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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Philippians 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. οὖν. The connexion of thought with the preceding sentences is close. He has pressed on them the duty and blessing of concord and co-operation, and now enforces this with a special appeal to them to minister happiness to himself, in Christ, by obedience.

παράκλησις. Vulg. consolatio; Wyclif, “counforte”; other Eng. versions before R.V., “consolation”; R.V. “comfort.” This latter is best. Παράκλησις (with its cognate verb) habitually (not quite invariably; see perhaps Acts 20:12, παρεκλήθησαν οὐ μετρίως) denotes rather encouragement than the tenderer “consolation,” and so “comfort” (confortatio) may fairly represent it. Mutual love at Philippi would strengthen St Paul at Rome.

ἐν Χριστῷ. The παράκλησις would get its power from the union with Christ of the Philippians and the Apostle.

παραμύθιον. Vulg. solatium. The word occurs here only in N. T., and once only in O.T. Greek (Wisd. of Sol. 3:18); παραμυθία occurs 1 Corinthians 14:3. Παραμύθιον (as also παραμυθία) is classical; e.g. Soph. El. 130 (Electra to the Chorus): ἥκετʼ ἐμῶν καμάτων παραμύθιον. It means the converse which draws the mind aside (παρα-) from care; the ægrimoniæ alloquium of Horace (Epod. xiii. 18). Our “solace” fairly represents it.

κοινωνία πνεύματος. Cp. 2 Corinthians 13:14, ἡ κοινωνία τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος. That parallel fairly fixes the reference of πνεῦμα here to “the one and the self-same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:11), the promised Paraclete, whom all the saints “share” as their common Life-Giver, Strengthener, and Sanctifier, the One Spirit of the One Body. The article is indeed absent here, and some say that in such cases not the Spirit as Person but His gifts or influences are meant. But such presence or absence of the article is a precarious index of reference when the substantive is a great and familiar word; context or parallels must be brought in.

κοινωνία cum gen. habitually means “participation in.” So he appeals here to their and his part together in the Life-Giver as a motive to holy sympathy.

εἴ τις. On the reading see critical note.

σπλάγχνα καὶ οἰκτιρμοί. Vulg. viscera miserationis; Wyclif, happily, “inwardnesse of merci doynge”; A.V. “bowels and mercies”; R.V., better, “tender mercies and compassions.” On the word σπλάγχνα see above on Philippians 1:8. Οἰκτιρμός appears always, with very few exceptions, in the plural in Biblical Greek.—He appeals with pathetic simplicity and directness, last of all, to their human kindness as such.


Verse 2

2. πληρώσατε. His cup of joy for Philippi (Philippians 1:4) needed only the certainty that the Philippians were one in holy love, to be full to the brim.

ἵνα τὸ αὐτὸ φρονῆτε. On the construction, see on Philippians 1:9. We have here a modification of the purport-meaning. He here practically asks them to be what he now describes, and their being so is the purport of this implied longing.

τὸ αὐτὸ φρονεῖν. Almost, “to be of the same feeling”; see on Philippians 1:7. The lack of a full unity of hearts in Christ was clearly the weak point of the mission at Philippi.

τὴν αὐτὴν ἀγάπην. “The same” on all sides; true in its mutuality.

σύμψυχοι. On the spelling see critical note on συγκοινωνούς, Philippians 1:7. On the word, see note on μιᾷ ψυχῇ, Philippians 1:27.

τὸ ἓν. Τὸ αὐτὸ intensified; “being of one feeling.” The article defines and so accentuates the idea suggested by ἕν.


Verse 3

3. μηδὲν κτλ. Note the brief energy of the verbless phrase, and also the absoluteness of the prohibition, which is binding on all Christian lives at all times.

κατʼ ἐριθείαν. On ἐριθεία, see note on Philippians 1:17. We might render the words here, “faction-wise,” or “party-wise.” But ἐριθεία would cover also the notion of an individual ambition, working by intrigue for merely personal ends.

μηδὲ κατὰ κενοδοξίαν. For the reading see critical note.

τῇ ταπεινοφροσύνῃ. The dative may be rendered (as Vulg., A.V. and R.V.) “in,” or somewhat better, “with.” The definite article gives the noun a certain concreteness, which might almost be represented by “with your lowliness.” But this would slightly exaggerate the effect. Ταπεινοφροσύνη is apparently not found in Greek before the N.T.; but ταπεινοφρονέω, ταπεινόφρων, appear in LXX., and in connexions where they denote pious humility. In the classics ταπεινός (used of moral not physical subjects) and its compounds almost invariably carry a tone of blame, as of a defect of proper courage and self-assertion.—The good references of the words in Biblical Greek are deeply instructive. Revealed religion bases its mighty positive morality on the profound negative of the surrender and dethronement of self before a Redeeming Lord who has had pity on perfectly unworthy objects. The world’s “poor spirited” and the Lord’s “poor in spirit” are phrases of very different tones.

ἡγούμενοι. Such participles, where the normal grammar would place imperatives, are frequent in N.T. See for a group of examples Romans 12:9-19.—This precept must be read in the light of the Holy Spirit’s illumination of the individual conscience. Where the man habitually viewed himself in the contrasted glory of the Divine holiness he would respond instinctively to the call to rank himself as low as possible in the spiritual scale.


Verse 4

4. ἕκαστοι σκοποῦντες. On the reading, see critical note. The “look” is the look of sympathy, kindly interest, self-forgetful (μὴ τὰ ἑαυτῶν) co-operation. This short verse is a far-reaching lesson in Christian ethics.

ἕκαστοιἕκαστοι. The plural suggests the individuality rather of groups than of persons. We may almost render “each circle.” If the Philippians tended to gather in cliques this phrase would have a special point.


Verse 5

5. Τοῦτο φρονεῖτε. “Be this your mind,” your “feeling.” On the reading, see critical note. Practically, φρονεῖτε and φρονείσθω give the same thought.

In the great passage which follows we have a suggestive example of Christian moral teaching. A simple element of daily duty is being enforced; and the inmost secrets of the Person and Work of Christ are used to enforce it; the spiritual and eternal, in deep continuity, descends into the practical. This process is characteristic of Christianity all through. To isolate Christian morality from Christian theology is to rend asunder the teaching of the New Testament as to its deepest and most vital elements. See further Appendix E.

δ καὶ ἐν Χ. . Ἐφρονείτω or better, ἐφρονήθη, must be mentally supplied after these words. And what was His φρόνημα, in that mysterious past, is such now and for ever; the Christian feels the power not only of his Lord’s act of infinite kindness, but of His eternal character.

ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. He calls Him Ἰησοῦς, using the human Name, though in view of His glory before Incarnation. But the Person who willed to come down and save us is identically the Person who did so save us. And also, what is decreed in the Eternal Mind is to It already fact. So Revelation 13:8, τὸ ἀρνίον τὸ ἐσφαγμένον ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου.


Verses 5-8

5. τοῦτο. Some documents (א *Acts , 17 and some other cursives, Cyril Al) connect this with the preceding verse;—τὰ ἑτέρων· ἕκαστοι τοῦτο φρονεῖτε. But there is no doubt of the correctness of the reading preferred here.

τοῦτο γὰρ is read by א cD2G2K2LP, most cursives, syr (pesh), Chrys Theodoret Damasc. Γὰρ is om by א*ABC, 17 and two other cursives, copt arm æth. LTTr Alf Ltft WH om γὰρ. Ell Wordsw retain. Ell remarks, “as Philippians 2:5 begins an ecclesiastical lection, and as the … force of the γὰρ might not have been fully understood, and have led to the omission …, the [retention of γὰρ] seems slightly more probable.”

φρονεῖτε. So אABCD2G2, 17, vulg syr (pesh and harkl) æth, Hilar Cyr Victorin. C3K2LP, most cursives, copt arm goth, Origen Euseb Ath Bas Chrys φρονείσθω. LTTr Alf Ell Ltft φρονεῖτε. Wordsw φρονείσθω. Ell remarks, “[φρονείσθω] is insufficiently attested by uncial authorities, and, on internal grounds, quite as likely to be a correction of φρονεῖτε (to harmonize with δ καὶ ἐν Χ. .) as vice versâ.” Still the all-but unanimity of the cursives, and the Greek patristic evidence, give φρονείσθω a strong case.

F. ROBERT HALL ON Philippians 2:5-8. BAUR’S THEORY. (CH. Philippians 2:6)

THE Rev. Robert Hall (1764–1831), one of the greatest of Christian preachers, was in early life much influenced by the Socinian theology. His later testimony to a true Christology is the more remarkable. The following extract is from a sermon “preached at the (Baptist) Chapel in Dean Street, Southwark, June 27, 1813” (Works, ed. 1833; vol. vi., p. 112):

“He was found in fashion as a man: it was a wonderful discovery, an astonishing spectacle in the view of angels, that He who was in the form of God, and adored from eternity, should be made in fashion as a man. But why is it not said that He WAS a man? For the same reason that the Apostle wishes to dwell upon the appearance of our Saviour, not as excluding the reality, but as exemplifying His condescension. His being in the form of God did not prove that He was not God, but rather that He was God, and entitled to supreme honour. So, His assuming the form of a servant and being in the likeness of man, does not prove that He was not man, but, on the contrary, includes it; at the same time including a manifestation of Himself, agreeably to His design of purchasing the salvation of His people, and dying for the sins of the world, by sacrificing Himself upon the Cross.”

BAUR (Paulus, pp. 458–464) goes at length into the Christological passage of our Epistle, and actually contends for the view that it is written by one who had before him the developed Gnosticism of cent. ii., and was not uninfluenced by it. In the words of Philippians 2:6, he finds a consciousness of the Gnostic teaching about the Æon Sophia, striving for an absolute union with the absolute being of the Unknowable Supreme; and again about the Æons in general, striving similarly to “grasp” the πλήρωμα of Absolute Being and discovering only the more deeply in their effort this κένωμα of their own relativity and dependence.

