An Exposition of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians
Copyright 1961 by
Dunham Publishing Company
The Epistle to the Philippians is one of the most practical of the Pauline letters and comes to us from the heart of the apostle through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As a letter addressed to “all the saints in Christ Jesus” it was not intended to be a learned treatise for technical scholars, but practical instruction for the laity. The fact that he includes special mention of the bishops and deacons means only that as leaders they had special responsibility in apprehending and putting into action the truths revealed.
This exposition of the epistle is an outgrowth of the Bible conference ministry of the author. It is written for general reading by laymen as well as ministers of the gospel who have some technical tools. The Authorized Version has been adopted as the text to be used in the exposition but is carefully compared to the original Greek and corrected or amplified where necessary. If the ordinary reader catches new insight and understanding of the truth of God through the reading of these pages, the author will be grateful.
The first mention in Scripture of the city of Philippi is contained in the record given in Acts 16:12-40 which recalls Paul’s ministry there during his second missionary journey. The apostle had the unusual experience of being forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach in the province of Asia and was denied permission to go into Bithynia. While at Troas awaiting guidance from God, Paul had a vision in which he saw a man of Macedonia who besought him to come into Macedonia and help them. Paul and his companions, taking this vision as assurance that God had called them to preach the gospel there, sailed from Troas and eventually came to Philippi, a prominent city of Macedonia and a Roman colony.
The significance of this first invasion of Europe with the gospel is readily apparent. Europe was to be the cradle of Christianity in the centuries to come and the principal springboard by which the gospel was to reach the ends of the earth. In carrying the message of salvation to Philippi, Paul was acting on the express commands of God.
There seems to have been no Jewish synagogue there, and those of the Jews who wished to meet for prayer were allowed to gather in a certain place by the river. Paul used this meeting place to speak to them of the gospel with the result that the first convert, Lydia from the city of Thyatira, believed with her household, and offered her home to Paul as a base for his operations. Paul’s continued testimony brought him into conflict with a demon-possessed damsel out of whom he later cast the demon. The owners of this slave girl accused Paul before the magistrates and Paul and Silas were cast into prison. The well-known story of their song of praise at midnight, even though their feet were in the stocks and their backs bleeding, the sudden earthquake, the loosing of the prisoners, and the resulting conversion of the Philippian jailer and his family form the historical context for the founding of the Philippian church. As indicated in 2 Corinthians 2:13 and 7:5, Paul had renewed his contact with the Philippian church in connection with his third missionary journey. There seems to have been some previous correspondence and contact between Paul and Philippi, the most recent of which was the sending of Epaphroditus to Paul while a prisoner in Rome. The immediate occasion of the Epistle to the Philippians was to express to the Philippian church his thankfulness for their gift and token of love. Epaphroditus who had been seriously ill while visiting Paul in Rome (2:26-27) was now about to return, and this afforded an opportunity for Paul to send them the letter. He therefore grasped the opportunity not only to thank them for their gift but to inform them of his own situation and to exhort them to continued unity and steadfastness.
The most common view of the place of origin and time of the Epistle to the Philippians is that it was written during the imprisonment of Paul in Rome, probably at the close of his two years mentioned in Acts 28:30. The resultant approximate date is generally believed to be 62-63 A.D. Though this point of view has received approval on the part of the large majority of conservative scholars, some have discussed alternative views. The Scriptures record, of course, a number of imprisonments of Paul. The book of Acts speaks of four such imprisonments: Philippi (Acts 16:23-39); Jerusalem (Acts 21:33 ff.); Caesarea (Acts 23:23-35); and his imprisonment in Rome (Acts 28:16-31). As the imprisonments in Philippi and Caesarea were short, the only alternative would be the imprisonment in Caesarea. The references to the characteristics of his imprisonment, especially his testimony to the Praetorian Guard, would seem to eliminate Caesarea. Another suggestion that he might have been imprisoned in Ephesus, even though Acts does not specifically mention such an imprisonment, does not have sufficient solid evidence to support it. Even those who attempt to relate the other prison epistles to Caesarea usually concede that the Philippian epistle came from Rome. On the presumption that this was the first of Paul’s two Roman imprisonments and that he was freed as he anticipated (Phil. 1:25-26), the traditional interpretation has by far superior weight.
The Epistle to the Philippians contains important theological sections, but the predominant theme is that of joyous Christian experience. Though in sharp contrast to Paul’s dismal circumstances as a prisoner, his exulting heart is manifested in constant references to his rejoicing in Christ. Sixteen times in various ways he speaks of rejoicing in the epistle. Other aspects of Christian experience such as love, confidence, and devotion to Christ are frequently mentioned. The letter is one of the most personal of all the epistles of Paul and is written with a fatherly attitude rather than authoritative pronouncement. Looming large also in the epistle is the manifestation of abounding love in Christ and parallel exhortations to unity, oneness of mind, and co-ordination of witness. There is no evidence that serious doctrinal difficulties or moral defection existed in the Philippian church. The pointed exhortation to Euodias and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2) indicates that he had some concern that there might be improvement in the matter of being of one mind. Though the epistle is largely practical, it nevertheless contains one of the great theological passages of the New Testament, in Paul’s delineation of the humiliation, suffering, and death of Christ (Phil. 2:6-8). Likewise the description of the resurrection body of believers as being patterned after the glorious body of Christ is an important detail in the believer’s hope (3:20-21). Most valuable in the epistle, however, is the revelation of Paul’s attitude of devotion and sacrifice illustrating that which Christ demonstrated to the full in His own humiliation.
There is progression in the development of Philippians, chapter one speaking of Paul’s own sufferings as magnifying Christ; chapter two portraying four illustrations of lowly service, namely, Christ, Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus; chapter three speaking of the believer’s hope in time and eternity, and his attendant responsibility of pressing on; and chapter four unfolding Christ as the believer’s peace and strength. Few portions of Scripture are richer in their spiritual content than these four chapters.
Except for a few radical critics and the Tubingen school, the integrity of the Epistle to the Philippians has been generally recognized. The epistle itself claims to be written by Paul (Phil. 1:1), and the use of the personal pronoun “I” throughout the epistle makes plain that this is a personal letter. There is little in the letter that would raise questions about its integrity. In the early church it was readily accepted as a letter of Paul, and the early fathers such as Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Irenaeus all allude to this epistle or quote from it. It is also found in the Muratorian Canon and in the Apostolicon of Marcion. Most of the objections to Pauline authorship and the integrity of the epistle are based on trivialities such as Paul’s inclusion of “bishops and deacons” in his address, which some feel point to a later stage in the organization of the church. The fact, however, that Paul had appointed elders in Acts 14 and that deacons are mentioned as early as Acts 6 makes this objection meaningless. Attention has also been focused on the so-called kenosis passage in Philippians 2 as being not Pauline, but rather Gnostic in its background. There is nothing, however, in this passage to indicate Paul’s concurrence with the Gnostic ideas which contradicted Pauline theology nor can it be shown that it opposes any other theological position of Paul as given in his other letters. The unity of the epistle has also been questioned on the ground that chapter three with its attack on false teachers is out of keeping with the rest of the epistle. Numerous instances of sharp change in thought, however, in other Pauline epistles such as the passage in 2 Corinthians 10-13 make this a perfectly normal literary vehicle for the thought of the apostle as he covered various items of instruction for the Philippian church. The evidence for the unity of the epistle far outweighs any arguments against it.
The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians rightfully claims a large part in the revelation given through Paul. In this letter are numerous exhortations to unity, oneness of mind, and abounding Christian love which are central features in the will of God for His church. Theologically, the second chapter of Philippians is an important doctrinal statement of the humiliation of Christ couched in words of tremendous meaning. The largest benefit of the epistle, however, is in the practical and spiritual realm. Its high standard of Christian love, the selfless devotion of Paul, and the high standards of Christian experience continue to provide the contemporary church with divine instruction on these important themes. Not only does every evidence point to its authenticity and inspiration, but the epistle itself is a treasure store of divine truth which has proved of immeasurable benefit to those who have studied its contents.
The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, one of the most intimate of all his letters, opens with utmost simplicity: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” Following the custom of polite correspondence and in keeping with his other letters, this epistle begins by stating the name of the author, including those who joined with him, and indicating those to whom it is being sent. Because it is more in the nature of a personal letter than a theological treatise, the description of Paul as an apostle found in most of the Pauline letters is omitted, and he describes himself and Timothy1 merely as servants (literally, “slaves”) of Jesus Christ. The letter is being sent to all the saints at Philippi described by the Pauline expression “in Christ Jesus.” Significant is the addition of the bishops or overseers, and deacons, indicating that the letter is especially addressed to the officers of the church. This is indicative of the fact that the church at Philippi is now well organized and no longer a mission point.
As is characteristic of Paul in all his epistles, he extends to them the apostolic greeting: “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” One of the wonders of the Word of God is how much can be said in a few words. The two words grace and peace express to an infinite degree the heart of salvation in Christ. Grace is not only a relationship to God, a righteous standing with God, but it is also an experience of God’s favor toward us, His love, and all that is comprehended in redemption. It is righteous favor as opposed to righteous judgment. The Philippians had come to know the grace of God through Paul the apostle of grace. In similar character the word peace represents what we have and are in Christ. The saints at Philippi had peace with God through Jesus Christ, and it was possible for them to have the peace of God that passeth all understanding as Paul declares to them in chapter four. Grace and peace are the heritage of all who have Christian faith, and in his apostolic greeting Paul indicates his desire for the Philippian Christians to enter fully into the meaning of these words. Grace and peace come from God our Father as the originator and the Lord Jesus Christ as the mediator.
In keeping with the character of the entire epistle which is essentially a word of thanks to them for their gift, gratitude is expressed to God for them. In verse three he expresses this: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” As he contemplated the grace of God working through him which had led to their salvation, the formation of the church, the dramatic deliverance from the Philippian jail, and their subsequent growth and development, Paul’s heart was filled with a symphony of praise and thankfulness to God. The fact of their continuance in the gospel was especially in his mind as he writes: “Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” One of the remarkable facts of Paul’s epistles is the evidence of the extensive prayer ministry of Paul. Though separated from the churches which he had ministered to, he faithfully remembered them in prayer, not simply as a group, but by name. No doubt his confinement in prison had enlarged his prayer ministry. He not only prayed for them, but he thanked God for the answers to prayer received as manifested in their lives.
The significant words “every” in verse three and “all” in verse four are worthy of note. Every thought of the Philippian church that crossed his mind was an occasion for thanksgiving to God, and every prayer for any one of them was an occasion for joy. It was not that everyone in the Philippian church was perfect, but in each person there was the wonderful fruit of the grace of God, growth in spiritual things, and an attitude of love toward the apostle.
Members of the church today may well ask the pointed question: “Does my pastor thank God for me?” How much it means to spiritual leaders to have the sympathetic understanding and appreciation of those to whom they minister. This relationship is expressed in the words: “Your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” They had not only been recipients of the gospel, but they had labored with Paul in the task of bringing the gospel to others. They had shared the blessed truth of the gospel and they had shared the task of its extension. Further, they had had fellowship with him in financial needs, having sent aid to him on a number of occasions.
With this unmistakable evidence of a work of salvation in their hearts he expresses his confidence that God will continue to work in them and through them until the day of Jesus Christ. He states this in verse six: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” In these words Paul expresses not only his own assurance as to their salvation, but his confidence of their security in Christ. He contemplates the goal of their salvation as being achieved at the day of Jesus Christ.
