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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
This chapter Philippians 2 is made up principally of exhortations to the performance of various Christian duties, and the exhibition of Christian virtues. The apostle first exhorts the Philippians, in the most tender manner, so to live as to give him joy, by evincing among themselves unity and concord. He entreats them to do nothing by strife and a desire of distinction, but to evince that humility which is manifested when we regard others as more worthy than we are; Philippians 2:1-4. This exhortation he enforces in a most impressive manner by a reference to the example of Christ - an example of condescension and humiliation fitted to repress in us all the aspirings of ambition, and to make us ready to submit to the most humble offices to benefit others; Philippians 2:5-11. He then exhorts them to work out their salvation with diligence, assuring them, for their encouragement, that God worked in them to will and to do of his good pleasure; Philippians 2:12-13.
To this he adds an exhortation that they would avoid everything like complaining and disputing - that they would be blameless and harmless in their walk, showing the excellency of the religion which they loved to all around them, and exerting such an influence on others that Paul might feel that he had not labored in vain; Philippians 2:14-16. To excite them to this, he assures them that he was ready himself to be sacrificed for their welfare, and should rejoice if by his laying down his life their happiness would be promoted. He asked the same thing in return from them; Philippians 2:17-18. He then tells them, in expressing his interest in them, that he hoped soon to be able to send Timothy to them again - a man who felt a deep interest in their welfare, and whose going to them would be one of the highest proofs of the apostle's love; Philippians 2:19-24. The same love for them, he says, he had now shown by sending to them Epaphroditus - a man to whom he was tenderly attached, and who had an earnest desire again to return to the church from which he had been sent. Paul sent him, therefore, again to Philippi, that he might be with them and comfort them, and he asked for him a kind reception and affectionate treatment, in view of the sufferings which he had experienced in the cause of the Redeemer; Philippians 2:25-30.
1If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ - This, with what is said in the remainder of the verse, is designed as a motive for what he exhorts them to in Philippians 2:2 - that they would be of the same mind, and would thus fulfill his joy. To urge them to this, he appeals to the tender considerations which religion furnished - and begins by a reference to the consolation which there was in Christ. The meaning here may be this: "I am now persecuted and afflicted. In my trials it will give me the highest joy to learn that you act as becomes Christians. You also are persecuted and afflicted Philippians 1:28-30; and, in these circumstances, I entreat that the highest consolation may be sought; and by all that is tender and sacred in the Christian religion, I conjure you, so to live as not to dishonor the gospel. So live as to bring down the highest consolation which can be obtained - the consolation which Christ alone can impart We are not to suppose that Paul doubted whether there was any consolation in Christ but the form of expression here is one that is designed to urge upon them the duty of seeking the highest possible. The consolation in Christ is that which Christ furnishes or imparts. Paul regarded him as the source of all comfort, and earnestly prays that they might so live that he and they might avail themselves in the fullest sense of that unspeakable enjoyment. The idea is, that Christians ought at all times, and especially in affliction, so to act as to secure the highest possible happiness which their Saviour can impart to them. Such an object is worth their highest effort; and if God sees it needful, in order to that, that they should endure much affliction, still it is gain. Religious consolation is always worth all which it costs to secure it.
If any comfort of love - If there be any comfort in the exercise of tender affection. That there is, no one can doubt. Our happiness is almost all centered in love. It is when we love a parent, a wife, a child, a sister, a neighbor, that we have the highest earthly enjoyment. It is in the love of God, of Christ, of Christians, of the souls of people, that the redeemed find their highest happiness. Hatred is a passion full of misery; love an emotion full of joy. By this consideration, Paul appeals to them, and the motive here is drawn from all the joy which mutual love and sympathy are fitted to produce in the soul Paul would have that love exercised in the highest degree, and would have them enjoy all the happiness which its mutual exercise could furnish.
If any fellowship of the Spirit - The word "fellowship - κοινωνία koinōnia - means that which is common to two or more; that of which they partake together; Ephesians 3:9 note; Philippians 1:5 note. The idea here is, that among Christians there was a participation in the influences of the Holy Spirit; that they shared in some degree the feelings, views, and joys of the Sacred Spirit Himself; and that this was a privilege of the highest order. By this fact, Paul now exhorts them to unity, love, and zeal - so to live that they might partake in the highest degree of the consolations of this Spirit.
If any bowels and mercies - If there is any affectionate bond by which you are united to me, and any regard for my sorrows, and any desire to fill up my joys, so live as to impart to me, your spiritual father and friend, the consolation which I seek.
2Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Fulfil ye my joy - Fill up my joy so that nothing shall be wanting to complete it. This, he says, would be done by their union, zeal, and humility; compare John 3:29.
That ye be like-minded - Greek That ye think the same thing; see the notes at 2 Corinthians 13:11. Perfect unity of sentiment, opinion, and plan would be desirable if it could be attained. It may be, so far as to prevent discord, schism, contention and strife in the church, and so that Christians may be harmonious in promoting the same great work - the salvation of souls.
Having the same love - Love to the same objects, and the same love one for another. Though their opinions might differ on some points, yet they might be united in love; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 1:10.
Being of one accord - σύμψυχοι sumpsuchoi - of one soul; having your souls joined together. The word used here does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It means a union of soul; or an acting together as if but one soul actuated them.
Of one mind - Greek "Thinking the same thing." The apostle here uses a great variety of expressions to denote the same thing. The object which he aimed at was union of heart, of feeling, of plan, of purpose. He wished them to avoid all divisions and strifes; and to show the power of religion by being united in the common cause. Probably there is no single thing so much insisted on in the New Testament as the importance of harmony among Christians. Now, there is almost nothing so little known; but if it prevailed, the world would soon be converted to God; compare the notes at John 17:21 - or see the text itself without the notes.
3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Let nothing be done through strife - With a spirit of contention. This command forbids us to do anything, or attempt anything as the mere result of strife. This is not the principle from which we are to act, or by which we are to be governed. We are to form no plan, and aim at no object which is to be secured in this way. The command prohibits all attempts to secure anything over others by mere physical strength, or by superiority of intellect or numbers. or as the result of dark schemes and plans formed by rivalry, or by the indulgence of angry passions, or with the spirit of ambition. We are not to attempt to do anything merely by outstripping others, or by showing that we have more talent, courage, or zeal. What we do is to be by principle, and with a desire to maintain the truth, and to glorify God. And yet how often is this rule violated! How often do Christian denominations attempt to outstrip each other, and to see which shall be the greatest! How often do ministers preach with no better aim! How often do we attempt to outdo others in dress, and it the splendor of furniture and equipment! How often, even in plans of benevolence, and in the cause of virtue and religion, is the secret aim to outdo others. This is all wrong. There is no holiness in such efforts. Never once did the Redeemer act from such a motive, and never once should this motive be allowed to influence us. The conduct of others may be allowed to show us what we can do, and ought to do; but it should not be our sole aim to outstrip them; compare 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.
4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Look not every man on his own things - That is, be not selfish. Do not let your care and attention be wholly absorbed by your own concerns, or by the concerns of your own family. Evince a tender interest for the happiness of the whole, and let the welfare of others lie near your hearts. This, of course, does not mean that there is to be any improper interference in the business of others, or that we are to have the character of "busy-bodies in other people's matters" (compare the 2 Thessalonians 3:11, note; 1 Timothy 5:13, note; 1 Peter 4:15, note); but that we are to regard with appropriate solicitude the welfare of others, and to strive to do them good.
But every man also on the things of others - It is the duty of every man to do this. No one is at liberty to live for himself or to disregard the wants of others. The object of this rule is to break up the narrow spirit of selfishness, and to produce a benevolent regard for the happiness of others. In respect to the rule we may observe:
(1) We are not to be "busybodies" in the concerns of others; see the references above. We are not to attempt to pry into their secret purposes. Every man has his own plans, and thoughts, and intentions, which no other one has a right to look into. Nothing is more odious than a meddler in the concerns of others.
(2) we are not to obtrude our advice where it is not sought, or at unseasonable times and places, even if the advice is in itself good. No one likes to be interrupted to hear advice; and I have no right to require that he should suspend his business in order that I may give him counsel.
(3) we are not to find fault with what pertains exclusively to him. We are to remember that there are some things which are his business, not ours; and we are to learn to "possess our souls in patience," if he does not give just as much as we think be ought to benevolent objects, or if he dresses in a manner not to please our taste, or if he indulges in things which do not accord exactly with our views. He may see reasons for his conduct which we do not; and it is possible that be may be right, and that, if we understood the whole case, we should think and act as he does. We often complain of a man because be does not give as much as we think he ought, to objects of charity; and it is possible that he may be miserably niggardly and narrow. But it is also possible that he may be more embarrassed than we know of; or that he may just then have demands against him of which we are ignorant; or that he may have numerous poor relatives dependent on him; or that he gives much with "the left hand" which is not known by "the right hand." At any rate, it is his business, not ours; and we are not qualified to judge until we understand the whole case.
