Philippians 4:12
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
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(12) Every where and in all things.—The original has no such distinction of the two words. It is, in all and everything; in life as a whole, and in all its separate incidents.

I am instructed.—The word again is a peculiar and almost technical word. It is, I have been instructed; I have learnt the secret—a phrase properly applied to men admitted into such mysteries as the Eleusinian, enshrining a secret unknown except to the initiated; secondarily, as the context would seem to suggest, to those who entered the inner circle of an exclusive philosophy, learning there what the common herd could neither understand nor care for. A Stoic might well have used these words. There is even a touch of the Stoical contempt in the word “to be full,” which properly applies to cattle, though frequently used of men in the New Testament. Perhaps, like all ascetics, they mostly knew how “to suffer need,” better than how “to abound.” But a Marcus Aurelius might have boldly claimed the knowledge of both.

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.I know both how to be abased - To be in circumstances of want.

And I know how to abound - To have an abundance. lie had been in circumstances where he had an ample supply for all his needs, and knew what it was to have enough. It requires as much grace to keep the heart right in prosperity, as it does in adversity, and perhaps more. Adversity, of itself, does something to keep the mind in a right state; prosperity does nothing.

Everywhere and in all things - In all my travels and imprisonments, and in reference to everything that occurs, I learn important lessons on these points.

I am instructed - The word used here - μεμύημαι memuēmai - is one that is commonly used in relation to mysteries, and denoted being instructed in the secret doctrines that were taught in the ancient "mysteries" - Passow. In those mysteries, it was only the "initiated" who were made acquainted with the lessons that were taught there. Paul says that he had been initiated into the lessons taught by trials and by prosperity. The secret and important lessons which these schools of adversity are fitted to teach, he had had an ample opportunity of learning; and he had faithfully embraced the doctrines thus taught.

Both to be full - That is, he had learned to have an ample supply of his needs, and yet to observe the laws of temperance and soberness, and to cherish gratitude for the mercies which he had enjoyed.

And to be hungry - That is, to be in circumstances of want, and yet not to murmur or complain. He had learned to bear all this without discontent. This was then, as it is now, no easy lesson to learn; and it is not improper to suppose that, when Paul says that he had "been instructed" in this, even he means to say that it was only by degrees that he had acquired it. It is a lesson which we slowly learn, not to complain at the allotments of Providence; not to be envious at the prosperity of others; not to repine when our comforts are removed. There may be another idea suggested here. The condition of Paul was not always the same. He passed through great reverses. At one time he had abundance; then he was reduced to want; now he was in a state which might be regarded as affluent; then he was brought down to extreme poverty. Yesterday, he was poor and hungry; today, all his necessities are supplied.

Now, it is in these sudden reverses that grace is most needed, and in these rapid changes of life that it is most difficult to learn the lessons of calm contentment. People get accustomed to an even tenor of life, no matter what it is, and learn to shape their temper and their calculations according to it. But these lessons of philosophy vanish when they pass suddenly from one extreme to another, and find their condition in life suddenly changed. The garment that was adapted to weather of an uniform temperature, whether of heat or cold, fails to be suited to our needs when these transitions rapidly succeed each other. Such changes are constantly occurring in life. God tries his people, not by a steady course of prosperity, or by long-continued and uniform adversity, but by transition from the one to the other; and it often happens that the grace which would have been sufficient for either continued prosperity or adversity, would fail in the transition from the one to the other.

Hence, new grace is imparted for this new form of trial, and new traits of Christian character are developed in these rapid transitions in life, as some of the most beautiful exhibitions of the laws of matter are brought out in the transitions produced in chemistry. The rapid changes from heat to cold, or from a solid to a gaseous state, develop properties before unknown, and acquaint us much more intimately with the wonderful works of God. The gold or the diamond, unsubjected to the action of intense heat, and to the changes produced by the powerful agents brought to bear on them, might have continued to shine with steady beauty and brilliancy; but we should never have witnessed the special beauty and brilliancy which may be produced in rapid chemical changes. And so there is many a beautiful trait of character which would never have been known by either continued prosperity or adversity. There might have been always a beautiful exhibition of virtue and piety, but not tidal special manifestation which is produced in the transitions from the one to the other.

