Philippians + notes

Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4

Philippians 1

1    Paul and Timothy, bondmen of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, together with those who protect and those who serve.

I have put “those who protect and those who serve” because over the centuries unsaved men have changed these roles into exalted ranks over the saints, viz. bishops and deacons, which completely contradicts the purpose of these roles. The elder or protector is to keep a very careful eye on the spiritual condition of everyone in the assembly (ecclesia) he is part of, and lead them into deeper and purer relationship with Jesus. He is to watch for the enemy’s attempts to ‘steal the sheep’ and ensure that he fails. Those who serve include teachers, apostles, prophets, and so on. They serve the ecclesia with God’s truth and His words, both written and spoken through the Holy Spirit. None of these roles signifies a superior postition, nor should he be paid directly for his contribution.

2    Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul casually passes on grace and peace from God because he knows God has given them to him to share, but he always remembers their source.

3    I thank my God whenever you come to mind,

He gives praise and thanks to God habitually and constantly, so of course, he is particularly grateful for those who make up the body of Christ, and especially those who make up the assemblies Jesus initiated through Paul himself.

4    always praying with joy in my every prayer for all of you,

His paternal concern for the Philippians leads to much joyful prayer for their growth, revelation and confidence in the gospel

5    for your participation in the gospel from your first day until now;

in which they participate both as fellow members of the body of Christ, supporting Paul’s outreach by their prayers, and as evangelists themselves, sharing the good news with their friends and neighbours.

6    being assured of this, that he who began a good work in you, will bring it to perfection by the day of Jesus Christ.

Paul has no doubts regarding the outcome of the Holy Spirit’s work in each one: once He starts a work in a person, He continues to work in them up to perfection. This will however depend on the believer’s total commitment to trust and obedience—it won’t happen to backsliders and rebels.

7    So it’s right for me to feel this way towards you all as you hold me in your hearts, both in my shackles and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel; so you are all partners with me in grace.

Most translations have Paul holding the Philippians in his heart but the Amplified agrees with this, albeit she also includes the other reading, but because he puts “in my shackles” this version seems to me to make more sense.

The “defence and confirmation of the gospel” would primarily be Paul’s work in the prison and out on the street, and therefore the Philippian’s support of that work in their prayers and contributions, but it doesn’t actually preclude the same efforts by the Philippians themselves, making them fully partners with him in grace.

8    For God is my witness how I long for you all in the tender love of Jesus Christ,

God may be his witness, but how they’re supposed to check it I don’t know. Paul has learned to do everything through the indwelling Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, so he is filled with Christ’s tender love for them.

9    so I pray that your love may overflow more and more in knowledge and full discernment,

On their behalf he prays for a knowledge of the things of God and, more importantly, knowing Jesus Himself, to give them “full discernment” and a love that overflows to all,

10  to test and distinguish what is of value, that you may be pure, genuine and without offence, until the day of Christ,

which will allow them to truly distinguish and choose between what is important and what is of no value. Then they will be authentic disciples for the rest of their days,

11  having been filled with the fruit of righteousness through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

because Jesus will fill them, and us, with “the fruit of righteousness.”

12  But I want you to realise, brethren, that my situation has actually served to further the gospel,

In case the Philippians miss the point about Paul’s imprisonment, he reassures them that it’s all for the good in furthering the gospel.

13  as it has become plain throughout the palace guard, and to everyone else, that my captivity was ordained for the cause of Christ,

Many translations miss the point here and imply that either: they have suddenly realised he has been locked up for preaching; they have just seen that he’s in chains; they can see his bonds in Christ; or that his fetters were revealed in Christ. Obviously this verse is tricky, but the point is clearly made by a few – Amplified, Weymouth, Darby, and Holman.

Paul is quite happy to be in chains, knowing that he is thereby fulfilling God’s will and spreading the gospel among the high ranking palace guard, thus having far more effect than reaching regular people. Being chained to Paul for eight hours a day is probably more than most atheists could resist, let alone pagan idolaters who are already open to the idea of gods (or a God).

14  and, because of my bonds, most of the brethren have greater confidence in the Lord, being encouraged to speak the message without fear.

If Paul is in prison for the gospel in the will of God, then I can get out there and tell people too, reaching the people that Paul cannot as he can’t get to the market or the city gate.

