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Philippians 1:7-11

7. Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.

7. Sicuti iustum est mihi hoc de vobis omnibus sentire, propterea quod in corde vos habeam, esse omnes participes gratiæ meæ, et in vinculis meis, et in defensione, et confirmatione Evangelii.

8. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

8. Testis enim mihi est Deus, ut desiderem vos omnes in visceribus 4141     “Aux entrailles de Jesus Christ, ou, Es cordiale affection de Jesus Christ;” — “In the bowels of Jesus Christ, or, In the cordial affection of Jesus Christ.” Iesu Christi.

9. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

9. Et hoc precor, ut caritas vestra adhue magis ac magis abundet cum agnitione, omnique intelligentia:

10. That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere, and without offence till the day of Christ;

10. Ut probetis quæ utilia sunt, qno sitis sinceri, et inoffensi usque in diem Christi.

11. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

11. Impleti fructibus iustitiae, qui sunt per Iesum Christum, in gloriam et laudem Dei.

 

7 As it is reasonable. For we are envious 4242     “Maigres et desdaigneux;” — “Miserable and disdainful.” valuators of the gifts of God if we do not reckon as children of God those in whom there shine forth those true tokens of piety, which are the marks by which the Spirit of adoption manifests himself. Paul accordingly says, that equity itself dictates to him, 4343     “Raison mesme et equite luy disent;” — “Even reason and equity tell him.” that he should hope well of the Philippians in all time to come, inasmuch as he sees them to be associated with himself in participation of grace. It is not without due consideration that I have given a different rendering of this passage from that of Erasmus, as the judicious reader will easily perceive. For he states what opinion he has of the Philippians, which was the ground of his hoping well respecting them. He says, then, that they are partakers with him of the same grace in his bonds, and in the defense of the gospel.

To have them in his heart is to reckon them as such in the inmost affection of his heart. For the Philippians had always assisted Paul according to their ability, so as to connect themselves with him as associates for maintaining the cause of the gospel, so far as was in their power. Thus, although they were absent in body, yet, on account of the pious disposition which they shewed by every service in their power, he recognises them as in bonds along with him. “I have you, therefore, in my heart;” this is, sincerely and without any pretense, assuredly, and with no slight or doubtful opinion — as what? as partakers of grace — in what? in my bonds, by which the gospel is defended. As he acknowledged them to be such, it was reasonable that he should hope well respecting them.

Of my grace and in the bonds. It were a ludicrous thing in the view of the world to reckon a prison to be a benefit from God, but if we estimate the matter aright, it is no common honor that God confers upon us, when we suffer persecution for the sake of his truth. For it was not in vain that it was said,

Blessed shall ye be, when men shall afflict and harass you with all kinds of reproaches for my name’s sake. (Matthew 5:11)

Let us therefore bear in remembrance also, that we must with readiness and alacrity embrace the fellowship of the cross of Christ as a special favor from God. In addition to bonds he subjoins the defense and confirmation of the gospel, that he may express so much the better the honourableness of the service which God has enjoined upon us in placing us in opposition to his enemies, so as to bear testimony to his gospel. For it is as though he had entrusted us with the defense of his gospel. And truly it was when armed with this consideration, that the martyrs were prepared to contemn all the rage of the wicked, and to rise superior to every kind of torture. And would that this were present to the mind of all that are called to make a confession of their faith, that they have been chosen by Christ to be as advocates to plead his cause! For were they sustained by such consolation they would be more courageous than to be so easily turned aside into a perfidious revolt. 4444     “Ils seroyent si constans et fermes, qu’ils ne pourroyent estre aiseement induits a se reuolter laschement et desloyaument;” — “They would be so steadfast and firm, that they could not be easily induced to revolt in a cowardly and disloyal manner.”

