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The apostle beseeches them by various considerations, to live in unity and in the spirit of the Gospel, loving each other; and each to prefer his brother to himself, Philemon 2:1-4. He exhorts them to be like-minded with Christ, who, though in the form of God, and equal with God, made himself of no reputation, and humbled himself to the death of the cross for the salvation of man; in consequence of which he was highly exalted, and had a name above every name; to whose authority every knee should bow, and whose glory every tongue should acknowledge, Philemon 2:5-11. They are exhorted to work out their own salvation through his power who works in them, that they may be blameless, and that the apostle‘s labor may not be in vain, Philemon 2:12-16. He expresses his readiness to offer his life for the Gospel, Philemon 2:17, Philemon 2:18. Intends to send Timothy to them, of whom he gives a very high character; yet hopes to see them himself shortly, Philemon 2:19-24. In the meantime sends Epaphroditus, who had been near death, and whom he begs them to receive with especial tenderness, Philemon 2:25-30.
If there be therefore any consolation - The ει , if, does not express any doubt here, but on the contrary is to be considered as a strong affirmation; as there is consolation in Christ, as there is comfort of love, etc.
The word παρακλησις , translated here consolation, is in other places rendered exhortation, and is by several critics understood so here; as if he had said: If exhorting you in the name of Christ have any influence with you, etc. It is extremely difficult to give the force of these expressions; they contain a torrent of most affecting eloquence, the apostle pouring out his whole heart to a people whom with all his heart he loved, and who were worthy of the love even of an apostle.
If any comfort of love - If the followers of Christ, by giving proofs of their ardent love to each other in cases of distress, alleviate the sufferings of the persecuted;
If any fellowship of the Spirit - If there be an intimate relation established among all Christians, by their being made mutual partakers of the holy Ghost;
If any bowels and mercies - If you, as persons whom I have brought to God at the hazard of my life, feel sympathetic tenderness for me now, in a farther state of suffering;
Fulfil ye my joy - Ye ought to complete my joy, who have suffered so much to bring you into the possession of these blessings, by being like-minded with myself, having the same love to God, his cause, and me, as I have to him, his cause, and you.
Being of one accord - Being perfectly agreed in labouring to promote the honor of your Master; and of one mind, being constantly intent upon this great subject; keeping your eye fixed upon it in all you say, do, or intend.
Let nothing be done through strife - Never be opposed to each other; never act from separate interests; ye are all brethren, and of one body; therefore let every member feel and labor for the welfare of the whole. And, in the exercise of your different functions, and in the use of your various gifts, do nothing so as to promote your own reputation, separately considered from the comfort, honor, and advantage of all.
But in lowliness of mind - Have always an humbling view of yourselves, and this will lead you to prefer others to yourselves; for, as you know your own secret defects, charity will lead you to suppose that your brethren are more holy, and more devoted to God than you are; and they will think the same of you, their secret defects also being known only to themselves.
Look not every man on his own things - Do nothing through self-interest in the things of God; nor arrogate to yourselves gifts, graces, and fruits, which belong to others; ye are all called to promote God‘s glory and the salvation of men. Labor for this, and every one shall receive the honor that comes from God; and let each rejoice to see another, whom God may be pleased to use in a special way, acquiring much reputation by the successful application of his talents to the great work.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus - Christ labored to promote no separate interest; as man he studied to promote the glory of God, and the welfare and salvation of the human race. See then that ye have the same disposition that was in Jesus: he was ever humble, loving, patient, and laborious; his meat and drink was to do the will of his Father, and to finish his work.
