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.
by: Allan Turner
1. Therefore, my beloved and longed for brethren, my joy and crown,. This is the concluding remark of the entire third chapter, and not just verses 17-21. These are not words of flattery, but sincere love. They are similar to I Thessalonians 2:19,20, where Paul says: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” The word translated “crown” is stephanos, and signifies the wreath worn by the victor, not the king. So stand fast in the Lord, beloved. With these words, Paul is encouraging the Philippians to be faithful. Again, he calls them his beloved.
Be United, Joyful, And In Prayer - 4:2-7
2. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. These two women, as indicated by verse 3, had been quite energetic in the work of the gospel. Unfortunately, there were some long standing differences between these two. It was not doctrinal, as Paul did not take sides, but he instructed them both to be of the same mind in the Lord (cf. notes on 2:2).
3. And I urge you also, true companion,. Who does Paul have in mind here? Who is this true companion or “genuine yokefellow”? Some have suggested that Paul is addressing this statement to Epaphroditus, the bearer of this epistle (2:25), or to Timothy, the co-author of the letter. When one takes into consideration that Euodia means “long journey” and Syntyche means “happy chance,” it seems more likely that Paul has in mind a member of the Philippian church named Syzygus, which means “true companion.” Help these women. The Greek word for “help” literally means “to take hold together with one.” Like Barnabas, whose name means “son of consolation,” Paul believed that Syzygus was one who lived up to his name. Paul wanted him to be a true friend to these two women by helping them to settle their difference once and for all. Who labored with me in the gospel,. The word “labored” is a strong word indicating that Euodia and Syntyche had “striven” together with Paul for the sake of the gospel. With Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names (are) in the Book of Life. There were others at Philippi who had energetically cooperated with Paul in the Lord's work, one of who was named Clement. Paul considers these all to be faithful brethren whose names are written in the book of life (cf. Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Ezekiel 13:9). This expression is also used seven times in Revelation. It designates the register of those whose “citizenship is in heaven” (3:20).
4. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!. The word “always” indicates the Christian is to rejoice even when beset by afflictions (1:28-30). Joy ought to be present in the lives of all who enjoy all the spiritual blessings that are “in the Lord.”
5. Let your gentleness be known to all men. We have no exact English equivalent for the Greek word translated “gentleness.” It means “yieldingness, sweet forbearance, fairness,” etc. It's the quality of one who is considerate to another. One who has this quality does not demand that he be able to exercise his rights but unselfishly yields to the rights of others. This loving consideration and kindness is to be exhibited to “all men,” not just the church. Nevertheless, only a perverted mind would think the Christian's gentleness somehow forced him to yield truth to error, right to wrong, or virtue to vice and crime. The Lord (is) at hand. Some think this expression is a reference to the Lord's second coming. It seems to me to refer to our special relationship with the Lord and the fact that He knows our circumstances and will defend us from our enemies.
6. Be anxious for nothing. In connection to what he has already written, and what he is going to write, Paul is saying that the Christian - the one who trusts the Lord and is aware of His presence - ought not to be anxious about promoting his own interests. He ought not to “worry” or be “fearful” about the future. Instead, he ought to be willing to make his perceived needs known to the Lord in prayer and then be willing to trust that His response to us will be the correct one. But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;. We are reminded of I Peter 5:7, which says, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” “Prayer” and “supplication” are often found together in the Bible, as in Ephesians 6:18; I Timothy 2:1; and 5:5. “Prayer” is more general but “supplication” conveys the idea of asking God to supply specific needs. “Thanksgiving” emphasizes that prayer and supplication ought to always be accompanied by an appreciation for God's blessings. Being truly thankful of what He has done for us in the past will help us not to be anxious about the future.
7. And the peace of God,. The kind of dependence we have been talking about - the kind that trusts God - snuffs out anxiety and produces a mind at peace, the very antithesis of the troubled, fretful, fearful, apprehensive mind. Which surpasses all understanding,. Probably, the meaning here is that the peace of God is beyond all that the mere reason of man can do to relieve anxiety. Will guard your hearts and minds. “Hearts” and “minds” are used here interchangeably, and designate the sources of the thoughts. The Greek word for “guard” is a military term, signifying a sentinel who keeps guard over a castle or camp, or a well-garrisoned stronghold (cf. Isaiah 26:1-3). Therefore, the mind of the Christian who trusts in the Lord is a well-garrisoned stronghold, and no matter what assaults are coming from the outside, on the inside there is peace. Through Christ Jesus. All this takes place as a result of our connection with Jesus Christ.
