Philippians Exegesis


Introduction (verses 1-11)
Salutation (vv. 1, 2)
Thanksgiving (vv. 3-8)
Petition (vv. 9-11)

Verses 1, 2:

Three things in Paul’s letters:
1)    Writer
2)    Readers
3)    Greeting

1)    Writer (v. 1)
– lists his associate’s name, Timothy
–    his offices – bondslaves of Christ Jesus
–    His apostleship is not mentioned here. The absence of this reference of his apostleship shows his confidence in the people.
–    “bondservant” – a title of humility; his recognition of the lordship of Jesus Christ. OT prophets were spoken of as servants of the Lord.

2)    Readers: saints – bishops and deacons; “saints” mean holy ones, consecrated one, saints in Christ Jesus by virtue of the fact they are joined to Jesus Christ
–    “saint” – the idea of holiness comes in as to the fact of the one to whom we are consecrated: God. At Philippi a saint is a Christian.
–    “bishop” – oversee; an office in the local church
–    “elder” – dignity of the office
–    “pastor” – nature of work – a shepherd (Ephesians 4:11)
–    “deacon” – servants of Jesus and Paul are called deacons 1 Timothy 3 Philippians 1:1)

3)    Greeting: a form of a prayer
–    “grace” – causes joy
–    “peace” – Hebrew idea

Verses 3-8:

Paul’s thanksgiving:
1)    His memory of Philippians (vv. 3, 4) – He prays for them with joy.
2)    Their partnership in service (v. 5) – Joint-participation, it is a continuous thing from the first day until now
3)    Work of grace in them (vv. 6-8) – good work, work of grace

Verses 9-11:

Pauls’ Petition
1)    The substance of the prayer – a single petition (“that your love may abound”)
–    “Abound” – present tense, overflow. They may continue to overflow and abound. It is to be a discerning and discriminating love (knowledge). In divine relations you must love God to know Him.
–    The result – “Ye may be able to distinguish things that differ: (v. 10) and then put approval on things that are excellent. The result of this is “sincere and void of offense.” “Sincere” – tested by sunlight, pure, without mixture

2)    Ultimate purpose of prayer – the glory and praise of God

Verses 12-2:18:

(v. 12 note – “which happened” is not in the Greek text. Nothing ever “just happens” to a saint.)

I.    Explanation of Experience as Prisoner (1:12-26)
A.    It had advanced the Gospel (vv. 12-18)
1.    v. 13 – bonds manifest as being in Christ. I am a prisoner because I am a Christian. Not a common criminal. It has created a stir about Christ.
2.    “throughout the whole Praetorian guard” (palace in KJV)
–    Applied to the tent of a general, headquarters of a military camp
–    Used for the palace or the official residence of a provincial governor
–    The Praetorian guard – a select group of 1000 soldiers who were stationed near the palace of the Roman emperor; two functions: to protect the emperor, charge of imperial prisoners
3.    His bonds caused other brethren to preach more boldly. Bold preaching is NT preaching. Two classes: some speak boldly with goodwill, some speak boldly because of envy and strife. Some do it for love of Paul, the other do it out of party spirit with impure motives thinking they can add to Paul’s afflictions. Who were these? The fault was not the substance of their preaching, but with their motives.

B.    Brought assurance of blessing (vv. 19-21)
1.    “Salvation” means safety – general physical well-being, spiritual well-being. Paul uses it in a sense of spiritual well-being. Some think that Paul means he will be delivered from prison. This is not very likely (v. 20).
2.    How shall this bless him? (rest of v. 19)
–    Your prayers in my behalf
–    The supply of the Spirit of Christ; ample support; grace in response to your prayers
–    According to my earnest expectation and hope (v. 20) – “hope” – nothing shall put him to shame (boldness of speech), Christ shall be magnified in his body in everything. How can we magnify Christ? We help others to see Jesus as He is – a telescope. Verse 21 confirms this hope of magnifying Christ. It is not idle boasting. To live is Christ – death is gain. Living is summed up in Christ. Death is more of Christ. Christ: aim of life, inspiration of life, end of life, goal of life. “Gain” means interest on capital.

C.    Left him in a dilemma (vv. 22-26)
“in a strait” – hemmed in on both sides
1.    Reason for dilemma (v. 22) – Life means fruit of work. Death is gain, but life is fruit from Christ’s service.
2.    Statement of dilemma (vv. 23, 24) – His desire lies in one direction (depart) but his conviction of duty lies in another direction (your good).
3.    Resolution of dilemma (vv. 25, 26) – “I shall live” – abide with you all, a) God will permit me to live or b) God will permit me to visit you again

II.    Series of Exhortation (1:27-2:18)
A.    To live worthy of the gospel (1:27-2:4)
1.    Being worthy (key) – not deserving the favors of God. There is an obligation to live a life commensurate with the principles of the gospel we profess to believe and love.
2.    “Let your manner of life” – single word in Greek; “order your life in a manner of life” – to be a citizen
3.    “Only” – force of the word; only – whatever may happen to me, you be concerned about this
4.    This life requires some things:
–    Steadfastness – stability (v. 27), “in one spirit, one soul” – stand fast in one body
–    Courage (vv. 28-30) – “affrighted”
–    Unity (2:1-3a) – to fulfill joy, basis of unity (v. 1 – if clause) these ifs are to arrest attention (rhetorical), “if there is any reality in your experience in Christ:

  •  Exhortation – encouragement derived from relationship to Christ
  • Consolation
  • Fellowship of Spirit – with the Spirit (obj. Gen.)
  • Tender mercies – Christian compassion

Nature of unity (v. 2)

  • Same mind – unity of thought
  • Same love – unity of affection
  • Same accord – beating heart to heart, unity of feeling, disposition
  • One mind – same as

Enemies of unity

  • Faction – party spirit
  • Vain glory- pride, push self up by pushing someone else down

The church is a choir and must be kept in time with God.
–    Humility (vv. 3-6)- “lowliness of mind”, hard to practice, true estimate of self
–    Unselfishness (v. 4) – It is not wrong to look at your own interests, but not exclusively; “also” the others

B.    To reproduce the mind of Christ, imitate (2:5-11)
“mind of Christ” – the mental attitude, disposition of Christ which moved Him to voluntarily give up glories of heaven to come to earth to suffer and die for sinful man. Paul is not arguing doctrine, but enforcing practical exhortation. As Christ renounced glories of heaven in interest of us, we ought to be able to renounce our interests in the interests of others

Three Great Doctrines of Christ:
1.    Preexistence of Christ (vv. 5, 6) – “existing” – God originally existing,
a)    Fact of His preexistence – See one who was born at Bethlehem preexisted in a glorious nature and took upon himself our nature by act of incarnation (John 1:1-18).
b)    Manner of existence – two expressions:
–    Form of God – key word in passage (Greek “morphe”); His essential deity, nature of God (Robertson). “Inmost reality of God” (Vincent) H. Gifford – nature or essence – This nature of God is something that could not be changed or given up; it can’t be divested of His person.
–    Equality with God – mode of his existence, state and circumstances of his existence (Gifford). “He was sharing in the glories and prerogatives of God – now this is changeable of God – could be laid aside.
c)    Attitude which possessed his mind – counted it not worthy to be held on to; renounced his rights, claims, privileges for sinful man
2.    Incarnation of Christ (vv. 7, 8)
a)    Emptied himself – reality of his incarnation, suggests complete self-renunciation. Emptied himself of visible glories and prerogatives of Deity. He did not give up his Deity. AH Strong, “He voluntarily surrendered the independent exercise of Divine attributes”:
–    By taking form of a servant – “morphe” – essential nature. Not a servant of man, but a servant of God
–    Being made in likeness of man (v. 7) – He was real man. Manhood did not fully express all that he was – He was God-man.
b)    Humbled himself – issue, ultimate aim of incarnation:
–    “Being found in fashion as a man” – His guise was that of a man. He appeared as a man.
–    “By becoming obedient unto death” – to the extent of death, obedience meant death
3.    Exaltation of Christ
It is a consequence of His redemptive deeds, “wherefore” (v. 9)

