New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary




1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus- Paul was writing from prison in Rome; Timothy was with him. Yet 2 Tim. 4:9 records Paul's request for Timothy to come and be with him there as he was about to die. Perhaps this letter was written after Timothy arrived; or perhaps Timothy was with Paul there at some earlier stage in Paul's time at Rome. This seems most likely, because Paul says he is going to send Timothy to them (2:19) and hopes to come to them himself (1:26). If this was after Timothy had come to Paul on his deathbed as it were, we see here how Paul valued their encouragement more than his own. The emphasis upon "joy" in Philippians is notable, and is all the more significant when we consider that Paul was writing from prison, and perhaps at the end of his life. And we would then read Paul's words in 2 Tim. 4 as written in depression, whereas here he is confident of release and visiting Philippi again (:26); unless we are to read this as the unrealistic hopes of a dying man. Throughout this exposition I have noted hints which would support the idea that Philippians was written at the end of Paul's life, facing death, at around the time he wrote 2 Timothy (see notes on 2:12,16, 17,23; 3:13,20; 4:1,13; Col. 4:14).

To all the saints in Christ Jesus that are at Philippi- The general congregation are addressed first, and then the overseers, as if to emphasize that Paul is writing to all. There would have been a tendency for the illiterate mass of the congregations to feel they were mere spectators at a show, just as there is in large churches today. "Saints" is the term used for all Israel being a "holy people" in that they were all intended to be priests (Ex. 19:6; Dt. 7:6; 14:2). The point was that although they had spiritual leaders, they were all to take priestly responsibility in the new Israel.

With the bishops and deacons- We must respect elders (and indeed all people) for who they are as persons, and not for any ‘office’ they may appear to hold. Notice how in Phil. 1:1 Paul omits the definite article (“the”) in addressing bishops and deacons. Those words indicate what they do for people, rather than any position in a hierarchy. Jesus seems to have outlawed the use of any official titles for His ecclesia (Mt. 23:8-12). Paul never speaks of an ecclesial ‘elder’ but of elders in the plural. The same can be said of “bishops (overseers), see Phil.1:1; Acts 20:28. Our groups may have secretaries or teachers, but this individual must never be seen as the elder. There is only one author [Gk. ‘pioneer’] of our faith: the Lord Himself, who worked in our lives to bring us to Himself. This is stressed in Acts 3:15; 5:31; Heb. 2:10; 12:2.

Bishops- Vine notes that "The word was originally a secular title, designating commissioners appointed to regulate a newly-acquired territory or a colony". Paul may be using it in this sense, for he sought to leave behind in each new church someone who could teach the new converts, whom he saw as colonies on earth of the Heavenly Kingdom. It would therefore be possible to argue that "bishops" were a temporary office designed for a missionary context. "Deacons" are the servants of the church, those serving by practical arrangement of things.

1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ- "Grace", charis, often refers to the gift of the Spirit which is received in the heart of every baptized believer. Paul wishes them the peace which comes as a direct gift from God and the Lord Jesus. This then is no mere formal greeting, but a real desire that they experience in their hearts what was potentially available to them.

1:3 I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you- This could mean 'every time I remember / think of you'. But 'remembering' someone is a Hebraism for prayer. It would then parallel "every prayer of mine for you" in :4. He would then mean 'Every time I remember you before God in prayer, I thank God for you'.

1:4 Always in every prayer of mine with joy making requests for you all- As noted on :3, Paul likely means that every time he prays for them, he does so with joy, as he makes "requests" for them. What started out as requesting things for them merged into a sense of joy and thanksgiving for them. There’s nothing wrong with a Christian experiencing both joy and sorrow at the same time. The Lord’s description of His ‘joy’ at the time of His being the ultimate ‘man of sorrows’ is an obvious example. But consider too Paul’s language to the Philippians. On one hand he speaks insistently of his joy: “I pray always with joy… Christ is being preached, and I am glad… I will also continue to be happy… I am glad, and I share my joy… it made me very happy (Phil. 1:4,18; 2:17; 4:10). And yet on the other hand, he speaks of his sorrows at that very same time: “…that I may receive news about you that will cheer me up… keep me from having one sorrow after another” (Phil. 2:19,27).