Meditate On These Things - 4:8,9
8. Finally, brethren,. Paul now specifies six motives which all who seek maturity should keep constantly in mind. Whatever things are true,. This is not just truth in speech; not in discharge of social trusts; it is truth in itself and for its own sake. It is truth as an achievement of the mind, truth as a rule of conduct, covering all possible spheres and relationships in which one can stand. Whatever things are noble,. The word “noble” in the Greek is semna, which was used in classical Greek as an epithet of the gods, meaning “venerable” or “reverend.” It conveys the idea of a dignity and majesty that inspires reverence and relates to either persons or deeds. The KJV translates it as “honest.” Whatever things (are) just,. The Greek word for “just” is dikaios, which conveys righteous conduct and has to do with doing good or positive goodness. Doing justly is the duty of every Christian. Whatever things (are) pure,. Hagnos, the Greek word translated “pure,” literally means that which is untainted. It here designates right conduct in the sense of abstaining from evil - negative goodness. Whatever things (are) lovely,. Prosphiles, the Greek word rendered “lovely,” refers to that which is acceptable, agreeable, or pleasing. Whatever things (are) of good report,. Here Paul is writing of things so excellent and good that to name them is a good or “fair-sounding” thing. If (there is) any virtue. The word “virtue,” here and in II Peter 1:5, means moral courage or integrity. Whatever the circumstances a Christian finds himself in, if he has virtue, he will be compelled to do what is right. And if (there is) anything praiseworthy. The Christian ought to be ready to praise anything and everything worthy of commendation. The standard the world would use for this would be much different than the standard the Philippians would use. —meditate on these things. The meditation prescribed here is not Eastern, New Age meditation, which is an emptying of the mind; instead, it means to give oneself over to careful reflection (i.e., letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom, Colossians 3:16). The meditation (or filling the mind) of which Paul here speaks will enable the Christian to do the will of the Lord in all things.
9. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do,. The first two verbs refer to his conduct as an instructor when he preached to the Philippians. From him they both “learned ” and “received” the word of the Lord. The last two verbs refer to his private conduct. The Philippians had heard from others and seen with their own eyes how Paul essentially practiced what he preached. And the God of peace will be with you. If the Philippians would do what Paul had said, the God of peace, who brings peace, would be with them. To enjoy this relationship, not only does the Christian need to let his requests be made known to the Lord by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving (4:6,7), but he must also endeavor to obey the divine will. As works without prayer are in vain, so prayer without works is also vain (cf. Hebrews 13:20; I Thessalonians 5:23).
Philippian Generosity - 4:10-20
10. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly. Not only did Paul feel grateful to the Philippians for their kindness toward him but, above all, to the gracious Lord who made this kindness possible. The effect of such gratitude was great joy. That now at last your care for me has flourished again;. The Philippians' contribution to his support had finally arrived, and not a moment too soon. The word translated “flourished again” means literally “have made the dry tree to flourish.” Though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. The fact that their support was late in arriving was not because they were not concerned for him. The lack of opportunity (cf. Galatians 6:10) may have been from a lack of means or the lack of a messenger.
11. Not that I speak in regard to need,. Paul's joy was not because he was short of means and their contribution had taken care of his needs, although this was apparently the case, but because of the flourishing of their thoughtfulness toward him once again. In other words, his joy is not selfish, but derives solely from his thoughts of them and the “proof” of their godly care for him. For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:. Paul is saying that he had learned by the teaching of the Holy Spirit and by divine providence to be content in whatever state he found himself (cf. Hebrews 5:8). Autarkes, the Greek word for “content,” appears only here in the New Testament. The word literally means “sufficient for one's self, strong enough to need no aid or support.” It was a familiar word in Stoic egotism. Paul did not claim his self-sufficiency originated with himself, or that it had anything to do with his own wisdom or power. He was independent of circumstances, thus self-sufficient, because of his trust in and dependence on the Lord.
12. I know how to be abased,. The Greek word for “abased” means “to make low, to reduce to meaner circumstances.” The apostle had learned to accept his abased circumstances in a gracious, uncomplaining spirit (cf. II Corinthians 4:8; 6:9,10). And I know how to abound. The Greek word for “abound” means “to have in abundance.” Paul, as a faithful Christian, did not let poverty degrade him nor prosperity exalt him. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Whether full or hungry, prosperous or poor, Paul had learned to conduct himself as a trusting, loving disciple of the Lord.
13. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This is not some PMA proof-text, as many try to make it. In other words, this is not a faith in faith statement. It is, instead, a statement of faith in Christ that says in all the circumstances of life Paul was convinced that he could bear fruit to the glory of God through the strength the Lord gave him.
14. Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. In declaring his dependence upon the Lord, the apostle was careful not to disparage the Philippians' gift. God was doing His part and the Philippians were doing their part, and the latter as a result of the grace of God (cf. II Corinthians 8:1-4).
15. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. In those early days of preaching the gospel in Europe, when he departed from Macedonia (Acts 17:14), no church other than the Philippian church had fellowship with him. This is not to be confused with the fellowship they had with him when he was at Corinth, where he subsequently went after leaving Macedonia (Acts 17:15-34; 18:1), in which other churches were involved (II Corinthians 11:8,9). In this particular case, only the Philippians were involved. The words translated “giving and receiving” are a business term referring to the credit and debit side of the ledger. The Philippians were greatly indebted to Paul since it was through his preaching and teaching that they had been brought to Christ and nurtured in the faith. Thus the apostle had certain credits on their ledger that they were obligated to honor. He referred to a similar matter in I Corinthians 9:11, “If we have sown spiritual things for you, (is it) a great thing if we reap your material things?” This responsibility is included in the “all good things” of Galatians 6:6, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.”
16. For even in Thessalonica you sent (aid) once and again for my necessities. Not only had they supported him when he left Philippi, but also in his first gospel effort after Philippi when he established a church at Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-4). Their affection for Paul and their appreciation for the work he was doing prompted them to keep up with his needs, sending support to him in Thessalonica more than once. This support was in addition to what he was able to supply for himself from his own labor (I Thessalonians 2:9, II Thessalonians 3:7-9).
17. Not that I seek the gift,. Paul was not preaching the gospel to make money, or out of covetousness. He certainly did not deny the usefulness of their support, making it possible for him to preach the gospel; but he wanted to emphasize that his interest in such support involved no self-seeking or selfishness on his part. But I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. The not/but construction emphasizes the latter at the expense of the first. In other words, Paul was indeed grateful for their gift, which was useful in the furtherance of the gospel; but his chief concern had to do with the good it did those who gave it. The phrase “to your account” is taken from commercial dealings, which literally means “interest which may accumulate to your account.” This reminds us of the following passages: “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God (is) not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, (in that) you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:9,10); “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. (Let them) do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life ” (I Timothy 6:17-19). In the gift the Philippians sent Paul, they laid up for themselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). The principle to which the apostle appeals is the fact that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
18. Indeed I have all and abound. “I have” is the regular expression found in the papyri to indicate the receipt of what is due. The Philippians had paid the debt they owed Paul “in full.” I am full,. He was lacking nothing concerning his physical needs. having received from Epaphroditus the things (which were sent) from you,. “The things” Epaphroditus delivered to Paul probably included clothes and other necessities, as well as money. Epaphroditus must have been loaded down by the generosity of the Philippians. A sweet smelling aroma,. The reference is to the odor of the sacrifices offered to God under the Old Testa ment. Like these sacrifices, the gift of the Philippians to Paul was considered as sweet-smelling in God's presence (cf. II Corinthians 2:15,16; Ephesians 5:2). An acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. What the Philippians were doing for Paul, they were doing for the Lord (Matthew 25:40). Therefore, it is designated as an acceptable, well-pleasing sacrifice to God. Their care for Paul was an act of worship rendered to God. When a Christian does anything to help another person, prompted by his love for the Lord and the recipient of his good work, he worships God, offering Him a well-pleasing, acceptable sacrifice. “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).
19. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. The Philippians were generous in their gift to Paul from their limited means, but they were going to receive back from the unlimited storehouse of God's blessings! Anything a Christian gives in support of the gospel, motivated by love, will yield a rich return far beyond one's finite ability to understand (cf. Luke 16:9-12).
20. Now to our God and Father (be) glory forever and ever. When one considers the wonderful richness of God's blessings, praise cannot be repressed. Amen. The “amen” is a fitting conclusion. As the lips shut themselves, the heart once again surveys the facts and adds, “So be it.”
Greeting And Blessing - 4:21-23
21. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. Paul wanted his greetings to go to each member of the Philippian church. The brethren who are with me greet you. This probably denotes Paul's co-workers mentioned in 1:14 and 2:19.
22. All the saints greet you,. All the Christians at Rome not mentioned above extend their greetings. But especially those who are of Caesar's household. It would be encouraging for the Philippians to know that there were now saints in Nero's household. The term could refer to his kinsmen, but probably refers to servants holding more or less important positions in the imperial household. Furthermore, the fact of these conversions testifies to the unwearied effort and influence of the apostle. who was willing to use every opportunity to preach and teach the gospel.
23. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. This epistle closes with the recognition of Jesus Christ as the means of divine grace, and the invoking of this grace on the Philippians. Amen.