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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Beneficence; Church; Faith; Minister, Christian; Philippi; Power; Resignation; Righteousness; Thompson Chain Reference - Enabling Grace; The Topic Concordance - Deeds; Strength; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Power of Christ, the;
Verse 13. I can do all things — It was not a habit which he had acquired by frequent exercise, it was a disposition which he had by grace; and he was enabled to do all by the power of an indwelling Christ. Through Him who strengtheneth me is the reading of some of the best MSS., versions, and fathers; the word χριστω, Christ, being omitted.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Philippians 4:13". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/philippians-4.html. 1832.
Thanks for the Philippians’ gifts (4:10-23)
The Philippians thought constantly of Paul’s needs, but were not able to send anything to him in his imprisonment until now. Paul’s joy at receiving this gift is not because he has a greedy desire for money, because he has long ago learnt to be satisfied with whatever he has. His contentment comes not through money or possessions, but through the assurance that Christ enables him to meet every situation (10-13).
Paul repeats that his pleasure is not because of the personal profit he has gained through the Philippians’ gifts, whether now or on previous occasions. Rather it is because of the profit they will gain through their sacrifice and generosity. Their gifts are like an investment with God, who, as their banker, will add interest to their account (14-17). Through their offerings, Paul has more than enough. They too will have more than enough, because God will repay them according to his abundant wealth in Jesus Christ (18-20).
On this joyous note Paul finishes his letter. Among the Christians who join him in sending greetings are a number of government officials. These people are of special interest to Paul, as they had probably been converted as a result of their contact with Paul at his place of imprisonment (21-23).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Philippians 4:13". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/philippians-4.html. 2005.
I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me.
This is a summary of what Paul had just been writing with regard to his having an inward sufficiency "in the Lord" to cope with any of life's circumstances, no matter how severe, and no matter how favorable. Paul truly felt that it was impossible for life to confront him with anything that he and the Lord could not handle! Those who think they find traces of Stoicism in Paul's attitude here know nothing, either of Stoicism or of the heart of the great apostle. As King correctly noted, "Christ is the source of Paul's power; it is Christ who is continually infusing power into him." The key words of this verse, as so often in Paul's writings, are "IN HIM."
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Philippians 4:13". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/philippians-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
I can do all things - From the experience which Paul had in these various circumstances of life, he comes here to the general conclusion that he could “do all things.” He could bear any trial, perform any duty, subdue any evil propensity of his nature, and meet all the temptations incident to any condition of prosperity or adversity. His own experience in the various changes of life had warranted him in arriving at this conclusion; and he now expresses the firm confidence that nothing would be required of him which he would not be able to perform. In Paul, this declaration was not a vain self-reliance, nor was it the mere result of his former experience. He knew well where the strength was to be obtained by which to do all things, and on that arm that was able to uphold him he confidently relied.
Through Christ which strengtheneth me - See the notes at John 15:5. Of the strength which Christ can impart, Paul had had abundant experience; and now his whole reliance was there. It was not in any native ability which he had; not in any vigor of body or of mind; not in any power which there was in his own resolutions; it was in the strength that he derived from the Redeemer. By that he was enabled to bear cold, fatigue, and hunger; by that, he met temptations and persecutions; and by that, he engaged in the performance of his arduous duties let us learn, hence:
(1) That we need not sink under any trial, for there is one who can strengthen us.
(2) That we need not yield to temptation. There is one who is able to make a way for our escape.
(3) That we need not be harassed, and vexed, and tortured with improper thoughts and unholy desires. There is one who can enable us to banish such thoughts from the mind, and restore the right balance to the affections of the soul.
(4) That we need not dread what is to come. Trials, temptations, poverty, want, persecution, may await us; but we need not sink into despondency. At every step of life, Christ is able to strengthen us, and can bring us triumphantly through. What a privilege it is, therefore, to be a Christian - to feel, in the trials of life, that we have one friend, unchanging and most mighty, who can always help us! How cheerfully should we engage in our duties, and meet the trials that are before us, leaning on the arm of our Almighty Redeemer! Let us not shrink from duty; let us not dread persecution let us not fear the bed of death. In all circumstances, Christ, our unchanging Friend, can uphold us. Let the eye and the affections of the heart be fixed on him; let the simple, fervent, believing prayer be directed always to him when trials come, when temptations assail, when duty presses hard upon us, and when a crowd of unholy and forbidden thoughts rush into the soul: and we shall be safe.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Philippians 4:13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/philippians-4.html. 1870.
13 I can do all things through Christ As he had boasted of things that were very great, (249) in order that this might not be attributed to pride or furnish others with occasion of foolish boasting, he adds, that it is by Christ that he is endowed with this fortitude. “ I can do all things, ” says he, “but it is in Christ, not by my own power, for it is Christ that supplies me with strength.” Hence we infer, that Christ will not be less strong and invincible in us also, if, conscious of our own weakness, we place reliance upon his power alone. When he says all things, he means merely those things which belong to his calling.
(249) “ De choses grandes et excellentes;” — “Of things great and excellent.”
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Philippians 4:13". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/philippians-4.html. 1840-57.
Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for ( Philippians 4:1 ),
What a beautiful words by Paul to the church, expressing his heart, just bearing his heart to them, "Dearly beloved, I long for you. My brothers, who I dearly love and I long for,"
[You are] my joy and [you are] my crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved ( Philippians 4:1 ).
The heart of the apostle. He is bearing his heart now, his love for those who he ministered to and those who ministered to him. Now, there were a couple of women in Philippi who were having an argument, a fight. That's not becoming the church, so Paul said,
I beseech Euodia ( Philippians 4:2 ),
And the s isn't there, it is just, the s would make it a masculine name, but in the Greek, unfortunately, it is a feminine name, Euodia,
and I beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord ( Philippians 4:2 ).
Now, let's not argue, let's not fight, let's not create division within the body. Let's be of the same mind in the Lord.
And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow ( Philippians 4:3 ),
Now, we don't know who Paul is referring to here. There have been a lot of guesses. Probably all of them are wrong. But the yokefellow would be one who had labored together. Maybe he was writing to the Philippian jailer who had been converted. There are some, I think it was Tertullium, one of the early church fathers, said he was writing her to his wife. But that hardly seems possible.
help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other of my other fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life ( Philippians 4:3 ).
When Paul went to Philippi, he first shared the gospel by the river where a group of ladies had gathered together for prayer. Among them, Lydia, you remember, the seller of purple. And having shared with the women, the following week they told their friends, and a big crowd of people gathered to hear Paul share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because many of the women believed and were saved and baptized, and so the work of God really began with women, and they had a very important part in the ministry in the church in Philippi. And so, "Help those women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, my fellow laborers, whose names are in the Book of Life."
In Luke's gospel, chapter 10, there is the report of the disciples who had been sent out by Jesus, two by two, the seventy of them. And they came back and they said, "Lord, it was fantastic. A lot of people were healed; people who were blind, their eyes were opened. And Lord, even the devils were subject unto us." And Jesus said to them, "Don't rejoice in these things, but rejoice rather that your name is written in heaven." Hey, that is the most important thing. There is nothing more important to me that my name is written in heaven. Not in what God is done through my life, that is not so important is that my name be written in heaven. That's what is really important to me. God has a book of life. It is exciting to realize that my name is there in His Book of Life.
We read in Revelation 20:0 of the great white throne judgment of God, "And the books were open, and the people were judged out of the things that were written in the book, and death and hell gave up their dead, and they were judged, and whosoever name was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into Gehenna and this is the second death." But there again, the mention of the Book of Life. It is interesting to me that God has this book in heaven, the Book of Life, and the names of those who are heirs of the heavenly kingdom, ordained of God to share, and He has inscribed their names in the Book of Life.
Now, when did God write my name in the Book of Life? When did He write your name in the Book of Life? You say, "Well, I was saved on October 2, 1968, so I guess God wrote my name in the Book of Life October 2, l968." No! We read in the book of Revelation that our names were written in the Book of Life before the foundation of the world. How could He do that? Because He is God, and He is smarter than you are, because He is omniscient, He knows all things. And if God ever . . . well, because He knows all things, He can't learn anything. It is impossible for God to learn anything. So, if God ever is to know who is going to be saved, He has always known who is going to be saved, and having always known those that were going to be saved, He wrote their names in the Book of Life before the foundation of the earth. Aren't you glad? He knew you and wrote your name there before He ever laid the foundations of the earth. "Whose names were written in the Book of Life," from the foundations of the earth. And so those fellow laborers, Paul said, "Whose names are written in the Book of Life." Something that Jesus mentions, something that Paul mentions, something that John mentions in the book of Revelation. Now,
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice ( Philippians 4:4 ).
Again, notice the rejoicing is in the Lord. There is always cause for rejoicing in the Lord. I can rejoice because He wrote my name in His Book of Life before the foundation of the world. Oh, thank you, Lord. I can rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. A sad, sour Christian is no real witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand ( Philippians 4:5 ).
That is, live moderately, don't live extravagantly. There's no place in the Christian life for extravagant living. Live moderately. Why? Because the Lord is at hand. Don't get too involved in the things of the world, the Lord's coming.
Be careful [or anxious] for nothing [don't worry about anything]; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God ( Philippians 4:6 ).
The answer for worry is prayer. Prayer and commitment, those things that concern me, those things that are prone to cause me to worry are the very things I need to be praying about. And once I pray about them, I need to just trust God to take care of them. I need to know that once I commit them to God, they are in His hands and He will work them out for His glory. Now, it may not be for my pleasure, it may not be like I want it to be, but I thank God I'm not in control. I thank God that He is in control of the circumstances that surround me. If I were in control of my life, I could make the worst mess of my life thinking that I was just doing what was good. But, you know, if you just let a kid go, they will just eat ice cream sundaes and nothing else. And so I would order my life, you know, make it sweet, make it delectable, put hot fudge and whipped cream on top and toasted almonds, you know. I want a bed of roses, Lord. I want to take it easy. But it doesn't always work out that way. Many times there are hardships, there are difficulties. There are things that I don't understand, but my faith is being tested, and my faith is being developed because I'm learning to trust in God even when I can't see the way. And though it doesn't fall the way I would like it to fall, I still trust the Lord and I learn that He has a better plan. Yes, it was tough, yes, I did hurt, yes, there was suffering. But ohhh the lessons that I learned that I wouldn't trade for anything, because I grew immensely and my walk and relationship with God has been enhanced by the whole thing. And I count that which I gained in my relationship with Him far more than the struggle that I went through.
We used to hear down in the south that song, "Farther along we'll know all about it. Farther along we'll understand why. Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine. We'll understand it all by and by." It was written during the depression years, I think. Hard times down in the south. Song of encouragement.
They that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. It's not going to be easy, but the Lord is going to be there. And the Lord will give you strength, and the Lord will help you. So, the worries, the concerns, the anxieties, pray about them, give them over to the Lord, cast all of your cares on Him, because He cares for you.
And so, with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, three aspects of prayer. Prayer itself is very broad term that describes communion with God. Prayer is not a monologue; it is a dialogue. And it is important that we wait for God to speak to us, as well as to speak to God. So many people consider prayer a monologue. I want to go in and talk to God, and I do all of the talking, and when I am finished talking, I get up and leave. I never wait for God to respond or to answer. Through the years, I have come to the conclusion that it is more important that God talk to me than I talk to God. I am convinced that what God has to say to me is far more important than what I have to say to God. And I have sought to develop that listening side of prayer. The communion, prayer is communion with God. Listening for Him to speak to my heart. Laying my heart out before Him, waiting upon Him, worshipping Him, loving Him, all a part of prayer. Another part of prayer is supplication: my requests, where I present to God those needs of my life, those needs in the lives of those around me. The supplications are personal, but they can also go into intercession. So, there is request, and in the narrow sense, for my own needs, and then in the broader sense, for the needs of those around me, the intercessory prayer. And then there is that thanksgiving aspect of prayer.
Now, as we look at the Lord's prayer as a model, "Our Father, which art in heaven, and hallowed be thou name," you see it begins with the acknowledgment of God and the greatness and the glory of God. The name of God, hallowed be that name, reverend be that name. Petitions in a broad sense, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth even as it is in heaven." Petitions in a narrow sense, "Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil." Praise, glory, thanksgiving, "For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever." So it begins with worship, it ends with worship, sandwiched in between, our petitions and intercession. And so, we find prayer, supplications, thanksgiving, let your request be made known unto God.
And the peace of God [the result of this will be the peace of God], which passeth all [human] understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus ( Philippians 4:7 ).
You will experience such peace. "Hey, what are you going to do?" "Well, I have prayed about it." "Yah, but what are you going to do about it?" "Well, I have already done it, I have prayed." "Yah, but you can't just pray; you have got to do more than that." "Now God is going to take care of it. I have peace. It is in God's hands; I have turned it over to Him. I am not struggling with it anymore. I am not wrestling with the issues anymore; I have turned them over to God, and now I am going to rest in Him. I am going to have an experience." That peace that passeth human understanding, passes your own understanding. You can't understand how that you can feel such peace in the midst of such turmoil.
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 ( Philippians 4:8 ).
That pretty well eliminates television, doesn't it? Of all of the mental pollution that is going out night after night over the major networks. Our whole nation is being polluted by the television industry and by the movie industry. I mean, it is leading the nation right down the tubes. Why? Because it is having people think on things that are impure, unholy, filthy, unrighteous, immoral, and there is other things we need to be thinking on. Sort of tragic, a lot of people watch television just before they go to sleep, because you plant that junk in your mind just before you drop off.
You know, I have found that what I plant in my mind the last thing at night before I go to sleep is something that sticks with me. I learned as a child that I can memorize any poem by reading it over three times before I went to sleep. In the morning I could get up and recite it. Poems of several pages, all I do is read them over three times before I went to sleep, and in the morning I could recite them. Because it seems like during the night, what you plant just before you go to sleep has a way of your mind continuing to work on it.
And many areas across the United States we have begun our Word for Today broadcast on many stations now Act 10:00 o'clock at night. And a lot of people have gotten in the habit of setting their clocks on the radios to, you know, from Phi 10:00 to Phi 10:30 ,then, you know, and I put them to sleep every night. What a wonderful thing. The last thing in the night to be planting in your mind: that which is pure, that which is true, that which is honest, that which is just, that which is lovely, that which is of virtue and good report, think on these things. Interesting how we like to think on other things, isn't it? The hurts, the disappointments, the nasty thing that he said to me. Here is a good model to follow, I think that somewhere around the house we ought to put up, "True, Honest, Just, Pure," that our minds, we gear them toward these things.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me ( Philippians 4:9 ),
Paul the apostle, when he was talking with the elders at Ephesus, he said, "I was daily with you teaching you and showing you." It was show and tell with Paul. His life was the example of that which he was preaching, and so should it always be. It isn't just the proclaiming of the truth, it is the demonstration of the truth. And so Paul tells them, "Those things which ye have learned, and received, and heard, and you have seen in me, I set the example before you."
do [them]: and the God of peace shall be with you. 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 ( Philippians 4:9-10 ).
