Philippians 2:27
For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
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(27) God had mercy on him . . . and on me also.—The passage, over and above its interest as an example of the strong personal affection which belonged to St. Paul’s nature, and harmonised with his wide scope of Christian love, is notable as showing clearly that the Apostle’s power of miracle, great as it was, was not his own, to use at his own will. When it was needed to be “the sign of an Apostle” (2Corinthians 13:12) it was given; and at special times, as at Ephesus, it was given in “special” fulness (Acts 19:11). As we note, both in the Old Testament and in the New, special epochs of miracles in the history of the Church; so it would seem there were special occasions on which miracle came out prominently in the Apostle’s preaching. We may, perhaps, infer from certain points in the descriptions of the healing of the cripple at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:4), and at Lystra (Acts 14:8) that some spiritual intimation warned them when the hour of miracle was come. But an Apostle could not, as our Lord would not, work miracles for his own needs. Thus in this case, deeply as he sorrowed for Epaphroditus, there is no hint of his exercising that power on his behalf. He could only pray that God would have mercy on him, and thank God when that prayer was heard.

Sorrow upon sorrow.—That is, probably, upon the sorrow of captivity the sorrow of losing one who had (see Philippians 2:30) risked his life in the ardour of service to the captive.

2:19-30 It is best with us, when our duty becomes natural to us. Naturally, that is, sincerely, and not in pretence only; with a willing heart and upright views. We are apt to prefer our own credit, ease, and safety, before truth, holiness, and duty; but Timothy did not so. Paul desired liberty, not that he might take pleasure, but that he might do good. Epaphroditus was willing to go to the Philippians, that he might be comforted with those who had sorrowed for him when he was sick. It seems, his illness was caused by the work of God. The apostle urges them to love him the more on that account. It is doubly pleasant to have our mercies restored by God, after great danger of their removal; and this should make them more valued. What is given in answer to prayer, should be received with great thankfulness and joy.For indeed he was sick nigh unto death - Dr. Paley has remarked (Hor. Paul. on Phil no. ii.) that the account of the sickness and recovery of Epaphroditus is such as to lead us to suppose that he was not restored by miracle; and he infers that the power of healing the sick was conferred on the apostles only occasionally, and did not depend at all on their will, since, if it had, there is every reason to suppose that Paul would at once have restored him to health. This account, he adds, shows also that this Epistle is not the work of an impostor. Had it been, a miracle would not have been spared. Paul would not have been introduced as showing such anxiety about a friend lying at the point of death, and as being unable to restore him. It would have been said that he interposed at once, and raised him up to health.

But God had mercy on him - By restoring him to health evidently not by miracle, but by the use of ordinary means.

On me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow - In addition to all the sorrows of imprisonment, and the prospect of a trial, and the want of friends. The sources of his sorrow, had Epaphroditus died, would have been such as these:

(1) He would have lost a valued friend, and one whom he esteemed as a brother and worthy fellow-laborer.

(2) He would have felt that the church at Philippi had lost a valuable member.

(3) his grief might have been aggravated from the consideration that his life had been lost in endeavoring to do him good. He would have felt that he was the occasion, though innocent, of his exposure to danger.

27. Epaphroditus' sickness proves that the apostles had not ordinarily the permanent gift of miracles, any more than of inspiration: both were vouchsafed to them only for each particular occasion, as the Spirit thought fit.

lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow—namely, the sorrow of losing him by death, in addition to the sorrow of my imprisonment. Here only occurs anything of a sorrowful tone in this Epistle, which generally is most joyous.

For indeed he was sick nigh unto death; by reason he was really taken with such a disease, as in its own nature was mortal, and in its tendency brought him even to death’s door, as Isaiah 38:1.

But God had mercy on him; but God, who is the great Physician, and unto whom it belongs to show mercy unto those who address to him, (without whom bodily physicians can do nothing), by compassionating of him in his misery, was pleased to restore him to health, as 2 Kings 20:5,6. But if any say: Would it not have been great mercy to have taken him from the miseries of this life, which are here prolonged? Consider Philippians 1:21. It may be answered:

1. Death itself, as it is a privation of life, and opposite to nature, was not desirable by Paul any more than by our Saviour, but might be looked upon as a kind of misery, not to be preferred to life looked upon in itself, but with respect to another, viz. as it is a passage to eternal life; so it is desirable for that life into which it leads the godly, and so is to be preferred to the miserable condition of this life. Paul speaks here of mercy respecting the former, considering that this life itself is a favour of God, for the service of him, and our neighbour. Further:

2. God’s mercy here respects not only the grievous sickness of Epaphroditus, but the joint affliction that the loss of him would be both to the Philippians and to Paul, in thus juncture, as we may see from what follows.

