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Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
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CHAPTER 1

Php 1:1-30. Inscription. Thanksgiving and Prayers for the Flourishing Spiritual State of the Philippians. His Own State at Rome, and the Result of His Imprisonment in Spreading the Gospel. Exhortation to Christian Consistency.

1. Timotheus—mentioned as being well known to the Philippians (Ac 16:3, 10-12), and now present with Paul. Not that Timothy had any share in writing the Epistle; for Paul presently uses the first person singular, "I," not "we" (Php 1:3). The mention of his name implies merely that Timothy joined in affectionate remembrances to them.

servants of Jesus Christ—The oldest manuscripts read the order, "Christ Jesus." Paul does not call himself "an apostle," as in the inscriptions of other Epistles; for the Philippians needed not to be reminded of his apostolic authority. He writes rather in a tone of affectionate familiarity.

all—so Php 1:4, 7, 8, 25; Php 2:17, 26. It implies comprehensive affection which desired not to forget any one among them "all."

bishops—synonymous with "presbyters" in the apostolical churches; as appears from the same persons being called "elders of the Church" at Ephesus (Ac 20:17), and "overseers" (Ac 20:28), Greek, "bishops." And Tit 1:5, compare with Php 1:7. This is the earliest letter of Paul where bishops and deacons are mentioned, and the only one where they are separately addressed in the salutation. This accords with the probable course of events, deduced alike from the letters and history. While the apostles were constantly visiting the churches in person or by messengers, regular pastors would be less needed; but when some were removed by various causes, provision for the permanent order of the churches would be needed. Hence the three pastoral letters, subsequent to this Epistle, give instruction as to the due appointment of bishops and deacons. It agrees with this new want of the Church, when other apostles were dead or far away, and Paul long in prison, that bishops and deacons should be prominent for the first time in the opening salutation. The Spirit thus intimated that the churches were to look up to their own pastors, now that the miraculous gifts were passing into God's ordinary providence, and the presence of the inspired apostles, the dispensers of those gifts, was to be withdrawn [Paley, "Horæ Paulinæ]. "Presbyter," implied the rank; "bishop," the duties of the office [Neander]. Naturally, when the apostles who had the chief supervision were no more, one among the presbyters presided and received the name "bishop," in the more restricted and modern sense; just as in the Jewish synagogue one of the elders presided as "ruler of the synagogue." Observe, the apostle addresses the Church (that is, the congregation) more directly than its presiding ministers (Col 4:17; 1Th 5:12; Heb 13:24; Re 1:4, 11). The bishops managed more the internal, the deacons the external, affairs of the Church. The plural number shows there was more than one bishop or presbyter, and more than one deacon in the Church at Philippi.

2. Grace … peace—The very form of this salutation implies the union of Jew, Greek, and Roman. The Greek salutation was "joy" (chairein), akin to the Greek for "grace" (charis). The Roman was "health," the intermediate term between grace and peace. The Hebrew was "peace," including both temporal and spiritual prosperity. Grace must come first if we are to have true peace.

from … from—Omit the second "from": as in the Greek, "God our Father" and "the Lord Jesus Christ," are most closely connected.

3. Translate, "In all my remembrance of you."

4. making request—Translate, "making my request."

for you all—The frequent repetition in this Epistle of "all" with "you," marks that Paul desires to declare his love for all alike, and will not recognize any divisions among them.

with joy—the characteristic feature in this Epistle, as love is in that to the Ephesians (compare Php 1:18; Php 2:2, 19, 28; 3:1; 4:1, 4). Love and joy are the two first-fruits of the Spirit. Joy gives especial animation to prayers. It marked his high opinion of them, that there was almost everything in them to give him joy, and almost nothing to give him pain.

5. Ground of his "thanking God" (Php 1:3): "For your (continued) fellowship (that is, real spiritual participation) in (literally, 'in regard to') the Gospel from the first day (of your becoming partakers in it) until now." Believers have the fellowship of the Son of God (1Co 1:9) and of the Father (1Jo 1:3) in the Gospel, by becoming partakers of "the fellowship of the Holy Ghost" (2Co 13:14), and exercise that fellowship by acts of communion, not only the communion of the Lord's Supper, but holy liberality to brethren and ministers (Php 4:10, 15, "communicated … concerning giving"; 2Co 9:13; Ga 6:6; Heb 13:16, "To communicate forget not").