(4) we are not to be gossips about the concerns of others. We are not to hunt up small stories, and petty scandals respecting their families; we are not to pry into domestic affairs, and divulge them abroad, and find pleasure in circulating snell things from house to house. There are domestic secrets, which are not to be betrayed; and there is scarcely an offence of a meaner or more injurious character than to divulge to the public what we have seen a family whose hospitality we have enjoyed.
(5) where Christian duty and kindness require us to look into the concerns of others, there should be the utmost delicacy. Even children have their own secrets, and their own plans and amusements, on a small scale, quite as important to them as the greater games which we are playing in life; and they will feel the meddlesomeness of a busybody to be as odious to them as we should in our plans. A delicate parent, therefore, who has undoubtedly a right to know all about his children, will not rudely intrude into their privacies, or meddle with their concerns. So, when we visit the sick, while we show a tender sympathy for them, we should not be too particular in inquiring into their maladies or their feelings. So, when those with whom we sympathize have brought their calamities on themselves by their own fault, we should not ask too many questions about it. We should not too closely examine one who is made poor by intemperance, or who is in prison for crime. And so, when we go to sympathize with those who have been, by a reverse of circumstances, reduced from affluence to penury, we should not ask too many questions. We should let them tell their own story. If they voluntarily make us their confidants, and tell us all about their circumstances, it is well; but let us not drag out the circumstances, or wound their feelings by our impertinent inquiries, or our indiscreet sympathy in their affairs. There are always secrets which the sons and daughters of misfortune would wish to keep to themselves.
However, while these things are true, it is also true that the rule before us positively requires us to show an interest in the concerns of others; and it may be regarded as implying the following things:
(1) We are to feel that the spiritual interests of everyone in the church is, in a certain sense, our own interest. The church is one. It is confederated together for a common object. Each one is entrusted with a portion of the honor of the whole, and the conduct of one member affects the character of all. We are, therefore, to promote, in every way possible, the welfare of every other member of the church. If they go astray, we are to admonish and entreat them; if they are in error, we are to instruct them; if they are in trouble, we are to aid them. Every member of the church has a claim on the sympathy of his brethren, and should be certain of always finding it when his circumstances are such as to demand it.
(2) there are circumstances where it is proper to look with special interest on the temporal concerns of others. It is when the poor, the fatherless, and the afflicted must be sought out in order to be aided and relieved. They are too retiring and modest to press their situation on the attention of others, and they need that others should manifest a generous care in their welfare in order to relieve them. This is not improper interference in their concerns, nor will it be so regarded.
(3) for a similar reason, we should seek the welfare of all others in a spiritual sense. We should seek to arouse the sinner, and lead him to the Saviour. He is blind, and will not come himself; unconcerned, and will not seek salvation; filled with the love of this world, and will not seek a better; devoted to pursuits that will lead him to ruin, and he ought to be apprised of it. It is no more an improper interference in his concerns to apprise him of his condition, and to attempt to lead him to the Saviour, than it is to warn a man in a dark night, who walks on the verge of a precipice, of his peril; or to arouse one from sleep whose house is in flames. In like manner, it is no more meddling with the concerns of another to tell him that there is a glorious heaven which may be his, than it is to apprise a man that there is a mine of golden ore on his farm. It is for the man's own interest, and it is the office of a friend to remind him of these things. He does a man a favor who tells him that he has a Redeemer, and that there is a heaven to which he may rise; he does his neighbor the greatest possible kindness who apprises him that there is a world of infinite woe, and tells him of an easy way by which he may escape it. The world around is dependant on the church of Christ to be apprised of these truths. The frivolous ones will not warn the fools of their danger; the crowd that presses to the theater or the ballroom will not apprise those who are there that they are in the broad way to hell; and everyone who loves his neighbor, should feel sufficient interest in him to tell him that he may be eternally happy in heaven.
5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus - The object of this reference to the example of the Saviour is particularly to enforce the duty of humility. This was the highest example which could be furnished, and it would illustrate and confirm all the apostle had said of this virtue. The principle in the case is, that we are to make the Lord Jesus our model, and are in all respects to frame our lives, as far as possible, in accordance with this great example. The point here is, that he left a state of inexpressible glory, and took upon him the most humble form of humanity, and performed the most lowly offices, that he might benefit us.
6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
Who, being in the form of God - There is scarcely any passage in the New Testament which has given rise to more discussion than this. The importance of the passage on the question of the divinity of the Saviour will be perceived at once, and no small part of the point of the appeal by the apostle depends, as will be seen, in the fact that Paul regarded the Redeemer as equal with God. If he was truly divine, then his consenting to become a man was the most remarkable of all possible acts of humiliation. The word rendered "form" - μορφή morphē - occurs only in three places in the New Testament, and in each place is rendered "form." Mark 16:12; Philippians 2:6-7. In Mark it is applied to the form which Jesus assumed after his resurrection, and in which he appeared to two of his disciples on his way to Emmaus. "After that he appeared in another form unto two of them." This "form" was so unlike his usual appearance, that they did not know him. The word properly means, form, shape, bodily shape, especially a beautiful form, a beautiful bodily appearance - Passow. In Philippians 2:7, it is applied to the appearance of a servant - and took upon him the form of a servant;" that is, he was in the condition of a servant - or of the lowest condition. The word "form" is often applied to the gods by the classic writers, denoting their aspect or appearance when they became visible to people; see Cic. de Nat. Deor. ii. 2; Ovid, Meta. i. 37; Silius, xiii. 643; Xeno. Memora. iv; Aeneid, iv. 556, and other places cited by Wetstein, in loc. Hesychius explains it by ἰδέα εῖδος idea eidos. The word occurs often in the Septuagint:
(1) as the translation of the word ציי - Ziv - "splendour," Daniel 4:33; Daniel 5:6, Daniel 5:9-10; Daniel 7:28;
(2) as the translation of the word תּבנית tabniyth, structure, model, pattern - as in building, Isaiah 44:13;
(3) as the translation of תּמונה temuwnah, appearance, form, shape, image, likeness, Job 4:16; see also Wisdom Job 18:1.
The word can have here only one or two meanings, either:
(1) splendor, majesty, glory - referring to the honor which the Redeemer had, his power to work miracles, etc. - or.
(2) nature, or essence - meaning the same as φύσις phusis, "nature," or ουσία ousia, "being."
The first is the opinion adopted by Crellius, Grotius, and others, and substantially by Calvin. Calvin says, "The form of God here denotes majesty. For as a man is known from the appearance of his form, so the majesty which shines in God, is his figure. Or to use a more appropriate similitude, the form of a king consists of the external marks which indicate a king - as his scepter, diadem, coat of mail, attendants, throne, and other insignia of royalty; the form of a counsul is the toga, ivory chair, attending lictors, etc. Therefore Christ before the foundation of the world was in the form of God, because he had glory with the Father before the world was; John 17:5. For in the wisdom of God, before he put on our nature, there was nothing humble or abject, but there was magnificence worthy of God." Commentary in loc. The second opinion is, that the word is equivalent to nature, or being; that is, that he was in the nature of God, or his mode of existence was that of God, or was divine. This is the opinion adopted by Schleusner (Lexicon); Prof. Stuart (Letters to Dr. Channing, p. 40); Doddridge, and by orthodox expositors in general, and seems to me to be the correct interpretation. In support of this interpretation, and in opposition to that which refers it to his power of working miracles, or his divine appearance when on earth, we may adduce the following considerations:
(1) The "form" here referred to must have been something before he became a man, or before he took upon him the form of a servant. It was something from which he humbled himself by making "himself of no reputation;" by taking upon himself "the form of a servant;" and by being made "in the likeness of men." Of course, it must have been something which existed when he had not the likeness of people; that is, before he became incarnate. He must therefore have had an existence before he appeared on earth as a man, and in that previous state of existence there must have been something which rendered it proper to say that he was "in the form of God."
(2) that it does not refer to any moral qualities, or to his power of working miracles on earth, is apparent from the fact that these were not laid aside. When did he divest himself of these in order that he might humble himself? There was something which he possessed which made it proper to say of him that he was "in the form of God," which he laid aside when he appeared in the form of a servant and in the likeness of human beings. But assuredly that could not have been his moral qualities, nor is there any conceivable sense in which it can be said that he divested himself of the power of working miracles in order that he might take upon himself the "form of a servant." All the miracles which he ever did were performed when he sustained the form of a servant, in his lowly and humble condition. These considerations make it certain that the apostle refers to a period before the incarnation. It may be added:
(3) that the phrase "form of God" is one that naturally conveys the idea that he was God. When it is said that he was "in the form of a servant," the idea is, that he was actually in a humble and depressed condition, and not merely that he appeared to be. Still it may be asked, what was the "form" which he had before his incarnation? What is meant by his having been then "in the form of God?" To these questions perhaps no satisfactory answer can be given. He himself speaks John 17:5 of "the glory which he had with the Father before the world was;" and the language naturally conveys the idea that there was then a manifestation of the divine nature through him, which in some measure ceased when he became incarnate; that there was some visible splendor and majesty which was then laid aside. What manifestation of his glory God may make in the heavenly world, of course, we cannot now fully understand. Nothing forbids us, however, to suppose that there is some such visible manifestation; some splendor and magnificence of God in the view of the angelic beings such as becomes the Great Sovereign of the universe - for he "dwells in light which no map can approach unto;" 1 Timothy 6:16. That glory, visible manifestation, or splendor, indicating the nature of God, it is here said that the Lord Jesus possessed before his incarnation.
