Dr. Thomas L. Constable
The name of the city of Philippi was originally "Krinides" (lit. springs). It stood about 10 miles inland from the Aegean Sea in the Roman province of Macedonia. In 356 B.C. Philip II, King of Macedonia and father of Alexander the Great, renamed the town after himself and enlarged it.
In 42 B.C., the Roman commanders Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus defeated Brutus and Cassius in a battle fought just west of Philippi. After that battle, Philippi became a military colony. Subsequent battles in 42 and 31 B.C. resulted in Philippi receiving even higher status. The citizens enjoyed autonomous government, immunity from taxes, and treatment as if they lived in Italy. Some commentators have seen indications of the pride the Philippians took in their city in Acts 16:20-21 and Philippians 1:27 and 3:20. Luke's description of Philippi as a "leading city of the district of Macedonia" (Acts 16:12) probably refers to its colonial status, since it was the only Roman colony in the area. Amphipolis was the capital of the district, and Thessalonica was the capital of the province.
The Via Egnatia, the main highway going from Rome toward the east, ran through Philippi, and brought much commerce and many travelers to Philippi. The nearby Gangites (modern Angitis) River was another natural advantage to the city, since it constituted another ancient thoroughfare (cf. Acts 16:13).
The story of the founding of the church in Philippi appears in Acts 16. Philippi was the first town in which Paul preached after he crossed the Aegean Sea from Troas, and entered what we now call Europe. At that time, in A.D. 50, the city had few Jewish residents, and the first converts were Lydia, a Gentile businesswoman from Thyatira in the province of Asia Minor, and the Philippian jailer. The church evidently met in Lydia's home at first (Acts 16:15).
Paul's companions on his first visit to Philippi included Silas, Timothy, and Luke. Luke may have stayed in Philippi to establish the new converts when the other members of Paul's missionary team moved on to Thessalonica. He may have remained there until he traveled to Troas to join Paul on his way to Jerusalem during Paul's third missionary journey (Acts 20:5). Luke dropped the use of "we" from Acts 17:1 through 20:4. However, Luke's activities during this period are unknown. The Philippian Christians sent financial support to Paul in Thessalonica more than once (Phil. 4:15-16).
Probably Paul visited Philippi again, during his third missionary journey, in A.D. 57. He traveled from Ephesus to Corinth by land, and then from Corinth back to Miletus, mostly by land. From there he took a ship to Jerusalem. The land route he took on both occasions would have led him through Philippi.
No serious question about the Pauline authorship of this epistle arose until the nineteenth century. Paul claimed to have written it (Phil. 1:1), and the references to his acquaintances, events in his life, and his way of thinking all point to him as the writer.
The apostle was a prisoner when he penned this letter (Phil. 1:7, 13, 16). References to the palace guard (1:13) and Caesar's household (4:22) have led most interpreters to conclude that Paul wrote from Rome (cf. 1:19-24; 2:24), though some writers have defended a Caesarean origin for this epistle. A few have also argued for Ephesus as being the place of origin. The Marcionite Prologue (ca. A.D. 170) refers to Paul writing Philippians from Rome. Evidently he did so during his first Roman imprisonment (A.D. 60-62), during which time he also wrote Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, the other Prison Epistles. Several scholars believed the internal evidence of Philippians puts its writing toward the end of this period. Others argued that it was the first of Paul's Prison Epistles.
The primary purpose Paul had in mind, in writing this epistle, seems to have been pastoral: to reassure and encourage the Philippians. Epaphroditus, whom they had sent with a gift for Paul and to minister to his needs in prison, had recovered from a serious illness and was about to return to Philippi. Paul built up Epaphroditus in the eyes of his readers (2:25-30), which suggests that they may not have appreciated him adequately for some reason. Other reasons for sending this letter include: to explain Paul's present circumstances (1:12-26), to announce Timothy's anticipated visit (2:19), to express thanks for the Philippians' gift to Paul in prison (4:10-14), and to encourage a spirit of joyfulness (3:1; 4:4). Robert Lightner suggested that the book "might be called a thank-you note to saints in Philippi for their generous gifts."
Paul also wanted to explain his desire to revisit his readers (2:24), and to deal with the problem of the two women in the church who needed to reconcile (4:2-3). One commentator identified the genre of this epistle as a letter of friendship and moral exhortation.
Of all Paul's epistles, Philippians is the most consistently positive and personal. It reflects a joyful spirit. One popular exposition of Philippians stresses the importance of living joyfully in spite of circumstances. Paul did not rebuke this church sharply, nor did he refer to any major problems in it. His warnings are of a precautionary nature. His occupation with Jesus Christ also stands out. In a total of 104 verses, there are 51 references to the Lord Jesus by name. There are also many references to the gospel (1:5, 7, 12, 27; 2:22; 4:3, 15), and to the fellowship that Paul and the Philippians shared in the gospel ministry (1:5, 7; 2:1; 3:10; 4:14, 16).
". . . what is most noticeable in this letter is the general paucity of Paul's more specialized theological vocabulary and the infrequency of the explanatory 'for,' which is always a dead giveaway that Paul is involved in heavy argumentation."
The structure of this epistle is essentially chiastic, as can be seen in the outline below. The center of the chiasm is Paul's exposition of partnership in the gospel, and the example of Jesus' self-sacrifice.
I. Salutation 1:1-2
II. Prologue 1:3-26
A. Thanksgiving 1:3-8
B. Prayer 1:9-11
C. Progress report 1:12-26
1. Paul's present imprisonment 1:12-18
2. Paul's anticipated deliverance 1:19-26
III. Partnership in the gospel 1:27—4:9
A. A worthy walk 1:27-30
B. Unity and steadfastness 2:1—4:1
1. Walking in unity ch. 2
2. Walking in steadfastness 3:1—4:1
C. Specific duties 4:2-9
1. Restoring unity 4:2-3
2. Maintaining tranquility 4:4-9
IV. Epilogue 4:10-20
A. The recent gift 4:10-14
B. The previous gifts 4:15-20
V. Greetings and benediction 4:21-23
The Philippian Christians were special favorites of the Apostle Paul. Their response to the gospel and their subsequent progress in the faith were exemplary. However, the connections between Paul and Philippi that the New Testament records, both in Acts and in this letter, reveal an interesting paradox. In both books, there is a lot about prison and a lot about rejoicing. Paul ended up in prison when he first evangelized Philippi. Yet in prison, Paul and Silas sang praises to God. When Paul wrote Philippians, he was again in prison, but this time in Rome. However, the dominant emotion that he projected in this book was "rejoicing."
The paradox of a man in prison—rejoicing—lies at the root of what this book is all about. Such an attitude demonstrates an unusual view of life. It is a uniquely Christian view of life. It demonstrates the "mind of Christ," which is the key to this epistle.
The theme of the epistle is participation in the gospel. (Another opinion is that it is "Christ is all!') Everything in this letter deals with that subject in some way. By participation in the gospel, I mean the fellowship that Paul and the Philippians shared in the work of disseminating the gospel. This is the work in which all Christians should participate as well. Paul, the Philippians, and we—are all partners in the work of the gospel. The key to working together effectively as partners in the gospel is "having the mind of Christ." Therefore in this overview of the book, I would like to emphasize this fundamental attitude, about which Paul had so much to say in this book.
The key revelation in this epistle is that of the Christian attitude, or viewpoint, or consciousness. Note some of the references to the "mind" or "attitude" in this epistle: 1:7; 2:2, 3, 5; 3:15, 19; 4:2, 10. "Mind" is a key word in this book, and it identifies the emphasis of Philippians.
Paul revealed what the "mind of Christ" was in the Savior. We find this revelation in 2:5-11, one of the greatest Christological passages in the Bible. The Gospels reveal Jesus' words and works, but this passage unveils His mind.
Notice, first, the mental attitude of our Savior in 2:6. He did not regard His privileged position as something that He needed to retain. He did not value His position for the sake of the position. He laid it aside and stooped to unbelievable depths to lift those who needed redemption out of ruin.
This attitude resulted in certain activity, which we read of in verses 7 and 8. Jesus Christ selflessly gave up what was in His own best interests for the sake of the betterment of others. He left the heights of heaven for the lowliness of earth. He who was sovereign became a servant. Instead of becoming the highest of servants, an angel, he became a lowly servant, a man. He could have lived a life of ease as a man, but He submitted to shame and death. He might have died in comfort and private, surrounded by those who loved Him. Instead, He died in agony and shame, in public, surrounded by those who hated Him. He could have died appreciated, but instead he died hated and misunderstood. This is the mind of Christ: a lowly mind, a loving mind.
This activity resulted in an award: verses 9-11.
Paul also revealed what the mind of the saints who are in Christ should be. We, too, should have a certain attitude that expresses itself in specific activity, which God will just as surely reward.
Our attitude should be that our "love increasingly abounds," and that we are "sincere and void of offense" (1:9-10). Christ's love is to be our love. His attitude is to be our attitude. Regardless of the present privileged position that we may occupy, we must not retain it as a prize.
An illustration of this attitude is William Borden, the heir to the Borden milk fortune. William became a Christian early in life. After graduating from Yale University in 1909, he went on and graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1912. Even though he could have enjoyed a life of comfort and luxury, never having to work for a living, he chose to pour out his life as a missionary to the Egyptians. He laid down his life a year later, in 1913, in Cairo, the victim of cerebral meningitis, at the age of 25. His life, like our Lord's was short, but it is a classic example of someone who adopted the mind of Christ, and gave up all that he had so that others could have life.
Paul had this attitude. We can see it clearly in the statement he made in Romans 9:1-3. Just before he wrote those words, Paul wrote that nothing could separate him for the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:38-39). Yet he did not count that secure position something to retain for his own benefit. He was willing to give it up for the welfare of the Jews. Moses voiced a similar sentiment in Exodus 32:32: "But now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Thy book which Thou has written!"
What is the activity that should flow out of this attitude?
Our life should be "worthy of the gospel" (1:27). This was one of Paul's favorite ways to describe our conduct responsibility as Christians (cf. Eph. 4:1; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12). Worthy conduct is not just morally upright behavior. It is conduct that the gospel drives, conduct that aims at proclaiming the gospel, making it known. It is conduct that responds appropriately to God's gift of grace to us.
We are also to be blameless in our relationship to God (2:14-15). Moreover, we are to be harmless in our relationships with people, not doing them harm but good. Our Lord's example of humble service to the point of death is our model. How much do we know about emptying ourselves, humbling ourselves, becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross?
What is the award that will follow this attitude and this activity? It is twofold.
There is present victory over circumstances. This whole epistle is a revelation of Paul's triumph over circumstances that would have defeated many people. The pioneer missionary to the regions beyond sat confined in prison. Rather than saying everything was against him (cf. Gen. 42:36), Paul rejoiced that God's program was advancing (1:18). In all the Prison Epistles, Paul viewed himself not as the prisoner of Nero, but of Jesus Christ. He believed the Lord had placed him where he was for the best purpose. Anyone can sing when he or she escapes from prison, but Paul sang in prison.
Second, there is also future reward. Throughout this epistle Paul had the judgment seat of Christ in view (1:6, 10-11, 20; 2:16; 3:8-9, 14; 4:5). God will reward the mind of Christ in the saints, just as He has rewarded the mind of Christ in the Savior. We should strive to gain that prize, not to glorify ourselves in heaven, but to have a crown to lay down at Jesus' feet in worship in heaven (cf. Rev. 4:10).
The mind of Christ is the key to this epistle. Paul revealed this mind in the Savior and in the saints. What did he say about this mind or attitude? He said, "Have this mind in you" (2:5).
What is the source for this kind of thinking? Where do we find what it takes to have the mind of Christ in us? We find it in Christ. Specifically, we find it when we orient our lives with Him at the center. Paul put it this way: "To me, to live is Christ" (1:21). For some people, to live is finances. For others, it is fame. For some it is family. For others to live is to have fun. Life is whatever we put at the center of living. Paul put Christ there. Consequently, he viewed God as Christ did. He saw people as Christ did. He viewed his purpose as Christ did. He established his priorities as Christ did. He conducted his daily affairs as Christ did. His life was Christ.
God sought to teach the Israelites the importance of putting Him at the center of their lives, by locating the "tabernacle" in the center of the camp, as they traveled through the wilderness. He also located the "temple" at the center of the Promised Land.
What is our responsibility with this attitude? It is to "work out our own salvation" in response to God's working in us (2:12-13). We work out what God works in. How do we do this? We do it by "forgetting what is past" and by "pressing on to God's goal" for us. Paul used the same Greek word to describe his persecution of Christians (3:6) and his pressing toward his new goal (3:14; dioko). He pursued both goals zealously. He transferred all the passion and fervor, that he once expended on tearing down the church, into building it up. Our responsibility is absolute dedication and unfailing endeavor to the goal of building the church of Jesus Christ.
What are the rules that we must follow with this attitude? Primarily, we must "rejoice in the Lord" (3:1; 4:4). Rejoicing is not only a privilege, but it is a sacred duty for the Christian. God has commanded us to rejoice. To do this, we need to focus our thinking on what God is really doing, as He has revealed this in His Word. We must also be forbearing toward all men, rather than antagonistic (4:5). We must also give ourselves to prayer, rather than to anxiety (4:6). These are the basic rules we need to follow.
By way of application, what does adopting the mind of Christ mean?
For the church, the measure of her authority is the measure of her conformity to the mind of Christ. The church, the corporate body of believers, depends on many different things today to give it authority: political power, charismatic leaders, social influence, impressive buildings and presentations. Yet the church's real authority today is the same as Jesus Christ's authority was when He walked this earth: derived from His humble attitude of submissiveness and obedience to His Father. The essence of the mind of Christ is love. Its consciousness is joy. Its expression is sacrifice. If love, joy, and sacrificial service characterize the church, it will have authority in the world.
For the individual Christian, the application is that we should allow Jesus Christ to master us completely. We should view ourselves as His captives, His prisoners (cf. 1:1). It is only by entering into bondage to the Savior that we can find true liberty. His ideal must become our ideal. His power should be what we depend on to fulfill that ideal. Furthermore, the certainty of His ultimate victory and ours, now and in the future, should be the inspiration for our ceaseless song. The present joy of our lives should come from our companionship with Him day by day. Sharing the mind of Christ will teach us how to love, to serve, and to sing as we live the Christian life.
Paul began this epistle by identifying himself and his companion Timothy, and by wishing God's richest blessings on his readers.
"Almost all letters from the Greco-Roman period began with a threefold salutation: The Writer, to the Addressee, Greetings. Very often the next item in the letter would be a wish (sometimes a prayer) for the health or well-being of the addressee. Paul's letters, which generally follow this standard form, usually include a thanksgiving; in some of these, as here, he also includes a prayer-report. But in contrast to most of the ancient letters, which tend to be stereotyped, Paul tends to elaborate these formal items; and in so doing, everything Paul's hands touch come under the influence of the gospel, and thereby become distinctively Christian."
1:1 "Timothy" was an associate of Paul's, and while he may have served as his secretary as Paul dictated this letter (cf. 2 Thess. 3:17), he was not the co-author of it (cf. 1:3; 2:19-23). The Philippians knew Timothy since the time he had been with Paul, when Paul had founded the church in Philippi (Acts 16:1-12), and on subsequent occasions (Acts 19:22; 20:3-6). Now Timothy was with Paul in Rome, during Paul's house arrest there.
Paul's lack of reference to his apostleship is in harmony with the overall emphasis of this epistle (cf. 1 and 2 Thess. and Phile.). In his other Prison Epistles, Paul introduced himself as an apostle, but here he began by calling himself simply a "bond-servant." This was a personal letter—rather than one giving correction, that needed apostolic authority behind it so the recipients would accept it and act on its instructions.
The writer characterized himself and Timothy as "bond-servants (Greek douloi) of Christ," a favorite title of early Christian leaders (cf. James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:1; Rev. 1:1). It stressed the strong commitment of the Christian to his or her Lord. The Septuagint translators of the Old Testament used doulos (singular) to describe Moses and other dedicated prophets (Ps. 105:26; Jer. 25:4; Amos 3:7), as did John when he described Moses (Rev. 15:3).
"Undoubtedly the background for the concept of being the Lord's slave or servant is to be found in the Old Testament scriptures. For a Jew this concept did not connote drudgery, but honor and privilege. It was used of national Israel at times (Isa 43:10), but was especially associated with famous OT personalities . . ."
The Apostle Paul was fond of addressing his fellow believers as "saints" (cf. Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:10; Phile. 5, 7). This title reflects the Christian's present justified standing before God, though not necessarily his or her present sanctified standing in the sight of other people.
In no other of his epistles did Paul address the elders ("overseers"; Gr. episkopois) and "deacons" (diakonois) of the church specifically in the salutation, as he did here. Perhaps they received special mention because Epaphroditus had come to Paul with money from the Philippian church (2:25), and or because friction existed within this church (4:2-3). These are the two offices of the church that Paul expounded elsewhere (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1).
"Even though these titles occur only here and in the Pastoral Epistles in the Pauline corpus, one should not construe this to suggest either that the other Pauline churches did not have such leaders or that this is a later development in his churches."
Normally Paul appointed elders in the churches that he founded (Acts 14:23). This was an office that carried over from Jewish synagogue life. The elders whom Paul appointed were probably Jewish converts who had good backgrounds in the Old Testament. The terms elder, presbyter, overseer, bishop, and pastor all refer to the same office (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-2; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 5:1-2).
The "deacons" were the official servants of the church, who functioned as the elders' assistants. This is the only place in the New Testament, except 1 Timothy 3, where a New Testament writer mentioned both elders and deacons together as the leaders of the church. Note that in Philippi there was a plurality of both elders and deacons in the church. At this stage in the growth of the church, probably there was only one church in Philippi, and there was a plurality of both elders and deacons in the one assembly.
This reference to elders and deacons does not prescribe that there must be a plurality of elders and or deacons in every modern church. The verse is descriptive rather than prescriptive. However, it does indicate that there was a plurality of official leaders in this church. In this respect, the Philippian church was typical of many others in its day (cf. Acts 14:23).
1:2 "Grace" and "peace" were Paul's favorite words of blessing in his epistles. He wished that God would bestow these gifts on the Philippians even more than He had so far. "Grace" refers to God's unmerited favor and divine enablement. "Peace" is the cessation of hostilities, and the inner tranquility that are the result of God's grace. Charis (grace) is a variation on the word usually used in Greek salutations, namely chairein, meaning "greetings." Shalom (peace) was the traditional Jewish greeting, which meant the full measure of divine blessing (cf. Num. 6:24-26).
The source of these blessings is "God the (our) Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul believed that Jesus possesses full authority with the Father.
". . . How is one to begin to attack selfishness and disunity? By subtly showing from the very beginning that in the Church seniority and high calling do not put one Christian leader above another (Paul and Timothy together are one—they are slaves of Christ Jesus) and that 'church supervisors' are not above serving, but are by virtue of their office, called to serve (to be diakonoi) ministering to the needs of their fellows."
Hawthorne favored the view that the "and" between "bishops" and "deacons" should be interpreted epexegetically as "bishops who are deacons, i.e., servants." He saw only one type of church official in view, namely, bishops. This is a minority opinion.
The apostle proceeded to express his sincere gratitude to God for his friends in Philippi. He did this to assure them of God's continuing working for them, and his satisfaction with their partnership in the work of the gospel. In this section Paul introduced and summarized the main theme of Philippians, namely, partnership in the gospel. He stated it explicitly in verse 5, and developed it later in the body of the epistle (1:27—4:9).