C.    To cultivate the spiritual life (2:12, 13)
v. 12 “exhortation”
1. Work out salvation – not work for it, Greek work as a sculpture to a finished product; “salvation” – entrance into knew life and here it is on the point in the middle (present salvation)
2. With anxious concern – human responsibility; v. 13 – incentive for doing this; (v. 19) “it is God that worketh in you” – divine enablement

D.    Leave off murmurings and disputings (2:14-18)
v. 15 purpose – prove yourself: 1) ye may be lights (v. 15), 2) I may glory in you (v. 16)

III.    Commendation of Paul’s Friends and Plans (vv. 19-3)
A.    Timothy (19-24)
1.    Unselfish – he has the mind of Christ
2.    Proved character (v. 22)

B.    Ephaphroditus (vv. 25-30)
1.    True companion in service – your messenger (v. 25)
2.    He has a genuine love for his people – he was homesick (vv. 26-28)
3.    Worthy of the highest honor (vv. 29, 30)

C.    Explanation of his plans
“I hope” – to send Timothy (v. 19)
“I trust” – I shall come (v. 24)
“I counted it necessary” – to send Epaphroditus (v. 25)

IV.    Warnings Against Error (chapter 3)
There is a pause between chapters 2 and 3 – Paul receives disturbing news.

A.    Warning against the Judaizers (vv. 1-16)
“with reference to rest” – rejoice
“the same things” – What things? Warnings against Judaizers

1.    Reasons for warning (v. 2)
–    They are dogs, half-wild animals, scavengers; this is their character (profane)
–    Evil workers – they are always working, but it is evil
–    Circumcision – perverted circumcision, a mutilation

2.    Why beware?
Impulse (v. 3)
Definition of a Christian:
1)    Worship by the Spirit of God
2)    Glory in Christ
3)    No confidence in the flesh; flesh = self as apart from God, unrenewed nature

3.    Personal testimony (vv. 4-16)
Using personal testimony as illustration that true circumcision has no confidence in the flesh.

V. 7 – all of this is set aside; these things were once gains, as a miser counts his gold, but now they are loss; they are not advantages but detriments; our great mass of loss

Vv. 8-14 – received some things in exchange
What is gained?
1)    A new sense of values (v. 8)
2)    Knowledge of Christ (v. 8)
3)    Righteousness from God by faith in Christ (v. 9)
4)    A new power; power of resurrection (v. 10)
5)    A new fellowship; fellowship of suffering – we want power but not suffering (v. 10)
6)    A new hope; resurrection from the daed (v. 11)
7)    A new goal (vv. 12-14)

Vv. 15, 16 – An appeal – “Be thus minded” knowing we have not reached absolute perfection; depends fully and wholly on Jesus for our acceptance before God

B.    Warning against Gnosticism (vv. 17-31)
Gnosticism said everything material is evil. Judaizers destroy Christian liberty; Gnosticism perverts Christian liberty.
“Be imitators” – Mark those ??? as Paul and walk with him; Mark those who do not walk as Paul and avoid them (reading brilliant heretics). It made Paul weep! They are enemies of the cross of Christ. Why watch them? V. 18 – because of their character; v. 20 – for our citizenship is in heaven

V.    Conclusion of the Letter (chapter 4)
A.    Final appeal (vv. 1-9)
1.    Appeal for stability
2.    Appeal for unity (v. 2)
3.    Appeal for helpfulness (v. 3)
4.    Appeal for joyfulness (v. 4)
5.    Appeal for ???? (v. 5)
6.    Appeal for prayerfulness (vv. 6, 9)
–    Prayer – worship, approach to God
–    Supplication – petition, asking
–    Thanksgiving
V. 7 “And” – indicates a close relationship; prayer and peace are in profound connection. Peace transcends human understanding. Guard your hearts.
7. General appeal for noble living, high living (vv. 8, 9)

B.    Acknowledgement of their gift (vv. 10-20)
v. 10 – “revived” – sprouting of a seed planted in the ground, blossomed forth
v. 11 – he is not complaining; state of contentment; “content” – lit; independent of outward circumstances; springs of satisfaction within his own heart
v. 12 – “abased” – used of a river which would run low in season of drought; “abound” – rain overflowing
v. 13 – “strengtheneth” – present tense, present continuous action; infusing strength – “Him who is continually pour in strength and power within me”
v. 14 – “well” – a beautiful thing
v. 17 – giving to Paul is not charity but an investment
v. 19 – He supplies the needs of us as they arise

Chapter 1

Verse 3:

Εύχαριστώ – “I feel obligated to” God – continually thanking God

Έπί – upon – (on account of – remote meaning) – basis of Paul’s gratitude to God

ύμών – “for my whole memory of you” – The article refers to the totality of the remembrance. There were, of course, unpleasant happens in connection with the church at Philippi, but now with the perspective of time and experience, Paul considers the whole affair a gift from God. Paul was so conscious of God
s hand being on his life that he considered every experience a gift from God to strengthen and enlighten him. How many of us can feel this? Even the heard times a t Philippi turned into a trumpet blast to the glory of God. The thorns became bouquets thrown at the Savior’s feet. The cross became a crown. The jail became a holy place filled with God’s presence. The jailer became a solider of the cross, a trophy of God’s grace. How many other times Paul had been in distress and on the verge of despair when the projector of his memory flashed the memory of Philippi on the screen. “Perhaps, God will again use my sufferings as an instrument of redemption.” The remembrance of God’s deliverance in the past is a promise of God’s faithfulness in the future. Like rowing a boat, moving forward while looking backward.

Verse 4:

δεήσει – entreaty

ύπέρ – on your behalf

ποιούμενος – pres part – “continually making supplication for your sake.” Here is Paul’s testimony to intercessory prayer. “God forbid that I should sin in ceasing to pray for you. One of the greatest failures of modern Christians is their neglect of this grace – intercessory prayer.

While Paul was thankful for them, still he was not content with their spiritual state. He expresses a holy discontent through his prayer for their sakes. Satisfaction with our spiritual life is the death knell of effective living. We, in love, ought to have an eager desire to see our brethren reach higher peaks for Christ. Too often when we see a brother lagging behind in spiritual development we criticize and speak harmfully of him to others. Paul prayed to God for him. What a lesson we need to learn. Far too many of us are still in the premature stage asking the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

This intercession on behalf of the Philippians was a continual one.
Ποιούμενος – “continually making” – the present participle refers to a habit of life – a continual practice.

See also the comprehensive nature of intercessory prayer – “for you all.” Paul’s prayer embraces the entire congregation of believers. We are often thankful just for the faithful workers and pray only for them. But Paul had the gift of seeing all men equally and praying for all with the same love and intensity.

