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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Philippians 2

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAP. II.

He exhorteth them to unity, and to all humbleness of mind, by the example of Christ's humility and exaltation: to a careful proceeding in the way of salvation; that they be as lights to the wicked world, and comforts to him their Apostle, who is now ready to be offered up to God: he hopeth to send Timothy to them, whom he greatly commendeth, as Epaphroditus also, whom he presently sendeth to them.

Anno Domini 62.

THE Apostle in the preceding chapter having exhorted the Philippians to walk worthy of their Christian profession, by maintaining the faith of the gospel, and by living in concord with one another, he, in the beginning of this chapter, besought them all, by every thing most affecting in the Christian religion, to complete his joy, Philippians 2:1.—by being alike disposed to maintain the faith of the gospel, and by cultivating the same mutual love, and by minding one thing, namely, the promoting the honour of Christ, Philippians 2:2.—And for that purpose he counselled them in the exercise of their spiritual gifts, to avoid strife and vain-glory, and to cultivate a humble disinterested temper of mind, Philippians 2:3-4.—after the example of Christ, Philippians 2:5.—who, though he was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, Philippians 2:6.—apparently and in some sense divested himself of these honours, and took the form of a servant, by becoming man, Philippians 2:7.—In which state he humbled himself still farther, by suffering death, even the death of the cross, for the salvation of the world, Philippians 2:8.—But on that account, God hath exalted him in the human nature, to the dignity of Saviour, Prophet, Priest, King, and glorified Head of the church, which is above every dignity possessed by angels in heaven, or by men upon earth, Philippians 2:9.—and in the same nature hath exalted him to the office of Lord or governor over every thing in heaven, and earth, and hell, Philippians 2:10.—to the glory of God the Father, Philippians 2:11.

After proposing this great example of humility, obedience, and reward, the Apostle very properly exhorted the Philippians to work out their own salvation, by imitating Christ's humility and obedience, Philippians 2:12.—not discouraged by the difficulty of the undertaking, because God worketh in believers both to will and to work of his good pleasure, Philippians 2:13.—Then he mentioned certain duties, to which the Philippians were to be especially attentive, Philippians 2:14-16.—assuring them, if it were necessary for the perfecting of their faith and holiness, that he was willing to die for them, Philippians 2:17-18.

Next, he informed them, that he hoped to be able to send Timothy to them soon, who by bringing back word of their perseverance in the faith, and of their progress in holiness, would comfort him in his bonds, Philippians 2:19-23.—and that he was firmly persuaded he should come himself to them, Philippians 2:24.—In the mean time, he judged it necessary to send Epaphroditus with this letter, Philippians 2:25.—Because he longed to see them, being grieved that they had heard of his sickness, Philippians 2:26.—of which the Apostle gave them a particular account, Philippians 2:27.—and told them that he had dismissed Epaphroditus, as soon as he was fit for the journey, that they might rejoice on seeing him again, Philippians 2:28.—Having thus apologized for their pastor's long absence, the Apostle exhorted the Philippians to receive him with joy, and to esteem him highly, Philippians 2:29.—on account of the zeal and diligence that he had shewn in the work of the gospel, and in ministering to the Apostle's necessities. Philippians 2:30.


Verse 1

Philippians 2:1. If—therefore This therefore seems to have a reference to what he had before declared, ch. Philippians 1:25-26 of his willingness to continue yet longer in the flesh for their sakes; and the connection will stand thus: "I am contented, as you may perceive, by what I have said, to abide longer in this wearisome and afflicted estate, and to be kept from that happiness on which I have fixed my most earnest expectation and desire; and the reason why I am easy to continue thus here, is, that I may be serviceable to you, in improving your faith, and promoting your joy; and since such is my affection to you, do you make me a suitable return; and therefore take care to comply with the exhortation I give you, that you may be a comfort and a joy to me." The word παρακλησις is used sometimes to signify exhortation, and sometimes consolation; and where the context does not determine the sense it is doubtful which way it should be understood. If it be taken in the former signification, the meaning is, If a Christian exhortation be of any weight with you; if in the latter, the meaning is, If Christianity affords any consolation.


Verse 2

Philippians 2:2. Fulfil ye my joy, He had told them, ch. Philippians 1:25 that his coming again to them would be for the promotion of the joy of their faith: now in these words he demands of them a suitable return; and that they would by their behaviour promote his joy. See Romans 1:11-12. Dr. Doddridge translates the remaining part of this verse as follows: That ye may be unanimous, maintaining the same love; having your souls joined together, in attending to the one great thing.


Verse 3

Philippians 2:3. In lowliness of mind, &c.— Though Christians of eminent gifts and graces may, and cannot but account their attainments to be superior to others of the lower class, as the Apostle speaks of his own gifts and labours; yet, like him, they ought to be humble in ascribing no glory to themselves, but all to the grace of God (compare 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 and 2 Corinthians 12:11.). And, with respect to true religion, love should teach them to hope that there may be something abundantly more excellent in the hearts of other believers than they find in their own, who, on one account or another, are apt to think their own worse than others; because, the more they know themselves, the more they see of the defects of their own hearts—more than it is possible for them to see of the hearts of others whose conversation is such as becomes the gospel of Christ. See Matthew 20:26-28 and compare Romans 12:10. 1 Peter 5:5. The Apostle in the former verse exhorts the Philippians to be at peace and unity among themselves: in this, like a wise physician, he searches to the bottom of the evil which he would cure; and well knowing that pride and vain-glory are the perpetual sources of strife and contention, he exhorts them to fly from those evils, pressesthemtolowlinessof mind, and admonishes them not to overvalue themselves, nor undervalue others; but to practise humility towards each other.