Here, however, some one will inquire, whether the confirmation of the gospel depends on the steadfastness of men. I answer, that the truth of God is in itself too firm to require that it should have support from any other quarter; for though we should all of us be found liars, God, nevertheless, remains true. (Romans 3:4.) There is, however, no absurdity in saying, that weak consciences are confirmed in it by such helps. That kind of confirmation, therefore, of which Paul makes mention, has a relation to men, as we learn from our own experience that the slaughter of so many martyrs has been attended at least with this advantage, that they have been as it were so many seals, by which the gospel has been sealed in our hearts. Hence that saying of Tertullian, that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” — which I have imitated in a certain poem: “But that sacred blood, 4545     Sanctus at ille cruor, divini assertor honoris,
Gignendam ad sobolem seminis instar erit
the maintainer of God’s honor, will be like seed for producing offspring.” 4646     “A l’imitation duquel au chant de victoire composé par moy en Latin en l’honneur de Jesus Christ, 1541, et lequel depuis a este reduit en rime Francois, i’ay dit: —
   ‘Or le sang precieux par martyre espandu
Pour auoir a son Dieu tesmoignage rendu,
A l’Eglise de Dieu seruira de semence
Dont enfans sorteront remplis d’intelligence
.’“

   “In imitation of which, in the song of victory composed by me in Latin in honor of Jesus Christ, in 1541, and which has since that time been rendered into French rhyme, I have said: —

   ‘But the precious blood shed by martyrs
That it might be as a testimony rendered to its God,
Will in the Church of God serve as seed
From which children shall come forth, filled with understanding.’“

8. For God is my witness. He now declares more explicitly his affection for them, and, with the view of giving proof of it, he makes use of an oath, and that on good grounds, because we know how dear in the sight of God is the edification of his Church. It was, too, more especially of advantage, that Paul’s affection should be thoroughly made known to the Philippians. For it tends in no small degree to secure credit for the doctrine, when the people are persuaded that they are beloved by the teacher. He calls God as a witness to the truth, inasmuch as he alone is the Truth, and as a witness of his affection, inasmuch as he alone is the searcher of hearts. In the word rendered long after, a particular term is made use of instead of a general, and it is a token of affection, inasmuch as we long after those things which are dear to us.

In the bowels He places the bowels of Christ in opposition to carnal affection, to intimate that his affection is holy and pious. For the man that loves according to the flesh has respect to his own advantage, and may from time to time change his mind according to the variety of circumstances and seasons. In the meantime he instructs us by what rule the affections of believers ought to be regulated, so that, renouncing their own will, they may allow Christ to sit at the helm. And, unquestionably, true love can flow from no other source than from the bowels of Christ, and this, like a goad, ought to affect us not a little — that Christ in a manner opens his bowels, that by them he may cherish mutual affection between us. 4747     Beza, when commenting on the expression, in the bowels of Jesus Christ, observes, “Alibi solet dicere, In Christo. Ut autem significet ex quo fonte promanet affectus iste, et quo etiam feratur, additum visceribus nomen magnum pondus addit sententiæ, ut intimus amor significetur. Solent enim Hebraei רחמים, rachamim, id est, viscera omnes teneros ac veluti maternos affectus vocare;” — “He is accustomed in other cases to say, In Christ. But to intimate from what fountain that affection flows, and in what direction also it tends, the addition of the term bowels adds great weight to the statement, so as to express intimate affection. For the Hebrews are accustomed to employ the term רחמים rachamim, that is, bowels, to denote all tender and as it were motherly affections.” — Ed.

