A Study Of The Book Of Philippians:
A verse by verse examination of the apostle Paul's epistle of joy to the beloved Philippian church.




Introduction


Chapter One


Chapter Two


Chapter Three


Chapter Four



Chapter Two
February, 1999


by: Allan Turner

Unity Through Humility—2:1-4


(1) Therefore if {there is} any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, (2) fulfill my joy by being like minded, having the same love, {being} of one accord, of one mind. (3) {Let} nothing {be done} through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (4) Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.


1. Therefore. The word “therefore” here indicates that Paul is expounding on the exhortation of 1:27, i.e., “in one spirit, with one mind, etc.” He now lists four things that would motivate them to unity. If {there is} any consolation in Christ,. The first motive Paul gives is “consolation in Christ.” The Greek word translated here as “consolation” is translated eight places in the New Testament as “exhortation,” and conveys the idea of admonition. In other words, the Philippians were to strive for unity on the basis of the will of Christ, because he admonished them to do so in His word. This, of course, should be the basic motive for unity in any congregation—loyalty to the exhortation or teaching of Christ. If any comfort of love,. In the Greek, the word here translated “comfort” indicates “a word which comes to the side of one to stimulate and encourage him.” Thus, the idea of encouragement is conveyed in the use of this word. The love under discussion is divine love or agape. Christ exhorted the Philippians to unity, but He did so through the appeal or encouragement of His love for them. Their appreciation of the divine love that had saved them through Christ would encourage them to live together in unity. Furthermore, the love they had for each other, which was but a reflection of the love Christ had for them, would cause them to live and work together in unity. If any fellowship of the Spirit,. The human heart is said to be full of the Spirit when its inward state, its affections, and its acts are directed and controlled by Him so as to be a constant manifestation of His presence. If the Philippians had an intimate, loving, forebearing relationship with each other because they jointly enjoyed fellowship with the Holy Spirit, then they would be “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). The presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians are never an incitement to confusion and factionalism, but always to peace and unity (cf. I Corinthians 14:33). If any affection and mercy,. This is the fourth and final reason given for the Philippians to live in harmony with each other. Paul is writing of tender mercies and compassion. With these graces present in their lives, they would live at peace with one another—quarrelings would cease, differences would be patched up, and estrangements would be healed.

2. Fulfill my joy. Paul dearly loved and appreciated the Philippians. He felt great joy in them. But now he wanted this joy to be made full or complete by any unity that was lacking in them (cf. 4:2). By being likeminded,. The Greek here literally means “think the same thing.” It is defined by the two clauses that follow. Having the same love,. Here they are being exhorted to unity of affection. They were to love the same things (1:9,10) and have the same love for one another and for the Lord. {Being} of one accord,. Here they are being exhorted to unity of sentiment. The Greek word rendered “accord” does not appear anywhere else in the New Testament. It literally means “with united spirits.” The Philippians were to so think and act as if they were but one soul. This was Paul's plea to Christians everywhere, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and {that} there be no divisions among you, but {that} you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10). Of one mind. This is a little stronger form than the phrase “being likeminded.” Its literal meaning is “thinking the one thing.” The unity Paul is writing about is found in Romans 15:5-7, which says: “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, (6) that you may with one mind {and} one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (7) Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”

3. {Let} nothing {be done} through selfish ambition or conceit,. Selfish ambition, self-seeking, and rivalry, which always lead to factions or party making, must not rear its ugly head among brethren. The factious man wants to win followers to himself rather than to build up the body of Christ (cf. I Corinthians 12:12-27). The word “conceit” means groundless self-esteem and empty pride. Many churches have been torn asunder by the conceit of elders, preachers, and other members who desired, like Diotrephes, to have the preeminence rather then to exalt Christ and seek for the edification of their brethren. But in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. The only way to counter things being done through selfish ambition or conceit is through cultivating “lowliness of mind.” This word means humility, having a humble opinion of one's self, or a deep sense of one's moral littleness. This word is elsewhere translated “humbleness of mind” (Colossians 3:12) and “lowliness” (Ephesians 4:2). In both these passages, the word comes just before meekness and long-suffering, demonstrating that it is only by a wise and lowly estimate of ourselves that we come to know what is due to others. Humility, then, describes the spirit of one who knows himself in relation to God. It is, therefore, primarily a Christian grace and not a social virtue. Contrary to pagan thought and current wisdom, there is nothing weak about humility. In fact, it is the badge of the strong, the first test of a truly great man. It is the one specific virtue and quality that above all others explains the work and character of Christ, our Savior, who “made Himself of no reputation” (2:7) and “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death” (2:8). “Lowliness of mind” was the creation of Christ Himself; it was He who brought this new spirit into the world and illustrated it in his own person because He was “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29).

4. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. A healthy self-concern or self-esteem is not what Paul is here condemning. Self-interest is entirely consistent with the will of God; but it must not be confused with selfishness. The two are diametrically opposed to each other. The Christian who has a healthy concern for his own welfare, who is truly humble and unselfish, looks out “not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” He realizes that self-concern and concern for others are inextricably tied together (cf. Romans 13:9; I Corinthians 10:24; 13:5). Such a person willingly gives himself in the service of others, realizing that the greater blessedness of the Christian life is not in receiving but in giving (Acts 20:35).

The Humbled And Exalted Christ—2:5-11


(5) Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, (6) who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, (7) but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, {and} coming in the likeness of men. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to {the point of} death, even the death of the cross. (9) Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, (11) and {that} every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ {is} Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


5. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,. The mind which Paul exhorts the Philippians to imitate was the loving, self-denying lowliness of mind demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh. The Christian with this kind of mind will always make himself of service to his fellow men, no matter how ignoble or self-abasing his service may be (cf. John 13:3-17).

Note: The next seven verses are controversial. Down through the ages, volumes have been written on these passages. Presently, they are the center of attention in a controversy over the deity of Christ. So-called “Kenotic theory” holds that these verses teach that Jesus divested Himself of His divinity and Godhood and became a man, just a man, and only a man as He lived here on this earth. Therefore, I find it more than just ironic that these passages, originally designed to counter factionalism, have become the focal point of what promises to be one of the greatest factions that has ever occurred in the churches of Christ. The Bible teaches that Jesus was not just God in human disguise, nor was He simply a man with divine qualities; He was, and is, the God-man, fully man and fully God. Refute this idea and Christianity suffers a mortal blow.

Consequently, it is not surprising to learn that recent critics of Christianity have pounced upon belief in this core doctrine as being nothing less than a logical contradiction. They argue that just as it is logically impossible, according to the “law of noncontradiction,” for something to be a property (A) and its logical complement (non-A) at the same time in the same sense, it is just as impossible for Jesus Christ to be fully God and fully man simultaneously. These critics are quick to point out that God, according to the traditional definition, possesses certain attributes that man does not possess, like eternalness, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immutability, incorporeality, and absolute holiness. On the other hand, they tell us, man seems to have the opposite properties, i.e., human beings are not without beginning, not all powerful, not all knowing, not sinless, etc. Therefore, according to these antagonists, the only conclusion to be reached by one who wants to reason soundly is that the doctrine of the incarnation, as traditionally vocalized, is nothing more than an incoherent theological construct articulated in the creeds of the “early church” councils: namely, the Council of Nicea in 325 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Personally, I have never felt the need to defend the machinations of an apostate church and its councils, but it is only fair to point out that truth is still truth even when it is spoken by an apostate church. The beliefs expressed by the Nicean and Chalcedonian councils that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man are not inconsistent with what I believe the Bible teaches on this subject. Therefore, when I defend what I believe the Bible to be teaching on this subject, the unprincipled critic will seek to discredit my defense by saying it is simply a regurgitation of the Nicean and Chalcedonian creeds. Unfortunately, there are those presently among us who are saying and writing this very thing. They think a defense of Jesus that says He was, and is, fully God and fully man at the same time is goofy and laughable. It is, they tell us, a logical contradiction that is definitely not scriptural, and, in the end, is simply a reflection of the man-made creeds of a recreant Christendom. They are wrong!

