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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 4

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-23



Whence we also look for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

21. Who will fashion the body of our humiliation similitudinous to the body of his glory. ” Entire sanctification takes all of the world out of us, literally making us unearthly, putting us in the heavenlies; i. e., investing us with the heavenly nature, the peace, rest, loyalty, faith, obedience, victory, and happiness peculiar to the inmates of heaven. These citizens of heaven, while on earth, live constantly watching and waiting the return of their King, “who shall fashion the bodies of our humiliation,” not “vile bodies.” We are humiliated while on probation in these mortal bodies. This transfiguration consists in the elimination of all the gross materiality out of our bodies, so as to render them imponderable. In that case the Spirit will be the controlling element, and the body responsive to its incentives, will move with angelic velocity toward God. We will be transformed and translated independently of volition, and before we are aware. Doubtless, translation was the original economy in Eden. If the race had not fallen, they would have passed their probation and been translated, instead of dying. How fortunate we are, living away down in the last days of the last age, amid the aurora of the coming kingdom, when our chances for translation are so favorable. The true attitude of saintship in the old dispensation was constant expectancy of Christ. Since he ascended from Mount Olivet, the inspiration of faith for his return has been infinitely greater than before his incarnation. The apostles lived in constant outlook. We are certainly eighteen hundred years nearer this glorious coming than they. Hence, I am looking for him night and day. Jesus pronounces an awful woe on that servant who says, “My Lord delayeth his coming.” The expectancy is certainly a powerful inspiration to be ready. Entire sanctification is the only needed qualification. All whose vessels were filled with oil, went in with a shout of victory. When our Lord comes for his bride, all of the heavenly citizens will be transfigured and caught up with the risen saints, to meet the Lord in the air. This transfiguration will make our bodies like his glorified body, which flew up to heaven from Mount Olivet. It is wonderful, yet it is true. Lord, help us to be ready, according to the working of him who is able even to subordinate all things to himself! Our Omnipotent Christ is not going to leave anything Over which the enemy can boast, for everything is coming into his glorious restitution. The soul is restored in sanctification, the body in transfiguration, den in the millennium, and the heavenly state of this world in the new creation, following the fiery sanctification simultaneously with the final judgment at the end of time. (Romans 11:1.)

2. The Greek reveals that Euodias and Syntyche were women. Paul exhorts them to harmony in the Lord. The presumption is they differed on some nonessential points. This is admissible, but in the Church there must be harmony.

3. I entreat thee also, true yoke-fellow, not revealed who he was; perhaps Timothy, who carried the letter, ” assist those women who labored with me in the gospel with Clement. ” We see here that the women assisted Paul in his gospel work at Philippi. He found the first open door in the woman’s meeting by the riverside. Here, evidently, Lydia, Euodias, Syntyche, and other godly women did preach the gospel and labor in the Lord’s vineyard, saving souls. We are the last people to oppose women’s ministry, when our gospel came in that way. We are all Europeans, disciples of Paul, who first preached to our ancestors in that women’s meeting. In harmony with this fact, we see in this letter how very prominent he renders the women, even more so than the men, specifying that they assisted him in his evangelistic labors when he was there, ordering a special message to Euodias and Syntyche, that they should agree on the essentials of salvation, despite differences on non-essentials.

5. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. ” Of all the Pauline epistles, this is the most jubilant; yet it was written amid the most afflictive and alarming environments. Ruthlessly dragged away from his city mission, guarded by soldiers in the barracks, with Nero’s sword hanging over his neck, ready to drop any moment and sever his head from his body, yet this letter rings out a shout of victory from beginning to end. Lord, help us to do likewise! Paul did not rejoice in his environments, but in the Lord. If your joy is manward, circumstanceward, or moneyward, it will be transitory, like the ignis fatuus, whose delusive ray lights up unreal worlds, and glows but to betray.

I was born and reared in the back hills of Southern Kentucky. Our farm, containing about one hundred acres, was sterile, filthy, hard to cultivate, and yielding a stinted harvest to the hand of industry. The debts with which we began grew on us till the home had to go. It was a sad epoch in our history when we had to give up the home of our childhood, with no prospect of ever owning another. I look upon that emergency in our history now, as one of the brightest and most merciful interventions of God’s providence. We read of the eagle “stirring up her nest;” i. e., tearing it all to pieces, so the eaglets, which are old enough to fly and seek their fortunes, but too cowardly, are forced to leave their old nest, where they were hatched, and fly whithersoever the unerring One leadeth them. So it was with our family. Consequently we four boys all turned preachers, and have been going to the ends of the earth, blowing the silver trumpet. So, mark it down, you can always rejoice in the Lord. When there is no Joy in your environments, then God is showing you his most signal mercy. When your little child gets hurt, then you give it candy. So, when trouble comes on you in a Niagara of disappointment, bereavement, and sorrow, then look out! God is going to surprise you with sunshine and victory.

