Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS Commentary by A. R. Faussett
The INTERNAL EVIDENCE for the authenticity of this Epistle is strong. The style, manner of thought, and doctrine, accord with Paul's. The incidental allusions also establish his authorship. Paley [Horæ Paulinæ, ch. 7] instances the mention of the object of Epaphroditus' journey to Rome, the Philippian contribution to Paul's wants, Epaphroditus' sickness (Php 1:7; 2:25-30; 4:10-18), the fact that Timothy had been long with Paul at Philippi (Php 1:1; 2:19), the reference to his being a prisoner at Rome now for a long time (Php 1:12-14; 2:17-28), his willingness to die (compare Php 1:23, with 2Co 5:8), the reference to the Philippians having seen his maltreatment at Philippi (Php 1:29, 30; 2:1, 2).
The EXTERNAL EVIDENCE is equally decisive: Polycarp [Epistle to the Philippians, 3; 11]; Irenæus [Against Heresies, 4.18.4]; Clement of Alexandria [The Instructor, 1.1, p. 107]; Eusebius [The Epistle of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne, in Ecclesiastical History, 5. 2]; Tertullian [On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 23]; Origen [Against Celsus, 1.3, p. 122]; Cyprian [Testimonies against the Jews, 3.39].
Philippi was the first (that is, the farthest from Rome, and first which met Paul in entering Macedonia) Macedonian city of the district, called Macedonia Prima (so called as lying farthest eastward). The Greek (Ac 16:12) should not be translated "the chief city," as English Version, but as above [Alford]. Not it, but Thessalonica, was the chief city of the province, and Amphipolis, of the district called Macedonia Prima. It was a Roman "colony" (Ac 16:12), made so by Augustus, to commemorate his famous victory over Brutus and Cassius. A colony was in fact a portion of Rome itself transplanted to the provinces, an offshoot from Rome, and as it were a portrait of the mother city on a small scale [Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, 16.13]. Its inhabitants were Roman citizens, having the right of voting in the Roman tribes, governed by their own senate and magistrates, and not by the governor of the province, with the Roman law and Latin language.
Paul, with Silas and Timothy, planted the Gospel there (Ac 16:12, &c.), in his second missionary journey, A.D. 51. Doubtless he visited it again on his journey from Ephesus into Macedonia (Ac 20:1); and Ac 20:3, 6, expressly mentions his third visit on his return from Greece (Corinth) to Syria by way of Macedonia. His sufferings at Philippi (Ac 16:19, &c.) strengthened the Christian bond of union between him and his Philippian converts, who also, like him, were exposed to trials for the Gospel's sake (1Th 2:2). They alone sent supplies for his temporal wants, twice shortly after he had left them (Php 4:15, 16), and again a third time shortly before writing this Epistle (Php 4:10, 18; 2Co 11:9). This fervent attachment on their part was, perhaps, also in part due to the fact that few Jews were in Philippi, as in other scenes of his labors, to sow the seeds of distrust and suspicion. There was no synagogue, but merely a Jewish Proseucha, or oratory, by the riverside. So that there only do we read of his meeting no opposition from Jews, but only from the masters of the divining damsel, whose gains had been put an end to by her being dispossessed.
Though the Philippian Church was as yet free from Judaizing influence, yet it needed to be forewarned of that danger which might at any time assail it from without (Php 3:2); even as such evil influences had crept into the Galatian churches. In Php 4:2, 3 we find a trace of the fact recorded in the history (Ac 16:13, 14), that female converts were among the first to receive the Gospel at Philippi.
As to the state of the Church, we gather from 2Co 8:1, 2 that its members were poor, yet most liberal; and from Php 1:28-30, that they were undergoing persecution. The only blemish referred to in their character was, on the part of some members, a tendency to dissension. Hence arise his admonitions against disputings (Php 1:27; 2:1-4, 12, 14; 4:2).
