The apostle exhorts the Philippians to stand fast in the Lord. (1) Gives directions to some, and to all in general. (2-9) Expresses contentment in every condition of life. (10-19) He concludes with prayer to God the Father, and his usual blessing. (20-23)
Verse 1 The believing hope and prospect of eternal life, should make us steady and constant in our Christian course. There is difference of gifts and graces, yet, being renewed by the same Spirit, we are brethren. To stand fast in the Lord, is to stand fast in his strength, and by his grace.
Verses 2-9 Let believers be of one mind, and ready to help each other. As the apostle had found the benefit of their assistance, he knew how comfortable it would be to his fellow-labourers to have the help of others. Let us seek to give assurance that our names are written in the book of life. Joy in God is of great consequence in the Christian life; and Christians need to be again and again called to it. It more than outweighs all causes for sorrow. Let their enemies perceive how moderate they were as to outward things, and how composedly they suffered loss and hardships. The day of judgment will soon arrive, with full redemption to believers, and destruction to ungodly men. There is a care of diligence which is our duty, and agrees with a wise forecast and due concern; but there is a care of fear and distrust, which is sin and folly, and only perplexes and distracts the mind. As a remedy against perplexing care, constant prayer is recommended. Not only stated times for prayer, but in every thing by prayer. We must join thanksgivings with prayers and supplications; not only seek supplies of good, but own the mercies we have received. God needs not to be told our wants or desires; he knows them better than we do; but he will have us show that we value the mercy, and feel our dependence on him. The peace of God, the comfortable sense of being reconciled to God, and having a part in his favour, and the hope of the heavenly blessedness, are a greater good than can be fully expressed. This peace will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; it will keep us from sinning under troubles, and from sinking under them; keep us calm and with inward satisfaction. Believers are to get and to keep a good name; a name for good things with God and good men. We should walk in all the ways of virtue, and abide therein; then, whether our praise is of men or not, it will be of God. The apostle is for an example. His doctrine and life agreed together. The way to have the God of peace with us, is to keep close to our duty. All our privileges and salvation arise in the free mercy of God; yet the enjoyment of them depends on our sincere and holy conduct. These are works of God, pertaining to God, and to him only are they to be ascribed, and to no other, neither men, words, nor deeds.
Verses 10-19 It is a good work to succour and help a good minister in trouble. The nature of true Christian sympathy, is not only to feel concern for our friends in their troubles, but to do what we can to help them. The apostle was often in bonds, imprisonments, and necessities; but in all, he learned to be content, to bring his mind to his condition, and make the best of it. Pride, unbelief, vain hankering after something we have not got, and fickle disrelish of present things, make men discontented even under favourable circumstances. Let us pray for patient submission and hope when we are abased; for humility and a heavenly mind when exalted. It is a special grace to have an equal temper of mind always. And in a low state not to lose our comfort in God, nor distrust his providence, nor take any wrong course for our own supply. In a prosperous condition not to be proud, or secure, or worldly. This is a harder lesson than the other; for the temptations of fulness and prosperity are more than those of affliction and want. The apostle had no design to urge them to give more, but to encourage such kindness as will meet a glorious reward hereafter. Through Christ we have grace to do what is good, and through him we must expect the reward; and as we have all things by him, let us do all things for him, and to his glory.
Verses 20-23 The apostle ends with praises to God. We should look upon God, under all our weakness and fears, not as an enemy, but as a Father, disposed to pity us and help us. We must give glory to God as a Father. God's grace and favour, which reconciled souls enjoy, with the whole of the graces in us, which flow from it, are all purchased for us by Christ's merit, and applied by his pleading for us; and therefore are justly called the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 4:1-23 . EXHORTATIONS: THANKS FOR THE SUPPLY FROM PHILIPPI: GREETING; AND CLOSING BENEDICTION.
1. "Wherefore"; since we have such a glorious hope ( Philippians 3:20 Philippians 3:21 ).
dearly beloved--repeated again at the close of the verse, implying that his great love to them should be a motive to their obedience.
longed for--"yearned after" in your absence ( Philippians 1:8 ).
crown--in the day of the Lord ( Philippians 2:16 , 1 Thessalonians 2:19 ).
so--as I have admonished you.
stand fast--( Philippians 1:27 ).
2. Euodia and Syntyche were two women who seem to have been at variance; probably deaconesses of the church. He repeats, "I beseech," as if he would admonish each separately, and with the utmost impartiality.
in the Lord--the true element of Christian union; for those "in the Lord" by faith to be at variance, is an utter inconsistency.
