Paul and Timotheus. St. Paul does not assume his official title in writing to the Macedonian Churches, Philippi and Thessalonica; it is used in all his other Epistles, except the short letter to Phlippians. His relations to the Philippians and Thessalonians were those of the deepest personal affection; there was no need of a formal introduction, especially in an Epistle which has so little of an official character as this to the Philippians. He joins the name of Timothy with his own, as in 2 Corinthians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Phlippians. Thus Timothy is associated with St. Paul in every Epistle in which another name is found except 1 Corinthians, where Sosthenes only is mentioned; this shows the intimate affection that bound St. Paul to his "own son in the faith." There was a special reason for mentioning Timothy in this Epistle, as he was so well known to the Philippians, and St. Paul was intending (Philippians 2:19) to send him shortly to Philippi. But St. Paul writes in his own name from the beginning. Timothy was not in any sense a joint author; he may possibly have been St. Paul's amanuensis, as Tertius was in the case of the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:22). Possibly also motives of humility led St. Paul to insert other names besides his own; but it was not to support his teaching by additional authority—he was "an apostle, not of man, neither by man," and needed not the weight of other names. The servants of Jesus Christ; slaves, literally: "made free from sin and become servants [slaves] to God," whose service is perfect freedom. We belong to him: he he is our Master ( κύριος δεσπότης) as well as Father, we are his slaves as well as his sons: "Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price.'' Compare the words of the "damsel possessed with a spirit of divination" at Philippi: "These men are the servants [slaves] of the most high God." She felt the difference between her state and theirs; she was the slave of her Philip-plan masters, of the evil spirit too; St. Paul and his companion were the slaves of God most high. In the best manuscripts, as in the R.V., "Christ" is put before "Jesus" here. The apostle frequently sets the official before the personal name of our Lord; possibly because he knew not the Lord Jesus after the flesh, but saw him first as the Messiah, the Christ of God. To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi. The word "all" is of very frequent occurrence in this Epistle. There may possibly be a reference to the dissensions alluded to in Philippians 4:2; or, as some think, to the supplies sent for St. Paul's assistance; he addresses all alike, not only those who contributed; he does not recognize their divisions. But it is, perhaps, only the natural expression of his warm affection: the apostle was beloved by all the Philippians, and all were dear to him; there was no hostile faction there, as at Corinth and else where. Compare the affectionate repetition, "always," "every," "all," in Verse 4. St. Paul uses the word "saint" as the general name for his converts, like "Christian." The word "Christian" occurs only three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). Christ's people are called "brethren," "disciples," or "saints." Thus St. Paul addresses the Corinthians generally as "saints," though many of them were far from possessing holiness of heart and life. The ancient Church was holy; the Israelites are called "a holy nation,'' "saints of the Most High." They were holy by God's election, his chosen people, separated unto him by the rite of circumcision. By the same election the Christian Church is holy, dedicated to God in baptism. This holiness of dedication does not necessarily involve the actual existence of that inner holiness of heart "without which no man shall see the Lord." But it does imply the bounden duty of striving after that spiritual holiness. "Ye are the temple of the living God," St. Paul says to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 6:16). "for God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people … therefore … let us cleanse ourselves from el! filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." The Greek word ἅγιος (in our translation sometimes "holy," sometimes "saint") is the usual rendering for the Hebrew #$woqf. The primary idea of the Hebrew word seems to be that of separation—separation from all that defileth. God is "of purer eyes than to behold evil;" those who are dedicated to him must strive by his grace to purify themselves even as he is pure. "Be ye holy, for I am holy." In Christ Jesus. They are saints in virtue of their relation to Christ. They were once" baptized into one body"—the mystical body of Christ. Holiness of dedication can issue in holiness of heart and life only by abiding in him (comp. John 15:4-6). All saints are one body in Christ; they are knit together into one communion and fellowship by their personal union with the one Lord. With the bishops and deacons. In the New Testament the word ἐπίσκοπος is synonymous with πρεσβύτερος (comp. Acts 20:17; 1 Peter 5:1, 1 Peter 5:2; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Titus 1:5-7). St. Paul is addressing the elders of the Church at Philippi, not bishops in our sense of the word. It is possible that Epaphroditus may have been the presiding bishop of the Church (see notes on Philippians 2:25 and Philippians 4:3). If so, we see a reason why the second and third orders of the ministry only are mentioned, as Epaphroditus was the bearer of the Epistle. But diocesan episcopacy does not seem to have become general till the last quarter of the first century. We know that Paul and Barnabas "ordained elders in every Church" in their first missionary journey; we need not, therefore, be surprised at the mention of these official designations in this Epistle, which was written seventeen or eighteen years later. St. Paul's address to the elders of the Church at Ephesus shows the importance which he attached to the office and to the faithful performance of its duties. Perhaps "the bishops and deacons" are specially mentioned here as having collected. the contributions sent to St. Paul; so Chrysostom and Meyer. On the whole subject, see Bishop Lightfoot's exhaustive 'Dissertation on the Christian Ministry,' in his volume on the Epistle to the Philippians.
