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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Philippians 1:1-6

Commentary On Philippians Colossians And Thessalonians by Jean Calvin

Philippians 1:1-6

1. Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

1. Paulus et Timotheus, servi Iesu Christi, omnibus sanctis in Christo Iesu, qui sunt Philippis, cum Episcopis et Diaconis

2. Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Gratia vobis et pax a Deo Patre nostro, et Domino Iesu Christo.

3. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

3. Gratias ago Deo meo in omni memoria vestri.

4. Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

4. Semper in omni precatione mea pro vobis omnibus cum gaudio precationem faciens,

5. For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

5. Super communicatione vestra in Evangelium, a primo die hucusque;

6. Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

6. Hoc ipsum persuasus, quod qui coepit in vobis opus bonum, perficiet usque in diem Iesu Christi.

1 Paul and Timotheus, servants of Jesus Christ While Paul is accustomed, in the inscription of his epistles, to employ titles of distinction, with the view of procuring credit for himself and his ministry, there was no need of lengthened commendations in writing to the Philippians, who had known him by experience as a true Apostle of Christ, and still acknowledged him as such beyond all controversy. For they had persevered in the calling of God steadfastly, and in an even tenor.

Bishops He names the pastors separately, for the sake of honor. We may, however, infer from this, that the name of bishop is common to all the ministers of the Word, inasmuch as he assigns several bishops to one Church. The titles, therefore, of bishop and pastor, are synonymous. And this is one of the passages which Jerome quotes for proving this in his epistle to Evagrius, and in his exposition of the Epistle to Titus. Afterwards there crept in the custom of applying the name of bishop exclusively to the person whom the presbyters in each church appointed over their company. It originated, however, in a human custom, and rests on no Scripture authority. I acknowledge, indeed, that, as the minds and manners of men are, there cannot be order maintained among the ministers of the word, without one presiding over the others. I speak of particular bodies, not of whole provinces, much less of the whole world. Now, although we must not contend for words, it were at the same time better for us in speaking to follow the Holy Spirit, the author of tongues, than to change for the worse forms of speech which are dictated to us by Him. For from the corrupted signification of the word this evil has resulted, that, as if all the presbyters were not colleagues, called to the same office, one of them, under the pretext of a new appellation, usurped dominion over the others.

Deacons. This term may be taken in two ways -- either as meaning administrators, and curators of the poor, or for elders, who were appointed for the regulation of morals. As, however, it is more generally made use of by Paul in the former sense, I understand it rather as meaning stewards, who superintended the distributing and receiving of alms. On the other points consult the preceding commentaries.

3 I give thanks. He begins with thanksgiving on two accounts -- first, that he may by this token shew his love to the Philippians; and secondly, that, by commending them as to the past, he may exhort them, also, to perseverance in time to come. He adduces, also, another evidence of his love -- the anxiety which he exercised in supplications. It is to be observed, however, that, whenever he makes mention of things that are joyful, he immediately breaks forth into thanksgiving -- a practice with which we ought also to be familiar. We must, also, take notice, what things they are for which he gives thanks to God, -- the fellowship of the Philippians in the gospel of Christ; for it follows from this, that it ought to be ascribed to the grace of God. When he says, upon every remembrance of you, he means, |As often as I remember you.|

4 Always in every prayer. Connect the words in this manner: |Always presenting prayer for you all in every prayer of mine.| For as he had said before, that the remembrance of them was an occasion of joy to him, so he now subjoins, that they come into his mind as often as he prays. He afterwards adds, that it is with joy that he presents prayer in their behalf. Joy refers to the past; prayer to the future. For he rejoiced in their auspicious beginnings, and was desirous of their perfection. Thus it becomes us always to rejoice in the blessings received from God in such a manner, as to remember to ask from him those things that we are still in need of.

5 For your fellowship. He now, passing over the other clause, states the ground of his joy -- that they had come into the fellowship of the gospel, that is, had become partakers of the gospel, which, as is well known, is accomplished by means of faith; for the gospel appears as nothing to us, in respect of any enjoyment of it, until we have received it by faith. At the same time the term fellowship may be viewed as referring to the common society of the saints, as though he had said that they had been associated with all the children of God in the faith of the gospel. When he says, from the first day, he commends their promptitude in having shewn themselves teachable immediately upon the doctrine being set before them. The phrase until now denotes their perseverance. Now we know how rare an excellence it is, to follow God immediately upon his calling us, and also to persevere steadfastly unto the end. For many are slow and backward to obey, while there are still more that fall short through fickleness and inconstancy.

6 Persuaded of this very thing. An additional ground of joy is furnished in his confidence in them for the time to come. But some one will say, why should men dare to assure themselves for to-morrow amidst so great an infirmity of nature, amidst so many impediments, ruggednesses, and precipices? Paul, assuredly, did not derive this confidence from the steadfastness or excellence of men, but simply from the fact, that God had manifested his love to the Philippians. And undoubtedly this is the true manner of acknowledging God's benefits -- when we derive from them occasion of hoping well as to the future. For as they are tokens at once of his goodness, and of his fatherly benevolence towards us, what ingratitude were it to derive from this no confirmation of hope and good courage! In addition to this, God is not like men, so as to be wearied out or exhausted by conferring kindness. Let, therefore, believers exercise themselves in constant meditation upon the favors which God confers, that they may encourage and confirm hope as to the time to come, and always ponder in their mind this syllogism: God does not forsake the work which his own hands have begun, as the Prophet bears witness, (Psalm 138:8; Isaiah 64:8;) we are the work of his hands; therefore he will complete what he has begun in us. When I say that we are the work of his hands, I do not refer to mere creation, but to the calling by which we are adopted into the number of his sons. For it is a token to us of our election, that the Lord has called us effectually to himself by his Spirit.

It is asked, however, whether any one can be certain as to the salvation of others, for Paul here is not speaking of himself but of the Philippians. I answer, that the assurance which an individual has respecting his own salvation, is very different from what he has as to that of another. For the Spirit of God is a witness to me of my calling, as he is to each of the elect. As to others, we have no testimony, except from the outward efficacy of the Spirit; that is, in so far as the grace of God shews itself in them, so that we come to know it. There is, therefore, a great difference, because the assurance of faith remains inwardly shut up, and does not extend itself to others. But wherever we see any such tokens of Divine election as can be perceived by us, we ought immediately to be stirred up to entertain good hope, both in order that we may not be envious towards our neighbors, and withhold from them an equitable and kind judgment of charity; and also, that we may be grateful to God. This, however, is a general rule both as to ourselves and as to others -- that, distrusting our own strength, we depend entirely upon God alone.

Until the day of Jesus Christ The chief thing, indeed, to be understood here is -- until the termination of the conflict. Now the conflict is terminated by death. As, however, the Spirit is accustomed to speak in this manner in reference to the last coming of Christ, it were better to extend the advancement of the grace of Christ to the resurrection of the flesh. For although those who have been freed from the mortal body do no longer contend with the lusts of the flesh, and are, as the expression is, beyond the reach of a single dart, yet there will be no absurdity in speaking of them as in the way of advancement, inasmuch as they have not yet reached the point at which they aspire, -- they do not yet enjoy the felicity and glory which they have hoped for; and in fine, the day has not yet shone which is to discover the treasures which lie hid in hope. And in truth, when hope is treated of, our eyes must always be directed forward to a blessed resurrection, as the grand object in view.

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