Commentary on Philippians
by Dave Brown
Introduction from Barnes' Notes
Philippi is mentioned in the New Testament only in the following places and connections. In Acts 16:11-12, it is said that Paul and his fellow travelers "loosed from Troas, came with a straight course to Samothracia and Neapolis, and from thence to Philippi." It was at this time that the "Lord opened the heart of Lydia to attend to the things which were spoken by Paul," and that the jailor was converted under such interesting circumstances. In Acts 20:1-6, it appears that Paul again visited Phihppi after he had been to Athens and Corinth, and when on his way to Judea. From Philippi he went to Troas. In 1 Thess 2:2, Paul alludes to the shameful treatment which he had received at Philippi, and to the fact, that having been treated in that manner at Philippi, he had passed to Thessalonica, and preached the gospel there.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus that are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
[Apparently Timothy was with Paul at Rome when the letter was written. This was fitting since Timothy was with Paul when he had the vision of the Macedonian man pleading with them to come there and help, and thus the second missionary journey went in that direction as opposed to Bithynia (Acts 16:7-9). Philippi was the first city that they came to in Macedonia (Acts 16:12), and they established the church there starting with the conversion of Lydia and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16). They identify themselves as servants (bondservants or slaves), which is a fitting metaphor since all that they were doing was under the direction of Jesus. Paul addresses the letter to “all the saints” – this is speaking of God’s separated people, set aside to holiness, which would be essential if they were in Christ Jesus. The bible indicates that the only one way to get “into Christ” is to be baptized into His body (Rom. 6:3), which is the church (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18). A distinction is made between the bishops and deacons and the saints, although it is well understood that these servants of the church were indeed saints themselves. This does illustrate that the word saints is not being used to reference some special class of super Christians. For a discussion of the qualifications of bishops and deacons, see 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
[Grace is a word with a variety of meanings in the New Testament that are often lumped together into a simple “unmerited favor” and trivialized as such. In reality grace involves a fellowship with “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” that involves our using what he has given us to further enhance ourselves and others spiritually. For this reason it involves not only the gift of salvation but the privileges that we have in accepting that gift. Let us defer consideration of the meaning here until we get to verse 7 where we can explore its full meaning by examining the context at that point.]
3 I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you,
4 always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy,
5 for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now;
[It would seem reasonable as Paul was about to write a letter that he would pull up in his mind those memories that he had of the Christians at Philippi, and as he did this, it immediately prompted him to give thanks. The fourth verse is a parenthetical thought. Verse 5 tells what it was that he was giving thanks for, i.e., “the fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now.” Quite often the words fellowship and communication in the New Testament are applied to monetary sharing, and this is the case here. Of course, that was not the ONLY way that they may have had fellowship – most certainly, for example, they were in continuous prayer for Paul and his efforts to spread the gospel. But there is no doubt as we go through the rest of the letter that their monetary contribution to him is what he is talking about here. Now for verse 4: these gifts that they sent to Paul demonstrated their zeal and faithfulness in serving the Lord. John said in 3 John 4: “Greater joy have I none than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” And so as Paul remembered the Christians at Philippi, these tokens of their “walking in the truth” abounded to add to Paul’s great joy in their service to him and to the cause of Christ.]
6 being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ:
[The great fear of all Christians is that those who we love will fall away from the truth. Paul was confidence that this would not be their fate. They were growing in the Lord, and Paul was confident that they would continue to grow even until the day that Jesus will return.]
7 even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers with me of grace.
[Let us understand the meaning of the word grace in this context. Just what is this grace as defined here? They had sent to provide Paul support so as to enable him not to be burdened with work that was separate from “the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” This showed that their hearts were with Paul just as his was with them. Thus the statement: “it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all.” “Thus minded” refers back to the previous verse regarding the confidence that he had in them. So in this oneness of their hearts in they were joint partakers of grace. The grace was not the reward or something that was expected at some future time. It was in the privilege to do the Lord’s work, in this case, together with each other.]
8 For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus.
[Recognizing that verses 3-7 are one sentence, verse 8 can be viewed as referring to all of it. In particular, the first part of it where Paul was talking about his prayer for them. We must have concern for each other in order to properly pray for one another. Prayer is a sacrifice of part of our lives – time taken out to plead with God for others. If we have no concern, we will quickly forget; if we love them, they will always be on our mind, and our frequent prayers will be for them.]
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment;
[Paul now gives more details of what his prayer was for them, in addition to his being thankful for their faithfulness. He knows of their love and he knows of their knowledge and discernment. Can we ever have enough? This verse indicates that we should always be striving for more and we should pray for God’s grace in this regard to grant us a greater degree of both love and understanding of God’s will for us. Love here is unqualified – it includes love for God, Paul, each other, Christians everywhere, and the souls of mankind in general.]
10 so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ;
[What does it take to approve the things that are excellent and to be void of offence when Jesus comes in judgment? The answer from the previous verse is to be – abounding in love, knowledge and understanding. Let us not forget what the source of our spiritual life is.]
