Philippians 1
Vincent's Word Studies
The Epistle to the Philippians

For Philippi, see on Philippians 1:1.

With the arrival of Paul at Philippi (Acts 16), the Gospel entered Europe. On his departure he left Luke to complete the organization of the Church. He subsequently visited the city twice, after which we hear nothing of the Philippian church until he writes to it from his Roman prison. On hearing of his transfer to Rome, the Philippians, with the same generosity which they had shown on former occasions (Philippians 4:15, Philippians 4:16; 2 Corinthians 11:8, 2 Corinthians 11:9), sent a supply of money by Epaphroditus, who, on his return, brought this letter.

The epistle is unofficial and familiar in character, even the apostolic title being dropped in the opening salutation. In its unsystematic structure it rivals Second Corinthians. It opens with an account of the progress of the Gospel in Rome since his arrival, the efforts of his opposers, and the zeal of his friends, and an expression of his own feelings as to his possible death or continued life. An exhortation follows to christian unity, courage, and humility, the latter illustrated by the great act of Christ's humiliation. He hopes soon to be released: he is about to send Timothy to Philippi; Epaphroditus has been sick, and is about to return home. Let them beware of the Judaizers - the dogs, the concision. Their arrogant claims are contrasted with the rights and privileges of Christians, and the contrast is pointed by his own spiritual history and a recital of the legal privileges which he relinquished for Christ. Then follow an exhortation to steadfastness, a lament over the victims of sensuality, and a contrast of such with those whose life and hope are heavenly. Two prominent ladies are entreated to reconcile their differences, after which come some parting admonitions to entertain pure thoughts and high aims, and a grateful acknowledgment of the gift brought by Epaphroditus.

In the tone of strong personal attachment which pervades the epistle, it resembles the first to the Thessalonians. It contains no formulated doctrinal teaching, and no indication of the presence of doctrinal errors within the Church. Only the severe allusions in the third chapter, to Judaizers and Antinomian loose-livers, have the flavor of controversy, and the treatment of these is not argumentative, but denunciatory, hortative, and expostulatory. The only warning to the Church is against internal dissensions. Christ is set forth, not in His relation to great christian mysteries, but as a living power in personal experience - notably in the apostle's own.

The words and imagery reveal occasional traces of the contact of Stoicism, as citizenship (Philippians 1:28; Philippians 3:20); content, or self-sufficient (Philippians 4:2); and the passage, Philippians 1:21-27, presents a vivid contrast with the Stoic's theory of life and his justification of suicide. The epistle abounds in picturesque words, as earnest expectation (Philippians 1:20); terrified (Philippians 1:28); depart (Philippians 1:23); robbery (Philippians 2:6); holding forth (Philippians 2:16); offered: (Philippians 2:17); not regarding (Philippians 2:30); keep (Philippians 4:7); learned (Philippians 4:11), etc. See notes.

Bishop Lightfoot observes: "The Epistle to the Philippians is not only the noblest reflection of Paul's personal character and spiritual illumination, his large sympathies, his womanly tenderness, his delicate courtesy, his frank independence, his entire devotion to the Master's service - but as a monument of the power of the Gospel it yields in importance to none of the apostolic writings.... To all ages of the Church - to our own especially - this epistle reads a great lesson. While we are expending our strength on theological definitions or ecclesiastical rules, it recalls us from these distractions to the very heart and center of the Gospel - the life of Christ and the life in Christ. Here is the meeting-point of all our differences, the healing of all our feuds, the true life alike of individuals and sects and churches; here doctrine and practice are wedded together; for here is the 'creed of creeds' involved in and arising out of the 'work of works.'"

The authenticity and genuineness are generally conceded, though violently assailed by the Tubingen critics. The date of composition is probably about a.d. 62, and the epistle is, I think, to be placed in order before the other three.

Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

The official designation is omitted, as in 1 and 2 Thessalonians nd Philemon. It is not easy to explain the use or omission of the title apostle in all cases. Here, and in Philemon and 1 Thessalonians, its omission may be accounted for by the general, unofficial, personal, affectionate character of the letter. In 2 Corinthians nd Galatians the reason for its use is apparent from the fact that Paul's official authority had been assailed. But it is also omitted in 2 Thessalonians, which has an admonitory and rebuking character. Its use in the epistles to Timothy and Titus, private letters, is explained by the fact that Paul is addressing them not only as friends, but as pastors. In Romans, while there is no evidence of any challenge of his apostolic claims, there is an authoritative exposition of Christian doctrine which appears to warrant the title.


Associated with Paul as in the introductions to 2 Corinthians nd the two Thessalonian epistles. Timothy assisted Paul in founding the Philippian church Acts 16:1, Acts 16:13; Acts 17:14. Two visits of Timothy to Philippi are recorded, Acts 19:22; Acts 20:3, Acts 20:4. He is evidently preparing for a third visit, see Philippians 2:19. His only part in this letter is his name in the salutation, and in Philippians 2:19.

To all the saints (πᾶσιν τοῖς ἀγίοις)

In Paul's personal addresses in this epistle the word all occurs nine times. It is sufficiently accounted for by the expansiveness of grateful christian feeling which marks the entire letter, and it is doubtful whether it has any definite or conscious connection with the social rivalries hinted at in the epistle, and which call forth exhortations to unity, as if Paul were disclaiming all partisan feeling by the use of the term. For saints, see on Colossians 1:2; see on Romans 1:7. The word is transferred from the Old Testament. The Israelites were called ἅγιοι holy, separated and consecrated, Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2, Deuteronomy 14:21; Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:22, etc. The christian Church has inherited the title and the privileges of the Jewish nation. Hence it is ἔθνος ἅγιον a holy nation, 1 Peter 2:9. The term implies, but does not assert, actual, personal sanctity. It is a social, not a personal epithet. See on Acts 26:10.


In Macedonia. Travellers by sea landed at Neapolis, and then travelled ten miles to Philippi along the Via Egnatia, which traversed Macedonia from east to west. The site was originally occupied by a town called Datus or Datum, and was known as Krenides from its numerous springs. It was called Philippi in honor of Philip of Macedon, who enlarged and fortified it. Its situation was important, commanding the great high road between Europe and Asia. This fact led to its fortification by Philip, and made it, later, the scene of the decisive battle which resulted in the defeat of Brutus and Cassius. Its soil was productive and rich in mineral treasures, which had yielded a large revenue, but which, in Paul's time, had apparently become exhausted.

Augustus planted at Philippi a colonia. See on Acts 16:12. A variety of national types assembled there - Greek, Roman, and Asiatic - representing different phases of philosophy, religion, and superstition. It was therefore an appropriate starting-point for the Gospel in Europe, a field in which it could demonstrate its power to deal with all differences of nation, faith, sex, and social standing.

Bishops (ἐπισκόποις)

Lit., overseers. See on visitation, 1 Peter 2:12. The word was originally a secular title, designating commissioners appointed to regulate a newly-acquired territory or a colony. It was also applied to magistrates who regulated the sale of provisions under the Romans. In the Septuagint it signifies inspectors, superintendents, taskmasters, see 2 Kings 11:19; 2 Chronicles 34:12, 2 Chronicles 34:17; or captains, presidents, Nehemiah 11:9, Nehemiah 11:14, Nehemiah 11:22. In the apostolic writings it is synonymous with presbyter or elder; and no official distinction of the episcopate as a distinct order of the ministry is recognized. Rev. has overseers in margin.

