By Charles H. Welch

The essential teaching of Philippians can be summarized under the following heads:

  1. Pattern (1:27-4:2). In which the examples of Christ Himself (2:6-11) of Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus (2:12-30, 3:1-14) are exhibited.
  2. Prize (3:14).
  3. Perfecting (3:12).
  4. Prior-Resurrection (3:11).
  5. Pursuit (3:13).

Let us first of all set out the literary structure:

The Structure of the Book as a Whole












Fellowship in the Gospel opens and closes the epistle proper (1:3-26; 4:11-20). The epistle opens very differently from that to the Ephesians, which commences as follows:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us . . . before the overthrow of the world" (1:3).

In Philippians the opening words are:

"I thank my God. . . for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now" (1:3-5).

With this thought of active co-operation with the gospel the epistle opens and c1oses. It is an indication of the trend of the teaching before us; not so much what is ours in Christ, but what we are doing with it. Not so much to look backward, "before the overthrow of the world", or upward, to the "spiritual blessings in heavenly places", or forward, "that in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness towards us", but a survey of present activities in view of "the day of Jesus Christ". There is no trusting to self, however, but confidence that He Who had begun the good work would perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ. While "fear and trembling" must ever accompany our endeavours to "work out our own salvation," such a state of mind is not incompatible with a settled confidence in the Lord, or with a peace that passeth all understanding.

The opening theme of the epistle is threefold:

  1. Fellowship and defence of the gospel.
  2. Furtherance of the gospel.
  3. Furtherance of faith.

Each of these three phases is marked with either thanksgiving or prayer, and in each case with "confidence":

  • "Being confident, that He which hath begun. . . will finish" (1:6).
  • "Waxing confident by my bonds" (1:14).
  • "Having this confidence, I know that I shall abide" (1:25).

We now approach a section of the epistle that demands great care in its exposition, and patient examination of the words used so that we do not miss the Spirit's teaching:

"For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (1:19-21).

The "salvation" here is not, of course, salvation from sin, but deliverance from prison. The Apostle, however, makes it clear that he would not pray for "deliverance" for its own sake; in fact in the structure his "departure" is the corresponding member. The one concern of the Apostle was the glory of Christ and the blessing of His people; whether that should be accomplished by continuance in this life, or by dying and departing, did not greatly trouble him. One interpretation which is very attractive is that we have here a chiasmos (a figure of speech indicating a cross over, in verse 21, which we indicate as follows:

"For to me to live is Christ's (gain) and to die is (Christ's) gain".

In this view the Apostle is not thinking of his own gain, but of the furtherance of the gospel, the furtherance and joy of faith, and that whether by life or by death. This interpretation is the one set out in The Companion Bible and appeals very much to the renewed heart. To us with our modern depreciation of the doctrine of reward, such an interpretation sounds very satisfying. And yet, if we rule out personal gain from Philippians 1:21, we must face it in chapter 3:8 where the verbal form of the word translated "gain" is there used in the phrase, "that 1 might win Christ", a passage in close connexion with the "prize" of the high calling (Phil. 3:14).

The parallel epistle, Hebrews, certainly does not exhibit any sensitiveness in speaking of reward. Not only is Moses seen acting in faith because he had respect to the recompense of the reward, but the very title of God is there said to be "The Rewarder" of them that diligently seek Him.

Kerdos, the word translated "gain" is not so much "hire" for service as "gain" acquired by trading (Matt. 16:26, Jas 4:13, Tit. 1: 11). It is impossible to make the words, "that I may win Christ" mean that Christ may gain something by the Apostle's effort. The Greek of Philippians 3:8 reads hina Christon kerdeso, and the Greek of 1 Corinthians 9 :20 "that I might gain the Jews" reads hina Ioudaious kerdeso, the person "Christ" being exchanged for the person the "Jews", but otherwise identical. Writing to another company of believers Paul said:

"For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming. For ye are our glory and joy" (1 Thess.2: 19,20).

Paul's "Gain" and the "Prize" of the high calling run in parallel lines and belong to parallel truths. The statement that Christ shall be "magnified in my body" has a bearing upon "the body of humiliation" (vile body) of Philippians 3:21, which we shall observe in its place.

"But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith, that your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again" (1:22-26).

As the passage stands, it seems that Paul was in some sort of perplexity, not knowing what to choose, "what I shall choose I wot not". The word translated "I wot" is gnorizo, and is used by Paul eleven times in the prison epistles. Let us examine the other ten occurrences before we go further.

Gnorizo in the Prison Epistles

  • "Let your requests be made known unto God" (Phil. 4:6).
  • "Having made known unto us the mystery of His will" (Eph. 1:9).
  • "By revelation He made known unto me the mystery" (Eph.3:3).
  • "Was not made known unto the sons of men" (Eph. 3:5).
  • "Unto principalities . . . might be known (made known, R.V.) by the church" (Eph. 3:10).
  • "That I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery" (Eph. 6:19).
  • "Tychicus . . . shall make known to you all things" (Eph. 6:21).
  • "To whom God would make known what is the riches (Col. 1:27).
  • "All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you" (Col. 4:7).
  • "They shall make known unto you all things" (Col. 4:9).