The best refutation of such expositions is the repeated perusal of the Epistle itself, with its noon-day practicality of precept and purity of affections, and not least its high language (ch. 3) about the sanctity of the body—an idea wholly foreign to the Gnostic sphere of thought. As regards this last point, it is true that Schrader, a critic earlier than Baur (see Alford, N.T. III. p. 27), supposed the passage Philippians 3:1 to Philippians 4:9 to be an interpolation. But, not to speak of the total absence of any historical or documentary support for such a theory, the careful reader will find in that section just those minute touches of harmony with the rest of the Epistle, e.g. in the indicated need of internal union at Philippi, which are the surest signs of homogeneity.

E. CHRISTOLOGY AND CHRISTIANITY. (CH. Philippians 2:5)

“A CHRISTIANITY without Christ is no Christianity; and a Christ not Divine is one other than the Christ on whom the souls of Christians have habitually fed. What virtue, what piety, have existed outside of Christianity, is a question totally distinct. But to hold that, since the great controversy of the early time was wound up at Chalcedon, the question of our Lord’s Divinity has generated all the storms of the Christian atmosphere, would be simply an historical untruth.

“Christianity … produced a type of character wholly new to the Roman world, and it fundamentally altered the laws and institutions, the tone, temper and tradition of that world. For example, it changed profoundly the relation of the poor to the rich … It abolished slavery, and a multitude of other horrors. It restored the position of woman in society. It made peace, instead of war, the normal and presumed relation between human societies. It exhibited life as a discipline … in all its parts, and changed essentially the place and function of suffering in human experience … All this has been done not by eclectic and arbitrary fancies, but by the creed of the Homoousion, in which the philosophy of modern times sometimes appears to find a favourite theme of ridicule. The whole fabric, social as well as personal, rests on the new type of character which the Gospel brought into life and action.”


Verses 5-11

5–11. THE APPEAL ENFORCED BY THE SUPREME EXAMPLE OF THE SAVIOUR IN HIS INCARNATION, OBEDIENCE, AND EXALTATION


Verse 6

6. ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ. What is μορφή? Lightfoot, in a “detached note” to this chapter, traces the use of the word in Greek philosophy, in Philo (the link between the language of Scripture and of Plato), and in the N. T. The conclusion is that it denotes the “form” of a thing in the most ideal sense of form; its specific character, its correspondence with its true notion. Visible shew may or may not enter into it; for invisibles have their μορφή, to pure thought. The μορφὴ θεοῦ is thus in fact His Nature “seen” in its attributes; and to be “in” it is to be invested with them. See Lightfoot as quoted, and Trench Syn. of N.T., under μορφή.

ὑπάρχων. R.V. text, “being,” margin, “originally being”; but the American Revisers expressly omit the margin (and give “existing” in the text). Ὑπάρχειν in the classics, meaning first “to begin” (doing or being), then comes to mean “to be there,” “to be ready”; e.g. when the Athenians equipped a fleet against the Persians, they had to build some ships, but some ὕπηρχον αὐτοῖσι (Hdt. vii. 144). Thence apparently the word came to mean simply “to be,” though the use was not common. In Biblical Greek the use fluctuates between a mere equivalence to εἶναι and the distinct suggestion of a being already; as Acts 7:55, ὑπάρχων πλήρης πνεύματος: Acts 8:16, βεβαπτισμένοι ὑπῆρχον. In this passage the context decidedly favours this latter meaning. For though some expositors have referred the whole statement to our Lord’s incarnate state, as if it viewed Him as e.g. resolving when on earth to decline a majesty and dominion which He might have exerted, while yet He shewed Himself at least God-like in His deeds, this is impossible when the context is fairly remembered. For it is plainly implied (Philippians 2:7) that His voluntary humiliation included His becoming δοῦλος and taking ὁμοίωμα ἀνθρώπων. So the will to humble Himself was antecedent to that condition, and so to Incarnation. Thus the tendency of ὑπάρχειν to indicate being already, or beforehand, has legitimate scope here, and an impressive fitness.

Here then our Redeeming Lord is revealed as so “antecedently being in the form of God” that He was, before He stooped to our life, nothing less than Bearer of Divine Attributes, that is to say, GOD. “Though μορφὴ is not the same as οὐσία, yet the possession of the μορφὴ involves participation in the οὐσία also; for μορφὴ implies not the external accidents but the essential attributes” (Lightfoot).

ἁρπαγμὸν. The word occurs only here in Biblical Greek, and only once (Lightfoot) in secular Greek (Plutarch, Mor. p. 12 A). Words ending in -μος properly suggest an act or process; in this case, therefore, a “seizing,” or “robbery.” But in usage they readily get the meaning of the matter or aim of the act; e.g. θεσμός, properly “a setting,” is by usage “a thing set,” “a statute.” Ἁρπαγμός may therefore be an equivalent here to ἅρπαγμα, a thing seized, or grasped, as plunder or as prize. And the phrase ἅρπαγμα ἡγεῖσθαί τι is not uncommon in later Greek, in the sense of “highly prizing,” “welcoming as an unexpected gain” (ἕρμαιον). So explained, οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο here gives a sense perfectly fitting the context: “Possessed of the Divine Attributes, He did not treat His co-equality as a prize, to be held only for Himself, but rather made it occasion for an infinite act of self-sacrifice for others.” Such on the whole is the explanation given by the Greek fathers and by some of the ablest Latins (see Lightfoot’s “detached note” on ἁρπαγμός). On the other hand some Latins, and St Augustine in particular, give a different turn to the thought, which appears in our A.V. Taking the Latin rendering, non rapinam arbitratus est, they made the meaning to be that the Lord Christ claimed co-equality, as not a usurpation but a right, and yet humbled Himself. To this the objection is that (a) it lays a needless stress on the derivation of ἁρπαγμός, for by usage it (or its equivalent ἅρπαγμα) need not mean more than a prize or treasure; (b) it makes ἀλλὰ equal to ἀλλὰ ὅμως, which is forced Greek; (c) most of all, it dislocates text and context. St Paul is emphasizing not mainly our Lord’s majesty but His self-sacrificing mercy. His majesty is sufficiently (for the purpose) given in the words ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων: the point now is that He made an infinitely generous use of His majesty. This is exactly given, and at the right point, by οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν κτλ., explained as, “He treated it not as a treasure for Himself but as something to lay aside (in a sense) for us.”

An intermediate explanation, by St Chrysostom, gives the thought somewhat thus: “He knew that Deity was so truly His by right that He laid it (in a sense) aside, with the generous grace of the rightful owner (who knows he is owner all along), instead of clasping it with the tenacity of the usurper.” To this Lightfoot objects, with apparent reason, that “it understands too much, requiring links to be supplied which the connexion does not suggest.”

R.V. renders ἁρπαγμὸν “a prize,” and (margin) “Gr., a thing to be grasped”; Ellicott, “a thing to be seized on, or grasped at”; Liddell and Scott, “a matter of robbery.”

τὸ εἷναι ἴσα θεῷ. Not ἴσος. The neuter plural perhaps suggests a reference rather to equality of attributes than of Person (Lightfoot). R.V. “to be on an equality with God.”

Let us remember that these words occur not in a polytheistic reverie but in the Holy Scriptures, which are everywhere jealous for the prerogative of the Lord GOD and they come from the pen of a man whose Pharisaic monotheism sympathized with that jealousy to the utmost. May it not then be asked how, in any way other than direct assertion, as in John 1:1, the true and proper Deity of Christ could be more plainly stated?

On the use of the word θεός here, distinctively of the Father, see note above on Philippians 1:2. And cp. John 1:1; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Hebrews 1:9; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:1.

F. ROBERT HALL ON Philippians 2:5-8. BAUR’S THEORY. (CH. Philippians 2:6)

THE Rev. Robert Hall (1764–1831), one of the greatest of Christian preachers, was in early life much influenced by the Socinian theology. His later testimony to a true Christology is the more remarkable. The following extract is from a sermon “preached at the (Baptist) Chapel in Dean Street, Southwark, June 27, 1813” (Works, ed. 1833; vol. vi., p. 112):

“He was found in fashion as a man: it was a wonderful discovery, an astonishing spectacle in the view of angels, that He who was in the form of God, and adored from eternity, should be made in fashion as a man. But why is it not said that He WAS a man? For the same reason that the Apostle wishes to dwell upon the appearance of our Saviour, not as excluding the reality, but as exemplifying His condescension. His being in the form of God did not prove that He was not God, but rather that He was God, and entitled to supreme honour. So, His assuming the form of a servant and being in the likeness of man, does not prove that He was not man, but, on the contrary, includes it; at the same time including a manifestation of Himself, agreeably to His design of purchasing the salvation of His people, and dying for the sins of the world, by sacrificing Himself upon the Cross.”

BAUR (Paulus, pp. 458–464) goes at length into the Christological passage of our Epistle, and actually contends for the view that it is written by one who had before him the developed Gnosticism of cent. ii., and was not uninfluenced by it. In the words of Philippians 2:6, he finds a consciousness of the Gnostic teaching about the Æon Sophia, striving for an absolute union with the absolute being of the Unknowable Supreme; and again about the Æons in general, striving similarly to “grasp” the πλήρωμα of Absolute Being and discovering only the more deeply in their effort this κένωμα of their own relativity and dependence.

The best refutation of such expositions is the repeated perusal of the Epistle itself, with its noon-day practicality of precept and purity of affections, and not least its high language (ch. 3) about the sanctity of the body—an idea wholly foreign to the Gnostic sphere of thought. As regards this last point, it is true that Schrader, a critic earlier than Baur (see Alford, N.T. III. p. 27), supposed the passage Philippians 3:1 to Philippians 4:9 to be an interpolation. But, not to speak of the total absence of any historical or documentary support for such a theory, the careful reader will find in that section just those minute touches of harmony with the rest of the Epistle, e.g. in the indicated need of internal union at Philippi, which are the surest signs of homogeneity.


Verse 7

7. ἀλλὰ. “But”; not “yet,” which would require ἀλλʼ ὅμως. (See note on ἁρπαγμὸν above.) The word introduces the infinitely gracious action of the Saviour as not what He would have done had He “thought His Equality a prize.” See Ellicott’s careful note here.

ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν. Ἑαυτὸν is slightly emphasized by position, with a stress on the sacred freedom of the Lord’s will.