The OBJECT of the Epistle is general: not only to thank the Philippians for their contribution sent by Epaphroditus, who was now in returning to take back the apostle's letter, but to express his Christian love and sympathy, and to exhort them to a life consonant with that of Christ, and to warn them against existing dissensions and future possible assaults of Judaizers from without. It is remarkable in this Epistle alone, as compared with the others, that, amidst many commendations, there are no express censures of those to whom it is addressed. No doctrinal error, or schism, has as yet sprung up; the only blemish hinted at is, that some of the Philippian Church were somewhat wanting in lowliness of mind, the result of which want was disputation. Two women, Euodias and Syntyche, are mentioned as having erred in this respect (Php 4:2, 3). The Epistle may be divided into three parts: (1) Affectionate address to the Philippians; reference to his own state as a prisoner at Rome, and to theirs, and to his mission of Epaphroditus to them (the first and second chapters). Epaphroditus probably held a leading office in the Philippian Church, perhaps as a presbyter. After Tychicus and Onesimus had departed (A.D. 62), carrying the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Paul was cheered in his imprisonment by the arrival of Epaphroditus with the Philippian contribution. That faithful "brother, companion in labor, and fellow soldier" (Php 2:25), had brought on himself by the fatigues of the journey a dangerous sickness (Php 2:26, 30). But now that he was recovered, he "longed" (Php 2:26) to return to his Philippian flock, and in person to relieve their anxiety on his behalf, in respect to his sickness; and the apostle gladly availed himself of the opportunity of writing to them a letter of grateful acknowledgments and Christian exhortations. (2) Caution against Judaizing teachers, supported by reference to his own former and present feeling towards Jewish legalism (Php 3:1-21). (3) Admonitions to individuals, and to the Church in general, thanks for their seasonable aid, and concluding benedictions and salutations (Php 4:1-23).
This Epistle was written from Rome during the imprisonment, the beginning of which is related in Ac 28:16, 20, 30, 31. The reference to "Cæsar's household" (Php 4:22), and to the "palace" (Php 1:13, Greek, "Prætorium," probably, the barrack of the Prætorian bodyguard, attached to the palace of Nero) confirms this. It must have been during his first imprisonment at Rome, for the mention of the Prætorium agrees with the fact that it was during his first imprisonment he was in the custody of the Prætorian Prefect, and his situation, described in Php 1:12-14, agrees with his situation in the first two years of his imprisonment (Ac 28:30, 31). The following reasons show, moreover, that it was written towards the close of that imprisonment: (1) He, in it, expresses his expectation of the immediate decision of his cause (Php 2:23). (2) Enough time had elapsed for the Philippians to hear of his imprisonment, to send Epaphroditus to him, to hear of Epaphroditus' arrival and sickness, and send back word to Rome of their distress (Php 2:26). (3) It must have been written after the three other Epistles sent from Rome, namely, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon; for Luke is no longer with him (Php 2:20); otherwise he would have been specified as saluting them, having formerly labored among them, whereas he is mentioned as with him, Col 4:14; Phm 24. Again, in Eph 6:19, 20, his freedom to preach is implied: but in Php 1:13-18, his bondage is dwelt on, and it is implied that, not himself, but others, preached, and made his imprisonment known. Again, in Phm 22, he confidently anticipates his release, which contrasts with the more depressed anticipations of this Epistle. (4) A considerable time had elapsed since the beginning of his imprisonment, for "his bonds" to have become so widely known, and to have produced such good effects for the Gospel (Php 1:13). (5) There is evidently an increase in the rigor of his imprisonment implied now, as compared with the early stage of it, as described in Ac 28:1-31; compare Php 1:29, 30; 2:27. History furnishes a probable clue to account for this increase of vigor. In the second year of Paul's imprisonment (A.D. 62), Burrus, the Prætorian Prefect, to whose custody he had been committed (Ac 28:16, "the captain of the guard"), died; and Nero the emperor having divorced Octavia, and married Poppoea, a Jewish proselytess (who then caused her rival, Octavia, to be murdered, and gloated over the head of her victim), exalted Tigellinus, the chief promoter of the marriage, a monster of wickedness, to the Prætorian Prefecture. It was then he seems to have been removed from his own house into the Prætorium, or barrack of the Prætorian guards, attached to the palace, for stricter custody; and hence he writes with less hopeful anticipations as to the result of his trial (Php 2:17; 3:11). Some of the Prætorian guards who had the custody of him before, would then naturally make known his "bonds," in accordance with Php 1:13; from the smaller Prætorian bodyguard at the palace the report would spread to the general permanent Prætorian camp, which Tiberius had established north of the city, outside of the walls. He had arrived in Rome, February, 61; the "two whole years (Ac 20:30) in his own hired house" ended February, 63, so that the date of this Epistle, written shortly after, evidently while the danger was imminent, would be about spring or summer, 63. The providence of God averted the danger. He probably was thought beneath the notice of Tigellinus, who was more intent on court intrigues. The death of Nero's favorite, Pallas, the brother of Felix, this same year, also took out of the way another source of danger.