Verse 4

Philippians 2:4. Look not every man, &c.— "Let no one among you be only solicitous for his own profit; but let every one desire, and, as he has opportunity, further the profit of others." See Philippians 2:21.


Verse 5

Philippians 2:5. Let this mind be in you, For the same temper of mind ought to be in you which was in Christ Jesus. Heylin. To support his doctrine, and to enforce obedience to it, the Apostle sets before the Philippians the example of Christ, and in livelycolours represents his great humility: he shews them how much he descended below himself for their sakes; how infinitely great he was, and how truly low he made himself; bynature, how much higher than the highest; by choice, how much lower than the lowest. It should be observed, that, in the succeeding verses, the Apostle points out to us three different states and conditions of Christ: the first is his state of infinite dignity, from which, in some sense, he descended, expressed in the words, Who being in the form of God, Philippians 2:6. The second is, the state of humility to which he descended, in these words, He made himself of no reputation, Philippians 2:7. The third is, the glory and exaltation of his human nature, intimated in those words, Wherefore God hath highly exalted him, Philippians 2:9. These three states and conditions of Christ are essential to the Apostle's argument; for take away any one of them, and the example which the Apostle would propose is lost. For instance, if you remove the first state, that of his natural and infinite dignity and excellence, the second state will be no longer a state of humiliation; nor Christ any longer an example of humility: for if he was not better than a servant before he was a servant, his being a servant was his lot and condition, not his choice; it would have been owing to the order of nature and providence, and not to his humility; and he would have been no more humble in being born to be a servant, than others who are born to the same state. It is implied in the argument, that he was in possession of whatever belonged to his state of dignity and excellence, before he underwent any thing that belonged to his state of humiliation. For his voluntarily descending, in some sense,from his dignity to a lower and meaner condition, is the very act and real ground and foundation of his humility. It is likewise necessarilyimplied in the argument, that he underwent whatever belonged to his state of humiliation, before he enjoyed any thing that belonged to the state of exaltation of his glorified humanity; because hisexaltation was the effect and reward of his humility; and being purchased and obtained by his humility, it could not be antecedent to it. Consequently, it necessarily follows, that his natural state of infinite dignity, and his acquired state of exaltation, are two perfectly different states; since one was evidently antecedent to, the other as evidently consequent to, his humiliation: whence it follows, that his being in the form of God, being the dignity he was possessed of before his humiliation, does not belong to him in virtue of any thing that he did or suffered, nor is any part of that glory to which he was exalted, or which he received after, or upon account of his sufferings.


Verse 6

Philippians 2:6. Who, being in the form of God, &c.— "Who, being possessed of the divine nature, and of all its essential perfections, as the Son of God, and as the brightness of the Father's glory, and express image of his person (Hebrews 1:3.); and so really, and in the strictest sense, God, in the true and proper form of Deity, did not count it an usurpation, injury, or wrong, or any act of rapine in him, to claim an equality of nature with God the Father; he and the Father being essentially One, though personally distinct (John 10:30.)." In order to set forth the great humility of Christ in becoming man, the Apostle first tells us from how great and glorious a state he in some sense descended; he was in the form of God. The following words go on to describe the excellency of his glory, which was so real and transcendent a glory, that he thought it no robbery to be, that is to say, he thought himself entitled to be equal with God. But if he thought it no robbery to assume this equality to God, undoubtedly he was equal: or if it was the effect of his humility, according to the translation of some, that he did not insist upon his equality with God, then certainly he had such an equality; for where is the humility of not insisting on an equality which does not belong to us? The Arians, translating these words, make use of expressions purposely chosen to exclude Christ from the dignity here mentioned; for thus they make the Apostle speak: "Who being in the form of God, did not arrogate, assume, or lay claim to any equality or likeness to God;" but this language bears no analogy to the words in the original, nor can be made to agreewith the aim and design of the Apostle. St. Paul therefore evidently supposes, in his argument, that this equality to God and form of God did belong to Christ before his humiliation. Besides, the form of the argument affords us still farther evidence that St. Paul esteemed these characters to be proper and peculiar to Christ, his natural and inherent, not his borrowed glories. Should God communicate his glories to a creature, yet the glories of God so communicated, could in no sense be said to be the creature's own glories. Our own glories are those only which are proper and peculiar to our nature.


Verse 7

Philippians 2:7. But made himself of no reputation, &c.— "Nevertheless ( αλλα ) he was pleased, by a most wonderful act of condescension, so far to disrobe, and, as it were empty himself, of the bright appearances of his divine majesty and glory, as not to make a pompous shew of them, but, in great measure, to conceal them from the observation of men; while, in themselves, they continued to be really and essentially the same as ever, and all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt substantially in him (Colossians 2:9.): and he voluntarily assumed the human nature into personal union with himself, in so low and mean a condition, as therein to become his Father's servant, living and acting, bleeding and dying, according to his commandment (John 10:18.), and as even to act the part of a servant towards his disciples (Luke 12:37.), and go through the most painful, humbling, and difficult servicesfor the salvation of the faithful."The form of a servant, in this verse, is plainly opposed to the form of God. If therefore we can come at the determinate meaning of either of these expressions, it will certainly lead to the knowledge of the other. The true way to explain this place may be found in Hebrews 1:1-14. The image which the writer seems to have before him is that of a great household. Christ is considered as the Son, the eternal Son of the everlasting Father, and heir of all things: other beings are the servants and attendants belonging to the family. Under this view, it is not hard to know what the Apostle means in the passage before us, when he says Christ took upon him the form of a servant. He was truly the Son of the family, the Heir of all things, and possessed the complete form and majesty of his Father; but he in some sense descended from the glories of his Father, and became like one of the family, submitting to take the form and character of a servant upon him, by assuming the human nature, and uniting it to his divine. The Apostle adds, being made in the likeness of men: the reason and meaning of this addition the Apostle will likewise teach us, Hebrews 2:16. Verily he took not on him the nature of angels, &c. Angels are servants as well as men; therefore by saying Christ took on him the form of a servant, there might be room to suppose him to have taken the nature of angels: to shew therefore what nature he took, the Apostle says, he took the form of a servant in the likeness of men; that is, in the nature of man. So then, the form of a servant is a common mark and character of all the creatures of God; the likeness here spoken of is the peculiar and proper character of each species. So that the form of a servant, and the likeness of a man, make a complete and perfect man. He was not only a man in appearance and likeness, but in reality, having the same common nature, distinguished by the same specific differences, but united to his own eternally divine nature.


