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Paul heaped loving title upon loving title to express his affections for the Philippians, there being no less than five expressions of endearment. Significantly, they are Paul's joy at the time present, but in prospect of the Second Advent they will be (at that time) his crown: The Greeks had two words for crown, one signifying the diadem of the emperor, and the other referring to the garland that decorated the winner in an athletic contest, the latter being [Greek: stephanos], the wreath of victory in the games." F2 Barclay pointed out a second meaning of [stephanos], just as applicable here as the other:
It was the crown with which guests were crowned when they sat at a banquet, at some time of great joy. It is as if Paul said that the Philippians were the crown of all his toil ... that at the final banquet of God they were his festal crown F3
So stand fast ...
Despite the unpleasantness regarding the difficulty mentioned, this passage is one of the most precious in the New Testament, because of its mention of the book of life.
I exhort Euodia ... Syntyche ...
The repetition of "I exhort" was probably for the purpose of avoiding any semblance of partiality, or any hint of taking sides. No one can say just who these ladies were; but their trouble is easy enough to understand. They had a falling out or disagreement over some point of doctrine or practice, and the animosity between them had become a problem in the whole church. Boice believed that the shadow of this personal friction falls upon several passages prior to this passage where Paul dealt with it. In Philp. 1:8,27; Philp. 2:2 and Philp. 3:16, there have already been exhortations to unity and walking by the same rule; but in this passage Paul boldly confronted the difficulty and demanded a reconciliation.
Caffin considered the repeated "I exhort" as a probable indication that both ladies were at fault. F5
True yokefellow ...
Just who was this? Hewlett allowed that it could have been Luke; F6 Wesley made a conjecture that it was Silas; F7 Clement of Alexandria taught that this referred to Paul's wife! F8 Dummelow said it was probably a proper name on which Paul made a pun, as in the case of Onesimus (profitable). F9 It is hardly necessary to add that we do not know who it was. If this writer were asked to guess at it, the answer would be Epaphroditus, following Lipscomb and Lightfoot.
In the Lord ...
This expression absolutely dominates Paul's writings. In Philp. 4:1, Paul commanded the Philippiaris to "stand fast" in the Lord; and here those two women at odds with each other were told to be of the same mind "in the Lord." All spiritual achievements result from being in the Lord. As Knight said, "It is implied here that outside Christ there can be no unity; one cannot love man without loving God." F10 Most disputes are insoluble, except from the discipline that comes of being "in the Lord."
These women ... labored with me in the gospel ...
Not merely these two women, but Lydia also had been an extensive helper of Paul's gospel labors at Philippi. It is not necessary in the case of these, any more than that of Lydia, to suppose that they aided Paul in the public preaching. Paul could not forget their helpfulness, their love of the truth and their sacrifices on his behalf; but now all that was wrecked by an unfortunate disagreement. No wonder Paul attempted to heal it.
With Clement also ...
Despite the fact of Lightfoot's opinion that Paul was here enlisting Clement to aid in the reconciliation, the language, as it stands, is a reference to Clement having been, along with Paul, helped by the two sisters in disagreement. One encounters extensive comment with reference to Clement's identity, the conclusion usually being that he is not the same as the famed Clement of Rome.
Ever since the times of Origen (185-251 A.D.), who was a disciple of Clement of Alexandria, F11 there has been a positive identification of the Clement mentioned in the above passage with Clement of Rome who lived until the year 101 A.D. and who himself wrote a letter to the Corinthians.
Despite the unwillingness of most modern scholars to allow it, Barry insisted that "the fact of Clement's being in Alexandria (apparently) at the time of Paul's writing is no serious objection." F12 Philippi was a Roman colony, and he might well have been there part of the time on business. "Furthermore the chronology is not decisive against the identification, although it would make Clement very old when he wrote his epistle." F13 Barry summed it all up by saying:
The identification may stand as not improbable, while the commonness of the name Clement makes it far from certain. F14
And the rest of my fellow-workers ...