This expression “the day of Jesus Christ” is found with some variation three times in the Epistle to the Philippians and three other times in Paul’s epistles (1 Cor. 1:8; 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16). Judging by the context, this expression seems to refer to the time of Christ’s coming for His church when living Christians will be translated and the dead in Christ shall be raised. It is to be contrasted with the expression “the day of the Lord” which refers to the time of judgment and the righteous rule of Christ on earth in His millennial kingdom. The work, which God had begun in the Philippian church, in Paul’s mind was considered as moving majestically forward until it reached its acme in their presentation in glory when Christ comes for His own.
The apostle further substantiates his confidence in them in verse seven when he writes: “Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.” His judgment of their security in Christ springs first of all from the fact that the Philippian Christians are objects of his love, whom God has laid upon the heart of Paul. The suggested alternative translation “because you have me in your heart” does not seem to be well substantiated. It is rather that Paul had the Philippians in his heart even though it was a mutual love. This love had been manifested by Paul toward them, and it had been reciprocated by the Philippian church. Both in his time of imprisonment and in his work in defense and confirmation of the gospel the Philippian church had been partakers of the grace of God which Paul had declared to them. They had shared both his sufferings and his ministry. Their works were not the grounds of the grace of God to them, but they were the evidence, and in this Paul rejoices and contemplates with joy the consummation of their redemption in glory.
Although the Apostle Paul is abundantly satisfied with the salvation and growth in grace of the Philippian church, he still longs for their continued development and maturity in Christ. He introduces this in verse eight with the words: “For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” His love for them is in proportion to the tender compassions of Christ. The heart of the apostle is laid bare in the touching statement of his prayer objectives for the Philippian church as contained in verses nine, ten, and eleven. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;2 that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” The frequent reference to the prayer life of the Apostle Paul and the burden of his petitions to the Lord as contained in his epistles are more than just an expression of Paul’s own objectives. Frequently they state succinctly the very essence of the spiritual life and the goals that are properly before us as we grow in grace. In his Ephesian letter he prays for wisdom and power (Eph. 1:16-23) and that they may be rooted and grounded in love (Eph. 3:14-19). Similarly, here he prays that their love may abound.
In listing the fundamentals of Christian faith, too often the itemization is limited to fundamental theology to the neglect of the fundamentals of spiritual life. In his epistles, while fully sustaining theological essentials, the apostle constantly emphasizes the need for love as a fruit of the Spirit. In this his exhortation is in keeping with the new commandment given by Christ to His disciples summarized by our Lord in the upper room in the words: “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). Christ further declared: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). There are many evidences of the Christian life such as Paul had already enumerated in his description of the Philippian church. Undoubtedly the Philippian Christians did love one another. The apostle is concerned, however, lest this be limited and perfunctory. The real ties that bound them together were not similar beliefs or common tasks, it was a love which came from the heart of God. There are many ills in modern Christianity, some theological, some ecclesiastical, some moral, and many problems afflict the church of Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly one of the greatest needs, however, is a genuine love for those who share with us faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
As Paul points out, however, what he sought in prayer for the Philippian Christians was not simply a sentiment, but it was “in knowledge [lit., full knowledge] and in all judgment.” It was a discerning kind of love, a love that had real depth and character. It was not an unreasoning sentiment, but that which sprang from spiritual discernment and recognition of the grace of God that had operated in their relationships.
This attitude of divine love one toward another was to manifest itself in various ways. In verse ten he describes it as governing their walk; “That ye may approve3 things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till4 the day of Christ.” Here again the Apostle Paul holds before them the objective of the day of Christ and the consummation of Christian life and faith. In view of the fact that life is temporary and time is precious, the apostle wants them to approve things that are excellent, that is, to apply to the choices and decisions of life spiritual discernment which will lead them to make the right decisions. This in turn will lead to their being “sincere and without offence.”
The word sincere (Gr. eilikrineis) is a word containing the idea of sunlight. If pictures taking an object for examination into the broad light of day in order to prove it genuine. In our lives it means submitting to the searching light of the Word of God in order to be shown pure and capable of standing the test of full exposure. The result will be that one will be judged blameless or without offense at the judgment seat of Christ. The standard which Paul suggests is far above the common question: “Is this wrong?” It is rather the question: “Is this right?” or “Is this the will of God?” The Philippian Christians are urged to look at life from God’s viewpoint and from the standpoint of God’s standards. Nothing short of a holy life, a life motivated by love and guided by eternal values, was acceptable to Paul.
In verse eleven the apostle sums up the resultant fullness of life in the words: “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” In achieving the goals of abounding in love one toward another, of manifesting holiness and usefulness in Christian life, the Philippian Christians would be characterized as a fruit tree loaded with fruit. This would be made possible by their relationship to Jesus Christ. Worthy of commendation, they would be unto the glory and praise of God.
In this opening section of the epistle two major aspects of the Christian life are emphasized. The one is the certainty of salvation based on the finished work of Christ and the grace of God, manifested in the Philippian church by the evident work of grace in their lives. Assured of their salvation, the apostle now challenges them to realize to the full the excellencies of Christian character and life embodied in love, holiness, and service.
In verse twenty of the first chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians one of the great affirmations of the letter comes from the pen of the apostle when he states: “Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” This statement forms the heart of the discussion by Paul of one of the profound questions which faces the Christian faith: Why does a loving heavenly Father permit His children to suffer? It is impossible to estimate the number of people who are suffering in one way or another in one generation. Millions live in constant fear. Other millions never know what it is to have enough to eat. Probably the majority of the earth’s population never have comfortable homes or adequate clothing. Human suffering is one of the obvious facts of life. Many attempts have been made to analyze the problem of suffering, but only the Bible has an authoritative answer. According to Scripture, suffering springs from the fact of sin, from a world which is out of the will of God in which suffering and death are the natural consequences. The disobedience of Adam and Eve, created in sinless perfection, but choosing to disobey God, plunged the whole race into sin. Sin has come by the choice of man rather than by act of God.
The particular problem to which Paul addresses himself is not that of suffering in general, but suffering in the life of a child of God. It is not too difficult to understand why those who are ungodly, who have rejected Christ and Biblical standards, should suffer. The more pointed question is why a child of God who has received divine grace and forgiveness of sins should nevertheless suffer. Here again we are shut up to Scripture for a sure answer. In this portion of Paul’s letter to the Philippians he is dealing with this precise question.
It should be clear to all that Paul is not suffering because he is a sinner. Nor has he transgressed the law of God in such a way as to have brought the suffering upon himself. It is rather that his suffering springs from his dedication to Christ and because he had been faithful in preaching the gospel. In the performance of the will of God he had run into conflict with the desires of evil men, and this explains his imprisonment. Because the principles of human suffering affect the lives of so many, Paul wants the Philippian church to understand that his suffering has a proper cause and is being used by God to His glory. The discussion of Paul should be seen in the light of the general answer that the Word of God gives to the reasons for suffering in the lives of His children.
There are a number of differing causes for suffering in the life of a child of God. Paul himself bears witness to this fact, and some of the other reasons can be observed elsewhere in Scripture. In some instances God allows suffering in the lives of His children to encourage in them a life of close fellowship with Himself and as a means of reminding them of their place of dependence upon the power and grace of God. The practical effect of this type of suffering is that it keeps the Christian from sinning and prevents departure from God that otherwise might have eventuated. This is illustrated in Paul’s own experience of having a thorn in the flesh. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 the apostle reveals that he had a “thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.” He also explains that though he had besought the Lord three times in a formal way that this thorn in the flesh might be removed, God had replied to him: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” The necessity of the thorn in the flesh was to keep him from being “exalted above measure” because of the great revelations given him when he was caught up into the third heaven. Paul’s experience, therefore, is an illustration of preventive sufferings.
Another type of suffering is in the form of chastening or discipline of a child of God by his Heavenly Father. In this case the child of God has wandered from the will of God and the discipline in the form of suffering is designed to bring him back into a state of righteous living. This type of suffering illustrated in the life of David is corrective in principle and designed to restore a sinning saint to a life of fellowship.
Still another kind of suffering revealed in Scripture is that which is permitted to instruct the saint. The Book of Job is an outstanding illustration of this. Though described as a perfect man and a righteous man by God, suffering is permitted in the life of Job, not only to demonstrate his faithfulness to God, but also to teach Job many lessons that otherwise he would not have learned. The fruits of such suffering are declared in Romans 5:3-4; “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” The lessons learned in suffering often can be achieved in no other way.
Suffering is sometimes allowed in the life of a child of God as a means for increasing his testimony. The Apostle Paul himself, when he first trusted in the Lord, was informed that he was called to a life of suffering and that through this suffering he would be a testimony for Jesus Christ. Often the presence of suffering in the life of a believer is an occasion for demonstrating his own trust in the Lord and encouragement of others who are in need. The sustaining grace of God manifested in Paul is a testimony to the grace and faithfulness of God in upholding him in his hour of need.
It is in the light of this Scriptural revelation concerning the reasons for permission of suffering in the life of a child of God that Paul presents his own testimony of God’s dealings with him. He writes the Philippian church beginning in verse twelve: “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which have happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.” In other words, instead of hindering his preaching of the gospel God had used his imprisonment as a means of bringing the gospel where otherwise it would not have been heard.
As an instance and proof of this the apostle explains in verse thirteen: “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places.” Though Paul was in bonds and a prisoner of the Roman government, because he was the Lord’s servant it resulted in a testimony to all those who came in contact with him. The expression “in all the palace” is probably better translated “throughout the whole Praetorian Guard.” This reference, one of the outstanding proofs that he was in Rome, reveals Paul’s testimony to the Praetorian Guard. This guard was a special contingent of soldiers composed of nine cohorts of one thousand men each. It was their special duty to guard prisoners and the various cohorts alternated in fulfilling this responsibility. Though some have taken this expression to refer to Praetorian Palace or to the quarters of the Praetorian Guards, the additional phrase “and in all other places”—better translated, “and to all the rest”—seems to refer to persons rather than places. The imprisonment of Paul, therefore, had resulted in a testimony for the gospel to this elite corps of soldiers, with untold results as some of them were converted to Christ and became in turn witnesses of the gospel.
Not only had his testimony reached the Praetorian Guard, but it had affected also his brethren in the Lord in their testimony. Of this he writes in verse fourteen: “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” The presence of the apostle preaching boldly, even though a prisoner to those who were his guards and keepers, encouraged others who were free on the outside to bear a more faithful testimony to the Lord and to be delivered from fear. To be sure, not all those who preached the gospel did so out of admiration of Paul. The gospel was controversial, and sometimes engendered envy and strife. Paul, however, rejoices in the fact that whether preached well or not the gospel reached some who might not have heard. He therefore writes in verses fifteen to eighteen: “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one5 preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add6 affliction to my bonds: but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”
Judging by what Paul says about these who preach Christ moved by envy and strife, the major difficulty was not theological in that they preached another gospel, but rather that their motives were not good. Some of the believers were embarrassed by the fact that Paul was a prisoner and may have been tempted to blame him for his difficulty. His very success in winning some to Christ may have provoked others to envy. Instead of manifesting Christian love and understanding, they were therefore contentious and attempted to disassociate themselves from Paul whose faithfulness in standing for the gospel had resulted in his imprisonment. But all were not of this kind. Paul mentions that there were some who preached in love, recognizing that he was suffering for Christ’s sake. These were encouraged by Paul’s faithfulness and were moved to preach the gospel more faithfully than would otherwise have been the case.