The STYLE is abrupt and discontinuous, his fervor of affection leading him to pass rapidly from one theme to another (Php 2:18, 19-24, 25-30; 3:1, 2, 3, 4-14, 15). In no Epistle does he use so warm expressions of love. In Php 4:1 he seems at a loss for words sufficient to express all the extent and ardor of his affection for the Philippians: "My brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved." The mention of bishops and deacons in Php 1:1 is due to the late date of the Epistle, at a time when the Church had begun to assume that order which is laid down in the Pastoral Epistles, and which continued the prevalent one in the first and purest age of the Church.
Php 1:1-30. Inscription. Thanksgiving and Prayers for the Flourishing Spiritual State of the Philippians. His Own State at Rome, and the Result of His Imprisonment in Spreading the Gospel. Exhortation to Christian Consistency.
1. Timotheus—mentioned as being well known to the Philippians (Ac 16:3, 10-12), and now present with Paul. Not that Timothy had any share in writing the Epistle; for Paul presently uses the first person singular, "I," not "we" (Php 1:3). The mention of his name implies merely that Timothy joined in affectionate remembrances to them.
servants of Jesus Christ—The oldest manuscripts read the order, "Christ Jesus." Paul does not call himself "an apostle," as in the inscriptions of other Epistles; for the Philippians needed not to be reminded of his apostolic authority. He writes rather in a tone of affectionate familiarity.
all—so Php 1:4, 7, 8, 25; Php 2:17, 26. It implies comprehensive affection which desired not to forget any one among them "all."
bishops—synonymous with "presbyters" in the apostolical churches; as appears from the same persons being called "elders of the Church" at Ephesus (Ac 20:17), and "overseers" (Ac 20:28), Greek, "bishops." And Tit 1:5, compare with Php 1:7. This is the earliest letter of Paul where bishops and deacons are mentioned, and the only one where they are separately addressed in the salutation. This accords with the probable course of events, deduced alike from the letters and history. While the apostles were constantly visiting the churches in person or by messengers, regular pastors would be less needed; but when some were removed by various causes, provision for the permanent order of the churches would be needed. Hence the three pastoral letters, subsequent to this Epistle, give instruction as to the due appointment of bishops and deacons. It agrees with this new want of the Church, when other apostles were dead or far away, and Paul long in prison, that bishops and deacons should be prominent for the first time in the opening salutation. The Spirit thus intimated that the churches were to look up to their own pastors, now that the miraculous gifts were passing into God's ordinary providence, and the presence of the inspired apostles, the dispensers of those gifts, was to be withdrawn [Paley, "Horæ Paulinæ]. "Presbyter," implied the rank; "bishop," the duties of the office [Neander]. Naturally, when the apostles who had the chief supervision were no more, one among the presbyters presided and received the name "bishop," in the more restricted and modern sense; just as in the Jewish synagogue one of the elders presided as "ruler of the synagogue." Observe, the apostle addresses the Church (that is, the congregation) more directly than its presiding ministers (Col 4:17; 1Th 5:12; Heb 13:24; Re 1:4, 11). The bishops managed more the internal, the deacons the external, affairs of the Church. The plural number shows there was more than one bishop or presbyter, and more than one deacon in the Church at Philippi.
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Grace … peace—The very form of this salutation implies the union of Jew, Greek, and Roman. The Greek salutation was "joy" (chairein), akin to the Greek for "grace" (charis). The Roman was "health," the intermediate term between grace and peace. The Hebrew was "peace," including both temporal and spiritual prosperity. Grace must come first if we are to have true peace.
from … from—Omit the second "from": as in the Greek, "God our Father" and "the Lord Jesus Christ," are most closely connected.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
3. Translate, "In all my remembrance of you."
Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
4. making request—Translate, "making my request."
for you all—The frequent repetition in this Epistle of "all" with "you," marks that Paul desires to declare his love for all alike, and will not recognize any divisions among them.
with joy—the characteristic feature in this Epistle, as love is in that to the Ephesians (compare Php 1:18; Php 2:2, 19, 28; 3:1; 4:1, 4). Love and joy are the two first-fruits of the Spirit. Joy gives especial animation to prayers. It marked his high opinion of them, that there was almost everything in them to give him joy, and almost nothing to give him pain.