As long as Colossians 2:9 is a part of Scripture, then I know that all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus bodily. I did not learn this truth by reason alone. Nevertheless, I am firmly convinced that a revelation from God cannot contradict reason or logic. If it does, then it is not from God. Therefore, if Colossians 2:9 is a violation of Logic's law of noncontradiction, then it simply does not mean what it seems to mean. This, of course, is exactly the conclusion of some among us. Thinking the idea that Jesus was fully God and fully man a logical contradiction, they have attempted to interpret Colossians 2:9 totally different from the way it has been traditionally understood. According to their erroneous position, the Son of God gave up His Godhood, divesting Himself of His divine attributes, and became a man, just a man, just an ordinary man like you and me. Consequently, Colossians 2:9 should be interpreted, “All the blessings of God resided on or in Jesus totally.” But, and here is my point, before one assumes that the clear teaching of a Bible passage is not its true teaching because he thinks the obvious teaching contradicts a rule of logic, he had better make sure he has fully examined his own thinking, fully understands the rule he believes has been violated, and has actually formulated the question correctly.

The critics of Jesus being fully God and fully man are wrong not because the law of noncontradiction is faulty (in fact, this law is absolutely necessary if we are to make sense of anything), they are wrong because they have made some incorrect assumptions about what it means to be human. They have assumed that man's common characteristics (viz., not without beginning, not all powerful, not all knowing, not sinless, etc.) are, in fact, essential characteristics of being human. There can be no question that these characteristics are common to mankind, but where is the argument that says they are essential to being fully human? Jesus, I believe, was fully God. Consequently, He possessed certain essential characteristics or attributes of Deity, like eternalness, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immutability, incorporeality, and absolute holiness. In other words, and using the terms of logic, anyone lacking these properties (A) could not be God. But, all this being true, where is the argument, other than a false assumption on the part of the critics, that says the complement (non-A) of these are essential characteristics and attributes of being fully human? True, these are essential characteristics and attributes of being merely human, but the Bible never teaches that Jesus was merely human; it teaches He was and is fully human and fully God at the same time. I am fully human in that I possess all the essential characteristics of basic human nature (e.g., body and spirit). It is in this respect that Jesus is like me. Furthermore, I am merely human in that I have some additional limitation characteristics or properties, as well, such as lacking omnipotence, omniscience, etc. In this regard, Jesus was not and is not like me. Correct thinking about Jesus Christ diminishes neither His full and complete Deity nor His full and complete humanity. Far from being contradictory, belief in the God-man is absolutely reasonable.

In trying to explain the verses that follow, I reject the classical interpretation that says these verses begin with the Son of God in heaven in the glory of His preexistent condition of sharing the divine essence with God the Father (“in the form of God existing”) then tracing His downward movement by means of the incarnation (“Himself He emptied”) to His “cross work” as the Father's Servant, and then His upward movement by means of the Father's exaltation through resurrection and ascension to His present session at His Father's right hand as Lord. In rejecting this interpretation, I want to make it very clear that I do not take exception to the sentiments behind such an interpretation or the “high Christiology” extracted from these verses by such an exposition. I state unequivocally that I do not intend to deny the full unqualified deity of the incarnated Son or His full equality with the Father in power and glory. One can be assured, then, that I do not espouse the kenotic theory. On the contrary, my interpretation of Philippians 2:6-8 is thought to eliminate any advantage the kenotic theorists believe they have in these verses.

And what are these alleged advantages? First, if one understands, as most do, that the beginning point of the descent-ascent flow of Philippians 2:6-11 is the preexistent state of the Son of God, who existed in the form of God and was equal to God, and take the phrases “Himself He emptied, taking the form of a servant” as the allusion to the “downward” event of the incarnation, then, it is only with great difficulty, because of the intervening clause, that one can avoid the conclusion that the “emptying” involved His surrendering the “form” (very nature"—NIV) of God. About this, Lightfoot, Warfield, Murray, Wells et al. say, “When our Lord is said to be in `the form of God,' therefore, He is declared, in the most express manner possible, to be all that God is, to possess the whole fullness of attributes which make God God” (Warfield, The Person and Work of Christ, p. 39). The advantage the kenotic theorists think they have is the intervening clause, “He did not consider His equality with God [i.e., His divine nature] a thing to be held onto,” which in the “flow” of things has to reflect an attitude in the preexistent Son on the “prior side” of the incarnation. What would be the point of telling us the pre-incarnate Son did not consider His equality with God or divine nature a thing to be held on to if He did not, as the next clause says, “empty Himself”?

Although I totally reject kenotic doctrine, it seems to me that these verses, as traditionally interpreted (viz., the descent-ascent flow), give credence to the kenotic assertion that the preexistent Son of God gave up at least some of His equality with God in the incarnation. One can escape this dilemma by only one of two methods: hermeneutical gymnastics or a rejection of the traditional interpretation.