Let your clemency be made known to all men; the Lord is nigh. ” Our time here is but a moment, when contrasted with eternity. Hence, we should constantly walk in the perennial sunbeams of kindness and philanthropy to all who come within our influence.

6. Be careful for nothing; but in everything with prayer and supplication let your requests be made known unto God. ” Lord, help us all to obey this wonderful commandment! The world is dying prematurely, crushed under intolerable burdens of care. Like the man tottering under his load, overtaken by the wagon, responsive to the kind invitation, gets in, but still carries his load on his shoulder: so we give ourselves to the Lord, but hold to our burdens of care, still crushed beneath our loads. Remember your Omnipotent Savior can not feel your insignificant burden, though it be heavy as Pike’s Peak. You compliment him by letting him carry it. When the clerk came to Alexander the Great, sitting on the throne of the world, and said: “I think there is a mistake in the order for this immense sum of money, certainly too great to be paid; so I thought I would bring it to you for correction.” The prince of all the earth read the order, and, handing it back to the clerk, thus reprimanded his hesitation: “Why, sir, do you think anything is too great for me to pay? Do I not own the nations of the earth, with their treasures, which have been accumulating a thousand years? Do not the mines of silver, gold, and diamonds in all the earth belong to me?

Of Course, you will pay this order. The honor of my kingdom is at stake.

The greater the amount, the more my kingdom is honored.” If this was true of Alexander the Great, how infinitely more so of the King of kings! O how bright this world would be if the people would disencumber themselves of every burden, casting all their cares on the Lord! Do this, and your life becomes a cloudless sunshine.

8,9. In this paragraph we have a gorgeous constellation of celestial diamonds, radiating their beauties to every point of the compass, and bespangling the hemisphere down to either horizon with glories and splendors beggaring all human utterance. Bunyan’s Pilgrim saw an old man bent like the semi-circumference of a wagon-wheel, wearing himself out with a muck-rake, turning over the trash and filth, looking after gold; meanwhile, a bright angel on celestial wing is hovering over him, with a crown of gold ready to place it on his head if he will only straighten up. O that people would only look on the bright side and talk about bright things; then they would soon be bright themselves! But they will look on the dark side, persist in blue talk, and consequently they are blue as indigo, and they blue everybody about them. Lord, help you to lift up your head, and see this charming cluster of bright and beautiful graces, and gaze on them till the splendors of the bright upper world shine through you, flooding you with light, victory, and glory, and curing the blues, world without end! If Paul, wearing the prisoner’s chain in Nero’s barracks in full view of the executioner’s block, could roar out night and day the shout of victory without a solitary wail of sorrow, good Lord deliver you and me from every murmur, and sweep from our constitution every symptom of despondency!

10. But in whatsoever you were thoughtful about me, you lacked opportunity. ” The Philippian saints were the first-fruits of the European gospel. True to their responsibilities as the Alma Mater Church, they promptly sent supplies to Paul, pursuant to their opportunities, which, of course, were meager, as there were no railroads, and the Adriatic Sea always terrific for storms, thunders between Greece and Italy. Paul being so far away, they were much afflicted when they could not reach him with temporal sustenance, knowing that chains and soldiers disqualified him for making tents, and thus earning material support for himself and evangelistic comrades.

11. I do not speak concerning deficiency; for I have learned to be content in whatsoever I am. ” See how independently of all human resources Paul talks, though now utterly disqualified as formerly to labor with his own hands!

“Our Father is rich in houses and lands:

He holdeth the wealth of the world in his hands.”

God forbid that we should dishonor him by even telling the world of our needs! Tell Jesus only.

12. I both know how to be humiliated, and I know how to abound; in everything and in all things I have learned both how to fatten and to starve, to abound and to be destitute.

What is to become of the hireling ministry of the present day, who have given up God as their temporal support and taken man, thus forfeiting a thousand blessings incident to that close proximity with our wonderful Heavenly Father, only available when, like Elijah, we depend on his ravens to come and feed us? Will the ministry ever get back to the Pauline plan of self-support in the good providence of God, which never fails? When I have nothing to eat, I bless God for a fast, enjoy it exquisitely, and the longer the better. When I have a Benjamin’s mess, I give God the glory! When I have nothing, I shout his praises.

13. I am able to do all things through him that filleth me up with dynamite. ” Some transcriber, knowing that Christ is the only one that can do this, has here supplied the word in the English version. The Lord’s dynamite is more than a match for all the powers of earth and hell, ready every moment when ignited by a spark from heaven’s altars, responsive to faith, to blow up the devil’s batteries, blast and explode all the rock of inbred sin out of our hearts, sweeping all difficulties out of the way, whether in the realm of Providence or Grace.

14-16. Here Paul recognizes the kind benefactions of the Philippian saints in sending him temporal supplies regularly and promptly during all of his peregrinations in Greece.

