Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)factiousness (the word used in Philippians 1:17), or “vainglory”—nothing, that is, with the desire either of personal influence or of personal glory. “For,” he adds, “each will esteem other better than himself,” or, rather, will hold that his neighbour is worthy of higher consideration and a higher place of dignity than himself (comp. the use of the word in Romans 13:1; 1Peter 2:13, of temporal dignity); for the idea is of the ascription to others, not of moral superiority, but of higher place and honour. Self-assertion will be entirely overborne. So he teaches us elsewhere that “charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own” (1Corinthians 13:4-5).Php 2:3-4. Let nothing be done among you through strife — A spirit of contradiction or contention, which is inconsistent with your being like- minded; or vain glory — Desire of praise; wishing to draw the eyes of others upon you, and to make yourselves the subjects of discourse and admiration which is directly opposite to the love of God: but in lowliness of mind — In unaffected simplicity and humility; let each esteem other better than themselves — Which, on one account or another, you may know almost every one to be; being better acquainted with your own sins, weaknesses, and defects, than you are with those of any others. “The apostle does not mean that we should reckon every person, without distinction, superior to ourselves in natural talents, acquired gifts, or even in goodness; but that we should, by an humble behaviour, acknowledge the superiority of those who are above us in station or office; or who, we are sensible, excel us in gifts and graces. For general expressions are always to be limited by the nature of the subject to which they are applied. Besides, we cannot suppose that the apostle requires us to judge falsely, either of ourselves or others.” — Macknight. Look not every man on his own things — Only, so as to regard merely his own convenience and interest; but every man also on the things of others — Being concerned for their welfare, both temporal and spiritual.2 Corinthians 9:2-4.
Or vain glory - The word used here - κενοδοξία kenodoxia occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, though the adjective - κενόδοξος kenodoxos - occurs once in Galatians 5:26; see the notes at that place. It means properly empty pride, or glory, and is descriptive of vain and hollow parade and show. Suidas renders it, "any vain opinion about oneself" - ματαία τις περὶ ἑαυτου οἴησις mataia tis peri eautou oiēsis. The idea seems to be that of mere self-esteem; a mere desire to honor ourselves, to attract attention, to win praise, to make ourselves uppermost, or foremost, or the main object. The command here solemnly forbids our doing anything with such an aim - no matter whether it be in intellectual attainments, in physical strength, in skill in music, in eloquence or song, in dress, furniture, or religion. Self is not to be foremost; selfishness is not to be the motive. Probably there is no command of the Bible which would have a wider sweep than this, or would touch on more points of human conduct, it fairly applied. Who is there who passes a single day without, in some respect, desiring to display himself? What minister of the gospel preaches, who never has any wish to exhibit his talents, eloquence, or learning? How few make a gesture, but with some wish to display the grace or power with which it is done! Who, in conversation, is always free from a desire to show his wit, or his power in argumentation, or his skill in repartee? Who plays at the piano without the desire of commendation? Who thunders in the senate, or goes to the field of battle; who builds a house, or purchases an article of apparel; who writes a book, or performs a deed of benevolence, altogether uninfluenced by this desire? If all could be taken out of human conduct which is performed merely from "strife," or from "vain-glory," how small a portion would be left!
But in lowliness of mind - Modesty, or humility. The word used here is the same which is rendered "humility" in Acts 20:19; Colossians 2:18, Colossians 2:23; 1 Peter 5:5; humbleness, in Colossians 3:12; and lowliness, in Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It here means humility, and it stands opposed to that pride or self-valuation which would lead us to strive for the ascendancy, or which acts from a wish for flattery, or praise. The best and the only true correction of these faults is humility. This virtue consists in estimating ourselves according to truth. It is a willingness to take the place which we ought to take in the sight of God and man; and, having the low estimate of our own importance and character which the truth about our insignificance as creatures and vileness as sinners would produce, it will lead us to a willingness to perform lowly and humble offices that we may benefit others.