6. confident—This confidence nerves prayers and thanksgivings (Php 1:3, 4).

this very thingthe very thing which he prays for (Php 1:4) is the matter of his believing confidence (Mr 11:24; 1Jo 5:14, 15). Hence the result is sure.

he which hath begun—God (Php 2:13).

a good work—Any work that God begins, He will surely finish (1Sa 3:12). Not even men begin a work at random. Much more the fact of His beginning the work is a pledge of its completion (Isa 26:12). So as to the particular work here meant, the perfecting of their fellowship in the Gospel (Php 1:5; Ps 37:24; 89:33; 138:8; Joh 10:28, 29; Ro 8:29, 35-39; 11:1, 2 Heb 6:17-19; Jas 1:17; Jude 24). As God cast not off Israel for ever, though chastening them for a time, so He will not cast off the spiritual Israel (De 33:3; Isa 27:3; 1Pe 1:5).

perform it until—"perfect it up to" [Alford, Ellicott, and others].

the day of … Christ—(Php 1:10). The Lord's coming, designed by God in every age of the Church to be regarded as near, is to be the goal set before believers' minds rather than their own death.

7. meetGreek, "just."

to think this—to have the prayerful confidence I expressed (Php 1:4-6).

of you—literally, "in behalf of you." Paul's confident prayer in their behalf was that God would perfect His own good work of grace in them.

because, &c.—Punctuate and translate, "Because I have you in my heart (so Php 1:8; otherwise the Greek and the words immediately following in the verse, favor the Margin, 'Ye have me in your heart … being partakers of my grace') (both, in my bonds, and in my defense and confirmation of the Gospel), you (I say) all being fellow partakers of my grace." This last clause thus assigns the reason why he has them in his heart (that is, cherished in his love, 2Co 3:2; 7:3), even in his bonds, and in his defense and confirmation of the Gospel (such as he was constantly making in private, Ac 28:17-23; his self-defense and confirmation of the Gospel being necessarily conjoined, as the Greek implies; compare Php 1:17), namely, "inasmuch as ye are fellow partakers of my grace": inasmuch as ye share with me in "the fellowship of the Gospel" (Php 1:5), and have manifested this, both by suffering as I do for the Gospel's sake (Php 1:28-30), and by imparting to me of your substance (Php 4:15). It is natural and right for me thus confidently to pray in your behalf. (Ellicott, and others translate, "To be thus minded for you all"), because of my having you in my warmest remembrances even in my bonds, since you are sharers with me in the Gospel grace. Bonds do not bind love.

8. Confirmation of Php 1:7.

record—that is, witness.

in the bowels of Jesus Christ—"Christ Jesus" is the order in the oldest manuscripts. My yearning love (so the Greek implies) to you is not merely from natural affection, but from devotedness to Christ Jesus. "Not Paul, but Jesus Christ lives in Paul; wherefore Paul is not moved in the bowels (that is, the tender love, Jer 31:20) of Paul, but of Jesus Christ" [Bengel]. All real spiritual love is but a portion of Christ's love which yearns in all who are united to Him [Alford].

9. The subject of his prayer for them (Php 1:4).

your love—to Christ, producing love not only to Paul, Christ's minister, as it did, but also to one another, which it did not altogether as much as it ought (Php 2:2; 4:2).

knowledge—of doctrinal and practical truth.

judgment—rather, "perception"; "perceptive sense." Spiritual perceptiveness: spiritual sight, spiritual hearing, spiritual feeling, spiritual taste. Christianity is a vigorous plant, not the hotbed growth of enthusiasm. "Knowledge" and "perception" guard love from being ill-judged.

10. Literally, "With a view to your proving (and so approving and embracing) the things that excel" (Ro 2:18); not merely things not bad, but the things best among those that are good; the things of more advanced excellence. Ask as to things, not merely, Is there no harm, but is there any good, and which is the best?

sincere—from a Greek root. Examined in the sunlight and found pure.

without offence—not stumbling; running the Christian race without falling through any stumbling-block, that is, temptation, in your way.

till—rather, "unto," "against"; so that when the day of Christ comes, ye may be found pure and without offense.

