Ver. 3. "I thank my God," he says, "upon all my remembrance of you."
He said in another of his writings, "Obey them that have the rule over
you, and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they
that shall give account; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief."
(Heb. xiii. 17.) If then the "grief" be due to the wickedness of the disciples,
the doing it "with joy" would be due to their advancement. As often as
I remember you, I glorify God. But this he does from his being conscious
of many good things in them. I both glorify, he says, and pray. I do not,
because ye have advanced unto virtue, cease praying for you. But "I thank
my God," he says, "upon all my remembrance of you,"
Ver. 4. "Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request
also with joy."
"Always," not only while I am praying. "With joy." For it is possible
to do this with grief too, as when he says elsewhere, "For out of much
affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears." (2 Cor.
Ver. 5. "For your fellowship in furtherance of the Gospel from the
first day even until now."
Great is that he here witnesseth of them, and very great, and what one
might have witnessed of Apostles and Evangelists. Ye did not, because ye
were entrusted with one city, he saith, care for that only, but ye leave
nothing undone to be sharers of my labors, being everywhere at hand and
working with me, and taking part in my preaching. It is not once, or the
second, or third time, but always, from the time ye believed until now,
ye have assumed the readiness of Apostles. Behold how those indeed that
were in Rome turned away from him; for hear him saying, "This thou knowest,
that all that are in Asia turned away from me." (2 Tim. i. 15.) And again,
"Demas forsook me": and "at my first defence no one took my part." (2 Tim.
iv. 10, 16.) But these, although absent, shared in his tribulations, both
sending men to him, and ministering to him according to their ability,
and leaving out nothing at all. And this ye do not now only, saith he,
but always, in every, way assisting me. So then it is a "fellowship in
furtherance of the Gospel." For when one preacheth, and thou waitest on
the preacher, thou sharest his crowns. Since even in the contests that
are without, the crown is not only for him that striveth, but for the trainer,
and the attendant, and all that help to prepare the athlete. For they that
strengthen him, and recover him, may fairly participate in his victory.
And in wars too, not only he that wins the prize of valor, but all they
too that attend him, may fairly claim a share in the trophies, and partake
of the glory, as having shared in his conflict by their attendance on him.
For it availeth not a little to wait on saints, but very much. For it makes
us sharers in the rewards that are laid up for them. Thus; suppose some
one hath given up great possessions for God, continually devotes himself
to God, practices great virtue, and even to words, and even to thoughts,
and even in everything observes extreme strictness. It is open to thee
too, even without showing such strictness, to have a share in the rewards
that are laid up for him for these things. How? If thou aid him both in
word and deed. If thou encourage him both by supplying his needs, and by
doing him every possible service. For then the smoother of that rugged
path will be thyself. So then if ye admire those in the deserts that have
adopted the angelic life, those in the churches that practice the same
virtues with them; if ye admire, and are grieved that ye are far behind
them; ye may, in another way, share with them, by waiting on them, and
aiding them. For indeed this too is of God's lovingkindness, to bring those
that are less zealous, and are not able to undertake the hard and rugged
and strict life, to bring, I say, even those, by another way, into the
same rank with the others. And this Paul means by "fellowship." They give
a share to us, he means, in carnal things, and we give a share to them
in spiritual things. For if God for little and worthless things granteth
the kingdom, His servants too, for little and material things, give a share
in spiritual things: or rather it is He that giveth both the one and the
other by means of them. Thou canst not fast, nor be alone, nor lie on the
ground, nor watch all night? Yet mayest thou gain the reward of all these
things, if thou go about the matter another way, by attending on him that
laboreth in them, and refreshing and anointing him constantly, and lightening
the pains of these works. He, for his part, stands fighting and taking
blows. Do thou wait on him when he returns from the combat, receive him
in thy arms, wipe off the sweat, and refresh him; comfort, soothe, restore
his wearied soul. If we will but minister to the saints with such readiness,
we shall be partakers of their rewards. This Christ also tells us. "Make
to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness, that they
may receive you into their eternal tabernacles." (Luke xvi. 9.) Seest thou
that they are become sharers? "From the first day," he says, "even until
now." And "I rejoice" not only for what is past, but also for the future;
for from the past I guess that too.
Ver. 6. "Being confident of this very thing, that He which began
a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ."
See how he also teaches them to be unassuming. For since he had witnessed
a great thing of them, that they may not feel as men are apt to do, he
presently teaches them to refer both the past and the future to Christ.
