See Lesson, Paul the man
See Lesson, Paul's ecclesial letters
Probably written from Rome (Act 28:20), following a visit from
Epaphroditus with a gift to Paul from the ecclesia. A letter of grateful prayers
and positive exhortation to some loving, warm-hearted brethren. Paul is a
prisoner in Rome (Phi 1:7,13,14,16), but his bondage not irksome (cp Phi 2:19,23
wi Act 28:30,31). Paul is facing a trial (Phi 1:19-25), but is optimistic (Phi
2:24). There is a large ecclesia where Paul is (Phi 1:14-17), and a Praetorium
(cp Phi 1:13 wi Act 28:16). The ecclesia has members who are a part of Caesar's
household (Phi 4:22) (BPh 14-16).
Philippi: a Roman colony (Act 16:12). Its citizens were Roman
citizens, a matter of some pride to them.
The letter contains no assertion of Paul's authority, or
apostleship. "Authority is more real when it does not need to be asserted" (BPh
2). Ct, for examples, 2Co 11:23-28; Gal 6:17.
TIMOTHY: Paul's messenger (Phi 2:19-23). Timothy had
been present at the founding of the ecclesia at Philippi (Acts 16:1-12) and on
several subsequent occasions (Acts 19:22; 20:3-6). Perhaps he served as Paul's
amanuensis for the letter.
SERVANTS OF CHRIST JESUS: "Doulos" = bond-slaves. This
description emphasizes submission and dependence on their Lord. It is not a
technical reference to a specific office, but characterizes their willing
service of Christ, their divine Master. The same designation appears in the
letters of James, 2Pe, and Jude.
Man's slave becomes free in Christ, and a freeman (like Paul)
becomes Christ's slave (1Co 7:22).
The use of the term "slaves" also suggests the "redemptive"
work of God in Christ: the Israelites were "slaves" in Egypt, who were "bought"
or "redeemed" out of their slavery to become the "purchased possession" of the
Father (Exo 15:16). (See Lesson, Redemption.)
SAINTS: Gr "hagios", the holy ones! (Always appears in
the plural in the NT: no individual is spoken of as a "saint", singular; but all
believers are "saints", collectively, in Christ!) As God "set apart" or
"sanctified" or "made holy" His people in Egypt (Exo 13:2; Lev 11:44), so NT
believers were "made holy" in Christ.
All believers are "saints" through their spiritual union with
Christ, a fact Paul often expressed by the phrase "in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1,2;
Eph 2:6,10,13; 3:6) or "in Christ" (Rom 12:5; 2Co 5:17). This use of the term
emphasizes not so much personal holiness, though the believer's conduct should
correspond increasingly to his standing (2Co 7:1; 2Th 5:23), but the objective
"set apart" status each believer possesses because of the grace conferred upon
him or her through Christ.
TOGETHER WITH THE OVERSEERS AND DEACONS: An unusual
addition to Paul's greetings. Though "overseers and deacons" were the two orders
of officers in the local NT churches (1Ti 3:1-3), Philippians is the only
epistle to mention them in its greeting. (On "overseers" NIV has a footnote: "Or
bishops".) It is clear that the church at Philippi was organized and that Paul
was not bypassing its local order. Doubtless his mention of overseers and
deacons was an endorsement of their authority. Also, the epistle would have been
delivered first to the ecclesial leaders for reading to the congregation.
Because Epaphroditus had previously been sent with a monetary gift (Phi 2:25),
the deacons as well as the overseers may have been particularly involved in the
project of aiding Paul (Phi 4:14-16).
OVERSEER: Gr "episkopos" = lit, one who watches over
(1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:7; 1Pe 2:25).
DEACONS: Gr "diakonos": servants, ministers (1Ti
GRACE AND PEACE: The familiar blessing, "grace and
peace", combines Greek and Hebrew expressions but transforms them into a
thoroughly Christian greeting. Exactly the same wording was used by Paul in six
other letters (Rom, 1Co, 2Co, Gal, Eph, Phm). God's "grace" is his favor, needed
by men in countless ways and bestowed without regard to merit. "Peace" is here a
reference not to the cessation of hostilities between sinners and God (Rom 5:1),
but to the inner assurance and tranquility that God ministers to the hearts of
believers and that keeps them spiritually confident and content even in the
midst of turmoil (Phi 4:7).
I THANK MY GOD EVERY TIME I REMEMBER YOU: Paul is not
saying here that he thanks God each time he remembers them, but that all his
remembrances of them lead to thanksgiving: his entire recollection of them was
one of unmitigated joy. This was no stereotyped formula, but the natural outflow
from the heart of a deeply spiritual man. The thanksgiving was prompted by the
joyous memory Paul had of his Philippian friends.