1:5 Giving thanks for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now- “Your participation in the [preaching of the] gospel” is paralleled with “your faith” (Phil. 1:5). If we really believe, we will be involved in the preaching of what we believe.

Paul felt the Philippians were still assisting him in the furthering of the Gospel even whilst he was in prison, and he was likewise assisting them. They were hugely separated by distance and situation. Yet they still fellowshipped with each other in the Gospel's work through the connection in the Spirit which is actualized by prayer for each other. And similar bonds can easily be created today too thanks to the communication revolution.

"The first day" presumably refers to when Paul first preached in Philippi, and Lydia and her household responded. He was imprisoned and beaten at Philippi, but Paul remembers the positive, the glass half full rather than half empty; when many others would have been so traumatized by the experience that the post traumatic stress displaced any memory of the good. This is a great example to us all.

1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will keep working at perfecting it, until the day of Jesus Christ- "Confident" is a Greek word much beloved of Paul in Philippians (1:6,14,25; 2:25; 3:3,4). The word really means 'persuaded'. Writing from prison towards the end of his ministry, Paul could see how he had been persuaded of his positions throughout his walk with the Lord. He was persuaded that the good work begun within them would come to its intended term at the Lord's return. The work begun within believers refers to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, the gift given to every believer, but which only becomes actualized in those who allow it to. Many like the Corinthians received that gift but were "not spiritual" (1 Cor. 3:1). The gift of the Spirit in our hearts is the earnest or guarantee / down payment on the salvation we shall finally receive at the Lord's return (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5). The good work begun and now ongoing will come to its intended end at the Lord's return. It is God who works His works in us (Heb. 13:21), completing the work of faith in the power of the Spirit within us (2 Thess. 1:11). His dynamic power  works within us to this end (Eph. 1:19; 3:7). Phil. 3:21 clearly refers to this idea: "Who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself". The power of transformation at the last day is that same power which is now at work within us. And that is the explicit teaching of Rom. 8:11: "But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies- through His Spirit that dwells in you". Gal. 3:3 echoes the ideas here in Phil. 1:6 by speaking of how the Spirit has begun a work in us, which shall be also completed (s.w. "perfecting" Phil. 1:6) at the Lord's return. This is why in :7 Paul says he feels like this about the Philippians because they have all received the grace, the gift, of the Spirit as Paul has.

1:7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel- The "defence and confirmation of the gospel" uses legal terms- the Greek word translated "defence" means a plea entered in a court of law; and "confirmation" refers to supporting evidence offered to a judge. Paul's idea is that in our preaching, our audiences are the judge; and we are entering a plea for the case of none other than God Himself, and His Son. We have to ask whether our witness to the world is indeed a plea- or whether it's a case of merely getting people in our own social group to just drop by at our church rather than their usual one. The fact we are speaking on God's behalf, pleading for His case to be accepted in the hard hearts of men, should impart an urgency, a desire to penetrate minds, and persistence in our witness.

You all are partakers with me of grace- As noted on :6, the grace which they had partaken of was the gift of the Spirit in their hearts, which was constantly at work preparing them for the final salvation of the last day. It is this common experience of spiritual transformation which is the basis of Christian fellowship in practice, rather than solely a common theological understanding. Paul had "fellowship in the Gospel" with the Philippians, "because... ye all are partakers with me of grace" (Phil. 1:5-7 RV). All those in the Lord Jesus by valid baptism, and who remain in Him by faithful continuance in His way, are partakers of His gracious pardon, salvation, and patient fellowship; and they will, naturally and inevitably, reflect this to their brethren as part of their gratitude to Him.

