But I would you should understand, brothers…
I. PROGRESS OF THE GOSPEL IN ROME.
1. Generally. "Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel." It might have been expected that his imprisonment, which is principally referred to, would have fallen out to the hindrance of the gospel. But Paul would have his Philippian brethren know, for their comfort and confirmation, that, though to some extent it had been a disadvantage, yet to a greater extent it had been an advantage· It was with it as with the early persecutions as a whole. They were intended by the Church's enemies to be for its destruction; but Divine wisdom overruled them for its increase. The scattering of the disciples brought about the fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel, "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." The imprisonment of the ark was the fall of Dagon. The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church.
2. In two particulars.
(1) Increased publicity. "So that my bends became manifest in Christ throughout the whole Praetorian Guard, and to all the rest." It was by a singular combination of circumstances that this was brought about. His adversaries would have liked to have wreaked their vengeance upon him in Palestine. But, asserting his rights as a Roman citizen in appealing to Caesar, he was delivered out of their hands. Taken to Rome, which he may have had in view in his appeal - for he had a desire to see Rome - his trial there was long delayed. And while he was awaiting his trial, he was not subjected to the worst form of imprisonment - confined in a dungeon with his feet fast in the stocks, as had been the ease with him in Philippi. Nor was he subjected to the mildest form - allowed to go about, on getting a friend to answer for his appearance. But he was subjected to an intermediate form, which was known as military imprisonment. He was under the charge of the prefect of the Praetorians, or commander of the imperial regiments, who allowed him to dwell in his own hired house, with complete freedom of access to him, but appointed him to be chained day and night to a Praetorian soldier, who was responsible for his safe keeping. One Praetorian relieving another, the apostle would soon be brought into contact with many of their number, who would speak of him to their companions, so that it would become literally true that his bonds were manifest throughout the whole Praetorian Guard. And not only were they manifest, but they were manifest in Christ, i.e. as endured in the service of Christ, who thus became known to the soldiers, in the way set forth by Paul in his teaching, as the Son of God who died for the salvation of all men, and rose from the dead to sit at the right hand of God, and to be the future Judge of all men. And not only were his bonds manifest in Christ throughout the whole Praetorian Guard, but it is added, indefinitely, "and to all the rest." That is to say, through Praetorians and others, many were induced to pay a visit to Paul, and to hear from him an exposition of gospel doctrine, according to the concluding words of the Acts of the Apostles, "And he abode two whole years in his own hired dwelling, and received all that went in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness, none forbidding him." Thus, while Paul's enemies got his mouth stopped in Judaea, they unwittingly became the occasion of his mouth being opened in the city that commanded the world.
(2) Increased courage in his companions. "And that most of the brethren in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear." The sphere of Paul's personal activity was very large, considering that he was a prisoner. It was circumscribed in so far as he was not free to go from place to place throughout the city. His companions made up for this by being feet for him to places where he could not go. They fulfilled for him the word, "How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things!" This was true of most of the brethren in the Lord. He excepts a few who, from their general character, were entitled to be called brethren in the Lord, but who had apparently yielded to the influence of fear. Of the most of those to whom he could hold out the hand of brotherhood, he could say, to their honor, that they got confidence through his bonds. The natural effect of these bonds was to terrify them, as showing them what they might meet in the service of Christ. But Divine grace made them to act contrary to their nature, and to be rather the means of imparting courage. There is an accumulation of language pointing to imparted courage. They were "more abundantly bold to speak the word of God," i.e. than if Paul had not been in bonds. When their leader was bound they felt that more devolved upon them. They were "more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear. They were raised above thinking of their own safety; they thought only of the word of God being, in all suitable places and in all suitable forms, proclaimed. Thus, directly and indirectly, was the apostle's imprisonment, against the intentions of his enemies, a powerful instrument in the hand of God in advancing Christianity in Rome.