Thought it not robbery to be equal with God - This passage, also, has given occasion to much discussion. Prof. Stuart renders it: "did not regard his equality with God as an object of solicitous desire;" that is, that though he was of a divine nature or condition, be did not eagerly seek to retain his equality with God, but took on him an humble condition - even that of a servant. Letters to Channing, pp. 88-92. That this is the correct rendering of the passage is apparent from the following considerations:
(1) It accords with the scope and design of the apostle's reasoning. His object is not to show, as our common translation would seem to imply, that he aspired to be equal with God, or that he did not regard it as an improper invasion of the prerogatives of God to be equal with him, but that he did not regard it, in the circumstances of the case, as an object to greatly desired or eagerly sought to retain his equality with God. Instead of retaining this by an earnest effort, or by a grasp which he was unwilling to relinquish, he chose to forego the dignity, and to assume the humble condition of a man.
(2) it accords better with the Greek than the common version. The word rendered "robbery" - ἁρπαγμος harpagmos - is found nowhere else in the New Testament, though the verb from which it is derived frequently occurs; Matthew 11:12; Matthew 13:19; John 6:15; John 10:12, John 10:28-29; Acts 8:29; Acts 23:10; 2 Corinthians 12:2, 2 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Jde 1:23; Revelation 12:5. The notion of violence, or seizing, or carrying away, enters into the meaning of the word in all these places. The word used here does not properly mean an act of robbery, but the thing robbed - the plunder - das Rauben (Passow), and hence something to be eagerly seized and appropriated. Schleusner; compare Storr, Opuscul. Acade. i. 322, 323. According to this, the meaning of the word here is, something to be seized and eagerly sought, and the sense is, that his being equal with God was not a thing to be anxiously retained. The phrase "thought it not," means "did not consider;" it was not judged to be a matter of such importance that it could not be dispensed with. The sense is, "he did not eagerly seize and tenaciously hold" as one does who seizes prey or spoil. So Rosenmuller, Schleusner, Bloomfield, Stuart, and others understand it.
To be equal with God - τὸ εἶναι ἶσα Θεῷ to einai isa Theō. That is, the being equal with God he did not consider a thing to be tenaciously retained. The plural neuter form of the word "equal" in Greek - ἶσα isa - is used in accordance with a known rule of the language, thus stated by Buttman: "When an adjective as predicate is separated from its substantive, it often stands in the neuter where the substantive is a masculine or feminine, and in the singular where the substantive is in the plural. That which the predicate expresses is, in this case, considered in general as a thing." Greek Grammar, section 129, 6. The phrase "equal with God," or "equal with the gods," is of frequent occurrence in the Greek Classics; see Wetstein in loc. The very phrase here used occurs in the Odyssey:
Τον νῦν ἴσα Θεῷ Ἰθακήσιοι εἰσορόωσι Ton nun isa Theō Ithakēsioi eisoroōsi
Compare John 5:18. "Made himself equal with God." The phrase means one who sustains the same rank, dignity, nature. Now it could not be said of an angel that he was in any sense equal with God; much less could this be said of a mere man. The natural and obvious meaning of the language is, that there was an equality of nature and of rank with God, from which he humbled himself when he became a man. The meaning of the whole verse, according to the interpretation suggested above, is, that Christ, before he became a man, was invested with honor, majesty, and glory, such as was appropriate to God himself; that there was some manifestation or splendor in his existence and mode of being then, which showed that he was equal with God; that he did not consider that that honor, indicating equality with God, was to be retained at all events, and so as to do violence, as it were, to other interests, and to rob the universe of the glory of redemption; and that he was willing, therefore, to forget that, or lay it by for a time, in order that he might redeem the world. There were a glory and majesty which were appropriate to God, and which indicated equality with God - such as none but God could assume. For how could an angel have such glory, or such external splendor in heaven, as to make it proper to say that he was "equal with God?" With what glory could he be invested which would be such as became God only? The "fair" interpretation of this passage, therefore, is, that Christ before his incarnation was equal with God.
7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
But made himself of no reputation - This translation by no means conveys the sense of the original According to this it would seem that he consented to be without distinction or honor among people; or that he was willing to be despised or disregarded. The Greek is ἑαυτον ἐκένωσεν heauton ekenōsen. The word κενόω kenoō means literally, to empty, "to make empty, to make vain or void." It is rendered: "made void" in Romans 4:14; "made of none effect," 1 Corinthians 1:17; "make void," 1 Corinthians 9:15; "should be vain," 2 Corinthians 9:3. The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, except in the passage before us. The essential idea is that of bringing to emptiness, vanity, or nothingness; and, hence, it is applied to a case where one lays aside his rank and dignity, and becomes in respect to that as nothing; that is, he assumes a more humble rank and station. In regard to its meaning here, we may remark:
(1) that it cannot mean that he literally divested himself of his divine nature and perfections, for that was impossible. He could not cease to be omnipotent, and omnipresent, and most holy, and true, and good.
(2) it is conceivable that he might have laid aside, for a time, the symbols or the manifestation of his glory, or that the outward expressions of his majesty in heaven might have been withdrawn. It is conceivable for a divine being to intermit the exercise of his almighty power, since it cannot be supposed that God is always exerting his power to the utmost. And in like manner there might be for a time a laying aside or intermitting of these manifestations or symbols, which were expressive of the divine glory and perfections. Yet,
(3) this supposes no change in the divine nature, or in the essential glory of the divine perfections. When the sun is obscured by a cloud, or in an eclipse, there is no real change of its glory, nor are his beams extinguished, nor is the sun himself in any measure changed. His luster is only for a time obscured. So it might have been in regard to the manifestation of the glory of the Son of God. Of course there is much in regard to this which is obscure, but the language of the apostle undoubtedly implies more than that he took an humble place, or that he demeaned himself in an humble manner. In regard to the actual change respecting his manifestations in heaven, or the withdrawing of the symbols of his glory there, the Scriptures are nearly silent, and conjecture is useless - perhaps improper. The language before us fairly implies that he laid aside that which was expressive of his being divine - that glory which is involved in the phrase "being in the form of God" - and took upon himself another form and manifestation in the condition of a servant.
And took upon him the form of a servant - The phrase "form of a servant," should be allowed to explain the phrase "form of God," in Philippians 2:6. The "form of a servant" is that which indicates the condition of a servant, in contradistinction from one of higher rank. It means to appear as a servant, to perform the offices of a servant, and to be regarded as such. He was made like a servant in the lowly condition which he assumed. The whole connection and force of the argument here demands this interpretation. Storr and Rosenmuller interpret this as meaning that he became the servant or minister of God, and that in doing it, it was necessary that he should become a man. But the objection to this is obvious. It greatly weakens the force of the apostle's argument. His object is to state the depth of humiliation to which he descended, and this was best done by saying that he descended to the lowest condition of humanity and appeared in the most humble garb. The idea of being a "servant or minister of God" would not express that, for this is a term which might be applied to the highest angel in heaven. Though the Lord Jesus was not literally a servant or slave, yet what is here affirmed was true of him in the following respects:
(1) He occupied a most lowly condition in life.
(2) he condescended to perform such acts as are appropriate only to those who are servants. "I am among you as he that serveth;" Luke 22:27; compare John 13:4-15.
And was made in the likeness of men - Margin, habit. The Greek word means likeness, resemblance. The meaning is, he was made like unto people by assuming such a body as theirs; see the notes at Romans 8:3.
8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
And being found - That is, being such, or existing as a man, he humbled himself.
In fashion as a man - The word rendered "fashion" - σχῆμα schēma - means figure, mien, deportment. Here it is the same as state, or condition. The sense is, that when he was reduced to this condition he humbled himself, and obeyed even unto death. He took upon himself all the attributes of a man. He assumed all the innocent infirmities of our nature. He appeared as other people do, was subjected to the necessity of food and clothing, like others, and was made liable to suffering, as other men are. It was still he who had been in the "form of God" who thus appeared; and, though his divine glory had been for a time laid aside, yet it was not extinguished or lost. It is important to remember, in all our meditations on the Saviour, that it was the same Being who had been invested with so much glory in heaven, that appeared on earth in the form of a man.
He humbled himself - Even then, when he appeared as a man. He had not only laid aside the symbols of his glory Philippians 2:7, and become a man; but when he was a man, he humbled himself. Humiliation was a constant characteristic of him as a man. He did not aspire to high honors; he did not affect pomp and parade; he did not demand the service of a train of menials; but he condescended to the lowest conditions of life; Luke 22:27. The words here are very carefully chosen. In the former case Philippians 2:7, when he became a man, he "emptied himself," or laid aside the symbols of his glory; now, when a man, he humbled himself. That is, though he was God appearing in the form of man - a divine person on earth - yet he did not assume and assert the dignity and prerogatives appropriate to a divine being, but put himself in a condition of obedience. For such a being to obey law, implied voluntary humiliation; and the greatness of his humiliation was shown by his becoming entirely obedient, even until he died on the cross.