Grace be unto you, and peace. This combination of the Greek and Hebrew salutations is the common form in St. Paul's earlier Epistles; in the pastoral Epistles "mercy" is added. Grace is the favor of God, free and sovereign, which rests on the faithful Christian, and brings the gift of peace; which is, first, reconciliation with God and, secondly, the childlike confidence and trustful hope which result from faith in Christ's atonement. From God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father is the first Author of our salvation; God the Son, the Word made flesh, brought the message of peace from heaven, and reconciled us to God.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. All St. Paul's Epistles, except those to the Galatiaus, 1 Timothy, and Titus, begin with a thanksgiving. In this Epistle the thanksgiving is especially warm and earnest; no cloud of doubt darkened the apostle's confidence in the Philippians; he pours forth his gratitude to God for their spiritual gifts fervently and without reserve. My God. The pronoun expresses the inner consciousness of personal relations with God; it reminds us of Acts 27:23, "God, whose I am, and whom I serve." Upon all my remembrance of you (as R.V.) is the more exact rendering. The remembrance (not mention)was continuous; he "had them in his heart," and that unbroken remembrance resulted in unbroken thanksgiving.
Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy. Perhaps the first part of this verse is better joined with Philippians 1:3, "I thank my God … always in every prayer of mine for you all;" so Bishop Lightfoot The Greek word for "prayer" and "request "is the same, better rendered "my supplication," he as the R.V.; it implies not merely a lifting up of the heart to God, but an earnest entreaty for a necessary gift. We meet now for the first time with that "joy" which is the keynote of this Epistle. "Summa epistolae, Gaudeo; gaudete;" so Bengel, who continues, "This Epistle of joy well follows that to the Ephesians, where love reigns. 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy.' Joy gives life to prayer."
For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; rather, as R.V., for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel. This verse should be taken in connection with Philippians 1:3. St. Paul thanks God for their help, their co-operation towards the work of the gospel. They helped forward the work by their prayers, their labors, and their liberal bounty. This fellowship began "in the beginning of the gospel," when the Philippians sent aid to the apostle at Thessalonica and Corinth; it continued "until now" ten years; they had just sent their alms to St. Paul at Rome by phroditus (Philippians 4:10).
Being confident of this very thing. St. Paul's thanksgiving refers, not only to the past, but also to the future. He has a confident trustfulness in God's power and love. The words αὐτὸ τοῦτο might mean "on this account," i.e. on account of the perseverance described in Philippians 1:5, but the order seems to support the ordinary rendering. That he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it; rather, as R.V., which began. Both ἐναρξάμενος and ἐπιτελέσει have (Bishop Lightfoot) a sacrificial reference. The good work is self-consecration, the sacrifice of themselves, their souls and bodies, issuing in the co-operation of labor and almsgiving. This sacrificial metaphor recurs in Philippians 2:17. The good work is God's; he began it and he will perfect it. The beginning (Bengel) is the pledge of the consummation. Yet it is also their work—their co-operation towards the gospel (comp. Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13). Until the day of Jesus Christ. The perfecting will go on until the great day. To the individual Christian that clay is practically the day of his death; though, indeed, the process of perfecting may be going on in the holy dead till they obtain their perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul. These words do not imply that St. Paul expected the second advent during the life of his Philippian converts. The words "in you" must be understood as meaning "in your hearts," not merely "among you."
Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all. It is meet; rather, just, right. To think this; to entertain this confidence concerning you. Because I have you in my heart; or, because you have me in your heart. But the order of the words, and Philippians 1:8, make the first rendering the more probable. His love for them increases his confidence. Inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. These words may be taken with the preceding, "I have you in my heart during my imprisonment and defense." So Chrysostom, whose words are very striking: οὕτω γάρ ἐστι τυραννικὸν ὁ ἔρως ὁ πνευματικὸς ὡς μηδενὶ παραχωρεῖν καιρῷ. But it is, perhaps, more natural to take them with the following. Ye all are partakers of my grace; rather, ye all are partakers with me of the grace. They were partakers of the grace of God given to him in his bonds and in his work. The like grace was given to them both for the passive and active sides of the Christian life—both in endurance of suffering and in propagating the gospel. Thus there seems to be no reference in the words "defense and confirmation'' to his public defense before Caesar (which probably had not yet taken place), but generally to his work of preaching the gospel, which was both apologetic, meeting the objections of adversaries, and aggressive, asserting the truth.