R.V. “emptied himself”; Vulg. semetipsum exinanivit, following which the Rhemish (Romanist) Version, 1582, renders, “exinanited Himself”; Wyclif, “lowide him silf.”

From the verb, the noun κένωσις has passed into theology, appearing here and there in the Fathers (e.g. Cyril. Alex., dial. V. de SS. Trin. p. 571; ἦν γὰρ φύσει καὶ ἀληθὼς Θεὸς καὶ πρὸ τῶν τῆς κενώσεως χρόνων), and in many modern treatises. Of late years much has been said on this great mystery by way of proving or suggesting that “in the days of His Flesh” (Hebrews 5:7) our Lord (practically) parted with His Deity, and became the (Incarnate) Son of God only in His glorification after death. In particular it is suggested that He accepted all the limits and defects of humanity as it is in us, moral defects excepted (and this exception is not always adequately made); and so was liable not only to hunger, fatigue, and agitation, but also to mistakes about fact, even in so great a matter as the nature of the O. T. Scriptures. On such inferences it must be enough here (see further Appendix G.) to say first that they can be connected only remotely with this passage, which practically explains the κένωσις to mean His becoming the truly Human Bondservant of the Father; and then that they are little in harmony with the whole tone of the Gospels, which present to us the Lord Jesus on earth as “meek and lowly” indeed, but always mysteriously majestic; dependent indeed on the Father, and upheld by the Spirit, but always addressing man with the manner of absolute knowledge and of sovereign power to meet his needs.

It is enough for us to know that this κένωσις was for him unspeakably real; that He was pleased, as to His holy Manhood, to “live by the Spirit,” as we are to do; yet that the inalienable basis of His Personality was always, eternally, presently, Divine. The ultimate and reasoned analysis of that unique Phenomenon, God and Man, One Christ, is HIS matter, not ours. It is for us to accept Him in its good and certain results, at once our Brother and our God. Lightfoot says here nearly all that can be said with reverent confidence: “ ‘He divested Himself’ not of His Divine nature, for this was impossible, but of the glories, the prerogatives, of Deity. This He did by taking upon Him the form of a servant.”

μορφὴν δούλου λαβών. Ἐκένωσε λαβών naturally means “He emptied (Himself) in taking”; not as if there were two acts, but two aspects of one act. The κενῶσαι lay in the λαβεῖν, not in something before it, or after it.

μορφὴν δούλου. On μορφή see note on Philippians 2:6 above. It points to an essential and manifested reality, not to a mere semblance or make-believe. As He was Θεός, essentially and in manifestation, so He became δοῦλος essentially and in manifestation. And in what respect δοῦλος? In that He stooped to serve men? Or in that He undertook, in the act of becoming Man, that essential condition of humanity—bondservice to God? The order of thought is in favour of the latter. The Apostle goes on to say that His taking μορφὴν δούλου was coincident with His coming to be ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων, “just like men.” But men as men are not each others δοῦλοι, while they are, as men, δοῦλοι Θεοῦ. To God, as Lord of Man, the Incarnate Christ ἐδούλευσε, and was in this, as in all things, the Archetype of His disciples.

True, He made Himself the Helper of all. And on one occasion (John 13.) He literally took a menial’s place; a fact to which Chrysostom here alludes. But at that very moment He took care to assert Himself Κύριος all the while. Literal “slavery” to man He certainly never accepted; royally descended, working as a free artificer, and speaking always with authority.

ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων. Two facts are suggested here: (a) He was really like men, as He was truly man; accepting a truly human exterior, with its liabilities to trial and suffering; (b) He was also more than men, without which fact there would be no significance in the ὁμοίωμα, for there would be simple identity. See Romans 8:3, for a somewhat similar suggestion in the word; ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας.

ἀνθρώπων, not ἀνθρώπου. The thought given is as concrete as possible; He was like, not abstract Man, but men as we see men.

γενόμενος. “Becoming.” Another aorist participle, closely connected, like λαβών just before, with the aorist ἐκένωσε. These aspects of the Humiliation are given as coincident.

G. THE ‘KENOSIS’ OF THE SON OF GOD. (CH. Philippians 2:7)

“IF we seek the true import of the word Kenosis, as applied to our Incarnate Lord, the Philippian passage (Philippians 2:7), its original source for us, must be consulted. And it seems to guide us in a line exactly opposite to that which would make fallibility an element in our Lord’s Humiliation. Ἐκένωσεν ἑαυτὸν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών. If we interpret the Greek by well recognised facts of idiom, we should take the aorist verb, ἐκένωσεν, and the aorist participle, λαβών, as conspiring to give us, from two sides, one idea. ‘He made Himself void,’ not anyhow, but thus—‘taking Bondservant’s form.’ The ‘making void’ was in fact just this—the ‘taking.’ It was—the assumption of the creaturely Nature, the becoming, in Augustine’s words (ad Dardanum), ‘Creature, as Man’ (quoad hominem, creatura); and the assumption of it in just this respect, that in it, and by the fact of it, He became δοῦλος, Bondservant. Now what is the implication of that unique, that absolute, unreserved, unhindered Bondservice of the Incarnate Son? What does it say to us about His capacity to do the Father’s work, and convey His mind and message? The absolute subjection of the Perfect Bondservant gives us an absolute warrant—not of the precariousness but of the perfection of His deliverance of His commission from His Father and Master. ‘He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God.’

“His own servant Paul was one day to claim complete authority as messenger because of the absoluteness of his slavery to the Lord. ‘Let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the στίγματα, the brands, of the Master, Jesus.’ The supreme Bondservant, the Bearer of the Stigmata of the Cross, has He not as such the right to claim our unreserved, our worshipping silence, when He speaks? He, in perfect relation to His Sender, perfectly conveys His Sender’s mind. He says nothing otherwise than as His Sender bids Him say it. ‘He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God.’ ”


Verse 8

8. καὶ. Here another movement of thought begins. We have seen the κένωσις of simple Incarnation. We now pass to the Sacrifice to which, in Manhood, He descended.

σχήματι. Habitu, Lat. Versions. Σχῆμα indicates appearance, with or without underlying reality; and thus is a partial antithesis to μορφή (see first note on Philippians 2:6 above, and cp. Romans 12:1). In itself it neither affirms nor denies reality; it emphasizes appearance. Thus here it carries out the suggestion just given by ὁμοίωμα. The Lord was (a) man not only in nature but in look, patent to all; and He was (b) more than met the eye: the true and manifest Manhood was the veil of Godhead.

The dative (σχήματι) is the not infrequent dative of relation, connexion; cp. 1 Corinthians 7:34, ἁγία σώματι καὶ πνεύματι, and in the classics such phrases as φύσει κακός (see Ephesians 2:3), γένει Ἕλλην.

εὑρεθεὶς. He was “found,” as one who presented Himself for scrutiny. Εὑρίσκω in Biblical Greek somewhat tends to less distinctive meanings; e.g. Luke 9:36, εὑρέθη Ἰησοῦς μόνος, where in effect we have Him simply “seen alone.” But the thought of inspection, examination, is suggested by association here.

ὡς ἄνθρωπος. Either, “as man,” or (A.V., R.V.) “as a man.” As the Second Man, Head of redeemed Manhood, He is rather Man than a man. Yet we may remember that the point of thought here is not on His difference from His brethren but on His likeness to them; He moved among them, in fact, as “a man.” So, with wonderful condescension, He calls Himself (the rendering must obviously be thus there) “a man that hath told you the truth” (John 8:40).

ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν, “under the mighty hand (cp. 1 Peter 5:6) of” His Father, in the life of surrender which led to the supreme surrender of the Cross. The following context seems to point the reference in this direction.

γενόμενος ὑπήκοος. The aorist participle, in close contact with the aorist verb (ἐταπείνωσεν), brings together the thoughts of self-humbling and of obedience; the “humiliation” coincided with, was expressed in, the “becoming obedient” to the Father’s will that He should suffer.

μέχρι θανάτου. “To the length of death.” “Even unto death,” R.V. Usque ad mortem, Lat. Versions. The A.V., “obedient, unto death,” might seem to mean that He “obeyed death.” This He never did; He obeyed His Father in dying, in order to “abolish death” (2 Timothy 1:10); dying as our Sacrifice, to meet the κατάρα τοῦ νόμου (Galatians 3:13), by the holy will (Acts 2:23) of the Lawgiver. Thus He carried His life-long “Patience” “to the length of” His “Passion,” seeking not His own will, but the will of the Father in our salvation.

θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ. The δὲ carries a slight connective force; “nor only death, but death of cross.”—The Cross (infelix arbor) was the death not only of extreme agony but of the utmost degradation; to the Roman, certainly in all but the earliest ages of Rome, it was reserved for the slave and for the basest ruffian. Mors si proponitur, in libertate moriamur … nomen ipsum crucis absit non modo a corpore civium Romanorum, sed etiam a cogitatione, oculis, auribus (Cicero, pro C. Rabirio, v. § 10). In the case of our Redeemer’s Crucifixion, we see combined the Hebrew’s dread of any death-penalty by suspension (Deuteronomy 21:23) with the Roman’s horror of the servile cross. Thus the supreme Obedience expressed the Sufferer’s willingness both to “become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13) as before God the Lawgiver, and to be “despised and rejected of men” (Isaiah 53:3) as “the outcast of the people.” “Who shall fathom the abyss Where Thou plungedst for our love?”


Verse 9

9. διὸ. The glorification of the crucified Christ Jesus was, from the view-point of this passage, the Father’s reward for His supreme “regard for the things of others”; His “pleasing not Himself” (Romans 15:2). The application intended is that self-forgetting love, for the disciple as for his Lord, is the way to the true exaltation of his being.

ὑπερύψωσεν. The verb occurs only here in N. T.—St Paul loves compounds with ὑπέρ: e.g. ὑπεραυξάνειν, ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ, ὑπερνικᾶν, ὑπερπερισσεύειν, ὑπερπλεονάζειν. All these occur in his writings only, in Biblical Greek.—Render here, “highly exalted,” rather than “hath highly exalted.” The aorist refers to the historical moment of the Resurrection crowned by the Ascension. For the action of the Eternal Father in the exaltation, cp. e.g. Acts 2:23-24; Acts 2:32-33; Acts 2:36; Ephesians 1:20-22.

