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EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 23

Verse 23. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, etc. See Barnes "Ro 16:20".

 

In regard to the subscription at the end of this epistle it may be remarked, as has been done of the other subscriptions at the end of the epistles, that it is of no authority whatever. There is no reason, however, to doubt that in this case it is correct. The epistle bears internal evidence of having been written from Rome, and was doubtless sent by Epaphroditus. See the Intro., § 3. There is considerable variety in the subscription. The Greek is, "It was written to the Philippians from Rome by Epaphroditus." The Syriac, "The epistle to the Philippians was written from Rome, and sent by Epaphroditus." The AEthiopic, "To the Philippians, by Timothy."

REMARKS.

The principal lessons taught in this dosing chapter are the following:—

(1.) It is our duty to be firm in the Lord, in all the trials, temptations, and persecutions to which we may be exposed, Php 4:1. This duty should be pressed on Christians by their teachers, and by each other, by all that is tender and sacred in the Christian profession, and all that is endearing in Christian friendship. Like Paul, we should appeal to others as "brethren dearly beloved and longed for; "and by all their affection for us we should entreat them to be steadfast in the Christian profession. As their "joy and crown," also, ministers should desire that their people should be holy. Their own happiness and reward is to be closely connected with the firmness with which their people maintain the principles of the Christian faith. If Christians, therefore, wish to impart the highest joy to their religious teachers, and to exalt them as high as possible m future happiness and glory, they should strive to be faithful to their great Master, and to be steadfast in attachment to his cause.

(2.) It is the duty of those who have from any cause been alienated, to seek to be reconciled, Php 4:2. They should be of the same mind. Almost nothing does more to hinder the cause of religion than alienations and bickerings among its professed friends. It is possible for them to live in harmony, and to be of the same mind in the Lord; and such is the importance of this, that it well deserves to be enforced by apostolic authority and persuasion. It may be observed, also, that in the case referred to in this chapter—that of Euodias and Syntyche—the exhortation to reconciliation is addressed to both. Which was in the wrong, or whether both were is not intimated, and is not needful for us to know. It is enough to know that there was alienation, and both of them were exhorted to see that the quarrel was made up. So, in all cases where members of the church are at variance it is the business of both parties to seek to be reconciled, and neither party is right if he waits for the other before he moves in the matter. If you feel that you have been injured, go and tell your brother kindly wherein you think he has done you wrong, he may at once explain the matter, and show that you have misunderstood it, or he may make proper confession or restitution. Or, if he will do neither, you will have done your duty, Mt 18:15. If you are conscious that you have injured him, then nothing is more proper than that you should go and make confession. The blame of the quarrel rests wholly on you. And if some meddling third person has got up the quarrel between you, then go and see your brother, and disappoint the devices of the enemy of religion.

(3.) It is our duty and our privilege to rejoice in the Lord always, Php 4:4. As God is unchanging, we may always find joy in him. The character of God which we loved yesterday, and in the contemplation of which we found happiness then, is the same to-day, and its contemplation will furnish the same joy to us now. His promises are the same; his government is the same; his readiness to impart consolation is the same; the support which he can give in trial and temptation is the same. Though in our own hearts we may find much over which to mourn, yet when we look away from ourselves we may find abundant sources of consolation and peace. The Christian, therefore, may be always happy. If he will look to God, and not to himself—-to heaven, and not to earth— he will find permanent and substantial sources of enjoyment. But in nothing else than God can we rejoice always. Our friends, in whom we find comfort, are taken away; the property that we thought would make us happy, fails to do so; and pleasures that we thought would satisfy, pall upon the sense and make us wretched. No man can be permanently happy who does not make THE LORD the source of joy, and who does not expect to find his chief pleasure in him.

(4.) It is a privilege to be permitted to go and commit everything to God, Php 4:6,7. The mind may be in such a state that it shall feel no anxiety about anything. We may feel so certain that God will supply all our wants; that he will bestow upon us all that is really necessary for us in this life and the next, and that he will withhold from us nothing which it is not for our real good to have withheld, that the mind may be constantly in a state of peace. With a thankful heart for all the mercies which we have enjoyed —and in all cases they are many—we may go and commit ourselves to God for all that we need hereafter. Such is the privilege of religion; such an advantage is it to be a Christian. Such a state of mind will be followed by peace. And it is only in such a way that true peace can be found. In every other method there will be agitation of mind and deep anxiety. If we have not this confidence in God, and this readiness to go and commit all to him, we shall be perplexed with the cares of this life; losses and disappointments will harass us; the changes which occur will weary and wear out our spirits; and through life we shall be tossed as on a restless ocean.