IN ALL MY PRAYERS FOR ALL OF YOU: Paul was not thinking
about praying at random times per se, though he undoubtedly did that, but he was
also thinking about praying at set times, much according to his Jewish heritage
(Psa 5:3; 55:17; Ezra 9:5; Dan 6:10; 1Ch 23:30). Luke records for us the
practice of Peter and John going up to the temple at the hour of prayer (ie, 3
pm; Acts 3:1). The Jews of Paul's day regularly prayed: (1) early in the
morning, in connection with the morning sacrifice; (2) at the ninth hour in
connection with the evening sacrifice (3 pm); (3) at sunset. Thus there is
evidence that prayer at set times was actually done by Christian Jews, and it is
probably quite safe to say that Paul himself followed this tradition -- but it
is by no means certain that his comment in v 3 can be limited to that. He
probably means that he prays all the time for the Philippians, not just at set
times. In any case, he was in prison, and undoubtedly had much opportunity to
pray for his beloved friends.
And because he never remembered but with thanksgiving, then
every remembrance of them led to prayer on their behalf!
JOY: Joy in Philippians: (1) in the fellowship of the
saints (Phi 1:3-11); (2) in afflictions that turn out for the furtherance of the
Gospel (Phi 1:12-30); (3) in the ministry for the saints (Phi 2:1-18); (4) in
the fellowship of such faithful saints as Timothy and Epaphroditus (Phi 2:19;
3:1); (5) that our hope is in Jesus and not in the deeds of the law and the
flesh (Phi 3:2-16); (6) that our citizenship is from heaven (Phi 3:17; 4:1); (7)
always and over all things (Phi 4:4-9); (8) in the bounties of God's people to
those in need, as was Paul (Phi 4:10-20).
"This joy of the disciple is meant to be unquenchable, an
inner joy which in its strength presents a striking contrast with the gaiety of
the world, so effervescent and dependent upon external stimuli. It was this kind
of joy that Paul possessed" (BPh 28).
"The theme of joy that pervades Philippians begins here,
linked with prayer. It may be easy enough to translate the words 'chara' and
'chairein' as 'joy' and 'rejoicing', but it is not as easy to understand the
concept. Whatever it is, seemingly it cannot be affected by external happenings.
Personal hostilities against himself, imprisonment or the prospect of a violent
death cannot rob Paul of joy (Phi 1:18; 2:17). To quote Karl Barth, joy 'is a
defiant "nevertheless", which Paul sets like a full stop against' resentment and
fear that might otherwise well up within him. And yet, at the same time, joy
seems to be something that can be affected by external happenings: (1) The
Philippian church was Paul's joy, or the source of his joy, if they continued to
stand firm in the Lord (Phi 4:1). (2) The Philippians were at least capable of
increasing, if not diminishing the amount of Paul's joy. Their positive response
to his plea for unity, for example, would make his joy complete (Phi 2:2). (3)
Had Epaphroditus' illness resulted in his death, it would have brought down upon
Paul sorrow upon sorrow ('lypen' or grief, the opposite of 'chara', Phi 2:27;
see 2Co 2:3). Epaphroditus' recovery, however, was grounds for rejoicing (Phi
2:28,29). What then would the Philippians have understood by Paul's use of
'chara' and 'chairein', 'joy' and 'rejoicing' -- words that recur fourteen times
in this brief letter (more times than in any other of Paul's writings) and with
apparently conflicting meaning? The Philippians' resolution of this conflict and
their understanding of 'joy' came about by listening to what else Paul had to
say to them about the subject. They thus came to realize that when he talked of
joy he was, in reality, describing a settled state of mind characterized by
'eirene' ('peace'), an attitude that viewed the world with all of its ups and
downs with equanimity, a confident way of looking at life that was rooted in
faith ('tes pisteos'), that is, in a keen awareness of and trust in the living
Lord of the Church (Phi 1:25, notice the definite article with 'faith'). Again
and again the command is, 'Rejoice in the Lord!' (Phi 3:1; 4:4,10). Hence, for
Paul joy is more than a mood or an emotion. Joy is an understanding of existence
that encompasses both elation and depression, that can accept with creative
submission events which bring delight or dismay, because joy allows one to see
beyond any particular event to the sovereign Lord who stands above all events
and ultimately has control over them. Joy, to be sure, 'includes within itself
readiness for martyrdom' (Lohmeyer), but equally, the opportunity to go on
living and serving (Phi 2:27,29; see Conzelmann, TDNT 9,369, 370)" (WBC).
