Composed of one long run-on sentence in the Greek, Ephesians 1.3-14 presents the gospel of grace in which each person of the Godhead plays a vital role: the Father (3-6), Son (7-12), & the Holy Spirit (13-14).
Rich in Blessings (3)
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
Blessed be the God…Lord Jesus Christ: cf. 2 Cor 1.3. The Father, being the 1st person of the Godhead, is God of the man Jesus Christ (see John 20.17, “my God”) and Father of God the Son. As the fountain-head from whom springs forth the grand purposes of redemption and salvation God is worthy of praise (see Psalm 103.1-5, 20-22). In the NT, the word “blessed” is used only of God; He alone is worthy to be blessed. People are blessed when they receive His blessings.
Who has blessed us in Christ: The Blessed One blesses “us.” “Us” are Christians, i.e. those “in Christ” (cf. 1.1). Indeed, only “in Christ” is there any spiritual blessings. This is an aorist participle, which may refer to a particular occasion in the past when those blessings were first received, i.e baptism. When we entered the Family of God by the new birth, the Father lavished rich blessings. No less than 10 times does Paul use the phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” in this opening doxology. As Lenski says, “Christ is the golden string on which all the pearls of this doxology are strung.”
With every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places: the dominate theme of the epistle is introduced right away. Both Paul & his readers, being in Christ, have access to all spiritual blessings. They are “spiritual” as opposed to material. Several blessings will be named by Paul in the following verses: from the Father—election (4), predestination (5), grace (6); from the Son—redemption (7), wisdom (8), knowledge (9), inheritance (11); from the Holy Spirit—seal (13), guarantee (14). “Every blessing” is all that the Father can bestow, all that the Son can provide and all that the Spirit can apply. Thus, the resources of all three of the Godhead conspire to bless the church.
Rich in Love (4-5)
4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
Even as He chose us in Him: very theologically loaded word in the Greek. It simply means, God “selected, chose, picked some out.” Hence, Christians are “the chosen-out ones.” We are chosen out of the world. Paul sheds more light on this in 2 Thess 2.13: we were chosen to be saved “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” This election takes place the same time as the calling, for Paul continues in 2 Thess 2.14: “God called you to this (The selection) through our gospel.” However, in the mind of God, this moment of selection takes place in eternity with God simultaneously in time with us. Since God lives in the present tense, there is no time difference to Him: the moment I chose Him is the same moment He chose me.
Before the foundation of the world: The foundation is the kataboles, the “laying or throwing down,” the beginning. So before God “threw down” the universe, he had chosen us inasmuch as God is outside of time. This selection took place before the foundation of the world (i.e., not after creation or the fall of man). Even before the foundation of the kosmos, mankind presented himself to God as lost; the work of redemption was planned and its details arranged from all eternity.
That we…before Him: This selection does two things for us, one stated positively the other negatively: we are “holified” is the first thing. Literally, we are chosen in Him, that is Christ, that we be holy, set apart. No longer set apart for the works of darkness, we are now set apart for the work of God (Eph 2.10). Further, we are without blemish, or blameless. We are free from faults, just as the sacrificial animals of the OT were free from spot or blemish.
Predestination has more to do with the thing to which we are predestined to than the person(s) being predestined to something. Hence, we are predestined for/to a thing (adoption in v.5 or an inheritance in v.11) once we have been added to the body of Christ. It can also be said that God has predestined all men to be adopted as sons by providing sinful man with the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, predestination to “divine sonship” can be and is rejected by many. Thus, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, they reject God’s purpose for their life (Luke 7.30). In Ephesians, Paul is showing us the “manifold wisdom of God” by demonstrating that God predestined the marvelous “mystery,” that is the salvation of Jew and Gentile into one body .
5he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
In love He predestined us for adoption as sons: In love is to be taken with verse 5, i.e. God’s love for mankind. Out of His infinite love, He predestined us for (or unto) adoption. See “Special Study” for predestination, but see also Acts 4.28; 1 Corinthians 2.7; Romans 2.28. Suffice it to say, in eternity past God “marked out beforehand” His eternal plan to save man. It would be through Jesus Christ (and Him only) that we would be adopted as sons. This is an idea which is found elsewhere in Paul’s writings (cf. Romans 8.15, 23; Galatians 4.5) and denotes relationship and standing, highlighting privileges and responsibilities which accompany a change in household (se 1 Timothy 3.15). God loved us and adopted us as sons. Our obedience is the loving obedience of sons.
There is a weighty discussion to be had about predestination: does God predestine people for a certain destiny or did He predestine a person and a plan? In the movie A Knight’s Tale, Heath Ledger’s character as boy is confronted with a hard decision. He lives with his father, a poor beggar, when one day a knight offers to take young William to be his apprentice. Naturally, little William wants to stay with his dad. His father explains to him, “As long as you stay with me you will always be a poor beggar. Change your stars, William.” By going with the knight, he will change his stars, change his destiny.
We are poor (spiritual) beggars. All have sinned. No good thing lies within me. We all deserve hell because of sin. So with us the knight has come with an offer to change our destinies. Our Father bids us to go with Him and change our stars. He has predestined the man (Jesus Christ) and the plan (redemption) to change our destiny (heaven).
Through Jesus Christ: and only through Him according to the foreordained plan of God.
According to the purpose of His will: “The spring or motive to the selection is solely in God, not in man” (Pulpit Commentary 3). It pleased God to act to save man (hence, “good pleasure,” NKJV, NIV).
Rich in Grace (6-7)
Through the blessing of His glorious grace God has redeemed us by the blood of Jesus.
6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
To the praise of His glorious grace: The ultimate aim of election, predestination, adoption, etc. is the glory of God as revealed in His grace (unmerited favor). As Israel under the Old Covenant was a living, breathing declaration of God’s praise (see Isaiah 43.21; Jeremiah 33.9), so the New Testament Church is a living, breathing manifestation of God’s glory and grace.
With which…in the Beloved: He has blessed is a form of the word from which we get “grace” (Gk echaritosen). Hence, the NIV “freely given.” God has graced us with grace in the Beloved (perf. Participle). This is a phrase which denotes the love the Father has for the Son from eternity. It reaches into the past and extends into today and forever. When God demonstrates His grace to us in Jesus, the beloved Son, He is putting His glory on display in us.