11. The oldest manuscripts read the singular, "fruit." So Ga 5:22 (see on Ga 5:22); regarding the works of righteousness, however manifold, as one harmonious whole, "the fruit of the Spirit" (Eph 5:9) Jas 3:18, "the fruit of righteousness" (Heb 12:11); Ro 6:22, "fruit unto holiness."

which are—"which is by (Greek, 'through') Jesus Christ." Through His sending to us the Spirit from the Father. "We are wild and useless olive trees till we are grafted into Christ, who, by His living root, makes us fruit-bearing branches" [Calvin].

12. understandGreek, "know." The Philippians probably had feared that his imprisonment would hinder the spread of the Gospel; he therefore removes this fear.

the things which happened unto meGreek, "the things concerning me."

rather—so far is my imprisonment from hindering the Gospel. Faith takes in a favorable light even what seems adverse [Bengel] (Php 1:19, 28; Php 2:17).

13. my bonds in Christ—rather as Greek, "So that my bonds have become manifest in Christ," that is, known, as endured in Christ's cause.

palace—literally, "Prætorium," that is, the barrack of the Prætorian guards attached to the palace of Nero, on the Palatine hill at Rome; not the general Prætorian camp outside of the city; for this was not connected with "Cæsar's household," which Php 4:22 shows the Prætorium here meant was. The emperor was "Prætor," or Commander-in-Chief; naturally then the barrack of his bodyguard was called the Prætorium. Paul seems now not to have been at large in his own hired house, though chained to a soldier, as in Ac 28:16, 20, 30, 31, but in strict custody in the Prætorium; a change which probably took place on Tigellinus becoming Prætorian Prefect. See Introduction.

in all other places—so Chrysostom. Or else, "TO all the rest," that is, "manifest to all the other" Prætorian soldiers stationed elsewhere, through the instrumentality of the Prætorian household guards who might for the time be attached to the emperor's palace, and who relieved one another in succession. Paul had been now upwards of two years a prisoner, so that there was time for his cause and the Gospel having become widely known at Rome.

14. Translate as Greek, "And that (Php 1:13) most of the brethren in the Lord," &c. "In the Lord," distinguishes them from "brethren after the flesh," Jewish fellow countrymen. Ellicott translates, "Trusting in the Lord."

by my bonds—encouraged by my patience in bearing my bonds.

much more bold—Translate as Greek, "are more abundantly bold."

15. "Some indeed are preaching Christ even for envy, that is, to carry out the envy which they felt towards Paul, on account of the success of the Gospel in the capital of the world, owing to his steadfastness in his imprisonment; they wished through envy to transfer the credit of its progress from him to themselves. Probably Judaizing teachers (Ro 14:1-23; 1Co 3:10-15; 9:1, &c.; 2Co 11:1-4).

some also of—rather, "for"

good will—answering to "the brethren" (Php 1:14); some being well disposed to him.

16, 17. The oldest manuscripts transpose these verses, and read, "These (last) indeed out of love (to Christ and me), knowing (the opposite of 'thinking' below) that I am set (that is, appointed by God, 1Th 3:3) for the defense of the Gospel (Php 1:7, not on my own account). But the others out of contention (or rather, 'a factious spirit'; 'cabal'; a spirit of intrigue, using unscrupulous means to compass their end; 'self-seeking' [Alford]) proclaim (the Greek is not the same as that for 'preach,' but, 'announce') Christ, not sincerely (answering to 'but of a spirit of intrigue,' or 'self-seeking'). Literally, 'not purely'; not with a pure intention; the Jewish leaven they tried to introduce was in order to glorify themselves (Ga 6:12, 13; however, see on Php 1:18), thinking (but in vain) to raise up (so the oldest manuscripts read) tribulation to my bonds." Their thought was, that taking the opportunity of my being laid aside, they would exalt themselves by their Judaizing preaching, and depreciate me and my preaching, and so cause me trouble of spirit in my bonds; they thought that I, like themselves, sought my own glory, and so would be mortified at their success over mine. But they are utterly mistaken; "I rejoice" at it (Php 1:18), so far am I from being troubled at it.