How? By saying, not, "Being confident that as ye began ye will also finish,"
but what? "He which began a good work in you will perfect it." He did not
rob them of the achievement, (for he said, "I rejoice for your fellowship,"
clearly as if making it their act,) nor did he call their good deeds solely
their own, but primarily of God. "For I am confident," saith he, "that
He which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus
Christ." That is, God will. And it is not about yourselves, he implies,
but about those descending from you that I feel thus. And indeed it is
no small praise, that God should work in one. For if He is "no respecter
of persons," as indeed He is none, but is looking to our purpose when He
aids us in good deeds, it is evident that we are agents in drawing Him
to us; so that even in this view he did not rob them of their praise. Since
if His in working were indiscriminate, there would have been nothing to
hinder but that even Heathens and all men might have Him working in them,
that is, if He moved us like logs and stones, and required not our part.
So that in saying "God will perfect it," this also again is made their
praise, who have drawn to them the grace of God, so that He aids them in
going beyond human nature. And in another way also a praise, as that "such
are your good deeds that they cannot be of man, but require the divine
impulse." But if God will perfect, then neither shall there be much labor,
but it is right to be of good courage, for that they shall easily accomplish
all, as being assisted by Him.
Ver. 7. "Even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of
you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my bonds,
and in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel, ye all are partakers
with me of grace."
Greatly still does he show here his longing desire, in that he had them
in his heart; and in the very prison, and though bound, he remembered the
Philippians. And it is not a little to the praise of these men, since it
is not of prejudice that this Saint conceived his love, but of judgment,
and right reasons. So that to be loved of Paul so earnestly is a proof
of one's being something great and admirable. "And in the defense," he
says, "and confirmation of the Gospel." And what wonder if he had them
when in prison, since not even at the moment of going before the tribunal
to make my defense, he says, did ye slip from my memory. For so imperial
a thing is spiritual love, that it gives way to no season, but ever keeps
hold of the soul of him who loves, and allows no trouble or pain to overcome
that soul. For as in the case of the Babylonian furnace, when so vast a
flame was raised, it was a dew to those blessed Children. So too does friendship
occupying the soul of one who loves, and who pleases God, shake off every
flame, and produce a marvelous dew.
"And in the confirmation of the Gospel," he says. So then his bonds
were a confirmation of the Gospel, and a defense. And most truly so. How?
For if he had shunned bonds, he might have been thought a deceiver; but
he that endures every thing, both bonds and affliction, shows that he suffers
this for no human reason, but for God, who rewards. For no one would have
been willing to die, or to incur such great risks, no one would have chosen
to come into collision with such a king, I mean Nero, unless he looked
to another far greater King. Truly a "confirmation of the Gospel" were
his bonds. See how he more than succeeded in turning all things to their
opposite. For what they supposed to be a weakness and a detraction, that
he calls a confirmation; and had this not taken place, there had been a
weakness. Then he shows that his love was not of prejudice, but of judgment.
Why? I have you (in my heart), he says, in my bonds, and in my defense,
because of your being "partakers of my grace." What is this? Was this the
"grace" of the Apostle, to be bound, to be driven about, to suffer ten
thousand evils? Yes. For He says, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for
my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. xii. 9.) "Wherefore," saith
he, "I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries." Since then I see you
in your actions giving proof of your virtue, and being partakers of this
grace, and that with readiness, I reasonably suppose thus much. For I that
have had trial of you, and more than any have known you, and your good
deeds; how that even when so distant from us, ye strive not to be wanting
to as in our troubles, but to partake in our trials for the Gospel's sake,
and to take no less share than myself, who am engaged in the combat, far
off as ye are; am doing but justice in witnessing to these things.
And why did he not say "partakers," but "partakers with me" ? I myself
too, he means, share with another, that I may be a partaker of the Gospel;
that is, that I may share in the good things laid up for the Gospel. And
the wonder indeed is. that they were all so minded; for he says that "ye
all are fellow-partakers of grace." From these beginnings, then, I am confident
that such ye will be even to the end. For it cannot be that so bright a
commencement should be quenched, and fail, but it points to great results.
Since then it is possible also in other ways to partake of grace, and
of trials, and of tribulations, let us also, I beseech you, be partakers.
How many of those who stand here, yea, rather all, would fain share with
Paul in the good things to come! It is in your power if ye are willing,
on behalf of those who have succeeded to his ministry, when they suffer
any hardship for Christ's sake, to take their part and succor them. Hast
thou seen thy brother in trial? Hold out a hand! Hast thou seen thy teacher
in conflict? Stand by him! But, says one, there is no one like Paul! now
for disdain! now for criticism! So there is no one like Paul? Well, I grant
it. But, "He that receiveth," saith He, "a prophet in the name of a prophet,
shall receive a prophet's reward." (Matt. x. 41.) For was it for this that
these were honored, that they coöperated with Paul? Not for this,
but because they coöperated with one who had undertaken the preaching.
Paul was honorable for this, that he suffered these things for Christ's
There is indeed no one like Paul. No. not even but a little approaching
to that blessed one. But the preaching is the same as it was then.