11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
[For remember, that this growth and accomplishment is all by the grace of God. Let us then give him the glory in all good things.]
12 Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things (which happened) unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel;
[This is an example application of Romans 8:28: “And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, (even) to them that are called according to (his) purpose.” Would you think that God would allow Paul to be in prison for no purpose? Faith in the truthfulness of the precept spells the difference between Christians blaming God or praising God for the difficulties that they experience in this life. We might ask: which of these two attitudes brings about a greater degree of happiness – blaming God? or praising and thanking God for the opportunity that some discomfort affords? Does our happiness have to depend on our circumstances? Was Paul happy in his circumstances? Indeed this is a very positive statement to that effect. And what were these circumstances? See Acts 28:16-20. Apparently Paul was chained night and day to the soldier who was guarding him – a situation that would have to be as trying as any this life could offer.]
13 so that my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest;
[This is one of the two benefits that has been obtained by Paul’s imprisonment – his persistent preaching of the gospel had converted many who heard. To Paul this was worth all the suffering he was going through, just as it was to Jesus Christ who died on the cross for this same purpose.]
14 and that most of the brethren in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear.
[But there was a secondary benefit as well – others seeing Paul’s persistence and continued faithfulness reasoned within themselves: “if Paul can go through all of this and still be faithful, certainly I can deal with my circumstances that are nothing compared to what Paul is going through.”]
15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
16 the one (do it) of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel;
17 but the other proclaim Christ of faction, not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds.
[We have no other record of such behavior on the part of false teaches in the church. Apparently their jealousy of Paul was such that they felt that preaching just what he preached would cause him to be further persecuted and perhaps even killed. It is hard for those of us who have a sense of truth, righteousness and justice to imagine that such people could exist in the church. We can see how the Jewish leaders might be so inclined, but you would think that those who have been exposed to and apparently were even preaching the saving power of Jesus Christ could not be so corrupted. We do not know the extent of the “envy and strife” that they were preaching, but would assume that it was not just limited to the persecution of Paul. False teachers have a spiritual sickness that leads them to do many spiritually self-defeating things that are unreasonable and very close to insanity.]
18 What then? only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
[This is a strange conclusion and we need to be careful how we interpret it. Paul is not saying that we should abide false teaching. What we surmise here is that as long as what they are saying is the truth, and as long as they are converting others, their underlying motivation is not that important – people are still being urged to obey Christ, and God is being glorified. This is a short-range view, however, since it is clear that corrupt motivations will ultimately lead them to act in self-serving ways, and they will fall away (see Gal. 5:4) unless they repent of the sin that is in their hearts. This brings to mind the parable of the tares (Mt. 13:24-30) in which it was impossible to root out the tares without damaging the good grain, and so the command is given in Matthew 13:30: “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather up first the tares , and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.” It is often impossible for us to judge the motives of those who are teaching the truth; but when they are overcome with the sin in their hearts and begin to spout false doctrines, then we are to put them away from ourselves (Mt. 7:15-20: “by their fruits ye shall know them”).]
19 For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation, through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing shall I be put to shame, but (that) with all boldness, as always, (so) now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death.
[Paul is rejoicing because he knows that his faithfulness to Jesus Christ will turn out to his salvation regardless of what other people do. This is conditioned and qualified by a number of clauses:
- Through your supplication – Paul greatly valued their prayers and even sees that his salvation may be promoted by them – not necessarily praying for his salvation, but praying that he will hold up under the pressures of Satan and continue to serve God as he had in the past.
- Through the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ – this could be interpreted in a number of ways and parsing all of them out is hardly what Paul had in mind when he wrote these words. Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are one in the sense of supplying what is needed to gain and retain salvation (see Romans 8). It was by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit that the truth was revealed and confirmed (mentioned in verse 7). But it is the truth itself that brings about salvation (Romans 1:16-17), not the mechanism of revelation of confirmation.
- According to my earnest expectation and hope – salvation had been Paul’s motivation ever since his conversion in Damascus (Acts 9).
- That in nothing shall I be put to shame – as opposed to the goal of the false teachers who were proclaiming the gospel of envy and strife, trying to cause him to suffer.
- But with all boldness Christ shall be magnified in my body – see comments on Verse 21.
- Whether by life or by death – this would seem to verify that the false teachers were actually so sordid and evil that they would want to bring about the death of Paul.
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
[An identical thought as that found in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that (life) which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, (the faith) which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.” See the following verses for the meaning of “to die (physically) is gain.”]
22 But if to live in the flesh, — (if) this shall bring fruit from my work, then what I shall choose I know not.
[It is important to recognize that Paul did not have the choice as whether to live or to die – none of us do – and there is no indication that Jesus gave Paul a choice in this regard. Thus, Paul is speaking hypothetically here to state his choice if he were given that choice. While this could not play out physically in either ending Paul’s life or extending it, this hypothetical comparison has a strong spiritual message.]
23 But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better:
24 yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake.