When resorting to hermeneutical gymnastics, some say that the Son did not divest Himself of His divine attributes, but only the independent use of these attributes. But when did the Son ever exercise His attributes independently? Others say He did not divest Himself of His deity, but only His rights (i.e. powers and prerogatives). But which rights did He give up when He became a man? Still others say He did not divest Himself of His deity, but only His divine glory. But does not this divine glory belong to deity? Remember, the traditional interpretation of this passage says that the pre-incarnate Son of God did not consider His “equality with God” a thing to be held on to. Therefore, He emptied Himself and took the form of a servant. I believe the latter are right when they say the majestic glory (doxa) of the incarnate Son of God was veiled by His flesh (cf. Hebrews 10:20). Otherwise, why would He pray that the Father restore to Him the glory He had with Him before the world was (cf. John 17:5)? However, the traditional interpretation does not say that the pre-incarnate Son of God did not think His “majestic glory” was something that He needed to hold on to; instead, it says, He did not consider His “equality with God” a thing to be held on to. Consequently, according to the traditional interpretation, not holding on to “equality with God,” the Son of God emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. The emptying, one would argue, was effected by the Son taking on the role of a servant and being seen in appearance as a man. But, in reality, this will just not work when one wants to turn around and argue that the Son did not give up His equality with God. It now seems to me that there is something terribly wrong with such hermeneutical gymnastics.

This brings us to a closer examination of my rejection of the classical interpretation of Philippians 2:6-11. I reject the idea that these verses indicate a descent-ascent flow. I believe these verses begin with the incarnate Son of God, who, in his incarnated state, existed in the very form of God (i.e., possessed all the characteristics and attributes of the divine nature). In other words, Philippians 2:6a and Colossians 2:9 are parallel in that they teach that all the fullness of the Godhead (i.e., all the characteristics and attributes of deity) dwelt in Jesus' body. Consequently, the attitude of mind these passages instruct us to develop is not that of the pre-incarnate Son of God, but the humility exhibited by the God-man, Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, who poured himself out unto death (cf. I Peter 2:18-25).

With this said, let us now spend some time with the verses.

6. Who,. This speaks antecedently of Jesus Christ. Being in the form of God,. This is not speaking of His pre-existence. This speaks of the Word after He became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). While on earth, He was in the form of God. In other words, all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him bodily (Colossians 2:9). Did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,. In the Greek, the word translated “robbery” means “the act of seizing.” Therefore, this passage could rightly be rendered “did not regard equality with God a thing to be seized.” Paul, who in other places is willing to contrast the first Adam with Christ, who he called the “last Adam” (cf. Romans 5:12-19; I Corinthians 15:45-49), is here saying that Jesus Christ, the “last Adam,” unlike the first Adam, did not attempt to seize equality with God, the Father. You remember that in the serpent's temptation, he said, “...you will be like [or equal to] God” (Genesis 3:5). Jesus, the Last Adam, when urged to “seize equality with God” (cf. Matthew 4:3,6: “Since you are the Son of God...”) by taking matters into his own hands and asserting His rights as the Son per se and not as the Son already dispatched on His Messianic mission as the Servant of the Lord, “did not regard equality with God a thing to be seized.” Jesus, praise God, refused to succumb to the tempter's suggestion that He achieve “lordship” of the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8) by a means of self-exaltation. Let this same mind be in us also.

