Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Verse 1.—“Paul and Timotheus the servants of Jesus Christ.” Not “Paul an Apostle” here as in other Epistles, but associating himself with Timothy who had been with him at Philippi when first the gospel was preached there (Acts 16:3), and was now with him at Rome.

“To the saints in Christ Jesus.” The saints first, the servants next. Our highest privilege is as saints: we can get no higher than that. Saints by the call of God (Rom. 1:7), not by our attainments or holiness. Made saints first, then called to live “as becometh saints,” (Eph. 5:3). We can get no higher than the place where God has put us. He has called us to fellowship with His own Son.

“With the bishops and deacons.” Overseers and servants. We cannot appoint them, we do not choose them; but surely we can see who the Lord has raised up to do the work (1 Thess. 5:12), and acknowledge such. It requires spiritual intelligence and discernment to recognise those whom the Lord raises up to feed and oversee the flock, and to serve Him among the saints. Human appointment is man’s way; “Know them that labour among you and are over you in the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:12) is God’s way.

Verse 2.—“Grace and peace”—the familiar salutation, so often read, so easily forgotten. As long as we are here below, we shall need “grace and peace,” and God has provided inexhaustible supplies of both.

Verses 3, 4.—“I thank my God”—“Always in every prayer of mine for you all.” Thanksgiving and prayer: not the one without the other. Thanksgiving eyes the blessings already received; prayer the needs still to be met. He praised and prayed when in the prison at this church’s birth, he praises and prays as the prisoner of the Lord for the saints at Philippi still. It is a sign of real interest in God’s saints when we praise and pray for them.

“Making request with joy.” Joy abounds in the Epistle everywhere. Written in a prison, amid surroundings anything but pleasant, yet his soul overflowed.

Verse 5.—“For your fellowship in the Gospel.” We read of fellowship in each chapter of this Epistle (see chaps, 1:53 2:11; 3:10; 4:14), where it is the same words throughout. It is a part of our warfare to be identified with Christ, His people, His servants, and His truth. To have true companionship in the Gospel, not shirking the cross, or fearing the reproach it brings. Nor did this fellowship in the Gospel dim with time, as alas is too often the case: it went on.

Verse 6.—“Being confident of this very thing.” Paul was no boaster. He was entirely persuaded. He knew what God’s purpose was, and how He would fulfil it. Not only was he confident about his own salvation (2 Tim. 1:10) but about that of others also. “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it.” He will carry it forward to the end, completing and perfecting it. This is a contradiction to a constant insinuation of the devil, that one must not expect saints to be so hearty for Christ, and so fervent in their love, as when first converted. Here it is just the reverse; the good work begun is carried on. He is assured that these Philippians were to wax brighter and brighter, that they were to continue and increase in every grace, just because he knew that God who had begun to work in them would not cease to do so. What a ground for confidence! What a guarantee! God will finish as sure as He began His work. “Until the day of Jesus Christ.” How his eye was fixed on that day! How it filled his soul! “The day of Christ” was to him the grand climax of all. The crowning day, the day of his joy (1 Thess. 2:16). And these fighting ones were to have the assurance of final victory before they enter the field. They were to have the confidence of victory ere they engaged in the fight. It was this confidence that sustained Paul in all his conflicts; he had full confidence in God. Like as when on the stormy sea in the vessel he could say, “I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me” (Acts 27:25). Need we wonder that a man who could so speak of God, dared to do great things for Him. And he had the same confidence that God would fulfil His word to the saints at Philippi. He did not anticipate the declension of these Philippian saints, or make his calculations as if they must leave their first love. It was “meet” that he should think thus of them. “I have you in my heart,” or rather, as the margin has it, “Ye have me in your heart.” Their affections were toward the Lord’s prisoner, and their sympathies were with him in his sufferings. It is an evidence of the heart being right with God, when we love and care for His suffering saints and servants.

Verse 8.—“For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all.” They were his own children in the faith: he had been the means of leading the earliest of the converts at Philippi to Christ, and he therefore bore a peculiar love to them. It is according to God that such should be, and that those whom the Lord gives us as spiritual children, should be cared for and constantly borne on the heart. The sectarian ways of many sadly mar these beautiful marks of spiritual affection, but the Lord esteems them, and will not forget to reward them in that day.

Verse 9.—“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more.” They had love, but he desires more, not only toward himself, but toward the Lord and all the saints. When our love to Christ is abounding, the saints will not be forgotten. Love in the saints has its fountain in God. There is not a spark in any of us by nature. It has to be “shed abroad,” poured into our hearts by the Holy Ghost (Rom. 5:3). And once there it goes forth in two directions (1 John 5:1, 2): first Godward, then to our brethren. Love that lacks the former element is only latitudinarism and admiration of fleshly amiabilities. True love begins with God and Christ, and thus it reaches men. “In knowledge and in all judgment.” The world says “Love is blind.” Not so the love of God, nor ought ours. “In knowledge,” not unreasoning, but genuine, real and true, full of apprehension and spiritual intelligence. When a person is converted, he is to be exercised to grow in grace, to get further on in apprehension of the Divine way and will of God. “And in all judgment,” spiritual intelligence and discrimination. A Christian has the mind of Christ in the same sense as a babe has the mind of a man, but as it grows in years, the mind expands. So too the Christian grows, as his love abounds, he is to have more knowledge of God’s mind and will, and more ability to grasp the deep things of God. This grows by studying Christ.

Verse 10.—“That ye may approve things that are excellent” or “distinguish things that differ.” Losing sight of things that differ, failing to combine and harmonise the truth has done a lot of mischief. It is so common for Christians to get hold of one side of truth and set aside the other, and then wrest the very truth they hold to their own harm. This is a snare to those who are spiritually minded, if they do not watch. Some one has said, “The devil has different kinds of temptations; for those who seek to walk in the truth, one sort, for those who walk negligently, another.” Oh the wiles of the devil! The verse shews we all need ballast, and ability to discern and grasp God’s truth intelligently. May the Lord keep us from being overmuch occupied with one side of truth to the neglect of the others. “That ye may be sincere,” literally—“judged in sunlight.” What an expressive word that is! Nothing doubtful, everything clear and transparent, “judged in sunlight.” Self, ways, words, actions, all judged in sunlight. What lives ours would be if this were always so! It is possible to be so anxious about great things, as to neglect the details of daily life, and so stumble others. On the other hand, to be so careful to obtain the favour of men, as to neglect to study to please God. “Without offence,” not stumbling others; not praying beautiful prayers, and the next moment get in a temper. The former part of this verse encourages us to seek God’s light upon our ways: the latter, so to arrange them as not to stumble others. We need the whole truth to sanctify and build us up, and cannot afford to let any of it be unheeded. Oh to be clear, and pure, and transparent, “judged in sunlight.” “Till the day of Christ.” That day will manifest in the sunlight fully, all that has really been of God in and about us while down here, and make it sparkle like gems in the light of God. Oh to live and act in the sunlight of God’s presence now, to anticipate the searching light of that judgment seat.

Verse 11.—“Being filled with the fruits of righteousness.” The believer is righteous judicially before God, and in the power of the new life that is in him he “doeth righteousness” (1 John 3:7); a contrast to the false religionist who feigns to be righteous (Luke 16:15), putting it on as an outward form.

Verses 12, 13.—The bonds of Paul, his imprisonment in Rome had brought him within reach of some who could not otherwise have heard the gospel. Thus the enemy’s plans were defeated, and the gospel furthered. Just as it was at Philippi. The work of God there began amid bonds and imprisonment. We have quieter times now, but the devil has no more love for the gospel than he had then. Only he changes his tactics.

Verses 14-18.—Several kinds of preachers are mentioned here. Some were emboldened to preach Christ by his bonds; this gave the Apostle joy. Others preached Christ with an unworthy motive, to create strife and make factions. Yet Paul could rejoice, not in the way they did it, nor in the motive that led them to do it, but in the fact that Christ was preached. He would not judge them, the Lord will do that in the day of the judgment seat, when hidden motives will be brought to light (1 Cor. 4:5) as well as outward deeds. Christ was preached, but with some He was not the object, or the centre. Let us see that He gets His place, not only in our words, but in our hearts, and as the One to whom we gather, and seek to bring others. We may not be able to rejoice in the ways of some preachers, or to work with them, yet let us be glad that Christ is preached.

Verse 19.—“This shall turn to my salvation.” Salvation in Philippians is regarded throughout as present and future (chap. 2:12; 3:20). It includes deliverance from a great deal more than judgment. “And the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Every saint has the indwelling of the Spirit, yet Paul prayed for the Ephesians that God might give unto them “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Eph. 1:17). We daily need the renewals of the Spirit, the continuous supply as it flows from Him, giving power for life and service.

Verses 20-22—This Epistle is as much about death, as Thessalonians is about the Lord’s coming. Thank God there is nothing to be afraid of in death to the Christian. It is not his proper hope—the coming of the Lord is what we are to be looking for—yet if death comes to the believer, it will not separate Him from Christ. “To die is gain.” If our warfare ends there, it will be a victory. But the Apostle puts something before that. “For me to live is Christ.” What an emphatic expression! Would to God we understood it better! Paul not only had life in Christ, but for him to live was Christ. Christ was his object. Yet while he could say that, he was not satisfied as if all had been gained, for in chapter 3:8 he says, “That I may win Christ.” Christ to him was everything. He had Christ with him, Christ was his object, and his wish was to win Christ. Christ alone filled his soul, and every other object was set aside. May we know such an experience. It is within reach of us all, thank God.

Verse 23.—“With Christ which is far better,” or as it is in the original—“much more better.” The Holy Ghost takes great pains to assure our hearts that even in the disembodied state which may intervene before the Lord comes, it will be “much more better” than the present. The disembodied spirit will know and enjoy more of Christ there, than is possible now. What will it be when we get the body like unto Christ’s in the resurrection state? We cannot conceive what that will be. Praise be to God it awaits us! So there are three stages here pointed out; good, better, best. It is good to be saved, and in the body to serve the Lord here on earth. It is “much more better” to be absent from the body and at home with the Lord. It will be best of all when He comes to gather all His saints home together, in bodies like His own, where no sin or sorrow can come, and where no tear shall ever fall. Then there shall be one Lord over all the earth and His Name one; Satan banished, and sin put down. Then the Lord Jesus shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied, but He will not be fully satisfied until He has got all His saints safe at home around Himself. This was the joy set before Him, for which He endured the Cross, despising the shame (Heb. 12:2). Thus the coming of the Lord Jesus, which is the proper hope of the believer, is grander far than death, although that to the believer is gain, and not now a thing of gloom and uncertainty, as it was before the Cross. There is now a living Man in heaven, and when the believer dies, he goes to be “with Christ.” Although the Lord Jesus as the Risen Man is millions of miles distant from earth (the place where the dying Christian is) yet the very moment he is absent from the body, he is at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). There is no interval, no cessation of the enjoyment of Christ. To live here—Christ: to depart, to be “with Christ.” There are three distinct allusions to the believer’s death in the Gospel according to Luke—the Gospel of The Man; they are in chapters 16:22; 20:34-38; 23:43, and give a progressive view of the truth. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, though dead, are alive to God. They knew Him while here. Their faith laid hold upon Him as the Living God while yet unseen, and they live in His presence and with Him there. The entrance of the dying robber to Paradise with Christ was a further unfolding of the truth; it was the opening up of a new vista never before known. To be “carried by angels” into “Abraham’s bosom “conveys the thought of some period of time elapsing, ere the souls of the righteous reached their destination: on the contrary, to the dying robber the word of the Lord Jesus was “Today shalt thou be with Me “in paradise! And now without any interval of time whatever, to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord.” How rich and sweet will be the soul’s communion with the Lord in that scene! Like a bird escaped from its cage, we shall be delivered from the body which now so hinders the spirit’s communion with Christ! Oh how sweet, how blessed it will be, to have there a season of rest with Christ, after the toils and turmoils of earth are past, before the glory of the Kingdom shines forth! Do not lose sight of the grand expression “To me to live—Christ,” for if death does not separate us from Christ neither does life. He can reveal Himself to your soul here amid the battle of life, if you do not hinder Him. “If I live in the flesh, this is worth my while,”—as the word really is. It was Christ there and Christ here. Oh to so live for and serve Christ! Such a life is truly worth living: to witness for a rejected Christ and serve the members of His body is a blessed thing, and will bring His commendation and rich reward in a coming day. Do not seek how comfortably and easily you can get along through life, but make it your aim to live for Christ and serve Him, even if you have to rough it for Him down here. It will be worth your while to do so: it will pay in the end.

Verses 25, 26.—He has Christ and the Church so fully before his heart that self has no place. He decides the case for himself, so he will remain and serve. How fine it is to see such unselfishness! He has no thought of his own interests, only the glory of Christ and the gain of his saints. He was not solicitous what the Emperor would say; he had confidence in God, and had the answer from Him that He would be delivered and again go forth to serve.

Verse 27.—“Only let your conversation (citizenship) be as becometh the Gospel of Christ.” He was anxious that their manner of life should be as becometh the Gospel. It brought them salvation, and now they were identified with it, and with the fellowship of spreading it abroad, and it was important that their lives should be worthy of it. How it would have depressed him to hear it was otherwise, and how it would have hindered the Gospel in its work among others. Let us ever remember that the manner of life we live as God’s saints, either helps or hinders the Gospel, and commends or scandalises the truth. “Stand fast.” The tendency in our day is to relax and be off our guard: to take things easy and let others do the same. “Stand fast,” reminds us of our individual responsibility. “In one spirit, with one mind” views our corporate testimony. There is to be no discord, no jarring, no pulling different ways, but fully united. And see the Holy Ghost’s way of thus knitting saints together. First of “one spirit,” next of “one mind,” or soul (R.V.) It is like that remarkable word in Acts 4:32, “The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul.” If hearts are drawn to Christ and fused together in His love, minds will be made one by subjection to His Word, and then judgments will be similar. It will not be “agreeing to differ,” or each believing and acting as he likes, but all will be controlled by Christ. Man’s way of unity is from without, sitting on the same bench, holding the same views, contending for the same things. God’s way is to set the heart and mind right, then “striving together for the faith of the Gospel” will result.

Verse 28.—“In nothing terrified by your adversaries.” There is not perhaps so much of open opposition now as in early days to the people of God. Then it was the adversary as a “roaring lion” (1 Pet. 5:8): now he assumes the serpent character (2 Cor. 11:2), and deceives by his subtlety, but the world will always hate the true people of God (John 15:20). From Abel’s time it has been so. The Cross was the full climax of the manifested hatred of man to God, and to those who stood for Him on earth, as His faithful witnesses. To hate a saint of God, to persecute one who is true to God, is one of the most awful proofs of human depravity, and a sign of how ripe for hell the man is who does it.

Verse 29.—“Unto you it is given” — the word is “grace.” It is part of the grace of God bestowed upon the saints to give them a share in suffering on Christ’s behalf. Just think of a little suffering being part of the grace of God bestowed upon us! How this should nerve us to suffer and brave a little opposition for Christ’s Name. The Apostles rejoiced when called upon to suffer (see Acts 4:21). God knows how we need to be reminded of this, and the whole of this beautiful Epistle encourages us in the warfare in which the grace of God has given us the honour of being engaged. The fight must precede the victory: the cross is before the crown. Verse 30.—“Having the same conflict.” They had seen what he endured at Philippi, and he had the same agony and contest still as the prisoner of the Lord at Rome, and they were not to shrink from their share of it, seeing it was a favour bestowed upon them on the behalf of Christ in whom they believed.

Since I must fight if I would reign,
Increase my courage, Lord,
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.