μετά χαράς – “with, in the midst of, joy”
Paul’s prayer life was a life surrounded with joy.
“with joy” – How many of us pray with joy? Do we love the secret place? Are we eager to get alone with God? Do we lose all sense of time while in His presence? Do we pray with joy?

Some find great joy in criticizing the weak. Paul found his greatest joy in praying for them. Discover what it is that makes a person happy and you’ll have the key to his character. “Paul had a hallelujah chorus in his heart.”

Verse 5:

Έπί – here is the second reason for his gratitude to God

τή κοινωνία ύμών είς τό εύαγγέλιον – “your fellowship in the gospel”

The word “fellowship” has come into misuse in our day. The word is often restricted in its meaning to the idea of companionship or social activities. But Paul is not thankful for the good times they had together because they were Christians. “Fellowship” is a participation, a sharing of two or more individuals in a common purpose or activity. Its meaning is that Christians share with one another in a common possession. This fellowship is used various ways: of sharing a common life with Christ and the father; with other Christians (1 John 1:3).

Fellowship is the spirit of generous sharing as contrasted with the spirit of selfish getting. It is used of a business partnership; a marriage where two live together a life in which everything is shared. It carries the idea in certain places of generosity, a generosity which shows itself in the tangible and realistic expression of giving, and so the word comes to mean a financial contribution.

Because a Christian shares with Christ in His life – Christ shared His life while we were dead in sins – no Christian can fear to have too much while others have too little. So Paul is thankful to God for the participation of the Philippians in the Gospel. They were partners, co-laborers. The preposition είς is one of motion, “unto” – they participated in the progress of the Gospel. The Philippians indicated the reality of their partnership in the Gospel not by a quiet enjoyment of it, but by taking an active part. It is just the lack of this sense of fellowship and support and responsibility that makes so many Christians ineffective and useless in the work of Christ.

We are partners, coworkers in the progress of the Gospel. We share in the support of the Gospel, in the spread of the Gospel, and in the fruit of the Gospel.

Notice, too, that Paul feels obligated to God for what the Philippians had done. God supports the work through His people. The gift of the Philippians was the result of God’s working in their hearts.

Observe also, their consistency in this work – “from the first day until now” – τού νυν, the article points to this very moment, i.e., the gift sent by Ephaphroditus.

Their receiving the Gospel message and their obedience to it are show to be genuinely the outworking of the truth in their lives. The sign of our professed love for the Gospel is the measure of sacrifice we are prepared to make in order to help its progress. We know Christ. What are we doing to make Him known to others?

Verse 6:

πεποιθώς – being convinced, certain – “Having this firm persuasion.” The word has a slight causative force. Paul had come to a settled persuasion.

ό έναρξάμενος – aorist participle – He who initiated, begun, inaugurated – ceremonial use

έπιτελέσει – bring to an end, complete accomplish, perfect

Paul is thankful for the work of grace in the Philippian believers. This reveals several things concerning salvation.

1)    It is a good work – the best thing that can happen to a man. It is the work of works.

2)    The sovereign initiative of God in salvation – this makes it a work of grace.

3)    The sovereign faithfulness of God is keeping us – He finishes what He begins. If a man doesn’t finish, he doesn’t begin. Because God completes what He begins, man’s possibilities are always greater than his abilities.

4)    The sovereign operation of God is perfecting us – no man can complete himself. We were never designed to be self-sufficient. Everyone takes for granted that when he plants a seed, growing power will be supplied; sailor with a stranded boat, waits for the tide – we depend on nature’s powers in physical life, we must depend on God’s powers in spiritual life.

5)    The sovereign completion is only at the Day of Christ. God’s redeeming work will reach its crown and climax when Jesus returns. Salvation has only begun; been initiated. Just beginning – yield yourself to the perfecting hand of God.

6)    There is visible evidence of this work of grace – Paul is confident that they have experienced it. They had shown the grace of continuance, they were not quitters. This is like God, whose work is thorough. They supported the Gospel.

Verse 7:

Συνκοινωνούς μου τής χάριτος – “partakers of my grace”
Both Paul and the Philippians share together not only in suffering and conflict but also in the grace of God. The church shares in the apostleship of Paul.

έμοί – emphatic, “I above all men”

Verse 8:

έπιποθώ – with intensive prep – intense longing for, straining for, greatly desiring. Here is a miracle of grace. Paul, the one-time proud Pharisee longing, yearning for these former pagan Greeks. But this is in the tender mercies of Jesus Christ. Only when Christ, in His love, dwells in our hearts will the barriers (iron curtains) of race, color, culture, and creed be torn down. No heart in which Christ dwells can look scornfully upon any people.

σπλάγχνοις – the strongest in the Greek for the feeling of compassion

Chapter 2

Verse 5:

Φρονείτε – have in your mind, think, set your mind upon – suggesting moral interest, thought and study and not a mere unreflecting opinion – cherish a habit of thought. (Souter)

The noun, φρονηα, denotes what one has in the mind, the thought.

The verb: to think, to be minded in a certain way. It implies a moral interest or reflection. (Vine)

1)    The Philippians are here faced with the greatest possible incentive to unity and humility in the picture of the Lord Himself whose mind is described in the noble verses which follow. Lit., “Let this mind be among you, as also in Christ Jesus.”

“In you” does not imply the inculcating of personal virtue based on a moral example, but means “in your church fellowship” so sorely harassed by strife and plagued by arrogance. They must share His spirit and be controlled by the pattern of self-effacement and humility which His incarnation and cross supremely exemplify. (Tyndale)

2)    “Have this mind within your community which ye have also in Christ Jesus.” Christians, then as now, were often different in their ordinary dealings/relations than they were in their strictly Christian life. The two spheres were at times kept distinct. Those who professed to have made great sacrifices for the sake of Christ might never dream of making even the slightest for a brother. (XGT)

3)    “Think this very same thing in yourself that you think in Christ Jesus.” Apply the same rule to yourselves that you see and approve in Christ. Some people are piously humble on Sundays but a terror on Monday. (Robertson)

4)    The position of the pronoun “this” is emphatic and shows that the exhortation reaches back basically to 2:24, while the pronoun “who” in 2:6 connects the exhortation with the illustration in 2:5-8.

The sum total of the thought in the exhortation seems to be that of urging the Philippians to emulate in their own lives the distinctive virtues of the Lord Jesus spoken of in 2:24. It is the habitual direction of our Lord’s mind with reference to self that is in the apostle’s thinking, an attitude of humility and self-abrogation for the benefit of others, which should be true also of the Philippians. (Weust)

Verse 6:

“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”

“Form,” implying essential character as well as outline. It suggests unchangeableness, as contrasted with “figure, fashion.” (Souter)

Denotes the special or characteristic form or feature of a person or thing – used in the NT only of Christ (Mark 16:12). Gifford: “morphe” is properly the nature or essence, not in the abstract, but as actually subsisting in the individual, and retained as long as the individual exists. Thus “form of God” is the Divine nature actually and inseparably subsisting in the Person of Christ.

The true meaning of “morphe” is confirmed by its recurrence in the corresponding phrase, “form of a servant.” It is universally admitted that the two phrases are directly antithetical, and that “form” must therefore have the same sense in both. (Vine)

“I am,” denoting original state or condition still subsisting in contrast to what is temporary or accidental. (Souter)

To exist, which always involves a pre-existent state, prior to the fact referred to, and a continuance of the state after the fact. In Philippians 2:6, implies His pre-existent Deity, previous to His birth, and His continued Deity afterwards. (Vine)

Chapter 3

“That I may know Him.” (vs 10) – Intro: J. I. Packer Knowing God, “That’s all right – I have known God and they have not.”