Let each esteem other better than themselves - Compare 1 Peter 5:5. This is one of the effects produced by true humility, and it naturally exists in every truly modest mind. We are sensible of our own defects, but we have not the same clear view of the defects of others. We see our own hearts; we are conscious of the great corruption there; we have painful evidence of the impurity of the motives which often actuate us - of the evil thoughts and corrupt desires in our own souls; but we have not the same view of the errors, defects, and follies of others. We can see only their outward conduct; but, in our own case, we can look within. It is natural for those who have any just sense of the depravity of their own souls, charitably to hope that it is not so with others, and to believe that they have purer hearts. This will lead us to feel that they are worthy of more respect than we are. Hence, this is always the characteristic of modesty and humility - graces which the gospel is eminently suited to produce. A truly pious man will be always, therefore, an humble man, and will wish that others should be preferred in office and honor to himself. Of course, this will not make him blind to the defects of others when they are manifested; but he will be himself retiring, modest, unambitious, unobtrusive. This rule of Christianity would strike a blow at all the ambition of the world. It would rebuke the love of office and would produce universal contentment in any low condition of life where the providence of God may have cast our lot; compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 7:21.
lowliness of mind—The direct relation of this grace is to God alone; it is the sense of dependence of the creature on the Creator as such, and it places all created beings in this respect on a level. The man "lowly of mind" as to his spiritual life is independent of men, and free from all slavish feeling, while sensible of his continual dependence on God. Still it INDIRECTLY affects his behavior toward his fellow men; for, conscious of his entire dependence on God for all his abilities, even as they are dependent on God for theirs, he will not pride himself on his abilities, or exalt self in his conduct toward others (Eph 4:2; Col 3:12) [Neander].
let each esteem—Translate as Greek, "esteeming each other superior to yourselves." Instead of fixing your eyes on those points in which you excel, fix them on those in which your neighbor excels you: this is true "humility."
Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; intitnating, they should by no means indulge all inordinate affection to strive and quarrel with one another, provoking each other by an ambitious emulation to cross or excel others; this arguing a carnal temper, opposite to true Christianity, Philippians 2:14 Romans 2:8 Galatians 5:16,24,26, being the very bane of true Christian concord, Romans 13:13 Jam 3:16, and destructive to faith, John 5:44 2 Corinthians 12:20.
But in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves; but cherish and exercise true Christian modesty and meekness, (which is of another kind than that the heathen philosophers did prescribe), in a due preference of each other, Matthew 11:29 Romans 12:10 Ephesians 4:2 5:21 1 Peter 5:5; as the apostle himself gave example, 1 Corinthians 15:8,9.
Question. If any say: How is this consistent with what the apostle writes to them to think of praise and good report, Philippians 4:8, and of himself, not a whit, and nothing, behind the very chiefest apostles? 2 Corinthians 11:5 12:11; and further, how can some think others better than themselves in truth, unless they reckon good evil and evil good? I answer,
1. Be sure Christian modesty and real humility, with prudence and mildness, are very commendable graces, and in the sight of God of great price, 1 Peter 3:4. And therefore what he doth afterwards exhort to in this Epistle, doth very well agree with what he doth write here; where:
2. He is treating of grace and godliness, whereas in those places to the Corinthians he writes of some certain gifts, which, by reason of the insinuations of false apostles against him, he was necessitated, in magnifying of his apostolical office and authority, 2 Corinthians 10:8, to mention, being as it were compelled to it by the ingratitude of some of them at Corinth who had been influenced by the false apostles, 2 Corinthians 12:5,6; yet you may see there, he doth not glory of himself, or his person, but acknowledges his infirmities, 2 Corinthians 11:30, and that unfeignedly, speaking the truth every where, 2 Corinthians 12:6, which he makes evident to them from the nature of the thing itself, 2 Corinthians 10:12,13,15,16 12:12; appealing to God, as witness in the case, 2 Corinthians 11:31, referring all the glorying the, put him upon, to the grace of God through Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:10 2 Corinthians 11:31, when they had cast contempt on his ministry, 2 Corinthians 10:10-13,18. So that in respect of gifts and external privileges, wherein are distinctions of superiors and inferiors, Philippians 3:4, he doth not urge that every Christian should prefer every other to himself, wherein it is evident there is a real difference; but in respect of the persons, the honesty and piety of others in God’s sight, (lest a man, by thinking himself something when he is nothing, should deceive himself; Galatians 6:3), since in his judgment they may be endowed with some hidden quality we know not of, and be accepted with him. Hence:
3. Our estimation and preference of others to ourselves, who as Christian brethren are obliged to serve one another, Galatians 5:13, is not taken simply, and with an absolute judgment, as if it were necessary to give them the pre-eminence in all things: but, as to this, that a man may think there is some defect in himself, which it may be is not in another; or with a suspense; Perhaps he is not better in truth, but considering my heart is deceitful, and possibly he may be more without guile, I judge it not meet to prefer myself to him God-ward; but seeing mine own black legs, and being bound in love to confess mine own and cover the infirmities of my brother, who labours to walk answerably to his profession, it is safe for me to prefer him, who may have some good latent which I have not, and whereupon he is to be esteemed by me. Wherefore:
4. The right management of the duty which the apostle calls for to preserve unanimity, depends upon a right and due estimation of God’s divers gifts and graces which flow from the same Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:4, and a humble sense of our own infirmities: so that however one Christian may excel with some singular endowments, yet he ought to think they were not bestowed upon him that he should be puffed up, or value himself above what is meet upon that account before God, being he hath received them of God, 1 Corinthians 4:7, but judge himself for his own defectiveness and faultiness, which will afford himself matter of abasement and humility; when yet with respect to others, whose hearts he knows not, he in charity thinketh the best, 1 Corinthians 13:4,5; and if in this case he should be mistaken, his modest apprehensions would be acceptable to God (designing to approve that which he doth) and profitable to himself. To engage theln further unto Christian concord, he here directs them as to their aim and scope, (according to the import of the word), that it should not be their own private interest, but the common good of Christianity, becoming those who have true Christian love, 1 Corinthians 10:24 13:5; not as if he did disallow providing for their own, 1 Timothy 5:8, or studying to be quiet, and doing their own business, 1 Thessalonians 4:11; but that every member of Christ, while he considers his own gifts, graces, honour, and advantage, would remember that he is not born only to serve himself or Pharisaically to conceit well of himself in the contempt of others, Luke 18:11; but also, and that much rather, he should consider his relation to the Head, and every other member of the body, and so consult the gifts, graces, honour, and edification of others, especially when more eminently useful, knowing that members should have the same care one for another, 1 Corinthians 12:24-28.
or vain glory; for where this is predominant, persons will always be singular in their sentiments, and never relinquish them, let what reason soever be given against them; nor will they give way to the judgment of others, but right or wrong will have their own wills; Diotrephes like, loving to have the preeminence in all things, 3 John 1:9; and such persons and conduct are very injurious to the comfort and harmony of the saints:
but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves; not as to the things of the world, in respect of which one man may be a better man than another, and he must know and think himself so; nor with respect to the endowments of the mind, and acquired abilities, which one man may have above another; and the difference being so great in some, it must be easily discerned, that one is more learned and knowing, in this or the other language, art, or science; but with regard to, grace, and to spiritual light, knowledge, and judgment: and where there is lowliness of mind, or true humility, a person will esteem himself in a state of grace, as the great apostle did, the chief of sinners, and less than the least of all saints; one in whom this grace reigns will pay a deference to the judgment of other saints, and will prefer their experience, light, and knowledge, to his own; and will readily give way, when he sees such that are of longer standing, of greater experience, and more solid judgment, as he has reason to think, than himself, are on the other side of the question; and so peace, love, and unity, are preserved. This grace of humility is an excellent ornament to a Christian, and wonderfully useful in Christian societies.Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Php 2:3 f. Μηδὲν κατὰ ἐριθ. ἤ κενοδοξ.] sc. φρονοῦντες (not ποιοῦντες, Erasmus, Luther, Beza, Camerarius, Storr, am Ende, Rheinwald, Flatt, van Hengel, and others); so that, accordingly, what was excluded by the previous requirement τὸ αὐτὸ φρονῆτε … φρονοῦντες, is here described. To take, as in Galatians 5:13, μηδεὶν … κενοδοξίαν as a prohibition by itself, without dependence on φρονοῦντες (see on Gal. l.c.), as J. B. Lightfoot does, is inappropriate, because the following participial antithesis discloses the dependence of the μηδὲν κ.τ.λ. on the previous participle; hence also Hofmann’s view, that there is an intentional leaving the verb open, cannot be admitted. Hoelemann combines it with ἡγούμ., and takes μηδὲν as neutiquam; but incorrectly, for ἡγούμ. κ.τ.λ. affirms the esteeming others better than oneself, which, therefore, cannot take place in a factious (κατὰ ἐρίθειαν, see on Php 1:17) or in a vainglorious (ἢ κενοδοξίαν) way. The κατὰ denotes that which is regulative of the state of mind, and consequently its character, and is exchanged in the antithetic parallel for the dative of the instrument: by means of humility, the latter being by the article set down as a generic idea (by means of the virtue of humility). The mutual brotherly humility (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12; Acts 20:19) is the determining principle, by which, for example, Caius is moved to regard Lucius as standing higher, in a moral point of view, than himself, and, on the other hand, Lucius to pronounce Caius to be of a higher moral rank than himself (i.e. ἀλλήλους … ἑαυτῶν). Hoelemann erroneously refers τῇ ταπεινοφρ. to ὑπερέχ., so that it “excellentiae designet praesidium,”—a view which the very position of the words should have warned him not to adopt.