15  True, some proclaim Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others from good will.

It seems strange that anyone would go to the trouble of actively preaching Christ from an entirely bogus claim to faith, simply out of jealousy, but that is what Paul is saying.

16  The ones who preach Christ out of rivalry are not sincere, thinking they are adding distress to my captivity,

And now he points out that, not only are they insincere, they are actually trying to upset him while he is languishing in jail. Clearly these are not brethren in Christ.

17  but those who preach out of love have understood that I am here in defence of the gospel.

Many translations reverse these last two verses, presumably because a number of Greek manuscripts do too, but the effect is to end on a negative, down note, which doesn’t really fit with Paul’s joyful temperament. It is also stylistically more likely that he would refer to each in the same order he has just used in verse 15 as the construction aids communication. This sequence is repeated in verse 18, confirming it’s correct.

Only true brethren in Christ would understand what is happening here to Paul, and only true brethren would actively work with him by spreading the good news while he is incarcerated because they share his joy.

18  What of it? Just that in one way or another, whether from false motives or true, Christ is being proclaimed, and so I rejoice, yes and I’ll keep on rejoicing,

This is a very interesting concept: that the gospel could be spread by people who are not true believers. How can you share or give away what you don’t have? This could only work as the Holy Spirit picks up on the true words spoken, and applies them to the hearts of the listeners. The problem then comes when the listeners, finding themselves moved to respond, demand the real thing from the false preacher who doesn’t have it.

19  as I know that this happening to me will lead to salvation, through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Most translations assume that the salvation referred to here is Paul’s own: either salvation as it stands, or deliverance from prison, depending on the translation, but that’s not what the Greek says: Paul is hardly going to say that his imprisonment is going to lead to his release as that would be meaningless, nor that it will gain him salvation, as he clearly has complete salvation already.

Paul means salvation for those around him to whom he is preaching, and those outside to whom the brethren are sharing the gospel. All this outreach is enhanced by Paul’s imprisonment, the prayers of the saints, and the abundant supply of the Spirit of Jesus.

20  It is my earnest and confident anticipation, that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have courage so that now as always, Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or death.

He has no idea what his future holds in detail, but is confident that he won’t let Jesus down by cowardice whatever he has to face. This is because his courage is the courage of Christ by the faith of Christ living in him through the power of the Holy Spirit – everything is from God and nothing is from him (or us).

21  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

This is meant entirely literally. Everything he does expresses the transcendent life of Christ within: his character, his grace, his love, his authority, his power…etc. But to die! To go to be with Christ forever… now that would be the greatest adventure!

22  If I live in the flesh it will mean fruitful work, but which I would choose I can’t say,

Other translations assume that Paul feels he must decide, as if it’s his own choice whether to die or not, but that would be suicide which is plainly not an option. As a result I have used the word “would” to make it more of a passing thought.

He is happy with the idea of fruitful work, though he is equally aware that to even get free to do any will probably require further suffering, but this he doesn’t even trouble to mention as it is beside the point.

23  as I am torn between the two: having the desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better,

His primary desire is to join Christ and rejoice in His presence for ever,

24  but to remain in the flesh would be indispensable for you.

coupled with his subsidiary desire to shake off the flesh which continually opposes him with its endless distractions, temptations and flaws. If he were to die physically, the battles would be over and, having his resurrection body, he could shine with the light of Christ with nothing to challenge the glow.

The alternative however, to which love and duty also pulls him, is that since he knows that for now the Philippians (and probably other fellowships as well) still require his support, he is sure that the Lord won’t call him home just yet.

25  Being convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and stay with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,

26  that in me you may have much cause to rejoice in Christ Jesus through my being with you again.

His role among them is to help them to progress in the faith, by example, teaching (fleshing out and clarifying the doctrine) and challenge. And so they grow, learning how to abide in Christ, battling successfully with the world, the flesh and the enemy, caring for the weak and reaching out to the lost. This growth and success leads to great joy for both them and him, and of course, as they are great friends, to be together is a blessing in itself.

27  The main thing is that your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come to see you or hear about you while absent, I may know that you are standing firm in one Spirit, engaged together in one mind for the faith of the gospel

As always, Paul’s concern is for the good news to be spread and for his charges to live their lives perfectly so that the people and the teaching of Christ are not brought into disrepute, as that would compromise that goal.