18. What follows from this? Does this trouble me as they thought it would? "Notwithstanding" their unkind thought to me, and self-seeking intention, the cause I have at heart is furthered "every way" of preaching, "whether in pretense (with a by motive, Php 1:16) or in truth (out of true 'love' to Christ, Php 1:17), Christ is proclaimed; and therein I do rejoice, yea, and I will rejoice." From this it would seem that these self-seeking teachers in the main "proclaimed Christ," not "another Gospel," such as the Judaizers in Galatia taught (Ga 1:6-8); though probably having some of the Jewish leaven (see on Php 1:15,16), their chief error was their self-seeking envious motive, not so much error of doctrine; had there been vital error, Paul would not have rejoiced. The proclamation of Christ," however done, roused attention, and so was sure to be of service. Paul could thus rejoice at the good result of their bad intentions (Ps 76:10; Isa 10:5, 7).

19. turn to my salvation—"turn out to me for, (or unto) salvation." This proclamation of Christ every way will turn out to my spiritual good. Christ, whose interests are my interests, being glorified thereby; and so the coming of His kingdom being furthered, which, when it does come, will bring completed "SALVATION" (Heb 9:28) to me and all whose "earnest expectation" (Php 1:20) is that Christ may be magnified in them. So far is their preaching from causing me, as they thought, tribulation in my bonds (Php 1:16). Paul plainly quotes and applies to himself the very words of the Septuagint (Job 13:16), "This shall turn out to my salvation," which belong to all God's people of every age, in their tribulation (compare Job 13:15).

through your prayer and the supply—The Greek intimately joins the two nouns together, by having but one preposition and one article: "Through your prayer and (the consequent) supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (obtained for me through your prayer)."

20. According to my earnest expectation—The Greek expresses, "expectation with uplifted head (Lu 21:28) and outstretched neck." Ro 8:19 is the only other place in the New Testament that the word occurs. Tittmann says, in both places it implies not mere expectation, but the anxious desire of an anticipated prosperous issue in afflictive circumstances. The subject of his earnest expectation which follows, answers to "my salvation" (Php 1:19).

in nothing I shall be ashamed—in nothing have reason to be ashamed of "my work for God, or His work in me" [Alford]. Or, "in nothing be disappointed in my hope, but that I may fully obtain it" [Estius]. So "ashamed" is used in Ro 9:33.

all boldness—"all" is opposed to "in nothing," as "boldness" is the opposite to "ashamed."

so now also—when "my body" is "in bonds" (Php 1:17).

Christ—not Paul, "shall be magnified."

life, or by death—Whatever be the issue, I cannot lose; I must be the gainer by the event. Paul was not omniscient; in the issue of things pertaining to themselves, the apostles underwent the same probation of faith and patience as we.

21. For—in either event (Php 1:20) I must be the gainer, "For to me," &c.

to live is Christ—whatever life, time, and strength, I have, is Christ's; Christ is the sole object for which I live (Ga 2:20).

to die is gain—not the act of dying, but as the Greek ("to have died") expresses, the state after death. Besides the glorification of Christ by my death, which is my primary object (Php 1:20), the change of state caused by death, so far from being a matter of shame (Php 1:20) or loss, as my enemies suppose, will be a positive "gain" to me.

22. Rather as Greek, "But if to live in the flesh (if), this (I say, the continuance in life which I am undervaluing) be the fruit of my labor (that is, be the condition in which the fruit of my ministerial labor is involved), then what I shall choose I know not (I cannot determine with myself, if the choice were given me, both alternatives being great goods alike)." So Alford and Ellicott. Bengel takes it as English Version, which the Greek will bear by supposing an ellipsis, "If to live in the flesh (be my portion), this (continuing to live) is the fruit of my labor," that is, this continuance in life will be the occasion of my bringing in "the fruit of labor," that is, will be the occasion of "labors" which are their own "fruit" or reward; or, this my continuing "to live" will have this "fruit," namely, "labors" for Christ. Grotius explains "the fruit of labor" as an idiom for "worthwhile"; If I live in the flesh, this is worth my while, for thus Christ's interest will be advanced, "For to me to live is Christ" (Php 1:21; compare Php 2:30; Ro 1:13). The second alternative, namely, dying, is taken up and handled, Php 2:17, "If I be offered."