κενοδοξία] ostentation, only here in the N. T. Comp. Wis 14:14; Polyb. iii. 81. 9; Lucian, D. Mort. x. 8, xx. 4; and see on Galatians 5:26.
Php 2:4. μὴ τὰ ἑαυτῶν ἕκαστοι σκοπ.] The humble mind just indicated cannot exist together with selfishness, which has its own interests in view. See instances of σκοπεῖν τὰ τινος, to be mindful of any one’s interests, in Herod. i. 8; Plat. Phaedr. p. 232 D; Thuc. vi. 12. 2; Eur. Supp. 302. Comp. Lucian, Prom. 14: τἀμαυτοῦ μόνα σκοπῶ. The opposite of τὰ ἑαυτῶν σκ. may be seen in 2Ma 4:5 : τὸ δὲ συμφέρον κοινῇ … σκοπῶν. Comp. ζητεῖν τὰ ἑαυτοῦ, 1 Corinthians 10:24; 1 Corinthians 10:33; 1 Corinthians 13:5; Php 2:21, where ζητεῖν presents no essential difference in sense. Others consider that the having regard to gifts and merits is intended (Calvin, Hammond, Raphel, Keil, Commentat. 1803, in his Opusc. p. 172 ff., Hoelemann, Corn. Müller), which, after the comprehensive τῇ ταπεινοφρ. κ.τ.λ., would yield a very insipid limitation, and one not justified by the context.
ἕκαστοι] It is usually, and in other passages of the N. T. invariably, the singular that is used in this distributive apposition; the plural, however, is not unfrequently found in classical authors. Hom. Od. ix. 164; Thuc. i. 7. 1; Xen. Hell. ii. 4, 38; Herodian, iii. 13, 14.
ἀλλὰ καὶ κ.τ.λ.] a weaker contrast than we should have expected from the absolute negation in the first clause; a softening modification of the idea. In strict consistency the καί must have been omitted (1 Corinthians 10:24). Comp. Soph. Aj. 1292 (1313): ὅρα μὴ τοὐμὸν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ σόν; and see Fritzsche, ad Marc. p. 788; Winer, p. 463 f. [E. T. 624]. The second ἕκαστοι might have been dispensed with; it is, however, an earnest repetition.
The influences disturbing unity in Philippi, disclosed in Php 2:2-4, are not, according to these exhortations, of a doctrinal kind, nor do they refer to the strength and weakness of the knowledge and conviction of individuals, as was the case in Rome (Romans 14) and Corinth (1 Corinthians 8, 10)—in opposition to Rheinwald and Schinz;—but they were based upon the jealousy of moral self-estimation, in which Christian perfection was respectively ascribed and denied to one another (comp. Php 2:12; Php 3:12 ff.). Although this necessarily implies a certain difference of opinion as to the ethical theory, the epistle shows no trace either of any actual division into factions, or of ascetic jealousy (which de Wette assumes as co-operating). But the exhortations to unity are too frequent (Php 1:27, Php 2:2 f., Php 3:15, Php 4:2 f.) and too urgent to justify us in questioning generally the existence (Weiss) of those disturbances of harmony, or in regarding them as mere ill humour and isolation disturbing the cordial fellowship of life (Hofmann). Comp. Huther, in the Mecklenb. Zeitschr. 1862, p. 640 ff.
 In which, in fact, it is not merely the limitation (Hofmann) to one’s own that is forbidden, as if μόνον stood along with it. What Hofmann at the same time deduces from the reading ἕκαστος (before σκοποῦντες), which he follows, as distinguished from the subsequent ἕκαστοι (with a here wholly irrelevant comparison of Plat. Apol. p. 39 A), is sophistical, and falls, moreover, with the reading itself.Php 2:3. μηδέν. Probably, sc., φρονοῦντες, although no addition is necessary. This is the prevalent thought in the Apostle’s mind.—ἐριθείαν. It is no wonder that Paul should warn against this danger, seeing it was one of his most grievous vexations at Rome.—ἤ. Read with best authorities μηδὲ κατά (see crit. note).—κενοδ. Only here in N.T. Three times in LXX. Combined with ἀλαζονεία and μεγαλαυχία. The boastful expression of pride. Egotism and boastfulness were apparently the perils besetting the Philippian Church. These were natural excrescences of the zealous spirit which pervaded this community. It is a strange phenomenon in religious history that intense earnestness so frequently breeds a spirit mingled of censoriousness and conceit.—τῇ ταπεινοφρ. The construction seems exactly parallel to Romans 11:20, τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ ἐξεκλάσθησαν = “on account of,” “by reason of”. Perhaps the article emphasises the generic idea (so Myr). ταπεινός with derivatives, used in classical writers to denote a mean condition of self-debasement, had been already exalted by Plato and his school to describe that state of mind which submits to the Divine order of the universe and does not impiously exalt itself. It underwent a further stage of development in Christian literature, when it came to signify the spirit which most resembles that of Christ Himself. See an instructive note in Moule (CT ad loc.).