Verse 8

Philippians 2:8. And being found in fashion, &c.— "And when he was found in the common form and condition of man, as though he had been nothing more, he submitted himself to the lowest degree of service and sufferings; and went into a course of the most humble obedience, as to his parents and magistrates, in all lawful things, so to his heavenly Father, as his servant, to answer all the demands of his holy law; and this obedience he paid even unto death, and all along, till he came to die, yea, and in his dying (John 10:18.), not an ordinary death, but the ignominious, painful,and accursed death of the cross, to shew that he stood in the place of transgressors, who were under the curse of the law, and that he came to redeem them from it, by bearing it for them (Galatians 3:13.)." It requires some attention to the Apostle's argument to distinguish rightly between the form, the likeness, and the fashion, which are all in this place applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. In Philippians 2:6-7 the Apostle says, "Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God," or, as some render it, "was not fond," or "tenacious of appearing as God," but emptied himself. Now, his nature he could not lay aside; he continued to be the eternal Son of God, though he appeared not like the Son of God; and therefore, the Apostle adds, being man, he was found in fashion as a man; appearing, in respect to his personal manifestation, in no greater majesty or glory than what belonged to him as a man. There are no different orders of beings to whom the form of God belongs; and therefore the Apostle having told us that Christ was in the form of God, there wanted no addition to inform us what kind or manner of being he was: for the form of God belongs to God only. The fashion of a man denotes those distinguishing characters which belong to a man as such, the true and real appearances of a man. Let us proceed then to consider what led St. Paul to this expression, and why he might not as well say, "Being man, he humbled himself," as "being found in fashion as a man, he humbled," &c. For this we must look back to the first rise of the Apostle's argument. The Person here spoken of, the Lord Jesus Christ, was in the form of God, but emptied himself—Emptied himself of what? Not of his being or nature; but of the glories and majesties belonging to him. Whatever he was as to nature and essence when he was in the form of God, that he continued to be still when he became man. But the fashion, or glories of the form of God, he laid down; and though he continued to be the same, yet as to the fashion, or outward dignity and appearance, he was, in his personal manifestation to the world, a mere man; being found, as the Apostle says, in fashion as a man. Had the Apostle conceived Christ, while here on earth, to have been a mere man only, in what tolerable sense could he say of him, being found in fashion as a man? For in what fashion should a man be found? What need was there of this limitation, unless in reality he was something more than a man? But if you consider the man Jesus Christ to be the same person who was in the form of God, and who had, accordingly, a right to appear in the majesty and glory of God; it is proper to ask, How did he appear on earth? And the Apostle's words are a proper answer to the question; He was found in fashion as a man. The Apostle perhaps had another view in the choice of this expression, with respect to what follows; And became obedient unto death: for it might well seem strange, that any should attempt the life of him, who was himself the Lord of life. He became obedient unto death; but how came he to be called to this obedience? Who was the bold man that laid hands upon this God upon earth, and was vain enough to think of compassing his death? To which the Apostle gives this previous answer: he was found in fashion as a man, as such his life was attempted, and he became obedient unto death. If you allow the Apostle to have had this in view, you must needs suppose that he thoughtChrist more than mortalman, when he is at some pains to assign a reason that could tempt any one to think him liable to death. Let us farther consider, that the Apostle says, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, the death of the cross. Death is common to all mankind; and, if to die be humility, in this respect all are equally humble. How comes Jesus Christ then to be distinguished by this instance of humility? How comes that to be humility in him, which in every body else is necessity? If you speak of mere man, you may as properly say, that he is humble in having two legs or arms, as in submitting unto death, since both are equally the cause and work of nature: and yet you plainly see that the Apostle reckons it great humility in Christ, that he submitted unto death. What manner of person then was Christ Jesus, over whom death had no power, but through his own consent and submission? Mortal he was, or else he could not have died; more than mortal he was, or else he could not have avoided death; in which case, to die had been no humility. You must allow that the Apostle supposes him to be more than mere man. Had he, when he became man, ceased to be what he was before, death had been but the natural and necessary consequence of the change: but though he was a man, yet, being Lord of all things, it was always in his power to take up his life, and lay it down; for, as St. Paul says of those who put Christ to death, they killed the Lord of life, or Prince of life: being then, even whilst on earth, and clothed with human flesh and blood, the very Lord of life, and upholding all things by his power, he was superior to the necessity of human nature, and subject to death only, because he chose to die. To die therefore was humility; to die upon the cross still greater, submitting to those wretches, who, while they were destroying, lived only by his power, who was the Prince of life. It was humility therefore to become man: after he was man, it was humility to die; since the powers of life were in his own hand, and he could both lay down his life, and take it up.