23. For—The oldest manuscripts read, "But." "I know not (Php 1:22), BUT am in a strait (am perplexed) betwixt the two (namely, 'to live' and 'to die'), having the desire for departing (literally, 'to loose anchor,' 2Ti 4:6) and being with Christ; FOR (so the oldest manuscripts) it is by far better"; or as the Greek, more forcibly, "by far the more preferable"; a double comparative. This refutes the notion of the soul being dormant during its separation from the body. It also shows that, while he regarded the Lord's advent as at all times near, yet that his death before it was a very possible contingency. The partial life eternal is in the interval between death and Christ's second advent; the perfectional, at that advent [Bishop Pearson]. To depart is better than to remain in the flesh; to be with Christ is far, far better; a New Testament hope (Heb 12:24), [Bengel].

24. to abide—to continue somewhat longer.

for youGreek, "on your account"; "for your sake." In order to be of service to you, I am willing to forego my entrance a little sooner into blessedness; heaven will not fail to be mine at last.

25. Translate, "And being confident of this."

I know, &c.—by prophetical intimations of the Spirit. He did not yet know the issue, as far as human appearances were concerned (Php 2:23). He doubtless returned from his first captivity to Philippi (Heb 13:19; Phm 22).

joy of faithGreek, "joy in your faith."

26. Translate, "That your matter of glorying (or rejoicing) may abound in Christ Jesus in me (that is, in my case; in respect to me, or for me who have been granted to your prayers, Php 1:19) through my presence again among you." Alford makes the "matter of glorying," the possession of the Gospel, received from Paul, which would abound, be assured and increased, by his presence among them; thus, "in me," implies that Paul is the worker of the material of abounding in Christ Jesus. But "my rejoicing over you" (Php 2:16), answers plainly to "your rejoicing in respect to me" here.

27. Only—Whatever happens as to my coming to you, or not, make this your one only care. By supposing this or that future contingency, many persuade themselves they will be such as they ought to be, but it is better always without evasion to perform present duties under present circumstances [Bengel].

let your conversation be—(Compare Php 3:20). The Greek implies, "Let your walk as citizens (namely, of the heavenly state; 'the city of the living God,' Heb 12:22, 'the heavenly Jerusalem,' 'fellow citizens of the saints,' Eph 2:19) be," &c.

I … see … hear—so Php 1:30. "Hear," in order to include both alternatives, must include the meaning know.

your affairs—your state.

in one spirit—the fruit of partaking of the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:3, 4).

with one mind—rather as Greek, "soul," the sphere of the affections; subordinate to the "Spirit," man's higher and heavenly nature. "There is sometimes natural antipathies among believers; but these are overcome, when there is not only unity of spirit, but also of soul" [Bengel].

striving together—with united effort.

28. terrified—literally, said of horses or other animals startled or suddenly scared; so of sudden consternation in general.

which—your not being terrified.

evident token of perdition—if they would only perceive it (2Th 1:5). It attests this, that in contending hopelessly against you, they are only rushing on to their own perdition, not shaking your united faith and constancy.

to you of salvation—The oldest manuscripts read, "of your salvation"; not merely your temporal safety.

29. For—rather, a proof that this is an evident token from God of your salvation, "Because," &c.

it is givenGreek, "it has been granted as a favor," or "gift of grace." Faith is the gift of God (Eph 2:8), not wrought in the soul by the will of man, but by the Holy Ghost (Joh 1:12, 13).

believe on him—"To believe Him," would merely mean to believe He speaks the truth. "To believe on Him," is to believe in, and trust through, Him to obtain eternal salvation. Suffering for Christ is not only not a mark of God's anger, but a gift of His grace.

30. ye saw in me—(Ac 16:12, 19, &c.; 1Th 2:2). I am "in nothing terrified by mine adversaries" (Php 1:29), so ought not ye. The words here, "ye saw … and … hear," answer to "I come and see you, or else … hear" (Php 1:27).

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