For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;
5. Ground of his "thanking God" (Php 1:3): "For your (continued) fellowship (that is, real spiritual participation) in (literally, 'in regard to') the Gospel from the first day (of your becoming partakers in it) until now." Believers have the fellowship of the Son of God (1Co 1:9) and of the Father (1Jo 1:3) in the Gospel, by becoming partakers of "the fellowship of the Holy Ghost" (2Co 13:14), and exercise that fellowship by acts of communion, not only the communion of the Lord's Supper, but holy liberality to brethren and ministers (Php 4:10, 15, "communicated … concerning giving"; 2Co 9:13; Ga 6:6; Heb 13:16, "To communicate forget not").
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
6. confident—This confidence nerves prayers and thanksgivings (Php 1:3, 4).
this very thing—the very thing which he prays for (Php 1:4) is the matter of his believing confidence (Mr 11:24; 1Jo 5:14, 15). Hence the result is sure.
he which hath begun—God (Php 2:13).
a good work—Any work that God begins, He will surely finish (1Sa 3:12). Not even men begin a work at random. Much more the fact of His beginning the work is a pledge of its completion (Isa 26:12). So as to the particular work here meant, the perfecting of their fellowship in the Gospel (Php 1:5; Ps 37:24; 89:33; 138:8; Joh 10:28, 29; Ro 8:29, 35-39; 11:1, 2 Heb 6:17-19; Jas 1:17; Jude 24). As God cast not off Israel for ever, though chastening them for a time, so He will not cast off the spiritual Israel (De 33:3; Isa 27:3; 1Pe 1:5).
perform it until—"perfect it up to" [Alford, Ellicott, and others].
the day of … Christ—(Php 1:10). The Lord's coming, designed by God in every age of the Church to be regarded as near, is to be the goal set before believers' minds rather than their own death.
Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
7. meet—Greek, "just."
to think this—to have the prayerful confidence I expressed (Php 1:4-6).
of you—literally, "in behalf of you." Paul's confident prayer in their behalf was that God would perfect His own good work of grace in them.
because, &c.—Punctuate and translate, "Because I have you in my heart (so Php 1:8; otherwise the Greek and the words immediately following in the verse, favor the Margin, 'Ye have me in your heart … being partakers of my grace') (both, in my bonds, and in my defense and confirmation of the Gospel), you (I say) all being fellow partakers of my grace." This last clause thus assigns the reason why he has them in his heart (that is, cherished in his love, 2Co 3:2; 7:3), even in his bonds, and in his defense and confirmation of the Gospel (such as he was constantly making in private, Ac 28:17-23; his self-defense and confirmation of the Gospel being necessarily conjoined, as the Greek implies; compare Php 1:17), namely, "inasmuch as ye are fellow partakers of my grace": inasmuch as ye share with me in "the fellowship of the Gospel" (Php 1:5), and have manifested this, both by suffering as I do for the Gospel's sake (Php 1:28-30), and by imparting to me of your substance (Php 4:15). It is natural and right for me thus confidently to pray in your behalf. (Ellicott, and others translate, "To be thus minded for you all"), because of my having you in my warmest remembrances even in my bonds, since you are sharers with me in the Gospel grace. Bonds do not bind love.
For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
8. Confirmation of Php 1:7.
record—that is, witness.
in the bowels of Jesus Christ—"Christ Jesus" is the order in the oldest manuscripts. My yearning love (so the Greek implies) to you is not merely from natural affection, but from devotedness to Christ Jesus. "Not Paul, but Jesus Christ lives in Paul; wherefore Paul is not moved in the bowels (that is, the tender love, Jer 31:20) of Paul, but of Jesus Christ" [Bengel]. All real spiritual love is but a portion of Christ's love which yearns in all who are united to Him [Alford].
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
9. The subject of his prayer for them (Php 1:4).
your love—to Christ, producing love not only to Paul, Christ's minister, as it did, but also to one another, which it did not altogether as much as it ought (Php 2:2; 4:2).
knowledge—of doctrinal and practical truth.
judgment—rather, "perception"; "perceptive sense." Spiritual perceptiveness: spiritual sight, spiritual hearing, spiritual feeling, spiritual taste. Christianity is a vigorous plant, not the hotbed growth of enthusiasm. "Knowledge" and "perception" guard love from being ill-judged.