[As is usually the case with decisions between righteous alternatives, there is an upside and a downside no matter what choice is made. It would be good for Paul to go and be with Christ and be freed from all of these worldly cares, but his work was not done, and there was much that he could still do for them and for all mankind.]
25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide, yea, and abide with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith;
26 that your glorying may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my presence with you again.
[This further confirms the hypothetical nature of the previous sentence in that in some way it has been made known to Paul that he was not going to be offered up (2 Tim. 4:6) quite yet, and that he would be able to serve them further with his life on this earth. It seems his hope extended to even being physically present with them again, although that should not be taken as a prophecy – his spiritual presence was much more important, and this letter of truth to them was certainly part of that to them as it is today to us. He has great confidence that such an extension of his life would be to their comfort and glorying.]
27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ: that, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear of your state, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel;
[The placing of the word only is critical to the meaning. Most commentators and other versions agree that Paul is not putting a limit on that it is that they need to do. Placing the word only after “gospel of Christ” conveys the meaning much better. The idea is that regardless of whether Paul is present or absent, or whatever persecution might come their way (see next verse), they are to stay within the calling of the gospel of Christ and not to go beyond that. He is anxious that when he hears about them again in the future it will be that they are standing fast in the unity of the gospel (i.e., with one spirit, as with one soul, in the one gospel).
28 and in nothing affrighted by the adversaries: which is for them an evident token of perdition, but of your salvation, and that from God;
[Fear encourages the adversaries. This fear may be seen as justification for what they are doing. However, we see the persecution on the part of the adversaries as being the evident token of their perdition (condemnation), and the lack of fear of such as being the evident token of the Christians’ salvation from God. When someone or some group has to resort to persecution in order to get its message across, that is sufficient evidence of it being totally devoid of any logical or reasonable basis.]
29 because to you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer in his behalf:
30 having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
[Here we see that Paul considers it a privilege or a byproduct of God’s grace that they, like the apostles, would “rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name” (Acts 5:41). This “conflict” would at times lead them to, like Paul, consider it a blessing to depart this life and go to be with Christ.]
[This chapter is one of the most instructive with regard to the relationships among Christians, being illustrated clearly by the example of Jesus Christ.]
2:1 If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions,
[Paul was convinced that these things were in the church at Philippi, and he appeals to them to add to these basic spiritual qualities that he knew they had.]
2 make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind;
[This is a command, but Paul does not issue it that way. He appeals to their desire to please him (“make full my joy”). The four exhortations result in the same attitude if observed. The one that might be viewed as differing from the other three is “the same love.” How would this bring about the unity of mind and accord? Our love is to be directed toward God and Christ, and it is the major motivation for our being obedient to their commands (1 Jn. 5:3). If that is our motivation it will pull us together in unity. 1 John 1:6-7: “If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” But this goes beyond doctrinal purity to include those matters of judgment that are needed in making any decision within the church. We see how this can be attained in the following verses.]
3 (doing) nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself;
[There is always a danger here of one dominant person taking advantage of others who desire to conform to this verse. When this happens it usually becomes obvious that the dominant person is hardly in lowliness of mind counting others better than himself. All group activities require a degree of subjection to either a formal or informal leader who hopefully has the same goal of serving the Lord that is held by the rest of the group. Many people feel that if they do not press their opinion they are not adequately serving the Lord’s cause. This can occur even when they are not being selfish. This attitude must at least at times be replaced by one that obtains joy from saying to oneself: “I know that this is not how I would do it, but I trust that my brothers and sisters in Christ are trying to do the right thing, and if this is how they feel about this matter, then I will gladly subject myself to them.” Here we are talking about matters of opinion, not matters of doctrine; we dare not compromise on doctrinal matters that are clearly resolved by scripture. But there are many things that are not regulated, such as those discussed in 1 Cor. 8 and Romans 14. Let each of us at the outset of a potential contention ask ourselves: “am I counting others better than myself? Am I respecting their abilities and their desires to serve the Lord in the best possible way? Would it not be best to allow their judgment to overrule mine in this case?”]
4 not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.
[We could go on with the questioning by asking: “am I being selfish?” and “is this just an ego trip that I am on?” “Why do I want others to see things my way? Is it for the glory of God or just so that I have the satisfaction of winning an argument?”]
5 Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men;
8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient (even) unto death, yea, the death of the cross.
[This is the example that we are to follow – that of Jesus. The operative phrase here is “emptied himself.” Could we ever empty ourselves like Jesus emptied Himself? Obviously not – to even think such a thing would be sin. This passage is very definitive that Jesus was a Devine being “on an equality with God.” This is what he gave up so that he could serve us. This is an extremely profound statement and deserves detailed consideration:
- Despite the fact that we cannot follow the detailed example of what Jesus did for us, since we are not Divine, we are to follow it in principle by putting away all selfishness and serving one another in love.
- Jesus Christ is God; he was before the foundations of the world and he will exist as God forever. There are many passages that proclaim this, e.g., John 1, 8:58; Col. 1:13-16 and many others. Here it states this by saying that he was existing in the form of God and at that time was “on an equality with God.”