Paul's mention, a moment before, of the two sisters in disagreement having helped his own labors, and with Clement also, immediately brought into view a large number of others who had been Paul's fellow-laborers, no less than Clement! Any preacher can see the immediate problem of avoiding calling all those personal names with the almost certain result of leaving out someone who should also have been mentioned. Paul cut the Gordian knot by declaring that God has the whole record in the Book of Life. Beautiful!
Whose names are in the book of life ...
For extended comment on the book of life, see my Commentary on Heb. 12, under "Book of Life." Significantly there is a register of the redeemed kept by God himself without error. As Martin said, "Christian service may pass unnoticed on earth; but the important thing is that God takes note, and will praise at the last (1 Corinthians 4:5)." F15 One's having his name inscribed in the book of life does not, of itself alone, assure eternal life. As Caffin said, "This does not necessarily involve the doctrine of an unconditional, irreversible predestination, or the phrase to blot out of my book (Revelation 3:5) could not be used. F16
In the Lord ...
The type of rejoicing commanded here is possible only for the redeemed in Christ. After almost
years, the incredibly beautiful power of this letter still shines. How could such a document have been written from a prison? Surely its writer was "in the Lord Jesus Christ."
"Moderation" is a better word than "forbearance" here, because it covers a lot more ground. The Christian is to be moderate in all things, acting with restraint, and without bigotry, avoiding all excesses and extremes of every kind. The Christian community should be known "unto all men," not for demanding their rights, but for their moderation.
The Lord is at hand ...
As Foulkes said, "This may refer to the nearness of the Lord to the believer, or to the nearness of his coming." F17 Since the inspired apostle deliberately chose words that may thus have a double meaning, it is only a crooked exegesis which can latch onto one or another of these, insisting that invariably it has this or that meaning. The scholars who are diligent to prove the holy apostles "mistaken" about the soon-coming of the Lord invariably make such an expression as this, or the Maranatha of 1 Cor. 16:23, a flat declaration that Christ was soon to appear in the Second Advent. The careful student of God's word should avoid either extreme, always making allowances for the fact that inspiration gave us an expression capable of two meanings. Could this have been otherwise than by deliberate design?
In nothing be anxious ...
In Matt. 6:25-34, our Lord gave extensive admonition on the subject of anxiety; and reference is here made to the comment on those passages in my Commentary on Matthew, Matt. 6:25ff. In order to avoid anxiety here, Paul followed exactly the instruction given by the Lord during his ministry.
We must agree with Hendriksen that Paul's instruction here does not forbid "kindly concern ... genuine interest in the welfare of others." F18
THANKSGIVING IN EVERYTHING
In everything ...
It appears that Paul saw prayer as the fitting human response to every conceivable situation that might arise in life; and the position of this phrase at the beginning of a long clause would make it applicable throughout the clause, with the meaning that "thanksgiving" should characterize every prayer, no matter what unusual or extreme life-situation might have triggered the prayer. But how can anyone be thankful "in everything"? This writer is indebted to George Henry Stephenson for a sermon delivered at Highland congregation in Memphis, Tennessee, which stressed the following:
In youth one may thank God for the brightness and prospect of life beckoning to the future.
In age one may thank God that life has extended so long.
In health one may thank God for the greatest of physical blessings.
In illness one may thank God for wise physicians, kind nurses and the tender concern of loved ones.
In wealth one may thank God for having been made the steward of such large accounts.
In poverty one may thank God for him, who though he was rich became poor that he might make many rich, and for his special promise, "Blessed are ye poor."
In the event of great loss one may thank God for blessings he is yet permitted to retain.
In death itself the Christian can thank God for the hope of eternal life.
At all times and places, in all circumstances and situations, the Christian will thank God for Jesus Christ our Lord, for the Father who gave him, for the life he lived, the death he died, his resurrection from the dead, and for his everlasting gospel which we have received.