Paul’s conclusion therefore is that regardless of motive Christ is preached, and in this he sincerely rejoices and thanks the Lord that his suffering as a prisoner had resulted in such fruits of the gospel. In this he rejoices now and will continue to rejoice.
The beneficial effects of Paul’s sufferings, however, did not tend only to increase Gospel witness in Rome, but, according to his own statement, would result in blessing to Paul himself. This he states in verse nineteen: “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” The very fact that Paul had been in prison had undoubtedly stimulated the prayer of the Philippian church and other friends. His sufferings therefore had been occasion for increased intercession, and he is confident that this would result in his salvation, that is, his deliverance from prison as a result of their faithful prayers. It also was related to the fact that the Holy Spirit of God was undertaken on behalf of Paul and was sustaining him, caring for him in this time of trial.
The apostle, however, saw a far more important result than his deliverance from prison. The factor in his suffering which brought greater satisfaction to him was that through his trial Christ would be magnified. He expresses this hope in verse twenty: “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” The passionate desire of Paul that at all costs Christ would be glorified is revealed in this statement. Paul wanted his testimony under all circumstances, even imprisonment, to be such that he would never be ashamed of his witness for Christ. He wanted a holy boldness to characterize all his ministry. This boldness had of course led to his imprisonment in the first place, but he was concerned lest his suffering would in anywise dull the keen edge of his testimony. Whether in prison or out of prison he wanted Christ to be magnified in his body.
Just as a magnifying glass brings out the insignificant as well as the more prominent points of excellence in an object, so Paul wanted his life to be such that Christ would be held up to the full view and comprehension of those who observed; in a word, that they would see the perfections of Christ in and through Paul. This he determines to do whether by life or by death. The unstinted devotion and dedication of the Apostle Paul to the will of God is disclosed in his willingness to die if need be for Christ’s sake. He was indeed facing the issue of life or death at Caesar’s judgment seat. Humanly speaking, he might be put to death or he might be released.
In either event, Paul wanted Christ to be magnified. Accordingly he writes the Philippians: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.” The mainspring of Paul’s life is summed in the word Christ. This represented all for which he was living as well as that for which he was willing to die. To live was for Paul simply to live for Christ and to proclaim the One who had saved him. To die meant only that his life’s ministry was over and that he would go into the presence of his blessed Lord. His only purpose in living was to have fruit through his labor on earth.
The choice of whether to live or to die, however, was not a bitter alternative for Paul. In fact, he is caught between two desires, one to serve his Lord on earth and the other to be in the presence of his Lord in heaven. Between the two he did not know how to choose. He writes in verse twenty-three: “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart,7 and to be with Christ; which is far8 better.” As far as Paul himself was concerned, he is convinced that to be with the Lord would be far better than to enjoy any blessing on earth. To him Christian faith was not an escape, as human life on earth slips through our fingers, but rather it was the utmost goal, the prize to be received, the rest after labors had been finished.
He goes on, however, in verse twenty-four to say: “Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” He recognizes that his presence on the earth, permitted by God, was designed for useful ends and that his continuance in life would be a blessing to the Philippian church. God had, however, revealed to the apostle that he would be released and would be able to continue his ministry. He writes the Philippians in verse twenty-five: “And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you for your furtherance and joy of faith.” The sufferings of the Apostle Paul were not simply to eventuate in furtherance of gospel testimony in Rome or in enriched ministry in which he would magnify Christ, but would also have its result in encouraging those who were suffering, in particular the Philippian church.
His confidence that he would be released and return to active ministry and be able to visit the Philippian church again is therefore the ground for his belief that his difficulties would result in their furtherance and joy of faith. His total experience, both of imprisonment and release, would prove to be a blessing to them. He refers to this as their “furtherance.” He means by this that they would proceed further in the Christian life, that there would be more growth in grace and increased knowledge of the truth. It would also, however, result in the joy of their faith. His release and return to them would contribute to their Christian joy. It is another reason why God is leaving him behind to continue his work.
The apostle also expresses confidence that he will visit them again as stated in verse twenty-six: “That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.”9 They would not only have the joy of knowing that he had been released from the prison in answer to their prayers, but the renewal of their fellowship in Christ on the occasion of his visit would result in rejoicing more abundantly.
The coming of the Apostle Paul to Philippi after his release from prison, however, was not only to be an occasion for joy but would also be a time when the Apostle Paul would evaluate their testimony in Christ. With this in view, he exhorts them in verse twenty-seven: “Only let your conversation10 be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving11 together for the faith of the gospel.” Whether present or absent, the Apostle Paul wanted their conversation, that is, their manner of life, to be in keeping with the precious truths of the gospel. Whether he witnessed this with his own eyes or heard it by the report of others, he wanted their testimony to be that they stood fast in one spirit with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. Once again his exhortation takes the form of encouragement to unity and oneness of purpose. This unity was to be reflected in their teamwork in proclaiming the gospel of Christ.
One of the important reasons why they needed unity both in mind and testimony was the fact that they faced suffering and persecution in their witness. The apostle, however, encourages them in verse twenty-eight: “And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.” To their adversaries the sufferings of the Philippian Christians was a token of divine disapproval. They could not understand how those who were favored by God would be permitted to endure such trials and privations. To the eye of faith, however, it was evident instead that their very opposition and experience of difficulties were proof of their salvation of God. It is a patent fact in Christian experience that many new converts in Christ experience more difficulties in their early days of Christian life than they did before they put their trust in Christ. The Scriptural explanation of course is that now they have an adversary, one who will challenge every step of progress that they make. Such difficulties are permitted by God, even though at the same time He supplies faith and strength to have victory in the time of trial. The existence of enemies of those who would follow Christ is confirming evidence that they are true believers and properly identified as belonging to the Lord Jesus. Such an experience is perfectly normal, and the apostle concludes this chapter with recognition of this in these words: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake; having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” It is part of Christian testimony that those who believe in Christ will also suffer for Christ’s sake. The experience of the Philippian church therefore is not unusual or novel and is in nowise a contradiction of Scriptural revelation. In fact, their very sufferings are illustrated also in the sufferings of Paul, and they share the same conflict with the evil one which Paul is experiencing. This conflict they had witnessed earlier when Paul had been thrown into the Philippian jail, and now the tidings that he is in Rome are similar in import.
Taken as a whole, Paul’s experience then, though one of genuine suffering, has been turned by God to be a blessing. Through Paul’s suffering many heard the gospel who might otherwise not have heard. Through Paul’s suffering others were encouraged to pray for him so that his deliverance from prison would eventuate. In his sufferings also Paul would magnify God in a way that otherwise might not have been possible. Further, his sufferings were to result in blessing to the Philippian church, not only encouraging them in their own path of suffering but binding their hearts all the closer to Paul and the teachings which he had given them. Theirs was a common lot both of faith in the gospel and of the sufferings which resulted. They were fellow soldiers, fellow sufferers, and contenders in the same conflict.
1 Timothy is mentioned as joining with Paul in seven epistles, viz., 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Of the prison epistles only Ephesians omits Timothy’s name.
2 From Gr. aisthesei, found only here in the New Testament, and means perception and discernment.
3 Translation of the dokimazein meaning to test the value, or to approve after testing.
4 Gr. eis, meaning unto or in respect to.
5 In the best Greek texts verses sixteen and seventeen appear in reverse order, verse seventeen coming first. The order of the text used in the A.V. follows the order of thought in verse fifteen. In either case the meaning is the same.
6 The best texts have egeirein meaning to arouse or stir up rather than epitherein meaning to add or to bring. Those preaching Christ contentiously would stir up trouble for Paul who was already in bonds.
7 Gr. analusai, meaning to loosen. It is a figure of loosing the ropes on a ship about to sail.
8 Gr. polloi mallon kreisson, a double comparative, meaning much more the better.
9 Considerable evidence supports the idea that Paul was released from his first imprisonment in keeping with his hope expressed here, undertook a fourth missionary journey which took him as far as Spain, only to be rearrested, tried, and executed. Details of Paul’s experience mentioned in Titus and 1 and 2 Timothy seem to have occurred after the close of Acts. He mentions a visit to Crete (Titus 1:5), spending the winter in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12), a trip to Macedonia not mentioned in Acts (1 Tim. 1:3), a visit to Troas and Miletus (2 Tim. 4:13-20), and an earler deliverance from death when on trial (2 Tim. 4:16-17). Among the early fathers, Eusebius as well as Clement of Rome, Chrysostomus, and Hieronymus supported this view. Paul also seems to have complete confidence in his coming release on stating “I know” (from Gr. oida, which implies certain knowledge).
10 Gr. politeuesthe meaning to live as a citizen, i.e., to live as a good citizen in the Christian community.
11 Gr. sunathlountes meaning striving, or playing the game energetically, as in an athletic contest. Cf. “conflict” (v. 30) Gr. agon, referring to the exertion of an athletic contest.
The second chapter of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians contains one of the greatest declarations coming to us from the pen of the apostle, the theological statement of the humiliation and self-emptying of Christ and the exaltation of Christ which follows. This section pivots on the great affirmation of verses ten and eleven: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” Contemplated in this statement is the universal acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
The church at Philippi had relatively few spiritual problems as compared to the church at Corinth. There seems to have been no doctrinal heresy or serious breach of morality among the Philippians. Though Paul takes up in chapter four the problem of two women in the church who had some differences, there was no serious schism, and on the whole a united testimony was being maintained. Yet there was room for improvement along several lines. The plea of the apostles in chapter one for a spirit of abounding love, spiritual discernment, and for a fullness of spiritual fruit summarized the spiritual need of the church. Having referred to the need for unity in verses nine and twenty-seven in chapter one, the apostle now deals with the problem of unity more in detail in the opening four verses of the second chapter.
Most translations of these four verses do not carry the full implication which the original language connotes. The fourfold “if” of verse one has no sense of uncertainty, but is rather a statement of fact. The passage could be translated: “Because there is consolation in Christ, comfort of love, fellowship of the Spirit, and tender compassions and mercies, therefore fill my joy full by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, and of one mind, doing nothing through faction or empty pride, but in lowliness of mind each considering the other to be better than themselves, not looking every man on his own things, but every man also giving consideration to the things that belong to others.”
Essentially, these four verses are a plea for thoughtfulness and an exhortation to approach the work of God in a spirit of unity in which all work together sympathetically to accomplish their common task. In view of the blessings which are common to all Christians, such as consolation in Christ, the comfort of love, the fellowship of the Spirit, and God’s tender mercies and compassions, we should also manifest the unity of the Spirit in the ministry of the church. The Philippians in doing this would fill Paul’s cup of joy to the full. He is already rejoicing in their faithfulness, the certainty of their salvation, and their efforts to further the gospel. Now he wants them to add to this the supreme grace of working together unselfishly for the goal God has set before them.
The admonition of the apostle is at once good common sense and good spiritual sense. It is according to the mind of God. It is the kind of common effort that should characterize every body of Christians, though sometimes it is sadly lacking. In the Corinthian church, for instance, there were four contending parties, each considering itself right and regarding the other three as wrong. The only way it is possible to have one mind is to have the mind of God derived from the unity of the Spirit of God, a unity which comes only when believers find the will of God and give themselves unselfishly and unstintingly to its fulfillment.
