Philippians Chapter 1

Philippians 1:1-30

1:1-2    Nouns in the nominative case in v.1 identify those writing the letter. These nouns are further defined by the appositional phrase δοῦλοι Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ. What is the nature of the genitive noun in that phrase – possession (one owned by Messiah Jesus), source (one sent from/under the authority of Messiah Jesus), objective (one who serves Messiah Jesus), or something else? Does the word order Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ signify anything? Note the following prepositional phrase ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοὺ which has the same word order. The recipients of the letter are marked by the dative case, which in this verse is in the plural. Paul often defines believers by the substantive adjective ὁι ἅγιοι. What do you think this phrase meant for Paul when applied to followers of the Messiah? Note that Paul defines both himself and his audience by the phrase Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦ, placing himself on equal footing with them. The adjectival participle (τοὶς οὖσιν) with the adverbial ἐν Φιλίπποις prepositional phrase marks the location of Paul’s audience. The preposition σύν plus dative usually signifies accompaniment or association. Here Paul particularly notes σὺν ἐπισκόποις καὶ διακόνοις as recipients of this letter. So some of the contents would be written with such people in mind. Presumably these terms define those who cared for these “holy ones in Philippi.” Whether we should regard the use of these terms as references to specific “offices” in the house church at Philippi continues to be debated. Note the lack of articles in this verse and the following one. This is characteristic of salutations.

The second sentence in v.2 presents a prayer for the continued spiritual health of these believers. It uses standard formulas that appear throughout NT letters. As in v.1 there is no explicit verb. The compound subject χάρις καὶ εἰρήνη is connected with the personal pronoun ὑμῖν, a dative of possession. Usually these prayers are expressed as wishes, i.e. “may grace and peace be yours….” The source is defined in the final ἀπό prepositional phrase. Note how God and Jesus Christ are identified together as the source. Paul uses the full title of Jesus here — κυρίου Ἱησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Why do you think Paul used this full expression here? Perhaps he intends some contrast and connection between δοῦλοι…κυρίου? Which of these three terms is the primary term? Should we regard Ἱησοῦ Χριστοῦ as appositional (i.e., “the Lord, Jesus Messiah”). You will note I translate Χριστός as “Messiah” in order to portray the Jewish context of this term.

4:3-7    Paul offers a prayer of thanksgiving to God, introduced by the verb εὐχαριστῶ (present indicative active). The one to whom his prayer is directed is marked by the dative complement τῷ θεῷ μου. He modifies the verb by three adverbial prepositional phrases (ἐπί (circumstance), ἐν (means), ὑπέρ (benefit)), an adverb (πάντοτε), and by the adverbial participle ποιούμενος, which is also modified by its own adverbial phrase (μετὰ χαρᾶς). As well note the repeated use of πᾶς. The article used in the phrase τὴν δέησιν is probably anaphoric, referring back the previous ἐν πάσῃ δεήσει μου. This word for prayer has the sense of “entreaty.”

As v.5 begins Paul gives a more specific reason for his thanksgiving in the ἐπί phrase. Again we have a series of prepositional phrases. The first clause (ἐπὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ ὑμῶν) defines the Philippian Christians’ “participation” (probably with the sense “with reference to”) with Paul εἰς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον (“for the purpose of the gospel mission”), i.e., to advance the gospel (mission). He then adds two temporal phrases to define the time during which they have assisted him in this way, reminding them in this subtle way that he was the one who brought the good news to them in the first place.

