Greetings from a Roman Prison.
SUMMARY.--Greetings to the Church and Its Officers. Reasons for Thanksgiving. The Progress of the Gospel in Rome. Different Motives for Preaching the Gospel. The Apostle's Desire to Depart and Be with Christ. Exhortations to Unity and Fortitude.
1, 2. Paul and Timotheus, the servants, etc. The beloved Timothy was attending and aiding Paul at Rome. The name of Timothy appears at the head of several Epistles. In this letter to be a beloved church, so devoted to him, Paul does not refer to his apostleship in his greeting, as in preceding Epistles, as one speaking with authority, but exhorts them as a fellow-servant of Christ. To all the saints in Christ Jesus. Every one in Christ, i. e., every Christian was and is a saint. With the bishops and deacons. We find two classes of officers in this church organized by an apostle. There was a plurality of each class. All commentators agree that "the bishops" and "the elders" of the primitive church are the same, only different names of the same office. Paul calls the "elders" of Ephesus "bishops." See Acts 20:17 (Revision). Also in Titus 1:5, 7, he calls an "elder" a "bishop." For the duties of this office, see notes on 1 Tim. 3:2, and Titus 1:5. The word "Overseer," which is a literal translation of the Greek word suggests the nature of the office. The duties of the deacons are supposed to be explained by the work of the "Seven Deacons" ordained in the church at Jerusalem. See Acts, chapter 6. See notes on 1 Tim. 3:8. 2. Grace. The usual apostolic benediction, such as we have found in preceding Epistles, is conferred.
3-7. I thank my God. Almost all the Epistles open with thanksgiving. How glorious a faith that which led him always, even in the darkest hour, to see the hand of God present in blessing! Yet in the remembrance of the Philippians there was much to cheer his heart. 4. In every prayer. The repeated assurances shows us that Paul was wont daily to carry the interests of the churches he planted to God. In the case of this faithful church he did it with joy. 5. For your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel [Revision]. He is thankful and full of joy that from the first they had constantly sympathized with him and aided in extending the gospel. It was a really missionary church. Until now. See 2:25, and 4:10, 18, for illustrations. 6. Being confident. So faithful have they been that he is confident that they will be faithful to the end. He which began a good work. God, who sent Paul to them with the gospel, began the good work. He will sustain them by his grace. Day of Jesus Christ. The day they are called to his presence. 7. Because I have you in my heart. Their faithfulness had engraven them on his heart. He shows how that faithfulness had been demonstrated. They were all partakers of his grace, the grace of suffering for the gospel and of defending it. In my bonds. He was a prisoner bound. As a prisoner he preached and defended the gospel. The Philippians sympathized with him, prayed for him, and sustained him by their offerings, thus becoming partakers. They not only did this, but defended and suffered for the gospel. See verses 28-30.
8-11. Long after you. Love you and long for your presence. In the bowels of Jesus Christ. See Revision. With a tender love like that of Christ. 9. This I pray. Not that their love for him should abound more, but with the increase of their love there might be fuller knowledge and wiser judgment. 10. That ye may approve. This increase in knowledge and judgment would lead them to approve what is really excellent. How often men approve what does not bless them! How often the judgment errs! Without offense. Without leadings others to stumble. 11. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness. This must follow from being "sincere," etc. Those who are earnest and sincere occupy themselves with works of righteousness, such as are due to faith in Jesus Christ and his help, and which are unto the glory and praise of God. In no way can we glorify God more than by living holy, helpful lives.
12-14. I would ye should understand. No doubt the Philippians grieved greatly that he was a prisoner, but he assures them that all things have turned to the furtherance of the gospel. He has been given an opportunity to reach those whom otherwise he never could have had access to. 13. So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace. Prætorium in the Greek, rendered by the Revision, "Prætorian guard." The prætorian camp was the great military camp of a body of soldiers stationed permanently at Rome, called the prætorian guards. Paul, as a military prisoner, was under charge of its commander, the præfect. The necessity of reporting regularly would make him well known, and would give him many opportunities to preach Christ there and elsewhere. Compare Acts 28:16. 14. Many of the brethren. Taking courage from his boldness, though in bonds, the brethren were engaged in preaching the gospel with greater zeal than ever before. See 4:22, for some of the results of this preaching.
15-18. Some, indeed, preach Christ even of envy. The motives of all preachers are not pure. Some still preach Christ, full of envy for other preachers, and some from a love of strife. Those envious of Paul were probably Judaizing Christians. See next verse. 16. The one preach Christ from contention. Not from sincere love of the gospel, but from a factious spirit. While preaching, they sought to undermine Paul's influence, supposing to add affliction to his bonds. For an illustration of this class, read the first and second chapters of Galatians, 17. The other of love. These are the true and earnest preachers. They knew that Paul was not sent to Rome because he was an evil doer, but because he was set for the defense of the gospel. God had sent him there to preach it. 18. What then? So anxious is he to have Christ preached, that, whatever may be the motives of men, whether their zeal is only a pretence or in truth, still if only Christ is preached, he will rejoice. This is not a sanction of a false gospel (see Gal. 1:8), nor of the men themselves, but rejoicing, if by any means the knowledge of Christ is spread. How different this glorious unselfishness, and greatness of spirit, from the narrowness of those who higgle over "plans" and forbid "those who walk not with them!"
19-21. For I know that this, etc. All this envy and opposition will tend to promote his salvation. He will be delivered by God who will hear their prayers, and who will strengthen and direct him by the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 20. That in nothing shall I be ashamed. Whatever may come, whether his bonds lead to death or life, his trust is that the Spirit will give him such boldness that Christ shall be magnified. There is no anxiety about himself, only that he may glorify Christ. 21. For to me to live is Christ. Should he be suffered to live, his life would be for extending the kingdom of Christ, but personally, to die would be gain; a release from sufferings and an entrance upon eternal joys.
22-26. But if I live in the flesh. In the body; i. e., on earth. In this state the fruit of his labor is Christ. See verse 21. Yet what I shall choose. He can hardly tell whether he would choose the gain of death, or to continue to live in order that he may work for Christ. 23. Having a desire to depart. His feelings would lead him to choose to depart from the flesh (see verse 24), and to be with Christ. Note that with Paul to depart from the flesh, the body, is followed by going immediately to Christ. 24. Nevertheless. Though it is better to depart and dwell with Christ, the brethren need him in the flesh. That is the reason why he is in the strait (verse 23). 25. And having this confidence. Rather, "Being fully persuaded of this." Sure that he is needed on earth by the churches, he has no doubt that he will be delivered from his present danger and abide and continue, live to further their faith. 26. That your rejoicing. Nay, he is assured that the Philippians will rejoice over a visit from him. There is every reason to believe that his confidence was justified; that he was released and did again visit Philippi.
27-30. Only let your conversation. Your manner of life. Whether absent, or present, he wishes to know that they are perfectly united. 28. And in nothing terrified by your adversaries. Probably there had been another outbreak of heathen violence at Philippi such as Paul and Silas endured (Acts 16:19-24). Which is to them. Your courage. When they see that they cannot terrify or overcome you, it will be a token to them of the ruin which will befall them, but an assurance to you of your salvation, through the help of God. 29. For to you it is given. Two things were granted: (1) The privilege of believing in Christ. (2) That of suffering for Christ. Such was the lot of all ancient Christians. See Heb. 12:3, 4, and 1 Peter 4:16. 30. Having the same conflict which ye saw in me. You saw when I was at Philippi what I had to endure (Acts 16:19); you hear that I am now a prisoner threatened with death. You must expect similar conflicts and meet them with fortitude.