Who, being in the form of God - This verse has been the subject of much criticism, and some controversy. Dr. Whitby has, perhaps, on the whole, spoken best on this point; but his arguments are too diffuse to be admitted here. Dr. Macknight has abridged the words of Dr. Whitby, and properly observes that, “As the apostle is speaking of what Christ was before he took the form of a servant, the form of God, of which he divested himself when he became man, cannot be any thing which he possessed during his incarnation or in his divested state; consequently neither the opinion of Erasmus, that the form of God consisted in those sparks of divinity by which Christ, during his incarnation, manifested his Godhead, nor the opinion of the Socinians, that it consisted in the power of working miracles, is well founded; for Christ did not divest himself either of one or the other, but possessed both all the time of his public ministry. In like manner, the opinion of those who, by the form of God understand the Divine nature and the government of the world, cannot be admitted; since Christ, when he became man, could not divest himself of the nature of God; and with respect to the government of the world, we are led, by what the apostle tells, Hebrews 1:3, to believe that he did not part with even that; but, in his divested state, still continued to uphold all things by the word of his power. By the form of God we are rather to understand that visible, glorious light in which the Deity is said to dwell, 1 Timothy 6:16, and by which he manifested himself to the patriarchs of old, Deuteronomy 5:22, Deuteronomy 5:24; which was commonly accompanied with a numerous retinue of angels, Psalm 68:17, and which in Scripture is called The Similitude, Numbers 12:8; The Face, Psalm 31:16: The Presence, Exodus 33:15; and The Shape of God, John 5:37. This interpretation is supported by the term μορφη , form, here used, which signifies a person‘s external shape or appearance, and not his nature or essence. Thus we are told, Mark 16:12, that Jesus appeared to his disciples in another μορφη , shape, or form. And, Matthew 17:2, μετεμορφωθη , he was transfigured before them - his outward appearance or form was changed. Farther this interpretation agrees with the fact: the form of God, that is, his visible glory, and the attendance of angels, as above described, the Son of God enjoyed with his Father before the world was, John 17:5; and on that as on other accounts he is the brightness of the Father‘s glory, Hebrews 1:3. Of this he divested himself when he became flesh; but, having resumed it after his ascension, he will come with it in the human nature to judge the world; so he told his disciples, Matthew 16:27: The Son of man will come in the glory of his Father, with his angels, etc,. Lastly, this sense of μορφη Θεου , is confirmed by the meaning of μορθη δουλου , Philemon 2:7; which evidently denotes the appearance and behavior of a servant or bondman, and not the essence of such a person.” See Whitby and Macknight.
Thought it not robbery to be equal with God - If we take these words as they stand here, their meaning is, that, as he was from the beginning in the same infinite glory with the Father, to appear in time - during his humiliation, as God and equal with the Father, was no encroachment on the Divine prerogative; for, as he had an equality of nature, he had an equality of rights.
But the word ἁρπαγμον , which we translate robbery, has been supposed to imply a thing eagerly to be seized, coveted, or desired; and on this interpretation the passage has been translated: Who, being in the form of God, did not think it a matter to be earnestly desired to appear equal to God; but made himself of no reputation, etc. However the word be translated, it does not affect the eternal Deity of our Lord. Though he was from eternity in the form of God - possessed of the same glory, yet he thought it right to veil this glory, and not to appear with it among the children of men; and therefore he was made in the likeness of men, and took upon him the form or appearance of a servant: and, had he retained the appearance of this ineffable glory, it would, in many respects, have prevented him from accomplishing the work which God gave him to do; and his humiliation, as necessary to the salvation of men, could not have been complete. On this account I prefer this sense of the word ἁρπαγμον before that given in our text, which does not agree so well with the other expressions in the context. In this sense the word is used by Heliodorus, in his Ethiopics, lib. vii. cap. 19, etc., which passage Whitby has produced, and on which he has given a considerable paraphrase. The reader who wishes to examine this subject more particularly, may have recourse to Heliodorus as above, or to the notes of Dr. Whitby on the passage.
But made himself of no reputation - Ἑαυτον εκενωσε· He emptied himself - did not appear in his glory, for he assumed the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of man. And his being made in the likeness of man, and assuming the form of a servant, was a proof that he had emptied himself - laid aside the effulgence of his glory.
And being found in fashion as a man - Και σχηματι εὑρεθεις ὡς ανθρωπος . This clause should be joined to the preceding, and thus translated: Being made in the likeness of man, and was found in fashion as a man.
He humbled himself - Laid himself as low as possible:
1.In emptying himself - laying aside the effulgence of his glory.
2.In being incarnate - taking upon him the human form.
3.In becoming a servant - assuming the lowest innocent character, that of being the servant of all.
4.In condescending to die, to which he was not naturally liable, as having never sinned, and therefore had a right in his human nature to immortality, without passing under the empire of death.
5.In condescending, not only to death, but to the lowest and most ignominious kind of death, the death of the cross; the punishment of the meanest of slaves and worst of felons.
What must sin have been in the sight of God, when it required such abasement in Jesus Christ to make an atonement for it, and undo its influence and malignity!