3. And--Greek, "Yea."
true yoke-fellow--yoked with me in the same Gospel yoke ( Matthew 11:29 Matthew 11:30 ; compare 1 Timothy 5:17 1 Timothy 5:18 ). Either Timothy, Silas ( Acts 15:40 , 16:19 , at Philippi), or the chief bishop of Philippi. Or else the Greek, "Sunzugus," or "Synzygus," is a proper name: "Who art truly, as thy name means, a yoke-fellow." Certainly not Paul's wife, as 1 Corinthians 9:5 implies he had none.
help those women--rather, as Greek, "help them," namely, Euodia and Syntyche. "Co-operate with them" [BIRKS]; or as ALFORD, "Help in the work of their reconciliation."
which laboured with me--"inasmuch as they labored with me." At Philippi, women were the first hearers of the Gospel, and Lydia the first convert. It is a coincidence which marks genuineness, that in this Epistle alone, special instructions are given to women who labored with Paul in the Gospel. In selecting the first teachers, those first converted would naturally be fixed on. Euodia and Syntyche were doubtless two of "the women who resorted to the riverside, where prayer was wont to be made" ( Acts 16:13 ), and being early converted, would naturally take an active part in teaching other women called at a later period; of course not in public preaching, but in a less prominent sphere ( 1 Timothy 2:11 1 Timothy 2:12 ).
Clement--bishop of Rome shortly after the death of Peter and Paul. His Epistle from the Church of Rome to the Church of Corinth is extant. It makes no mention of the supremacy of the See of Peter. He was the most eminent of the apostolical fathers. ALFORD thinks that the Clement here was a Philippian, and not necessarily Clement, bishop of Rome. But ORIGEN [Commentary, John 1:29] identifies the Clement here with the bishop of Rome.
in the book of life--the register-book of those whose "citizenship is in heaven" ( Luke 10:20 , Philippians 3:20 ). Anciently, free cities had a roll book containing the names of all those having the right of citizenship (compare Exodus 32:32 , Psalms 69:28 , Ezekiel 13:9 , Daniel 12:1 , Revelation 20:12 , 21:27 ).
4. ( Isaiah 61:10 .)
alway--even amidst the afflictions now distressing you ( Philippians 1:28-30 ).
again--as he had already said, "Rejoice" ( Philippians 3:1 ). Joy is the predominant feature of the Epistle.
I say--Greek, rather, "I will say."
5. moderation--from a Greek root, "to yield," whence yieldingness [TRENCH]; or from a root, "it is fitting," whence "reasonableness of dealing" [ALFORD], that considerateness for others, not urging one's own rights to the uttermost, but waiving a part, and thereby rectifying the injustices of justice. The archetype of this grace is God, who presses not the strictness of His law against us as we deserve ( Psalms 130:3 Psalms 130:4 ); though having exacted the fullest payment for us from our Divine Surety. There are included in "moderation," candor and kindliness. Joy in the Lord raises us above rigorism towards others ( Philippians 4:5 ), and carefulness ( Philippians 4:6 ) as to one's own affairs. Sadness produces morose harshness towards others, and a troublesome spirit in ourselves.
Let . . . be known--that is, in your conduct to others, let nothing inconsistent with "moderation" be seen. Not a precept to make a display of moderation. Let this grace "be known" to men in acts; let "your requests be made to God" in word ( Philippians 4:6 ).
unto all men--even to the "perverse" ( Philippians 2:15 ), that so ye may win them. Exercise "forbearance" even to your persecutors. None is so ungracious as not to be kindly to someone, from some motive or another, on some occasion; the believer is to be so "unto all men" at all times.
The Lord is at hand--The Lord's coming again speedily is the grand motive to every Christian grace ( james 5:8 james 5:9 ). Harshness to others (the opposite of "moderation") would be taking into our own hands prematurely the prerogatives of judging, which belongs to the Lord alone ( 1 Corinthians 4:5 ); and so provoking God to judge us by the strict letter of the law ( james 2:12 james 2:13 ).
6. Translate, "Be anxious about nothing." Care and prayer are as mutually opposed as fire and water [BENGEL].
by prayer and supplication--Greek, "by the prayer and the supplication" appropriate to each case [ALFORD]. Prayer for blessings; and the general term. Supplication, to avert ills; a special term, suppliant entreaty
thanksgiving--for every event, prosperity and affliction alike ( 1 Thessalonians 5:18 , 5:13 ). The Philippians might remember Paul's example at Philippi when in the innermost prison ( Acts 16:25 ). Thanksgiving gives effect to prayer ( 2 Chronicles 20:21 ), and frees from anxious carefulness by making all God's dealings matter for praise, not merely for resignation, much less murmuring. "Peace" is the companion of "thanksgiving" ( Philippians 4:7 , Colossians 3:15 ).
let your requests be made known unto God--with generous, filial, unreserved confidence; not keeping aught back, as too great, or else too small, to bring before God, though you might feel so as to your fellow men. So Jacob, when fearing Esau ( Genesis 32:9-12 ); Hezekiah fearing Sennacherib ( 2 Kings 19:14 , Psalms 37:5 ).
