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1. Servants - St. Paul, writing familiarly to the Philippians, does not style himself an apostle. And under the common title of servants, he tenderly and modestly joins with himself his son Timotheus, who had come to Philippi not long after St. Paul had received him, Acts xvi, 3, 12. To all the saints - The apostolic epistles were sent more directly to the churches, than to the pastors of them. With the bishops and deacons - The former properly took care of the internal state, the latter, of the externals, of the church, 1 Tim. iii, 2-8; although these were not wholly confined to the one, neither those to the other. The word bishops here includes all the presbyters at Philippi, as well as the ruling presbyters: the names bishop and presbyter, or elder, being promiscuously used in the first ages.
4. With joy - After the epistle to the Ephesians, wherein love reigns, follows this, wherein there is perpetual mention of joy. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy." And joy peculiarly enlivens prayer. The sum of the whole epistle is, I rejoice. Rejoice ye.
5. The sense is, I thank God for your fellowship with us in all the blessings of the gospel, which I have done from the first day of your receiving it until now.
6. Being persuaded - The grounds of which persuasion are set down in the following verse. That he who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it until the day of Christ - That he who having justified, hath begun to sanctify you, will carry on this work, till it issue in glory.
7. As it is right for me to think this of you all - Why? He does not say, "Because of an eternal decree;" or, "Because a saint must persevere;" but, because I have you in my heart, who were all partakers of my grace - That is, because ye were all (for which I have you in my heart, I bear you the most grateful and tender affection) partakers of my grace - That is, sharers in the afflictions which God vouchsafed me as a grace or favour, ver. 29, 30; both in my bonds, and when I was called forth to answer for myself, and to confirm the gospel. It is not improbable that, after they had endured that great trial of affliction, God had sealed them unto full victory, of which the apostle had a prophetic sight.
8. I long for you with the bowels of Jesus Christ - In Paul, not Paul lives, but Jesus Christ. Therefore he longs for them with the bowels, the tenderness, not of Paul, but of Jesus Christ.
9. And this I pray, that your love - Which they had already shown. May abound yet more and more - The fire which burned in the apostle never says, It is enough. In knowledge and in all spiritual sense - Which is the ground of all spiritual knowledge. We must be inwardly sensible of divine peace, joy, love; otherwise, we cannot know what they are.
10. That ye may try - By that spiritual sense. The things that are excellent - Not only good, but the very best; the superior excellence of which is hardly discerned, but by the adult Christian. That ye may be inwardly sincere - Having a single eye to the very best things, and a pure heart. And outwardly without offense - Holy, unblamable in all things.
11. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God - Here are three properties of that sincerity which is acceptable to God:
1. It must bear fruits, the fruits of righteousness, all inward and outward holiness, all good tempers, words, and works; and that so abundantly, that we may be filled with them.
2. The branch and the fruits must derive both their virtue and their very being from the all - supporting, all - supplying root, Jesus Christ.
3. As all these flow from the grace of Christ, so they must issue in the glory and praise of God.
12. The things concerning me - My sufferings. Have fallen out rather to the furtherance, than, as you feared, the hindrance, of the gospel.
13. My bonds in Christ - Endured for his sake. Have been made manifest - Much taken notice of. In the whole palace - Of the Roman emperor.
14. And many - Who were before afraid. Trusting in the Lord through my bonds - When they observed my constancy, and safety not withstanding, are more bold.
15, 16. Some indeed preach Christ out of contention - Envying St. Paul's success, and striving to hurt him thereby. Not sincerely - From a real desire to glorify God. But supposing - Though they were disappointed. To add more affliction to my bonds - By enraging the Roman against me.
17. But the others out of love - To Christ and me. Knowing - Not barely, supposing. That I am set - Literally, I lie; yet still going forward in his work. He remained at Rome as an ambassador in a place where he is employed on an important embassy.
18. In pretense - Under colour of propagating the gospel. In truth - With a real design so to do.
19. This shall turn to my salvation - Shall procure me an higher degree of glory. Through your prayer - Obtaining for me a larger supply of the Spirit.
20. As always - Since my call to the apostleship. In my body - however it may be disposed of. How that might be, he did not yet know. For the apostles did not know all things; particularly in things pertaining to themselves, they had room to exercise faith and patience.
21. To me to live is Christ - To know, to love, to follow Christ, is my life, my glory, my joy.
22. Here he begins to treat of the former clause of the preceding verse. Of the latter he treats, chap. ii, 17. But if I am to live is the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour - This is the fruit of my living longer, that I can labour more. Glorious labour! desirable fruit! in this view, long life is indeed a blessing. And what I should choose I know not - That is, if it were left to my choice.
23. To depart - Out of bonds, flesh, the world. And to be with Christ - In a nearer and fuller union. It is better to depart; it is far better to be with Christ.
25. I know - By a prophetic notice given him while he was writing this. That I shall continue some time longer with you - And doubtless he did see them after this confinement.
27. Only - Be careful for this, and nothing else. Stand fast in one spirit - With the most perfect unanimity. Striving together - With united strength and endeavours. For the faith of the gospel - For all the blessings revealed and promised therein.
28. Which - Namely, their being adversaries to the word of God, and to you the messengers of God. Is an evident token - That they are in the high road to perdition; and you, in the way of salvation.
29. For to you it is given - As a special token of God's love, and of your being in the way of salvation.
30. Having the same kind of conflict with your adversaries, which ye saw in me - When I was with you, Acts xvi, 12, 19, &c.
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