3. Philippians 1
Greetings, grace, and peace
Paul15 seems to have initiated the ministry in Philippi as recorded in Acts 16. This idea is supported by Paul's comments in 1:5 and 4:15 where he reminds them of their support since the early days of his missionary ministry in that region.
Timothy was there in Philippi with Paul in Acts 16. According to Acts 19:22 and 20:1-6 Timothy also made other trips to Macedonia. In fact in Philippians 2:20-22 we learn that Timothy was well known to the Philippian congregation. While Timothy may have done the actual physical writing of this epistle,16 the singular verbs and pronouns Paul uses17 and Paul's commendation of Timothy in 2:19-24 show that Paul alone was the actual author of the letter.
In the Old Testament, Moses and other prophets might be referred to as slaves. If in using this term18 Paul was thinking of that connection, then he may have indirectly been claiming parity with those Old Testament leaders. However, that is unlikely given that in the near context he does not even call himself an apostle, and in the broader context of this letter, Paul stresses humility.19
In the Greek world of that era, as perhaps throughout history, slaves had severely limited civil rights, and were often simply considered human property which was to be used for the owner's purposes and profit.
The members of the congregation in Philippi are called holy ones, or “saints.”20 It is important to remember that they are holy not at all because of their careful religious life, but purely because the holiness of Jesus Christ is given to everyone that has believed in Him. Giving this status does not compromise the justice of God, because our unholiness was sufficiently punished when Christ Jesus, who was perfectly holy, died on the cross.
The word here translated guardians21 is often translated “overseer,” which reflects the literal meaning of “one who looks upon.” However, the reader should also understand that the term carried the sense of guardian. For instance, using this term, pagan deities in that era were sometimes called upon to be guardians of agreements, that is they were to “look upon” the situation so that the agreement was kept.22 These guardians that Paul addresses are guardians of the apostolic traditions, guardians that see to it that the church believes and lives in accord with the teachings of the Word of God.
Besides the guardians, Paul also singles out the servants of the congregation. Used 29 times in the New Testament, this word23 can simply have the general meaning of servant. John 2:5 speaks of the servants at the wedding in Cana, and Matthew 23:11 says, “The greatest among you shall be your servant.” Christ is a servant of the Jews in Romans 15:8, Paul and others are servants of the New Covenant in 2 Corinthians 3:6, Paul is a servant of God in 2 Corinthians 6:4, and a servant of the Gospel in Ephesians 3:7. In 2 Corinthians 11:23 others are referred to as servants of Christ.
Three or four times in the New Testament this term has a narrow technical sense, referring as here to officers in a local church, sometimes simply transliterated from the Greek as “deacons.” Although this term does not appear in Acts 6:1-7, the related words translated “service” and “serve” do appear there, so those events seem to have been the starting point for what became the formal church office of “deacon.” Here in the opening lines of Philippians, Paul endorses this office by highlighting them with the guardians in his greeting. By especially greeting the guardians and servants Paul honors them, but he also especially calls upon them to apply this letter to their hearts and to the life of the congregation under their care.24
1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul transforms the standard greeting of a Greek letter into a blessing of Christian grace upon his readers.25 Peace is of course a normal Hebrew greeting. These are not merely empty words or useless tradition. Paul is somehow giving a greeting that conveys grace and peace to his readers. May our words likewise convey grace and peace!
Even though this greeting does actually bring a measure of grace and peace, throughout this letter, and especially in chapter three and in 4:4-9, Paul teaches the reader how to experience the grace and peace of God, and how to better know the God of peace.
I am grateful to God for our long-standing partnership together in Gospel work, which for various reasons I am certain will be ongoing.
In this introduction Paul will not only bring up his main message, but he will also drop hints of all the important things he has to share with them. This passage functions as a “prologue,” and as in normal for Greek letters, introduces the main themes of the letter.26
1:3 I give thanks to my God every time I remember you,
As in all of his letters to the churches except Galatians, Paul expresses thanksgiving to his God. He was really thankful.
1:4 always in my every prayer for you all praying with joy
His thankfulness was consistent and joyful. If we were to take this verse and similar passages in Paul's letters (Romans 1:9; Colossians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2:13; 3:10; 5:17; and 2 Timothy 1:3) literally, we might picture Paul as a hermit that spends every single moment in prayer, a picture contrary to the picture we have of him in Acts. He is using language very familiar to readers of letters in the ancient Greek world. Exaggeration was very normal in such opening greetings. What he is saying is that he is diligent and consistent in praying for them.27
1:5 over your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.
