Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
PRAYERS FOR THE
STATE OF THE
ROME, AND THE
1. Timotheus--mentioned as being well known to the Philippians
(Ac 16:3, 10-12),
and now present with Paul. Not that Timothy had any share in writing
the Epistle; for Paul presently uses the first person singular, "I,"
The mention of his name implies merely that Timothy joined in
affectionate remembrances to them.
servants of Jesus Christ--The oldest manuscripts read the order,
"Christ Jesus." Paul does not call himself "an apostle," as in the
inscriptions of other Epistles; for the Philippians needed not to be
reminded of his apostolic authority. He writes rather in a tone of
Php 1:4, 7, 8, 25;
Php 2:17, 26.
It implies comprehensive affection which desired not to forget any one
among them "all."
bishops--synonymous with "presbyters" in the apostolical churches;
as appears from the same persons being called "elders of the Church" at
Greek, "bishops." And
This is the earliest letter of Paul where bishops and deacons are
mentioned, and the only one where they are separately addressed in the
salutation. This accords with the probable course of events, deduced
alike from the letters and history. While the apostles were constantly
visiting the churches in person or by messengers, regular pastors would
be less needed; but when some were removed by various causes, provision
for the permanent order of the churches would be needed. Hence the
three pastoral letters, subsequent to this Epistle, give instruction as
to the due appointment of bishops and deacons. It agrees with this new
want of the Church, when other apostles were dead or far away, and Paul
long in prison, that bishops and deacons should be prominent for the
first time in the opening salutation. The Spirit thus intimated that
the churches were to look up to their own pastors, now that the
miraculous gifts were passing into God's ordinary providence, and the
presence of the inspired apostles, the dispensers of those gifts, was
to be withdrawn [PALEY, "Horæ
Paulinæ]. "Presbyter," implied the rank; "bishop,"
the duties of the office [NEANDER].
Naturally, when the apostles who had the chief supervision were no
more, one among the presbyters presided and received the name "bishop,"
in the more restricted and modern sense; just as in the Jewish
synagogue one of the elders presided as "ruler of the synagogue."
Observe, the apostle addresses the Church (that is, the congregation)
more directly than its presiding ministers
Re 1:4, 11).
The bishops managed more the internal, the deacons the external,
affairs of the Church. The plural number shows there was more than one
bishop or presbyter, and more than one deacon in the Church at
2. Grace . . . peace--The very form of this salutation implies the
union of Jew, Greek, and Roman. The Greek salutation was "joy"
(chairein), akin to the Greek for "grace" (charis). The
Roman was "health," the intermediate term between grace and
peace. The Hebrew was "peace," including both temporal and
spiritual prosperity. Grace must come first if we are to have true
from . . . from--Omit the second "from": as in the Greek, "God
our Father" and "the Lord Jesus Christ," are most closely connected.
3. Translate, "In all my remembrance of you."
4. making request--Translate, "making my request."
for you all--The frequent repetition in this Epistle of "all" with
"you," marks that Paul desires to declare his love for all alike,
and will not recognize any divisions among them.
with joy--the characteristic feature in this Epistle, as love is
in that to the Ephesians (compare
Php 2:2, 19, 28; 3:1; 4:1, 4).
Love and joy are the two first-fruits of the Spirit.
Joy gives especial animation to prayers. It marked his high
opinion of them, that there was almost everything in them to give him
joy, and almost nothing to give him pain.
5. Ground of his "thanking God"
"For your (continued) fellowship (that is, real spiritual
participation) in (literally, 'in regard to') the Gospel from the first
day (of your becoming partakers in it) until now." Believers
have the fellowship of the Son of God
and of the Father
in the Gospel, by becoming partakers of "the fellowship of the Holy
and exercise that fellowship by acts of communion, not only the
communion of the Lord's Supper, but holy liberality to brethren and
(Php 4:10, 15,
"communicated . . . concerning giving";
"To communicate forget not").
6. confident--This confidence nerves prayers and thanksgivings
(Php 1:3, 4).
this very thing--the very thing which he prays for
is the matter of his believing confidence
1Jo 5:14, 15).
Hence the result is sure.
he which hath begun--God
a good work--Any work that God begins, He will surely finish
Not even men begin a work at random. Much more the fact of His
beginning the work is a pledge of its completion
So as to the particular work here meant, the perfecting of their
fellowship in the Gospel
Ps 37:24; 89:33; 138:8;
Joh 10:28, 29;
Ro 8:29, 35-39; 11:1, 2
As God cast not off Israel for ever, though chastening them for a time,
so He will not cast off the spiritual Israel
perform it until--"perfect it up to" [ALFORD,
ELLICOTT, and others].
the day of . . . Christ--
The Lord's coming, designed by God in every age of the Church to be
regarded as near, is to be the goal set before believers' minds rather
than their own death.