V.6 constitutes a second adverbial participle, presumably defining the initial verb εὐχαριστῶ in v.3. The participle is a perfect active participle (πεποιθώς), expressing Paul’s confidence in something specific (αὐτὸ τοῦτο), which is then further defined in the following ὅτι clause. This rhetorical device gives prominence to this idea. The object of his confidence is explained in the indirect discourse clause introduced by ὅτι. The subject of this dependent clause is an aorist middle participle (ὁ ἐναρξάμενος), functioning substantivally, probably referring to God or to the Lord Jesus and completed by an object (ἔργον ἀγαθὸν) and an adverbial locative phrase (ἐν ὑμῖν), indicating the location of this “good work.” Note the plural pronoun “in/among you (pl).” The main verb of the ὅτι clause is the future indicative active form ἐπιτελέσει, with ἔργον ἀγαθόν doing double duty as the object of this verb also (note its position between the two verb forms). The verb is modified by an adverbial phrase of time (ἄχρι ἡμέρας Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ), referring presumably to the second coming of the “Messiah Jesus” (note the order follows that used in v.1). I would suggest that in this ὅτι we discover the primary theme that Paul will expound in this letter and why he has confidence in God’s ability to accomplish this. The verbs ἐνάρχεσθαι and ἐπιτελεῖν are found in documents and inscriptions that refer the initiation of people into the Greek mystery religions. Whether Paul deliberately is echoing this prior religious usage is unclear.

This long sentence finally is completed by an extended, adverbial clause of comparison, introduced by καθώς, which may modify the participle πεποιθώς (explaining why this confidence is fitting) or εὐχαριστῶ and its attendant explanatory clauses and phrases. The subject of ἐστιν is either this confidence or thanksgiving, which is declared to be δίκαιον ἐμοί – right for me, followed by a complementary (present active) infinitive defining what is right for Paul, in this case τοῦτο φρονεῖν ὑπὲρ πάντων ὑμῶν (“to think this concerning all of you”). This is the first usage of φρονεῖν in Philippians, but it will appear many times. It is worth considering why Paul used this verb so frequently in this particular letter. He adds further explanation through the causal clause created by διὰ τὸ ἔχειν με (causal sense), which contains an articulated present active infinitive (ἔχειν) with its subject marked by the accusative case (με). The infinitive is also modified by the adverbial phrase ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ) and the object ὑμᾶς. The article with καρδίᾳ probably functions with a pronominal sense, i.e. my heart. Psychologically what did the καρδία refer to in Greek culture? Does this refer to cognition, will, or emotion or some combination of these, i.e., the central, internal, decision-making entity that constitutes a person? Paul then defines further ὑμᾶς by the following συγκοινωνούς μου…πάντας ὑμᾶς ὄντας (“you all being…my fellow participants”), a circumstantial participial construction. The preceding compound ἐν phrases describe the things in which they have shared with Paul – his chains (δεσμοῖς) and his defense (ἀπολογίᾳ) and confirmation (βεβαιώσει) of the gospel. Note that in the second prepositional phrase the two nouns are linked with a single article. However, Paul also affirms that they share together God’s χάριτος (gracious favour), even if it means imprisonment and the challenges involved in speaking in defense of the gospel. With these terms συγκοινωνός and βεβαιώσις Paul may be using terminology general associated with a business venture, which required guarantees and partners.

1:8       This is a separate explanatory (initial γάρ) sentence in which Paul calls God as a witness to the sincerity and strength of his desire for these believers. This is a nominal clause (verb εἶναι is implied) with ὁ θεὸς subject and μάρτυς μου as the complement. The dependent ὡς clause defines the matter for which Paul calls God as witness. ἐπιποθῶ is present indicative active, expressing Paul’s “longing” for them (cf. Philippians 2:26; Romans 1:11), with the object identified as πάντας ὑμᾶς. It is Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ who enables him to express such sincere compassion/feelings (ἐν σπλάγχνους) towards them. This genitive may be objective, i.e., compassion generated by the action of Messiah Jesus in Paul’s life.