12. abased—in low circumstances (2Co 4:8; 6:9, 10).

everywhere—rather, "in each, and in all things" [Alford].

instructed—in the secret. Literally, "initiated" in a secret teaching, which is a mystery unknown to the world.

He explains the equality of his mind he had through grace attained to, in a free submission to God, either in the absence or affluence of external good things.

I know both how to be abased; in a mean and ignominious state, he had spiritual skill to exercise suitable graces without murmuring, or repining when trampled on, 1 Corinthians 4:11 2 Corinthians 11:27; having entirely resigned his will to the will of God.

And I know how to abound; in a higher state, had in much esteem, and well accommodated.

Every where and in all things I am instructed; yea, in all circumstances religiously initiated and taught, fortified against temptations on all hands.

Both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need; when faring well, and having a large revenue, to be temperate, 1 Corinthians 9:25, humble, and communicative, 1 Timothy 6:18. When hungry and poor, not to be distressed, but confident our heavenly Father will provide enough in his season, Matthew 6:32 7:11 2 Corinthians 4:8, giving an elixir at present that will turn all into gold.

I know both how to be abased,.... Or "humbled"; to be treated with indignity and contempt, to be trampled upon by man, to suffer hardships and distress, to be in a very mean and low condition, to work with his own hands, and minister to his own and the necessities of others in that way; yea, to be in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, and have no certain dwelling place; and he knew how to behave under all this; not to be depressed and cast down, or to fret, repine, and murmur:

and I know how to abound; or "to excel"; to be in the esteem of men, and to have an affluence of the things of this world, and how to behave in the midst of plenty; so as not to be lifted up, to be proud and haughty, and injurious to fellow creatures; so as not to abuse the good things of life; and so as to use them to the honour of God, the interest of religion, and the good of fellow creatures, and fellow Christians:

every where; whether among Jews or Gentiles, at Jerusalem or at Rome, or at whatsoever place; or as the Arabic version renders it, "every time": always, in every season, whether of adversity or prosperity:

and in all things; in all circumstances of life:

I am instructed; or "initiated", as he was by the Gospel; and, ever since he embraced it, was taught this lesson of contentment, and inured to the exercise of it, and was trained up and instructed how to behave himself in the different changes and vicissitudes he came into:

both to be full, and to be hungry; to know what it was to have plenty and want, to have a full meal and to want one, and be almost starved and famished, and how to conduct under such different circumstances:

both to abound and to suffer need; which the apostle repeats for confirmation sake; and the whole of what he here says is an explanation of the lesson of contentment he had learned; and the knowledge he speaks of was not speculative but experimental, and lay not merely in theory, but in practice; and now lest he should be thought guilty of arrogance, and to ascribe too much to himself, he in Philippians 4:13 attributes all to the power and grace of Christ.

I know both how to be {l} abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am {m} instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

(l) He uses a general word, and yet he speaks but of one type of cross, which is poverty, for poverty commonly brings all types of discomforts with it.

(m) This is a metaphor taken from holy things or sacrifices, for our life is like a sacrifice.

Php 4:12. Paul now specifies this his αὐτάρκεια (in Plat. Def. p. 412 B, termed τελειότης κτήσεως ἀγαθῶν).

οἶδα] I understand how (1 Thessalonians 4:4; Colossians 4:6; 1 Timothy 3:5; Matthew 7:11; Soph. Aj. 666 f.; Anth. Pal. vii. 440. 5 ff.);[190] result of the ἔμαθον.

καὶ ταπειν]. also to be abased, namely, by want, distress, and other allotted circumstances which place the person affected by them in the condition of abasement. Paul understands this, inasmuch as he knows how to bear himself in the right attitude to such allotted circumstances, namely, in such a way that, independently thereof, he finds his sufficiency in himself, and does not seek it in that which he lacks. We find a commentary on this in 2 Corinthians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 6:9-10. οἶδα καὶ περισσεύειν is to be understood analogously, of the right attitude to the matter, so that one is not led away by abundance to find his satisfaction in the latter instead of in himself. Pelagius well says: “ut nec abundantia extollar, nec frangar inopia.”