7. meet--Greek, "just."
to think this--to have the prayerful confidence I expressed
of you--literally, "in behalf of you." Paul's confident prayer
in their behalf was that God would perfect His own good work of
grace in them.
because, &c.--Punctuate and translate, "Because I have you in my
otherwise the Greek and the words immediately following in the
verse, favor the Margin, 'Ye have me in
your heart . . . being partakers of my grace') (both,
in my bonds, and in my defense and confirmation of the Gospel),
you (I say) all being fellow partakers of my grace." This last clause
thus assigns the reason why he has them in his heart (that is,
cherished in his love,
2Co 3:2; 7:3),
even in his bonds, and in his defense and confirmation of the Gospel
(such as he was constantly making in private,
his self-defense and confirmation of the Gospel being necessarily
conjoined, as the Greek implies; compare
namely, "inasmuch as ye are fellow partakers of my grace": inasmuch as
ye share with me in "the fellowship of the Gospel"
and have manifested this, both by suffering as I do for the Gospel's
and by imparting to me of your substance
It is natural and right for me thus confidently to pray in your behalf.
(ELLICOTT, and others translate, "To be thus
minded for you all"), because of my having you in my warmest
remembrances even in my bonds, since you are sharers with me in the
Gospel grace. Bonds do not bind love.
8. Confirmation of
record--that is, witness.
in the bowels of Jesus Christ--"Christ Jesus" is the order in
the oldest manuscripts. My yearning love (so the Greek
implies) to you is not merely from natural affection, but from
devotedness to Christ Jesus. "Not Paul, but Jesus Christ lives in Paul;
wherefore Paul is not moved in the bowels (that is, the tender love,
of Paul, but of Jesus Christ" [BENGEL]. All real
spiritual love is but a portion of Christ's love which yearns in all
who are united to Him [ALFORD].
9. The subject of his prayer for them
your love--to Christ, producing love not only to Paul, Christ's
minister, as it did, but also to one another, which it did not
altogether as much as it ought
(Php 2:2; 4:2).
knowledge--of doctrinal and practical truth.
judgment--rather, "perception"; "perceptive sense." Spiritual
perceptiveness: spiritual sight, spiritual hearing, spiritual feeling,
spiritual taste. Christianity is a vigorous plant, not the hotbed growth
of enthusiasm. "Knowledge" and "perception" guard love from being
10. Literally, "With a view to your proving
(and so approving and embracing) the things that excel"
not merely things not bad, but the things best among those that are
good; the things of more advanced excellence. Ask as to things, not
merely, Is there no harm, but is there any good, and which is the best?
sincere--from a Greek root.
Examined in the sunlight and found pure.
without offence--not stumbling; running the Christian race without
falling through any stumbling-block, that is, temptation, in your way.
till--rather, "unto," "against"; so that when the day of Christ comes,
ye may be found pure and without offense.
11. The oldest manuscripts read the singular, "fruit." So
regarding the works of righteousness, however manifold, as one
harmonious whole, "the fruit of the Spirit"
"the fruit of righteousness"
"fruit unto holiness."
which are--"which is by (Greek, 'through') Jesus Christ."
Through His sending to us the Spirit from the Father. "We are wild and
useless olive trees till we are grafted into Christ, who, by His living
root, makes us fruit-bearing branches" [CALVIN].
12. understand--Greek, "know." The Philippians probably had feared
that his imprisonment would hinder the spread of the Gospel; he
therefore removes this fear.
the things which happened unto me--Greek, "the things concerning
rather--so far is my imprisonment from hindering the Gospel.
Faith takes in a favorable light even what seems adverse [BENGEL]
(Php 1:19, 28;
13. my bonds in Christ--rather as Greek, "So that my bonds
have become manifest in Christ," that is, known, as endured in
palace--literally, "Prætorium," that is, the barrack of
the Prætorian guards attached to the palace of Nero, on the
Palatine hill at Rome; not the general Prætorian camp outside of
the city; for this was not connected with "Cæsar's household,"
shows the Prætorium here meant was. The emperor was
"Prætor," or Commander-in-Chief; naturally then the barrack of
his bodyguard was called the Prætorium. Paul seems now not to
have been at large in his own hired house, though chained to a soldier,
Ac 28:16, 20, 30, 31,
but in strict custody in the Prætorium; a change which probably
took place on Tigellinus becoming Prætorian Prefect. See
in all other places--so CHRYSOSTOM. Or else, "TO all the rest," that
is, "manifest to all the other" Prætorian soldiers stationed elsewhere,
through the instrumentality of the Prætorian household guards who might
for the time be attached to the emperor's palace, and who relieved one
another in succession. Paul had been now upwards of two years a
prisoner, so that there was time for his cause and the Gospel having
become widely known at Rome.
