By Charles H. Welch
The essential teaching of Philippians can be summarized under the following heads:
Let us first of all set out the literary structure:
The Structure of the Book as a Whole
A 1:1,2 EPISTOLARY SALUTATION BISHOPS and DEACONS
A 4:21-23 EPISTOLARY SALUTATION CAESAR'S HOUSEHOLD.
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:
In Philippians the opening words are:
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:
Each of these three phases is marked with either thanksgiving or prayer, and in each case with "confidence":
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:
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:
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.
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
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 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".
Again, ek is correctly translated "by" fifty times, e.g.:
(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.
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:
Schrevelius's Lexicon defines the word thus:
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.
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:
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.
PATTERNS IN PHILIPPIANS (1:27-4:2).
A 1:27-2:4 Stand fast; same love; same soul
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
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
One would be the Apostle's own gain; but the other would benefit the Philippians. He chose the latter, while desiring the former.
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:
THE PERFECTING (phil.3:12)
The Analogy of "Hebrews"
THE PRIOR OR OUT-RESURRECTION (Phil. 3:11)
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".