27. Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
27. Tantum digne Evangelio Christi conversamini: ut sive veniens videam vos, sive absens, audiam de vobis, quod stetis in uno spiritu, una anima, concertantes fide Evangelii.
28. And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
28. Nec ulla in re terreamini ab adversariis, quae illis est demonstratio exitii: vobis autem salutis, idque a Deo.
29. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
29. Quia vobis donatum est pro Christo, non tantum ut in illum credatis, sed etiam ut pro ipso patiamini:
30. Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
30. Idem habentes certamen, quale vidistis in me, et nunc auditis de me.
27 Only in a manner worthy of the gospel. We make use of this form of expression, when we are inclined to pass on to a new subject. Thus it is as though he had said, |But as for me, the Lord will provide, but as for you, etc., whatever may take place as to me, let it be your care, nevertheless, to go forward in the right course.| When he speaks of a pure and honorable conversation as being worthy of the gospel, he intimates, on the other hand, that those who live otherwise do injustice to the gospel.
That whether I come As the Greek phrase made use of by Paul is elliptical, I have made use of videam, (I see,) instead of videns (seeing.) If this does not appear satisfactory, you may supply the principal verb Intelligam, (I may learn,) in this sense: |Whether, when I shall come and see you, or whether I shall, when absent, hear respecting your condition, I may learn in both ways, both by being present and by receiving intelligence, that ye stand in one spirit.| We need not, however, feel anxiety as to particular terms, when the meaning is evident.
Stand in one spirit This, certainly, is one of the main excellences of the Church, and hence this is one means of preserving it in a sound state, inasmuch as it is torn to pieces by dissensions. But although Paul was desirous by means of this antidote to provide against novel and strange doctrines, yet he requires a twofold unity -- of spirit and soul. The first is, that we have like views; the second, that we be united in heart. For when these two terms are connected together, spiritus (spirit) denotes the understanding, while anima (soul) denotes the will. Farther, agreement of views comes first in order; and then from it springs union of inclination.
Striving together for the faith This is the strongest bond of concord, when we have to fight together under the same banner, for this has often been the occasion of reconciling even the greatest enemies. Hence, in order that he may confirm the more the unity that existed among the Philippians, he calls them to notice that they are fellow-soldiers, who, having a common enemy and a common warfare, ought to have their minds united together in a holy agreement. The expression which Paul has made use of in the Greek (sunathlountes tho pistei) is ambiguous. The old interpreter renders it Collaborantes fidei, (laboring together with the faith.) Erasmus renders it Adiuvantes fidem, (Helping the faith,) as if meaning, that they gave help to the faith to the utmost of their power. As, however, the dative in Greek is made use of instead of the ablative of instrumentality, (that language having no ablative,) I have no doubt that the Apostle's meaning is this: |Let the faith of the gospel unite you together, more especially as that is a common armory against one and the same enemy.| In this way the particle sun, which others refer to faith, I take as referring to the Philippians, and with greater propriety, if I am not mistaken. In the first place, every one is aware how effectual an inducement it is to concord, when we have to maintain a conflict together; and farther, we know that in the spiritual warfare we are armed with the shield of faith, (Ephesians 6:16,) for repelling the enemy; nay, more, faith is both our panoply and our victory. Hence he added this clause, that he might shew what is the end of a pious connection. The wicked, too, conspire together for evil, but their agreement is accursed: let us, therefore, contend with one mind under the banner of faith.
28 And in nothing terrified. The second thing which he recommends to the Philippians is fortitude of mind, that they may not be thrown into confusion by the rage of their adversaries. At that time the most cruel persecutions raged almost everywhere, because Satan strove with all his might to impede the commencement of the gospel, and was the more enraged in proportion as Christ put forth powerfully the grace of his Spirit. He exhorts, therefore, the Philippians to stand forward undaunted, and not be thrown into alarm.
Which is to them a manifest proof. This is the proper meaning of the Greek word, and there was no consideration that made it necessary for others to render it cause. For the wicked, when they wage war against the Lord, do already by a trial-fight, as it were, give a token of their ruin, and the more fiercely they insult over the pious, the more do they prepare themselves for ruin. The Scripture, assuredly, nowhere teaches, that the afflictions which the saints endure from the wicked are the cause of their salvation, but Paul in another instance, too, speaks of them as a manifest token or proof, (2 Thessalonians 1:5,) and instead of endeixin, which we have here, he in that passage makes use of the term endeigma This, therefore, is a choice consolation, that when we are assailed and harassed by our enemies, we have an evidence of our salvation. For persecutions are in a manner seals of adoption to the children of God, if they endure them with fortitude and patience: the wicked give a token of their condemnation, because they stumble against a stone by which they shall be bruised to pieces. (Matthew 21:44.)
And that from God. This is restricted to the last clause, that a taste of the grace of God may allay the bitterness of the cross. No one will naturally perceive the cross a token or evidence of salvation, for they are things that are contrary in appearance. Hence Paul calls the attention of the Philippians to another consideration -- that God by his blessing turns into an occasion of welfare things that might otherwise seem to render us miserable. He proves it from this, that the endurance of the cross is the gift of God. Now it is certain, that all the gifts of God are salutary to us. To you, says he, it is given, not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for him. Hence even the sufferings themselves are evidences of the grace of God; and, since it is so, you have from this source a token of salvation. Oh, if this persuasion were effectually inwrought in our minds -- that persecutions are to be reckoned among God's benefits, what progress would be made in the doctrine of piety! And yet, what is more certain, than that it is the highest honor that is conferred upon us by Divine grace, that we suffer for his name either reproach, or imprisonment, or miseries, or tortures, or even death, for in that case he adorns us with his marks of distinction. But more will be found that will rather bid God retire with gifts of that nature, than embrace with alacrity the cross when it is presented to them. Alas, then, for our stupidity!
29. To believe. He wisely conjoins faith with the cross by an inseparable connection, that the Philippians may know that they have been called to the faith of Christ on this condition -- that they endure persecutions on his account, as though he had said that their adoption can no more be separated from the cross, than Christ can be torn asunder from himself. Here Paul clearly testifies, that faith, as well as constancy in enduring persecutions, is an unmerited gift of God. And certainly the knowledge of God is a wisdom that is too high for our attaining it by our own acuteness, and our weakness shews itself in daily instances in our own experience, when God withdraws his hand for a little while. That he may intimate the more distinctly that both are unmerited, he says expressly -- for Christ's sake, or at least that they are given to us on the ground of Christ's grace; by which he excludes every idea of merit.
This passage is also at variance with the doctrine of the schoolmen, in maintaining that gifts of grace latterly conferred are rewards of our merit, on the ground of our having made a right use of those which had been previously bestowed. I do not deny, indeed, that God rewards the right use of his gifts of grace by bestowing grace more largely upon us, provided only you do not place merit, as they do, in opposition to his unmerited liberality and the merit of Christ.
30 Having the same conflict. He confirms, also, by his own example what he had said, and this adds no little authority to his doctrine. By the same means, too, he shews them, that there is no reason why they should feel troubled on account of his bonds, when they behold the issue of the conflict.