Introduction to Philippians
Section 1. The Situation of Philippi
Philippi is mentioned in the New Testament only in the following places and connections. In Acts 16:11-12, it is said that Paul and his fellow travelers "loosed from Troas, came with a straight course to Samothracia and Neapolis, and from thence to Philippi." It was at this time that the "Lord opened the heart of Lydia to attend to the things which were spoken by Paul," and that the jailor was converted under such interesting circumstances. In Acts 20:1-6, it appears that Paul again visited Philippi after he had been to Athens and Corinth, and when on his way to Judea. From Philippi he went to Troas. In 1 Thessalonians 2:2, Paul alludes to the shameful treatment which he had received at Philippi, and to the fact, that having been treated in that manner at Philippi, he had passed to Thessalonica, and preached the gospel there.
Philippi received its name from Philip, the father of Alexander the Great. Before his time, its history is unknown. It is said that it was founded on the site of an old Thasian settlement, and that its former name was Crenides from the circumstance of its being surrounded by numerous rivulets and springs descending from the neighboring mountains (from κρήνη krēnē, a spring). The city was also called Dathos, or Datos - Δατος Datos; notes, Acts 16:12. The Thasians, who inhabited the island of Thasus, lying off the coast in the Aegean sea, had been attracted to the place by the valuable mines of gold and silver which were found in that region. It was a city of Macedonia, to the northeast of Amphipolis, and nearly east of Thessalonica. It was not far from the borders of Thrace. It was about 15 or 20 miles from the Aegean sea, in the neighborhood of Mount Pangaeus, and had a small river or stream running near it which emptied into the Aegean sea. We have no information of the size of the city when the gospel was preached there by Paul.
This city was originally within the limits of Thrace. Philip of Macedon having turned his attention to Thrace, the situation of Crenides and Mount Pangaeus naturally attracted his notice. Accordingly, he invaded this country; expelled the feeble Cotys from his throne, and then proceeded to found a new city, on the site of the old Thasian colony, which he called after his own name - Philippi (Anthon, Classical Dictionary). When Macedonia became subject to the Romans, the advantages attending the situation of Philippi induced that people to send a colony there, and it became one of the most flourishing cities of the empire; compare Acts 16:12; Pliny, iv. 10. There is a medal of this city with the following inscription - col. jul. aug. phil. From this it appears that there was a colony sent there by Julius Caesar (Michaelis). The city derived considerable importance from the fact that it was a principal thoroughfare from Asia to Europe, since the great leading road from one continent to the other was in that vicinity. This road is described at length by Appian, De Bell. Civ. L. iv. c. 105, 106.
This city is celebrated in history from the fact that it was here that a great victory - deciding the fate of the Roman empire - was obtained by Octavianus (afterward called Augustus Caesar) and Antony over the forces of Brutus and Cassius, by which the republican party was completely subdued. In this battle, Cassius, who was hard pressed and defeated by Antony, and who supposed that everything was lost, killed himself in despair. Brutus deplored his loss with tears of the sincerest sorrow, calling him, "the last of the Romans." After an interval of 20 days, Brutus hazarded a second battle. Where he himself fought in person he was successful; but the army everywhere else gave way, and the battle terminated in the entire defeat of the republican party. Brutus escaped with a few friends; passed a night in a cave, and seeing that all was irretrievably lost, ordered Strato, one of his attendants, to kill him. Strato for a long time refused; but seeing that Brutus was resolute, he turned away his face, and held his sword, and Brutus fell upon it.
The city of Philippi is often mentioned by the Byzantine writers in history. Its ruins still retain the name of Filibah. Two American missionaries visited these ruins in May, 1834. They saw the remains of what might have been the forum or marketplace, where Paul and Silas were beaten Acts 16:19 and also the fragments of a splendid palace. The road by which Paul went from Neapolis to Philippi, they think is the same that is now traveled, since it is cut through the most difficult passes in the mountains. It is still paved throughout.
Section 2. The Establishment of the Church in Philippi
Philippi was the first place in Europe where the gospel was preached; and this fact invests the place with more interest and importance than it derives from the battle fought there. The gospel was first preached here in very interesting circumstances by Paul and Silas. Paul had been called by a remarkable vision Acts 16:9 to go into Macedonia, and the first place where he preached was Philippi - having made his way, as his custom was, directly to the capital. The first person to whom he preached was Lydia, a seller of purple, from Thyatira, in Asia Minor. She was converted, and received Paul and Silas into her house, and entertained them hospitably. In consequence of Paul's casting out an evil spirit from a "damsel possessed of a spirit of divination," by which the hope of gain by those who kept her in their employ was destroyed, the populace was excited, and Paul and Silas were thrown into the inner prison, and their feet were made fast in the stocks. Here, at midnight, God interposed in a remarkable manner. An earthquake shook the prison; their bonds were loosened; the doors of the prison were thrown open, and their keeper, who before had treated them with special severity, was converted, and all his family were baptized. It was in such solemn circumstances that the gospel was first introduced into Europe. After the tumult, and the conversion of the jailor, Paul was honorably released, and soon left the city; Acts 16:40. He subsequently visited Macedonia before his imprisonment at Rome, and doubtless went to Philippi Acts 20:1-2. It is supposed, that after his first imprisonment at Rome, he was released and again visited the churches which he had founded. In this Epistle Philippians 1:25-26; Philippians 2:24 he expresses a confident hope that he would be released, and would be permitted to see them again; and there is a probability that his wishes in regard to this were accomplished; see the introduction to 2Timothy.
Section 3. The Time When the Epistle Was Written
It is evident that this epistle was written from Rome. This appears:
(1) because it was composed when Paul was in "bonds" Philippians 1:13-14;
(2) because circumstances are suggested, such as to leave no doubt that the imprisonment was at Rome; thus, in Philippians 1:13, he says that his "bonds were manifested in all the palace:" a phrase which would naturally suggest the idea of the Roman capitol; and, in Philippians 4:22, he says, "all the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household."
It is further evident that it was after he had been imprisoned for a considerable time, and, probably, not long before his release. This appears from the following circumstances:
(1) The apostle had been a prisoner so long in Rome, that the character which he had manifested in his trials had contributed considerably to the success of the gospel; Philippians 1:12-14. His bonds, he says, were manifest "in all the palace;" and many of the brethren had become increasingly bold by his "bonds," and had taken occasion to preach the gospel without fear.
(2) the account given of Epaphroditus imports that, when Paul wrote this Epistle, he had been at Rome for a considerable time. He was with Paul in Rome, and had been sick there. The Philippians had received an account of his sickness, and he had again been informed how much they had been affected with the knowledge of his illness; Philippians 2:25-26. The passing and repassing of this knowledge, Dr. Paley remarks, must have occupied considerable time, and must have all taken place during Paul's residence at Rome.
(3) after a residence at Rome, thus proved to have been of considerable duration, Paul, at the time of writing this epistle, regards the decision of his destiny as at hand. He anticipates that the matter would soon be determined; Philippians 2:23.
"Him therefore (Timothy) I hope to send presently, so soon as I see how it will go with me." Paul had some expectation that he might be released, and be permitted to visit them again; Philippians 2:21. "I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly;" compare Philippians 1:25, Philippians 1:27. Yet he was not absolutely certain how it would go with him, and though, in one place, he speaks with great confidence that he would be released Philippians 1:25, yet in another he suggests the possibility that he might be put to death; Philippians 2:17. "Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all." These circumstances concur to fix the time of writing the epistle to the period at which the imprisonment in Rome was about to terminate. From Acts 28:30, we learn that Paul was in Rome "two whole years;" and it was during the latter part of this period that the Epistle was written. It is commonly agreed, therefore, that it was written about 61 or 62 ad. Hug (Introduction) places it at the end of the year 61 a.d., or the beginning of the year 62 a.d.; Lardner, at the close of the year 62 ad. It is evident that it was written before the great conflagration at Rome in the time of Nero (64 a.d.); because it is hardly credible that Paul would have omitted a reference to such an event, if it had occurred. It is certain, from the persecution of the Christians which followed that event, that he would not have been likely to have represented his condition to be so favorable as he has done in this epistle. He could hardly have looked then for a release.
Section 4. The Design and Character of the Epistle
The object of the Epistle is apparent. It was sent by Epaphroditus Philippians 2:25, who appears to have been a resident at Philippi, and a member of the church there, to express the thanks of the apostle for the favors which they had conferred upon him, and to comfort them with the hope that he might be soon set at liberty. Epaphroditus had been sent by the Philippians to convey their benefactions to him in the time of his imprisonment; Philippians 4:18. While at Rome, he had been taken ill; Philippians 2:26-27. Upon his recovery, Paul deemed it proper that Epaphroditus should return to Philippi immediately. It was natural that he should give them some information about his condition and prospects. A considerable part of the Epistle, therefore is occupied in giving an account of the effects of Paul's imprisonment in promoting the spread of the gospel, and of Paul's own feelings in the circumstances in which he was then. He was not yet certain what the result of his imprisonment would be Philippians 1:20; but he was prepared either to live or to die, Philippians 1:23. He wished to live only that he might be useful to others; and, supposing that he might be made useful, he had some expectation that he might be released from his bonds.