ἐχαρίσατο. “Bestowed,” as a gift of supreme and rejoicing love.

τὸ ὄνομα. For the reading, see critical note. Whether or not τὸ is omitted, we must render “the name which,” in view of the τὸ ὑπὲρ κτλ. next following.

What is this “Name bestowed”? Is it (a) the sacred personal name Ἰησοῦς (Alford, Ellicott). Or is it (b) “Name” in the sense of revealed majesty and glory (Lightfoot), as where the LORD proclaims His “Name” to Moses, Exodus 34:5? The difficulty of (a) is that the personal human name was of course distinctively His before His glorification, and is as a fact less used in Scripture after the Gospel narrative is closed; so that there would be a paradox in the thought of a “bestowal” of it on the glorified Christ. True, its then elevation to the highest associations, in the love and worship of the saints, was as it were a giving of the name as a new name; yet this hardly satisfies the intensity of the Apostle’s assertion here. In favour of (b) are the clear cases in the N. T. of the use of ὄνομα to denote recognized dignity or glory; e.g. Ephesians 1:21. And the true explanation seems to lie in this direction. “The Name bestowed” is the supreme Name, Κύριος (see Philippians 2:11 below), JEHOVAH. In other words the suffering Jesus was, as the once abased and slain sufferer, now raised to the eternal Throne; recognized there by the universe as He who, for man, and for the Father’s will, chose in His pre-existent glory to stoop even to the Cross. As God and Man, one Christ, as at once the co-equal Son and the sacrificed Lamb, He there receives the worship which belongs to the Eternal; Ἰησοῦς is saluted Κύριος, in the supreme sense of that “Name.”

On St Paul’s view of the unique exaltation of the Lord in comparison with every created being, see Liddon, quoted below, Appendix H.


Verse 10

10. ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ. Here Ἰησοῦ may be either genitive or dative. If dative, we must render “in the name Jesus.” But if the note just previous reasons rightly, we must choose the genitive; “the name of Jesus,” the Name borne by Jesus; the Divine Name, Κύριος, proclaimed as the true name of the once humiliated Jesus. So Lightfoot; and so A.V., R.V.

What is the meaning of ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι κτλ.? That all creation is to bow to Him thus glorified? Or that all creation should worship through Him (cp. e.g. αἰτεῖν ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου, John 14:13)? The context seems to decide for the former; dealing as it does not with His mediation but with His personal glorification. So Lightfoot; and he gives examples in evidence from the LXX.; e.g. Psalms 62:5 (Heb., Psalms 63:5), ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ἀρῶ τὰς χεῖράς μου. We may thus paraphrase here, “that before the revealed majesty of the glorified Jesus all creation should bow.”

The ancient custom of bowing at the utterance of the Name Jesus (see Canon xviii. of the Church of England) derives no direct sanction from this passage.

πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ. An implicit quotation of Isaiah 45:24, ἐμοὶ κάμψει πᾶν γόνυ. The prophet (see the whole context) speaks there in the name of the Eternal Himself; thus we have here a profoundly significant index of St Paul’s view of the Nature of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Observe further that in Isaiah 45:21 we have the words, “a just God and a Saviour,” δίκαιος καὶ σωτήρ (cp. Romans 3:26, δίκαιος καὶ δικαιῶν), and in Philippians 2:25 occur the words, “all the seed of Israel shall be justified and shall glory,” δικαιωθήσονταικαὶἐνδοξασθήσεται πᾶν τὸ σπέρμα (cp. Romans 8:30, οὔς ἐδικαίωσε τούτους καὶ ἐδόξασε). Was not the Apostle of Justification thus specially led to the passage as relating to the Son of God and His work?—The same place in Isaiah is directly quoted Romans 14:11.

ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων. The words evidently mean all created existence, in its heights and depths. Cp. Revelation 5:13, πᾶν κτίσμα ὃ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, καὶ ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς, words whose whole context, full of the enthronement of the Lamb, is a Divine commentary here. We need not elaborately divide the reference here, e.g. between angels, living men, buried men (Alford), or angels, men, and lost spirits (Chrysostom). Rather we have Creation in its total before us, animate and inanimate existence alike; the non-personal and unconscious creation being said to “worship,” as obeying, after its manner, the lordship of the exalted Jesus.


Verse 11

11. πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσεται. For the reading, see critical note.—Here again cp. Isaiah 45:24 (in the Alexandrian Text), ἐξομολογήσεται πᾶσα γλῶσσα τῷ θεῷ.

Ἐξομολογεῖσθαι, as Lightfoot points out, has in Biblical Greek almost resigned its meaning of “open avowal” to take that of praise and thanksgiving. (It is used thus, Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21; ἐξομολογοῦμαί σοι, πάτερ.) So “every tongue” is to “give thanks for His great glory” to the exalted Jesus.

It may be asked, how shall this be fulfilled in the case of the lost, ὧν τὸ τέλος ἀπώλεια (Philippians 3:19)? Either they are not explicitly referred to here at all (see note on Ephesians 1:10); or their mysterious state may admit, beyond our knowledge, such a recognition that even it is the ordinance of “supremest wisdom and primeval love,”[2] manifested in Jesus Christ, as shall give them a part in the adoration indicated here.

Fecemi la divina potestate,

La somma sapienza e il primo amore.

Dante, Inferno, III. 4–6.

κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς. Cp. 1 Corinthians 12:3, where the “Lordship” is seen to be knowable only by Divine revelation. He who took “the form of a bondservant, and became obedient,” even so as to die on the cross, is now seen and worshipped as “God, whose throne is for ever” (Hebrews 1:8), while yet He is “Christ Jesus, Man” (1 Timothy 2:5).

It is observable that the Valentinian heretics (cent. ii.), according to their contemporary Irenæus, ascribed to Jesus the title Saviour but denied Him that of Lord.

Assuming κύριος here to represent JEHOVAH (יהוה ), it is important to compare John 12:41, ταῦτα εἶπεν Ἠσαΐας ὅτε εἷδε τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, with Isaiah 6:5, the place referred to by the Apostle, “Mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts,” יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת

εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός. The Father is the ultimate Object of adoration, as He is the eternal Origin of the eternal Godhead of the Son. Cp. John 5:23; John 17:1; 1 Peter 1:21; for this profound relation between the glory of the Son and the glory of the Father. But no isolated references can properly represent a subject so deeply woven into the very texture of the Gospel.

In the light of the revealed truth of His Nature, summarized with luminous fulness in the “Nicene” Creed, we see the Christ of God as at once divinely adorable in Himself and the true Medium for our adoration of the Father.

St Chrysostom has a noble comment here, shewing how the attribution of proper Godhead to the Son can only enhance the Father’s glory: ὁρᾶς πανταχοῦ, ὄταν ὁ υἱὸς δοξάζηται, τὸν πατέρα δοξαζόμενονὅταν λέγωμεν ὅτιοὐκ ἐλάττων [ἐστὶ] τοῦ πατρός, τοῦτο δόξα τοῦ πατρόςὅταν εἴπωὅτι [υἱὸν ἐγέννησεν] οὐκ ἐλάττονα κατὰ τὴν οὐσίαν, ἀλλʼ ἶσονκαὶ ἐν τούτῳ πάλιν τὸν θεὸν θαυμάζω, ὅτι ἄλλον ἡμῖν τοιοῦτον ἔδειξεν ἐξ αὐτοῦ, πλὴν τοῦ πατέρα εἶναι (Hom. VII. in Philipp. c. 4).

Thus closes a passage of the Epistle in which, in the course of practical exhortation, the cardinal truth of the true Godhead and true Manhood of Christ, and the greatness of His Example, are presented all the more forcibly because incidentally. The duty of self-sacrificing mutual love is enforced by considerations on His condescension which are meaningless if He is not pre-existent and Divine, and if the reality of His Manhood does not thus involve a supreme instance of unforced self-abasement for the good of others. All merely humanitarian views of His Person and Work, however refined, are totally at variance with this apostolic passage, written within fresh living memory of His life and death.

A striking commentary on the passage is afforded by the hymn (by the late Prof. Anstice) Thou the cup of death didst drain (Lord Selborne’s Book of Praise, Appendix, no. 11).


Verse 12

12. Ὥστε. He has now pressed on them the duty and blessing of self-forgetting love, above all by this supreme Example. Here this is still in view, but subordinately; he is possessed by the thought of “so great salvation,” and through this views the obligation and joy of Christian humility and harmony.

ἀγαπητοί μου. So again Philippians 4:1. Cp. 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Corinthians 12:19; where this tender term similarly goes with earnest practical appeals.

καθὼς πάντοτε ὑπηκούσατε. “As you always obeyed.” The aorist looks back to Philippi and the old days there. Let these be like those.

μὴ. Not οὐ: it is not a statement but an appeal; they are to “work out their salvation” not only when he is there to help them, but now when he is away.

ὡς ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ μου μόνον. Ὡς suggests the agent’s condition, or point of view; “influenced by my presence with you.” ΄όνον is as if to say, “My presence was good for you in its time, but your ‘working out’ was never to end with it.” “The sentence is a fusion of two ideas, μὴ ὡς ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ μου κατεργάζεσθε, and μὴ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ μου μόνον κατεργάζεσθε” (Lightfoot).

πολλῷ μᾶλλον. His absence was to be the occasion for a far fuller realization of their own personal obligations, and personal resources in Christ, for the spiritual life.

μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου. Cp. 1 Corinthians 2:3; Ephesians 6:5. The thought is not of tormenting misgiving about either present peace with God or final perseverance; it is of a reverent and wakeful conscience in His holy presence.

τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε. Ἑαυτῶν is strongly emphatic. He appeals to them to “learn to walk alone”—alone not of the Lord, but of Paul; not leaning too much on his present influence. “Do not make me your proxy in spiritual duties which are your own.”