1:3 The "remembrance of" the Christians in Philippi always caused Paul to give thanks to God when he prayed for them at his set times of prayer. All of Paul's epistles begin with a similar commendation—except Galatians. This thanksgiving is particularly warm.
1:4 Paul's imprisonment limited his ministry to the Philippian church, but he still prayed for his brethren in Philippi. His prayers were full of joy as he petitioned God for the saints there. Joy is a recurring motif in Philippians, where the "joy" word group appears 16 times. The Greek word translated "prayer" (deesis) refers to requests. Several years of absence from these Christians had not led Paul to drop them from his prayer list. "Every" time Paul prayed for them ("for you all"), he did so with thanksgiving.
"There is a studied repetition of the word 'all' in this epistle, when the Philippian Church is mentioned: see i. 2 [sic 1, 3], 7 . . ., 8, 25, ii. 17, iv. 21. It is impossible not to connect this recurrence of the word with the strong and repeated exhortations to unity which the epistle contains (i. 27, ii. 1-4, iv. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9)."
1:5 The reason Paul was always joyful as he prayed for the Philippians was their "participation" (NASB), or partnership (NIV, lit. fellowship, Gr. koinonia), "in the gospel."
"It does not take much reading of Paul's letters to recognize that the gospel is the singular passion of his life; that passion is the glue that in particular holds this letter together. By 'the gospel,' especially in Philippians, Paul refers primarily neither to a body of teaching nor to proclamation. Above all, the gospel has to do with Christ, both his person and his work."
The fellowship in view, as the use of this word in the New Testament indicates, means sharing together with mutual activity and mutual benefit in a close bond. "Partnership in the gospel" includes partnership with God and with other believers, that the gospel makes possible. It also involves "participation" in the work of getting the gospel to people. The Philippians had recently sent Paul a gift (4:10-14), and had done so more than once before (4:16; 2 Cor. 11:9). Even in Philippi he had received hospitality from Lydia (Acts 16:15) and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:33-34). However, Paul's use of koinonia here implies a broader meaning than just physical assistance. It probably includes all that Paul and his readers shared as committed Christians who sought to disseminate the gospel.
"Paul's letter to the Philippians can be ranked as the second most important source for study of the biblical principles of financial stewardship. Only 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 provide a more extensive discussion of the topic."
"We today might take the lesson to heart that the sign of our professed love for the gospel is the measure of sacrifice we are prepared to make in order to help in its progress. We rejoice that we have come to know the Saviour. What are we doing to make Him known to others?"
1:6 What was the "good work" to which Paul referred? If he had in mind only the generosity of his original readers, he may have meant that good work. However, as I have suggested, he seems to have had a much broader concept in mind, namely, what the work of the gospel produces: salvation. Who was the "He" who had "begun" this good work of salvation? It could only be God. Paul was confident that God would finish ("perfect") what He had begun in his beloved Philippians.
In the New Testament, God has revealed that salvation is a process. It involves justification, when a sinner trusts Jesus Christ as his or her Savior. It also includes progressive sanctification, that occurs continuously from the time of justification until the Christian's death or the Rapture. And it culminates in glorification, when the redeemed sinner finally sees Jesus Christ and experiences transformation into His image. Paul was confident that, just as surely as God had justified the Philippians, He would also continue to sanctify, and eventually glorify, them. Whereas we have a hand in the process of sanctification, and can affect it by our obedience or disobedience, God alone justifies us. Regardless of our carnality or spirituality, He will also glorify us (1 Cor. 15:50-57).
The aspect of sanctification that Paul had in view, considering verse 5, was the Philippians' partnership with him in the work of propagating the gospel. He was confident that God would continue His sanctifying work in them, so that they might become even more effective partners with him in this great task.
This verse does not teach that God will keep all Christians faithfully persevering in the faith and in good works until they die. Believers can and do resist, oppose, and limit God's sanctifying work in them (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19). Perseverance in faith and good works is not automatic for the Christian. The New Testament writers consistently urged us to persevere, recognizing that some Christians will not do so (Titus 2:11-13; Heb. 2:1; 4:1; 6:1-8; et al.). Even some of Paul's fellow workers did not persevere faithfully (1 Tim. 1:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:17-18; 4:10). Even though some Christians do not persevere in faith and good works, God will persevere in bringing them to glory (i.e., will glorify them). Thus it is God who perseveres in the work of salvation, not necessarily man.
Paul's reference to "the day of Christ Jesus," as the culmination of the Lord's work of salvation in the believer, points to the day when He will return for His own: the Rapture. There are at least 18 references to this day in the New Testament (Rom. 13:12; 1 Cor. 1:8; 3:13; 5:5; 15:51; 2 Cor. 1:14; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; 3:11, 20-21; 1 Thess. 4:17; 5:2, 4; 2 Thess. 1:10; 2 Tim. 1:12, 18; 4:8).
"The expression is similar to the 'day of the Lord' (1 Thess 5:2) and the OT 'day of Jehovah' (Amos 5:18-20). However, in contrast to the OT emphasis on judgment, the 'day of Christ Jesus' is mentioned in all cases with reference to the NT church. It will be the time when Christ returns for his church, salvation is finally completed, and believers' works are examined and the believer rewarded."
Paul probably referred to "the day of Christ," rather than "the day we die and see Christ," because for Paul the return of Christ was imminent, and he fully expected the Lord to call all Christians home before he died.
This is one of the most comforting verses in the Bible for Christians.
Our getting to heaven safely does not depend on us, or on our ability to hold on and to persevere faithfully to the end of our lives. The Lord will see to it that we reach heaven safely in spite of our failures and shortcomings. Salvation is God's work, not man's (Jon. 2:9). As surely as He has already delivered us from the penalty of sin (Rom. 5:1), He will one day deliver us from the presence of sin (cf. Rom. 8:31-39).
"Here is confidence indeed. Our salvation can no more be forfeited than the Father can break his pledged word to glorify his Son. No wonder, then, that Paul uses the language of a man who has no doubts: I am sure."
Verses 3-6 summarize the entire epistle. They introduce the main theme, which is the Philippians' partnership in the gospel.
"All the rest of the letter is concerned primarily with their development as koinonoi [partners] so that they may be blessed with a temporally fruitful, eternally rewardable partnership in the gospel."
1:7 Verses 7 and 8 express the basis of Paul's confidence that he just expressed (v. 6). They also develop the theme of partnership in the gospel.
How did Paul feel about the Philippians? He felt joyful (v. 4; cf. 1:9-11, 25, 27-28; 2:2, 12-18; 3:16-17; 4:17). The reason he said it was "right" for him "to feel that (this) way" was the partnership in the gospel that they shared ("partakers of grace") with him. The figurative use of "heart" (Gr. kardia) refers to the whole personality: intellect, emotions, and will, not just sentiment. The Philippians were in Paul's prayers (vv. 3-4) and on his mind (not on his nerves). This is the proof that they were on his heart. Here is the first use of a key word in Philippians (Gr. phroneo) translated "to feel." The word means to hold a mind-set that expresses itself in proper action. Paul developed this concept later (cf. 2:1-5; 3:15, 19; 4:2, 10). The same "mind" is necessary if partners are to progress toward perfection (v. 6).
Even though many miles separated the writer and the original readers, Paul viewed their relationship as intimate, since they shared salvation and their calling to spread the gospel. Not only were they bound together in the gospel (v. 5) but, more specifically, they were one in "imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel." The Philippians had not only been in prison with Paul in spirit, but they had been willing to associate with and minister to him in prison through Epaphroditus.
Defending and confirming the gospel are negative and positive aspects of proclaiming it respectively. However, Paul may have meant more than that, since these terms have legal connotations. A "defense" (Gr. apologia) elsewhere sometimes refers to a legal defense (e.g., Acts 22:1; 25:16: 2 Tim. 4:16). Moreover, "confirming" (Gr. bebaiosis) meant to guarantee security (e.g., Heb. 6:16). Paul may have had his upcoming trial in mind. That occasion would be one more opportunity to herald the gospel. It was that great task that united Paul and the Philippians in such close bonds of fellowship.
"Partakers . . . with me" (NASB) and "you share . . . with me" (NIV) are translations of a Greek word (sugkoinonous) that means "fellow partners." Paul and the Philippians partook together of the enabling grace that God provides for those who confirm and defend the gospel (cf. 1:29-30; 3:1; 4:4). Here Paul introduced the idea of suffering in the work of proclaiming the gospel, which he developed later.
"While suffering is not the dominant motif in Philippians, it constitutes the church's primary historical context in Philippi and thus underlies much of the letter. . . .
1:8 Only God really knew how strongly Paul "longed for" his brothers and sisters back in Philippi. Consequently the apostle called on Him as his "witness" to his professions of "affection." Paul's feelings were similar to those of his Lord Jesus Christ, who generated them in the apostle.
". . . Paul took this solemn oath because he was aware that within the church that he founded and for which he cared so deeply there were those who were not at all convinced of his right to lead them nor certain of the reality of his love for them. What more could he do to convince them than swear before God that they all (pantas hymas) had the same great place in his affections? Nothing. In his day and in his culture a solemn oath was the end of every dispute (cf. Heb 6:16)."
These expressions of thanksgiving provide insight into the unity that exists among believers and between believers and our Lord. The gospel and salvation are the great unifying elements.
Paul had already written that he prayed for the Philippians (vv. 3-4). Now he explained what he prayed, so his readers would know specifically what the apostle was asking God to do for them. In response to God's working in them (v. 6), it was imperative that they continue to grow in the virtues identified here, specifically: intelligent and discerning love. Note the balance of divine sovereignty and human responsibility in this pericope.
1:9 By praying, Paul acknowledged the importance of asking God to work (cf. James 4:2). We may not be able to fully explain why God has ordained prayer as a vehicle whereby He works in the world, or how prayer works. Nevertheless Scripture is unmistakably clear that prayer does effect objective change. Consequently we should make use of this great privilege as Paul did.
Paul's petition was threefold: He prayed that his readers would be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ (v. 10b). In order for them to be that, he prayed that they would approve excellent things (v. 10a). To do that, he prayed that their love would abound even more (v. 9). Self-sacrificing love (Gr. agape) should be the motive behind partnership (Gr. koinonia) in the gospel. Paul illustrated the importance of this, shortly, with examples of preachers who demonstrated improper and proper motives (1:15-18).
The Philippians had already given evidence of possessing the "agape love," that God alone can produce (1 Cor. 13:1-3; Gal. 5:22), in their dealings with the apostle. Paul asked God that that "love" might increase ("abound") even more ("still more and more"). He did not limit the objects of that love in this verse. They probably included God, Paul, other believers, and all people.
However, he did qualify that love as resting on "real [full, true] knowledge" (Gr. epignosei) and "all discernment." It should arise from an intelligent appraisal of reality. It should also rest on spiritual sensitivity to truth, as God has revealed it in His Word, and not on mere sentimentality.
God's revelation and His Spirit were to guide their loving. This kind of loving becomes apparent when a Christian values highly the things that God loves, and turns away from situations and influences that God hates. In the context, this discernment applies primarily to what will best advance the gospel (cf. vv. 12-26).
1:10 Possessing this kind of abounding love would enable the Philippians to give approval to "things" of the greatest value and importance ("that are excellent"). Conversely they would disapprove things of lesser significance. Most of the choices that a spiritual believer faces are not between morally good and morally evil things, but between things of lesser and greater value. The things that we choose because we love them reflect how discerning our love really is.
The ultimate goal in view emerges in the second part of this verse. We need to love in harmony with God's revelation, and with His Spirit's guidance (v. 9), so we will choose the best over the good (v. 10a). This will result in our being without flaw ("sincere") and without blame ("blameless")—when we stand before God to give an account of the stewardship of our lives—at the judgment seat of Christ (v. 10b; 2 Cor. 5:10; cf. 1 John 3:3).
"There are people who are themselves faultless, but who are so hard and harsh and austere that they in the end drive people away from Christianity. There are people who are good, but they are so critical of others that they repel other people from goodness. The Christian is himself pure, but his love and his gentleness are such that he attracts others to the Christian way and never repels them from it."
1:11 This verse modifies the last half of verse 10. The only way we will be able to stand before God "sincere and blameless," is if we allow the Holy Spirit to control us. If we do, He will fill our lives with "the fruit" that is the product of His "righteousness" (Gal. 5:22-23). This righteousness and its fruit come to us "through Jesus Christ," not as a result of our own good deeds. Therefore, "all the glory and praise" for our righteousness, our fruit, and hopefully our flawless and blameless condition at the judgment seat of Christ, goes to "God." He is the ultimate Source of it all (cf. Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).
"The growing-point for the Christian, as Paul discerns it, is love, a seed from which he anticipates vigorous growth as it abounds more and more. Its upthrusting shoots are received and held by two stakes, knowledge and all discernment, and under their control begin to put forth leaves and blossoms: first the distinctive life-style of the Christian as we approve what is excellent and then, at the very heart of this life-style, the fair blossom of holiness in both the inner person (pure) and the outer behaviour (blameless). Finally there is the perfected fruit, a righteousness adequate even for the great Day itself."
What an excellent prayer this is! In our day, when we tend to voice prayer requests for physical needs primarily, we need to follow Paul's example of putting the spiritual needs of others high on our prayer lists. Christians still need God's supernatural enablement to value highly the things of greatest importance as revealed in Scripture. Only then will we make choices that will prepare us to give a good account of ourselves at the judgment seat of Christ.
"Paul uses three thoughts in Philippians 1:1-11 that describe true Christian fellowship: I have you in my mind (Phil. 1:3-6), I have you in my heart (Phil. 1:7-8), I have you in my prayers (Phil. 1:9-11)."
Paul proceeded from his introductory comments to explain his personal circumstances, because these were of interest to his readers, and were profitable for them to understand. In relating them, the apostle revealed a spiritual viewpoint that is a model for all believers—for all time. This "biographical prologue" illustrates how the principles for effective partnership in the gospel, that Paul introduced in verses 3-11, were working out for the furtherance of the gospel in his own circumstances.
He began by relating what had happened because of his imprisonment in the past (vv. 12-18), and then explained what was happening in the present (vv. 19-26).
1:12 This verse is a topic sentence for all that follows through verse 26. Whenever Paul wrote, "I want you to know," he introduced something important (cf. 2 Cor. 13:6; 2 Tim. 3:1).
His readers could very understandably have concluded that Paul's imprisonment had brought the building of the church of Jesus Christ to a standstill, or at least slowed its progress significantly. However, the apostle announced that this had not happened. On the contrary, his imprisonment was resulting in the advancement of God's program. In relation to the progress of the gospel, Paul's imprisonment was really a good thing after all, a positive situation.
1:13 The point of this verse is that because of Paul's imprisonment in Rome, many people had heard the gospel who would not otherwise have heard it. The phrase, "my imprisonment in [the cause of] Christ," (NASB) or, "I am in chains for Christ," (NIV) in the Greek text stresses an important fact. Paul's relationship to Christ, not just his service for Christ, was what had "become well known." People had become aware of Paul's personal relationship with the Savior because he had shared his testimony with them.
Two groups of people had received the apostle's witness: "the whole praetorian guard" and many other people ("everyone else"). The "praetorian guard" probably refers to the soldiers who were members of the regiment assigned to guard many of the high-ranking officials in the Roman government, though the praetorian guard was also a place. These soldiers were also responsible to guard prisoners who had appealed to Caesar, such as Paul. It was an honor to be one of these guards. They would have been stationed with Paul, in his rented house where he was under house arrest 24 hours a day (cf. Acts 28:30-31). Paul had the opportunity to witness to many of these elite soldiers, and he viewed this as a great blessing.
"There were originally ten thousand of these picked soldiers, concentrated in Rome by Tiberius. They had double pay and special privileges and became so powerful that emperors had to court their favour. Paul had contact with one after another of these soldiers."
"The soldier to whom he was chained to-day might have been in Nero's body-guard yesterday; his comrade who next relieved guard upon the prisoner, might have been one of the executioners of Octavia [Nero's wife], and might have carried her head to Poppaea [Nero's mistress] a few weeks before."
The "everyone else" group included: unsaved members of the Jewish community (Acts 28:17-29), some Gentiles (e.g., Phile. 10), and Paul's fellow Christians. Paul evidently was still communicating with many people, even though he was a prisoner.
1:14 A second reason Paul felt encouraged, even though he was in prison, was this: His example of aggressive witness had inspired the Roman Christians to be more outspoken in sharing the gospel. Rather than taking a lower profile because their leader was in chains, most of the local believers were inspired by Paul's courage. They were standing up boldly for Christ, and trusting Him as they had not done before: with "far more courage to speak [the gospel] without fear."
Walvoord brought together four scriptural reasons why Christians suffer: (1) because they have not dealt with sin in their lives (1 Cor. 11:31-32); (2) because God wants them to gain spiritual experience (Rom. 5:3-5); (3) because God wants to prevent sin in their lives (2 Cor. 12:7-9); or (4) to increase their effective Christian testimony (Phil. 1:12-14).
1:15 Of these local Roman Christians who were now witnessing and preaching more boldly, there were two types, distinguished by their motivation. Some were hoping to advance their own reputations by their activities ("preaching . . . from envy and strife"). They were envious of Paul's prominence, and were striving with their fellow believers for selfish reasons. This view seems more probable, than that they were "the Judaizers" Paul spoke of later in 3:1-16. Others had a sincere desire to reach the lost ("from good will"), and to meet the needs that Paul's confinement had created.
1:16 "Love" for both God and Paul motivated the members of this second group. Moreover, they believed the apostle's present confinement was a situation that God had ordained "for the defense of the gospel." They evidently accepted this by faith, even though they may not have understood exactly how Paul's imprisonment fit into God's plan for the building of His church. The prominent chiastic structure in verses 15-17 emphasizes these Christians who demonstrated proper motivation.
1:17 Paul's arrival in Rome may have caused some of the self-seeking opportunists in the Roman church some distress. Attention would have shifted from them to him. Nevertheless, with him in confinement, Paul's detractors had an opportunity to regain the spotlight by becoming more active and outspoken. Evidently some of them thought that their prominence would "distress" Paul, in the same way his prominence had distressed them, but Paul was much less selfish than they were.
Another view is that these antagonistic preachers hoped to turn the Roman authorities against Paul and so cause Paul distress in his imprisonment. Yet it seems strange that any preachers of Christ, genuine servants of the Lord, would want to turn the authorities against Paul.
1:18 The idiom ti gar, translated, "What then?" in the NASB, means, "What does it matter?" (NIV). While motivation is important, it is even more important that "in every way" the gospel ("Christ") gets "proclaimed." Paul believed that it was better for people with impure motives to preach Christ ("whether in pretense or in truth"), than that they not preach Him at all.
Paul's judgment here, by the way, is an example of seeking the best rather than just the good (cf. vv. 9-10). He rejoiced, and would continue to rejoice, that his imprisonment had resulted in the more extensive proclamation of the good news of salvation: "in every way . . . Christ is proclaimed . . . in this I rejoice." Moule suggested that charesomai, which the NASB translators rendered "I will rejoice," would better be translated "I shall rejoice," since "shall" expresses an expectation, whereas "will" expresses a resolve.
". . . when you have the single mind, you look upon your circumstances as God-given opportunities for the furtherance of the Gospel, and you rejoice at what God is going to do instead of complaining about what God did not do."
"Untold harm is often done by harsh, captious criticism [i.e., finding fault or raising petty objections] of young and earnest men, who often have much to learn, and offend by their uncouthness, by their lack of discernment and understanding of the ways of the Lord, who nevertheless do preach Christ, and win souls."