Verses 9-11

Philippians 2:9-11. Wherefore God also, &c.— "And having fulfilled his work of atonement in this humble, obediential, and suffering manner, God his Father, as a reward of all this, according to its deserts, has gloriously exalted him, not by advancing him to a state of greater essential happiness, perfection, or glory, than he had before, as God, which admits of no addition; but by raising him, as man, from the dead, receiving him up to glory, setting him at his own right hand, and giving him universal dominion as Mediator: and to recommend him by the most endearing motives to our acknowledgment of him as such, he has granted to him, in his office-capacity, as his incarnate Son, a new title of authority and honour, incomparably superior to any other name, dignity, or authority whatever, among angels or men; yea, too great for any mere creature to wear, or be worthy of, even the name of the Saviour, and the constituted Lord of all. And he has done this to the end that ( ινα ) in token of the religious honours which are due to the exalted Saviour, every one should bow the knee, not at barely pronouncing the word Jesus, nor solely in a literal sense, in which the angels in heaven, who are to bow before him, have no knees; but in paying such solemn homage, adoration, and worship to this glorious and divine Person, whose name is Jesus; and in being so entirely subject to him, as is signified by bowing the knee, as well as by other expressions of it; and is to be paid to him by all ranks of intelligent creatures, whether they be saints or angels in heaven, or such men as are living upon earth, or as are dead and buried under the earth, when they shall rise again, and appear at his tribunal; then they and all the wicked on earth, and all the devils in hell, shall either willingly, or by constraint, bow to him as the great Judge of all. And he is thus highly exalted, that the tongue of every one, of all nations and languages, should either cheerfully own and celebrate the praises of his universal dominion; or be forced to acknowledge, whether they would or not, that he, the anointed Saviour, is in his office-capacity, and exalted state, the great Head, Lord, and Ruler over all, and the universal Judge at the last day, to the glory of God the Father, whose honour it is to have always had such a divine Son as is worthy of so high a commission (John 5:23 and 1 John 2:23.)" In these words the Apostle sets before us the exceeding great glory to which God the Father exalted Christ's human nature, as the end and reward of his great humility and sufferings. There is an insuperable difficulty in conceiving how any accession of glory or honour should be made to him, who was, before his coming into the world, in the form of God; unless we consider the present passage as solely relating to the Mediatorial office of Christ as the God-man. To set this matter in a true light, we must consider, that the glories of nature, and the glories of office, are very distinct glories. The Apostle says nothing of nature or essence; he speaks of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and considers him as the same person in all his different states of glory, humility, and exaltation. The same nature which he had, being in the form of God, the same he had in his state of humiliation, and now has in his state of exaltation. The Apostle's argument does not infer that the natural powers and dignities of Christ Jesus were increased; but only that, in consequence of the redemption, God the Father put all things immediately under him in a very peculiar sense; making him Head over all as Mediatorial King. In Matthew 28:18-20 our Saviour himself declares that all power and authority were given him at his resurrection. There is no doubt but this distinguishing power is part of the exaltation that St. Paul speaks of, to which God the Father raised Christ for his sufferings. Those who please, may see more to this purpose in Ephesians 1. The Apostle proceeds, God hath given Christ a name above every name,—that every tongue should confess; &c. Confession here implies much more than a bare acknowledgment that Christ is the Lord. It comprehends those honours, and that worship, which those who heartily confess him to be the Lord, will readily pay him. Instead of things in heaven, &c. Philippians 2:10 some read, of celestial beings, and of those upon and under the earth: "Angels and men, the living and the dead, yea, devils themselves shall do homage to Jesus; who shall be ever adored, as the Saviour of his faithful saints, as the head of all holy and happy spirits; and the sovereign and uncontroulableLordofallthose,whoserebellionagainsthim and his heavenly Father, has made them the worthy objects of perpetual displeasure and punishment." See Ephesians 1:10. Romans 14:9. Revelation 1:18.