Σωτηρία here is our whole “saving” from evil, in union with Christ. This the Christian κατεργάζεται (cp. 2 Corinthians 4:17, an instructive parallel, τὸ παραυτίκα ἐλαφρὸν τῆς θλίψεως κατεργάζεται ἡμῖνβάρος δόξης) in the sense of his watchfully applying, and as it were developing, in temptation and duty, the free Divine gift of peace and strength in Christ. “In this way of diligence we receive daily more and more of ‘salvation’ itself, by liberty from sin, victory over it, peace and communion with God, and the earnests of heavenly felicity” (T. Scott).

There is no contradiction here to the profound and radiant truth of Justification by Faith only. It is an instance of independent lines of truth converging on one goal. From one point of view, that of justifying merit, man is accepted and finally glorified (Romans 8:30) because of Christ’s work alone, applied to him through faith alone. From another point, that of qualifying capacity, man is glorified as the issue of a work of training, in which he in a true sense has his operating part, though God (see next verse) is the secret of even this operation.


Verses 12-18

12–18. INFERENCES FROM THE FOREGOING PASSAGES: THE GREATNESS OF THE METHODS OF SALVATION: THE CONSEQUENT CALL TO A LIFE REVERENT, SELF-FORGETFUL, FRUITFUL, FAITHFUL, JOYFUL


Verse 13

13. θεὸς γάρ. Here is the reason both for “fear and trembling” and for the assurance that their Apostle’s absence “leaves them not comfortless”: they are indwelt by the eternal Holy One and Loving One Himself; let that fact at once awe them and give them a calm confidence.

ὁ ἐνεργῶν ἐν ὑμῖν. Ἐνεργεῖν (ἐνεργεῖσθαι) carries a certain intensity of meaning, and is used habitually in N.T. of spiritual forces. Cp. Matthew 14:2, αἱ δυνάμεις ἐνεργοῦσιν ἐν αὐτῷ: Ephesians 2:2, τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ νῦν ἐνεργοῦντος ἐν τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς ἀπειθείας: 2 Thessalonians 3:7, τὸ μυστήριονἤδη ἐνεργεῖται. Here it is supremely appropriate therefore.

The In-dwelling and In-working of God in His saints is a main doctrine of the Gospel. The manner is perfectly mysterious; the fact is certain. By the Holy Spirit, Christ is “in” the disciple (2 Corinthians 13:5); and “in Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead” (Colossians 2:9). See further Ephesians 3:17. In the light of a passage like this we read the deep truth that the “grace” which is in the Christian is not merely an emitted influence from above; it is the living Lord Himself, present and operative at the “first springs of thought and will.”

καὶ τὸ θέλειν καὶ τὸ ἐνεργεῖν. Almost, “both your willing and your (spiritual) working.” Here, though in passing, we touch one of the deepest mysteries of grace. On the one hand is the Christian’s will, real, personal, and powerfully appealed to as such. On the other hand, beneath it, as cause is beneath result, is the will and work of God; God Himself the hidden secret of the right action of the true human will. Let us recognize with equal reverence and simplicity both these great parallels of truth. “With fear and trembling” let us remember human responsibility; with deep submission let us adore the ways of grace, attributing ultimately to God alone every link in the chain of actual salvation.

ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας. “For the sake of His good pleasure,” His sovereign and gracious will. The Christian, enabled by the Divine power within to will and to do, wills and does, not for himself, but for Him whose implement he is.


Verse 14

14. πάντα ποιεῖτε κτλ. He carries now into detail the general principle of holiness in the power of the Divine In-dweller, holding still in view the unselfish love for which he pleaded above (Philippians 2:1-4). Observe the characteristic totality of the precept, the πάντα.

χωρὶς γογγυσμῶν καὶ διαλογισμῶν. With γογγυσμῶν cp. Acts 6:1, γένετο γογγυσμὸς Ἑλληνιστῶν πρὸς τοὺς Ἑβραίους, and 1 Peter 4:9, φιλόξενοι εἰς ἀλλήλους ἄνευ γογγυσμοῦ: and with διαλογισμῶν, James 2:4, ἐγένεσθε κριταὶ διαλογισμῶν πονηρῶν. The “murmurs” and “debates” are not as towards God, but as towards one another; expressions of personal or connexional alienation and prejudice. So we gather from the direction of the appeal above, Philippians 2:1-4, and below, Philippians 4:2-3; and other places in the Epistle. Such things were to die in the air of the love and presence of God in Christ.


Verse 15

15. γένησθε. Not ἦτε. He gently suggests their need of becoming more fully what Christians should be. On the reading, see critical note.

ἄμεμπτοι. “Except concerning the law of their God” (Daniel 6:5).

ἀκέραιοι. Literally, “unmingled” (κεράννυμι); pure in purpose, guileless. The rendering “harmless” seems to assume a derivation from κέρας, which cannot be sustained; as if it meant what would not push or strike. See Trench, Synonyms, s.v.

The word occurs elsewhere in N.T. only Matthew 10:16; Romans 16:19. It is classical. See e.g. Euripides, Orest. 922, where a disinterested citizen is described as ἀκέραιος, ἀνεπίληπτον ἠσκηκὼς βίον.

τέκνα θεοῦ. The precise phrase recurs John 1:12, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι: John 11:52, τὰ τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ τὰ διεσκορπισμένα: Romans 8:16 (of the witness of the Spirit with our spirit), Romans 8:17; Rom_8:21, τὴν ἐλευθερίαν τῆς δόξης τῶν τέκνων τοῦ θεοῦ, Romans 9:8 : 1 John 3:1, ἴδετε ποταπὴν ἀγάπην κτλ., 1 John 3:2; 1Jn_3:10, Romans 5:2. The τέκνον is emphatically the born child, shewing the family likeness; the thought in point here.

As a rule, Scripture uses the words “Father,” “son,” “child,” as between God and man, to mark the connexion not of creation but of new creation; as here.

ἄμωμα. On the reading, see critical note. The word (from μῶμος, blame, connected with μέμ-φομαι) occurs in Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:22 (besides a few other N.T. places)—passages in the same group of Epistles. The Philippians were to become blamelessly true to their character as God’s children.

The LXX. rendering of Deuteronomy 32:5 was here in the Apostle’s mind; ἡμάρτοσαν, οὐκ αὐτῷ τέκνα, μωμητά, γενεὰ σκολιὰ καὶ διεστραμμένη. The “true Israelites” of Philippi were to be the antithesis of the ancient rebels.

μέσον. On the reading, see critical note. The words of Moses (see last note) are still in his mind; but “the crooked and distorted generation” are now not the Lord’s Israel in rebellion, but the unsubdued outside world. “Amidst” that world, not in selfish or timorous isolation from surrounding life, the saints were to walk; in it, not of it (John 17:15); a visible contrast, and an attracting power. The Gospel gives no real sanction to the anchorite theory of holiness.

ἐν οἷς. The γενεά is viewed as in its individual members (οἶς).

φαίνεσθε. “Ye appear,” rather, perhaps, than “ye shine” (for which φαίνειν is the somewhat commoner word); though “there is very little difference between ‘appear’ and ‘shine’ here” (Alford).—Φαίνεσθαι is used of the rising and setting of the stars, as in the famous place, Il. VIII. 556:

ὡς δʼ ὅτʼ ἐν οὐρανῷ ἄστρα φαεινὴν ἀμφὶ σελήνην

φαίνετʼ ἀριπρεπέα.

Hence τὰ φαινόμενα, the title of one of Aratus’ astronomical poems (cent. iii. B.C.). Perhaps such a speciality of meaning is traceable here; the saints, in the beautiful light of holiness, rise star-like on the night of surrounding sin.

φωστῆρες. Luminaria, Vulg. See last note. The word occurs in the Greek of e.g. Genesis 1:14; Genesis 1:16, γενηθήτωσαν φωστῆρες ἐν τῷ στερεώματι τοῦ οὐρανοῦἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τοὺς δύο φωστῆρας κτλ. In the N.T. it occurs only here and (apparently in the very rare sense of “radiance”) in Revelation 21:11.

He who is “the Light of the World” (John 8:12), “the Sun of Righteousness” (Malachi 4:2), “the Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16), can make His servants reflect and in that sense repeat Himself. Cp. Isaiah 60:1; Matthew 5:14; Ephesians 5:8.


Verse 16

16. λόγον ζωῆς. The Gospel, as the revelation and offer of eternal life in Christ. So the Saviour’s teachings are ῥήματα ζωῆς αἰωνίου, John 6:68, and the message of His grace is λόγος ζωῆς, 1 John 1:1 (see Westcott in loco against a reference there to the Personal Logos). The essence of the λόγος is (1 John 5:11), ὅτι ζωὴν αἰώνιον ἔδωκεν ἡμῖν ὁ θεός· καὶ αὔτη ἡ ζωὴ ἐν τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ ἐστίν.

ἐπέχοντες. “Holding forth” for notice and acceptance. So Homer, Od. XVI. 443:

κρέας ὀπτὸν

ἐν χείρεσσιν ἔθηκεν, ἐπέσχε τε οἶνον ἐρυθρόν

He drops the metaphor of the luminary, and thinks of the banquet and its provision. Ἐπέχειν occurs in some other N.T. passages, but in the sense of giving attention, or (Acts 19:22) of lingering.—On the phrase λόγον ἐπέχειν see Appendix I.

εἰς καύχημα ἐμοὶ. Ἐμοὶ is slightly emphatic; he thankfully claims his part in their work and its fruits, as he had brought the light to them.—For the thought of such καύχημα cp. 1 Thessalonians 2:19, τίς ἡμῶνστέφανος καυχήσεως; ἤ οὐχὶ καὶ ὑμεῖς ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶνἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ; There as here he looks forward to a personal recognition of his converts at the Lord’s Coming, and to a special joy over them.

εἰς ἡμέραν Χριστοῦ. “Unto the day,” in view of it. He anticipates the “exultation” to be actually felt ἐν ἡμέρᾳ Χριστοῦ.

εἰς κενὸν. A phrase exclusively Pauline in N.T. See 2 Corinthians 6:1, μὴ εἰς κενὸν τὴν χάρινδέξασθαι; Galatians 2:2, μήπως εἰς κενὸν τρέχω, 1 Thessalonians 3:5, εἰς κενὸνκόπος.