- He could have retained that status but of his own volition he determined that it was expedient for him to release his grasp on being God and empty himself.
- There is much speculation as to the degree to which and just how he “emptied himself.” Certain things have to have happened, however, for him to become a man and to be able to be tempted in all things as we are (Hebrews 4:15). He could not have been tempted if it were impossible for him to sin (as is the case with God). Further, we know that he had to have all of the attributes of a man in order for him to experience all that we experience. We also know that Jesus never stated that he was not God, and as such he never rejected worship as was true of all faithful men who were subjected to being worshipped (e.g., Acts 10:25-26; 14:14-16), and thus we conclude that Jesus while on this earth was both 100% man and 100% God.
- And yet, there has to be a sense in which he emptied himself, and that sense is given in the next phrases. “Taking the form of a servant.” Jesus came to serve and not to be served. While he never rejected worship, this was not his purpose for being on the earth. That eternal purpose was to serve as the perfect sacrifice for our sins – what greater service could anyone render to all humanity?
- “Being made in the likeness of men.” This might infer that he was not a man, only in the likeness of men. We have noted the similitudes above. Clearly his existence on this earth was marked by a difference from that of other men – Jesus was the Son of God in a very special sense that he was not conceived as all other humans are, and the extent of his supernatural powers were unique. Peter recognized the difference as recorded in Matthew 16:13-16: “Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say that the Son of man is? And they said, Some (say) John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He said unto them, But who say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
- “As a man, he humbled himself.” He could have dazzled people with his miracles, and even to the extent that he cautiously used them, he did. But he refused to when he was provoked to by his enemies, unwilling to become part of them by giving into their devices. Many men have humbled themselves, but none have had the power that Jesus had and refused to use it, and none have subjected themselves to humility to the extent that Jesus did.
- “Becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross.” No greater suffering could be inflicted upon man, at least not to the knowledge of the Romans – this was the ultimate torture that they could devise. But the point being made here is not that Jesus was crucified, but that he did it out of obedience to his Father and with the same motivation of love for each one of us.
9 Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name;
[This was the net result, but we have no indication that Jesus did what he did with this motivation – had that been the case it could be seen as being selfish, and we know that is not true. Jesus did what he did because he loved us, and this was a reflection of God’s love for us in sending him (John 3:16). Similarly, our primary motivation for service of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and our fellow man should not be one of obtaining an ultimate reward. It should be one of love, and as such it will bring about an immediate reward as we observe the fruit that it produces. Jesus now has “the name that is above every name” alluding to his authority, which is true of most such usages of the word “name” throughout the New Testament.]
10 that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of (things) in heaven and (things) on earth and (things) under the earth,
11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
[That is, by his authority. When he comes to judge the world it will be by his authority (in his name) that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and this will be to the glory of the Father who sent him.]
12 So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
13 for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.
[Paul got a bit off the subject, but this was necessary for him to make the great points that he made about the nature of Jesus that are not as clearly defined in any other part of scripture. But the point is, if Jesus did all of this as an example to us, what should WE do? Obedience to God can never be wrong, especially when it is responding to our Lord’s conditions of salvation. But these Christians had already obeyed that and in part that is what Paul is saying – they obeyed not because he was there to force them to obey, but out of their love for the Lord. “How much more” is it when we obey out of our own sense of love than when we are doing it just to satisfy some sense of obligation. “Work out your own salvation” in no way infers that we are saved by works. It does mandate, however, that there is something required on our part in order to accept God’s free gift. And this should be accompanied by grave concern (fear and trembling) on our part that we are being obedient to the Lord and not just to those who claim to be speaking for Him. The responsibility is ours to determine if our preachers and teachers are telling the truth and properly representing the scriptures. The scriptures are open to all of us, and there is no excuse for our not discharging this responsibility. But as we work it out, recognize that it is God who gets the glory because he gave to us all of the resources by which we can accomplish His will. Indeed Paul goes even further than this to state that it is “God who works in you.” So it is our responsibility to allow God to do this and not to allow our selfishness or any other of Satan’s devices to get in the way of the great works that He wants to do through us.]
14 Do all things without murmurings and questionings:
15 that ye may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world,
16 holding forth the word of life; that I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ, that I did not run in vain neither labor in vain.
[This is a more specific command that answers to the “how?” of working out our own salvation. Recall earlier in the chapter there was a focus on the relationships among Christians at the local level, e.g., that we should “count the other better than ourselves.” Here he continues these commands indicating the attitude with which we must work. God’s attitude toward murmuring was graphically expressed in the Old Testament as he punished the Children of Israel again and again for this sin, which He found to be particularly repugnant. And so He does today – when so often we are just looking for things to complain about. We blame the Children of Israel for their sins when they thirsted in the desert, but let the air conditioner in the church building break down and you will hear what is being condemned here. Let us never be part of it. Let us be blameless and harmless and without blemish, for we are in a world of crooked and perverse people who are under Satan’s spells. If we cannot be seen as lights, who can? Our work is to hold forth the word of life as Paul and the apostles did. A personal note on the end of this sentence – Paul would be able to glory in them if they did these things, and if not then all of his labors with them would have been in vain.]