Deacons (διακόνοις)

The word means servant, and is a general term covering both slaves and hired servants. It is thus distinct from δοῦλος bond-servant. It represents a servant, not in his relation, but in his activity. In the epistles it is often used specifically for a minister of the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Ephesians 3:7. Here it refers to a distinct class of officers in the apostolic church. The origin of this office is recorded Acts 6:1-6. It grew out of a complaint of the Hellenistic or Graeco-Jewish members of the Church, that their widows were neglected in the daily distribution of food and alms. The Palestinian Jews prided themselves on their pure nationality and looked upon the Greek Jews as their inferiors. Seven men were chosen to superintend this matter, and generally to care for the bodily wants of the poor. Their function was described by the phrase to serve tables, Acts 6:2, and their appointment left the apostles free to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. The men selected for the office are supposed to have been Hellenists, from the fact that all their names are Greek, and one is especially described as a proselyte, Acts 6:5; but this cannot be positively asserted, since it was not uncommon for Jews to assume Greek names. See on Romans 16:5. The work of the deacons was, primarily, the relief of the sick and poor; but spiritual ministrations naturally developed in connection with their office. The latter are referred to by the term helps, 1 Corinthians 12:28. Stephen and Philip especially appear in this capacity, Acts 8:5-40; Acts 6:8-11. Such may also be the meaning of ministering, Romans 12:7. Hence men of faith, piety, and sound judgment were recommended for the office by the apostles, Acts 6:3; 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Women were also chosen as deaconesses, and Phoebe, the bearer of the epistle to the Romans, is commonly supposed to have been one of these. See on Romans 16:1.

Ignatius says of deacons: "They are not ministers of food and drink, but servants (ὐπηρέται, see on Matthew 5:25) of the Church of God" ("Epistle to Tralles," 2). "Let all pay respect to the deacons as to Jesus Christ" ("Tralles," 3). "Respect the deacons as the voice of God enjoins you" ("Epistle to Smyrna," 8). In "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" the local churches or individual congregations are ruled by bishops and deacons. "Elect therefore for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord; men meek and not lovers of money, and truthful and approved; for they too minister to you the ministry of the prophets and teachers. Therefore despise them not, for they are those that are the honored among you with the prophets and teachers" (xv., 1, 2). Deaconesses are not mentioned.

Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace - peace

The combination of the Greek and Oriental salutations spiritualized: grace expressing God's love to man, and peace the condition resulting therefrom.

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
Every remembrance (πάσῃ τῇ μνείᾳ)

Better, as Rev, all my remembrance.

Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
Prayer (δεήσει)

Rev., better, supplication. See on Luke 5:33.

For you all

Connect with every prayer of mine.

Request (τὴν δέησιν)

Rev., better, my supplication. The article refers to every supplication.

With joy

Joy is the keynote of this epistle. Bengel says: "The sum of the epistle is, 'I rejoice, rejoice ye."' See Philippians 1:18, Philippians 1:25; Philippians 2:2, Philippians 2:17, Philippians 2:18, Philippians 2:28, Philippians 2:29; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:1, Philippians 4:4, Philippians 4:10.

For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;
For your fellowship (ἐπὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ ὑμῶν)

Connect with I thank God. For fellowship, see on 1 John 1:3. The word sometimes has the meaning of almsgiving, contributions, as Romans 15:26; Hebrews 13:16. Though here it is used in the larger sense of sympathetic cooperation, yet it is no doubt colored by the other idea, in view of the Philippians' pecuniary contributions to Paul. See Philippians 4:10, Philippians 4:15, Philippians 4:16.

In the Gospel (εἰς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον)

Lit., unto the Gospel: Rev., in furtherance of.

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 (πεποιθὼς)

With a slightly causative force: since I am confident.

Hath begun - will perform (ἐναρξάμενος - ἐπιτελέσει)

The two words occur together, 2 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 3:3. Both were used of religious ceremonials. So Euripides: "But come! Bring up the sacrificial meal-basket" (ἐξάρχου κανᾶ); that is, begin the offering by taking the barley-meal from the basket ("Iphigenia in Aulis," 435). Some find the sacrificial metaphor here, and compare Philippians 2:17, see note. Perform, better as Rev., perfect. Perform, in its older and literal sense of carrying through (per) or consummating would express the idea; but popular usage has identified it with do.