1:9-11  Paul creates another complex sentence as he further defines the substance of his prayer for them. The verb προσεύχομαι is followed by an indirect imperative introduced by ἵνα defining the substance of this prayer. The language of prayer is often expressed in imperative forms (see Matthew 6:9-13). The subject-verb structure in this clause is ἡ ἀγάπη ὑμῶν…περισσεύῃ. The verb is modified by the compound adverbs ἔτι μᾶλλον καὶ μᾶλλον, indicating the degree to which this love should abound. The compound prepositional phrase ἐν ἐπιγνώσει καὶ πάσῃ αἰσθήσει (note the absence of the article) defines the means by which this love will abound, i.e. increased discernment and insight into God’s purposes for them and for Paul. This increased discernment will result in their ability to test (δοκιμάζειν) “the things that make a difference or really matter” (τὰ διαφέροντα). In v. 10 Paul used an articulated infinitive with the preposition εἰς to express this result, with ὑμᾱς functioning as subject of the infinitive.

The second ἵνα clause expresses either purpose or result. The verb is the subjunctive ἦτε. Two predicate adjectives define the subject (“pure and blameless”). Paul locates this result ἐις ἡμέραν Χριστοῦ eschatologically (cf. v.6). The perfect passive participle πεπληρωμένοι in some sense adds further definition about the subject of ἦτε, i.e., the Philippian Christians. The perfect tense form might indicate state or condition. The accusative phrase καρπὸν δικαιοσύνης is not the object of the passive participle, but rather an adverbial accusative or an accusative reference, defining how or in what way the person is being filled. What is the nature of the genitive  noun δικαιοσύνης – source (fruit out of righteousness), subjective genitive (fruit which righteousness produces), epexegetical (fruit = righteousness)? I would suggest that δικαιοσύνη here means “righteous status” which produces some change in the person’s life. The “fruit” in turn arises διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, defining the means. Note that the preceding article (τόν) indicates that Paul links this phrase with the noun κάρπον. Finally, Paul indicates that all of this results in εἰς δόξαν καὶ ἔπαινον θεοῦ, an adverbial phrase modifying the participle.

1:12-14             Paul begins this next sentence by stating what he wants them to know as his άδελφοί. The initial δέ signals a new topic in the discourse. This statement marks a shift from the opening thanksgiving to the actual message he is communicating in this latter and is the first use of this kinship language. He fronts the complementary infinitive with its accusative subject (γινώσκειν…ὑμᾶς) presumably to give it emphasis.

His primary message is given in the following indirect discourse clause introduced by ὅτι. The subject of the ὅτι (that) clause is the articulated prepositional phrase τὰ κατ’ ἐμὲ by which Paul describes his current situation and recent experiences. These would include, presumably, his arrest and trial in Judea, his amazing sea voyage to Rome and his current house arrest in Rome as he awaits trial before the emperor. As we learn from various statements of Paul in Acts he believes that these events are being arranged by God (Acts 27:21-26). The main verb in this clause is the perfect active ἐλήλυθεν (have come) and it is modified by the adverbial phrase εἰς προκοπὴν τοὺ εὐαγγελίου (for the progress of the gospel). The word προκοπή has the sense of growth, progress or advancement and is applied to time, military campaigns, moral improvement or political success. Despite all appearances Paul asserts that the gospel is experiencing success, especially in and through his own suffering. Chains, arm guards and expectation of imminent execution do not alter this divine reality. Paul will use this same term in v. 25 to encourage the Philippians’ “advancement and joy in the faith.” Paul’s confidence in this resides in the fact that God is at work in him and them (1:6; 2:13). His work as apostle and their perseverance as believers in Philippi are all evidence of this missional progress. The adverb μᾶλλον may serve to emphasize the following adverbial phrase, perhaps with the sense “certainly/doubtless for the advancement of the Gospel.”