28  and not intimidated by your opponents in anything, which is sure evidence to them of their destruction, but to you of your salvation. And it is from God

Most translations desperately try to include the last five words of this verse in the same sentence, producing a very clumsy ending; however, I’m sure they attach far better to the following verse, allowing God to provide the grace.

Our exemplary conduct and lack of intimidation is the clear sign of the life of Christ being revealed in us which will confirm to us that we are being saved in power, at the same time as it shows our adversaries that their normal bullying methods don’t work against the Christ in us so they can expect their destruction for opposing Him.

29  that this grace is granted to you, not only to believe but also to suffer for the sake of Christ,

So, not only is faith in Jesus a grace and a privilege, so is the opportunity of suffering for Him.

30  as you experience the same struggle you saw in me and now hear I still have.

They are aware of Paul’s sufferings, but here he points out that they (and we) will go through exactly the same struggles.

Philippians 2

1    If there is any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort in his love, if any communion in the Spirit, if any tender mercy and empathy,

These phrases each imply a vast supply; of encouragement, comfort, communion, tender mercy and empathy. No believer could possibly suggest there are none of these, so all are true and the following advice will apply to all who agree.

2    then complete my joy by having the same attitude: the same love, the same heart, the same mind.

Unexpectedly, Paul calls upon their loyalty to him rather than to Christ, to complete his joy – his joy in their intimate fellowship with Jesus. He doesn’t suggest they imitate Jesus’ love, heart or mind, but that they (and we) should have His exact same love, heart and mind – that which is of Him and in Him, as He resides in us.

3    Do nothing in conflict or vanity, but humbly count each other as better than yourselves,

4    not looking out for yourselves, but for each other.

All this relies on our decisions; we choose to honour each other and look for ways to serve one another, but we do everything in Jesus’ strength by faith.

5    Let this be your attitude, which was in Christ Jesus too

We really choose to live by the attitude of Christ which is in us.

6    who, though he existed in God’s own form, judged that equality with God was not to be seized,

Jesus knew that He was God incarnate, and therefore could use all His power at any time, but, knowing also that He had a very specific task to perform, chose to obey the Father and refused to ever do anything beyond what we as mere men can do by faith with the help of the Holy Spirit.

7    but instead emptied himself, taking the role of a slave made in human form,

He “emptied himself” of all His superhuman resources. “Slave” here is a reference to His work in serving humanity as the “Son of Man.”

8    being found fashioned as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross.

So, with His attitude, we humble ourselves, denying all our natural resources, and instead refuse to ever do anything beyond what we can do with the help of the Holy Spirit, choosing to live entirely by faith. And if our obedience leads to loss, suffering or even death, still we obey in absolute trust.

9    For this reason God also highly exalted him, granting him the name which is above every name,

God is so delighted by this attitude that He honoured Jesus with the “name which is above every name.” If we maintain this mind, how will the Father honour us?

10  that, at the name of Jesus every knee should bow: in heaven, on earth, and beneath the earth,

No one is going to have a choice at this point: all will bow,

11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

and all will admit that Jesus is truly God.

12  So then my dear ones, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but now much more in my absence, work to fulfill your own salvation with fear and trembling,

Paul wants to encourage us to be very careful, even in his absence, to do everything possible to live entirely within the bounds of our salvation and thereby achieve all that God has in mind for us. The fear and trembling refer not so much to our fear of God, but the fear of sin and our flesh, the fear of doing anything which might offend God and undermine ourselves.

13  as it is God who is energising you to be willing and working for the sake of joy.

God labours within us by the power of the Holy Spirit, making us keen to run in obedience like good sheepdogs, doing all that He asks, in His strength by faith.

In most translations they have assumed that the pleasure is God’s, but in the Greek it just says “for the sake of delight,” so I have reverted to a non-specific form. This is because God energises us to work in order to fill us with His pure and deep joy.

14  Do everything without grumbling and arguing,

Because we accept all things as from God’s hand, trusting Him, not as from those who would hurt us or even by chance.