ἔδραμονἐκοπίασα. “Did run,” “did toil.” He anticipates his retrospect from “the day of Christ,” and sees the present race and present toil summed up into recollections. For such an aorist cp. 1 Corinthians 13:12, τότε ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

On the metaphor of ἔδραμον, a favourite one with St Paul, giving the thought of both the energy and the goal of life, cp. e.g. Acts 20:24, τελειῶσαι τὸν δρόμον μου: Galatians 2:2, μή πως εἰς κενὸν τρέχω ἤ ἔδραμον: 2 Timothy 4:7, τὸν δρόμον τετέλεκα: and see 1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Corinthians 9:26; Romans 9:16; Hebrews 12:1.

Lightfoot thinks that in ἐκοπίασα we have a probable allusion to the training of the athletic runner; he finds μὴ τρέχε, μὴ κοπία, in a connexion suggestive of this (Anthol. III. p. 166). He quotes (as a possible echo of St Paul here) Ignatius (ad Polyc c. 6) συντρέχετε, συγκοπιᾶτε. On St Paul’s athletic metaphors see Appendix L.

IN his constant illustration of the Christian life by the requirements and rewards of the Greek athletic contests, St Paul at once displays his own Hellenic sympathies and appeals to the noblest enthusiasm of the national life of his Greek converts. The Olympian games were closely connected with all that was most precious in the contribution made by Greece to the providential education of the world. Once in every four years the perpetually quarrelling states of the Panhellenic union proclaimed a solemn armistice for a single summer month, and met on the sacred plain of Olympia in a brotherly contest, city against city as well as man against man, for the highest glory that life could offer. Nothing might take precedence of this supreme festival. Even the sending of forces to support the heroes of Thermopylæ[21] must wait till the sacred month was over. Round this centre of Greek life religion, literature and art ranged themselves spontaneously in their most splendid forms. Historians read their histories to the assembled multitudes; poets proclaimed the glories of the successful champions, and sculptors perpetuated their noble forms. Time for the next four years was marked by the name of the victor in the foot-race, who though he carried off but a crown of wild olive returned to his city to receive substantial honours for the remainder of his days.

Something may be usefully noted here as to the training, the testing of candidates, and the actual contest. The training extended over ten months. A strict diet was enforced (ἀναγκοφαγία). The length and severity of this preparatory discipline led to a professionalism which is sharply criticized by several Greek writers. Athletes as such became marked off from ordinary competitors. Euripides[22] denounces the uselessness of the mere athlete’s life, and Galen[23] (cent. 2) its brutalizing tendency. Extreme exertion, even flagellations, inordinate overfeeding, and as a consequence excessive sleep—these were the exaggerations which accompanied the athletics of a baser period. Yet a certain moral witness was given by the necessity of abstinence from unchaste lusts: and the discipline and self-control demanded by these labours were in striking contrast with the lightness and carelessness which characterized so much of the Greek citizen’s life.

A month before the contest all the candidates were tested by the Hellanodicæ. Every competitor must be able to shew that he was a pure Greek, and that he had undergone the regular training. He must further declare his determination to abide by the customary rules, and take a solemn oath to this effect.

Of the contest itself two forms only need be noticed here. The Foot-race, in the Stadium, was the central event of the Festival; the Olympiad was marked by the name of the winner. The Herald proclaimed:

“Foot by foot

To the foot-line put.”

The starting-rope (ὕσπληξ), the race, the goal, the revel, the hymn—all these are familiar from the splendid verse of Pindar. And it is to this race that St Paul most frequently refers. But the severer contest of the Boxing-match, sometimes even fatal in its issue, also finds a place in his vocabulary of illustration. The Boxer’s hands and arms were furnished with the dangerous cestus of twisted leather loaded with metal[24]. In training the competitors would practise even upon “dummies,” or upon nothing, “striking the air”: but their crushed ears attested more serious and painful preparations[25].

The following passages in St Paul present more or less distinctly athletic metaphors. The passing character of the allusion in some cases serves to shew how familiar, and how instinctive, was the illustration.—The words printed in thicker type recall, often with unmistakable intention, sometimes perhaps half unconsciously, the phraseology of the games.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-4. αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἴδατε, ἀδελφοί, τὴν εἴσοδον ἡμῶν τὴν πρὸς ὑμᾶς ὅτι οὐ κενὴ γέγονεν ἀλλὰ προπαθόντες καὶ ὑβρισθέντεςἐν Φιλίπποις ἐπαρρησιασάμεθαλαλῆσαι πρὸς ὑμᾶςἐν πολλῷ ἀγῶνικαθὼς δεδοκιμάσμεθα ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦοὕτω λαλοῦμενὡςἀρέσκοντεςτῷ θεῷ τῷ δοκιμάζοντι τὰς καρδίας ἡμῶν.

1 Thessalonians 2:18-19. ἠθελήσαμεν ἐλθεῖνἀλλὰ ἐνέκοψεν ἡμᾶς ὁ Σατανᾶς. τίς γὰρ ἡμῶνστέφανος καυχήσεως; ἠ οὐχὶ καὶ ὑμεῖς κτλ.;

2 Thessalonians 3:1. ἵνα ὁ λόγος τοῦ Κυρίου τρέχῃ καὶ δοξάζηται.

Galatians 2:2. μή πως εἰς κενὸν τρέχω ἢ ἔδραμον.

Galatians 5:7. ἐτρέχετε καλῶς· τίς ὑμᾶς ἐνέκοψεν;

Philippians 1:27; Philippians 1:30. συναθλοῦντεςτὸν αὐτὸν ἀγῶνα ἔχοντες.

Philippians 2:16. οὐκ εἰς κενὸν ἔδραμον οὐδὲ εἰς κενὸν ἐκοπίασα.

Philippians 3:12; Philippians 3:14. οὐχ ὅτι ἤδη ἔλαβονδιώκω δέ, εἰ καὶ καταλάβωτὰ μὲν ὀπίσω ἐπιλανθανόμενος τοῖς δὲ ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεκτεινόμενος κατὰ σκοπὸν διώκω εἰς τὸ βραβεῖον κτλ.

Colossians 1:29; Colossians 2:1. εἰς ὃ καὶ κοπιῶ ἀγωνιζόμενοςθέλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι ἡλίκον ἀγῶνα ἔχω κτλ.

Colossians 2:18. μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς καταβραβευέτω.

Colossians 3:15. ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ Χριστοῦ βραβευέτω κτλ.

1 Timothy 4:7-10. γύμναζε σεαυτὸν πρὸς εὐσέβειαν· ἡ γὰρ σωματικὴ γυμνασία πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶν ὠφέλιμοςεἰς τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ κοπιῶμεν καὶ ἀγωνιζόμεθα (ita leg.) κτλ.

1 Timothy 6:11-12. δίωκε δικαιοσύνηνἀγωνίζου τὸν καλὸν ἀγῶναἐπιλαβοῦ τῆς αἰωνίου ζωῆςἐνώπιον πολλῶν μαρτύρων.

Cp. Hebrews 12:1. ἔχοντες περικείμενον ἡμῖν νέφος μαρτύρων, ὄγκον ἀποθέμενοι πάνταδιʼ ὑπομονῆς τρέχωμεν τὸν προκείμενον ἡμῖν ἀγῶνα.

2 Timothy 2:5. ἐὰν δὲ καὶ ἀθλῇ τις, οὐ στεφανοῦται ἐὰν μὴ νομίμως ἀθλήσῃ.

2 Timothy 4:7-8. τὸν καλὸν ἀγῶνα ἠγώνισμαι, τὀν δρόμον τετέλεκαλοιπὸν ἀπόκειταί μοι ὁ τῆς δικαιοσύνης στέφανος.

Cp. Acts 13:25. ὡς ἐπλήρου ὁ Ἰωάνης τὸν δρόμον. Acts 20:24. τελειῶσαι τὸν δρόμον μου.

By far the most elaborate illustration is found in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, where almost every word receives its signification from the Greek games.

Οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἐν σταδίῳ τρέχοντες πάντες μὲν τρέχουσιν, εἷς δὲ λαμβάνει τὸ βραβεῖον; οὕτω τρέχετε ἵνα καταλάβητε. πᾶς δὲ ὁ ἀγωνιζόμενος πάντα ἐγκρατεύεται· ἐκεῖνοι μὲν οὖν ἵνα φθαρτὸν στέφανον λάβωσιν, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄφθαρτον. ἐγὼ τοίνυν οὕτω τρέχω, ὡς οὐκ ἀδήλως· οὕτω πυκτεύω, ὡς οὐκ ἀέρα δέρων· ἀλλʼ ὑπωπιάζω μου τὸ σῶμα καὶ δουλαγωγῶ, μήπως ἄλλοις κηρύξας αὐτὸς ἀδόκιμος γένωμαι.

It is interesting to set beside this the splendid appeal on behalf of purity in Plato, Laws, Bk viii. p. 840. After recording instances of famous athletes and their temperance in the period of training, the Athenian stranger says:

“And yet, Cleinias, they were far worse educated in their minds than your and my fellow-citizens, and in their bodies far more lusty.

Cleinias. No doubt this fact has been often affirmed positively by the ancients of these athletes.

Ath. And shall they be willing to abstain from what is ordinarily deemed a pleasure for the sake of a victory in wrestling, running, and the like; and our young men be incapable of a similar endurance for the sake of a much nobler victory, which is the noblest of all, as from their youth upwards we will tell them?” (Jowett’s Plato, Vol. v., p. 409.)