That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
10. Literally, "With a view to your proving (and so approving and embracing) the things that excel" (Ro 2:18); not merely things not bad, but the things best among those that are good; the things of more advanced excellence. Ask as to things, not merely, Is there no harm, but is there any good, and which is the best?
sincere—from a Greek root. Examined in the sunlight and found pure.
without offence—not stumbling; running the Christian race without falling through any stumbling-block, that is, temptation, in your way.
till—rather, "unto," "against"; so that when the day of Christ comes, ye may be found pure and without offense.
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
11. The oldest manuscripts read the singular, "fruit." So Ga 5:22 (see on Ga 5:22); regarding the works of righteousness, however manifold, as one harmonious whole, "the fruit of the Spirit" (Eph 5:9) Jas 3:18, "the fruit of righteousness" (Heb 12:11); Ro 6:22, "fruit unto holiness."
which are—"which is by (Greek, 'through') Jesus Christ." Through His sending to us the Spirit from the Father. "We are wild and useless olive trees till we are grafted into Christ, who, by His living root, makes us fruit-bearing branches" [Calvin].
But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
12. understand—Greek, "know." The Philippians probably had feared that his imprisonment would hinder the spread of the Gospel; he therefore removes this fear.
the things which happened unto me—Greek, "the things concerning me."
rather—so far is my imprisonment from hindering the Gospel. Faith takes in a favorable light even what seems adverse [Bengel] (Php 1:19, 28; Php 2:17).
So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;
13. my bonds in Christ—rather as Greek, "So that my bonds have become manifest in Christ," that is, known, as endured in Christ's cause.
palace—literally, "Prætorium," that is, the barrack of the Prætorian guards attached to the palace of Nero, on the Palatine hill at Rome; not the general Prætorian camp outside of the city; for this was not connected with "Cæsar's household," which Php 4:22 shows the Prætorium here meant was. The emperor was "Prætor," or Commander-in-Chief; naturally then the barrack of his bodyguard was called the Prætorium. Paul seems now not to have been at large in his own hired house, though chained to a soldier, as in Ac 28:16, 20, 30, 31, but in strict custody in the Prætorium; a change which probably took place on Tigellinus becoming Prætorian Prefect. See Introduction.
in all other places—so Chrysostom. Or else, "TO all the rest," that is, "manifest to all the other" Prætorian soldiers stationed elsewhere, through the instrumentality of the Prætorian household guards who might for the time be attached to the emperor's palace, and who relieved one another in succession. Paul had been now upwards of two years a prisoner, so that there was time for his cause and the Gospel having become widely known at Rome.
And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
14. Translate as Greek, "And that (Php 1:13) most of the brethren in the Lord," &c. "In the Lord," distinguishes them from "brethren after the flesh," Jewish fellow countrymen. Ellicott translates, "Trusting in the Lord."
by my bonds—encouraged by my patience in bearing my bonds.
much more bold—Translate as Greek, "are more abundantly bold."
Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
15. "Some indeed are preaching Christ even for envy, that is, to carry out the envy which they felt towards Paul, on account of the success of the Gospel in the capital of the world, owing to his steadfastness in his imprisonment; they wished through envy to transfer the credit of its progress from him to themselves. Probably Judaizing teachers (Ro 14:1-23; 1Co 3:10-15; 9:1, &c.; 2Co 11:1-4).
some also of—rather, "for"
good will—answering to "the brethren" (Php 1:14); some being well disposed to him.
The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
16, 17. The oldest manuscripts transpose these verses, and read, "These (last) indeed out of love (to Christ and me), knowing (the opposite of 'thinking' below) that I am set (that is, appointed by God, 1Th 3:3) for the defense of the Gospel (Php 1:7, not on my own account). But the others out of contention (or rather, 'a factious spirit'; 'cabal'; a spirit of intrigue, using unscrupulous means to compass their end; 'self-seeking' [Alford]) proclaim (the Greek is not the same as that for 'preach,' but, 'announce') Christ, not sincerely (answering to 'but of a spirit of intrigue,' or 'self-seeking'). Literally, 'not purely'; not with a pure intention; the Jewish leaven they tried to introduce was in order to glorify themselves (Ga 6:12, 13; however, see on Php 1:18), thinking (but in vain) to raise up (so the oldest manuscripts read) tribulation to my bonds." Their thought was, that taking the opportunity of my being laid aside, they would exalt themselves by their Judaizing preaching, and depreciate me and my preaching, and so cause me trouble of spirit in my bonds; they thought that I, like themselves, sought my own glory, and so would be mortified at their success over mine. But they are utterly mistaken; "I rejoice" at it (Php 1:18), so far am I from being troubled at it.