Within the indirect discourse clause Paul places a compound result clause introduced by ὥστε. The main verbs in the two result clauses are expressed in the infinitive formation (γενέσθαι,  τολμᾶν). One result that demonstrates the “progress of the gospel” is that Paul’s τοὺς δεσμούς (bonds, chains, restrains) have happened φανεροὺς ἐν Χριστῷ (“plainly because of his relationship with the Messiah”), and not because of any criminal or treasonous activity. The Praetorian Guard and τοῖς λοποῖς πᾶσιν “all the rest” (whoever this might include, but presumably others in the Roman administration) are among those who know this fact. The second result is that “many of the brothers in the Lord” have surpassing boldness (περισσοτέρως τολμᾶν) “ἀφόβως τὸν λόγον[1] λαλεῖν” (“fearlessly to speak the message”). Normal Pauline word order usage would indicate that ἐν κυρίῳ modifies τοὺς πλείονας τῶν ἀδελφῶν, rather than the participle which follows. This may seem redundant because “brothers” by definition would seem to be “Christians,” but Paul may be wanting to emphasize this very reality.  λαλεῖν is the complementary infinitive of τολμᾶν. Paul also inserts the perfect active participle πεποιθότας τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου “made confident by my chains.” This participle is adverbial and identifies the cause of the boldness. It is accusative plural because it is related to τοὺς πλείονας. The perfect tense form again may indicate a current state or condition, i.e., “being made confident.”

1:15-17             These verse follow directly and define more clearly the action of the second group, the “brothers” mentioned in v.14. Note how Paul varies the descriptions used to define the proclamation of the gospel:  τὸν λόγον λαλεῖν (v.14); τὸν Χριστὸν κηρύσσουσιν (v. 15); τὸν Χριστὸν καταγγέλλουσιν (v.17).  τινὲς μὲν…τινὲς δὲ (“some on the one hand…some on the other hand…”) expresses contrast ( marked by μέν…δέ) between two groups, using the indefinite pronoun. They serve as the subjects of κηρύσσουσιν. In vv. 16-17 Paul uses οἱ μὲν ἐξ ἀγάπης…οἱ δὲ ἐξ ἐριθείας… as a second set of contrasts, virtually repeating the first, but in reverse order. So we have the following contrasts:

διὰ φθόνον καὶ ἔριν  /  ἐξ ἐριθείας   /  προφάσει (v.18)

δι’ εὐδοκίαν  /  ἐξ ἀγάπης  /  ἀληθείᾳ  (v.18)

The fact that Paul repeats these contrasts several times suggests it is an important part of his message. Whether this resentful envy, partisan spirit and pretext is directed towards Paul, towards Jewish antagonists or the Roman regime is difficult to discern. The language of vv.16 and 17, given the personal reference to Paul’s situation, suggests that Paul is referring to those who are envious of his apostolic role. The use of διά + accusative case indicates cause or grounds for some action.

“Proclaim the Messiah” defines one of the key responsibilities of church leaders and other Christians, but it is life-threatening business, as Paul himself experiences.  Paul’s use of the title ὁ Χριστός to define the substance of the gospel raises some interesting questions. Paul says that they are “announcing the Messiah” and that this is the substance of the “good news.”  I am not sure our perception of evangelism in North America carries this emphasis. Such a declaration would immediately arouse sharp response depending upon the religious-political persuasion of the audience.[2]

Paul says that those who “proclaim the Messiah ἐξ ἀγαπῆς” recognize that he is set “for the defense of the gospel,” which is his work as apostle. Is ἀγαπή as used here love for God or love for Paul – or something else? Εἰς  ἀπολογίαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου κεῖμαι defines their understanding of Paul’s mission – appointed for the defense of the gospel (cf. 1 Thess. 3:3). ἀπολογία here may have reference to the legal requirement to defend himself against false accusations related to the gospel (Phil. 1:7; Acts 22:1; 25:16; 2 Tim. 4:16; cf. use of cognate verb in Acts 25:8; 26:1)

            In v. 17 Paul claims that his opponents declare the Messiah ἐξ ἐριθείας, but οὐχ ἁγνῶς.The adverb is cognate with ἅγνος which describes someone who is pure, chaste, holy. So the action of some evangelists is not pure, i.e., sincere. Paul then defines their motive in the adverbial participle οἰόμενοι, thinking or intending. The force of this participle may be causal, i.e., “because they intend to….” For some reason they are motivated θλῖψιν ἐγείρειν τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου. Perhaps in their aggressive proclamation they thought to “raise ‘pressure’ or ‘affliction’ with respect to [Paul’s] chains.” The dative may be dative of respect. The irony in Paul’s statement should not be overlooked.