Let your requests be made known unto God ...
But, does not God already know everything? In a sense, of course, he does; but the command of God, as uttered here through an apostle, explains the manner chosen by the Father, through which he will know "the requests" of his children. Note too, that this apostolic order says nothing of making known one's needs or desires. God already knows about them; but our "requests" ... they do not even become requests until they are made known to God in the prayers of his people.
WHAT SHOULD BE REQUESTED OF GOD?
The forgiveness of sins. Christians are commanded to pray for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 8:22); but the unbaptized, even though they are belivers, are not so commanded. The believing Saul of Tarsus had been on his knees three days and nights; but God's messenger neither invited him to continue his petition, nor did Saul receive any answer. On the contrary, the inspired preacher commanded him to "arise and be baptized and wash away his (thy) sins" (Acts 22:16).
The forgiveness of the sins of others. Both our Lord (Luke 23:34) and the martyr Stephen (Acts 7:60) prayed for the forgiveness of the sins of others.
The wisdom of God. "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given." (James 1:5,6).
Relief from bitter experiences. Jesus himself prayed that "the cup" might pass from him (Matthew 26:39).
Our daily bread. This line from the Lord's Prayer probably has the larger meaning of "food for today." In any event, prayer for all of life's basic necessities, such as food, clothing and shelter, is authorized by this model prayer.
Laborers in the vineyard. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his vineyard" (Matthew 9:38).
Laborers already working. Paul admonished the Ephesians to "Pray for ME, that utterance may be given unto me that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel" (Ephesians 6:19).
For mercy. "Come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
For the sick. "The prayer of faith shall save the sick" (James 5:14,15).
Deliverance from temptation. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (Matthew 6:13).
For them that despitefully use us. This includes prayer for enemies. See Matt. 5:44.
In everything. The text before us stresses the need of prayer in all of life's conditions and circumstances. Any list, therefore, of things we should pray for must be partial and incomplete. "Everything" certainly covers a lot of territory. Only one other specific will be noted.
For rulers and authorities. Paul singled out as an object of prayer, in all probability, because it is easily overlooked, especially in a corrupt age like that of the New Testament era. He said:
I exhort therefore, that first of all prayers, intercession and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
Two examples of prayers for "all that are in authority" are included here:
Eternal Father, Thou art He before whom the generations of men rise and fade away. From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. From Thee comes every good and perfect gift. To Thee, we lift our hearts in thanksgiving. Of Thee, we pray forgiveness of our sins.
O God, bless the President of the United States, the Members of Congress, and the judiciary. Bless these servants of the people that they may have wisdom to know what is right, courage to do what is right, and sufficient support of their constituents to sustain them in what is right. Endow these Thy servants with grace and knowledge to the end that the wounds of our bleeding world may be healed and peace on earth prevail. May Thy name be glorified and Thy kingdom be increased throughout all nations. God bless the United States of America and this House of Representatives. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (A prayer by Burton Coffman in the House of Representatives, May 26, 1953.)
Almighty God, and our eternal Father: We praise and bless Thy holy name for all the benefits Thou hast granted unto the sons of men. We pray especially for that measure of Thy divine Providence which will enable all these Thy servants and ministers of Thy gracious will to know what is right, to have the courage to attempt what is right, and to be endowed with the strength to accomplish it. Bless this great City to the end that it might continue in peace and prosperity according to Thy holy will. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Invocation by Burton Coffman at meeting of New York City Council, January 8, 1965.)
WAYS IN WHICH GOD ANSWERS PRAYER
How does God answer prayer? First of all, God answers prayer literally, as when Joshua prayed for the sun to stand still, Elijah prayed for drought, or rain, and when Jonah prayed to God from the belly of the great fish. New Testament confirmation of God's literal answer of prayer is in the following:
The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working. Elijah was a man of like passions with us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth for three years and six months. And he prayed again; and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit (James 5:16-18).