There is, perhaps, not one of the epistles of the apostle Paul which is so tender, and which abounds so much with expressions of kindness, as this. In relation to other churches, he was often under the necessity of using the language of reproof. The prevalence of some error, as in the churches of Galatia; the existence of divisions and strifes, or some aggravated case requiring discipline, or some gross irregularity, as in the church at Corinth, frequently demanded the language of severity. But, in the church at Philippi, there was scarcely anything which required rebuke; there was very much that demanded commendation and gratitude. Their conduct toward him, and their general deportment, had been exemplary, generous, and noble. They had evinced for him the tenderest regard in his troubles; providing for his needs, sending a special messenger to supply him when no other opportunity occurred Philippians 4:10, and sympathizing with him in his trials; and they had, in the order, peace, and harmony of the church, eminently adorned the doctrine of the Saviour. The language of the apostle, therefore, throughout the Epistle, is of the most affectionate character - such as a benevolent heart would always choose to employ, and such as must have been exceedingly grateful to them.
Paul never hesitated to use the language of commendation where it was deserved, since he never shrank from reproof where it was merited; and he appears to have regarded the one as a matter of duty as much as the other. We are to remember, too, the circumstances of Paul, and to ask what kind of an Epistle an affectionate and grateful spiritual father would be likely to write to a much-beloved flock, when he felt that he was about to die; and we shall find that this is just such an epistle as we should suppose such a man would write. It breathes the spirit of a ripe Christian, whose piety was mellowing for the harvest; of one who felt that he was not far from heaven, and might soon "be with Christ." Though there was some expectation of a release, yet his situation was such as led him to look death in the face. He was lying under heavy accusations; he had no hope of justice from his own countrymen; the character of the emperor (Nero) was not such as to inspire him with great confidence of having justice done; and it is possible that the fires of persecution had already begun to burn.
At the mercy of such a man as Nero; a prisoner; among strangers, and with death staring him in the face, it is natural to suppose that there would be a special solemnity, tenderness, pathos, and ardor of affection, breathing through the entire Epistle. Such is the fact; and in none of the writings of Paul are these qualities more apparent than in this letter to the Philippians. He expresses his grateful remembrance of all their kindness; he evinces a tender regard for their welfare; and he pours forth the full-flowing language of gratitude, and utters a father's feelings toward them by tender and kind admonitions. It is important to remember these circumstances in the interpretation of this Epistle. It breathes the language of a father, rather than the authority of an apostle; the entreaties of a tender friend, rather than the commands of one in authority. It expresses the affections of a man who felt that he might be near death, and who tenderly loved them; and it will be, to all ages, a model of affectionate counsel and advice.
This chapter embraces the following points:
I. The salutation to the church, Philippians 1:1-2.
II. In Philippians 1:3-8, the apostle expresses his gratitude for the evidence which they had given of love to God, and for their fidelity in the gospel from the time when it was first proclaimed among them. He says that he was confident that this would continue, and that God, who had so mercifully imparted grace to them to be faithful, would do it to the end.
III. He expresses the earnest hope that they might abound more and more in knowledge, and be without offence to the day of Christ; Philippians 1:9-11.
IV. In Philippians 1:12-21, he states to them what had been the effect of his imprisonment in Rome - presuming that in would be grateful intelligence to them that even his imprisonment had been overruled for the spread of the gospel. His trials, he says, had been the means of the extension of the knowledge of Christ even in the palace, and many Christians had been emboldened by his sufferings to increased diligence in making known the truth. Some, indeed, he says, preached Christ from unworthy motives, and with a view to increase his affliction, but in the great fact that Christ was preached, he says, he rejoiced. Forgetting himself and any injury which they might design to do to him, he could sincerely rejoice that the gospel was proclaimed - no matter by whom or with what motives. The whole affair he trusted would be made conducive to his salvation. Christ was the great end and aim of his life; and if he were made known everything else was of minor importance.
V. The mention of the fact Philippians 1:21 that his great aim in living was "Christ." leads him to advert to the probability that he might soon be with him; Philippians 1:22-26. So great was his wish to be with him, that he would hardly know which to choose - whether to die at once, or to live and to make him known to others. Believing, however, that his life might be still useful to them, he had an expectation of considerable confidence that his life would be spared, and that he would be released.
VI. The chapter closes, Philippians 1:27-30, with an earnest exhortation that they would live as became the gospel of Christ. Whatever might befall him - whether he should be permitted to see them, or should hear of them, he entreated that he might know that they were living as became the gospel. They were not to he afraid of their adversaries; and if called to suffer, they were to remember that "it was given" them not only to believe on the Redeemer, but also to suffer in his cause.
Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:Paul and Timotheus - Paul frequently unites some person with him in his epistles; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 1:1. It is clear from this, that Timothy was with Paul at Rome. Why he was there is unknown. It is evident that he was not there as a prisoner with Paul, and the probability is, that he was one of the friends who had gone to Rome with a view to show his sympathy with him in his sufferings; compare the notes at 2 Timothy 4:9. There was special propriety in the fact that Timothy was joined with the apostle in writing the Epistle, for he was with him when the church was founded, and doubtless felt a deep interest in its welfare; Acts 16. Timothy had remained in Macedonia after Paul went to Athens, and it is not improbable that he had visited them afterward.
The servants of Jesus Christ - see the notes at Romans 1:1.
To all the saints in Christ Jesus - The common appellation given to the church, denoting that it was holy; see the notes, Romans 1:7.
With the bishops - σὺν επισκόποις sun episkopois; see the notes, Acts 20:28. The word used here occurs in the New Testament only in the following places: Acts 20:28, translated "overseers;" and Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 2:25, in each of which places it is rendered as "bishop." The word properly means an inspector, overseer, or guardian, and was given to the ministers of the gospel because they exercised this care over the churches, or were appointed to oversee their interests. It is a term, therefore, which might be given to any of the officers of the churches, and was originally equivalent to the term presbyter. It is evidently used in this sense here. It cannot be used to denote a diocesan bishop; or a bishop having the care of the churches in a large district of country, and of a superior rank to other ministers of the gospel, because the word is used here in the plural number, and it is in the highest degree improbable that there were dioceses in Philippi. It is clear, moreover, that they were the only officers of the church there except "deacons;" and the persons referred to, therefore, must have been those who were invested simply with the pastoral office. Thus, Jerome, one of the early fathers, says, respecting the word bishop: "A presbyter is the same as a bishop. And until there arose divisions in religion, churches were governed by a common counsel of presbyters. But afterward, it was everywhere decreed, that one person, elected from the presbyters, should be placed over the others." "Philippi," says he, "is a single city of Macedonia; and certainly there could not have been several like these who are now called bishops, at one time in the same city. But as, at that time, they called the same bishops whom they called presbyters also, the apostles spoke indifferently of bishops as of presbyters." Annotations on the Epistle to Titus, as quoted by Dr. Woods on Episcopacy, p. 63.
And deacons - On the appointment of deacons, and their duty, see the notes at Acts 6:1. The word "deacons" does not occur before this place in the common version of the New Testament, though the Greek word rendered here as "deacon" frequently occurs. It is rendered "minister" and "ministers" in Matthew 20:26; Mark 10:43; Romans 13:4; Romans 15:8; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 11:15, 2 Corinthians 11:23; Galatians 2:17; Ephesians 3:7; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 1:7, Colossians 1:23, Colossians 1:25; Colossians 4:7; 1 Timothy 4:6; "servant" and "servants," Matthew 22:13; Matthew 23:11; Mark 9:25; John 2:5, John 2:9; John 12:26; Romans 16:1; and "deacon" or "deacons," Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8, 1 Timothy 3:12. The word properly means servants, and is then applied to the ministers of the gospel as being the servants of Christ, and of the churches. Hence, it came especially to denote those who had charge of the alms of the church, and who were the overseers of the sick and the poor. In this sense the word is probably used in the passage before us, as the officers here referred to were distinct in some way from the bishops. The apostle here mentions but two orders of ministers in the church at Philippi, and this account is of great importance in its bearing on the question about the way in which Christian churches were at first organized, and about the officers which existed in them. In regard to this we may remark:
(1) That only two orders of ministers are mentioned. This is undeniable, whatever rank they may have held.
(2) there is no intimation whatever that a minister like a prelatical bishop had ever been appointed there, and that the incumbent of the office was absent, or that the office was now vacant. If the bishop was absent, as Bloomfield and others suppose, it is remarkable that no allusion is made to him, and that Paul should have left the impression that there were in fact but two "orders" there. If there were a prelate there, why did not Paul refer to him with affectionate salutations? Why does he refer to the two other "orders of clergy" without the slightest allusion to the man who was set over them as "superior in ministerial rank and power?" Was Paul jealous of this prelate? But if they had a prelate, and the see was then vacant, why is there no reference to this fact? Why no condolence at their loss? Why no prayer that God would send them a man to enter into the vacant diocese? It is a mere assumption to suppose, as the friends of prelacy often do, that they had a prelatical bishop, but that he was then absent. But even granting this, it is an inquiry which has never been answered, why Paul did not make some reference to this fact, and ask their prayers for the absent prelate.
(3) the church was organized by the apostle Paul himself, and there can be no doubt that it was organized on the "truly primitive and apostolic plan."
(4) the church at Philippi was in the center of a large territory; was the capital of Macedonia, and was not likely to be placed in subjection to the diocesan of another region.
(5) it was surrounded by other churches, since we have express mention of the church at Thessalonica, and the preaching of the gospel at Berea; Acts 17.
(6) there is more than one bishop mentioned as connected with the church in Philippi. But these could not have been bishops of the Episcopal or prelatical order, if Episcopalians choose to say that they were prelates, then it follows:
(a) that there was a plurality of such persons in the same diocese, the same city, and the same church - which is contrary to the fundamental idea of Episcopacy. It follows also,
(b) that there was entirely missing in the church at Philippi what the Episcopalians call the "second order" of clergy; that a church was organized by the apostles defective in one of the essential grades, with a body of prelates without presbyters - that is, an order of men of "superior" rank designated to exercise jurisdiction over "priests" who had no existence.