15  so that you may become faultless and innocent, spotless children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Trusting God utterly will lead to becoming more and more pure and holy. It says “innocent” here in contrast to the deviousness and deception of the unbelievers, and “spotless” in contrast to their complete corruption. The reason we “shine as lights in the world” is against the oppressive and disorienting darkness of the blindness of the society which surrounds us.

16  holding out the word of life; and I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I neither ran nor laboured in vain,

Most translations miss the “epe” at the start of “epechontes” and thus put something to the effect of “holding on to” or “holding firmly to,” but the “epe” changes it to mean “holding forth” or “holding out.” Paul has already assumed that we are living our lives true to the gospel, so the meaning has to be that of offering the truth to the blinded and perverted generation surrounding us. Many also assume that Paul wishes to “boast” in his pride, come the day of Christ, but in modern English this contradicts the tone of his humble faith and the word legitimately translates to “rejoice.”

His running refers to his race before God. He knows his own labour has been in obedience and trust, so he is not concerned about any wastage of his obedience to God in respect of the Philippians, his concern is that they (us) in turn don’t throw away all that the Holy Spirit has achieved through him.

17  and even if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all,

Here Paul refers to his sufferings on their behalf – the sufferings God has led him to in order to enable their faith (and ours) to be active and potent in the service of the kingdom of God – so he is “glad and rejoice with you all.”

18  so you too, be glad and rejoice with me.

While we cannot rejoice with Paul, we still rejoice in the fruit of his ministry in our own lives, demonstrated by our effective outreach and the depth of our fellowship with the Lord and with each other.

19  I am hoping in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon that I may also be encouraged knowing all that affects you,

Even for something apparently straightforward like sending Timothy to them, Paul always awaits the Lord’s permission so that God can continue to use everyone concerned to the fullest. Paul is deeply pastoral, concerning himself with every detail of the spiritual wellbeing of each of the assemblies and every individual believer with whom he has links.

20  for I have no one else who feels like me and will be genuinely concerned for you:

Presumably Timothy is to be sent not simply in the role of reporter letting Paul know, on his return, how the Philippians are getting on, but to actually contribute to their situation through his own spiritual ministry, otherwise there would be no particular value in Timothy’s concern for them.

21  they all look out for their own concerns not those of Christ Jesus,

It’s a troubling thought that all the other folks in Paul’s company have yet to realise that the concerns of Christ are all that matter. This rather implies that Paul needs to sit them down and teach them something of the realities he puts in his letters. Perhaps with these he has “run and laboured in vain.”

22  but, as you know, Timothy is fully proven in that, as a son with his father he has served with me in the gospel.

Timothy however, is tried and true in his absolute commitment to the gospel of Christ, meaning that he will only go to the Philippians if and when the Lord releases him to go, and when he gets there he will be totally committed to the Lord’s interests in them through prayer, blessing, healing, teaching and prophecy – whatever they need.

23  Indeed, I hope to send him as soon as I’ve looked at my situation,

24  but I am confident in the Lord that shortly I will come too.

25  Yet I have decided it is necessary to return to you Epaphroditus my brother, co-labourer and fellow soldier, whom you sent to me, and who has been indispensable in assisting me,

Epaphroditus apparently also differs qualitatively from the rest of the company as Paul calls him “brother, co-labourer and fellow soldier.” We also see here that labours for the Lord are rarely one man shows, but rather that they require the services of a team of believers, all personally obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit and serving one another in facilitating the work.

26  because he longs for you all and has been troubled since you heard that he had been sick.

Epaphroditus doesn’t want his friends and family back home to be worried about him, especially now that God has brought him back to full health.

27  He was sick too, and nearly died, but God had mercy on him; and not only on him but on me as well so I should not have sorrow on sorrow,

28  so I’m sending him without delay, that when you see him again you may be cheered and I may be less concerned.

Paul’s concern is not for himself, nor is he worried about what God is up to, he is concerned about the mental (and therefore spiritual) state of the Philippians and Epaphroditus, so he is making do without his services so that they can get together and rejoice.

29  Welcome him joyfully then in the Lord, and hold such men in honour,

When Paul suggests holding “such men in honour” he is only considering the Philippians’ gracious attitude towards Epaphroditus; at the same time Epaphroditus’ response to their honouring him is going to challenge his pride, forcing him to turn to God, seeking true humility in Christ.

