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The Letter to the Philippians: Chapter 2

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Plea for Unity and Humility. 1 *If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, 2 t Rom 15, 5; 1 Cor 1, 10 . complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. 3 u Rom 12, 3.10; Gal 5, 26 . Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, 4 v 1 Cor 10, 24.33; 13, 5 . each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.

5 *Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,

6 w Jn 1, 1–2; 17, 5; Col 2, 9; Heb 1, 3 . *Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with Godsomething to be grasped. 7 x Is 53, 3.11; Jn 1, 14; Rom 8, 3; 2 Cor 8, 9; Gal 4, 4; Heb 2, 14.17 . *Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, 8 y Mt 26, 39; Jn 10, 17; Heb 5, 8; 12, 2 . *he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death,even death on a cross. 9 z Acts 2, 33; Mt 23, 12; Eph 1, 20–21; Heb 1, 3–4 . *Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 a Is 45, 23; Jn 5, 23; Rom 14, 11; Rv 5, 13 . *that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth andunder the earth, 11 b Acts 2, 36; Rom 10, 9; 1 Cor 12, 3 . *and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Obedience and Service in the World. 12 c Ps 2, 11; 1 Cor 2, 3; 2 Cor 7, 15 . *So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. 13 d 1, 6; 1 Cor 12, 6; 15, 10; 2 Cor 3, 5 . For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. 14 e 1 Cor 10, 10; 1 Pt 4, 9 . Do everything without grumbling or questioning, 15 f 1 Thes 3, 13 / Dt 32, 5; Mt 10, 16; Acts 2, 40 / Dn 12, 3; Mt 5, 14.16; Eph 5, 8 . *that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, 16 g 1 Thes 2, 19 / Is 49, 4; 65, 23; Gal 2, 2 . as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 h Rom 15, 16; 2 Tm 4, 6 . *But, even if I am poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you. 18 i 3, 1; 4, 4 . In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.

Timothy and Paul. 19 j Acts 16, 1–3; 17, 14–15; 1 Cor 4, 17; 16, 10 . *I hope, in the Lord Jesus, to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be heartened by hearing news of you. 20For I have no one comparable to him for genuine interest in whatever concerns you. 21 k 1 Cor 13, 5; 2 Tm 4, 10 . For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22But you know his worth, how as a child with a father he served along with me in the cause of the gospel. 23He it is, then, whom I hope to send as soon as I see how things go with me, 24 *but I am confident in the Lord that I myself will also come soon.

Epaphroditus. 25 l 4, 10–11.15–16.18 . *With regard to Epaphroditus, my brother and co‐worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister in my need, I consider it necessary to send him to you. 26For he has been longing for all of you and was distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27He was indeed ill, close to death; but God had mercy on him, not just on him but also on me, so that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow. 28I send him therefore with the greater eagerness, so that, on seeing him, you may rejoice again, and I may have less anxiety. 29 m 1 Cor 16, 18 . Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy and hold such people in esteem, 30because for the sake of the work of Christ he came close to death, risking his life to make up for those services to me that you could not perform.

Notes:

t: Rom 15, 5; 1 Cor 1, 10 .

u: Rom 12, 3.10; Gal 5, 26 .

v: 1 Cor 10, 24.33; 13, 5 .

w: Jn 1, 1–2; 17, 5; Col 2, 9; Heb 1, 3 .

x: Is 53, 3.11; Jn 1, 14; Rom 8, 3; 2 Cor 8, 9; Gal 4, 4; Heb 2, 14.17 .

y: Mt 26, 39; Jn 10, 17; Heb 5, 8; 12, 2 .

z: Acts 2, 33; Mt 23, 12; Eph 1, 20–21; Heb 1, 3–4 .

a: Is 45, 23; Jn 5, 23; Rom 14, 11; Rv 5, 13 .

b: Acts 2, 36; Rom 10, 9; 1 Cor 12, 3 .

c: Ps 2, 11; 1 Cor 2, 3; 2 Cor 7, 15 .

d: 1, 6; 1 Cor 12, 6; 15, 10; 2 Cor 3, 5 .

e: 1 Cor 10, 10; 1 Pt 4, 9 .

f: 1 Thes 3, 13 / Dt 32, 5; Mt 10, 16; Acts 2, 40 / Dn 12, 3; Mt 5, 14.16; Eph 5, 8 .

g: 1 Thes 2, 19 / Is 49, 4; 65, 23; Gal 2, 2 .

h: Rom 15, 16; 2 Tm 4, 6 .

i: 3, 1; 4, 4 .

j: Acts 16, 1–3; 17, 14–15; 1 Cor 4, 17; 16, 10 .

k: 1 Cor 13, 5; 2 Tm 4, 10 .

l: 4, 10–11.15–16.18 .

m: 1 Cor 16, 18 .