Verses 12-18 present Paul as a positive model for all believers. Rather than valuing his own comfort, reputation, and freedom above all else, he put the advancement of God's plan first. He discerned what was best (v. 10). He could maintain a truly joyful attitude, even in unpleasant circumstances, because he derived his joy from seeing God glorified—rather than from seeing himself exalted. His behavior in prison had been pure and blameless (cf. v. 10).
At this point, Paul's thinking turned from what had already occurred because of his imprisonment, to what he anticipated happening in the future. He referred to this so his readers would uphold him in their prayers, and feel encouraged to adopt his viewpoint in their own situation in life.
1:19 The antecedent of "this" is probably the things that had happened to Paul, to which he had just been referring in verses 12-18: his imprisonment and the furtherance of the gospel.
What "deliverance" did he have in mind—physical deliverance from imprisonment or some spiritual deliverance? Later in this epistle, Paul said he anticipated release from prison (1:25; 2:24). However, the verses that follow this one (v. 19) point to his thinking of the completion of salvation that he had referred to previously (v. 6). Earlier he had spoken of the completion of the Philippians' salvation. Here he spoke of the end of his own (cf. Job 13:16, 18). The Greek word translated "deliverance" is soteria, the standard rendering of which is "salvation." Probably Paul meant that his prison experiences and the consequent furtherance of the gospel were all part of God's completion of the good work that He had begun in him.
Two means were necessary for this salvation to reach fulfillment. Paul was counting on both the "prayers" of the Philippians and the Lord's "provision" of enablement through His Spirit (cf. Rom. 15:30; Col. 4:3). Does this mean that if the Philippians failed to pray for Paul, God's work in him would suffer? Yes, but the salvation in view is progressive sanctification, not glorification. God and people work together in the process of sanctification, but glorification is God's work alone.
By "the provision of the Spirit," Paul evidently meant the provision of grace that comes through the Holy Spirit. God does not give His Spirit in measure (i.e., some now and more later, John 3:34). Obviously there is a vital connection between prayer and the Spirit's enablement. Paul referred to the Holy Spirit as "the Spirit of Jesus Christ" here. Perhaps he did so because he had been thinking of Jesus Christ as the One before whom we will all appear when our sanctification is complete (vv. 6, 10). He could have had the Spirit in mind as both the giver and the gift.
1:20 Paul did not want to feel ashamed ("be put to shame") when he stood before the Lord at His judgment seat (cf. 1 John 2:28). The phrase "my earnest expectation and hope" is probably a hendiadys meaning "my hope-filled eager expectation" (NEB). Moreover, he was confident that, with the prayer support of the Philippians and the Holy Spirit's enablement, he would not be ashamed. That is, he would not be disappointed by the failure of divine help. Nevertheless he felt the need for courage. After all, he still had to stand before Caesar and undergo a Roman trial. His greatest desire, however, was that he would continue to exalt Jesus Christ, whether that meant that he lived or died.
The use of the passive "be exalted" rather than the active "I exalt Christ" is unusual. It reflects Paul's conviction that essentially the Christian life involves following the leading of God's indwelling Spirit, rather than seizing the initiative and doing things for God (cf. Gal. 5:18).
1:21 This great testimonial affirmation succinctly summarizes Paul's philosophy of life. For him, regardless of the decision about whether he would continue to live or die, or the opinions of other people, saved or lost, his whole life revolved around Jesus Christ. Paul placed "to me" first in this sentence for emphasis. Jesus' work on the cross had become the reason for all that Paul did. Appreciation for Christ motivated him. His present enablement through the Spirit was the source of his strength.
The prospect of seeing Jesus Christ, and standing before Him one day, drew Paul, and constituted the goal for all he did. Many people today, if they were honest, would have to say that for them to live is money, fame, happiness, family, or any of a multitude of idols. However, Jesus Christ was the "Sun" around which Paul's life orbited.
If the Emperor's verdict was death, Paul would be better off than if he continued to live. He would go into the presence of his Lord and be free forever—from sin, suffering, and sorrow. Furthermore, he would have glorified God by persevering to the end of his life.
"Death will be a distinct gain because it will be the gateway to clearer knowledge, more wholehearted service, more exuberant joy, more rapturous adoration, all of these brought to a focus in Christ."
The Christian can take a radically different view of death (than the unbeliever who has no hope) as Paul did (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18).
"Paul's hope for the future, centered as it was in Jesus, kept him from making too much of his current circumstances. This hope enabled him to reassess his circumstances, not by suppressing his emotions, evident throughout this letter, but by relating them to God's sovereignty and to Jesus' centrality in life."
1:22 The prospect of a few more years of life and service was not unattractive to the great apostle, either. He saw living as an opportunity to continue serving the person of Christ, and for building up the body of Christ. He could continue to "labor," and his work would produce fruit for eternity. Satanic opposition had always marked Paul's labors, but he was willing to continue to face that. He was glad that the choice of living or dying was not his to make, since both options had positive values for him.
1:23 Paul felt himself in a bind. If forced to choose life or death, he faced a hard decision.
On the one hand, he desired to "depart" this life, and go to "be with" the Lord he loved—forever (2 Cor. 5:8). That would be "very much better" for him personally. If Paul had believed in purgatory or soul sleep, he would hardly have said he regarded death as a preferable alternative to life.
The same Greek word translated "depart" (analuo) appears elsewhere, describing the release of a prisoner from his bonds (Acts 16:26), and the departure of a guest from a wedding feast (Luke 12:36). It also described a military unit striking camp, and sailors releasing a boat from its moorings.
1:24 Viewed from a different perspective, it might be better if he lived. The Philippians would benefit from Paul's lengthened life and future ministry to them.
Paul did not mention that life was preferable because he could also avoid the pain and suffering of death. He did not refer to separation from his loved ones, or leaving behind what he had worked so hard to accumulate or accomplish, either. These are reasons many people give for not wanting to die. His love for Jesus Christ and for other people were the driving motives in Paul's life, not selfishness (cf. Matt. 22:37-39).
1:25 After weighing all the possibilities, it seemed to Paul that he would probably live a little longer. He evidently believed this because the legal case his accusers had brought against him was weak (cf. Acts 23:29; 25:25; 26:31-32). The fact that he said, "I know that I shall remain," raises the question of whether he had received some special revelation. That is a possibility, but the Greek word translated "know" (oida) does not mean infallible knowledge necessarily (cf. Acts 20:25).
Statements in the later Pastoral Epistles, as well as in the writings of some of the early church fathers, indicate that Nero released Paul from his first Roman imprisonment in A.D. 62. The apostle then resumed his missionary labors, and returned to Macedonia, and probably to Philippi. However, the Romans arrested him again, imprisoned him in Rome a second time, and then executed him there—as a martyr—in A.D. 68. If this historical sequence is accurate, Paul probably did contribute to the spiritual "progress and joy" of the Philippians "in [their] faith," as he said here that he expected he would.
1:26 The idea contained in this verse is that Paul's renewed ministry among the Philippians ("my coming to you again") would give them reasons to be even more joyful. His ministry among them would enable them to appreciate the riches of their salvation more fully. "Proud confidence" (NASB, Gr. kauchema) means their basis for joy in Paul. "Coming" (Gr. parousia) is the same word Paul used to describe the Lord's return (1 Thess. 3:13).
"In Classical Greek it referred to the pomp and pageantry that accompanied the arrival of a king or governor in a city. By using this special word Paul may indicate that he expects to receive a 'king's welcome' from the Philippians when he comes to their town (Beare)."
The major value of this pericope (vv. 19-26) is its revelation of Paul's attitude toward life and death. When a person faces the possibility of dying soon, his or her real values often become obvious. Paul's Christ-centered life is certainly a fine example for all Christians to emulate. He referred to "Christ" by name, nine times in verses 13-26. In this section, he discerned what was best regarding his own desires, and the Philippians' spiritual progress (cf. v. 9). Paul's desire to glorify Jesus Christ kept him pure (v. 10; cf. vv. 17-18). This section provides a smooth transition from Paul's thanksgiving and prayer into the body of the epistle.
Paul had been saying he hoped to be able to revisit Philippi, and to minister to his original readers again, in person. However, he was not sure that he could do that. This uncertain state of affairs led him to exhort them in this letter, now that he had the opportunity. Whether he came to them or not, their duty was the same. In the following verses, he emphasized the importance of certain qualities that were essential to producing conduct worthy of the Lord. The apostle did this so his readers would perceive the importance of these traits, and give them proper attention.
The first sub-section (1:27-30) begins with a topic sentence that expresses Paul's desire for the Philippians. Then he proceeded to explain and to illustrate what constitutes a worthy walk (2:1—4:9).
"With this section we come to the heart of matters, the primary reason for having written this letter . . . And here in particular the three-way bond that holds the letter together stands out [i.e., Christ, Paul, and the Philippians]. The problem is not schism, but posturing and bickering—selfish ambition, empty conceit, complaining, arguing. At stake is the gospel in Philippi—Christ himself, if you will."
"The Christian life is not a playground; it is a battleground. We are sons in the family, enjoying the fellowship of the Gospel (1:1-11); we are servants sharing in the furtherance of the Gospel (1:12-26); but we are also soldiers defending the faith of the Gospel. And the believer with the single mind can have the joy of the Holy Spirit even in the midst of battle."
1:27 The first part of this verse gives the main command in the section (1:27—4:9), and the reason for it.
The phrase "conduct yourselves in a manner worthy" is just one word in the Greek text (politeuesthe). It literally means: "to live as a citizen." This word was especially appropriate to use in a letter to people who took great pride in their Roman citizenship (cf. Acts 16:12, 20-21). The Philippian Christians, however, were also citizens of a more important kingdom, a heavenly one. As such, they needed to be "standing firm in one spirit," i.e., united in spirit. Philippi was a colony of Rome in Macedonia, and the church was a colony of heaven in Philippi.
"It [the Gr. word stekete, translated "stand firm"] conveys the idea of firmness or steadfastness, or unflinching courage like that possessed by soldiers who determinedly refuse to leave their posts irrespective of how severely the battle rages (cf. 1 Cor 16:13; Gal 5:1; Phil 4:1; 2 Thess 2:15; cf. Also Eph 6:13-17 . . .)."
The following explanatory phrase "with one mind" (lit. with one soul, Gr. psyche) points to Christian unity being in Paul's mind, as well as their unity in their human spirits (cf. 2:2; Acts 4:32).
Unity in the church is necessary so believers can work together effectively, as a team, carrying out the will of God. "Striving together" is an athletic metaphor. Specifically, the church's task is to proclaim and promote the Christian faith embodied in the gospel message. Another understanding of the phrase "the faith of the gospel" is that it means the faith that embraces the gospel.
Paul identified two essential qualities in this verse: unity and steadfastness (cf. 1:5-6). He then proceeded to develop them more fully in the verses that follow.
1:28 The Christians in Philippi should not let the opposition of unbelievers frighten or detract them from their mission—being "in no way alarmed."
"The verb here translated 'to be intimidated' (ptyresthai) is extremely rare, found nowhere else in the entire Greek Bible. But it is used on occasion in Classical Greek of timid horses that shy upon being startled at some unexpected object (LSJ). Perhaps by the choice of this unusual word Paul shows himself anxious that his friends should not 'break loose in disarray' (Martin, 1976) or lose control of themselves as a result of the attacks of their adversaries."
The failure of the believers' enemies to intimidate them would be "a sign" of the final victory of the church, but a sign of the unbelievers' ultimate "destruction" as well. The opponents of the Christians, and even the believers themselves, might not perceive this, but this was true. "Salvation" has the connotation of vindication here (cf. v. 19).
The antecedent of "that," in the phrase "and that from (or by) God," cannot be "sign" or "salvation (or saved)"—both of which are feminine in the Greek text. "That" is neuter, and probably refers to the fact that God gives believers courage to stand firm when opposed. This is the main thought in the preceding verse.
1:29 All believers have received a gracious gift from God. It is the privilege of suffering for Jesus Christ ("for His sake"). The Greek word echaristhe, translated "granted," comes from charis, meaning "grace." Few Christians view suffering for their testimony as a blessing, but that is really what it is. Suffering is one of the tools God uses to mold His children into vessels that bring glory to His Son (cf. James 1:3-4; 1 Pet. 1:6-7). Suffering even perfected the Lord Jesus (Heb. 2:10).
1:30 The Philippians were "experiencing the same" type of suffering that Paul endured throughout his whole ministry. They had witnessed firsthand his struggles in Philippi when he had planted the church there, and perhaps in his subsequent ministry there. They had also heard of his sufferings in Rome (2:26).
In calling his readers to unite in steadfastly enduring the antagonism of unbelievers in their area, Paul was not asking them to do something he himself had not done. He was urging them to unite with one another, and with him, and to view suffering for their faith as a privilege that would glorify Jesus Christ. This exhortation is necessary for today, when we feel tempted to agree with, or go along with unbelievers, rather than taking a firm stand for our Lord.
In addition to walking worthily, the Philippians needed to walk in unity and steadfastness.
In expounding on the importance of unity and steadfastness as essential for partnership in the work of the gospel, Paul dealt first with the importance of walking in unity. Several writers have suggested that unity is the major theme in Philippians. I do not believe unity is a comprehensive enough theme in the book for it to be the main theme, though it is certainly an important sub-theme. Paul explained the basis for unity, and illustrated this basis with the example of Christ. He then clarified the believers' responsibility, and further illustrated this point, first with his own example, and then with two of his fellow workers.
Paul advocated humility, namely, concern for the needs of others, not just one's own needs, as the basis for unity in the church (cf. 1:22-26; 2:21).
2:1 The apostle introduced his comments on submissiveness by giving his readers four incentives. He stated each one in a conditional clause that he introduced with the word "if." He assumed each one to be true for the sake of his argument (a first class condition in Greek). The translators have supplied the verb that Paul did not state. The NASB has "there is," but the NIV gives a better sense of Paul's meaning with "you have." We could read each of the four clauses, "Since you have . . ."
The first reason Christians can and should be submissive to God and to one another, is that Jesus Christ has exhorted (Gr. parakalesis) us to do so ("encouragement in Christ"). His teachings while on the earth, as well as those that followed through His apostles after He returned to heaven, especially Paul, encourage us to be humble. Similarly, Jesus' personal example during His earthly ministry also encourages us.
Third, the "fellowship (of the Spirit)," that the Holy Spirit creates, should also make Christians submissive (cf. 2 Cor. 13:13; Eph. 4:3). It seems best to take this reference as including both our participation in the Spirit, and the "in common life" (fellowship with other Christians) that He has created for us. We should probably regard the genitive as both objective and subjective rather than just objective. The former incentives also come from being in Christ and from love. Another interpretation is just our participation in the Spirit.
Fourth, the tenderness ("affection") and "compassion," or the affectionate sympathy, of God and Christ toward the Philippians would make unity normal and expected for this congregation.
2:2 Paul stated his exhortation for submissiveness in the first part of this verse, and then elaborated on it. The apostle wanted his readers to be "one" in their attitude ("of the same mind") and "purpose," so they could fulfill God's purpose for them, both individually and as a church. To accomplish this, they would need to be humble and submissive in these aspects of their lives. The result would be that Paul's "joy" because of this congregation, which was already great, would become "complete."
Four participial phrases elaborate on this exhortation. The first is that the readers should maintain "love" for one another. The second is that they should maintain unity "in spirit" and in "purpose."
2:3 Third, they should view other people as "more important than" themselves (cf. 1:17), and not do anything out of "selfishness or empty conceit."
The popular idea that we should put ourselves first goes all the way back to the Fall. Unsaved people in Paul's day did not view "humility" as a virtue, any more than many people today do. Paul was not advocating an unrealistic view of life. He was not saying we should view everyone as better than ourselves in every way. His point was that we should view others as worthy of more consideration than we give ourselves (cf. 1:15; Rom. 12:10; 1 Pet. 5:5-6).
2:4 Fourth, the readers should consider the "interests" and matters of one another, not just their own. Verse 3 deals with how we view other people, and this one deals with how we relate to them. We have a duty to be responsible and to look out for the needs of our families (1 Tim. 5:8). However, the believer's sphere of concern should be broader than this, and should include the needs of the members of his or her extended Christian family as well. In a larger sphere, this attitude should also encompass unbelievers.
"One must also be careful not to push this clause beyond Paul's own intent, which is not concerned with whether one ever 'looks out for oneself'—the 'also' in the final line assumes that one will do that under any circumstances—but with the basic orientation of one's life . . ."
Psychiatrist Dr. Carl Menninger was reportedly asked what he would do if he knew he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His reply: "I'd go out, find somebody in need, and help him."
Contrasts between a Helper and a Servant
A helper helps others when the circumstances are convenient.
A servant serves others even when the circumstances are inconvenient.
A helper helps people that he or she likes.
A servant serves even people that he or she dislikes.
A helper helps when he or she enjoys the work.
A servant serves even when he or she dislikes the work.
A helper helps when the circumstances are convenient.
A servant serves even when the circumstances are inconvenient.
A helper helps with a view to obtaining personal satisfaction.
A servant serves even when he or she receives no personal satisfaction.
A helper helps with an attitude of assisting another.
A servant serves with an attitude of enabling another.
This paragraph is the most important one in the epistle, and the most difficult to interpret.
2:5 Paul introduced an illustration of what he meant, namely, the example of Jesus Christ. He wanted his readers to remember that "this attitude," the very quality he had been advocating, was observable in the Lord Jesus. This verse introduces one of the great Christological passages in the New Testament (vv. 5-11).
2:6 This verse begins a section of exalted prose that continues through verse 11. Many commentators, however, took this section as an early Christian hymn, but Fee's rebuttal of this view is convincing. The parallels in thought and action between these verses, which describe Jesus' humility, and John 13:3-17, which records Jesus washing His disciples feet, are striking.
The Son of God's preincarnate state is quite clearly in view here (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9): "He existed in the form of God." The word translated "form" (NASB) or "nature" (NIV, Gr. morphe) refers to outward appearance that accurately reveals the inward nature. It does not mean the outward appearance that changes as a result of time and circumstances (Gr. schema, v. 7).
The verb translated "existed" (NASB), or "being" (NIV), is in the present tense in the Greek text, and points to the Lord's continuing existence with the full nature of God. His full deity is not something that Jesus Christ gave up or laid aside, when He became a man at the Incarnation.
"This, then, is what it means for Christ to be 'in the "form" of God'; it means 'to be equal with God,' not in the sense that the two phrases are identical, but that both point to the same reality. Together, therefore, they are among the strongest expressions of Christ's deity in the NT. This means further that 'equality with God' is not that which he desired which was not his, but precisely that which was always his."
The Lord Jesus' equality with God did change in some sense, however. The manner in which He existed as God changed when He became a man. He willingly adopted a manner of existence that was different from His Father's, namely, that of the "God-man."
"Our doctrine of Christ's humiliation will be better understood if we put it midway between two pairs of erroneous views, making it the third of five. The list would be as follows: (1) Gess: The Logos gave up all divine attributes; (2) Thomasius: The Logos gave up relative attributes only [i.e., omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence]; (3) True View: The Logos gave up the independent exercise of divine attributes; (4) Old Orthodoxy: Christ gave up the use of divine attributes; (5) Anselm: Christ acted as if he did not possess divine attributes."