This crucial word28 can be translated “fellowship,” “participation,” “sharing,” or partnership. Early in his introduction Paul brings up this idea, the main message of this letter, which he tastefully develops finally in 4:10-20. He is grateful, not particularly for the money they have sent him, but for their partnership with him in this great and divine Gospel endeavor.29
Concerning this partnership, in chapter 1 alone we see that: it is a long term relationship (1:5), it is a divine and lasting work (1:6), it has Paul’s deep commitment to it (1:7), it is strengthened in prayer (1:9-10), it is to God's glory (1:11), it is prospering despite Paul's chains (1:12-18), it will not be ended by Paul's execution (1:19-26), and it includes suffering (1:27-30).
1:6 I am convinced of this, that the One who began among30 you a good work will bring it to completion all the way until the Day of Christ Jesus.
It was not really Paul that began among them this good work of church planting, but the Lord Himself. Although Paul had to leave Philippi, he is convinced that the Lord will bring this ministry on to completion at the end of the age. The ministry of which they became a part, their Gospel partnership, will certainly not falter. Has not our Lord said, in Matthew 16:18, that He will build His church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it? What they experienced as the Apostle Paul and his team told them the Gospel and discipled them in their new faith was all a part of the work of the Great Commission, and will continue to the end of the age. Although persecution by enemies and seduction by various pleasures might seem to hinder this good work, nothing but the Second Coming at the Day of Christ Jesus will end it.
Of course, Paul does not say that they themselves will be involved in that work until the Second Coming. Even so, this is a tremendous encouragement to them to keep at their ministry partnership with him. He is telling them that this endeavor of which they are a part is not some passing fashion,31 nor does it depend on the whim of an emperor. They are a part of a task that God will continue and perfect all the way to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is a worthy task, and future generations of believers will be called by God to carry it on, all the way until the Day of Christ Jesus. On that great Day, the work will be completed, and the Bride of Christ will be ready for the wedding supper of the Lamb, wearing fine linen, bright and clean. The Lord Himself will bring this good work to completion in that Day, when people from every tribe, language, people, and nation will worship Him.
Some would say that the good work that God began “in” them was their salvation. It is true that we cannot lose our salvation, but that point is not what Paul is making here. If that were what he meant, he would have continued on in verse 7 to say things which he has said elsewhere, like “it is right for me to have this attitude about you all because the salvation that you have is based on the perfect work of the sinless Son of God when He died on the cross. What the Lord Jesus accomplished there, no man, no angel, nothing in all of creation, can undo. It is perfect and eternal.” However, that is not what he gives to justify his assurance of the ongoing nature of the divine work being done among or in them!32 We should read this verse as the words of a visionary missionary convincing his readers about the everlasting importance of Gospel ministry, not the words of a counselor wanting to reassure his readers that they could not lose their salvation.
1:7 It is right of me to have this attitude33 about you all, because I have you in my heart. Both in my chains and also in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel you all are my partners in this grace.
As strange as it may seem to us, the reason it is right for him to have the conviction that God will continue the work of their partnership in the Gospel has to do with emotional loyalty: I have you in my heart. They are beloved partners with him in his Gospel work. He knows their partnership in the Gospel will continue because it is his partnership too!
When he is in chains, when he is defending the Gospel, when he is confirming the Gospel, they are his partners.34 This is both a comfort to the imprisoned missionary and an encouragement to the supporting church. The missionary is comforted by the reminder that although he is far from home and they are far away and he is in distress, his friends stand with him in an important sense. The congregation is encouraged to continue supporting him in the various ways available to them.
While both defense35 and confirmation36 are legal terms, and seem to be references to Paul's legal case, they also seem to refer here to Gospel work. Introduced here, the defense and confirmation of the Gospel are developed in the context of opposition and Paul's life in chapter 3.
This grace is an expression which refers to the Gospel ministry that Paul and the Philippian church are engaged in together. It is an appropriate summary expression because although it is a great deal of work to be involved like this in Gospel ministry, it is fundamentally the grace of God that allows Paul, the Philippians, and us to participate. It is a high privilege, and Paul is delighted that they are with him in it!
1:8 For God is my witness how I long for you all with the affections of Jesus Christ.37
It is right for him to have this conviction about this ongoing partnership because he loves that congregation with godly longing and affections.38 It is almost as if Paul stubbornly refuses to release them from this partnership!
Having written of his love for them, he will turn to the subject of their love.