1:8 For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus- The legal term "witness" connects with the legal metaphors noted on :7. God was a witness to how Paul had preached and defended the Gospel and how he truly sought the salvation of his converts. "Tender mercies" translates the Greek word for spleen; the inward heart, the "inner man" where the Spirit works (Eph. 3:16). If we have the spirit of Christ Jesus, then our spirit is His; even His innermost thoughts and feelings are ours, once our spirit becomes His. And the Lord's longing after the Philippians was therefore Paul's. The "fellowship of the spirit" is achieved by having the same spleen, the same innermost values, ambitions and feelings (2:1 s.w.). Just as the Lord's innermost feelings can be ours, so those who have the Spirit of Christ are likewise connected with us. Onesimus is therefore described as Paul's "spleen" (Philemon 12). This is a great example of how the Spirit connects in fellowship; Paul the intellectual rabbi was connected with Onesimus the runaway slave who landed in jail in Rome, because they had the same Spirit within them. This same connection was between Paul and the Philippians, and was the basis of his longing after them from such a great distance. Those why deny the working of the Spirit are left with only cold intellectual positions, and the pride of common tradition, to hold them together. But that is not the fellowship of the Spirit, and it becomes very fragile and so easily broken.

1:9- see on 2 Cor. 12:15.

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment- As noted on :8, the connection or love between Paul and the Phillipians was a result of the indwelling of the Spirit; yet we have to "put on" the spleen or inner feelings ("tender mercies") of the Spirit (Col. 3:12) and our love likewise grows in that the work of the Spirit is ongoing and must be allowed by us. For God will not force us against our will. Our love abounds more and more through “discernment, so that ye may prove the things that differ” (RVmg.). We grow by being given different situations to respond to, in order to develop our judgment- what Eph. 5:10 calls “proving what is acceptable unto the Lord”. By reason of use our spiritual senses are exercised to discern good and evil (Heb. 5:14). This is why, be it in church or family or deeply personal life, our consciences are constantly being probed and exercised by the situations which Providence leads us into. And thus we grow in sensing more keenly right and wrong, more victoriously overcoming all the temptations whose strength lies in the fact that in the heat of the moment we waver as to what is right and wrong… and the end result of this increased and heightened discernment, Paul says, is a love which abounds “yet more and more” (Phil. 1:9).  

1:10 So that you may approve the things that are excellent, so that you may be sincere and void of offence until the day of Christ- The pinnacle of love is to be a person who gives no cause of stumbling to others (s.w. Acts 24:16; 1 Cor. 10:32). This suggests that naturally we all cause others to stumble, as stated in James 3:2. We need to be aware of this; the maturity of the love which is ever growing (:9) is to come to a point where we are hyper sensitive to the possible effects of our thinking and being upon others. This sensitivity is the ability to judge / approve the things which differ (Gk.), i.e. having wisdom to know what will upbuild and what will make to stumble. The same phrase is used in Rom. 2:18 of how the Jews thought they could judge the things which differ on the basis of the Law. In Philippi as in all Paul's churches, there was the constant pressure from Judaizers. Paul is saying that it is the spirit of Christ within us, and not casuistic study of the Law, which will lead to this position of maturity. We know right now the principles on which God will judge us; we can prove [s.w. "approve"] what is acceptable to God (Rom. 12:2), just as He will "approve" or test every man's work in the fire of judgment day (1 Cor. 3:13 s.w.). We can judge what is acceptable to the Lord (Eph. 5:10- judgment day language). We can judge / discern those things which are excellent in His eyes (Phil. 1:10).

1:11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God- The preceding verses have alluded to the activity of the Spirit within us. The fruit of the Spirit is what we are filled with, as a gift, rather than what we bring forth in our own unaided strength. Such fruits of righteousness are not of ourselves, but on account of the Lord Jesus; which results in praise to God rather than glory to our own psychological strength. The idea of fullness of spiritual attributes is an allusion to the righteous characteristics of God of Ex. 34- which likewise were unto the glory of God. The R.V. of Ex. 34:5-7 says that God is full of these attributes- hence Phil. 1:11 talks of us being filled with these things too if we bear the Name, even in this life. The idea of fullness and being filled often occurs in the New Testament in the context of the glory. Eph. 1:23 describes the church as "His body, the fullness of Him (God?) that fills all in all". Thus we are "the" fullness of God and Christ. "We beheld His glory... full of grace and truth (alluding to Ex. 34)... and of His fullness have all we received" (Jn. 1:14,16). See on Eph. 1:23.