Verse 7:

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.” (NKJV)

Gain, profit – plural, lit. gains. The various items of privilege are regarded separately. (Vincent)

Things which come under the category of gain

To consider, to reckon, to count as. The perfect indicates a completed action with continuing results (LKGNT)

I think, I am of opinion (Souter)

Primarily to lead the way; hence, to lead before the mind, account (Vine)

The perfect tense implies that he still counts them as loss (Vincent)

Lead, guide – think, consider, regard (A & G)

Loss, used for a loss at sea (Acts 27:10) and used in the papyri of a commercial or business loss (LKGNT)

Notice the singular number, loss, and the plural gains. The various gains are all counted as one loss. (Vincent)

Damage, loss (Vine)

Damage, disadvantage, loss, forfeit (A & G)

Two requirements for “That I may know Him” in v. 10
1)    Loss of all things, advantages, substitutes
2)    Righteousness in Christ by faith

1)    Loss is a word that truly expresses what Paul is saying about his pre Christian life. There is an additional prismatic glance into this word – an even more inclusive (?) view of what Paul was saying. The word loss can also be translated forfeit. The only thing you can forfeit is something you already possess. This means that Paul thought he had amassed a huge amount of grace by his actions, his super zealous and hyper righteous practice of the Jewish faith, and his vicious persecution of the early Christians and the Church. What favor from God he thought he had earned he forfeited, all his accomplishments were counted as loss, because through faith in Christ he was saved by the grace of God. (James/Corley)

2)    What things – The Greek might almost be paraphrased, “the kind or class of things which,” including anything and everything as ground of reliance, other than Christ.

Gain – gains – The plural suggests the proud and jealous care with which the religionist would count over the items of his merit and hope. One by one he had found them, or had won them; each with its separate value in the eyes of the old self.

Those – There is emphasis and deliberation in the pronoun.

I counted – lit. and better, I have counted. The perfect tense indicated not only the decisive conviction but its lifelong permanence.

Loss – a singular noun. The separate and carefully counted gains are heaped now into one ruthless estimate of loss. From the new point of view, they all sink together.

He does not mean that he discovered these things to be in themselves evil things. But he found them evil in respect of his having used them to shut out the true Messiah from his obedience, faith

Every day of reliance on them had been a day of delay and deprivation in regard of supreme blessing.

For Christ – on account of the Christ; because of the discovery of Jesus as the true Messiah, and of the true Messiah as no mere supreme supernatural Jewish Deliverer, but as Son of God. He cast away entirely all the old reliance, but, observe, for something infinitely more than equivalent. (Moule)

3)    “All such things which I used to count up as distinct items with a miserly greed and reckon to my credit – these I have massed together under one general head as loss.” (Lightfoot)

4)    But – depicts the all-changing “revaluing of all values.” In the light of Christ Paul sees the guilt, wrong and rejectableness of the supposed “irreproachable life” of Pharisaic righteousness, and how it endangered the soul’s salvation. (NIC)

5)    The prerogatives mentioned above were real privileges viewed from his old Jewish standpoint, might even be justly regarded as paving the way to salvation. (EGT)

6)    The introductory BUT must be given its full force. The time has come, in Paul’s telling of his past life, for him to state clearly the reassessment – “The transvaluation of all values” – which followed directly upon his conversion. He opens this section with a strong asseveration: BUT – He does not simply take up a neutral or negative attitude to them; he rejects them with disgust (Barth), and treats them as a liability and something to be abhorred (v. 8 refuse or dirt).

The last phrase “for the sake of Christ” gives the key to Paul’s motivation. In place of the things he rejects and recoils from, he sets the knowledge of Christ. That knowledge began in his conversion, and “I counted,” though a perfect tense, includes an illusion to what happened on the Damascus Road. (NCB)

7)    The tense “I counted” is perfect – reminds us that the transformation in Paul’s life did not come about gradually and unconsciously, although the preparation must have been a process. It came suddenly and dramatically. (Tyndale)

8)    The conjunction introduces a striking and earnest contrast.
“On account of Christ” – These things didn’t win him and kept him from winning Christ. When he won, he was losing; nay, the more he won, the more he must lose. All his advantages in birth, privilege, sect, earnestness and obedience, were not only profitless, but productive of positive loss, as they prevented the gaining of Christ, and justification through the faith of Christ. (Eadie)

9)    Paul has reversed his whole outlook on life. (A. T. Robertson)

10)    The word “Those” is emphatic, namely, “these things.”
“Counted” – after mature consideration, Paul came to a settled conviction with regard to the matter. (Wuest)

11)    When we come to verse 7, we have one of those great hinges of Scripture     upon which truth turns. (Pentecost)

12)    The renunciation in v. 7 sets forth the leading themes of the whole – the “gain/loss” metaphor and its reason “because of Christ” with striking asyndetion but no less bold contrast, Paul renounces his former advantages, those “gifts” and “achievements” which qualify him above others to have “confidence in the flesh.”

“Whatever things” and its accompanying demonstrative, “these things,” occupy the emphatic first position in their respective clauses, while the contrasting “gain” and “loss” occupy the emphatic final position.

What is being renounced in particular, as v. 9 makes clear, is his “blameless as to the righteousness in the law.” Still in view is the warning against succumbing to Jewish identity symbols, which are now shown by way of personal example to be quite unrelated to righteousness.

The renunciation is expressed in the language of the marketplace, “gains” – profit – and “loss”. As v. 8c indicates, the word “gains” harks back to 1:21, where “to die is gain” refers to gaining Christ through death. The present usage is a clear play on the metaphor. Paul’s former “profits” are now a collective “loss” because of his ultimate “gain,” Christ himself. While he cannot renounce – nor does he wish to – what was given him by birth (circumcision, being a member of Israel’s race, of the tribe of Benjamin, born of true Hebrew stock), he does renounce them as grounds of boasting, along with his achievements that expressed his zeal for the Law.

Hence the significance of his use of the verb “I have come to consider them as loss” rather than a simple affirmation, “What things were gain are now loss,” which would have been imprecise and misleading. (NICNT – Fee)

13)    It should not be surprising to discover in these verses a radical and rapid shift in Paul’s tone from that of joy and affection for the Philippian Christians to that of violent hostility against those who would undermine the spiritual vitality of his friends.

That Paul’s emotions are running high can be seen not only in the vivid and even abusive language he uses to describe his opponents (“dogs,” “workers of evil,” “mutilators”), but also in the large number of figures of speech that appear in so brief a paragraph:
1.    Anaphora, the repetition of the same word at the beginning of three successive clauses

2.    Paronomsia, the clever play on words, similar in sound, but set in opposition to each other so as to provided heightened antithetical force

3.    Poly, the repetition of the same conjunction in close succession

4.    Alliteration in –K

5.    Short, disjointed sentences of approximately the same length

6.    Chiasm, where the noun-phrases alternate positions in a criss-cross fashion with the participles, all employed for rhetorical effect

These opponents of the gospel of grace that Paul preached appear to be visitors from abroad who were threatening to undo the work of the apostle at Philippi. Apparently they required that men be circumcised before they could acceptably worship God. According to Paul their religion was a ritual of externals that fostered pride in their own achievements instead of boasting in Christ Jesus, and that encourage a confidence in themselves instead of a reliance on the Spirit.