7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
In Him…through His blood: Behind the word redemption is the concept of slavery or bondage. In Christ (“Him”), and only in Christ, do we have (present tense) redemption for only His blood can rescue us by ransom or buy us back from slavery to sin. Christ’s cross takes care of our unpayable debt a frees us from slavery to sin, Satan, and death (cf. Romans 6.17-19). His blood, shed on the cross, purchased His church (Acts 20.28).
The forgiveness of our trespasses: Trespasses are those false steps and failures we make in relation to God’s law. All of these serious offenses are forgiven, that is, removed and taken away (Psalm 103.12). They are sent away, never to return or be remembered.
According to the riches of His grace: How is redemption from and forgiveness of all sin possible? Because God is rich is grace beyond human ability to comprehend! We neither deserved nor earned it, but God sent the Savior and accomplished His marvelous plan to save man and teach us to live by grace (see Titus 2.11-12).
Rich in Wisdom (8-10)
8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
Which He lavished upon us: or “which He made to abound toward us” (NKJV). Lavished denotes “the overflow as of a fountain from a deep and abundant source” (Foulkes 59). Out of the deep spring of God’s heart comes His grace to us.
In all wisdom and insight: There is little distinction between the two words (though some commentators see some distinction). Taken together they communicate not only the genius of God in devising the grand plan to redeem man, but also the execution of the scheme of redemption in history. As one commentator notes, “The height of wisdom is shown in God’s way of making his grace abound toward us” (Pulpit Commentary 4). Even from the darkness which is man’s earliest insights into God he knew that wisdom and understanding belonged to God (Job 12.13). Much more in the sunshine of the New Testament enlightened men know that “in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2.3). It is out of the depths of His wisdom and insight that He dispenses His grace upon His saints.
9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ
Making known…His will: cf. Colossians 1.26. The will of God which was kept secret for ages past has now been fully disclosed, revealed in the coming of Christ and the proclamation of the gospel (see 6.19). This goes hand-in-glove with God’s lavishing us with His grace (v.8). In the Old Testament, a mystery was something which was revealed by God (see Daniel 2.19). Extra-biblical writers believed mysteries prepared in heaven would be made known at the end of time. Perhaps Paul leans upon this rich Semitic history. Probably he has the mystery cults in mind when he snatches this term from them since they were so prevalent in Ephesus.
According to His purpose: or “good pleasure” (NIV). The whole reason for human history and the grand plan to redeem man is summed up here. It pleased God to save man in Christ. He is the driving impetus and force behind all things.
Which He set forth in Christ: set forth is aorist tense (snapshot in the past). When did God formulate His course of action? In eternity “before the foundation of the world.” Then He made it known in history (time). “God’s mystery would be made known on his own terms, as he in Christ had purposed and determined” (Lipscomb 23). Again, the prime mover is God.
10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
As a plan for the fullness of time: plan or “dispensation” (KJV, NKJV) is the word from which we get “economy” (Gk oikonomian). It has overtones of stewardship. So Christ is the steward though whom is working out His plan to save man. Time is plural (so “times”) indicating “a series of epochs” (Robertson). The reason for the seemingly long delay for the revealing of the mystery is that God’s investment in Christ was not mature for withdrawal. It was not the right season so the fruit was not ripe for harvesting.
To unite…on earth: To unite or “the summing up of all things” (NASB) was used in rhetoric at the end of a speech to sum up everything into a single principle. Coupled with plan in the preceeding phrase, another term used in rhetoric to indicate “the disposition of the parts of a speech” (Nichol 259), we might understand history as God speaking at different seasons for various purposes relative to His Christological purposes until the coming of Christ in which He sums up His speech in a single Principle or Person—Jesus Christ (cf. Hebrews 1.1-2). The summation and unification of all things under the headship of Christ is God’s ultimate plan for history (see also 1.22).
Ancient mystery religions had secrets which were exclusive to the initiated and were not to be communicated by cult members to ordinary mortals. In Scripture (especially the NT), the musterion is the eternal counsel of God kept hidden from man for generations until the times had reached their fulfillment. With the establishment of the church came the proclamation of the gospel message to all men worldwide (Matt 28.19; Mark 16.15). Jew and Gentile both gained access to God through the forgiveness of sins in Jesus name and united in one body, the Church. This is the “mystery” which Paul speaks of in Ephesians (see 3.6). It was not known for generations, but is now revealed for all to see and hear. It was God’s purpose from before the foundations of the world, carried along in human history through the seed line and finally made known in and by the first century church.
Rich in Inheritance (11-14)
Those sealed with the Holy Spirit are guaranteed an inheritance in accordance with God’s will.
11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
In Him…an inheritance: “in Him” means “in Christ.” When elected by God, adopted into the Family, forgiven our sins, and redeemed by His blood, we obtained (aorist, passive) an inheritance in Christ. God gives the inheritance to those who are in the Son. Further, we became His inheritance, Like Israel in the Old Testament (cf. Deut 4.20; 32.9). “All that God was to Israel of old he will be to his Church now” (Blaikie 4). Christ is the reason we are the inheritance of God.
There are two (2) popular views among scholars concerning how to understand the “inheritance.”
- We were made partakers of the inheritance.
- We were made an inheritance.
Both fit the context however most scholars lean toward the latter though most translations render the original as the former. Both concepts are Biblical, even in this same chapter (see v.18). The double or mutual inheritance (We inherit God & He inherits us) is found in the Old Testament in the relationship of Israel and YHWH – see Jeremiah 10.16; 51.19
Having been…the purpose of Him: God’s purpose from eternity was that all who would be “in Christ” would become His inheritance and gain an inheritance. This was determined in eternity.