"For your fellowship in FURTHERANCE of the gospel" (RV). The
rich term "koinonia" denotes participation or fellowship. In its NT uses it
includes the believer's participation in the life of God (1Co 1:9; 1Jo 1:3) and
also the sharing of a common faith. Thus it assumes the existence of a brotherly
relationship among believers (2Cr 8:4; Gal 2:9; 1Jo 1:7). Especially it suggests
their sharing in the financial cost of his preaching (2Co 8:1-5): unlike some of
the other ecclesias, they were steadfast, consistent, and faithful in their
devotion to helping him in his work.
The material gift was one expression of their partnership, but
Paul was grateful and filled with joy over the other frequent evidences of the
Philippians' sharing in the work of the gospel. These had been shown to him
"from the first day" he had preached the gospel in Philippi about ten years
before. At that time he had experienced the hospitality of Lydia (Acts 16:15)
and the jailer and his family (Acts 16:33,34). Later he had received gifts sent
him at Thessalonica (Phi 4:16) and at Corinth (2Co 11:9), as well as the more
recent one brought by Epaphroditus.
HE WHO BEGAN A GOOD WORK IN YOU WILL CARRY IT ON TO
COMPLETION: God had called them; it was He who had begun the good work (Acts
16:6-12), and He alone who could bring it on to perfection. God was at work in
them (Phi 2:13; Heb 13:21). And so believers may rejoice in sufferings (Rom
5:3-5), because they see it as part of a work which, when finished, will be
"The train is leaving the station, and WILL arrive at its
destination! The only question is: will YOU (the individual) be on that
THE DAY OF CHRIST JESUS: The day of Xt's second coming:
often in Phi: Phi 1:10; 2:16; also in Rom 2:16; 1Co 1:8; 5:5; 2Co 1:14; Eph
The expression is similar to the "day of the Lord" (1Th 5:2)
and the OT "day of Yahweh" (Amos 5:18-20). However, in contrast to the OT
emphasis on judgment, the "day of Christ Jesus" is mentioned in all cases with
reference to the NT church. It will be the time when Christ returns for his
church, salvation is finally completed, and believers' works are examined and
the believers rewarded.
"Until I come": put this money to work (Luk 19:13); judge
nothing (1Co 4:5); proclaim the Lord's death (1Co 11:26); be sincere, without
offence (Phi 1:6,10); listen to the word (2Pe 1:19); hold fast (Rev
WHETHER I AM IN CHAINS OR...: Even when it might have
been dangerous to identify themselves openly with Paul, they had treated his
misfortunes as their own and had come to his assistance with their gifts.
DEFENDING AND CONFIRMING THE GOSPEL: This could mean:
defending the gospel from attacks and proclaiming its message with proofs. There
are reasons, however, for regarding these words as legal terminology. The
concept of imprisonment seems to be connected with that of "defending and
confirming". Furthermore, "defending" ("apologia") is used elsewhere in the NT
of a legal defense (Acts 22:1; 25:16; 2Ti 4:16), and "confirming" ("bebaiosis")
was a legal technical term (Heb 6:16) for guaranteeing or furnishing security
(BDAG). So Paul may be thinking primarily of his approaching hearing in which he
must give a defense of the gospel he preached, and in which he hoped also to
have occasion to offer clear proofs of the truth of the gospel. In Paul's view,
all believers were on trial with him, for the outcome could ultimately affect
ALL OF YOU SHARE: The supreme compliment: they are
sharers wi Paul! The Philippians' assistance by their warm fellowship was a
clear reminder that they felt the same way as did Paul, and thus were sharers of
the same grace of God (salvation) as was Paul.
GOD'S GRACE WITH ME: Which included also the privilege
of preaching to Gentiles (Eph 3:8).
"His reluctance to leave the subject of his love for the
Philippians is evident" (BPh 124).
GOD CAN TESTIFY: As at other times, with characteristic
earnestness, Paul calls God to witness: Rom 1:9; 9:1; Gal 1:20; 2Co
WITH THE AFFECTION OF CHRIST JESUS: Cp Gal 2:20:
"Christ in me"! Paul's yearnings for this ecclesia were not merely the human
longing to be with friends but were prompted by the very "affection of Christ
Jesus", with whom Paul was in vital union.
THAT YOUR LOVE MAY ABOUND MORE AND MORE: A constant
theme in Phi: progress and striving towards perfection: vv 9,13,25; Phi 2:2;
3:14,17. There is a need for growth and development in the Truth: we either
progress or we regress. The complacent will never improve, for they have lost
sight of the perfection in Christ.
LOVE: Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) that
enables all other spiritual virtues to be exercised properly (1Co 13:1-3).
