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mentioned in Acts xxviii. 30 f. were now almost over and that the long-delayed trial had begun and was now engrossing the apostle's attention; (2) Phil. ii. 19-21, implying that he had lost the faithful fellow-workers mentioned in Col. iv. 10-14; and (3) Phil. ii. and iv., with their account of Epaphroditus' mission to Rome and its attendant circumstances, and i. 13, referring to the effect which Paul's "bonds" had already produced in Rome, implying that a considerable time had elapsed since the apostle's arrival.1
1. Authorship.—The Pauline authorship of this epistle is generally admitted. It is a characteristic outpouring of the apostle's tender, affectionate, and devout heart; the circumstances which gave rise to it come out in the course of the epistle in a casual and unaffected manner; and corroboration of them is found in the Book of Acts and elsewhere. It is difficult to imagine what purpose a forger could have had, or how he could ever have achieved success, in fabricating a letter of such a distinctly personal character.
With regard to external evidence, traces of expressions used in the epistle may be found in many of the earliest Christian writers (outside of the New Testament) whose works have come down to us. By the close of the second
1 It is possible the apostle may have written other letters during his imprisonment. His anxiety about his own prospects did not prevent him from engaging in active labour among the soldiers and others brought into contact with him, or from superintending by means of his colleagues and envoys the various Churches which looked to him for guidance. In this connection the following names occur in the epistles-Luke, Timothy, John Mark, Demas, Jesus Justus, Epaphroditus (of Philippi), Tychicus (of Ephesus), Epaphras (of Colossæ), and Aristarchus (of Thessalonica).
century its general acceptance in the Church is beyond the possibility of doubt. One writer (Tertullian, about 200 A.D.) states that it had all along been read and acknowledged by the Church of Philippi.
2. The Readers.- "To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." Philippi was the first place at which St. Paul preached the Gospel in Europe-in the course of his second missionary journey, 52 A.D. A very full and graphic account of this visit is given by St. Luke, who along with Timothy and Silas accompanied the apostle on the occasion (Acts xvi. 11-40). The city lay a few miles inland from the coast of Macedonia, at the confluence of Asiatic and European life on the great Egnatian highway, where there was a pass in the mountain barrier stretching north and south. Founded on an ancient site by Philip, king of Macedonia (who named it after himself) in the middle of the fourth century B.C., the city was raised to the dignity of a Roman colony by Augustus (42 A.D.) in commemoration of his great victory over Brutus and Cassius gained in the immediate vicinity. As a colony it became politically a miniature likeness of Rome"; and the high sense of Roman citizenship which pervaded the community may be seen at several points in Luke's narrative (Acts xvi. 20, 21, 35-39) as well as in allusions in the epistle (i. 27, R.V. margin; iii. 20, R.V.). There were comparatively few Jews in the place, as we may infer from the want of any regular synagogue and the absence of any Hebrew name in the list of converts.1 Only three members of the Church are specially mentioned in the account of Paul's visit. These are a proselyte of Asia, a Greek, and a Roman-representing the catholic nature of the Church which Paul had come
1 To this fact the constant loyalty of the Philippians to the person and teaching of the apostle was probably in some measure due.
to establish, representing, too, the liberal and liberating spirit of the Gospel, two of them being women, and one of the two a slave, the absolute property of her master. The consecrating influence of the Gospel on family relations is brought out here for the first time in the history of the Church, Lydia's "household" being baptized with her, and the jailor rejoicing greatly "with all his house." The prominence assigned to women both here and in the neighbouring Churches of Thessalonica and Bercea (Acts xvi. 13; Acts xvii. 4, 12; cf. iv. 2, 3) is in harmony with what we know from other sources to have been characteristic of Macedonian society.1
Paul's visit to Philippi was memorable not only for the converts whom he made but also for the sufferings he endured and the signal deliverance that was granted to him. The Church which he then formed excelled all others in its devoted attachment to his person and its repeated acts of generosity to him. This generosity he accepted, contrary to his ordinary rule, because of his perfect confidence in the sincerity and affection of the donors.