14. Translate as Greek, "And that
most of the brethren in the Lord," &c. "In the Lord,"
distinguishes them from "brethren after the flesh," Jewish fellow
countrymen. ELLICOTT translates, "Trusting in
by my bonds--encouraged by my patience in bearing my bonds.
much more bold--Translate as Greek, "are more abundantly bold."
15. "Some indeed are preaching Christ even for envy, that
is, to carry out the envy which they felt towards Paul, on account
of the success of the Gospel in the capital of the world, owing to his
steadfastness in his imprisonment; they wished through envy to transfer
the credit of its progress from him to themselves. Probably Judaizing
1Co 3:10-15; 9:1,
&c.; 2Co 11:1-4).
some also of--rather, "for"
good will--answering to "the brethren"
some being well disposed to him.
16, 17. The oldest manuscripts transpose these verses, and read,
"These (last) indeed out of love (to Christ and me),
knowing (the opposite of 'thinking' below) that I am set (that is,
appointed by God,
for the defense of the Gospel
not on my own account). But the others out of contention (or
rather, 'a factious spirit'; 'cabal'; a spirit of intrigue, using
unscrupulous means to compass their end; 'self-seeking' [ALFORD]) proclaim (the Greek is not the
same as that for 'preach,' but, 'announce') Christ, not
sincerely (answering to 'but of a spirit of intrigue,' or
'self-seeking'). Literally, 'not purely'; not with a pure intention;
the Jewish leaven they tried to introduce was in order to glorify
(Ga 6:12, 13;
however, see on
thinking (but in vain) to raise up (so the oldest manuscripts
read) tribulation to my bonds." Their thought was, that
taking the opportunity of my being laid aside, they would exalt
themselves by their Judaizing preaching, and depreciate me and my
preaching, and so cause me trouble of spirit in my bonds; they thought
that I, like themselves, sought my own glory, and so would be mortified
at their success over mine. But they are utterly mistaken; "I rejoice"
so far am I from being troubled at it.
18. What follows from this? Does this trouble me as they thought
it would? "Notwithstanding" their unkind thought to me, and
self-seeking intention, the cause I have at heart is furthered "every
way" of preaching, "whether in pretense (with a by motive,
or in truth (out of true 'love' to Christ,
Christ is proclaimed; and therein I do rejoice, yea, and I will
rejoice." From this it would seem that these self-seeking teachers in
the main "proclaimed Christ," not "another Gospel," such as the
Judaizers in Galatia taught
though probably having some of the Jewish leaven (see on
their chief error was their self-seeking envious motive,
not so much error of doctrine; had there been vital error, Paul
would not have rejoiced. The proclamation of CHRIST," however done, roused attention, and so was sure
to be of service. Paul could thus rejoice at the good result of their
Isa 10:5, 7).
19. turn to my salvation--"turn out to me for, (or
unto) salvation." This proclamation of Christ every way will
turn out to my spiritual good. Christ, whose interests are my
interests, being glorified thereby; and so the coming of His kingdom
being furthered, which, when it does come, will bring completed "SALVATION"
to me and all whose "earnest expectation"
is that Christ may be magnified in them. So far is their preaching from
causing me, as they thought, tribulation in my bonds
Paul plainly quotes and applies to himself the very words of the
"This shall turn out to my salvation," which belong to all God's people
of every age, in their tribulation (compare
through your prayer and the supply--The Greek intimately joins
the two nouns together, by having but one preposition and one article:
"Through your prayer and (the consequent) supply of the Spirit of
Jesus Christ (obtained for me through your prayer)."
20. According to my earnest expectation--The Greek expresses,
"expectation with uplifted head
and outstretched neck."
is the only other place in the New Testament that the word occurs.
TITTMANN says, in both places it implies not mere
expectation, but the anxious desire of an anticipated
prosperous issue in afflictive circumstances. The subject of his
earnest expectation which follows, answers to "my salvation"
in nothing I shall be ashamed--in nothing have reason to be
ashamed of "my work for God, or His work in me" [ALFORD]. Or, "in nothing be disappointed in my
hope, but that I may fully obtain it" [ESTIUS]. So "ashamed" is used in
all boldness--"all" is opposed to "in nothing," as "boldness" is the
opposite to "ashamed."
so now also--when "my body" is "in bonds"
Christ--not Paul, "shall be magnified."
life, or by death--Whatever be the issue, I cannot lose; I must be
the gainer by the event. Paul was not omniscient; in the issue of things
pertaining to themselves, the apostles underwent the same probation of
faith and patience as we.
21. For--in either event
I must be the gainer, "For to me," &c.
to live is Christ--whatever life, time, and strength, I have, is
Christ's; Christ is the sole object for which I live
to die is gain--not the act of dying, but as the Greek
("to have died") expresses, the state after death. Besides the
glorification of Christ by my death, which is my primary object
the change of state caused by death, so far from being a matter of
or loss, as my enemies suppose, will be a positive "gain" to me.