And became obedient - He subjected himself to the law of God, and wholly obeyed it; Hebrews 10:7, Hebrews 10:9. It was a characteristic of the Redeemer that he yielded perfect obedience to the will of God. Should it be said that, if he was God himself, he must have been himself the lawgiver, we may reply that this rendered his obedience all the more wonderful and all the more meritorious. If a monarch should for an important purpose place himself in a position to obey his own laws, nothing could show in a more striking manner their importance in his view. The highest honor that has been shown to the Law of God on earth was, that it was perfectly observed by him who made the Law - the great Mediator.
Unto death - He obeyed even when obedience terminated in death. The point of this expression is this: One may readily and cheerfully obey another where there is no particular peril. But the case is different where obedience is attended with danger. The child shows a spirit of true obedience when he yields to the commands of a father, though it should expose him to hazard; the servant who obeys his master, when obedience is attended with risk of life; the soldier, when he is morally certain that to obey will be followed by death. Thus, many a company or platoon has been ordered into the "deadly breach," or directed to storm a redoubt, or to scale a wall, or to face a cannon, when it was morally certain that death would be the consequence. No profounder spirit of obedience can be evinced than this. It should be said, however, that the obedience of the soldier is in many cases scarcely voluntary, since, if he did not obey, death would be the penalty. But, in the case of the Redeemer, it was wholly voluntary. He placed himself in the condition of a servant to do the will of God, and then never shrank from what that condition involved.
Even the death of the cross - It was not such a death as a servant might incur by crossing a stream, or by failing among robbers, or by being worn out by toil; it was not such as the soldier meets when he is suddenly cut down, covered with glory as he falls; it was the long lingering, painful, humiliating death of the cross. Many a one might be willing to obey if the death that was suffered was regarded as glorious; but when it is ignominious, and of the most degrading character, and the most torturing that human ingenuity can invent, then the whole character of the obedience is changed. Yet this was the obedience the Lord Jesus evinced; and it was in this way that his remarkable readiness to suffer was shown.
9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
Wherefore - As a reward of this humiliation and these sufferings. The idea is, that there was an appropriate reward for it, and that that was bestowed upon him by his exaltation as Mediator to the right hand of God; compare the notes at Hebrews 2:9.
God also hath highly exalted him - As Mediator. Though he was thus humbled, and appeared in the form of a servant, he is now raised up to the throne of glory, and to universal dominion. This exaltation is spoken of the Redeemer as he was, sustaining a divine and a human nature. If there was, as has been supposed, some obscuration or withdrawing of the symbols of his glory Philippians 2:7, when he became a man, then this refers to the restoration of that glory, and would seem to imply, also, that there was additional honor conferred on him. There was all the augmented glory resulting from the work which he had performed in redeeming man.
And given him a name which is above every name - No other name can be compared with his. It stands alone. He only is Redeemer, Saviour. He only is Christ, the Anointed of God; see the notes at Hebrews 1:4. He only is the Son of God. His rank, his titles, his dignity, are above all others; see this illustrated in the notes at Ephesians 1:20-21.
10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow - The knee should bow, or bend, in token of honor, or worship; that is, all people should adore him. This cannot mean merely that at the mention of the name of Jesses we should bow; nor is there any evidence that God requires this. Why should we bow at the mention of that name, rather than at any of the other titles of the Redeemer? Is there any special sacredness or honor in it above the other names which he bears? And why should we how at his name rather than at the name of the Father! Besides, if any special homage is to be paid to the name of the Saviour under the authority of this passage - and this is the only one on which the authority of this custom is based - it should be by bowing the knee, not the head. But the truth is, this authorizes and requires neither; and the custom of bowing at the name of Jesus, in some churches, has arisen entirely from a misinterpretation of this passage. There is no other place in the Bible to which an appeal is made to authorize the custom; compare Neal's History of the Puritans, chapter 5. Ninth 5. The meaning here is, not that a special act of respect or adoration should be shown wherever the name "Jesus" occurs in reading the Scriptures, or whenever it is mentioned, but that he was so exalted that it would be proper that all in heaven and on earth should worship him, and that the time would come when he would be thus everywhere acknowledged as Lord. The bowing of the knee properly expresses homage, respect, adoration (compare the notes at Romans 11:4); and it cannot be done to the Saviour by those who are in heaven, unless it be divine.
Of things in heaven - ἐπουρανίων epouraniōn - rather of beings in heaven, the word "things" being improperly supplied by our translators. The word may be in the neuter plural; but it may be also in the masculine plural, and denote beings rather than things. Things do not bow the knee; and the reference here is undoubtedly to angels, and to the "spirits of the just made perfect" in heaven. If Jesus is worshipped there, he is divine; for there is no idolatry eta creature in heaven. In this whole passage there is probably an allusion to Isaiah 45:23; see it illustrated in the notes at Romans 14:11. In the great divisions here specified - of those in heaven, on the earth, and under the earth - the apostle intends, doubtless, to denote the universe. The same mode of designating the universe occurs in Revelation 5:13; Exodus 20:4; compare Psalm 96:11-12. This mode of expression is equivalent to saying, "all that is above, around, and beneath us," and arises from what appears to us. The division is natural and obvious - that which is above us in the heavens, that which is on the earth where we dwell, and all that is beneath us.
And things in earth - Rather, "beings on earth," to wit, people; for they only are capable of rendering homage.
And things under the earth - Beings under the earth. The whole universe shall confess that he is Lord. This embraces, doubtless, those who have departed from this life, and perhaps includes also fallen angels. The meaning is, that riley shall all acknowledge him as universal Lord; all how to his sovereign will; all be subject to his control; all recognize him as divine. The fallen and the lost will do this; for they will be constrained to yield an unwilling homage to him by submitting to the sentence from his lips that shall consign them to woe; and thus the whole universe shall acknowledge the exalted dignity of the Son of God. But this does not mean that they will all be saved, for the guilty and the lost may be compelled to acknowledge his power, and submit to his decree as the sovereign of the universe. There is the free and cheerful homage of the heart which they who worship him in heaven will render; and there is the constrained homage which they must yield who are compelled to acknowledge his authority.
11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And that every tongue should confess - Everyone should acknowledge him. On the duty and importance of confessing Christ, see the notes at Romans 10:9-10.
That Jesus Christ is Lord - The word "Lord," here, is used in its primitive and proper sense, as denoting owner, ruler, sovereign; compare the notes at Romans 14:9. The meaning is, that all should acknowledge him as the universal sovereign.
To the glory of God the Father - Such a universal confession would honor God; see the notes at John 5:23, where this sentiment is explained.
12Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed - The Philippians had from the beginning manifested a remarkable readiness to show respect to the apostle, and to listen to his teaching. This readiness he more than once refers to and commends. He still appeals to them, and urges them to follow his counsels, that they might secure their salvation.
Now much more in my absence - Though they had been obedient when he was with them, yet circumstances had occurred in his absence which made their obedience more remarkable, and more worthy of special commendation.
Work out your own salvation - This important command was first addressed to Christians, but there is no reason why the same command should not be regarded as addressed to all - for it is equally applicable to all. The duty of doing this is enjoined here; the reason for making the effort, or the encouragement for the effort, is stated in the next verse. In regard to the command here, it is natural to inquire why it is a duty; and what is necessary to be done in order to comply with it? On the first of these inquiries, it may be observed that it is a duty to make a personal effort to secure salvation, or to work out our salvation:
(1) Because God commands it. There is no command more frequently repeated in the Scriptures, than the command to make to ourselves a new heart; to strive to enter in at the strait gate; to break off from sin, and to repent.
(2) it is a duty because it is our own personal interest that is at stake. No one else has, or can have, as much interest in our salvation as we have. It is every person's duty to be as happy as possible here, and to be prepared for eternal happiness in the future world. No person has a right either to throw away his life or his soul. He has no more right to do the one than the other; and if it is a person's duty to endeavor to save his life when in danger of drowning, it is no less his duty to endeavor to save his soul when in danger of hell.
(3) our earthly friends cannot save us. No effort of theirs can deliver us from eternal death without our own exertion. Great as may be their solicitude for us, and much as they may do, there is a point where their efforts must stop - and that point is always short of our salvation, unless we are roused to seek salvation. They may pray, and weep, and plead, but they cannot save us. There is a work to be done on our own hearts which they cannot do.
(4) it is a duty, because the salvation of the soul will not take care of itself without an effort on our part. There is no more reason to suppose this than that health and life will take care of themselves without our own exertion. And yet many live as if they supposed that somehow all would yet be well; that the matter of salvation need not give them any concern, for that things will so arrange themselves that they will be saved. Why should they suppose this anymore in regard to religion than in regard to anything else?