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him - If by his humiliation he has merited pardon and final salvation for the whole world, is it to be wondered that the human body, in which this fullness of the Godhead dwelt, and in which the punishment due to our sins was borne upon the tree, should be exalted above all human and all created beings? And this is the fact; for he hath given him a name, το ονομα , the name, which is above every name: το is prefixed to ονομα here by ABC, 17, Origen, Dionysius Alexandrinus, Eusebius, Cyril, and Procopius. This makes it much more emphatic. According to Ephesians 1:20, Ephesians 1:21, the man Christ Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. From which it appears that no creature of God is so far exalted and so glorious as the man Christ Jesus, human nature being in him dignified infinitely beyond the angelic nature; and that this nature has an authority and pre-eminence which no being, either in heaven or earth, enjoys. In a word, as man was in the beginning at the head of all the creatures of God, Jesus Christ, by assuming human nature, suffering and dying in it, has raised it to its pristine state. And this is probably what is here meant by this high exaltation of Christ, and giving him a name which is above every name. But if we refer to any particular epithet, then the name Jesus or Savior must be that which is intended; as no being either in heaven or earth can possess this name as he who is the Redeemer of the world does, for he is the only Savior; none has or could redeem us to God but he; and throughout eternity he will ever appear as the sole Savior of the human race. Hence, before his birth, Gabriel stated that his name should be called Jesus; giving for reason, he shall Save his people from their sins. The qualifications of the Savior of the world were so extraordinary, the redeeming acts so stupendous, and the result of all so glorious both to God and man, that it is impossible to conceive a higher name or title than that of Jesus, or Savior of the world.
That at the name of Jesus every knee should how - That all human beings should consider themselves redeemed unto God by his blood, and look for an application of this redemption price; and that all who are saved from their sin should acknowledge him the author of their salvation. In a word, that παν επουρανιων , all the spirits of just men made perfect, now in a state of blessedness; και επιγειων , all human beings still in their state of probation on earth; και καταχθονιων , and all that are in the shades below, who have, through their own fault, died without having received his salvation; should acknowledge him.
And that every tongue should confess - That all those before mentioned should acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, or absolute governor, and thus glorify God the Father, who has exalted this human nature to this state of ineffable glory, in virtue of its passion, death, resurrection, and the atonement which it has made, by which so many attributes of the Divine nature have become illustrated, the Divine law magnified and made honorable, and an eternal glory provided for man.
Others by things in heaven understand the holy angels; by things on earth, human beings generally; and by things under the earth, fallen spirits of every description. Perhaps the three expressions are designed to comprehend all beings of all kinds, all creatures; as it is usual with the Hebrews, and indeed with all ancient nations, to express, by things in heaven, things on earth, and things under the earth, all beings of all kinds; universal nature. See similar forms of speech, Exodus 20:4; Deuteronomy 4:17, Deuteronomy 4:18; Psalm 96:11; and Ezekiel 38:20. But intelligent beings seem to be those which are chiefly intended by the words of the apostle; for it appears that nothing less than absolute rule over angels, men, and devils, can be designed in these extraordinary words, and by confessing him to be Lord we may understand that worship which all intelligent creatures are called to pay to God manifested in the flesh; for all should honor the Son even as they honor the Father. And the worship thus offered is to the glory of God; so that far from being idolatrous, as some have rashly asserted, it is to the honor of the Divine Being. We may add, that the tongue which does not confess thus, is a tongue that dishonors the Almighty.
As ye have always obeyed - Continue to act on the same principles and from the same motives; having the same disposition which was in Christ; laboring so as to promote his glory.
Work out your own salvation - Go on, walking by the same rule, and minding the same thing, till your salvation be completed: till, filled with love to God and man, ye walk unblamably in all his testimonies, having your fruit unto holiness, and your end everlasting life.
With fear and trembling - Considering the difficulty of the work, and the danger of miscarriage. If you do not watch, pray and continually depend on God, your enemies will surprise you, and your light and life will become extinct; and then consider what an awful account you must give to Him whose Spirit ye have grieved, and of whose glory ye have come short.
For it is God which worketh in you - Every holy purpose, pious resolution, good word, and good work, must come from him; ye must be workers together with him, that ye receive not his grace in vain; because he worketh in you, therefore work with him, and work out your own salvation.
To will and to do - Το θελειν και το ενεργειν . The power to will and the power to act must necessarily come from God, who is the author both of the soul and body, and of all their powers and energies, but the act of volition and the act of working come from the man. God gives power to will, man wills through that power; God gives power to act, and man acts through that power. Without the power to will, man can will nothing; without the power to work, man can do nothing. God neither wills for man, nor works in man‘s stead, but he furnishes him with power to do both; he is therefore accountable to God for these powers.
Because God works in them the power to will and the power to do, therefore the apostle exhorts them to work out their own salvation; most manifestly showing that the use of the powers of volition and action belongs to themselves. They cannot do God‘s work, they cannot produce in themselves a power to will and to do; and God will not do their work, he will not work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
Though men have grievously puzzled themselves with questions relative to the will and power of the human being; yet no case can be plainer than that which the apostle lays down here: the power to will and do comes from God; the use of that power belongs to man. He that has not got this power can neither will nor work; he that has this power can do both. But it does not necessarily follow that he who has these powers will use them; the possession of the powers does not necessarily imply the use of those powers, because a man might have them, and not use or abuse them; therefore the apostle exhorts: Work out your own salvation.
