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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

In this chapter, the Apostle exhorts the Philippians to persevere in Christian virtue (1), to practise concord and charity (2, 3); to rejoice always, notwithstanding their afflictions (4); to display a mild evenness of conduct, free from all extremes of passion (5); in every occurrence, to exercise acts of petition to God for future blessings, and thanksgiving for the past (6). He wishes them an increase of interior peace and joy (8). He sums up all his moral precepts, and exhorts them to the practice of everything good and praiseworthy (8–10). He commends their past and present liberality towards himself, and this he values not so much on account of being placed thereby beyond the reach of want, as on account of the charity manifested on their part; for, as to himself, he was enabled by God’s grace, to accommodate himself to every turn of fortune, as well in enduring want and privation, as in enjoying abundance (11–17). He concludes with the usual salutation, wishing them the full enjoyment of all spiritual blessings.

Paraphrase

1. Wherefore, my brethren—whom I love affectionately, and am most anxious to behold, who are the subject of my joy and the occasion of the crown to be given me for having effected your conversion—persevere steadfastly, my dearly beloved, in the Christian faith, as I have pointed out to you, both by example and teaching,

2. I entreat Euodia, and Syntyche, laying aside all differences, to have but one mind and will, to live in charity and concord for the sake of the Lord.

3. And I entreat thee also, my sincere and faithful colleague, to assist these women (either in administering to their temporal support, or in bringing about a reconciliation), who, with Clement and my other fellow-labourers, whom I cannot here enumerate, but whose names are enrolled in the book of life, have laboured with me in promoting the cause of the gospel.

4. Rejoice always in the Lord, notwithstanding your persecutions and losses—again, I say, rejoice.

5. Let, however, your dignified Christian bearing and deportment, free from all extremes of passion, whether of joy or sorrow, be known to all men, so as to edify both the faithful and the unbelievers; for, the Lord is near.

6. Therefore, be not over anxious for the concerns of this world, but in every occurrence, by fervent supplications and entreaties for future blessings, as well as by acts of thanksgiving for the past, let your petitions be offered up in such a way as to please God, and cause him to lend an ear to them.

7. And may the interior tranquility and consolation of God’s spirit, consequent on the performance of good actions, which surpasses all understanding, guard your wills, your intellects and entire hearts, against all fears and anxieties whatever, that might lead you astray from virtue and the service of Christ Jesus.

8. To bring to a conclusion, and sum up in a word all my moral precepts, whatever things are true—either as opposed to falsehood in language or dissimulation in action—whatever things are brave, becoming, and honourable in conduct; whatever things tend to establish and preserve the relations of justice towards our neighbour; whatever things are chaste and pure from all carnal defilement; whatever things tend to beget the love and well-grounded esteem of others: whatever things are calculated to insure a good reputation; if there be anything that is regarded as virtuous and good; any mode of living that is praiseworthy; make these things the subject of your consideration, so that you may know how to practise them, with the greatest advantage, in proper time and circumstances.

9. Whatever things you have learned from me when instructing you, or received from me by writing, or heard of me when absent, or seen done by me when present; do these things, and the God of peace will be always with you—imparting and communicating his blessings to you.

10. I have rejoiced exceedingly, with a truly Christian and spiritual joy, that the solicitude you formerly felt for me, though relaxed for some time, has again revived. However, as an apology for this remission, it can be said, that you have always the will and the affection, but had no opportunity of manifesting it (either from want of means, or of a trusty messenger by whom to send your aid).

11. The subject of this joy is not so much on account of your having relieved my want (as on account of the charity which you manifest). For, I have learned to be contented with whatever may befall me in the different circumstances in which I may chance to be placed.

12. I know how to use with moderation every turn of fortune—both to bear the want of the necessaries of life, or to turn them to account when they abound. For, I have been fully initiated and practised in the Christian exercise of endurance under all circumstances—to be satiated with abundance of food, or to suffer hunger—to abound in the other necessaries, or bear the want of them.

13. I can do all these things and everything else required of me, not through any power of my own, but through the grace with which Christ interiorly strengthens me.