If there were such presbyters or "priests" there, why did not Paul name them? If their office was one that was contemplated in the church, and was then vacant, how did this happen? And if this were so, why is there no allusion to so remarkable a fact?
(7) it follows, therefore, that in this church there were only two orders of officers; and further that it is right and proper to apply the term "bishop" to the ordinary ministers of the churches. As no mention is made of a prelate; as there are but two orders of men mentioned to whom the care of the church was entrusted, it follows that there was one church at least organized by the apostles without any prelate.
(8) the same thing may be observed in regard to the distinction between "teaching" elders and "ruling" elders. No such distinction is referred to here; and however useful such an office as that of ruling elder may be, and certain as it is, that such an office existed in some of the primitive churches, yet here is one church where no such officer is found, and this fact proves that such an officer is not essential to the Christian church.
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.Grace be unto you ... - See the note at Romans 1:7.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,I thank my God upon every remembrance of you - Margin, "mention." The Greek word means, "recollection, remembrance." But this recollection may have been suggested either by his own reflections on what he had seen, or by what he had heard of them by others, or by the favors which they conferred on him reminding him of them. The meaning is, that as often as he thought on them, from whatever cause, he had occasion of thankfulness. He says that he thanked his God, intimating that the conduct of the Philippians was a proof of the favor of God to him; that is, he regarded their piety as one of the tokens of the favor of God to his own soul - for in producing that piety he had been mainly instrumental.
Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,Always - There is much emphasis in the expressions which are used here. Paul labors to show them that he never forgot them; that he always remembered them in his prayers.
In every prayer of mine - This was a proof of particular and special affection, that while there were so many objects demanding his prayers, and so many other churches which he had founded, he never forgot them. The person or object that we remember in every prayer must be very dear to the heart.
For you all - Not for the church in general, but for the individual members. "He industriously repeats the word 'all,' that he might show that he loved them all equally well, and that he might the more successfully excite them to the manifestation of the same love and benevolence" - Wetstein.
Making request with joy - With joy at your consistent walk and benevolent lives - mingling thanksgiving with my prayers in view of your holy walk.
For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;For your fellowship in the gospel - "For your liberality toward me, a preacher of the gospel." - Wetstein. There has been, however, no little difference of opinion about the meaning of this phrase. Many - as Doddridge, Koppe, and others - suppose it refers to the fact that they participated in the blessings of the gospel from the first day that he preached it until the time when he wrote this Epistle. Others suppose that it refers to their constancy in the Christian faith. Others - as Pierce, Michaelis, Wetstein, Bloomfield, and Storr - suppose it refers to their liberality in contributing to the support of the gospel; to their participating with others, or sharing what they had in common with others, for the maintenance of the gospel. That this is the true sense seems apparent:
(1) because it accords with the scope of the Epistle, and what the apostle elsewhere says of their benefactions. He speaks particularly of their liberality, and indeed this was one of the principal occasions of his writing the Epistle; Philippians 4:10-12, Philippians 4:15-18.
(2) it accords with a frequent meaning of the word rendered "fellowship" - κοινωνία koinōnia. It denotes that which is in common; that of which we participate with others, communion, fellowship; Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:16; Plm 1:6; then it means communication, distribution, contribution; Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 9:13. That it cannot mean "accession to the gospel" as has been supposed (see Robinson's Lexicon), is apparent from what he adds - "from the first day until now." The fellowship must have been something constant, and continually manifest - and the general meaning is, that in relation to the gospel - to its support, and privileges, and spirit, they all shared in common. They felt a common interest in every thing that pertained to it, and they showed this in every suitable way, and especially in ministering to the wants of those who were appointed to preach it.
From the first day - The time when it was first preached to them. They had been constant. This is honorable testimony. It is much to say of a church or of an individual Christian, that they have been constant and uniform in the requirements of the gospel. Alas, of how few can this be said. On these verses Philippians 1:3-5 we may remark:
(1) That one of the highest joys which a minister of the gospel can have, is that furnished by the holy walk of the people to whom he has ministered; compare 3 John 1:4. It is joy like that of a farmer when he sees his fields ripe for a rich harvest; like that of a teacher in the good conduct and rapid progress of his scholars; like that of a parent in the virtue, success, and piety of his sons. Yet it is superior to all that. The interests are higher and more important; the results are more far-reaching and pure; and the joy is more disinterested. Probably there is nowhere else on earth any happiness so pure, elevated, consoling, and rich, as that of a pastor in the piety, peace, benevolence, and growing zeal of his people.
(2) it is right to commend Christians when they do well. Paul never hesitated to do this, and never supposed that it would do injury. Flattery would injure - but Paul never flattered. Commendation or praise, in order to do good, and not to injure, should be:
(a) the simple statement of the truth;
(b) it should be without exaggeration;
(c) it should be connected with an equal readiness to rebuke when wrong; to admonish when in error, and to counsel when one goes astray.
Constant fault-finding, scolding, or fretfulness, does no good in a family, a school, or a church. The tendency is to dishearten, irritate, and discourage. To commend a child when he does well, may be as important, and as much a duty, as to rebuke him when he does ill. God is as careful to commend his people when they do well, as he is to rebuke them when they do wrong - and that parent, teacher, or pastor, has much mistaken the path of wisdom, who supposes it to be his duty always to find fault. In this world there is nothing that goes so far in promoting happiness as a willingness to be pleased rather than displeased to be satisfied rather than dissatisfied with the conduct of others.
(3) our absent friends should be remembered in our prayers. On our knees before God is the best place to remember them. We know not their condition. If they are sick, we cannot minister to their needs; if in danger, we cannot run to their relief; if tempted, we cannot counsel them. But God, who is with them, car do all this; and it is an inestimable privilege thus to be permitted to commend them to his holy care and keeping. Besides, it is a duty to do it. It is one way - and the best way - to repay their kindness. A child may always be repaying the kindness of absent parents by supplicating the divine blessing on them each morning; and a brother may strengthen and continue his love for a sister, and in part repay her tender love, by seeking, when far away, the divine favor to be bestowed on her.
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:Being confident - This is strong language. It means to be fully and firmly persuaded or convinced; participle, middle voice, from πείθω peithō - to persuade; compare Luke 16:31. "Neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead;" that is, they would not be convinced; Acts 17:4; Hebrews 11:13; Acts 28:24. It means here that Paul was entirely convinced of the truth of what he said. It is the language of a man who had no doubt on the subject.
That he which hath begun a good work in you - The "good work" here referred to, can be no other than religion, or true piety. This is called the work of God; the work of the Lord; or the work of Christ; John 6:29; compare 1 Corinthians 15:58; 1 Corinthians 16:10; Philippians 2:30. Paul affirms here that that work was begun by God. It was not by their own agency or will; compare the notes on John 1:13. It was on the fact that it was begun by God, that he based his firm conviction that it would be permanent. Had it been the agency of man, he would have had no such conviction, for nothing that man does today can lay the foundation of a certain conviction that he will do the same thing tomorrow. If the perseverance of the Christian depended wholly on himself, therefore, there could be no sure evidence that he would ever reach heaven.
Will perform it - Margin, "Or, finish" The Greek word - ἐπιτελέσει epitelesei - means that he would carry it forward to completion; he would perfect it. It is an intensive form of the word, meaning that it would be carried through to the end. It occurs in the following places: Luke 13:32, "I do cures;" Romans 15:28, "when I have performed this;" 2 Corinthians 7:1, "perfecting holiness;" 2 Corinthians 8:6, "so he would also finish in you;" 2 Corinthians 8:11, "perform the doing of it;" Galatians 3:3, "are ye now made perfect by the flesh;" Hebrews 8:5, "when he was about to make the tabernacle;" Hebrews 9:6, "accomplishing this service;" and 1 Peter 5:9, "are accomplished in your brethren." The word occurs nowhere else; and here means that God would carry on the work which he had begun to completion. He would not leave it unfinished. It would not he commenced and then abandoned. This would or could be "performed" or "finished" only:
(1) by keeping them from falling from grace, and,
(2) by their ultimate entire perfection.
Until the day of Jesus Christ - The day when Christ shall so manifest himself as to be the great attractive object, or the day when he shall appear to glorify himself, so that it may be said emphatically to be his day. That day is often called "his day," or "the day of the Lord," because it will be the day of his triumph and glory. It refers here to the day when the Lord Jesus will appear to receive his people to himself - the day of judgment. We may remark on this verse, that Paul believed in the perseverance of saints. It would be impossible to express a stronger conviction of the truth of that doctrine than he has done here. Language could not be clearer, and nothing can be more unequivocal than the declaration of his opinion that where God has begun a good work in the soul, it will not be finally lost. The ground of this belief he has not stated in full, but has merely hinted at it. It is based on the fact that God had begun the good work. That ground of belief is something like the following:
(1) It is in God alone. It is not in man in any sense. No reliance is to be placed upon man in keeping himself. He is too weak; too changeable; too ready to be led astray; too much disposed to yield to temptation.
(2) the reliance, therefore, is on God; and the evidence that the renewed man will be kept is this:
(a) God began the work of grace in the soul.
(b) He had a design in it. It was deliberate, and intentional. It was not by chance or haphazard. It was because he had some object that was worthy of his interposition.
(c) There is no reason why he should begin such a work and then abandon it. It cannot be because he has no power to complete it, or because there are more enemies to be overcome than he had supposed; or because there are difficulties which he did not foresee; or because it is not desirable that the work should be completed. Why then should he abandon it?
(d) God abandons nothing that he undertakes. There are no unfinished worlds or systems; no half-made and forsaken works of His hands. There is no evidence in His works of creation of change of plan, or of having forsaken what He began from disgust, or disappointment, or lack of power to complete them. Why should there be in the salvation of the soul?
Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all - "There is a reason why I should cherish this hope of you, and this confident expectation that you will be saved. That reason is found in the evidence which you have given that you are sincere Christians. Having evidence of that, it is proper that I should believe that you will finally reach heaven."
Because I have you in my heart - Margin, "Ye have me in your." The Greek will bear either, though the former translation is the most obvious. The meaning is, that he was warmly attached to them, and had experienced many proofs of their kindness; and that there was, therefore, a propriety in his wishing for their salvation. Their conduct toward him, moreover, in his trials, had convinced him that they were actuated by Christian principle; and it was proper that he should believe that they would be kept to eternal life.
And in the defence - Greek: apology. He is probably referring to the time when he made his defense before Nero, and vindicated himself from the charges which had been brought against him; see the notes at 2 Timothy 4:16. Perhaps he means here, that on that occasion he was abandoned by those who should have stood by him, but that the Philippians showed him all the attention which they could. It is not impossible that they may have sent some of their number to sympathize with him in his trials, and to assure him of the unabated confidence of the church.
And confirmation of the gospel - In my efforts to defend the gospel, and to make it known; see Philippians 1:17. The allusion is probably to the fact that, in all his efforts to defend the gospel, he had been sure of their sympathy and cooperation. Perhaps he refers to some assistance which he had derived from them in this cause, which is now to us unknown.
Ye all are partakers of my grace - Margin, "Or, with me of grace." The meaning is, that as they had participated with him in the defense of the gospel; as in all his troubles and persecutions they had made common cause with him, so it followed that they would partake of the same tokens of the divine favor. He expected that the divine blessing would follow his efforts in the cause of the gospel, and he says that they would share in the blessing. They had shown all the sympathy which they could in his trials; they had nobly stood by him when others forsook him; and he anticipated, as a matter of course, that they would all share in the benefits which would flow to him in his efforts in the cause of the Redeemer.
For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.For God is my record - My witness; I can solemnly appeal to him.
How greatly I long after you all - To see you; and how much I desire your welfare.
In the bowels of Jesus Christ - The word "bowels," in the Scriptures denotes the upper viscera - the region of the heart and lungs: see the notes at Isaiah 16:11. That region was regarded as the seat of affection, sympathy, and compassion, as the heart is with us. The allusion here is to the sympathy, tenderness, and love of the Redeemer; and probably the meaning is, that Paul regarded them with something of the affection which the Lord Jesus had for them. This was the tenderest and strongest expression which he could find to denote the ardor of his attachment.
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;And this I pray - We pray for those whom we love, and whose welfare we seek. We desire their happiness; and there is no way more appropriate of expressing that desire than of going to God, and seeking it at his hand. Paul proceeds to enumerate the blessings which he sought for them; and it is worthy of observation that he did not ask riches, or worldly prosperity, but that his supplications were confined to spiritual blessings, and he sought these as the most desirable of all favors.
That your love may abound ... - Love to God; love to one another; love to absent Christians; love to the world. This is an appropriate subject of prayer. We cannot wish and pray for a better thing for our Christian friends, than that they may abound in love. Nothing will promote their welfare like this; and we had better pray for this, than that they may obtain abundant riches, and share the honors and pleasures of the world.
In knowledge - The idea is, that he wished them to have intelligent affection. It should not be mere blind affection, but that intelligent love which is based on an enlarged view of divine things - on a just apprehension of the claims of God.
And in all judgment - Margin, "sense;" compare the notes at Hebrews 5:14. The word here means, the power of discerning; and the meaning is, that he wished that their love should be exercised with proper discrimination. It should be in proportion to the relative value of objects; and the meaning of the whole is, that the wished their religion to be intelligent and discriminating; to be based on knowledge, and a proper sense of the relative value of objects, as well as to be the tender affection of the heart.
That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;That ye may approve things - Margin, "Or, try." The word used here denotes the kind of trial to which metals are exposed in order to test their nature; and the sense here is, that the apostle wished them so to try the things that were of real value, as to discern that which was true and genuine.
That are excellent - Margin: Or, "differ." The margin here more correctly expresses the sense of the Greek word. The idea is, that he wished them to be able to distinguish between things that differed from each other; to have an intelligent apprehension of what was right and wrong - of what was good and evil. He would not have them love and approve all things indiscriminately. They should be esteemed according to their real value. It is remarkable here how anxious the apostle was not only that they should be Christians, but that they should be intelligent Christians, and should understand the real worth and value of objects.
That ye may be sincere - See the notes at Ephesians 6:24. The word used here - εἰλικρινής eilikrinēs - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in 2 Peter 3:1, where it is rendered "pure." The noun εἰλικρίνεια eilikrineia, however, occurs in 1 Corinthians 5:8; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 2:17; in all which places it is rendered "sincerity." The word properly means, "that which is judged in sunshine" εἵλῃ κρίνω heilē krinō; and then "that which is clear and manifest." It is that over which there are no clouds; which is not doubtful and dark; which is pure and bright. The word "sincere" means literally without wax (sine cera); that is, honey which is pure and transparent. Applied to Christian character, it means that which is not deceitful, ambiguous, hypocritical; that which is not mingled with error, worldliness, and sin; that which does not proceed from selfish and interested motives, and where there is nothing disguised. There is no more desirable appellation that can be given to a man than to say that he is sincere - a sincere friend, benefactor, Christian; and there is nothing more lovely in the character of a Christian than sincerity. It implies:
(1) that he is truly converted - that he has not assumed Christianity as a mask;
(2) that his motives are disinterested and pure;
(3) that his conduct is free from double-dealing, trick, and cunning;
(4) that his words express the real sentiments of his heart;
(5) that he is true to his word, and faithful to his promises; and,
(6) that he is always what he professes to be. A sincere Christian would bear to have the light let in upon him always; to have the emotions of his heart seen; to be scanned everywhere, and at all times, by people, by angels, and by God.
And without offence - Inoffensive to others. Not injuring them in property, feelings, or reputation. This is a negative virtue, and is often despised by the world. But it is much to say of a man that he injures no one; that neither by example, nor opinions, nor conversation, he leads them astray; that he never does injustice to their motives, and never impedes their influence; that he never wounds their feelings, or gives occasion for hard thoughts; and that he so lives that all may see that his is a blameless life.
Till the day of Christ - See the notes at Philippians 1:6.
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.Being filled with the fruits of righteousness - That which righteousness in the heart produces. The fruits, or results, will be seen in the life; and those fruits are - honesty, truth, charity, kindness, meekness, goodness. The wish of the apostle is, that they might show abundantly by their lives that they were truly righteous. He does not refer to liberality merely, but to everything which true piety in the heart is fitted to produce in the life.
Which are by Jesus Christ -
(1) Which his religion is fitted to produce.
(2) which result from endeavoring to follow his example.
(3) which are produced by his agency on the heart.
Unto the glory and praise of God - His honor is never more promoted than by the eminent holiness of his friends; see the notes at John 15:8. If we wish, therefore, to honor God, it should not be merely with the lips, or by acts of prayer and praise; it should be by a life devoted to him. It is easy to render the service of the lips; it is far more difficult to render that service which consists in a life of patient and consistent piety; and in proportion to the difficulty of it, is its value in his sight.
But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;But I would ye should understand - Paul here turns to himself, and goes into a somewhat extended account of his own feelings in his trials, and of the effects of his imprisonment at Rome he wished them to understand what his circumstances were, and what had been the effect of his imprisonment, probably, for such reasons as these:
(1) They were tenderly attached to him, and would feel an interest in all that pertained to him.
(2) it was possible that they might hear unfounded rumors about the manner of his treatment, and he wished that they should understand the exact truth.
(3) he had real intelligence to communicate to them that would be joyful to them, about the effect of his imprisonment, and his treatment there; and he wished them to rejoice with him.
That the things which happened unto me - The accusations against him, and his imprisonment at Rome. He had been falsely accused, and had been constrained to appeal to Caesar, and had been taken to Rome as a prisoner; Acts 25-28. This arrest and imprisonment would seem to have been against his success as a preacher; but he now says that the contrary had been the fact.
Have fallen out - Have resulted in. Literally, "have come." Tyndale. "My business is happened."
The furtherance - The increase, the promotion of the gospel. Instead of being a hindrance, they have been rather an advantage.
So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;So that my bonds in Christ - Margin, "for." The meaning is, his bonds in the cause of Christ. He was imprisoned because he preached Christ (see the notes, Ephesians 6:20), and was really suffering because of his attachment to the Redeemer. It was not for crime, but for being a Christian for had he not been a Christian, he would have escaped all this. The manner of Paul's imprisonment was, that he was permitted to occupy a house by himself, though chained to a soldier who was his guard; Acts 28:16. He was not in a dungeon indeed, but he was not at liberty, and this was a severe mode of confinement. Who would wish to be chained night and day to a living witness of all that he did; to a spy on all his movements? Who would wish to have such a man always with him, to hear all he said, and to see all that he did? Who could well bear the feeling that he could never be alone - and never be at liberty to do anything without the permission of one too who probably had little disposition to be indulgent?
Are manifest - That is, it has become known that I am imprisoned only for the sake of Christ - Grotius. The true reason why I am thus accused and imprisoned begins to be understood, and this has awakened sympathy for me as an injured man. They see that it is not for crime, but that it is on account of my religious opinions, and the conviction of my innocence has spread abroad, and has produced a favorable impression in regard to Christianity itself. It must have been a matter of much importance for Paul to have this knowledge of the real cause why he was imprisoned go abroad. Such a knowledge would do much to prepare others to listen to what he had to say - for there is no man to whom we listen more readily than to one who is suffering wrongfully.
