we can find by his writings, though some would have him to be here designed among the rest. {See Trapp on "Romans 1:18"}


Verse 23

23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. To the Philippians written from Rome, by Epaphroditus.

Ver. 23. The grace of our Lord] With this wish of grace, grace to them, he both begins and ends. Wisdom is the principal thing, Proverbs 4:7.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Philippians 4:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/philippians-4.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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