For God is my record—rather, witness (comp. Romans 1:9)—how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. The word σπλάγχνα, here rendered "bowels," means the heart, liver, etc.. he not the entrails. The expression is remarkable, and is well illustrated by Bengel's striking words, "Paulus non in Pauli, sed Jesu Christi movetur visceribus." "Not I, but Christ liveth in me." He is so united with Christ that he feels with the heart of Christ, he loves with the love of Christ.
And this I pray. This is the purport of the prayer already mentioned in Philippians 1:4. The conjunction ἵνα marks the end of St. Paul's prayer, and so its purport. That your love may abound yet more and more. Your love; not love for the apostle only, but the grace of Christian charity. St. Paul finds no fault with the Philippians, but "ignis in apostolo nunquam dicit, Sufficit" (Bengel). He prays for their continued growth in love, but not unintelligent love. In knowledge and in all judgment. ἐπίγνωσις is a stronger word than γνῶσις: it means full, complete knowledge. The Greek αἴσθησις (literally, sense) occurs only here in the New Testament, though αἰσθητήρια (organs of sense) is found in Hebrews 5:14. "Discernment," the rendering of R.V., is more correct than "judgment." It is, Bishop Wordsworth says, "that delicate tact and instinct, which almost intuitively perceives what is right, and almost unconsciously shrinks from what is wrong." It cannot exist without love. "Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." With love there comes a spiritual sense, spiritual sight, spiritual hearing, a sense of the beauty of holiness, a fine perception of Christian propriety; ἡ ἀγάπη οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ.
That ye may approve things that are excellent. Love, issuing in spiritual discernment, would enable them to recognize, to test, to prove things that are excellent; so Bengel, "Non modo prae malts bona, seal in bonds optima." This seems better than the alternative rendering, "to prove the things that differ" (comp. Romans 2:18). That ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. εἰλικρινής according to the common derivation (from εἵλη, sunlight, and κρίνω), means "judged in the full light of the sun," that is, pure, true; comp. John 2:21, "He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." According to another possible derivation, the word would mean "unmixed," that is, genuine, sincere. "Without offense" may be taken actively or passively; without giving offense (causing stumbling) to others, or without stumbling themselves. Perhaps the latter sense is more suitable here. He prays that the Philippians may be true and pure inwardly, and blameless in their outward lives. "Till," rather, "against the day of Christ." The preposition εἰς does not denote time only, as ἄχρις in Verse 6; it implies preparation.
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness. The best manuscripts read "fruit." He prays that their love may abound, not only in knowledge and discernment, but also in the fruit of holy living. The fruit of righteousness is sanctification, which springs from justification, and manifests itself in holy living (comp. Amos 6:12; Galatians 5:22). Which are by Jesus Christ; rather, through. The righteousness of God's saints is not that" which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ" (comp. John 15:4). The branch lives by the life of the vine; the Christian lives by the life of Christ. It is his life, living in, assimilated by the Christian soul, which brings forth the fruit of righteousness. Unto the glory and praise of God. The righteousness of God's saints, springing from the abiding presence of Christ, shows forth the glory of God. The glory of God is his majesty in itself; praise is the acknowledgment of this majesty by the voice and heart of man. The glory of God is the end of all Christian effort.
But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel. After thanksgiving and prayer, St. Paul turns to his own imprisonment at Rome. That imprisonment, he says, has resulted in the furtherance of the gospel, rather than, as might have been expected, in its hindrance.
So that my bonds in Christ are manifest; rather, as R.V., so that my bonds became manifest in Christ. At first he seemed like ether prisoners; afterwards it became known that he suffered bonds, not for any crime, but in Christ, i.e. in fellowship with Christ and in consequence of the relation in which he stood to Christ. In all the palace; rather, as R.V., throughout the whole Praetorian Guard; literally, in the whole praetorium, The word elsewhere means a governor's house: Pilate's house in the Gospels, Herod's palace in Acts 23:35. But at Rome the name so used would give unnecessary offense, and there is no proof that it was ever used for the palatium there. St. Paul must have heard it constantly as the name of the Praetorian regiment; he was kept chained to a soldier of that corps (Acts 28:16); and as his guard was continually relieved, his name and sufferings for Christ would become gradually known throughout the force. Others, on the authority of a passage in Dion Cassius, understand the word of the barracks of that part of the Praetorian guard attached to the imperial residence on the Palatine. But the passage relates to the time of Augustus, before the Praetorian cohorts were established by Tiberius in the camp outside of the Colline Gate. And in all other places; rather, as R.V. and to all the rest; generally, that is, throughout the city.