1:9 And this I pray, that your love will still more and more abound in knowledge and all insight,
Another reason why it is right for him to have his conviction about this ongoing partnership is because he is praying for them, particularly that their love would abound. This prayer is so appropriate, because it was this very love that motivated them to this Gospel ministry partnership with Paul in the first place! He is praying that they will have a stronger and wiser love, thus becoming stronger and wiser in their commitment to their ministry partnership in the Gospel. This Gospel ministry is driven by love and it is demonstrated by the brothers in 1:17, in contrast to those lacking love in 1:16.39
1:10 so that you can discern the things that really matter,40 so that you might be sincere and blameless into the day of Christ,
The Apostle Paul certainly believes with all his heart that as the Lord answers this prayer, they will see that the very things they are accomplishing together in their Gospel partnership are indeed the things that really matter. He would not be pouring out his life like a drink offering in order to develop their faith and the faith of other congregations if he did not believe this unreservedly.
The things that really matter concern the Gospel prospering in human hearts. The expression literally translated would be “the things that carry through.” They “carry through” the ages. This is because we human beings are a beloved everlasting creation, precious in God's eyes, whose own sin would have doomed us to a horrible eternity were it not for the Gospel. Only if the death of Christ is applied to our personal sin problem can we escape everlasting punishment, and much more than that, enjoy an incredibly wonderful eternity. After all is said and done, after all our big and little successes and failures, after all our labors and entertainment, after all our pains and joys, after all our thoughts, words, and actions, what lasts forever is the Gospel ministry accomplished in sincere gratitude to the Lord.
If they have such discernment and consistently act upon it, then41 they will be sincere and blameless into the day of Christ. All that believe in the Lord Jesus have His perfect righteousness before God, but that imputed righteousness does not seem to be in view here. The righteousness that Paul writes about here would be realized if Paul's prayer for them is answered, and their love abounds still more and more in knowledge and all insight. If that happens, and they truly discern the things that really matter, then they will enjoy this sincerity and blamelessness. In Paul's experience in chains, this would be unlike the brothers in 1:16; in the congregation's experience, this would be unlike the false teachers in 3:1.
1:11 being filled with the fruit of righteousness which is through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God.
If Paul's prayer is answered, and if they then know what really matters and acting upon that insight become pure and blameless all the way to the Day of Christ, in other words if Paul succeeds in praying them into greater commitment to their Gospel ministry partnership, not only will they be sincere and blameless at that Day, they will also be full of fruit! They will have a fruitful life and a fruitful ministry behind them, empowered by the Lord, bringing praise and glory to God. That is a good way to appear before the King as He decides what sort of rewards to distribute to His loyal subjects. In 2:14-18 as he is again urging them to “hold fast to the word of life” he explains that that will result in him having “a reason to boast that he did not run in vain nor labor in vain.” In 4:1 Paul boldly speaks of the boasting that he will have before the Lord in that Day because they, his “joy and crown,” are doing so well.
So, loving you as I do, and with your interest in our work together in the Gospel, this is my ministry report to you: even though I am in chains, our Gospel work is as fruitful as ever.
1:12 Now I want you to know, brothers,42 that my circumstances have actually turned out for the advancement of the Gospel,
As he turns for the moment to his side of the Gospel partnership, he first wants his partners to fully understand that what has happened to him was not a surprise to the Lord of the Harvest, and is being used by Him to advance the Gospel. This is very important to the relationship, because they are his well loved partners in his Gospel ministry, and the last thing he wants is for the congregation to come to the conclusion that because he is in chains the ministry that is “through Jesus Christ” has somehow been successfully opposed. Indeed it has not been stymied at all, and Paul himself values this despite the dreadfulness of his situation, because he knows how important the Gospel work is. Paul can write this only because he himself has come to discern “the things that really matter,” thas is, the Gospel prospering in human hearts.
1:13 so that it has become obvious among the whole imperial guard43 and all the others that my chains are for Christ.
His imprisonment has been working out for the advancement of their Gospel partnership in two ways. The first is that people all around, including all the guards that are assigned to guard him every day, every hour, throughly understand that he has been imprisoned because of Christ and the Gospel. As we and the original readers know, this apostle preaches the Gospel even when imprisoned.
1:14 Also, most of the brothers in the Lord, persuaded by my chains, are even more bold to fearlessly speak the Word.
The second way he has discerned that his imprisonment is working out for the advancement of the Gospel is that the believers there in Rome, seeing him imprisoned, are getting bolder in their preaching. Perhaps some of them are thinking, “If Paul can trust the Lord and be so bold in the very hands of those Roman guards, should I not trust the Lord for my safety while no Romans guards are around?” Paul's example influenced them to greater Gospel ministry.
1:15 On the one hand, some of them are preaching Christ because of envy and rivalry, others because of good will.
But Paul knows there are two kinds of Gospel preachers out there. Although the idea of preaching Christ because of envy and rivalry might sound strange to some, Paul explains what he means in the next two verses.