30  as he came close to death in the service of Christ, recklessly risking his life to make up for the service you couldn’t provide me.

Epaphroditus has learned that his life is not his own, so risking it in obedience to Christ is not the risk it would seem to a non-believer. He is determined to make sure that his efforts will pay any debt of service which might still be owing by his brethren at Philippi, but which they cannot action from so far away.

Philippians 3

1    Ultimately brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write this to you again is truly no trouble for me but a safeguard for you.

Rejoicing in the Lord is the bottom line; it’s what will keep them (and us) safest. This means all that is implied by rejoicing in the Lord: rejoicing in His truth, His will, His character, His holiness, His purity, His care, His love, etc.

2    Stay alert to the dogs of impurity, those who do evil, and those who preach mutilation,

Many translations bunch these traits together as one, but in the Greek they are clearly three separate subjects for discernment. Since “dogs” in English doesn’t necessarily imply impurity I have included the word as that is the Greek idiom.

Paul sarcastically refers to the insistence on circumcision as preaching “mutilation” since our salvation is based on faith in the work of Christ, not on anything we can achieve, and particularly not on a religious ceremony. Now that it has become obsolete, it has also become barbaric.

3    for we are the circumcision: those who worship God in spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus, placing no trust in the flesh,

The true “circumcision” in Paul’s argument are the true believers, not those who have inherited the rite of circumcision without any need for faith. With faith we now worship in spirit (and in truth), rejoicing in Christ. Importantly, we place “no trust in the flesh” in any circumstance ever, because we have learned that the flesh is utterly corrupt and can only ever do evil, so we must do everything in Christ by faith.

4    though I could have confidence in the flesh. If anyone thinks he has grounds to put his trust in the flesh, I have rather more:

Paul wants them to see that he is not rejecting his flesh due to any personal shortcoming in that direction, so they must deny their flesh too, regardless of any perceived qualifications they may have.

5    circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; with respect to the law, a Pharisee;

6    as for zeal, persecuting the assemblies; as for law-based righteousness, blameless;

Basically, in regards to fleshly qualifications, Paul has it all…

7    but those things that were my gains I now count as losses for Christ.

…and rejects it all for Christ, counting every fleshly gain as a negative which works against him.

8    Indeed, I count everything as forfeit for the excellency of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For him I have relinquished everything (and count it all as garbage) in order to gain Christ,

Everything is worth giving up in order to know (belong to) Christ, and so Paul has done just that. Nothing he owns, nothing he has earned, nothing he can count as his own, is any more valuable or useful to him than garbage – and the prize is worth any and every sacrifice.

9    and be found in him, not getting my righteousness from the law but by the faith of Christ—God’s righteousness by that faith—

To be “found in Him”—what a wonderful thought! The faith we have to use to gain the righteousness of God is Christ’s faith which we can reach by abiding in Him. Trying to earn our righteousness by the law would demonstrate a lack of faith and thereby undo everything.

10  that I may know him and the power of the resurrection, to share in his sufferings and thus become conformed to his death,

The resurrection power Paul is talking about is that which works through him on a daily basis by the Holy Spirit. Accepting the sufferings God sends is the way to live our lives in His death,

11  that I might somehow attain to the resurrection of the dead.

and this in turn allows His resurrection life to give life to our mortal bodies, not after we have literally died, but now, while we are still walking around in our ‘dead’ flesh.

12  Not that I have fully attained all this or been perfected already; still I eagerly pursue it that I may also grasp that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Paul is being realistic here, not humble: even he had room for growth in Christ! His response to that understanding was to “eagerly pursue” the depth of relationship with Christ which would play out through him as a powerful, holy life: “that for which Christ Jesus took hold of” him.

13  Brethren, I don’t count myself as having grasped it yet but one thing I do, ignoring all behind and straining towards all that lies ahead,

14  I pursue the goal—the prize of God’s high calling in Christ Jesus.

Paul is not interested in anything outside of Christ, which insulates him from an awful lot of temptation. God’s “high calling in Christ Jesus” (revealed in us here on earth, long before we join Jesus in heaven) is such a glorious prize that he is going all out to reach it. We should too.