But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
18. What follows from this? Does this trouble me as they thought it would? "Notwithstanding" their unkind thought to me, and self-seeking intention, the cause I have at heart is furthered "every way" of preaching, "whether in pretense (with a by motive, Php 1:16) or in truth (out of true 'love' to Christ, Php 1:17), Christ is proclaimed; and therein I do rejoice, yea, and I will rejoice." From this it would seem that these self-seeking teachers in the main "proclaimed Christ," not "another Gospel," such as the Judaizers in Galatia taught (Ga 1:6-8); though probably having some of the Jewish leaven (see on Php 1:15,16), their chief error was their self-seeking envious motive, not so much error of doctrine; had there been vital error, Paul would not have rejoiced. The proclamation of Christ," however done, roused attention, and so was sure to be of service. Paul could thus rejoice at the good result of their bad intentions (Ps 76:10; Isa 10:5, 7).
For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
19. turn to my salvation—"turn out to me for, (or unto) salvation." This proclamation of Christ every way will turn out to my spiritual good. Christ, whose interests are my interests, being glorified thereby; and so the coming of His kingdom being furthered, which, when it does come, will bring completed "SALVATION" (Heb 9:28) to me and all whose "earnest expectation" (Php 1:20) is that Christ may be magnified in them. So far is their preaching from causing me, as they thought, tribulation in my bonds (Php 1:16). Paul plainly quotes and applies to himself the very words of the Septuagint (Job 13:16), "This shall turn out to my salvation," which belong to all God's people of every age, in their tribulation (compare Job 13:15).
through your prayer and the supply—The Greek intimately joins the two nouns together, by having but one preposition and one article: "Through your prayer and (the consequent) supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (obtained for me through your prayer)."
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
20. According to my earnest expectation—The Greek expresses, "expectation with uplifted head (Lu 21:28) and outstretched neck." Ro 8:19 is the only other place in the New Testament that the word occurs. Tittmann says, in both places it implies not mere expectation, but the anxious desire of an anticipated prosperous issue in afflictive circumstances. The subject of his earnest expectation which follows, answers to "my salvation" (Php 1:19).
in nothing I shall be ashamed—in nothing have reason to be ashamed of "my work for God, or His work in me" [Alford]. Or, "in nothing be disappointed in my hope, but that I may fully obtain it" [Estius]. So "ashamed" is used in Ro 9:33.
all boldness—"all" is opposed to "in nothing," as "boldness" is the opposite to "ashamed."
so now also—when "my body" is "in bonds" (Php 1:17).
Christ—not Paul, "shall be magnified."
life, or by death—Whatever be the issue, I cannot lose; I must be the gainer by the event. Paul was not omniscient; in the issue of things pertaining to themselves, the apostles underwent the same probation of faith and patience as we.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
21. For—in either event (Php 1:20) I must be the gainer, "For to me," &c.
to live is Christ—whatever life, time, and strength, I have, is Christ's; Christ is the sole object for which I live (Ga 2:20).
to die is gain—not the act of dying, but as the Greek ("to have died") expresses, the state after death. Besides the glorification of Christ by my death, which is my primary object (Php 1:20), the change of state caused by death, so far from being a matter of shame (Php 1:20) or loss, as my enemies suppose, will be a positive "gain" to me.
But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
22. Rather as Greek, "But if to live in the flesh (if), this (I say, the continuance in life which I am undervaluing) be the fruit of my labor (that is, be the condition in which the fruit of my ministerial labor is involved), then what I shall choose I know not (I cannot determine with myself, if the choice were given me, both alternatives being great goods alike)." So Alford and Ellicott. Bengel takes it as English Version, which the Greek will bear by supposing an ellipsis, "If to live in the flesh (be my portion), this (continuing to live) is the fruit of my labor," that is, this continuance in life will be the occasion of my bringing in "the fruit of labor," that is, will be the occasion of "labors" which are their own "fruit" or reward; or, this my continuing "to live" will have this "fruit," namely, "labors" for Christ. Grotius explains "the fruit of labor" as an idiom for "worthwhile"; If I live in the flesh, this is worth my while, for thus Christ's interest will be advanced, "For to me to live is Christ" (Php 1:21; compare Php 2:30; Ro 1:13). The second alternative, namely, dying, is taken up and handled, Php 2:17, "If I be offered."