1:16 The former are preaching Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to bring on trouble in my chains,
Paul does not object to the content of their message, only to their motives, so we should not assume these were Judaizers. These were real Christian preachers overcome with selfish ambition.44 Perhaps in their ambition they had such a low view of God's perfect sovereignty that they thought they could get that rival preacher out of the way permanently if they brought enough of the local population to faith in Christ!
Some of those that were preaching boldly out there in response to Paul's imprisonment were doing so because of a conviction that the Lord has allowed him to be imprisoned as a part of the divine plan. Their love was abounding still more and more, and they too knew what it is that really matters.47
1:18 What then? Only that in every way, whether with false motive or true, Christ is preached. And in this I rejoice. Furthermore I shall rejoice,
As he rejoices that Christ is preached, Paul is showing the readers that he does understand what really matters. The ambitious motive of some is of no concern to this slave of Christ Jesus.
Are you worried about me, your mission partner, being executed? Dying would be gain for me, but somehow I feel sure I'll live, for your advancement in the Gospel.
Some of Paul's readers may have felt that it is all very well that this is the Lord's good plan, but how is Paul doing there? Is he going to survive?
Not only does he rejoice that Christ is preached, whether from a good heart or a bad heart, he also has assurance that through their prayers and the work of the Spirit that very preaching will result in his deliverance.
One of the aspects of their partnership in the Gospel work is that they are praying for him, just as he is praying for them. Paul is convinced that their prayers will be answered. Paul believed in the power of prayer, and the power of the God he served. His assurance of deliverance50 is exactly the opposite of what some of those preachers were hoping for as they sought to stir up trouble for him. Paul was assured that he would be delivered, but what sort of deliverance was he writing of here? As the congregation read verse 19 they probably thought that Paul was writing about being freed from his chains because of their prayers. However, a closer looks shows that he is assured of deliverance as a result of his rejoicing in the Gospel being preached, whether from false motives or true motives. He clarifies the nature of this deliverance in the next verse.
1:20 This is in line with51 my eager expectation and hope, that I will not be ashamed in anything, but as always in all boldness now also I will magnify Christ with my body, whether by life or by death.
Paul is in chains for Christ, and therefore faces the temptation to deny his Lord in exchange for freedom. The deliverance that he is assured of must be understood in accord with his overriding eager expectation and hope that he will continue to boldly glorify the Lord by life or by death. In other words, he has assurance that he has set his joy in the right place, so their prayers will be answered for him and he will be delivered from the temptation to dishonor his Lord in exchange for physical freedom. His heart is still set in accord with his life principle of glorifying the Lord regardless of the expectation of life or death. Paul is not considering denying Christ. He would much rather die. The deliverance he writes of in verse 19 is deliverance from failure to magnify Christ with his body, whether by life or by death.52
1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
In this simple statement, the Apostle reveals the depths of his love for the Lord. This sentence, beginning with the word for, is an explanation of the life principle he gave in the previous verse, that in life and in death he wants to glorify Christ. That is the only deliverance that matters to Paul. Even so, in verse 25 we understand that he was sure he would survive because that would be better for his partners, the congregation in Philippi. Nevertheless that is secondary to the simple fact that while he is alive he is dedicated to Christ, and when he dies it is for his gain.53 Expressions of the themes of life and death alternate back and forth in verses 20-24.54
In this attitude about life and death, he is urging his partners not to be anxious about his safety.55
Paul is so committed to the partnership relationships that he has, which call him to fruitful work, that he is torn between that and the gain of being with Christ.
1:23 So I am torn58 between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, which would be very much better,
Here Paul explains a little of what he meant by “to die is gain” in verse 21. He is assured that dying, a very real possibility when imprisoned awaiting a Roman trial, would mean being with Christ,59 and that is very much better.
1:24 but staying on in the flesh is more necessary, because of you.
Paul puts their interests above his own personal preference, as he will teach them to do. He is committed to his Gospel partnership with them as long as the Lord gives him life.
1:25 So, convinced of this, I know that I shall remain, and remain on with all of you for your advancement and joy in the faith,
Here Paul expresses confidence that indeed the Lord will grant him to live and serve together with them in the Gospel partnership.60 Paul summarizes his ministry with them with the term advancement,61 and the expression joy in the faith. Although it is not the central theme of this letter, joy is an important element in this letter. Paul will help his ministry partners find their joy in their faith later on in chapter 3, which is all an explanation of what 3:1 means with the command to rejoice in the Lord. See the notes on 2:2 below for more on the theme of joy in this letter.
The Pastoral Epistles, including 1 Timothy 1:3 and some historical records outside the New Testament, seem to indicate that Paul was freed from his first Roman imprisonment and was able to travel to Macedonia (and most likely Philippi) before being imprisoned again and martyred.62
1:26 so that your boast63 might abound in Christ Jesus by me through my presence again with you.