And not on him only, but on me also; what power had Paul for working of miracles, was chiefly to convince infidels, and he could only exert it when God saw good for his own glory. Therefore he magnifies God’s mercy here in a more ordinary way, as a return to prayer, when he was so afflicted for his colleague’s illness; being upon an office of kindness and compassion, his loss would be in its tendency a ground of so much sorrow to the church, as well as to himself.

Lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow; his Christianity had not extinguished his natural affections, but if the church had then been bereft of Epaphroditus, it would have added the affliction for his loss to his affliction by his suffering for Christ, it would have doubled his affliction, (yet somewhat in a different sense from that, Philippians 1:16), it being an ill temper not to be grieved for the affliction of the church, Amos 6:6; yet all our affections are to be moderated according to the will of God.

For indeed he was sick nigh unto death,.... It was not a mere rumour, or a false alarm, but was real matter of fact; and it was not a light disorder, a slight indisposition, but a very dangerous illness; though the sickness was not unto death, yet near it. Good men, such as Christ loves, as he did Lazarus, are sometimes sick; though their spiritual diseases are healed, and their sins forgiven, so that the inhabitants of Zion have no more reason to say that they are sick, since Christ has took their infirmities, and bore their sickness, yet they are not exempt from bodily disorders; and which are sometimes such as bring them to the brink of the grave, and, as it were, to the gates of death; and such was this good man's case:

but God had mercy on him: his disorder was such as was out of the reach of man; his recovery was not by man, but by God, and owing to his power, mercy, and goodness; and indeed, whenever means are made rise of, and they succeed to the restoration of health, it ought to be ascribed to the divine blessing on them. The raising up of this man is reckoned as an instance of mercy to him; as it was the removing of a grievous affliction, a return of him to his delightful work of the ministry, and the continuation of an useful life for the good of others; and so a mercy to him, and to the churches of Christ, and to the apostle also: who adds,

and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow: one affliction added to another; the death of this brother of his to his bonds: moreover the sickness of this companion of his filled him with sorrow: and had he died, it would have greatly increased it, and which would have had a fresh addition by the loss this church would sustain, and the grief and trouble they would be overwhelmed with: grace, and the doctrine of grace, though they regulate the passions, and restrain them from immoderate sorrow, they do not destroy them, nor deny the proper use of them. Christianity does not countenance a stoical apathy, but requires and encourages a Christian sympathy, and directs us to weep with them that weep within due bounds.

For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
Php 2:27. Confirmation of that ἠκούσατε, ὅτι ἠσθ.

καὶ γὰρ κ.τ.λ.] for he has also (really, see Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 132; Baeumlein, p. 150) been sick.

παραπλ. θανάτῳ] adds the specification of the mode: in a way almost equivalent to death. There is neither an ellipsis (de Wette: ἀφίκετο or some such word is to be understood before παραπλ.; comp. van Hengel) nor a solecism (van Hengel); παραπλ. is adverbial (equivalent to παραπλησίως, see Polyb. iv. 40. 10, iii. 33. 17; Lucian, Cyn. 17; comp. παραπλησιαίτερον, Plat. Polit. p. 275 C), and the dativus congruentiae (instead of which the genitive might also have been used, Bernhardy, p. 148) is governed by it.

λύπην ἐπὶ λύπην] grief upon grief (superadded). LXX. Ezra 7:26; Psalm 68:28; Isaiah 28:10. Comp. expressions with the dative (as Sir 26:15) in classic Greek, e.g. ὄγχνη ἐπὶ ὄγχνῃ (Hom. Od. vii. 120), ἐσλὰ ἐπʼ ἐσλοῖς (Pind. Ol. viii. 84), φόνος ἐπὶ φόνῳ (Eur. Iph. T. 197); Polyb. i. 57. 1. See also Eur. Hec. 586: λύπη τις ἄλλη διάδοχος κακῶν κακοῖς, Soph. El. 235: ἄταν ἄταις, Eur. Troad. 175: ἐπʼ ἄλγεσι δʼ ἀλγυνθῶ. The first λύπην refers to the dreaded death of his friend; the second, to the apostle’s affliction over the painful position in which he found himself, as a prisoner, and also through the doings of the adversaries (Php 2:20 f., Php 1:15; Php 1:17; Php 1:30), not over the sickness of Epaphroditus (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Erasmus, Estius, and others, also Weiss), to which would be added that for his death. Ἀλυπότερος in Php 2:28 is fatal to the latter view, for it appears that, even after Epaphr. had been sent away, a λύπη still remained, which, therefore, could not be referred to the latter’s sickness. Van Hengel errs in understanding the affliction as pain concerning this sickness, and the first λύπην as “cogitatio anxietatis vestrae.” See, in opposition, on Php 2:28. Calvin’s remark suffices to justify the double λύπη: “Non jactat Stoicorum ἀπάθειαν, quasi ferreus esset et immunis ab humanis affectibus.” Comp. John 11:35 f.