9 This I pray that your love He returns to the prayer, which he had simply touched upon in one word in passing. He states, accordingly, the sum of those things which he asked from God in their behalf, that they also may learn to pray after his example, and may aspire at proficiency in those gifts. The view taken by some, as though the love of the Philippians denoted the Philippians themselves, as illiterate persons are accustomed very commonly to say, “Your reverence,” — “Your paternity,” is absurd. For no instance of such an expression occurs in the writings of Paul, nor had such fooleries come into use. Besides, the statement would be less complete, and, independently of this, the simple and natural meaning of the words suits admirably well. For the true attainments of Christians are when they make progress in knowledge, and understanding, and afterwards in love. Accordingly the particle in, according to the idiom of the Hebrew tongue, is taken here to mean with, as I have also rendered it, unless perhaps one should prefer to explain it as meaning by, so as to denote the instrument or formal cause. For, the greater proficiency we make in knowledge, so much the more ought our love to increase. The meaning in that case would be, “That your love may increase according to the measure of knowledge.” All knowledge, means what is full and complete — not a knowledge of all things. 4848     “The word rendered judgment is capable of being rendered sense (πάσὟ αἰσθήσει) in all sense. ‘I pray that you may have your spiritual senses in excerise — that you may have a judicious distinguishing sense.’ For what? Why, ‘that ye may approve things that are excellent,’ — so it follows, or, as the words there may be read, to ‘distinguish things that differ.’“ — Howe’s Works, (Lond. 1822,) vol. 5, p. 145. — Ed.

10 That ye may approve the things that are Here we have a definition of Christian wisdom — to know what is advantageous or expedient — not to torture the mind with empty subtleties and speculations. For the Lord does not wish that his believing people should employ themselves fruitlessly in learning what is of no profit: From this you may gather in what estimation the Sorbonnic theology ought to be held, in which you may spend your whole life, and yet not derive more of edification from it in connection with the hope of a heavenly life, or more of spiritual advantage, than from the demonstrations of Euclid. Unquestionably, although it taught nothing false, it well deserves to be execrable, on the ground that it is a pernicious profanation of spiritual doctrine. For Scripture is useful, as Paul says, in 2 Timothy 3:16, but there you will find nothing but cold subtleties of words.

That ye may be sincere. This is the advantage which we derive from knowledge — not that every one may artfully consult his own interests, but that we may live in pure conscience in the sight of God.

It is added — and without offense The Greek word ἀπροσκοποι is ambiguous. Chrysostom explains it in an active sense — that as he had desired that they should be pure and upright in the sight of God, so he now desires that they should lead an honorable life in the sight of men, that they may not injure their neighbors by any evil examples. This exposition I do not reject: the passive signification, however, is better suited to the context, in my opinion. For he desires wisdom for them, with this view — that they may with unwavering step go forward in their calling until the day of Christ, as on the other hand it happens through ignorance, 4949     “Par ignorance et faute de prudence;” — “Through ignorance and want of prudence.” that we frequently slip our foot, stumble, and turn aside. And how many stumbling blocks Satan from time to time throws in our way, with the view of either stopping our course altogether, or impeding it, every one of us knows from his own experience.

11 Filled with the fruits of righteousness. This now belongs to the outward life, for a good conscience produces its fruits by means of works. Hence he desires that they may be fruitful in good works for the glory of God. Such fruits, he says, are by Christ, because they flow from the grace of Christ. For the beginning of our well-doing is, when we are sanctified by his Spirit, for he rested upon him, that we might all receive of his fullness. (John 1:16.) And as Paul here derives a similitude from trees, we are wild olive-trees, (Romans 11:24,) and unproductive, until we are ingrafted into Christ, who by his living root makes us fruitbearing trees, in accordance with that saying, (John 15:1,) I am the vine, ye are the branches. He at the same time shews the end — that we may promote the glory of God. For no life is so excellent in appearance as not to be corrupted and become offensive in the view of God, if it is not directed towards this object.

Paul’s speaking here of works under the term righteousness, is not at all inconsistent with the gratuitous righteousness of faith. For it does not immediately follow that there is righteousness wherever there are the fruits of righteousness, inasmuch as there is no righteousness in the sight of God, unless there be a full and complete obedience to the law, which is not found in any one of the saints, though, nevertheless, they bring forth, according to the measure, the good and pleasant 5050     “Bons et aimables;” — “Good and amiable.” fruits of righteousness, and for this reason, that, as God begins righteousness in us, through the regeneration of the Spirit, so what is wanting is amply supplied through the remission of sins, in such a way that all righteousness, nevertheless, depends upon faith.


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