If he can remain on with all of them, so they advance and grow in joy in the faith, this will result in their boast abounding in Christ Jesus.
People do boast, it is a normal human activity to take pride in particular things, abilities, and relationships.64 Paul wants to be there with them in Philippi to help them boast in Christ Jesus, and not in any religious compliance like the Galatians. Their boast abounding in Christ Jesus will be the result of their “advancement and joy in the faith” that Paul wanted to shape in them. He will do that very thing in this letter,65 but in the case of the Philippian congregation the written communication was meant to be accompanied by Paul's personal presence and ministry. The expression that your boast might abound in Christ Jesus would be an excellent summary of the entire purpose of Gospel ministry, and is wonderfully spoken of in Jeremiah 9:23-24, in which the LORD says “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom. And let not the mighty man boast in his might. Let not the rich man boast in his riches. But let him who boasts, boast this: that he understands and knows Me; that I, the LORD, make lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on the earth, that in these things I delight.”
Now, if we are partners in the Gospel, and such is my willingness to keep on living for you, I can ask you to stand firm and suffer with me for Him.
This call for Paul’s Gospel partners to be united and steadfast introduces chapters 2 and 3, where the Philippians will learn that the best Gospel partners humbly put the interests of others ahead of their own, and that steadfastness in glorying in Christ rather than in any human achievement characterizes the hearts of strong Gospel partners.
1:27 Only live your lives66 in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether coming and seeing you or being away I will hear concerning you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, struggling together67 as one for the faith of the Gospel,68
Paul has been writing about his own situation there in chains, and whether he would be freed or executed. Now he shifts his attention to the congregation in Philippi, the other side of the partnership, so to speak. He insists that whether he is freed so he can minister to them face to face or he stays under house arrest, they need to conduct their lives appropriately.
Living our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel is a common theme for Paul, as in Romans 12:1 and Ephesians 4:1. It is true that in the life of faith crises arise in which we need to pray and believe God in a dramatic situation that can only be resolved as an answer to prayer, but that life of faith is more especially a calling to live out our daily routine in a manner worthy of the Gospel. That means that our thoughts, attitudes, words, and deeds all take place in recognition of the truth of the Gospel, and are consistent with the Gospel. This requires faith, wisdom, and discipline. It also requires the help of other believers.
As this verse points out, people that live their lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ are doing that in unity with other believers. They are standing firm in one spirit, struggling together as one, not alone in study and meditation, but in the community of the Body of Christ. A plant that has healthy roots in good soil can thrive in the garden because of those roots. In the same way a believer lives in the world in a manner worthy of the Gospel because of the strength he gains in a healthy unified church.
This is the first indication that there is opposition which they need to struggle against. This is more developed in the next verse and in chapter 3.
Paul has not diverted from his central message of Gospel partnership. Their struggle is for the faith of the Gospel. If they walk worthily, then they will be effective Gospel partners with him.
1:28 and do not be afraid of anything from those that oppose you.69 This on the one hand will be evidence to them of destruction,70 and on the other hand71 to you of deliverance,72 and that73 from God.
The missionary that wrote these verses had learned a great deal about suffering during the course of his ministry, and at this point he gives some of that insight to the congregation. He wants them to understand that their lack of fear towards their enemies should be compelling evidence of the fact that God is with the congregation and will bring destruction upon its enemies. Likewise their lack of fear is evidence that this God that gives such peace will also deliver the congregation from dishonoring God, the same deliverance Paul was assured of for himself in 1:19-20.
Just as the fearlessness of the congregation is on the one hand evidence of destruction to the enemies and on the other hand evidence of deliverance to the congregation, so in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 the aroma of Christ is on the one hand the smell of death to those that are perishing and on the other hand the smell of life to those that are being saved.
1:29 This is because to you it has been given on behalf Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him,
The opposition they are facing should not cause them to fear, because that opposition, that suffering, has been given74 to them by Christ. Just as our believing in Christ is a gift of God’s grace, so is the suffering we endure for Him. He grants the one for our eternal salvation, and the other for our present sanctification and to bring Gospel salvation to others. We are urged to be thankful for the second of these grace gifts in several passages including Matthew 5:10-12; Philippians 2:17-18; James 1:2-4; and 1 Peter 4:12-16. In Philippians 3:10 Paul wrote of his longing to know Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the participation in His sufferings.