7. But made Himself of no reputation,. In the flesh, as the Servant of the Lord, the Son of God made Himself of no reputation or, as other translations put it, He emptied Himself. The Greek word under consideration is kenoo. It is from this word that the kenotic theory gets its name. Again, this theory contends that the divine Logos, who had been equal with God in heaven, gave up (emptied) His Godhead and became a man, just a man, and only a man. Actually, kenoticists try to make this phrase say that He emptied something out  of Himself (viz., His divine attributes). The point is, Jesus emptied Himself (i.e., He humbled Himself or “made Himself of no reputation”). We will have more to say about this further along. Taking the form of a servant,. Here now is the real crux of the matter. Did Jesus empty Himself or make Himself of no reputation by taking on the form of a servant, as the passage, as translated, clearly seems to indicate, or is there another way of translating this phrase? The Greek word translated “taking” in this phrase is lambano, an aorist participle, and can be translated “having taken,” according to a common rule of Greek syntax which says that an aorist participle generally denotes action preceding the main verb. (Anyone interested in pursuing this further is referred to Robert L. Reymond, Jesus, Divine Messiah, footnote 54, page 264.) Of course, this puts a whole different twist on the verse. Jesus' emptying did not occur prior to Him taking the form of a servant; instead, it occurred coincident with it. In other words, Jesus Christ, who was and is God, even when He took upon Himself flesh, did not, unlike Adam, regard equality with God a thing to be seized at His temptation by a self-willed exercise of power, but poured Himself out unto death, having taken the form of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. In fact, the phrase “He emptied Himself” is the nonliteral Greek equivalent of the “He poured out His soul [which means, `He poured Himself out'] unto death” (which means, “He voluntarily died”) of Isaiah 53:12. Thus interpreted, the phrase refers to the humble sacrifice of Jesus' life and not the self-emptying of His incarnation. {And} coming in the likeness of men. “And” is supplied by the translators in order to connect this phrase with the preceding phrase, “taking the form of a servant.” Actually, a separation could just as legitimately be made between these two phrases, with “coming in the likeness of men” being the starting point for a retelling of what has already been mentioned. Redundancy is an excellent way to teach and is often resorted to by the apostle Paul. Consequently, I am suggesting that a period after “servant” in the preceding phrase is just as legitimate as the present punctuation. This means that “Coming [or `having been born'] in the likeness of men” ought to start the next verse. (Remember, verses and numbers were added later and are not inspired.)

8. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to {the point of} death, even the death of the cross. Put a comma after “men” in the previous phrase, and you have the completed idea that having been born in the precise likeness of men, and having been found by external appearance to be a man, Jesus humbled Himself, having become obedient unto death—even the death of the cross. Again, tie this in with Isaiah 53, and the point Paul is making is emphatic.

9. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,. Because of Christ's servant work, He has been highly exalted and given a name above all others. The exaltation mentioned in this passage does not refer directly to God the Son per se, but to God the Son in His incarnate state as the Messiah. In other words, it is the God-man, Jesus Christ, who is exalted. Therefore, without denigrating in any way His divine nature, it can be said that the Father's exaltation of Jesus Christ entailed for the Son, as the Messiah, a new and genuine experience of exaltation.

10. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,. The King's name is Jesus. Because we must use the word “human” as part of our description of Him now, we can also say that something truly new and unique occurred at the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ: Jesus the man—the Last Adam—assumed actual sovereignty over the universe, over all the principalities and powers in heavenly places, and over all other men, demanding that they submit to the authority of His scepter.

11. And {that} every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ {is} Lord, to the glory of God the Father. At the mentioning of His name, some day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus, the Messiah, is Lord! This confession will rebound to the glory of the Father, who elevated Jesus to this exalted state.

Light Bearers—2:12-18


(12) Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (13) for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for {His} good pleasure. (14) Do all things without murmuring and disputing, (15) that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (16) holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. (17) Yes, and if I am being poured out {as a drink offering} on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. (18) For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.


12. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed,. With Christ's obedience as their guide and with His exaltation as encouragement, the Philippians had been faithful from the very beginning. Not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence,. In this parenthetical statement, Paul's says their obedience was even now more evident in his absence. Here were people for whom it was not necessary for Paul to be in their midst watching over them in order for them to be faithful to the Lord. Here were Christians who were serious about what they were during. This is why this letter is called the epistle of joy. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;. The Greek word translated “work out” means “to perform, accomplish, achieve, or complete.” The word “own” emphasizes the personal responsibility each Christian has concerning his own salvation. Having been saved by grace through faith, the Philippians were going to complete their salvation by continuing in obedient faith to the will of the Lord. This obedient faith would be properly motivated by fear and trembling. In Isaiah 66:2, the Lord said, “But on this one will I look, On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who tremble at My word.” In Paul's letters, these two words occur together in three other places and always refer to obedience (I Corinthians 2:3; II Corinthians 7:15; and Ephesians 6:5). This fear is of the greatness of the task we have been given and the consequences of failure. When it comes to the instructions of the Lord, the Christian must be very careful about what he is or is not doing: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (II Corinthians 10:12). “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. (2) For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, (3) how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation...” (Hebrews 2:1-3). This fear and trembling is the caution and circumspection that shrinks away from whatever would offend and dishonor the Godhead. This is not to be confused with the fear that has torment, which perfect love casts out (I John 4:18). On the contrary, the fear and trembling of this passage helps us demonstrate our love for God by keeping His commandments (cf. I John 5:2,3).