In all the palace - Margin, "Or, Caesar's court." Greek, ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ πραιτωρίῳ en holō tō praitōriō - in all the praetorium. This word properly denotes the general's tent in a camp; then the house or palace of a governor of a province, then any large hall, house, or palace. It occurs in the New Testament only in the following places: Matthew 27:27, where it is rendered "common hall"; Mark 15:16, rendered "Praetorium"; John 18:28, John 18:33; John 19:9; Acts 23:35, rendered "judgment hall"; and here in Philippians 1:13. It is employed to denote:
(1) the palace of Herod at Jerusalem, built with great magnificence at the northern part of the upper city, westward of the temple, and overlooking the temple;
(2) the palace of Herod at Caesarea, which was probably occupied by the Roman procurator; and,
(3) in the place before us to denote either the palace of the emperor at Rome, or the praetorian camp, the headquarters of the praetorian guards or cohorts.
These cohorts were a body of select troops instituted by Augustus to guard his person, and have charge of the city; see Robinson (Lexicon), Bloomfield, Rosenmuller, and some others, understand this of the praetorian camp, and suppose that Paul meant to say that the cause of his imprisonment had become known to all the band of the praetorians.
Grotius says that the usual word to denote the residence of the emperor at Rome was palatium - palace, but that those who resided in the provinces were accustomed to the word "praetorium," and would use it when speaking of the palace of the emperor. Chrysostom says that the palace of the emperor was called praetorium, by a Latin word derived from the Greek; see Erasmus in loc. Calvin supposes that the palace of Nero is intended. The question about the meaning of the word is important, as it bears on the inquiry to what extent the gospel was made known at Rome in the time of Paul, and perhaps as to the question why he was released from his imprisonment. It the knowledge of his innocence had reached the palace, it was a ground of hope that he might be acquitted; and if that palace is here intended, it is an interesting fact, as showing that in some way the gospel had been introduced into the family of the emperor himself. That the palace or residence of the emperor is intended here, may be considered at least probable from the following considerations:
(1) It is the name which would be likely to be used by the Jews who came up from Judea and other provinces, to denote the chief place of judgment, or the principal residence of the highest magistrate. So it was used in Jerusalem, in Cesarea, and in the provinces generally, to denote the residence of the general in the camp, or the procurator in the cities - the highest representative of the Roman power.
(2) if the remark of Chrysostom, above referred to, be well founded, that this was a common name given to the palace in Rome, then this goes far to determine the question.
(3) in Philippians 4:22, Paul, in the salutation of the saints at Rome to those of Philippi, mentions particularly those of "Caesar's household." From this it would seem that some of the family of the emperor had been made acquainted with the Christian religion, and had been converted. In what way the knowledge of the true cause of Paul's imprisonment had been circulated in the "palace," is not now known. There was, however, close intimacy between the military officers and the government, and it was probably by means of some of the soldiers or officers who had the special charge of Paul, that this had been communicated. To Paul, in his bonds, it must have been a subject of great rejoicing, that the government became thus apprised of the true character of the opposition which had been excited against him; and it must have done much to reconcile him to the sorrows and privations of imprisonment, that he was thus the means of introducing religion to the very palace of the emperor.
And in all other places - Margin, to all others. The Greek will bear either construction. But if, as has been supposed, the reference in the word praetorium is to the palace, then this should be rendered "all other places." It then means, that the knowledge of his innocence, and the consequences of that knowledge in its happy influence in spreading religion, were not confined to the palace, but were extended to other places. The subject was generally understood, so that it might be said that correct views of the matter pervaded the city, and the fact of his imprisonment was accomplishing extensively the most happy effects on the public mind.
And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.And many of the brethren - Many Christians. It is evident from this, that there were already "many" in Rome who professed Christianity.
In the Lord - In the Lord Jesus; that is, united to him and to each other by a professed attachment to him. This is a common phrase to, designate Christians.
Waxing confident by my bonds - Becoming increasingly bold and zealous in consequence of my being confined. This might have been either:
(1) that from the very fact that so distinguished a champion of the truth had been imprisoned, they were excited to do all they could in the cause of the gospel. Or,
(2) they were aroused by the fact that the cause of his imprisonment had become generally understood, and that there was a strong current of popular favor setting toward Christianity in consequence of it. Or,
(3) they had had contact with Paul in his own "hired house," and had been incited and encouraged by him to put forth great efforts in the cause. Or,
(4) it would seem that some had been emboldened to promulgate their views, and set themselves up as preachers, who would have been restrained if Paul had been at liberty.
They were disposed to form parties, and to secure followers, and rejoiced in an opportunity to increase their own popularity, and were not unwilling thus to diminish the popularity and lessen the influence of so great a man as Paul. Had he been at liberty, they would have had no prospect of success; see Philippians 1:16. To this may be added a suggestion by Theodoret. "Many of the brethren have increased boldness - θάρσος tharsos - on account of my bonds. For seeing me bear such hard things with pleasure, they announce that the gospel (which sustains me) is divine." The same sentiment occurs in Oecumen, and Theophylact; see Bloomfield. In Paul himself they had an illustration of the power of religion, and being convinced of its truth, they went and proclaimed it abroad.
To speak the word without fear - That is, they see that I remain safely (compare Acts 28:30), and that there is no danger of persecution, and, stimulated by my sufferings and patience, they go and make the gospel known.
Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife - What was the ground of this "envy and strife" the apostle does not mention. It would seem, however, that even in Rome there was a party which was jealous of the influence of Paul, and which supposed that this was a good opportunity to diminish his influence, and to strengthen their own cause. He was not now at large so as to be able: to meet and confute them. They had access to the mass of the people. It was easy, under plausible pretences, to insinuate hints about the ambitious aims, or improper influence of Paul, or to take strong ground against him and in favor of their own views, and they availed themselves of this opportunity. It would seem most probable, though this is not mentioned, that these persons were Judaizing teachers, professing Christianity, and who supposed that Paul's views were derogatory to the honor of Moses and the Law.
And some also of good will - From pure motives, having no party aims to accomplish, and not intending in any way to give me trouble.
The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:The one preach Christ of contention - So as to form parties, and to produce strifes among his professed followers.
Not sincerely - Not "purely" - ἁγνῶς hagnōs - not with pure motives or intentions. Their real aim is not to preach Christ, but to produce difficulty, and to stir up strife. They are ambitious people, and they have no real regard for the welfare of the church and the honor of religion.
Supposing to add affliction to my bonds - To make my trial the greater. How they did this is unknown. Perhaps they were those who were strongly imbued with Jewish notions, and who felt that his course tended to diminish respect for the law of Moses, and who now took this opportunity to promote their views, knowing that this would be particularly painful to him when he was not at liberty to meet them openly, and to defend his own opinions. It is possible also that they may have urged that Paul himself had met with a signal reproof for the course which he had taken, and, as a consequence, was now thrown into chains. Bloomfield suggests that it was the opinion of many of the ancient expositors that they endeavored to do this by so preaching as to excite the fury of the multitude or the rulers against Paul, and to produce increased severity in his punishment. But the way in which they did this is unknown, and conjecture is altogether useless.
But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.But the other of love - From pure motives, and from sincere affection to me.
Knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel - They believe that I am an ambassador from God. They regard me as unjustly imprisoned, and while I am disabled, they are willing to aid me in the great cause to which my life is devoted. To alleviate his sorrows, and to carry forward the great cause to defend which he was particularly appointed, they engaged in the work which he could not now do, and went forth to vindicate the gospel, and to make its claims better known. Coverdale renders this: "for they know that I lie here for the defense of the gospel." So Piscator, Michaelis, and Endius render it: supposing that the meaning is, that he lay in prison for the defense of the gospel, or as a consequence of his efforts to defend it. But this is not in accordance with the usual meaning of the Greek word κεἶμαι keimai. It means to lie, and, in the perfect passive, to be laid, set, placed. If the apostle had referred to his being in prison, he would have added that fact to the statement made. The sense is, that he was appointed to be a defender of the gospel, and that they being well convinced of this, went forth to promulgate and defend the truth. That fact was one of Paul's chief consolations while he was thus in confinement.
What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.What then? - What follows from this? What effect does it have on my mind? Does the fact that some preach from a spirit of envy and contention give me pain?
Notwithstanding every way - No matter in what way it is done. We are not to suppose, however, that Paul was indifferent as to the way in which the gospel was preached, or the spirit with which it was done; but the meaning is, that it was a matter of rejoicing that it was done at all, whatever the motives might be.
Whether in pretence or in truth - Whether as a mere pretext to cover up some other design, or from pure motives. Their pretence was that they preached the gospel because they believed it true and loved it; their real object was to build up a party, and to diminish the influence and authority of Paul.
Christ is preached - They made known the name of the Saviour, and announced that the Messiah had come. They could not go forth under any pretence as preachers, without making known some truth about the Redeemer. So now, it is hardly possible that any persons should attempt to preach, without stating some truth that would not otherwise be known. The name of a Saviour will be announced, and that will be something. Some views of his life and work will be presented, which, though they may be far enough from full views, are yet better than none. Though there may be much error in what is said, yet there will be also some truth. It would be better to have preachers that were better instructed, or that were more prudent, or that had purer motives, or that held a more perfect system, yet it is much in our world to have the name of the Redeemer announced in any way, and even to be told, in the most stammering manner, and from whatever motives, that man has a Saviour. The announcement of that fact in any way may save a soul; but ignorance of it could save none.
