I thank my God on every remembrance of you,…
Having saluted a well-organized Church with its bishops and deacons, Paul proceeds to express his thanksgivings and his intercessions. From this Church at Philippi alone had he received supplies. By the hand of Epaphroditus they had forwarded their love-tokens to the imprisoned apostle, and he rejoiced in the sympathy this showed with the furtherance of the gospel. Accordingly he proceeds to prayer, and pours out his significant intercessions for these saints. And here let us notice -
I. HIS INTERCESSION FOR THEIR FELLOWSHIP IN THE FURTHERANCE OF THE GOSPEL. (Vers. 4, 5, Revised Version.) The intercession of the apostle was joyful. Our prayers should be less complaints than jubilations. It must have been delightful for Paul to dwell upon the missionary spirit which the saints at Philippi exhibited, and to intercede for its increase. As the firstfruits of the European mission, they entered most heartily into Paul's aspirations and did all they could to strengthen his hands. It was a missionary Church which he had established at Philippi. And after all, is not this the prime purpose which should animate every Church? A congregation is nothing if not missionary. It must die of paralysis if it is not seeking to extend the gospel. What we need is to be filled with something like the enthusiasm of the apostles in the propagation of the faith.
II. PAUL'S INTERCESSION WAS BACKED UP BY THE ASSURANCE THAT GOD WOULD ENABLE THEM TO PERSEVERE IN THEIR BLESSED POLICY. (Ver. 6.) The relation of assurance to intercession is one of great interest as well as importance. A certain and sure hope makes prayer joyful and prevailing. Suppose that Paul had been uncertain about the perseverance of the Philippians in the policy of evangelization, how different must his intercessions have been! But because he was certain of it, he prayed prevailingly. But we must observe the ground of his assurance. The "good work" begun in them is evidently the missionary spirit. For every one that receives the gospel is led instinctively to seek to propagate the gospel. The absence of the missionary spirit is proof positive that the gospel has only been nominally received. Well, the apostle argues that when God begins a work, he means to finish it. Incompleteness is but a promise in any Divine work of subsequent perfection. God's plans are not so poorly formed as to fail. Until the day of Jesus Christ, therefore, a spiritual work begun in men's hearts will be carried on. The poetess strikes the true note when she ends her poem on "Incompleteness" with the words -
"Nor dare to blame God's gifts for incompleteness;
In that want their beauty lies; they roll
Towards some infinite depth of love and sweetness,
Bearing onwards man's reluctant soul."
(Proctor's ' Legends and Lyrics.') The perseverance of the saints, therefore, in their large-hearted policy rests upon God's ability to make them persevere. Left to themselves, they could not stand or persevere an hour; but, helped by God, they continue steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.
III. THEIR SYMPATHY WITH THE APOSTLE HAD PROVED AND WAS PROVING A MEANS OF GRACE. (Vers. 7, 8.) Between Paul and the Philippians there was the most thorough sympathy. They sorrowed over his imprisonment, they sympathized with him in all his struggles and apologies for the gospel. The hearts in Philippi beat in unison with the great heart in Rome. And this secured their spiritual progress. It was a means of grace. Paul's experience was reproduced in them. Sympathy was the means of sanctification. It is so always. When we learn to "weep with those that weep" and to "rejoice with those that do rejoice," we get a wider experience than is possible with the self-centred and self-contained. Progress in all the elements of spiritual power must result.
IV. PAUL PRAYS STILL FURTHER FOR THEIR SYMMETRY OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. (Vers. 9, 10.) His desire is that they may grow symmetrically. Love is to abound in knowledge and in judgment; that is to say, it is to be intelligent and discriminating, so that they may test the things that are excellent, and be sincere and without offense till the day of Jesus Christ. The symmetry of Christian character is a most important fact of experience. The graces do not manifest monstrosities. They grow harmoniously. Hence it is the desire of the progressive soul that others may experience a kindred progress, and with duly balanced powers may pass onwards towards the perfection which is to synchronize with the day of Jesus Christ.
V. AND SUCH PROGRESS IMPLIES FRUITFULNESS. (Ver. 11.) The fruits of righteousness are what God looks for. He plants the trees of righteousness that he may be glorified in their fruitfulness. His garden shall yet be filled with fruitful trees. Every barren cumberer shall yet be rooted out, that its place may be duly filled. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,