17 Yea, and if I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all:
18 and in the same manner do ye also joy, and rejoice with me.
[This same idea of being offered up as a sacrifice is given in 2 Timothy 4:6. While it might indicate Paul’s expectation of giving his life in some way (either by the Roman government or the Jews that constantly threatened his life), this does not have to be the meaning. It could refer to Paul being a living sacrifice as he begged the Roman Christians to be in Romans 12:1-2. The meaning in this context, referring to the previous verse, is that if his labors are not in vain, it would lead to great rejoicing both on his part and theirs.]
19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.
[Recall Timothy was writing this letter with Paul. The fact that he would send this trusted and dependable companion to them is ample evidence of the sacrifice that he was willing to make for their benefit. Timothy’s purpose would be not only to provide them with additional spiritual guidance and benefits, but to enable Paul to take comfort in their well-being.]
20 For I have no man likeminded, who will care truly for your state.
21 For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ.
[Paul may be speaking in a relative sense, and perhaps with some hyperbole. But this hardly diminishes the impact of these words, and the regard that he had for Timothy.]
22 But ye know the proof of him, that, as a child (serveth) a father, (so) he served with me in furtherance of the gospel.
23 Him therefore I hope to send forthwith, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me:
24 but I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall come shortly.
[The commendation of Timothy continues; at that time it was common for children to serve as apprentices to their fathers, and this generally was one that inspired considerable trust, respect and love. Paul would send Timothy to them depending on how things would go with him. Paul’s fate was not at all certain – the possibilities ranged from being released to being executed. Paul had been praying for release so that he could be with them in person, and he was trusting in the Lord to grant this request.]
25 But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need;
26 since he longed after you all, and was sore troubled, because ye had heard that he was sick:
27 for indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow.
[Epaphroditus was evidently carrying the letter to them. He had been the messenger who had previously brought monetary support to Paul (Phil. 4:18). He would relieve the Philippians of their concern for his illness. Their concern was justified because he was close to death, but their collective prayers were heard and his life was extended, much to the Paul’s relief.]
28 I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.
29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy; and hold such in honor:
30 because for the work of Christ he came nigh unto death, hazarding his life to supply that which was lacking in your service toward me.
[“That which was lacking” would be the actual delivery of the support to Paul, which back at that time probably required someone who could be trusted with the task. It also seems from this that Epaphroditus’ illness was in part brought on by the service that he had rendered for them and Paul.]
3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not irksome, but for you it is safe.
[Paul seems to be preparing to complete his letter with an exhortation to them to be positive and rejoice. He recollects that some of these things he has told them before, and wants to communicate to them that his writing of them again is not bothersome to him, and it is for their benefit to keep them safe. Obviously there must be some spiritual peril anticipated for them if he does not address these things.]
2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision:
[Evil workers speaks for itself. The other two groups of persons are referred to metaphorically as:
- Dogs. Extremely sharp language with connotations far more contemptuous in that time and place than such a reference to a person would be today in the West. Dogs at the time roamed in packs devouring dead bodies of animals and humans as they had opportunity. While some may have been pets and served useful herding purposes, these are not the subset to which Paul is referring. We might ask the propriety of calling a group of people by such a name, and for certain it is not something that should be done without considerable attention to the harm that such name-calling might cause. We must bow to the Holy Spirit in this case and realize the despicable nature of those who would go so far as to preach the gospel with no other reason than to bring harm to Paul (Phil. 1:15-17), recognizing that such might even lead to Paul’s execution. The metaphor is also fitting when we recognize that these false teachers might well be teaching alternative plans of salvation (e.g., the requirement of circumcisions), thus giving people the assurance that they were saved when in fact, they were not (no greater harm can be done to another human). Finally, recognize that this was not an uncommon figure of speech in their culture and at this time – the Jews referred to Gentiles as such, and the Gentiles responded in kind. Similarly, it was a common way of referencing those whose behavior had proven to be despicable. For examples, see Mt. 7:6, 15:26, Rev. 22:15).
- Concision. Literally, a cutting off. This is not derived from the typical word used to refer to circumcision, but it is obviously what is being referenced. Judaizing Christians (those who were trying to get their fellow Christians to go back and subject themselves to the Law of Moses – see Acts 15:5) were commonly referred to by Luke and Paul as being “of the circumcision” (Acts 10:45; 11:2; Gal. 2:12; Col. 4:11; Titus 1:10). But (unlike this ASV translation), the Greek word used here is not a derivative or an abbreviated form of the Greek word for circumcision. It is a very different word that just means a cutting or a cutting off. The ASV and KJV are the only versions that use the archaic word concision in this place. Other translations are mutilation, mutilate the flesh, cutting the body, false circumcision. These all have merit and none of them implies (as does concision) that Paul used some derivative or the word circumcision. Very clearly, given the next verse, he is speaking of those who are generally called “of the circumcision,” but he uses a Greek word that does not even give them the benefit of the authority of Moses Law. The implication is that what they are requiring is not what Moses required because what Moses required was giving by God. What they are requiring is not now given by God, and thus it is a mere mutilation of the flesh, a practice that was condemned by the Old Testament (see 1 Kings 18:28; Jer. 16:6 and 41:5).