For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
23. For—The oldest manuscripts read, "But." "I know not (Php 1:22), BUT am in a strait (am perplexed) betwixt the two (namely, 'to live' and 'to die'), having the desire for departing (literally, 'to loose anchor,' 2Ti 4:6) and being with Christ; FOR (so the oldest manuscripts) it is by far better"; or as the Greek, more forcibly, "by far the more preferable"; a double comparative. This refutes the notion of the soul being dormant during its separation from the body. It also shows that, while he regarded the Lord's advent as at all times near, yet that his death before it was a very possible contingency. The partial life eternal is in the interval between death and Christ's second advent; the perfectional, at that advent [Bishop Pearson]. To depart is better than to remain in the flesh; to be with Christ is far, far better; a New Testament hope (Heb 12:24), [Bengel].
Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
24. to abide—to continue somewhat longer.
for you—Greek, "on your account"; "for your sake." In order to be of service to you, I am willing to forego my entrance a little sooner into blessedness; heaven will not fail to be mine at last.
And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;
25. Translate, "And being confident of this."
I know, &c.—by prophetical intimations of the Spirit. He did not yet know the issue, as far as human appearances were concerned (Php 2:23). He doubtless returned from his first captivity to Philippi (Heb 13:19; Phm 22).
joy of faith—Greek, "joy in your faith."
That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.
26. Translate, "That your matter of glorying (or rejoicing) may abound in Christ Jesus in me (that is, in my case; in respect to me, or for me who have been granted to your prayers, Php 1:19) through my presence again among you." Alford makes the "matter of glorying," the possession of the Gospel, received from Paul, which would abound, be assured and increased, by his presence among them; thus, "in me," implies that Paul is the worker of the material of abounding in Christ Jesus. But "my rejoicing over you" (Php 2:16), answers plainly to "your rejoicing in respect to me" here.
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
27. Only—Whatever happens as to my coming to you, or not, make this your one only care. By supposing this or that future contingency, many persuade themselves they will be such as they ought to be, but it is better always without evasion to perform present duties under present circumstances [Bengel].
let your conversation be—(Compare Php 3:20). The Greek implies, "Let your walk as citizens (namely, of the heavenly state; 'the city of the living God,' Heb 12:22, 'the heavenly Jerusalem,' 'fellow citizens of the saints,' Eph 2:19) be," &c.
I … see … hear—so Php 1:30. "Hear," in order to include both alternatives, must include the meaning know.
your affairs—your state.
in one spirit—the fruit of partaking of the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:3, 4).
with one mind—rather as Greek, "soul," the sphere of the affections; subordinate to the "Spirit," man's higher and heavenly nature. "There is sometimes natural antipathies among believers; but these are overcome, when there is not only unity of spirit, but also of soul" [Bengel].
striving together—with united effort.
And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
28. terrified—literally, said of horses or other animals startled or suddenly scared; so of sudden consternation in general.
which—your not being terrified.
evident token of perdition—if they would only perceive it (2Th 1:5). It attests this, that in contending hopelessly against you, they are only rushing on to their own perdition, not shaking your united faith and constancy.
to you of salvation—The oldest manuscripts read, "of your salvation"; not merely your temporal safety.
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
29. For—rather, a proof that this is an evident token from God of your salvation, "Because," &c.
it is given—Greek, "it has been granted as a favor," or "gift of grace." Faith is the gift of God (Eph 2:8), not wrought in the soul by the will of man, but by the Holy Ghost (Joh 1:12, 13).
believe on him—"To believe Him," would merely mean to believe He speaks the truth. "To believe on Him," is to believe in, and trust through, Him to obtain eternal salvation. Suffering for Christ is not only not a mark of God's anger, but a gift of His grace.
Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
30. ye saw in me—(Ac 16:12, 19, &c.; 1Th 2:2). I am "in nothing terrified by mine adversaries" (Php 1:29), so ought not ye. The words here, "ye saw … and … hear," answer to "I come and see you, or else … hear" (Php 1:27).