And many of the brethren in the Lord; rather, and that most. Most of the brethren took courage; there were exceptions. Waxing confident by my bonds. The words, "in the Lord," are perhaps better taken with being "confident." Their confidence rests upon St. Paul's bonds, but it is in the Lord. St. Paul's example gives them courage, because they know that he is suffering for the love of Christ, and is supported in his sufferings by the grace of Christ. Are much more bold to speak the word without fear; better, more abundantly, as R.V. The best manuscripts read here, "the Word of God."
Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife. The Judaizing party, whom St. Paul censures in Philippians 3:2, preached Christ, but not from pure motives. Like the writers of the pseudo-Clementines, they envied St. Paul, and in the wicked madness of the odium theologicum, they wished to distress St. Paul, to depreciate his preaching, and to exalt their own. And some also of good will. The word generally means God's good pleasure, as in Philippians 2:13, but here simply good will, benevolence towards St. Paul.
Philippians 1:16, Philippians 1:17
These two verses must change places according to the reading of the best manuscripts. The clauses are inverted by the figure chiasmus. But the other of love; read, as R.V., the one do it of love. This is better than the other possible rendering, "those who are of love do it." Knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. κεῖμαι. I am set or appointed, as in 1 Thessalonians 2:3; not, as some understand, I lie in prison. They preach Christ out of love—love for Christ, and love for Paul for Christ's sake. The one preach Christ of contention; read and translate, as R.V., but the other proclaim Christ of faction; perhaps rather, announce ( καταγγέλλουσιν); bring news of Christ; and that they do out of factious-ness. ἐριθεία, derived from ἕριθος, a hired servant, means labor for hire, and is commonly used of hired canvassers, in the sense of factiousness, party spirit. It is reckoned by St. Paul in Galatians 5:20 among the works of the flesh, and is condemned also in Romans 2:8. Not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds; rather, as R.V. (reading with the best manuscripts ἐγείρειν), thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds. Their motives were not pure; they wished to make St. Paul feel the helplessness of imprisonment, and to increase his affliction by opposing his doctrines, and by forming a party insisting on the observance of the ceremonial law. Bishop Lightfoot translates θλίψιν ἐγείρειν "to make my chains gall me."
What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; rather, only that, as R.V. (comp. Acts 20:23). What is the result of all this preaching? Only that Christ is announced, that the story of Christ is told. The motives of the preachers may not be good, but the result is good; the gospel facts are made more widely known, not only by those who preach in sincerity, but even by means of those who strive to promote their own party ends under the pretense of preaching Christ. And I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. St. Paul rejoices in the good which God brings out of evil; though that good is produced by the outward agency of his own adversaries. Yea, and I shall rejoice. He will not allow himself to be vexed by the bitterness of his opponents, he will not imitate their party spirit; his joy will continue, for he knows that, in spite of present hindrances, the result is assured.
For I know that this shall turn to my salvation. τοῦτο, this, refers to the general preaching of Christ, rather than (as Calvin and others interpret) to the affliction raised up for St. Paul. The opposition of his enemies will stir him up to greater activity and earnestness, and so conduce to his spiritual well-being now and to his salvation hereafter. This he knows, for "all things work together for good to them that love God." Some, as Chrysostom, understand σωτηρία here of present safety or deliverance from prison; but this seems improbable. The words are quoted from Job 13:16, Septuagint Version. Through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. He knows that they pray for him; he humbly believes that those prayers assist him in working out his own salvation. As the prayer ascends, says Bengel, the supply of the Spirit descends; comp. Galatians 2:5, "He that ministereth ['supplieth,' R.V.] to you the Spirit." The Spirit is the supply; the Lord Jesus sends the quickening Spirit from the Father. Others, as Meyer, make the genitive subjective, and interpret "the aid which the Spirit supplies." The Spirit is here called "the Spirit of Jesus Christ"—"proceeding from the Father and the Son." So also Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:9; Acts 16:7 (in the true reading), "the Spirit of Jesus."