7. And--The inseparable consequence of thus laying everything before God in "prayer with thanksgiving."
peace--the dispeller of "anxious care" ( Philippians 4:6 ).
of God--coming from God, and resting in God ( John 14:27 , 16:33 , Colossians 3:15 ).
passeth--surpasseth, or exceedeth, all man's notional powers of understanding its full blessedness ( 1 Corinthians 2:9 1 Corinthians 2:10 , Ephesians 3:20 ; compare Proverbs 3:17 ).
shall keep--rather, "shall guard"; shall keep as a well-garrisoned stronghold ( Isaiah 26:1 Isaiah 26:3 ). The same Greek verb is used in 1 Peter 1:5 . There shall be peace secure within, whatever outward troubles may besiege.
hearts and minds--rather, "hearts (the seat of the thoughts) and thoughts" or purposes.
through--rather as Greek, "in Christ Jesus." It is in Christ that we are "kept" or "guarded" secure.
8. Summary of all his exhortations as to relative duties, whether as children or parents, husbands or wives, friends, neighbors, men in the intercourse of the world, &c.
true--sincere, in words.
honest--Old English for "seemly," namely, in action; literally, grave, dignified.
pure--"chaste," in relation to ourselves.
lovely--lovable (compare 10:21 , Luke 7:4 Luke 7:5 ).
of good report--referring to the absent ( Philippians 1:27 ); as "lovely" refers to what is lovable face to face.
if there be any virtue--"whatever virtue there is" [ALFORD]. "Virtue," the standing word in heathen ethics, is found once only in Paul's Epistles, and once in Peter's ( 2 Peter 1:5 ); and this in uses different from those in heathen authors. It is a term rather earthly and human, as compared with the names of the spiritual graces which Christianity imparts; hence the rarity of its occurrence in the New Testament. Piety and true morality are inseparable. Piety is love with its face towards God; morality is love with its face towards man. Despise not anything that is good in itself; only let it keep its due place.
praise--whatever is praiseworthy; not that Christians should make man's praise their aim (compare John 12:43 ); but they should live so as to deserve men's praise.
think on--have a continual regard to, so as to "do" these things ( Philippians 4:9 ) whenever the occasion arises.
9. both--rather, "The things also which ye have learned . . . these practice"; the things which besides recommending them in words, have been also recommended by my example, carry into practice.
heard--though ye have not yet sufficiently "received" them.
seen--though ye have not as yet sufficiently "learned" them [BENGEL].
and--"and then," as the necessary result ( Philippians 4:7 ). Not only "the peace of God," but "the God of peace" Himself "shall be with you."
10. But--transitional conjunction. But "now" to pass to another subject.
in the Lord--He views everything with reference to Christ.
at the last--"at last"; implying he was expecting their gift, not from a selfish view, but as a "fruit" of their faith, and to "abound" to their account ( Philippians 4:11 Philippians 4:17 ). Though long in coming, owing to Epaphroditus' sickness and other delays, he does not imply their gift was too late.
your care . . . hath flourished again--Greek, "Ye have flourished again (revived, as trees sprouting forth again in spring) in your care for me."
wherein ye were also careful--in respect to which (revival, namely, the sending of a supply to me) "ye were also (all along) careful, but ye lacked opportunity"; whether from want of means or want of a messenger. Your "lack of service" ( Philippians 2:30 ), was owing to your having "lacked opportunity."
11. I have learned--The I in Greek is emphatical. I leave it to others if they will, to be discontented. I, for my part, have learned, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and the dealings of Providence ( Hebrews 5:8 ), to be content in every state.
content--The Greek, literally expresses "independent of others, and having sufficiency in one's self." But Christianity has raised the term above the haughty self-sufficiency of the heathen Stoic to the contentment of the Christian, whose sufficiency is not in self, but in God ( 2 Corinthians 3:5 , 1 Timothy 6:6 1 Timothy 6:8 , Hebrews 13:5 ; compare Jeremiah 2:36 , 45:5 ).
12. abased--in low circumstances ( 2 Corinthians 4:8 , 2 Corinthians 6:9 2 Corinthians 6:10 ).
everywhere--rather, "in each, and in all things" [ALFORD].
instructed--in the secret. Literally, "initiated" in a secret teaching, which is a mystery unknown to the world.