And not only in his bonds did they have fellowship with him, but also
from the beginning. For hear him saying, "And ye yourselves also know,
ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the Gospel, no Church had fellowship
with me in the matter of giving and receiving, but ye only." (Phil. iv.
15.) And even apart from trials, the teacher has much labor, watching,
toiling in the word, teaching, complaints, accusations, imputations, envyings.
Is this a little matter, to bear ten thousand tongues, when one might have
but one's own anxieties? Alas! what shall I do? for I am in a strait between
two things. I long to urge you on and encourage you to the alliance and
succor of the saints of God; but I fear lest some one should suspect another
thing, that I say this not for your sakes, but for theirs. But know that
it is not for their sakes I say these things, but for your own. And if
ye are willing to attend, I convince you by my very words; the gain is
not equal to you and to them. For ye, if ye give, will give those things
from which, willing or unwilling, ye must soon after part, and give place
to others; but what thou receivest is great and far more abundant. Or,
are ye not so disposed, that in giving ye will receive? For if ye are not
so disposed, I do not even wish you to give. So far am I from making a
speech for them! Except one have first I so disposed himself, as receiving
rather than giving, as gaining ten thousand fold, as benefited rather than
a benefactor, let him not give. If as one granting a favor to the receiver,
let him not give. For this is not so much my care, that the saints may
be supported. For even if thou give not, another will give. So that what
I want is this, that you may have a relief from your own sins. But he that
gives not so will have no relief. For it is not giving that is doing alms,
but the doing it with readiness; the rejoicing, the feeling grateful to
him that receives. For, "not grudgingly," saith he, "or of necessity; for
God loveth a cheerful giver." (2 Cor. ix. 7.) Except then one so give,
let him not give: for that is loss, not alms. If then ye know that ye will
gain, not they, know that your gain becomes greater. For as for them the
body is fed, but your soul is approved; for them, not one of their sins
is forgiven when they receive, but for you, the more part of your offenses
is removed. Let us then share with them in their great prizes. When men
adopt kings they do not think they give more than they receive. Adopt thou
Christ, and thou shalt have great security. Wilt thou also share with Paul?
Why do I say Paul when it is Christ that receiveth?
But that ye may know that all is for your sakes that I say and do, and
not of care for the comfort of others, if there is any of the rulers of
the church that lives in abundance and wants nothing, though he be a saint,
give not, but prefer to him one that is in want, though he be not so admirable.
And wherefore? Because Christ too so willeth, as when He saith, "If thou
make a supper or a dinner, call not thy friends, neither thy kinsmen, but
the maimed, the lame, the blind, that cannot recompense thee." (Luke xiv.
12.) For it is not indiscriminately that one should pay such attentions,
but to the hungry, but to the thirsty, but to those who need clothing,
but to strangers, but to those who from riches have been reduced to poverty.
For He said not simply, "I was fed," but 'I was an hungered," for, "Ye
saw me an hungered," He says, "and fed me." (Matt. xxv. 35.) Twofold is
the claim, both that he is a saint and that he is hungry. For if he that
is simply hungry ought to be fed, much more when he is a saint too that
is hungry. If then he is a saint, but not in need, give not; for this were
no gain. For neither did Christ enjoin it; or rather, neither is he a saint
that is in abundance and receiveth. Seest thou that it is not for filthy
lucre that these things have been said to you, but for your profit? Feed
the hungry, that thou mayest not feed the fire of hell. He, eating of what
is thine, sanctifies also what remains. (Luke xi. 41.) Think how the widow
maintained Elias; and she did not more feed than she was fed: she did not
more give than receive. This now also takes place in a much greater thing.
For it is not a "barrel of meal," nor "a cruse of oil" (1 Kings xvii. 14),
but what? "An hundred fold, and eternal life" (Matt. xix. 21, 29), is the
recompense for such-the mercy of God thou becomest; the spiritual food;
a pure leaven. She was a widow, famine was pressing, and none of these
things hindered her. Children too she had, and not even so was she withheld.
(1 Kings xvii. 12.) This woman is become equal to her that cast in the
two mites. She said not to herself, "What shall I receive from this man?
He stands in need of me. If he had any power he had not hungered, he had
broken the drought, he had not been subject to like sufferings. Perchance
he too offends God." None of these things did she think of. Seest thou
how great a good it is to do well with simplicity, and not to be over curious
about the person benefited? If she had chosen to be curious she would have
doubted; she would not have believed. So, too, Abraham, if he had chosen
to be curious, would not have received angels. For it cannot, indeed it
cannot be, that one who is exceeding nice in these matters, should ever
meet with them. No, such an one usually lights on impostors; and how that
is, I will tell you. The pious man is not desirous to appear pious, and
does not clothe himself in show, and is likely to be rejected. But the
impostor, as he makes a business of it, puts on a deal of piety that is
hard to see through. So that while he who does good, even to those who
seem not pious, will fall in with those who are so, he who seeks out those
who are thought to be pious, will often fall in with those who are not
so. Wherefore, I beseech you, let us do all things in simplicity. For let
us even suppose that he is an impostor that comes; you are not bidden to
be curious about this. For, "Give," saith he, "to every one that asketh
thee" (Luke vi. 30); and, "Forbear not to redeem him that is to be slain."
