Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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Philippians 2

Supplemental Commentary:

II.  EXHORTATION  1, 27 -- 2, 18 (continued)

2, 1-11:  Unity and Humility.    1.  If there are any feelings of mercy in them, they should spare him the sorrow caused by their differences.  If you would relieve my sufferings, he says, heal your factions, forget your squabbles---so you will bring me happiness.    3.  Contentiousness: in Greek, "party spirit," "factiousness"; this should not motivate their actions.  Selfishness can masquerade under the guise of group loyalty and thus become an indirect source of vainglory.  Each one regard the others as his superiors: St. Thomas explains that one does this by realizing his own sins and defects and considering the effects of God's grace in others.    5.  As an example of perfect humility and complete surrender of all honor due to Him Christ is set forth for their imitation.  Three stages are mentioned in the existence of the God-man: (a) His eternal life before the Incarnation, 6; (b) His earthly life, 7-8; (c) His exaltation, 9-11.

6.  By nature God: literally "in the form of God."  "Form" signifies that which underlies the essential attributes; and in this context means nature, just as the "form" of a slave (i.e., man, 7) stands for human nature.  The early Fathers used this text against the Arians who wished to show that the Son was a god of a lower order than the Father.  A thing to be clung to: literally "a thing to be snatched at eagerly," the Greek word occurring only here in the New Testament.  The Son of God did not think He must selfishly cling to all His glory and enjoy to the full His dignity, but He laid them aside to become man.  Others interpret: although He fully realized His equality with God was no usurpation, yet He put it aside.

7 f.  He emptied himself: by becoming man.  This emptying or annihilation of self consisted in His putting aside the glory of God and forsaking all honor due Him as God-Man to become like us in lowliness.  Taking the nature of a slave: assuming human nature.  Appearing in the form of man: outwardly those who saw Him would take Him for an ordinary mortal, not recognizing His divinity.  The humiliation is delineated in three steps, His birth, His life and His death.  Becoming man Christ could have taken to Himself a glorious human body free from suffering and need, such as He had after the Resurrection.  He might have appeared suddenly upon this earth as a full-grown man, as Adam was created or as He Himself appeared after the Resurrection.  Instead of dying, He could have been carried up to heaven alive as Elias in the fiery chariot, or He could have ascended into heaven directly from the Last Supper.  Setting aside all these glorious aspects of human life, He chose to be born a babe in Bethlehem, to live poor and unhonored, and to die as a criminal upon the cross.

9-11.  After degradation came the state of glory when Christ's majesty became manifest at the Resurrection.  The name can mean a particular title, or stand simply for honor, rank, dignity.  If Paul means the Father conferred a title upon the Son, it could be the "Son of God" (St. Thomas), or "Lord" (Hoby).  More probably the meaning is: God gave Him honor above the honor of all creatures.    10.  At the name of Jesus: or, before the majesty of Jesus.  Every knee should bend: acknowledging His supreme rule.  St. Paul applies to Christ a text in which God speaks of the submission all beings owe to their maker (Isa. 45, 23).  The angels in heaven, men on earth and the demons under the earth adored Christ glorified.    11.  The Lord Jesus Christ: each one of the titles brings out a special feature of Christ's dignity: Jesus, or savior, the man; Christ, the anointed king; Lord, or God.

2, 12-18:  Fear and Joy in Serving.    12.  Greater caution against falling is required during Paul's absence.  He counsels fear and trembling, not servile cringing before a dread God, but filial reverence and self-distrust.  Elsewhere Paul speaks of chastising his body lest when he had preached to others he himself be rejected (1 Cor. 9, 27).    13.  Your salvation demands your best efforts, for it is God's work and He gives you strength to accomplish it.  Grace precedes and accompanies every act that leads to salvation.    15.  You are children of God; behave as such without reproach before men, and with your soul given wholly and sincerely to God.  You are the light of the world.    18.  Paul urges them to rejoice in his sufferings as he endures them for their sake.  Death would be a gain, for then he would win Christ.  It would even be a joy, for so he could suffer for his beloved Philippians.


2, 19-24:  Timothy.    20.  Like-minded: i.e., to St. Paul; or the Greek could mean equal or like to Timothy.  This disciple is Paul's beloved son in the Lord.  Probably other comrades then present with the Apostle did not show eagerness for the hardships of a journey to Philippi.    22.  They recognize his worth and tested virtue, for Timothy from the first days of the church has been a familiar figure to them.

2, 25-30:  Epaphroditus.    25 f.  Epaphroditus, sent by the Philippians to assist St. Paul, has recovered from his dangerous illness but seems to be homesick and upset at the thought that his friends may be worried about his condition.    28.  The realization of his helper's sorrow and the Philippians' anxiety bring grief to St. Paul.  The return of Epaphroditus to Philippi will restore joy to his fellow townsmen, thus lifting one burden from the heart of Paul.  The trials of the prison, however, still remain for the Apostle so that he says (in the Greek text), "I may be less sorrowful."

Confraternity Bible:

Unity and Humility  1 If, therefore, there is any comfort in Christ, any encouragement from charity, any fellowship in the Spirit, any feelings of mercy, 2 fill up my joy by thinking alike, having the same charity, with one soul and one mind.  3 Do nothing out of contentiousness or out of vainglory, but in humility let each one regard the others as his superiors, 4 each one looking not to his own interests but to those of others.

5 Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who though he was by nature God, did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to, 7 but emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave and being made like unto men.  And appearing in the form of a man, 8 he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross.  9 Therefore God also has exalted him and has bestowed upon him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven, on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.

Fear and Joy in Serving  12 Wherefore, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.  13 For it is God who of his good pleasure works in you both the will and the performance.  14 Do all things without murmuring and without questioning, 15 so as to be blameless and guileless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a depraved and perverse generation.  For among these you shine like stars in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life to my glory against the day of Christ; because not in vain have I run, neither in vain have I labored.  17* But even if I am made the libation for the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you.  18 And in the same way do you also joy and rejoice with me.

Timothy  19 Now I hope in the Lord Jesus shortly to send Timothy to you, that I also may be of good cheer when I know your circumstances.  20 For I have no one so like-minded who is so genuinely solicitous for you.  21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.  22 But know his worth: as child serves father, so he has served with me in spreading the gospel.  23 I hope then to send him to you as soon as I see how things stand with me.  24 But I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall come to you shortly.

Epaphroditus  25 But I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, but for you a messenger and the minister to my need.  26 For he was longing for all of you and was grieved because you had heard that he was sick.  27 Yes, he was sick, almost unto death.  But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but on me also, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow.  28 Therefore I send him the more speedily, in order that seeing him again you may rejoice and that I may be free from sorrow.  29 Welcome him, then, with all joy in the Lord and show honor to men like him, 30 because for the work of Christ he drew near to death, risking his life to supply what was lacking for your service to me.


17: Made the libation: the Philippians are the priests, their faith is the sacrificial animal on the altar, Paul's life blood is poured out as a libation.  Service: the Greek means divine worship.