3 for we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh:
[As opposed to the illegitimate commands of the Judaizing teachers, the legitimate children of God are those who worship by the Spirit of God. In other words, according to the commands that the Holy Spirit has delivered as a messenger of Jesus Christ. Their glory is in Jesus Christ as opposed to having confidence in physically keeping the Old Testament law. Using the legitimate word for circumcision here, Paul implies that Christians are now God’s chosen people.]
4 though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh: if any other man thinketh to have confidence in the flesh, I yet more:
5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6 as touching zeal, persecuting the church; as touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.
[This would seem a contradiction with the previous verse were it not for the word “might.” At this point Paul is speaking hypothetically and responding to the question: “If we WERE under the Old Testament law, where would I stand as a Jew?” He then lists his credentials and in every point he is exemplary. Indeed if he had remained a Jew he would be a leader among leaders; and even if he were to elect to be “of the circumcision” within the church, he would have commanded great respect from that sect.]
7 Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ.
[Paul gave it all up; echoes again of Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that (life) which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, (the faith) which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.” What do these accomplishments now mean to me? Nothing.
8 Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ,
[If he trusted in these past accomplishments and the physical benefits that they might bring, he would surely lose Christ. There is no comparison! They are refuse, rubbish, garbage, and probably the most contemptible descriptor, dung. What do we do with such things if not put them far from us where they cannot be seen or smelled any longer. How should sin appear to us? When Jesus was tempted, did he even consider giving in to Satan? The very thought of it should turn our stomachs. Anything that would get between ourselves and Christ Jesus should repel us loathsome and detestable.]
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, (even) that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith:
[The contrast here, and elsewhere in verses that state emphatically that we cannot save ourselves, is between a righteousness of our own making contrasted with the righteousness of God’s making – here described as “the righteousness which is from God by faith.” Let us review once again Romans 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith.” The gospel tells us about this righteousness that we can obtain, not of our own making, but that which God created through the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ. As we obey the gospel we do not merit our salvation but we partake of that righteousness that has been made available to us by God. This is not just a way to escape the consequences of our sins, but a way of life for the born-again person (Jn. 3:3, 5, 7) – the righteous shall live by faith and escape sin in this life. It is not a system of commands; it is a complete way of life.]
10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death;
11 if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead.
[We cannot know Jesus unless we partake of this righteousness which is from God by faith. When we know him we understand the power of his resurrection and we are more than willing to share in his sufferings, even to the extent of giving our lives. Paul was willing “by any means” to attain the ultimate prize – to be with the resurrection of the righteous in the final day. But clearly these means are not of his making; they are given by the power of God, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ.]
12 Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus.
[This should be the attitude of all believers. We know that we are not perfect, and there is much we still need to attend to in order to be more pleasing to our Lord. And so we press on in order to ultimately lay hold on eternal life. The preaching of the gospel was the reason Jesus Christ laid hold on Paul, and in a sense he similarly lays hold on everyone who surrenders his will to Him, as Paul did in providing us this example.]
13 Brethren, I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing (I do), forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before.
14 I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
[This restates the previous verse for emphasis. It is not where we are that matters, it is where we are going. Are we on the right way? and are we moving in the right direction? We cannot be on that way without God’s help, God’s righteousness. This puts us on the way, gets us into Christ, and keeps us moving toward that ultimate goal and prize.]
15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye are otherwise minded, this also shall God reveal unto you:
16 only, whereunto we have attained, by that same (rule) let us walk.
[Perfect here is obviously not already having laid hold, since this would contradict the previous verse. The word perfect means fully grown, and those who were mature in the faith would certainly relate to exactly what Paul was saying as far as what their goal and the conduct should be. But there were some who might not be able to relate to giving themselves totally to the Lord and counting the things that hamper our progress as detestable garbage. But he offers them hope, for if they too will continue, God will reveal this pathway to them. For now it is imperative that they not fall back or walk by a different rule or habit. As they have established a pattern of righteousness in their lives, albeit imperfect, they need to continue to walk in this way and continue in the direction of perfection.]
17 Brethren, be ye imitators together of me, and mark them that so walk even as ye have us for an ensample.
[How lost would we be without the examples that Paul and the apostles have provided us with mainly in the book of Acts, but also in the epistles. While we have the perfect example of Jesus in the gospels, this does not provide sufficient guidance when it comes to the worship and the work of the church. It is the combination of the gospel principles with the applications made after Pentecost that enable us to walk with Jesus as our Head. This imitation is a command as definitive as any given in the bible. The apostolic approved examples are as much our commands as any other direct command even from our Lord Himself. The examples are all there for a reason, and they serve us as we make the proper application of them.]
18 For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, (that they are) the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19 whose end is perdition, whose god is the belly, and (whose) glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.