14. Still, you have done well in relieving my distress by contributing out of your temporal substance for that purpose.

15. And you know also, O Philippians! and you could bear witness to the fact, that when I first preached the gospel to you, and afterwards departed from Macedonia (to go into Achaia), no other Church, except your own, contributed anything that I could place to the account of given and received.

16. For you repeatedly administered to my wants, when I was at Thessalonica.

17. This I do not say as if I were anxious for gifts; what I am anxious about is, the abundant gains resulting from them to your credit.

18. I have received all your presents, and in consequence abound in the means of subsistence. I have a sufficient supply of the necessaries of life, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent by him as a sacrifice of sweet odour, an offering acceptable and pleasing to God.

19. And I pray that my God may supply you with all things of which you stand in need, according to the abundance of his riches, and may these temporal goods lead to your eternal glory through Christ Jesus.

20. But to God, who is also our Father, be glory for ever and ever.—Amen.

21. Salute every Christian who has been sanctified in Christ Jesus.

22. The brethren, who visit me and minister to me in prison, salute you. So do all the Christians here; but especially such of them as belong to the household of the Emperor, Nero.

23. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Commentary

1. “Therefore,” since such great glory, both as to soul and body, is promised you by Christ. “So stand fast to the Lord;” persevere in a Christian life, following me, and those who imitate me, as models. “My joy and my crown.” For every Prelate and Pastor his people must be the source of his joy and crown, or, of his sorrow and damnation.

2. These were two women of quality residing at Philippi, who had rendered great service to the Apostle in the work of converting the Philippians. From this verse it appears that there must have been some misunderstanding between them at this time. In place of feelings of estrangement, he Apostle, however, beseeches; them to substitute charity and unanimity.

3. “Book of life,” means the catalogue of those predestined for grace or glory—which catalogue is treasured up in the prescience of God. This book of life is referred to by Moses (Exodus, 32:22)—and David says, “may they be blotted out from the book of the living.”—(Ps. 68). It is most probable that he refers to the predestination of these to grace, in which case, their names are inscribed in an incomplete, conditional way; when there is question of predestination to glory, their names are inscribed absolutely and completely. “My sincere companion” (σύζυγε γνησι) probably refers to the Bishop of Philippi, who may have been Epaphroditus. Some Protestants refer it to St. Paul’s wife, but in the 7th chap. 1st Ep. to Cor., St. Paul equivalently asserts that he was unmarried. Again, the words are masculine in the Greek, and although, by an Attic turn, they might have a feminine signification, still, it is improbable that St. Paul, not well versed in the Greek tongue, wrote in the Attic dialect. All the Fathers (with the exception of Clement of Alexandria, who holds that the Apostle, though married, was still continent), concur in saying that St. Paul was unmarried. Besides, to use the reasoning of Œcumenius, can we suppose that in a letter addressed to the entire Church, St. Paul would address his wife?—why leave her at Philippi?—why not leave her at Tharsis, or Jerusalem, and not be bringing her about with him—a thing he expressly denies his having done in reference to any woman?—1st Cor. 9. Hence, the word “companion,” in Greek, yoke-fellow, is mataphorically understood of some faithful co-operator in planting the gospel.

5. “Modesty;” your even mildness of conduct, free from all extremes of passion, “The Lord is nigh.” The Apostle usually proposed the near approach of judgment, which with all men virtually commences at death, as the great leading motive of perseverance in good works, which will then receive a reward, and for patiently enduring crosses and miseries of every kind, which will then cease, and will ensure “an eternal weight of glory.” Oh! if we kept the judgment of God always before our eyes, how different would our conduct be from what it is! How patiently would we submit to God’s holy will in sufferings—how fervently would we advance in the way of perfection, could we but frequently reflect that “the Lord is nigh!”

6. Since the Lord is shortly to come from heaven to judge us, and to crown our patience, we should betray no excessive solicitude as regards the sufferings of this life, The words of this verse are a consequence of the words of the preceding verse: “the Lord is nigh,” as he is soon to come to judge us, we should show no excessive anxiety for the things of this life.