Whether or not the conjunction belongs to the original text there is, nevertheless, a marked transition at this point.

There are several things worth noting here:

1.    Paul stresses the importance of human decision and judgment in any radical change of outlook on life such as he experienced. (Not only emotional – is salvation an emotional decision?)

The verb means “to think, consider, regard,” and the perfect tense that Paul uses here implies that he has come to that final decision only after considering matters “with deliberate judgment.” It is still true that divine grace far from annihilating the faculties of man stimulates them rather and recreates them in freedom.” (Collange)

2.    Paul describes this change in outlook on his part in business terms, using the familiar of profit and loss. The metaphor is the familiar one of the balance sheet with its columns marked “assets” and “liabilities.”

3.    Paul admits that there were certain things in his past that were in fact gains for him, or things that he did in fact consider as gains. They were not merely potential or supposed gains – the verb is indicative, and (“for me”) in dative of advantage, pedigree, covenant-connections, zeal, and the like, Paul actually valued. They did contribute to his well-being on the human plane (Rom. 9”1-5; 11:1-2).

4.    Nevertheless Paul now bundles up these many gains and treats them all as a single loss.

In Paul’s thinking, the decision he made was not the decision to go from good to better, nor was it the surrender of a valued possession. It was an abandoning. In the process of reevaluation, he perceived with horror that the things he had hitherto viewed as benefiting him had in reality been working to destroy him because they were blinding him to his need for real righteousness which God required that he in no way could achieve by his own efforts, however earnest they may be.

5.    This radical transvaluation of values took place within the apostle. “Because of the Christ” – he means that his own outlook on life was radically altered “because of the fact of Christ.” That is to say, Paul, encountering the risen Jesus on the Damascus Road, understanding there that he was the Christ, the Messiah whom he longed for and worked for totally unawares, gladly gave up all his former advantages to gain this one person of supreme worth.” (Word)

Verse 8:

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.” (NAS)

The presence of so many particles is clearly for the purpose of emphasis, and could be translated, “Yes the previous is true but more than that I also…” (LK)

Present active participle – I am superior, I am supreme, I surpass (Souter)

Aorist passive ind. – to suffer loss. The aorist points to the definite period of his conversion. In that great crisis all his legal possessions were lost. (LK)

I will inflict damage (loss) upon, fine, I punish. (Souter)

Refuse – it refers to either human excrement, the portion of food rejected by the body as not being nutritive, or it refers to the refuse of leaving a feast, the food thrown away from the table. (LK)

Sweeping, refuse, especially dirt, dung. Popularly used of the human skeleton (Souter)

1)    “All things” – an advance on those things of v. 7, dung, refuse, either excrement or what is thrown away from the table. (Vincent)

2)    He adds a twofold new weight to the assertion, “I count” (not only “I have counted”) emphasizing the presentness of the estimate; and “all things” not only specific grounds of reliance.

“of Christ Jesus my Lord” – not the solemnity and fullness of the designation. Observe too the characteristic “my Lord.” There is a divine individualism in the Gospel, in deep harmony at its truths of community and communism, but not to be merged in them.

“I suffered” – a reference to the crisis of his renunciation of the old…

… (missing 3 pages of the original notes)

One more time, like a composer giving his theme yet another variation, Paul repeats: “because of whom I have lost all things and consider them rubbish.” The first element in these two clauses is straight repetition. But the second element catches us by surprise, expressing as it does the depth of feeling Paul had for those who would “advantage” his Gentile converts with what is so utterly worthless. “Rubbish” is well known to denote refuse, especially of the kind that was thrown out for the dogs to forage through. Although it is possible to mean “dung” here, more likely Paul is taking a parting shot at the “dogs” in v. 2, especially since he uses language very much like this in 1 Corinthians 4:13 to refer to all that is off-scouring and refuse. Paul sees them strictly as disadvantages, as total loss, indeed as “foul-smelling” street garbage fit only for “dogs.”

Paul expressing the goal of his “revising the balance sheet” uses two verbs “gain” and “found” (v. 9). Paul now implies that the gaining of Christ requires the loss of all former things, because to be rich in Christ means to be rich in Him alone, not in Him plus any other gains. Grace plus anything cancels out grace. (NIC – Fee)

The previous statement of v. 7 is emphatically reinforced, and there is a noticeable and significant progression in thought; first, instead of the previous perfect tense which brings out the present significance of Paul’s decision…the present is used (twice) with continuous force. His earlier decision was no impulsive act of breaking with the past; rather, it was a deep-seated resolution, and he continues, up to the time of writing, to regard everything as loss for the sake of Christ.

Secondly, a further advance is signaled by (all things). Paul not only regards his personal heritage and achievements as loss for the sake of Christ. Now he considers “everything” on which he might place his fleshly confidence to be positively harmful.

There is a progression of thought as he enlarges on the meaning of (v. 7), the present participle neuter of (rise above, surpass, excel), is used as a substantive for the “surpassing greatness.” (of knowledge), is a genitive of opposition, signifying the matchless worth is the knowledge of Christ, while indicating that Jesus is the One known.

Paul’s understanding is controlled by O.T. ideas of knowledge, on the one hand of God’s knowledge, that is, the election of his people and on the other hand of his people’s knowledge of him as a loving and obedient response to his grace. In the O.T. knowledge signifies “living in a close relationship with something or somebody, such as a relationship to cause what may be called communion.” To know God was regarded as of paramount importance (Hosea 6:6; 4:1, 6) and meant to be in a close personal relationship with him. He clearly emphasizes that it is “the only knowledge worth having, a knowledge so transcendent in value that it compensates for the loss of everything else.”

“My Lord” – Here and only here alone in his writings do we find the intensely personal Christ Jesus my Lord; and it would be a dull reader indeed who did not mark the warm and deep devotion which breaths through every phrase.”

He proceeds to spell out the purpose for which he treats everything as loss – “that I may gain Christ,” an expression that is parallel to v. 9 and v. 10.

The more you know (explanations) the less you have to trust.

To gain Christ and to know Him are then two ways of expressing the same ambition. He desires to know Christ more, for he wants his personal relationship to deepen.

His ambition is to gain Christ perfectly, a goal that will be fully realized only at the end. But as he continues to estimate earthly things at their true value, with his ambition in full view, so he gains Christ day by day in an ever-deepening relationship. (NIGNTC)

There are 4 aspects in which Paul notes progress in the years he has known Christ:
1)    Growth in the knowledge of the Lord
2)    He has become more consecrated to Him. The more we know of Christ, the more we gladly give all to Him and for Him.
3)    An increase of suffering
4)    Satisfaction (v. 8)

This change from the perfect tense to the present tense of the same verb is deliberate. In it Paul is saying that the settled decision he made in the past is not enough. It must be reinforced daily by continuous conscious moral choices against depending on himself. (Word)

Verse 9:

“and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” (NAS)

Aorist passive subj – to find, pass, to be found. The idea involved a revelation of true character. (LK)

“I find” – especially after searching (Eureka!) but in Philippians 3:9, possibly “I surprise.” (Souter)

“Be found” – discovered or proved to be (Vincent)

After seeking, find discover, come upon (A&G)

1)    So “to gain Christ” is to be found (by God, a divine passive: cf 1:29) in him, enjoying the new status of a man cleared of guilt and accepted in God’s presence. The judicial favor of “being found” in Christ at the last day of divine judgment, now brought into the present as a transformed eschatological act of acquittal, is clear from what follows. To be found in him and to be justified are the same thing. Justification here carries the eschatological meaning of vindication at the divine court by the possessing of an acceptable righteousness, right relationship with God, granted by God Himself.