This is a general exhortation; it may be applied to all men, for to all it is applicable, there not being a rational being on the face of the earth, who has not from God both power to will and act in the things which concern his salvation. Hence the accountableness of man.
Of his good pleasure - Every good is freely given of God; no man deserves any thing from him; and as it pleaseth him, so he deals out to men those measures of mental and corporeal energy which he sees to be necessary; giving to some more, to others less, but to all what is sufficient for their salvation.
Do all things without murmurings - Γογγυσμων, και διαλογισμων· Without grumblings and altercations. Be patient in, and contented with, your work; and see that ye fall not out by the way.
That ye may be blameless - In yourselves, and harmless to others.
The sons of God - Showing by your holy conduct that ye are partakers of the Divine nature.
Without rebuke - Persons against whom no charge of transgression can justly be laid.
A crooked and perverse - Probably referring to the Jews, who were the chief opponents and the most virulent enemies which the Christian Church had.
Among whom ye shine - Be like the sun and moon; bless even the perverse and disobedient by your light and splendor. Let your light shine before men; some will walk in that light, and by its shining God will be glorified. It is evident that the apostle, by φωστῃρες εν κοσμῳ , lights in the world, refers to the sun and moon particularly, and perhaps to the heavenly bodies in general.
Holding forth the word of life - An allusion, some think, to those towers which were built at the entrance of harbours, on which fires were kept during the night to direct ships into the port. Genuine Christians, by their holy lives and conversation, are the means of directing others, not only how to escape those dangers to which they are exposed on the tempestuous ocean of human life, but also of leading them into the haven of eternal safety and rest.
That I have not run in vain - This appears to be a part of the same metaphor; and alludes to the case of a weather-beaten mariner who has been long tossed on a tempestuous sea, in hazy weather and dark nights, who has been obliged to run on different tacks, and labor intensely to keep his ship from foundering, but is at last, by the assistance of the luminous fire on the top of the tower, directed safely into port. Live so to glorify God and do good to men, that it shall appear that I have not run and labored in vain for your salvation.
Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service - The metaphor appears to be still carried on. As it was customary for the weather-beaten mariner, when he had gained his port, to offer a sacrifice, θυσια , to God, of some particular animal which he had vowed while in his state of danger, and this was considered to be a religious service, λειτουργια· the apostle, pursuing the idea, states himself to be willing to become the libation, (for so much the word σπενδομαι imports), that was to be poured upon the sacrifice. Parkhurst observes that the apostle compares the faith of the Philippians to the sacrificial victim, and his own blood shed in martyrdom to the libation, i.e. the wine poured out on occasion of the sacrifice. Raphelius observes that Arrian uses the phrase σπενδειν επι τῃ θυσιᾳ for pouring out the libation after the sacrifice. The apostle had guided them safely into port; their faith in the atoning death of Christ was their sacrifice; and he was willing that his blood in martyrdom should be poured out as a libation on that sacrificial offering.
For the same cause also do ye joy - Should I be thus offered, as I shall rejoice in it, do ye also rejoice that I am counted worthy of this high honor.
But I trust in the Lord Jesus - He is governor and disposer of all events, being above all principality and power; and I humbly confide in his power and goodness that I shall be a little longer spared to visit you again, Philemon 2:24, and to be able to send Timothy shortly to you.
When I know your state - By the correct information which I shall receive from Timothy.
For I have no man like-minded - None of all my fellow helpers in the Gospel have the same zeal and affectionate concern for your prosperity in every respect as he has. He is ισοψυχος· of the same soul; a man after my own heart.
For all seek their own - This must relate to the persons who preached Christ even of envy and strife, Philemon 1:15; these must be very careless whether souls were saved or not by such preaching; and even those who preached the Gospel out of good will might not be fit for such an embassy as this, which required many sacrifices, and consequently much love and zeal to be able to make them.
Ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me - The Philippians had full proof of the affectionate attachment of Timothy to Paul, for he had labored with him there, as we learn from Acts 16:1-3; Acts 17:14; and we find from what is said here that Timothy was not a servant to the apostle, but that he had served with him. They both labored together in the word and doctrine; for apostles and Christian bishops, in those times, labored as hard as their deacons. There were no sinecures; every one was a laborer, every laborer had his work, and every workman had his wages.