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 (καθώς)

The reason for being confident (Philippians 1:6).

Defense (ἀπολογία)

See on 1 Peter 3:15.

Confirmation (βεβαιώσει)

Only here and Hebrews 6:16. The kindred verb βεβαιόω to confirm, occurs frequently, as Romans 15:8; 1 Corinthians 1:8, etc.

Partakers of my grace (συγκοινωνούς μοῦ τῆς χάριτος)

Better, as Rev., partakers with me of grace. Lit., the grace, either the divine endowment which enabled them both to suffer bonds, and to defend and establish the Gospel, or the loving favor of God, which confers suffering and activity alike as a boon. The two may be combined. Compare Philippians 1:29.

For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
In the bowels of Jesus Christ (ἐν σπλάγχνοις Χριστοῦ Ιησοῦ)

Rev., better, in the tender mercies. Describing his longing, not as his individual emotion, but as Christ's longing, as if the very heart of Christ dwelt in him. "In Paul not Paul lives, but Jesus Christ" (Bengel) With tender mercies compare reins, Revelation 2:23, note.

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
Judgment (αἰσθήσει)

Only here in the New Testament. Rev., better, discernment: sensitive moral perception. Used of the senses, as Xenophon: "perception of things sweet or pungent" ("Memorabilia," i., 4, 5). Of hearing: "It is possible to go so far away as not to afford a hearing" ("Anabasis," iv., 6, 13). The senses are called αἰσθήσεις. See Plato, "Theaetetus," 156. Plato uses it of visions of the gods ("Phaedo," 111). Compare αἰσθητήρια senses, Hebrews 5:14. Discernment selects, classifies, and applies what is furnished by knowledge.

That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
Approve (δοκιμάζειν)

Sanction on test. See on 1 Peter 1:7.

Things which are excellent (τὰ διαφέροντα)

Unnecessary difficulty has been made in the explanation of this phrase. Love displays itself in knowledge and discernment. In proportion as it abounds it sharpens the moral perceptions for the discernment of what is best. The passage is on the line of 1 Corinthians 12:31, "Covet earnestly the best gifts," and the "more excellent way" to attain these gifts is love (1 Corinthians 13:1-13). See on Romans 2:18, where the same phrase occurs, but with a different meaning. Some explain things which are morally different.

Sincere (εἱλικρινεῖς)

See on pure, 2 Peter 3:1.

Without offense (ἀπρόσκοποι)

See on Acts 24:16. It may be explained, not stumbling, or not causing others to stumble, as 1 Corinthians 10:32. Both senses may be included. If either is to be preferred it is the former, since the whole passage contemplates their inward state rather than their relations to men.

Till the day, etc. (εἰς)

Rev., unto. Better, against; with a view to.

Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
Fruit of righteousness (καρπὸν δικαιοσύνης)

The phrase occurs James 3:18. Compare Proverbs 11:30.

Glory and praise of God

For glory of God, see on Romans 3:23. That God's glory may be both manifested and recognized. Compare Ephesians 1:6.

But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
Rather (μᾶλλον)

For the furtherance of the Gospel rather than, as might have been expected, for its hindrance.

Furtherance (προκοπὴν)

Only here, Philippians 1:25, and 1 Timothy 4:15. The metaphor is uncertain, but is supposed to be that of pioneers cutting (κόπτω) a way before (πρό) an army, and so furthering its march. The opposite is expressed by ἐγκόπτω to cut into; hence to throw obstacles in the way, hinder. Galatians 5:7. See on 1 Peter 3:7.

So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;
My bonds in Christ are manifest (τοὺς δεσμούς μου φανεροὺς ἐν Χριστῷ γενέσθαι)

Bonds and Christ, in the Greek, are too far apart to be construed together. Better, as Rev., my bonds became manifest in Christ. His imprisonment became known as connected with Christ. It was understood to be for Christ's sake. His bonds were not hidden as though he were an ordinary prisoner. His very captivity proclaimed Christ.