Verse 12-13

Philippians 2:12-13. Wherefore, my beloved, If St. Paul's discourse, here is read with attention, it will be found, that having dispatched his argument from the example of Christ, he comes now, to apply it to the purpose for which he brought it; namely, to press upon them that kind and friendly temper and behaviour towards one another, mentioned, Philippians 2:3-5. This is still more plain, if we observe that in Philippians 2:14 he continues his discourse upon this subject in the general. Mr. Peirce gives a very peculiar interpretation of the present passage, which we will just subjoin: "Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed me with the greatest humility and concern, not only when I have been present with you, but more especially since I left you, I am the more encouraged to urge upon you by this example of Christ, the duty that I have recommended to you, of looking to the concerns of others, as well as your own; and of promoting each other's welfare. And you have good reason for this, because in so doing you comply with the motion of God himself, who works in you to be inclined and to act, out of good-will; and therefore, take care that you do all such good offices cheerfully, withoutmurmurings,"&c.—Butthefollowing, as it is the more general, so does it seem by far the more just interpretation of this text: "Wherefore, my beloved, as God hath, in the person of his Son, thus gloriously rewarded that bright assemblage of virtues, for which he was so incomparably illustrious; and particularly that condescension, humility, and benevolence, which I have been so earnestly recommending to you; let it be considered by you as an engagement to tread in his steps, with diligence and resolution, so far as the feeble powers of human nature regenerated by grace may admit. And, as justice requires me to acknowledge that you have always been obedient to my instructions and exhortations, while Ihave had the pleasure of being with you, be solicitous that not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, (which, though it deprives you of some advantages, yet as it is owing to my bonds in your cause, ought to increase the tenderness of your concern for my comfort) you may work out your own salvation with great earnestness and assiduity; yea, considering its infinite importance, with holy fear and trembling. I say your own salvation; for that will be most effectually secured and promoted by the temper that I have now been recommending. Seize that happy opportunity of doing it which divine grace affords; for God is he who worketh in you, both to will and to perform, of his own good pleasure. You ought therefore to consider every good affection and purpose which arises in your heart, as suggested by his grace, which waits upon you to enable you to bring it into perfection." The original of Philippians 2:13 is very emphatic; for it asserts on the one hand, that God is actually or continually operating in the souls of true believers; and on the other, that thus to work in the heart for such noble purposes, is the prerogative of God, and an effect worthy of his divine attributes and perfections. Bp. Sherlocke has given us a fine interpretation of this passage of scripture; which, he observes, consists of two parts; an exhortation, and an argument, by which that exhortation is enforced. The exhortation you have in these words, Work out your own salvation, &c. The argument to enforce it follows in the next words: For it is God which worketh, &c. an argument which may at first sight seem rather to lead to confidence only, and not at all to fear. For if God be for us, who can be against us? or what is there to fear, when we are thus supported? The disciples of the gospel had many enemies to encounter with. Now with respect to these, the argument may furnish us with great confidence. There is likewise a fear which respects our friends, and that is, a fear of losing theirfavour and assistance; and the more a man is dependant upon his friends, the greater is generally his fear of losing their protection. Of this kind of fear the Apostle speaks in the text, "Work out, &c. for it is a work that you are no ways sufficient for of yourselves; therefore have a care of offending him on whom you entirely depend." That the Apostle means this kind of fear, may be seen by his own way of reasoning. In the beginning of this chapter, he presses humility upon the Philippians, from the example of Christ, and the great reward he obtained for his glorified humanity on that account; and, as if humility and fear were the same thing, he thus concludes, "Wherefore, my beloved, work out, &c." If we believe God works in us, it will make us humble, because we can do nothing without him; it will likewise make us fear and tremble to disobey him, from whom our salvation cometh. That this fear is the fear of offending God, and losing his favour, is further evident from Philippians 2:14. Do all things without, &c. Now, what fear is it that makes men obey cheerfully? Not the fear of punishment; for who grumble more than slaves? But where the fear that possesses the heart is the fear of disobliging a kind friend or beloved master upon whom we depend, there fear gives wings to obedience. Philippians 2:15 supplies us with the like argument: the words are these; That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, &c. Now then, the fear which the Apostle speaks of is the fear of a son; the fear of offending the father whom he loves; it is a fear which renders obedience blameless, without rebuke; which no fear can do, but a fear of offending him we love, and him we depend on. The reason why we ought to fear, is because God worketh in us, &c. To will and to do good, are terms and conditions of our salvation; and therefore from whence we have the power to will and to do, from thence we have the means of salvation. Now salvation comprehends in it all the good that we are capable of enjoying, without which ourlife is death, and our hope misery: so that if we depend upon God to work in us both to will and to do, we depend upon him for all that is, or can be valuable to man.—And farther, God worketh in us of his own good pleasure: we have no right or claim to his assistance except through Christ. All our danger is in losing the favour of God, and therefore for that must be all our fear. But farther, this fear arises from a sense of our own insufficiency; and since God does help our weakness, itis great reason that we should love and adore him: so that the fear which arises hence, is not in the least degree inconsistent with the perfect love of God. Thatit is of his good pleasure that he assists us, is a great evidence of his love to us, and a great argument of our love to him. So that to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, is, "with the utmost care and diligence to set ourselves to perform the will and commands of God, to be diligent to make our calling and election sure." See the Inferences and Reflections.


Verse 15

Philippians 2:15. As lights in the world; As light-houses; according to the original word, which alludes to the buildings so called. The passage in this view may be paraphrased, "Among whom be careful that you shine as elevated lights in the dark world about you; that you may direct those who fail on this dangerous sea, and secure them from suffering shipwreck on those fatal rocks, which every where lie in their way." See Matthew 5:14; Matthew 5:16. Several of our expositors prefer the marginal rendering of our bibles; among whom shine ye, &c. Instead of nation, some render the original generation.


Verse 16

Philippians 2:16. Holding forth, &c.— Holding fast—that I may glory.


Verse 17

Philippians 2:17. Yea, and if I be offered, &c.— The proper import of the words rendered offered upon, is, "to be poured forth, as a libation." Almost every reader must know, that as oil and wine made a part of the provisions of the table which God had ordained in the Jewish ritual, a proportionable quantity of each should attend every bullock, goat, ram, lamb, or kid, which was presented at his altar; so the heathens likewise used such libations; and sometimes they used blood, mingled with wine, in honour of idol deities. See Psalms 16:4. The Apostle considers the faith of the Philippians as an acceptable sacrifice presented to God; andif he incurred martyrdom for his zeal to promote it, he might speak of his blood, as a libation poured out, with great beauty and propriety. One cannot but observe the heroic manner in which the Apostle here speaks of his suffering; which he considers as matter of congratulation rather than of condolence. It brings to mind the behaviour of the brave Athenian mentioned by Plutarch, who returned to Athens from the victorious battle of Marathon, bleeding to death with the wounds he had received in the action; and coming directly to the house where the magistrates were assembled, uttered only these two words, χαιρετε, χαιρομεν : "Take your share of our joy;" and immediately dropped down dead at their feet.


Verse 19

Philippians 2:19.— St. Paul, having declared his readiness to lay down his life to serve the Philippians, (amongthe other Gentile churches which were in the like circumstances) seems to have apprehended how tenderly they would take his mentioning such a thing to them; and therefore, to prevent their being overmuch concerned, he here tells them, that however willing he was to die for them, yet he did not expect to do so presently; that he rather thought he should escape now, and in a little time be freed from his present bonds. And that he might testify his earnest and affectionate care for them, he acquaints them, that he had hopes shortly to see how his affair was likely to turn out; and that then he should be able to spare Timothy, whom he would send to them, and from whom he expected a pleasing account of their good estate.He further tells them, that he hoped shortly to have an opportunity of visiting them himself; but in the mean time, while he was not at liberty to come himself, nor could well spare Timothy, he thought it necessary to send back Epaphroditus to them, of whom he gives an excellent character, recommending him to their kind and courteous reception, Philippians 2:10-30. Instead of, that I may be of good comfort, some read, that I may be refreshed.