Paul’s autobiographical section says three things:

1.    Such a gift of righteousness stands in diametrical contrast to a righteousness of my own.

2.    Such righteousness coming to a trusting person is God’s gift. It is righteousness from God. Justification comes because of Christ’s faith, i.e., His faithful obedience to the Father.

3.    The medium through which the divine righteousness of God’s saving power, exercised in liberating His people and setting them in good relation with himself reaches men is faith.

The variation in the prepositional phrase “that depends on faith” brings in the human response, which is a grateful acknowledging of what God has done, an acceptance of it, and a commitment to live by it in the terms of Galatians 5:6. (NCB)

2)    That the future element attends Paul’s expression “that I may gain Christ” (8) is corroborated now by the coordinate expression “and that I may be found in him” – meaning, “to be found when surprised by death.”

Here the apostle’s mind seems to focus on the coming day of judgment when he must stand before God who is the judge of all the earth. Thus Paul is led back to a favorite topic of his, “righteousness.” Often, both in Hebrew and Greek, the words “righteous” and “righteousness” and the related verb “to justify” were used as legal terms. In a court to flaw the judge, who had to decide between two parties, was forced “to justify” the one and “condemn” the other. He had to decide in favor of one and against the other. Thus, “to justify” often meant “to give a person his rights,” “to vindicate or exonerate” him, or, “to declare him in the right.” What is important to observe is that this decision did not necessarily depend on the moral character of the person involved.

Faith in its strictest sense is not intellectual assent to a series of propositions about Christ, but the act of personal trust in and self-surrender to Christ. It is the movement of one’s whole soul in confidence out toward Christ. It is the “yes” of the whole personality to the fact of Christ.

In this one verse Paul distills his great fundamental doctrine of justification by faith:

1.    All human beings are alienated from God.

2.    No one can possibly reestablish the necessary right relationship with God by his own efforts.

3.    God must take the initiative to restore this right relationship. The source of true righteousness is the redemptive act of God Himself.

4.    God has indeed taken this initiative in Christ, his life, death and resurrection.

5.    God’s initiative must be met with human response. Right relationship with God is established by one’s faith in Christ, that is to say, by one’s continual confession of total dependence upon Christ for the necessary true righteousness, by one’s personal trust in Christ and surrender to Christ.

6.    Faith in Christ, then, is another way of stating what it means to be found in Christ, incorporated in him, and united with him to such a degree that all that Christ is and has done is received by a person who trusts in Christ. (Word)

3)    The apostle now states his supreme goal in terms of his full participation in Christ and, in effect, explains what he means by gaining Christ. The long sentence of vv 8-11 has thus used parallel and overlapping expressions to refer to Paul’s ultimate aims: he desires to know Christ fully, to gain him completely, and to be found in him perfectly, final goals that are before him day by day.

“Be found in him” – Having stated that his ambition is to gain Christ (v. 8), Paul continues the purpose construction and explains what gaining Christ means. Their meaning is essential the same, so that being found in Christ explains what it signifies to gain him. In what sense could it be said that Paul’s aim was “to be found in him?” As a believer he is already “in Christ” having been united with his Lord in his death and resurrection.

Like the parallel verb, the aorist subjective once again suggests that Paul is looking toward the day of Christ. The apostle’s great ambition is “to be found in him” on that great occasion when every knee shall bow to Jesus as Lord.

Because of the wonder of knowing Christ here and now he gladly jettisons everything else as loss for he knows that his supreme goal can be realized on the occasion of the Great Assize “only fi he is continuously and progressively living in him during this mortal existence.

“To be found in Christ” really means “to be in him” (Phil. 2:7). It is akin to notions of “prove to be, show to be, turn out to be,” though not in the sense of being recognized by others, but by God.

“Not having my own righteousness” – Paul’s statement regarding his great ambition to be united completely with Christ is immediately followed by a long participial construction that contrasts two kinds of righteousness. Two significant themes “being found in Christ,” and “righteousness” are brought together in a close relationship.

The three expressions (vv. 8, 9 , 10) are regarded as parallel and overlapping expressions of Paul’s ultimate aims, that is, he desires to gain Christ completely, to be found in him perfectly, or to know him fully.

This participial clause indicates the manner in which he will be found perfectly in Christ, that is, as one who does not have a righteousness of his own. The present participle means “having” rather than “holding fast.”

The long participial construction contrasts two kinds of righteousness in a sharp antithesis.

The first “righteousness” is qualified to ways: first, by means of the possessive adjective “my own” and secondly through the prepositional expression “that which comes by the law.” By contrast, the righteousness that the apostle now has (and will continue to have until the time when he is perfectly united with Christ) is qualified by these three prepositional expressions, as to its basis or ground, (through the faithfulness of Christ, its origin, which is from God) and the means by which it is received (received on the basis of faith.)

V. 9 describes Paul’s own moral achievement, gained by obeying the law and intended to establish a claim upon God, particularly in view of the final judgment.

Righteousness by law is a meritorious achievement which allows one to demand reward from God and is thus a denial of grace.

The expression “my own righteousness by the law” is about “attitudinal self-righteousness.” Although Paul begins his discussion of Phil. 3:2-11 by recounting the privileges of his Jewish inheritance (v. 5), he moves on to describe his personal accomplishments (vv 5, 6), which he had placed his confidence.

(this is always the patter: a person may start out to brag about his heritage, but eventually he moves to bragging more about his achievements. RD)

Three expressions of v. 6 point to individual performance alongside Jewish status. A zeal for the law was good, but not the self-righteousness that resulted. (It is nigh impossible to talk about the good things you’ve done without becoming proud and self-righteous about it, leading you to believe you are superior to others and more acceptable to God. RD)

“But the righteousness which comes from God, through the faithfulness of Christ, is based on faith.” In sharp and decisive contrast a different kind of righteousness is what Paul will have as one who is perfectly found in Christ when he stands before God’s tribunal. This righteousness is different as to its origin, its basis our ground and the means by which it is received.

The apostle is using “righteousness” in two different senses here in one verse. The earlier reference to “righteousness” described Paul’s own moral achievement, gained by obeying the law and intended to establish a claim on God, it clearly had ethical connotations. The second kind of “righteousness,” that which comes from God, is not some higher kind of moral achievement but is a relational term, denoting basically a right relationship with God. It has to do with the “status of being in the right” and thus of being acceptable to him. The righteousness which comes from God is God’s way of putting people right with himself. (Romans 3:21)

The apostle is asserting that the righteousness he possesses is based on Christ’s faithful obedience to the Father – clear proof that Paul’s righteousness with God comes through sheer grace.

The final prepositional expression specifies man’s answering response, with indicative “of that upon which a state of being, or action, or a result is based.” (NIGTC)

4)    When does Paul expect this “gaining” and “being found” to take place? The answer lies with Paul’s “already but not yet” eschatological perspective (cf – vv 10, 11 that follow), which determines his existence in Christ an serves as the basic framework for all his theological thinking. On the one hand, the first point of reference is almost certainly future, looking to the “day of Christ” mentioned in 1:6, 10 and 2:16. Such an understanding fits the future orientation both of the immediate context (vv 11-14) and of the letter as a whole (1:6). On the other hand, the modifying participle clause (“having righteousness”) is oriented toward the present, as is the final purpose clause (vv 10, 11), which is grammatically dependent on the present clause.