I. “HOLDING FORTH THE WORD OF LIFE.” (CH. Philippians 2:16)

THE late Dr F. Field (Otium Norvicense, pars tertia, p. 118) has an interesting note on λόγον ζωῆς ἐπέχοντες. He points out that ἐπέχειν where we might expect προσέχειν is a usage unexampled, or at best supported by remote examples. And he adduces from later Greek authors examples (collected by Wetstein) of the phrase λόγον ἐπέχειν τινός in the sense of “correspond to,” “play the part of.” E.g. Diogenes Laertius, VII. 155, about a theory of the universe: μέση ἡ γῆ, κέντρου λόγον ἐπέχουσα, “doing duty as a centre”; St Basil, Hexaëmeron IX. (tom. i. p. 83 E), κακὸν δὲ πᾶν ἀρρωστία ψυχῆς, ἡ δὲ ἀρετὴ λόγον ὑγιείας ἐπέχει, “all evil is a sickness of the soul; virtue is as it were its health.” He compares the better-known phrases, τάξιν or τόπον ἐπέχειν τινός: e.g. Theodoret (tom. III. p. 489), ἡ εὐαγγελικὴ πολιτεία σώματος ἐπέχει τάξιν, ὁ δὲ νόμος σκιᾶς. And he quotes the Syriac Peshitto of this passage of Philippians, which is, “to whom ye are in place of life.” His own rendering of the passage would be, “In the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, being (to it) in the stead of life.” “To the last clause a marginal note might be added: ‘Gr., holding the analogy of life.’ ”

The suggestion is important, and from a source which must always command attention. Yet the quotation from Homer, in the notes on ch. Philippians 2:16, still seems on review pertinent, and need not be called “remote,” coming from the great Poem. With some hesitation we recommend adherence to the more ordinary rendering.


Verse 17

17. Ἀλλὰ εἰ καὶ. He takes up the thought suggested by ἐκοπίασα, as if to say, “Toil it is indeed; but it is glad, ungrudging toil; if it involves my shedding my blood for you, it will be only joy to me.” “Meanwhile” may thus represent ἀλλὰ.

σπένδομαι. “I am being outpoured”; “libated,” in my life-blood. “The present tense places the hypothesis vividly before the eyes; but it does not … refer to present dangers … comp. e.g. Matthew 12:26” [εἰ ὁ Σατανᾶς τὸν Σ. ἐκβάλλει] (Lightfoot). But it is at least possible that, in suspense as he was about the issue of his trial, he is here thinking of martyrdom as perhaps at the door.

For the phrase cp. 2 Timothy 4:6, ἐγὼ γὰρ ἤδη σπένδομαι. Lightfoot compares Ignat. ad Rom. c. 2, a close parallel here, μὴ παράσχησθέ (μοι) τοῦ σπονδισθῆναι θεῷ, ὡς ἔτι θυσιαστήριον ἕτοιμόν ἐστιν.

The Vulg. here has immolor, and the lexicographer Hesychius (cent. 4) explains σπένδομαι here by θυσιάζομαι. But the imagery is certainly more precise than this allows.

ἐπὶ τῇ θυσίᾳ. “On,” as a libation is shed on the altar. He views the Philippians, in their character of consecrated believers (cp. Romans 12:1), as a holocaust to God; and upon that sacrifice the drink-offering, the outpoured wine, is his own life-blood, his martyrdom for the Gospel which he has preached to them. Cp. Numbers 15:5 for the Mosaic libation, οἶνον εἰς σπονδὴνποιήσετε ἐπὶ τῆς ὁλοκαυτώσεως. Lightfoot thinks that a reference to pagan libations is more likely in a letter to a Gentile mission; but surely St Paul familiarized all his converts with O.T. symbolism; and his own mind was of course full of it.

τῇ θυσίᾳ καὶ λειτουργίᾳ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν. “The sacrifice and ritual” were “of” their faith because vitally connected with it. In faith they were self-surrendered to their Saviour; so they were themselves “a living sacrifice,” and their lives were a sacerdotal ordinance. Cp. Romans 15:16 (with note in the Cambridge Bible for Schools) for an instructive parallel. There the ἔθνη are the προσφορά, and the εὐαγγέλιον· is the matter on which the ἰερουργία is exercised. Here the Philippians are both sacrifice and priests, while Paul is their libation.

These are the only two passages where the Apostle connects the language of sacerdotalism with the distinctive work of the Christian ministry; and both passages have the tone of figure and, so to speak, poetry.

χαίρω. With the deep joy of love in self-sacrifice.

συνχαίρω πᾶσιν ὑμῖν. Again the warm and significant “you all.”

Συνχαίρειν can mean “to congratulate”; so Plutarch, Mor. 231 B (quoted by Lightfoot), συνχαίρω τῇ πόλει, in a context which leaves no doubt of the meaning. This meaning is in point here. Dying for them, his last thought would be congratulation on their faith and obedience.

The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, at the beginning, has συνεχάρην ὑμῖν μεγάλως ἐν Κυρίῳ, words which may be an echo of these.


Verse 18

18. τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ. “In the same manner” (R.V.). So Matthew 27:44, τὸ δʼ αὐτὸ καὶ οἱ λῃσταὶὠνείδιζον αὐτόν. “The accusative [τὸ αὐτό] defines rather the character than the object of the action” (Lightfoot).

χαίρετε καὶ συνχαίρετέ μοι. Gaudete et congratulamini mihi, Vulg. The Greek leaves us free to explain it as either imperative (as Vulg.) or indicative. If the latter is chosen, it is little else than the imperative in disguise; he assumes their joy and congratulation in order to enjoin it. Lightfoot quotes from Plutarch (Mor. p. 347 c) the χαίρετε καὶ χαίρομεν of the messenger from Marathon; the χαίρετε there is probably indicative.

He bids them share his martyr-joy, as partners of the martyr-spirit.


Verse 19

19. Ἐλπίζω δὲ. “But,” amidst these exalted joys and trials, he hopes soon to take a practical step to obtain fuller information about the Philippians. He refers back to the words ἐν τῇ ἀπουσίᾳ μου, Philippians 2:12.

ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ. See note on ἐν σπλάγχνοις Χ. . Philippians 1:8.

Τιμόθεον. See note on Τιμόθεος, Philippians 1:1.

κἀγὼ. As well as you; he assumes their good courage, and with noble modesty speaks as one who needs it to kindle his own.

εὐψυχῶ. “Be of good heart.” The verb is very rare in Greek; εὐψυχία, εὔψυχος, are not so. For the meaning see e.g. Eurip. Med. 402: ἕρπʼ εἰς τὸ δεινόν· νῦν ἀγὼν εὐψυχίας.


Verses 19-30

19–30. HE PROPOSES SOON TO SEND TIMOTHEUS: HE SENDS WITHOUT DELAY EPAPHRODITUS


Verse 20

20. γὰρ. He gives his reason for sending Timothy. There was no one like him in natural fitness for this task.

ἰσόψυχον. A slight echo perhaps of εὐψυχῶ. “Of equal soul,” i.e. to Timotheus (Lightfoot); no other delegate would have such qualifications of unselfish sympathy with Philippi. “The word ἰσόψυχος is extremely rare. It occurs in æsch. Agam. 1470 [1446]” (Lightfoot); κράτος ἰσόψ. ἐκ γυναικῶν, i.e. “a strength of soul, shewn by women, equal” to that of men. The word occurs elsewhere in the Greek Scriptures only LXX Psal. 54:13 (Heb., Psalms 55:13, “It was thou, mine equal”), as a rendering of the Hebrew “after my scale, or standard,” כערכי .

γνησίως. “Genuinely”; with quite unaffected devotion.

μεριμνήσει. “Shall take anxious thought.” ΄έριμνα and its verb are commonly connected with μερίζω, and explained of the divisions in the anxious mind. More recently a connexion has been advocated with “a root meaning to be thoughtful, and akin to μάρτυς, memor, &c.” (Grimm, ed. Thayer, s.v.). Usage anywise leaves the meaning of anxiety unmistakable.—See the verb again below, Philippians 4:6, and the note there. The two passages are not discordant. Timothy’s μέριμνα here would be intense thought for others (so 1 Corinthians 7:32; 1 Corinthians 7:34; 1 Corinthians 12:2; 1 Corinthians 12:5; 2 Corinthians 11:28). The μέριμνα forbidden there would be, in effect, the failure to pass on our burthens to the Lord for His care and aid. This is the ordinary reference of the word in N.T.


Verse 21

21. οἱ τάντες. Slightly more definite than πάντες: it is the πάντες in question; “all of them.”

τὰ ἑαυτῶν. Their own ease or safety, or their personal preferences in toil or duty.

οὐ τὰ Χ. . The whole verse indicates some bitter disappointments felt by St Paul; Demas (2 Timothy 4:10) had his precursors. Still we must not understand St Paul to condemn these disciples without reserve; like Mark (Acts 13:13) they may have been true men found off their guard. And again common sense bids us explain the πάντες with caution. He must mean not simply all the Christians around him, many of whom would not be free agents for this mission; it must be all who could have gone if they would.

Let us not fail to remember that to the true disciple in his true condition τὰ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ are, as such, the supreme interest.


Verse 22

22. τὴν δοκιμὴν. “The test” through which he passed, before your eyes, when we were both at Philippi.—Or perhaps δοκιμή here means the result of the test, “proved fitness.” In Greek, as in English, abstract nouns are constantly passing from “process” to “result” (e.g. οἰκοδομή), and becoming more concrete.

ὡς πατρὶ τέκνον. “As child with father”; supplying σὺν in idea from the next words. Observe τέκνον, the tender word, of the born child; see on Philippians 2:15 above. For St Paul’s fatherly love for Timothy see 2 Timothy 1:2, and that whole Epistle.

σὺν ἐμοὶ. Slightly emphatic by position; as if to say, you saw his devotion of course, for it was shewn in connexion with me, your own Apostle.

ἐδούλευσεν. “He did bondservice”; almost, “he slaved.” The aorist gathers up Timothy’s toil at Philippi into one thought. This is better than to render it, “He entered on bondservice”; for the reference is plainly not to his first Christian work, but to his labours at Philippi.

εἰς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον. Well paraphrased by R.V., “in furtherance of the gospel.” See note on Philippians 1:5 above. For εὐαγγέλιον in the sense of missionary work, see below, Philippians 4:3.


Verse 23

23. τοῦτον μὲν οὖν. “So him,” with a slight emphasis; he is about to speak of others too, himself and Epaphroditus.

ὡς ἂνἐξαυτῆς. “At once when” (Lightfoot). “For ὡς ἄν temporal, comp. Romans 15:24 [ὡς ἂν πορεύωμαι εἰς τὴν Σπανίαν], 1 Corinthians 11:34 [τὰ λοιπὰ, ὡς ἂν ἔλθω, διατάξομαι]” (Lightfoot).

