Philippians Chapter 2:12-30 Sunday School Notes

These are some of my notes for Sunday March 27, 2011 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.

Books referenced for thse notes include:

Peter O’Brien NIGTC:Philippians

Frank Thielman: NIVAC:Philippians

Moises Silva:BECNT:Philippians

J. Harold Greenlee: Exegetical Summary of Philippians, 2nd Edition

NET Bible

New Testament Text and Translation Commentary by Philip Comfort

Who is it the Philippians have obeyed in 2:12? There are many answers: God, Paul, the gospel, or that the Philippians have always been properly obedient. But if asked to be specific, I cop out and say God through the agency of Paul who preaches the gospel, and who as an apostle, has authority to command, even if he usually prefers not to. (1 Cor 4:14-21, Philm 8-9, 2 Thess 3:14) (Thielman, Greenlee)

What does Paul mean “work out your salvation”, when Paul is notorious for saying man cannot do anything to save himself?(Rom 4:5, 11:6; Eph 2:8) Some have suggested “salvation” means something more like “well-being”, and that the subsequent “fear and trembling describe how Christians should respect each other. This falls down on two points:

1. “Salvation” is used by Paul eighteen times, and in fifteen of those it is fairly clear he means final eternal salvation.(1 Cor 5:5; Rom 13:11; 1 Thess 5:9) Thus it is highly likely he means the same here.

2. “Fear and trembling” in Paul seems a phrase to describe the reception of a superior (2 Cor 7:15; Eph 6:5), thus it likely points to God here(Isa 19:15), the correct attitude with which to serve Him.(Thielman, NET, Greenlee, Silva)

While it is still possible to see “work out” as indicating Christians can in some sense save themselves, Paul nixs that idea in verse thirteen, speaking of God being both the source of the desire and effort to work on their salvation. A second meaning behind God’s initiative in salvation is that believers are not working alone.(Thielman)

Phil 2:14
This verses command to avoid complaining and arguing makes one suspect the Philippians were speaking out against either/or God and their fellow Christians. A clue as to the exact meaning likely lies in the Greek for “complaining, grumbling”, gongysmon. In the Greek OT, this word is used frequently of the Israelites grumbling during the desert wanderings (Ex 16:2-9, 17:3; Num 11:1). Thus the actual one being grumbled about is God, and Paul is warning the Philippians not to cause themselves trouble as the Israelites did.(Thielman)

Phil 2:15
There are two textual variants in this verse:

1. Most translations say “that you may be blameless’ here, but NKJV, NIV and TNIV (NIV 2011?) say “that you may become blameless”. “Become” comes from a form of Greek ginomai. And is found in good manuscripts like Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, 1739, and the Majority text. Most versions translate from a text that replaces “become” with a form of Greek eimi “be”, which is supported by P46, Alexandrinus, and others. The manuscript witness is pretty even, so making a decision of which text to choose is not easy.

2. The KJV says “sons of God without rebuke” replacing the Greek amoma “flawless, pure” behind other translations for amometa “blameless”. The manuscripts behind the KJV Greek (Majority) are later than “blameless” (P46, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus). The later scribes likely changed the wording to better match the Greek of Deu 32:5, which Paul alludes to here.(Comfort)

Phil 2:16
This time the variation in translation is not in the Greek, but rather in the definition(s) of the Greek. Epechontes usually translates to “holding out” in the NT, but is commonly used as “holding onto” in non-biblical Greek documents we have. The previous mention of “shining like stars” would seem to indicate a missionary notion here, explaining the frequent translation of “holding out”, but the larger context is about the Philippians remaining true to their Christian calling. Thus “holding onto” see the preferred translation.(Thielman, OBrien)

Paul speaks of his converts being his glory at the Day of the Lord in several places (2 Cor 1:14, 1Thess 2:19) and also mentions his work being useless elsewhere (Gal 2:2, 1 Thess 3:5)(Silva)

Paul uses athletic imagery to describe his apostolic mission in several places (1 Cor 9:24-27, 2 Tim 4:6-8, Gal 2:2). “Toiling in vain” is likely drawn from Isa 49:4, 65:23. (Thielman)

Phil 2:17-18
Paul speaks here of himself as a drink offering (usually poured on a sacrifice among pagan cultures. The Jews poured it around the sacrifice. Usually the liquid used was wine or wine and oil. Paul is not the only sacrifice in view; he is likely thinking of the Philippians obedience and resolution under persecution as sacrifices as well(Num 15:1-10) (Greenlee, Thielman)

Why would Paul rejoice at his death? Because he would then be with Christ, he will have set an example of faithfulness, and his ministry to the Philippians will be a success he can point to in Heaven.(Greenlee, Thielman)

Phil 2:19-30 look very much like a typical Pauline letter ending, discussing his travel plans. Some have in fact concluded Philippians is made up of more than one letter, and this is the first one ending at 2:30. But more likely Timothy and Epaphroditus are further examples Paul wishes to cite, after himself and Jesus being used as examples in the earlier letter.(Thielman)