Having set before them the precept of unity and humility, the apostle now introduces the supreme example, the Lord Jesus Christ in His act of incarnation, suffering, and death. This is often called the kenosis passage because in it Jesus Christ is described as emptying Himself. The word kenosis is derived from the Greek word ekenosen, meaning to empty. The passage is not without its theological and expositional problems, but presents more succinctly and pointedly than any other Scripture the practical application of the attitude of Christ to the attitude of the individual believer.
The great truth of the humiliation of Christ is introduced in support of the exhortation: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” The passage then reveals in detail what Jesus Christ did in becoming incarnate: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”
It is declared first that He existed in the form of God. The expression “being12 in the form13 of God” means not only that Christ is God, but that He always was God and that He existed as God, not simply because He possessed all the attributes of God, but because these were manifested outwardly and He had the appearance and glory of God. Being thus from eternity past all that God is both in substance and in manifestation, He did not consider His being on equality with God something that needed to be retained by self-effort, but rather “made himself of no reputation,” literally, “emptied Himself,” taking on the form of a servant.14
The fact that the Apostle Paul here reveals that Jesus Christ emptied Himself has given rise to much discussion. Some have attempted to prove from this statement that Christ partially gave up His deity and reduced Himself to the level of man. This, however, the passage does not say, and our understanding of what it means should be indicated by what the passage itself reveals. What Paul is actually stating is that Jesus Christ, though essentially God and entitled to the outer manifestation of His deity, voluntarily set aside the manifestation of His glory and substituted instead the appearance of a servant, or a slave. This of course is what Christ did when He was born a babe in Bethlehem and lived among men, and became in outer appearance no different than that of an ordinary servant.
The apostle goes on to speak of the complete humiliation of Christ in dying on the cross. Because He “was made in the likeness of men” and was “found in fashion as a man,” that is, His outer appearance was that of a man. He was able to humble Himself, become “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” His great act of condescension in becoming man and His willingness to be completely humiliated in the death on the cross is set before us here as the supreme example of what our attitude should be. If Jesus Christ the Lord of glory was willing to be obedient unto death, how much more should sinners saved by grace who owe everything to God give back to the God who saved them the life which He has redeemed.
There is much for the spiritual soul to contemplate in this great declaration of what Christ did for us. It of course reveals the genuine humanity of our Lord and Savior. Though He was born without human father, He was a genuine man in every respect apart from sin. He had a real human soul and spirit. He had a genuine physical body. Unlike other men, however, He was God incarnate, all that God is and all that man is in every essential particular. His genuine humanity is revealed not only in His birth, but in His growing maturity as a child and young man. At the age of twelve, though the scholars of His day were astounded at His wisdom, they did not question His humanity. Later after being introduced by John the Baptist to His public ministry, He labored for three and one half years walking the dusty roads of the Holy Land and ministering in word and deed. Finally, rejected by His own people and sentenced by a Roman ruler, He submitted Himself to the supreme ordeal of being crucified on the cross at Calvary. It should be obvious to any careful and discerning reader of Scripture that Christ was under no external compulsion to submit to the cross. He was the eternal God, and, though He was in human flesh, He could have stepped down from the cross if He wished or prevented His crucifixion from coming into reality. He did not die because it was impossible for Him to prevent it, but He died willingly in obedience to the will of God the Father. He died in submission to God in keeping with His prayer in Gethsemane: “Not my will, but thine be done.” There was no holding back. He went all the way to the cross. This was the supreme manifestation of His yieldedness to the will of God and His willingness to accept the utmost in humiliation.
No one else has ever come from infinite heights of glory to such a shameful death. If there had been a better way or another way by which the sin of the whole world could have been taken away, surely God would not have required His beloved Son to submit to such a death. This was the only way. There had to be a perfect sacrifice, an atonement of infinite value. This could be accomplished only by a person who was both God and man, who was without sin and yet was truly a man representing the human race. No other could take the place of Christ, no act of devotion, however unselfish, no act of ordinary man, however courageous, could atone for sin. As we contemplate the mind of Christ which made Him willing to die on the cross, we must realize that if Christ had not died men would still be in their sins with a hopeless eternity and facing just as certain a judgment as that which is the lot of the lost angels who know nothing of salvation.
With this reminder that eternal life is ours because of the mind of Christ in being willing to go to the cross, certainly our complaining lips and murmuring hearts should be stilled as we realize that God never asks His children to suffer or bear what Christ endured upon that cross. Whatever our measure of sacrifice, it is insignificant in comparison to what Christ did. We cannot share His sacrifice, but we can have the same attitude, the mind of Christ. We can be like Christ, obedient unto death. It is this attitude which yields the precious fruit of the unity of the Spirit and humility of mind which Paul sought to inculcate in the believers in the church at Corinth.
The story does not end, however, with Christ on the cross or His dead body in the tomb. Evangelical Christians use as a symbol of their faith an empty cross because the work is now finished. The body of Christ was taken off the cross, temporarily laid in a tomb only to rise in triumph and victory over death and the grave. Our Savior now is a glorified Savior, not only possessing the glory which was His from eternity past as the Second Person of the Trinity, the outer manifestation of which He laid aside when He became incarnate, but now He has the added glory of victory over sin and death, the demonstrated power and work which He accomplished while in the earthly sphere. Of His present glory the apostle writes, beginning in verse nine: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The same Christ who divested Himself of the outer form of deity, condescended to become man, and humbled Himself by becoming obedient unto death, now is highly exalted and given a name which is above every name.
There has been some speculation as to just what this name is before whom every knee should bow. The simplest explanation however seems to be the best. As indicated in the text, the name before which everyone will bow is not some mystical unrevealed name which is yet to be given, but it is rather the simple name Jesus, the human name of Christ, the name which means Savior. It is this name which gathers in the whole story of His victory over sin and death and represents the added glory which was obtained by Christ through becoming man.
Those who are described as bowing the knee to the name of Jesus, though not named, are declared to be in heaven, in earth, and under the earth. This probably includes all created moral intelligences, namely, angels and men. Because of the exaltation of Christ, everyone in heaven should bow the knee to Him. Everyone in earth should recognize His supremacy and even those under the earth. Those in heaven undoubtedly include the holy angels and the saints. Those on earth may have primary reference not only to those now living on the earth, but to those over whom Christ will reign in His millennial kingdom. All will bow the knee to Him on earth in that future day. Those under the earth seems to be a reference to those who die without salvation and are forever lost. As stated in the text, the glory of Christ is presented as being such that everyone should bow before Him and confess Him as Lord.
A number of ancient manuscripts with slightly different reading affirm that not only should everyone confess Jesus Christ as Lord, but state that everyone shall confess Jesus Christ as Lord.15 In our present earthly experience it is clear that not all will bend the knee, nor will all acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, but the day is coming when every moral intelligence, both men and angels, will recognize that Jesus Christ is indeed Lord and that He is worthy of worship and adoration. Whether or not lost men and lost angels will ever bend the knee, they will not be able to gainsay in that day that Jesus Christ as their Judge is also their Lord.
Their reluctant confession in that day, however, will be too late. The Scriptures make plain that now is the day of salvation. Now is the time to receive God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Scriptures do not promise further opportunity on the morrow. The universal recognition that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord, which will occasion the shout of triumph and the adoration of the saints, will wring a cry of despair from those who have neglected their day of opportunity. But now it is still the day of grace and the day of opportunity. This is the impelling motive for evangelism, for missions, for translation of the Scriptures into all the languages of the world. It is still true that whosoever will may come.
If these things be true, let us heed the admonition of Scripture to bow our hearts, to bend the proud knee, and to acknowledge Him now, while there is time, as our Lord and Savior. May we not only enter into that which pertains to our personal salvation, but may we worship and adore the one who throughout all eternity will be the revelation of divine love, the one who considered the outer manifestations of His deity not something to be retained, but was willing to go all the way to the death on the cross. If we are able to enter into this blessed truth of what it means to have the mind of Christ, we will have opened the door to achieve the will of God for our lives.
As we examine our own meager vessels of devotion, our own limited yieldedness to the will of God, we have set before us the great example of a Savior who loved us to infinity, who gave Himself without stint, who held nothing back. For Him no task was too hard, no shame too great, no physical suffering beyond endurance. How necessary in the church of Jesus Christ as well as in our own souls is this attitude. As we sometimes find ourselves unwilling to do even a simple thing to the honor and glory of God, how important it is to turn away from all that is selfish and to be willing to serve God in unstinted love and devotion.
Following the great declaration of the self-humiliation of Christ in His sufferings and death and the significant exaltation of Christ in glory which followed, the apostle now drives home to his Philippian readers the practical application of these truths to their own lives. This exhortation found in verses twelve to sixteen has its key thought in the expression of verse thirteen: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
The work of Christ on the cross was only the beginning of the work of God for man. Rich as was its provision in the redemption provided for the entire world, the application of that redemption to the individual and the realization in spiritual experience of victory over sin involves a subsequent undertaking of God. God’s method, using the work of Christ as the basis and the example of Christ as the pattern, is to reproduce in the life of the Christian the mind of Christ. The secret of this is bound up in the little phrase: “God worketh in you.” This portion of Scripture does not intend to unfold the complete doctrine, for it is clear that the total process of salvation, beginning with conviction before the transformation and consummating in perfection in glory, is a work of God involving many doctrines. In verse twelve, however, it is presented as a Christian experience of manifesting the salvation which God provides in a life of victory and obedience.
In approaching this subject the Apostle Paul is encouraged by the fact that the Philippians are not novices in the faith, but are already mature Christians. He addresses them therefore in these words: “Wherefore, my beloved, 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.” These verses have been subject to considerable misunderstanding in that the emphasis seems to be upon self-effort. What does it mean to work out one’s own salvation? Some have attempted to support the idea that when God saves a soul it is then up to the individual to possess and achieve the ultimate goals of salvation in Christ. They view Christianity as a step-ladder which reaches from earth to heaven which it is our duty to climb. A careful examination of this passage, however, will not justify this immature conclusion.
First of all, the salvation which is in view in this passage is not salvation from the guilt of sin. This is accomplished once and for all when a sinner receives Jesus Christ by faith as the One who bore his sins in His own body on the cross. In this sense, salvation is accomplished once and for all. Many times in Scripture, however, salvation is presented as a process which is not completed until the redeemed saint stands perfect in glory. The salvation that is in view in this passage, therefore, is deliverance from the power of sin, and the experience and manifestation of the new life in Christ. Like all other forms of salvation, it is a work of God but involving to a larger degree the element of individual experience and participation. It is therefore described as a human work in the expression: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” What does this mean?
As many have pointed out, it is not possible to work out something which is not already possessed. In other words, having received Christ as our Savior and having become a child of God, one has received many things which relate to his salvation which are true of every Christian, such as the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, eternal life, and the new possibility of serving God acceptably. The exhortation is to the point that this manifestation of salvation in life is one of the supreme goals of Christian experience, the details and realization of which is of such importance that one should approach the task with fear and trembling. The exhortation to accomplish this is couched in most loving terms by the apostle. He reminds the the Philippians of their past experience of always obeying, a yieldedness to God that was manifested not only when he was there but also in his absence. Now without his presence in their midst they were to give themselves all the more to a diligent working out of their salvation. In a word, it is an exhortation to realize the whole program of God in sanctification, testimony, and growth in grace.