". . . while it is not true that Christ in the incarnation surrendered the relative attributes of omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience, He did embark upon a program where it was necessary to submit to a voluntary nonuse of these attributes in order to obtain His objectives. Christ does not seem to have ever exercised His divine attributes on His own behalf though they had abundant display in His miracles. This is qualified to some extent by the fact that His omniscience is revealed in His prophetic ministry, but He did not use His divine knowledge to make His own path easier. He suffered all the inconveniences of His day even though in His divine omniscience He had full knowledge of every human device ever conceived for human comfort. In His human nature there was growth in knowledge, but this must not be construed as a contradiction of His divine omniscience. Limitations in knowledge as well as limitations in power are related to the human nature and not to the divine. His omnipotence was manifested in many ways and specifically in the many miracles which He did, in some cases by the power of the Holy Spirit and in others on the basis of His own word of authority. Here again He did not use His omnipotence to make His way easy and He knew the fatigue of labor and travelling by walking. Though in His divine nature He was omnipresent, He did not use this attribute to avoid the long journeys on foot nor was He ever seen in His ministry in more than one place at a time. In a word, He restricted the benefits of His attributes as they pertained to His walk on earth and voluntarily chose not to use His powers to lift Himself above ordinary human limitations.
"The act of kenosis as stated in Philippians 2 may therefore be properly understood to mean that Christ surrendered no attribute of Deity, but that He did voluntarily restrict their independent use in keeping with His purpose of living among men and their limitations."
Jesus Christ "did not regard" His former manner of existence "something" that He wanted to hold onto ("to be grasped"). In view of the context, this seems to be the correct interpretation. Another, less likely possibility, is that He did not need to grasp after "equality with God," since He already possessed it. A third, but undesirable alternative, is that He did not grasp equality with God prematurely, as Adam did, but waited for the Father to bestow it on Him after His passion.
Jesus was willing to alter His behavior for the welfare of others, and in this He is an example of submissiveness for us.
Contrast Adam, who considered equality with God something to be seized. Adam tried to become like God by grasping, but Christ, who was God, became a man by releasing. This analogy is only conceptual, however, since there are no linguistic parallels to the Genesis narrative here.
2:7 Instead of holding onto His former manner of existence, our Lord "emptied Himself" (NASB), "made himself nothing" (NIV), or "laid aside His privileges" (NASB margin, Gr. ekenosen). From this Greek word we get the term "kenosis," which refers to the doctrine of Christ limiting Himself when He became a man. The "kenosis" theory in theology deals with this subject.
What did He lay aside? It was not His deity. Jesus did not cease to be God when He became a man. This is clear from the context, as well as from other Scriptures (e.g., John 10:30; Col. 1:15-20; et al.). He did not lay aside His dependence on the Father, either. As the terms "Son" and "Father" reflect, the Son was always dependent on His Father within the administrative order of the Godhead.
Taking humanity imposed certain restrictions on Jesus Christ, including those involved in possessing a physical body and a human, though not a sinful, nature. He laid aside the glory and freedom that His former manner of existence afforded Him when He became a man (cf. John 17:5). He became dependent on the Father in a different sense than had been true formerly. He gave up "His rights as God the Son." However, Paul did not say that Jesus emptied Himself of something. He simply said that He "emptied Himself," that is, He poured Himself out. Compare Isaiah 53:12, where the prophet wrote that the Servant of the Lord poured out Himself to death.
Paul described Jesus' self-emptying as "taking the form of a bond-servant." "Taking" (Gr. labon) does not imply an exchange but adding on something. The Lord did not lay aside the form of God; He did not cease to be God. He added on the "form" of man. The same Greek word, morphe, occurs in verse 6, where it describes outward appearance that accurately reveals inward nature. Earlier Paul described himself and Timothy as bond-servants (1:1). Bond-servants are not only men: they are servants. The Messianic title "Servant of the Lord" reflects this humility and condescension of our Savior.
Furthermore, Jesus Christ became "in the likeness of men" (cf. Rom. 8:3). "Likeness" (Gr. homoiomati) does not mean exactness (Gr. eikon). Even though Jesus had a fully human nature, that nature was not sinful. Every other human being has a sinful human nature. At the same time, Jesus had a divine nature as well as a human nature.
". . . he assumed that human nature not in the condition in which Adam had it before the fall, nor in the condition in which Christ himself now has it in heaven, nor in the condition in which he will reveal it on the day of his glorious return, but in its fallen and therefore weakened condition, burdened with the results of sin (Isa. 53:2). . . . Though it was burdened with the results of sin (hence, subject to death), it was not sinful in itself."
"It is obvious that He gave up the outer manifestation of deity, but the act of assuming humanity and the form of a servant was superimposed upon His deity without taking away His divine attributes. He was like a king who temporarily puts on the garments of a peasant while at the same time remaining king, even though it was not outwardly apparent."
As an example to the readers, this verse is an advance on the previous one. It shows that Jesus Christ was not just willing to change His behavior for others, but He really did so by becoming a man who was a servant. As an example, visualize huge Shaquille O'Neal playing basketball with a five-year-old.
2:8 Jesus Christ appeared to other people just as any other man. This was another aspect of His humility. There were no visual clues in His "appearance" that He was either sinless or divine.
". . . having said that Christ came in the 'likeness' of human beings (v. 7b), Paul now moves the narrative on to its next point, by saying he 'appeared' in a way that was clearly recognizable as human. Together the two phrases accent the reality of his humanity, just as the first two phrases in the preceding sentence accent his deity."
Jesus further "humbled Himself by becoming obedient" to His Father's will, "to the point of" laying down His life in "death" (cf. Isa. 53:12; Heb. 5:8).
Beyond that, He was willing to undergo "death on a cross," by crucifixion, a form of execution that was without equal in its pain and humiliation.
"It is difficult after sixteen centuries and more during which the cross has been a sacred symbol, to realize the unspeakable horror and loathing which the very mention or thought of the cross provoked in Paul's day. The word crux was unmentionable in polite Roman society (Cicero, Pro Rabirio 16); even when one was being condemned to death by crucifixion the sentence used an archaic formula which served as a sort of euphemism: arbori infelici suspendito, 'hang him on the unlucky tree' (Cicero, ibid. 13)."
The Phoenicians and Persians practiced crucifixion before the Greeks and Romans adopted it. It was a form of execution from which Roman citizens were exempt. Only the worst criminals among the slaves and foreigners underwent crucifixion. Hanging on a tree was a sign to the Jews that the person disgraced in this way was under "the curse of God" (Deut. 21:23; cf. Gal. 3:13).
The advance on Christ's example, in this verse, is the extent to which He was willing to go in humble submissiveness—in obedience to His Father's will. All believers should be willing to do the same (v. 5).
"Several years ago, while I was engaged in a study of the Philippian Epistle, a letter came to me bearing news of the death of a friend and former classmate who had laid down his life for Christ in foreign missionary service. He had been a brilliant student, was wealthy in his own right, and at the completion of the seminary course he was married to a beautiful and talented young woman. In this country he might have had everything ordinarily desirable to men—business success, comfort, ease, and luxury. But there was in him the mind of Christ; if I may dare to use the word reverently, he freely 'emptied himself' of all these prospects, becoming a servant of the cross in Egypt. There, having given what he could in service, he was obedient 'unto death.'"
2:9 In view of the Son's submission to the depths of humiliation, God the Father raised Him to the height of exaltation. He literally "super-exalted" (Gr. hyperypsosen) Him. This process included Jesus' resurrection, ascension, and glorification in heaven.
2:10 The purpose of the Father's having given the Son such great exaltation, and a "name" suitable to such a position, is that "every" person "will bow" in submission to His authority (cf. Isa. 45:23, where all bow before Yahweh; and Exod. 20:3, where God prohibited everyone from worshipping anyone but Himself).
Therefore Paul's contrast between the humiliation and exaltation of Christ to the Philippians would have had an unusual impact on these readers.
The beings "in heaven" that Paul referred to are evidently believers who have died, and whose spirits have gone into the Lord's presence. Those "on earth" are people still alive on the earth. Those "under the earth" are unbelievers awaiting resurrection. "Hades" (the same as Sheol, the Old Testament term) is the place where the spirits of the "unbelieving dead" go to stay, until God resurrects them and judges them.
The ancients thought of Sheol (or Hades) as being "under" the surface of the earth, probably because that is where their bodies went in burial. All angelic beings will acknowledge Jesus' Lordship, too (1 Cor. 15:27). Another interpretation is that the heavenly beings ("those who are in heaven") refers to angels and the whole world of immaterial spirits, those "on the earth" were people alive on the earth at that time, and those "under the earth" are the lost souls who have descended into Hades.
Different groups of people will acknowledge that Jesus "is Lord" at different times. Most Christians do so at conversion, and will all do so when they see the Lord following the Rapture (cf. Rev. 4—5). Those living on the earth, along with Old Testament saints resurrected at the Second Coming, will do so at that time (Rev. 19:11-21). Most of those living on the earth during the millennial reign of Christ will submit to Him then (Ps. 2). At the end of the Millennium, everyone on the earth—and all resurrected unbelievers—"will bow" the "knee" to Jesus Christ (Rev. 20:7-15).
2:11 Verbal confession of Jesus' Lordship will accompany symbolic physical submission. "Every" being that has a "tongue" and can speak will acknowledge Jesus as "Lord." The affirmation, "Jesus Christ is Lord," was the earliest confessional formula of the church (cf. Acts 2:36; Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 11:23; 12:3; 16:22). Jesus Christ is the real Ruler, not the Roman emperor! God will, by this universal confession, receive "glory." Jesus Christ's purpose is, always has been, and always will be to glorify "God the Father" (1 Cor. 15:27).
The exaltation of Jesus Christ is as much a motivation for the Christian to live a life of submissive humility as is His incarnation. God will reward a life of self-denial now and in the future. That is the obvious implication of Paul's illustration.
Is it not selfish to serve the Lord for a reward? Was it selfish for Jesus to endure what He did because He knew He would receive a reward? Motivation is the key. If we submit to God and to one another for the glory of God, as Jesus did, rather than for selfish glory, our motivation is correct.
The power of a positive example is very strong. Paul had previously used himself as an example of steadfastness (1:30), and he would do so again. Here he pointed to Jesus Christ, the greatest example of submissiveness (2:2-11). He would use Timothy and Epaphroditus as examples for his readers later (2:19-23, 25-30).
"The detailed attention just given to the Christ-hymn must not obscure the fact that vv 12-18 are part of a larger parenetic section—1:27—2:18. Exhortation is resumed again through the frequent use of the imperative mood, or through the use of participles with the force of the imperative."
"God's 'therefore' (verse 9) is matched by the Christian's therefore (verse 12), [footnote 1: The Greek words are different (verse 9, dio, 'therefore, wherefore'; verse 12, hoste, 'so then'), but the effect is the same.] and that, in a nutshell, is what this passage is about. Just as God assessed and then reacted to the worth of his Son's life of obedience (verses 9-11), so the Christian must ponder the example of Christ and determine upon a worthy response (verses 12-18)."
2:12 The Philippian Christians had "always" been obedient to the Lord and to His servant Paul in the past (cf. 1:27). Even though Paul was no longer with them, and might be unable to return to them, he wanted them to continue to obey. The Greek word translated "obey" (hypakouein) contains the ideas of hearing, especially the divine word as proclaimed (cf. 2 Thess. 1:8), and submitting to what is heard. It was even more important that they purpose to obey in Paul's absence, since his "presence" among them provided a measure of external motivation for them.
Specifically they were to "work out [their] salvation." Note that Paul did not say "work for your salvation." We obtain salvation by receiving it as a gift (Eph. 2:8), but having received it freely, we have a responsibility to cultivate it. The apostle had in mind the present aspect of our salvation, sanctification, in which we are laborers together with God (1 Cor. 3:9; cf. Titus 3:8). In justification and glorification, God does all the work (Eph. 2:9; Jude 24), but in sanctification we have a part to play. We "work out" our salvation by keeping in step (cooperating) with (obeying) the Holy Spirit, who leads us in the will of God (Gal. 5:16). In the context, the particular aspect of sanctification in view involves achieving unity through humility.
"Paul is not here concerned with the eternal welfare of the soul of the individual. The individual believer is not now being called 'to self-activity, to the active pursuit of the will of God . . . to a personal application of salvation' (Müller). Rather the context suggests that this command is to be understood in a corporate sense. The entire church, which had grown spiritually ill (2:3-4), is charged now with taking whatever steps are necessary to restore itself to health and wholeness."
"Putting forth such a constant and sustained effort is not easy. It is a battle on three fronts, a warfare against the tremendously strong and wily combination of the world, the flesh, and the devil."
As we work out our own sanctification, we must remember certain things: We serve a holy God, we have a strong and crafty adversary, and we are weak and dependent on God for all that we need. Such awareness will produce the attitude of "fear and trembling" that Paul advocated. This attitude is not inconsistent with joy and confidence in the Lord.
2:13 In the preceding context, Paul had been urging his readers to do right, even though he was not in Philippi to motivate and encourage them to do so (1:27; 2:12). Here he reminded them that God was "at work," not just with them, but in them, to provide motivation and enabling strength (Gr. energein, from which we get the word "energy"). He would enable them to work out their own salvation. God carries out this work through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and His main tool is the Word of God.
"The first part of a good work is will; the other, a strong effort to accomplish it; the author of both is God. Therefore we are robbing the Lord if we claim for ourselves anything either in will or in accomplishment."
This verse is one of the most comforting in the New Testament. Sometimes we want to do right, but seem to lack the energy or ability. This verse assures us that God will help us. At other times, we cannot even seem to want to do right. Here we learn that God can also provide the desire to do His will when we do not have it. If we find that we do not want to do right, we can ask God to work in us to create a desire to do His will. This verse gives us confidence that God desires both to motivate and to enable us.
2:14 The first word in this verse in the Greek text is "all things" (NASB) or "everything" (NIV), which by its position indicates the writer's emphasis. Most of us can learn to grumble and argue less than we do now, but such activities should be totally absent from our lives.
The first of these words ("grumbling") looks at the initial activity, and the second ("disputing"), what results from the first (cf. 1 Cor. 10:10; Phil. 2:2; 4:2). The great warning of what complaining and disputing can lead to is Israel's 10 instances of complaining in the wilderness. That behavior culminated in the Israelites' refusal to enter and occupy the Promised Land from Kadesh-barnea (Num. 13—14). We frustrate God's work of producing unity, which He does by reproducing the mind of Christ in us (i.e., humility), when we complain and argue (cf. 1:19, 28).
"The new nature is ours by gift of God, but the activation of that new nature in terms of new character and new conduct is through the responsive work of obedience, the hard graft of the daily warfare."
2:15 By working out their own salvation with fear and trembling, rather than with grumbling and disputing, the Philippians would show ("prove") themselves to be "blameless and innocent" (pure, NIV). "Blameless" (Gr. amemptos) means without blame (not culpable; cf. 3:6) because we deal with our sins as we should. It does not mean unblemished (Gr. amomos) nor unblameable (Gr. anegkletos and anepileptos). "Innocent" or "pure" (Gr. akeraioi) means unadulterated, unmixed with anything defiling (cf. Rom. 16:19).
Paul then added the idea of being "above reproach," or unblemished (Gr. amomos). As God's children we are to be free from defilement, and so not chargeable with justifiable criticism, even though we live "in the midst" of a twisted ("crooked") and perverted ("perverse") generation (cf. Deut. 32:5). The word "generation" (Gr. geneas) can refer to a group of people several generations long, not just to one generation of people. Here it probably refers to unbelievers as a whole (cf. Matt. 17:17; Acts 2:40).
Christians are "lights" in a dark world (Matt. 5:14; cf. Dan. 12:3). The Light of the World now indwells us (John 8:12). Paul wanted his readers to bear a strong witness, rather than having their light shaded by sin or uncleanness (cf. Matt. 5:15-16). Light is a good illustration of something that does what it has to do by being what it ought to be.
I read about a woman who felt very much alone at her place of employment because she was the only Christian. To make matters worse, she was often ridiculed for her faith and accused of being narrow-minded. Finally, she became so discouraged that she considered quitting her job. Before doing that, however, she sought the counsel of her pastor. After listening to her complaints, the minister asked, "Where do people usually put lights?"
"In dark places," she replied. No sooner had the words passed her lips than she realized how her answer applied to her own life. She quickly recognized that her place of work was indeed a "dark place" where "light" was vitally needed, so she decided to stay where she was and become a stronger influence for Christ. It was not long before a number of her fellow employees—13 of them, in fact—came to know Christ as their Savior.
2:16 "There is a break in thought at this point. Paul continues his appeal to the Philippians, to be sure, but he shifts the basis of appeal from the example of Jesus (2:3-15) to himself and to the judgment he must face at the day of Christ. Therefore, he now asks them to do something for his sake."
Believers are also to hold out "the word of life," the gospel (John 6:68), as the Statue of Liberty holds out her torch. This is another way in which we are lights in a dark world. In view of the context, however, it seems more likely that Paul was urging his readers to "hold fast" to the word, rather than to hold forth the word. The former interpretation is possible, nonetheless.
Paul wanted the Philippians to continue serving as he explained, so that when he stood before the judgment seat of Christ (cf. 1:6, 10), he would have cause for justifiable pride (cf. 1:26). His investments in their lives would not have been in vain. Running pictures all of Paul's energetic activity as a Christian, and toiling highlights the hard labor that he expended.
2:17 The prospect that Paul might receive a death sentence soon arose again in his thinking. He compared his present life to the pouring out of a "drink offering" in Israel's worship (cf. 2 Tim. 4:6; Num. 15:1-10; Num. 28:4-7). After the priest offered a lamb, a ram, or a bull as a burnt offering, he poured wine beside the altar. This was the last act in the sacrificial ceremony, all of which symbolized the dedication of the believer to God in worship. The pouring out of the wine pictured the gradual ebbing away of Paul's life, that had been a living sacrifice to God since his conversion.
The phrase "the sacrifice and service of (or coming from, NIV) your faith" is a figure of speech (hendiadys) meaning: the sacrificial service arising from your faith.
Even if Paul would die, he could rejoice that he had made a contribution to the Philippians' sacrificial service to God. He viewed himself and them as priests offering sacrifices to God: themselves and their works (cf. Heb. 13:15).
2:18 The Philippians would not "rejoice" over the prospect of Paul's death, of course, but over the knowledge that they, as Paul, had offered themselves as acceptable sacrifices to God (Rom. 12:1). The apostle urged them not to sorrow over their own trials and his, but to rejoice as they worked out their own salvation, adopting his attitude toward their situation in life. They could "share" their "joy with" Paul as they communicated with him, and assured him of their joy in the Lord.
The apostle's reference to his present sufferings (vv. 17-18) led him to tell the Philippians about his plans. He wanted to send Timothy and Epaphroditus to Philippi. He said things about those two faithful fellow workers that would assure their warm reception when they arrived. Paul's descriptions of them have lasting value because they were such good examples of men who possessed the mind of Christ. They were, therefore, true partners in the gospel.
"In this epistle every single reference Paul makes to another person is made in connection with that person's koinonia, his partnership in the gospel. Timothy and Epaphroditus, except for Paul himself, stand as the most prominent of these."
2:19 Paul explained that his plan was subject to the will of God when he said that he hoped "in the Lord Jesus" to send Timothy shortly. The apostle alluded to his submission to the Lordship of Christ frequently in this epistle (1:8, 26; 2:24, 29; 3:1, 3; 4:1, 10; cf. Rom. 14:14; 1 Cor. 7:39; 16:7; Phile. 20, 25). These references were probably especially numerous in this epistle because of the indefiniteness of Paul's release.