[Paul would hardly have to say these things of those who were outside the church, for would this not be obvious? He is talking about those who had been saved but who have now turned to worldly things. They might seem to be “good people” and there may be the desire to put up with them for a little while longer. But Paul makes it clear that if they are not walking according to the gospel and teaching it (and only it) in its entirety, then they are enemies of the cross of Christ, and thus:
- Their end is perdition – they are hopelessly lost if they do not repent.
- Their god is the belly – they are primarily concerned with what they can get out of serving others as opposed to what they can give. This would certainly apply to the preacher who compromises the truth in order to keep his job, perhaps rationalizing that he needs to take care of his family. So he is willing to jeopardize the souls of others for worldly things …
- Who mind earthly things – not the spiritual things of God.
20 For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21 who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, (that it may be) conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself.
[We must not allow the things of this world to get in the way of our service to the Lord. Here Paul talks about the second coming of Jesus when the dead will be raised and when we will obtain a spiritual body. This is explained in much more detail in 1 Corinthians 15. This explains the idea of God being all in all – subjecting all things unto Himself. Apparently this will be facilitated by our obtaining a body that is conformed to His glory.]
4:1 Wherefore, my brethren beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my beloved.
[While it seems certain that Paul was about to close the letter, we need to give this chapter particular emphasis because it contains a wealth of spiritual truth not expressed with such clarity in any other passage. Paul expresses his love for them and his longing to be back with them, and he commends them as being “my joy and crown.” The inward reward and the outward sign of rule. It is clear that Paul was quite pleased with their faithfulness and dedication to the Lord as he encourages them to continue in their service and stand for the Lord.]
2 I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord.
[While we might see this as a person local issue, the principle being exemplified is quite significant. In the next verse these two women are commended as having labored with Paul in the gospel, and the inference is that their names are in the book of life (see Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12-15; 21:27). Thus, it is clear that the issue they were divided over was not one of doctrine, and so it had to be a personal matter of opinion. Even the very strongest and most mature Christians can and will have differences of opinion that can erupt into major issues within the church. Paul himself had such an issue with Barnabas over a matter of opinion with regard to the preaching of the gospel (Acts 15:36-41). It is quite significant that neither in that disagreement nor in this one is the person who was “right” identified. Indeed, it is quite possible that in both cases there was not a “right” person – both of them could be “wrong” either in their assessment of the facts or in their attitudes. To declare a victor in such arguments is self-defeating … it was best unstated then, and it is best unstated now. Paul and Barnabas decided to resolve their difference by going their separate ways, at least temporarily, and we have ample evidence that there was no long term animosity resulting from what is called their “sharp contention.” Perhaps these women knew of this conflict and the example that Paul and Barnabas (and John Mark) set in its resolution. What great feelings of love that we have for our fellow Christians when we put aside our petty differences and continue to work together in the love of the Lord. We are not ignorance of Satan’s devices.]
3 Yea, I beseech thee also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
[Perhaps “true yokefellow” was a nick name for a given individual that all reading could easily identify. If not, it would be an appeal to any faithful Christian associated with these women to help them resolve their differences – the work of a blessed peacemaker. He calls upon another faithful Christian there, Clement, for assistance in this regard, obviously trusting in his maturity to be able to lead them to peace with each other. It has been the theme of this letter especially from Chapter 2 to promote peace and love among the fellow Christians there at Philippi, and this may have been a symptom of a larger problem that Paul anticipated could divide the church there. He also encourages all to get involved as it may become expedient. We remind the reader that a formal method was given for resolving differences among Christians in Matthew 18:15-17 that ultimately could involve the entire church. The principle there is to keep such discussions as limited as possible to resolve the problem, if possible, without it becoming a matter of general knowledge. Great wisdom is required in dealing with issues of this type, and the peacemakers who strive to remain neutral are often regarded by both sides as being the enemy.]
4 Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice.
[The context here forces us to see this as a contrast to the disagreement. Disagreement cause pain and resentment. Rejoicing is often obtained by “winning” the argument, usually by lining up people on one side or the other. Can we not see the contrast between what Satan is trying to accomplish that the love for each other commanded by our Lord? The one brings a heart of bitterness, the other of rejoicing. You cannot very well hate when you are rejoicing for the right reason.]
5 Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
[This is something that can only be made known effectively by observation, not by statement. In fact, the statement that says: “look how I am forbearing” is in fact evidence to the contrary. So the only way it can be made known is for it to persist and speak for itself. In the disagreement between the two women above, it is difficult to see that either would be totally satisfied with the resolution. Thus both would have to forbear. This is usually the case in matters such as these. But no matter: “The Lord is at hand,” so why fret over insignificant worldly things?]
6 In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
[The direct application here might be in the resolution of the differences between these two women, but we dare not limit it to just such things. Indeed, Christians are taught not to be anxious (Matthew 6), and to allow the Lord to assume our anxiety and deal with those things that are impossible for us to control. Our role is prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving, as we let our requests to be made known unto God.]