One idea connected with “inheritance” is that of having a portion assigned by lot (casting). In back of the word is it usage of the distribution of the land of Israel by casting of lot (Josh 18.6). So the Christians in view are being described as appointed to their position as if by lot. However, the chance element of casting lots is taken out when we consider Proverbs 16.33 – every decision of the lot is from the Lord. When I think of that, I think of the scene in Star Wars Episode 1, when Qui-Gon Jinn is bargaining for the boy, Anakin Skywalker, from his owner, Watto. To decide if Qui-God will get the boy or his mother, Watto rolls a colored die. Using the Force, Qui-Gon makes sure he gets the boy by causing the die to roll to the appropriate color. So with God, our election to our inheritance is by “the purpose…[and] counsel of His will.”
Who works…the counsel of His will: God “energizes” everything (Gk root energeo) to accomplish His purposes. God planned a work in eternity(v.9) and then worked His plan in time. Everything went according to plan and that plan continues to unfold in history.
Nothing is left to chance as God “energizes” everything to accomplish His will in history. “The God of the chosen is the God of the universe; the purpose which is the ground of our being made God’s heritage is the purpose that embraces the whole plan of the world” (Nichol 264). He was at work in everything, either front and center or behind the scenes, overriding and conspiring to bring about the fulfillment of His grand scheme of redemption.
12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
So that we…to the praise of His glory: most commentators see Paul making a distinction in verse 12-13 between Jews and Gentiles (which he will do in extended form later in the epistle, ch.2). We refers to the Jews (Pual includes himself) and they were the people to whom the gospel was proclaimed first (cf. Romans 1.16). Since the gospel was first proclaimed to them, they would naturally have been the first to hope in Christ by their obedience to the gospel (cf. Acts 26.6-7). They had the promise of Messiah and when Christ appeared and they believed on Him, they became the praise of His glory. This is the purpose of their allotment (v.11), to show forth the nature, character, and glory of God. From Abraham and throughout their history, they declare God’s praise.
13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
In Him you also: Here is the pronoun shift. You are the Gentiles who also had the gospel preached to them and believed after the Jews (see Acts 13.46-48; Romans 1.16).
When you heard…your salvation: cf. Romans 10.14, 17. The word (Gk logos) of truth is the message of God’s ultimate reality in the Son. This is synonymous with the gospel of your salvation, that is the good news of salvation not only for the Jews but for everyone (universal).
And believed in Him: These Gentiles heard the word leading to faith in Christ which manifests in obedience to Him. Faith is always accompanied by action in the Bible (see Hebrews 11). Hearing and believing belong together and lead to the sealing.
Were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit: The coming of the Holy Spirit was promised in prophecy in the Old Testament (Isaiah 32.15; Ezekiel 36.27; et al) and the New Testament (John 7.37-38; 14.16-17).These Christians “heard the Word,” “believed” in Christ, and “were sealed.” This is the normative experience of every Christian. The sealing takes place at baptism (aorist tense). When a person hears and obeys the gospel, God gives him/her some of Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. This shows us He will give us our inheritance (v.14) – what a deal! “[The Holy Spirit] is the guarantee that some day we will enter into the full possession of the bliss and the blessedness of God” (Barclay 101).
In the ancient world, a “seal” was used when mailing things: the owner pressed his signet ring into melted wax to seal letter. The intention was to prevent tampering during transport – if the letter got to its destination with a broken seal, the recipient would know the letter had been tampered with. In NT times, certain religious cults would have their new initiates tattooed with the cult emblem indicating that they were sealed into that cult. Of course, the Jews had circumcision which was a seal of their covenant with God (cf. Romans 4.11).
The Holy Spirit is the Christian’s seal. By the Spirit we are kept “intact” until finally delivered into our heavenly abode. Unlike the mystery cults whose seal was physical, ours is a spiritual seal “in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1.22). Our experience of the Holy Spirit along with the demonstration of His presence in our lives to others verify and prove that we belong to God and He will deliver on His promise to us.
Inward Effects of the Spirit
- Contentment with Christ as Savior
- Drawing out of our hearts love, joy, etc.
- Conforming our will to God’s Will
Outward Effects of the Spirit
- Contrasted change from former life
- Demonstration of fruit of the Spirit
- Active interest in the Lord’s work
14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Who is the guarantee of our inheritance: Notice the switch back to the 1st person plural pronoun indicative that Paul, Jewish Christians, and Gentile Christians are all in view here. All who hear the gospel, put their faith in Christ, and through obedience have God the Holy Spirit living in them have the promise of a home with God. Guarantee was a commercial term used of money which would act as a down payment or “deposit” (NIV). “It always implies an act which engages to something bigger” (TDNT). So the Holy Spirit is for Christians 1) a foretaste of glory divine & 2) the promise of the full future bliss of salvation. God is faithful and will complete the transaction. Our inheritance is typically equated with heaven. So renewal and regeneration of the soul is the beginning of heaven. We have some of it now, but there is a whole lot more to come. The presence of the Holy Spirit is but the firstfruits of what is to come. More is in store for Christians.
In modern Greek, the word arrabon is used for engagement rings. For the Christian, 1) Assurance of future salvation: God is faithful. Look back and look forward. “I am baptized” – Martin Luther. 2) Nothing minor: we tend to think of a down payment as a small thing. But this is very significant – God lives in us! Note the power: 1.19; 3.16
Until we acquire possession of it: Literally “unto the redemption of the possession.” While Christ has redeemed by His blood (1.7). There is a “day of redemption” (4.30) yet future when is realized the full “redemption of the body” and soul (Romans 8.23). Again, God will complete the transaction when He comes in glory. He is the Great Redeemer who will accomplish the redemption of His possession in full someday. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit is our guarantee, our anticipatory sample whetting our appetite for more.
John Gill says the “day of redemption” “will be a redemption of them from the weakness, corruption, and mortality of the body; from their present state of absence and pilgrimage; from the body of sin and death; from all sorrows and afflictions, both inward and outward; from the reproaches and persecutions of men; from a tempting devil, and an unbelieving heart; from all doubts and fears; and from death and the grave.”
To the praise of His glory: One day we will enjoy the riches of our inheritance while the Father enjoys His inheritance in the saints (i.e. His possession). Until that time “we ourselves…groan inwardly” waiting for that day of redemption. Our very existence is to be for God’s glory (cf. John 17.4). When that day comes, “the consummation of redemption will be the highest tribute to God’s glory—his infinite excellence will be wonderfully manifested thereby” (Blaikie 6). “Giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints” (Colossians 1.12).