The first καί adds to the general ἘΝ ΟἿς ΕἸΜΙ the special statement on the one side, to which thereupon the second “also” adds the counterpart. The contrast, however, is less adequate here than subsequently in περισσεύειν καὶ ὑστερεῖσθαι, for ΤΑΠΕΙΝΟῦΣΘΑΙ is a more comprehensive idea than the counterpart of περισσεύειν, and also contains a figurative conception. Some such expression as ὑψοῦσθαι would have been adequate as the contrast of ΤΑΠΕΙΝ. (Matthew 23:12; 2 Corinthians 11:7; Php 2:8-9; Polyb. v. 26. 12). There is a lively versatility of conception, from not perceiving which some have given to this ΠΕΡΙΣΣΕΎΕΙΝ (to have a superfluity) the explanation excellere (Erasmus, Vatablus, Calvin), or to ταπειν. the meaning to be poor, to be in pitiful plight, ὀλίγοις κεχρῆσθαι, Theophylact (Estius and others; comp. also Cornelius a Lapide, Grotius, Rheinwald, Matthies, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Hofmann), which even the LXX., Leviticus 25:39, does not justify.

In what follows, ἘΝ ΠΑΝΤῚ Κ. ἘΝ ΠᾶΣΙ is not to be regarded as belonging to ΤΑΠΕΙΝΟῦΣΘΑΙ and ΠΕΡΙΣΣΕΎΕΙΝ (Hofmann), but is to be joined with ΜΕΜΎΗΜΑΙ. We are dissuaded from the former connection by the very repetition of the ΟἾΔΑ; and the latter is recommended by the great emphasis, which rests upon ἘΝ ΠΑΝΤῚ Κ. ἘΝ ΠᾶΣΙ heading the last clause, as also by the correlative ΠΆΝΤΑ at the head of Php 4:13. Further, no comma is to be placed after μεμυήμαι, nor is ἘΝ ΠΑΝΤῚΜΕΜΥΉΜΑΙ to be explained as meaning: “into everything I am initiated,” and then καὶ χορτάζεσθαι κ.τ.λ. as elucidating the notion of “everything”: “cum re qualicunque omnibusque, tam saturitate et fame, quam abundantia et penuria, tantam contraxi familiaritatem, ut rationem teneam iis bene utendi,” van Hengel; comp. de Wette, Rilliet, Wiesinger; so also, on the whole, Chrysostom, Erasmus, Estius, and many others, but with different interpretations of παντί and ΠᾶΣΙΝ. This view is at variance with the fact, that ΜΥΕῖΣΘΑΙ has that into which one is initiated expressed not by means of ἐν, but—and that most usually—in the accusative (Herod, ii. 51; Plat. Gorg. p. 497 C, Symp. p. 209 E; Aristoph. Plut. 845 (ἐμμυεῖσθαι); Lucian, Philop. 14), or in the dative (Lucian, Demon. 11), or genitive (Heliod. i. 17; Herodian, i. 13. 16); hence πᾶν κ. πάντα, or ΠΑΝΤῚ Κ. ΠᾶΣΙΝ, or ΠΑΝΤῸς Κ. ΠΆΝΤΩΝ must have been written (in 3Ma 2:30 it has ΚΑΤΆ with the accusative). No; Paul says that in everything and in all, that is, under every relation that may occur and in all circumstances, he is initiated into, that is, made completely familiar with, as well the being satisfied as the being hungry, as well the having superfluity as want; in all situations, without exception, he quite understands how to assume and maintain the right attitude to these different experiences, which in Php 4:11 he characterizes by the words αὐτάρκης εἶναι. Ἐν παντὶ κ. ἐν πᾶσι is accordingly to be taken after the analogy of ἘΝ ΟἿς ΕἸΜΙ, Php 4:11, and therefore as neuter. It was purely arbitrary to render ἐν παντί: ubique (Vulgate, Castalio, Beza, Calvin, and many others), or to refer it to time (Chrysostom, Grotius), or to time and place (Theophylact, Erasmus, and others, also Matthies). Luther and Bengel explain παντί correctly as neuter, but make ΠᾶΣΙΝ (as in 2 Corinthians 11:6) masculine (Bengel: “respectu omnium hominum”). It is not necessary to supply anything to either of the two words; and as to the alternation of the singular and plural, which only indicates the total absence of any exception (comp. analogous expressions in Lobeck, Paral, p. 56 ff.), there is no occasion for artificial explanation.