13. For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for {His} good pleasure. When one is obedient to the word of the Lord, God is working in and through this person to do His good pleasure. The term “good pleasure” comes from a Greek word meaning will or choice. It is God's word that produces in us both “to will” (the motivation) and “to do” (the work) His will. Without the word of God and the example of Jesus Christ, the works God prepared beforehand that the followers of His Son would do (cf. Ephesians 2:10) would not be done.

14. Do all things without murmuring and disputing,. The Greek word translated “murmuring” conveys the idea of a secret debate. In other words, complaints and charges made not openly and honestly, but those done behind the scene. This fault had been prevalent in ancient Israel (Exodus 16:7; Numbers 16:41; I Corinthians 10:10), and if it became prevalent in the Philippian church, their good work and name would be sorely effected. The word translated “disputing” means to suspiciously question and doubt. If the Philippians developed this sort of attitude with each other, then wranglings and disputings would arise to wreck spiritual havoc in their midst. Of course, murmuring and disputing could arise against God or their fellow Christians, and the cause would be the “selfish ambition and conceit” of 2:3.

15. That you may become blameless and harmless,. Paul now mentions the basic reason why they should abstain from murmuring and disputing. The word “blameless” addresses itself to moral integrity, which will manifest itself in the sight of others. “Harmless” means unmixed, unadulterated, sincere, and guileless, and represents moral integrity with respect to the mind or heart. Paul was exhorting the Philippians to be upright both in what was seen and unseen, both outwardly, and inwardly. Children of God without fault. The illusion is to animal sacrifice. They were already children of God, but Paul wants to encourage them to go on to perfection (cf. 3:13). In the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,. Peter used the word “crooked” in the indictment of his generation (Acts 2:40), and particularly to describe harsh or bad-tempered masters (I Peter 2:18). It means “wicked.” “Perverse” coveys the idea of “distorted” and is a little stronger word than “crooked.” It is used here and in Matthew 17:17 to denote a moral nature all warped and knotted and describes the extreme depravity of a generation that has turned from the truth of God's word. Among whom you shine as lights in the world,. In their crooked and perverse culture, the Philippians were to maintain their moral integrity. They were in the world, but they were not of the world (cf. John 15:19; Romans 12:2).

16. Holding fast the word of life,. As the Philippians “held forth” the word of life, both by example and by teaching, they would be light-bearers. In doing so, they would be pointing men and women to Him who is “the light of the world” (John 8:12). So that I may rejoice in the day of Christ. The Philippians' fidelity will be a source of Paul's rejoicing at the second coming of Christ (cf. 4:1; II Corinthians 1:14; I Thessalonians 2:19). That I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Paul's “run” or “labor” among the Philippians had been to bring them to Christ and encourage them to live in conformity to His will. If they remained faithful, then his labor among them was not in vain.

17. Yes, and if I am being poured out {as a drink offering} on the sacrifice and service of your faith,. Paul, who is imitating Christ, is pouring himself out for the Philippians. If the ultimate sacrifice is required, then he, like Christ, will pour himself out unto death. I am glad and rejoice with you all. In doing so, he will be glad (“filled with joy”). The word translated “rejoice” means “to rejoice together, to congratulate.” Paul is saying he felt genuine personal joy in that his dying would be a means of honoring the faith of the Philippians and goes on to say, “I congratulate you upon it”: i.e., upon the honor occurring to you by my blood being poured on the sacrifice and service of your faith.

18. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. Paul wanted the Philippians to see the situation as he saw it. As he “congratulated” the Philippians on the honor his martyrdom would bring their faith, so they were to “congratulate” him on the honor that such a death would bring to his own faith.

Timothy Commended—2:19-24


(19) But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. (20) For I have no one like minded, who will sincerely care for your state. (21) For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. (22) But you know his proven character, that as a son with {his} father he served with me in the gospel. (23) Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. (24) But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly.