In all the palace (ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ πραιτωρίῳ)

Rev., throughout the whole praetorian guard. So Lightfoot, Dwight, Farrar. This appears to be the correct rendering. The other explanations are, the imperial residence on the Palatine, so A.V.; the praetorian barracks attached to the palace, so Eadie, Ellicott, Lumby, and Alford; the praetortan camp on the east of the city, so Meyer.

The first explanation leaves the place of Paul's confinement uncertain. It may have been in the camp of the Praetorians, which was large enough to contain within its precincts lodgings for prisoners under military custody, so that Paul could dwell "in his own hired house," Acts 28:30. This would be difficult to explain on the assumption that Paul was confined in the barracks or within the palace precincts.

The Praetorians, forming the imperial guard, were picked men, ten thousand in number, and all of Italian birth. The body was instituted by Augustus and was called by him praetoriae cohortes, praetorian cohorts, in imitation of the select troop which attended the person of the praetor or Roman general. Augustus originally stationed only three thousand of them, three cohorts, at Rome, and dispersed the remainder in the adjacent Italian towns. Under Tiberius they were all assembled at Rome in a fortified camp. They were distinguished by double pay and special privileges. Their term of service was originally twelve years, afterward increased to sixteen. On completing his term, each soldier received a little over eight hundred dollars. They all seem to have had the same rank as centurions in the regular legions. They became the most powerful body in the state; the emperors were obliged to court their favor, and each emperor on his accession was expected to bestow on them a liberal donative. After the death of Pertinax (a.d. 193) they put up the empire at public sale, and knocked it down to Didius Julianus. They were disbanded the same year on the accession of Severus, and were banished; but were restored by that emperor on a new plan, and increased to four times their original number. They were finally suppressed by Constantine.

The apostle was under the charge of these troops, the soldiers relieving each other in mounting guard over the prisoner, who was attached to his guard's hand by a chain. In the allusion to his bonds, Ephesians 6:20, he uses the specific word for the coupling-chain. His contact with the different members of the corps in succession, explains the statement that his bonds had become manifest throughout the praetorian guard.

In all other places (τοῖς λοιποῖς πᾶσιν)

Rev., correctly, to all the rest; that is, to all others besides the Praetorians.

And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Many (τοὺς πλείονας)

Rev., correctly, the most. Lit., the more. Implying that there were a few who held back.

Brethren in the Lord

In the Lord should be rather connected with being confident. The expression brethren in the Lord does not occur in the New Testament; while to have confidence in one in the Lord is found Galatians 5:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:4; compare Philippians 2:24. In the Lord is thus emphatic. It may be correlative with in Christ, Philippians 1:13; but this is not certain. In the Lord trusting my bonds, signifies that the bonds awaken confidence as being the practical testimony to the power of the Gospel for which Paul is imprisoned, and therefore an encouragement to their faith.

Are much more bold (περισσοτέρως τολμᾶν)

Rev., more abundantly bold, thus holding more closely to the literal meaning of the adverb. For are bold, see on 2 Corinthians 10:2. The boldness required to profess Christ within the precincts of the palace is illustrated by the graffito or wall-scribble discovered in 1857 among the ruins on the Palatine. It is a caricature of Christ on the cross, with an ass's head, while on the left appears a christian youth in an attitude of adoration. Underneath are scrawled the words Alexamenos worships God.

To speak (λαλεῖν)

The verb denotes the fact rather than the substance of speaking. See on Matthew 28:18. They have broken silence.

Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
Even of envy

Strange as it may seem that envy should be associated with the preaching of Christ. They are jealous of Paul's influence.

Strife (ἔριν)

Factious partisanship.

Good will

Toward Paul.