In German we say: in Allem und Jedem [in all and each], Comp. on ἐν πᾶσι on Colossians 1:18. With strange arbitrariness Hofmann makes ἘΝ ΠΑΝΤῚ Κ. ἘΝ ΠᾶΣΙ denote everything that is a necessary of life (in detail and in whole). In that case certainly the contrast of χορτάζ. and ΠΕΙΝᾶΝ is unsuitable!

ΜΕΜΎΗΜΑΙ] the proper word for the various grades of initiation into the mysteries (Casaubon, Exerc. Baron, p. 390 ff.; Lobeck, Aglaoph. I. p. 38 ff.) is here used in a figurative sense, like initiatum esse, of a special, unusual, not by every one attainable, familiar acquaintance with something. See Munthe, Obss. p. 383; Jacobs, ad Anthol. III. p. 488. The opposite is ἀμύητος.

The climax should here be noticed, ἜΜΑΘΟΝΟἾΔΑΜΕΜΎΗΜΑΙ. Php 4:13 places beyond doubt to whom the apostle owes this lofty spiritual superiority over all outward circumstances. As to the later form ΠΕΙΝᾶΝ instead of ΠΕΙΝῆΝ, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 61; Jacobs, ad Ael. II. p. 261.

[190] It is the moral understanding, having its seat in the character. Comp. Ameis, Anh. z. Hom. Od. ix. 189.

Php 4:12. οἶδα κ.τ.λ. καί must be read with all good authorities. The one καί must be correlative to the other, unless he intended to continue the sentence without the second οἶδα (see an excellent note on καί in N.T. in Ell[56]. ad loc. He defines somewhat too minutely). Examples of the infinitive after οἶδα are to be found in classical Greek.—ταπειν. The best comment on this is 2 Corinthians 11:7, ἐμαυτὸν ταπεινῶν ἵνα ὑμεῖς ὑψωθῆτε. There it means, “keeping myself low” (in respect of the needs of daily life). Moule aptly quotes Diod., i., 36 (speaking of the Nile), καθʼ ἡμέρανταπεινοῦται = “runs low”.—ἐν παντ. κ. ἐν π. A vague, general phrase = “in all circumstances of life”. It has no immediate connexion with μεμύημαι (Cf. a similar expression τῷ παντί in Xen., Hell., 7, 5, 12, and τοῖς or πᾶσιν in Thucyd., Soph., etc.).—μεμύημαι. The verb was originally used of one initiated into the Mysteries. It came (like our own “initiated”) to lose its technical sense. But the word probably implies a difficult process to be gone through. Cf. Psalm 25:14 : “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant” (Vaughan), and Wis 8:4, μύστις γάρ ἐστιν τῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐπιστήμης. In later ecclesiastical usage ὁ μεμυημένος = a baptised Christian (an instructive hint as to the growth of dogma). See Anrich, Das Antike Mysterienwesen, p. 158. μεμύ. goes closely with the infinitives following. Cf. Alciphron, 2, 4 ad fin., κυβερνᾶν μυηθήσομαι.—χορτάζεσθαι is a strong word, used originally of the feeding of animals, which gradually became colourless in the colloquial language (see Sources of N.T. Greek, p. 82).—πεινᾶν should be written without iota subscript. It is contracted here with α as usually in later Greek. See Phrynichus (ed. Lobeck), 61, 204. So always in LXX.—ὑστερεῖσθαι has the rare meaning “to be in want” (absol.), or rather (in middle), “to feel want”. Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:9, and esp[57]. Sir 11:11, ἔστιν κοπῶν καὶ πονῶν καὶ σπεύδων, καὶ τόσῳ μᾶλλον ὑστερεῖται.

[56] Ellicott.

[57] especially.