In other words, "You were anxious to send me some help, but you lacked opportunity. " Epaphroditus, you remember, had come to Rome, with a offering from the church in Philippi for Paul. And so, the care of him has flourished again. They sent him a very generous offering. They desired to do it before now, but, of course, he had been on his way from a Caesarea to Rome. He had been on that ship that was wrecked and spent a lot of time; they weren't able to catch up with him. But now, finally, that he is sitting there in prison in Rome, they are able to get to him again, and they send this offering. And so he thanks them that this care for him is flourished again.
Not that I speak in respect of want ( Philippians 4:11 ):
It is not that I really am, you know, desperately in need. It isn't that I have tremendous needs while I am here.
for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content ( Philippians 4:11 ).
Oh, what a tremendous lesson we need to learn. Because always the state that we are in might not be the most pleasant state to be in. Paul was in prison when he wrote this, chained twenty-four hours a day to a different Roman guard, as they would make their changes. And yet, content. "For I have learned whatever state I am in to be content."
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 ( Philippians 4:12 ).
It doesn't matter to me; I can live with it, I can live without it. I have learned to be content with it. I have learned to be content without it. Whatever state God sees to put me, I am content, because my life is in God's hands; He is in control of those things that surround me. He wrote, "Godliness with contentment is great riches." I have learned how to be content.
[For] I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me ( Philippians 4:13 ).
And there is the secret: I can abound, I can be poor, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
In the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of John, as Jesus is talking about His relationship to His disciples, He said unto them, "I am the vine, ye the branches, my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that bears fruit, He washes it that it might bring forth more fruit. Now you are clean through the word which I've spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and let My words abide in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, neither more can ye except you abide in Me, for without Me you can do nothing."
Do you believe that? I didn't for a long time. The Lord had to prove that to me. I thought there was something I could do worthwhile in my flesh. And I tried too long to offer to God the sacrifices of my flesh. But one day, after years of struggle, I came to the truth of the statement of Christ and realized the truth of it, apart from Him I could do nothing. But thank God, in the same day I also learned the truth that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And so, rather than being all wiped out because I can't do anything in myself, I rejoice because of what I can do in Him. I can do all things through Christ. There are two verses I count extremely important in my own experience. Vitally important. To learn those two verses is vital to Christian growth. "Apart from me you can do nothing," Jesus said. But Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Notwithstanding, ye have done well, that ye did communicate with my affliction [to my needs]. Now ye Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia [Philippi was in the area of Macedonia], no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only ( Philippians 4:14-15 ).
When I left you, you were the only church. Now, there was a church at Thessalonica, Paul established the church of Berea. They didn't do anything for him. The only church that really sought to help Paul and support that ministry was the church of Philippi.
For even in Thessalonica [when I was there] ye sent once and again unto my necessity [to take care of my needs]. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account ( Philippians 4:16-17 ).
I love that. Paul was thanking them for what they sent, "not because I desire a gift. I desire that fruit might abound to your account." Now, God has a very interesting bookkeeping system. And in God's bookkeeping system, your investments that you make in the kingdom of God bring fruit to your account. Jesus said, "Don't lay up for yourself treasures on earth where moth and rust can corrupt and decay and thieves can break through and steal. But lay up for yourself treasures in heaven where these things cannot happen, for where your treasure is there will your heart be also."
God accounts to the person who supports the missionary the fruit that comes from the missionary's service. How can they hear without a preacher? How can they preach except they be sent? So, those that send share equally in the fruit of the ministry of those who go. That is why in supporting a ministry, I want to be very careful what ministry I support. I want to make sure that it is an effective ministry, doing a good work for God. Because there is a lot of charlatans out there that are padding their own pockets and not really doing a real service for God.
We were in Goroka, New Guinea, a beautiful place, sort of an ideal place to live. Weather is perfect year around. And just up in the highlands in New Guinea just beautiful, beautiful streams, beautiful forest, beautiful place to live. And as they were taking us through there, they said there is just a lot of paper missionaries here. And I said, "Paper missionaries, what do you mean?" And he said there are a lot of people who have retired here in Goroka who get their support by writing letters to people in the United States and Australia and England, sharing with them the ministry here among the New Guinea people. And what they do is, they get in their Land Rovers and they go out to the villages and they pass out candy to the children. And they will take pictures of the children reaching out for candy. And then they will send these pictures and letters back to the people and say, you know, "The children are reaching out for the New Testaments that we are passing out in the villages and all, and look at how, you know, all of the children, and all, had a tremendous response and God is doing a glorious work and all." And people are supporting them. Yet, they are just retired; they don't do anything but go out to the village once a month to take pictures of kids getting candy. Unfortunately, those people do exist. Frauds, charlatans, they'll have to answer to God.
The World Counsel of Churches uses a portion of their funds to support terrorist groups in Africa, supporting the P.L.O. their terrorism programs. A lot of missionaries were killed in Zabway by the terrorists, missionary children, by the dollars given in the churches that have a part in the National Counsel of Churches and the World Counsel of Churches.
I wouldn't give a dime to any church that's affiliated with the World Counsel of Churches, knowing that a portion of that dime would be going to support the World Counsel of Churches. I don't want to be giving money to terrorists in Africa who are murdering missionaries and their families. Nor would I want to be supporting Angelia Davis's defense, which received a generous contribution from the National Counsel of Churches. Careful where you invest. Paul said, "That fruit might abound to your account." Well, there is some kind of fruit that I really don't want to my account. And thus, I don't want to invest in that. I want to know that there is a valid and legitimate work being done, and that it is a fruit-bearing work, that fruit might abound. I want to support that kind of work.
And so Paul said, "Not that I desire a gift. I desire that fruit might abound to your account."
But [I have everything] I have all, I abound ( Philippians 4:18 ):
Got plenty. What a beautiful thing to say even though you're broke. I have all, I abound. Why? Because I have Jesus. That's enough.
I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell [Probably some cologne, I guess], a sacrifice acceptable, [and] well-pleasing to God. But my God shall supply all of your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus ( Philippians 4:18-19 ).
Isn't that a glorious promise? Take hold of it tonight. My God shall supply all of your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now who can measure that kind of riches? If God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how much more then shall He not freely give us all things?
Now unto God and our Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Salute [greet] every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household ( Philippians 4:20-22 ).
As Paul was chained to the Roman guard, those were Caesar's guards, and so many of Caesar's household send their greetings through Paul, who had received Christ because Paul's imprisonment there.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen ( Philippians 4:23 ).
Beautiful, beautiful epistle to the Philippians, and now the glorious epistle to the Colossians; next week, the first two chapters. The preeminence of Jesus Christ. Aw, this one just lifts you into glory as we behold Jesus Christ our Lord, and we see the preeminence that God has given unto Him. The preeminence of Christ. The book of Colossians, one that will enrich us so completely as we study it together.
And now may God cause you to abound in love and in your walk in the Spirit. And may indeed you find the promise to be true as God supplies all of your needs: spiritual, financial, physical, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus our Lord. God bless and keep you and give you a beautiful week. In Jesus' name. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Philippians 4:13". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/philippians-4.html. 2014.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
In this statement Paul tells how he can be content in every situation: it is because of his relationship with Christ, who gives him strength, that he has such peace and satisfaction of the soul.
This favorite statement of the apostle has often been quoted without regard to its context, and understood at a popular level to mean that, when Paul was empowered by Christ, nothing was beyond his capabilities. Many English versions imply this with the rendering: "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me" (O’Brien 526).
The American Standard Version, King James Version, New American Standard Bible, New English Bible, New International Version, and Revised Standard Version are all "misleading to the point of being false" (Hawthorne 201). The Greek word panta means "all things"; but, in this context, Paul is speaking specifically of the points mentioned in the preceding verse. All of the prosperous and adverse circumstances to which he refers are the things in mind here.
The verb "can do" is used by Paul only here and in Galatians 5:6. Paul has the ability to cope with all the diverse situations he is writing about. The reason for his independence is, in reality, due to his dependence upon Jesus Christ. It is Christ who gives him the strength necessary to cope with these circumstances. He is not saying that through Christ he can do anything.
The verb "to strengthen" is used in other places to denote the work of Christ in the lives of Christians (Ephesians 6:10; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:17; 2:1). A present participle is used here indicating Christ’s strengthening of Paul is ongoing. It is often in times of despair and trouble, when Paul most often feels his weakness, that he is made aware of his dependence on God. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul states:
But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (NIV).
He whose life was seized by Christ; he who gladly gave up all for Christ; he who paradoxically gained all by losing all for Christ; he who longed to know Christ and the power of his resurrection (3:7-10), and so on, could only envision Christ as his true source of inner strength (Hawthorne 201).
The same principle should be true for every Christian. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, our dependence on Christ should be the overriding force that determines our response to those circumstances. Christ does not enable us to do just anything through Him, but He does give us the strength to cope with anything.
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Philippians 4:13". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/philippians-4.html. 1993-2022.
A. The recent gift 4:10-14
First, Paul thanked his brethren for their recent gift that Epaphroditus had delivered to him (Philippians 4:10-14).
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IV. EPILOGUE 4:10-20
The apostle began this epistle by sharing some personal information about his situation in Rome (Philippians 1:12-26). He now returned from his concerns for the Philippians (Philippians 1:27 to Philippians 4:9) to his own circumstances (Philippians 4:10-20). Notice the somewhat chiastic structure of the epistle. This epilogue balances the prologue (Philippians 1:3-26).
"Nowhere else in all of Paul’s letters nor in all of the letters of antiquity that have survived until the present is there any other acknowledgment of a gift that can compare with this one in terms of such a tactful treatment of so sensitive a matter . . .
"The very structure of this section makes clear what has just been said. It exhibits a nervous alternation back and forth between Paul’s appreciation on the one hand (Philippians 4:10; Philippians 4:14-16; Philippians 4:18-20), and his insistence on his own independence and self-sufficiency on the other (Philippians 4:11-13; Philippians 4:17)." [Note: Hawthorne, p. 195.]
". . . Paul’s point is that his joy lies not in the gifts per se-these he really could do with or without-but in the greater reality that the gifts represent: the tangible evidence, now renewed, of his and their long-term friendship, which for Paul has the still greater significance of renewing their long-term ’partnership/participation’ with him in the gospel." [Note: Fee, Paul’s Letter . . ., pp. 425-26.]
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How could Paul be content? His contentment did not come through will power or the power of positive thinking. Paul was not a member of the Stoic philosophic school. It was Jesus Christ who enabled him to be content.
"The secret of Paul’s independence was his dependence upon Another. His self-sufficiency in reality came from being in vital union with One who is all-sufficient." [Note: Hawthorne, p. 201.]
Earlier in this letter Paul explained that the most important thing in life was to center on Christ (Philippians 2:7-11). Contentment is a fruit of doing so. "All things" in the context included being content with little or much materially, but Christ can enable His children to do much more than this (cf. Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37).
"Paul . . . never allowed his weaknesses or perceived weaknesses to be an excuse for inactivity, or for a failure to attempt the impossible task. They in a sense became his greatest assets, and surrendering them to Christ he discovered that they were transformed for his own enrichment and for the enrichment of others." [Note: Ibid., pp. 201-2.]
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GREAT THINGS IN THE LORD ( Php_4:1 )
4:1 So, then, my brothers, whom I love and yearn for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
Through this passage breathes the warmth of Paul's affection for his Philippian friends. He loves them and yearns for them. They are his joy and his crown. Those whom he had brought to Christ are his greatest joy when the shadows are closing about him. Any teacher knows what a thrill it is to point at some person who has done well and to be able to say: "That was one of my boys."
There are vivid pictures behind the word when Paul says that the Philippians are his crown. There are two words for crown in Greek, and they have different backgrounds. There is diadema ( G1238) , which means the royal crown, the crown of kingship. And there is stephanos ( G4735) , the word used here, which itself has two backgrounds. (i) It was the crown of the victorious athlete at the Greek games. It was made of wild olive leaves, interwoven with green parsley, and bay leaves. To win that crown was the peak of the athlete's ambition. (ii) It was the crown with which guests were crowned when they sat at a banquet, at some time of great joy. It is as if Paul said that the Philippians were the crown of all his toil; it is as if he said that at the final banquet of God they were his festal crown. There is no joy in the world like bringing another soul to Jesus Christ.
Three times in Php_4:1-4 the words in the Lord occur. There are three great commands which Paul gives in the Lord.
(i) The Philippians are to stand fast in the Lord. Only with Jesus Christ can a man resist the seductions of temptation and the weakness of cowardice. The word Paul uses for stand fast (stekete, G4739) is the word which would be used for a soldier standing fast in the shock of battle, with the enemy surging down upon him. We know very well that there are some people in whose company it is easy to do the wrong thing and there are some in whose company it is easy to resist the wrong thing. Sometimes when we look back and remember some time when we took the wrong turning or fell to temptation or shamed ourselves, we say wistfully, thinking of someone whom we love: "If only he had been there, it would never have happened." Our only safety against temptation is to be in the Lord, always feeling his presence around us and about us.
In vain the surge's angry shock,
In vain the drifting sands:
Unharmed upon the eternal Rock
The eternal City stands.
The Church and the individual Christian can stand fast only when they stand in Christ.
(ii) Paul bids Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord. There can be no unity unless it is in Christ. In ordinary human affairs it repeatedly happens that the most diverse people are held together because they all give allegiance to a great leader. Their loyalty to each other depends entirely on their loyalty to him. Take the leader away, and the whole group would disintegrate into isolated and often warring units. Men can never really love each other until they love Christ. The brotherhood of man is impossible without the lordship of Christ.
(iii) Paul bids the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. The one thing all men need to learn about joy is that it has nothing to do with material things or with a man's outward circumstances. It is the simple fact of human experience that a man living in the lap of luxury can be wretched and a man in the depths of poverty can overflow with joy. A man upon whom life has apparently inflicted no blows at all can be gloomily or peevishly discontented and a man upon whom life has inflicted every possible blow can be serenely joyful.
