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Philippians 2:17-24

17. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.

17. Quin etiam si immoler super hostia et sacrificio fidei vestrae, gaudeo et congaudeo vobis omnibus.

18. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.

18. De hoc ipso gaudete, et congaudete mihi.

19. But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.

19. Spero autem in Domino, Timotheum brevi me ad vos missurum, ut ego tranquillo sim animo, postquam statum vestrum cognoverim.

20. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.

20. Neminem enim habeo pari animo praeditum, qui germane res vestras curaturus sit.

21. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.

21. Omnes enim quae sua sunt quaerunt: non quae sunt Christi Iesu.

22. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.

22. Porro experimentum eius tenetis, quod tanquam cum patre filius, ita mecum servivit in Euangelium.

23. Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me.

23. Hunc igitur spero me missurum, simulac mea negotia videro.

24. But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.

24. Confido autem in Domino quod ipse quoque brevi sim venturus.

 

17 If I should be offered. 138138     Paul’s statement here is interpreted by Dr. John Brown as equivalent to the following: — “If my life be poured out as a libation over your conversion to Christ, ‘I joy and rejoice with you all.’ It could not be better sacrificed than in the cause of his glory and your salvation.” — Brown’s Discourses and Sayings of our Lord illustrated, vol. 3 p. 379. — Ed. The Greek word is σπένδομαι, and accordingly there appears to be an allusion to those animals, by the slaughter of which agreements and treaties were confirmed among the ancients. For the Greeks specially employ the term σπονδὰς to denote the victims by which treaties are confirmed. In this way, he calls his death the confirmation of their faith, which it certainly would be. That, however, the whole passage may be more clearly understood, he says that he offered sacrifice to God, when he consecrated them by the gospel. There is a similar expression in Romans 15:16; for in that passage he represents himself as a priest, who offers up the Gentiles to God by the gospel. Now, as the gospel is a spiritual sword for slaying victims, 139139     “Pour tuer les bestes qu’on doit sacrifier;” — “For killing the animals that ought to be sacrificed.” so faith is, as it were, the oblation; for there is no faith without mortification, by means of which we are consecrated to God.

He makes use of the terms, καὶ λειτουργίανsacrifice and service, the former of which refers to the Philippians, who had been offered up to God; and the latter to Paul, for it is the very act of sacrificing. The term, it is true, is equivalent to administration, and thus it includes functions and offices of every kind; but here it relates properly to the service of God — corresponding to the phrase made use of by the Latins — operari sacris — (to be employed in sacred rites 140140     See Liv. 50:1, c. 31, ad fin.Ed. ) Now Paul says that he will rejoice, if he shall be offered up upon a sacrifice of this nature — that it may be the more ratified and confirmed. This is to teach the gospel from the heart — when we are prepared to confirm with our own blood what we teach.

From this, however, a useful lesson is to be gathered as to the nature of faith — that it is not a vain thing, but of such a nature as to consecrate man to God. The ministers of the gospel have, also, here a singular consolation in being called priests of God, to present victims to him; 141141     “Pour luy offrir en sacrifice les ames des fideles;” — “To offer to him in sacrifice the souls of the believers.” for with what ardor ought that man to apply himself to the pursuit of preaching, who knows that this is an acceptable sacrifice to God! The wretched Papists, having no knowledge of this kind of sacrifice, contrive another, which is utter sacrilege.

I rejoice with you, says he — so that if it should happen that he died, they would know that this took place for their profit, and would receive advantage from his death.

18 Rejoice ye. By the alacrity which he thus discovers, he encourages the Philippians, and enkindles in them a desire to meet death with firmness, 142142     “Les enflambe a mourir constamment, et receuoir la mort d’vn cœur magnanime;” — “Enkindles them to die with firmness, and meet death with magnanimity.” inasmuch as believers suffer no harm from it. For he has formerly taught them that death would be gain to himself, (Philippians 1:21;) here, on the other hand, he is chiefly concerned that his death may not disconcert the Philippians. 143143     “Que sa mort ne trouble et estonne les Philippians;” — “That his death may not distress and alarm the Philippians.” He, accordingly, declares that it is no ground of sorrow; nay, that they have occasion of joy, inasmuch as they will find it to be productive of advantage. For, although it was in itself a serious loss to be deprived of such a teacher, it was no slight compensation that the gospel was confirmed by his blood. In the mean time, he lets them know that to himself personally death would be matter of joy. The rendering of Erasmus, taking it in the present tense, Ye rejoice, is altogether unsuitable.

19 But I hope. He promises them the coming of Timothy, that, from their expecting him, they may bear up more courageously, and not give way to impostors. For as in war an expectation of help animates soldiers, so as to keep them from giving way, so this consideration, too, was fitted to encourage greatly the Philippians: “There will one come very shortly, who will set himself in opposition to the contrivances of our enemies.” But if the mere expectation of him had so much influence, his presence would exert a much more powerful effect. We must take notice of the condition 144144     “En ces mots, au Seigneur Jesus, il faut noter la condition;” — “In these words, in the Lord Jesus, we must notice the condition.” — in respect of which he submits himself to the providence of God, forming no purpose, but with that leading the way, as assuredly it is not allowable to determine anything as to the future, except, so to speak, under the Lord’s hand. When he adds, that I may be in tranquillity, he declares his affection towards them, inasmuch as he was so much concerned as to their dangers, that he was not at ease until he received accounts of their prosperity.

20 I have no man like-minded. While some draw another meaning from the passage, I interpret it thus: “I have no one equally well-affected for attending to your interests.” For Paul, in my opinion, compares Timothy with others, rather than with himself, and he pronounces this eulogium upon him, with the express design that he may be the more highly esteemed by them for his rare excellence.