The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
The one preach Christ of contention

The order of Philippians 1:16, Philippians 1:17, is reversed in the best texts. Of contentions (ἐξ ἐριθείας). See on strife, James 3:14. Rev., better, faction. Compare Chaucer:

"For mine entente is not but for to winne

And nothing for correction of sinne"

"Pardonere's Tale," 12337-8.

Sincerely (ἁγνῶς)

Purely, with unmixed motives. The adjective ἁγνός means pure, in the sense of chaste, free from admixture of evil, and is once applied to God, 1 John 3:3. See on Acts 26:10, footnote. Not sincerely is explained by in pretense, Philippians 1:18.

To add affliction (θλῖψιν ἐπιφέρειν)

Lit., to bring affliction to bear. But the correct reading is ἐγείρειν to raise up, as Rev.: to waken or stir up affliction. The phrase is striking in the light of the original meaning of θλίψις, namely, pressure. They would make his bonds press more heavily and gall him. See on Matthew 13:21.

But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
I am set (κεῖμαι)

Or appointed. See on Luke 2:34. Compare 1 Thessalonians 3:3. Some, instead of rendering the one (or some) preach Christ of contention - but the other of love, join οἱ μὲν some, οἱ δὲ others, in each instance with the succeeding word, making one phrase, thus: "they who are of love do so knowing that I am set, etc.: they who are of faction proclaim Christ not sincerely, etc. The phrase those who are of faction occurs Romans 2:8; and a similar phrase, him who is of faith, Romans 3:26. There seems no sufficient reason for altering A.V. and Rev.

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?

Such being the case, how does it affect me?

Notwithstanding (πλὴν)

Read πλὴν ὅτι except that. Rev., only that. What is my feeling in view of these things? Only that I rejoice that Christ is preached.

In pretense

With a spirit of envy and faction, possibly with a counterfeited zeal for truth.

For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

This preaching of Christ in every way.

Shall turn (ἀποβήσεται)

Lit., come off, eventuate.


Not his deliverance from captivity, but it will prove salutary to him in a spiritual sense and to the saving work of the Gospel. Salvation simply is used, without any more precise definition; and the broader sense, as related to his ministry, seems to be indicated by the words Christ shall be magnified, in Philippians 1:20.

Supply (ἐπιχορηγίας)

See on add, 2 Peter 1:5. Compare Galatians 3:5. The word implies bountiful supply.

Of the Spirit of Jesus Christ

Either the supply furnished by the Spirit, or the supply which is the Spirit. It is better to take it as including both. The exact phrase, Spirit of Jesus Christ, is found only here. Spirit of Christ occurs Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11. The Holy Spirit is meant; called the Spirit of Jesus Christ, because through the Spirit Christ communicates Himself to His people. "The Spirit is the living principle and the organ of the proper presence of Christ and of His life in them" (Meyer).

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.
Earnest expectation (ἀποκαραδοκίαν)

Only here and Romans 8:19, on which see note.

Shall be ashamed (αἰσχυνθήσομαι)

Rev., better, giving the force of the passive, shall be put to shame.


See on Plm 1:8.

Shall be magnified in my body

Through my bodily sufferings Christ shall appear more glorious, and that even if I die.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
To me

Emphatic. Whatever life may be to others, to me, etc

To live is Christ (τὸ ζῆν Χριστὸς)

Lit, the living is Christ. Compare Galatians 2:20. He has no thought of life apart from Christ.


As consummating the union with Christ. Compare Colossians 3:4; 2 Corinthians 5:1-8.

"Declare unto him if the light wherewith

Blossoms your substance shall remain with you

Eternally the same that it is now,

And if it do remain, say in what manner,

After ye are again made visible,

It can be that it injure not your sight.

As by a greater gladness urged and drawn

They who are dancing in a ring sometimes

Uplift their voices and their motions quicken;

So, at that orison devout and prompt,

The holy circles a new joy displayed

In their revolving and their wondrous song.

Who so lamenteth him that here we die

That we may live above, has never there

Seen the refreshment of the eternal rain."