In his rectorial address to the students of St. Andrews University, J. M. Barrie quoted the immortal letter which Captain Scott of the Antarctic wrote to him, when the chill breath of death was already on his expedition: "We are pegging out in a very comfortless spot.... We are in a desperate state--feet frozen, etc., no fuel, and a long way from food, but it would do your heart good to be in our tent, to hear our songs and our cheery conversation." The secret is this--that happiness depends not on things or on places, but always on persons. If we are with the right person, nothing else matters; and if we are not with the right person, nothing can make up for that absence. The Christian is in the Lord, the greatest of all friends; nothing can separate the Christian from his presence and so nothing can take away his joy.
HEALING THE BREACHES ( Php_4:2-3 )
4:2-3 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you too, true comrade in my work, help these women, because they toiled with me in the gospel, together with Clement, and my other fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life.
This is a passage about which we would very much like to know more. There is obvious drama behind it, heartbreak and great deeds, but of the dramatis personae we can only guess. First of all, there are certain problems to be settled in regard to the names. The King James Version speaks of Euodias and Syntyche. Syntyche is a woman's name, and Euodias would be a man's name. There was an ancient conjecture that Euodias and Syntyche were the Philippian jailor and his wife ( Acts 16:25-34): that they had become leading figures in the Church at Philippi, and that they had quarrelled. But it is certain that the name is not Euodias but Euodia, as indeed the Revised Version, Moffatt, And the Revised Standard Version all print it; and Euodia is a woman's name. Therefore, Euodia and Syntyche were two women who had quarrelled.
It may well have been that they were women in whose homes two of the house congregations of Philippi met. It is very interesting to see women playing so leading a part in the affairs of one of the early congregations for in Greece women remained very much in the background. It was the aim of the Greeks that a respectable woman should "see as little, hear as little and ask as little as possible." A respectable woman never appeared on the street alone; she had her own apartments in the house and never joined the male members of the family even for meals. Least of all had she any part in public life. But Philippi was in Macedonia, and in Macedonia things were very different. There women had a freedom and a place which they had nowhere in the rest of Greece.
We can see this even in the narrative in Acts of Paul's work in Macedonia. In Philippi Paul's first contact was with the meeting for prayer by a riverside, and he spoke to the women who resorted there ( Acts 16:13). Lydia was obviously a leading figure in Philippi ( Acts 16:14). In Thessalonica many of the chief women were won for Christianity, and the same happened in Berea ( Acts 17:4; Acts 17:12). The evidence of inscriptions points the same way. A wife erects a tomb for herself and for her husband out of their joint earnings, so she must have been in business. We even find monuments erected to women by public bodies. We know that in many of the Pauline Churches (for example, in Corinth), women had to be content with a very subordinate place. But it is well worth remembering, when we are thinking of the place of women in the early Church and of Paul's attitude to them, that in the Macedonian Churches they clearly had a leading place.
There is another matter of doubt here. In this passage someone is addressed who is called in the Revised Standard Version true yokefellow. It is just barely possible that yokefellow is a proper name--Suzugos ( G4805) . The word for true is gnesios ( G1103) , which means genuine. And there may be a pun here. Paul may be saying: "I ask you, Sunzugos--and you are rightly named--to help." If suzugos ( G4805) is not a proper name, no one knows who is being addressed. All kinds of suggestions have been made. It has been suggested that the yokefellow is Paul's wife, that he is the husband of Euodia or Syntyche called on to help his wife mend the quarrel, that it is Lydia, that it is Timothy, that it is Silas, that it is the minister of the Philippian Church. Maybe the best suggestion is that the referent, is to Epaphroditus, the bearer of the letter, and that Paul is entrusting him not only with the letter, but also with the task of making peace at Philippi. Of the Clement named we know nothing. There was later a famous Clement who was bishop of Rome and who may have known Paul, but it was a common name.
There are two things to be noted.
(i) It is significant that when there was a quarrel at Philippi, Paul mobilized the whole resources of the Church to mend it. He thought no effort too great to maintain the peace of the Church. A quarrelling Church is no Church at all, for it is one from which Christ has been shut out. No man can be at peace with God and at variance with his fellow-men.
(ii) It is a grim thought that all we know about Euodia and Syntyche is that they were two women who had quarrelled! It makes us think. Suppose our life was to be summed up in one sentence, what would that sentence be? Clement goes down to history as the peacemaker; Euodia and Syntyche go down as the breakers of the peace. Suppose we were to go down to history with one thing known about us, what would that one thing be?
THE MARKS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE ( Php_4:4-5 )
4:4-5 Rejoice in the Lord at all times. I will say it again--Rejoice! Let your gracious gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is near.
Paul sets before the Philippians two great qualities of the Christian life.
(i) The first is the quality of joy. "Rejoice ... I will say it again--Rejoice!" It is as if having said, "Rejoice!" there flashed into his mind a picture of all that was to come. He himself was lying in prison with almost certain death awaiting him; the Philippians were setting out on the Christian way, and dark days, dangers and persecutions inevitably lay ahead. So Paul says, "I know what I'm saying. I've thought of everything that can possibly happen. And still I say it--Rejoice!" Christian joy is independent of all things on earth because it has its source in the continual presence of Christ. Two lovers are always happy when they are together, no matter where they are. The Christian can never lose his joy because he can never lose Christ.
(ii) Paul goes on, as the King James Version has it: "Let your moderation be known to all men." The word (epieikeia, G1932) translated moderation is one of the most untranslatable of all Greek words. The difficulty can be seen by the number of translations given of it. Wycliffe translates it patience; Tyndale, softness; Crammer, softness; The Geneva Bible, the patient mind; the Rheims Bible, modesty; the English Revised Version, forbearance (in the margin gentleness); Moffatt, forbearance; Weymouth, the forbearing spirit; the New English Bible, magnanimity. C. Kingsley Williams has: "Let all the world know that you will meet a man half-way."
The Greeks themselves explained this word as "justice and something better than justice." They said that epieikeia ( G1932) ought to come in when strict justice became unjust because of its generality. There may be individual instances where a perfectly just law becomes unjust or where justice is not the same thing as equity. A man has the quality of epieikeia ( G1932) if he knows when not to apply the strict letter of the law, when to relax justice and introduce mercy.
Let us take a simple example which meets every teacher almost every day. Here are two students. We correct their examination papers. We apply justice and find that one has eighty per cent and the other fifty per cent. But we go a little further and find that the man who got eighty per cent has been able to do his work in ideal conditions with books, leisure and peace to study, while the man who got fifty per cent is from a poor home and has inadequate equipment, or has been ill, or has recently come through some time of sorrow or strain. In justice this man deserves fifty per cent and no more; but epieikeia ( G1932) will value his paper far higher than that.
Epieikeia ( G1932) is the quality of the man who knows that regulations are not the last word and knows when not to apply the letter of the law. A kirk session may sit with the book of practice and procedure on the table in front of it and take every one of its decisions in strict accordance with the law of the Church; but there are times when the Christian treatment of some situation demands that that book of practice and procedure should not be regarded as the last word.
The Christian, as Paul sees it, is the man who knows that there is something beyond justice. When the woman taken in adultery was brought before him, Jesus could have applied the letter of the Law according to which she should have been stoned to death; but he went beyond justice. As far as justice goes, there is not one of us who deserves anything other than the condemnation of God, but he goes far beyond justice. Paul lays it down that the mark of a Christian in his personal relationships with his fellow-men must be that he knows when to insist on justice and when to remember that there is something beyond justice.
Why should a man be like this? Why should he have this joy and gracious gentleness in his life? Because, says Paul, the Lord is at hand. If we remember the coming triumph of Christ, we can never lose our hope and our joy. If we remember that life is short, we will not wish to enforce the stern justice which so often divides men but will wish to deal with men in love, as we hope that God will deal with us. Justice is human, but epieikeia ( G1932) is divine.
THE PEACE OF BELIEVING PRAYER ( Php_4:6-7 )
4:6-7 Do not worry about anything; but in everything with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all human thought, will stand sentinel over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
For the Philippians life was bound to be a worrying thing. Even to be a human being and so to be vulnerable to all the chances and the changes of this mortal life is in itself a worrying thing; and in the Early Church, to the normal worry of the human situation there was added the worry of being a Christian which meant taking one's life in one's hands. Paul's solution is prayer. As M. R. Vincent puts it: "Peace is the fruit of believing prayer." In this passage there is in brief compass a whole philosophy of prayer.
(i) Paul stresses that we can take everything to God in prayer. As it has been beautifully put: "There is nothing too great for God's power; and nothing too small for his fatherly care." A child may take anything, great or small, to a parent, sure that whatever happens to him is of interest there, his little triumphs and disappointments, his passing cuts and bruises; we may in exactly the same way take anything to God, sure of his interest and concern.
(ii) We can bring our prayers, our supplications and our requests to God; we can pray for ourselves. We can pray for forgiveness for the past, for the things we need in the present, and for help and guidance for the future. We can take our own past and present and future into the presence of God. We can pray for others. We can commend to God's care those near and far who are within our memories and our hearts.
(iii) Paul lays it down that "thanksgiving must be the universal accompaniment of prayer." The Christian must feel, as it has been put, that all his life he is, "as it were, suspended between past and present blessings." Every prayer must surely include thanks for the great privilege of prayer itself. Paul insists that we must give thanks in everything, in sorrows and in joys alike. That implies two things. It implies gratitude and also perfect submission to the will of God. It is only when we are fully convinced that God is working all things together for good that we can really feel to him the perfect gratitude which believing prayer demands.
When we pray, we must always remember three things. We must remember the love of God, which ever desires only what is best for us. We must remember the wisdom of God, which alone knows what is best for us. We must remember the power of God, which alone can bring to pass that which is best for us. He who prays with a perfect trust in the love, wisdom and power of God will find God's peace.
The result of believing prayer is that the peace of God will stand like a sentinel on guard upon our hearts. The word that Paul uses (phrourein, G5432) is the military word for standing on guard. That peace of God, says Paul, as the Revised Standard Version has it, passes all understanding. That does not mean that the peace of God is such a mystery that man's mind cannot understand it, although that also is true. It means that the peace of God is so precious that man's mind, with all its skill and all its knowledge, can never produce it. It can never be of man's contriving; it is only of God's giving. The way to peace is in prayer to entrust ourselves and all whom we hold dear to the loving hands of God.
TRUE COUNTRIES OF THE MIND ( Php_4:8-9 )
4:8-9 Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things have the dignity of holiness on them, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are winsome, whatever things are fair-spoken, if there are any things which men count excellence, and if there are any things which bring men praise, think of the value of these things. Practise these things which you have teamed and received, and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
The human mind will always set itself on something and Paul wished to be quite sure that the Philippians would set their minds on the right things. This is something of the utmost importance, because it is a law of life that, if a man thinks of something often enough, he will come to the stage when he cannot stop thinking about it. His thoughts will be quite literally in a groove out of which he cannot jerk them. It is, therefore, of the first importance that a man should set his thoughts upon the fine things and here Paul makes a list of them.
There are the things which are true. Many things in this world are deceptive and illusory, promising what they can never perform, offering a specious peace and happiness which they can never supply. A man should always set his thoughts on the things which will not let him down.
There are the things which are, as the King James Version has it, honest. This is an archaic use of honest in the sense of honourable, as the Revised Standard Version translates it. The King James Version suggests in the margin venerable. The English Revised Version has honourable and suggests in the margin reverend Moffatt has worthy.
It can be seen from all this that the Greek (semnos, G4586) is difficult to translate. It is the word which is characteristically used of the gods and of the temples of the gods. When used to describe a man, it describes a person who, as it has been said, moves throughout the world as if it were the temple of God. Matthew Arnold suggested the translation nobly serious. But the word really describes that which has the dignity of holiness upon it. There are things in this world which are flippant and cheap and attractive to the light-minded; but it is on the things which are serious and dignified that the Christian will set his mind.
There are the things which are just. The word is dikaios ( G1342) , and the Greeks defined the man who is dikaios ( G1342) as he who gives to gods and men what is their due. In other words, dikaios ( G1342) is the word of duty faced and duty done. There are those who set their minds on pleasure, comfort and easy ways. The Christian's thoughts are on duty to man and duty to God.
There are the things which are pure. The word is hagnos ( G53) and describes what is morally undefiled. When it is used ceremonially, it describes that which has been so cleansed that it is fit to be brought into the presence of God and used in his service. This world is full of things which are sordid and shabby and soiled and smutty. Many a man gets his mind into such a state that it soils everything of which it thinks. The Christian's mind is set on the things which are pure; his thoughts are so clean that they can stand even the scrutiny of God.
There are the things which the King James Version and the Revised Standard call lovely. Moffatt translates attractive. Winsome is the best translation of all. The Greek is prosphiles ( G4375) , and it might be paraphrased as that which calls forth love. There are those whose minds are so set on vengeance and punishment that they call forth bitterness and fear in others. There are those whose minds are so set on criticism and rebuke that they call forth resentment in others. The mind of the Christian is set on the lovely things--kindness, sympathy, forbearance--so he is a winsome person, whom to see is to love.
There are the things which are, as the King James Version has it, of good report. In the margin the English Revised Version suggests gracious. Moffatt has high-toned. The Revised Standard Version has gracious. C. Kingsley Williams has whatever has a good name. It is not easy to get at the meaning of this word (euphema, G2163) . It literally means fair-speaking, but it was specially connected with the holy silence at the beginning of a sacrifice in the presence of the gods. It might not be going too far to say that it describes the things which are fit for God to hear. There are far too many ugly words and false words and impure words in this world. On the lips and in the mind of the Christian there should be only words which are fit for God to hear.
Paul goes on, if there be any virtue. Both Moffatt and the Revised Standard Version use excellence instead of virtue. The word is arete ( G703) . The odd fact is that, although arete ( G703) was one of the great classical words, Paul usually seems deliberately to avoid it and this is the only time it occurs in his writings. In classical thought it described every kind of excellence. It could describe the excellence of the ground in a field, the excellence of a tool for its purpose, the physical excellence of an animal, the excellence of the courage of a soldier, and the virtue of a man. Lightfoot suggests that with this word Paul calls in as an ally all that was excellent in the pagan background of his friends. It is as if he were saying, "If the old pagan idea of excellence, in which you were brought up, has any influence over you--think of that. Think of your past life at its very highest, to spur you on to the new heights of the Christian way." The world has its impurities and its degradations but it has also its nobilities and its chivalries, and it is of the high things that the Christian must think.
Finally Paul says, if there be any praise. In one sense it is true that the Christian never thinks of the praise of men, but in another sense it is true that every good man is uplifted by the praise of good men. So Paul says that the Christian will live in such a way that he will neither conceitedly desire nor foolishly despise the praise of men.