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
[Paul quite often describes things that are not describable merely by saying that they cannot be described (e.g., 2 Cor. 9:15). This may seem to be a paradoxical statement, but when we say something is indescribable we are describing it in an abstract sense. The peace of God cannot be adequately described in words; it can only be understood by experiencing it. The former verse tells us how to obtain it by faith as we make our requests known to God and have the expectation that He will respond to those requests. The peace that comes from this process guards our hearts and our thoughts in Christ Jesus. How does it do that? Mainly in the loss or peace when our hearts and minds stray from Christ Jesus. We can no longer in conscience have this peace if we are otherwise violating our conscience. Of course, it is possible to so violate our conscience, to be so proud of our own thoughts and to ignore the truth for so long that the peace of God can no longer be an effective guard. But Paul is talking to people who he has stated confidence that they are faithfully trying to serve God, not those who have become comfortable in turning their backs on Him.]
8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
[As a final exhortation, make a concerted effort to keep your thoughts pure with things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and worthy of praise to God. This takes effort on our parts since it seems our thoughts are constantly being pulled down by worldly cares. If we are thinking on these things do we have room in our mind to be fretting over personal bickering?]
9 The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
[See Phil. 3:17. This is the second time that Paul has given this command, but this time in more detail. In this case he indicates that it does not matter if it were something given by direct teaching, or you heard it, or it was by example of something that Paul did in service to the Lord. Again, this shows that the examples given to us in the New Testament are commands to the extent that they apply and can be used to provide guidance to us. The God of peace shall be with them because He was will Paul when Paul set these examples. Again, this could relate to the disagreement between the women discussed above, which was anything but peace. Paul set the example of self-sacrifice in that he would not allow personal issues to hamper the work, even if his enemies in the church were preaching the gospel only to cause him affliction (Phil. 1:17).]
10 But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length ye have revived your thought for me; wherein ye did indeed take thought, but ye lacked opportunity.
[There seems to be some indication that Paul knew of their concern for him and their desire to help him once again. He is giving thanks and rejoicing in this. At the same time he does not doubt their continued concern, but recognizes that the great distance that separates them has restricted their opportunity.]
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.
12 I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want.
[This is an example of Paul that we should certainly make part of our lives – to not complain with regard to our state in life, but rather to be content. It is up to the individual – we all know of those who are satisfied with very little, and those who are dissatisfied with an abundance of things. Being content is not caused by our circumstances nearly as much as it is our attitude toward life in general and toward God in particular. Some have learned to be in want with no problem, but they have major problems when they abound. This is something that Paul learned, and each one of us must learn it as well for most lives will be tried in time by both.]
13 I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me.
14 Howbeit ye did well that ye had fellowship with my affliction.
[Their service to Paul and to the furtherance of the gospel was greatly appreciated.]
15 And ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving but ye only;
16 for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my need.
[Let us see all of the ramifications of the example here:
- There was no organized “denominational effort” to assure that all of the churches take part in the support that Paul (or any other of the apostles or gospel preachers) needed.
- The transaction was strictly between the Philippian church (administered by its elders/bishops) and Paul. It was up to that church alone to judge how much support Paul received and how long he received it. And, similarly with any other church that wished to support Paul.
- In the beginning of the gospel only Philippi participated in supporting Paul, perhaps suggesting that later on other churches helped with the support. This certainly infers that other churches could well be part of this effort. There is nothing wrong with multiple churches supporting a given preacher as long as everything being done in this regard is open to all involved (an application of the principle expressed in 2 Corinthians 8:18-21.
- The support was for the living expenses of the preacher, not for other general uses (e.g., to build a meeting house), as a consequence of it being sent directly to the preacher and not to any church or other distribution institution.
- The support was not a secret – as indicated by Paul’s discussing in this letter.
- Not discussed here are other benevolence efforts to help needy Christians, which is outside of the scope of the current passage under consideration.
17 Not that I seek for the gift; but I seek for the fruit that increaseth to your account.
[Paul’s writing these things were for their general edification and for ours today. If they (and we) abide by these examples in our support of sound gospel preaching, it will increase to our account. This is a metaphor for our general spiritual welfare, which always benefits from doing God’s will.]
18 But I have all things, and abound: I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things (that came) from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.
[As discussed with regard to Phil. 2:15, Epaphroditus was the messenger who was delivering the letter and returning with the support to Paul. The figurative language alludes to the Old Testament sacrifices that were accompanied by the burning of incense.]
19 And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
[Paul gives them the assurance that their generosity will not be overlooked by God.]
20 Now unto our God and Father (be) the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
[This would seem to be Paul’s final thought, but he adds some postscripts below.]
21 Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren that are with me salute you.
22 All the saints salute you, especially they that are of Caesar's household.
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
[Christians should welcome and support one another, and this is the idea of the command to salute. The main point of interest in these final words would seem to be the confirmation that there were Christians in Caesar’s household. These persons were particularly benefited from Paul’s imprisonment since their hearing the gospel otherwise might have been quite difficult.]
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