Dante, "Paradiso," 14, 13-27.

But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
If I live (εἰ τὸ ζῆν)

Rev., better, if to live: the living, as Philippians 1:21.

This is the fruit of my labor

According to the A.V. these words form the offset of the conditional clause, and conclude the sentence: if I live - this is the fruit. It is better to make the two clauses parallel, thus: if living after the flesh, (if) this is fruit of labor. The conditional suspended clause will then be closed by what I shall choose I do not declare. Fruit of labor, advantage accruing from apostolic work. Compare Romans 1:13.

Yet what I shall choose I wot not (καὶ τί αἱρήσομαι οὐ γνωρίζω).

Καὶ rendered yet has the force of then. If living in the flesh be, etc., then what I shall choose, etc. Wot is obsolete for know. In classical Greek γνωρίζω means: 1, to make known point out; 2, to become acquainted with or discover; 3, to have acquaintance with. In the Septuagint the predominant meaning seems to be to make known. See Proverbs 22:19; Ezekiel 44:23; Daniel 2:6, Daniel 2:10; Daniel 5:7. The sense here is to declare or make known, as everywhere in the New Testament. Compare Luke 2:15; John 17:26; Acts 2:28; Colossians 4:7; 2 Peter 1:16, etc. If I am assured that my continuing to live is most fruitful for the Church, then I say nothing as to my personal preference. I do not declare my choice. It is not for me to express a choice.

For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
I am in a strait betwixt two (συνέχομαι ἐκ τῶν δύο)

See on 2 Corinthians 5:14. The picture is that of a man pressed on both sides. Lit. I am held together, so that I cannot incline either way. Betwixt two, lit., from the two. The pressure comes from both sides. Note the article, the two, the two considerations just mentioned, departing or abiding in the flesh.

Having a desire

Lit., the desire: my desire, as expressed in Philippians 1:21, for death with its gain.

To depart (ἀναλῦσαι)

The verb means originally to unloose, undo again. So of Penelope's web: "During the night she undid it" (Homer, "Odyssey," ii., 105). Of loosing a ship from her moorings: of breaking up a camp. So 2 Macc. 9:1. Antiochus, having entered Persepolis, and having attempted to rob the temple and to hold the city, was put to flight by the inhabitants, and broke up (ἀναλελυκὼς) and came away with dishonor. We have the same figure in popular usage of one who changes his residence: "He broke up at Chicago and removed to New York." Paul's metaphor here is the military one, to break camp. Compare 2 Corinthians 5:1, where the metaphor is the striking of a tent. Some prefer the nautical image, casting off from shore; but Paul's circumstances naturally suggested military figures; and, what is somewhat strange in the case of one so familiar with the sea, nautical metaphors are rare in his writings. There is one at 1 Timothy 1:19, of those "who concerning the faith have made shipwreck;" at Ephesians 4:14, "tossed as by waves, and borne about by every wind." Κυβερνήσεις governments, 1 Corinthians 12:28 (see note), is from κυβερνάω to steer.

To be with Christ

Compare 2 Corinthians 5:6, 2 Corinthians 5:8; Acts 7:59; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

Which is far better (πολλῷ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον)

Lit., much more better. For similar cumulative expressions, see on 2 Corinthians 4:17. The best texts insert γὰρ for. So Rev., for it is very far better.

Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
To abide in the flesh (ἐπιμένειν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ)

See on Colossians 1:23. To abide by the flesh. Compare Romans 6:1; Romans 11:22, Romans 11:23.

And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;

See on Philippians 1:12.

Of faith

Rev., in the faith. To be connected with both furtherance and joy. For promoting your faith and your joy in believing. For joy of faith, compare Romans 15:13.

That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.
Rejoicing (καύχημα)

The matter of rejoicing, wrought through your faith.