13. I can do all things--Greek, "I have strength for all things"; not merely "how to be abased and how to abound." After special instances he declares his universal power--how triumphantly, yet how humbly! [MEYER].
through Christ which strengtheneth me--The oldest manuscripts omit "Christ"; then translate, "In Him who giveth me power," that is, by virtue of my living union and identification with Him, who is my strength ( Galatians 2:20 ). Compare 1 Timothy 1:12 , whence probably, "Christ" was inserted here by transcribers.
14. He here guards against their thinking from what he has just said, that he makes light of their bounty.
ye did communicate with my affliction--that is, ye made yourselves sharers with me in my present affliction, namely, by sympathy; of which sympathy your contribution is the proof.
15. Now--"Moreover." Arrange as Greek, "Ye also know (as well as I do myself)."
in the beginning of the gospel--dating from the Philippian Christian era; at the first preaching of the Gospel at Philippi.
when I departed from Macedonia--( Acts 17:14 ). The Philippians had followed Paul with their bounty when he left Macedonia and came to Corinth. 2 Corinthians 11:8 2 Corinthians 11:9 thus accords with the passage here, the dates assigned to the donation in both Epistles agreeing; namely, "in the beginning of the Gospel" here, and there, at the time of his first visit to Corinth [PALEY, Horæ Paulinæ]. However, the supply meant here is not that which he received at Corinth, but the supply sent to him when "in Thessalonica, once and again" ( Philippians 4:16 ), [ALFORD].
as concerning giving and receiving--In the account between us, "the giving" was all on your part; "the receiving" all on mine.
ye only--We are not to wait for others in a good work, saying, "I will do so, when others do it." We must go forward, though alone.
16. even in Thessalonica--"even" as early as when I had got no further than Thessalonica, ye sent me supplies for my necessities more than once.
17. a gift--Greek, "the gift." Translate, "It is not that I seek after the gift, but I do seek after the fruit that aboundeth to your account"; what I do seek is your spiritual good, in the abounding of fruits of your faith which shall be put down to your account, against the day of reward ( Hebrews 6:10 ).
18. But--Though "the gift" is not what I chiefly "seek after" ( Philippians 4:17 ), yet I am grateful for the gift, and hereby acknowledge it as ample for all my needs. Translate, "I have all" that I want, "and more than enough." Literally, as English Version, "I abound" over and above my needs.
I am full--Greek, "I am filled full."
the odour of a sweet is drawn from the sweet-smelling incense which was burnt along with the sacrifices; their gift being in faith was not so much to Paul, as to God ( Matthew 25:40 ), before whom it "came up for a memorial" ( Acts 10:4 ), sweet-smelling in God's presence ( Genesis 8:21 , Revelation 8:3 Revelation 8:4 ).
sacrifice acceptable--( Hebrews 13:16 ).
19. my--Paul calls God here "my God," to imply that God would reward their bounty to HIS servant, by "fully supplying" (translate so, literally, fill to the full) their every "need" ( 2 Corinthians 9:8 ), even as they had "fully" supplied his "need" ( Philippians 4:16 Philippians 4:18 ). My Master will fully repay you; I cannot. The Philippians invested their bounty well since it got them such a glorious return.
according to his riches--The measure of His supply to you will be the immeasurable "riches of His grace" ( Ephesians 1:7 ).
in glory--These words belong to the whole sentence. "Glory" is the element in which His rich grace operates; and it will be the element IN which He will "supply fully all your need."
by Christ Jesus--by virtue of your being "IN" (so Greek, not "by") Christ Jesus, the Giver and Mediator of all spiritual blessings.
20. God and our Father--Translate, "Unto our God and Father."
be glory--rather as the Greek, "be the glory." Not to us, but to Him be "the glory" alike of your gift, and of His gracious recompense to you.
21. Salute every saint--individually.
The brethren which are with me--Perhaps Jewish believers are meant ( Acts 28:21 ). I think Philippians 2:20 precludes our thinking of "closer friends," "colleagues in the ministry" [ALFORD]; he had only one close friend with him, namely, Timothy.
22. they that are of Cæsar's household--the slaves and dependents of Nero who had been probably converted through Paul's teaching while he was a prisoner in the Prætorian barrack attached to the palace. Philippi was a Roman "colony," hence there might arise a tie between the citizens of the mother city and those of the colony; especially between those of both cities who were Christians, converted as many of them were by the same apostle, and under like circumstances, he having been imprisoned at Philippi, as he now is at Rome.
23. ( Galatians 6:18 ).
be with you all. Amen--The oldest manuscripts read, "Be with your spirit," and omit "Amen."