3. More detailed statement in connection with the second particular. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one do it of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel: but the other proclaim Christ of faction, not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds." The first-mentioned class here is not to be identified with the minority of the verse just considered. For they could not be characterized as brethren in the Lord, and then as insincere. But the general class of those who spoke the word being suggested, we are told of some of them that they were actuated with unfriendly feelings towards Paul, and of others of them that they were actuated with friendly feelings. It showed the strength of the gospel movement in Rome, that it drew into it even those who were not friendly to Paul. Their first feeling was that of envy. Who would have thought of Paul becoming an object of envy in his bonds? Yet so it was, to the praise of an all-wise God, he conducted a movement in Rome from his very prison, personally and by his agents, with so much success that some were drawn into the movement from very envy toward him. Their further feeling was that of mischief. As Satan, envious of our first parents, desired to destroy their bliss by introducing sin, so they, filled with envy because of the good movement carried on by Paul, desired to destroy it by introducing division. To this badness of motive they did not add badness of doctrine. If they were Judaists at heart, they did not put forward Judaism in their teaching. That would have been to have defeated their ends, in view of the strong Christian character of the movement. No, they were more cunning. They were false prophets, inwardly ravening wolves, but they knew to appear in sheep's clothing. They preached Christ, as the others preached Christ. They were Pauline in their doctrine; but it was to gain influence, in order to use it for the subverting of Paul. The other class mentioned here is to be identified with the majority previously mentioned. They were his brethren in the Lord, and they were brotherly toward him. Their feeling was that of good will. And, loving Paul and sympathizing with him in his strivings, they preached Christ. Taking the two classes in an inverted order, of the latter he now says that they preached Christ of love. As love is the great moving cause in God, so it was in them as under his influence. Love worked in them, along with the knowledge of the position for which Paul was destined. He was set for the defense of the gospel. He was appointed to make a stand against worldly powers, to bear the brunt of their opposition to Christ. It was a perilous position, requiring extraordinary courage, and its perilousness was not yet past; but they were willing to subserve him in it, in cheering his heart by the preaching of Christ. Turning now to the first class, he declares that their feeling was a spirit of faction, such as rules only in unregenerate hearts. They did not preach Christ sincerely, i.e. from love for him, or desire to extend the knowledge of his Name. But what moved them to preach Christ, or rather - for another word is now used with a slight change in meaning - to make Christ fully known, was the thought (not knowledge, as in the previous clause, and the apostle seems to indicate that it was nothing more than a thought) that it would never be realized - the thought of raising up affliction for him in his bonds, apparently by undermining his influence and forming an antagonistic party.
4. Feelings of the apostle in view of what has been stated.
(1) So far as Christ was concerned. "What then? only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." Had the persons last referred to put forward Judaism, then he would have been bound to have opposed to it the true gospel. But as they concealed their real purpose, viz. to counterwork Paul under the cloak of proclaiming Christ, he was not disposed to join issue with them. Nay, in the fact that, however bad their motive, the knowledge of Christ was by them extended, he found cause for rejoicing. And in the extended knowledge of Christ, however brought about, he was determined to rejoice. Let all false and true alike go on proclaiming Christ; it would rejoice his heart.
(2) As far as he was personally concerned.
(a) Assurance that it would result in good to him. "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation, through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." The apostle seems to have in view the whole state of matters described. His imprisonment is in the background, and in the foreground this on which he has been dwelling, that there were around him in his imprisonment many who preached Christ from friendly feelings toward him, but some also who made the preaching of Christ only a cloak for designs against him. He knew - his tone is that of certainty - that this would turn differently from what it was in part intended to do, to his highest good. But they must give him their prayers. He needed them in the critical position in which he was placed. Yes, God, who knew all the movements that affected him, and could counterwork all the designs of his enemies, must extend his help. He must especially, through their prayers for this, supply the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Then would he be able to act, even as Christ acted, so that all that happened to him would turn - though that might not be its nature - to his good.