1:18a   The initial exclamatory interrogative τί γάρ; takes us back as the γάρ gives reflection on what Paul has said. There is also emotion in this short expostulation, almost “so what!” It is answered by the πλὴν ὅτι which is adversative and used with the sense “except that….” Some verb needs to be supplied with πλήν. Paul fronts the dative phrase παντὶ τρόπῳ giving it emphasis as it defines the manner in which the Messiah is being declared. The alternative εἴτε προφάσει εἴτε ἀληθείᾳ continues the dative of manner, defining τρόπῳ and contrasting pretense with reality. The verb καταγγέλλεται is present passive in form indicating an incomplete action. In context the action might be durative, i.e., “is being declared/proclaimed.” Regardless of motive, Paul finds joy in the fact that the Messiah is being proclaimed, even though it might be costly to him personally. ἐν τουτῷ is an adverbial phrase defining the circumstance, i.e., the fact that the Messiah is being proclaimed, in which Paul experiences joy.

1:18b-20        Two related sentences follow as Paul shares his evaluation of why these things are happening to him at this time. He affirms that χαρήσομαι (“I will rejoice”) as his continuing frame of reference and state of mind because of his confidence in God’s active presence in his life. The second sentence (19-20) explains why he will remain filled with joy. The initial verb οἶδα expresses Paul’s knowledge of certain facts and the ὅτι fills in what those facts are. γάρ links this statement with the preceding in an explanatory relationship.

Within the ὅτι clause τοῦτό is the subject, μοι is dative of reference or advantage, and ἀποβήσεται (future tense) is the main verb (shall turn out). εἰς σωτηρίαν defines the goal or the result.[3] While this noun can have eschatological application, i.e., eternal vindication, in the context of Philippians probably Paul refers to his assurance that he will be released after his trial (note his expressions in 1:25, 26; 2:24). How Paul knew this is not expressed directly. The compound διά (with genitive) phrases affirm two means by which this deliverance will occur. One is the petitions offered by the Philippian believers on his behalf; the other is the resources supplied by the Spirit of Jesus Messiah. I suspect the genitive τοῦ πνεύματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ is subjective here, i.e., the Spirit is one who supplies the resources Paul requires to achieve release, and not objective (the Spirit is what is supplied). The second genitive links the Spirit with Jesus (cf. Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6). ἐπιχορηγία (cf. Eph. 4:16) often occurs in marriage contracts to describe the promise to provide for the spouse. This vindication is κατὰ τὴν ἀποκαραδοκίαν καὶ ἐλπίδα μου. Only one article occurs and so these two nouns are bound tightly together. The first noun is rare and seems to have the sense of a very focused expectation (cf. Rom. 8:19). This might be a case of hendiadys where one concept is expressed through two different but connected nouns.

The substance of his hope-filled expectation is expressed in a second ὅτι clause, incorporating two future passive verb forms. The first verb affirms that he has no anxiety that Jesus will let him down and cause him to be ashamed, disgraced or disappointed. ἐν οὐδενὶ (perhaps dative of respect or reference) is a very strong negative assertion in its comprehensiveness. The verb αἰσχυνθήσομαι[4] is used infrequently in Paul’s letters (2 Cor. 10:8; cf. Rom. 1:16) and the passive may imply that God is the agent. The second part of this clause is introduced by the contrastive conjunction ἀλλ’ (“but”). Χριστὸς μεγαλυνθήσεται is the alternative that Paul expects as he perseveres (which is the same outcome God designs for his Messiah in Phil. 2:9-10). He places the Messiah as the subject who accrues praise ἐν τῷ σώματί μου, i.e., the physical reality of my life (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; Luke 1:46). Who is the agent implied in this verb? Is it God again? This remains his constant desire (ὡς πάντοτε καὶ νῦν) and will be pursued ἐν πάσῃ παρρησίᾳ, “with complete boldness” (cf. 2 Cor. 3:12). Paul believes that the Messiah will gain praise εἴτε διὰ ζωῆς εἴτε διὰ θανάτου. In his total person Paul desires the Messiah to receive glory. Διά + genitive describes means, i.e., through, by. Perhaps there is an intended contrast with the use of διά  + the accusative in v.15. Paul used σῶμα here but will use σάρξ in v.22. Is there a meaningful difference? Perhaps σάρξ has the sense of the human realm of existence.