THE TRUE TEACHING AND THE TRUE GOD ( Php_4:8-9 continued)
In this passage Paul lays down the way of true teaching.
He speaks of the things which the Philippians have learned. These are the things in which he personally instructed them. This stands for the personal interpretation of the gospel which Paul brought to them. He speaks of the things which the Philippians have received. The word is paralambanein ( G3880) which characteristically means to accept a fixed tradition. This then stands for the accepted teaching of the Church which Paul had handed on to them.
From these two words we learn that teaching consists of two things. It consists of handing on to men the accepted body of truth and doctrine which the whole Church holds; and it consists of illuminating that body of doctrine by the personal interpretation and instruction of the teacher. If we would teach or preach we must know the accepted body of the Church's doctrine; and then we must pass it through our own minds and hand it on to others, both in its own simplicity and in the significances which our own experiences and our own thinking have given to it.
Paul goes further than that. He tells the Philippians to copy what they have heard and seen in himself. Tragically few teachers and preachers can speak like that; and yet it remains true that personal example is an essential part of teaching. The teacher must demonstrate in action the truth which he expresses in words.
Finally, Paul tells his Philippian friends that, if they faithfully do all this, the God of peace will be with them. It is of great interest to study Paul's titles for God.
(i) He is the God of peace. This, in fact, is his favourite title for God ( Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 14:33; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). To a Jew peace was never merely a negative thing, never merely the absence of trouble. It was everything which makes for a man's highest good. Only in the friendship of God can a man find life as it was meant to be. But also to a Jew this peace issued specially in right relationships. It is only by the grace of God that we can enter into a right relationship with him and with our fellow-men. The God of peace is able to make life what it was meant to be by enabling us to enter into fellowship with himself and with our fellow-men.
(ii) He is the God of hope ( Romans 15:13). Belief in God is the only thing which can keep a man from the ultimate despair. Only the sense of the grace of God can keep him from despairing about himself; and only the sense of the over-ruling providence of God can keep him from despairing about the world. The Psalmist sang: "Why are you cast down, 0 my soul?... Hope in God: for I shall again praise him, my help and my God" ( Psalms 42:11; Psalms 43:5). F. W. Faber wrote:
For right is right, since God is God,
And right the day must win;
To doubt would be disloyalty,
To falter would be sin.
The hope of the Christian is indestructible because it is founded on the eternal God.
(iii) He is the God of patience, of comfort, and of consolation ( Romans 15:5; 2 Corinthians 1:3). Here we have two great words. Patience is in Greek hupomone ( G5281) , which never means simply the ability to sit down and bear things but the ability to rise up and conquer them. God is he who gives us the power to use any experience to lend greatness and glory to life. God is, he in whom we learn to use joy and sorrow, success and failure, achievement and disappointment alike, to enrich and to ennoble life, to make us more useful to others and to bring us nearer to himself. Consolation and comfort are the same Greek word paraklesis ( G3874) . Paraklesis is far more than soothing sympathy; it is encouragement. It is the help which not only puts an arm round a man but sends him out to face the world; it not only wipes away the tears but enables him to face the world with steady eyes. Paraklesis ( G3874) is comfort and strength combined. God is he in whom any situation becomes our glory and in whom a man finds strength to go on gallantly when life has fallen in.
(iv) He is the God of love and peace ( 2 Corinthians 13:11). Here we are at the heart of the matter. Behind everything is that love of God which will never let us go, which bears with all our sinning, which will never cast us off, which never sentimentally weakens but always manfully strengthens a man for the battle of life.
Peace, hope, patience, comfort, love--these were the things which Paul found in God. Indeed "our sufficiency is from God" ( 2 Corinthians 3:5).
THE SECRET OF TRUE CONTENT ( Php_4:10-13 )
4:10-13 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that now at length you have made your thoughtfulness for me to blossom again. That was a matter indeed about which you were always thoughtful, but you had no opportunity. Not that I speak as if I were in a state of want, for I have teamed to be content in whatever situation I am. I know both how to live in the humblest circumstances, and how to have far more than enough, In everything and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of being hungry, of having more than enough and of having less than enough. I can do all things through him who infuses strength into me.
As the letter draws to an end Paul generously expresses his gratitude for the gift which the Philippians had sent to him. He knew that he had always been much in their thoughts, but circumstances had up till now given them no opportunity to show their mindfulness of him.
It was not that he was dissatisfied with his own state, for he had learned the gift of content. Paul uses one of the great words of pagan ethics (autarkes, G842) , which means entirely self-sufficient. Autarkeia ( G842) , self-sufficiency, was the highest aim of Stoic ethics; by it the Stoics meant a state of mind in which a man was absolutely independent of all things and of all people. They proposed to reach that state by a certain pathway of the mind.
(i) They proposed to eliminate all desire. The Stoics rightly believed that contentment did not consist in possessing much but in wanting little, "If you want to make a man happy," they said, "add not to his possessions, but take away from his desires." Socrates was once asked who was the wealthiest man. He answered: "He who is content with least, for autarkeia ( G842) is nature's wealth." The Stoics believed that the only way to content was to abolish all desire until a man had come to a stage when nothing and no one were essential to him.
(ii) They proposed to eliminate all emotion until a man had come to a stage when he did not care what happened either to himself or to anyone else. Epictetus says. "Begin with a cup or a household utensil; if it breaks, say, 'I don't care.' Go on to a horse or pet dog; if anything happens to it, say, 'I don't care.' Go on to yourself, and if you are hurt or injured in any way, say, 'I don't care.' If you go on long enough, and if you try hard enough, you will come to a stage when you can watch your nearest and dearest suffer and die, and say, 'I don't care."' The Stoic aim was to abolish every feeling of the human heart.
(iii) This was to be done by a deliberate act of will which saw in everything the will of God. The Stoic believed that literally nothing could happen which was not the will of God. However painful it might be, however disastrous it might seem, it was God's will. It was, therefore, useless to struggle against it; a man must steel himself into accepting everything.
In order to achieve content, the Stoics abolished all desires and eliminated all emotions. Love was rooted out of life and caring was forbidden. As T. R. Glover said, "The Stoics made of the heart a desert, and called it a peace."
We see at once the difference between the Stoics and Paul. The Stoic said, "I will learn content by a deliberate act of my own will." Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who infuses his strength into me." For the Stoic contentment was a human achievement; for Paul it was a divine gift. The Stoic was self-sufficient; but Paul was God-sufficient. Stoicism failed because it was inhuman; Christianity succeeded because it was rooted in the divine. Paul could face anything, because in every situation he had Christ; the man who walks with Christ can cope with anything.
THE VALUE OF THE GIFT ( Php_4:14-20 )
4:14-20 All the same, I am most grateful to you for your readiness to share the burden of my troubles. You too, know, Philippians, that in the beginning of the. gospel, when I left Macedonia, no Church entered into partnership with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you alone, for in Thessalonica not merely once but twice you sent to help my need. It is not that I am looking for the gift; but I am looking for the fruit which increases to your credit. I have enough and more than enough of everything. I am fully supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts which came from you, the odour of a sweet savour, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will gloriously supply every need of yours according to his wealth in Jesus Christ. Glory be to our God and Father for ever and ever. Amen.
The generosity of the Philippian Church to Paul went back a long way. In Acts 16:1-40; Acts 17:1-34 we read how he preached the gospel in Philippi and then moved on to Thessalonica and Berea. As far back as that, the Philippian Church had given practical proof of its love for him. He was in a unique position in regard to the Philippians; from no other Church had he ever accepted any gift or help. It was in fact that very circumstance which annoyed the Corinthians ( 2 Corinthians 11:7-12).
Paul says a fine thing. He says, "It is not that I desire a present from you for my own sake, although your gift touches my heart and makes me very glad. I don't need anything, for I have more than enough. But I am glad that you gave me a gift for your own sake, for your kindness will stand greatly to your credit in the sight of God." Their generosity made him glad, not for his own sake but for theirs. Then he uses words which turn the gift of the Philippians into a sacrifice to God. "The odour of a sweet savour," he calls it. That was a regular Old Testament phrase for a sacrifice which was acceptable to God. It is as if the smell of the sacrifice was sweet in the nostrils of God ( Genesis 8:21; Leviticus 1:9; Leviticus 1:13; Leviticus 1:17). Paul's joy in the gift is not in what it did for him, but in what it did for them. It was not that he did not value the gift for its own sake; but his greatest joy was that it and the love which prompted it were dear to God.
In a last sentence, Paul lays it down that no gift ever made any man the poorer. The wealth of God is open to those who love him and love their fellow-men. He who gives makes himself richer, for his own gift opens to him the gifts of God.
GREETINGS ( Php_4:21-23 )
4:21-23 Greet in Christ Jesus every one of God's dedicated people. The brothers who are with me send you their greetings, especially those of Caesar's household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
The letter comes to the end with greetings. In this final section there is one intensely interesting phrase. Paul sends special greetings from the Christian brothers who are of Caesar's household. It is important to understand this phrase rightly. It does not mean those who are of Caesar's kith and kin. Caesar's household was the regular phrase for what we would call the Imperial Civil Service; it had members all over the world. The palace officials, the secretaries, the people who had charge of the imperial revenues, those who were responsible for the day-to-day administration of the empire, all these were Caesar's household. It is of the greatest interest to note that even as early as this Christianity had penetrated into the very centre of the Roman government. There is hardly any sentence which shows more how Christianity had infiltrated even into the highest positions in the empire. It was to be another three hundred years before Christianity became the religion of the empire, but already the first signs of the ultimate triumph of Christ were to be seen. The crucified Galilaean carpenter had already begun to rule those who ruled the greatest empire in the world.
And so the letter ends: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit." The Philippians had sent their gifts to Paul. He had only one gift to send to them--his blessing. But what greater gift can we give to any man than to remember him in our prayers?
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
J. B. Lightfoot, Saint Paul's Epistle to the Philippians (MmC; G)
R. P. Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians (TC; E)
J. H. Michael, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians (MC; E)
M. R. Vincent, Philippians and Philemon (ICC; G)
CGT: Cambridge Greek Testament
ICC: International Critical Commentary
MC: Moffatt Commentary
MmC: Macmillan Commentary
TC: Tyndale Commentary
E: English Text
G: Greek Text
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Philippians 4:13". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/philippians-4.html. 1956-1959.
2) The Unfailing Power of God - v.11-13
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Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Philippians 4:13". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/philippians-4.html. 2021.
I can do all things,.... Which must not be understood in the greatest latitude, and without any limitation; for the apostle was not omnipotent, either in himself, or by the power of Christ; nor could he do all things that Christ could do; but it must be restrained to the subject matter treated of: the sense is, that he could be content in every state, and could know how to behave himself in adversity and prosperity, amidst both poverty and plenty; yea, it may be extended to all the duties incumbent on him both as a Christian and as an apostle, as to exercise a conscience void of offence towards God and men; to take the care of all the churches; to labour more abundantly than others in preaching the Gospel; and to bear all afflictions, reproaches, and persecutions for the sake of it; yea, he could willingly and cheerfully endure the most cruel and torturing death for the sake of Christ: all these things he could do, not in his own strength, for no man was more conscious of his own weakness than he was, or knew more of the impotency of human nature; and therefore always directed others to be strong in the Lord, and in, the power of his might, and in the grace that is in Christ, on which he himself always depended, and by which he did what he did; as he adds here,
through Christ which strengtheneth me. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions leave out the word "Christ", and only read "him"; and so the Alexandrian copy and others; but intend Christ as those that express it: strength to perform duty and to bear sufferings is in Christ, and which he communicates to his people; he strengthens them with strength in their souls, internally, as the word here used signifies; by virtue of which they can do whatever he enjoins them or calls them to, though without him they can do nothing.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Philippians 4:13". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/philippians-4.html. 1999.
|Kindness Acknowledged; Christian Contentment.||A. D. 62.|
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. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 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. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. 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. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. 17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 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. 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
In these verses we have the thankful grateful acknowledgment which the apostle makes of the kindness of the Philippians in sending him a present for his support, now that he was a prisoner at Rome. And here,
I. He takes occasion to acknowledge their former kindnesses to him, and to make mention of them, Philippians 4:15; Philippians 4:16. Paul had a grateful spirit; for, though what his friends did for him was nothing in comparison of what he deserved from them and the obligations he had laid upon them, yet he speaks of their kindness as if it had been a piece of generous charity, when it was really far short of a just debt. If they had each of them contributed half their estates to him, they had not given him too much, since they owed to him even their own souls; and yet, when they send a small present to him, how kindly does he take it, how thankfully does he mention it, even in this epistle which was to be left upon record, and read in the churches, through all ages; so that wherever this epistle shall be read there shall this which they did to Paul be told for a memorial of them. Surely never was present so well repaid. He reminds them that in the beginning of the gospel no church communicated with him as to giving and receiving but they only,Philippians 4:15; Philippians 4:15. They not only maintained him comfortably while he was with them, but when he departed from Macedonia they sent tokens of their kindness after him; and this when no other church did so. None besides sent after him of their carnal things, in consideration of what they had reaped of his spiritual things. In works of charity, we are ready to ask what other people do. But the church of the Philippians never considered that. It redounded so much the more to their honour that they were the only church who were thus just and generous. Even in Thessalonica (after he had departed from Macedonia) you sent once and again to my necessity,Philippians 4:16; Philippians 4:16. Observe, 1. It was but little which they sent; they sent only to his necessity, just such things as he had need of; perhaps it was according to their ability, and he did not desire superfluities nor dainties. 2. It is an excellent thing to see those to whom God has abounded in the gifts of his grace abounding in grateful returns to his people and ministers, according to their own ability and their necessity: You sent once and again. Many people make it an excuse for their charity that they have given once; why should the charge come upon them again? But the Philippians sent once and again; they often relieved and refreshed him in his necessities. He makes this mention of their former kindness, not only out of gratitude, but for their encouragement.
II. He excuses their neglect of late. It seems, for some time they had not sent to enquire after him, or sent him any present; but now at the last their care of him flourished again (Philippians 4:10; Philippians 4:10), like a tree in the spring, which seemed all the winter to be quite dead. Now, in conformity to the example of his great Master, instead of upbraiding them for their neglect, he makes an excuse for them: Wherein you were also careful, but you lacked opportunity. How could they lack opportunity, if they had been resolved upon it? They might have sent a messenger on purpose. But the apostle is willing to suppose, in favour of them, that they would have done it if a fair opportunity had offered. How contrary is this to the behaviour of many to their friends, by whom neglects which really are excusable are resented very heinously, when Paul excused that which he had reason enough to resent.