(b) Hopefulness as to his accomplishing his destiny. "According to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing shall I be put to shame, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death." God had wrought for him in the past, and so he was not without hope for the future. Nay, he had an earnest expectation and hope. His eye, taken off everything else, was strained toward this, that in nothing he should be put to shame, in not exhibiting the proper spirit or carrying out his proper destiny. The proper spirit for his circumstances was boldness. God had always enabled him to be bold in the past; he would not allow him to be faint-hearted now, when he was looking forward to his trial. And his proper destiny, as he conceived it, was this, that Christ should be magnified in his body, whether that body should be preserved alive for the future service of the Master, or whether it should be given up in martyrdom. Thus through one instrumentality viz. Paul's imprisonment, it was true, that God wrought various ends. Let us, even when we do not see what he is doing, trust in him as all-wise. "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." The forces of evil may seem to hold the Church in imprisonment; but let us trust that from the imprisoned Church, made, to feel the cruel hand of worldliness and scepticism, there shall go forth a wider, more glorious proclamation of Christ, as alone meeting the wants of men. And let us trust, too, that the Church shall come forth purified, saved, and more hopeful against the forces of evil. And if we feel individually as in a prison-house, from evil without or within, let us look to the all-wise God to make our prison-house the means of Christ being better known, and of our souls being blessed with more of the elements of salvation, and with more hopefulness of accomplishing our destiny to the glory of Christ.
II. HE CALMLY CONTEMPLATES THE QUESTION OF LIFE OR DEATH.
1. He feels If, at the advantage to himself is in dying.
(1) He has made Christ the end of his life. "For to me to live is Christ."
(a) What it is to make Christ the end of our life. It is to make everything a means toward the advancement of the glory of Christ. This is the aspect in which it is regarded in the context, and to which the connecting word refers us. It was the ambition of the apostle that Christ should be magnified in his body by life or by death. We are to seek nearer ends, such as self-preservation, proficiency in our earthly calling, but not as ends in themselves. There is only one absolute end, and that is Christ. Everything is to be set aside as useless, impertinent, which cannot be directed to Christ. Even a life devoted to science, to philanthropy, must be rejected as unworthy, unless it is humbly lived for Christ. All our efforts, as all our prayers, must be in his Name, all the fruits of our life we must lay at his feet. We have to plan our lives differently; for that is dependent on our natural capacities and on our circumstances; but there is to be this unity in them all, that they are to be planned so that they shall bring the largest revenue of glory to Christ. Let us, then, have our end clearly in view, and let us pursue it intelligently, and with all the simplicity and abandonment with which men of the world sometimes pursue their ends.
(b) Why Christ is the end of our life. It was Christ who was the reason for our being originally brought into existence. And as we came from his hand (for by him, as well as for him, were all things made) we were rich in opportunity. By sin, however, our existence became so heavily weighted, that, left to ourselves, it would have been better if we had not been born. We owe it to Christ that, by coming into our nature and dying for us, he has made our life worth living. He has redeemed it from the disability of sin, and has made it rich in the opportunity of everlasting glory. And on account of what he has done for us, he is entitled to be the end of our life.
(c) How Christ is fitted to be the end of our life. (α) He fills the imagination. In him we have One to live for, who combines in his character every excellence, and in the superlative degree, who leaves every other immeasurably behind, who towers high above the highest flight of the strongest imagination. And while the story of his life is more wonderful than is to be found in romance, it has all the charm of reality. (β) He appeals to the heart. Love is the great argument by which he makes his appeal to us. He goes down to the lowest depths for us, and then, coming up, he beseeches us by his tears and agonies. In life's trials, from his own experience of them, he encourages us and beckons us on: "In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (γ) He calls forth the energies. Worldly objects call forth the energies of men. "Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise (that last infirmity of noble minds) to scorn delights and live laborious days." To have a loved one to labor for has been the spur to many a man's energies, which otherwise would have flagged. It is the glory of Christ that, though he is viewless, he calls forth our energies purely, equally, in the highest degree, with the greatest pleasureableness. Paul tells us that Christ was the end of his life. When he was thirty years of age, he suddenly discovered that he had been entirely mistaken in the end of his life, and that he had lived all these years to no purpose. Then, in a miraculous manner, the claims of Christ asserted their power over him, and from that point the crucified One became the magnet of his course. To him to live was Christ. Grasping the plan of his life, he made everything subservient to the magnifying of the Savior, in the making of him known. It was Christ who ever came into the study of his imagination. It was Christ whose Name was branded into his heart. It was his unseen Savior who drew forth from him a power of work beyond what has ever been witnessed.