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed. The Greek word for "earnest expectation," which occurs also in Romans 8:19, means literally, a watching with outstretched head, with the attention concentrated on one object, and turned away from all others. Neither his sufferings nor the opposition of the Judaizers will put him to shame. 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. After " boldness" (literally, boldness of speech) we should expect the active form, "I shall magnify." St. Paul, in his humility, prefers the pasture, "Christ shall be magnified.'' Boldness of speech was to be his part, the glory should be Christ's. Whatever the issue might be, whether a life of Christian labor or a martyr's death, it would be well. The apostles were not omniscient, says Bengel, in relation to their own future lot; they lived in faith and hope.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Others, as Calvin, render (not so well), "For to me Christ is gain both in life and in death." The alternative suggested in Philippians 1:20 leads St. Paul to a short digression on the comparative advantages of life and death; he is content with either. Life is blessed, for it is Christ; comp. Colossians 2:4, "Christ, who is our Life," and Galatians it. 20, "Not I, but Christ liveth in me;" "Quit-quid rive, Christum vivo" (Bengel). The life of Christ lives, breathes, energizes, in the life of his saints. His flesh, his incarnate life is their meat; his blood, the mystery of his atonement, is the drink of their souls. He abideth in them, and they in him. And yet death is gain; the slate of death, not the act of dying, is meant (the infinitive is aorist, τὸ ἀποθανεῖν), for the dead in Christ are at home with the Lord ( ἐνδημοῦντες πρὸς τὸν κύριον) in a far more blessed sense than the saints on earth.
But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not; or perhaps, as Meyer, "I make not known." St. Paul wavers between his own personal longing for rest in Paradise with Christ, and the thought that the continuance of his life on earth might conduce to the spreading of the gospel. The grammar of the Greek sentence aptly represents the apostle's hesitation. The construction is almost hopelessly confused. Perhaps the interpretation of the R.V. is the simplest: "But if to live in the flesh,—if this is the fruit of my work, then what shall choose I wot not." Thus καρπός is parallel with κέρδος (Philippians 1:21); τὸ ζῇν ἐν σαρκι is also a gain, a fruit; the genitive is one of apposition; the work itself is the fruit. St. Paul, says Bengel, regards his work as fruit, others seek fruit from their work. Bishop Lightfoot proposes another rendering, "But what if my living in the flesh will bear fruit, etc.? In fact what to choose I know not." Surely, says Bengel, the Christian's lot is excellent; he can hesitate only in the choice of blessings; disappointed he cannot be.
For I am in a strait betwixt two; rather, but (so the best manuscripts) I am straitened, hemmed in (Bishop Lightfoot) betwixt the two alternatives, life and death, pressing upon me, constraining me on either side. Having a desire to depart; having my desire set towards departing εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι). The word occurs again in 2 Timothy 4:6, ὁ καιρὸς τῆς ἐμῆς ἀναλύσεως It is used of a ship, to loose from its moorings; or a camp, to break up; comp. 2 Corinthians 5:1, "If our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved ( καταλυθῇ)." Probably here the metaphor is taken from tent life; to loosen, to remove the tent, the temporary abode, in the journey to the heavenly city. And to be with Christ. The holy dead are with Christ, they rest from their labors; they live unto God (Luke 20:38); they do not sleep idly without consciousness, for they are described in Holy Scripture as witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) of the race set before living Christians (comp. also 2 Corinthians 5:6, 2 Corinthians 5:8 and Acts 7:59). Yet they are elsewhere described as sleeping (1 Corinthians 15:51, 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:15); for the rest of the spirits of just men in Paradise is as a sleep compared with the perfect consummation and bliss of God's elect, both in body and soul, in his everlasting glory. Which is far better; read and translate, for it is by much very far better. He piles up comparatives, as if unable to find words capable of expressing the glory of his hope.
Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. To abide by the flesh (if with some authorities the preposition is omitted), to hold to this human life with all its trials, is more needful for your sake. Meyer quotes Seneca, 'Epist.' 98, "Vitae suae adjici nihil desiderat sua causa, sed eorum, quibus utilis est."
And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all. Being persuaded of this, that my life is needful for you; or, as others render, "And this I certainly, confidently know." The first translation seems preferable, for St. Paul's assurance does not seem to rest on direct inspiration, but on a calculation of probabilities. The apostles could not always foresee their own future (Acts 20:22). Bishop Lightfoot says, "The same word οἶδα is used Acts 20:25, where he expresses his belief that he shall not see his Asiatic converts again. Viewed as infallible presentiments, the two are hardly reconcilable; for the one assumes, the other negatives, his release. The assurance here recorded was fulfilled (1 Timothy 1:3); while the presentiment there expressed was overruled by events (2 Timothy 1:15, 2 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 4:20)." For your furtherance and joy of faith; for the progress and joy of your faith, that you may continually increase in faith and take delight in it. Joy is the key-note of this Epistle.