12. to be abased] “To be low,” in resources and comforts. The word is used in classical Greek of a river running low.

to abound] as now, in the plenty the Philippians had provided. This experience, as well as the opposite, called for the skill of grace.

every where and in all things] Lit., in everything and in all things; in the details and total of experience.

I am instructed] I have been initiated; “I have learned the secret” (R.V.). The Greek verb is akin to the words, mystês, mystêrion, and means to initiate a candidate into the hidden tenets and worship of the “Mysteries”; systems of religion in the Hellenic world derived perhaps from prehistoric times, and jealously guarded by their votaries. Admission to their arcana, as into Freemasonry now, was sought even by the most cultured; with the special hope, apparently, of a peculiar immunity from evil in this life and the next. See Smith’s Dict. of Greek and Roman Antiquities. It is evident that St Paul’s adoption of such a word for the discovery of the “open secrets” of the Gospel is beautifully suggestive. Lightfoot remarks that we have the same sort of adoption in his frequent use (and our Lord’s, Matthew 13:11; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10; and see Revelation 1:20; Revelation 10:7; Revelation 17:5; Revelation 17:7) of the word “mystery” for a revealed secret of doctrine or prophecy.

to be full] R.V., to be filled. The Greek verb is the same as e.g. Matthew 5:6; Matthew 14:20. St Paul uses it only here. Its first meaning was “to give fodder to cattle,” but it lost this lower reference in later Greek (Lightfoot).

hungry] No doubt often in stern reality. Cp. 1 Corinthians 4:11.

Php 4:12. Ταπεινοῦσθαι, to be abased) in dress and food.—περισσεύειν, to abound) even in relieving others. The order of the words is presently inverted, so that the transition from few to many, and from many to few, may be marked.—ἐν παντὶ, in everything [Engl. Ver. everywhere]) A Symperasma,[56] as all things, Php 4:13.—ἐν πᾶσι, in the case of all) in respect of all men [Engl. Ver. In all things].—μεμύημαι) I am trained (initiated) in a secret discipline unknown to the world.—καὶ χορτάζεσθαι, both to be full) construed with I am initiated.—χορτάζεσθαι καὶ πεινᾷν, to be full and to be hungry) for one day.—περισσεύειν καὶ ὑστερεῖσθαι, to abound and to suffer need) for a longer time. The repeated mention of the abounding is consonant with the condition of Paul, who then abounded in consequence of the liberality of the Philippians. Abasement had preceded, and need would perhaps follow. He who can relieve others has ample means and high position (amplitudinem), to which abasement is opposed.

[56] See App. It is the comprehending in a brief summary what has been previously stated.

Verse 12. - I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound. St. Paul had experience both of sorrow and of joy, both of distress and of comfort; he knew how to bear himself in both, because his chiefest joy was "in the Lord." This abiding joy raised him above the vicissitudes of this mortal state, and gave him an αὐτάρεκια, a Christian independence, which enabled him to act becomingly both in adversity and in prosperity. Everywhere and in all things I am instructed; literally, as R.V., in everything and in all things; as we say, "in each and all," in every condition separately and in all collectively. The R.V. translates more accurately, "have I learned the secret." The Greek μεμύημαι means properly, "I have been' initiated." It is a word adapted from the old Greek mysteries; comp. B.C.ngel, "Disciplina arcana imbutus sum, ignota mundo." St. Paul represents the advanced Christian life as a mystery, the secrets of which are taught by God. the Holy Ghost to the soul that longs to prove in its own personal experience "what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." St. Paul frequently uses the word μυστήριον, mystery, for the truths once hidden but now brought to light by the gospel. Both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. The word rendered "to be full" (χορτάζεσθαι) is strictly used of animals, and means "to be foddered;" in the New Testament and later Greek it is used also of men, without any depreciatory significance, as in Matthew 5:6, "They shall be filled (χορτασθήσονται)." Philippians 4:12I am instructed (μεμύημαι)

Rev., have I learned the secret. The metaphor is from the initiatory rites of the pagan mysteries. I have been initiated. See on Colossians 1:26.

To be full (χορτάζεσθαι)

See on Matthew 5:6.

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