Verse 20

Philippians 2:20. No man like-minded, "No man of a like disposition; who will so naturally, with such a generous tenderness and concern, take care of your affairs." Some understand the words in the sense of the marginal reading of our bibles, I have no man so dear unto me: "No man whom I value as myself, as my own soul,— ισοψυχον,— but him." Instead of naturally, the Syriac and Vulgate read sincerely.


Verse 21

Philippians 2:21. For all seek their own, It can hardly be supposed that St. Paul intended here absolutely to tax every one of those who were about him, and assisted him in preaching the gospel, with an utter neglect of this interest of Christ, and an entire self-seeking. The word ου which we render not, might perhaps better be rendered rather than. See on Matth. ix 13. He may be understood to speak comparatively, and to mean no more thanthis, That their other preachers were defective in resolution and courage, being too prone to consult their own ease, and decline such work as was fatiguing and hazardous. The case was this; The interest of Christ required at that time, that somebody should go to Philippi. St. Paul could not then spare Timothy, as is plain from his saying, that he hoped to be able to send him: but nobody else cared to undertake the fatigue of the journey, and to risk such treatment as they knew the Apostle had before met with there. This reluctance he taxes in the preceding verse, as a not sincerely caring for the concerns of the Philippians; and in this verse, as a preferring of their own concerns to those of Christ. Such a temper was very contrary to St. Paul's, who sought not his own profit, but the profit of many, that they might be saved. See 1 Corinthians 10:33.


Verse 22

Philippians 2:22. Ye know the proof The experience.


Verse 25

Philippians 2:25. But your messenger, &c.— But your Apostle, and who is now to act for me with you; or, the ready minister to the relief of my necessities, by whose faithful hand I received that liberal supply, which your pious friendship so cheerfully advanced.


Verse 27

Philippians 2:27. Sorrow upon sorrow. Some think the meaning is, "Sorrow for Epaphroditus's death, upon sorrow for his sickness." This may well be allowed, without excluding the other circumstances of St. Paul's situation; for the loss of such an excellent person,—and especially when his attending and serving the Apostle was the occasion of it,—would have been a great addition, both to the sorrow of his confinement, and to the sorrow that he had from the opposition made against him by the Judaizers; of the latter of which we find he could not write to the Philippians without weeping. See ch. Philippians 3:18.


Verse 28

Philippians 2:28. I sent him I have sent him. The Vulgate renders the word Σπουδαιοτερως, which we translate the more carefully, by festinantius,—the more speedily; which seems best to agree with the Apostle's design: nor is it unreasonable to suppose that this word should respect time, since all its conjugates frequently do.


Verse 30

Philippians 2:30. Not regarding his life, Hazarding his life— Παραβουλευσαμενος, exposing his life to the utmost danger; as they did, who took care of people infected with the pestilence, and who were called parabolani, or parabolarii; or as they did, who fought with wild beasts. The next clause may be rendered, that he might complete [or fill up] the remainder [or residue] of your beneficence to me; that is to say supply me with your further contributions. See 1 Thessalonians 2:16. Colossians 1:24. 2 Corinthians 9:12. The Apostle considers them as disposed to have rendered him what service they could in person; but not having an opportunity to do it themselves, Epaphroditus was in this respect their proxy and representative.

Inferences.—We know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Few Christians, so called, are unacquainted with the remarkable phrases in which it is here expressed: but how few comparatively, seriously pause upon it, and labour to affect their hearts with its important meaning! And yet how engaging to all this is the matchless example of Christ! Though he was really God, possessed of the divine nature and perfections equally with the Father, and so had a rightful claim to all the honours of Deity; yet, in his infinite love and pity, he stooped so low as to assume human nature into personal union with himself; and in this nature, instead of shining forth in all the lustres of Godhead, he ordinarily concealed them, and, as it were, disrobed himself of them; and, appearing in the mean state of a servant, submitted to the lowest and severest course of obedience to his Father's will and law, till he finished it in the painful and shameful death of the cross.—Often let us contemplate this amazing object: often let us represent to our admiring, to our dissolving hearts, the Man Christ Jesus, extended there, and pouring forth his soul in agony and blood. As often let us remember his high original, his divine glories, in the eternal bosom of the Father. With pleasure let us reflect, that he having ennobled this low nature of ours by so intimate an union with his Divinity, God the Father has exalted his humanity, and given him in his Mediatorial capacity a name above every name, human or angelic, in the visible, or in all the different regions of the invisible world. Let our knees gladly bow to so amiable a Sovereign, and let us with pleasure view the approaching day, when every knee shall own his authority, and every tongue confess him Lord to the glory of God the Father.

In the mean time, let us never forget the purposes for which the Apostle has here called our meditations to these wonderful and instructive truths. It is to inculcate upon us (O may we ever inculcate it upon ourselves) that the same mind should always be in us that was also in him: that, if there be any consolation in such a Saviour, any comfort in such love as he teaches, any bowels of tenderness in human nature, any endearing fellowship in the one Spirit which we derive from him, we may with united hearts and hands be carrying on the one great business of his servants, working out our salvation with fear and trembling; avoiding every thing that may grieve and injure others, every thing that may discredit our holy profession. And if we be now made by him the children of God, may we shine with a bright steady flame, as lights in the world; and hold out, for the benefit of all around us, the word of life; as the gospel which redeems the faithful from the second death, and raises them to eternal life, may properly be called. May we spread its lustre through as wide a circle as possible, and with it that happiness, which nothing but a cordial belief of it and subjection to it can bring to the human heart.