The primary purpose of Timothy's visit was to "learn" the "condition" of the Philippian believers, and to report that to Paul. This would enable Paul to pray for, minister to, and lay plans to help this church better.
2:20 Paul did not write these words to introduce Timothy to the Philippians. They knew him well. Probably he wanted this glowing testimonial to give his original readers confidence that Timothy had their best interests at heart. Timothy would accurately represent their situation to Paul.
Probably Paul meant by, "I have no one else of kindred spirit," that he had no fellow worker with him, at that time, who would do a better job in this assignment than Timothy. Timothy consistently shared Paul's general outlook, and his specific concern "for the welfare" of the Philippians.
2:21 This must be a general statement. Paul had many fellow workers whose commitment to Jesus Christ was complete at this time, one of whom was Epaphroditus. Paul would commend him shortly (vv. 25-30). Others of Paul's fellow workers may not have had the opportunity to visit the Philippians. Perhaps by "they all seek after their own interests," Paul was thinking of those local Roman Christians who were serving the Lord, at least partially, to advance "their own" reputations, when he wrote this verse. He had referred to them previously (1:14-18). Or he may have meant "all" who would have gone to Philippi if they could. He probably meant that, of all the people whom he might have sent to the Philippians, none put the "interests" of Christ above "their own" as Timothy did.
Luke must have been away from Rome when Paul wrote this, and perhaps other helpers of Paul were also absent. A believer who puts the interests of Christ before his or her own is still a rare individual (cf. 1:21). Not all Christians are partners in the work of the gospel. But partnership in the gospel is an important enough theme to write a whole epistle about, because it is the Christian's calling in life (cf. Matt. 28:19-20).
2:22 In contrast to most believers, Timothy had demonstrated his worthiness as a servant of Christ and of Paul over more than 10 years. He had "served" as the apostle's fellow worker and as his protégé. He had established a good reputation ("his proven worth"), not only in Philippi, but wherever he had served. Such a fine record stands a young servant of the Lord in good stead when others consider him for another ministry.
"Youth is often exceedingly energetic, and impatient of restraint. Age is inclined, perhaps, to be over-cautious and slow in coming to conclusions, and it often is a great difficulty for two, so wide apart in years as Paul and Timothy, to labor together happily. But where the younger man manifests the spirit that was in Timothy, and the elder seeks only the glory of God and the blessing of His people, such fellowship in service becomes indeed blessed."
2:23 The verse begins "This one" in the Greek text, which draws attention to Timothy's qualifications. Paul hoped, the Lord willing, "to send" Timothy to Philippi with a report of the apostle's situation and plans "immediately," as soon as he knew the result of his trial. Evidently Paul expected that a decision in his case would be forthcoming soon. Both for the love of the Philippian church, and for the effectiveness of his ministry, Paul wanted his friends to know about his situation. In this he set us a good example.
2:24 Paul believed that he would receive his freedom and would be able to return to Philippi fairly soon (cf. 1:25). However, he qualified his hope with the realization that justice does not always prevail in legal courts (cf. Luke 23:13-25). As mentioned previously, there is evidence that Nero did release Paul about that time, and that the apostle resumed his missionary work.
"The submissive mind is not the product of an hour's sermon, or a week's seminar, or even a year's service. The submissive mind grows in us as, like Timothy, we yield to the Lord and seek to serve others."
Another messenger would arrive in Philippi before either Paul or Timothy. It was Epaphroditus, and he would carry this epistle to its destination. Paul wrote this pericope to prepare the way for a proper reception of its courier, and also to draw attention to Epaphroditus' humility.
2:25 Rather than waiting, Paul thought it necessary "to send . . . Epaphroditus" immediately. He would explain shortly why he did this. First, he wanted to commend his messenger.
Epaphroditus' name appears, in this form, nowhere else in the New Testament other than in Philippians (cf. 4:18). However, "Epaphras," the less formal, contracted name, appears in Colossians 1:7; 4:12; and Philemon 23. These were probably two different individuals, however, since the "Epaphroditus" of Philippians was apparently from Macedonia, and the "Epaphras" of Colossians and Philemon was evidently from Asia Minor. Paul described Epaphroditus here in five relationships:
First, Epaphroditus was Paul's "brother" in the faith, a sharer in spiritual life by God's grace. Second, he was Paul's "fellow worker," more than a brother but one who joined in the service of building the church of Jesus Christ, a partner in the gospel ministry. Third, he was Paul's "fellow soldier." He was not just a worker, but a worker who had entered into spiritual warfare, by standing up for Christ in a hostile environment, and boldly proclaiming the gospel.
Fourth, in relation to the Philippians, Epaphroditus was their "messenger" to Paul. He had carried their gift to him as their representative. Translators usually render the Greek word translated "messenger" as "apostle" (Gr. apostolos). This word has both a general meaning and a specific meaning in the New Testament. Generally it means a messenger, and describes such people as Barnabas (Acts 14:14), James, the Lord's brother (Gal. 1:19; 1 Cor. 15:7), probably Silas and Timothy (1 Thess. 2:7; cf. Phil. 1:1), and Epaphroditus here.
Technically, apostolos refers to the 12 apostles and Paul, those whom Jesus had specially commissioned with the ministry of planting and establishing the church. This second usage is more common in the New Testament. Many men functioned as "apostles" in the early church, but only 13 were official apostles (i.e., occupied that office).
Fifth and finally, Epaphroditus was the Philippians' "minister" to Paul's needs in prison. This word (Gr. leitourgon) sometimes describes the kind of ministry a priest performs (Rom. 15:16; Heb. 8:2). Consequently Paul may have been thinking of Epaphroditus' ministry to him as similar to a priest's. He presented the Philippians' offering to Paul as a sacrifice (4:18).
2:26 Paul decided to send Epaphroditus immediately, because word had reached Epaphroditus that his fellow Philippians had learned that he had been ill. This knowledge had created a "longing" in his heart for his brethren, and had "distressed" him. His feelings were intense. Paul used the word translated "longing" (NASB) or "longs" (NIV, Gr. epipotheo), earlier, to describe his own feelings for the Philippians (1:8; cf. James 4:5; 1 Pet. 2:2). "Distressed" (Gr. ademonon) also described Jesus' feelings in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:37; Mark 14:33).
2:27 Paul gave God the credit for restoring Epaphroditus to health when he had been at death's door ("sick to the point of death"). Epaphroditus' death would have increased Paul's sorrow over his brother's illness, causing him almost unbearable sorrow ("sorrow upon sorrow"). Evidently Paul did not have the ability to heal everyone he wanted to be healthy, even his fellow workers. Divine healing has always been subject to the will of God, and not something that someone can do whenever he or she wants (cf. 1 Tim. 5:23; 2 Tim. 4:20).
2:28 The concern that Epaphroditus and the Philippians had for one another led Paul to send their messenger back to them at once ("all the more eagerly"). He may have done so earlier than he would have otherwise. This would have lessened Paul's concern about the Philippians, knowing that Epaphroditus' soon return would relieve his readers' anxiety.
2:29 Paul wanted Epaphroditus' homecoming to be a joyous occasion. He had carried out his mission successfully and had ministered to Paul with distinction. Paul urged the Philippians to regard Epaphroditus highly ("hold men like him in high regard"), and to welcome him back wholeheartedly ("with all joy").
2:30 Specifically, Epaphroditus had come "close to death" because of his service "for (the work of) Christ," apparently from traveling to Rome and ministering to Paul there. He had daringly exposed himself to danger. It was while he had labored for his absent Philippian brethren, to make up their deficiency in this sense (4:14-18; cf. 1 Cor. 16:17), that he had become ill.
Aphrodite (Venus) was the goddess of gamblers. When a pagan Greek threw the dice he would cry out "epaphroditos!" meaning "favorite of Aphrodite." Epaphroditus' name may have connections with this custom. If so, Paul may have written that Epaphroditus "risked [gambled] his life" as a wordplay on his friend's name. Paul made a more obvious wordplay with Onesimus' name, which means "useful" (cf. Phile. 10-11).
Paul's emphasis in chapter 2 was on the importance of unity, and its necessary prerequisite, humility. For true partnership in the work of the gospel to exist, there must be unity among the workers. The key to achieving unity is for each believer to adopt the humble mind of Christ.
Paul now turned to the second major quality that he introduced in 1:27-30, namely, steadfastness in the face of opposition to the gospel (cf. 1:7, 28). Earlier, he had introduced the idea of joy in the face of opposition (1:19, 28-30; 2:17-18). Later, he would discuss how to face overt persecution (4:4-9).
There were two main sources of opposition that the Philippians faced as they sought to have fellowship with Paul in the proclamation of the gospel. Paul dealt with both of these in this chapter. However, he began with a charge to rejoice in the Lord, and ended this section with a summary exhortation.
Having inspired joy in his readers by referring to the sterling examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus, Paul warned them about certain other people who professed to be servants of God. He introduced this section of his epistle with a transitional statement. "Finally" (Gr. to loipon) introduces such a statement here as well as elsewhere (cf. 1 Cor. 1:16; 4:2; 2 Cor. 13:11; 1 Thess. 4:1; 2 Thess. 3:1; Gal. 6:17). Usually this word does not mark a conclusion, so much as a transition on the way to a conclusion. It introduces what remains to be said. Paul was only approaching the end of his epistle. Anyone who has listened to much preaching knows that Christian communicators—even still today—often say "Finally" long before the message ends.
The apostle's primary exhortation here was that his readers should "rejoice in the Lord." Paul, a prisoner, entreated free people to be joyful. We might have expected it to be the other way around. They might rejoice in Epaphroditus' return, or in his recovery, or in Paul's prospect of release and return to Philippi. All of these were legitimate, though less important, reasons for rejoicing. We have noticed the consistent emphasis on joy and rejoicing that has marked this letter so far (1:3, 4, 18, 25; 2:1, 2, 17, 18, 19, 28, 29; cf. 4:1, 4, 10, 18). Joy is the prevailing mood of Philippians, but I do not think that it is its major theme. Paul gave the importance of rejoicing special emphasis here. Regardless of circumstances, the Christian can and should always rejoice in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the basis of true joy and the sphere in which it thrives. Some have noted the intimate connection between holiness and happiness.
False teachers can rob Christians of joy. Paul proceeded to deal with this threat in the rest of this chapter. Robert Mounce described this section as "an interrupted conclusion." Paul introduced his comments by assuring his readers that he did not regard the need to warn them again as a burden ("is no trouble"), even though he had already instructed them on this subject. Paul may have been alluding to what he had just written about unbelievers who opposed the Philippians' witness (1:27-30). Or he may have been referring to previous instruction he had given them in person or in writing. Further exhortation would be an additional "safeguard" against their capitulating because of this evil influence. Another possibility is that "the same things" refers to dissensions among the Philippians, about which Paul had already written and would write more.
"The apostle is facing a very dangerous and devious doctrinal defection as he writes this word to the Philippians. He is dealing with a false teaching that would set aside Jesus Christ from His rightful place of preeminence in a believer's life and would make the believer himself the center of life."
Paul proceeded to deal with a significant group of antagonists that the Philippians faced.
3:2 The three-fold repetition of "beware" underlines the serious dangers the Philippians faced (cf. Isa. 6:3; Jer. 7:4; 22:29). Jesus and other prophets used the term "dogs" to refer to opponents of God's truth (Matt. 7:6; cf. Deut. 23:18; 1 Sam. 17:43; 24:14; Prov. 26:11; Isa. 56:10-11). The Jews habitually referred to Gentiles contemptuously as "dogs" (cf. Matt. 15:21-28). In ancient times, many dogs were unclean, wild, and vicious animals that threatened the safety of everyone.
"Paul now hurls this term of contempt back 'on the heads of its authors' . . ., for to Paul the Jews were the real pariahs that defile the holy community, the Christian church, with their erroneous teaching."
A friend of mine, who is now with the Lord, used to refer to Christians as being just "messenger boys," or we might call them "mailmen." Our calling is to bring good news to others, the good news of the gospel. "Dogs," for some reason, often give mailmen a hard time. Paul warned the Philippian "mailmen" to watch out for the "dogs" in Philippi.
The phrase "evil workers" (NASB) stresses the evil character of their labors. However, "false circumcision" (NASB) or "mutilators of the flesh" (NIV, cf. Gal. 5:12) gives us the most insight into exactly whom Paul had in mind.
These were evidently the "Judaizers" who plagued Paul and his converts throughout his ministry. O'Brien gave six options that scholars have suggested concerning the identity of this group, and he defended their being different from the opponents whom Paul mentioned in 1:14-17. They taught that people could only enter the church through the vestibule of Judaism, and that once inside they needed to submit to the Mosaic Law. This was the so-called "Galatian heresy" that Paul dealt with extensively in his epistle to the Galatians.
The Judaizers emphasized circumcision, because it was the rite that brought a person into Judaism, which they viewed as a prerequisite to justification (cf. Acts 15:1). "False circumcision" refers to circumcision for the wrong reasons, namely, circumcision contrary to the revelation of God in Scripture.
3:3 The Philippians and Paul, and all true believers, belong to a different camp, that of the "true circumcision." Paul was referring to the circumcision of the heart that happens when a person trusts in Jesus Christ. The alternative is trusting in oneself and or in rite-keeping for salvation (Rom. 2:25-29; Col. 2:11, 13; cf. Lev. 26:41; Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; Ezek. 44:7). The true circumcision refers to believers in the church, not that the church is the "new Israel."
Paul used two Greek verbs that are very similar. Peritemnein means to circumcise, and katatemnein means to mutilate. Peritemnein describes the sacred sign and work of circumcision, but katatemnain, as in Leviticus 21:5, describes forbidden self-mutilation, such as castration and the like. So Paul says: "You Jews think that you are circumcised, but really you are only mutilated."
Paul used three terms or phrases to describe the false teachers (v. 2). He used three others to characterize the true circumcision. We "worship (Gr. latreuein) [God] in the Spirit (of God)." The good-for-nothing alternative is going through certain physical rituals (cf. John 4:23-24). Probably Paul meant that the Holy Spirit initiates worship, with the result that love and service follow (cf. John 14:17). Those who rely on rites and ceremonies to make themselves acceptable to God do not have the Spirit of God. They are not believers in the gospel.
"Outward forms and services, music and genuflections, do not constitute worship. They may even be hindrances to it. Real worship is that of the heart, when the Spirit of God takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us. As we are occupied with Him, true praise and adoration ascend to the Father."
Second, we "glory in Christ Jesus." That is, we look to Him as the One who makes us acceptable to God, rather than looking to works (cf. Jer. 9:23-24; 1 Cor. 1:31; 2 Cor. 10:17). We focus on Him and find our satisfaction in Him because He is our Savior.
Third, we "put no confidence in the flesh" to make us acceptable to God. The New Testament writers used the term "flesh" (Gr. sarx) in one literal, and in two metaphorical, senses. Literally, it refers to our bodies (Luke 24:39; et al.). Figuratively, it refers to all that we were in Adam (before our salvation; Rom. 7:5; 8:9; et al.), and to our human nature (cf. Gal. 2:20; 5:17; et al.). Here Paul probably meant our human nature, what we can do naturally, without special divine enablement.
We do not have "confidence" that anything we do to our bodies (circumcision), or anything we do with our bodies (good works, self-efforts), will make us acceptable to God: we realize that trusting in Jesus Christ is what is necessary. We have no confidence in what we are by nature to make us acceptable to God. We understand that we cannot save ourselves, and we acknowledge that God must save us.
3:4a Paul proceeded to explain to the Philippians why he had spoken so harshly against the Jews (vv. 4-11). The apostle rejected "confidence in the flesh" because it cannot provide the righteousness that God requires (v. 9). He even possessed "in the flesh" what the Judaizers claimed was essential, namely, circumcision, but he did not trust in it for salvation.
3:4b For the sake of the argument, Paul adopted the Judaizers' attitude of confidence in the flesh. He did in order to show that his rejection of Jewish advantages was not because he lacked them. Paul used the same approach in 2 Corinthians 11:26—12:12. He now cited seven personal advantages, the first four being things he inherited (v. 5a-d), and the last three things he chose by conviction (vv. 5e-6).
3:5 Circumcision of the flesh was one thing that the Judaizers trusted in for acceptance by God. Paul had been "circumcised" on "the eighth day" after his birth, as the Law of Moses prescribed (Lev. 12:3; cf. Gen. 17:12). He had not received circumcision in his thirteenth year, as Ishmaelites did, nor later in life, as many Gentiles did who converted to Judaism (e.g., Acts 16:3). He was not a late convert to Judaism, but had been a Jew all his life. He had come from a pious Jewish family, and had undoubtedly enjoyed encouragement in the "things of God" (religious training) from his parents all his life.
Second, Paul was a pure Jew by race and descent ("of the nation of Israel"). When the Jews wanted to stress their special relationship to God in its most unique sense, they used the word "Israelite" to describe themselves. He was not a racial half-breed but a full-blooded Jew. "Israel" here could refer either to the Israelites collectively, or to the man Israel (i.e., "Jacob"). Moule preferred the latter alternative.
Furthermore, third, he was a member "of the tribe of Benjamin." Benjamin was the younger of the two sons born to Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel. Benjamin was the only son of Jacob who was born in the Promised Land. The tribe of Benjamin provided many noble warriors throughout Israel's history (cf. Hos. 5:8). Israel's first lawful king came from the tribe of Benjamin. Jerusalem and the temple stood within Benjamin's territory. This tribe alone, besides Judah, remained loyal to David's house when the monarchy divided in 931 B.C. The Feast of Purim celebrated the salvation of the Jews by a Benjamite, Mordecai.
After the Exile, Benjamin and Judah formed the core of the restoration community (cf. Ezra 4:1). Of course, this tribe's history was not without its shame as well (e.g., Saul's failures, the Gibeans' atrocity that led to the civil war that almost wiped this tribe out, etc.). Nevertheless Paul could legitimately take pride in his Benjamite heritage. He came from one of the leading families in Israel.
"How little was it imagined that, as Benjamin was the youngest and most honoured of the Patriarchs, so this . . . child of Benjamin [Paul] should be associated with the twelve servants of the Messiah of God, the last and most illustrious of the Apostles!"
Fourth, a "Hebrew of Hebrews" means that Paul's parents brought him up as a strict Jew observing Jewish customs, unlike many Hellenistic Jews (cf. Acts 6:1). Specifically, he learned the Hebrew language and studied the Old Testament in the original tongue, not like so many other Jews of the Diaspora—who could only speak and read Aramaic (cf. Acts 22:2). This gave him the advantage of exercising leadership among the Jews.
Fifth, Paul had chosen to join the party of the Pharisees, the most orthodox of the sects within Judaism ("as to the Law") in his day. The Pharisees were punctilious in their observance of the Mosaic Law. This, by the way, is the only occurrence of the word "Pharisee" outside the Gospels and Acts. Most of the Jews regarded the Pharisees as being the very best Jews. Some of Jesus' most severe criticisms were of the Pharisees, but there were many sincere Pharisees, and Paul was one of them.
"Not content merely to obey the Law of Moses, the Pharisees bound themselves also to observe every one of the myriad of commandments contained in the oral Law, the interpretive traditions of the Scribes. The most ardent of the Pharisees scrupulously avoided even accidental violations of the Law and did more than they were commanded to do . . . . Paul, a son of Pharisees (Acts 23:6), and a disciple of the great Pharisee, Gamaliel (Acts 5:34; 22:3), chose to be a Pharisee himself and set himself to be the most earnest of the earnest observers of the Jewish Law (Gal 1:14). 'Pharisee' for Paul was not a term of reproach, but a title of honor, a claim to 'the highest degree of faithfulness and sincerity in the fulfilment [sic] of duty to God as prescribed by the divine Torah' (Beare)."