15  All who are perfect will have this attitude, and if you disagree in anything, God will reveal that to you as well.

Many translations find themselves very reluctant to correctly use the word “perfect” so they resort to “mature,” which, though implied, is not the word used.

Almost all translations assume that Paul is encouraging the “mature” believers to maintain this attitude, but of course, if he is addressing the “perfect,” this attitude will be a sure indication that they actually are “perfect” – if they need encouraging, then they still need to learn and grow.

Those who “disagree in anything” are not yet “perfect” and so God still has something to reveal to them. It sounds, initially, a bit arrogant, but Paul is a very humble chap, so we can see that being perfect is something which the Holy Spirit will confirm to us once we are, so we will humbly be in no doubt.

16  So, let us live up to all that we’ve attained, and maintain that attitude.

“Attained” is different from learned, which is what we are inclined to assume. Paul is concerned here with true spiritual growth, so it’s about growing up to Christ, not learning spiritual facts or skills. This attitude of holding our attainment is the thing.

17  Brethren, come together in following my example, and consider those who also live like us,

If they all imitate the example of Paul’s attitude and lifestyle, the believers will automatically come together. Again, he is aware of his own “perfection” in this area, so he is not being prideful in calling on them to imitate him, nor is he usurping the role of Jesus, which is why he is happy to recommend observing others who live the same way. It implies a social intimacy among the brethren which few, outside of marriage, know today; an intimacy which may require communal living.

18  for, as I have often told you, and now tell you with tears, many are living as enemies of the cross of Christ

The ones Paul is talking about are calling themselves believers but living as if the gospel were not the truth (as many do today—particularly “church leaders”), in direct opposition to those he has just mentioned who are living out the truth like Paul is himself. This deeply upsets him to the point of tears, not because they are opposing the saints but because they will be lost. To be an enemy of the cross is to oppose, by the way you live and teach, the achievement of Christ on the cross, ie, His perfect sacrifice.

19  whose end is destruction: their god is their appetite, their kudos is in their shame, their minds set on earthly things.

Here Paul explains why they will be destroyed or condemned to perdition: they worship their own fleshly desires, not simply food but any luxury; what they have to boast about in their character or their deeds are, in themselves, shameful, since they have been actioned in the flesh, ie, without faith; and what they think about are the things of the earth: possessions and riches, worldly honour and fame, and how to get them, etc.

20  But our citizenship is in heaven, from where we expect our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,

This confirms that we are destined for heaven. It doesn’t mean that we are waiting for Jesus to come and be our Saviour, since He already is, just that when He comes, heaven is where He will be coming from.

21  who will transform our bodies of contempt so they replicate his body of glory, by the operation of his power to subject all to himself.

At last we will be able to say goodbye to our corrupt, fallen, sickly, useless bodies and start to wear our new, glorious, holy, incorruptible, beautiful, healthy bodies! To do this to all believers at the same moment will require unimaginable power, so clearly Jesus will have all the power He needs to assume authority over all creation at the same moment.

Philippians 4

1    So then, dearly loved brethren for whom I long, my joy and wreath, this is how to stand firm in the Lord my friends.

Translation note: the Greek says “wreath” here which is odd in English so other translations have put “crown,” but the implication is that their faith gives Paul “honour” so I let it stand since “crown” implies too much.

2    I urge Euodia and Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord;

We are not told how they have disagreed, but if they both chose to agree with the Holy Spirit their important differences would evaporate.

3    and I call on you, true comrade, to assist these women who who have struggled for the gospel at my side, also Clement and all my co-labourers, whose names are in the book of life.

Paul is not carefully ruling out those who laboured with him but were not written in the book of life, he is just reminding them that they are to encourage them to keep pressing on in Christ.

4    Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say: rejoice!

One of the most important directions in the Bible… repeated for emphasis.

5    Let your graciousness be seen by all. The Lord is at hand

Our lives are supposed to be so Christ centred that everyone we come into contact with should notice His character in us… and we’re specifically not to hide it.

Almost every translation misses the point that the end of this verse is the first part of the sentence in the next verse.

6    so don’t be concerned about anything: just pray about everything. Through prayers and thanksgiving let God know your needs,

I suspect that if we could get into the habit of praying “about everything” instead of getting anxious, our lives as disciples would be far more relaxed and fruitful.

7    and the peace of God, which is superior to all reasoning, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

It doesn’t matter how intelligent we are, and how practised in creative or logical thought, nothing we can conceive will come close to the true peace of God which simply comes from prayer, followed by complete trust in God’s provision. That peace forms an impenetrable barrier round our hearts which allows our thoughts to remain pure and true in Christ. Our trouble, if we remember to pray at all, is that we then forget our prayer or fail to trust, and so we run off and try to answer it for ourselves in His place… goodbye peace of God!

8    Finally brethren, if anyone is honest, if anyone is honourable, if anyone is virtuous, if anyone is holy, if anyone is loving, if anyone is reputable—if anyone has virtues or any commendable attribute—think about them.

All the translations I have access to have assumed that this says “whatever things” are true etc, but the word can just as easily be translated “whoever” and so “if anyone” is a perfectly good way to put it in English. A careful assessment of the qualities listed makes it clear that these are all virtues of godly people, not of true or beautiful things.

The point is that we are to meditate on the virtues displayed by those who are further on in the Lord than we are, in order to make them our own by practicing them, and so we will daily grow more Christlike. This is confirmed in the next verse.

9    Practice also all that you heard, accepted and learned from me, and all that you have seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Careful observation of Paul’s character through his responses to people and circumstances, and of all that he taught (which they have accepted and learned from him) has shown the Philippians many virtues which they can add to their own character by meditating on them in the Holy Spirit.

10  So I greatly rejoice in the Lord that you have just renewed your concern for me—the concern you’ve not had opportunity to show.

This is their first opportunity in a while to contribute to Paul’s ministry and he is delighted that they have stepped up to the plate to support him, not because he needs their help but because it is evidence that they are already thinking in the way he is describing, and therefore maturing properly.

11  I’m not saying that I am in need, as I have learned always to be content as I am:

12  I know how to be destitute and I know how to be wealthy. I have been taught how to be content in all circumstances, well fed or hungry, in plenty or in want…

This is an important skill for all of us to learn: to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves. The less we need, the less power those in the world can have over us. If we accept every circumstance from the Lord, we free Him to provide for us. And He may of course use other believers to deliver His provision as in this situation, thereby also maturing them in the process.

13  for all these I am strong in Christ who empowers me.

This isn’t quite the universal claim many translations make it, as it only refers to our contentment when faced with various levels of deprivation: Christ empowers us to be content whatever. I’m not saying we can’t “do all things through Christ who strengthens [us],” only that it doesn’t say so here.

14  Nevertheless you have done excellently in sharing the burden of my afflictions,

Here Paul is telling the Philippians that depriving themselves to help him has been the right choice, the choice that will lead towards their spiritual maturity.

Many translations just record that he is grateful for their support, which is clearly an inadequate rendering of the Greek.

15  and you Philippians know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, none of the other assemblies partnered with me in giving and receiving, except for you,

16  and that in Thessalonica more than once you supplied my needs.

Many of the early assemblies apparently failed to live up to the ideals of discipleship which Paul would have liked to have seen, but Philippi were the exception, repeatedly sending him supplies even while he was ministering to other assemblies such as Thessalonica.

17  Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for fruit which will add to your account,

Again he stresses that he is not wanting supplies in his own interest, since he is relying on God to provide, not the Philippians, he is looking for them to do the right thing and thereby credit some value to their own spiritual account with God. Interesting to note that the account is singular, ie, the assembly itself has some kind of account, not just the individual believers.

18  for I have plenty, having received in full everything you sent by Epaphroditus. They are a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice and pleasing to God,

The availability of Epaphroditus was perhaps the opportunity the Philippians were waiting for to reinstate their support for Paul in the field. He reassures them that God finds their contribution more than acceptable.

19  and my God will meet your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus,

Interesting to note that Paul refers to our God as his God. Perhaps this is to do with Paul being the recipient of their gifts, so his God is the one who responds with blessings, even though He is also our God. This verse implies that to qualify for God’s provision, we must share what we have with those in need, particularly those saints involved in spreading the gospel.

20  so to our God and Father be eternal glory, amen.

21  Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. Those with me greet you

22  as do all the brethren, particularly the saints in Cæsar’s household.

23  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.