(5.) It is the duty of Christians to be upright in every respect Php 4:8. Every friend of the Redeemer should be a man of incorruptible and unsuspected integrity. He should be one who can always be depended on to do what is right, and pure, and true, and lovely. I know not that there is a more important verse in the New Testament than the eighth verse of this chapter. It deserves to be recorded in letters of gold in the dwelling of every Christian, and it would be well if it could be made to shine on his way as if written in characters of living light. There should be no virtue, no truth, no noble plan of benevolence, no pure and holy undertaking in society, of which the Christian should not be, according to his ability, the patron and the friend. The reasons are obvious. It is not only because this is in accordance with the law of God, but it is from its effect on the community. The people of the world judge of religion by the character of its professed friends. It is not from what they hear in the pulpit, or learn from the Bible, or from treatises on divinity; it is from what they see in the lives of those who profess to follow Christ. They mark the expression of the eye; the curl of the lip; the words that we speak; and if they perceive peevishness and irritability, they set it down to the credit of religion. They watch the conduct, the temper and disposition, the manner of doing business, the respect which a man has for truth, the way in which he keeps his promises, and set it all down to the credit of religion. If a professed Christian fails in any one of these things, he dishonours religion, and neutralizes all the good which he might otherwise do. It is not only the man in the church who is untrue, and dishonest, and unjust, and unlovely in him temper, that does evil; it is he who is either false, or dishonest, or unjust, or unlovely in his temper. One evil propensity will neutralize all that is good; and one member of the church who fails to lead a moral and upright life will do much to neutralize all the good that can be done by all the rest of the church. Comp. Ec 10:1.

(6.) It is the duty of Christians to show kindness to the ministers of the gospel, especially in times and circumstances of want, Php 4:10,14-17.

Paul commended much what the Philippians had done for him. Yet they had done no more than they ought to do. See 1 Co 9:11. He had established the gospel among them, carrying it to them by great personal sacrifice and self-denial. What he had done for them had cost him much more than what they had done for him and was of much more value. He had been in want. He was a prisoner; among strangers; incapable of exerting himself for his own support; not in a situation to minister to his own wants, as he had often done by tent-making; and in these circumstances he needed the sympathizing aid of friends, he was not a man to be voluntarily dependent on others, or to be at any time a burden to them. But circumstances beyond his control had made it necessary for others to supply his wants. The Philippians nobly responded to his claims on them, and did all that he could ask. Their conduct is a good example for other Christians to imitate in their treatment of the ministers of the gospel. Ministers now are often in want. They become old, and are unable to labour; they are sick, and cannot render the service which they have been accustomed to; their families are afflicted, and they have not the means of providing for them comfortably in sickness. It is to be remembered, also, that such cases often happen where a minister has spent the best part of his life in the service of a people; where he has devoted his most vigorous days to their welfare; where he has been unable to lay up anything for sickness or old age; where he may have abandoned what would have been a lucrative calling in life, for the purpose of preaching the gospel. If there ever is a claim on the generosity of a people, his case is one; and there is no debt of gratitude which a people ought more cheerfully to pay than that of providing for the wants of an aged or an afflicted and disabled servant of Christ, who has spent his best years in endeavouring to train them and their children up for heaven. Yet, it cannot be denied that great injustice is often done in such cases. The poor beast that has served a man and his family in the days of his rigour is often turned out in old age to die; and something like this sometimes occurs in the treatment of ministers of the gospel. The conduct of a people, generous in many other respects, is often unaccountable in their treatment of their pastors; and one of the lessons which ministers often have to learn, like their Master, by bitter experience, is the ingratitude of those for whose welfare they have toiled, and prayed, and wept.

(7.) Let us learn to be contented with our present condition, Php 4:11,12. Paul learned this lesson. It is not a native state of mind. It is a lesson to be acquired by experience. By nature we are all restless and impatient; we are reaching after things that we have not, and often after things that we cannot and ought not to have. We are envious of the condition of others, and suppose that if we had what they have we should be happy. Yet, if we have right feelings, we shall always find enough in our present condition to make us contented. Ye shall have such confidence in the arrangements of Providence as to feel that things are ordered for the best. If we are poor, and persecuted, and in want, or are prostrated by sickness, we shall feel that there is some good reason why this is so arranged—though the reason may not be known to us. If we are benevolent, as we ought to be, we shall be willing that others shall be made happy by what they possess, instead of coveting it for ourselves, and desiring to wrest it from them. If we are disposed to estimate our mercies, and not to give up our minds to a spirit of complaining, we shall see enough around us to make us contented. Paul was a prisoner; he was poor; he was among strangers; he had neither wife nor children; he was about to be tried for his life, and probably put to death—yet he learned to be content. He had a good conscience; the hope of heaven; a sound intellect; a heart disposed to do good, and confidence in God—and why should a man in such circumstances murmur? Says Jeremy Taylor, "Am I fallen into the hands of publicans and sequestrators, who have taken all from me? What now? Let me look about me. They have left me the sun and moon, fire and water, a loving wife, and many friends to pity me, and some to relieve me, and I can still discourse; and unless I list, they have not taken away my merry countenance, and a cheerful spirit, and a good conscience; they still have left me the providence of God, and all the promises of the gospel, and my religion, and my hopes of heaven, and my charity to them too; and still I sleep and digest; I eat and drink; I read and meditate; I can walk in my neighbour's pleasant fields and see the varieties of natural beauties, and delight in all in which God delights-that is, in virtue, and wisdom, in the whole creation, and in God himself. And he who hath so many causes of joy, and so great, is very much in love with sorrow and peevishness who loses all these pleasures, and chooses to sit down upon his little handful of thorns." Holy living, chap. ii. & vi. Let the whole of this section "on Contentedness" be read. It is one of the most beautiful arguments for contentment that ever proceeded from uninspired lips.