3:6 Sixth, "as to zeal," he had been a zealous promoter of Judaism, even to the point of persecuting Christians to death. He had been an outstanding Pharisee.
Seventh, Paul's obedience to ("righteousness in") "the Law" of Moses, as it regulated external behavior, had been without blame ("blameless"; Gr. amemptos, cf. 2:15). He was very conscientious about what the Law required, and "omitted no observance however trivial". Paul was not claiming to be sinless. "Blameless" means that when he sinned, he dealt with his sin as the Law required. Paul was sincere in his commitment to his understanding of God's will.
"Like most 'religious' people today, Paul had enough morality to keep him out of trouble, but not enough righteousness to get him into heaven! It was not bad things that kept Paul away from Jesus—it was good things! He had to lose his 'religion' to find salvation."
Paul had formerly regarded all these "things" he listed that he possessed, and ("whatever") others, as contributing to God's acceptance of him. Yet he had come to learn on the Damascus Road, and since then, that such fleshly "advantages" ("assets," NET) did not improve his position with God (cf. 1:21; 3:8). Rather, they constituted hindrances ("liabilities," NET), because the more of them that Paul had, the more convinced he was that God would accept him for his works' sake. Each of his fleshly advantages strengthened his false hope of salvation. Furthermore, they were liabilities because he had to unlearn much of what he had previously boasted in.
"Paul himself elsewhere informs us that he considers such things as these to be blessings (Rom. 3:1, 2; 9:1-5; cf. 11:1). They are blessings because they can be of inestimable value if properly used, namely, as a preparation for the reception of the gospel. But when these same privileges begin to be viewed as a basis for self-satisfaction and self-glorification, when they are regarded as a ticket to heaven, they are changed into their opposites. All these separate gains become one huge loss."
"While Christ did not consider God-likeness to accrue to his own advantage, but 'made himself nothing,' so Paul now considers his former 'gain' as 'loss' for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. As Christ was 'found' in 'human likeness,' Paul is now 'found in Christ,' knowing whom means to be 'conformed' (echoing the morphe of a slave, 2:7) to his death (2:8). Finally, as Christ's humiliation was followed by God's 'glorious' vindication of him, so present 'suffering' for Christ's sake will be followed by 'glory' in the form of resurrection. As he has appealed to the Philippians to do, Paul thus exemplifies Christ's 'mindset,' embracing suffering and death. This is what it means 'to know Christ,' to be 'found in him' by means of his gift of righteousness; and as he was raised and exalted to the highest place, so Paul and the Philippian believers, because they are now 'conformed to Christ' in his death, will also be 'conformed' to his glory."
3:8 Paul had regarded his advantages over other people as what put him in an especially good position with God. However, he had come to realize that absolutely nothing apart from Jesus Christ's work on the cross was of any value in his gaining God's acceptance. No good works improve our standing before God. They are all like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). Consequently Paul came to regard them as "rubbish." From then on, he continued to take this view of things.
The Greek word translated "rubbish" (skybalon) occurs only here in the New Testament. Its derivation is uncertain, but it appears to have referred to excrement, food gone bad, scraps left over after a meal, and refuse. In extrabiblical Greek, it describes a half-eaten corpse and lumps of manure. Thus, Paul meant that his former advantages (his standing, wealth, and position in the Jewish community) were not only worthless, but strongly offensive and potentially dangerous. He put his most prized possessions in the garbage can.
"The Judaizers spoke of themselves as banqueters seated at the Father's table, of Gentile Christians as dogs greedily snatching up the refuse meat which fell therefrom. St Paul had reversed the image. The Judaizers are themselves the dogs (ver. 2); the meats served to the sons of God are spiritual meats; the ordinances, which the formalists value so highly, are the mere refuse of the feast."
What he had learned to value was Christ Jesus his Lord. Consequently coming to know Christ, entering into a deeper and fuller appreciation of His person and work, was of primary importance to Paul. This knowledge (Gr. gnosis) is the kind that one obtains only by personal relationship. It is different from the knowledge we gain through objective academic study (Gr. oida), though information is part of our growing personal knowledge of Christ. It is knowledge of the heart in addition to knowledge of the head (cf. John 17:3; Gal. 4:9; 1 John 2:18, 29; 4:8). To gain this fuller knowledge of Christ, Paul had let everything else in life go. To use the language of 2:6, Paul did not regard anything else in life worthy of retaining. All he wanted was a fuller and deeper experiential appreciation of his Savior (cf. Ps. 73:25).
3:9 Paul's vision turned again to the future and the judgment seat of Christ. He had made his choices in life, since his conversion, based on the essential value of getting to know Christ better, and also on the fact that God would one day evaluate his life. On that future day, Paul wanted to be found "in Him," namely, standing in the merit of Christ rather than in his own merit. His own merit had rested on his own "righteousness" as the Mosaic "Law" defined it. The merit of Christ is His "righteousness," that God credits to the believer's account when a believer places his or her trust in Him (cf. Rom. 3:20-23). This righteousness comes to us "through faith" in Christ, and it comes to us "on the basis of" (or "by," NIV) "faith" from God.
"As long as one keep clinging, even in the slightest degree, to his own righteousness, he cannot fully enjoy Christ's. The two simply do not go together. The one must be fully given up before the other can be fully appropriated."
Figuratively speaking, we could say that we reach heaven, not by walking up a set of stairs, but by riding an elevator.
3:10 This verse resumes the thought of knowing Christ from verse 8. The tense of the Greek infinitive tou gnonai ("to know," i.e., to "recognize, feel, appropriate") is aorist, probably an ingressive aorist, which sums up the action of the verb at the point where it begins.
"It suggests that for Paul just the coming to know Christ outweighs all other values, that for him the significance of Christ, 'in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' (Col 2:3), is so vast that even to begin to know him is more important than anything else in all the world."
Compare the implication of intimate, complete knowledge in the clause "the man [Adam] knew his wife, Eve" (Gen. 4:1).
"I'll never forget a letter I read from a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, where I serve as chancellor. He wrote of his gratitude for his years at our fine institution. What troubled me was that he also lamented that when he arrived, he was deeply in love with Jesus Christ; but when he left, he had fallen more in love with the biblical text. For all the right reasons, our professors did their best to teach him the Scriptures, but he left loving the Bible more than he loved His [sic] Savior. To use Paul's words, 'the serpent seduced him.' After a few tough years in ministry, he came to realize that he needed to love Christ. I don't remember his using these precise words, but he admitted that he had to look intently at his schedule, to face the truth of his drift, and to carve out time to get back to a simple devotion to Christ."
"The Word of God gives us the clue to spiritual maturity. It is not in individual personality or individual inheritance or individual experience, nor in individual ministry or service. It can be reduced to one word—appetite. It is that which makes the difference between the immature and the mature, the baby and the adult."
Among all the other things that Paul wanted to learn in his relationship with Christ, he mentioned first "the power of Christ's (His) resurrection." Paul probably did not mean that he wanted to experience resurrection supernaturally, as Jesus Christ had done. He knew that if he died, he would experience such a resurrection. He probably meant that he wanted the power, that resurrected his Savior and was within himself because of the indwelling Christ, to manifest itself in his life for God's glory (cf. Rom 6:4; Col. 3:1; Eph. 2:5-6).
Paul also wanted to grow in his experiential knowledge of "the fellowship of Christ's (His) sufferings." He did not mean that by suffering in the service of his Lord, he could add to the merit of Christ's sufferings. Such an idea is completely foreign to biblical teaching (cf. Heb. 10:14). Rather, he saw suffering for the sake of Christ as only fair, since the Savior had suffered so much for him. The Christian, who suffers because of his or her faithful testimony for Christ, can personally relate to Jesus' feelings when He suffered for faithfully obeying His Father. There is a "fellowship" in that kind of suffering (cf. Rom. 6:8; Gal. 2:19-20). A believer who never suffers for the Lord's sake cannot do that.
The last phrase in this verse modifies the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. Complete dedication to the will of God, which resulted in Jesus' sufferings and which will result in the believer's suffering, means "death" ultimately. It means death to one's own agenda for life (Rom. 6:4-11), and it may result in physical death. Death is a grim prospect, but Paul did not have a morbid, unhealthy fascination with suffering and death for its own sake. He so loved Jesus Christ that he wished to share all aspects of His life, to know Him as intimately as he could. He even was willing to follow Him into the valley of the shadow of death.
3:11 This verse does not contain a purpose clause, as the NASB translation "in order that" implies. A better translation would be "if somehow" (NASB margin) or "and so, somehow" (NIV). It expresses expectation.
Superficially, this verse seems to suggest that Paul had some doubt about the certainty of his resurrection. However, elsewhere in his writings, he was very confident that God would resurrect him and all believers (e.g., Rom. 8:11, 23; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:12-57; 2 Cor. 4:14; 5:1-5; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 2 Tim. 2:18). The Bible teaches that God will resurrect all people, believers and unbelievers, who have died (e.g., Dan. 12:2; Matt. 22:29-32; Luke 20:37-38; John 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:25; Acts 4:2; 17:18; 23:6; 24:15; Heb. 6:2; Rev. 20:4-6, 13). Consequently we must look for another explanation of this verse.
"Now, if Paul believed in one general resurrection at the end in which all people, the saved and lost, would participate, it is difficult to understand his use of this language in relation to his personal participation. There would be no question of his being a part of such a resurrection."
One possibility is that Paul was thinking of his spiritual co-resurrection with Christ. In the context, he had been speaking of suffering and dying with Him. Yet these were evidently physical experiences, not spiritual realities. Furthermore, the resurrection he said he hoped to attain was still future, whereas he had already experienced spiritual resurrection with Christ to newness of life (Rom. 6:1-11; Gal. 2:20).
Another view is that Paul was referring to his being raised completely above sin and selfishness, which characterize unbelievers ("the dead"). However, attaining "to the resurrection from among the dead" are unusual words to use if this is what he meant. He probably would have said something like "attain victory over sin" if this is what he intended.
A third view is that Paul was hoping that he would persevere faithfully, in his quest to know Christ, until he died. The logical progression in Paul's thought, in verses 10 and 11, was from suffering, to death, to resurrection. Perhaps he meant he wanted to experience suffering for Christ's sake, and was even willing to die for Him, in order to arrive at his resurrection in a manner that would enable him to face his master unashamed. The problem with this view is the unusual word used for "resurrection" (Gr. exanastasin, lit. "out-resurrection").
The words that Paul used seem to indicate that he was thinking of a resurrection from among those who were dead. The Greek phrase is ten exanastasin ten ek nekron. The use of the preposition ek twice in the phrase, the first usage being in exanastasin, suggests a resurrection out from a group not resurrected. The NASB translators captured this idea when they rendered this phrase "the resurrection from among the dead." The NIV translators simply translated it "the resurrection from the dead."
This is a good example, by the way, of the characteristic difference between these two translations. Generally the NASB is more literal, translating a Greek word with the same English word wherever the Greek word occurs. The NIV is more paraphrastic, translating a Greek word with any number of English synonyms to make the English translation more readable.
This understanding of exanastasin would point to the resurrection of believers that will result in Christians rising from among the unbelieving dead, those who are dead in their trespasses and sins.
Paul was probably speaking of the Rapture. When that event takes place God will snatch Christians out from among the spiritually dead (unbelievers). This explains the unusual word Paul employed that appears only here in the Greek New Testament. But the Rapture is not an event that Christians need to strive to attain. All Christians, living and dead, will be caught up when it occurs. Probably Paul meant that he hoped he would live to experience the Rapture, the "out-resurrection from among the dead," before he died. The verb katavtao ("attain") means to come to, to arrive at, or to attain to something. Paul evidently expected that the Rapture could happen before he died (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
Another, less likely, possibility is that Paul meant faithful Christians will experience a better resurrection than unfaithful believers.
"The out-resurrection is a special reward which only faithful believers will receive. While the exact nature of that reward is unclear here, it can generally be understood as a sort of abundance of life. All believers will be resurrected and have joy forever. Faithful believers only will obtain this out-resurrection and have abundance of joy forever. Hebrews 11:35 is instructive here. It speaks of believers who 'were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.' All believers will be resurrected, but there is a better one for those who endure. Obviously this out-resurrection is something which is capable of many degrees depending on the measure of one's faithfulness. Thus the degree to which we are faithful to use our talents, treasures, gifts, abilities, resources, and opportunities in life to please Him is the degree to which we will obtain this out-resurrection abundance of life."
There is no question that there will be differences of rewards at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:12-15). However, there is no other Scripture that teaches a difference in the "resurrection" of faithful and unfaithful believers. It seems strange that, if Paul wanted to distinguish between faithful and unfaithful believers here, he would use "resurrection" to do so. Other Scripture points to the judgment seat of Christ as the time when God will make this distinction, not the resurrection of believers and unbelievers. Moreover, the term "out-resurrection" seems to stress separation from others at the time of resurrection, rather than separation from others following resurrection.
Robert Wilkin, the writer quoted above, later changed his view and adopted the "spiritual resurrection view."
However, exanastasis seems to be a very unusual word to use to describe the attainment of Christ-like character.
"In the following verses, though St Paul speaks of himself, his language seems really to be directed against the antinomian spirit, which in its rebound from Jewish formalism perverted liberty into license."
3:12 Paul had said that he had not already grasped the intimate knowledge of his Savior that he sought to obtain (v. 10). He did not want his readers to understand him as saying that his conversion had brought him into, or that he had "obtained," the intimate personal relationship with Christ that he desired. At conversion his views about what is important in life changed drastically, however. Yet he did not believe he was "perfect." There are some Christians who believe that after conversion they do not sin (cf. 1 John 1:6-10). Paul did not believe in sinless perfection.
"The word 'perfect,' as the Bible uses it of men, does not refer to sinless perfection. Old Testament characters described as 'perfect' were obviously not sinless (cp. Gen. 6:9; 1 Ki. 15:14; 2 Ki. 20:3; 1 Chr. 12:38; Job 1:1, 8; Ps. 37:37). Although a number of Hebrew and Greek words are translated 'perfect,' the thought is usually either completeness in all details (Heb. tamam, Gk. katartizo), or to reach a goal or achieve a purpose (Gk. teleioo). Three stages of perfection are revealed: (1) Positional perfection, already possessed by every believer in Christ (Heb. 10:14). (2) Relative perfection, i.e. spiritual maturity (Phil. 3:15), especially in such aspects as the will of God (Col. 4:12), love (1 Jn. 4:17-18), holiness (2 Cor. 7:1), patience (Jas. 1:4), 'every good work' (Heb. 13:21). Maturity is achieved progressively, as in 2 Cor. 7:1, 'perfecting holiness,' and Gal. 3:3, lit., 'are ye now being made perfect?' and is accomplished through gifts of ministry bestowed 'for the perfecting of the saints' (Eph. 4:12). And (3) ultimate perfection, i.e. perfection in soul, spirit, and body, which Paul denies he has attained (Phil. 3:12) but which will be realized at the time of the resurrection of the dead (Phil. 3:11). For the Christian nothing short of the moral perfection of God is always the absolute standard of conduct, but Scripture recognizes that Christians do not attain sinless perfection in this life (cp. 1 Pet. 1:15-16; 1 Jn. 1:8-10)."
Paul realized his responsibility to pursue greater personal experiential knowledge of Christ, intimacy with Christ, conformity to Christ, and holiness. One of the reasons God has saved us is so we might enjoy fellowship with Christ (John 15; 1 John 1:1-3). Practical sanctification does not come automatically by faith, as justification and glorification do. We must pursue it ("press on") diligently by following the Lord (vv. 13-15; cf. Gal. 5:16; 2 Pet. 1:5-11).
3:13 Again Paul disclaimed having attained conformity to Christ. He viewed his experience as similar to a runner's. He did not look back ("forgetting what lies behind"). The apostle did not mean that he refused to remember things that had happened to him in the past, which included past failures as well as past successes. He had just reviewed some of those things. He meant that he did not rest in his heritage (vv. 5-7) or in his past attainments (vv. 9-12). He had abandoned the unworthy goal that he had pursued in the past. Now he had a new goal toward which he was looking and running ("reaching forward to what lies ahead").
"Forget those wrongs done, e.g. the persecution of the church (v 6), and so on, whose memory could paralyze one with guilt and despair. Forget, too, those attainments so far achieved as a Christian, the recollection of which might cause one to put life into neutral and to say, 'I have arrived.' Forget in such a way that the past, good or bad, will have no negative bearing on one's present spiritual growth or conduct."
3:14 Paul's "goal" (Gr. skopos, lit. "goal marker," the object at the end of the course on which the runner fixes his gaze) was complete knowledge of Christ. He would receive a "prize" when he reached that goal. He would only reach that goal when he entered the Lord's presence and saw Him face to face (1 John 3:2-3). Nevertheless he pursued the goal while living on the earth, because he wanted to get to know the Lord as well as possible before going into the Lord's presence.
"This is a far cry from the teaching on sanctification which calls believers to 'let go and let God'. There was not much 'letting go' about Paul, but rather an example of the truth that the regenerate believer must appropriate the sanctifying grace of God by actively obeying him."
The "prize" would come at the end of the race, when he had attained the goal, but not before then. Therefore "the prize of the upward call" probably does not refer to the Rapture. There is another reason this is not a proper identification. The Rapture is not a reward. God will catch up (rapture) into heaven every Christian, regardless of how he or she has run the race (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:15-17).
Furthermore, the "prize" probably refers to the reward faithful believers will receive at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). God has called every believer to salvation so he or she may obtain that prize. However, only those who run the race as Paul did, namely, to gain an ever increasing experiential knowledge of Christ, will obtain it (1 Cor. 9:24). The TNIV translation gives the sense: "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
"Each believer is on the track; each has a special lane in which to run; and each has a goal to achieve. If we reach the goal the way God has planned, then we receive a reward. If we fail, we lose the reward, but we do not lose our citizenship."
"In keeping with the vivid imagery drawn from the Greek games that pervades this section there is still another explanation of the 'upward call' that seems the most reasonable explanation of all. It sees in the expression tes ano kleseos ["the upward call"] an allusion to the fact that the Olympian games, which included foot-races, were organized and presided over by agonothetes, highly respected officers called Hellenodikai. 'After each event they had a herald announce the name of the victor, his father's name and his country, and the athlete or charioteer would come and receive a palm branch at their hands' (G. Glotz, 'Hellenodikai,' in C. Daremberg and E. Saglio [eds.], Dictionnaire des antiqués grecques et romaines [Paris: Hachette, 19001963] 3,1,60-64). This is the call to which Paul is now alluding (Collange)."
3:15 In conclusion, Paul urged those who were mature ("perfect") among his readers to recognize that what he had said was true ("have this attitude"; i.e., Christ's attitude). He also promised that God would enlighten those who thought differently ("will reveal that also") about minor matters if their "attitude" was right.
"The sentence is thus predicated on their mutual friendship and mutual trust, which is so secure that Paul can simply leave it in God's hands to 'reveal' to them what further understanding they may need on matters wherein they might not be ready fully to agree with him."
"There is no little formula for discovering the will of God. One cannot live a careless life and expect a vision or an angel or some green light to appear to show the way to go in a crisis. Knowing the will of God comes through a day-by-day walk with Him and a willingness to be led by Him. This will keep you on the right route through life, and it will be a great joy to your heart."