8. He sums up all his precepts in this one, which is a most comprehensive precept of morality. “Whatsoever modest.” In Greek, σεμνα, grave, or venerable. “Whatsoever holy.” In Greek, ἁγνα, the meaning of which is, chaste. For it, probably (“αγια,”) “holy,” might have been inserted., “Of good fame.” The first of earthy goods is a good reputation, “habe curam de bono nomine.”—Eccles. 41

9. The things that I have preached, written, spoken, and exemplified in my conduct, these things do.

10. Some Expositors say that he does not imply in this verse, that their attention and solicitude for him had relaxed; that the meaning of the verse is—your solicitude for me has revived; according to the feelings of your heart, it is now manifested; and it was only the want of opportunity that prevented you from manifesting it earlier. It would seem, however, that there is a silent reproach conveyed in this verse, for which he makes the best excuse that could be made, “a want of opportunity,” as is explained in Paraphrase, the meaning also of the Greek word, ἠκαιρεῖσθε δέ

11. He removes all suspicion or his having felt this joy in consequence of being relieved from want. He rejoiced at the succour sent him, not so much on account of its having placed him beyond the reach of want, as on account of the charity which it displayed on their part. As for himself, he learned from experience to be content with whatever might befall him.

12. “I know both how to be brought low,” i.e., to be in want; for, it is opposed to “I know how to abound.” “Suffer need,” is opposed to “abound,” in the end of this verse. Hence, the word “brought low,” means to be brought low by want. (“Everywhere and in all things I am instructed.”) The Greek for “instructed,” μεμυημαι, means to be, initiated in mysteries; hence, it means here to be initiated and practised in the exercises of a Christian and Apostolic life. These words are commonly read within a parenthesis. There is no necessity, however, for such a construction. They may be connected with the following words, thus:—In all things have I been initiated and instructed, both to be full, and to be hungry, i.e., to be content when I have a sufficiency of food, and when I suffer hunger. “To abound and suffer need,” are more extensive in their signification than the preceding—they denote the want of clothing and of other necessaries, as well as that of food.

13. Lest in the preceding he might appear to be attributing too much to himself, he corrects any such false conception, and ascribes all to the power of God. “I can do all in Christ corroborating me,” is the Greek reading.

14. He adds this, lest they might imagine that he did not duly appreciate their goodness, by saying that their generosity did not afford him joy in consequence of relieving his wants, because he is content under all circumstances, whether of plenty or want; he, therefore, praises them for their generous charity.

15. The circumstance of their’s being the only Church to relieve him, tends more to their praise, and at the same time, clears him from every charge or suspicion of avarice; for, no other Church contributed, and he would not receive aid from some particularly from the Churches of Achaia.

“As concerning giving and receiving.” In this, he alludes to the account-books of merchants, wherein are entered separately the sums expended and the sums gained in trade. The Philippians had given temporal goods, and reaped spiritual blessings. Hence, almsdeeds, and contributions towards the support of those engaged in preaching the gospel, may be regarded in the light of a lucrative traffic, in which spiritual and heavenly blessings are purchased by temporal goods, This, of course, is not to be understood in a mercenary or simoniacal spirit.—(See 1 Cor. 9:11)

17. He still alludes to the account-books of the merchants. Temporal alms purchase eternal glory. The almsgiver keeps a book of account with God, and lends to the Lord, who will pay him back with great interest.

18. “An odour of sweetness.” Alms-deed is an incense of most sweet fragrance—it is even “a sacrifice”—an offering most pleasing to God.

19. The Greek readings vary, as regards the word “want.” Some read “grace;” others, “joy.” Ours is, however, the most probable. “According to his riches in glory,” &c., which some interpret “the riches of his glory.”

22. From this verse, it appears, that St. Paul had converts even among the courtiers of Nero.

The common Greek subscription has: “Written to the Philippians from Rome, through Epaphroditus.” The Codex Vaticanus has: “Written to the Philippians from Rome.”








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