(5) it is a duty, because there is no reason to expect the divine interposition without our own effort. No such interposition is promised to any man, and why should he expect it? In the case of all who have been saved, they have made an effort - and why should we expect that God will favor us more than he did them? "God helps them who help themselves;" and what reason has any man to suppose that he will interfere in his case and save him, if he will put forth no effort to "work out his own salvation?" In regard to the other inquiry - What does the command imply; or what is necessary to be done in order to comply with it? We may observe, that it does not mean:
(a) that we are to attempt to deserve salvation on the ground of merit. That is out of the question; for what can man do that shall be an equivalent for eternal happiness in heaven? Nor,
(b) does it mean that we are to endeavor to make atonement for past sins. That would be equally impossible, and it is, besides, unnecessary. That work has been done by the great Redeemer. But it means:
(i) that we are to make an honest effort to be saved in the way which God has appointed;
(ii) that we are to break off from our sins by true repentance;
(iii) that we are to believe in the Saviour, and honestly to put our trust in him;
(iv) that we are to give up all that we have to God;
(v) that we are to break away from all evil companions and evil plans of life; and,
(vi) that we are to resist all the allurements of the world, and all the temptations which may assail us that would lead us back from God, and are to persevere unto the end. The great difficulty in working out salvation is in forming a purpose to begin at once. When that purpose is formed, salvation is easy.
With fear and trembling - That is, with that kind of anxiety which one has who feels that he has an important interest at stake, and that he is in danger of losing it. The reason or the ground for "fear" in this case is in general this: there is danger of losing the soul.
(1) so many persons make shipwreck of all hope and perish, that there is danger that we may also.
(2) there are so many temptations and allurements in the world, and so many things that lead us to defer attention to religion, that there is danger that we may be lost.
(3) there is danger that if the present opportunity passes, another may not occur. Death may soon overtake us. No one has a moment to lose. No one can designate one single moment of his life, and say, "I may safely lose that moment. I may safely spend it in the neglect of my soul."
(4) it should be done with the most earnest concern, front the immensity of the interest at stake. If the soul is lost, all is lost. And who is there that can estimate the value of that soul which is thus in danger of being lost forever?
13For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
For it is God that worketh in you - This is given as a reason for making an effort to be saved, or for working out our salvation. It is often thought to be the very reverse, and people often feel that if God works "in us to will and to do," there can be no need of our making an effort, and that there would be no use in it. If God does all the work, say they, why should we not patiently sit still, and wait until He puts forth His power and accomplishes in us what He wills? It is of importance, therefore, to understand what this declaration of the apostle means, in order to see whether this objection is valid, or whether the fact that God "works in us" is to be regarded as a reason why we should make no effort. The word rendered "worketh" - ἐνεργῶν energōn - working - is from a verb meaning to work, to be active to produce effect - and is that from which we have derived the word "energetic." The meaning is, that God "produces a certain effect in us;" he exerts such an influence over us as to lead to a certain result in our minds - to wit, "to will and to do." Nothing is said of the mode in which this is done, and probably this cannot be understood by us here; compare John 3:8. In regard to the divine agency here referred to, however, certain things, though of a negative character, are clear:
(1) It is not God who acts for us. He leads us to "will and to do." It is not said that he wills and does for us, and it cannot be. It is man that "wills and does" - though God so influences him that he does it.
(2) he does not compel or force us against our will. He leads us to will as well as to do. The will cannot be forced; and the meaning here must be that God exerts such an influence as to make us willing to obey Him; compare Psalm 110:3.
(3) it is not a physical force, but it must be a moral influence. A physical power cannot act on the will. You may chain a man, incarcerate him in the deepest dungeon, starve him, scourge him, apply red-hot pincers to his flesh, or place on him the thumb-screw, but the will is still free. You cannot bend that or control it, or make him believe otherwise than as he chooses to believe. The declaration here, therefore, cannot mean that God compels us, or that we are anything else but free agents still, though He "works in us to will and to do." It must mean merely that he exerts such an influence as to secure this result.
To will and to do of his good pleasure - Not to will and to do everything, but "His good pleasure." The extent of the divine agency here referred to, is limited to that, and no man should adduce this passage to prove that God "works" in him to lead him to commit sin. This passage teaches no such doctrine. It refers here to Christians, and means that he works in their hearts that which is agreeable to him, or leads them to "will and to do" that which is in accordance with his own will. The word rendered "good pleasure" - εὐδοκία eudokia - means "delight, good-will, favor;" then "good pleasure, purpose, will;" see Ephesians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:11. Here it means that which would be agreeable to him; and the idea is, that he exerts such an influence as to lead people to will and to do that which is in accordance with his will. Paul regarded this fact as a reason why we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling. It is with that view that he urges it, and not with any idea that it will embarrass our efforts, or be a hindrance to us in seeking salvation. The question then is, how this fact can be a motive to us to make an effort? In regard to this we may observe:
(1) That the work of our salvation is such that we need help, and such help as God only can impart. We need it to enable us to overcome our sins; to give us such a view of them as to produce true penitence; to break away from our evil companions; to give up our plans of evil, and to resolve to lead different lives. We need help that our minds may be enlightened; that we may be led in the way of truth; that we may be saved from the danger of error, and that we may not be suffered to fall back into the ways of transgression. Such help we should welcome from any quarter; and any assistance furnished on these points will not interfere with our freedom.
(2) the influence which God exerts on the mind is in the way of help or aid. What He does will not embarrass or hinder us. It will prevent no effort which we make to be saved; it will throw no hindrance or obstacle in the way. When we speak of Gods working "in us to will and to do," people often seem to suppose that His agency will hinder us, or throw some obstacle in our way, or exert some evil influence on our minds, or make it more difficult for us to work out our salvation than it would be without His agency. But this cannot be. We may be sure that all the influence which God exerts over our minds, will be to aid us in the work of salvation, not to embarrass us; will be to enable us to overcome our spiritual enemies and our sins, and not to put additional weapons into their hands or to confer on them new power. Why should people ever dread the influence of God on their hearts, as if he would hinder their efforts for their own good?
(3) the fact that God works is an encouragement for us to work. When a man is about to set out a peach or an apple tree, it is an encouragement for him to reflect that the agency of God is around him, and that he can cause the tree to produce blossoms, and leaves, and fruit. When he is about to plow and sow his farm, it is an encouragement, not a hindrance, to reflect that God works, and that he can quicken the grain that is sown, and produce an abundant harvest. What encouragement of a higher order can man ask? And what farmer is afraid of the agency of God in the case, or supposes that the fact that God exerts an agency is a reason why he should not plow and plant his field, or set out his orchard? Poor encouragement would a man have in these things if God did not exert any agency in the world, and could not be expected to make the tree grow or to cause the grain to spring up; and equally poor would be all the encouragement in religion without his aid.
14Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
Do all things without murmurings and disputings - In a quiet, peaceful, inoffensive manner. Let there be no brawls, strifes, or contentions. The object of the apostle here is, probably, to illustrate the sentiment which he had expressed in Philippians 2:3-5, where he had inculcated the general duties of humbleness of mind, and of esteeming others better than themselves, in order that that spirit might be fully manifested, he now enjoins the duty of doing everything in a quiet and gentle manner, and of avoiding any species of strife; see the notes at Ephesians 4:31-32.
15That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
That ye may be blameless - That you may give no occasion for others to accuse you of having done wrong.
And harmless - Margin, "sincere." The Greek word (ἀκέραιος akeraios) means properly that which is unmixed; and then pure, sincere. The idea here is, that they should be artless, simple, without guile. Then they would injure no one. The word occurs only in Matthew 10:16; Philippians 2:15, where it is rendered "harmless," and Romans 16:19, where it is rendered "sincere"; see the Matthew 10:16 note, and Romans 16:19 note.
The sons of God - The children of God; a phrase by which true Christians were denoted; see the Matthew 5:45 note; Ephesians 5:1 note.
Without rebuke - Without blame; without giving occasion for anyone to complain of you.
In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation - Among those of perverted sentiments and habits; those who are disposed to complain and find fault; those who will take every occasion to pervert what you do and say, and who seek every opportunity to retard the cause of truth and righteousness. It is not certainly known to whom the apostle refers here, but it seems not improbable that he had particular reference to the Jews who were in Philippi. The language used here was employed by Moses Deuteronomy 32:5, as applicable to the Jewish people, and it is accurately descriptive of the character of the nation in the time of Paul. The Jews were among the most bitter foes of the gospel, and did perhaps more than any other people to embarrass the cause of truth and prevent the spread of the true religion.
Among whom ye shine - Margin, "or, shine ye." The Greek will admit of either construction, and expositors have differed as to the correct interpretation. Rosenmuller, Doddridge and others regard it as imperative, and as designed to enforce on them the duty of letting their light shine. Erasmus says it is doubtful whether it is to be understood in the indicative or imperative. Grotius, Koppe, Bloomfield, and others regard it as in the indicative, and as teaching that they did in fact shine as lights in the world. The sense can be determined only by the connection; and in regard to it different readers will form different opinions. It seems to me that the connection seems rather to require the sense of duty or obligation to be understood. The apostle is enforcing on them the duty of being blameless and harmless; of holding forth the word of life; and it is in accordance with his design to remind them that they ought to be lights to those around them.