How it will go with me - The apostle was now in captivity; his trial appears to have been approaching, and of its issue he was doubtful; though he seems to have had a general persuasion that he should be spared, see Philemon 2:19, Philemon 2:24.
Epaphroditus, my brother, etc - Here is a very high character of this minister of Christ; he was,
1.A brother - one of the Christian family; a thorough convert to God, without which he could not have been a preacher of the Gospel.
2.He was a companion in labor; he labored, and labored in union with the apostle in this great work.
3.He was a fellow soldier; the work was a work of difficulty and danger, they were obliged to maintain a continual warfare, fighting against the world, the devil, and the flesh.
4.He was their apostle - a man whom God had honored with apostolical gifts, apostolical graces, and apostolical fruits; and,
5.He was an affectionate friend to the apostle; knew his soul in adversity, acknowledged him in prison, and contributed to his comfort and support.
Ye had heard that he had been sick - “In this passage,” says Dr. Paley, “no intimation is given that the recovery of Epaphroditus was miraculous, it is plainly spoken of as a natural event. This instance, together with that in the Second Epistle to Timothy, Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick, affords a proof that the power of performing cures, and, by parity of reason, of working other miracles, was a power which only visited the apostles occasionally, and did not at all depend upon their own will. Paul undoubtedly would have healed Epaphroditus if he could; nor would he have left Trophimus at Miletum sick, had the power of working cures awaited his disposal. Had this epistle been a forgery, forgery on this occasion would not have spared a miracle; much less would it have introduced St. Paul professing the utmost anxiety for the safety of his friend, yet acknowledging himself unable to help him, which he does almost expressly in the case of Trophimus, Him have I left sick; and virtually in the passage before us, in which he felicitates himself on the recovery of Epaphroditus in terms which almost exclude the supposition of any supernatural means being used to effect it. This is a reverse which nothing but truth would have imposed.” Horae Paulinae, page 234.
Lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow - The sorrows of his death, added to the sorrow he endured on account of his sickness; or he may refer to his own state of affliction, being imprisoned and maltreated.
The more carefully - Σπουδαιοτερως· With the more haste or despatch; because, having suffered so much on account of his apprehended death, they could not be too soon comforted by seeing him alive and restored.
Receive him therefore in the Lord - For the Lord‘s sake receive him, and as the Lord‘s servant; and hold such zealous, disinterested, and holy preachers in reputation - honor those whom ye perceive God hath honored.
For the work of Christ - Preaching the Gospel, and ministering to the distressed.
He was nigh unto death - Having labored far beyond his strength.
Not regarding his life - Instead of παραβουλευσαμενος τῃ ψυχῃ , not regarding his life, παραβολευσαμενος , risking his life, is the reading of ABDEFG, and is received by Griesbach into the text. His frequent and intense preaching, and labouring to supply the apostle‘s wants, appear to have brought him nigh to the gates of death.
The humiliation and exaltation of Christ are subjects which we cannot contemplate too frequently, and in which we cannot be too deeply instructed.
1.God destroys opposites by opposites: through pride and self-confidence man fell, and it required the humiliation of Christ to destroy that pride and self-confidence, and to raise him from his fall. There must be an indescribable malignity in sin, when it required the deepest abasement of the highest Being to remove and destroy it. The humiliation and passion of Christ were not accidental, they were absolutely necessary; and had they not been necessary, they had not taken place. Sinner, behold what it cost the Son of God to save thee! And wilt thou, after considering this, imagine that sin is a small thing? Without the humiliation and sacrifice of Christ, even thy soul could not be saved. Slight not, therefore, the mercies of thy God, by underrating the guilt of thy transgressions and the malignity of thy sin!
2.As we cannot contemplate the humiliation and death of Christ without considering it a sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and atonement for sin, and for the sin of the whole world; so we cannot contemplate his unlimited power and glory, in his state of exaltation, without being convinced that he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God through him. What can withstand the merit of his blood? What can resist the energy of his omnipotence? Can the power of sin? - its infection? -its malignity? No! He can as easily say to an impure heart, Be thou clean, and it shall be clean; as he could to the leper, Be thou clean, and immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Reader, have faith in Him; for all things are possible to him that believeth.
3.There are many ungodly men in the world who deny the inspiration of God‘s Holy Spirit, and affect to ridicule those who profess to have received what they know Christ has purchased and God has promised, and which, in virtue of this, they have claimed by faith; because, say these mockers, “If you had the Spirit of God, you could work miracles: show us a miracle, and we will believe you to be inspired.” Will these persons assert that St. Paul had not God‘s Spirit when he could neither heal himself, nor restore his friends and fellow helpers from apparent death? What then doth their arguing prove? Silly men, of shallow minds!