Ephesians 1:1–2 (ESV)
1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are [in Ephesus,] and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Paul: see Author. Paul is named as the author and so he is.
An apostle…by the will of God: Paul is writing in an official capacity so he uses the official title “apostle.” This epistle, then, carries apostolic weight. He is a representative, an ambassador of Christ, sent as His emissary in harmony with the will of God. This was not something that was conferred onto Paul by any man or which he took for himself; Paul was an apostle according to the desire, intent, and purpose of God.
To the saints…[in Ephesus]: or “to those who are saints and faithful in Christ Jesus.” The Ephesians are both saints and faithful. They have been set apart unto God and put their faith into action. This is true of all Christians—they are saints and they are faithful. For more on “in Ephesus” see Introductory Material.
And are faithful in Christ Jesus: This phrase indicates that Paul intended a larger audience than just those Christians in Ephesus. The phrase “in Christ Jesus” appears 176 times in Paul’s writings, 36 of which are in Ephesians. This is obviously the keystone to Paul’s theology.
2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace to you and peace: This is the Christian rendering of the greeting with which letters in antiquity generally began. It combines the Greek greeting (grace, Gk charis) with the Hebrew greeting (peace, or shalom). Grace is God’s unmerited favor. We don’t earn it or deserve it. Paul invokes God’s grace upon this community (pl. “you”). not merely the absence of war but the subtle understanding that God is in control of everything. Grace brings peace. Taken together they are Paul’s customary form of greeting (see Rom 1.7; 1 Cor 1.3; 2 Cor 1.2).
From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: God the Father & Son are the source of both grace and peace. So Paul equates (but does not conflate) the Father and Christ. The distinction is not one of nature but of relation to the recipients of the grace and peace: God is Father, having made them children by adoption; Christ is Lord as Head of the Church. Grace comes from the God who is rich in grace (cf. 1.7). Peace must come from the “God of peace” (4.9).
The Ephesian World
In the 1st century Ephesus was the capital city of the Roman province of Asia. Known as “the first and greatest metropolis of Asia,” the most celebrated feature of the city was the Temple of Diana, counted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This temple was apparently a rebuild of a previous shrine to an ancient fertility goddess which burned in 356 BC. It was also distinguished for its theater, the largest in the ancient world, capable of seating 20-25,000 spectators. Fights between beasts and men with beasts were staged here.
Ephesus was a port city in Western Asia Minor at the mouth of the Cayster River. Mountains surrounded the town on three sides and the sea was on the west. It was famous for its trade, art, and science. Ephesus enjoyed the height of its prosperity in the first and second centuries a.d. as the fourth largest city in the Empire.
Religion in Ephesus
Religion was of paramount significance to the city of Ephesus. Scholars agree that the primary god of this region was the mother goddess of the Anatolian people who originally peopled this territory. The area was first colonized by Ionian Greeks under the leadership of Androclus of Athens in the tenth century b.c. The Greeks identified the deity with their own Artemis, but the attributes remained those of the ancient fertility goddess. Over time the city became the cult center of the worship of the Ephesian Artemis. Artemis (or Diana, according to her Roman name) was known variously as the moon goddess, the goddess of hunting, and the patroness of young girls. She was the twin sister of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus. When called upon to do so, the city would vigorously defend the goddess against impious detractors [see Acts 19.28].
Artemis was not the only deity in Ephesus. Ephesus’ religious climate was similar to that of many other large cities in the Greek East. There is documentation—including literature, epigraphy, numismatics, sculpture, and architecture—of a plethora of Greco-Roman and, to a lesser extent, Anatolian deities. These include Aphrodite, Apollo, Egyptian gods, gods most high, Hercules, Pluton, & Zeus (among others). They also engaged in hero worship, with a cult devoted to Alexander the Great existing until the 2nd century AD.
Christ’s Church in Ephesus
Into this intensely pagan society the gospel is preached. The history of Christianity in Ephesus began about AD 50, perhaps as the result of Priscilla and Aquila (see Acts 18.18). However, on the day of Pentecost, there were residents from various parts of Asia minor who heard and no doubt were obedient to the gospel (Acts 2.9). Perhaps the earliest roots stretch back to the very beginning of the church. Nevertheless, most scholars point to Paul’s brief stay on his second missionary journey (Acts 18.19-21) as the nexus of the church.
During his third missionary journey Paul reached Ephesus from the “inland country” (Acts 19:1), i.e., from the highland parts of Asia Minor, and stayed there for about three years, Paul’s longest missionary tenure. So successful and abundant were his labors that “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (19:10). Influence from this resident ministry undoubtedly established congregations in the Lychus River Valley at Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossae. Scholars also believe he wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus and perhaps Romans.
Ephesus continued to play an important role in early church history. “The consensus of 2nd century sources is in favor of placing John in Ephesus in latter years.” A long of bishops in the Eastern church lived there. Council of Ephesus in AD 431.
Author, Date, & Recipients
This is undoubted an epistle of Paul and those who would deny Pauline authorship stand on very thin ground. The writer identifies himself as “Paul” (1.1; 3.1) who is both an apostle and prisoner of Christ. Further, the similarities between this epistle and Colossians is striking—75 of 155 verses can be connected (in similar form) to Colossians. By the mid-second century, the epistle is in wide circulation and undisputedly considered of Paul. Early church writers (Clement, Ignatius) quote from this epistle. Early canons (Muratorian, Marcion) include this epistle as being of Paul. Scholars overwhelmingly affirm that this epistle was written by Paul during his Roman imprisonment between AD 62-64.