As lights in the world - The comparison of Christians with light, often occurs in the Scriptures; see at Matthew 5:14, note, 16, note. The image here is not improbably taken from light-houses on a seacoast. The image then is, that as those light-houses are placed on a dangerous coast to apprise vessels of their peril, and to save them from shipwreck, so the light of Christian piety shines on a dark world, and in the dangers of the voyage which we are making; see the note of Burder, in Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc.
16Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
Holding forth the word of life - That is, you are under obligation to hold forth the word of life. It is a duty incumbent on you as Christians to do it. The "word of life" means the gospel, called the "word of life" because it is the message that promises life; or perhaps this is a Hebraism, denoting the living, or life-giving word. The gospel stands thus in contrast with all human systems of religion - for they have no efficacy to save - and to the law which "killeth;" see the John 6:63, note, and 2 Corinthians 3:6, note. The duty here enjoined is that of making the gospel known to others, and of thus keeping up the knowledge of it in the world. This duty rests on Christians (compare Matthew 5:14, Matthew 5:16), and they cannot escape from the obligation. They are bound to do this, not only because God commands it, but:
(1) because they are called into the church that they may be witnesses for God, Isaiah 43:10.
(2) because they are kept on the earth for that purpose. If it were not for some such design, they would be removed to heaven at once on their conversion.
(3) because there are no others to do it. The frivolous ones will not warn the fools, nor will the proud warn the proud, nor the scoffer the scoffer. The thoughtless and the vain will not go and tell others that there is a God and a Saviour; nor will the wicked warn the wicked, and tell them that they are in the way to hell. There are none who will do this but Christians; and, if they neglect it, sinners will go unwarned and unalarmed down to death. This duty rests on every Christian.
The exhortation here is not made to the pastor, or to any officer of the church particularly; but to the mass of communicants. They are to shine as lights in the world; they are to hold forth the word of life. There is not one member of a church who is so obscure as to be exempt from the obligation; and there is not one who may not do something in this work. If we are asked how this may be done, we may reply:
(1) They are to do it by example. Everyone is to hold forth the living word in that way.
(2) by efforts to send the gospel to those who have it not. There is almost no one who cannot contribute something, though it may be but two mites, to accomplish this.
(3) by conversation. There is no Christian who has not some influence over the minds and hearts of others; and he is bound to use that influence in holding forth the word of life.
(4) by defending the divine origin of religion when attacked.
(5) by rebuking sin, and thus testifying to the value of holiness. The defense of the truth, under God, and the diffusion of a knowledge of the way of salvation, rests on those who are Christians. Paganism never originates a system which it would not be an advantage to the world to have destroyed as soon as it is conceived. Philosophy has never yet told of a way by which a sinner may be saved. The world at large devises no plan for the salvation of the soul. The most crude, ill-digested, and perverse systems of belief conceivable, prevail in the community called "the world." Every form of opinion has an advocate there; every monstrous vagary that the human mind ever conceived, finds friends and defenders there. The human mind has of itself no elastic energy to bring it from the ways of sin; it has no recuperative power to lead it back to God. The world at large is dependant on the church for any just views of God, and of the way of salvation; and every Christian is to do his part in making that salvation known.
That I may rejoice - This was one reason which the apostle urged, and which it was proper to urge, why they should let their light shine. He had been the instrument of their conversion, he had founded their church, he was their spiritual father, and had shown the deepest interest in their welfare; and he now entreats them, as a means of promoting his highest joy, to be faithful and holy. The exemplary piety and holy lives of the members of a church will be one of the sources of highest joy to a minister in the day of judgment; compare 3 John 1:4.
In the day of Christ - The day when Christ shall appear - the day of judgment. It is called the day of Christ, because he will be the glorious object which will be prominent on that day; it will be the day in which he will be honored as the judge of all the world.
That I have not run in vain - That is, that I have not lived in vain - life being compared with a race: see the notes at 1 Corinthians 9:26.
Neither laboured in vain - In preaching the gospel. Their holy lives would be the fullest proof that he was a faithful preacher.
17Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.
Yea, and if I be offered - Margin, "poured forth." The mention of his labors in their behalf, in the previous verse, seems to have suggested to him the sufferings which he was likely yet to endure on their account. He had labored for their salvation. He had exposed himself to peril that they and others might have the gospel. On their account he had suffered much; he had been made a prisoner at Rome; and there was a possibility, if not a probability, that his life might be a forfeit for his labors in their behalf. Yet he says that, even if this should happen, he would not regret it, but it would be a source of joy. The word which is used here - σπένδομαι spendomai - properly means, to pour out, to make a libation; and is commonly used, in the classic writers, in connection with sacrifices. It refers to a drink-offering, where one who was about to offer a sacrifice, or to present a drink-offering to the gods, before he tasted of it himself, poured out apart of it on the altar. Passow. It is used also to denote the fact that, when an animal was about to be slain in sacrifice, wine was poured on it as a solemn act of devoting it to God; compare Numbers 15:5; Numbers 28:7, Numbers 28:14. In like manner, Paul may have regarded himself as a victim prepared for the sacrifice. In the New Testament it is found only in this place, and in 2 Timothy 4:6, where it is rendered, "I am ready to be offered;" compare the notes at that place. It does not here mean that Paul really expected to be a sacrifice, or to make an expiation for sin by his death; but that he might be called to pour out his blood, or to offer up his life as if he were a sacrifice, or an offering to God. We have a similar use of language, when we say that a man sacrifices himself for his friends or his country.
Upon the sacrifice - ἐπὶ τῆ θυσίᾳ epi tē thusia. The word rendered here as "sacrifice," means:
(1) the act of sacrificing;
(2) the victim that is offered; and,
(3) any oblation or offering.
Robinson's Lexicon. Here it must be used in the latter sense, and is connected with "faith" - "the sacrifice of your faith." The reference is probably to the faith, i. e., the religion of the Philippians, regarded as a sacrifice or an offering to God; the worship which they rendered to Him. The idea of Paul is, that if, in order to render that offering what it should be - to make it as complete and acceptable to God as possible - it were necessary for him to die, pouring out his blood, and strength, and life, as wine was poured out to prepare a sacrifice for the altar and make it complete, he would not refuse to do it, but would rejoice in the opportunity. He seems to have regarded them as engaged in making an offering of faith, and as endeavoring to make the offering complete and acceptable; and says that if his death were necessary to make their piety of the highest and most acceptable kind, he was ready to die.
And service - λειτουργία leitourgia - a word taken from an act of worship, or public service, and especially the ministry of those engaged in offering sacrifices; Luke 1:23; Hebrews 8:6. Here it means, the ministering or service which the Philippians rendered to God; the worship which they offered, the essential element of which was faith. Paul was willing to endure anything, even to suffer death in their cause, if it would tend to make their "service" more pure, spiritual, and acceptable to God. The meaning of the whole is:
(1) that the sufferings and dangers which he now experienced were in their cause, and on their behalf; and,
(2) that he was willing to lay down his life, if their piety would be promoted, and their worship be rendered more pure and acceptable to God.
I joy - That is, I am not afraid of death; and if my dying can be the means of promoting your piety, it will be a source of rejoicing; compare the notes at Philippians 1:23.
And rejoice with you all - My joy will be increased in anything that promotes yours. The fruits of my death will reach and benefit you, and it will be a source of mutual congratulation.
18For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.
For the same cause - Because we are united, and what affects one of us should affect both.
Do ye joy, and rejoice with me - That is, "do not grieve at my death. Be not overwhelmed with sorrow, but let your hearts be filled with congratulation. It will be a privilege and a pleasure thus to die." This is a noble sentiment, and one that could have been uttered only by a heroic and generous mind - by a man who will not dread death, and who felt that it was honorable thus to die Doddridge has illustrated the sentiment by an appropriate reference to a fact stated by Plutarch. A brave Athenian returned from the battle of Marathon, bleeding with wounds and exhausted, and rushed into the presence of the magistrates, and uttered only these two words - χαιρετε chairete, χαιρομεν chairomen - "rejoice, we rejoice," and immediately expired. So Paul felt that there was occasion for him, and for all whom he loved, to rejoice, if he was permitted to die in the cause of others, and in such a manner that his death would benefit the world.
19But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.
But I trust in the Lord Jesus - His hope was that the Lord Jesus would so order affairs as to permit this - an expression that no man could use who did not regard the Lord Jesus as on the throne, and as more that human.
To send Timotheus shortly unto you - There was a special reason why Paul desired to send Timothy to them rather than any other person, which he himself states, Philippians 2:22. "Ye know the proof of him, that as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel." From this passage, as well as from Philippians 1:1, where Timothy is joined with Paul in the salutation, it is evident that he had been with the apostle at Philippi. But this fact is nowhere mentioned in the sixteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, which contains an account of the visit of Paul to that place. The narrative in the Acts , however, as Dr. Paley has remarked (Horae Paulinae, in loc.) is such as to render this altogether probable, and the manner in which the fact is adverted to here is such as would have occurred to no one forging an epistle like this, and shows that the Acts of the Apostles and the epistle are independent books, and are not the work of imposture.