Without it no Christian is spiritually complete (Col 3:14). No reason appears in
the passage to limit this to love for God, for each other, or for Paul. Most
likely, it is unrestricted and refers to the continuing demonstration of this
spiritual fruit in any and all ways. The Philippians had already displayed their
love in generously giving to Paul, but love never reaches the saturation
IN KNOWLEDGE AND DEPTH OF INSIGHT: Love must be
intelligent and morally discerning, however, if it would be truly "agape". What
is encouraged here is not a heedless sentiment, but love based on knowledge, the
intellectual perception that has recognized principles from the Word of God.
Spiritual knowledge, gained from an understanding of divine revelation, enables
the believer to love what God commands and in the way He reveals. The joining of
the expression "depth of insight" to "knowledge" stresses moral perception and
the practical application of knowledge to the myriad circumstances of life.
Spiritual knowledge is thus no abstraction but is intended to be applied to
life. In this instance it will serve to direct the believers' love into avenues
both Biblically proper and pure.
KNOWLEDGE: "Epi-gnosis": exact knowledge.
"The right combination: love accompanied by keen perception
(developed out of Bible study)!
"Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge! -- get all you can. It's the
stuff of which spiritual transformation is made. Knowledge of the Word, of
course -- there is no other REAL knowledge. Hunger and thirst for it. Never feel
you have even begun to have enough. Realize your utter comparative ignorance. At
very best, we never really scratch the surface of true knowledge. All is seen
through a glass so dimly. But though we are so limited, God requires us to show
our love and zeal by getting every bit of knowledge about Him and His Word that
we can. We shall be called to account for all wasted time -- not so much for
itself, but because it so tragically betrays our spiritual dullness, our fatal
presumption of sufficiency, our shallowness and weakness of love and desire.
"God can only use, in His eternal Purpose, those who are
intensely alive to the beauty and glory and wonder and infinite desirability of
eternal, spiritual things. Though we are all by nature slow-witted and ignorant
and fleshly, we CAN develop this living spiritual intensity. But it takes long,
plodding, tiring effort, like playing the piano. Don't sit back and expect it
just to come" (GVG).
Lit, that you may be able to discern and divide between those
things which differ in essential matters; to put difference betw holy and unholy
(cp Lev 10:8-11; Eze 22:26).
"The exercise of sound judgment leads to approving, and
pursuing, the best things. There was need for such insight even in apostolic
times, to distinguish, for example, between the sophistries of the Judaizers and
the gospel of grace preached by Paul. Concentration on what is excellent leads
to the cultivation of a character which Christ will pronounce to be stainless
and 'void of offense' (RV) to others. We thus see how closely linked is the Last
Judgment with our own judgment" (BPh 125).
And so we must look positively at our life of service, not
just negatively at what must be avoided! The question should not only be "Is it
harmful?", but "Is it helpful?" (1Co 10:23). The goal in view is the day of
Christ, in which every believer must stand before his Lord and give an account
of his deeds (2Co 5:10). This sobering and joyous prospect for the believer
should have a purifying effect on his life (1Jo 3:3).
The conduct that will receive Christ's commendation must be
characterized by "the fruit of righteousness." Transformed lives are the
demonstration that God works in believers. Paul desires that when his readers
stand before Christ, their lives will have been filled with the right kind of
fruit. He is not talking about mere human uprightness measured by outward
conformity to law (Phi 3:9). He is rather speaking of the spiritual fruit that
comes from Jesus Christ, produced in them by the Holy Spirit sent by Christ (Gal
5:22-25; cp 1Jo 2:29; 3:7; Joh 15:8; Mat 5:16).
NOW I WANT YOU TO KNOW: This and similar phrases in
Paul's writings always introduce an important statement, and usually imply that
there was previously some misunderstanding on this particular point.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME: Imprisonment, shipwreck,
captivity. Adversity had proved to be Paul's ally: his imprisonment, especially,
had led to the advancement of the gospel -- as he now shows them.
ADVANCE: The term "prokopen" originally denoted making
headway in spite of blows -- like an army advancing against the enemy -- and so
depicted progress amid difficulties. Translated "progress" in v 25; 1Ti
"A Greek word... used in the 1st century to refer to a company
of wood cutters preceding the progress of an army, cutting a road through the
forest so that it might advance. Paul says that his circumstances are divine
wood cutters, cutting a way through the opposition so that the gospel might be
advanced... His liberty was gone. He was chained to a Roman soldier night and
day. God had built a fence around the apostle. He had put limitations about him.
He had placed handicaps upon him. But Paul says that they are God's wood cutters
making a road for the advancement of the gospel" (Wuest).