"Perfect" (NASB) means "mature" (NIV, Gr. teleios), not sinless. In verse 12, Paul used the same root word to claim he was not "perfect." Probably there he meant that he was not absolutely perfect or mature, and here he meant that he was relatively mature compared to the immature.
Paul may have been using "perfect" here somewhat ironically (with some sarcasm).
3:16 All Christians, but especially the immature who are in view here, need to maintain a consistent life ("keep living by that same standard") in harmony with our understanding of God's truth ("to which we have attained"). We should not wait until we have a complete knowledge of what God has revealed to put into practice what we do understand.
"False doctrine always begets false practice. A man who espouses false doctrine will never conform to the standards of the holiness of God in his daily life as that holiness is revealed in the Word of God."
3:17 This verse is transitional. It applies equally well to what precedes and to what follows.
Paul's advice might appear to some as egocentric. Nonetheless, the reason he encouraged others to follow his "example," was that he was following Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1). "Those who walk[ed] after (according to)" Paul's "pattern" of life included Timothy and Epaphroditus. In Philippians, Paul typically gave warnings first, and then followed them up with encouragements in the form of good examples.
Paul introduced this section with an exhortation to rejoice (v. 1), and a warning against Judaizing false teachers who would rob the readers of their joy (v. 2). He then explained his own view of the Christian life (vv. 3-14), and gave a final admonition to adopt his attitude (vv. 15-17). This was appropriate, since his view differed radically from what the Judaizers taught, and it expressed the mind of Christ (2:5-11).
Paul had previously used the examples of Jesus Christ (2:5-11), himself (2:17-18), Timothy (2:19-24), and Epaphroditus (2:25-30) to challenge his readers. In this section, his own example encourages us again to make Jesus Christ the focus of our lives. Many Christians are not very effective because they try to do too many different things. Paul had one clearly defined goal in relation to Christ: to get to know his Savior better and better.
Another threat to the joy and spiritual development of the Philippians was people who advocated lawless living. This is, of course, the opposite extreme from what the Judaizers taught (v. 2). Paul turned from the legalists to the libertines, and warned his readers of this danger next. These verses give the reason for Paul's exhortation in verse 17.
3:18 Who these "enemies" were becomes clear in the next verse (v. 19). Here we learn that there were "many" of them, though they were probably not in the Philippian church, or Paul would probably have addressed them differently. These individuals caused the apostle much grief because they misled Christians. Perhaps he described them as "enemies of the cross," because what they taught was contrary to the spirit of obedience to God that had led Jesus to the cross (cf. v. 10).
3:19 The context does not specify whether these people were Christians or not, but antinomianism was common among both groups in Paul's day, as it is today. Consequently we should probably understand "destruction" in a general sense. The same Greek word (apoleia) occurs in 1:28, where it probably refers to unbelievers and eternal destruction. Nevertheless believers can experience discipline, and even premature physical death as discipline, if they continue to resist the will of God (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 11:30; 1 John 5:16). I tend to think they were unbelievers.
Three characteristics identify these people (cf. vv. 2-3): First, they give free rein to the satisfaction of their sensual "appetite[s]," and do not restrain the flesh (cf. Rom. 16:18; 1 Cor. 6:13; Jude 11). Second, they find satisfaction and take pride in things that they do that should cause them "shame" (cf. Eph. 5:12). Third, they involve themselves almost totally in physical and material ("earthly") "things," things pertaining to the present enjoyment of life, to the exclusion of spiritual matters. In short, their ritualistic observances had taken God's place in their lives. They had become idolaters.
"He [Paul] is probably describing some itinerants, whose view of the faith is such that it allows them a great deal of undisciplined self-indulgence. . . . In any case, they have not appeared heretofore in the letter, and do not appear again. They have served their immediate purpose of standing in sharp relief to Paul's own 'walk' and to his heavenly pursuit, so crucial to this letter, and toward which Paul now turns once more as he begins to draw this appeal to an end."
3:20 The reason we should follow Paul's example, and not that of these "sensualists," is that as Christians we have a "citizenship . . . in heaven" as well as one on earth. Our heavenly citizenship and destiny are far more important than our brief earthly sojourn (cf. Gal. 4:26; Heb. 11:10). The Roman citizenship the Philippians enjoyed meant a great deal to them (Acts 16:12, 21). It enabled them, though living in Macedonia, to say, "My citizenship is in Rome." All believers need to learn to live as foreigners and pilgrims on this earth (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11).
The Greek word apekdechometha, translated "look for," is a strong compound.
Furthermore, it is from our heavenly kingdom that a Savior will come to deliver us out of this present evil world, and take us to our home with Him above (John 14:1-2). The prospect of our Lord's return should motivate us to live as "citizens of heaven" even while we are still on earth (1 John 3:2-3).
". . . Paul prefers 'justification' to describe what has already been done in the Christian by God's action in Christ, while he reserves 'salvation' for what yet remains to be done (Beare; cf. Rom 5:9-10)."
3:21 When Christ returns for us at the Rapture, He will "transform" our present mortal bodies into immortal bodies to be like our Lord's resurrected body. The comparison between these two bodies is striking. One is of a "humble state": lowly, weak, and susceptible to all kinds of evil influences. The idea that it is sinful, which the AV implies by using the word "vile," is absent in the Greek word (tapeinoseos). The other one, the new body, will be glorious, more expressive of our true state as the children of God, and incorruptible. This transformation will occur whether we are alive or dead when the Lord returns (1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Thess. 5:9-10). This amazing change will transpire because of the same divine "power" by which God will eventually "subject everything (all things)" in the universe "to Himself."
"As believers we have a responsibility to maintain sound physical health to the limit of our ability. This body should not be weakened by obesity or indolence or lack of exercise. That is misuse of the body."
The key word "Therefore" (Gr. hoste), and the repetition of "stand firm" (cf. 1:27), point to a conclusion of the main subject. This verse begins the rather drawn out conclusion of the letter.
The apostle did not want his readers to lose their balance and tumble spiritually because of bad influences. Instead, he wanted them to adopt the mind of Christ, as he himself had, and thus be qualified to continue on with him in the partnership of the gospel. He proceeded to explain how to live until the Lord returns.
Paul's strong affection for the Philippian Christians comes through very clearly in this verse. This is one of the warmest expressions of affection for his readers that we have in Paul's inspired writings. He called them "brethren" four times (1:12; 3:1, 17; 4:8), "beloved" twice (2:12 and here), and "beloved brethren" once (here). He said he "longed to see" them, using an expression that does not appear anywhere else in the New Testament.
Again, Paul affirmed his desire to visit Philippi and to see these saints again (cf. 1:8; 2:24). Moreover, he referred to them as his present source of "joy" and his future "crown"—when he would stand before the judgment seat of Christ. He would receive a reward for establishing them in the faith.
". . . the idea conveyed by stephanos ["crown"] is not dominion, but either (1) victory, or (2) merriment, as the wreath was worn equally by the conqueror and by the holiday-maker. Without excluding the latter notion, the former seems to be prominent in this and in the parallel passage [i.e., 1 Thess. 2:19]; for there as here, the Apostle refers in the context to the Lord's coming."
In this section on walking steadfastly (3:1—4:1), Paul urged his readers to rejoice in the Lord, and warned them about false teaching (of two kinds) that would limit their joy. On the one hand, there was teaching from Judaizers, some of whom may have been Christians but most of whom were probably not. These false teachers wanted to limit the Philippians' legitimate liberty, by persuading them to submit to laws that God did not intend to govern them. On the other hand, there were antinomians, many of whom seem to have been believers, but some of whom may not have been. They were urging the abandonment of legitimate law and were advocating self-indulgence. Paul's example of rejecting the Law's righteousness in favor of Christ's, explained in the middle section of chapter 3 (vv. 4b-16), provides a path that leads us safely between these extremes (cf. Gal. 5).
Standing firm (cf. Eph. 6:13) involves living in harmony with one another (vv. 2-3), rejoicing on all occasions (vv. 4-7), and developing the quality of sweet reasonableness (vv. 8-9). This is clear because three imperatives in the Greek text explain "so stand firm" or "stand firm thus" (Gr. houtos).
This last section (4:2-9) of the body of the epistle (1:27—4:9) deals with the same two subjects as the preceding two sections, unity and steadfastness, but in more detail. Paul gave his readers specific instructions about what they should do. Unity needed restoring, and steadfastness needed encouraging.
4:2 "Euodia" ("Success") and "Syntyche" ("Lucky") were evidently two women in the Philippian congregation. Other, less acceptable identifications, are that they were two men (Theodore of Mopsuestia), or that they were symbols of Jewish and Gentile Christians (the Tübingen school).
God did not reveal the reason for the estrangement that existed between these two women. Regardless of the reason, the will of God for them was to establish a harmonious relationship ("live in harmony"). Unanimity in the church is not always possible, but unity is. Paul urged each of these two women individually, perhaps so neither would feel that responsibility for healing the breach lay with the other. Urging was all that Paul felt he had to do, not commanding (cf. 1:27—2:4). He assumed they would respond to gentle persuasion. The addition of "in the Lord" would remind them that they were under His authority, and that they had much in common as sisters in Christ.
"Having 'the same mindset in the Lord' has been specifically spelled out in the preceding paradigmatic narratives, where Christ (2:6-11) has humbled himself by taking the 'form of a slave' and thus becoming obedient unto death on a cross, and Paul (3:4-14) has expressed his longing to know Christ, especially through participation in his sufferings so as to be conformed into the same cruciform lifestyle. The ways such a 'mindset' takes feet is by humbly 'looking out for the interests of others' within the believing community (2:3-4)."
4:3 Paul appealed to another person in the Philippian church, whom he referred to as "true companion," to help Euodia and Syntyche restore their fellowship. Most translations interpret suzuge ("comrade" or "yokefellow") as a description, rather than as a proper name. Probably it referred to the leading elder (pastor) in the church. There are many other views of who this person was, all of which, I think, are less probable.
Euodia and Syntyche had evidently labored for the Lord with Paul (cf. Acts 16:13-15). Here the main theme of the epistle comes out clearly, again, as partnership ("shared my struggle") "in (the cause of) the gospel." "Clement" had been a partner in the gospel as well. The Scriptures do not identify who he was. Clement was a common Roman name. Others had also worked with Paul, probably in Philippi and perhaps elsewhere. The fact that their "names" appeared "in the book of life" seems to be an allusion to their honored status among the citizens of heaven.
"Practically every city of that day maintained a roll or civic register of its citizens, and in that record was entered the name of every child born in the city. If one of the citizens proved guilty of treachery or disloyalty or of anything bringing shame on the city, he was subjected to public dishonour by the expunging of his name from the register. (The name was, in any case normally obliterated at death.) He was deemed no longer worthy to be regarded as a citizen of the city. If, on the other hand, a citizen had performed some outstanding exploit deserving of special distinction, honour was bestowed upon him, either by the recording of the deed in the city roll or by his name being encircled in gold (or overlaid in gold) in the roll."
The Bible refers to more than one book of life: the book containing the names of people presently alive (Exod. 32:32-33; Ps. 69:28), and the book containing the names of God's elect (i.e., all believers; Luke 10:20; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27) and the names of faithful believers (Phil. 4:3).
Paul gave his readers five brief, positive exhortations in this section, all of which are vitally important for individual and corporate Christian living. Submitting to these exhortations results in the maintenance of peace in the body, so that the saints can work together effectively as partners in the gospel, even in the midst of opposing unbelievers.
4:4 Rejoicing in Christ is something the apostle had commanded earlier (3:1), and had illustrated abundantly for his readers throughout this epistle. He must have felt that there was a great need for this attitude in Philippi. There were many reasons why the Philippian saints could have felt discouraged. Paul's imprisonment and the possibility of his death, Epaphroditus' illness, and the antagonism of unbelievers were a few. The attacks from legalists, on the one hand, and libertines on the other, plus friction among certain members of the church, contributed to this spirit. To counteract this attitude, Paul prescribed rejoicing in the Lord: "Rejoice in the Lord always." He repeated this charge in this verse for even greater emphasis: "Again I will say, rejoice."
Paul was not urging us to be unrealistic. He was not saying that we should never feel sad. Even Jesus wept (John 11:35). However, he was advocating focusing on the blessings we have in Christ, and being grateful for these regardless of how sad we may feel at any particular time. He had set a good example by singing when he was in prison in Philippi (Acts 16:25).
"The truly godly person both longs for God's presence, where one pours out his or her heart to God in joy, prayer, and thanksgiving, and lives in God's presence by 'doing' the righteousness of God. Otherwise piety is merely religion, not devotion."
4:5 We should also demonstrate forbearance, or a "gentle spirit" (Gr. epieikes), to everyone, saved and unsaved alike. The Greek word contains connotations of gentleness, yielding, kindness, patience, forbearance, leniency, and magnanimity. It recalls Jesus Christ's humility in 2:5-11. The forbearing person does not insist on his or her own rights or privileges. He or she is considerate and gentle toward others. Of course, there is a time to stand for what is right. The forbearing person is not spineless but selfless. This quality is the opposite of the spirit of contention and self-seeking alluded to above.
"A Christian should cultivate an outgoing personality. The secret of his happiness is not confined within the walls of his own meditation and reflection. He cannot be truly happy without striving to be a blessing to others."
In connection with forbearance, Paul reminded his readers of the imminence of the Lord's return at the Rapture ("The Lord is near."). When He comes, He will right wrongs—and vindicate those who have given up their rights for the glory of God and the welfare of others (cf. 3:20-21; James 5:8).
"In all we do we must always remember that the Lord may return at any time. His coming is always at hand, yes, but we do not know when, and so we must always live in the realisation [sic] that he is coming."
"In light of the concept of the imminent coming of Christ and the fact that the New Testament does teach His imminent coming, we can conclude that the Pretribulation Rapture view is the only view of the Rapture of the church that comfortably fits the New Testament teaching of the imminent coming of Christ. It is the only view that can honestly say that Christ could return at any moment, because it alone teaches that Christ will come to rapture the church before the 70th week of Daniel 9 or the Tribulation period begins and that nothing else must happen before His return."
4:6 Earlier, Paul had commended Timothy for being "anxious" over the welfare of the Philippians (2:20). Here he said we should not be "anxious" about anything. The same Greek word (a present imperative, merimnate) appears in both places. The resolution of this problem probably lies in viewing anxiety as a concern (or worry) that may become fretful and inappropriate if taken too far. Paul's point here was that, rather than becoming distraught over a particular situation, we should take it to the Lord in "prayer" (cf. Matt. 6:25-34). We should pray about "everything" that concerns us. Someone has said, "Why worry when you can pray?" Prayer needs to replace worry in the Christian's life.
Paul used several different words for prayer in this verse. "Prayer" (proseuche) is the most general term for our communications to God. "Supplication" (NASB) or "petition" (NIV, deesis) refers to requests for particular benefits. "Thanksgiving" (eucharistias) is grateful acknowledgment of past mercies, including the fact that He has heard and will answer our prayer. "Requests" (aitemata) looks at individual requests of God that form part of the whole prayer. Paul offered strong encouragement to seek release from anxiety in prayer and more prayer.
McGee quoted Fenelon, a mystic who lived in the Middle Ages, who encouraged praying as follows:
"Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one's heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself as to others."
Howard Hendricks called verses 2-6:
". . . a five-part recipe for conflict resolution: (1) 'Rejoice in the Lord,' that is, get beyond yourselves and look to the Lord. (2) 'Let your gentleness be evident to all.' In other words speak with kindness to each other. (3) 'Do not be anxious.' Relax, and give it all to God. (4) 'Be thankful.' The simple act of expressing gratitude for our blessings takes the heat out of infection. (5) Present your requests to God. Prayer realigns us and restores peace . . ."
4:7 "Peace" in the heart will follow praying about what concerns us. The phrase "the peace of God" occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. This is peace that comes from God, rather than peace with God. It is a peace that comes to us when we pray, because we enter into the tranquility of God's own presence. Those doing the praying are believers. This peace, or release from tension, is something that we cannot fully comprehend ("surpasses all comprehension"). At the same time, this peace acts as a sentry to "guard" believers' "hearts" (affections) and "minds" (thoughts)—under the sovereign influence of Christ Jesus.
"Together these words refer to the entire inner being of the Christian, his emotions, affections, thoughts and moral choices. This inner part of a person, then, so vulnerable to attack by the enemy, is that which God's peace is set, like battle-ready soldiers, to protect."
Most of us have experienced some, or even much, lack of complete peace, from time to time, when we pray. Paul was not saying that we will feel absolutely at ease and relieved after we pray as he directed here. Still, a measure of peace will be ours. At least we will have the confidence that we have laid the matter before the Lord and sought His aid.
This verse does not promise peace as the indicator of God's will when we are praying about what we should do. Paul did not say here that if we need to make a decision, God will make His will known to us by giving us peace about the right choice. The promise of this verse is that if we pray, rather than worry (v. 6), God will give us peace. Anxiety brings no peace, but praying does.
4:8 This "Finally" signals the last of the three imperatives that explain how to stand firm (v. 1; cf. vv. 2, 4). It also introduces Paul's next to the last exhortation of the list of five, that deals with what the believer should spend his or her time thinking about. This subject obviously relates to prayer, since both activities involve mental concentration.
"True" (alethe) means valid, honest, and reliable (cf. Rom. 3:4).
"Honorable" or "noble" (semna) means worthy of respect (cf. Prov. 8:6; 1 Tim. 3:8, 11; Titus 2:2).
"Right" (dikaia) refers to what is just and upright.
"Pure" (hagna) denotes cleanness and connotes moral purity.
"Lovely" (prosphile) means what is amiable, agreeable, or pleasing.
"In common parlance, this word could refer to a Beethoven symphony, as well as to the work of Mother Teresa among the poor of Calcutta; the former is lovely and enjoyable, the latter is admirable as well as moral."
"Of good repute" or "admirable" (euphema) refers to what is praiseworthy because it measures up to the highest standards.
The conditional clause structure at the end of this sentence is a rhetorical device. It places the responsibility on the reader to make his or her own decision regarding what is excellent and praiseworthy.
". . . Paul seems to be drawing upon the cultural background of the Philippians and is saying to them: 'If there is such a thing as moral excellence, and you believe there is. If there is a kind of behavior that elicits universal approval, and you believe there is,' then continue to strive for this goodness and to attain to this level of behavior that will command the praise of men and of God."
"On the authority of the Word of God, I submit to you that the greatest conflict being waged is not international, not political, not economic, and not social. The greatest conflict taking place in the world toady is the battle for control of our minds."
4:9 Wholesome conduct (v. 9) should follow wholesome thinking (v. 8).
Paul organized his thoughts on this subject by constructing two pairs: The Philippians had "learned and received" many helpful lessons from Paul, their teacher. They had personally "heard" his verbal instructions "and seen" his individual example. They needed to put these "things" into "practice," not just think about them and discuss them.
"It appears that he [Paul] was of the conviction that the truths of the Christian gospel must never be abstracted from action and put into high-toned words and phrases, but always expressed in the life of the teacher."
When the Philippians put these truths into practice, "the God of peace" would "be with" them. Obviously God is always with His people (Matt. 28:20). Paul's phrase is a way of saying that they would experience God's presence by enjoying the peace that comes when we walk in fellowship with God. This was undoubtedly a play on words, as one can see by cross-referencing verse 7: Both "the peace of God" and "the God of peace" guard the believer who is a partner in the work of the gospel.