17. Not that I seek after a donation, but I do seek the fruit which aboundeth unto your credit. ” While he was too loyal to God, and too jealous of his glory, to even insinuate his desire for a contribution; yet his zeal for God in their behalf abundantly qualified him to appreciate their donations as indices of their spiritual health and thrift. Lord, help us to appropriate the Pauline orthodoxy on the problem of all temporal support, that it be only encouraged and appreciated as the normal and legitimate fruit of spiritual life and prosperity. Among the mournful mementos of the current apostasy is the positive and universal departure from New Testament precept and example in the temporal department of the popular Churches. We all witness to our sorrow the abandonment of the spiritual policy, and the adoption of the carnal. We no longer see a vestige of apostolic precept in the financial policy of the dominant ecclesiasticisms. Sad to say, there has been a radical tergiversation. It has been taken out of the hands of God, and turned over to men, laying on the Church a mountain of carnality, clogging the wheels of Zion till they can no longer revolve on the upgrade to the New Jerusalem, but have halted stock still on the track. Then Satan, slipping in like a weasel, cunningly manipulates the reversal of the wheels, and has gotten them revolving down to hell, instead of up to heaven. Without a radical financial revolution and return to first principles, as plainly revealed in God’s Word, there is no hope of reformation in the Churches. On the contrary, they will wax worse and worse, like the antediluvian Churches ripening for destruction. How strange that preachers of the gospel, recognizing the Bible as their only guide in all things, spiritual and temporal, will deliberately close their eyes to the plain and unequivocal Word of God, take up human institutions, and obey the commands of men!

18. Whereas Timothy was the bearer of this letter from Rome quite a long journey, which I traveled in 1895 Paul had previously sent to them Epaphroditus, preaching the gospel and bearing friendly greetings; by whom they had sent him an ample supply of temporal support. This he here recognizes, with thanksgiving to them and to God.

19. And my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. ” If we are only true to God, he is infinitely rich and merciful to supply all our needs, temporal and spiritual. The poet has well said:

“Man wants but little here, Nor wants that little long.”

The king of England, riding along the highway in his shining vehicle, sees a ragged boy digging up briers in the fence-corner, orders a halt, and says, “Boy, what do you get for your work?” “I just gets my victuals and clothes.” “Go ahead, boy; I am the king of England, and that is all I get.”

O how few people verify God’s promise, “ The just shall live by faith! ” It is equally true, temporally and spiritually.

20-22. Though Paul was a prisoner in bonds, guarded by soldiers ready to cut his head off, he avails himself of the grand open door, and preaches the gospel in the barracks to soldiers and citizens. Nero, living in his golden palace, so despised the Christians that he undertook to feed them all to his lions. He hated Paul as a rattlesnake, and cut his head off. Though he did his utmost to exterminate Christianity from the earth, yet he could not so much as keep it out of his own family. Hence, Paul here sends to the Philippians saintly greetings from all at Rome, “and especially from Caesar’s household.” Nero lifted the floodgate of imperial persecution against the Christians. A red river flowed on three hundred years, only arrested by the conversion of the Emperor Constantine. When I was in Rome, I stood in the Coliseum, Nero’s theater, with a seating capacity for one hundred thousand. I saw the old subterranean tunnel, through which the lions were brought down from their lairs and turned loose on the Christians, that the cruel multitude might be edified by the bloody lacerations and carnivorous revelries, as they always had the cruel monsters well starved for the occasion. Despite all these bloody trepidations, Paul’s preaching struck fire, not only among others, both citizens and soldiers, but even entered the emperor’s household, and there won trophies for Jesus. Amid the awful tide of blood and death, after Paul and Peter have both flown up to heaven, honored with a martyr’s crown, and thousands have followed in their bloody track, history drops an item confirmatory of the blessed stickability of the work in the royal family. While martyrdom is all the go, and the devouring of the Christians in the Coliseum by the wild beasts is attracting the heathen millions daily to pour out their money for a seat in the imperial theater, behold they lead in the beautiful Julia, the royal heir of the empire, who must share the common fate of a Christian, and go down in the tide of martyr’s blood, unless she will recant her faith in Christ, and resume her loyalty to the Roman gods. All possible efforts are laid under contribution to save the life of the young queen. They think surely she will recant and live. The high priest of Jupiter compliments her with his presence, holding out the royal censer, and begging her only to drop incense on it one time, thus recognizing the worship of the Roman gods, and she shall live. They find the royal damsel immovable by all their bribes, threats, and importunities, as they point her to the imperial crown on the one side, and the roaring lions on the other. She responds:

“I have no God but Jesus. I fear not the lions. Do you not see the angels? The chariot is already lowered to bear me away to a world of bliss.” So she is abandoned to the lions.

23. Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. ” This benediction is sweet in grace, and beautiful in brevity. It is a mistake to confine ourselves to the apostolic benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14), which has been used so excessively as to become stale. You will find a benediction at the conclusion of every epistle. God gave them to us for our free and unrestricted appropriation. Therefore, we should use a variety. When you want a short one, this is splendid; when a long one, you will find Thessalonians 5:23,24, or Hebrews 13:20-21, all right. Thus we should avoid monotony.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Philippians 4". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/philippians-4.html.
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