Philippians 4:11
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.
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(11) I have learned.—The “I” is here emphatic. There is evident reference to the habit peculiar to St. Paul, and made by him his especial “glory” (1Corinthians 9:14), of refusing that maintenance from the churches which was his of right. Compare his words to the Ephesian presbyters, “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities” (Acts 20:33-34).

Content.—The word (like the corresponding substantive in 2Corinthians 9:8; 1Timothy 6:6) properly means, self-sufficing. Such self-sufficiency was the especial characteristic claimed by the Stoics for the ideal wise man of their philosophy—a characteristic full of nobleness, so far as it involved the sitting loose to all the things of the world, but inhuman in relation to human affections, and virtually atheistic if it described the attitude of the soul towards the Supreme Power. Only in the first relation does St. Paul claim it here. It is difficult not to suppose that he does so with some reference to a philosophy so essentially Roman in practical development.

Php 4:11-14. Not that I speak in respect of want — As if he had said, I do not speak thus feelingly of the renewal of your care because I was unhappy in poverty; for I have learned — From God, he only can teach this; in whatever state I am — In whatever circumstances God is pleased to place me, whether in plenty or want, in honour or reproach, in health or sickness, ease or pain; therewith to be content — Joyfully and thankfully patient. Nothing less is Christian contentment. We may observe a beautiful gradation in the expressions, I have learned; I know; I am instructed; I can. I know how to be abased — When it pleases God to humble me, by depriving me of what seems needful for my body; and to abound — Having wherewith to relieve others also. Presently after, the order of words is inverted, to intimate his frequent transition from scarcity to plenty, and from plenty to scarcity. I am instructed Μεμυημαι, literally, I am initiated. But as the initiated in the heathen mysteries were believed to be instructed in the most excellent and useful knowledge, the word signifies to be completely instructed in any science or art. The apostle seems to have used it on this occasion to intimate, that his bearing both adversity and prosperity properly was a sacred mystery, in which he had been initiated by Christ, and which was unknown to the men of this world; both to be full and to be hungry, &c. — To avoid the temptations, and perform the duties, both of a plentiful and scanty condition, and to be contented in either. I can do all things — Which God has made it my duty to do: I can even fulfil all the will of God; through Christ which strengtheneth me — Who confers on me the ability of mind and body which I have not by nature. “This is not arrogant boasting. For the apostle glories not in his own strength, but in the strength of another. The fathers, as Whitby informs us, observed three things on this passage: 1st, That the virtue of contentment requires much exercise, learning, and meditation. 2d, That it is as difficult to learn how to be full as to be hungry; abundance having destroyed more men than penury, and exposed them to more pernicious lusts. 3d, That our proficiency in this, or in any other virtue, is to be ascribed, not to ourselves, but to the divine assistance.” — Macknight. Notwithstanding, &c. — Though I was not dejected by my wants; yet you have well done that you did communicate with my affliction — Had a fellow-feeling of my sufferings, and helped me to bear the burden of them, by so liberally contributing to my necessities. Here the apostle teaches us, that the servants of Christ are not to be neglected in their afflictions, because they have learned to bear them patiently.4:10-19 It is a good work to succour and help a good minister in trouble. The nature of true Christian sympathy, is not only to feel concern for our friends in their troubles, but to do what we can to help them. The apostle was often in bonds, imprisonments, and necessities; but in all, he learned to be content, to bring his mind to his condition, and make the best of it. Pride, unbelief, vain hankering after something we have not got, and fickle disrelish of present things, make men discontented even under favourable circumstances. Let us pray for patient submission and hope when we are abased; for humility and a heavenly mind when exalted. It is a special grace to have an equal temper of mind always. And in a low state not to lose our comfort in God, nor distrust his providence, nor take any wrong course for our own supply. In a prosperous condition not to be proud, or secure, or worldly. This is a harder lesson than the other; for the temptations of fulness and prosperity are more than those of affliction and want. The apostle had no design to urge them to give more, but to encourage such kindness as will meet a glorious reward hereafter. Through Christ we have grace to do what is good, and through him we must expect the reward; and as we have all things by him, let us do all things for him, and to his glory.Not that I speak in respect of want - Though Paul was doubtless often in circumstances of necessity, yet he did not make these remarks on that account. In his journeys, in his imprisonments, he could not but be at times in want; but be had learned to bear all this; and that which most impressed itself on his mind was the interest which the church ought to show in the cause of religion, and the evidence which it would thus furnish of attachment to the cause. As to his own personal trials, he had learned to bear them, so that they did not give him great uneasiness.