In Christ Jesus for me (ἐν Χριστῷ Ἱησοῦ ἐν ἐμοὶ)

Construe in Christ Jesus with may abound, not with rejoicing. Christ is conceived as the element in which the matter of rejoicing grows and abounds. For me, better, as Rev, in me. The conjunction of the two phrases in Christ, in me, is somewhat confusing Paul's presence is the immediate cause of their christian joy; hence in me; but their rejoicing in Paul is in Christ - a joy evolved within the sphere of life in Christ, and peculiar to those only to whom to live is Christ.

Coming (παρουσίας)

Rev., better, presence.

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;

This one thing I urge as the only thing needful.

Let your conversation be (πολιτεύεσθε)

Only here in Paul's writings, and elsewhere only Acts 23:1. The verb means to be a citizen. Lit., Be citizens worthily of the Gospel. Rev., Let your manner of life be. Margin, Behave as citizens. Compare Ephesians 3:19, and see on Philippians 3:20. The exhortation contemplates the Philippians as members of the christian commonwealth. The figure would be naturally suggested to Paul by his residence in Rome, and would appeal to the Philippians as a Roman colony, which was a reproduction of the parent commonwealth on a smaller scale.

Ye stand fast (στήκετε)

Compare Ephesians 6:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:15. For the verb, see on John 1:26; see on John 8:44.

Spirit - mind (πνεύματι - ψυχῇ)

See on Romans 8:4; see on Romans 11:3.

Striving together for the faith (συναθλοῦντες τῇ πίστει)

The verb occurs only here and Philippians 4:3. The figure is that of an athletic contest, and is in keeping with standfast. Not to be rendered striving in concert with the faith, thus personifying faith, and making the faith signify the gospel teaching. For the faith as christian doctrine, see on Acts 6:7. Faith is to be taken in its usual subjective sense of trust in Christ or in the Gospel. Together refers to the mutual striving of the Philippians; not to their striving in concert with Paul.

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.
Terrified (πτυρόμενοι)

Only here in the New Testament. Properly of the terror of a startled horse. Thus Diodorus Siculus, speaking of the chariot-horses of Darius at the battle of Issus: "Frightened (πτυρόμενοι) by reason of the multitude of the dead heaped round them, they shook off their reins" (xvii. 34). Plutarch says: "The multitude is not easy to handle so that it is safe for any one to take the reins; but it should be held sufficient, if, not being scared by sight or sound, like a shy and fickle animal, it accept mastery."

Which is (ἥτις ἐστὶν)

Seeing that it is.

An evident token (ἔνδειξις)

Only here, Romans 3:25, Romans 3:26; 2 Corinthians 8:24. Lit., a pointing out. Used in Attic law of a writ of indictment. A demonstration or proof.

To you of salvation (ὑμῖν)

Read ὑμῶν of you. Rev., of your salvation.

And that of God

Rev., from God (ἀπό). Lightfoot finds here an allusion, in accord with striving together, to the sign of life or death given by the populace in the amphitheater when a gladiator was vanquished, by turning the thumbs up or down. "The christian gladiator does not anxiously await the signal of life or death from the fickle crowd. The great Director of the contest Himself has given him a sure token of deliverance."

For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
It is given - to suffer for His sake (ἐχαρίσθη τὸ ὑπὲρ - αὐοτῦ πάσχειν)

Every word here is significant. Suffering is a gift of grace. "It is given" should be "it was given," referring to the gift bestowed when they became Christians. Suffering was the marriage-gift when they were espoused to Christ: the bounty when they enlisted in His service. Becoming one with Him they entered into the fellowship of His suffering (Philippians 3:10). The gift was not suffering as such. Its meaning and value lay in its being for His sake. The Macedonian churches, and the Philippian church especially, were preeminently suffering churches. See 2 Corinthians 8:2.

Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
Conflict (ἀγῶνα)

An athletic contest. See on striving, Colossians 1:29, and compare striving together, Philippians 1:27.

Ye saw

In his sufferings at Philippi, Acts 16, see 1 Thessalonians 2:2.


Concerning my imprisonment.

Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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