That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again. Glorying or boasting ( καύχημα), not rejoicing. Perhaps rather, as Meyer," That the matter in which you have to glory [i.e. the bliss in which you rejoice as Christians] may increase abundantly in Christ Jesus [as the element or sphere of the glorying] in me [as the instrument or cause]."
Only let your conversation be. St. Paul exhorts the Philippians to steadfastness. Only, whatever happens, whether I come or no, πολιτεύεσθε, behave as citizens (comp. Philippians 3:20, ἡμῶν τὸ πολιτεῦμα and Ephesians 2:19, συμπολῖται τῶν ἁγίων. The verb also occurs in Acts 23:1, "I have lived ( πεπολίτευμαι) in all good conscience towards God." St. Paul was himself a Roman citizen; he was writing from Rome; his presence the re was caused by his having exercised the rights of citizenship in appealing to Caesar. He was writing to a place largely inhabited by Roman citizens (for Philippi was a Roman colony), a place in which he had declared himself to be a Roman (Acts 16:37). The metaphor was natural. Some of you are citizens of Rome, the imperial city; live, all of you, as citizens of the heavenly country, the city of the living God. As it becometh the gospel of Christ; rather, as R.V. margin, behave as citizens worthily of. There is a striking parallel in Polycarp's letter to these same Philippians (sect. 5). ἑὰν πολιτευσώμεθα ἀξίως αὐτοῦ καὶ συμβασιλεύσομεν αὐτῷ literally, "If we live as citizens worthily of him, we shall also reign with him." That whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit. The metaphor is military, and follows naturally from the thought of citizenship. Philippi was a military colony, its chief magistrates were praetors, στρατηγοί (Acts 16:20), literally, "generals" (comp. Ephesians 6:13 and Galatians 5:1). Spirit is the highest part of our immaterial nature, which, when enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God, can rise into communion with God, and discern the truths of the world unseen. In one spirit; because the spirits of believers are knit together into one fellowship by the one Holy Spirit of God abiding in them all. This distinction between spirit and soul occurs again in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. The soul is the lower part of our inner being, the seat of the appetites, passions, affections, connected above with the πνεῦμα, below with the σάρξ With one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; with one soul (not mind); i.e. with all the desires and emotions concentrated on one object, all acting together in the one great work; comp. Acts 4:32, "Striving together with one another for the faith," rather than "striving together with the faith." The personification of faith, though approved by high authority, seems forced and improbable. Faith is here used objectively; the faith of the gospel is the doctrine of the gospel, as Galatians 1:23, "The faith which once he destroyed."
And in nothing terrified by your adversaries; literally, snared, as a frightened horse. Which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation; translate, seeing that it (your courage) is to them an evident token of perdition, but (with the best manuscripts) of your salvation. And that of God. These words are to be taken with "an evident token." The courage of God's saints in the midst of dangers is a proof of his presence and favor, a token of final victory.
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. On you it was conferred ( ἐχαρίσθη) as a gracious gift, a free spontaneous act of Divine bounty. Faith in Christ is the gift of God, so is "the fellowship of his sufferings." It is not a burden, but a privilege:" In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."
Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. These words are best taken with Philippians 1:27, Philippians 1:28 and Philippians 1:29 being parenthetical. The apostle returns to the military or gladiatorial metaphor of a contest, ἀγών. He had himself been persecuted at Philippi (Acts 16:1 Thessalonians Acts 2:2); now the Philippians heard of his Roman imprisonment, and were themselves suffering similar persecutions.
Philippians 1:1, Philippians 1:2
I. ST. PAUL'S DESCRIPTION OF HIMSELF. He is a servant of Jesus Christ.
1. He does not here style himself an apostle. The title was unnecessary in writing to the Philippians; he does not assume it needlessly. He associates Timotheus with himself. In the presence of the blessed Lord and Master distinctions sink into insignificance.
2. Paul and Timotheus are alike "servants." But that name, in its inner meaning, is a lofty title. He who belongs wholly to Christ, who is the slave of Christ, bought with the blood of Christ, is free from sin; he must be free, says St. Chrysostom, from all other masters, or he would be only in part the servant of Christ.
II. HIS DESCRIPTION OF THE PHILIPPIAN CHRISTIANS. He calls them "saints in Christ Jesus." It is true that the word "saint" may be used here in an official sense, as equivalent to "Christian." But:
1. It implies the necessity of that which all who are to see God in heaven must possess, holiness of heart and life. We believe in the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth the elect people of God; that belief pledges us to follow after personal holiness. We have been once dedicated to God; the great aim of life should be self-consecration—the entire consecration of our whole nature, spirit, soul, and body, to his blessed service.