And I therein do rejoice - This is an instance of great magnanimity on the part of Paul, and nothing, perhaps, could better show his supreme love for the Saviour. Paul preached to increase his afflictions, and the tendency of that preaching was, probably, as it was designed to be, to unsettle confidence in him, and to lessen his influence. Yet this did not move him. The more important matter was secured, and Christ was made known; and if this were secured, he was willing that his own name should be cast into the shade. This may furnish valuable lessons to preachers of the gospel now:
(1) When we are laid aside from preaching by sickness, we should rejoice that others are in health, and are able to make the Saviour known, though we are forgotten.
(2) when we are unpopular and unsuccessful, we should rejoice that others are more popular and successful - for Christ is preached.
(3) when we have rivals, who have better plans than we for doing good, and whose labors are crowned with success, we should not be envious or jealous - for Christ is preached.
(4) when ministers of other denominations preach what we regard as error, and their preaching becomes popular, and is attended with success, we can find occasion to rejoice - for they preach Christ.
In the error we should not, we cannot rejoice; but in the fact that the great truth is held up that Christ died for people, we can always find abundant occasion for joy. Mingled as it may be with error, it may be nevertheless the means of saving souls, and though we should rejoice more if the truth were preached without any admixture of error, yet still the very fact that Christ is made known lays the foundation for gratitude and rejoicing. If all Christians and Christian ministers had the feelings which Paul expresses here, there would be much less envy and uncharitableness than there is now in the churches. May we not hope that the time will yet come when all who preach the gospel will have such supreme regard for the name and work of the Saviour, that they will find sincere joy in the success of a rival denomination, or a rival preacher, or in rival plans for doing good? Then, indeed, contentions would cease, and the hearts of Christians, "like kindred drops," would mingle into one.
For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,For I know that this shall turn to my salvation - Will be a means of my salvation. Whether the effect shall be to turn public favor toward the Christian religion, and secure my release; or whether it shall be to instigate my enemies more, so as to lead to my death; I am satisfied that the result, so far as I am concerned, will be well. The word "salvation," here, does not refer to his release from captivity, as Koppe, Rosenmuller, Clarke, and others, suppose; for he was not absolutely certain of that, and could not expect that to be effected by "the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" But the meaning is, that all these dealings, including his imprisonment, and especially the conduct of those who thought to add affliction to his bonds, would be among the means of his salvation. Trying and painful as all this was, yet trial and pain Paul reckoned among the means of grace; and he had no doubt that this would prove so.
Through your prayer - See the notes at 2 Corinthians 1:11.
And the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ - To sustain me, and to cause those happy results to come out of these trials. He needed the same spirit which Jesus Christ had, to enable him to bear his trials with patience, and to impart to him the consolations which he required. He had no idea that these trials would produce these effects of their own accord, nor that it could be by any strength of his own.
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.According to my earnest expectation - The word used here occurs but in one other place in the New Testament; see it explained in the notes at Romans 8:19. The earnest desire and hope which Paul had was not, primarily, that he might be released; but it was that, in all circumstances, he might be able to honor the gospel, living or dying. To that he looked as a much more important matter than to save his life. Life with him was the secondary consideration; the main thing was, to stand up everywhere as the advocate of the gospel, to maintain its truth, and to exhibit its spirit.
That in nothing I shall be ashamed - That I shall do nothing of which I shall have occasion to be ashamed. That in these heavy trials, I may not be left to deny the truth of the Christian religion; that, even before the emperor, I may maintain its principles; and that the dread of death may not lead me to do a dishonorable thing, or in any way so to shrink from an avowal of my belief, as to give me or my friends occasion of regret.
Christ shall be magnified - Shall be held up to the view of man as the true and only Saviour, whatever becomes of me.
Whether it be by life - If I am permitted to live. He was not yet certain how the case would terminate with him. He had not been put on his trial, and, whether that trial would result in his acquittal or not, he could not certainly know. But he felt assured that, if he was acquitted, the effect would be to honor Christ. He would ascribe his deliverance to his gracious interposition; he would devote himself with new ardor to his service; and he felt assured, from his past efforts, that he would be able to do something that would "magnify" Christ in the estimation of mankind.
Or by death - If my trial shall result in my death. Then, he believed he would be able to show such a spirit as to do honor to Christ and his cause. He was not afraid to die, and he was persuaded that he would be enabled to bear the pains of death in such a manner as to show the sustaining power of religion, and the value of Christianity. Christ is magnified in the death of Christians, when his gospel is seen to sustain them; when, supported by its promises, they are enabled to go calmly into the dark valley; and when, in the departing moments, they confidently commit their eternal all into his hands. The effect of this state of feeling on the mind of Paul must have been most happy. In whatever way his trial terminated, he felt assured that the great object for which he lived would be promoted. Christ would be honored, perhaps, as much by his dying as a martyr, as by his living yet many years to proclaim his gospel. He was, therefore, reconciled to his lot. He had no anxiety. Come what might, the purpose which he had most at heart would be secured, and the name of the Saviour would be honored.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.For to me to live is Christ - My sole aim in living is to glorify Christ. He is the supreme End of my life, and I value it only as being devoted to his honor - Doddridge. His aim was not honor, learning, gold, pleasure; it was, to glorify the Lord Jesus. This was the single purpose of his soul - a purpose to which he devoted himself with as much singleness and ardor as ever did a miser to the pursuit of gold, or a devotee of pleasure to amusement, or an aspirant for fame to ambition. This implied the following things:
(1) a purpose to know as much of Christ as it was possible to know - to become as fully acquainted as he could with his rank, his character, his plans, with the relations which he sustained to the Father, and with the claims and influences of his religion; see Philippians 3:10; Ephesians 3:19; compare John 17:3.
(2) a purpose to imitate Christ - to make him the model of his life. It was a design that his Spirit should reign in his heart, that the same temper should actuate him, and that the same great end should be constantly had in view.
(3) a purpose to make his religion known, as far as possible, among mankind. To this, Paul seriously gave his life, and devoted his great talents. His aim was to see on bow many minds he could impress the sentiments of the Christian religion; to see to how many of the human family he could make Christ known, to whom he was unknown before. Never was there a man who gave himself with more ardor to any enterprise, than Paul did to this; and never was one more successful, in any undertaking, than he was in this.
(4) it was a purpose to enjoy Christ. He drew his comforts from him. His happiness he found in communion with him. It was not in the works of art; not in the pursuits of elegant literature; not in the frivolous and fashionable world; but it was in communion with the Saviour, and in endeavoring to please him.
Remarks On Philippians 1:21
(1) Paul never had occasion to regret this course. It produced no sadness when he looked over his life. He never felt that he had had an unworthy aim of living; he did not wish that his purpose had been different when he came to die.
(2) if it was Paul's duty thus to live, it is no less that of every Christian. What was there in his case that made it his duty to "live unto Christ," which does not exist in the case of every sincere Christian on earth? No believer, when he comes to die, will regret that he has lived unto Christ; but how many, alas, regret that this has not been the aim and purpose of their souls!
And to die is gain - Compare Revelation 14:13. A sentiment similar to this occurs frequently in the Greek and Latin classic writers. See Wetstein, in loc., who has collected numerous such passages. With them, the sentiment had its origin in the belief that they would be freed from suffering, and admitted to some happy world beyond the grave. To them, however, all this was conjecture and uncertainty. The word "gain," here, means profit, advantage; and the meaning is, there would be an advantage in dying above that of living. Important benefits would result to him personally, should he die; and the only reason why he should wish at all to live was, that he might be the means of benefiting others; Philippians 1:24-25. But how would it be gain to die? What advantage would there be in Paul's circumstances? What in ours? It may be answered, that it will be gain for a Christian to die in the following respects:
(1) He will be then freed from sin. Here it is the source of perpetual humiliation and sorrow; in heaven be will sin no more.
(2) he will be freed from doubts about his condition. Here the best are liable to doubts about their personal piety, and often experience many an anxious hour in reference to this point; in heaven, doubt will be known no more.
(3) he will be freed from temptation. Here, no one knows when he may be tempted, nor how powerful the temptation may be; in heaven, there will be no allurement to lead him astray; no artful, cunning, and skillful votaries of pleasure to place inducements before him to sin; and no heart to yield to them, if there were.
(4) he will be delivered from all his enemies - from the slanderer, the calumniator, the persecutor. Here the Christian is constantly liable to have his motives called in question, or to be met with detraction and slander; there, there will be none to do him injustice; all will rejoice in the belief that he is pure,
(5) He will be delivered from suffering. Here he is constantly liable to it. His health fails, his friends die, his mind is sad. There, there shall be no separation of friends, no sickness, and no tears.
(6) he will be delivered from death. Here, death is always near - dreadful, alarming, terrible to our nature. There, death will be known no more. No face will ever turn pale, and no knees tremble, at his approach; in all heaven there will never be seen a funeral procession, nor will the soil there ever open its bosom to furnish a grave.
(7) to all this may be added the fact, that the Christian will be surrounded by his best friends; that he will be reunited with those whom he loved on earth; that he will be associated with the angels of light; and that he will be admitted to the immediate presence of his Saviour and his God! Why, then, should a Christian be afraid to die? And why should he not hail that hour, when it comes, as the hour of his deliverance, and rejoice that he is going home? Does the prisoner, long confined in a dungeon, dread the hour which is to open his prison, and permit him to return to his family and friends? Does the man in a foreign land, long an exile, dread the hour when he shall embark on the ocean to be conveyed where he may embrace the friends of his youth? Does the sick man dread the hour which restores him to health; the afflicted, the hour of comfort? the wanderer at night, the cheering light of returning day? And why then should the Christian dread the hour which will restore him to immortal rigor; which shall remove all his sorrows; which shall introduce him to everlasting day?
Death is the crown of life:
Were death denied, poor man would live in vain:
Were death denied, to live would not be life.
Were death denied, even fools would wish to die.