In the Acts of the Apostles it is said that when Paul came to Derbe and Lystra he found a certain disciple named Timothy, whom he would have go forth with him; Phil Act 16:1-3. The narrative then proceeds with an account of the progress of Paul through variotis provinces of Asia Minor, until it brings him to Troas. There he was warned in a vision to go over into Macedonia. In pursuance of this call, he passed over the Aegean Sea, came to Samothracia, and thence to Neapolis, and thence to Philippi. No mention is made, indeed, of Timothy as being with Paul at Philippi, but after he had left that city, and had gone to Berea, where the "brethren sent away Paul," it is added, "but Silas and Timotheus abode there still." From this it is evident that he had accompanied them in their journey, and had no doubt been with them at Philippi. For the argument which Dr. Paley has derived from the manner in which this subject is mentioned in the Acts , and in this Epistle in favor of the genuineness of the Scripture account; see Horae Paul, on the Epistle to the Philippians, no. iv.
When I know your state - It was a considerable time since Epaphroditus had left the Philippians, and since, therefore, Paul had been informed of their condition.
20For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.
For I have no man like-minded - Margin, "so dear unto me." The Greek is, ἰσόψυχον isopsuchon - similar in mind, or like-minded. The meaning is, that there was no one with him who would feel so deep an interest in their welfare.
Who will naturally care - The word rendered "naturally" - γνησίως gnēsiōs - means sincerely and the idea is, that he would regard their interests with a sincere tenderness and concern. He might be depended on to enter heartily into their concerns. This arose doubtless from the fact that he had been with them when the church was founded there, and that he felt a deeper interest in what related to the apostle Paul than any other man. Paul regarded Timothy as a son, and Paul's sending him on such an occasion would evince the feelings of a father who should send a beloved son on an important message.
21For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.
For all seek their own - That is, all who are with me. Who Paul had with him at this time is not fully known, but he doubtless means that this remark should apply to the mass of Christians and Christian ministers then in Rome. Perhaps he had proposed to some of them to go and visit the church at Philippi, and they had declined it because of the distance and the dangers of the way. When the trial of Paul came on before the emperor, all who were with him in Rome fled from him 2 Timothy 4:16, and it is possible that the same disregard of his wishes and his welfare had already begun to manifest itself among the Christians who were at Rome, so that he was constrained to say that, as a general thing, they sought their own ease and comfort, and were unwilling to deny themselves in order to promote the happiness of those who lived in the remote parts of the world. Let us not be harsh in judging them. How many professing Christians in our cities and towns are there now who would be willing to leave their business and their comfortable homes and go on embassy like this to Philippi? How many are there who would not seek some excuse, and show that it was a characteristic that they "sought their own" rather than the things which pertained to the kingdom of Jesus Christ?
Not the things which are Jesus Christ's - Which pertain to his cause and kingdom. They are not willing to practice self-denial in order to promote that cause. It is implied here:
(1) that it is the duty of those who profess religion to seek the things which pertain to the kingdom of the Redeemer, or to make that the great and leading object of their lives. They are bound to be willing to sacrifice their own things - to deny themselves of ease, and to be always ready to expose themselves to peril and want if they may be the means of advancing his cause.
(2) that frequently this is not done by those who profess religion. It was the case with the professed Christians at Rome, and it is often the case in the churches now. There are few Christians who deny themselves much to promote the kingdom of the Redeemer; few who are willing to lay aside what they regard as their own in order to advance his cause. People live for their own ease; for their families; for the prosecution of their own business - as if a Christian could have anything which he has a right to pursue independently of the kingdom of the Redeemer, and without regard to his will and glory.
22But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.
But ye know the proof of him - You have had evidence among yourselves how faithfully Timothy devoted himself to the promotion of the gospel, and how constantly he served with me. This proves that Timothy was with Paul when he was at Philippi.
As a son with the father - Manifesting the same spirit toward me which a son does toward a father, and evincing the same interest in my work. He did all he could do to aid me, and lighten my labors and sufferings.
23Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me.
So soon as I shall see how it will go with me - Paul was a prisoner at Rome, and there was not a little uncertainty whether he would be condemned or acquitted. He was, it is commonly supposed, in fact released on the first trial; 2 Timothy 4:16. He now felt that he would soon be able to send Timothy to them at any rate. If he was condemned and put to death, he would, of course, have no further occasion for his services, and if he was released from his present troubles and dangers, he could spare him for a season to go and visit the churches.
24But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.
But I trust in the Lord ... - note, Philippians 1:25.
25Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.
Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus - Epaphroditus is nowhere else mentioned but in this Epistle; see Philippians 4:18. All that is known of him, therefore, is what is mentioned here. He was from Philippi, and was a member of the church there. He had been employed by the Philippians to carry relief to Paul when he was in Rome Philippians 4:18, and while in Rome he was taken dangerously sick. News of this had been conveyed to Philippi, and again intelligence had been brought to him that they had heard of his sickness and that they were much affected by it. On his recovery, Paul thought it best that he should return at once to Philippi, and doubtless sent this Epistle by him. He is much commended by Paul for his faithfulness and zeal.
My brother - In the gospel; or brother Christian. These expressions of affectionate regard must have been highly gratifying to the Philippians.
And companion in labour - It is not impossible that he may have labored with Paul in the gospel, at Philippi; but more probably the sense is, that he regarded him as engaged in the same great work that he was. It is not probable that he assisted Paul much in Rome, as he appears to have been sick during a considerable part of the time he was there.
And fellow-soldier - Christians and Christian ministers are compared with soldiers Plm 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:3-4, because of the nature of the service in which they are engaged. The Christian life is a warfare; there are many foes to be overcome; the period which they are to serve is fixed by the Great Captain of salvation, and they will soon be permitted to enjoy the triumphs of victory. Paul regarded himself as enlisted to make war on all the spiritual enemies of the Redeemer, and he esteemed Epaphroditus as one who had shown that he was worthy to be engaged in so good a cause.
But your messenger - Sent to convey supplies to Paul; Philippians 4:18. The original is, "your apostle" - ὑμῶν δὲ ἀπόστολον humōn de apostolon - and some have proposed to take this literally, meaning that he was the apostle of the church at Philippi, or that he was their bishop. The advocates for Episcopacy have been the rather inclined to this, because in Philippians 1:1, there are but two orders of ministers mentioned - "bishops and deacons" - from which they have supposed that "the bishop" might have been absent, and that "the bishop" was probably this Epaphroditus. But against this supposition the objections are obvious:
(1) The word ἀπόστολος apostolos; means properly one sent forth, a messenger, and it is uniformly used in this sense unless there is something in the connection to limit it to an "apostle," technically so called.
(2) the supposition that it here means a messenger meets all the circumstances of the case, and describes exactly what Epaphroditus did. He was in fact sent as a messenger to Paul; Philippians 4:18.
(3) he was not an apostle in the proper sense of the term - the apostles having been chosen to be witnesses of the life, the teachings, the death, and the resurrection of the Saviour; see Acts 1:22; compare the notes, 1 Corinthians 9:1.
(4) if he had been an apostle, it is altogether improbable that he would have seen sent on an errand comparatively so humble as that of carrying supplies to Paul. Was there no one else who could do this without sending their bishop? Would a diocese be likely to employ a "bishop" for such a purpose now?
And he that ministered to my wants - Philippians 4:18.
26For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.
For he longed after you all - He was desirous to see you all, and to relieve your anxiety in regard to his safety.
27For 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.
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.
28I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.
I send him therefore the more carefully - With more diligence, or speed; I was the more ready to send him.
That I may be the less sorrowful - That is, on account of my solicitude for you; that I may know that your minds are at ease, and that you rejoice in his being among you.
29Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation:
Receive him therefore in the Lord - As the servant of the Lord, or as now restored to you by the Lord, and therefore to be regarded as a fresh gift from God. Our friends restored to us after a long absence, we should receive as the gift of God, and as a proof of his mercy.
And hold such in reputation - Margin, honor such. This is a high commendation of Epaphroditus, and, at the same time, it enjoins an important duty in regard to the proper treatment of those who sustain such a character. It is a Christian duty to honor those who ought to be honored, to respect the virtuous and the pious, and especially to honor those who evince fidelity in the work of the Lord.
30Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
Because for the work of Christ - That is, either by exposing himself in his journey to see the apostle in Rome, or by his labors there.
Not regarding his life - There is a difference in the mss. here, so great that it is impossible now to determine which is the true reading, though the sense is not materially affected. The common reading of the Greek text is, παραβολευσάμενος paraboleusamenos; literally "misconsulting, not consulting carefully, not taking pains." The other reading is, παραζολευσάμενος parazoleusamenos; "exposing oneself to danger," regardless of life; see the authorities for this reading in Wetstein; compare Bloomfield, in loc. This reading suits the connection, and is generally regarded as the correct one.