He expects to “gain Christ” and be found in him on the day of Christ, precisely because this is already his experience of Christ.

About “righteousness” Paul makes four affirmations. To gain Christ means:
1.    To be done with my own “righteousness”
2.    Which is predicated on the law; this new righteousness
3.    Is “the from God righteousness” which
4.    Is Paul’s “through faith in Christ.”

In v. 6 “righteousness” denotes “upright behavior,” but in the rest of the present sentence “righteousness” refers to one’s relationship with God.

At issue is the circumcision of Gentile believers. But in this argument, Paul has theologically transmuted circumcision from an ethnic-religions identity symbol, whereby obedience to Torah Gentiles become full members of the covenantal people of God, into a means to and an expression of righteousness. However, it is a thoroughly useless expression of righteousness – “foul-smelling street garbage” – and therefore no means to righteousness at all, because it not only makes an end run around Jesus Christ but puts confidence in the symbol, mere flesh, rather than in the reality. Circumcision – and all other forms of Torah observance – means to “boast” in human achievement; and its “blamelessness” is expressed in ways that count for nothing at all. One is thus neither righteousness in the sense of being rightly related to God nor righteous in the sense of living rightly as an expression of that relationship. (NIC – Fee)

5)    “Found” – compare Galatians 2:17 where the verb involves the idea of surprise.

The possession of this righteousness is the one essential for acquittal at the tribunal of God.

1.    That righteousness is in diametrical contrast to “mine own righteousness,” i.e., it cannot be acquired by human effort on the basis of the law.

2.    He stresses that it comes to the believer as the gift of God in Christ. “The righteousness which is of God”

3.    The medium through which the divine righteousness reaches men is faith. It is through faith and by faith, i.e., on the basis of human response to the offer of the gospel. The initiative is with God in his provision of a saving righteousness in Christ, and human faith is the grateful acknowledging of this provision and acceptance of it. (Tyndale)

… (missing 9 pages of the original notes)

“Knowing Christ” for Paul involves “participation in his suffering” and is a cause for constant joy, not because suffering is enjoyable but because it is certain evidence of his intimate relationship with his Lord. Now at last the opening imperative “rejoice in the Lord,” which reiterates the same imperative in 2;18 in the context of suffering, begins to fall into place. The grounds for joy in the Lord comes from “knowing Him” as one participates in His suffering, while awaiting our glorious future.

If suffering and the temptation to become religious were causing the dimming of such vision for some in Philippi, in contemporary Western culture the dimming is for different reasons, more often connected with values related to material gain. Paul’s “vision” seems to have the better of it in every imaginable way; and a common return to “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord” could go a long way toward renewing the church for its task in the post-modern world.

Chapter 4

Verse 11:

ύστέρησιν – poverty, want

έμαθον – first person singular, 2 aorist active of μανθάνω, I learn, akin to disciple

αύτάρκης – self-sufficient, independent, contented, sufficient in one’s self, needing no assistance

1)    “content” – only here in NT, able to resist the shock of circumstance (Vincent)

At first this is discouraging. Paul has learned to be self-sufficient, but that’s Paul; he’s an exceptional person – I’m just ordinary, less than ordinary. But Paul goes on to reveal that it is not due to anything that is in him, but it is through Christ, the same Christ that is available to us all.

2)    Paul’s language is not dictated by want.

Content: independent of external circumstances. Socrates, when asked, “Who is the wealthiest?” replied, “He that is content with least.” (Lightfoot)

Paul said, “Not that I speak in respect to want.” With many people, their conversation, language, everything they say, is in reference to want; dominated, influenced by desire, in pursuit of self-satisfaction. They speak from a platform of discontent.

3)    These verses (10-18) exhibit a characteristic combination of delicacy and independence. In verse 11 “not” is emphatic. Content: independent of help or wealth. (Plummer)

4)    He has learned the secret of deep peace based on detachment from his outward circumstances. This is not fatalism or indolent acquiescence, but a detachment from anxious concern about the outward features of his life. (Tyndale)

I.    Contentment (v. 11) – 1) meaning of content, 2) do not speak in respect of want
A.    Free from pressures of external circumstances
B.    Free from ulterior motives. His cause of rejoicing is not selfish (his needs met) but because their care was a sign of spiritual growth. He didn’t see people in terms of what they would do for him.

II.    A Secret to Be Learned (v. 12)
A.    Meaning of words
1)    Learned (v. 11) – akin to disciple, result of long and varied experience
2)    Instructed – initiated
B.    The classroom – “everything and in all things”
C.    Subjects of study – abased and abound, full and empty curriculum

III.    What is the Secret? (v. 13)
A.    Independent because dependent – not rigid discipline or resolute but Christ
B.    Not formulas or steps but Christ
C.    The experience threw him on Christ and there he discovered Christ is enough
D.    Union with Christ
E.    Constant communication of Christ’s power to us

5)    Content: “carrying with me all I have,” independent, not of grace, but of surroundings (Moule)

6)    He received the gift as the symbol of spiritual good wrought in Philippi by his preaching.

Content: self-sufficiency, having within one what produces contentment, used of a city that does not need to import

The mind, as it is thrown upon its own resources, learns its strength.

The apostle was content, and that state of contentment was the result of a long and varied experience, έμαθον. In the use and position of έγώ, he gives prominence to his own individual training and its result.

The contentment which the apostle universally and uniformally possessed, sprang not from indifference, apathy, or desperation. He felt the evil but surmounted it – a purer triumph than with a petrified heart to be unconscious of it. (Eadie)

7)    He had learned to be content, satisfied with what he was and had, to be inwardly independent of the vary outward circumstances. (NIC)

1.    Independent of circumstances – “content”
2.    Dependent on Christ – “all things in Him”
3.    Interdependent on Christians – “your care flourished”

World’s two ways of contentment: (neither for Paul – yet content)
1.    Increasing possessions
2.    Decreasing desires (stoics)

Verse 12:

ταπεινούσθαι – present passive infinitive of ταπεινοώ – I make low, lower, I humble; used of bringing to the ground, reducing to a plain, as in Luke 3:5

περισσεύειν – exceed the ordinary (the necessary), abound, overflow, left over

μεμύημαι – first person singular; perfect passive indicative of μυέω – I initiate into the mysteries, I habituate

χορταζεσθαι – feed to the full, originally used of feeding animals; to have plenty, to be satisfied to the full

πειναν – present infinitive of πεινάω – hunger

ύστερεισθαι – from ύστερέω – suffer from want, to be without

1)    “I am instructed” – “Have I learned the secret,” the metaphor is from the initiatory rites of the pagan mysteries (Vincent)

2)    “Everywhere and in all things” – a general expression corresponding to the English “all and every” (Lightfoot)

3)    In οίδα, the apostle not of the results, but of the sources of έμαθω; and that knowledge was not one-sided or an acquaintance with only one aspect of life – καί ταπεινούσθαι

The repetition of οίδα exhibits the earnest fullness of his heart; and the rhetoric is even a proof of his uniform satisfaction and complacency, for he writes as equably of the one condition as the other.