2. Saints are such only by being in Christ Jesus. The living branch abides in vital union with the vine; the saint abides in spiritual union with the Savior. God taketh away the unfruitful branch; the unfruitful branch is the ungodly Christian—a branch, indeed, but without fruit, withered, dead. Spiritual life is sustained only by union with Christ, by the abiding presence of Christ, who is the Bread of life, the Life of the world. If we would be saints, not in name only, but in heart and in truth, we must strive above all things to live habitually, consciously, lovingly, in that "fellowship which is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."
III. THE SALUTATION—WHAT CHRISTIAN GOOD WISHES SHOULD BE.
1. Grace. Grace is the favor of God, unbought, undeserved, freely given, out of his generous bounty. That grace is the origin of our salvation: "By grace ye are saved." It is the source of holiness: "By the grace of God I am what I am." It is an unfailing support in all troubles and distresses: "My grace is sufficient for thee." It should be our earnest effort not "to receive the grace of God in vain," but "to continue in the grace of God;" for that grace "bringeth salvation."
2. Peace. Peace is
1. To be servants, slaves, of Christ; wholly given up to him; content with that service which is perfect freedom.
2. To think the best of others, to esteem them better than ourselves.
3. To wish them the best wishes—grace and peace.
St. Paul an example to all Christian ministers.
I. HE REMEMBERS HIS CONVERTS. He was possessed through and through with an ardent love of souls. Like the good Shepherd, he knew his sheep, and cared for them with a sincere, self-sacrificing affection. He worked for them while he could; in prison he does not forget them. His thoughts are not taken up with his own hardships and dangers. The care of all the Churches still occupies his mind. He has his converts in his heart; it is his joy to think on their progress in holiness, to thank God for his grace vouchsafed unto them.
II. HE PRAYS FOR THEM.
1. Intercessory prayer was part of his daily work. He had learned of the Lord that men "ought always to pray, and not to faint;" and he "prayed to God always." Thus his time was fully occupied; his mind was active. He was chained to a soldier, he could not visit his converts; but he could think of them, he could pray for them. And he did what he could. He teaches us by his example to make prayers and supplications, and to give thanks for all men.
2. He prays for all, always. We notice the constant repetition of the word "all" in this Epistle. There were dissensions, it seems, among the Philippians. The apostle will not recognize their differences; he loves them all, he prays for all: all are dear to him, all have their place in his prayers.
3. His prayers flow from love. He loves them, he longs for them all, and that "in the bowels of Jesus Christ." He loves them as Christ loves them; nay, more than that, he loves them with the love of Christ, with the heart of Christ; for Christ was his life: "Not I, but Christ liveth in me." Hence he could say (would to God that we could say the same!) that he loved with Christ's love. Mark the intensity of his consciousness of the blessed presence of Christ in all his power and love abiding within him.
III. HIS HUMILITY. None labored as St. Paul labored, but he was wholly free from vain-glory.
1. He gives the glory to God. It was God who began the good work in the hearts of the Philippians; God began it; God will complete it. God is everything, the apostle nothing. Yet this confidence in God makes the apostle work all the more i it increases his efforts, it deepens the earnestness of his prayers.
2. He recognizes the fellowship of the Philippians. They had assisted him in the furtherance of the gospel both by their gifts and by their labors. He acknowledges their help; he thanks God for it; he regards them all as partakers of his grace. Grace had been given to him to endure and to labor. The like grace, he says, had been granted to the Philippians; he is thankful
IV. HIS SINCERITY. "God is my witness," he says: his love for the Philippians is deep and true; God who sooth the secrets of the heart, knows how he longs after them. Living always in the felt presence of God, he knows, and gladly knows, that no thoughts of his heart are hidden from God.
1. Pray for the strong love of souls.
2. Pray for a transparent sincerity and truthfulness of heart.
3. Be humble; without humility there can be no real progress in holiness.
4. Give much time to intercessory prayer.
St. Paul's prayer for the Philippians.
I. THAT THEIR LOVE ABOUND MORE AND MORE.
1. God had begun in them the good work, the work of faith, faith that worketh by love. St. Paul recognizes the reality of their love; it was true and deep. But:
2. There is always room for growth in love; it is the noblest of Christian graces, the most precious of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Christian's desire for love is without limit. ἀκόρεστον ἀγαθὸν τοῦτο, says Chrysostom. "Owe no man anything," says the apostle, "but to love one another." Love is always owing; we can never love our brethren as we ought. Still less can we attain to that soul-absorbing love which we owe to God. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." The commandment is very deep and searching; we can never obey it perfectly; we shall be always in debt. But we may approach ever nearer and nearer to that fullness of perfect love. Therefore the Christian's prayer for love is unceasing, deepening in earnestness as he grows in the knowledge of Christ. The Christian life is a continual progress. "The path of the just is as the shining light, shining more and more" Love must be ever growing, or it will lose its freshness.