To supply your lack of service toward me - Not that they had been indifferent to him, or inattentive to his wants, for he does not mean to blame them; but they had not had an opportunity to send to his relief (see Philippians 4:10), and Epaphroditus therefore made a special journey to Rome on his account. He came and rendered to him the service which they could not do in person; and what the church would have done, if Paul had been among them, he performed in their name and on their behalf.
Remarks On Philippians 2
1. Let us learn to esteem others as they ought to be; Philippians 2:3. Every person who is virtuous and pious has some claim to esteem. He has a reputation which is valuable to him and to the church, and we should not withhold respect from him. It is one evidence, also, of true humility and of right feeling, when we esteem them as better than ourselves, and when we are willing to see them honored, and are willing to sacrifice our own ease to promote their welfare. It is one of the instinctive promptings of true humility to feel that other persons are better than we are.
2. We should not he disappointed or mortified if others think little of us - if we are not brought into prominent notice among people; Philippians 2:3. We profess to have a low opinion of ourselves, if we are Christians, and we ought to have; and why should we be chagrined and mortified if others have the same opinion of us? Why should we not be willing that they should accord in judgment with us in regard to ourselves?
3. We should be willing to occupy our appropriate place in the church; Philippians 2:3. That is true humility; and why should anyone be unwilling to be esteemed just as he ought to be? Pride makes us miserable, and is the grand thing that stands in the way of the influence of the gospel on our hearts. No one can become a Christian who is not willing to occupy just the place which he ought to occupy; to take the lowly position as a penitent which he ought to take; and to have God regard and treat him just as he ought to be treated. The first, second, and third thing in religion is humility; and no one ever becomes a Christian who is not willing to take the lowly condition of a child.
4. We should feel a deep interest in the welfare of others; Philippians 2:4. People are by nature selfish, and it is the design of religion to make them benevolent. They seek their own interests by nature, and the gospel would teach them to regard the welfare of others. If we are truly under the influence of religion, there is not a member of the church in whom we should not feel an interest, and whose welfare we should not strive to promote as far as we have opportunity. And we may have opportunity every day. It is an easy matter to do good to others. A kind word, or even a kind look, does good; and who so poor that he cannot render this? Every day that we live, we come in contact with some who may be benefited by our example, our advice, or our alms; and every day, therefore, may be closed with the feeling that we have not lived in vain.
5. Let us in all things look to the example of Christ; Philippians 2:5. He came that he might be an example; and he was exactly such an example as we need. We may be always sure that we are right when we follow his example and possess his spirit. We cannot be so sure that we are right in any other way. He came to be our model in all things, and in all the relations of life:
(a) He showed us what the law of God requires of us.
(b) lie showed us what we should aim to be, and what human nature would be if it were wholly under the influence of religion.
(c) lie showed us what true religion is, for it is just such as was seen in his life.
(d) he showed us how to act in our treatment of mankind.
(e) he showed us how to bear the ills of poverty, and want, and pain, and temptation, and reproach, from the world. We should learn to manifest the same spirit in suffering which he did, for then we are sure we are right.
(f) and he has showed us how to die. He has exhibited in death just the spirit which we should when we die; for it is not less desirable to die well than to live well.
6. It is right and proper to worship Christ; Philippians 2:6. He was in the form of God, and equal with God; and, being such, we should adore him. No one need be afraid to render too high honor to the Saviour; and all piety may he measured by the respect which is shown to him. Religion advances in the world just in proportion as people are disposed to render honor to the Redeemer; it becomes dim and dies away just in proportion as that honor is withheld.
7. Like the Redeemer, we should he willing to deny ourselves in order that we may promote the welfare of others; Philippians 2:6-8. We can never, indeed, equal his condescension. We can never stoop from such a state of dignity and honor as he did; but, in our measure, we should aim to imitate him. If we have comforts, we should be willing to deny ourselves of them to promote the happiness of others. If we occupy an elevated rank in life, we should be willing to stoop to one more humble. If we live in a palace, we should be willing to enter the most lowly cottage, if we can render its inmates happy.
8. Christ was obedient unto death; Philippians 2:8. Let us be obedient also, doing the will of God in all things. If in his service we are called to pass through trials, even those which will terminate in death, let us obey. He has a right to command us, and we have the example of the Saviour to sustain us. if he requires us, by his providence, and by the leadings of his Spirit, to forsake our country and home; to visit climes of pestilential air, or to traverse wastes of burning sand, to make his name known; if he demands that, in that service, we shall die far away from kindred and home, and that our bones shall be laid on the banks of the Senegal or the Ganges - still, let us remember that these sufferings are not equal to those of the Master. He was an exile from heaven, in a world of suffering. Our exile from our own land is not like that from heaven; nor will our sufferings, though in regions of pestilence and death, be like his sufferings in the garden and on the cross.
9. Let us rejoice that we have a Saviour who has ascended to heaven, and who is to be forever honored there; Philippians 2:9-11. He is to suffer no more. He has endured the last pang; has passed through a state of humiliation and woe which he will never repeat; and has submitted to insults and mockeries to which it will not be necessary for him to submit again. When we now think of the Redeemer, we can think of him as always happy and honored. There is no moment, by day or by night, in which he is not the object of adoration, love, and praise - nor will there ever be such a moment to all eternity. Our best friend is thus to be eternally reverenced, and in heaven he will receive a full reward for all his unparalleled woes.
10. Let us diligently endeavor to work out our salvation; Philippians 2:12-13. Nothing else so much demands our unceasing solicitude as this, and in nothing else have we so much encouragement. We are assured that God aids us in this work. He throws no obstructions in our path, but all that God does in the matter of salvation is in the way of help. He does not work in us evil passions, or impure desires, or unbelief; his agency is to enable us to perform "his good pleasure," or that which will please him - that is, that which is holy. The farmer is encouraged to plow and plant his fields when God works around him by sending the warm breezes of the spring, and by refreshing the earth with gentle dews and rains. And so we may be encouraged to seek our salvation when God works in our hearts, producing serious thoughts, and a feeling that we need the blessings of salvation.
11. Christians should let their light shine; Philippians 2:14-16. God has called them into his kingdom that they may show what is the nature and power of true religion. They are to illustrate in their lives the nature of that gospel which he has revealed, and to show its value in purifying the soul, and in sustaining it in the time of trial. The world is dependent on Christians for just views of religion, and every day that a Christian lives he is doing something to honor or dishonor the gospel. Every word that he speaks, every expression of the eye, every cloud or beam of sunshine on his brow, will have some effect in doing this. He cannot live without making some impression upon the world around him, either favorable or unfavorable to the cause of his Redeemer.
12. We should be ready to die, if called to such a sacrifice in behalf of the church of Christ; Philippians 2:17. We should rejoice in being permitted to suffer, that we may promote the welfare of others, and be the means of saving those for whom Christ died. It has been an honor to be a martyr in the cause of religion, and so it ever will be when God calls to such a sacrifice of life. If he calls us to it, therefore, we should not shrink from it, nor should we shrink from any sufferings by which we may honor the Saviour, and rescue souls from death.
13. Let us learn, from the interesting narrative respecting Epaphroditus at the close of this chapter, to live and act as becomes Christians in every situation in life; Philippians 2:25-30. It was much to have the praise of an apostle and to be commended for his Christian conduct, as this stranger in Rome was. He went there, not to view the wonders of the imperial city, and not to run the rounds of giddy pleasure there, but to perform an important duty of religion. While there he became sick - not by indulgence in pleasures; not as the result of feasting and revelry, but in the work of Christ. In a strange city, far from home, amidst the rich, the great, the frivolous; in a place where theaters opened their doors, and where places of amusement abounded, he led a life which an apostle could commend as pure. There is nothing more difficult for a Christian than to maintain an irreproachable walk when away from the usual restraints and influences that serve to keep him in the paths of piety, and when surrounded with the fascinations and allurements of a great and wicked city.
There strangers, extending the rites of hospitality, often invite the guest to places of amusement which the Christian would not visit were he at home. There the desire to see all that is to be seen, and to hear all that is to be heard, attracts him to the theater, the opera, and the gallery of obscene and licentious statuary and painting. There the plea readily presents itself that an opportunity of witnessing these things may never occur again; that he is unknown, and that his example, therefore, can do no harm; that it is desirable, from personal observation, to know what is the condition of the world; or that perhaps his former views in these matters may have been precise and puritanical. To such considerations he yields; but yields only to regret it in future life. Rarely is such a thing done without its being in some way soon known; and rarely, very rarely does a Christian minister or other member of the church travel much without injury to his piety, and to the cause of religion. A Christian man who is under a necessity of visiting Europe from this country, should feel that he has special need of the prayers of his friends, that he may not dishonor his religion abroad; he who is permitted to remain at home, and to cultivate the graces of piety in his own family, and in the quiet scenes where he has been accustomed to move, should regard it as a cause of special thankfulness to God.