(Prov. xxiv. 11.) Yet most of those that are slain suffer this for some
evil they are convicted of; still he saith, "Forbear not." For in this
shall we be like God, thus shall we be admired, and shall obtain those
immortal blessings, which may we all be thought worthy of, through the
grace and lovingkindness of Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom, to the Father,
together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, honor, now and forever,
and world without end. Amen.
Philippians i. 8-11.-"For God is my witness, how I long after you
all in the tender mercies of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love
may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; that ye
may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void
of offense unto the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness,
which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God."
He calls not God to witness as though he should be doubted, but does
this from his great affection, and his exceeding persuasion and confidence;
for after saying that they had fellowship with him, he adds this also,
"in the tender mercies of Christ," lest they should think that his longing
for them was for this cause, and not simply for their own sake. And what
mean these words, "in the tender mercies of Christ"? They stand for "according
to Christ." Because ye are believers, because ye love Christ, because of
the love that is according to Christ. He does not say "love," but uses
a still warmer expression, "the tender mercies of Christ," as though he
had said, "having become as a father to you through the relationship which
is in Christ." For this imparts to us bowels warm and glowing. For He gives
such bowels to His true servants. "In these bowels," saith He, as though
one should say, "I love you with no natural bowels, but with warmer ones,
namely, those of Christ." "How I long after you all." I long after all,
since ye are all of this nature; I am unable in words to represent to you
my longing; it is therefore impossible to tell. For this cause I leave
it to God, whose range is in the heart, to know this. Now had he been flattering
them, he would not have called God to witness, for this cannot be done
Ver. 9. "And this," saith he, "I pray, that your love may
abound yet more and more." For this is a good of which there is no
satiety; for see, being so loved he wished to be loved still more, for
he who loves the object of his love, is willing to stay at no point of
love, for it is impossible there should be a measure of so noble a thing.
Paul desires that the debt of love should always be owing; "Owe no man
any thing, save to love one another." (Rom. xiii. 8.) The measure of love
is, to stop nowhere; "that your love," says he, "may abound yet more and
more." Consider the character of the expression, "that it may abound yet
more and more," he says, "in knowledge and all discernment." He does not
extol friendship merely, nor love merely, but such as comes of knowledge;
that is, Ye should not apply the same love to all: for this comes not of
love, but from want of feeling. What means he by "in knowledge"? He means,
with judgment, with reason, with discrimination. There are who love without
reason, simply and any how, whence it comes that such friendships are weak.
He says, "in knowledge and all discernment, that ye may approve the things
that are excellent," that is, the things that are profitable. This I say
not for my own sake, says he, but for yours, for there is danger lest any
one be spoiled by the love of the heretics; for all this he hints at, and
see how he brings it in. Not for my own sake, says he, do I say this, but
that ye may be sincere, that is, that ye receive no spurious doctrine under
the pretence of love. How then, says he, "If it be possible, live peaceably
with all men"? "Live peaceably" (Rom. xii. 18), he says, not, Love so as
to be harmed by that friendship; for he says, "if thy right eye causeth
thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; that ye may be sincere"
(Matt. V. 29), that is, before God, "and without offence," that is, before
men, for many men's friendships are often a hurt to them. Even though it
hurts thee not, says he, still another may stumble thereat. "Unto the day
of Christ"; i.e. that ye may then be found pure, having caused no one to
Ver. 11. "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are
through Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God;" i.e. holding, together
with true doctrine, an upright life.
And not merely upright, but "filled with the fruits of righteousness."
For there is indeed a righteousness not according to Christ, as, for example,
a moral life. "Which are through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of
God." Seest thou that I speak not of mine own: glory, but the righteousness
of God; and oftentimes he calls mercy itself too righteousness; let not
your love, he says, indirectly injure you, by hindering your perception
of things profitable, and take heed lest you fall through your love to
any one. For I would indeed that your love should be increased, but not
so that ye should be injured by it. And I would not that it should be simply
of prejudice, but upon proof whether I speak well or no. He says not, that
ye may take up my opinion, but that ye may "prove" it. He does not say
outright, join not yourself to this or that man, but, I would that your
love should have respect to what is profitable, not that ye should be void
of understanding. For it is a foolish thing if ye work not righteousness
for Christ's sake and through Him. Mark the words, "through Him." Does
he then use God as a mere assistant? Away with the thought. Not that I
may receive praise, says he, but that God may be glorified.