21 For all seek their own things. He does not speak of those who had openly abandoned the pursuit of piety, but of those very persons whom he reckoned brethren, nay, even those whom he admitted to familiar intercourse with him. These persons, he nevertheless says, were so warm in the pursuit of their own interests, that they were unbecomingly cold in the work of the Lord. It may seem at first view as if it were no great fault to seek one’s own profit; but how insufferable it is in the servants of Christ, appears from this, that it renders those that give way to it utterly useless. For it is impossible that the man who is devoted to self, should apply himself to the interests of the Church. Did then, you will say, Paul cultivate the society of men that were worthless and mere pretenders? I answer, that it is not to be understood, as if they had been intent exclusively on their own interests, and bestowed no care whatever upon the Church, but that, taken up with their own individual interests, they were to some extent negligent to the promotion of the public advantage of the Church. For it must necessarily be, that one or other of two dispositions prevails over us — either that, overlooking ourselves, we are devoted to Christ, and those things that are Christ’s, or that, unduly intent on our own advantage, we serve Christ in a superficial manner.

From this it appears, how great a hinderance it is to Christ’s ministers to seek their own interests. Nor is there any force in these excuses: “I do harm to no one“ — “I must have a regard, also, to my own advantage” — “I am not so devoid of feeling as not to be prompted by a regard to my own advantage.” For you must give up your own right if you would discharge your duty: a regard to your own interests must not be put in preference to Christ’s glory, or even placed upon a level with it. Whithersoever Christ calls you, you must go promptly, leaving off all other things. Your calling ought to be regarded by you in such a way, that you shall turn away all your powers of perception from everything that would impede you. It might be in your power to live elsewhere in greater opulence, but God has bound you to the Church, which affords you but a very moderate sustenance: you might elsewhere have more honor, but God has assigned you a situation, in which you live in a humble style: 145145     “Sans estre en plus grande reputation;” — “Without being in very great reputation.” you might have elsewhere a more salubrious sky, or a more delightful region, but it is here that your station is appointed. You might wish to have to do with a more humane people: you feel offended with their ingratitude, or barbarity, or pride; in short, you have no sympathy with the disposition or the manners of the nation in which you are, but you must struggle with yourself, and do violence in a manner to opposing inclinations, that you may 146146     “En sorte que tu to contentes du lieu qui t’est ordonné, et que t’employes a ta charge;” — “So as to content yourself with the place that is appointed for you, and employ yourself in your own department.” keep by the trade you have got; 147147     See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 249. for you are not free, or at your own disposal. In fine, forget yourself, if you would serve God.

If, however, Paul reproves so severely those who were influenced by a greater concern for themselves than for the Church, what judgment may be looked for by those who, while altogether devoted to their own affairs, make no account of the edification of the Church? However they may now flatter themselves, God will not spare them. An allowance must be given to the ministers of the Church to seek their own interests, so as not to be prevented from seeking the kingdom of Christ; but in that case they will not be represented as seeking their own interests, as a man’s life is estimated according to its chief aim. When he says all, we are not to understand the term denoting universality, as though it implied that there was no exception, for there were others also, such as Epaphroditus, 148148     “Car il y en auoit d’autres qui auoyent plus grand soin de l’Eglise de Dieu, que d’eux-mesmes, comme Epaphrodite;” — “For there were others of them that had greater concern as to the Church of God, than as to themselves, such as Epaphroditus.” but there were few of these, and he ascribes to all what was very generally prevalent.

When, however, we hear Paul complaining, that in that golden age, in which all excellences flourished, that there were so few that were rightly affected, 149149     “Qu’il y auoit si peu de gens sages et qui eussent vn cœur entier a nostre Seigneur;” — “That there were so few persons that were wise, and had devotedness of heart to our Lord.” let us not be disheartened, if such is our condition in the present day: only let every one take heed to himself, that he be not justly reckoned to belong to that catalogue. I should wish, however, that Papists would answer me one question — where Peter was at that time, for he must have been at Rome, if what they say is true. O the sad and vile description that Paul gave of him! They utter, therefore, mere fables, when they pretend that he at that time presided over the Church of Rome. Observe, that the edification of the Church is termed the things of Christ, because we are truly engaged in his work, when we labor in the cultivation of his vineyard.

22 But the proof. It is literally, ye know the proof of him, unless you prefer to understand it in the imperative mood, know ye; (for there had scarcely been opportunity during that short time to make trial,) but this is not of great moment. What is chiefly to be noticed is, that he furnishes Timothy with an attestation of fidelity and modesty. In evidence of his fidelity, he declares, that he had served with him in the gospel, for such a connection was a token of true sincerity. In evidence of his modesty, he states, that he had submitted to him as to a father. It is not to be wondered, that this virtue is expressly commended by Paul, for it has in all ages been rare. At the present day, where will you find one among the young that will give way to his seniors, even in the smallest thing? to such an extent does impertinence triumph and prevail in the present age! In this passage, as in many others, we see how diligently Paul makes it his aim to put honor upon pious ministers, and that not so much for their own sakes, as on the ground of its being for the advantage of the whole Church, that such persons should be loved and honored, and possess the highest authority.

24 I trust that I myself. He adds this, too, lest they should imagine that anything had happened to change his intention as to the journey of which he had previously made mention. At the same time, he always speaks conditionally — If it shall please the Lord. For although he expected deliverance from the Lord, yet there having been, as we have observed, no express promise, this expectation was by no means settled, but was, as it were, suspended upon the secret purpose of God.


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