22. Rather as Greek, "But if to live in the flesh (if),
this (I say, the continuance in life which I am undervaluing) be the
fruit of my labor (that is, be the condition in which the fruit of my
ministerial labor is involved), then what I shall choose I know
not (I cannot determine with myself, if the choice were given me, both
alternatives being great goods alike)." So ALFORD
and ELLICOTT. BENGEL takes
it as English Version, which the Greek will bear by
supposing an ellipsis, "If to live in the flesh (be my portion), this
(continuing to live) is the fruit of my labor," that is, this
continuance in life will be the occasion of my bringing in "the fruit
of labor," that is, will be the occasion of "labors" which are their
own "fruit" or reward; or, this my continuing "to live" will have this
"fruit," namely, "labors" for Christ. GROTIUS
explains "the fruit of labor" as an idiom for "worthwhile"; If I live
in the flesh, this is worth my while, for thus Christ's interest will
be advanced, "For to me to live is Christ"
The second alternative, namely, dying, is taken up and handled,
"If I be offered."
23. For--The oldest manuscripts read, "But." "I know not
BUT am in a strait (am perplexed) betwixt
the two (namely, 'to live' and 'to die'), having the desire
for departing (literally, 'to loose anchor,'
and being with Christ; FOR (so the oldest
manuscripts) it is by far better"; or as the Greek, more
forcibly, "by far the more preferable"; a double comparative.
This refutes the notion of the soul being dormant during its separation
from the body. It also shows that, while he regarded the Lord's advent
as at all times near, yet that his death before it was a very possible
contingency. The partial life eternal is in the interval between
death and Christ's second advent; the perfectional, at that
advent [BISHOP PEARSON].
To depart is better than to remain in the flesh; to be with
Christ is far, far better; a New Testament hope
24. to abide--to continue somewhat longer.
for you--Greek, "on your account"; "for your sake." In order to be
of service to you, I am willing to forego my entrance a little sooner
into blessedness; heaven will not fail to be mine at last.
25. Translate, "And being confident of this."
I know, &c.--by prophetical intimations of the Spirit. He did not
yet know the issue, as far as human appearances were concerned
He doubtless returned from his first captivity to Philippi
joy of faith--Greek, "joy in your faith."
26. Translate, "That your matter of glorying (or
rejoicing) may abound in Christ Jesus in me (that is, in my
case; in respect to me, or for me who have been granted
to your prayers,
through my presence again among you." ALFORD makes
the "matter of glorying," the possession of the Gospel, received
from Paul, which would abound, be assured and increased, by his
presence among them; thus, "in me," implies that Paul is the worker of
the material of abounding in Christ Jesus. But "my rejoicing
answers plainly to "your rejoicing in respect to me" here.
27. Only--Whatever happens as to my coming to you, or not, make this
your one only care. By supposing this or that future contingency, many
persuade themselves they will be such as they ought to be, but it is
better always without evasion to perform present duties under present
let your conversation be--(Compare
The Greek implies, "Let your walk as citizens (namely, of
the heavenly state; 'the city of the living God,'
'the heavenly Jerusalem,' 'fellow citizens of the saints,'
I . . . see . . . hear--so
"Hear," in order to include both alternatives, must include the meaning
your affairs--your state.
in one spirit--the fruit of partaking of the Holy Spirit
(Eph 4:3, 4).
with one mind--rather as Greek, "soul," the sphere of the
affections; subordinate to the "Spirit," man's higher and heavenly
nature. "There is sometimes natural antipathies among believers; but
these are overcome, when there is not only unity of spirit, but also of
striving together--with united effort.
28. terrified--literally, said of horses or other animals startled
or suddenly scared; so of sudden consternation in general.
which--your not being terrified.
evident token of perdition--if they would only perceive it
It attests this, that in contending hopelessly against you, they are
only rushing on to their own perdition, not shaking your united faith
to you of salvation--The oldest manuscripts read, "of
your salvation"; not merely your temporal safety.
29. For--rather, a proof that this is an evident token from God of
your salvation, "Because," &c.
it is given--Greek, "it has been granted as a
favor," or "gift of grace." Faith is the gift of God
not wrought in the soul by the will of man, but by the Holy Ghost
(Joh 1:12, 13).
believe on him--"To believe Him," would merely mean to
believe He speaks the truth. "To believe on Him," is to believe
in, and trust through, Him to obtain eternal salvation.
Suffering for Christ is not only not a mark of God's anger, but
a gift of His grace.
30. ye saw in me--
(Ac 16:12, 19,
&c.; 1Th 2:2).
I am "in nothing terrified by mine adversaries"
so ought not ye. The words here, "ye saw . . . and
. . . hear," answer to "I come and see you, or else
. . . hear"