(2) Having made Christ the end of life, the advantage to himself is in dying. "And to die is gain." To die involves great loss. It involves the loss of all gratification through the senses, the loss of all earthly possessions, the loss of all earthly friends. When the apostle, then, says that to die is gain, he must mean that what is gained by death more than counterbalances the loss. The result, when everything is computed, is not loss; it is gain. He does not. tell us how much gain it is; but he uses the word with a certain absoluteness. It is not a mere slight excess of gain over loss; but it is gain without mention of limitation. It is gain such as swallows up the sense of loss. This is conditional on our having made Christ our end. If we have made any worldly object our final end, then to die is loss, and with a certain absoluteness of meaning. It is total earthly loss without any gain that can be set against it in the next world. It is what Christ calls the loss of the soul. It is the loss of the great end and joy of existence. But if we have made Christ the end of our life, then to die is to have succeeded in life. It is to have been climbing the mountain and to have gained the summit. It is to have been contending in the arena and to have gained the prize. It is to have been living for Christ and to have come to Christ as our supreme Reward.
2. The consideration of advantage to others by his continuing in life makes him undecided. "But if to live in the flesh, - if this is the fruit of my work, then what I shall choose I wet not. But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better." He has shown a leaning to the alternative of dying. But had the other alternative, viz. living in the flesh, no hold upon him? How did it stand related to his work, i.e. the work given him on earth to do? Had he yet accomplished all the good to others that was intended by his labors? Let it be supposed that his living in the flesh was the condition of carrying out his life-task in its fruitfulness to others, then he felt at a loss which alternative to choose. He was in a strait betwixt the two. He felt the obligation of finishing his life-work with all the good that might result from it to others. But he felt, on the other hand, a desire to depart and be with Christ, which was very far better. Let the form of the desire be noted. He had a desire to depart. The reference is to breaking up a camp. Our body is the earthly tabernacle in which we live. We have a natural aversion to break up our earthly encampment. We become attached to our dwelling and its surroundings, even by long use. The apostle had triumphed over this, so as even to desire to break up his earthly encampment. Severe or long-continued sickness may bring on the desire for death. "As a servant," says Job, "earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work: so am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me. When I lie down, I say, When shall i arise, and the night be gone? and I am hall of tossings to and fro until the dawning of the day." Old age may make us feel that we are becoming unfitted for life. "I am this day fourscore years old: ... can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women?" Or our uncongenial surroundings may make us sigh for a change. "Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!" What had principally influence with the apostle was the attraction of the life beyond. The earthly breaking up, or what he elsewhere calls his absence from the body, would be his presence with the Lord. He felt drawn to the Lord, with whom he had vital union and communion, and to the invisible world over which he presided, and to the people who were there happy with him. He felt that to have face-to-face and affectionate intercourse with him, to have a new comprehension of his mind and a new reception of his Spirit, was better than being here. It was far better. Nay, he uses a triple comparative, and his language, deliberately chosen, is, that it is "very far better." It is to have Christ in his incomparable worth and glory disclosed to us and enjoyed by us as he cannot be here.
3. The consideration of advantage especially to the Philipians by his continuing in life ultimately prevails with him. "Yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide, yea, and abide with you all." While he had a strong tending toward the Lord, it was not an impatient, precipitate tending. He was not mutinous against the Divine disposal of him. There was wisdom in his state of mind. He saw clearly that it was for his own advantage to depart. But he saw, at the same time, that it was more needful, for such as the Philippians, that he should abide in the flesh. And when it came to be a question between personal bliss and work to be done by him, there could be no doubt on what side his decision would be given. He had enough of the spirit of the Master, like him, to forego heavenly bliss for earthly work. He was not one to decline present duty, and to grasp at the prize without having run the prescribed race. While he was even desirous to embrace the gain of dying; he could not refuse the obedience of life. Out of the confidence that he had work to do rose the knowledge that he would abide with the Philippians, and still abide with them. The decisiveness with which he thus speaks of abiding shows that he contemplated a successful termination to his trial. He would abide after the great crisis was past. We are not to understand him speaking with prophetic certainty. He knew that the Ephesians would see his face no more when he parted with them at Miletus; he knew that he would abide for the sake of the Philippians. There is reason to think that he was mistaken in the first case, and that he was right in the second case. In both cases he simply proceeded on his own reasonings. In the former case it was anticipated evil at Jerusalem which weighed with him. In the latter case it was the consideration of work to be done especially among the Philippians. Twofold object contemplated in his continuance.