“In everything and in all things” – the phrase, in its repetition, expresses the unlimited sphere of initiation

μεμύημαι – The verb is borrowed from the nomenclature of the Grecian mysteries, and signifies the learning of something with preparatory toil and discipline. It is not simply to have experience, but to have profited, or to have been instructed by that experience.

The apostle’s experience has led him to touch both extremes. Equable, contented, patient and hopeful was he in every condition.

The verbs employed by the apostle are έμαθον, οίδα, μεμύημαι. The first is general and looks to experiential result, or the lesson of contentment. How he came to that lesson he tells us in οίδα, and how he acquired this knowledge he says in μεμύημαι. There was first the initiation into the various states, then the consequent knowledge of their nature, and lastly, the great practical lesson of contentment which was learned under them. (Eadie)
Paul was not only at peace with God but at peace with himself.

Contentment/constant/consistent – cf Psalm 139, “the light and ark are alike to God”

He was master of his situation, not mastered by it – cf John 4, “shall never thirst”

1.    Paul has learned the secret of contentment – of being self-contained (v. 11).
2.    He learned it by being instructed in his experiences, good and bad. This is the school he attended (v. 12).
3.    What is the secret he learned? “I can do all things in him…” (v. 13)

4)    Now follows an eloquent description of the apostle’s detachment, the repetition of “I know” and the sonorous infinitives, “to be abased,” “to abound,” “to be full,” “to be hungry,” “to suffer need,” adding to the impressiveness of the personal testimony.

His abasement, ταπεινούσθαι, reflects that of his Lord (cf Phil 2:8). It carries the thought of a voluntary acceptance of lowly station, even poverty, for Christ’s sake. His disinheritance would follow upon his becoming a Christian, and this is probably in view in 3:7 (cf 1 Corinthians 4:10-13). There was also the mental and emotional side of his refusal to assert his right of maintenance from the churches (cf 2 Corinthians 11:7).

“to abound” – to overflow, which suggests a life of prosperity

“mystery, initiated” – a technical expression of the pagan mystery cults which employed it of the initiation of their adherents; as ritual initiation was no easy matter, the school in which he was learning how to face life victoriously was a hard one, a fact which is amply attested in his other writing. His “initiation” was no ecstatic and secret affair. It means willing to be a public spectacle (1 Corinthians 4:9ff) and to undergo all sorts of hardships (2 Corinthians 11:23ff) for Christ’s sake. (Tyndale)

5)    “He has learned” (v. 11) – in the school of life, and now he knows by virtue of his own experience both how to be abased by need, etc. (NIC)

6)    “in each and all” – a vaguely comprehensive expression

“have abundance and be in want” – once more (2:2; 3:7-9) the apostle repeats without scruple in order to express his meaning fully (Plummer)

7)    “initiated” – the word probably implies a difficult process to be gone through; cf Psalm 25:14, “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him…” (EGT)

8)    “in everything and in all things…” – Paul uses the particular and the general in an effort to cover completely the whole of life’s varied experience. (Robertson)

9)    “everything and in all things” – “in the details and in the total” (Moule)

“learned to abound” – strange, thought I knew how to do that
It’s easy to abound, may be more difficult to learn how to abound than to be abased. Learn not to feel secure and safe and satisfied because of an abundance. It’s easier to trust God with a large bank account.

Verse 13:

Ίσχύω – I have strength, I am strong, I am in full health and vigor (Souter)

Signifies to be strong, to prevail (Vine)

To be is possession of one’s powers, be in good health; to have power, be competent (A & G)

In classical Greek, used of being superior to others, being the victor, gaining the upper hand, prevail (DNTT)

ένδυναμούτι – present active participle of ένδυναμόω, fill with power

1)    “strengthened” – infuses strength into me (Vincent)

2)    Lit. “in Him” – united with Him, the statement is a paradox and a profound truth; his dependence on Christ is the secret of his independence (Plummer)

3)    The confession which at the same time reveals the secret of his contentment under all circumstances does not stay out. (NIC)

It is not so much that Paul has learned some self-help techniques to overcome bad situations or seven dos and don’ts of depression – what he has learned is that he can do all things in Christ.

How then have these experiences taught him – they have thrown him upon Christ. You never know He is all you need until He is all you’ve got.

All the formulas, self-helps, power principles for peace in pain and prosperity, etc. boil down to one property – the strengthening Grace of Christ. (illus – ice, steam, water, fog = H2O)

There comes a time when suddenly all the pat formulas no longer work. Why? We have come to put our trust in them rather than in the indwelling Christ. And we end up preaching principles instead of a Person. Christ never offered men anything but Himself, never invited them to anything but Himself. John 4: Come to ME and drink.

*The NT is conspicuously void of formulas and steps. Contentment begins with being united to Christ.

4)    His self-sufficiency and equanimity in meeting all life’s demands has not come through a mechanical self-discipline or fixed resolution. The apostle is insisting that in every conceivable circumstance he finds the strength which vital union with Christ supplies to be adequate for maintaining his apostolic work. (Tyndale)

5)    “In Him” that infused strength into me (Lightfoot)

6)    “I can do all things in Him strengthening me” – It is to spiritual might that the verb refers, and that might has no limitations

έν τώ ένδυναμουντί – the preposition έν marks the union through which this moral energy is enjoyed, “in Him strengthening me,” that is, in His strength communicated to me

The apostle claims a moral omnipotence, and allows no limit to its sweep or energy. His allusion is probably, however, to a certain sphere of operation, such as that presented in outline in the previous verses. Where unassisted humanity should sink and be vanquished, he should prove his wondrous superiority.

The verse is virtually climatic. After saying that he had learned contentment under every condition, he adds, in earnest and final summation – not these alone, but all things I can do in Him strengthening me. It is also to be borne in mind that this ability came not from his commission as an apostle, but from his faith as a saint. The endowment was not of miracle, but of grace. (Eadie)

Additional Notes

1)    Paul uses one of the great words of pagan ethics. This self-sufficiency was the highest aim of Stoic ethics. By autarkeia the Stoics meant a state of mind in which a man was absolutely and entirely independent of all things and of all people, a state in which a man had taught himself to need nothing and to need no one. Socrates was once asked who was the wealthiest man. He answered: “He who is content with least, for autarkeia, self-sufficiency, is nature’s wealth.” (Barclay)

2)    Note how Paul’s words follow one another: “I have learned” – been put through a course of teaching and have had a teacher; “I know” – it has become familiar to me, I understand it; “I am initiated” – if there is a secret in it, something hidden from the natural man, I have been led into that, out and in, through and through. (EB)

3)    V. 11 – It is significant that Paul had to “learn” this virtue. Contentment is not natural to most of mankind. (EBC – Expositor’s Bible Commentary)

4)    V. 11 – Paul’s appreciation of the Philippians assistance is not expressed out of a sense of need. (NCB – New Century Bible)

5)    V. 11 – “I have learned” – I is slightly emphatic. He implies an appeal to them to learn his secret for themselves. “Have learned” – it is possible that he refers to the time of waiting for their aid as the learning time; “I learned” in that interval a lesson of content.

6)    V. 13 – “strengthens” – it imports (implies) the supply on the one hand and reception and realization on the other of a supernatural ability coming out in action (Moule – Cambridge Bible)

7)    V. 13 – take this with a grain of hermeneutical salt – the all things of His will