For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content - That is, to have a contented mind. Paul says that he had "learned" this. Probably by nature he had a mind as prone to impatience as others, but he had been in circumstances fitted to produce a different state of feeling. He had had ample experience 2 Corinthians 11:26, and, in his life of trials, he had acquired invaluable lessons on the subject. He had had abundant time for reflection, and he had found that there was grace enough in the gospel to enable him to bear trials with resignation. The considerations by which he had been taught this, he does not state; but they were probably such as the following: that it is wrong to complain at the allotments of Providence; that a spirit of impatience does no good, remedies no evil, and supplies no want; that God could provide for him in a way which he could not foresee, and that the Saviour was able abundantly to sustain him. A contented mind is an invaluable blessing, and is one of the fruits of religion in the soul. It arises from the belief that God is right in all his ways. Why should we be impatient, restless, discontented? What evil will be remedied by it? what want supplied? what calamity removed? "He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast" Proverbs 15:15; and one of the secrets of happiness is to have a mind satisfied with all the allotments of Providence. The members of the Episcopal church beautifully pray, every day: "Give us minds always contented with our present condition." No prayer can be offered which will enter more deeply into all our happiness on earth.

11. I have learned—The I in Greek is emphatical. I leave it to others if they will, to be discontented. I, for my part, have learned, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and the dealings of Providence (Heb 5:8), to be content in every state.

content—The Greek, literally expresses "independent of others, and having sufficiency in one's self." But Christianity has raised the term above the haughty self-sufficiency of the heathen Stoic to the contentment of the Christian, whose sufficiency is not in self, but in God (2Co 3:5; 1Ti 6:6, 8; Heb 13:5; compare Jer 2:36; 45:5).

Not that I speak in respect of want: he doth anticipate any conceit they might have, as if he had a mean soul, and his joy were solely for the fruit of their care be had received in the supply of his want, as the same word is elsewhere used, Matthew 12:44.

For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content; because he knew better things; being instructed at a higher rate, he had practically learned to rest satisfied with his own lot, 2 Corinthians 11:27, accounting God’s allowance a sufficiency to him in any condition, 1 Timothy 6:6,8. How adverse soever his state was, he had attained to such equanimity that he could be content with such things as he had, Hebrews 13:5, and cheerfully and patiently submit to God’s most wise disposal of him, knowing his most righteous and tender hearted Father would never leave nor forsake him, having already given him greater things than any of these sublunary ones he could stand in need of, Romans 8:32. Not that I speak in respect of want,.... Either of want of will in them; of their slowness and backwardness in their care of him, postponing him to others, caring for him last of all; this gave him no uneasiness, he did not take it ill, knowing and owning himself to be less than the least of all saints: or of his own want before this present came; and his sense is, that he did not express himself with so much joy, because of the penury and distress he was in before the things came to him which they sent; for he was not in want; though he had nothing, he possessed all things, and was as happy, and in as comfortable a frame, and in as much content then as now:

for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content; or "to be sufficient", as the Vulgate Latin version renders it; or that that is sufficient for me which I have, as the Syriac version renders it; for the word here used signifies to be self-sufficient, or to have a sufficiency in one's self, which in the strict sense of the phrase is only true of God, who is "El-shaddai", God all-sufficient; but, in a lower sense, is true of such who are contented with their present state and condition, with such things as they have, be they more or less, and think that they have enough, as old Jacob did, Genesis 33:11; and such persons have a sort of an all-sufficiency in them; they are thankful for every thing they have, be it little or more, and in every state, whether of adversity or prosperity; and quietly and patiently submit to the will of God, and cheerfully take and bear whatever is assigned them as their portion; and such an one was the apostle: he was not only content with food and raiment, and such things as he had, but even when he had nothing at all; when he had neither bread to eat nor clothes to wear; when he was in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, as was sometimes his case; and therefore he does not say here, that he had learnt to be content with such things as he had, but , "in what I:am": and this he had not by nature, but by grace; it was not natural, but adventitious to him; it was not what he had acquired by his industry, but what he had "learned"; and that not in the school of nature and reason, while an unregenerate man; nor at the feet of Gamaliel, while he was training up under him in the law of Moses, and in the traditions of the elders; but he learned it of God, and was taught it by the revelation of Christ, and under the teachings of the Spirit of God, and that in the school of affliction, by a train of experiences, of many sorrows, afflictions, and distresses; for this lesson is learned quite contrary to all the rules and reasons among men, not by prosperity, but by adversity: many are the things that may excite and encourage to the exercise of this heavenly grace, where it is wrought; as the consideration of the unalterable will of God, according to which every man's state and condition is settled, and therefore what God has made crooked can never be made straight; and of our case when we came into the world, and what that will be when we go out of it, naked and bare of this world's things; and of our unworthiness of the least mercy at the hand of God: add to which, the consideration of God being our portion and exceeding great reward; of having an interest in Christ and all things in him; and of the profits and pleasures of a life of contentment; and of the promises which God has made to such; and of the future glory and happiness which will shortly be enjoyed: so that a believer may say, who has the smallest pittance of earthly enjoyments, this, with a covenant God, with an interest in Christ, with grace here and heaven hereafter, is enough.

Not that I speak in respect of {k} want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

(k) As though I am speaking concerning my want.

Php 4:11. Obviating of a misunderstanding.

οὐχ ὅτι] as in Php 3:12 : my meaning is not, that I say this in consequence of want, that is, this my utterance of joy in Php 4:10 f. is not meant as if it were the expression of felt want, from which your aid has delivered me. On κατά, sccundum, in the sense of propter, see Kühner, II. 1, p. 413, and ad Xen. Mem. i. 3. 12. According to van Hengel’s interpretation: “ut more receptum est penuriae, s. hominibus penuria oppressis,” κατά could not have been united with an abstract noun (Romans 3:5, et al.).

ἐγὼ γὰρ ἔμαθον κ.τ.λ.] for I, as regards my part (although it may be different with others), have learned in the circumstances, in which I find myself, to be self-contented, that is, to have enough independently without desiring aid from others. It is evident from the reason thus assigned that in οὐχ. ὅτι καθʼ ὑστ. λ. he has meant not the objective, but the subjective state of need.

ἐγώ] with noble self-consciousness, there being no need to supply, with Bengel, “in tot adversis.”

ἔμαθον] signifies the having learned by experience (comp. Plat. Symp. p. 182 C: ἔργῳ δὲ τοῦτο ἔμαθον καὶ οἱ ἐνθάδε τύραννοι), and all that accordingly he can, he owes to the strengthening influence of Christ, Php 4:13.