These are eleven out of twenty-four occurrences. We give a summary of the Authorized Version usage of the word: sixteen times, "to make known"; four times, "declare"; once each, "do to wit", "certify", "give to understand" and "wot". There is but one meaning for gnorizo, and that is "to make known". The idea that Paul did not know what to choose is inaccurate; he knew, but he would not tell. The sequel shows that, while his own personal desires were in one direction, he had chosen against his wishes for the benefit of others. True modesty, not perplexity, is the cause of his reticence to make known his choice.

What does Paul mean by being "in a strait"? Was he "pressed out" of the two possibilities, those of living or dying, by a third, the second coming of Christ, to which the word "depart" is sometimes made to refer? There is only one thing to do, to make sure of the meaning of the words employed. "I am in a strait" is a translation of sunecho, a word occurring twelve times. Let us see its usage:

  • "The love of Christ constraineth us (2 Cor. 5:14).
  • "Keep thee in on every side" (Luke 19:43).
  • "Paul was pressed in spirit" (Acts 18:5).
  • "Cried out. . . and stopped their ears" (Acts 7:57).
  • "The multitude throng Thee" (Luke 8:45).
  • "The men that held Jesus" (Luke 22:63).
  • "How am I straitened till it be accomplished" (Luke 12:50).
  • "To be taken with" (sickness or fever) (Matt. 4:24, Luke 4:38; 8:37).
  • "To lie sick of a fever" (Acts 28:8).

The word does not mean to press out, but rather to hold in. Following the verb sunecho is the preposition "out", and some have been led astray as to the meaning of the preposition by the ambiguity of the English word "press". While ek primarily denotes out, the translation of the word needs care. Here are some examples, in which "out" loses all sense of direction "out of"-and is correctly translated "with".

  • "They bought with them the potter's field" (Matt. 27:7).
  • "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart" (Mark 12:30).
  • "Wearied with His journey" (John 4:6).
  • "Drunk with wine . . . with the blood of the saints" (Rev. 17:2,6).

Again, ek is correctly translated "by" fifty times, e.g.:

  • "The tree is known by his fruit" (Matt. 12:33).
  • "By the fire . . . which issued out of their mouths" (Rev. 9:18).

(Here ek is rightly translated "by" and "out of" in the one verse.) Revelation 8:13 renders ek, "by reason of"; we could not very well translate it: "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth out of the other voices". In Philippians 1:23 also, "by reason of" is the best rendering.

"For I am held in constraint by reason of the two (here follow 'the two'), (1) having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is very far better, but (2) to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you".

Something very far better for himself is weighed over against something necessary "for you", and, with the thoughts of verses 12-20 in mind, we know what was the choice. "Departing" is balanced by "remaining", and "with Christ" is answered by "with you".

We must now examine the word "depart", which is the translation of analuo. We have two important factors to consider: (1) the usage of the word, and (2) the etymology. The words of Philippians 1 :23, "having a desire to depart" , are echoed in 2 Timothy 4:6, where we have the substantive form analusis, "the time of my departure is at hand". It is beyond argument that in 2 Timothy four the Apostle refers to his approaching death, and this settles for us the parallel passage in Philippians one.

Dr. E. W. Bullinger's Critical Lexicon and Concordance reads:

"ANALUO - To loosen again, set free; then to loosen, dissolve or resolve, as matter into its elements (hence Eng. analysis); then, to unfasten as the fastening of a ship, and thus prepare for departure (and with the force of ana, back) to return".

Schrevelius's Lexicon defines the word thus:

"ANALUO - To unloose, free, release, relax, untie, undo; dissolve, destroy; abolish; solve, explain, analyse; weigh anchor, depart, die, return from a feast".

There is no doubt that the word analuo means exactly the same as does our English word analyse, to break up a thing into its elements, and so return. The fact that the English word "return" has a double meaning, has misled some into speaking here of the Second Coming of Christ, but how can the Second Coming of the Lord be His "analysis"? At this point Luke 12:36 is brought forward, for a hasty reading of this passage has given colour to the idea that analuo can refer to the return of Christ. What we must notice is that there are two statements, not one, in this verse.

"When He will return from the wedding;
That when He cometh and knocketh" (Luke 12:36).

Rotherham has the somewhat strange rendering: "He may break up out of the marriage feast". This is exactly the same idiomatic use of the word that is with us today, as every schoolboy knows when he "breaks up" for the holidays.