Having thus alerted them to the necessity of serious effort, he assures them, however, that salvation fundamentally is a work of God for, in, and through man, not a work of man for God. It is God’s work in us. It is something that God does for us. Whatever effort we may expend, our salvation is nevertheless the working out of God’s plan in our life and experience. Accordingly, in verse thirteen he assures them: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Though the Scriptures recognize the validity of human choice, it is no contradiction of the principle of human responsibility that God works especially in His children inclining their wills to do the will of God and providing spiritual enablement that they may accomplish His good pleasure. Even the present experience of salvation depends upon divine provision. The present tense of the word worketh is most significant. It is God who keeps on working, not content with initiating the believer’s salvation, but continuing the work of salvation until the process is complete in glory.
With the great principles of experience of salvation set forth in verses twelve and thirteen, a series of particular exhortations follow. Though at first glance they may not seem to be sweeping in their character, a closer study will reveal that the apostle has set forth in these three verses the great essentials of the believer’s testimony in the world. In verse fourteen he categorically commands them: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” There are few exhortations in Scripture that are more incisive or demanding than this simple command. It demands of the Christian that he avoid complaining, not only in some things but in all things. The very common failing of the saints of God of murmuring, as illustrated in the life of Israel in the wilderness, is regarded as a very serious failure in the eyes of God. Their complaint about lack of water and lack of food, though very human, nevertheless brought sweeping divine judgment upon them. Their murmuring, though understandable, reflected an attitude of insubordination and lack of faith in their relationship to their God.
The saints at Philippi were exhorted to avoid murmuring and disputings or arguments in regard to all things. The order of Greek words is very significant, the word all occurring first and the verb second. Further, the tense of the verse is in the present, emphasizing that in all things and at all times they were not to murmur, or to substitute human reasonings for faith in God. This attitude of complete submission and complete trust is of course the key to working out our own salvation in fear and trembling and is the mark of a truly spiritual Christian.
In verse fifteen the apostle makes the further point that complete avoidance of murmurings and human reasonings is essential to a true testimony for God. The achievement of this standard will make possible, as he states in verse fifteen: “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” They were to be blameless, or more accurately, without blemish and harmless, pure in the midst of a wicked world. As the children of God (tekna, born ones), they were to be like lights in a dark world. Their moral purity was to be in contrast to the immoral world, their testimony as lights in a dark place.
Their position in the world, however, was not to be one of silent display, but they were actively to proclaim the gospel. This the apostle expresses in verse sixteen in the words: “Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.” The primary object of Christian testimony is not simply to illustrate in life the holiness and purity of Christ, but to proclaim in word the way of salvation that others may participate also in God’s salvation. They were to run the race to win the prize (Gal. 2:2; 1 Cor. 9:24; 2 Tim. 4:7). Paul holds this before them as an objective that they bring his own testimony in their midst to mature fruition. He anticipates the day of Christ, an expression earlier mentioned in chapter one, verses six and ten, referring to the rapture of the church and the judgment seat of Christ. The full fruit of his ministry in Philippi was not achieved simply by leading them to a knowledge of Christ as Savior, but depended upon their manifestation of that new life in Christ and the full extension of their Christian testimony. Evangelism and missions do not achieve their goals simply in the salvation of souls, but in the maturing of saints and the establishment of a true testimony for Jesus Christ.
The second chapter of Philippians falls naturally into four divisions. The chapter opens with four verses devoted to the exhortation to unity and humility. The second division deals with the humiliation and exaltation of Christ as the supreme illustration of the mind of Christ which should be in the believer. The exposition of what the mind of Christ is as manifested in working out one’s own salvation is contained in the third section, verses twelve to sixteen. In the concluding section, beginning with verse seventeen, a threefold illustration of the mind of Christ is offered in the life and witness of the Apostle Paul (w. 17-18), in Timothy (vv. 19-24), and in Epaphroditus (vv. 25-30). The mind of Christ as presented in this chapter therefore is not an unattainable ideal, but that which has been realized in large measure by those who have committed themselves completely to the will and service of the Lord.
The first illustration is that of Paul himself in which he speaks of his rejoicing in whatever measure God has used him to be of help to the Philippian church. He writes: “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.” Paul is here contemplating the possibility that his service for the Lord may result in his martyrdom. He therefore contemplates what would be his reaction if he, like a drink offering, were poured out. The word offered is literally “to be poured out,” a figure of speech which might refer to his own blood shed in martyrdom, but perhaps more generally to be understood as the offering or pouring out of his life. Whether as a sacrifice or in priestly service, Paul would rejoice in the sacrifice and service of God up to the time of his writing in which he and the Philippian church had joined. Like Paul, the church at Philippi rejoiced in its sacrifices for it was to the glory of God and in it Christ was magnified. In some real measure Paul approximated the mind of Christ in being like Christ, willing to suffer and die in achieving the will of God.
Not all of God’s servants, however, face martyrdom, and faithfulness in life and ministry are also an acceptable sacrifice to God. In this light the apostle commends Timothy to the Philippian church as his beloved son in the gospel, and announces his intention to send Timothy to them in verse nineteen: “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.” Paul’s concern for the Philippian church is manifested in this plan to send Timothy to them that Timothy may in turn report their progress in spiritual things. He therefore also includes a commendation that they may receive Timothy as his personal representative.
Paul describes Timothy’s testimony in these words: “For I have no man likeminded,16 who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.” In thus referring to Timothy he is not casting reflection on others who have served with him, such as Luke, but it is rather that Timothy to a pre-eminent extent had revealed the mind of Christ. Timothy’s care for the saints at Philippi was a natural or genuine solicitude. In contrast to others described as seeking their own advantage rather than the things of Christ, Timothy was genuinely unselfish in his love for others just as Christ manifested His love for the world. This was not idle sentiment on the part of Paul. He reminds the Philippian church that they knew Timothy’s testimony proved by a long life of service for God. Under Paul’s tutelage, as a son with his father, Timothy had demonstrated his faithfulness in the past in his service in the gospel.
Paul, however, will delay his sending of Timothy until such time as Timothy can bring report to the Philippian church of the outcome of his trial before Caesar. Paul anticipates that he will be able to follow Timothy shortly with a personal visit after his freedom. This he states in verses twenty-three and twenty-four: “Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.”
This great chapter of Scripture concludes with another illustration of a saint who had attained the mind of Christ in his life and witness. Epaphroditus, who had come from Philippi with the offering of the Philippian church to Paul, is being sent with this epistle back to Philippi with a word of apostolic approbation. As Timothy would be delayed until after the outcome of the trial, he is sending Epaphroditus at once. He describes him in verse twenty-five in these words: “Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.” In these words the apostle graciously describes Epaphroditus first as his brother in Christ, then as his companion in labor and fellowsoldier, that is, one who has borne the hardness of the spiritual conflict with Paul. He reminds them that Epaphroditus is also their messenger and one who faithfully ministered to Paul on their behalf.
In the providence of God, Epaphroditus had been very sick while in Rome, and in that state had been full of concern for he learned that the Philippian church had received tidings of his illness. Paul bears witness that their concern was not without foundation for in verse twenty-seven he indicates that Epaphroditus “was sick nigh unto death.” A further word of praise comes from the pen of Paul as he contemplates God’s mercy, not only upon Epaphroditus in raising him up, but also on Paul himself lest the added sorrow of Epaphroditus death should be laid upon him in his already burdened state in prison.
The sending of Epaphroditus to the Philippian church therefore has a double meaning. Paul states: “I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.” In stating that he “sent him the more carefully,” the meaning is that Paul has been more diligent in returning Epaphroditus to them promptly because of their concern about him and his desire that they may rejoice in his full recovery, thereby relieving any concern on the part of the apostle for the Philippian church in this time of testing.
He exhorts them: “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation.” Epaphroditus was not only to be received as one of their own number who had served the Lord well, but they were to recognize his faithful ministry in Christ. This ministry is described in verse thirty. “Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding17 his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.” Paul is not complaining here about any lack of service on the part of the Philippian church, but rather taking note of their separation by distance which made impossible any other means of service than that which they had employed in sending Epaphroditus with their offering. The devotion of Epaphroditus to his responsibility toward Paul, even to the experiencing of sickness which might have resulted in his death, is an occasion of thankfulness to the Philippian church because in effect he was their substitute or representative.
12 The Greek here is not the usual verb on (to be), but huparchon in the form of an imperfect participle, meaning continued existence, emphasizing the fact that Christ had always been and still is in the form of God. The imperfect tense is in contrast to the aorist verbs used in reference to the incarnation which describe acts in time.
13 Three Greek words are used to describe the outer appearance of Christ: (1) Morphe (form), referring to divine nature and attributes in their manifestation. The form of God is in contrast to the form of a servant (v. 7) or the manifestation of Christ in the substance and attributes of a servant. (2) Homoiomati (likeness), meaning that Christ was made like other men in His essential attributes and manifestation as a genuine man (v. 7). (3) Schemati (fashion), referring to outer manifestation and more transient characteristics of humanity (v. 8). The use of the three words together affirm that Christ was from eternity past all that God is in substance, attributes, and manifestation. Becoming incarnate He was all that was necessary to genuine humanity apart from sin. In appearance he looked like a man and acted like a man. In His incarnate state Christ continued to be all that God is though appearing in the form of man. After His ascension and glorification He continued to be all that man is apart from sin, limitation, and human characteristics that pertain only to this life.
14 The Greek expresion ekenosen, meaning to empty, is a strong word speaking of the dramatic act of incarnation. It must be interpreted, however, by its context. Christ did not empty Himself of deity, but of its outward manifestation. He emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant (Gr. labon, meaning taking, an aorist participle indicating simultaneous action). The incarnation did not change the person and attributes of Christ in His divine nature, but added to it a complete human nature. To achieve the divine purpose of becoming the Savior, the divine glory needed to be veiled. Christ voluntarily, moment by moment, submitted to human limitations apart from sin. The humiliation was temporary. The incarnation was everlasting.
15 Translators have preferred the reading giving the form of confess (Gr exomologesetat) as the aorist subjunctive (found in Aleph and B). An alternate reading in the form of the future indicative achieved by the change of one letter would make this a prophecy, i.e., “shall confess” instead of “should confess.” This is supported by a number of ancient manuscripts (ACDFGKLP).
16 The word translated likeminded (Gr. isopsuxon) is found only here in the New Testament and means literally like-souled.
17 In some versions with slight change of rendering the meaning is risking or gambling his life.
The apostle opens the third chapter with an exhortation: “Finally my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” The introduction of the word finally would seem to indicate that the apostle was about to reach the conclusion of the epistle. Instead, what appears to be grammatically and in thought a long digression follows beginning with verse two and continuing through the third verse of chapter four when he again brings up the theme of rejoicing in the Lord.
The command to rejoice is found in the present imperative tense, emphasizing the thought not only of rejoicing in the Lord, but continuous rejoicing. It could be translated, “Keep on rejoicing in the Lord.” He immediately introduces the digression which follows with the words: “To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.” By this the apostle seems to indicate that he is repeating a matter of instruction which he had given them previously, either in an earlier epistle as some think, or in his oral ministry while he was in their midst. The problem which he introduces is of such moment that he feels that it would be best to repeat his instructions as it would not be grievous to them and it might assure their preservation from departure from the faith.
Paul introduces the discussion with a sharp threefold word of warning: “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.” The Scriptures do not define these terms, but it would seem from the discussion which follows that he is describing Judaizers or legalists. The term concision means cutting and apparently applies to the same persons he is describing as dogs and evil workers.