This verse shows that the Philippian congregation was suffering, apparently from the enemies mentioned in verse 28. Verses 27-29 seem to refer to people that are persecuting the congregation, while 3:2, 4, and 18-19 seem to be warnings of a subtle danger of seduction into a false Gospel at the hands of the Judaizers that dogged Paul's steps in his missionary journeys, whose teachings made such serious inroads into the congregations of Galatia.
1:30 having the same struggle which you saw with me, and now hear about with me.
Opposition does not make Paul afraid, and he invites his partners in Gospel work to take the same attitude. He understands that for himself and for them, it is a gift of God. He has already demonstrated this exact attitude when he wrote in 1:18, “What then? Only that in every way, whether with false motive or true, Christ is preached. And in this I rejoice.” Later in 3:10 we learn that Paul longs to share in Christ's sufferings, the sufferings they are experiencing.
In Acts 16 we read of the initial Gospel ministry in Philippi, and most likely the founding of the Philippian congregation. They saw Paul struggle with opposition then, and as they hear this letter read to them they know he is now struggling with opposition. So their struggle against those that oppose them is a part of their participation with Paul in Gospel ministry. They are partners in Gospel adversity.
The readers of Paul's letter today should likewise not be afraid of adversity in Gospel ministry. These things are a gift from God and are not to be avoided. Partnership in the Gospel is a divine and ongoing work which should not be avoided because of opposition or a fear of loss.
13 This is of course a reference to those that have become holy (ἁγιος/hagios) by believing in Christ Jesus as their Savior, in other words, true Christians.
14 Paul often writes of our being in Christ or in Christ Jesus. This expression speaks of our incorporation with Him, our unity with Him. All aspects of our being should be connected with the fact that the Father has drawn us into a profoundly deep relationship with Christ Jesus (O'Brien, p. 46).
15 Like many of his Jewish contemporaries, Saul used a Greek name that sounded similar to his Hebrew name when he was in Greek contexts. Likewise Silas would use the name Silvanus, and a man named Jesus would use the name Jason (O'Brien, p. 44, quoting Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 314-315).
16 We know from passages like Gal. 6:11 that Paul may have followed the common custom of dictating his letters.
17 For instance he says, “I thank my God” rather than “We thank our God” in 1:3.
19 O'Brien, p. 45.
22 BDAG ad loc
24 O'Brien, p. 50.
25 Χαιρειν/chairein, “to greet,” becomes χαρις/charis, grace.
26 Swift, in his perceptive article in Bibliotheca Sacra 141:563 (Jul 84) p. 237, quotes Schubert who says, “Generally speaking it may be said that the Pauline thanksgivings… serve as a rather formal introduction to the body of the letter.”
27 O'Brien, p. 57.
28 This word, κοινωνια/koinōnia, and very closely related words, are also found in 1:7; 2:1; 3:10; 4:14 and 4:15. In 2:1 and 3:10 this word has a more general meaning of “fellowship” or “sharing,” but all the other four uses directly relate to this Gospel partnership which is introduced here in the fifth verse of the letter, and is the central theme of the letter. See also endnote 225.
29 While it is true that some have translated this expression “fellowship in the Gospel” and interpreted it to refer to their faith in the contents of the Gospel, so that Paul is rejoicing in his prayers that they are believers, that interpretation ignores the use of the κοινωνια/koinōnia family of words in this letter, particularly in 4:15, “…when I went out from Macedonia, not one church partnered with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you only….”
30 Εν/en can mean “in” or among.
31 Here Paul says that the Gospel work will go on through time to the end of the age. In a similar manner in Col. 1:6 he writes, “…in the whole world this Gospel is bearing fruit and growing….” The Gospel which those two congregations came to believe is not peculiar to their area or to their age.
32 For a detailed study of this question, see “Does Philippians 1:6 Guarantee Progressive Sanctification?” by John F. Hart in The Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, 9:1, Spring 1996, pp. 37-58 and 9:2, Autumn 1996, pp. 33-60.
33 See the explanation of this verb, φρονεω/phroneō, in endnote 84 concerning 2:5.
34 Paul stresses this partnership relationship even more strongly by using the term συγκοινωνος/sugkoinōnos, which is a combination of συν/sun and κοινωνος/koinōnos, so that they are his “with-partners.”
37 Three ancient manuscripts read “Christ Jesus,” but the majority read Jesus Christ. This difference is not particularly significant.
38 Paul uses the term σπλαγχνον/splagchnon, which literally referred to entrails or viscera (as in Acts 1:18) but in the New Testament almost always refers to love, sympathy, affection, or compassion. The term is used again in 2:1, “affection.”