1:12 Now I would have you know, brothers, that the things which happened to me have turned out for the progress of the gospel- If we are truly focused on God’s agenda, knowing we have His backing, then all setbacks, even our death itself, will be understood by us as all for the ultimate advancement of the aims we are working towards. It’s a battle, a war, a campaign, a race, which we can’t ultimately lose. With God on our side, we have to win. And we shall. "Progress" is the same word as used in :25 about the progress in their faith. Paul's focus was upon the progress and development of others, and this enabled him to bear with his own apparently dead end situation in a Roman prison.

1:13 So that my bonds made Christ manifest throughout the whole Praetorian guard, and to all the rest- It has been suggested that if Paul were constantly chained to a succession of Roman soldiers, he would have preached to them all; and thus the Gospel was spread throughout the guard. And from 4:22 we know that there were believers amongst "Caesar's household", and the list of names in Romans 16 include some which can be traced there too (see notes there). Paul's apparently dead end situation therefore led to the Gospel penetrating the very highest of places within the Roman empire, in a manner which would have been impossible had he not been imprisoned in Rome. The Greek praitorion is mainly used of how the Lord Jesus was held in the Praetorium, in chains as Paul was (Mt. 27:27; Mk. 15:16; Jn. 18:28,33; 19:9). Paul quickly perceived that in essence he was continuing the Lord's witness by fellowshipping His sufferings, and we can make the same connections between our chains in life and the Lord's sufferings.

1:14- see on Acts 2:46.

And further, most of the believers in the Lord, being made confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear- Paul's amazing witness noted in :13, penetrating deep into Caesar's inner circles, was and is an encouragement for other believers to likewise preach. We too can be inspired by the witness of others. "More abundantly" is a common term with Paul, reflecting his sense that the progressive work of the Spirit in our lives makes us ever growing in love and zeal to preach.

1:15 Some indeed preach Christ out of envy and strife, and some of good will- Paul's ability to judge motives here may have come from direct Spirit insight. For it is not really for us to judge the motives of some preachers as being of envy. And yet it was quite clear that this category had an agenda- to make trouble for Paul and have his prison sentence extended or turned into a harder prison regime for him (:16). The believers in view were presumably those in the church at Rome. His enthusiasm to see them and be with them, as witnessed in the letter to Rome, may well have guided him in appealing to Caesar. And yet at his trial, none of them stood with him; and we get no impression that they ministered to his needs in prison. It was faithful friends from elsewhere in the empire who had to be asked to bring him a warm coat and writing materials. They may well have advertised Christianity in terms which were provocative to the Roman leadership, in order to make Paul as the high profile Christian prisoner suffer more. And this was rooted in envy or jealousy of him. Paul could have given in to bitter disappointment with the Roman church, but we never get a hint of it in his letters. He was very positive about the whole experience.

1:16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains- As noted on :15, these believers were jealous of Paul and were presenting Christianity in a provocative way in order to add to Paul's chains- seeking to get him a longer and harder sentence. And yet in faith he believers he will be released and even visit Philippi again (:26). He could so easily have succumbed to the 'glass half empty' syndrome and wallowed in depression.

1:17 But the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defence of the gospel- All preaching of the Gospel is to be motivated by love. But the contrast is with how some preached motivated by a desire to make problems for Paul, whereas others preached from love- and we could assume that the love is therefore love of Paul. And the context of this verse has been talking about Paul's love for the Philippians. Preaching from love for Paul would therefore have referred to witnessing publicly in his support, which meant witnessing for Christ; knowing that Paul had been appointed by the Lord to openly defend the Gospel before the Gentiles.

1:18 What then? In every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed and therein I rejoice, yes and will rejoice- This is a powerful principle; regardless of the motives others have in their work, we should rejoice Christ is preached. And yet so many believers have so little joy at the witness of others to Christ because of their hangups about those who are doing the preaching work. The 'believers' out to make trouble for Paul were only 'pretending' which suggests they were false brethren, those who faked conversion in order to enter the early Christian communities and derail them (Gal. 2:4). But despite that, Paul still rejoices that the Lord Jesus was getting at least some publicity; he clearly believed that no publicity is bad publicity, and my own ministry led me to the same conclusion. These false brethren were Judaists, and the same word translated "pretence" is used of orthodox Jews in Lk. 20:47 and Jn. 15:22.