ἐν οἷς εἰμι] in the situation, in which I find myself. See examples in Wetstein and Kypke; comp. also Mätzner, ad Antiph. p. 131. Not merely his position then, but, generally, every position in which he finds himself, is meant, although it is not exactly to be taken as: “in quocunque statu sim” (Raphel, Wetstein, and others), which would be ungrammatically expressed. In opposition to the context (see Php 4:12), Luther: among whom (οἷς, masculine) I am. As to αὐτάρκεια as applied to persons, the subjective self-sufficing, by means of which a man does not make the satisfaction of his needs dependent upon others, but finds it in himself, comp. Sir 40:18; Xen. Mem. iv. 7. 1; Dem. 450. 14; Stob. v. 43; and see on 2 Corinthians 9:8.Php 4:11. The form of Php 4:11-13, from ἐγὼ γάρ, is strophic. ἐγὼεἶναι gives the “theme”. Php 4:13 marks the close. The thought is worked out between. See J. Weiss, Beitr., p. 29.—οὐχ ὅτι. See on chap. Php 3:12 supr.καθʼ ὑστέρησιν. “As regards want.” κατὰ has the same sense as in the phrase τὰ κατʼ ἐμέ.—ἐγώ emphasises his own position in a tone of calm independence of circumstances.—ἐν οἷς εἰμί. Taken by itself, the phrase might well mean, “in my present circumstances”. But in view of the following verses it seems better to make it general = “in the circumstances in which I am placed at any moment”. For exx. of the phrase see Kypke and Wetst. ad loc.ἔμαθον must be translated into English as a perfect, “I have learned”. But the Greek has a true aorist force: it sums up his experiences to the moment of writing and regards them as a whole.—αὐτάρκης is admirably illustrated by Plat., Repub., 369 B, οὐκ αὐτάρκης, ἀλλὰ πολλῶν ἐνδεής. “Dr. Johnson talked with approbation of one who had attained to the state of the philosophical wise man, that is, to have no want of anything. ‘Then, sir,’ said I, ‘the savage is a wise man.’ ‘Sir,’ said he, ‘I do not mean simply being without,—but not having a want’ ” (Boswell’s Johnson, p. 351, Globe ed.).11. want] Better, perhaps, need, as less extreme in meaning. The Greek word occurs elsewhere only Mark 12:44; of the great poverty of the Widow.

I] Slightly emphatic. He implies an appeal to them to learn his secret for themselves.

have learned] Lit., “did learn”; but probably the A.V. (and R.V.) rightly represent the Greek. It is possible, however, that he refers to the time of waiting for their aid as his learning time; “I learned, in that interval, a lesson of content.”

He implies in any case that the pause in their assistance had been a time of some privation, though not from the higher point of view.

content] Lit., “self-sufficient”; in the sense of omnia mea mecum porto. He did not depend upon circumstances for satisfaction. Such “sufficiency,” but on very different principles, was a favourite Stoic virtue.Php 4:11. Καθʼ ὑστέρησιν) in respect of want.—ἐγὼ, I) in so much adversity.—ἔμαθον) I have learned, from on high, Hebrews 5:8. There is a direct Chiasmus in the four words, I have learned, I know, I am instructed, I am able. The phrase I am instructed is added (as an expansion of the idea) to I have learned; I am able, to I know. Often words referring to the understanding infer also power in the will.—ἐν οἷς εἰμὶ) in what circumstances I am, in my present state, Hebrews 13:5.—αὐτάρκης) content.Verse 11. - Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. . He explains himself; it is not want that prompted his words. Literally, I learned (the verb is aorist); that is, when he became a Christian. The A.V. is verbally inaccurate in the following words, which mean literally, "In the circumstances in which I am." But the sense is the same. St. Paul is speaking of his present condition: he is content with it, though it involves all the hardships of captivity; his present contentment is a sample of his habitual frame of mind. Αὐτάρκης here rendered "content," is a common word in Greek philosophy. It means "self-sufficient," "independent." It is of frequent occurrence in Stoical treatises; but St. Paul uses it in a Christian sense; he is αυτάρκης in relation to man, but his αὐτάρκεια comes from God (2 Corinthians 9:8). Content (αὐτάρκης)

Lit., self-sufficient. Only here in the New Testament. A stoic word, expressing the favorite doctrine of the sect, that man should be sufficient to himself for all things; able, by the power of his own will, to resist the shock of circumstance. Paul is self-sufficient through the power of the new self: not he, but Christ in him. The kindred noun αὐταρκεία sufficiency, occurs 2 Corinthians 9:8; 1 Timothy 6:6.

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