Death wounds to cure; we fall; we rise; we reign!
Spring from our fetters; fasten in the skies;
Where blooming Eden withers in our sight.
Death gives us more than was in Eden lost,
The king of terrors is the prince of peace.
Night Thoughts, iii.
But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.But if I live in the flesh - If I continue to live; if I am not condemned and make a martyr at my approaching trial.
This is the fruit of my labour - The meaning of this passage, which has given much perplexity to commentators, it seems to me is, "If I live in the flesh, it will cost me labor; it will be attended, as it has been, with much effort and anxious care, and I know not which to prefer - whether to remain on the earth with these cares and the hope of doing good, or to go at once to a world of rest." A more literal version of the Greek will show that this is the meaning. Τοῦτό μοι καρπὸς ἔργου Touto moi karpos ergou - "this to me is (or would be) the fruit of labor." Coverdale, however, renders it: "Inasmuch as to live in the flesh is fruitful to me for the work, I wot not what I shall choose." So Luther: "But since to live in the flesh serves to produce more fruit." And so Bloomfield: "But if my life in the flesh be of use to the gospel (be it so, I say no more), verily what I shall choose I see and know not."
See also Koppe, Rosenmuller, and Calvin, who give the same sense. According to this, the meaning is, that if his life were of value to the gospel, he was willing to live; or that it was a valuable object - operae pretium - worth an effort thus to live. This sense accords well with the connection, and the thought is a valuable one, but it is somewhat doubtful whether it can be made out from the Greek. To do it, it is necessary to suppose that μοι moi - "my" - is expletive (Koppe, and that καὶ kai - "and" - is used in an unusual sense. See Erasmus. According to the interpretation first suggested, it means, that Paul felt that it would be gain to die, and that he was entirely willing; that he felt that if he continued to live it would involve toil and fatigue, and that, therefore, great as was the natural love of life, and desirous as he was to do good, he did not know which to choose - an immediate departure to the world of rest, or a prolonged life of toil and pain, attended even with the hope that he might do good. There was an intense desire to be with Christ, joined with the belief that his life here must be attended with toil and anxiety; and on the other hand an earnest wish to live in order to do good, and he knew not which to prefer.
Yet - The sense has been obscured by this translation. The Greek word (καὶ kai) means "and," and should have been so rendered here, in its usual sense. "To die would be gain; my life here would be one of toil, and I know not which to choose."
What I shall choose I wot not - I do not know which I should prefer, if it were left to me. On each side there were important considerations, and he knew not which overbalanced the other. Are not Christians often in this state, that if it were left to themselves they would not know which to choose, whether to live or to die?
For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:For I am in a strait betwixt two - Two things, each of which I desire. I earnestly long to be with Christ; and I desire to remain to be useful to the world. The word rendered "I am in a strait" - συνέχομαι sunechomai - means to be pressed on or constrained, as in a crowd; to feel oneself pressed or pent up so as not to know what to do; and it here means that he was in perplexity and doubt, and did not know what to choose. "The words of the original are very emphatic. They appear to be derived from a ship when lying at anchor, and when violent winds blow upon it that would drive it out to sea. The apostle represents himself as in a similar condition. His strong affection for them bound his heart to them - as an anchor holds a ship to its moorings and yet there was a heavenly influence bearing upon him - like the gale upon the vessel - which would bear him away to heaven." Burder, in Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc.
Having a desire to depart - To die - to leave this world for a better. People, as they are by nature, usually dread to die. Few are even made willing to die. Almost none desire to die - and even then they wish it only as the least of two evils. Pressed down by pain and sorrow; or sick and weary of the world, the mind may be worked up into a desire to be away. But this with the world is, in all cases, the result of misanthropy, or morbid feeling, or disappointed ambition, or an accumulation of many sorrows. Wetstein has adduced on this verse several most beautiful passages from the classic writers, in which people expressed a desire to depart - but all of them probably could be traced to disappointed ambition, or to mental or bodily sorrows, or to dissatisfaction with the world. It was from no such wish that Paul desired to die. It was not because he hated man - for he ardently loved him. It was not because he had been disappointed about wealth and honor - for he had sought neither. It was not because he had not been successful - for no man had been more so. It was not because he had been subjected to pains and imprisonments - for he was willing to bear them. It was not because he was old, and infirm, and a burden to the world - for, from anything that appears, he was in the vigor of life, and in the fullness of his strength. It was from a purer, higher motive than any of these - the strength of attachment which bound him to the Saviour, and which made him long to be with him.
And to be with Christ - We may remark on this expression:
(1) That this was the true reason why he wished to be away. It was his strong love to Christ; his anxious wish to be with him; his firm belief that in his presence was "fulness of joy."
(2) Paul believed that the soul of the Christian would be immediately with the Saviour at death. It was evidently his expectation that he would at once pass to his presence, and not that he would remain in an intermediate state to some far distant period.
(3) the soul does not sleep at death. Paul expected to be with Christ, and to be conscious of the fact - to see him, and to partake of his glory.
(4) the soul of the believer is made happy at death. To be with Christ is synonymous with being in heaven - for Christ is in heaven, and is its glory. We may add:
(a) that this wish to be with Christ constitutes a marked difference between a Christian and other people. Other people may be willing to die; perhaps be desirous to die, because their sorrows are so great that they feel that they cannot be borne. But the Christian desires to depart from a different motive altogether. It is to be with Christ - and this constitutes a broad line of distinction between him and other people.
(b) A mere willingness to die, or even a desire to die, is no certain evidence of preparation for death. If this willingness or desire is caused by mere intensity of suffering; if it is produced by disgust at the world or by disappointment; if it arises from some view of fancied Elysian fields beyond the grave, it constitutes no evidence whatever of a preparation for death. I have seen not a few persons who were not professed Christians on a bed of death, and not a few willing to die, nay, not a few who wished to depart. But in the vast majority of instances it was because they were sick of life, or because their pain made them sigh for relief, or because they were so wretched that they did not care what happened - and this they and their friends construed into an evidence that they were prepared to die! In most instances this is a miserable delusion; in no case is a mere willingness to die an evidence of preparation for death.
Which is far better - Would be attended with more happiness; and would be a higher, holier state than to remain on earth. This proves also that the soul of the Christian at death is made at once happy - for a state of insensibility can in no way be said to be a better condition than to remain in this present world. The Greek phrase here - πολλῷ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον pollō mallon kreisson - is very emphatic, and the apostle seems to labor for language which will fully convey his idea. It means, "by much more, or rather better," and the sense is, "better beyond all expression." Doddridge. See numerous examples illustrating the phrase in Wetstein. Paul did not mean to say that he was merely willing to die, or that he acquiesced in its necessity, but that the fact of being with Christ was a condition greatly to be preferred to remaining on earth. This is the true feeling of Christian piety; and having this feeling, death to us will have no terrors.
Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.Nevertheless to abide in the flesh - To live. All this is language derived from the belief that the soul will be separate from the body at death, and will occupy a separate state of existence.
Is more needful for you - Another object that was dear to the heart of Paul. He never supposed that his life was useless; or that it was a matter of no importance to the cause of religion whether he lived or died. He knew that God works by means; and that the life of a minister of the gospel is of real value to the church and the world. His experience, his influence, his paternal counsels, he felt assured would be of value to the church, and he had, therefore, a desire to live - and it was no part of his religion affectedly to undervalue or despise himself.
And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;And having this confidence - "Being persuaded of this, that my continuance on earth is desirable for your welfare, and that the Lord has a work for me to do, I confidently expect that I shall be permitted to live." The "confidence" here referred to was, that his life was needful for them, and hence that God would spare him. A literal translation would be, "And being persuaded as to this, or of this" - τοῦτο πεποιθὼς touto pepoithōs - "I know," etc. The foundation of his expectation that he should live does not appear to have been any revelation to that effect, as Doddridge supposes; or any intimation which he had from the palace of the intentions of the government, as some others suppose, but the fact that he believed his life to be necessary for them, and that therefore God would preserve it.
I know that I shall abide - The word "know," however, (οιδα oida) is not to be pressed as denoting absolute necessity - for it appears from Philippians 1:27 and Philippians 2:17, that there was some ground for doubt whether he would live - but is to be taken in a popular sense, as denoting good courage, and an earnest hope that he would be permitted to live and visit them. Heinrichs.
And continue with you all - That is, that he would be permitted not only to live, but to enjoy their society.
For your furtherance and joy of faith - For the increase of your faith, and the promotion of that joy which is the consequence of faith. Wetstein has quoted a beautiful passage from Seneca (Epis. 104) which strikingly resembles this sentiment of Paul. He says that when a man had meditated death, and when on his own account he would be willing to die, yet that he ought to be willing to live - to come back again to life - for the sake of his friends. Pagan adds: "It pertains to a great mind to be willing to come back to life for the sake of others; which distinguished people often do."
That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ - Through the mercy and grace of Christ, If he was spared, his deliverance would be traced to Christ, and they would rejoice together in one who had so mercifully delivered him.
For me by my coming to you again - Their joy would not only be that he was delivered, but that he was permitted to see them again.