In this section of collected exhortations (vv. 4-9), Paul urged five things. These are: rejoicing in Christ always, being forbearing with all people, praying about difficult situations, thinking about wholesome subjects, and practicing apostolic teaching. These are fundamental revelations of God's will for all of us who are Christians, which are especially relevant to our calling to proclaim the gospel.
The exhortation in verses 8-9 also concludes the main body of the epistle begun in 1:27. The reference to Paul's conduct in verse 9 ties back to 1:12-26.
"The body of the letter begins with a topic sentence in 1:27a. The Philippian Christians, to be perfected in their partnership for the gospel, were to conduct themselves worthy of the gospel. Specifically two things are in view—unity with one another and steadfastness against their opponents. They need not fear, for God will supply grace (1:27-30). Chapter 2 takes up the unity motif, and chapter 3, steadfastness. The main body of the epistle then concludes with a hortatory paragraph which again addresses the same two subjects. All this is freed from any topical 'loose ends' by the summarizing double conclusion of 4:8-9."
The apostle began this epistle by sharing some personal information about his situation in Rome (1:12-26). He now switched back from his concerns for the Philippians (1:27—4:9) to his own circumstances (4:10-20). Notice the somewhat chiastic structure of the epistle. This epilogue balances the prologue (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 (vv 10, 14-16, 18-20), and his insistence on his own independence and self-sufficiency on the other (vv 11-13, 17)."
". . . 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."
First, Paul thanked his brethren for their recent gift that Epaphroditus had delivered to him (vv. 10-14).
4:10 The "But" (Gr. de) that opens this section in the NASB is a bit misleading. It does not imply a contrast with what precedes, but simply introduces a new idea. Paul was glad that the Philippians had again expressed their loving "concern" for him by sending him a gift. It had been some time since their last gift. Their care of him had "revived" (NASB) and "blossomed afresh" (NEB).
Their failure seems to have resulted from some apparently unavoidable circumstance. The apostle understood this, and did not chide them for their past lack of attentiveness to his needs.
"In this section we see that the first attitude which makes giving and receiving a joy is concern for the work of the gospel and for those who do the work of the gospel. When the minds of the givers and receivers are focused on the work and on the workers rather than on the gift itself, financial matters will be kept in the right perspective."
4:11 Paul did not want the Philippians to misunderstand him. He was not rejoicing primarily because their gift had met his need, but because their gift expressed their love and concern for him. Paul had "learned to be content," and to rejoice regardless of his physical "circumstances." Such contentment is not a natural gift.
"It [the aorist tense of the Greek verb emathon, translated "learned"] implies that Paul's whole experience, especially as a Christian, up to the present has been a sort of schooling from which he has not failed to master its lessons."
Every Christian needs to learn to be content. When Paul urged his readers to "rejoice in the Lord always" (v. 4), he was preaching what he practiced (vv. 5-8). The apostle's contentment and joy—even in prison—indicate his spiritual maturity, and it challenges us all.
4:12 Specifically, Paul could be equally content with little or with much, materially, because he was rich spiritually. Both poverty and wealth bring temptations with them (Prov. 30:7-9). The apostle had learned how to handle both "need" and "abundance" in every individual situation (en panti), and in all types of situations (en pasin).
"John Wesley is reported to have said that he did not know which dishonored God the most—to doubt His love and care, or to curse and swear. Yet every saint would shrink from the latter with abhorrence, while many of us have no sense of the wrong we do when we fret and worry."
4:13 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.
Earlier in this letter, Paul explained that the most important thing in life was to center on Christ (2:7-11). Contentment is a fruit of doing that. "All things," in the context here, included being content with little or much materially, but Christ can enable His children to do many other and even greater things than this (cf. Matt. 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."
4:14 In view of Paul's attitude, the Philippians might have wondered if they should have bothered to send him the gift. Paul hastened to add that it was good of them to send it ("you have done well to share"). He appreciated it more because it showed a proper spirit in the givers than because it eased his discomfort (v. 18).
"We know that God loves a cheerful giver, but I believe we also need to stress that God loves a cheerful receiver. Cheerful receivers make giving and receiving a joy. It is especially important that the called workers of the church learn to be gracious, cheerful receivers. This is not necessarily an easy task. The art of being a gracious, cheerful, thankful receiver may be even more difficult than being a cheerful giver. If we learn to accept the compliments and the special personal gifts which we receive in a gracious, cheerful manner, we will help make giving and receiving a joy for ourselves and for our people."
Paul seems to have intended the references in these verses, to previous gifts that the Philippians had sent him, to dispel any doubts they may have had about the genuineness of his gratitude.
4:15 The "Philippians" had been very thoughtful and generous with Paul ("you shared with me"), when he left their town after planting their church on his second missionary journey. He had traveled south from Philippi into the province of Achaia. Probably the gift he referred to in this verse is the same one he mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:8, the gift that reached Paul in Corinth.
4:16 Even before Paul arrived in Corinth, the Philippians had sent him gifts "in Thessalonica," the next town he visited after leaving Philippi (Acts 17:1). Perhaps these were smaller gifts, since they were not as memorable.
"There is good evidence from the Greco-Roman world that the actual expression of 'thank you' was not a part of friendship as such. As strange as it may seem to us, true friends did not need to express thanksgiving directly in order for it to be received. What Paul is most likely doing here in keeping with social convention is thus expressing his 'thank you' indirectly, but even more tellingly, by rehearsing their history in this way."
4:17 However, the most important thing to Paul was not the gifts themselves. It was the spiritual reward that would come to the Philippians ("the profit which increases to your account")—because of their financial investments in his ministry.
Throughout this section dealing with gifts, Paul used common business terminology (i.e., "the matter of giving and receiving," v. 15; "profit" [NASB] or "credited to your account" [NIV], v. 17; "received . . . in full" [NASB], v. 18). Paul was very knowledgeable in business matters. Perhaps this reflects his Jewish heritage. His writings reveal a consistent concern over good investments, that he regarded mainly as investments yielding eternal rewards.
4:18 Paul felt fully satisfied. He had received the Philippians' recent gift "in full." This acknowledgment was his written receipt for their donation, as well as a "thank-you note." He also viewed their gift as an offering ("sacrifice"), ultimately made to God, that was acceptable ("well-pleasing") to Him. Sweet-savor ("fragrant aroma") offerings in Israel were sacrifices made in worship, more than to atone for sin. The Philippians were serving as believer-priests by sending their gifts to Paul.
Other sacrifices we as Christians can make to God, besides our material possessions (v. 18), include: our bodies (Rom. 12:1-2), our converts (Rom. 15:16), our praise (Heb. 13:15), and our good works (Heb. 13:16).
4:19 This promise harmonizes with previous revelation regarding how God supplies the "needs" of His people (cf. Prov. 11:25; Matt. 5:7; 6:33). Note that it is needs that He will meet, not "greeds." God will supply them "all." He will do so commensurate with ("according to") "His riches in glory," not simply out of them. As His riches are lavish, so He will give lavishly.
Why do so many Christians suffer—due to lack of food, clothing, or money—in view of this promise? Perhaps it is because some of our greatest needs are not material. To meet these needs, God sometimes does not make us rich, or even financially comfortable. Remember, too, that God gave this promise to generous and sacrificial givers. We may be able to think of examples that appear to be exceptions to this promise. However, I believe that if we could see things from God's perspective, we would realize that God has been completely faithful to His Word.
Note, too, that the "supply" of our needs comes through "Christ Jesus." They come through His sovereign control, through His vast resources, through His infinite wisdom, through His loving heart, and through our union with Him.
4:20 Paul closed this section with a doxology in which he praised God for His providential care: "Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever." God's care comes to us through His Son, and He often uses His people as His channels of blessing. Nevertheless, ultimately God is the Provider of His people's needs. May we ever be mindful of this truth and be grateful to Him!
We cannot read this pericope (vv. 10-20) thoughtfully without appreciating the apostle Paul's sensitivity to his Philippian readers. He was careful to balance what he said. He wanted them to understand his genuine gratitude for their gifts, on the one hand, and his contentment with whatever God sent his way on the other. In our day, we tend to go to one of these extremes or the other in dealing with those who give us gifts. We may give these people the impression that we do not appreciate their gift, or we may lead them to conclude that we are greedy. A proper balance must rest on genuine contentment, and should communicate both appreciation and faith.
William Dalton identified four elements common in both the prologue (1:3-26) and the epilogue (4:10-20). Paul's return to these ideas in the epilogue ties the book together and gives it unity.
". . . we seem to have evidence of an inclusion which binds the whole letter into one unit. First of all, the idea of partnership is strongly expressed at the beginning and the end. Thus in 1:5 Paul is 'thankful for your partnership (koinonia) in the gospel'; and in 4:15 he records that 'no church entered into partnership in giving and receiving except you only.' This partnership is reiterated in another parallel: in 1:7 the Philippians are sharers (sugkoinonous) of grace with Paul; in 4:13 [sic 4:14] they are sharers (sugkoinonesantes) with him in his trouble. At both beginning and end we have the same idea expressed in different ways: the long-standing partnership of the Philippians with Paul: 'from the first day until now' (1:5), and 'in the beginning of the gospel' (4:15). And finally the reciprocal attitude of sympathy between Paul and the Philippians is expressed in the same phrase; in 1:7 he says 'it is right for me to feel this about you' (touto phronein huper panton humon), and in 4:10, 'You have revived your concern for me' (to huper emoi phronein)."
Paul concluded this warm, positive epistle with some greetings and a final benediction. He did this to cement good relations with the Philippians, and to point them again, in closing, to the Lord Jesus Christ. This closing section of the epistle balances out the salutation that opened it (1:1-2).
4:21 The apostle wished, in closing, that the Philippians would pass his greetings to "every" individual believer whom they would touch. He probably meant Christians in nearby towns, not just in Philippi. He used the same term to describe them that he employed in his opening greeting: "saints in Christ Jesus" (1:1). We have seen that the believer's position "in Christ" is an important theme in Philippians. "Christ Jesus" was both the source and focus of Paul and the Philippians' common life together.
The "brethren" who were "with" Paul in Rome included Epaphroditus, and probably Timothy. They would have also included the Roman Christians with whom Paul had contact, and perhaps other fellow workers.
4:22 "All the saints" probably refers to the Christians at Rome. Of these, some were employees of the imperial government ("those of Caesar's household"). Paul had already referred to the praetorian guards, some of whom had evidently become believers (1:13). Since Philippi as a colony had close ties with Rome, it is likely that some of the Roman Christians had friends in the Philippian church.
4:23 This benediction is similar to Paul's initial greeting (1:2; cf. Phile. 25; Gal. 6:18). God's bestowal of the unmerited favor (grace) and supernatural enablement (power) of the Lord Jesus Christ, on the spirits (attitudes; alternatively, "your spirit," collective singular: "the spirit [singular] of you [plural]," their total, collective "spirits," the "church's spirit") of the Philippians would enable them to succeed. God's "grace" would enable them to do all that the apostle had exhorted them to do in this letter. We, also, who are members of today's true church, need God's grace for this same purpose.
Paul's personal view of life lies at the center of this epistle, structurally as well as conceptually (cf. 3:7-14). In chapters 2 and 3, Paul described what it means to adopt the mind of Christ, first using Christ's example of sacrificial self-emptying and servanthood, and then by his own personal testimony and example, the practical outworking of that servant attitude. The great burden of this letter is that we who are believers need to make His attitude our own, so we can join with other believers in partnership in the gospel. The Philippians' partnership with Paul is still bearing fruit today through this encouraging epistle.
The Incarnation of God the Son
There are several aspects of the incarnation of God the Son that merit clarification.
First, God the Son existed throughout eternity. The incarnation was not the beginning of His existence (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-17).
Second, when the Son became incarnate He took upon Himself full humanity. He became a man in every essential respect. Specifically, He didn't just take a human body, but He also took a human personality (emotions, intellect, and will), soul (the capacity to interact with other humans), and spirit (the capacity to interact with God). He was fully human in the non-material aspects of humanity, not just the material (physical) aspects. Every human being, including Jesus Christ, possesses both material (physical) characteristics and immaterial (spiritual) characteristics. Both are essential to humanity.
Third, the incarnation does not mean Jesus took a sinful human nature when He became a man. Sin is not an essential part of being human. God created man without sin, and then Adam and Eve chose to sin. Sin has affected all human beings since the Fall, but being sinful is not an essential part of being human. Sin is, in a sense, foreign to humanity. It's a stain that has discolored every aspect of every person (total depravity). That Jesus was not sinful is clear from two facts.
First, He committed no sins (1 Pet. 2:22). This includes thoughts as well as actions, omissions as well as commissions, little sins as well as big sins. In no way did Jesus ever deviate from God's will for human beings.
Second, He did not inherit a sinful nature from His human father, as all other human beings do, since He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:23; Luke 1:35). The virgin birth of Jesus guarantees His sinless human nature.
Fourth, whereas Jesus assumed a human body and a human nature at His birth, He has never and will never cease to be fully human as well as fully divine. When Jesus Christ returns to the earth at His Second Coming, He will have a human body and a human nature, as He did when He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:11). One day we will see Jesus as His disciples saw Him. And He will remain that way throughout eternity. Today there is a "Man" in heaven for us.
Fifth, the body that Jesus was born with is not the same kind of body that He arose from the dead with. He was born with a mortal body (i.e., one that could die), but He was raised with an immortal body (i.e., one that cannot and will never die). There are sufficient similarities between these bodies such that His disciples recognized Jesus after His resurrection, but there were some dissimilarities such that they had trouble, occasionally, recognizing Him.
Sixth, in the Incarnation, Jesus did not cease to be fully God. What Jesus "emptied Himself" of when He became a human (Phil. 2:7) was not His deity. It was the glory that He had enjoyed with the Father and the Spirit before the Incarnation. Rather than retaining this glory, the Son of God assumed the limitations of humanity (sin apart). Furthermore, He became a servant among humans, which extended to dying for the sins of humanity in the most horribly agonizing and humiliating way possible (i.e., by crucifixion).
Seventh, during Jesus earthly ministry, He sometimes demonstrated the qualities of full humanity, and sometimes the qualities of full deity. For example:
As a man Jesus . . .
As God Jesus . . .
Invited the weary to find rest in Him.
Presented Himself as the bread of life.
Claimed to be the water of life.
Suffered great agony.
Was impervious to suffering and healed the afflictions of others.
Grew in favor with God and man.
Is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Could not experience temptation.
Said He didn't know some things.
Was present in only one place at a time.
Operated in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Operated in His own power and authority.
Said the Father was greater than He.
Claimed that He and the Father are equal.
Received and answered the prayers of others.
Wept at the tomb of the dead.
Raised the dead.
Asked who people said He was.
Knew what people were thinking.
Asked why God had forsaken Him.
Claimed that God was always with Him.
Is eternal and gives eternal life to those who trust Him.
Was God's ideal man.
Is man's ideal God.
These are some of the paradoxes involved in the dual divine-human natures of Christ following His incarnation. It's because of these paradoxes that we sometimes have difficulty understanding the accounts of Jesus' words and works in the Gospels. He was like no other person, not because He was not fully human, but because He was also fully God.
As God, the incarnate Christ reveals God and deserves our worship and service. As Man, He reveals what God intended humans to be, and He provides the perfect example of how we should live as human beings.
A Carrot, An Egg, and A Cup of Coffee
A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life, and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it, and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that whenever one problem was solved, a new one arose.
Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.
In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She took the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out into a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?”
“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.
Her mother brought her closer, and asked her to feel the carrots. She did, and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich flavor.
The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. But each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.
The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting in the boiling water, its inside became hardened.
The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. “Which are you?” the mother asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”
Which of these three am I (reader)? Am I the carrot, that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? Am I the egg, that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough, with a stiff spirit and a hard heart?
Or am I like the coffee bean? The coffee bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water containing the coffee beans gets hot, it becomes coffee, and releases its fragrance and flavor. If you are like the coffee bean, when things are at their worst, you improve your influence and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest, and the trials are their greatest, do you have a positive effect on those around you? How do you handle adversity?
Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?
(I have lost the source of this illustration, which I have modified somewhat.)
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Martin, Ralph P. The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians: an Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959.
Matzat, Don. Christ-Esteem. Eugene, Oreg.: Harvest House Publishers, 1990.
McClain, Alva J. "The Doctrine of the Kenosis in Philippians 2:5-8," Biblical Review 13:4 (October 1928):506-27.
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Munro, John "Prayer to a Sovereign God." Interest 56:2 (February 1990):20-21.
Murray, George W. "Paul's Corporate Witness in Philippians." Bibliotheca Sacra 155:619 (July-September 1998):316-26.
The Nelson Study Bible. Edited by Earl D. Radmacher. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997.
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_____. S.v. "koinos, et al.," by Friedrich Hauck, 3 (1965):789-809.
_____. S.v. "tareinos, et at.," by Walter Grundmann, 8 (1972):1-26.
Toussaint, Stanley D. "Suffering in Acts and the Pauline Epistles." In Why, O God? Suffering and Disability in the Bible and the Church, pp. 183-93. Edited by Larry J. Waters and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011.
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Vincent, Marvin R. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and to Philemon. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1897.
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Vos, Howard F. Philippians: A Study Guide. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Wall, Joe L. Going for the Gold. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991.
Walvoord, John F. Jesus Christ Our Lord. Chicago: Moody Press, 1969.
_____. Philippians. Everyman's Bible Commentary series. Chicago: Moody Press, 1971.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Joyful. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1981.
_____. The Bible Exposition Commentary. 2 vols. Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books, 1989.
Wilkin, Robert N. "Philippians 3:10: Is Our Resurrection Certain?" Grace Evangelical Society Newsletter, November 1987, pp. 1-2.
_____. "Raised to Run." Grace Evangelical Society News 6:8 (August 1991):2-3.
_____. "Working Out Your Salvation." Grace Evangelical Society News 8:3 (May-June 1993):2-3.
Witmer, John A. "The Man with Two Countries." Bibliotheca Sacra 133:532 (October-December 1976):338-49.
E.g., G. S. Duncan, "A New Setting for Paul's Epistle to the Philippians," Expository Times 43 (1931-32):7-11; Robert H. Mounce, "The Epistle to the Philippians," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1319. For a good discussion of these options, see Ralph P. Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, pp. 18-36; or Donald A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 503-6.
E.g., J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, pp. 30-46; H. C. G. Moule, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, pp. xv-xix. See also Everett F. Harrison, Colossians, pp. 108, 113.
Robert C. Swift, "The Theme and Structure of Philippians," Bibliotheca Sacra 141:563 (July-September 1984):238. See also Robert Jewett, "The Epistolary Thanksgiving and the Integrity of Philippians," Novum Testamentum 12:1 (January 1970):53.
See John Munro, "Prayer to a Sovereign God," Interest 56:2 (February 1990):20-21, and Thomas L. Constable, "What Prayer Will and Will Not Change," in Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost, pp. 99-113.
E.g., Robert Gromacki, Stand United in Joy; Frank Stagg, "Philippians," in Broadman Bible Commentary; Howard Vos, Philippians: A Study Guide; and Gerald Blazek, "Unity through Humility in Philippians," (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1977).
See Gordon D. Fee, "Philippians 2:5-11: Hymn or Exalted Pauline Prose?" Bulletin for Biblical Research 2 (1992):29-46; and idem, Paul's Letter . . ., pp. 40-43. See Carson and Moo, pp. 499-503, for discussion of the controversy.
See Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, pp. 114-16; Robert N. Wilkin, "Working Out Your Salvation," Grace Evangelical Society News 8:3 (May-June 1993):2-3; and Fee, Paul's Letter . . ., p. 235.
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