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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Philippians 4

 

 

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Verse 1-2

Philippians 4:1-2. Therefore, my brethren — The exhortation contained in this verse appears to be closely connected with the latter part of the preceding chapter, from which certainly it ought not to have been separated. It is as if the apostle had said, Since such a glorious change awaits all those who, in consequence of their faith in Christ, and in the truths and promises of his gospel, are citizens of heaven, and have their thoughts and affections placed there, let me exhort you to be steadfast in your adherence to that religion which is the foundation of all your glorious hopes. Dearly beloved and longed for — Whose welfare and happiness I earnestly desire; my joy and crown — Whose faith and piety give me now great joy, and I trust will be to the honour of my ministry in the expected day of final accounts, manifesting that I have not laboured in vain; so stand fast in the Lord — In your faith in Christ, and in your expectation of eternal life from him, as you have hitherto done, and as it becomes those to do who are so nearly related and so dear to him. I beseech Euodias, &c. — Macknight, following the order of the words in the original, reads, Euodia I beseech, and Syntyche I beseech; he repeats the word beseech twice, as if speaking to each face to face, and that with the utmost tenderness; that they be of the same mind in the Lord — That whatever cause of difference may have arisen between them, they would lay aside their, disputes for the credit of the gospel, which they both profess to believe. The apostle’s expression, το αυτο φρονειν, may be rendered to mind, or care for, the same thing; that is, as Whitby understands the apostle, to promote the success of the gospel as with one soul. For he thinks the apostle could not mean to exhort them to be of one judgment, because “no man can become of the same judgment with another by entreaty, but only by conviction.”


Verse 3

Philippians 4:3. I entreat thee also, true yoke-fellow — St. Paul had many fellow- labourers, not many yoke-fellows. In this number was Barnabas first, and then Silas, whom he probably addresses here; for Silas had been his yoke- fellow at the very place, Acts 16:19. Help those women who laboured together with me — Greek, συνηθλησαν μοι, literally, who wrestled, or contended together, with me — The word does not imply preaching, or any thing of that kind, but opposition, danger, and toil, endured for the sake of the gospel. With Clement also — Who endured the same things along with them; and with other my fellow-labourers — Here the word is συνεργων, fellow-workers, which may imply fellow-preachers; whose names are in the book of life — (Although not set down here,) as are those of all true believers. See the margin. The apostle alludes to the case of the wrestlers in the Olympic games, whose names were all enrolled in a book. Reader, is thy name in the book of life? Hast thou passed from death to life in consequence of being pardoned and accepted through faith in Christ? Then walk circumspectly, lest thou go back from life to death, and the Lord blot thee out of his book. It may not be improper to observe here, that according to some ancient Christian writers, the Clement mentioned in this verse is the person of the same name who afterward became bishop of the church at Rome, and who, to compose some dissensions which had arisen in the church at Corinth, about their spiritual guides, wrote an epistle to the Corinthians, which is still extant.


Verses 4-7

Philippians 4:4-7. Rejoice in the Lord alway — For, as believers in Christ, as children and heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ of the heavenly, incorruptible inheritance, and as persons assured that all things, even those that are the most distressing in appearance, shall work together for your good, you have sufficient reason for rejoicing always. And again I say, Rejoice — The apostle repeats the exhortation, because the honour of Christ, and the comfort of his followers, greatly depend on its being taken. Let your moderation — Both in the pursuit of the various enjoyments of life, and in the sense you have of the injuries and indignities you may meet with: or your gentleness and sweetness of temper, as επιεικες υμων may here be rendered, the result of your joy in the Lord. Moderation, says Macknight, “means meekness under provocation, readiness to forgive injuries, equity in the management of business, candour in judging of the character and actions of others, sweetness of disposition, and the entire government of the passions, Titus 3:2; James 3:17.” Be known unto all men — Good and bad, gentle and froward; be made manifest in your whole behaviour. Those of the roughest tempers are good-natured to some, (from natural sympathy, and various motives,) a Christian to all. The Lord — The Judge, the Rewarder, the Revenger; is at hand — Standeth at the door, James 5:9 : he will quickly come to close the scene, and put an end to all your temporal enjoyments, and all that you can suffer from your enemies. Be careful for nothing — With a distrusting, distracting care: if men are not gentle toward you, yet neither on this, nor on any other account, be anxiously careful, but apply to God in prayer, committing the matter, which might otherwise be the cause or subject of your anxiety, to his disposal. And in every thing — Great and small; let your requests be made known unto God — They who, by a preposterous shame, or distrustful modesty, cover, stifle, or keep in their desires, as if they were either too small or too great to be spread before God, must be racked with care, from which they are entirely delivered who pour them out with a free and filial confidence. By prayer and supplication — Some by the former word, προσευχη, understand petition for mercies, and by the latter, δεησις, deprecation of judgment; but it seems more probable that by the latter, properly enough rendered supplication, the apostle meant nothing more than enlarging upon and urging our petitions; with thanksgiving — For blessings already received, and for the general or particular goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering of God toward us. For thanksgiving there is always room and always occasion, even in circumstances of the greatest affliction and distress, our chastisements being always less severe than we deserve, and being salutary in their nature and tendency, and in all our trials supporting grace being invariably given, and God being engaged by promise to make them all work for our good. The apostle’s exhortation doubtless “implies, not only that the afflicted have many mercies for which they ought to give God thanks, but that they ought to be thankful for their very afflictions, because they are the means by which the Father of their spirits makes them partakers of his holiness, in order to fit them for living with himself in heaven for ever.” Thanksgiving, joined with prayer, is a sure mark of a soul free from anxiety, and possessed of true resignation. And the peace of God — Not only peace with God, and peace of conscience, arising from the remission of past sin, and a consciousness of present power over sin; but the peace of God, that calm, heavenly repose, that tranquillity of Spirit, which God only can give; which passeth all understanding — Which none can properly comprehend or appreciate, but those that receive it; shall keep φρουρησει, shall guard, as in a citadel or place of defence; your hearts — Your will and affections; and minds — Your understandings, imaginations, intentions, determinations, and all the various workings of them in the knowledge and love of God; through Christ Jesus — Through his truth and grace, through his merits and Spirit, through his dwelling in your hearts by faith.