1:19 For I know that this shall result in my salvation, through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ- The machinations of Paul's enemies, seeking to lengthen or harshen his prison term, would, he believed, turn out in his salvation from prison in Rome- if the Philippians prayed about it. "Salvation" is rendered better by Moffatt: "The outcome of all this, I know, will be my release". The Greek here is almost identical to Job 13:16 LXX: "Though he slay me... even that is to me an omen of salvation”. The context is of Job speaking of the good conscience he had maintained with God; similarly, Paul's good conscience made him fearless of approaching death, as he also made clear when on trial for his life (Acts 23:1; 24:16).

I have noted above that Paul felt the fellowship of the Spirit with them because the same Spirit in him was in them- that of the Lord. The operation of the Spirit would result in his salvation from prison. But whether Paul was released at this point (see on :1) is unclear. "I know that..." was written by Paul in faith, although he did not know how exactly the Spirit was going to work in this case. "Supply" is only elsewhere used in Eph. 4:16, concerning how the body functions through each member supplying something towards its total function. But what they supplied was what the Lord supplied; a related word is used of the Lord's supply of the Spirit to the church (Gal. 3:5). The Spirit is supplied through the functioning of the Lord Jesus through thee ligaments of His body. See on Zech. 4:14.

There seems reason to believe that the gift of the Spirit is a way of describing answered prayer. The giving of "good things to them that ask" in prayer is the same as the giving (gift) of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 7:11 cp. Lk. 11:13). Phil. 1:19 parallels "Your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ". Similarly, 1 Jn. 3:24 says that we are given the Spirit as a result of our obedience to the commands; verse 22 says that obedience to those commands leads to our prayers being answered. Thus our confidence is due to having our prayers heard (1 Jn. 5:14) and also due to having the Spirit act in our lives (1 Jn. 3:21,24; 4:13), seeing that prayer is answered by the Spirit's work.

1:20- see on Eph. 6:19.

According to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing shall I be put to shame; but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death- This seems to echo Job 13:13-15 (especially in RVmg.), where Job says he is willing to face every trial, but knows that death will be his lot; yet he is certain that God will still be glorified through this. All of this is very apposite to Paul's situation. Paul has just expressed confidence that he will be released from prison (:19), but his hope for 'salvation' from prison merges into his confident hope in salvation at the last day, when he [unlike the rejected] would not be put to shame but would glorify the Lord Jesus. Whether he was released from prison or died the death of a martyr, he believed he would glorify his Lord. In this sense the natural panic when faced with death was not with Paul; for his aim was the Lord's glorification, and he could see that whether he lived or died he would achieve that, seeing he intended to use the life he might be given in the Lord's continued service. When faced with death or the cutting short of life or physical opportunity, this is the choice before the believer- and if we are focused upon the Lord's glorification, it is a win-win situation.

"Magnified" means just that. Paul magnified the name of the Lord Jesus through his preaching work amongst men (Acts 19:17 s.w.). And he would achieve the same through dying for Him as a martyr. In this sense we can make the Lord greater by our witness and living. He has partially delegated His own glorification to us, as He has given us His wealth and the run of His house; and shall return to see how we have got on with running His business.

1:21 For to me to live, is Christ, and to die- is gain- As noted on :20, Paul faced the possibility of death as a win-win situation. If he lived, he would glorify the Lord through his work with the Philippians and others. if he died, he would likewise glorify the Lord. If he lived further, then Christ would continue living in him. His life would be that of Christ. To live, therefore, would be "Christ". And yet if he died- that would be gain or profit for him. He uses the same word in explaining how he counted all that was once "gain" to him as loss for the sake of Christ (3:7). His real gain was, in a word, "Christ". His life was so absorbed with that of the Lord Jesus, the Lord's Spirit was his spirit, that death itself was no great issue for him. If he lived, he lived "Christ", the Christ who was in him. If he died, whilst he would be unconscious until the Lord's coming, he would eternally have that same connection with his Lord after the resurrection and immortalization which he so eagerly anticipated.

When Paul speaks of “…that I may win Christ….to live is Christ”, his idea seems to be of attaining a spirituality even in this life where the life we live is Christ living in us, totally reflected in our actions and spirit. "To die is gain" was effectively Job's attitude too, particularly in Job 10:20-22, where whilst recognizing the unpleasantness of death, he speaks as if he were willing to suffer it to maintain his integrity with God. Paul is reasoning along similar lines.