We hear of two subsequent visits which the apostle paid to Philippi-in 57 and 58 A.D. (Acts xx. 2, 6). His experience on these occasions, as well as in other communications which he held with them, had done much to cheer his heart. In their contributions for the relief of the poor saints at Jerusalem they appear to have contributed, in common with the other Macedonians, even "beyond their power" in "much proof of affliction and "deep poverty " (2 Cor. viii. 1-4).
3. Date and Place of Composition.-At Rome, 62-63 A.D. (see pp. 108-110).
1 "The extant Macedonian inscriptions seem to assign to the sex a higher social influence than is common among the civilised nations of antiquity" (Lightfoot).
4. Character and Contents. Of all St. Paul's epistles this is the most benign, breathing a spirit of the warmest sympathy and approval. At chap. iv. 1 he addresses the Philippians as "my brethren beloved and longed for, my joy and crown. In this respect it surpasses even 1 Thessalonians, which it resembles not a little in its gentle and confiding tone.
Without any assertion of apostolic authority, it begins with a very full thanksgiving for the tokens of grace which the Philippians had so generally manifested since the Gospel was preached among them. These tokens led the apostles to cherish a confident persuasion that they would advance more and more in the Christian life and realise a fulfilment of his constant prayer on their behalf (i. 1-11).
He then adverts to his own circumstances, and refers to the salutary influence of his bonds in witnessing for Christ among the imperial guard and in the city generally, while his friends were stimulated by his example, and even his enemies were provoked to greater activity on his account.1 The preaching of the Gospel by these latter, however unworthy their motives, he regards as better than none for those who know not Christ; and instead of troubling himself about their opposition to him, he will rather take comfort from their labour, feeling assured that all his trials will work together for good. He is prepared either for life or for death, as the will of the Lord may be, although he has a strong impression that he will be delivered and permitted to visit Philippi once more (i. 12-26). In any case he would appeal to them to be firm and united in defence of Christ's cause-counting
1 These factious teachers (i. 15-17) may either have been Judaisers (cf. iii. 1-9) or Antinomians (cf. iii. 18, 19). The latter may have resented the apostle's warnings against their exaggeration and perversion of the Gospel, and his consideration for the Jews (Rom. vi., etc.); and they may have tried, in consequence, to slight his authority and curtail his influence during his imprisonment.
it a token of salvation that they are permitted "not only to believe on him, but also to suffer in his behalf" (i. 27-30). He would counsel them to avoid all rivalry and self-seeking, and to cultivate that humility which was so signally displayed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and was attended in His case with such glorious results. He exhorts them to work out their salvation with fear and trembling as in God's presence and with God's help, striving to walk worthy of their calling and to justify the apostle's boast concerning them. They might rest assured that he was as devoted to their interests as ever, and was ready, if need be, to give up his life on their behalf. He hoped soon to send to them their mutual and trusty friend Timothy with news of his prospects, and in return he hopes to hear of their state before he visits them in person. Meanwhile he is sending to them Epaphroditus, the messenger of their bounty, who has been of invaluable service to him since his arrival, but whose recent illness and anxiety on their account render it expedient that he should return to Philippi (ii.).
At this point (iii. 1)1 it would seem as if the apostle had intended to draw to a close-probably by a renewal of his counsels to unity and brotherly love. But from some cause—perhaps owing to his being interrupted by fresh news of the Judaisers-he launches into a new subject, warning his converts against the infatuation of those who would put their confidence in Jewish rights or privileges, and avowing his own renunciation of all such claims, in view of the new life which comes from fellowship with the risen and exalted Christ. That life cannot be realised without strenuous and persevering effort in the path of duty. He would therefore caution them
1 Some critics have inferred from this verse that the apostle wrote more than once to the Philippians. Others think that several letters, written wholly or partly by St. Paul, are embodied in this composition.