Dogs today are regarded as pets and objects of affection, but in Bible times they were scavengers, normally living on garbage and without human masters. They were always looking for something to eat. The people therefore described in this terminology seem to have the characteristic of dogs. They are described as evil workers and offer a form of legalism comparable to those who belong to a cult of self-mutilation such as was common in the early centuries. Some heathen religions had rites in which self-inflicted wounds were marks of special holiness. Those of whom they were to be afraid had the religious characteristics of dogs, evil workers, and these pagan legalists. The term concision may have referred to Judaizing teachers who emphasized the rite of circumcision.
In contrast to these, in verse three he states the position of a true Christian in the words: “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” In referring to Christians as belonging to the circumcision he apparently is not talking about the rite, but rather the spiritual significance of separation to God which it signifies. In contrast to those who have legalistic rites, a true Christian worships God in the Spirit rather than in the letter of the law and rejoices in Christ Jesus rather than in his own holiness. He does not depend on his own achievements, avoiding confidence in the works of the flesh as indicated in verse two.
In verse four the apostle takes up his own experience with confidence in the flesh. If anyone had a right to confidence in religion as such or a worship of man’s own attainment, the Apostle Paul was in a position to take a foremost place. He writes: “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”
As others have also observed, there is a fivefold ground for trusting in the flesh (1) Confidence in a rite. Like all faithful Jews, he had observed the command given to Abraham and had received circumcision on the eighth day according to the law. If the rite of circumcision would offer confidence in the flesh, Paul had just ground for claiming it.
(2) Confidence in race. Many of the Jewish legalizers felt that their race gave them automatically standing before God in the matter of salvation. If so, Paul also could claim having a superior race because he was not only of the stock of Israel, but he was of the favored tribe of Benjamin. Further, he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, meaning that he could speak and understand the Hebrew language.
(3) Confidence in religion. In respect to the law Paul was a Pharisee, one who belonged to the strictest sect of the Jews who observed not only the law itself, but the detailed interpretation of the law which had accumulated in centuries of exposition. If confidence in a religion would help, Paul had every right to claim this ground.
(4) Confidence in record. In addition to all these claims for confidence in the flesh, the apostle had manifested great zeal in persecuting the church and certainly nothing more could have been demanded of him than the zeal which he manifested in hounding Christians to prison and even to death prior to his own conversion. His record with the Jews spoke for itself.
(5) Confidence in personal righteousness. In addition to all these other claims, the Apostle Paul had meticulously kept the law in so far as it was possible for any Jew to do so. His was a high moral character, and he had observed the details required in the religious life of the Jews. Even though this fell short of perfection and left him condemned before God in the light of God’s perfect and just demands, he was far ahead of his Judaizing competitors. None of them could equal the record of Paul himself.
Having itemized his ground for confidence in the flesh however, the Apostle Paul sweeps it aside in the words of verse seven: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted18 loss for Christ.” As compared to what he had in Christ, all these items of legal righteousness paled into insignificance. He therefore writes the Philippians: “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
When the Apostle Paul met Christ, he once and for all counted as loss all his religious righteousness which he once possessed. Now he states he continues to count all things but loss. In its place he has first of all the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. Christ was more than all the truth that Paul knew through his study in the Old Testament, more than all the learning he had received at the feet of Gamaliel. Christ was pre-eminent, satisfying alike to the heart and mind of the apostle. All other things were as refuse in comparison to the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.
Not only had Paul come into a personal relationship with his Savior but he had come into a new position. He was now in Him as he states in verse nine. In his new position in Christ he no longer needed his own righteousness which was of the law, but had received by divine imputation a righteousness which was through the faith of Christ or, more accurately, the faith in Christ. His was a righteousness on an infinitely higher plane than human attainment. It was a righteousness based on the perfect work of Christ bestowed on Paul as the free gift of grace. The importance of the issue which Paul raises in this discussion with the Philippian church is just as apparent in the church of Jesus Christ today. There is the tragedy of millions who have never heard the gospel and who have not been reached by any evangelical testimony. One of the greatest of tragedies, however, is represented in the thousands who attend church regularly and yet are just as far from true salvation in Christ as one who has never heard. The tendency to return to an external form of religion, whether legalistic, mystical, or emotional, and to exalt ritual instead of reality has given thousands a false sense of security. Their confidence is in a religion, not in Christ; in human works, not in the finished work of their Savior. The result is churchianity, not Christianity; reformation, not regeneration; education, not sanctification. They need to have what Paul had, a vital experience of faith in Christ and a recognition that in Christ alone one can be saved and established in a perfect righteousness which God will accept in time and eternity.
The apostle, however, does not mean to imply by the perfection of his position in Christ that there is not yet much ground to be attained. He holds before him this objective in verse ten: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” He had already stated that he had traded his legal righteousness for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. Now he wants to go on. He wants to know Christ, not simply as his Savior, but in the power of His resurrection. By this reference he does not have in mind the apologetic significance of the death of Christ which establishes His deity and justifies confidence in His finished work on the cross. It is rather the experimental realization of that same delivering power of God which is revealed in Christ’s resurrection and now needs to be appropriated by Paul. It was not simply the fact and significance of the resurrection which he claimed. He wanted the same power in his own life.
It was for this power that Paul prayed God on behalf of the Ephesian Christians in his great prayer in the first chapter of that epistle, when he claimed by faith for the Ephesians the knowledge of the greatness of the power of Christ manifested in His resurrection from the dead and His exaltation to glory. Paul wants this same deliverance in his own life in his battle with sin and human limitations. Along with this expressed desire he wants to claim also the fellowship of His sufferings in order that he might be conformed unto the death of Christ. The Apostle Paul was not seeking an easy road in which divine power would deliver him from human limitations. He realized the path of power was also the path of suffering. He wanted the mind of Christ to be realized in himself.
It is significant that in thus thinking of attaining the knowledge of Christ Paul uses the infinitive form gnonai, meaning to know experimentally. There are different words for knowledge in the Greek New Testament which Paul could have used. For instance, he could have used the word meaning to comprehend mentally (Gr. eidotes from oida) found in 1 Thessalonians 1:4 where the statement is made: “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” Our election of God must be perceived intellectually rather than experimentally. Another word for knowledge is to know by acquaintance or by familiarity or contact (Gr. epistomai, Acts 10:28). Still another word for knowledge refers to a deep insight based on logical analysis of the facts (Gr. suniemi, Eph. 5:17). The word here, however, is the common word to know experientially. Though there is an intellectual aspect of it and though knowledge by acquaintance or by analysis may form a part of it, Paul wants more than this. He wants to know Christ in his own personal experience.
The knowledge of the power of Christ’s resurrection which Paul desires is a reminder that the resurrection of Christ is the supreme demonstration of the power of God in this dispensation. In the Old Testament God gave to Israel the illustration of power occasioned by His deliverance of them from Egypt. Whenever Israel had any questions as to whether God had power, they were told by the prophets to remember their deliverance from Egypt and from its plagues, how God carried them through the Red Sea, how He gave them manna from heaven, water out of the rock, how they crossed the Jordan, and how they conquered Jericho. In the prophetic Scriptures which speak of Israel’s future kingdom on earth the standard of power in that day is revealed to be the regathering and restoration of the nation Israel. This will be the supreme demonstration of the power of God and faithfulness to His word.
To Christians like Paul who live in this present age, however, the resurrection of Christ is our supreme illustration. That power which God manifested in the transformation of the dead body of Christ in the tomb to the glorious risen Savior now at the right hand of the Father is God’s token of His power to transform us and to lift us above the results of sin and establish us in Christ for time and eternity. The apostle intentionally reverses the historical order placing the resurrection first and then following with the reference to the sufferings of Christ. This is the order of Christian experience. When one experiences the power of Christ, it is then possible for him to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings and be made conformable to His death. The apostle of course is speaking of complete identification with Christ, not only in position but in experience.
This statement of purpose on the part of the apostle is followed by a declaration of his hope. “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” A number of interpretations have been given to this problem text, made difficult by the uncertainty as to what Paul meant when he expressed the hope of attaining to the event of resurrection. The word for resurrection itself (exanastasis) is a word found only here in the New Testament, having the peculiarity of the ordinary word for resurrection with the prefix ex meaning out of. Paul is not referring here to a general resurrection of all the dead, but rather to a special resurrection which will be out from among the dead. By this token he is referring to the resurrection of the righteous as distinguished from the resurrection of the wicked.
According to premillenarian interpretation, the resurrection of the righteous will precede the millennial kingdom, whereas the resurrection of the wicked will follow the millennial kingdom. Further, many interpreters believe that the Pauline doctrine of the resurrection and translation of the church is an event which will precede the predicted time of the great tribulation. It was this event of the translation of the church which Paul regarded as the goal of his faith and hope.
Expositors, however, have been troubled as to how this hope was in any sense dependent upon his knowledge of the resurrection power of Christ or his growing apprehension of the grace of God. Did it not in fact rest instead upon the gift of righteousness which he had mentioned in verse nine of this chapter? It is true of course that Christian experience is a confirmation of the fact of salvation and therefore would grant additional assurance of being included in the resurrection of the righteous.
This passage, however, yields the possibility that what Paul actually had in mind at this point was the hope that he would “attain” to the resurrection, that is, still be living on earth at the time of the resurrection of the righteous dead and that he himself would be translated without seeing death. If it were possible to realize this goal through growing Christian experience and even suffering for Christ’s sake, Paul was willing. Later, of course, as indicated in 2 Timothy, it was made plain to Paul that he was to suffer a martyr’s death, but this was not known to him at this time and did not form a part of his conscious expectation.
One of the by-products of Judaizing legalism was the thought of the possibility of attaining perfection through human works. This, however, Paul definitely disclaims. Even though he is perfectly satisfied in Christ, he recognizes there is much yet to attain in Christian experience. This he states in verses twelve through fourteen: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
In this statement the apostle definitely puts behind him the idea that perfection is something that can be reached before we see our Lord at the rapture of the church. Perfection in an absolute sense is not for this life. The Scripture teaches that it is possible for the Christian to be filled with the Spirit and to have victory over sin. Christians should grow in grace and increase in maturity and experience holiness. All of these are proper goals. In spite of all God’s wonderful provision, however, no one reaches the stage of sinless perfection.
No possibility is recognized in the Scripture of eradicating sin or of reaching the point in spiritual maturity where it is impossible to sin any more. There are always more goals to be reached. The word perfect in verse twelve (Gr. teleleiomai) does not mean perfection in the absolute sense. It is rather the word for reaching an ultimate goal. This Paul declares to be the “prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” as stated in verse fourteen. This future goal is when Paul leaves earth and flesh behind and enters into the presence of the Lord, either through death or translation. His present task is not perfection, but is rather to lay hold on the purposes of God for his life, to wit, to fulfill his apostleship and God’s purpose for him to grow in grace.
In attempting to achieve this he declares in verse thirteen that he realizes that he has only imperfectly accomplished this objective, but that in his zeal to reach the goal, like a runner, he is ignoring the things which are behind him and reaching forth unto those things which are ahead. He presses for the finished mark and the prize which lies beyond it, the high calling or upward calling of God in Christ Jesus.
On the one hand, therefore, Paul disclaims that he is on any high plateau beyond which there is no improvement. He denies that he has attained all that he wants to attain. His earnestness, however, is expressed in his relentless determination to fulfill his course and eventually to meet his Savior face to face. In these words Paul also contrasts the self-satisfaction of the legalist, in what he is and what he has attained, with the true spiritual approach of which Paul is representative, recognizing the perfections of Christ on the one hand and on the other the imperfections of human apprehension of Christ.