1.21     Paul provides a second explanatory clause, defining why he desires the Messiah to accrue praise through his life. The emphatic position of the initial dative pronoun ἐμοί highlights that this is Paul’s motivation (dative of reference). The compounded, articulated infinitives function as subjects (verbal nouns; cf. v. 29) of the two sentences, with a form of the verb εἰμι probably implied. Χριστός…κέρδος function as complements, defining what life and death brings for Paul. The similar word order and the similar sounds rhetorically are very effective.

1:22     The meaning of this verse is greatly debated because we do not know for sure which clause is the apodosis to the initial conditional clause introduced by εἰ. Some regard the three following clauses as the apodosis; others see clauses one and two as forming a compound protasis (“if it is the living in flesh, if this is fruit of work for me, then what shall I choose – I do not know”). To my mind the occurrence of τοῦτο at the beginning of the second clause suggests that it is introducing the apodosis and referencing the protasis (“this”). Paul repeats the articulated infinitive τὸ ζῆν. It is modified by an adverbial, locative phrase ἐν σαρκί, i.e., “in the sphere of flesh (human existence).” The complement in the apodosis is καρπὸς ἔργου (fruit which contributes to his work, or arises from his work, i.e., his apostolic mission).

καὶ τί introduces then a question after the apodosis. The καί is probably emphatic (then) and not conjunctive. The future middle form αἱρήσομαι comes from the verb αἱρεῖν which in the middle form has the sense of prefer, choose. The preference is between living and dying. Since God is in charge of the outcome, Paul here is discussing his own “preference.”

1:23     The next sentence is introduced by δέ which probably has a slight adversative sense here. The verb συνέχομαι is present middle formation conveying the idea of being hemmed around, encircled with little room to maneuver (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14). Two desires (ἐπιθυμίαι) confront Paul. This is an example of the positive sense that this noun can have. The present participle ἔχων is probably adverbial and may convey a causal sense – “because I have the desire….” The content of the desire is expressed with two articulated infinitives joined with a single preposition and article εἰς τό, giving a sense of purpose (“to depart and to be”). The sense is that departing and being with Messiah form one complex experience. Σύν + dative expresses accompaniment. ἀναλύειν  is a euphemism for death. As he evaluates this preference, it seems to him to be πολλῷ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον – “rather better by much.” The adjective κρεῖσσον is neuter nominative because it functions as the complement of a nominal clause, with a form of εἰμι implied and the subject would the preceding preference. How is σὺν Χριστῷ different from ἐν Χριστῷ?

1:24     The second preference again is given in the form of an articulated infinitive τὸ ἐπιμένειν which serves as the subject of its clause (implied form of εἰμι would be the main verb). It is modified by a complementary, comparative adjective άναγκαιότερον, indicating what is more necessary δι’ ὑμᾶς “for your sakes.” The infinitive is defined by the dative phrase ἐν τῇ σαρκί indicating the sphere in which Paul will remain, i.e. the human condition. The initial δέ is probably contrastive.