The picture of Paul in prison, having reached this spiritual pinnacle, fired the minds and living of "many of the brethren in the Lord" (:14). And for me too, the old and brave Paul in that cell is the man I fain would be. And yet as his perception of Christ and his surpassing excellency increased, so did his warnings against apostasy, and the need to hold on to true doctrine. In other words, his absorption and appreciation of the Spirit of Christ was what fired his zeal for purity of doctrine and practice. It was this which gave him the spiritual energy and power to live the life that he did, to the point that he could truly say that for him, to live was Christ; that the life he lived in the flesh, the things he did, the thoughts he thought, was all the result of Christ living in him and through him. He brought every thought (and this isn't figurative language) into captivity to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). My sense is that as he was lead out to face his death, this phrase he'd coined to the Philippians was in his mind: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain".

1:22 But if by living in the flesh, this shall bring fruit from my work, then what I shall choose I do not know- "I do not know" can carry the sense of 'It is all the same'; which was his whole point (see on :20,21). The idea of Paul having a choice to live or die doesn't necessarily mean that he had control over his destiny at that point. He is saying that if he had a choice, it would be all the same what he chose, because his existence was a glorification of the Lord, both now and eternally. Yet if he had to choose, he reasons that he would come down on the idea of living a bit longer, because he saw that was more needful for the new converts (Phil. 1:21-23). This accounts for his emphasis in Philippians on how much he desired their growth; because he had chosen to stay alive in this mortal flesh solely because he wanted to achieve this. The tragedy was that all in Asia turned away- when he had ‘risked’ remaining alive, with the full knowledge he could himself fall away, having been offered certain salvation- all for their sakes.

Understanding the way Paul breaks off into another theme and then resumes is the key to understanding some of the more difficult passages in his writings (examples in Rom. 3:25,26; Eph. 3:1,14). And we have another case here: "But if I live in the flesh [this is the fruit of my labour... nevertheless to abide in the flesh] (this) is more needful for you" (Phil. 1:22-24).

1:23- see on 1 Cor. 12:31; 2 Tim. 4:6; 4:6-8.

I am torn between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better- I suggested on :22 that Paul had no real choice in the matter of living or dying; he is expressing his internal debate over the hypothetical question of whether it would be better to die as a martyr or be released from prison and bring forth fruit amongst Gentiles like the Philippians. He came down on the side of living longer in the flesh for their sakes. He clearly felt that he had an irreplaceable role to play for them, as their spiritual father. This description of the internal debate is by way of explanation as to why he so firmly believed he would be released from prison (:19) in order to visit them again (:26).

Paul clearly understood that the interval between death and resurrection at the Lord's coming plays no significant role in anything when it comes to our personal salvation. To depart this life in death was effectively to be with Christ- for the second coming would be the next conscious experience after death. That "with Christ" refers to being with Him at His return is made clear in Col. 3:3,4, a passage which has many points of contact with Phil. 1: "For you died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, our life, shall be manifested, then with him you shall also be manifested in glory".

Another way of reading this language of internal debate about death is to consider that Paul may have written the letter when he was so ill that he had a choice of being able to "depart, and to be with Christ" or remain. Paul may have been so ill that he could give up his will to live if he chose, but struggled for their sake to keep alive. No wonder his mind went to the afflicted Job, to whom he alludes several times.

1:24 Yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake- Paul had the choice, at least hypothetically, as to whether he wanted to die and finish his probation; but he chose to stay alive, with all the temptations and spiritual pitfalls of human existence, for the sake of the first century believers. This was love indeed.

1:25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and stay with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith- Paul was confident that he had reasoned his way to the right decision in this hypothetical case regarding dying as a martyr or being released, and so he is confident that despite the machinations of some towards his death, he would be released. Hence the confident expectation of release in :19 and :20, and his certainty he would again visit the Philippians (:26). Indeed "stay with you all" could suggest Paul even envisaged retiring to Philippi as this was the church which seemed to be the most loyal to him. But it is in all an open question as to whether this is what happened; as discussed on :1, it is possible that this letter was written at the very end of Paul's life, and that he was executed soon afterwards. And if he was released, there is no evidence that he did revisit Philippi and significantly progress their faith. So we do feel that Paul is rather forcing and willing through his argument here, in a way we noted he tended to in his reasoning of 2 Corinthians.