(1) On his part. "For your progress and joy in the faith."
(a) Progress in the faith. He had rendered them assistance in the past. He had introduced them into the faith of the gospel. He had, by visits to them and agents sent to them, helped them forward in the faith. He here intimates to them that it would be his object, when released from imprisonment, of which he was confident, to pay them a visit, and to present Christ so that their faith would become more enlightened, more lively, more steadfast.
(b) Joy in the faith. This is the blessed result of believing. "The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing." If we believe that God goes out toward us in infinite love, that in Christ he is favorable to us as sinners, dud has laid up for us everlasting happiness, then there is, in what we believe, foundation for a joy which should be ecstatic.
(2) On their part. "That your glorying may abound in Christ Jesus in me through nay presence with you again." He wanted for them increased matter of glorying, within Christ as its sphere and therefore of a holy nature, in him as its seat, and by his presence with them again. It would be an abundant cause for glorying to see him after his release from imprisonment, after they had prayed for his release, and in expectation of the benefit to be derived from a visit in such circumstances.
III. HE EXHORTS THEM TO PERFORM THEIR DUTIES AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS.
1. Generally. "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ." The leading word in the original means, "perform your duties as citizens," and the further thought is that we are to perform our duties in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ which has made us members of so great a commonwealth. And it need not be wondered at that the apostle should adopt the form of expression, writing from the Roman metropolis to a city which was invested with the Roman franchise. The citizens of Philippi could appreciate the force of an appeal founded upon their possession of the political franchise. It was this ground which they took up against Paul and Silas: "These men set forth customs which it is not lawful for us to receive or to observe, being Romans." The apostle here proceeds upon their being members of a greater commonwealth than the Roman. It was a commonwealth presided over by a greater than Caesar, even the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a commonwealth where members were admitted to greater privileges than Rome could bestow, viz. sonship with right of access to God, right of Divine protection, right of Divine direction, right of Divine strengthening, and right of dwelling with God at last. Let them perform their duties as citizens, then, in a manner worthy of the gospel which had admitted them to so great privileges.
2. Their performance of their duties as Christian citizens to be independent of his presence with them. "That, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear of your state." This brings out the force of the foregoing "only." Their performance of their duties was not to be dependent on his presence with them. He proceeds upon the supposition of his being re]cased. When released, it would be his endeavor to come and see them. But it was possible that Providence might direct his steps elsewhere. And even though he came and saw them, it could only be for a time. He could not, in justice to others, be always with them. But whether he came and saw them, or was absent, he would hear (by attraction to latter) of their state, whether they were performing their duties as Christian citizens or not.
3. He specifies two duties which devolved upon them as citizens in connection with military service.
(1) Unbroken unity. "That ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel." As enfranchised citizens it would devolve upon them to fight. The object for which they would have to fight was the faith of the gospel. An attempt would be made to make them believe a lie. They were to present an unbroken front to the enemy. They were to stand fast, striving for the faith of the gospel. In one spirit they were to stand fast. The spirit is the reason, conscience, that which governs in our nature. A common principle, the will of Christ as their Commander, was to regulate them. With one soul they were to strive. The soul is that which is governed in our nature. Under common regulation there was to be concordant thought, feeling, action, as in an army engaged in warfare.
(2) Undaunted-ness. "And in nothing affrighted by the adversaries." Attempts would be made to intimidate them. All forms of pressure would be brought to bear upon them, to make them give up the faith of the gospel. Their very life would be placed in danger. But in nothing were they to be affrighted, turned aside in fright from what they believed. Twofold consideration.
(a) Their undauntedness a Divine token. "Which is for them an evident token of perdition, but of your salvation, and that from God." It was a Divine token with a double meaning. It was a token of perdition to the adversaries. It was a proof that they were in the wrong, seeing that, by all their threatenings and tortures, they could not make the Christians blench. And it was a token of salvation, of final victory, to the Christians. It was a proof to them
Parallel VersesKJV: But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;