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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Philippians 2:1-4

Commentary On Philippians Colossians And Thessalonians by Jean Calvin

Philippians 2:1-4

1. If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,

1. Si qua igitur consolatio (vel, exhortatio) in Christo, si quod solatium dilectionis, si qua communicatio Spiritus, si qua viscera et misericordiae.

2. Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

2. Implete gaudium meum ut idem sentiatis, eandem habentes caritatem, unanimes, unum sentientes.

3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

3. Nihil per contentionem, aut inanem gloriam, sed per humilitatem alii alios existiment se ipsis excellentiores.

4. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

4. Non considerans quisque quod suum est, sed quisque quod est aliorum.

1 If there is therefore any consolation. There is an extraordinary tenderness in this exhortation, in which he entreats by all means the Philippians mutually to cherish harmony among themselves, lest, in the event of their being torn asunder by intestine contentions, they should expose themselves to the impostures of the false apostles. For when there are disagreements, there is invariably a door opened for Satan to disseminate impious doctrines, while agreement is the best bulwark for repelling them.

As the term parakleseos is often taken to mean exhortation, the commencement of the passage might be explained in this manner: |If an exhortation which is delivered in the name and by the authority of Christ, has any weight with you.| The other meaning, however, corresponds better with the context: |If there is among you any consolation of Christ,| by means of which you may alleviate my griefs, and if you would afford me any consolation and relief, which you assuredly owe me in the exercise of love; if you take into view that fellowship of the Spirit, which ought to make us all one; if any feeling of humanity and mercy resides in you, which might stir you up to alleviate my miseries, fulfill ye my joy, etc. From this we may infer, how great a blessing unity in the Church is, and with what eagerness pastors should endeavor to secure it. We must also at the same time take notice, how he humbles himself by beseechingly imploring their pity, while he might have availed himself of his paternal authority, so as to demand respect from them as his sons. He knew how to exercise authority when it was necessary, but at present he prefers to use entreaties, because he knew that these would be better fitted to gain an entrance into their affections, and because he was aware that he had to do with persons who were docile and compliant. In this manner the pastor must have no hesitation to assume different aspects for the sake of the Church.

2 Fulfil ye my joy. Here again we may see how little anxiety he had as to himself, provided only it went well with the Church of Christ. He was kept shut up in prison, and bound with chains; he was reckoned worthy of capital punishment -- before his view were tortures -- near at hand was the executioner; yet all these things do not prevent his experiencing unmingled joy, provided he sees that the Churches are in a good condition. Now what he reckons the chief indication of a prosperous condition of the Church is -- when mutual agreement prevails in it, and brotherly harmony. Thus the 137th Psalm teaches us in like manner, that our crowning joy is the remembrance of Jerusalem. (Psalm 137:6.) But if this were the completion of Paul's joy, the Philippians would have been worse than cruel if they had tortured the mind of this holy man with a twofold anguish by disagreement among themselves.

That ye think the same thing. The sum is this -- that they be joined together in views and inclinations. For he makes mention of agreement in doctrine and mutual love; and afterwards, repeating the same thing, (in my opinion,) he exhorts them to be of one mind, and to have the same views. The expression to auto, (the same thing,) implies that they must accommodate themselves to each other. Hence the beginning of love is harmony of views, but that is not sufficient, unless men's hearts are at the same time joined together in mutual affection. At the same time there were no inconsistency in rendering it thus: -- |that ye may be of the same mind -- so as to have mutual love, to be one in mind and one in views;| for participles are not unfrequently made use of instead of infinitives. I have adopted, however, the view which seemed to me less forced.

3 Nothing through strife or vain-glory. These are two most dangerous pests for disturbing the peace of the Church. Strife is awakened when every one is prepared to maintain pertinaciously his own opinion; and when it has once begun to rage it rushes headlong in the direction from which it has entered. Vain-glory tickles men's minds, so that every one is delighted with his own inventions. Hence the only way of guarding against dissensions is -- when we avoid strifes by deliberating and acting peacefully, especially if we are not actuated by ambition. For ambition is a means of fanning all strifes. Vain-glory means any glorying in the flesh; for what ground of glorying have men in themselves that is not vanity?

But by humility. For both diseases he brings forward one remedy -- humility, and with good reason, for it is the mother of moderation, the effect of which is that, yielding up our own right, we give the preference to others, and are not easily thrown into agitation. He gives a definition of true humility -- when every one esteems himself less than others. Now, if anything in our whole life is difficult, this above everything else is so. Hence it is not to be wondered if humility is so rare a virtue. For, as one says, |Every one has in himself the mind of a king, by claiming everything for himself.| See! here is pride. Afterwards from a foolish admiration of ourselves arises contempt of the brethren. And so far are we from what Paul here enjoins, that one can hardly endure that others should be on a level with him, for there is no one that is not eager to have superiority.

But it is asked, how it is possible that one who is in reality distinguished above others can reckon those to be superior to him who he knows are greatly beneath him? I answer, that this altogether depends on a right estimate of God's gifts, and our own infirmities. For however any one may be distinguished by illustrious endowments, he ought to consider with himself that they have not been conferred upon him that he might be self-complacent, that he might exalt himself, or even that he might hold himself in esteem. Let him, instead of this, employ himself in correcting and detecting his faults, and he will have abundant occasion for humility. In others, on the other hand, he will regard with honor whatever there is of excellences, and will by means of love bury their faults. The man who will observe this rule, will feel no difficulty in preferring others before himself. And this, too, Paul meant when he added, that they ought not to have every one a regard to themselves, but to their neighbors, or that they ought not to be devoted to themselves. Hence it is quite possible that a pious man, even though he should be aware that he is superior, may nevertheless hold others in greater esteem.

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