When it comes to the recipients, the case is not as cut-and-dry. For one, there are no terms of endearment (Beloved, friends, etc.) which is typical for Paul’s epistles to people he has met and known (i.e Philippians 2.12). Also, the language hints that Paul did not personally know (1.15, “I have heard of your faith”) and who do not seem to know Paul (3.2, “assuming you have heard”). This could not be a description of the Ephesian church. Paul had experienced their love while he had lived among them and he had declared to them his ministry from the Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 20.24). The external evidence is mixed with some early church writers (Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian) citing this epistle as “to the Ephesians” while other early church writers (Origen, Jerome, Basil) had copies of this letter without the words “in Ephesus” in them. The majority of manuscripts contain the phrase en Epheso but the earliest (Beatty, Vaticanus, Sinaticus) do not (though Sinaticus has pasi en Epheso in the margin). This has led some scholars to conclude that this epistle is actually a circular letter to the various churches in Asia Minor. While addressed to “the saints who are faithful,” Ephesus would have been the first stop of this “book tour” since it was the port city, the gateway Asia Minor. Over time, this epistle was recognized as primarily belonging to Ephesus.
Paul writes to explain to his brethren that God has equipped Christ’s church with every spiritual blessing to grow.
Paul concludes this letter to his brethren with a final benediction and blessing (Philippians 4.20-23). It is similar to other farewells he gives in other books, but it does have some variations, especially not naming any saints either in the Philippian church or with him in Rome. It should be noted that he has named some among the Philippians earlier in the letter (4.2-4).
God, the Father, gets all the glory.
20To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
To our God and Father: This is doxology. Out of the sure provision of the Father for His children (v.19) flows praise and adoration.
Be [the] glory forever and ever: Lit. into the ages of the ages. Eternal glory which is particular to God and eludes human understanding (cf. Psalm 113.4). Glory typically has to do with the beauty and perfection of God which makes Him worthy of praise.
Amen: So be it. “Sure and unquestionable!” (Muller 153).
Say “Hello” to everyone there; everyone here says “Hello.”
21Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you.
Greet every saint in Christ Jesus: All saints are “in Christ Jesus” and if we are in Christ Jesus we are saints. Gk haion, holy one(s), a Christian set apart from the world unto God for service, worship, etc. The individual and therefore persona nature of this request is seen in the language—”every saint.” As with the rest of the epistle, Paul is careful not to leave any out. Unlike other epistles, Paul does not specifically name any brothers or sisters in his final greetings, perhaps due to the possible factious environment among the Philippians.
The brothers…greet you: Fellow-Christians who are with Paul, no doubt serving him in his captivity. No doubt Timothy is in view here and also “most of the brothers” who have been emboldened by Paul’s example (see 1.14).
22All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.
All the saints greet you: All those holy ones in the church in Rome where Paul is prisoner. None of these are named perhaps because neither the Roman Christians nor the Philippian Christians knew one another (Clarke). No doubt they did care and love one another (cf. Romans 12.10).
Especially those of Caesar’s household: Caesar, at the time of this writing, is Nero, a man described by some as “half beast and half devil.” He was a monster of iniquity, a sensual murderer who had turned the throne into a seat of filth. Yet even here people had heard and obeyed the gospel. No doubt there would have been moral (impure surroundings), spiritual (materialistic atmosphere), and physical (life was cheap in nihilistic culture) danger for them there. But they daily served as shining saints in the darkness (cf. 2.15). Caesar’s household refers not necessarily to the royal family, but the whole imperial establishment: palace officials, secretaries, treasurers, etc. though the family is certainly not excluded. Nevertheless, “Christianity penetrated right into the very centre (sic) of the Roman government…[and] had infiltrated even into the highest positions in the empire” (Barclay 107).
A final expression of the favor of Christ upon their spirits.
23The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
The grace…your spirit: This epistle begins (1.2) and ends with God’s grace. The difference here is it is Christ’s unmerited favor which Paul invokes upon these Christians. The Philippians had sent their gifts to Paul. Paul, in a Roman prison, has only one gift to send them—a blessing of Christ’s grace. This grace reaches into the inner being of the church itself (“your spirit,” sing.). The truth of divine unmerited favor flowing into the body of Christ would serve as a capstone of joy in Christ’s church in Philippi. This is a typical ending for an epistle of Paul (see Gal 6.18; 1 Thess 5.28; 2 Thess 3.18; 2 Tim 4.22 (variant); Philemon 25; see also Eph 6.24; Col 4.18b; 1 Tim 6.21; Titus 3.15).
Here in Philippians 4.10-19, scholars see some nuances here in the text as though Paul is embarrassed by the gift from the Philippians or is at least speaking somewhat reserved as he speaks of finances. There’s an uneasiness as Paul expresses thanks and presents his own contentedness.
Strength from Christ (10-13)
The secret to contentedness regardless of circumstances is realizing Christ’s strength is available to Christians.
10I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.
I rejoiced in the Lord…concern for me: The cause for Paul’s joy was the Philippians’ active interest in him is once more in blossom and the manifestation of this in their monetary gift sent by way of Epaphroditus. As always, the Lord is both Source and Sustainer of joy.
You were…had no opportunity: The Philippians had desired to show their interest in Paul but had not had favorable circumstances to show it. Connected with “revived” (a horticultural term), the season was not right for their concern to blossom, though they always had Paul in mind and wanted to do something for him.
11Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
Not that I am speaking of being in need: As he is writing Paul is not presently lacking in supplies or was suffering want. Paul is “well supplied” (v.18) and…
For I have learned…to be content: When did Paul learn this lesson? Aorist tense seems to indicate a specific point in his past. In fact, some suggest that it was when he became a Christian that Paul learned this. “It broke upon him at his conversion” and his life the outworking of that lesson learned (Morris 178). Robertson suggests that Paul is “looking at his long experience as a unit.” It was “in the school of life” that Paul came to “know” (v.12) contentedness. Either way, Paul learned sufficiency for every situation is possible only in Christ (cf. v.13). He is not self-sufficient but God-sufficient. This is true contentedness.
12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
I know…how to abound: Even as Christ “humbled himself” (2.8) so Paul has shared in humiliation, be it voluntary or forced upon him. Conversely, he has seen an overflow.
In any and every circumstance: Little, much, high, low, and everything in-between…
I have learned the secret: Gk memuemai, (perf. Pass), the root of which we get our English “mystery.” Paul came to eb instructed and is fully instructed (initiated) into the secret of facing life with contentedness, namely, that Christ’s strength is sufficient for every circumstance.
Facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need: cf. 2 Corinthians 6.4-10; 11.21-29
13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me: Lit. I have strength for all things. In every conceivable circumstance (v.12) the Lord empowers “me” by His Spirit in the inner being to be adequate for the situation. Paul’s strength is wholly inadequate; he finds the strength for life and work in Him. Barnes says, “It was not in any native ability which he had; not in any vigor of body or of mind; not in any power which there was in his own resolutions; it was in the strength that he derived from the Redeemer.” See 1 Timothy 1.12
Supply from the Church (14-19)
Fellowship in Christ ensures that all brethren have their needs met by the riches of God’s glory.
14Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.
Yet it was kind of you to share in my trouble: Although in “all things” he is content and capable due to Christ, Paul does not want his brethren thinking their gift was not welcome or wanted. Indeed, they were joint fellowshipping (Gk sugkoinoneo, a compound of sun [with] and koinonia [fellowship]) with Paul in his affliction by means of the gift they sent. This, Paul says, was a good or beautiful thing.
15And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.
And you…beginning of the gospel: cf. 1.5, when the gospel was first preached in Philippi and the church was established these brethren have been willing to help support Paul’s work. Lenski says Paul is remembering back about a decade.
When I left Macedonia: see Acts 17.14, he ends up in Athens (17.16-34).
No church…except you only: Paul’s modus operandi was not to burden churches with monetary support (1 Thessalonians 2.9; 2 Thessalonians 3.7-8). That’s why he worked as a tentmaker (Acts 18.3). He had the right to earn his living by the gospel (1 Corinthians 9.14; 2 Thessalonians 3.9), but did not avail himself of that right. Later the churches in Macedonia (which might include Thessalonica and Berea) sent him support so he could work with the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11.8-9). However, at first it was only the Philippians who opened an account with Paul; other churches came along later.
16Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.
Even in Thessalonica: Paul went there immediately following the establishment of the congregation in Philippi (Acts 17.1ff). No sooner has Paul left the city than the church in Philippi is sending him support for his apostolic work.
You sent me…once and again: Lit. “both once and twice” the Philippians sent Paul what was needed, supplies necessary to maintain his work. They supplied his needs not greeds.
17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.
Not that I seek the gift: Paul does not want to be misunderstood as though he is prodding the Philippians to send him more support. He is not wishing for a monetary or material gift.
But I seek the fruit that increases to your credit: Gk alla (strong contrast). Paul does desire a spiritual increase of fruit in the account of the Philippians. Paul “desired that when they came to appear before God, they might reap the benefit of all the acts of kindness which they had shown him” (Barnes). See Proverbs 11.25
18I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
I have received full payment and more: Or I have more than enough. The generosity of the Philippians had more than met his needs.
I am well supplied: This continues the thought of Paul having all his physical needs met. He has had all his needs met and at the time of his writing his needs are still met (perf. Tense).
Having received…the gifts you sent: Mentioned earlier in the epistle (2.25-30), Epaphroditus once more enters the scene as the gift-bearer. He delivered the Philippians contribution.
A fragrant offering: The phrase “fragrant offering” or “sweet-smelling aroma” (NKJV) occurs often in the Old Testament in connection with sacrifices (e.g. Gen. 8.21; Exo. 29.18, 25, 41; Lev. 1.9, 13, 17; et al). “The true sweetness of [the burnt sacrifices] consisted in the spiritual condition of the persons bringing the sacrifice” (Lenski 896). The Philippians contribution was an act of worship, the scent of which rose to God in heaven and in which he took pleasure.
A sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God: “Given to the servant of God, it is in truth offered to God himself” (Caffin 159). God received the gift through Paul (cf. Matthew 25.40). Through these allusions, Paul is essentially saying that what the Old Testament Jewish sacrifices performed at the temple were, the Philippians (New Testament church) gift is (cf. Hebrews 13.16). When Christ’s church gives to support ministry we engage in sacred sacrifice.
19And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
And my God will…in Christ Jesus: Even as Paul’s needs were met by them and with abundance so the Philippians’ “every need” would be met by God. In Paul’s case, God used the agency of the church to meet Paul’s need. How God would meet the needs of the Philippian Christians is not stated, though it makes no difference; Paul is emphatic that God will do it. Further, all (“every”) need would be met, indicating not only physical but also spiritual needs. And abundantly as well! It will be according to God’s “glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Christ is both head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1.22) as well as the supplier of every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1.3). “In Him there is full provision for all the needs of God’s people” (Muller (152).
As Paul nears the end of this epistle, he has some final exhortations concerning certain members of the Philippian congregation and for the members in general, especially pertaining to joy (4.2-9).
Peace in the Church (2-3)
Paul requests for the church to help two sisters agree in the Lord.
2I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.
I entreat Euodia: a lady who is a member of the Philippian church whose name means “fragrance.” Unfortunately, it seems she is not spreading the fragrance of Christ since she is involved in a divisive dispute with her sister in Christ.
I entreat Syntyche: another female member whose name means “good luck.” Some suggest these ladies may have hosted (rival) house churches—one Jewish, the other Gentile. However, this is mere speculation for precious little is said about who exactly these women were. What we do know is that Paul earnestly pleads with these two women to…
Agree in the Lord: This is something which needs to characterize the entire Body of Christ (1.27; 2.2, 5). Employ the mind and think the same thing. Whatever it is that is causing this friction, bury it. Both are “in the Lord” and the double “entreat” may indicate both are at fault.
3Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Yes, I ask you also, true companion: or Syzygus (ESV footnote). Scholars differ over whether this is a proper name or not. Many ideas exist as to who this person is: Paul’s wife (though this is a masculine noun with masculine adjective), some leader among the Philippians, a husband or brother of the two ladies (Chrysostom), Timothy or Epaphroditus or Lydia (if not a proper name). The Philippians and the person himself knew who Paul meant.
Help these women: “Help” indicates that both the women will do their best to work for peace in addition to what “true companion” will do. Indeed, he merely joins work in progress.