God answers prayer by a refusal to grant the petition. In 2 Cor. 12:7-10 Paul detailed the fact of his earnest prayers that God would take away his thorn in the flesh, a thing God declined to do.
God also answers prayer by sending something different from what was requested. For example, in Gethsemane Jesus prayed for the "cup" to pass from him; instead of allowing this, God sent an angel to strengthen the Lord. Similarly, people may pray for lighter loads, but God may send them greater strength.
God answers prayer gradually. Hawthorne's allegory of The Great Stone Face illustrates this principle. Little Ernest longed to see a man who exemplified the character visible in the Great Stone Face. Gradually, after long years,. Ernest himself became that character.
God answers prayer after delay. It seems strange that God would delay to answer Christian prayers, but it may not be denied. The angel sent to stay the hand of Abraham about to offer Isaac delayed until the latest possible moment. The wine had run completely out at Cana before the Lord answered his mother's implied request. When Jacob wrestled with an angel, day was breaking before the issue was decided. In the New Testament, Jairus came to the Lord; and during Jesus' delay, his daughter died. Here also may be the explanation of why the Lord often delays the answer to prayer; it is that he may give something far more wonderful, or far better, than what was requested. In the case of Jairus' daughter, a resurrection was far better and far more wonderful than a healing would have been.
God also answers prayer through natural laws and processes. When fields yield richly; when people enjoy good health; when nature pours out abundant blessings; all of these things are God's answer to his children's prayers for daily bread, nor should the Giver be overlooked merely because the normal processes of nature through which his blessings were conveyed are recognized and partially understood.
By way of summarizing the ways in which God answers prayer, some of the ways are:
He may answer it literally.
He may refuse to grant the petition.
He may send something different from what was requested.
He may answer it gradually.
He may answer it after a long delay.
He may answer through natural laws and processes.
The peace of God ...
This was described by Hendriksen as "The smile of God reflected in the soul of the believer, the heart's calm after Calvary's storm, the conviction that God who spared not his own Son will surely also, along with him, freely give us all things (Romans 8:32)." F19
Passeth all understanding ...
Those who see it manifested in the lives of Christians cannot understand such peace exhibited despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune encountered by them; even those who possess it cannot fully understand it; but those who have experienced it would not exchange it for anything that the world has to offer.
Shall guard your hearts ...
The scholars tell us that this is translated from a military term signifying a sentinel guarding a city. As Philippi was a Roman colony, populated with many retirees from the military establishment of Rome, this must rank as another marvelous analogy drawn by Paul from things which he observed in his travels. Such metaphors as those of the athletic contests in Olympian games or the triumphal processions of generals and rulers are also included.
In Christ Jesus ...
Paul's favorite expression again appears here. To understand all that is meant by these words is to grasp in its fullness the whole theology of the apostle Paul, and indeed all the New Testament writers. One may only be amazed that so many commentators pay no attention at all to these most important words. Out of Christ there is nothing; in him is the life eternal; and people (let all people hear it) are "baptized into Christ," as Paul himself declared (Romans 6:3). What about faith? No unbeliever can be baptized, and no believer is in Christ until he is baptized into him.
Paul had written this in Philp. 3:1; but as Caffin put it, "Again and again he prepares to close his epistle, but he cannot at once bid farewell to his beloved Philippians. F20
Thought control is clearly the practice Paul enjoined here. If people would live correctly in God's sight, let them think of those qualities which possess positive value. Thinking of such things will lead to speaking of them, as exemplified in the lives of associates, thus contributing to the joy and unity of Christian fellowship.