III. He commends their present liberality: Notwithstanding, you have well done that you did communicate with my affliction,Philippians 4:14; Philippians 4:14. It is a good work to succour and help a good minister in trouble. Here see what is the nature of true Christian sympathy; not only to be concerned for our friends in their troubles, but to do what we can to help them. They communicated with his affliction, in relieving him under it. He who says, Be you warmed, be you filled, and giveth not those things they have need of, what doth it profit?James 2:16. He rejoiced greatly in it (Philippians 4:10; Philippians 4:10), because it was an evidence of their affection to him and the success of his ministry among them. When the fruit of their charity abounded towards the apostle, it appeared that the fruit of his ministry abounded among them.
IV. He takes care to obviate the bad use some might make of his taking so much notice of what was sent him. It did not proceed either from discontent and distrust (Philippians 4:11; Philippians 4:11) or from covetousness and love of the world, Philippians 4:12; Philippians 4:12. 1. It did not come from discontent, or distrust of Providence: Not that I speak in respect of want (Philippians 4:11; Philippians 4:11); not in respect of any want he felt, nor of any want he feared. As to the former, he was content with the little he had, and that satisfied him; as to the latter, he depended upon the providence of God to provide for him from day to day, and that satisfied him: so that he did not speak in respect of want any way. For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. We have here an account of Paul's learning, not that which he got at the feet of Gamaliel, but that which he got at the feet of Christ. He had learnt to be content; and that was the lesson he had as much need to learn as most men, considering the hardships and sufferings with which he was exercised. He was in bonds, and imprisonments, and necessities, often; but in all he had learnt to be content, that is, to bring his mind to his condition, and make the best of it.--I know both how to be abased and I know how to abound,Philippians 4:12; Philippians 4:12. This is a special act of grace, to accommodate ourselves to every condition of life, and carry an equal temper of mind through all the varieties of our state. (1.) To accommodate ourselves to an afflicted condition--to know how to be abased, how to be hungry, how to suffer want, so as not to be overcome by the temptations of it, either to lose our comfort in God or distrust his providence, or to take any indirect course for our own supply. (2.) To a prosperous condition--to know how to abound, how to be full, so as not to be proud, or secure, or luxurious. And this is as hard a lesson as the other; for the temptations of fulness and prosperity are not less than those of affliction and want. But how must we learn it? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,Philippians 4:13; Philippians 4:13. We have need of strength from Christ, to enable us to perform not only those duties which are purely Christian, but even those which are the fruit of moral virtue. We need his strength to teach us to be content in every condition. The apostle had seemed to boast of himself, and of his own strength: I know how to be abased (Philippians 4:12; Philippians 4:12); but here he transfers all the praise to Christ. "What do I talk of knowing how to be abased, and how to abound? It is only through Christ who strengthens me that I can do it, not in my own strength." So we are required to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might (Ephesians 6:10), and to be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1); and we are strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man,Ephesians 3:16. The word in the original is a participle of the present tense, en to endynamounti me Christo, and denotes a present and continued act; as if he had said, "Through Christ, who is strengthening me, and does continually strengthen me; it is by his constant and renewed strength I am enabled to act in every thing; I wholly depend upon him for all my spiritual power." 2. It did not come from covetousness, or an affection to worldly wealth: "Not because I desired a gift (Philippians 4:17; Philippians 4:17): that is, I welcome your kindness, not because it adds to my enjoyments, but because it adds to your account." He desired not so much for his own sake, but theirs: "I desire fruit that may abound to your account, that is, that you may be enabled to make such a good use of your worldly possessions that you may give an account of them with joy." It is not with any design to draw more from you, but to encourage you to such an exercise of beneficence as will meet with a glorious reward hereafter. "For my part," says he, "I have all, and abound,Philippians 4:18; Philippians 4:18. What can a man desire more than enough? I do not desire a gift for the gift's sake, for I have all, and abound." They sent him a small token, and he desired no more; he was not solicitous for a present superfluity, or a future supply: I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things which were sent by you. Note, A good man will soon have enough of this world; not only of living in it, but of receiving from it. A covetous worldling, if he has ever so much, would still have more; but a heavenly Christian, though he has little, has enough.
V. The apostle assures them that God did accept, and would recompense, their kindness to him. 1. He did accept it: It is an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God. Not a sacrifice of atonement, for none makes atonement for sin but Christ; but a sacrifice of acknowledgment, and well-pleasing to God. It was more acceptable to God as it was the fruit of their grace than it was to Paul as it was the supply of his want. With such sacrifices God is well pleased,Hebrews 13:16. 2. He would recompense it: But my God shall supply all your wants according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus,Philippians 4:19; Philippians 4:19. He does as it were draw a bill upon the exchequer in heaven, and leaves it to God to make them amends for the kindness they had shown him. "He shall do it, not only as your God, but as my God, who takes what is done to me as done to himself. You supplied my needs, according to your poverty; and he shall supply yours, according to his riches." But still it is by Christ Jesus; through him we have grace to do that which is good, and through him we must expect the reward of it. Not of debt, but of grace; for the more we do for God the more we are indebted to him, because we receive the more from him.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Philippians 4:13". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/philippians-4.html. 1706.
There is no epistle in the New Testament which gives so little space to the development of. doctrine as this to the Philippians. Need it be said that it has not the less its own proper office on that account? And what is this but the unfolding of the truth in the heart and in the ways of the Christian? Hence it is that, although doctrine is sparse, if not almost excluded, nevertheless what little appears comes in as ancillary to the main purpose. It is interwoven with practical appeal, and indeed the chief development of doctrine (namely, in the second chapter) forms a ground of exhortation.
Accordingly, from the very starting-point, we are prepared for a difference of tone and character. The apostle drops entirely his official status in addressing the saints at Philippi. He associates Timothy with himself, not merely, as elsewhere, himself apostle and Timothy in some other relation, but here conjointly "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ." He thus takes a common place with his beloved son in the gospel. This place throughout is one of promoting, enlarging, deepening, and purifying the experience of the saints themselves in that which filled his own heart with joy in the Lord. We shall see the importance of this elsewhere. It is what enabled him to look at the saints, as he called them to look at one another, esteeming others, as he says, better than themselves. Had it been a question of his apostolic dignity, this could not have been; but an apostle even could, and did, and loved to, take the place of one that served others whom he viewed directly in their relationship to Christ. His own place toward them was but to serve them in love. Such did, such was, Christ. There is nothing so high as that which we all have been made in our blessed Lord.
So here at the beginning he simply takes the place of servant with Timothy, owning all the saints as well as the officials in their place: "To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." This last is but a confirmation of the same truth. It is not at all a question of ecclesiastical order, in which naturally the chief guides would have front rank. The apostle is here contributing to that which shall never pass away, and hence begins with the "saints in Christ Jesus" as such. These Philippians will not be less saints in heaven, where there can be no such charges as "bishops or deacons." I do not say that the fruits of the loving service of any one of them will be forgotten there; nor that even glory will not bear the impress of that which has been really of the Holy Ghost here. Nevertheless there is that which is suited only to the conditions of time; there is that which, given here, survives all change. The apostle loved to give God's place and value to everything; and here it is the mingling of Christ with the circumstances of every day. It is the forming of the heart with the affections and the judgments of the Lord. It is the imbuing of the Christian with that which is life everlasting, but the life that he is now living by "the faith of the Son of God, who loved him and gave himself for him." Hence he at once begins, not with a doctrinal preparation after the introduction, but the introduction brings us as usual into the general spirit if not special object of the epistle. "I thank my God for my whole remembrance of you," says he, after his usual salutation and wish, "always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy."
There is no epistle that so abounds in joy. This is the more remarkable because it is so intensely practical. For we can all understand joy in believing; we can readily feel how natural is joy to the Christian who dwells on his eternal portion. The trial is to keep that joy undimmed in the midst of the difficulties and sorrows that every day may bring. This epistle treats of daily sorrows and difficulties, yet does it manifestly overflow with joy, which all the dangers, sufferings, and trials only made the more triumphant and conspicuous.
So he brings before them another remarkable feature of it their fellowship; and this fellowship too with the gospel. Their happy and bright state in Christ did not dim their fellowship with the gospel. But whatever might be their own proper joy, whatever might be their delight in that which God works in the church, they had full and simple-hearted fellowship with His good news. It had always been so, as the apostle gives us to learn. It was not some sudden fit, if one may so say, nor was it the influence of passing circumstances. It was a calm, fixed, cordial habit of their souls, which indeed had distinguished them from the first. This was now among the last outpourings of the apostle's heart, as he himself had almost arrived at the end of his active labours, if indeed it was not absolutely their end. He was in prison, long shut out from that which had been his joyful service, though in constant toil and suffering for so many years. But his spirit was as bright as ever, his joy perfectly fresh, deep, and flowing. And now he would have them looking to Christ, that no damp should gather round their hearts from anything that might befall him, that nothing which happened, whether to themselves, to other saints, or even to the apostle, should interfere for a moment with their unclouded and abounding confidence in the Lord. So he tells them that he always thus remembered them for their "fellowship with the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
There is not even the allowance of the possibility of their turning aside from the bright career both of possessing a Saviour they knew, and of enjoying Him increasingly. He had no theory that first love must necessarily wane and cool down, but the very reverse. Himself the striking witness to the contrary, he looked for nothing less in the saints he so dearly loved. Indeed that which had drawn out the epistle was the proof that the trying circumstances of the apostle had but called out their affections. His being out of sight rather made the remembrance of his words and ways the more distinct, and imparted a chastened earnestness to their desires of pleasing the Lord. "Being confident," he therefore says, "of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ, even as it is meet for me to think this of you all." It is not one who cherished a trust in the Lord's fidelity spite of what was visible. This counting on the Lord the apostle might have even where things were wrong. It was so as to the Corinthians; nay, it was not wholly wanting for the Galatians, though that which they allowed imperilled the foundations of grace and faith. But the practical ways and spirit of the Philippians were the living evidence not only of life, but, so to speak, of vigorous health in Christ. So it was right for him to anticipate good and not evil, not as in the authorized version and other translations, because "I have you in my heart," which would be no ground of assurance for them, but because "ye have me in your heart," which showed their spiritual feelings to be true and sound. This seems to me the real meaning, which the margin gives rightly.
It is a thing more important in practice than many suppose. There is no more common device of Satan than to seek the destruction of the power of testimony by the allowance of evil insinuations against him who renders it. Of course, the enemy would have desired above all and at any cost to lower such an one as the apostle Paul in the loving esteem of God's saints, more particularly where all had been sweet and happy; but, notwithstanding every effort, grace hitherto had prevailed, and these saints at Philippi felt the more for the apostle when he was a prisoner. When God does not interpose, men are apt to allow reflections and reasonings. Not seldom do they begin to question whether it can be possible that such a one is really of value to the church of God. Would God in this case let His servant be so long kept away from the gospel or the church? Surely there must have been something seriously wrong to judge in him!
It was not thus that the true-hearted Philippians felt; and spiritual feeling is worth more than all reasoning. Their affections were right. Reasonings on such matters are in general miserably wrong. Their sympathies, drawn out by the afflictions of the apostle in his work, were the workings of the Holy Spirit in their souls at least the instincts of a life that was of Christ, and that judged in view of Him, and not according to appearances. They had him in their heart, as he says, "Inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers with me of grace," or "of my grace." "For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ." For his was a heart deeply sensible of love, and consequently he was not one that had sought either to make the saints dependent upon him, and still less did the apostle depend on the saints for anything that was the fruit of grace in them. He desired not anything for himself, but only what should abound to their account in the day of Jesus Christ. This he must wish for them, if he wished them well. Accordingly he prays for them, that as they had shown this true and unabated love for himself as Christ's servant, so their love might abound yet more and more, and this too in knowledge and in all judgment.
This is the great value of Christian experience. It is not love growing less but more, and this abounding in intelligence and knowledge, which could not be looked for in saints just beginning their career. There is no necessity and where is the epistle that more thoroughly disproves the thought of any necessity? that a saint should decline. To abound in love is far from declension. To "abound yet more and more," to have that love tempered by divinely given wisdom and divinely exercised judgment, is the very reverse of going back. Their true and constant progress was what the apostle had before his own soul in prayer for them, instead of coolly giving up the saints, as if the new nature must grow feebler day by day as if the things of the world must overcome faith, and the things which are seen outweigh those which are unseen and eternal. Is this your measure of the love of Christ? Is He really so far from any of those that call upon Him?
Thus, then, he prays for them, and to this end, not that they might become more intelligent merely not that they might grow more able to discourse of divine things, though I doubt not that there would be growth in these respects also; but all here has an eminently practical form, "that ye may approve things that are more excellent; that ye may be pure and without offence till the day of Christ." Such is the thought that the apostle had before his soul of that which became the Christian. He would have one who begins with Christ to (so on with Christ, have nothing but Christ before his eyes, and pursue this path without a stumble till the day of Christ. It is a blessed and refreshing picture even in thought. Oh that the Lord might make it true of His own! This is certainly what the apostle here puts before these saints. "Filled," says he, "with the fruit of righteousness, which is by Jesus Christ;" for it is all supposed to be fruit, not isolated fruits here and there, but as a whole, which adds greatly to the strength of it. It should be "the fruit of righteousness, which is by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God."
Then he turns, not to doctrine after this opening, but to circumstances, to circumstances, however, illumined with Christ The most ordinary details are taken out of their own pettiness (though it is really a little mind which counts them petty), and are made simple and genuine, and this through Christ Jesus intermingled with them. Oh, it is a blessed thing, that in the midst of the sorrows of this world, the Holy Spirit knows how thus to blend the name of Christ, as the sweetest balm, with the sorrow, however bitter, and to make the very memory of the grief pleasant because of Christ, who deigns to let Himself into it all. It was this that so cheered the apostle's heart in his loneliness often, in his desertion sometimes, when the sight of a brother would have given fresh courage to his heart. Looking to the Lord, as it is the life-breath of love, so it adds to the value of brotherly kindness in its season. Thus we know how on approaching Rome Paul was lifted up and comforted, as he saw those who came to greet him. But there he was soon to experience the faltering of brethren; there he was to see not one standing by him in the hour of his shame and need. He must be conformed to his Master in all things; and this was one of them. But out of the midst of bitter experience he had learned Christ, as even he had never known Him before. He had proved long the power and the joy of Christ for every day, and for every circumstance of it.
It was such an one, truly the servant of Jesus Christ, and so much the more their servant because His, even their servant for Jesus' sake it was such an one that wrote from Rome to the tried saints at Philippi. Nor was he in that which he was about to write without deep feeling; but he had learned Christ for all; and this is the key-note of the epistle from the first, though only uttered distinctly at the last. He had learned practically what Christ is, and what He does, and what He can enable even the least to do, (as he says himself, "less than the least of all saints,") and so much the more, because the least in his own eyes.