19. But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. Having just spoken of the possibility of his death, he now seems to revert to the conviction that he would receive a speedy release or at least an improvement in his circumstances that he could dispense with the presence and service of Timothy for a season. He trusted that with the approval of the Lord, and under His ordering, he would be able to send his beloved son in the gospel to know how they were doing. He expressed confidence that the report he would receive concerning them would be favorable.

20. For I have no one like minded, who will sincerely care for your state. Paul was willing to pour himself out unto death for the Philippians, and there was no one else in Rome like minded (“equal in soul”) except Timothy, whose “care” or “interest in what was best for” the Philippians was faithfully “sincere” or “genuine.” Consequently, any concern he overtly showed them would not be of necessity or grudging, but of a willing, sympathetic, and loving heart (cf. II Corinthians 9:7).

21. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. In light of 1:15-17 and II Timothy 4:10, 16, we are not shocked by what we now read. There is no way to soften what he is saying. This is a severe indictment of the evangelists who were currently in Rome. In seeking their own things, these people, who graciously remained unnamed by Paul, were not willing to be poured out for the cause of Christ and were therefore unfit for the journey to Philippi.

22. But you know his proven character, that as a son with {his} father he served with me in the gospel. Timothy's faith in and love for the Lord had been proven in the crucible of Christian service. This “proof” had been amply demonstrated to the Philippians from the very beginning. Furthermore, Timothy was Paul's child in the faith (I Corinthians 4:17; I Timothy 1:2; II Timothy 1:2). However, Paul does not speak of Timothy serving him but of Timothy serving “with” or “along side of” him. Their working together was for a common goal; namely, the furtherance of the gospel.

23. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. As soon as Paul was able to be certain about how things were going to go with himself (whether he would be sentenced to death or acquitted), he would send Timothy to them immediately.

24. But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly. In the preceding verse, Paul expressed his uncertainty as to what the outcome would be. In 2:17, he said he was willing to die if necessary. But now he expresses trust he will be released and be able to come to them. His confidence here no way contradicts any uncertainty he previously expressed. Paul's words reflect the reality of faith and trust. Whatever happened would have to be according to the Lord's will, not his own think-sos. As James 4:13-15 expresses it: “Come now, you who say, `Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what {will happen} tomorrow. For what {is} your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you {ought} to say, `If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.'”

Epaphroditus Praised—2:25-30


(25) Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; (26) since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. (27) For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. (28) Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. (29) Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; (30) because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.


25. Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need;. As messenger of the Philippian church, Epaphroditus had brought things to Paul and was expected to minister to his needs. Now, concerned about the Philippians, he was returning Epaphroditus to them. As we shall see, Epaphroditus was not just a brother in Christ. In addition, he was a true fellow worker and soldier of the cross.

26. Since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. Epaphroditus was homesick and longed to see the faces of those he had left in Philippi. Add to this terrible homesickness his acute concern for their distress over his ill health, and it was time for Epaphroditus to go home to Philippi.

27. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. In his service to Paul, Epaphroditus had hazarded his health. As a result, he had almost died from some illness, but the Lord had mercy and compassion on both Epaphroditus and Paul and raised Epaphroditus up. The apostle had already been caused great sorrow by Epaphroditus' illness, but if his brother in Christ, fellow worker and fellow soldier had died, he would have had sorrow upon sorrow. It is wonderful to know that the heart of God is filled with mercy.

28. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Although we can be sure Paul hated for this wonderful man to part from him, out of his unselfish love for Epaphroditus and the Philippians, Paul was even the more eager to send Epaphroditus back to them. Knowing of their happiness at Epaphroditus' return, Paul, from a heart motivated by his unselfish love for them, would indeed be less sorrowful. Their joy would make his burden lighter.

29. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem;. They were to receive this faithful minister with deep gratitude to the Lord. Like Paul and Timothy, here was one of their own who was willing to pour himself out for the cause of Christ. Therefore, they ought to hold Epaphroditus in high honor.

30. Because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life,. From the viewpoint of the world, and in the minds of carnal Christians, what Epaphroditus did was very foolish. Would that the modern church would become fools for Christ (cf. I Corinthians 4:10). To supply what was lacking in your service toward me. The only thing lacking in their service to him was their ministering to him in person. This, of course, had been provided by Epaphroditus.

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