1:26 That your boasting may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my presence with you again- I suggested on :17 that some were preaching Christ out of love for Paul, as if they were pressuring for his release and by so doing were witnessing to the Lord Jesus. Perhaps this is the boasting he refers to. For his reasoning seems to be that their boasting of Paul will result in his presence with them; we noted on :19 that he believed their witness for him and the Lord Jesus would lead to his release.

1:27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ. That, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear of your state- you standing fast in one spirit, with one mind together striving for the faith of the gospel- Whether or not their efforts for his release from prison worked out or not, and whether he did in fact use his freedom to visit them, the most important thing was their spirituality. The good news of salvation in Christ was to elicit a manner of life in them. His great wish was that they should remain in the Spirit. The parallel between mind and spirit indicates that the gift of the one Spirit was essentially a state of mind. Because there is only one Spirit- that of the Lord Jesus- they therefore would have one mind. But whose mind? That of Jesus. This is not a call for uniformity of position on all issues, but rather to be united by having the same one mind and spirit- that of Jesus. This theme will be developed at length in chapter 2.

Whoever really believes the doctrines of the One Faith and lives the life which they naturally bring forth, really will be saved. Therefore we will have a sense of true unity with our brethren who believe as we do, whatever human barriers there may be between us. Therefore "the Faith" is linked with unity between believers (Eph. 4:13; Phil. 1:27). We will live eternally together, and this must begin in life together now. It is inevitable that a certain amount of 'politics' intrude upon our ecclesial experience; one group wants this, another wants that; one sees things one way, another perceives things from a different viewpoint. But here again, the principles of the most basic Gospel must govern us. The Greek word for 'politics' does in fact occur in the New Testament.- when Paul says that our politeuesthe must be "worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Phil. 1:27). The principles of the loving, saving, reconciling, patient Christ must work their way through even the politics that are inevitably part of life together.

The early church are held up as our example here: "Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel". Doesn't that sound just like an allusion to the early ecclesia? The theme continues in 2:2: "Be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind". There's that phrase "one accord" again. It's hardly used outside the Acts, so we should read that like a signpost, saying 'Go back to the Acts!'. So Paul is saying: 'You believers must always remember the great spirit of "one accord" in the early ecclesia in Jerusalem. Let the early church be your example!'. There are a number of other allusions back to the early chapters of Acts. For example, 2:4: "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others". Twice we read there in Acts of disregarding our own "things”. Paul definitely has his eye on Acts 4:32: "The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul (just as Paul spoke about in Phil. 2:2): neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own (cp. "his own things" in Phil. 2:4); but they had all things common". And then in 2:3 Paul warns against doing things "through vainglory". Doesn't that sound like an allusion to Ananias and Sapphira? Then he warns them in 2:14 "Do all things without murmurings and disputings". It can't be coincidental that in Acts 6:1,9 we read twice about there being murmurings and disputings in the early ecclesia.  Phil. 2 describes the exaltation of Christ on his resurrection. It seems no accident that this is then described in the very words which the apostles so often used in their preaching in the early chapters of Acts. Thus in 2:9, "God has highly exalted him" is a reference to Peter’s words: "Being by the right hand of God exalted... him has God exalted" (Acts 2:33; 5:33). The whole theme in Phil. 2 is of Christ suffering on the cross and then being exalted by the Father, and given the mighty Name. The very same language is used so often in Acts (2:9-11=Acts 2:36; 2:10= Acts 4:10; 3:6,16).  When Paul exhorts us to hold forth “the word of life” (Phil. 2:16), he surely has his mind on the way the early preachers held forth “the words of this life” in Acts 5:20. We are to follow their spirit.