Thus then he writes, telling them, "I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel." He knew well how much they might be tried by the report of his own imprisonment, and no deliverance coming as yet. But he had himself gone through the trial; he had weighed it all; he had brought it into the presence of God. He had put all, as it were, into the hands of Christ, who had Himself given him His own comfort about it. "I would, then, that ye should understand, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel." Once you are right about Christ, you are right about everything while He is before you. There is nothing assuredly right, on the other hand, where Christ is not the object of the soul. With Him you will be right about the gospel, right about the church, right about doctrine, walk, and service. There is not one of these things but may in itself become the veriest snare; and so much the more dangerous because each looks fair. What looks and sounds better than the saints of God? what than the ministry of Christ? what than the testimony for God? Yet there is not one of these things that has not become the ruin of souls; and there are none that ought to know this better than those I am addressing this night. Who have had more mournful proofs of the danger of putting saints practically in the place of Christ? Who have had more palpable witness that service may become the object rather than Christ? Has it not been the rock on which many a gallant bark has made shipwreck?
But now the apostle was shut out from every labour apparently. Surely he, most of all, must have felt the change the heart that took in the Gentiles, that swept the circle of lands from Jerusalem to Illyricum, that yearned over Spain, ever going out farther and farther, boundless in his desires for the salvation of souls. He was for a considerable time a prisoner. He is at Rome, where he desired to be, no doubt, but which he had never expected to visit as one in bonds. And that he ever was anything but a prisoner there, man at least cannot say. A prisoner he was; and such is all that Scripture tells about him there. We may see the moral harmony of that lot with his testimony, and how suitable it seems that he, who was above all men identified with the gospel of the glory of Christ, should be a prisoner, and nothing but a prisoner in Rome. At any rate, such is the picture that the Holy Spirit gives of him there. And now as he had Christ before his soul, in this way the gospel itself, he can feel, is only promoted so much the more. Far from him was the vanity of being the man first to preach Christ in the great metropolis. He forgot himself in the gospel. His desire above all was that Christ's name might go forth. This was very dear to him, let God use whom he would. The things that happened to him he could therefore judge calmly and clearly. What seemed to some the death of the gospel was in point of fact distinctly for the furtherance of it.
The manner, too, in which these things happened seemed to make all as remote as possible from furthering the gospel; but here again he brings in Christ. This disperses all clouds from the soul. This filled Paul with sunshine; and he would have others to enjoy the same bright light which the name of Christ cast on every object. And mark, it is not the anticipation of light with Christ in heaven, but His light now while He is in heaven shining on the heart, and on the circumstances of the pathway here below. He says that they had happened rather for the furtherance of the gospel, "so that my bonds in Christ are manifest;" for this is the way in which he looks at it "my bonds in Christ." Oh, how honourable, how sweet and precious, to have bonds in Christ! Other people would have merely thought of or seen bonds under the Roman emperor, the bonds of that great city that ruled over the kings of the earth. Not so Paul. They were bonds in Christ; how then could he be impatient under them? How could any murmur who believed they were really bonds in Christ? "My bonds in Christ," he says, "are manifest in all the palace." Strange way of God! but so it was that thus the gospel, the glad tidings of His grace, should reach the highest quarters. They were "manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; and many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by, my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear."
Blessed is this confidence in Christ, and wondrous are His ways! Who would have expected that the timid man Nicodemus, and the honourable councillor Joseph of Arimathea, would have been brought out at the very time when even the apostles themselves had fled trembling with fear? Yet they were the witnesses of Christ whom God had put forth at the close; for it was manifestly of Him. God never can fail; and the very trials that would seem to crush all hope for the glory of Christ on the earth are the precise occasions in which God proves that after all it is He alone who triumphs, while man always fails even if he be an apostle. But the weakest of saints (how much more this greatest of the apostles!) cannot but be conqueror, more than conqueror, where the heart is filled with Christ. There was victory to his faith by the grace of God. And so, too, he could now read and interpret all things in that bright light around him. Had he occupied himself with the persons that were so preaching the gospel, how disconsolate he must have been! What might you and I have thought of such? Is it too much to say that many a groan would have gone forth from us that are here? Instead of this a song of joy and thanks comes from the blessed man of God at Rome; for, as he says here, "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will. The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely," nor was this all, but "supposing to add affliction to my bonds."
Not only was an utterly wrong spirit indulged in the work itself, and toward others engaged actually in it; but even as to the apostle, shut out from such service, a desire to pain and wound was not wanting. "The one preach Christ of contention supposing to add affliction to my bonds: but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached." Christ is the sovereign balm for every wound; and it was the apostle's joy, whatever men's spirit might be, not only to enjoy Christ himself, but that His name was being proclaimed far and wide by many lips, that souls might hear and live. Whatever the motives, whatever the manner, the Lord would surely deal with these in His own day; but, at any rate, Christ was now preached, and God would use this both for His own glory and for the salvation of souls.
Hence, says he, "I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Christ Jesus." We must carefully remember throughout all this epistle that "salvation" never means acceptance. If this be borne in mind a large part of the difficulty that some have found completely disappears. Impossible that anything done by other saints should turn to one's acceptance any more than what is done by himself The apostle uses salvation throughout his letter to the Philippians (nor is it confined to this scripture only) in the sense of the complete and final triumph over all the power of Satan. Hence it may be remarked that in the epistle to the Philippians it is not a question of lusts of the flesh; the flesh is not so much as named here, except in a religious way; not in its gross sins, as man would judge, but in its pretensions to religion. See for instance Philippians 3:1-21. Hence the conflict is never with internal evil, but rather with Satan. For such conflict we need the power of the Lord and the whole armour of God. But that power displays itself not in our strength, or wisdom, or any conferred resources. The supply of the Spirit of Christ Jesus shows itself in dependence, and this expresses itself therefore in prayer to God. And observe, too, that the apostle felt the value of others' prayers. They contributed to his. victory over the foe. How lovely that even such a man should speak, not merely of his own prayers, but of theirs, turning all to such account. "This shall turn," says he, "to my salvation through your prayers, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." There is nothing so unaffectedly humble as real faith, and, above all, that character of faith which lives on Christ, and which consequently lives Christ. Such was the apostle's faith. To him to live was Christ.
"According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed." If he desired for them that they should be without one stumble till the day of Christ, it was the purpose to which grace had girded up his own loins. But "that in nothing I shall be ashamed." What a word, and how calculated to make us ashamed! It is not a question of acceptance in Christ. No; it is practical. It is his state and experience every day, as to which his hope was that in nothing he should be ashamed; "but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ. shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death."
And what is it that gave such a hope to one that owns himself the chief of sinners and less than the least of all saints? There was but one spring of power even Christ. And, let me observe, it is not merely that Christ is my life. Sweet and wondrous word to say that Christ is our life; but the question is, how are we living? Are we living out that life which we have? Is this the life that is practically exercised? or are there mingled ways and mixed motives? Is there the struggle of the old with the appearance sometimes of the new? Does this content our hearts? Or is it, on the settled judgment of the old as altogether and only self and sin, that we are habitually manifesting Christ? Have we that one blessed person as the hope, motive, beginning, end, way, and power of all that occupies us from day to day? It was so with the apostle. May it be so with us! " To me," may each say truly, "to live is Christ."
Habitually, indeed throughout this epistle, we find the word " me," and a very different "me" from the "me" of Romans 7:1-25. There it was an unhappy "me," though distinct from the flesh: "O wretched man that I am" Here it would be, O happy man that I am! He is one who has his joy exclusively from and in Christ. When first he tasted it, he found it so sweet that he cared for none other. And thus it was the power of the Spirit of God that gave him to look out in the midst of all that he passed through day by day, that all, whatever it might be, should be done to Christ, and so too all by Christ, the Holy Ghost working it, so to speak, in his soul to give him simply and settledly in everything that occurred an opportunity of having Christ Himself as the substance of his living and serving, no matter what might come in the course of duty. "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." In any case, indeed, to the Christian, death is gain; but he could best say it who could say, "To me to live is Christ," who could say it not merely as the faith of Him, but as a matter of simple, unconstrained, spontaneous enjoyment of Christ in practical ways.
Now he proceeds to give his reason. It is his own personal experience; and this is the reason why we have "I" so often here. It is not legal experience, for which you must turn to the chapter spoken of inRomans 7:1-25; Romans 7:1-25, the only bit of a saint's experience under law, as far as I know, that the New Testament affords (certainly in the epistles). But here is the proper experience of a Christian. It is the apostle giving us what his heart was occupied with when he could not go forth in the activities of work, and when it seemed as if he had nothing to do. Now we all know that when a man is carried on the top of the wave, when the winds fill the sails and all goes prosperously, when hearts are gladdened in sorrow, when one witnesses the joy of fresh deliverance from day to day, it is a comparatively easy thing. But to one cut off from such work it was, in appearance at least, a heavy burden and an immense trial; but Christ changes all for us. His yoke is easy, and His burden light. It is Christ, and Christ only, that thus disposes of grief and pressure. And so accordingly His servant says here, "If I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour."
It is needless to recount the comments on these words. They really mean, this is worth my while, a well-known phrase in Latin too. He puts it as a matter left for him to judge of and decide by Christ. "if I live in the flesh, it is worth my while." But if not, what then? Why, it was gain. As far as he was concerned, therefore, why could he choose? In a certain sense too he could not, and in another he would not choose. Christ was so truly before his heart, that in fact there was no self left unjudged to warp the choice. This is what brings him, if one may so say, into the dilemma of love. If he left this world, he would be with Christ; if he lived longer in this, world, Christ was with him. In short, he was so living Christ, that it was only a question of Christ here, and of Christ there. After all it was better for Christ to choose, not for him. But the moment he has Christ before him thus, he judges according to the affections of Christ, and he looks at the need of saints here below.
The question is at once settled as a matter of faith. Though he wist not to choose what between the two before, when the need of souls rises before him, he says that he shall live, and is not yet going to die. Through the wonderful sight of the love of Christ, this answered the question to his faith, leaving all circumstances entirely aside. Witnesses, prosecutors, judges, emperor, everybody, became, in point of fact, nothing to him. "I can do all things," as he says elsewhere, "through him that strengtheneth me." So he could settle now about his life and death. "Therefore," says he, though I am in a strait betwixt two," as he had said before, "having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; that your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again."
Only he desires that their conversation should be as it became the gospel of Christ. It was not merely their calling in Christ, their being Christians, that was before him, but a walk as it became the gospel of Christ. It is not at all as the objects of the gospel, but as having fellowship with it, their hearts bound up and identified with all the trials and difficulties that the gospel was sustaining in its course throughout the world. "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." Thus fervour of desire for others is the happy index of this whenever coupled with adequate knowledge of ourselves. But how can this be unless the heart is perfectly at ease as to itself? "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." Let me press this, because alas! there is no small tendency whenever people know the gospel well, if this be all, to settle down, thinking they have nothing more to do with the matter. It was not so with the Philippians. They had so much the more to do because Christ had done all for their souls. They were coupled with the gospel in all its conflict and progress. It was not because of their own personal interest, though this was great and fresh, but they loved that it should go forth. They identified themselves, therefore, with all who were declaring it throughout the world. Hence he desired that their conversation should be as became such zeal; "that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; and in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God."
This is the more important, because such fear is the main weapon of Satan. It is always the power of Satan that is in view here. He is regarded as the true adversary, working, of course, by human means; but none the less is it his power. It may be remarked here, that from an expression often misunderstood in Philippians 2:1-30 it might seem as if the apostle wished somehow to weaken their confidence. So unbelief interprets, but most assuredly it is wrong. The apostle does call for "fear and trembling" on the part of the saints in that chapter; but there is not an atom of dread or doubt in it. He would have them realize the solemnity of the strife that is going on. He desires for them, not anxiety about the issue of it, but true gravity of spirit, because of feeling that it is a question between God and the devil, and that we have to do with that struggle in the most direct way. We need to draw from God, the spring and the only supplier of power that can resist the devil; but, at the same time, that we have the devil to resist in His power is a conviction that may well demand "fear and trembling;" and this, lest in such a conflict we should let in anything of self, which would at once give a handle to the devil. In Him, we, know, who was the perfect model in the same warfare, which He fought single-handed, conquering for God's glory and for us, the prince of this world came, and had nothing in Him, absolutely nothing. With us it is far otherwise; and only as we live on Christ do we remove, as it were, from the enemy's hand that which would furnish him abundant occasion.
In rich measure did the apostle live thus himself it was the one thing he did; and he would have the saints to be living in it too. "In nothing," says he, "terrified by your adversaries [this is the other side]: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." Thus the very suffering which unbelief might interpret wrongly, and regard as a severe chastening, and so cause the heart to be cast down, instead of taking comfort before God, the suffering for Christ's sake is a gift of His love, as much a gift as the believing in Christ for the salvation of the soul. For, in point of fact, through this epistle salvation is seen as going on from first to last, and not yet complete, being never viewed as such till the conflict with Satan is altogether closed. Such is the sense of it here. Hence he speaks of the conflict which they once saw to be in him, and now heard to be in him.
Next, not only did he exhort them not to be terrified by the power of Satan, which is itself an evident and solemn sign of perdition to those that oppose the saints of God; but he calls on them to cast out the sources of disunion among themselves; and this he does in the most touching way. They had been manifesting their mindful love for the apostle, who on his part was certainly not forgetful of its least token. If, then, they really loved him, "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if there be any comfort of love, any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies," he would venture to seek another proof of it. That there was all this abundantly in these saints he did not doubt; they had just shown him the fruit of love personally. Did he want more for himself? Far from it. There was another way which would best prove it to his heart; it was not something future secured to Paul in his need, which would be the way of nature, not of love or faith. Not so: Christ is always better; and so says he, "Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory." There is always danger of these, and the more so where there is activity among souls. There was evidently energy among these Philippians. This commonly is apt to give occasion for strife as well as vain-glory. No saints are outside the danger.
Nothing, then, would the apostle have done in strife or vain-glory; "' but in lowliness of mind each esteeming other better than themselves." Let me look at another as he is in Christ. Let me think of myself as one that is serving Him (oh, how feebly and failingly!) in this relationship, and it is an easy thing to esteem others better than myself. It is not sentiment, but a genuine feeling, thus "looking not each at his own things, but each also at the things of others." Now the saint that has Christ Himself before him looks abroad with desires according to the activity of divine love.
