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Verse 5. For your fellowship in the Gospel. "For your liberality towards me, a preacher of the gospel." Wetstein. There has been, however, no little difference of opinion about the meaning of this phrase. Many—as Doddridge, Koppe, and others—suppose it refers to the fact that they participated in the blessings of the gospel from the first day that he preached it until the time when he wrote this epistle. Others suppose that it refers to their constancy in the Christian faith. Others—as Pierce, Michaelis, Wetstein, Bloomfield, and Storr—suppose it refers to their liberality in contributing to the support of the gospel; to their participating with others, or sharing what they had in common with others, for the maintenance of the gospel. That this is the true sense seems apparent,

(1.) because it accords with the scope of the epistle, and what the apostle elsewhere says of their benefactions, he speaks particularly of their liberality, and indeed this was one of the principal occasions of his writing the epistle, Php 4:10-12,15-18.


(2.) It accords with a frequent meaning of the word rendered fellowshipkoinwnia. It denotes that which is in common; that of which we participate with others, communion, fellowship, Ac 2:42; 1 Co 1:9; 10:16; Phm 1:6; then it means communication, distribution, contribution, Ro 15:26; 2 Co 9:13. That it cannot mean "accession to the gospel," as has been supposed, (see Rob. Lex.,) is apparent from what he adds— "from the first day until now." The fellowship must have been something constant, and continually manifest; and the general meaning is, that in relation to the gospel to its support, and privileges, and spirit—they all shared in common. They felt a common interest in everything that pertained to it, and they showed this in every suitable way, and especially in ministering to the wants of those who were ap- pointed to preach it.

From the first day. The time when it was first preached to them. They had been constant. This is honourable testimony. It is much to say of a church, or of an individual Christian, that they have been constant and uniform in the requirements of the gospel. Alas, of how few can this be said! On these verses Php 1:3-5 we may remark,

(1.) that one of the highest joys which a minister of the gospel can have, is that furnished by the holy walk of the people to whom he has ministered. Comp. 3 Jo 1:4. It is joy like that of a farmer, when he sees his fields whiten for a rich harvest; like that of a teacher, in the good conduct and rapid progress of his scholars; like that of a parent, in the virtue, success, and piety of his sons. Yet it is superior to all that. The interests are higher and more important; the results are more far-reaching and pure; and the joy is more disinterested. Probably there is nowhere else on earth any happiness so pure, elevated, consoling, and rich, as that of a pastor in the piety, peace, benevolence, and growing zeal of his people.

(2.) It is right to commend Christians when they do well. Paul never hesitated to do this, and never supposed that it would do injury. Flattery would injure—but Paul never flattered. Commendation or praise, in order to do good, and not to injure, should be

(a.) the simple statement of the truth;

(b.) it should be without exaggeration;

(c.) it should be connected with an equal readiness to rebuke when wrong to admonish when in error, and to counsel when one goes astray. Constant fault-finding, scolding, or fretfulness, does no good in a family, a school, or a church. The tendency is to dishearten, irritate, and discourage. To commend a child when he does well, may be as important, and as much a duty, as to rebuke him when he does ill. God is as careful to commend his people when they do well, as he is to rebuke them when they do wrong—and that parent, teacher, or pastor, has much mistaken the path of wisdom, who supposes it to be his duty always to find fault. In this world there is nothing that goes so far in promoting happiness as a willingness to be pleased rather than displeased; to be satisfied rather than dissatisfied with the conduct of others.

(3.) Our absent friends should be remembered in our prayers. On our knees before God is the best place to remember them. We know not their condition. If they are sick, we cannot minister to their wants; if in danger, we cannot run to their relief; if tempted, we cannot counsel them. But God, who is with them, can do all this; and it is an inestimable privilege thus to be permitted to commend them to his holy care and keeping. Besides, it is a duty to do it. It is one way—and the best way—to repay their kindness. A child may always be repaying the kindness of absent parents by supplicating the Divine blessing on them each morning; and a brother may strengthen and continue his love for a sister, and in part repay her tender love, by seeking, when far away, the Divine favour to be bestowed on her.

{+} "fellowship" "participation"

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