Verse 8-9

Philippians 4:8-9. Finally το λοιπον, as for what remains for me to say, it may be despatched in a few words. The apostle, says Macknight, “being anxious to make the Philippians virtuous, mentions, in this exhortation, all the different foundations on which virtue had been placed, to show that it does not rest on any of these singly, but on them all jointly; and that its amiableness and obligation result from” whatsoever things are true — Conformable to truth; honest σεμνα, grave, or venerable; just — Equitable and righteous; pure — Chaste and holy; lovely προσφιλη, amiable, or, as the word may be rendered, friendly and kind; of good report ευφημα, of good fame, or reputable; if there be any virtue — Any real worth, or beneficial tendency, in any quality or action: in this place alone does St. Paul use the word αρετη, rendered virtue: if there be any praise — Justly resulting from any thing. Bengelius gives a somewhat different view of the contents of this verse, thus: “Here are eight particulars placed in two four-fold rows; the former containing their duty, the latter the commendation of it. The first word in the former row answers the first in the latter; the second word the second; and so on: true — In speech; honest — In actions; just — With regard to others; pure — With regard to yourselves; lovely — And what more lovely than truth? of good report — As is honesty, even when it is not practised. If there be any virtue — And all virtues are contained in justice; if there be any praise — In those things which relate rather to ourselves than to our neighbour; think on these things — That ye may both practise them yourselves, and recommend them to others.” Those things which ye have learned — As catechumens; and received — By continual instructions; and heard and seen — In my life and conversation; these do, and the God of peace shall be with you — Not only the peace of God, but God himself, the fountain of peace.


Verse 10

Philippians 4:10. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly — Who directs all events. St. Paul was no stoic; he had strong passions, but all devoted to God; that now, at the last — By your present, which I have received from Epaphroditus; your care of me has flourished again — “Here, as in many other passages of his writings, the apostle shows the deep sense which he had of Christ’s governing the affairs of the world for the good of his servants: for this new instance of the Philippians’ care of his welfare, he ascribes expressly to the providence of Christ. And in the figurative expression, ανεθαλετε το υπερ εμου φρονειν, which is, literally, ye have flourished again to think or care, concerning me, he likens the Philippians’ care of him to a plant, which withers and dies in winter, but grows again in the following year; or to trees, which, after their leaves drop in autumn, put them forth again next spring. Lest, however, the Philippians might think this expression insinuated a complaint, that they had been negligent latterly, the apostle immediately adds, that they had always been careful to supply his wants, but had not had an opportunity till now.” Either they were in straitened circumstances themselves, or wanted a proper messenger by whom to send their bounty.