The unity of the Philippians is connected with their preaching of the Gospel. It was their unity which would be the greatest witness to the world. The way Simon the Zealot and Matthew the pro-Roman tax collector were all welded together within the 12 would have been an arresting display of unity in the Gospel, which cannot fail to have impressed first century Palestine. And it would have been so in the Antioch ecclesia too- the elders included Paul, the fiery ex-Orthodox rabbi; Manaen, one of the intimates of the Herod family; Barnabus, a Cypriot Levite who had owned land there to get around the Law’s demands; Simeon the black man; Lucius from Cyrene, also in Africa. No wonder it was from this ecclesia that the Gospel really spread outwards. When the early church showed that uncanny unity between Jew and Gentile, slave and master, they converted the world. And so would and could and do we. And yet when and where we are divided, the power of conversion is lost. This is why the Philippians were told to live lives appropriate to the Gospel they preached, and to ‘contend as one man’ for the Gospel (Phil. 1:27,30). Their united witness, according to John 17, would convert the world. But if they were disunited, that great salvation would not be shared as it could potentially be.

1:28 And not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, and of your salvation- and that from God- The "clear sign" is understood by Vine as a legal term, an indictment; as if our lives and situations are played out before the throne of Heaven and judged right now. Lightfoot connects it with the language of striving for the Gospel in :27, claiming that it refers to the sign given by a striving gladiator when he had vanquished his opponent. But all the same, the question arises as to what was the clear sign? Was it persecution, which was the basis of condemnation for their opponents but a proof of their salvation? It could be, but we can look deeper than that. The context of :27 is of having the spirit / mind of the Lord Jesus and remaining firm in faith. This was the victory of the spiritual gladiator. The clear sign of future salvation would then refer to the one mind / spirit; which connects with how the gift of the Spirit in our hearts is seen as the earnest or guarantee of our future salvation in 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5. Response to the Gospel is a condemnation of others whilst being the portent of our final salvation (2 Cor. 2:16- a savour of death to some, and life to others).

1:29 Because to you it has been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer in his behalf- They were not to be frightened / surprised [Gk. 'startled'] at persecution (:28). It goes with territory of being in Christ. If we are Him to this world, then we shall be treated as He was by this world. Difficulties are going to come. The parable of the sower sought to explain this; that some accept Christ but fall away once the inevitable persecution starts. Here too Paul has to warn against an attitude that we are required to simply "believe in Christ". If we are in Him, then we have been given, as a gift, to suffer with him. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. Baptism into His death and resurrection proclaims we are prepared for the process of dying with Him, so that we might live with Him.

By God's grace, the Lord tasted death for (Gk. huper) every man, as our representative: "in tasting death he should stand for all" (Heb. 2:9 NEB). In His death He experienced the essence of the life-struggle and death of every man. The fact the Lord did this for us means that we respond for Him. "To you it is given in the behalf of (Gk. huper) Christ, not only to believe on Him [in theory], but to suffer for his sake (Gk. huper)". He suffered for us as our representative, and we suffer for Him in response. This was and is the two-way imperative of the fact the Lord was our representative. He died for all that we should die to self and live for Him (2 Cor. 5:14,15). "His own self bare our sins [as our representative] in his own body [note the link " our sins" and "his own body"] that we being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness" (1 Pet. 2:24,25). We died with Him, there on His cross; and so His resurrection life is now ours. He is totally active for us now; His life now is for us, and as we live His life, we should be 100% for Him in our living. He gave His life for us, and we must lay down our lives for Him (1 Jn. 3:16). See on 2 Cor. 5:15.

1:30 Having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me- The conflict may refer to how the Philippians had been witnesses of Paul's beating and imprisonment in Philippi for their sakes, and now they were hearing that again Paul was undergoing imprisonment for the Gospel, this time in Rome. But in essence, because of their connection in the Spirit, they were fellowshipping Paul's sufferings. Their experience of persecution was shared by him; it was in essence "the same conflict". He uses the same word agon, "conflict", in recalling the great conflict / agony he suffered in Philippi (1 Thess. 2:2). He is experiencing this in a different form in Rome, as they were in Philippi. In each case, they now in Philippi, Paul earlier in Philippi, Paul now in Rome... it was "the same conflict". The unity of the Spirit is thus brought about by experience in practice; and it is experience which unites. Mere intellectual theology tends to divide.