The application of these truths, however, to the Philippian Christians is made in verses fifteen and sixteen in these words: “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” The fact that this exhortation is addressed to “as many as be perfect” has seemed to contradict the statement of the Apostle Paul in the preceding section that perfection has not been attained. The misapprehension, however, arises from a misunderstanding of the meaning of perfection. The word here translated perfect (Gr. teleioi) means perfection, in the sense of maturity or full growth. These are exhorted to have the same attitude or approach that Paul has indicated was true of his own experience. If they have failed to achieve this or have failed to understand it, he promises that “God shall reveal even this unto you.” It is Paul’s point of view, however, that their difficulty is not lack of comprehension, and he therefore exhorts them to walk by this same rule and to mind the same goals that were before Paul.
In verses seventeen to nineteen he concludes his treatment of the Judaizers by calling upon the Philippian church to mark those who follow Paul and those who do not. Judaizers are described as enemies of the cross. Paul expresses this in these words: “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”
One of the sad facts of modern Christianity is that everyone who claims the name of Christ is not necessarily worthy of the name. Some of the worst enemies of the cross are those who claim to be leaders in the Christian religion. For those living in days of confusion that parallel to some extent the issues which faced the Philippian church, it is necessary to observe those who follow Paul’s example and those who do not. This should not be a superficial distinction, but based upon a true Biblical definition of vital Christianity. Paul is not talking about those within the church who differ on minor issues, but rather those who deny the centrality of the cross and the principles of grace that enter into Christian salvation and the Christian walk. He declares that the Judaizers in the Philippian church are enemies of the cross of Christ. It is apparent that he regards them as being outside the true body of Christ. Their end is described as that of destruction, and they themselves are pictured as utterly berefit of a true worship of God, substituting instead glorying in their own flesh.
In contrast to this sad future for the enemies of the cross, the apostle in verses twenty and twenty-one holds before us the goal that is ours as Christians. He writes: “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
In the point of view expressed by Paul in this inspired Scripture our conversation or citizenship is not in this life, but is in heaven. The earthly phase of our experience is purely temporary, the goal is to be with the Lord forever. Accordingly, our hope is not simply deliverance from sin in this life or growth in grace or the knowledge of Christ, but our anticipation leaps forward to that day when we will see our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here again Paul has in mind the time of the resurrection of the righteous dead and the translation of the living saints. On that occasion he declares in verse twenty-one that our vile body, or body of humiliation, will be transformed and fashioned according to the pattern of the glorious resurrection body of Christ. This will be a demonstration of divine power of the One who is able to subdue all things unto Himself. Our present body will be transformed into a body that will last forever, a body that will not know pain, or disease, or sin. It will be a body that is timeless in its character and will never wear out. It will be suited in holiness for the glorious presence of the Lord. This does not mean that our bodies will have divine attributes such as God alone possesses, but our resurrection bodies will reflect to some extent the beauty, the glory, and the holiness which is in the resurrection body of our Lord in heaven.
With this thought before us, it is fitting to turn to the verse which opened this chapter where Paul said: “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” We should keep on rejoicing in the Lord as our Savior who give us righteousness. We should rejoice in the Lord of experience, the One who manifests resurrection power, and the One who can give peace, joy, and victory over sin. Paul contemplates the fact that the day is coming when these hours of struggle for attainment and apprehension of Christ will be over, and we will stand as trophies of His grace in His presence.
Today with Paul we can share the experience of dissatisfaction with ourselves and at the same time complete satisfaction and trust in the Savior. That which is imperfect now will be replaced by perfection in the presence of the Lord. Ultimate victory for the Christian is assured, whether in the fulfillment of the hope of Paul we live until the day of the resurrection and the translation of the saints, or whether, like Paul, we leave behind our vile body and go immediately into the presence of the Lord through death. This important truth is Paul’s hope and the hope of all who claim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
18 Translation from Gr. hegemai, meaning here to count or to regard. It is used in the perfect tense meaning that he has counted the things which were gain to him loss for Christ in the past and he still is doing so. The thought is reiterated in verse eight where in the expression “I count all things but loss” he uses the present tense, and in the latter part of the verse, “do count them but dung,” he uses the aorist indicating a definite act. The use of the three tenses emphasizes how completely he counted all things loss for Christ.
The opening verse of the fourth chapter of Philippians is at once the conclusion of the previous discussion and the introduction of a new subject. In the light of doctrinal confusion caused by false teachers in contrast to the wonderful hope to be found in Christ culminating in our glorification in heaven, the apostle continues with another word of exhortation to realize in experience the unity, joy, and peace of Christian fellowship. He writes: “Therefore, my brethren dearly longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.”
Though he had earlier referred to the church at Philippi as the object of his love and affection, he now uses more emphatic language to express his love for them. They are not only dearly beloved (Gr. agapetoi) in contrast to being merely brethren as he had previously addressed them, but they are longed for and his joy and crown.19 They are exhorted to stand fast in the Lord. At the close of the verse he repeats the appellation by way of emphasis: “My dearly beloved.” In every way he has manifested his love for them to an unusual degree. Even the expression “longed for” (Gr. epitothetoi) is found only here in the New Testament though it occurs occasionally in other Greek literature.
With this background of love and devotion expressed to the Philippian church, he introduces a word of entreaty to Euodias and Syntyche for which apparently he had been preparing the way in the previous references urging unity in the church. He writes: “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.” The same thought of unity is found earlier in the epistle (1:9, 27; 2:14; 3:16). Though there is no explanation of the problem beyond that which is stated in the next verse, a reasonable deduction is that these two women in the church had contributed an element of disunity which the apostle wants them to correct by becoming of the same mind in the Lord. It would seem from the general tenor of the epistle that the difficulty was not deep-seated and did not constitute a major schism, but it is evident that there was some friction between them.
One of the realistic problems which must be faced in the church is that personalities which differ may sometimes introduce an element of disharmony. The fact that individuals are fellow members in the church of Jesus Christ does not automatically give them the same opinion, either in doctrinal or practical matters. Sometimes ambition, pride, and stubbornness can intrude. These matters, however, are not impossible for grace to conquer, and it is this approach that is taken by the apostle. Though they may not be of the same mind in many matters, they should seek to have the same mind in the Lord.
In a partial solution of the problem which may have been created by these two contending women, he addresses in verse three an entreaty to one described as his “true yokefellow.” Some have taken the word for yokefellow (Gr. sunzuge) as a proper name of an individual. If it is a reference to a general rather than a specific person, it leaves us without a definite clue. Though the most likely solution is that it is addressed to Epaphroditus who is going to carry the letter back to Philippi, other suggestions have been made such as Timothy, Silas, Paul’s wife, or the husbands of the two women named in verse two. Light-foot’s suggestion that it is Epaphroditus is probably the best interpretation.
More important than the identity of the one to whom this exhortation is addressed is the exhortation itself: “And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.” There perhaps had been a failure to recognize the proper place of women in the Philippian church, either by giving them undue place or insufficient recognition. Paul exhorts that those women who had labored with him in the gospel should have the sympathetic co-operation and help of the men in the church. Though their names are not mentioned, Paul assures us that their names are entered in the book of life along with other laborers.
The reference to the book of life is left without explanation and has been variously interpreted as containing the roll of the saints who have eternal life or as the book which contains the names of all men, but from which have been deleted those who reject Christ or who fail to be numbered among those who are saved (cf. Ex. 32:32; Dan. 12:1; Luke 10:20; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 20:12). The clear implication here is that those who are mentioned are permanently inscribed in this record of the saints.
There is no implication in this passage that Paul is here authorizing women to take the place of men as preachers or evangelists. It is rather that in Scripture recognition is given to work properly assigned to women which is not properly assigned to men, and men are called to ministries that women are not. The principle guiding Paul’s exhortation is that every Christian, whether man or woman, should have his proper place and proper recognition in the Lord’s work.
In concluding this section on exhortation pertaining to unity and peace in the church, two important commands are given. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” The theme of rejoicing introduced in chapter three, verse one, before taking up the subject of false teachers, is here reinforced by a double command. The use of the present imperative is emphatic. They were not only to rejoice, but they were to keep on rejoicing in the Lord at all times. This is so important that Paul repeats the command at the close of verse four.
There is an evident connection between rejoicing in the Lord and having peace and unity in the church. Both are products of fellowship with God, oneness of mind, and singleness of purpose in the Lord. To this exhortation he adds: “Let your moderation be known unto all men.” Translators have struggled to capture the meaning of this term translated moderation, and various alternatives have been suggested. One of the most accurate and significant is the expression “sweet reasonableness.” One possesses a sweet reasonableness who has the capacity of seeing things from another’s point of view. Such an attitude would help immeasurably in achieving peace and unity in a church fellowship.
The exhortation concludes with the simple declaration: “The Lord is at hand.” The significant fact of the Lord’s return mentioned in 3:20 has a tremendous effect on our judgment in matters facing spiritual decision. When problems are viewed from the standpoint of the imminent coming of the Lord, some things that formerly seemed important become unimportant, and others assume larger significance. Matters that pertain to eternity and which have eternal value tend to unify Christians in a common effort for the Lord.
The secret of peace in the church and unity of Spirit in spiritual matters is directly related, however, to peace in the heart of the individual believer. One of the major problems which faces the world in general as well as the individual believer in Christ is the matter of inner adjustment. The world as a whole is characterized by trouble, and problems both real and fancied plague the human heart. The world for all its scientific brilliance, its great scholars, and tremendous advance in many areas, has somehow not achieved a true ground for peace among nations, peace among individuals, or peace in the heart. On every hand there is evident tension and lack of peace is seen in the relationship between nations, the relationship between races, and even in the home. The many panaceas suggested fall far short of meeting the need. It should be obvious to any intelligent child of God that only by application of the Word of God can real peace be achieved. There is no peace for the wicked, and the Scriptures assure us that the way of the transgressor is hard.
It should be kept in mind that in addressing the Philippian church and exhorting them to peace of heart the apostle is building on the assumption that they already have received peace with God through personal faith in Jesus Christ. The only ground for real peace is one of individual relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. The basic requirement includes not only satisfaction of the righteous law of God through justification by faith, but the inner adjustment that is made possible by the new life in Christ Jesus and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who alone can bring peace to troubled hearts.
It is nevertheless true, however, that Christians sometimes fall far short of experiencing the peace that could be theirs in Christ. Many genuine Christians never enter into the truth that God can give them peace, and for this reason they continue in a struggle with a strain and stress which God never intended them to have. Paul had established a standard of peace in the church and the goal of having one mind. Now he desires that Christians should also have the peace of God which passeth understanding.
It is with the purpose that the Philippian believers might know the reality of the peace of God that he exhorts them in verses six and seven: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” In exhorting the Philippian church that they should be careful for nothing, the apostle does not mean that they should be without care or careless. It is rather that they should in nothing be filled with anxious care but rather should present their needs to the Lord in prayer.