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;Only let your conversation - The word "conversation" we now apply almost exclusively to oral discourse, or to talking. But it was not formerly confined to that and is never so used in the Scriptures. It means conduct in general - including, of course, our manner of speaking, but not limited to that - and should be so understood in every place where it occurs in the Bible. The original word used here - πολιτεύω politeuō - means properly "to administer the state; to live as a citizen; to conduct oneself according to the laws and customs of a state;" see Acts 23:1; compare examples in Wetstein. It would not be improperly rendered: "let your conduct as a citizen be as becomes the gospel;" and might without impropriety, though not exclusively, be referred to our deportment as members of a community, or citizens of a state. It undoubtedly implies that, as citizens, we should act, in all the duties which that relation involves - in maintaining the laws, in submission to authority, in the choice of rulers, etc., as well as in other relations - on the principles of the gospel; for the believer is bound to perform every duty on Christian principles. But the direction here should not be confined to that. It doubtless includes our conduct in all relations in life, and refers to our deportment in general; not merely as citizens of the state, but as members of the church, and in all other relations. In our manner of speech, our plans of living, our dealings with others, our conduct and walk in the church and out of it - all should be done as becomes the gospel. The direction, therefore, in this place, is to be understood of everything pertaining to conduct.
As it becometh the gospel of Christ -
(1) The rules of the gospel are to be applied to all our conduct - to our conversation, business transactions, modes of dress, style of living, entertainments, etc. There is nothing which we do, or say, or purpose, that is to be excepted from those rules.
(2) there is a way of living which is appropriate to the gospel, or which is such as the gospel requires. There is something which the gospel would secure as its proper fruits in all our conduct, and by which our lives should be regulated. It would distinguish us from the frivolous, and from those who seek honor and wealth as their supreme object. If all Christians were under the influence of the gospel, there would be something in their dress, temper, conversation, and aims, which would distinguish them from others; The gospel is not a thing of nothing; nor is it intended that it should exert no influence on its friends.
(3) it is very important that Christians should frame their lives by the rules of the gospel, and, to this end, should study them and know what they are. This is important:
(a) because they are the best and wisest of all rules;
(b) because it is only in this way that Christians can do good;
(c) because they have solemnly covenanted with the Lord to take his laws as their guide;
(d) because it is only in this way that they can enjoy religion; and,
(e) because it is only by this that they can have peace on a dying bed.
If people live as "becometh the gospel," they live well. Their lives are honest and honorable; they are people of truth and uprightness; they will have no sources of regret when they die, and they will not give occasion to their friends to hang their heads with shame in the remembrance of them. No man on a dying bed ever yet regretted that he had framed his life by the rules of the gospel, or felt that his conduct had been conformed too much to it.
That whether I come and see you - Alluding to the possibility that he might be released, and be permitted to visit them again.
Or else be absent - Either at Rome, still confined, or released, and permitted to go abroad.
I may hear of your affairs ... - I may hear always respecting you that you are united, and that you are vigorously striving to promote the interests of the gospel.
And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.And in nothing terrified by your adversaries - Adversaries, or opponents, they had, like most of the other early Christians. There were Jews there who would be likely to oppose them (compare Acts 17:5), and they were exposed to persecution by the pagan. In that city, Paul had himself suffered much Acts 16; and it would not be strange if the same scenes should be repeated. It is evident from this passage, as well as from some other parts of the Epistle, that the Philippians were at this time experiencing some form of severe suffering. But in what way, or why, the opposition to them was excited, is nowhere stated. The meaning here is, "do not be alarmed at anything which they can do. Maintain your Christian integrity, notwithstanding all the opposition which they can make. They will, in the end, certainly be destroyed, and you will be saved."
Which is to them an evident token of perdition - What, it may be asked, would be the token of their perdition? What is the evidence to which Paul refers that they will be destroyed? The relative "which" - ἥτις hētis; - is probably used as referring to the persecution which had been commenced, and to the constancy which the apostle supposed the Philippians would evince. The sentence is elliptical; but it is manifest that the apostle refers either to the circumstance then occurring, that they were persecuted, and that they evinced constancy; or to the constancy which he wished them to evince in their persecutions. He says that this circumstance of persecution, if they evinced such a spirit as he wished, would be to them an evidence of two things:
(1) Of the destruction of those who were engaged in the persecution. This would be, because they knew that such persecutors could not ultimately prevail. Persecution of the church would be a certain indication that they who did it would be finally destroyed.
(2) it would be a proof of their own salvation, because it would show that they were the friends of the Redeemer; and they had the assurance that all those who were persecuted for his sake would be saved. The gender of the Greek relative here is determined by the following noun (ἔνδειξις endeixis), in a manner that is not uncommon in Greek; see Wetstein, in loc., and Koppe.
And that of God - That is, their persecution is a proof that God will interpose in due time and save you. The hostility of the wicked to us is one evidence that we are the friends of God, and shall be saved.
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;For unto you - Unto you as Christians. This favor is granted unto you in your present circumstances.
It is given - God concedes to you this privilege or advantage.
In the behalf of Christ - In the cause of Christ, or with a view to honor Christ. Or, these things are brought on you in consequence of your being Christians.
Not only to believe on him - It is represented here as a privilege to be permitted to believe on Christ. It is so:
(1) It is an honor to a man to believe one who ought to be believed, to trust one who ought to be trusted, to love one who ought to be loved.
(2) it is a privilege to believe on Christ, because it is by such faith that out sins are forgiven; that we become reconciled to God, and have the hope of heaven.
(3) it is a privilege, because it saves the mind from the tortures and the deadly influence of unbelief - the agitation, and restlessness, and darkness, and gloom of a skeptic.
(4) it is a privilege, because we have then a friend to whom we may go in trial, and on whom we may roll all our burdens. If there is anything for which a Christian ought to give unfeigned thanks, it is that he has been permitted to believe on the Redeemer. Let a sincere Christian compare his peace, and joy, and hope of heaven, and support in trials, with the restlessness, uneasiness, and dread of death, in the mind of an unbeliever; and he will see abundant occasion for gratitude.
But also to suffer for his sake - Here it is represented as a privilege to suffer in the cause of the Redeemer - a declaration which may sound strange to the world. Yet this sentiment frequently occurs in the New Testament. Thus, it is said of the apostles Act 5:41, that "they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name;" Colossians 1:24. "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you;" 1 Peter 4:13. "But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings;" compare James 1:2; Mark 10:30; see the notes at Acts 5:41. It is a privilege thus to suffer in the cause of Christ:
(1) because we then resemble the Lord Jesus, and are united with him in trials;
(2) because we have evidence that we are his, if trials come upon us in his cause;
(3) because we are engaged in a good cause, and the privilege of maintaining such a cause is worth much of suffering; and,
(4) because it will be connected with a brighter crown and more exalted honor in heaven.
Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.Having the same conflict - The same agony - ἀγῶνα agōna - the same strife with bitter foes, and the same struggle in the warfare.
Which ye saw in me - When I was in Philippi, opposed by the multitude, and thrown into prison; Acts 16.
And now hear to be in me - In Rome. He was a prisoner there, was surrounded by enemies, and was about to be tried for his life. He says that they ought to rejoice if they were called to pass through the same trials.
In this chapter we have a beautiful illustration of the true spirit of a Christian in circumstances exceedingly trying. The apostle was in a situation where religion would show itself, if there were any in the heart; and where, if there was none, the bad passions of our nature would be developed. He was a prisoner. He had been unjustly accused. He was about to be put on trial for his life, and it was wholly uncertain what the result would be. He was surrounded with enemies, and there were not a few false friends and rivals who took advantage of his imprisonment to diminish his influence and to extend their own. He was, perhaps, about to die; and at any rate, was in such circumstances as to be under a necessity of looking death in the face.
In this situation he exhibited some of the tenderest and purest feelings that ever exist in the heart of man - the genuine fruit of pure religion. He remembered them with affectionate and constant interest in his prayers. He gave thanks for all that God had done for them. Looking upon his own condition, he said that the trials which had happened to him, great as they were, had been overruled to the furtherance of the gospel. The gospel had become known even in the imperial palace. And though it had been preached by some with no good will toward him, and with much error, yet he cherished no hard feeling; he sought for no revenge; he rejoiced that in any way, and from any motives, the great truth had been made known that a Saviour died. Looking forward to the possibility that his trial before the emperor might terminate in his death, he calmly anticipated such a result, and looked at it with composure.
He says that in reference to the great purpose of his life, it would make no difference whether he lived or died, for he was assured that Christ would be honored, whatever was the result. To him personally it would be gain to die; and, as an individual, he longed for the hour when he might be with Christ. This feeling is religion, and this is produced only by the hope of eternal life through the Redeemer. An impenitent sinner never expressed such feelings as these; nor does any other form of religion but Christianity enable a man to look upon death in this manner. It is not often that a man is even willing to die - and then this state of mind is produced, not by the hope of heaven, but by disgust at the world; by disappointed ambition; by painful sickness, when the sufferer feels that any change would be for the better. But Paul had none of these feelings. His desire to depart was not produced by a hatred of life; nor by the greatness of his sufferings; nor by disgust at the world.
It was the noble, elevated, and pure wish to be with Christ - to see him whom he supremely loved, whom he had so long and so faithfully served, and with whom he was to dwell forever. To that world where Christ dwelt be would gladly rise; and the only reason why he could be content to remain here was, that he might be a little longer useful to his fellow human beings. Such is the elevated nature of Christian feeling. But, alas, how few attain to it; and even among Christians, how few are they that can habitually feel and realize that it would be gain for them to die! How few can say with sincerity that they desire to depart and to be with Christ! How rarely does even the Christian reach that state of mind, and gain that view of heaven, that, standing amidst his comforts here, and looking on his family, and friends, and property, he can say from the depths of his soul, that he feels it would be gain for him to go to heaven! Yet such deadness to the world may be produced - as it was in the case of Paul; such deadness to the world should exist in the heart of every sincere Christian. Where it does exist, death loses its terror, and the heir of life can look calmly on the bed where he will lie down to die; can think calmly of the moment when he will give the parting hand to wife and child, and press them to his bosom for the last time, and imprint on them the last kiss; can look peacefully on the spot where he will moulder back to dust, and in view of all can triumphantly say, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly."