Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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Philippians 1

Supplemental Commentary:

Introduction  1, 1-11

1, 1-2:  Greeting.    1.  Timothy had helped found the church at Philippi (Acts 16), and during St. Paul's third missionary journey had twice visited it, once when sent there from Ephesus (Acts 19, 22), a second time when returning with Paul from Corinth to Jerusalem (Acts 20, 3-6).  Notice that in the greeting St. Paul omits his ordinary title of Apostle, as if hinting he has no need to vindicate his authority over them.  He writes as a friend to a friend.  Bishops and deacons designate two grades of church ministers, as appears from the meaning of the terms: bishop (overseer), and deacon (assistant).  At the time of the letter's composition these words did not possess their present technical ecclesiastical meaning.

1, 3-11:  Thanksgiving and Prayer.  A thanksgiving to God and a prayer for special graces begin every letter of St. Paul, except those to the Hebrews and Galatians.  Here the Apostle thanks God for their generous assistance in the diffusion of the gospel and prays for charity and unity, thus foreshadowing his later earnest plea for oneness of heart and mind.    6.  God has begun a good work in them because not even the first step in the way of salvation came from them.  An important text for the doctrine of grace.  The day of Christ Jesus: the day of the Last Judgment when they will stand before the tribunal of Christ.    7.  As sharers in my joy: the Greek text reads "of my grace."  The Greek text refer to the grace or favor Paul enjoys by preaching to the Gentiles.  The faithful by their prayers unite themselves with St. Paul's missionary work and sufferings for Christ.  A beautiful exemplification of the communion of saints.    8.  Instead of his own heart, he puts the heart of Christ.    9.  He prays that they may abound . . . in discernment, for charity, like zeal, must be according to knowledge.  Misguided charity should not make them welcome false teachers, such as the Judaizers, nor cause them, as in the case of Evodia and Syntyche, to tolerate petty squabbles which disrupt church unity.

I.  PERSONAL NEWS  1, 12-26

1, 12-20:  Propagation of the Gospel.    12.  The Philippians had inquired eagerly as to St. Paul's condition.  Wholly immersed in the things of Christ, he speaks of his present situation only as it concerns the spread of the gospel.  Not a word about his own health or the conditions of his prison life.    13.  The praetorium designated properly the space in the camp reserved for the praetor, then it came to mean any residence of a governor (the place in which Pilate judged our Lord is called a praetorium), finally it could mean the praetorian regiments.  Here the term refers to the praetorian guard.  The different soldiers who had charge of Paul, discussing with their comrades this unusual prisoner, would make known the cause of Christ for which he suffers.    15-17.  Some preachers, jealous of St. Paul's success and prestige, wish to show they can accomplish as much as he, and think their success will make him bitter.  Evidently there is nothing wrong with the faith they preach for St. Paul passes no censure upon their doctrine.    19.  The present situation will not necessarily bring freedom to the Apostle, as is clear from 20-21, but will aid his eternal salvation.  Two forces contribute to that end, the prayer of his faithful and the spirit of Jesus Christ, Christ Himself being the giver and the gift bestowed.

1, 21-26:  Sentiments of St. Paul.    21.  To die is gain: because death brings immediate union with Christ in glory.    23.  To depart and to be with Christ: death will immediately bring him into the life with Christ in glory.  Commentators observe that the verse presupposes that after the death of Paul some time will elapse before Christ comes in glory, an indication that the Apostle does not think the Second Coming of Christ is imminent.    25.  Paul knows he will abide with them.  This knowledge comes not through a revelation, but from acquaintance with the attitude of the Roman officials toward his case.  Fr. Knabenbauer proposes another  interpretation.  The Apostle has expressed doubt whether he will live or die (20 and 2, 17).  Therefore the present sentence means: I am convinced that, if I remain, it will be for your benefit.

II.  EXHORTATION  1, 27 -- 2, 18

1, 27-30:  Firmness.    28.  This is . . . a reason: not that the adversaries are now lost, but they are now on the path which leads to destruction while the persecuted Christians are in the way which leads to salvation.    30.  The Philippians have seen in their city the persecution Paul endured, and they have heard of his trials at Rome.  Their suffering for the faith makes them imitators of Paul and thus of Christ.

Confraternity Bible:

Greeting  1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus that are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 grace be to you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving and Prayer  3 I give thanks to my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in all my prayers making supplications for you all with joy, 5 because of your association with me in spreading the gospel of Christ from the first day until now.  6 I am convinced of this, that he who has begun a good work in you will bring it to perfection until the day of Christ Jesus.  7 And I have the right to feel so about you all, because I have you in my heart, all of you, alike in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, as sharers in my joy.  8 For God is my witness how I long for you all in the heart of Christ Jesus.  9 And this I pray, that your charity may more and more abound in knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the better things, that you may be upright and without offense unto the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of justice, through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Propagation of the Gospel  12 Now I wish you to know, brethren, that my experiences have turned out rather for the advancement of the gospel, 13* so that the chains I bear for the sake of Christ have become manifest as such throughout the praetorium and in all other places.  14 And the greater number of the brethren in the Lord, gaining courage from my chains, have dared to speak the word of God more freely and without fear.  15 Some indeed preach Christ even out of envy and contentiousness, but some also out of good will.  16 Some proclaim Christ out of love since they know I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 but some out of contentiousness, not sincerely, thinking to stir up affliction for me in my chains.  18 But what of it?  Provided only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed; in this I rejoice, yes and I shall rejoice. 19 For I know that this will turn out for my salvation, thanks to your prayer and the assistance of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 in accord with my eager longing and hope that in nothing I shall be put to shame, but that with complete assurance now as at all times Christ will be glorified in my body, whether through life or through death.

Sentiments of St. Paul  21 For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.  22 But if to live in the flesh is my lot, this means for me fruitful labor, and I do not know which to choose.  23 Indeed I am hard pressed from both sides---desiring to depart and to be with Christ, a lot by far the better; 24 yet to stay on in the flesh is necessary for your sake.  25 And with this conviction I know that I shall stay on and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 that your rejoicing in my regard may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

Firmness  27 Only let your lives be worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that, whether I come and see you, or remain absent, I may hear about you, that you are steadfast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.  28 Do not be terrified in any way by the adversaries; for this is to them a reason for destruction, but to you for salvation, and that from God.  29 For you have been given the favor on Christ's behalf---not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him, 30 while engaged in the same struggle in which you have seen me and now have heard of me.


13: Chains, etc.: all perceive that Paul is imprisoned not as a criminal but for bearing witness to Christ.  Praetorium: the word can mean either the imperial palace or the praetorian guard in whose custody St. Paul is.  Here the Apostle refer to the soldiers.