Who have labored…the book of life: These women played a prominent role in the spread of the gospel in Philippi. In the face of opposition, the locked arms with the apostle and his co-workers and advanced the kingdom. Clement, someone known to the Philippians (why name him if they didn’t), could verify this. Indeed, Euodia and Syntyche have their names written in the book of life, “the roll of the citizens of the heavenly kingdom” (Caffin 156; see also, Ex 32.32; Dan 12.1; Rev 3.5; 13.8; 17.8; et al).
Peace from God (4-7)
All anxiety and worry is to be given to God in prayer so that God’s peace can permeate our entire life.
4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Rejoice in the Lord always: cf. 3.1; 1 Thess 5.16. Paul returns to the central theme of this epistle. Only “in the Lord” can people find true joy—Christ in us and we in Him. Since Christians have fellowship with God and God lives among and with us, joy abides with us as we keep these objective truths ever before us. It comes down to what we think (see 4.8).
Again I will say, rejoice: Paul “never wearies of repeating that holy joy is a chief Christian duty” (Caffin 156). “The purest, highest, truest joy is to fill the Christian life like sunshine” (Lenski 874). “I will” is future tense—this will be Paul’s constant theme in life.
5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
Let your reasonableness…to everyone: or “gentleness” (NIV, NKJV). This is a characteristic of Christ (see 2 Cor 10.1). It is an attitude of gracious forbearance which does not insist upon it’s own rights or way. Refusing to retaliate when attacked is allowing the joy of the Lord to shine forth. “Everyone” indicates that more than just church is in view; non-Christians need to experience (root Gk ginosko) the magnanimity of Christians (cf. 2.15).
The Lord is at hand: Psa 119.151. Cf. 1 Cor 16.22 (“Maranatha”); James 5.8. Proximity or parousia? Either. God is present with His people, ever mindful of them as they live with gentleness toward all. Also, He is coming back one day and this should be a motive of our magnanimity. Further, His nearness promotes within the Christian the incentive to pray (v.6).
6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Do not be anxious about anything: present imperative (command), “stop being anxious.” Worry “betrays a lack of trust in God’s care” (Martin 171). Lit. the word means to have a divided mind, pulled in different directions. “Anything” (lit. nothing) means any man, any woman, anything (ex. Spouse, kids, job, health, bills, economy, etc.).
But in everything…known to God: “But” (Gk. Alla) is a sharp contrast. Not worry BUT prayer. “Prayer is the cure for care” (Spurgeon). “Everything” menas…everything. Develop the habit of referring all things, both great and small, to God in prayer. Four (4) prayer words: 1) prayer (Gk proseuche) is general invocation of God; 2) supplication (Gk deesei) is a request as a result of need; 3) thanksgiving (Gk eucharistias) springs from the remembrance of God’s goodness and mercy; 4) requests (Gk aitemata) are specific things asked for. We can talk to the cosmic sovereign Ruler of everything about everything.
7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
And the peace of God…understanding: Here is the result attached of taking all things to God in prayer: He gives us His peace. The God of peace (v.9) gives peace; the Son left His peace (Jn 14.27); the Holy Spirit produces peace (Gal 5.22). The entire Godhead is at work to bring us peace which eludes the minds of natural men, but floods the mind of the spiritual.
Will guard…in Christ Jesus: “guard” is a military term which would conjure an idea familiar to the Philippians who lived in a garrisoned city. They were used to seeing Roman soldiers on guard. That is what the peace of God does to the hearts and minds of Christians (“in Christ”).
Peace of Mind (8-9)
Pondering and practicing things which bear the eight (8) characteristics listed will bring peace of mind to the Christian and invoke the presence of God.
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Finally, brothers: Paul seeks to conclude his letter to these Christians in Philippi. Some see a continuation of thought—if peace would abide then certain steps must be taken.
Whatever is true: as opposed to false. Things honest and in keeping with historical fact.
Whatever is honorable: or noble. Things of dignity, respect, and reverence.
Whatever is just: or right. Things that duty demands. Same word for righteous.
Whatever is pure: clean things, thoughts, words, deeds. Free from moral defect. Unmixed.
Whatever is lovely: used only here in the NT. Things pleasing, beautiful, or winsome.
Whatever is commendable: Things well spoken of and praiseworthy.
If there is any excellence: A word used by Peter (1 Pt 2.9; 2 Pt 1.3, 5) which seems to denote anything which the Philippians would find best and good morally.
If there is anything worthy of praise: anything generally or universally deserving praise. Anything which Paul might have missed but are morally excellent and praiseworthy…
Think about these things: NKJV “meditate on these things.” Present imperative. Reflect upon these virtues and allow them to shape your conduct. Keep on thinking about these things with logic and in detail. Give careful attention and study to them. “Let these be the considerations which guide your thoughts and direct your motives” (Caffin 157-158).
9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
What you have…in me: Cf. 1 Cor 11.1. Paul had lived among these brethren for a short time but his example lingered in their minds. They had been taught both formally and informally; the traditions had been passed on; they had heard his preaching; they had witnessed his life.
Practice these things: present imperative. From contemplation to transformation. Reflection should produce a response. The Philippians were to put into action the pattern Paul had given in his words and deeds. These things should comprise their habitual practice (career).
And the God of peace will be with you: God lives among people who are holy in thought and holy in lifestyle. Herein lies the incentive to ponder and practice holiness. Not just His peace, but God Himself “will be with you.”
There apparently were some (“the enemies”) who might have charged that the standard of conduct was not clear. So Paul responds to these with a living pattern of behavior by which their lives could be formed and fashioned. Imitation of this apostolic example assures Christians of their citizenship in heaven and the coming resurrection. This is Paul’s main point in 3.17-4.1 of Philippians.
17Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
Brothers: fellow Christians in Philippi who are citizens of the heavenly kingdom (v.20).
Join in imitating me: as Paul imitates Christ (1 Cor 11.1). Or this imperative is a call for the Philippians to be fellow imitators of Christ or God (cf. Eph 5.1).
And keep your eyes…in us: “keep your eyes on” (Gk skopeite) is to scope them out. Fix your eyes on them and pay attention; observe, contemplate. There is a metaphor change from the Christian life being compared to a race to now a walk. Watch those who daily tread the Christian path of life. The “example” (Gk tupon), either imprint or image, is the Philippians (“have,” present tense) in “us.” Who? Certainly Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus contextually speaking. In a more general sense, the apostolic college at large.