ἀφίδω. “Get a view of,” as from a point of observation. Cp. Jonah 4:5, ἕως οὗ ἀπίδῃ τί ἔσται τῇ πόλει.—On the form ἀφίδω here, see above, introductory notes to ch. 2

τὰ περὶ ἐμὲ. “My circumstances,” “my position.”


Verse 24

24. πέποιθα. See above on πεποιθώς, Philippians 1:6; and cp. on οἶδα, Philippians 1:25.

ἐν κυρίῳ. See above, on Philippians 1:8.

ταχέως. The word is elastic; it may refer to weeks or to months. What he is “sure of” is that he will follow promptly in Timothy’s track.—Lightfoot compares the closely parallel language of 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 4:19 : ἔπεμψα ὑμῖν Τιμόθεον, ὅς ἐστίν μου τέκνονἐλεύσομαι δὲ ταχέως πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἐὰν ὁ Κύριος θελήσῃ.


Verse 25

25. Ἀναγκαῖον δὲ. As against the less obligatory call for Timothy’s journey. There was a duty, to Epaphroditus and to Philippi, and it must not be postponed.

ἡγησάμην. Render, in English idiom, “I have counted,” or “I count.” The aorist is “epistolary,” and gives the writer’s present thought as it will appear when the reader gets the letter. (Cp. e.g. ἀνέπεμψα, Phlippians 1:11.)

Ἐπαφρόδιτον. He has been identified with Epaphras (Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:12; Phlippians 1:23); and the shorter name is an abbreviation of the longer. But Epaphras belonged to Colossæ in Asia Minor, Epaphroditus to Philippi in Europe. Both names were very common.—It is observable that this saint’s name embodies that of Aphrodite. Cp. the names Phœbe, Nereus, &c., Romans 16. Little scruple seems to have been attached in the early Church to the retention of pre-baptismal idolatrous names.—We know Epaphroditus only from this Epistle; the one brief portrait shews a noble and lovable character.

τὸν ἀδελφὸν καὶ συνεργὸν καὶ συνστρατιώτην μου. A singularly emphatic commendation. Evidently he had toiled and striven “in the Gospel,” in no common way, at St Paul’s side, whether at Philippi in the past or now recently at Rome, as Lightfoot suggests. For the word συνστρατιώτης cp. Phlippians 1:2, where it is applied to Archippus; and for the imagery of warfare cp. 2 Corinthians 10:3; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:3-4. The Christian is not only a worker, but in his work has to deal, soldier-wise, with “all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19).

ὑμῶν δὲ ἀπόστολον. “Your delegated messenger.” Cp. 2 Corinthians 8:23; ἀδελφοὶ ἡμῶν, ἀπόστολοι ἐκκλησιῶν. There is no Scripture evidence for giving the word ἀπόστολος in N.T. the meaning of chief pastor of a church or district. Meanwhile, it seems to mean more than merely a messenger; it has gathered a certain sacredness from our Lord’s use of it (Luke 6:13) for His twelve chosen Messengers; it has a religious colour, like our word missionary. May not this word fairly represent it here?—“your missionary to me,” with a gracious pleasantly, as if the Philippians were sending a εὐαγγέλιον of pious love to St Paul.

λειτουργὸν τῆς χρείας μου. Group these words, as does R.V., still under the ὑμῶν just above: “Your missionary and minister to (lit., of) my need.” The λειτουργία is explained below, Philippians 4:18, where Epaphroditus appears as the conveyer of the Philippian offerings to St Paul.—Λειτουργός is a public servant or minister. At Athens, λειτουργία and λειτουργεῖν (the noun has not yet been found in this use, though it is more than probable that it bore it) denoted the discharge of a public office at the citizen’s own cost. Later, the meaning widened, but commonly retaining the idea of publicity and commission. In the Greek Scriptures λειτουργός is used of a king’s servant (1 Kings 10:5); of a magistrate, as the minister of God’s order (Romans 13:6); of a priest, as minister of the temple (Hebrews 8:2).—Like ἀπόστολος above, λειτουργός here may carry something of its higher meaning; he came publicly commissioned by the Philippians’ love.


Verse 26

26. ἐπιποθῶν ἧν. “He was (i.e., as an English letter would run, “he has been,” or “he is”) in a state of longing”; he feels home-sick for you. See note on Philippians 1:8.

πάντας ὑμᾶς. One of the many instances of markedly inclusive reference to the Philippians. See the last note on Philippians 1:8. Epaphroditus, St Paul implies, has no partial or partizan thoughts of the Philippians; his love knows no cliques. On the reading here see critical notes.

ἀδημονῶν. “Sore troubled”; almost, “bewildered,” “distraught.” The word is used of our blessed Lord’s Agony, Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33; its only other occurrences in N.T. The derivation is either (Buttmann, Lexil. pp. 29, &c.) from α- and δῆμος, “not at home,” “uneasy” (Buttmann compares nicht daheim sein, mir ist unheimlich), or (Lobeck, quoted and approved by Lightfoot) is connected with ἀδῆσαι, to be sated, to loathe, and so to be restless.

ὅτι ἠσθένησεν. “That he fell ill,” or (if the aorist presents the illness as a point in thought) “that he was ill,” or, as an English letter would have it, “that he has been ill.” Perhaps he had taken Roman fever.


Verse 27

27. ὁ θεὸς ἠλέησεν αὐτόν. For Epaphroditus, as for St Paul, death would be κέρδος (Philippians 1:21, and cp. 1 Corinthians 3:23) from one supreme point of view. Yet death in itself is not the Christian’s choice; see John 21:18 (ὅπου οὐ θέλεις), and 2 Corinthians 5:4 (οὐ θέλομεν ἐκδύσασθαι). And it closes the joys of cross-bearing service. As Chrysostom says, discussing the problem of “mercy” here, τὸ κερδᾶναι ψυχὰς οὐκ ἔνι λοιπὸν ἀπελθόντας ἐκεῖ. To Epaphroditus death would have been withdrawal from his beloved work for Philippi; and this pang was spared him.

ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐμέ. Characteristically, he loves to emphasize the value of his friends to him. Cp. e.g. Romans 16:4.

λύπην ἐπὶ λύπην. Bereavement would have been added to great and much-including trial of captivity.—Observe the perfect naturalness and candour of his thought and feeling. He has “the peace of God,” and “strength for all things” (Philippians 4:7; Philippians 4:13). But this means no torpor, and no hardening. He is released from embitterment and from murmurs, but by the same process every sensibility is deepened. So it was with his Lord; John 11:33; John 11:35; John 11:38.

Observe that the χάρισμα ἰαμάτων, exercised by St Paul at Melita (Acts 28:8), was evidently not at his absolute disposal. He could not command his friend’s recovery; it was mere mercy.

σχῶ. “Get,” not merely “have.” “That I might not incur an accumulation of griefs.”


Verse 28

28. ἔπεμψα. Anglicé, “I have sent,” “I am sending.”

ἀλυπότερος. Again with perfect candour of heart he does not say “glad,” but “less sorrowful.” The separation from Epaphroditus would be a human sorrow, which would temper the happiness with which he would restore him to the Philippians; and he does not disguise it.


Verse 29

29. προσδέχεσθεαὐτὸν. “Receive him”; words which perhaps suggest that to some among them, affected by their small internal divisions, Epaphroditus would be not quite acceptable. But we may explain the Greek rather, “Accept him,” as my gift to you; in which sense no appeal would be implied. Cp. Hebrews 11:35, οὐ προσδεξάμενοι τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν.

μετὰ πάσης χαρᾶς. His own “sorrow” hinders not in the least his sympathy with their joy.

ἐντίμους ἔχετε. “Hold in high value.” The adjective is used of the centurion’s “valuable” slave (Luke 7:2), and of the “costly” Stone (1 Peter 2:4; 1 Peter 2:6).—Epaphroditus was perhaps a little under-valued at Philippi, in proportion to St Paul’s estimate of him.


Verse 30

30. διὰ τὸ ἔργον Χριστοῦ. On the reading, see critical notes.

μέχρι θανάτου ἤγγισεν. Θανάτῳ or εἰς θάνατον, would be the usual construction. It is as if he were about to write μέχρι θ. ἠσθένησεν, and then varied the expression.

παραβολευσάμενος τῇ ψυχῇ. For the reading, see critical notes. If we read παραβουλευσάμενος, we must render, “taking bad counsel for his life,” i.e. acting with no regard for it. The text may be rendered “playing the gambler with his life” (as Lightfoot), or “hazarding his life” (R.V.). Παραβολεύεσθαι is a verb known only through this passage. Παραβάλλεσθαι is to cast a die, to venture; hence the adjective παράβολος, reckless; on which apparently this verb is formed. Lightfoot compares ἀσωτεύεσθαι, to play the spendthrift.—Connected with παράβολος is the ecclesiastical term παραβολάνος, parabolanus, a member of a “minor order” devoted to nursing the infected, and other hazardous duties. The order probably originated in Constantine’s time. It acquired later a bad reputation as a turbulent body, troublesome to magistrates for riotous interruption of public business. At the council called the Latrocinium, at Ephesus, A.D. 449, “six hundred of them appeared as the tools of the brutal Barsumas, to coerce malcontents to support his measures” (Dict. Chr. Ant., s.v.).

ἵνα ἀναπληρώσῃ κτλ. Cp. 1 Corinthians 16:17 : τὸ ὑμέτερον ὑστέρημα αὐτοὶ ἀναπλήρωσαν, and Colossians 1:24 : ἀνταναπληρῶ τὰ ὑστερήματα τῶν θλίψεων τοῦ Χριστοῦ, that is, the “tribulations” involved in evangelization, which the Lord had as it were left unfinished, to be completed by his followers.

St Paul here means no blame to the Philippians. Epaphroditus had come forward to do what they, as a community, could not do—travel to Rome to help St Paul in his needs, carrying with him the collection they had so lovingly made.

τῆς πρός με λειτουργίας. “Of the ministration designed for me.”

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Philippians 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/philippians-2.html. 1896.

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