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself." There are two chief stages of His humiliation flowing out of His perfect love. First of all He emptied Himself, becoming a slave and a man; and having thus come down, so as to take His place in the likeness of men, He, found in figure as a man, humbled Himself, becoming obedient even to the lowest point of degradation here below. He "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
It will be observed that there is no such thing in the first instance as "to the glory of God," when we hear of all bowing in the name of Jesus. To the confession of His Lordship is added "to the glory of God the Father." The reason is, in my judgment, perfectly beautiful. "Jesus" is His own name, His personal name. Jesus is Jehovah, although a man; consequently the bowing in that name to the glory of God the Father does not occur to the apostle. Why, then, is it so in the next instance? Because he looks at Jesus, not in His own personal right and glory, where necessarily all must bow, but rather at Him in His official place as Lord the place He has righteously acquired as man. This is wholly distinct from His own intrinsic eternal glory. He was made Lord and Christ. The moment you look at what He is made, then it is to the glory of Him who thus exalted Him. It was God the Father that made Him Lord and Christ, but God the Father never made Him Jehovah. He was Jehovah, equal with God the Father. Impossible that He could be made Jehovah. Reason and sense are out of the question, though reason must reject a creature's becoming God. Such a notion is unknown to scripture, and revolting to the spiritual mind. Hence we see the great importance of this truth. All error is founded on a misuse of a truth against the truth. The only safeguard of the saints, of those that love the truth and Himself, is simple subjection to the word of God to the whole truth He has revealed in scripture.
Evidently, therefore, two glories of Jesus are referred to here. There is His own personal glory; and this first. The other is what suits it, but a conferred position. If Jehovah so served, it was but natural that He should be made Lord of all, and so He is. It was due to His humiliation and obedience; and so it is here treated.
Thus, in both parts of the history of Christ, presented to us in no obscure contrast with the first Adam, we have first of all His own glory, who humbled Himself to become a servant. The very fact, or way of putting it, supposes Him to be a divine person. Had He not been God in His own being and title, it would have been no humiliation to be a servant, nor could it be indeed a question of taking such a place. The archangel is at best but a servant; the highest creature, far from having to stoop in order to become a servant, can never rise above that condition. Jesus had to empty Himself to become a servant. He is God equally with the Father. But having deigned to become a servant, He goes down lower still. He must retrieve the glory of God in that very death which confessedly had brought the greatest shame on God outwardly. For God had made the world full of life; He "saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good," and Satan apparently won the victory over Him in it. All here below was plunged under the sentence of death through Adam's sin; and God's word could but seal it till redemption.
The Lord Jesus not only comes down into the place of servant in love among men, but goes down into the last fortress of the enemy's power. He breaks it completely, becomes conqueror for ever, wins the title for God's grace to deliver righteously every creature, save only those who, far from receiving Christ, dare to reject Him because of that very nature which He took on Him, and that infinite work on the cross which had caused Him suffering to the utmost in working all out for the glory of God. Oh, is it not awful to think, that the best proof of the love of Christ and of His glory is the very ground which the base heart of man turns into a reason for denying both His love and His glory? But so it is; and thus the food of faith becomes the poison of unbelief. But the day is coming when every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth." Not that all shall be delivered and centred in Him, but that all must bow. All who believe shall surely shine in His glory; and the universal creation, which, belonging to Him as His inheritance, He will share with His own, shall be reconciled and delivered in due time. But there are the things, or if you will, the persons under the earth which can never be delivered. Yet these shall bow, no less than those in heaven, or on earth. In His name all must bow. Thus the difference between reconciliation and subjection is manifest. The lost must bow; the devils must bow; the lake of fire must own the glory of Him who has power to cast them there, as it is said, "unto the glory of God the Father." But all in heaven and on earth shall be in reconciliation with God and headed up in Christ, with whom the Church shall share the unbounded inheritance. (Compare Ephesians 1:1-23 and Colossians 1:1-29) But all, even these in hell, must confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
But now the apostle turns to the use that he makes of so blessed a pattern, "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence." It was the exact reverse in good of what the Galatians were in evil, for they had been cordial and bright when the apostle was with them; but directly his back was turned, their hearts were alienated. Even he who knew them well marvelled that they were so soon shifting, not only from him, but from the gospel, after he left them. But with the Philippians there was increased jealousy for Christ. They were more obedient in his absence than in his presence. Hence he calls upon them, as one that could not be with them to help them in the conflict, to work out their own salvation. Such is the force of the exhortation. This epistle is therefore eminently instructive to those who could not have an apostle with them. God was pleased, even whilst the apostle was alive, to set him aside and to prove the power of faith where he was not.
Hence he says, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." It is not the dread of losing the Saviour of their souls, but because they felt for His name; "for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." Therefore he intreated them to "do all things without murmurings and reasonings, that they might be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom they shone as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life." It is a description that might almost do for Christ himself, so high is the standard for those that belong to Christ. Christ was surely blameless in the highest sense, as His ways were harmless, "holy, harmless, undefiled," as it is said elsewhere. Christ was Son of God in a sole and supreme sense. Christ was "without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation." Christ shone as the true light in the world the light of life. Christ held it forth; nay, more, He was it. For what believer would deny that, however close the conformity, there is always that dignity and perfection which is proper to Christ, and exclusively His? Let us uphold the glory of His person, but, nevertheless, let us not forget how the apostle's picture of the saint resembles the Master! Like, another apostle (2 John 1:8) he does not hesitate to blend with all this an appeal to their hearts for his own service in their well-being.
"That" (says he, after he had exhorted the Philippians thus to stand,) "I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith." How truly he accounted himself less than the least of them! How gladly would he be a libation upon the sacrifice of their faith! He esteemed men better than himself. He too in love still keeps up the servant-character, and gives them as it were the Christ-character. This is the unfailing secret of it all the true source of humility in service. "For the same cause also do ye joy and rejoice with me. But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state."
And now there is the most lovely picture of Christ again; for it is always Christ here, and this again practically. Timothy was very dear to him, and was then with him; but he is going to part with the one that was so much the more valued by him in his solitariness and sorrow because of his circumstances at Rome. Indeed he esteemed others better than himself. He is just about to send Timothy from himself that he might know about them. "For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state." Timothy shared the unselfishness of the apostle's heart. "For they all seek their own." It might have been thought that so much the more would Paul need his love and services. Whatever he needed, love is never itself but in unselfish action and suffering. I speak of Christian love, of course. "For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellow-soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants."
He loves, we see, to couple with the relationship to himself what was related to them. Epaphroditus was his fellow-servant, and indeed more than that "my brother, and companion in labour, and fellow-soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness." Why? because he. himself had been sick? No; but "because that ye had heard that he had been sick." How lovely that this it was that pained him unselfish love! the love of Christ everywhere! "For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him." Was this all the apostle had to say? Not so. "And not on him only, but on me also," (what a difference is made when love interprets!) "lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be [not rejoicing here, but] the less sorrowful." He did feel it. Love feels acutely nothing so much; but it triumphs. "Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation" (he would turn it again to practical profit as to others): "because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me."
This chapter then looks for the working of the gracious feelings of Christ Himself in the Christian individually, showing us, first, the fulness of them all in Christ in contrast with the first Adam. But it gives us also the effect of Christ in the saints eventually of Paul himself, of Timothy, of Epaphroditus, and indeed of the Philippian saints. It shows us grace practically in different measures and forms. But the (trace of Christ wrought in them all; and that was the great joy and delight of the apostle's heart.
In Philippians 3:1-21 it is not the display of intrinsic affection in Christ, or the gracious dispositions of Christ in the saints. Not the passive side of the Christian as being in the world, but the active comes before us. Accordingly, this being not so directly the subject of the epistle though a Very important part of it, it comes in parenthetically in a large measure, not now in any wise as a question of truth or development of the mystery of Christ, as we saw in Ephesians 3:1-21, but, nevertheless, as a parenthesis; for he resumes afterwards the internal side again, as we shall see inPhilippians 4:1-23; Philippians 4:1-23. Energy is not the best or highest aspect of Christianity. There is real power, there is strength from God that works in the saint; but the feelings of Christ, the mind of Christ morally, is better than all energy. Nevertheless, energy there is, and this assuredly judges what is contrary to Christ.
Here, accordingly, it is not the outgoings of love, but the zeal that burns indignantly as to what dishonours the Lord. This is one of the main features of our chapter. "Finally," says he, "my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of doers." InMatthew 23:1-39; Matthew 23:1-39 we have woe upon woe pronounced upon scribes and Pharisees, and so it is here. As it was a true though distressing part for Christ to judge religious evil, something akin could not be absent here; but at the same time it was by no means a prominent characteristic of Christ's task here below far from it. It was a necessary duty sometimes as things are on the earth, but nothing more; and so it is still. "Beware of evil workers; beware of the concision."
"For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." This is the only allusion, as far as I know, to flesh in this epistle, but it is flesh in its religious form, and not as a source of evil lusts and passions. It is all judged, and its religious form not least, by Christ "Though," says he, "I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other" carrying on the same thought of the flesh "if any other man thinketh that he hath matter of trust in the flesh, I more. Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." And what did the apostle do with all this roll of fleshly advantages? It was seen laid in the grave of Christ. "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." Will it be said that this is what the apostle felt, and did, and suffered in the freshness of his first acquaintance with Christ? It was also what he carried up to the moment of writing to the Philippians as ardently as ever. "Yea," said he, "and I count all things but loss." It is not only his reckoning in the first fervour of love for the Saviour. "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord."
Such experience is both a real and a precious boon. Let us not mistake in this; let us not be driven from it by a too common misuse. That which men call by this name is really the trial of what flesh is under law much more than experience of Christ. But let us not be turned aside, and think that it is merely a question of believing and of knowing our place secure; but let us live of that very Christ who is our life. This is what he did, and accordingly this is the source, not merely of a firm faith and confidence as to the issue, but of present joy and all-overcoming power. This is what gives force to our affections, and rivets them on Christ. This is, accordingly, what flows forth in praise from himself, and in calling out praise from other hearts. So he says here, "For the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung." Thus the two things are repeated the past judgment and the present power: "and do count them but dung, that I may, win Christ." This will be, no doubt, at the end of the journey: the faithful win Christ where He is. For it is not meant looking to Him now, or having Him as one's life: to win Christ means having Him at the other side. He always looks there in Philippians.
It is not at all a question of what one has here. This has its most weighty place elsewhere; but when it is a question of experience, the end cannot be here. There is the present joy of Christ; but this does not content the soul. The more one enjoys Christ here, the more one wants to be with Him there. "That I may win Christ," therefore he says; "and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law." This was precisely what he desired when a Jew. Now, having seen Christ, if he could even bring his own righteousness into heaven, he would not. It would be mere independence of Christ if he could have stood without a single flaw, as blameless, in fact, as in a certain sense outwardly he was under the law, until the Spirit of God gave him to see what he was in God's mind. Then he found himself a dead man condemned and powerless. But supposing it possible to be clothed with the righteousness of the law, he would not have it now. He had got a better righteousness, and he desired nothing so much as to be found in Christ, having that which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. Nothing but the righteousness that was of God as its source satisfied him. It is the only place in Scripture where the phrase means, not simply the righteousness of God in point of character, but the righteousness of God in point of source. Such is the meaning here. Elsewhere it is God's or divine righteousness. Here the object seems to be to make its difference from legal obedience more felt the contrast with the law more complete.
"That I may know him." Now here we have what is present; so that the passage presents some difficulty to souls because of intermingling the present with the future. Thus easily do we fall into error, because the human mind likes to have either one thing or another, and thus avoid all difficulty in Scripture, having each squared according to our notions. But it is not so that God has written His word. Nevertheless, God will surely teach His own, and knows how to clear up what is hidden from them. He has written His word not to perplex, but to enlighten. Thus the true bearing of the passage is, that from the first the eye of faith is fixed steadily on the end of the journey. "That I may win Christ, and be found in him" where not a vestige of self remains, but all will be Christ, and nothing but Christ. This is the righteousness whose source is in God; it is also by faith of Christ, and not through the law, which, of course, would have man's righteousness if it could.
But now he adds, "That I may know him" (speaking of entrance by faith into communion with Christ)" that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection." This is open to the heart now. "And the fellowship of his sufferings" again and certainly a present thing, not relating to heaven. "Being made conformable to his death:" this too is clearly in the world now. "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from the dead."* Clearly we here look out of the world and into a state to come, when we have the consummation of our hopes and the end of the journey. This is what he calls "salvation." It cannot be till the Christ is risen according to the pattern of Christ Himself.
*There is no reasonable doubt that the received text is wrong, followed by the Authorised Version ("of," instead of "from" the dead). The Alexandrian, Vatican, Sinai, Clermont, and St. Germain Uncials, supported by some ten cursives, very many versions, and the chief Greek and Latin ecclesiastical writers read τὴν ἐξανάσταιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν . Codd. F and G, by manifest error, read τῶν ἐκ , and this seems to have been corrected (or rather corrupted) in order to make sense into τῶν (omitting ἐκ ) in K and L and the mass of cursives. But in my opinion the sense, and even the Greek, seems bad; for on the one hand both ἐξανάστασιν and the drift of the argument point to a resurrection of favour and blessedness, not to that in which the unjust must rise to judgment; while on the other hand τῶν νεκρῶν would imply the dead, i.e. all the dead, as a class. Hence I cannot but consider it a surprising error in Griesbach that he edited the received text in this place. Alter and Matthaei followed according to their plan the manuscripts before them; but the latter was too good a scholar not to feel the difference, though he appears to impute it to a corrector for the sake of elegance in his second edition. Long before them, Mill had given his judgment in favour of the more ancient reading; and Wetstein repeated it apparently with approval. Bengel hesitated; but Dr. Wells in this, as in many other instances, showed his sound judgment and quiet courage in rejecting the common text, and adopting that which has by far the best authorities.
Dr. S. T. Bloomfield indeed (Addit. Annotations in loc.) admits that the external testimony is quite in its favour, though it is hard to see what he means by the internal evidence being in this case denied; for he suggests himself that τὴν ἐκ may have been a correction proceeding from those who thought that the sense which the context requires, "the resurrection from the dead," could not be extracted from ἐξαν . τῶν νεκρῶν . The critical reading he owns has force and propriety; but he does "not see why ἐξανάστ . τῶν νεκρῶν should not of itself have the same sense as that conveyed, with more propriety of expression (and for that reason likely to be adopted in the early Uncial MSS.), ἐξαν . τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν . Little probable is it that the reading, ἐξανάστ . τὴν ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν should have been altered to ἐξ τῶν νεκρ . There is great reason to think that the ἐξ arose from those who thought it necessary to the sense, and did not see that it could be fetched from the ἐξ in ἐξανάστ . Hence I am inclined to retain ἐξαν . τῶν νεκρ . as a popular and familiar mode of expression (suitable to the persons addressed), according to which the expressions ἐξαν . τῶν advert as at Romans 4:16, and elsewhere to the state of the persons in question, that state or kind of resurrection unto life of those who have died in the Lord, and whose resurrection will be a resurrection unto life and glory, their bodies being raised incorruptible, and both body and soul united for ever with the Lord. See 1 Thessalonians 4:6-18."