"I am 'in a fix' by reason of the two, namely:

  1. Having a strong desire to the return (dissolution), and to be with Christ, for it were very far better, but

  2. The abiding in the flesh is more needful for you, and having this confidence, I perceive that I shall abide and continue beside you all for your progress and joy of faith" (Phil. 1:23-25).

Among the essential features which are of dispensational importance in this epistle, are "the Prize of the High Calling" and "the out-resurrection", these are given a careful examination in articles bearing these titles. The preceding article PERFECTION also has a great bearing on the theme of Philippians. The parallel between Philippians and Hebrews, exhibited at the close of the article entitled "Hebrews" should also be consulted.

When we read of Christ as an "Example" we can be sure that salvation is not in view, but either service or manner of life. Here in Philippians, example is connected with prize.


A 1:27-2:4 Stand fast; same love; same soul


C 2:6-11
Sevenfold humiliation and consequent exaltation of Christ given as an EXAMPLE

D 2:12-30
Philippians "Wherefore. . . work out"
Paul "If I be offered. . . I rejoice"
Timothy "He did not seek his own"
Epaphroditus "Nigh unto death in service"

C 3:1-14
Sevenfold loss and gain of Paul.
Suffering In view of the Prize.
Paul bids us note his walk as an EXAMPLE.

B 3:21 The BODY of His glory Then

A 4:1,2 Stand fast; same mind.

The "mind" of Christ, exhibited pre-eminently in His wonderfull kenosis ("He emptied Himself"), and partially seen in the lives of Timothy, Epaphroditus and Paul, is essential to the attaining of the prize, "The body of His glory".

PAUL'S DESIRE (Phil. 1:21-26)

A 1:21 To me (emoi); to live is Christ

B 1:22,23 a Live in flesh Fruit
                      b Paul's desire Not made known (I wot not)
                          c Paul's desire To be with Christ

B 1:24,25 a Alive in the flesh Needful for you
                      b Paul's confidence I know
                          c Paul's continuance With you all

A 1:26 By me (moi); my presence; glorying in Christ.

To summarize what we have learned concerning certain keywords used here. "I wot not". The word gnorizo occurs in the N.T. twenty-four times. Paul uses it eighteen times, and of these eleven are found in the Prison Epistles (Phil. 1 :22; 4:6, Eph. 1 :9, 3:3,5,10; 6:19,21, Col. 1 :27; 4:7,9). One meaning only fits all cases, i.e. "to make known". This disposes of the idea that Paul did not know which to choose.

"In a strait" (sunecho), Luke 8:45; 12:50; 19:43; 22:63, Acts 7:57. Every passage demands the meaning "to hold fast", "to keep in", "to stop".

"Betwixt two" (ek). Sometimes means "with" (Matt. 27:7, Mark 12:30, John 12:3). Sometimes means "by" (Matt. 12:33, Titus 3:5, Rev. 9:18). Sometimes means "by reason of" (Rev. 8:13; 9:2; 18:19).

"The two". They are

  1. The desire to depart and be with Christ.
  2. The necessity to remain in the flesh.

One would be the Apostle's own gain; but the other would benefit the Philippians. He chose the latter, while desiring the former.

"To depart" (analuo)-gives us "to analyse" (Luke 12:36).

Rotherham translates, "break up at the marriage feast" (the schoolboy's "breaking up" for the holidays). Paul settles his own meaning by repeating himself in 2 Timothy:

Phil. 2:17
Ready to be offered.
2 Tim. 4:6
About to be offered.
Desiring to depart.
Time of my departure has come.

THE PERFECTING (phil.3:12)

The Analogy of "Hebrews"

  1. The Law made nothing perfect (7:19; 9:9; 10:1).
  2. "Perfect" in contrast with "babes" (5:13,14).
  3. The Perfecter (10:14; 12:1,2).
  4. The perfecting of Christ (2:10; 5:8,9).
  5. The spirits of perfected righteous ones (12:23; 11 :40). (The parallel with Phil. 1 and 3).
  6. Marks of perfection (6:1).
  7. Factors in perfection (2:10; 5:8; 7:28; 10:1,14; 11 :40).


This cannot be the general resurrection. of all believers, for Paul says, "if by any means I might attain" unto it. The words of the original are ten exanastasin ten ek ton nekron, "the OUT resurrection, that which is OUT from the dead".

  • Anastasis nekron the simplest expression of all. Believed by Pharisees (Acts 23 :6).

  • To ek nekron anastenai "the rising out from the dead" (Mark 9:9,10). This was something new to the disciples. This new expression gives us such passages as Romans 1:4.

  • Tes anastaseos tes ek nekron "the resurrection, that which is out from the dead" (Luke 20:35). This is connected with being "worthy to attain", and approaches to Philippians 3:11.

  • Ten exanastasin ten ek ton nekron "the out resurrection, that which is out from dead ones" (Phil. 3:11).

See also HEBREWS and PRIZE.

An Alphabetical Analysis

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