Foulkes pointed out that the strong word ([Greek: logizomai]) Paul used here, translated "take such things into account" is Paul's way of saying, "Let such things shape your attitudes." F21
Of special interest in Paul's list given here is the word arete, translated "virtue." This is found nowhere else in Paul's letters and in only two other New Testament references (1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 1:3), despite the fact of its being "a frequent word in classical and Hellenistic Greek." F22 Lightfoot believed that Paul "seems studiously to avoid this common heathen term for moral excellence." F23 From this Lightfoot interpreted Paul's meaning to be, "Whatever value may reside in your old heathen conception of virtue, whatever consideration is due to the praise of men, etc." F24 Barry concurred in this discernment, saying that Paul's introduction of virtue and praise after the hypothetical "if there be any" indicated that these last two words "occupy less firm and important ground" F25 than the others (due, of course, to pagan conceptions of what the terms meant).
Despite the above, however, this writer holds this list of desirables in the highest respect, the words in their commonly accepted denotations and connotations standing for the very greatest human excellence known to man. God help all people to let their thoughts dwell upon such things as Paul enumerated here.
This is the equivalent of Paul's frequent admonitions to follow (or imitate) him as he followed (or imitated) Christ. See under Philp. 3:17.
The God of peace ...
In Philp. 4:7, Paul had written "the peace of God"; and, as Barry said, "The inversion is striking." F26 The peace of God passes all understanding, but the God of peace is more, peace being that which is given, and God being the giver.
Paul reserved his expression of thanks to the Philippian congregation for their financial aid, quite properly, to the very last of his letter. The doctrinal part of the letter being finished, Paul in this verse turned to those intensely personal things between himself and the Philippians.
Ye have revived ...
Some scholars detect a vein of criticism or disappointment in this, as if Paul has said, "Well, I am glad you have come alive." If there is any thought like this here, then Paul promptly took the sting out of it by pointing out that, actually, there had been "no opportunity" to help him any sooner. Furthermore, as Knight wrote: "Paul wrote 'ye were also careful (ephroneite)' ... using the imperfect tense, which suggests his willingness to believe that the Philippians all along had desired to help but were hindered. F27
Not that I speak in respect of want ...
This statement has elicited two opinions of scholars: (1) "Paul uses the word content (a moment later) in the sense of his being independent of circumstances; but his all-sufficient resources are by the grace of Christ who lives in him." F28 (2) Sir William M. Ramsay believed that Paul had inherited, or otherwise come into possession of, a large sum of money, founding his opinion on the fact of Luke's attendance upon Paul and other conditions of Paul's imprisonment. Despite the plausibility of Ramsay's deductions it would appear that the preferable view is that after (1).
Strange as it may appear to us, Paul was, in this verse, disclaiming any need of the Philippians' gifts, rejoicing in the reception of it for the benefit to them, not to himself. This is simply astounding. As Mounce put it, "While not dependent on the gift, or even seeking it, Paul rejoiced in that such sacrifices were well-pleasing to God and beneficial to the giver." F29
This is a summary of what Paul had just been writing with regard to his having an inward sufficiency "in the Lord" to cope with any of life's circumstances, no matter how severe, and no matter how favorable. Paul truly felt that it was impossible for life to confront him with anything that he and the Lord could not handle! Those who think they find traces of Stoicism in Paul's attitude here know nothing, either of Stoicism or of the heart of the great apostle. As King correctly noted, "Christ is the source of Paul's power; it is Christ who is continually infusing power into him." F30 The key words of this verse, as so often in Paul's writings, are "IN HIM."
My affliction ...
Note Paul does not say "want," leaving room for what he had already implied, namely, that he did not actually need their gift. Hendriksen saw this verse as Paul's statement that their gift had "relieved his need"; F31 but it seems more accurate to see it as encouraging in his affliction (imprisonment). Whether or not Paul could have survived without the gift (after all, Rome was feeding him), he nevertheless deeply appreciated this evidence of loving concern on the part of his dear Philippians.
From the very beginning of Paul's experience at Philippi, the people there were noted for their liberality and hospitality. It was from the house of Lydia that Paul preached the gospel there. Even before Paul was out of Macedonia, they began sending him money. As Hendriksen said, "Truly the stamp of Luke's and Lydia's commendable generosity was upon this congregation." F32
Again Paul stressed the truth that he did not covet their money, and yet he was glad for what they had done. Their eternal reward was enhanced and extended as a result of their generous treatment of the apostle.