I have transcribed this note at length, because it is a fair sample of Dr. B.'s critical, scholastic, and exegetic manner. Enough has been already said above, before I even knew of his reasoning, to prove how unfounded it is in every point of view. The internal evidence ( i.e. the scope of the context) is as decidedly for τὴν ἐκ as the weightiest external witnesses. How the text got gradually changed from the most correct form (not correction) in the early Uncials has been explained. When the distinction of the resurrection of the just from that of the unjust got lost in Christendom, and all were merged in the error of one general indiscriminate resurrection, one can understand that people would not feel the impropriety of substituting τῶν for τὴν ἐκ (for as to τὴν ἐκ τῶν , of which Dr. B. speaks, it exists in no document whatever). There is therefore not the slightest ground to countenance the rather dangerous idea, that the apostle did not employ a phrase analogous to the correct one which is found elsewhere in the New Testament, and adopted "a popular and familiar mode of expression," i.e. a really inaccurate mode. And why should our Lord adopt a correct form to the Sadducees (Luke 20:1-47 repeated inActs 4:1-37; Acts 4:1-37), and Paul an incorrect one to the Philippians? Who can understand why it should be "suitable to the persons addressed," on Dr. B's showing? Of the two, the converse would be more intelligible; but my conviction is that both the Lord and His apostle used similar and correct phraseology, as did the Holy Spirit elsewhere. And as to Romans 4:17 (which was probably meant rather than 16), it has no bearing on the matter, as it is there merely a question of God's power displayed in quickening the dead, and calling things that are not in being as in being, and in no way distinguishing the resurrection of life from that of judgment. When the state or kind of resurrection is meant to be expressed, the anarthrous form is requisite, as we see in verse 24 of this very chapter, and regularly so. (See Romans 1:4.) I believe, therefore, that ἐξανάστασιν , especially if ἐκ be supposed to be fetched (as Dr. B. says) from ἐξανάστ , is incompatible with τῶν νεκρῶν , the one conveying the notion of a selected company, and the other of the dead universally. Modern editors of value, however differing in their system of recension agree in the ancient as against the received reading; so Scholz, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Ellicott, Alford, Tregelles, Wordsworth, etc.
Thus we see here the power of a risen and a heavenly Christ, not now treated doctrinally as in 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 or 2 Corinthians 5:1-21 and elsewhere, but as that which bears on the Christian for the constant experience of every day. Hence that which judged and put aside religion after the flesh, righteousness after the law, all that was now left completely and for ever behind, and the saint is set on the road that nothing can satisfy him but being in the same glorious condition with Christ Himself. Hence he says, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind." This, carefully remember, does not mean forgetting sins. Far from losing sight of our past ways, it is a very wholesome thing indeed to remember them: we are never safe in forgetting what we are and have been. What he means by forgetting the things that are behind is, that we should not think of any progress we may have made in following Christ, that we should lose sight of everything calculated to give us self-satisfaction. This were to spoil all, because it would please the flesh.
It is our progress then that we are to forget. Let us be humbled on account of our sins. Self-judgment, where grace is known, is a most wholesome exercise of soul; and we shall have it in perfection even in heaven itself before the judgment-seat of Christ. One of the elements of heavenly happiness will be the calm and settled knowledge of all that we have been here below. This will not detract for an instant from the perfect enjoyment of Christ, but rather promote it so much the more, making it more evidently and always pure grace even in glory. Thus "forgetting those things which are behind" refers to the progress that we may make. True experience is still the great theme which the apostle has in hand here as well as in his own personal history. He was too much bent on what was before to be occupied with calling to mind what was behind him; it must have impeded him in the race. "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise [ i.e. differently] minded, this also will God reveal to you." Differences there may be among the saints, and especially when we come to the question of experience. But in truth it may betray itself in doctrine and practice in various shapes.
And what is the true divine rule? Is it agreeing to differ? This is but a poor human resource, as unworthy of the saints as of the truth of God, who would not have us to wink at any mistake. It is no rule, but an evasion. There is, however, a sure and only divine standard: as far as we have attained, our call is to walk in the same path. And this is true from the first moment of our career as God's children. For, let me ask, what is our title to communion? What is it that brings us into the blessed fellowship that we enjoy? There is but one title, there can be no sufficient ground but the name of Christ Christ known and confessed in the Holy Ghost; and where He is simply before us, the progress is most real, if not always easy and sensible. It is not meant that there are no difficulties, but that Christ makes the burden light and all happy to the praise of God's grace; whereas any other means or measure detracts from His glory and draws attention to self.
Supposing, for instance, we mingle with Christ knowledge or intelligence about this truth or that practice, does it not give a necessary prominence to certain distinctive points, which so far must make Christ of less account? Even, therefore, if you could have (what is impossible) ever so much real spiritual knowledge along with Christ, who would so much as notice these acquisitions in comparison with Christ? Let us merely take up a single point of the primary ground of fitness for fellowship, which is often a difficulty with the saints. Yet the truth as to this abides, not only at the starting-point, but all the way through. What is there that you can rightly plead but Christ's own name? And this ground is one which always brings in the strength of the Holy Ghost, as it is based on God's mighty work of redemption. If right here, we are at one, so to speak, with His present purposes. What is the Spirit now doing? He is exalting Christ. It is not merely exalting His work, or His cross; it is not so much His blood, as Christ Himself. The name of Christ Himself is the true centre of the saints; unto this the Spirit gathers. As he had said elsewhere before, so he says here, "Be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ." Thus, as at the beginning of the chapter, there was the energy that went out against the evil workers, with a religious mind after the flesh, so now there is the energy that bursts forth against those that were misusing Christianity, making it an earthly system, setting their mind on things here below, under the name of the Lord Jesus; and between the two, is set forth the positiveness, if one may so speak, of Christ Himself.
It is plain, then, that inPhilippians 2:1-30; Philippians 2:1-30 the great spring of power is the love and the glory of Him who came down; who, even when He did so come, went down still lower, where none could accompany Him. Yet we may follow, and seek conformity unto His death; but there was that in His death on the cross which could be His alone.
In Philippians 3:1-21 there is no coming down from glory in the power of divine love, resulting in His exaltation by and for the glory of God the Father after a new sort. Here we see One who is in glory, and on whom the eye of the believer is set; and accordingly the judgment of evil is from the side of heaven. The one thing that suits is to pursue the glory before him, till he is in the same glory along with Christ. This is the object set before us inPhilippians 3:1-21; Philippians 3:1-21. The one therefore, I say, is the passive side of the Christian; the other is his activity. The passive shines in Christ coming down; the active is realized by the eye that is fixed on Christ, who is actually in glory. This separates from all, and judges the best of man to be dung, as the former conforms the heart after His love.
Philippians 4:1-23 is founded on both. The apostle takes up, no doubt, the sweet affections of chapter 2, but then they are strengthened by the energy that Christ seen in glory imparts, as in chapter 3. Hence he thus opens, "Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown." One cannot overlook the amazing strength with which he speaks even of his affections. "My joy and crown," "my dearly beloved." Not that there were not difficulties; there were many. "I beseech Evodia" (we may just notice the true form in passing; Euodias sounds like a man's name, whereas here it is really a woman). "I beseech Evodia, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. Yea [not and], I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labour with me." According to the true meaning it is not others, but those very sisters that he commends to Epaphroditus in desire for their blessing, "which labour with me in the gospel [or seeing that they shared the conflict of the gospel with me]." "Laboured" gives a wrong sense. Many hence have wrongly gathered that they were preachers. There is really no reason to suppose that they preached at all. What they did seems a much more proper thing, in my judgment, for a woman. They shared the conflict of the gospel; they partook of the reproach that covered those who preached it. This is lost in the idea of labouring in it. We must think rather of the conflict of the gospel: there was often for all concerned disgrace, and pain, and scorn.
Let nobody suppose me to insinuate that a woman is not in place when exercising, according to the Scripture, any gift God has given her. Women may have gifts as well as men. We are not to suppose that, because we are men, we monopolise all the gifts of Christ. Let us see to it that we walk according to the place which God has given us. At the same time, God's word is to me plain as to the manner in which the gifts are to be exercised. And is there not evidently a path of unobtrusiveness (for the veil or sign of power on the woman's head is no vain figure) which most befits a woman? I believe that a woman shines most where she does not appear. Hers is a more delicate place than that which becomes the man, and one which a man attempting it would awkwardly fill. But while a man is quite unfit to do a woman's work, can it be doubted that a woman brings no honour to herself, or to the Lord, by attempting to do a man's task? The Lord has laid down their places respectively with distinctness. It is ignorance and absurdity to answer such scriptures by the text, that in Christ there is neither male nor female. We do not speak of standing in Christ now, but of their allotted services. In this we hear of difference; and scripture does not obliterate but contrariwise asserts it, and treats the practical denial of it as a scandal brought in by Corinthian headiness. No doubt the new creation is essentially neither male nor female; it is not a race perpetuated in a fleshly way; but all things are of God and in Christ. Notwithstanding, it has been already explained that the man has a relative place as the image and glory of God, being set in a remarkable position between God and the woman in matters of outward decorum.
Returning, however, to the women Evodia and Syntyche, they had devoted themselves to an exceedingly happy and prized service. They joined with those who preached the truth and partook of their obloquy. They helped them, and in that sense "laboured" if you will. At any rate they endured the conflicts of the gospel in its earlier days at Philippi. Why should women expose, themselves? Why go in the way of crowds of soldiers or civil officers? Why should such as they face the unmannerly officials that took advantage of the imperial government to treat with injury those identified with the gospel? Love does not calculate these costs and dangers, but goes calmly forward, come what will, trouble, scorn, or death. No wonder the apostle was grieved to think of differences among such women as these. "Help them" (says he) "with Clement also, and with my other fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life."
Finally, he calls them again to rejoice, and now with more emphasis than ever. "Rejoice in the Lord alway." in sorrow? Yes. In affliction, in prison, everywhere. "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice." He did not make a mistake. He did not forget, but meant what he said. "Again I say, Rejoice." Let your moderation go along with it, because along with this joy there might be a certain enthusiastic spirit that would hinder calm judgment. But this is not the character of Christian joy. "Let your moderation be known unto all men;" that is, the meekness and gentleness which bends to the blow, instead of resisting it in the spirit that ever asserts its rights and fights for them. Have rather that spirit which counts nothing as a right to be claimed, but all one has as gifts of grace to be freely used in this world, because one has Christ in view. "Let your moderation be known unto all men," strengthened by this consolatory truth, "the Lord is at hand."
And this nearness of Christ I take simply to be the blessed hope here made a practical power. It is not the Lord at hand to succour one now and here from time to time. No one denies this, which is, or ought to be, no new thing for a Christian. He means the Lord, really, personally, at hand; as he had said in the end of the last chapter, that this was what we look for. "Our conversation is in heaven; from whence we wait for the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour" for this is the true meaning of it. And this puts the doctrine, as far as there is doctrine in the epistle, in a very clear light. There is no looking at Him as Saviour on the cross merely; but when He comes for us, there will be in the filial sense (as ever in our epistle) "salvation." Thus he anticipates the removal of the last trace of the first Adam; he looks for our being brought fully, even as to the body, into the likeness of the Second Man, the last Adam. This is salvation in truth. Hence he says, "We look for the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour: who shall change our vile. body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself." It does not matter how unlike they may be, or how opposed; it does not matter what vessels of shame and misery they may have been now; "He is able to subdue all things unto himself."
Then, as to our practical every-day expectation, "the Lord is at hand." And, accordingly, why should one be a prey to care, if this be really so? "Be anxious [or be careful] for nothing; but in everything" this is the resource "in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." Better not make them known to men; it is a dangerous snare. By all means let them be made known unto God. There is something which ought to be made known unto men, namely, the not fighting for your rights. "Let your moderation be made known unto men." "Let your requests be made known unto God." It is not that you have failed, perhaps, or broken down in some particular. Certainly this is painful and humbling. But it is better for you to lose your character, than for Christ through you to lose His; for you are responsible to display the character of Christ. "Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand." "Let your requests," whatever they may be, "be made known unto God;" and not only so, but "with thanksgiving." You may be perfectly sure of an answer when you make known your requests: therefore let it be with thanksgiving. And what is the result? "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus," feeling, judgment, everything, guarded and governed by this precious peace of God. The peace which God has in everything He will communicate to keep you in everything; and not only so, but the heart, being free from care, will enter into what pleases Him. And therefore, "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." Instead of occupying oneself with all one hears that would cast down, now that we have committed all. that is miserable to God, we can go on delighting in the goodness of God, as well as in its fruits. In God there is ample supply. All we want is, that the eye of faith be a little open; but it is only Christ before the eye that keeps it open.
Then he turns to what had drawn out the epistle. "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." So tender, so delicate is his sense, that he would not spare what was needful if there had been any want of thought, but at the same time he hastens to make whatever apology love could suggest. "Not," says he, "that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am," this is the great design of the epistle; it was not truth that was made known simply, but experience that was grown into "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 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. I can do all things through him who strengtheneth me." At the same time he intimates his value for their love, and takes care that his was independence founded on dependence, an independence of circumstances which finds its strength in simple and absolute dependence upon God.
So the apostle lets them know that he owned their hearty love; "not," he says, "because I desire a gift." For no personal end did he mention their grace; "but I desire fruit that may abound to your account." It was not that he wanted more. We know well that as men have sarcastically said, gratitude is a kind of fishing for fresh favours. There was the very reverse in Paul's case. As he tells them, fruit that might abound to their account was all that his heart really yearned after. Their gift to him was "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." What a God is ours, so to treat that which, connected with the world, Christ Himself calls "unrighteous mammon!" His goodness can even take this up and thus make it fragrant even to Himself. "But my God shall supply all your need." How rich and full he was of the goodness of the God he had proved so long and could recommend so well! And there is not now merely His riches of grace, but he looks forward into the glory where he was going, and can say, "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Thus with salutations of love he closes this most characteristic and cheering even of Paul's epistles.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Philippians 4:13". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/philippians-4.html. 1860-1890.
the Sixth Week after Easter