Let us then learn, from these wise and pious exhortations of the Apostle, at once our duty and our dependence: our duty, to work out our own salvation; our dependance on the grace of him who worketh in us, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure. And therefore let us so seek divine grace, and rest upon it, as to exert with vigour and resolution the faculties which are to co-operate with it; and let us so endeavour to exert the faculties which God has given us, as to confide in divine grace, and rest continually upon it; without which we shall neither will nor do any thing pleasing to God, or available to our own salvation: for, in this sense, salvation is of the Lord, and through his blessing, which is upon his people. (Psalms 3:8.)

Again. To what sublime heights of piety and virtue does the hope of the gospel elevate the mind of mortal man! Behold this holy apostle, not only presenting himself as a resolute victim at the altar of God, but speaking of that stroke by which his blood was to be poured out, as an occasion of joy, and calling for the congratulation of his friends upon it! Behold him with pleasure resigning the society of those who were dearest and most useful to him, at a time when he seemed most of all to need their assistance; even that of a friend, who would most naturally care for their estate, when he knew none that were like-minded! And O that this might be the character of all the ministers of Christ, naturally, by a second, a divine nature, as a mother for her child, with genuine affection, to care for the state of those committed to them, not by constraint, but from a principle of love, which will make all necessary labours easy. But alas! how much reason is there to lament the prevalency of a contrary disposition among all ranks of men, the sacred order itself not excepted!

What ingratitude does this argue, yea, what stupid insensibility, that any thing, that every thing, should be dearer to us, than the interest of that Saviour who purchased us to himself with his blood! Happy they, who are distinguished by their fidelity and their zeal, in a time of prevailing apostacy! How beautiful a description does the Apostle here give of the piety and humility of young Timothy, while serving with him as a son with a father in the gospel. Thus let young and aged ministers behave to each other, as fathers and sons; the young paying the elder such reverend regards, the aged affording to the younger such kind and tender patronage, and shewing a solicitous concern to prepare them for filling up their place in the church with increasing advantage.

Some obvious instruction arises from what is here said of good Epaphroditus, whose affection to his Christian friends was so ardent, and whose zeal for the work of Christ had even endangered his life. Great reason is there to hold such, wherever they are found, in high esteem, tenderly to sympathize with them, earnestly to entreat God for them, if at any time diseases threaten their useful lives; and to own the mercy of God, not to them only but to us, when he is pleased to raise them up, and restore them to a capacity of ministering in his church. And let us go back in our memories to the days and weeks of dangerous sickness which any of us have known, and humble ourselves before God, that we have no better improved for his glory, and for the good of his church, his mercy to us, in bringing us up from the gates of the grave.

REFLECTIONS.—1st. By every endearing argument the Apostle exhorts his Philippian brethren:

1. To love unity and humility. If there be any consolation in Christ ( παρακλησις ); if my exhortation has any weight, and you experience any joy in the Redeemer; if there be any comfort of love, from the sense of the love of God shed abroad in your hearts; if there be any fellowship of the Spirit, in mutual union and complacence in each other, or, though the Holy Ghost, with God the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ; if there be any bowels and mercies, in the gracious Saviour towards you; or if you have ever felt the like tender compassions one towards another; if it be most desirable to abound in all these things, and you have already known their value and excellence, fulfil ye my joy; and continue to give me this highest satisfaction in you, that ye be like-minded, animated as by one soul; leaving the same love one towards another as the members of the same body; being of one accord, unanimous in desire and design to promote the Redeemer's glory, and the salvation of men's souls; and of one mind, holding the same principles and sentiments according to the purity of the gospel. Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; affect no pre-eminence, dispute not for applause, nor speak or act under a contentious spirit; but in lowliness of mind, the great ornament of the Christian character, let each esteem other better than themselves; entertaining lowly thoughts of their own attainments, conscious of their manifold infirmities, and entertaining the best opinion of their brethren. Look not every man on his own things, to admire himself, or pursue his own selfish ends, his ease, honour, or worldly advantage; but every man also on the things of others; not as busy-bodies, to pry into them censoriously, but desiring to promote their real good, and from the view of their excellencies, to be humble in their own eyes.

2. He enforces his exhortation with the most powerful argument—the example of the blessed Jesus. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, even that lowliness which in him was so eminently exemplified; who, being in the form of God, possessing every essential perfection of the divine nature, the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his Person, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, and justly to claim a parity with the Father in uncreated glory: but, in infinite condescension and pity towards us, he made himself of no reputation, laying aside the splendour of his divine Majesty, and took upon him the form of a servant, assuming the human nature in the lowest condition; and was made in the likeness of men, having the same reasonable soul and human flesh, the corruption of our nature only excepted. And being found in fashion as a man, in all things made like unto man, sin excepted, he humbled himself before God and man, through a life of affliction, and at last became obedient unto death, for us men and for our salvation, even the death of the cross, that most painful, ignominious, and accursed death; submitting thereunto, that he might bear our sins in his own body on the tree. Wherefore, having finished the work which the Father had given him to do, to his fullest satisfaction, God also hath highly exalted him, in his human nature, to the Mediatorial throne, as the reward of his sufferings, and given him a name which is above every name, all power, authority, and dominion being given to him over every creature; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and divine honours be paid to the Incarnate Son; of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; by angels and men, and every intelligent creature; yea, even devils must be compelled to own his glory; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, the universal Sovereign, to the glory of God the Father; who has thus exalted him, as man, to the throne of majesty on high, for the purposes of his own glory. Note; (1.) The example of our Lord should be ever before us; and that, if any thing can, will suppress the workings of pride. (2.) The love of a crucified Jesus should warm our hearts, and knit them in closest union to each other.