Three words are used for prayer. The first is a reference to prayer in general (Gr. proseuche). It is an approach to God which recognizes His infinity, His power, and His majesty. To this is added “supplication” (Gr. deesei) which has the thought of asking for specific things or the presentation of our needs. The third word, “requests,” (Gr. aitemata) is a word which sums up the items included in the two previous words for prayer and implies that divine action in answer to prayer is anticipated. The extent of the prayer life is defined by the phrase “in everything,” constituting an important reminder that lack of peace often results from lack of faithfulness in presenting to God in prayer the little things which constitute the frustrations and annoyances of life. It is only as every need is presented that God is given proper ground for granting peace in every respect. Appending the prayer, however, is the voice of praise indicated in the phrase “with thanksgiving.” This is at once a recognition of the grace of God, but is also the expression of faith that the God who has answered prayer in the past will continue to answer prayer in the future.
The question has often been raised, Why is it necessary to pray if God knows all about our life and our needs? Why is it necessary for the believer to exercise his privilege in prayer? The complete answer may not be given in the Word of God, but it is clear that God expects His children to pray and to present in detail the needs of their lives. It is also clear that the gracious provision of God is sometimes withheld because of failure on the part of the believer to come to God faithfully in prayer. Answers to prayer hang upon a simple human condition: “Let your requests be made known unto God.” This is then eloquently expressed in the familiar hymn: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain, we bear, All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.”
The exhortation is followed by the promise of verse seven: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” It is of course true that much can be learned by the application of ordinary psychology to the mental and intellectual problems of life. Undoubtedly Christians do not always employ common sense in approaching their problems. Sometimes even those who are not Christians can achieve a relatively sane attitude toward life and an adjustment to their difficult circumstances even apart from divine enablement.
In this passage, however, Paul is not referring to a peace of God which is derived from human reasoning or proper application of psychology. He specifically claims that the peace of God is an experience over and beyond any ordinary step toward mental health. It is not simply a balanced mind or looking at life from the standpoint of common sense. It is not to be defined as reducing our problems to proper dimensions and taking steps to solve them. Here he is talking about a peace that defies the psychologist, a peace which is beyond human understanding, a peace that is contradiction to common sense. It is a peace that can be achieved in the midst of trouble with problems unsolved, with the future unknown. It is the kind of peace that keeps not only the heart, the seat of human personality and feelings of love and emotions, but it keeps also our minds.
As the child of God faces the intellectual problems of life, the decisions that must be made and situations for which there does not seem to be any reasonable solution, he can still have the peace that passeth understanding. It is not derived from unusual analysis of his problems, nor peculiar insight. It is a peace which passeth understanding which is derived through his relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. Though the unbelieving world and many false religions offer a counterfeit peace, there is no substitute or equal to the peace of God. It is the fruit of the Spirit, a heart at rest in complete confidence, fellowship, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is truly a peace of God, not a peace of man. It is the right and privilege of every child of God to have this blessed experience.
In verses eight and nine of the fourth chapter of Philippians the apostle unfolds the doctrine of peace as it relates to the believer’s fellowship with the Lord. Though every Christian has peace with God in the sense that he is in Christ and no longer at emnity with God, many times that experience of peace does not include as it should a proper relationship experimentally with the Lord. The life of peace has not only the factors of faith and trust and resulting tranquillity of soul, but it involves also great moral issues without which there can be no experience of peace.
It is with this thought that the apostle exhorts the church at Philippi in verses eight and nine in these words: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, 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. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” It is clear from this exhortation that the experience of peace in our relationship to God involves a mental approach and a moral life that is in contrast to that of the world.
Paul begins by mentioning that our minds should be fixed on that which is true in contrast to that which is false, on things that are honest or honorable, on things that are just or right, on things that are pure in a moral sense, on things that are lovely, that is, attractive to the spiritual mind, on things of good report, that is, things that are judged good by our fellow Christians. If there is any virtue, i.e., moral excellence or any item worthy of praise, these should be the objects of our meditation. In a word, the apostle exhorts the Philippian believers to being occupied mentally with the things of God, thereby providing the proper soil for the nurture of the soul and the experience of the peace of God. Further, he concludes that they should follow the example of Paul and do those things which they have learned, received, heard, and seen in him. He assures them that if they follow this instruction and this program of life that the God of peace would be with them. He does not imply that these are necessary to avoid abandonment by God, but it is rather that God would manifest Himself to them as the giver of perfect peace.
In the upper room the Lord told His disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” These memorable words define what is meant by the peace of God. Christ in the shadow of the cross, in the hour of great agony of soul as He contemplated becoming the sin offering for the whole world, could nevertheless speak of “my peace.” He referred to the peace of God, that peace which rests in unlimited measure in the heart of God and is realized by the believer as he puts confidence in a God of wisdom, a God of love, and a God of power. It is a peace that comes from dependence upon a God who knows the end from the beginning, who does all things well, and will not permit in the life of His children anything that will not work out for eternal good. The peace of God, which is described by Paul as beyond understanding, becomes the possession of the child of God when he is willing to rest his burden with the Lord and find the divine grace which is bestowed through the Holy Spirit.
In the closing portion of his Epistle to the Philippians, the apostle discusses the main purpose and occasion of the epistle, that is, the recognition of the gift the Philippian church had sent to him by the hands of Epaphroditus. His joy at their gift and the thoughtfulness and love it reflected is described and made the occasion for a discussion of the proper attitude of a Christian toward physical things. He opens the discussion in verse ten by writing: “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.”
It might have been expected that the Philippian church would have communicated to Paul’s needs if he had been in jail at Philippi, but the long distance between Philippi and Rome did not give them opportunity to minister to him, and it is to this he refers. The fact that they had gone to such effort to send him an offering by the hand of one of their beloved brethren in the church at Philippi touched Paul’s heart and gave him great encouragement in the lonely hours of his imprisonment.
Paul wants, however, to make it plain to the Philippian church that his joy is not occasioned primarily by the physical benefit he derived. It would not have been impossible for him to go on without their help. Therefore he is careful to state in verses eleven and twelve: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both20 to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
As is made clear by the life and testimony of the Apostle Paul, these words are not an idle boast, but a sober statement of life principle. In many years of suffering deprivation because of his loyalty to the Lord, he had learned to adjust to any situation and to be content with it as that which God had provided for him. In his experience he had had all the vicissitudes of life. He had on occasion been abased, and on others had abounded. At times he had had plenty, and at other times had been hungry and suffered need. The apostle is mentioning this not only to clarify his own motives in receiving their gift but also in the hope that they would share with him the same attitude toward life. The secret of his contentment was not simply resolution of character, but is revealed in verse thirteen in the simple affirmation: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened! me.” In other words, his ability to withstand suffering and endure privation did not arise in his own character, but instead was a testimony to the power and grace of Christ operating in him.
Though he was sufficient by the grace of God to do without things when this was necessary, he wanted it to be understood that this was accomplished by the power of Christ which was also available to them.
In verse fourteen he assures them that nevertheless God was working in their loving gift which they had communicated to him. He writes: “Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.” The word translated “communicate” has the thought of fellowship or sharing. Through their gift they had not only communicated to Paul a share of their temporal goods, but had in measure shared with him his trials.
The gift of the Philippian church was all the more remarkable because it was not the first gift they had sent. He bears testimony in verse fifteen to their earlier love gifts: “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.” In verse sixteen he mentions that while he was in Thessalonica, even though his stay there was so short, they had sent more than one gift. “For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.” Considering the many friends of the Apostle Paul and the many churches to which he ministered, it is no less than remarkable that none of them undertook to care for Paul in temporal things like the Philippian church. It therefore was not simply the physical benefit that was derived, but the thoughtfulness and love which it reflected that moved the Apostle Paul to write these tender words of appreciation.
In discussing the matter the apostle again makes clear that it is not the gift in which he is interested primarily, but in the giver. In verse seventeen he wrote: “Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.” Then, lest it should be thought that the apostle was indulging in any self-pity, he describes their offering in glowing terms as having met completely his need. “But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.” It would seem to indicate from this description that their gift was a generous one and one that met his immediate financial needs, but Paul is mostly concerned with the nature of the offering which he describes as an odor of sweet smell, an acceptable sacrifice, and one that is well-pleasing to God, and similar to the sweet-savor offerings of the Old Testament. Paul uses the same expression for sacrifices that are well-pleasing to God as is mentioned in Hebrews 13:16.
If the Philippian church is here commended because of its gift to the Apostle Paul, it should be clear that the principle of faithful stewardship on the part of churches in support of Christian workers is also commended. Though sacrifice is inevitable in any true service for God, it is not to be one-sided. Those who dedicate their lives like Paul should not be expected to bear a disproportionate share of the sacrifice, but the churches that are served or represented by the Lord’s servant should, like the church at Philippi bring their offerings as an acceptable sacrifice in which God is well pleased. Such an offering as described is similar to the sweet savor which ascended from the altar of sacrifice or the altar of incense and was accepted by God as a most commendable work. It is remarkable that a God who possesses all earthly things can be impressed by the temporal gifts of His children. It is not the amount or character of the gift that is important. It is the love and devotion it reflects. In giving a love token to one of infinite wealth the value of the gift is insignificant. The thoughtfulness, love, and motives that prompt the gift are by far more important. The widow’s mite is noticed by an infinite God who ignores the gifts without sacrifice of the rich.
Though Paul could give to the Philippian church no monetary gift in return, he gives them a promise worth infinitely more as recorded in verses nineteen and twenty: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” The Philippian church had been faithful with what God had committed to them. Now they were given in return the promise that God would supply their needs.
One of the questions which face all donors who give of their substance to the Lord is whether they will ever need it themselves. To human wisdom the future is unknown, and there may be troubles and unexpected needs ahead. Every act of giving is by its very nature an act of faith. The Philippians are assured that their act of faith will be rewarded. God will supply all their needs. This does not mean necessarily that they would be unduly wealthy, but that there would be manifested in their physical as well as their spiritual lives the evident supply of the Lord.
There is no better way to be assured of God’s care in the future on the part of the child of God than to have the conviction that he is being faithful with what God is giving to him at the present. God may not always award His children distinctive temporal gifts, but it is impossible to be a faithful steward without just recompense from a faithful God. God may not give us all our desires or even what we consider to be wants, but He will supply our needs.
The pattern of divine giving is also stated graphically in this passage as being according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. It is another way of saying that God will give according to His own infinite ability to give, according to His infinite love, and according to His infinite grace. Though all we give to God necessarily has been given to us by God and we are only stewards of all we possess, it is nevertheless true that God will repay a hundredfold every act of devotion, every gift of sacrifice, and that He will pay accounts in full, not only in this life but in the life to come. Both the gift and its reward, however, fit into the larger pattern of bringing glory to the Lord, and with this he concludes the exhortation of the book: “Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
In the closing verses of this epistle Paul addresses greetings to the saints: “Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Though many of Paul’s friends were far removed from him in distance, he was not without fellowship with the believers in Rome. These brethren joined with him in greetings to the Philippian church. Of particular interest, however, is the fact that joining with the others are some who are members of Caesar’s household, undoubtedly trophies of grace won through his faithful witness as a prisoner in the city of Rome. They too sent their greetings to the Philippian church as if to say that their presence is another evidence of the faithfulness of God in using the witness of the apostle.
As Paul closes the epistle he pronounces the usual benediction: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Above all else he wanted the grace of God to be experienced by the Philippian church, to be manifested in their lives and testimony, and to cause the fruit of the gospel to abound in them.
19 Gr. Stephanos, a crown given to a victor in an athletic contest to be contrasted to diadema, the crown of a ruler.
20 Gr. memuemai, to learn or be initiated in a secret, to be initiated.