1:25-26             Paul begins with an adverbial perfect active participle τοῦτο πεποιθὼς which indicates that he is “fully persuaded about this, namely their need for his assistance.” He repeats the verb οἶδα which he used in v. 19, followed by a ὅτι clause introducing the indirect discourse, i.e., what he knows. Again he compounds the verbs to emphasize what he knows – μενῶ καὶ παραμενῶ.The compound form παραμενῶ suggests the idea of “remaining in office.” The dative πᾶσιν ὑμῖν indicates with whom Paul will remain. The εἰς phrase with compound nouns marked by a single article indicates the purpose for Paul’s continuance in this life in relation to their need. Their “advancement/progress and joy in the faith” is what is at stake and God has determined that Paul should remain to nurture these important elements. Note the previous use of προκοπή in v. 12. Not only is God concerned about Paul’s “joy” but also that of the Philippian believers. τῆς πίστεως may be subjective or objective genitive, but presumably the objective sense is more likely, giving the sense that this progress and joy contributes to their faithfulness.

The purpose of Paul’s continuance in this life is further explained in the ἵνα clause. He anticipates another visit so that their “glory/boasting” (καύχημα) might be unbounded (περισσεύῃ present subjunctive). The source of their boasting is ἐν Χριστῷ  Ἰησοῦ (cf. 3:3). Paul himself (ἐν ἐμοὶ) is the immediate cause for their Messianic boasting. When Paul visits them again they will have sure evidence of God’s power and the reality of the good news (διά + genitive). Παρουσία has its normal sense of return visit.

1:27-28a          Having outlined his own circumstances, Paul turns now, using imperatives, to the message he desires to share with the Philippian Christians. The verb πολιτεύεσθε (cf. Acts 23:1) may simply mean “live one’s life,” but here it seems to have its more foundational sense of “live as a citizen of a polis” and seeing it connected with his choice of πολίτευμα (3:20). The adverb ἀξίως defines the verb (worthily)[5] and is itself defined by the following genitive chain τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Their Christian life should reflect the new reality of life under the authority of the Messiah.

The ἵνα clause explains the purpose for this command. Paul desires to hear (ἀκόυω) that their Christian commitment remains firm (ὅτι στήκετε). Again he has the alternative construction εἴτε…εἴτε describing his presence or absence (ἐλθὼν καὶ ἰδὼν…ἀπὼν), using three adverbial participles. ὑμᾶς is the object of ἰδὼν. Paul does have a completely parallel structure, but logically the “seeing” is possible because he is present and the “hearing” is dependent on the fact that he is absent and so cannot witness this for himself. The article with the prepositional phrase τὰ περὶ ὑμῶν is a good example of the substantivizing function of the article – enabling the prepositional phrase to function in the noun slot as object. Note the similar usage in v.12 with τὰ κατ’ ἐμέ.

The ὅτι clause within the purpose clause expresses what Paul hopes he will see or hear and thus is a kind of indirect discourse. The verb is a present indicative active formation indicating duration, i.e., “you are standing” (στήκετε) or “maintain position.” The position is then described by the following ἐν phrase. What does πνεύματι refer to here? The Holy Spirit or some kind of human attitude or perspective? I wonder whether the prior mention of the Spirit as the source of resources for Paul’s faith journey indicates a similar direction here? Note also that in 2:1 Paul talks about κοινωνία πνεύματος. The Philippian Christians need the ministry of the one Spirit as the foundation for standing firm. This Spirit in turns enables them to wrestle together as “one person” (μιᾷ ψυχῇ). In this instance the dative case marks those associated in this collaborative struggle (συναθλοῦντες, cf. 4:3). The other dative construction (τῇ πίστει τοῦ εὐαγγελίου) probably describes the goal of the struggle, namely that the faith generated by the gospel is preserved. Alternatively one might construe this dative as defining what they are struggling with, namely the faith in terms of its appropriate, mature expression and understanding. Some also argue that πίστις here means faithfulness.

The contrary outcome is expressed by a second adverbial participle πτυρόμενοι which has the sense of “being intimidated.”  ἐν μηδενί parallels Paul’s ἐν οὐδενί in v.20. Those who would try to intimidate are defined in the agency construction ὑπὸ τῶν ἀντικειμένων, i.e., “those who oppose.” Paul does not identify who these parties might be, whether human or otherwise. Then follows a compounded relative clause introduced by ἥτις,   whose antecedent probably is πίστις (fem. sing. noun). When such faith is exhibited, it becomes a different sign for different groups. For the opponents it is the ἔνδειξις ἀπωλείας “sign of destruction,” but for the believers it is (ἔνδειξις) σωτηρίας “sign of deliverance/vindication.” The antithetical aspect is expressed by δέ.