II. HE PRAYS FOR THEIR GROWTH IN KNOWLEDGE.
1. Christian love is not indiscriminate, unintelligent; it is informed and directed by spiritual knowledge. Love is informed by knowledge.
2. Love increases knowledge. For it is not book knowledge of which St. Paul is speaking, but heart knowledge. The knowledge of Christian experience is the personal knowledge of God gained by communion with him. Only love can know him; for like is known by like. "He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love." And, on the other hand, "Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." The religions sense, the tact which distinguishes good from evil, which approves among good things the best and holiest, flows out of love.
III. HE PRAYS FOR THEIR GROWTH IN PURITY. The word means singleness of mind, simplicity, sincerity, purity. "If thine eye be single, thy whole body is full of light." This sincerity, this singleness of purpose, springs from love. Holy love refines the whole nature; for it brings the Christian daily into nearer fellowship with Christ, who alone can cleanse the sinful heart. "If we walk in the light … the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." That inward purity results in outward blamelessness, and prepares the soul against the day of Christ.
IV. HE PRAYS FOR THEIR GROWTH IN OBEDIENCE. Love must work; it cannot lie dormant in the soul. It must produce the fruit of righteousness. But that fruit of righteousness is:
1. Through Jesus Christ. "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine;" nor can the Christian bring forth the fruit of holy living, except he abide in Christ. The life of the vine lives in the branch; the life of Christ lives in the Christian soul, and bears the fruit of holiness.
2. And to the glory and praise of God. The ultimate end of the righteousness of the saints is the glory of God. Therefore we are taught to pray "that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name." There can be no nobler ambition: to live for God; only to seek his glory; to love him, not for what he has to give us, but because he is so holy, so loving, so glorious; to be willing to live or to die; to do great things in the world, or to be unknown and obscure, if only he may be glorified;—this is the noblest aim of life, the highest theme of prayer.
1. Pray much for others; cultivate the habit of intercessory prayer.
2. Pray for the continual growth and diffusion of love, knowledge, righteousness.
3. Seek above all things the glory of God.
The apostle's own circumstances.
His holy unselfishness. He measures his condition, not by its present hardships or comforts, but by the facilities which it gives for spreading the knowledge of Christ.
I. HIS IMPRISONMENT HAS TURNED TO THE FURTHERANCE OF THE GOSPEL. It was not to have been expected; the area of his preaching was contracted; he himself was suffering and confined. But God makes "all things work together for good to them that love him;" even things that might seem likely to interfere with their spiritual work.
1. His chains attracted attention: it became manifest that he was a prisoner "in Christ," living in Christ, suffering in and with Christ, for the sake of Christ.
2. Listeners gathered round him: the Prectorian soldiers, among whom he lived, one of whom, in continual rotation, guarded him: others too—"all the rest." His imprisonment became widely known. The strange fact (it was strange then) that these hardships were endured voluntarily, from religious motives, excited curiosity, interest; hence many converts.
3. His example encouraged others. Some were timid, frightened. But the greater number of the brethren took courage to preach fearlessly. Example is better than precept. The sight of a suffering saint, patient, contented, happy, does more to win souls than hundreds of sermons. It is a visible proof of the power of Christ.
II. ST. PAUL A CENTRE OF MISSION WORK.
1. His presence in Rome led to much preaching; his example, his energy, stirred up others. There was much activity. But alas! there were dissensions even in the primitive Church. There was a Judaizing party at Rome who hated the apostle. Their zeal was kindled by his success; they preached, but with the design of winning adherents to the Law. Hence there was a division.
2. Some preached of good will; they knew that St. Paul was set for the defense of the gospel. The sight of his earnestness, his sufferings, excited their sympathies, quickened their affections; they were eager to help on the good work, to carry the gospel message into places which the imprisoned apostle could not reach. They preached out of love—love for St. Paul, love for the work, love for Christ.
3. But others preached of envy and party spirit. They did preach Christ in a sense; they brought news of Christ, they made known the facts of the gospel, they spread the knowledge of Christ's life and death. But they were not sincere; they did not in their hearts care for the salvation of souls; they preached really for their party—it was party zeal, not love, that stimulated their efforts. They were like the Pharisees of whom our Lord said, "Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell tha