Text Commentary view alone

2, 1–11 :

The admonition to likemindedness and unity ( 2–5 ) is based on the believers' threefold experience with Christ, God's love, and the Spirit. The appeal to humility ( 3 ) and to obedience ( 12 ) is rooted in christology, specifically in a statement about Christ Jesus ( 6–11 ) and his humbling of self and obedience to the point of death ( 8 ).

2, 5 :

Have … the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus: or, “that also Christ Jesus had.” While it is often held that Christ here functions as a model for moral imitation, it is not the historical Jesus but the entire Christ event that vv 6–11 depict. Therefore, the appeal is to have in relations among yourselves that same relationship you have in Jesus Christ, i.e., serving one another as you serve Christ ( 4 ).

2, 6–11 :

Perhaps an early Christian hymn quoted here by Paul. The short rhythmic lines fall into two parts, vv 6–8 where the subject of every verb is Christ, and vv 9–11 where the subject is God. The general pattern is thus of Christ's humiliation and then exaltation. More precise analyses propose a division into six three‐line stanzas ( 6; 7abc; 7d–8; 9; 10; 11 ) or into three stanzas ( 6–7ab; 7cd–8; 9–11 ). Phrases such as even death on a cross ( 8c ) are considered by some to be additions (by Paul) to the hymn, as are vv 10c and 11c .

2, 6 :

Either a reference to Christ's preexistence and those aspects of divinity that he was willing to give up in order to serve in human form, or to what the man Jesus refused to grasp at to attain divinity. Many see an allusion to the Genesis story: unlike Adam, Jesus, though … in the form of God (Gn 1, 26–27 ), did not reach out for equality with God, in contrast with the first Adam in Gn 3, 5–6 .

2, 7 :

Taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness: or “… taking the form of a slave. // Coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance.” While it is common to take vv 6 and 7 as dealing with Christ's preexistence and v 8 with his incarnate life, so that lines 7b and c are parallel, it is also possible to interpret so as to exclude any reference to preexistence (see the note on 2, 6 ) and to take vv 6–8 as presenting two parallel stanzas about Jesus' human state ( 6–7b; 7cd–8 ); in the latter alternative, coming in human likeness begins the second stanza and parallels 6a to some extent.

2, 8 :

There may be reflected here language about the servant of the Lord, Is 52, 13–53, 12, especially 53, 12 .

2, 9 :

The name: “Lord” ( 11 ), revealing the true nature of the one who is named.

2, 10–11 :

Every knee should bend … every tongue confess: into this language of Is 45, 23 there has been inserted a reference to the three levels in the universe, according to ancient thought, heaven, earth, under the earth.

2, 11 :

Jesus Christ is Lord: a common early Christian acclamation; cf 1 Cor 12, 3; Rom 10, 9 . But doxology to God the Father is not overlooked here ( 11c ) in the final version of the hymn.

2, 12–18 :

Paul goes on to draw out further ethical implications for daily life ( 14–18 ) from the salvation God works in Christ.

2, 12 :

Fear and trembling: a common Old Testament expression indicating awe and seriousness in the service of God (cf Ex 15, 16; Jdt 2, 28; Ps 2, 11; Is 19, 16 ).

2, 15–16 :

Generation … as you hold on to …: or “… generation. Among them shine like lights in the world because you hold the word of life ….”

2, 17 :

Libation: in ancient religious ritual, the pouring out on the ground of a liquid offering as a sacrifice. Paul means that he may be facing death.

2, 19–3, 1 :

The plans of Paul and his assistants for future travel are regularly a part of a Pauline letter near its conclusion; cf Rom 15, 22–29; 1 Cor 16, 5–12 .

2, 19 :

Timothy: already known to the Philippians (Acts 16, 1–15; cf 1 Cor 4, 17; 16, 10 ).

2, 24 :

I myself will also come soon: cf 1, 19–25 for the significance of this statement.

2, 25 :

Epaphroditus: sent by the Philippians as their messenger (literally, “apostle”) to aid Paul in his imprisonment, he had fallen seriously ill; Paul commends him as he sends him back to Philippi.

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