1:28b-30          Paul summarizes the preceding ideas in the short expression καὶ τοῦτο ἀπὸ θεοῦ. I suspect that this to be construed as a parenthical comment, with the syntax continuing on after as if it was not present. Presumably the demonstrative pronoun refers to the two outcomes previously expressed and both of these have their source in God himself.  V.29 then is a causal clause introduced by ὅτι explaining the implications of this exercise of faith. The main verb is aorist passive (ἐχαρίσθη) with the sense of gracious provision/giving, one used by Paul sixteen times. The agent is implied but undoubtedly is God himself. Paul used another substantivized prepositional phrase as the subject (τὸ ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ). The sense of this expression is debated. It could mean: a) “the being on the side of Messiah”; b) “that which is for the sake of the Messiah,” i.e., suffering; c) “the opportunity to act in the place of the Messiah,” i.e., represent him. The following expression τὸ ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ πάσχειν perhaps guides us here, indicating that God’s gift to us is the opportunity to suffer because of our association with the Messiah, however this is specifically interpreted. Paul fronts the indirect object ὑμῖν to give it emphasis by position.

Paul used two articulated infinitives to describe the scope of God’s provision. They are connected by the conjunctive expressions οὐ μόνον…ἀλλὰ καὶ… (not only…but also…). The first τὸ εἱς αὐτὸν πιστεύειν (present infinitive) focuses upon God’s action to enable the people in the city of Philippi, primarily Gentiles, to put their faith in the Messiah and thus be included within God’s people. The second τὸ ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ πάσχειν describes the kinds of struggles that this faith connection with the Messiah generates, i.e., suffering. Just as the Messiah has given his life “for us” (ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν) so we now have the privilege of suffering “for him” (ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ).

Paul concludes this section with an adverbial participle, which I think is part of the series of adverbial participles which he began in v.27, συναθλοῦντες…πτυρόμενοι…ἔχοντες. All three participles are nominative plural, referencing the subject of πολιτεύεσθε probably. This gift of faith and privileged suffering generates τὸν αὐτὸν ἀγῶνα “the same struggle.” αὐτὸν here functions as the “identical adjective,” translated “same.’ This struggle is defined in the relative clause introduced by οἷον which means “what sort of, what kind of” and here we might translate “having the same struggle, the kind which….” The verbs in the relative clause are εἴδετε…ἀκούετε, echoing the prior ἰδὼν…ἀκούω (v.27). In both cases Paul is the point of reference (ἐν ἐμοὶ). Note the different tenses, one aorist and one present, emphasized by the adverb νῦν.


[1] Many texts read λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ and according to Roger Omanson, A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament (402) it “has the best external support.” Yet the word order of τοῦ θεοῦ or κυρίου varies in a number of witnesses and this casts suspicion on its originality. Note that the Byzantine textual group by and large has the shorter reading in this instance.

[2][2] Similar usage occurs in Acts 8:5; 9:20; 19:13; 1 Cor. 1:23; 15:12; 2 Cor. 1:19; 11:4; 1 Tim 3:16. The preponderance of usage is within Paul’s letters.

[3] Paul’s words here reflect Job’s in 13:16 (Greek translation). Whether this is purposeful on Paul’s part is debated. If Paul is making a deliberate intertextual connection, then presumably he is comparing his suffering and deliverance with that experienced by Job.

[4][4] These two verbs are contrasted in the Greek translation of the Psalter in 34:26-27; 39:15-17.

[5] Used in inscriptions contemporary with Paul to define notable religious officials who served with distinction (inscriptions from Pergamum. Cf. Deissmann, Bible Studies, 248f.)