18For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
For many…walk as [the] enemies of the cross of Christ: No definite number is given and very little is said about their manner of life. But that they tread an unchristian path of life is evident by their conduct. These enemies have given themselves over to their evil passions, evading the obligations Christ’s death lays upon them concerning holiness. They are therefore hostile to the cause of Christ though they move around in Christian circles.
Of whom…with tears: “I have often told you” is past tense. This is not news to the church in Philippi. Paul had constantly warned them of the erroneous enemies among or around them. Through tear laden eyes Paul acknowledges that even as he writes they are still enemies. “So true is his sympathy, so deep his care for all men.” – Chrysostom
19Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
Their end [is] destruction: The destiny of these “many” enemies is destruction for they have cut themselves from salvation in Christ. “They have no prospect except the doom which awaits unsaved humanity” (Martin 161). “Destruction” is the same word found in 1.28. Lenski says, “The word never means annihilation as has, in view of the translation ‘destruction,’ been claimed by those who attempt to abolish hell.” It does mean the loss of eternal life unto eternal misery and death. It is the kind of ruination that would happen to a sunk ship.
Their god [is] their belly: Elsewhere Paul speaks of those who “serve…their own belly” to describe divisive brethren who must be avoided (Rom 16.18). Perhaps here the Judaizers are in mind who by their regulations regarding clean/unclean food and “Taste not—touch not” doctrines (cf. Col 2.21) were literally serving their belly while causing dissension in the church
They glory in their shame: Glory, in the Bible is often used of God and in this case answers to “god” in the previous phrase. “Their shame” are their evil practices. This seem to be an allusion to Hosea 4.7 where shame is a “devastating caricature of false gods” (Martin 161). So their sensuality, carnality, all-around earthly-mindedness is condemned.
With minds set on earthly things: All of the preceding is merely indicative that the enemies of the cross of Christ are living their life without a thought of eternity. Their attentions and affections are given over to on a continual basis (present tense) to earthly things. Further, their conduct carries out what they have their minds set on. “It is not so much those who deny the doctrines of the cross, as it is those who oppose its influence on their hearts” (Barnes).
20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
But our citizenship is in heaven: present tense. It exists there now, therefore, we are even now enjoying the benefits of being kingdom citizens. Though Paul was a Roman citizen and leveraged that privilege to his advantage (Acts 16.38; 22.25-29); though the Philippians, by virtue of the fact that they lived in a Roman colony, enjoyed the rights and privileges of citizenship—Christians are citizens of a kingdom not of this world (John 18.36). “Our” citizenship is above which requires certain behavior (cf. 1.27) stands in contrast to those who have their “minds set on earthly things” (v.19). Christians are looking toward the imperial city of Christ. All we have is in the heavens: our Savior, our city, whatever a man can name (Chrysostom).
And from it…Lord Jesus Christ: this waiting is appropriate behavior of the kingdom citizen. Eager expectation of the imminent return of Christ is the normal attitude of the Christian. Even as right now our citizenship is in heaven, we are also presently waiting for Him who will deliver us from this world to our home. While Christians are saved in the present there is yet a future full and final realization of salvation to come.
21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Who will transform: the root for “transform” is the word we get our English words “scheme” and “schematic” (Gk metaschematisei). A scheme is a plan or design. In this case, coupled with the prefix, the original design is changed .
Our lowly body…glorious body: lit. our body of humiliation, which refers to our present mortal, carnal, broken by sin, subject to pain, destruction, and death body. This body will be changed to be like (lit.) the body of His glory. This refers to an immortal, spiritual, heavenly, indestructible, undying body. Whether dead or alive at the time of Christ’s return, “we shall all be changed” (1 Cor 15.51). This new body will be suitable for life in the afterlife and to associate with Christ in His glory.
By the power…to himself: How much power does Christ have? Plenty, and then some. His power enables Him to bring under firm control everything—the cosmos, angels, demons, Satan, death, hell. The whole universe and beyond. “Nothing is to hard for you” (Jer 32.17). “If anyone doubts the power of Christ to do this transformation, Paul replies the he has power ‘even to subject all things unto himself’” (Robertson).
1Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
Therefore: This is the conclusion of the third chapter (cf. 2.12). In light of the foregoing…
My brothers: fellow citizens of the kingdom of Christ, born again into that kingdom (Jn 3.3,5)
Whom I love and long for: a few words later they are also “my beloved.” No other congregation associated with Paul is referred to in this manner. “Paul lets all his love, all his joy in the Philippians, all his pride in them, speak at once” (Lenski). It his love and affection for these brethren which should act as motivation to carry out what he commands.
My joy and crown: As noted, joy runs throughout this epistle. These brethren had been nothing but a joy to Paul. Further, their steadfastness would indicate he had not “run in vain” but had run and won the victors crown (Gk stephanos).
Stand firm thus in the Lord: This is an admonition oft repeated by Paul (1 Cor 16.13; Gal 5.1; 2 Thess 2.15). Earlier in the epistle, Paul said of his brethren that they are “standing firm in one spirit” (1.27). This is further behavior becoming citizens of the kingdom of Christ. Here, the call is to stand “in the Lord” as opposed to outside of the Lord like the enemies of the cross would. Since our citizenship is “in [the] heavens” Christians must keep standing (present imperative), unmoved by the errors and attacks of enemies and the defection of the panicked.
Special Study – Savior
The word “Savior” appears 24 times in the New Testament. Interestingly, Paul only refers to Jesus as “Savior” about nine (9) times in all his epistles (Eph 5.23; Phil 3.20; 1 Tim 1.1; 2.3; 4.10; 2 Tim 1.10; Titus 1.3, 4; 2.10, 13; 3.4, 6). Some argue he uses the term infrequently because gods and even the emperor were referred to as “saviors.” By comparison, John refers to Jesus as Savior only twice (Jn 4.42; 1 Jn 4.14) and Luke only 4 times (Luke 1.47; 2.11; Acts 5.31; 13.23). Arguably, Paul uses it more than all other New Testament writers.