σχῶ] not optative. See Winer, p. 270 [E. T. p. 359].

Php 2:27. καὶ γὰρ κ.τ.λ. “For truly he was sick,” etc., καὶ intensifying the force of ἠσθέν.—θαν. The more common construction of παραπλ., backed by a preponderating weight of authority, favours the dative. The endings -ου and -ω were frequently interchanged in the MSS. (see Ws[9]. TK[10]., p. 18).—λύπην ἐπὶ λύπην. The reading λύπῃ is merely a simplifying of the construction. The accusative must be read. The usage is practically = ἐπί with dative. It denotes the heaping up of one thing upon another with the notion of addition predominant. Cf. Matthew 24:2, οὐ μὴ ἀφεθῇ λίθος ἐπὶ λίθον; Isaiah 28:10, θλίψιν ἐπὶ θλίψιν προσδέχου; Ps. Song of Solomon 3:7, οὐκ αὐλίζεται ἐν οἴκῳ δικαίου ἁμαρτία ἐφʼ ἁμαρτίαν. See Buttm., Gram., p. 338.—σχῶ. Equiv. to our “get”. This is the force of the aorist.

[9] . Weiss.

[10] . extkritik d. paulin. Briefe (Weiss)

27. For indeed, &c.] Epaphroditus would have made light of the illness; St Paul assures them that the report was seriously true, and that the illness had a generous origin.

he was] He has been.

God had mercy on him] Though for him also “to die” would have been “gain” (Php 1:21), yet death in itself is a dark passage, even to the Christian (see John 21:18; and 2 Corinthians 5:4). And meanwhile great are the joys of service on the pilgrimage, and deep their connexion with the coming joys of the heavenly country. “Those who are departed this life,” says St Chrysostom here, “can no longer win souls.” But perhaps the immediate thought is simply that death would have bereaved the Philippians of their friend, to whose loving heart it was thus “a mercy,” for their sakes, to recover.

on me also] Here, as so often in St Paul, a heart glowing with holy and generous affection expresses itself in a recognition of the importance of his friends to him. See e.g. Romans 16:4.

sorrow upon sorrow] A sore bereavement would have been added to the grief caused him by the “brethren” of Php 1:15-16, and to the pervading grief of his separation by imprisonment from so many beloved friends.—Observe the perfect naturalness of his language. He abides in “the peace of God”; he “has strength for all things” (Php 4:7; Php 4:13). But that peace is no frost, or torpor, of the heart; that strength is not hardness. He is released from embitterment and from murmurs, but every sensibility is refined by that very fact. It was so with his Lord before him; John 11:33; John 11:35; John 11:38.

This passage among others (e.g. 2 Timothy 4:20) shews that the mysterious “gift of healing,” used by St Paul at Melita (Acts 28:8), was not at the absolute disposal of even the faith of its recipient.

Php 2:27. Παραπλήσιον, near) He speaks (at first) rather mildly, lest he should at once terrify the Philippians: then Php 2:30, he says, ἤγγισεν, he drew (was) nigh unto, and by this verb greater danger is indicated.—αὐτὸν ἠλέησεν, had mercy on him) by restoring health and life.—καὶ ἐμὲ, and on me) The saints were allowed to consider all things as given to them.—λύπην, sorrow) for the death of Epaphroditus—sorrow, opposed to the ‘joy,’ of which the whole epistle treats.—ἐπὶ λύπῃ, on sorrow) for the sickness of Epaphroditus, for his own bonds, etc.

Verse 27. - For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. St. Paul recognizes the thankfulness of Epaphroditus for the recovery of his health: he shares that thankfulness himself. Mark his human sympathies; he had a "desire to depart," but he rejoices in the recovery of his friend. St. Paul does not seem to have healed Epaphroditus. The power of working miracles, like that of foreseeing the future (comp. Philippians 1:25, and note), was not, it seems, continuous; both were exercised only in accordance with the revealed will of God and on occasions of especial moment. Philippians 2:27Sorrow upon sorrow (λύπην ἐπὶ λύπην)

The accusative implies motion. Sorrow coming upon sorrow, as wave after wave.

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