PALACE GUARD: The "Praetorian Guard" (RV), possibly
including Julius (Act 27:1). These were senior officials, and of officer rank.
"The term praitorio ('palace guard') admits of several
meanings. In addition to this passage, it is used in the Gospels for Pilate's
headquarters in Jerusalem, probably to be identified with the Antonia fortress
(Mat 27:27; Mar 15:16; John 18:28 [twice]; John 18:33; 19:9). In Acts 23:35 it
is used of the Roman governor's headquarters at Caesarea. In Lightfoot's
extended note four possibilities are suggested: (1) The emperor's palace in
Rome. It may be objected, however, that this term, suggestive of a military
despotism, would not likely have been used by Roman citizens for their emperor's
residence. Furthermore, no contemporary instance of such use can be cited. (2)
The barracks of the praetorian guard attached to the imperial palace. (3) The
praetorian camp outside the city wall. These suggestions regard praitorion as a
place, but this conflicts with the phrase in Phi 1:13... which clearly points to
persons. (4) The praetorian guards themselves. This remains the most likely
meaning, agreeable to both current usage and to context" (EBC).
AND TO EVERYONE ELSE: Gr "kai tois loipois pasin". KJV
has "in all other places", but people not places (as in NIV) are indicated. Cp
with "...welcomed all who came to see him... without hindrance he preached the
kingdom of God" (Acts 28:30,31). This included members of the Jewish community
(Acts 28:17...), at least one Gentile (Phm 1:10), and many Christian co-workers.
Paul was able to get the gospel out from inside prison walls. Instead of falling
into self-pity, he took every opportunity to make the gospel known.
IN CHAINS FOR CHRIST: And for no other
Assuming that Paul wrote the Philippian letter while in prison
in Rome (as in Acts 28:16,30), then this preaching would have been to those
Roman soldiers who guarded him there. To them, his chains (v 14) spoke of the
"hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20), and his sufferings were a fellowshipping of the
Lord's own sufferings (Phi 3:10; Col 1:24).
"A noble example has power to inspire... [this is] the best
kind of CHAIN reaction" (BPh 126). Enthusiasm is contagious and inspiring. "Do
not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom 12:21).
HAVE BEEN ENCOURAGED TO SPEAK THE WORD OF GOD MORE
COURAGEOUSLY AND FEARLESSLY: "One might suppose that his imprisonment would
have dampened any evangelizing efforts and have caused the believers in Rome to
'go underground,' but exactly the opposite was true. They drew courage from
Paul's example and laid their fears aside. A literal rendering of the clause in
the latter part of v 14 is 'to a much greater degree they are daring to speak
the word of God without fear.' That it was 'daring' indicates no lessening of
the danger but a new infusion of courage. The present tense shows it was no
momentary enthusiasm that quickly passed but that it was still the situation as
Paul wrote his letter. Surely the apostle's own attitude to his chains must have
been largely responsible for these results. If he had become depressed by
developments, the effect on others would have been far different. It was Paul's
use of the change in his circumstances as a fresh opportunity to spread the Word
of God that encouraged the Christians in Rome to do likewise" (EBC).
ENVY AND RIVALRY: As vv 16,17 suggest, apparently
directed against Paul himself. In this, Paul shared the experiences of Christ
(Mat 27:18), David (1Sa 18:8,9), and Joseph (Gen 37:11).
Prob these were not the Judaizers, to which Paul refers
elsewhere in very unflattering terms (Phi 3:2); instead, they were orthodox in
their teachings, but doing so for wrong motives -- ie, to draw followers away
from Paul and to themselves.
Vv 16,17: This verse order is used by NIV, RV, and RSV. The
KJV reverses the order. In the revised verse order, there is a better transition
to v 18.
THE LATTER DO SO IN LOVE: These are the ones inspired
by Paul's example (v 14).
KNOWING THAT I AM PUT HERE FOR THE DEFENSE OF THE
GOSPEL: They perceived the divine purpose in Paul being imprisoned, ie, that
the gospel would be better known, and did their smaller parts to further this
PUT HERE: "Set" in AV. Gr "keimai" is a military term:
to be posted on guard duty. By ways that could never have been foreseen by man
alone, God had accomplished within the short space of thirty years the spreading
of the gospel of Jesus Christ from its humble beginnings in obscure Judea to its
defense before Caesar at the center of the Empire. No doubt it was with some
sense of awe that Paul evaluated his situation.
DEFENSE: Gr "apologia" = a legal defense.
SELFISH AMBITION: Gr "eritheian": "strife" (AV),
"faction" (RV, Roth), "party spirit" (Diag), "selfishnes" RSV). "Ambition,
selfseeking, rivalry" (Vine). The word is derived from "erithos", a "hireling".