39 “The Theme and Structure of Philippians,” by Robert C. Swift, p. 239, Bibliotheca Sacra, 141:563, July 1984. This article strongly supports the central thesis of this commentary, which is that Gospel Partnership is the central core and unifying concept of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
40 Translated here as the things that really matter, this expression (τα διαφεροντα/ta diapheronta) would be translated literally as “the things that carry through.” That literal meaning is present in Mk. 11:16. Paul prays they will know what things really “carry through” the ages, what things last and really matter.
41 Although in translation the expression so that appears twice in this verse, those two expressions are not the same in Greek. The first one is literally “into your discerning...” (using the Greek preposition εις/eis) and the second one is as translated, so that you might be sincere (using the Greek preposition ἱνα/hina). By this we can see that these two purposes are not simply parallel, but the second needs the first. In other words, if they will discern, then they can be sincere.
42 Because the Greek term αδελφοι/adelphoi can certainly include women, some recent translators have used the expression “brothers and sisters.” However, the Greek term αδελφοι/adelphoi does not stress the specific inclusion of women like the expression “brothers and sisters” would. Therefore the translation brothers is retained, with the note that the Greek term here and in 3:11, 13, 17; 4:1, and 8 includes women, referring in fact to the whole Philippian congregation. It is unclear whether there were any women among the αδελφοι/adelphoi emboldened “to fearlessly speak the Word” in 1:14.
43 This term, πραιτωριον/praitōrion, is borrowed from Latin where it originally meant “the tent of the praetor in camp and its surroundings.” Although some would say it refers to one of several buildings, there is no substantial evidence of that usage, and in this context it seems to refer to people, not a building. If Paul was imprisoned in Rome, it would refer to the imperial guard, consisting of about 9000 men. If it was in some other city, then the term refers to everyone living in the Roman governor's residence (BDAG ad loc).
44 Aristotle used this word with the meaning of selfish ambition. It is possible that by the time of the New Testament it came to mean “strife,” but selfish ambition seems to be a more likely translation.
45 There is an interesting contrast of verbs here. The selfish brothers suppose (οιομαι/oiomai) they can bring trouble on Paul, while the loving brothers know (οιδα/oida) that God has put Paul there for the Gospel (O'Brien, ad loc).
46 This common verb, κειμαι/keimai, has the literal idea of “being set or laid somewhere,” as in Mt. 3:10, but here as in 1 Thes. 3:3 it has the idea of being appointed or “destined” for something.
47 Oddly, three very ancient manuscripts from the fourth and fifth centuries have verses 16 and 17 in the reverse order, but the order of these two verses presented here is the order which they have in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts. The meaning of course remains the same.
48 This word for prayer is also used twice in 1:4 and once in 4:6.
49 The word here translated support (επιχορηγιας/epichorēgias) could refer to gifts or grants for the benefit of a city, but it came to have a more general meaning of gift, grant, or support.
50 The word translated deliverance (σωτηρια/sōtēria) is also the normal word for eternal salvation as in Eph. 1:13, but here it seems to have the more common meaning of deliverance, as in Acts 27:34. O'Brien (ad loc) says it refers to Paul being vindicated at the judgment seat of Christ.
51 This verse begins with the preposition κατα/kata, which here means “in accord with.” It is not translated in the NIV, the NET, or the NRSV, but in the KJV and the NASV it is translated “according to.” It is here translated this is in line with.
52 Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege, p. 97.
53 Paul will develop this theme of gain or reward in 1:21; 3:11-14; 4:1 and 17.
54 O'Brien, ad loc.
55 The detrimental effects of that kind of worry is well illustrated in the case of Epaphroditus in 2:25-30, especially the end of verse 28.
56 The term used is σαρξ/sarx rather than σωμα/sōma, meaning “body,” perhaps to emphasize the present mortal frailness of all humanity or the weakness Paul felt in his own life and ministry.
57 Literally “fruit of work.” The word “fruit” (καρπος/karpos) can be used figuratively to mean “profit” as in 4:17.
58 The literal meaning of the verb συνεχω/sunechō is “to have together,” or in effect, “to press together,” as in Lk. 8:45. This verse might also be translated “I am pressed between the two….” Paul experienced real stress in living with this tension.