Phil 2:19
Why was Timothy being sent to the Philippians? Verses 20-23 discuss Timothy’s qualifications, but here the purpose of his trip is stated and implied: mutual encouragement. The Philippians will be cheered by Timothy and his news of Paul, while upon Timothy’s return Paul expects to be encouraged by Timothy’s report about Philippi. (Thielman)

Phil 2:20-24
How is Timothy like-minded with Paul? Here it is said he would care about the Philippians’ own interests, while in v. 21 he says most he might send would not be properly concerned with the interests of Christ (implying Timothy in contrast would). In verse 22 Paul speaks of Timothy’s proven character (impressive enough that Paul speaks of him as a son here and elsewhere [1 Cor 4:17, 1 Tim 1:2,18; 2 Tim 1:2]).

Served with me: Served is from a form of the Greek douleuo, which shared a root with doulos “slave”. Timothy has worked for the gospel hard and without shirking menial duties, like Paul himself. Therefore Paul says Timothy served WITH him and like a son (in ancient times sons learned trades from their fathers, and a spiritual mentor was considered like a father)(Thielman, OBrien)

Phil 2:25
Epaphroditus: his name is derived from Aphrodite, the love goddess, and means “lovely, charming, amiable”. It is a very common name of the time, and indeed there is a different fellow name Epaphras in Colossians and Philemon whose name is a shortened form of Epaphroditus. This fellow is from Philippi, and from Phil 4:18 we know he bore the financial gift to Paul from the church at Philippi.(OBrien)

Brother, co-worker, fellow-soldier: These same terms are used to describe several indivudals in Philemon. They go from the most general to the most specific.

Brother: Greek adelphon, this is more than just a way of describing a fellow Christian. It describes Paul’s genuine fondness for Epaphroditus.(O’Brien)

Co-worker: Greek sunergos, Paul tends to use this term to describe fellow preachers.(O’Brien)

Fellow soldier: Greek sustraiotes, originally a term for people who fight side by side. Paul uses it here and in Philemon to describe someone who has suffered in ministry with him. Paul describes preaching the gospel as warfare on occasion (1 Cor 9:7; 2 Cor 10:3-4)(O’Brien)

Messenger: Greek apostolos. Famously used to describe those comissioned by Christ after the Resurrection, it was also used to describe representatives of individual churches (2 Cor 8:23)(OBrien)

Minister: Greek leitourgos, it’s root means “serve”. In the Greek OT it is used of priests. In the NT it is used of Roman leaders (Rom 8:2), angels (Heb 1:7) and Paul himself (Rom 15:16). Here it means that Epaphroditus served Paul in ways Paul needed help. What was Epaphroditus’ minstry? Bewsides delivering the money from the church, Paul apologetic tone in sending him back to Philippi makes one suspect he was sent to be at Paul’s service, for as long as Paul needed him.(OBrien)

Phil 2:26-28
Why then did Paul send Epaphroditus back?He lists several reasons in the following verses:
1. Epaphroditus missed the Philippians (v.26)

2. Epaphroditus was upset that the Philippians had heard he had been sick and presumably wished to allay their fears about his health (v.26)

3. So that the Philippians might rejoice when they saw how recovered Epaphroditus was from his life-threatening illness.(v.28)

4. So that Paul might be less sad that his receiving Epaphroditus had ended up upsetting the Philippians when they learned Epaphroditus had been ill. (v.28)

Phil 2: 27
Apparently the Philippians did not know the extent of Epaphroditus’ illness, for Paul informs them it was life-threatening, and that it was a merciful act of God that Epaphroditus survived. It was a further mercy of God to Paul himself, for the apostle would have been grieved by Epaphroditus’ death, which would have added one more grief to his list, which included being imprisoned and having adversaries among his fellow Christians. (O’Brien)

Phil 2:29-30
Paul then instructs the Philippians on how to receive Epaphroditus when he returns:
in the Lord with all with joy: as a brother in Christ with undiluted pleasure

Honor such: People who, like Epaphroditus, who risked his very life to illness in order to further the work of Christ, that is, to aid the gospel.

Paul says Epaphroditus worked to make up for the Philippians inability to serve him. What does this mean? Simply that distance made it impossible for the Philippians to do much to help Paul, but to Epaproditus’ credit (and inferentially, theirs in sending him) he traveled the distance and put himself at Paul’s disposal.

Phil 2:30
Another KJV against all the modern versions variation. KJV has “having no regard for his life”, the modern translations “having risked his life”. In Greek the two are like this:

parabouleusamenos: having no regard
paraboleusamenos: having risked

A single letter difference, with sensible meaning either way. “Having risked” however is preferred because it has far better manuscript support and fits Paul’s hyperbole better, for the sense is “he gambled” his life, not simply he willing to sacrifice himself. (Comfort)

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