Sw Phi 2:3.
THEY CAN STIR UP TROUBLE FOR ME: Trouble of a mental
nature: distress that there might be division among believers on his
WHILE I AM IN CHAINS: It was as though they were trying
to tighten the pressure of the bonds that bound Paul! "They were self-seeking
opportunists, promoting themselves at Paul's expense. Perhaps they had enjoyed
some prominence in the church before he arrived, but had been eclipsed since he
came to the city. By taking advantage of Paul's imprisonment, they may have
hoped to recover their former popularity. They may have supposed that he would
bitterly resent their success (just as they did his) and his imprisonment would
become all the more galling to him. If so, they failed to reckon with the
greatness of the man" (EBC).
"This unhappy detail is quite congruous with Luke's picture of
the early church which had in its ranks such members as Ananias and Sapphira
(Acts 5:1-11) and Simon (Acts 8:9-24). We are reminded of the parable of the
wheat and the tares, and recall that among the apostles there was a Judas.
Paul's epistles show clearly that the condition of the ecclesias was a frequent
source of anxiety to him (2Co 11:28)" (BPh 127).
WHETHER FROM FALSE MOTIVES OR TRUE: The evil are used
by God to refine the good.
AND BECAUSE OF THIS I REJOICE: From the very beginning
Paul had been taught by Christ that he would SUFFER many things for his Lord
(Acts 9:15,16)! "But the evil designs of Paul's enemies founder on his steadfast
faith and unwavering loyalty to Christ" (BPh 127).
THROUGH YOUR PRAYERS: Epaphroditus had no doubt
informed Paul that they were praying for him, and Paul took courage from this
fact. Do we pray often for our brethren? God hears such prayers, and they reveal
a genuine love for the believers. The frequency with which we offer such prayers
is one measure of our spiritual maturity.
AND THE HELP GIVEN BY THE SPIRIT OF JESUS CHRIST: The
Holy Spirit (of Christ) was the guiding and controlling influence in Paul's
journeys (Acts 13:2; 16:6; 18:9; 20:23; 21:11). Esp note Acts 23:11: "Take
courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify
in Rome." This would have strengthened him, as would the knowledge that in
enduring the same afflictions as befell Christ he was fellowshiping his
sufferings (Phi 3:10).
This phrase might signify a Holy Spirit-directed influence for
Paul, as well as a reflection in him of the character and disposition which he
had learned from his Lord (cp Rom 8:9).
WHAT HAS HAPPENED WILL TURN OUT FOR MY DELIVERANCE:
Citing Job 13:16, LXX: sig vindication at judgment. But the question remains:
'at WHOSE judgment? Caesar's? or Christ's?'
Paul's earnest desires: Phi 1:20,23; 2:16;
THAT I WILL IN NO WAY BE ASHAMED: Paul had to answer at
Caesar's judgment seat (Act 25:10,11), and he felt this responsibility --
undertaken on behalf of believers everywhere -- very keenly.
ASHAMED: "He that believeth shall not be ashamed" (Isa
28:18, LXX). Cited in Rom 9:33; 10:11. Cp also Psa 119:16; Rom 1:16;
SUFFICIENT COURAGE: "The expression 'en pase parresia'
conveys the thought of openness, courage, boldness, or confidence, whether
toward God or people. Prominent are instances in which this quality is viewed in
relation to speech. Paul may be thinking in terms of his coming testimony before
his imperial judges" (EBC).
CHRIST WILL BE EXALTED IN MY BODY: That is, that the
moral and spiritual excellence of Christ will be manifested in Paul (Gal 2:20).
Stressed because Paul expected martyrdom. Thus he was "filling up in my flesh
what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his
body, which is the church" (Col 1:24; cp Phi 3:10; 2Co 5:20).
TO LIVE IS CHRIST AND TO DIE IS GAIN: Paul may be
paraphrased here: 'If I survive this possible martyrdom, it will mean
opportunity for further fruitful activity. And for that I will be thankful.'
'But if I am to die now, then I will consider that "gain"
too... because, so it will seem, I will all the sooner see my Lord.'
[For no other sort of life could death be a "gain"!]
And so we may, each one of us, pray: "Lord, accept me; I here
present myself, praying to live only in Thee and to Thee. Let me be as the
bullock which stands between the plow and the altar, prepared either to continue
working or to be sacrificed; and let my motto be, 'Ready for either'."
TO LIVE IS CHRIST: "Follow my example, as I follow the
example of Christ" (1Co 11:1). "We always carry around in our body the death of
Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who
are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life
may be revealed in our mortal body" (2Co 4:10,11).