59 To interpret this expression we need to answer the question, “What is the status of Christians between the moment of one's death and the resurrection of the righteous at the end of the age?” The possible NT answers to that question are either: 1) as spirits, without physical bodies, conscious and in the presence of the Lord or 2) as unconscious spirits without physical bodies. It is often assumed that this verse and 2 Cor. 5:8 (“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord”) point to the first answer, meaning that when a born again Christian dies, he is immediately transferred into the presence of the Lord. However, it is possible that these two verses simply mean that once he dies his next conscious experience will be with Christ, but that experience actually takes place at the end of the age, just before all the living believers are brought to be with the Lord. Paul comforted the Thessalonians with the fact that the dead in Christ will precede living believers into the presence of the Lord (1 Thes. 4:13-18). If 1) above is correct, the only comfort in this is that they will get bodies first, because they are already with the Lord. If 2) above is correct, it would seem like a greater comfort: believers that die before the end of the age will see the Lord and be given resurrection bodies before living believers. Also, in 1 Cor. 15 Paul teaches how wonderful the resurrection at the end of the age is. If 1) above is true, the resurrection's personal significance is reduced, because believers that have already died already enjoy the presence of the Lord. It would seem that 2) above harmonizes Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8; 1 Thes. 4:13-18; and 1 Cor. 15 in that when a believer dies, his or her next conscious experience is in the presence of the Lord, but that event, the resurrection of the dead in Christ, does not actually occur until the end of the age, just before living believers are brought up to be with the Lord. Also, if 2) above is correct, then the common NT expression for believers that have died, that they are “asleep," (Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Cor. 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20; 1 Thes. 4:13, 14, and 15) is a fitting figure of speech, but if 1) is correct, one wonders why people that are presently experiencing the presence of the Lord are said to be “asleep."
60 The source of this confidence seems to be his faith and the “inner dialog” that he has shared with his readers in the last several verses (O'Brien, ad loc). If the source of this conviction had been a revelation, it would have been appropriate for him to share that as well with his readers.
61 This same word, advancement, was used in 1:12.
62 EBC ad loc. lists Clement of Rome's First Epistle to the Corinthians ch. 5, the Muratorian Canon, and Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History II.2.
63 Καυχημα/kauchēma can mean “something one takes pride in,” or, less often, “the act of taking pride in something” (as in 1 Cor. 5:6), so that the translation boast is appropriate. This word is used in the NT of an improper boast (Rom. 4:2), but more frequently of a good boast (one can boast properly of Christ and salvation in Him as in Phil. 1:26 and Heb. 3:6, or in one's successful ministry, as in 1 Cor. 9:15; 2 Cor. 9:3; Gal. 6:4; and Phil. 2:16). The related verb is used five times in the Greek OT in Jer. 9:23-24, which says, “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.” Strangely, in Phil. 1:26 the KJV and the NIV avoid the concept by using the terms “rejoicing” or “joy.” The NET uses the expression “what you can be proud of,” and the ESV uses the term “glory.”
64 Homer's Iliad and Odyssey were by far the two most dominant Greek epics for over a thousand years. The plot of the Iliad centers on Achilles' anger when a slave girl is taken from him by King Agamemnon. The reason this mattered so much to Achilles was that the slave girl was, so to speak, one of the battle trophies that he boasted in. Achilles' boast was always in the prizes of war that he won by his great battle skill. However, battle skill and the accompanying battle prizes can be taken away from us. If those sorts of temporal things are what we boast in, sooner or later we will find that, like Achilles, our boasting and our joy are gone. Given all the time that Paul spent in Greek society, he would have been familiar with this way of thinking. He also knew Jer. 9:23-24. Paul too had his boasts, but no man could take Paul's boasts away.
65 See the discussion of rejoicing and boasting under 2:2.
66 This verb, πολιτευομαι/politeuomai, can be translated “to be a citizen of,” “to rule,” or “to conduct one's life,” and Paul may have chosen it in light of the high political status of their πολις/polis, their city, as a colony of Rome.
67 This word, συναθλεω/sunathleō, brings an athletic metaphor to healthy church life because the root word, αθλεω/athleō, refers to competition in organized games. It is the source of our word “athletics.”
68 This could also be translated “struggling together as one in Gospel faith.”
69 The word you is supplied for the English translation, but it is not there in the original Greek.
70 This word, απωλεια/apōleia, can refer to the ultimate ruin of eternal damnation, as in Jn. 17:12, or simply decay and ruin in this life, as in Mt. 26:8. It is ambiguous here and in Phil. 3:19.
71 Because of three of four very ancient manuscripts, the Critical Text reads, "This is to them evidence of destruction, but of your salvation…." The majority of manuscripts read "This is on the one hand to them evidence of destruction, but on the other hand to you of salvation…."
72 This word, σωτηρια/sōtēria, is often translated “salvation,” and can refer to eternal salvation from hell. However, here it seems to refer to the same kind of deliverance that Paul was assured of in 1:19-20.
73 Since this word is neuter, unlike evidence, destruction, and deliverance, it cannot refer specifically to any of those nouns, but must refer to the whole concept. It might therefore be translated “and all that from God” (O'Brien, ad loc).
74 This word (χαριζομαι/charizomai) is related to the normal word for “grace,” and this could be translated “you have been graced with….”