The apostle "credits the givers with the proper spirit, that is, the attitude of faith, love and gratitude." F33 Notice how giving is described in the terms of the worship of God, being a "sacrifice," "an odor of a sweet smell," a figurative reference to the incense burned in the tabernacle, symbolical of the prayers of God's people.
Hendriksen made a distinction between God's general providence over all of his creation, including even plants and animals, and "the very special providence of which believers are the objects," F34 applying the latter to the Philippians as promised in this verse. Paul's teaching in 2 Cor. 9:6-10, coupled with this emphatic blessing upon the Philippians, surely supports such a view. However, as Hendriksen further commented on this:
This does not mean that the Philippians would now be justified in becoming lazy. "God's word does not advocate fanaticism, nor does it say that one should throw his pocketbook into the nearest river and then announce that he is going to live by faith" (Tenney). To be sure, God was taking care of Paul, but one of the ways in which he was doing so was exemplified by the gift from Philippi. F35
This short, beautiful doxology, so characteristic of Paul's letters, is concluded with the solemn "Amen." For comment on "Amen," see my Commentary on Heb. 13:25.
Hendriksen, like many others, has supposed that Paul might have written these final verses with his own hand, as he sometimes did, thus making such an inscription a kind of signature.
Knight wrote that "One would expect in a personal letter such as this to find in the closing salutations a number of names." F36 Despite the fact of many scholars accepting such a proposition, such an expectation as that mentioned by Knight is as fantastically unreasonable as any that could be contrived by the imagination. In no other scholarly assumption is there such a vacuum of intelligent reasoning as in this. Think a moment. If Paul saluted a few friends by name at the end of this epistle, it would have been an insult to a hundred others whom he personally knew in Philippi. We have already seen under Philp. 4:3 how the great apostle had avoided getting involved with writing any more personal names (see comment); and for him gratuitiously to have included a list of names here was unthinkable. Any minister who ever served a large church with hundreds of his personal friends members of it will instantly recognize what an unconscionable blunder it would have been for Paul to tack on a list of personal greetings here, unless he had been planning to name "all of those" whom he knew and loved at Philippi. Thus the objection voiced by Knight uncovers no fault of the apostle's but it does show the fuzzy thinking of many scholars on this point.
Salute every saint ...
"Only here in the New Testament does [Greek: hagios] (saint) occur in the singular (fifty-seven times in the plural), and even here it is prefaced by every, a strong reminder that Christianity is a corporate affair." F37
Saints in Caesar's household ...
As Barclay said, "This is what we would call the Imperial Civil Service." F38 Caesar's houshold was all over the empire, wherever his servants or officers were carrying out the emperor's orders. Despite this, it should be remembered that Paul was in Rome when this was written, justifying the conclusion that "Christianity had infiltrated into the highest positions in the empire." F39
Lightfoot took a step in the direction of indentifying some of these with some of the individuals saluted in Rom. 16. See my Commentary on Romans under that reference. If slaves of a nobleman in the provinces were willed to the emperor, then upon the death of the nobleman, the slaves would be transferred to Rome, but still retain their family identity, as the "household of Aristobulus" for example; and Lightfoot thought some of the "household" mentioned here might formerly have lived at Philippi. He wrote:
This supposition best explains the incidental character of the allusion. Paul obviously assumes that his distant correspondents know all about the persons thus referred to. If so, we are led to look for them in the long list of names saluted by St. Paul some three years before in the epistle to the Romans. F40
The Lord Jesus Christ ...
The prevalence of this expression in Philippians is significant. Almost every other line in the epistle has it in one form or another, making it rank along with "in Christ" as a distinctive mark of the Pauline theology. All people should praise God for the remarkable beauty and effectiveness of this priceless personal letter preserved through so many dangers and centuries to bless the saints of all ages.
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.