TO DIE IS GAIN: Because, in dying as a martyr for
Christ, he would have full confidence in his Lord's promises: "For I am already
being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the
righteous Judge, will award to me on that day -- and not only to me, but also to
all who have longed for his appearing" (2Ti 4:6-8). Furthermore, such a death
would bear added witness to the gospel Paul had preached.
FRUITFUL LABOR FOR ME: The continuing of gospel
proclamation, which will only be of benefit to others.
YET WHAT SHALL I CHOOSE? I DO NOT KNOW!: 'I am not sure
that I would actually choose release myself.' "It does not mean that Paul
literally had the prerogative of choosing his fate, but it is a reference to his
personal preference... How fortunate that God does not force us to make such
TORN: "Hard pressed" (RSV).
DEPART: "Analuo" = to be loosed. Only twice in NT. The
metaphor is that of a tent being taken down, or a ship being loosed from its
moorings. In Luk 12:36, sig "return". (1) To be loosed from mortal bonds at the
resurrection, from earthly tabernacle (ie 2Co 5:1). See "analusis" in 2Ti 4:6,
ref death. (2) Or, perhaps, the "return" of Christ from heaven -- which would be
far better than either life or death (cp Rom 8:19-23; 2Co 5:4). (3) Alternative:
Paul desires to retire from active life, and enjoy quiet, secluded fellowship wi
Xt, and revelations and visions, and study of the Bible. [A problem with this
interpretation: Paul uses "sarx" (or "flesh"), not "soma" (or "body") in vv
22,24; when the collective "Body" of Christ is mentioned elsewhere, the Gr word
Possibilities 1 and 2 -- as above -- may be "blended
together": Barling cites Maurice Jones: "Many other passages in the epistle to
the Philippians show conclusively that a 'parousia', a resurrection, and a
judgment are fixed elements in the Pauline eschatology, but there are times when
the apostle's mind overleaps spaces and distances and he beholds himself in
perfect fellowship with his Lord... So the thought here transcends all
experience of an intermediate state and obliterates the interval between death
and the full consummation of blessedness" (BPh 60).
AND BE WITH CHRIST: Depart in death, "sleep" until
resurrection (ie 1Co 15:51-53), then in next conscious moment to be wi Xt. Yet
Paul also desires the day of Christ (Phi 1:6,10; 2:16), the resurrection of the
dead (Phi 3:11), and the Saviour, who will glorify his body (Phi
BUT IT IS MORE NECESSARY FOR YOU THAT I REMAIN IN THE
BODY: The good that a living Paul can do for the believers would seem to far
outweigh the personal preference he might have. Therefore, v 22 should not be
taken as a serious conflict in the mind of Paul, but a rather detached musing as
to his ultimate fate; he does not recoil at the prospect of either death or
Seeing that his continued presence will be of benefit to the
brothers and sisters, Paul is reasoning himself into renewed confidence in his
eventual release from prison. "Furthermore, he must have known that the case
against him was not strong (Acts 23:29; 25:25; 26:31,32), and thus his hope of
release was well-founded. Nevertheless, because likelihood of release was only
personal conviction, he makes allowance in his previous explanation for the
possibility that things might turn out adversely. Evidence from the pastoral
epistles, confirmed by considerable early historical testimony, indicates that
Paul was released from this first Roman imprisonment and had opportunity for
travel, including a trip through Macedonia (and presumably Philippi), before
being reimprisoned and suffering a martyr's death" (EBC).
FOR YOUR PROGRESS AND JOY IN THE FAITH: Paul's
continued ministry among the Philippians would be aimed at advancing their
spiritual growth and deepening their joy in the Christian faith. The believers'
experience should not be static but characterized by a growing understanding of
spiritual truth. This in turn would increase their joy as they entered more
fully into the understanding of their privileges and prospects in
PROGRESS: Sw Phi 1:12; 1Ti 4:15.
MY BEING WITH YOU AGAIN: KJV has "my coming to you
again". But the Gr "parousia" means a visible, literal "coming" and "presence",
not a vague, "spiritual" aura -- as JWs teach. Sw 2Co 7:6; 1Co 16:7.
CONDUCT: "Politeuomai" = to behave as a citizen. Cp Phi
3:20; Acts 23:1 (sw).
WHETHER I COME AND SEE YOU OR ONLY HEAR ABOUT YOU IN MY
ABSENCE: Their obedience and devotion must not be contingent on his presence
with them (cp Phi 2:12). They must develop and nurture an awareness of God's
STAND FIRM: Gr "stekete": a military term sig "to stand
in an unbroken line" -- the Roman phalanx -- as against the assault of the enemy
(Gal 5:1; 1Co 16:13; Phi 4:1).