(8.) In all these things; in all the duties and the trials of life; in all our efforts to meet temptation, and to cultivate contentment with our present condition, let us put our trust in the Saviour, Php 4:13. Paul said that he could "do all things through Christ who strengthened him." His strength was there; ours is there also. If we attempt these things, relying on our own strength, we shall certainly fail. The bad passions of our nature will get the ascendancy, and we shall be left to discontent and murmuring. The arm that is to uphold us is that of the Redeemer; and, relying on that, we shall find no duty so arduous that we may not be able to perform it; no temptation so formidable that we may not be able to meet it; no trial so great that we may not be able to bear it; no situation in life through which we may be called to pass, where we may not find contentment and peace. And may God of his rich mercy give to each one who shall read these Notes on this beautiful epistle to the Philippians, abundant grace thus to confide in the Saviour, and to practise all the duties so tenderly enjoined on the Philippian Christians, and on us, by this illustrious prisoner in the cause of Christ.

 

REMARKS ON GRECIAN GAMES

The apostle Paul has many allusions to these games in his epistles, but especially in the third chapter of this epistle, in which his eye is evidently fixed upon the exercise of running.

 dromov—dromos— or the exercise of running, was in great esteem amongst the ancient Grecians, insomuch that such as prepared themselves for it thought it worth their while to use means to burn or parch their spleen, because it was believed to be an hindrance to then, and retard them in their course. Homer tells us that swiftness is one of the most excellent endowments a man can be blessed withal. —Oyyss. v. 147, which is thus in the translation

 

No greater honour has been e'er attained

Than what strong hands or nimble feet have gained

 

Indeed, all those exercises that conduced to fit men for war, were more especially valued. Now, swiftness was looked upon as an excellent qualification in a warrior, both because it serves for a sudden assault and onset, and likewise for a nimble retreat; and, therefore, it is not to be wondered that the constat character which Homer gives of Achilles is, that he was podav wkuv, or swift of foot. And in the holy Scripture, David, in his poetical lamentation over these two great captains, Saul and Jonathan, take particular notice of this warlike quality of theirs. "They were," says he, "swifter than eagles, stronger than lions!"

Racing may be traced back to the earliest period of Grecian antiquity, and may be regarded as the first friendly contest in which men engaged. Accordingly, the Olympic and Pythain, probably also the other games, opened with foot-races, Foot-racing, perfected by systematic practice, was divided into different kinds, If you ran merely to the end of the course, (stadion) it was called stadium; if you went thither and back, you ran the double course diaulov.

The longest course was dolicov—dolichos—which required extraordinary speed and power of endurance. Suidas assigns twenty-four stadia to the dolicov, and others only twelve; but the measure of it seems not to have been fixed or determinate, but variable at pleasure. Sometimes they ran back again to the place whence they at first set out, and sometimes they ran in armour. The lengths above mentioned have even been increased tot he number of four and twenty times over the stadium. This, it must be understood, was a large semi-circle of about one hundred and twenty-five geometrical paces long, which it derived the name stadium, it being a measure ordinarily used among the Greeks, being the eighth part of a Roman mile. These lengths will give some idea of the severity of the trial, and serve to illustrate the meaning of the apostle, when he speaks of running with patience in the race. Indeed, one Ladas, a victor at the Olympic games in the dolicov,] or long race, was so exhausted by his efforts, that immediately on gaining the honour and being crowned, he yielded up his breath: a fact which also serves to throw light on the Scripture language, as showing with what intense eagerness these aspirants strove for the perishing chaplets. In the preparatory discipline, everything was done that could conduce to swiftness and strength. The training was severe, and the exercises were performed with the body naked and well oiled. The contest was generally most severe: to reach the goal sooner by one foot was enough to decide the victory. The competitors employed all their ability, and displayed the greatest eagerness to gain the prize. The nearer, too, they approached to the goal, the more did they increase their efforts. Sometimes the victory depended upon a final spring; and happy he that retained enough power to leap first to the goal.

For these remarks the reader is indebted to Potter's Archeologia Graeca and Kitto's Cyclopaedia of biblical Literature — Editor.

 

End of Barnes Notes on Philippians.

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