Verses 11-14

Philippians 4:11-14. Not that I speak in respect of want — As if he had said, I do not speak thus feelingly of the renewal of your care because I was unhappy in poverty; for I have learned — From God, he only can teach this; in whatever state I am — In whatever circumstances God is pleased to place me, whether in plenty or want, in honour or reproach, in health or sickness, ease or pain; therewith to be content — Joyfully and thankfully patient. Nothing less is Christian contentment. We may observe a beautiful gradation in the expressions, I have learned; I know; I am instructed; I can. I know how to be abased — When it pleases God to humble me, by depriving me of what seems needful for my body; and to abound — Having wherewith to relieve others also. Presently after, the order of words is inverted, to intimate his frequent transition from scarcity to plenty, and from plenty to scarcity. I am instructed ΄εμυημαι, literally, I am initiated. But as the initiated in the heathen mysteries were believed to be instructed in the most excellent and useful knowledge, the word signifies to be completely instructed in any science or art. The apostle seems to have used it on this occasion to intimate, that his bearing both adversity and prosperity properly was a sacred mystery, in which he had been initiated by Christ, and which was unknown to the men of this world; both to be full and to be hungry, &c. — To avoid the temptations, and perform the duties, both of a plentiful and scanty condition, and to be contented in either. I can do all things — Which God has made it my duty to do: I can even fulfil all the will of God; through Christ which strengtheneth me — Who confers on me the ability of mind and body which I have not by nature. “This is not arrogant boasting. For the apostle glories not in his own strength, but in the strength of another. The fathers, as Whitby informs us, observed three things on this passage: 1st, That the virtue of contentment requires much exercise, learning, and meditation. 2d, That it is as difficult to learn how to be full as to be hungry; abundance having destroyed more men than penury, and exposed them to more pernicious lusts. 3d, That our proficiency in this, or in any other virtue, is to be ascribed, not to ourselves, but to the divine assistance.” — Macknight. Notwithstanding, &c. — Though I was not dejected by my wants; yet you have well done that you did communicate with my affliction — Had a fellow-feeling of my sufferings, and helped me to bear the burden of them, by so liberally contributing to my necessities. Here the apostle teaches us, that the servants of Christ are not to be neglected in their afflictions, because they have learned to bear them patiently.


Verses 15-19

Philippians 4:15-19. Ye know that in the beginning of the gospel — When it was first preached at Philippi; no church — No Christian society, as such; communicated with me — In the matter of giving me money, and of my receiving money from them; but ye only — I received money from no church but yours. Not because I desire a gift, &c. — I would not have you think that I commend your liberality merely out of respect to myself; but I desire fruit, &c. — I do it chiefly out of respect to you; that you may do that which may turn to your everlasting advantage. But l have all — So also the Vulgate reads the clause; but the original expression, απεχω παντα, according to Estius, may be translated, I have from you all things; that is, my wants are amply supplied by you; and I abound — I have more than sufficient for my present state; having received of Epaphroditus the things sent from you — Besides money, the Philippians may have sent to the apostle clothes and other necessaries: an odour of a sweet smell — A service wherewith God is well pleased. See Hebrews 13:16. “The same epithets were anciently given to all the kinds of sacrifices; not only in the peace and thank-offerings, but to the burnt-offerings and sin-offerings. See note on Ephesians 5:2. Here they are given to the present which the Philippians sent to the apostle; not because that present partook of the nature of any sacrifice or offering whatever, as is plain from this, that it was offered immediately to the apostle, and not to God; but merely to show how acceptable to God that work of charity was which the Philippians had performed to the suffering apostle of Christ.” — Macknight. But my God — Whose ambassador I am; shall supply all your need — As he has mine. He shall recompense you even in this life, as far as he knows will be for your good; according to his riches in glory — And he is well able to do it, being gloriously rich in blessings of all kinds.


Verses 20-22

Philippians 4:20-22. Now unto God and, rather, even our Father — Or, To our God and Father, as τω θεω και πατρι ημων properly signifies, be glory for ever — Which is justly due, and shall certainly be given to him by those of the angelic host who never fell, and by those of mankind who have been or shall be recovered from their fall. The brethren who are with me — My dear fellow-labourers, with whom I daily converse; greet you — Sincerely wish you peace and prosperity. These are supposed to be those whom he mentions at the close of his epistle to the Colossians and to Phlippians. All the other saints — Here at Rome; salute you, chiefly they of Cesar’s household — See note on Philippians 1:13. It is uncertain whether the apostle meant some of the members of Cesar’s family, or his household servants, or the officers of his court, or his guards. Here Beza remarks, “What was this but that God reigned in the midst of hell?” The salutation from the brethren, in the emperor’s family, must have been a great consolation to the Philippians. For when they heard that the gospel had got footing in the palace, they would naturally presage the further progress of it in Rome. And the respect which persons, such as the Christians in Cesar’s house, here expressed for the Philippians, in sending their salutations to them, must have filled them with joy. And it seems very probable, as Macknight observes, though the apostle has not mentioned it in any of his letters, that, not long after this epistle was written, he obtained a fair hearing, and an honourable release, through the good offices of the Christians in Nero’s family, as well as on account of the justice of his cause.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Philippians 4:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/philippians-4.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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