IN ONE SPIRIT: Gr "pneuma": thus, "with one
CONTENDING AS ONE MAN FOR THE FAITH OF THE GOSPEL: In
essential things, unity (Phi 1:27). In doubtful things, liberty (Rom 14:6). In
all things, love (1Co 13:1,5).
CONTENDING: Gr "sunathleo" = "striving together" as in
an athletic contest. Sw in Phi 4:3. "The very energy of the Christian faith...
to produce energetic individualities" (RWP)."Striving side by side" (RSV);
"vigorously cooperating" (Diag). This requires them to forget their petty
quarrels (Phi 4:2; cp Gal 5:15).
AS ONE MAN: With one "psyche": thus, "with one body".
Paul has now commenced his exhortation to unity and peace, which he continues
throughout the letter (Phi 2:2; 4:2,7).
If they wavered in the face of trial, not only would they
jeopardize their own salvation, but their enemies would have cause to believe
that the gospel was a fake. However, if they stood firm, their own salvation
would be assured. Moreover, their enemies would see the power of their
convictions and might become fearful of the "judgment to come". Cp the effect of
Jesus' calm and confidence on Pilate (John 19:8), and Paul's similar effect on
Felix (Acts 24:25). The idea of steadfastness under trial bringing salvation is
the same as in v 19.
FRIGHTENED: "The metaphor is of a timid and scared
THOSE WHO OPPOSE YOU: Who were these opponents? Some
have insisted that the reference could not have been to Jews because the Jewish
population of Philippi was too small. This ignores the fact that hostile Jews
often dogged Paul's steps and caused trouble in the ecclesias he founded. Such
was the case in other Macedonian ecclesias (Thessalonica: Acts 17:5; Berea: Acts
17:13). In the light of Paul's discussion in Phi 3:2-6, it seems clear that
Jewish hostility was present. But there is nothing in Phi 1:28 that restricts
the reference to Jewish opponents. What is virtually certain is that these were
external foes, not false teachers within the ecclesia. It is most likely that
Paul was speaking generally of adversaries of the Truth of whatever kind.
Whether Jewish or pagan, they usually employed the same tactics, and the need
for unity and courage among the believers was crucial.
A SIGN: Gr "endeixis": sw 2Co 8:24; Rom 3:25,26. "An
Attic [Greek] law term" (RWP) and only in Paul in NT.
AND THAT BY GOD: " 'And that by God' refers
grammatically neither to 'salvation' nor to 'sign' (both of which are feminine
nouns, for which the feminine form of 'that' would be required, rather than the
neuter, which was used), but to the entire fact that believers have been granted
courage from God to stand firm in their struggles and so are demonstrating their
FOR IT HAS BEEN GRANTED: Gr "eucharisthe". "To grant an
act of grace" (RV; RSV). "It has been given as a favor" (Roth). This was "the
grace [charis] that God has given the Macedonian churches" (2Co 8:1): "severe
trial... and... extreme poverty" (2Co 8:2)! "Rejoicing because they had been
counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" (Acts 5:41).
The Philippians would be given the privilege of proving that
their faith was more than nominal.
BUT ALSO TO SUFFER FOR HIM: The privilege of suffering
for Christ -- one which Paul himself "enjoyed" (Acts 9:15,16). Cp Mat 5:12; 1Pe
4:13,14; Heb 12:6; Acts 16:23-25.
The NT regards suffering as God's means of achieving His
gracious purposes both in His own Son (Heb 2:10) and in all believers (Jam
1:3,4; 1Pe 1:6,7).
The Philippians had seen Paul's joyous example of enduring
sufferings (Acts 16:23-25; 1Th 2:2). And they had heard of others he had
undergone more recently in Rome (perhaps from reports of travelers or other
messengers, including those who conveyed the information about Epaphroditus: Phi
2:26). In a very real sense he was being conformed to the sufferings of Christ
(Phi 3:10). And in their own sufferings, the Philippians would share this
conformity and fellowship also (cp Rev 1:9).
STRUGGLE: "Agon": sw Col 2:1; 1Th 2:2; 1Ti 6:12; 2Ti
4:7. In Hellenistic usage "agon" originally meant a place of assembly, then a
place where athletic contests were held, and later the contest itself (the
"race" of Heb 12:1, sw). The term also developed a metaphorical use for any kind
of conflict. In Phi 1:28 the thought of "antagonists" appears, and this is
consistent with the idea expressed elsewhere of the obstacles, dangers, and even
catastrophes that the believer may face.