 Cambridge Greek Testament.3. Let nothing be done] The briefer original, in which no verb appears, is very forcible, but would be exaggerated in a literal rendering.—Observe the totality of the prohibition. It is a rule for all Christian lives at all times.
through] Lit. “according to,” on the principles of.
strife] The same word as above, Php 1:16; see note. And see p. 16 for Ignatius’ use of the word.—R.V. “faction.” Only, the word may denote not merely the combined self-seeking of partizanship, but also a solitary ambition, working by intrigue.
in lowliness of mind] The Greek (dative) may be more precisely represented by in respect of lowliness, &c. Their lowliness was to be embodied in, and proved by, what he now describes.
“Lowliness of mind:”—essentially a Christian grace. The word itself (one Greek word is represented by the three English words) is not found in Greek before the N.T. And kindred words in the classics are always used in a tone of blame, as of a defect of proper courage and self-assertion. This fact is deeply suggestive. In its essential principles the mighty positive morality of the Gospel is based on the profound negative of the surrender and dethronement of self before a Redeeming Lord who has had compassion on perfectly unworthy objects. The world’s “poor spirited,” and the Lord’s “poor in spirit,” are phrases used in very different tones.
let each esteem other] Lit., “mutually counting others superior to (your-) selves.”—The precept is to be read in the light of the Holy Spirit’s illumination of the individual conscience. Even where one Christian might see another to be manifestly less gifted than himself, spiritually or otherwise, yet “if the endowments, and the obligations connected with them, were properly estimated, they would rather conduce to humble than to exalt” (Scott). And in any case, where the man habitually viewed himself in the contrasted light of the Divine holiness, with that insight which belongs to self-knowledge alone, he would respond instinctively to this precept.Php 2:3. Μηδὲν, nothing) viz. mind or think, do.—ἐριθείαν, strife) which has no anxiety to please others.—κενοδοξίαν, desire of vainglory) which is too anxious to please others.—ὑπερέχοντας, superior) in point of right and in endowments. That may be done not only externally, but by true humility, ταπεινοφροσύνην, when a man, in the exercise of self-denial, turns away his eyes from his own privileges and rights, and studiously contemplates the endowments of another, in which he is his superior.Verse 3. - Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory. Not "strife," but "faction," as R.V. The word is the same as that rendered "contention" in Philippians 1:10, where see note. Party spirit is one of the greatest dangers in running the Christian race. Love is the characteristic Christian grace; party spirit and vain-glory too often lead professing Christians to break the law of love. But in lowiness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. In your lowliness; the article seems to have a possessive sense, the lowliness characteristic of Christians, which you as Christians possess. Ταπεινοφροσύνη an exclusively New Testament word: the grace was new, and the word was new. The adjective ταπεινός in classical Greek is used as a term of reproach - abject, mean. The life of Christ ("I am meek and lowly in heart") and the teaching of Christ ("Blessed are the poor in spirit") have raised lowliness to a new position, as one of the chief features in the true Christian character. Here St. Paul bids us, as a discipline of humility, to look at our own faults and at the good points in the character of others (comp. Romans 12:10).
Rev., doing nothing. The Greek is simply nothing, depending either, as A.V. and Rev., on the verb to do understood, or on thinking (φρονουντες) of the preceding verse: thinking nothing. The latter is preferable, since the previous and the following exhortations relate to thinking or feeling rather than to doing.
Through strife (κατὰ ἐριθείαν)
Vain glory (κενοδοξίαν)
Only here in the New Testament. The kindred adjective κενόδοξοι desirous of vain glory, occurs only at Galatians 5:26. In the Septuagint the word is used to describe the worship of idols as folly (see Wis. 14:14), and in 4 Macc. 5:9, the verb κενοδοξέω is used of following vain conceits about the truth. The word is compounded of κενός empty, vain, and, δόξα opinion (but not in the New Testament), which, through the intermediate sense of good or favorable opinion, runs into the meaning of glory. See on Revelation 1:6.
Lowliness of mind (ταπεινοφροσύνῃ)
See on Matthew 11:29.
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