2nd, The Apostle proceeds in his exhortations:

1. To Christian diligence. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, and therefore I entertain a strong hope concerning you, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, giving all diligence to make your calling and election sure, in the use of every appointed means, jealous over your deceitful hearts, and watchful against every thing that might offend the Father of mercies, whose love you have tasted; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure; it is his grace—it is his Spirit—it is his divine power, which worketh every thing that is good in the penitent and believing soul.

2. To an exemplary conversation, such as may confound their enemies, and comfort him, their faithful servant, under all his sufferings. Do all things without murmurings and disputings, content under every providential dispensation, and studiously avoiding every occasion of contention among yourselves; that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, and behave so irreproachably, that your most malignant accusers may have no evil thing justly to say of you: for ye dwell in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation; the keen eyes of your enemies are open, and they wait for your halting; gladly would they catch at any thing which might countenance them in their iniquities: among whom ye shine as lights in the world; your bright examples, like suns in your several spheres, darting unwelcome light upon the workers of wickedness, and shining to the glory of God; holding forth the word of life, even the blessed gospel, both in your lips and in your conduct, holding it fast in all fidelity, holding it up with all zeal and boldness, if, under God, it may be blest to illumine the darkness of those around you, and bring them to the light of life; or, at least, to leave them inexcusable in their impenitence. And this will be a singular satisfaction to me, when I find that I have not run in vain, nor laboured in vain, but behold in you such blessed effects of my ministry, and that all my conflicts are crowned with success. Yea, and if I be offered up on the sacrifice and service of your faith, and should now be called as a victim to bleed in confirmation of the gospel which I preach, far from being intimidated with the prospect, I joy and rejoice with you all, congratulating you, and happy in myself, that I am counted worthy of the crown of martyrdom, and enabled to leave so powerful a testimony behind me, for the strengthening of your faith. For the same cause also do ye joy and rejoice with me; and, far from being grieved, or disheartened, exult that I am enabled to be thus faithful unto death. Note; (1.) Every Christian is a city set on a hill; he needs peculiar circumspection; a flaw in his conduct will be exaggerated into a fault of the first magnitude. (2.) We must hold up to the world, in our profession and examples, the word of life; not ostentatiously proclaiming our own goodness, but, for God's glory, or the profit of men's souls, shewing our light before men. (3.) Nothing can more revive a minister's heart, or make him so cheerfully content to suffer for the cause, even to death, as seeing his labours successful, and his ministry blest.

3rdly, Since he was now unable to visit them himself, he promises to send them two of his dearest friends to supply his absence, and speaks of them in the highest terms of regard and commendation.

1. He mentions Timothy. Though he had spoken of his readiness to die, he informs them, for their comfort, that he apprehended no immediate danger. But I trust, says he, in the Lord Jesus, that I shall be delivered; and that, needful as his company is now to me, I shall be able to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state, and hear of your prosperity. For I have no man like-minded, so perfectly united in sentiment with me, and so in affection knit to you; who will therefore naturally care for your state, and, with genuine regard, desire to advance the good of your souls. For all here, too generally at least, seek their own, desirous of ease and earthly advantages; not with a single eye, as Timothy does, pursuing the things which are Jesus Christ's, for his glory, and the edification of his people. But ye know the proof of him, by past experience, with what zeal and fidelity he laboured among you; and that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel, willing to run all hazards, to share my fatigues and sufferings, and in all duty and affection obeying me as a child. Him therefore I hope to find presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me, after I have appeared, as I shortly expect to do, at Caesar's tribunal: but I trust in the Lord, that I also myself shall come shortly, when I have regained my liberty. Note; (1.) They who enter the ministry with selfish views, seeking their own things, not those of Jesus Christ, shall bear their burden, when the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls appears. (2.) A faithful pastor feels the same tender concern for the children that he has begotten in the gospel, as if they were the offspring of his own body.

2. He commends to them Epaphroditus, who brought this Epistle to them. Yet I supposed it necessary, being unable to come myself, or to spare Timothy just at this critical juncture, to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and companion in labour, and fellow-soldier, who willingly served and suffered in the same blessed cause; but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants; delivering your kind benefactions, and giving me every assistance which lay in his power. For he longed after you all, and earnestly wished to be labouring again among you; and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick; knowing how deeply the sad news would affect you. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death; his disease, to human view, mortal and desperate: but God had mercy on him, and brought him back from the gates of the grave; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow, anguish for his loss being added to my other burdens. I sent him therefore the more carefully, and with greater haste, that when ye see him again, ye may rejoice in his recovery and return to you; and that I may be the less sorrowful at his departure, when I know what delight and advantage his company will be to you. Receive him therefore in the Lord, with all gladness, with cordial regard, and as the ambassador of the Redeemer; and hold such in reputation, highly respecting them for their fidelity and zeal; because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, having contracted his illness from the fatigues that he underwent, not regarding his life, but readily hazarding his health, to supply your lack of service toward me, which the distance rendered you incapable of affording me. Note; (1.) Though we must not carelessly neglect our health, yet, when the cause of Christ demands it, a faithful minister will shew a noble contempt of life, and be ready to expose himself to disease or death. (2.) They who know the value of a faithful minister, will count it a singular mercy that he is longer spared to labour, and will rejoice in him before God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Philippians 2:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/philippians-2.html. 1801-1803.

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Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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