The ecclesia at Philippi was the first established by Paul in Europe—in response to the vision of the Man of Macedonia. It was there that Paul went on the sabbath day to the place of prayer by the riverside, and found Lydia, whose heart the Lord touched. This was the beginning of the Philippian ecclesia, which held such a prominent place in the apostle's affections.
The spirit of the epistle to the Philippians is joy, contentment, fraternal affection, and holiness. Its background is loneliness, imprisonment, and the hovering shadow of condemnation and a cruel death, but its keynote is peace and rejoicing. "I do rejoice, and WILL rejoice!" the apostle triumphantly exclaims (1:18); and to them he writes—
"Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, REJOICE!" (4:4).
Our minds turn again to that unforgettable scene at midnight in this same city of Philippi years before (Acts 16:23-25)—
"And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison . . . thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks . . . And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and SANG PRAISES UNTO GOD."
What glorious secret was it that these men had? Surely no circumstance could be more physically and mentally miserable and depressing—cast roughly into an inner dungeon to be reserved for more abuse on the morrow—distressingly fastened by the feet in stocks, and racked with the pain of the "many stripes" they had unjustly received. But they "sang praises unto God." WHAT for? This epistle gives the answer—
"Be careful for nothing"—let nothing depress you—"but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, SHALL keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (4:6-7).
Nothing could dim or obscure for Paul the ever-present and overwhelming ecstasy of the love of Christ. He gloried in tribulation (Rom. 5:3), for the bitterest of tribulation only impressed him more intensely with the all-sufficiency of the consolation of Christ—
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay! In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us!" (Rom. 8:35-37).
Bro Growcott 4.39
1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
These official brethren, called episcopoi and diakonoi, "overseers and assistants," (Phil. 1:1), constituted the pneumatikoi, or spirituals, of the congregations, because they were endowed with pneumatika, or spiritual gifts (Gal. 6:1), while the rest of the saints, constituting the ruled, were styled idiotai, or privates. To the Spirituals were given nine different gifts, called spirits (pneumata, 1 Cor. 14:12), not for their own gratification, but for the common good.
These spirits are enumerated as, "a word of wisdom," "a word of knowledge,"
"faith to remove mountains," "gifts of healing," "inworking of powers," "prophecy," "discerning of spirits," "kinds of tongues," and "interpretation of tongues;" "all these inworked the one and the same Spirit dividing to each one respectively as he willed" (1 Cor. 12:1-11).
Being thus ordered in Corinth and elsewhere, Paul said to them, "Ye are Christ's body, and members partitively" -- they were all of the body, but it was only specially endowed saints who constituted the foot, hand, ear, eye, and so forth, of the body; these special ones were members partitively -- special parts of the whole.
The official saints collectively constituted in each congregation the presbytery, or eldership (1 Tim. 4:14); and that each brother might know his place, they were set in regular order. They were called "apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers" (Eph. 4:11); and were ranked as, "first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that, powers; then gifts of healing; sixth, helps; seventh, directors; eighth, kinds of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:28).
This eldership thus remarkably endowed, was the Lightstand of the Ecclesia, each member thereof being a bowl, or vessel, containing the anointing oil, or spirit, so that when they exercised their functions in the midst of the saints, they were as trimmed lamps with their lights burning (Matt. 25:4; Luke 12:35). They shone collectively as a bright STAR in the midst of the body; and as the spiritual gifts were sent "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building of the body of the Anointed," the PRESBYTERIAL STAR is styled "the ANGEL of the Ecclesia," from angelos, "one that is sent."
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
That must be our feeling concerning all our brethren and sisters who are striving toward the mark of the perfection of Christ. Our minds, like Paul's, must be constantly filled with loving thoughts and thankful prayers concerning them.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.39
4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
This is an unusual and striking expression—"making request with joy"—but it well illustrates the spirit of the epistle. Paul was in prison, writing to dear friends far away whom he longed achingly to see, but still there is not even a hint of any restraint upon his buoyant rejoicing. These are the circumstances in which the wisdom of the Spirit has placed him; these then are the circumstances in which God sees that he can do the most good, or receive the most benefit.
Therefore, though he earnestly desires the freedom and opportunity to enjoy their company and fellowship, he does not let the enforced separation lessen his present joy. He and they rejoice in mutual, understanding love, knowing that "ALL THINGS work together for good to those that love God," content to wait out the sorrows of the brief present in the cheerful confidence of the eternal, cloudless future.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.39
6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
He was confident, he said, that God, Who had begun a good work in them, would perform it until the day of Christ. If we are watching for them, we shall find many thrilling references to this glorious Divine mystery which is expressed so boldly later in the epistle—
"It is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of HIS good pleasure."
It is God which worketh in us—if we will let Him—if we will yield and submit, putting aside our own desires, our own plans and hopes and ambitions, and seeking to follow the guiding light of Scripture and Providence from day to day.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.39
7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
Paul's life was wrapped up in the furtherance of the Gospel of his beloved Master. What did bonds and imprisonment mean to him if they contributed to that end? He turned it all into a powerful and glorious advertisement for Christ (v. 13)—
"My bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places."
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.39
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge! -- get all you can. It's the stuff of which spiritual transformation is made. Knowledge of the Word, of course -- there is no other REAL knowledge. Hunger and thirst for it. Never feel you have even begun to have enough. Realise your utter comparative ignorance. At very best, we never really scratch the surface of true knowledge.
All is seen through a glass so dimly. But though we are so limited, God requires us to show our love and zeal by getting every bit of knowledge about Him and His Word that we can. We shall be called to account for all wasted time -- not so much for itself, but because it so tragically betrays our spiritual dullness, our fatal presumption of sufficiency, our shallowness and weakness of love and desire.
God can only use, in His eternal Purpose, those who are intensely alive to the beauty and glory and wonder and infinite desirability of eternal, spiritual things. Though we are all by nature slow-witted and ignorant and fleshly, we CAN develop this living spiritual intensity. But it takes long, plodding, tiring effort, like playing the piano. Don't sit back and expect it just to come.
14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Thus he turned a crippling handicap into a stirring inspiration. Such is the power of a fearless example—not only of courage, but more—of inextinguishable rejoicing. He not only endured with patience, but in his very enduring he radiated a confidence and peace that inspired others to fearlessness and joy.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.39
19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
See how he binds up his salvation with the power of their prayers and Christ's indwelling Spirit. There was no self-sufficiency about Paul. "No man liveth unto himself." Again and again we are impressed with the mutual interdependence of the body of Christ, for so it is ordained in the love and wisdom of God. "The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee."
Paul was humbly conscious that, in the strange and marvellous working of the Divine purpose, the prayer of the least of God's saints could have a bearing upon the issues of his salvation. What a wonderful bond of unity a perception of this truth creates!
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.39
20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
His "adversary the Devil," who, "as a roaring lion," threatened to "devour" him.-1 Pet. 5:8.
This appears, from Phil. 1:13, "My bonds," saith he, "for Christ are manifest to all the Prætorium, and to all others."
He was uncertain how it would go with him; still he rather inclined to the opinion, that he should be delivered, as the result of the minds of his judges being influenced in his favour, by the preaching of Christ, in pretence, or through envy and strife, or in truth out of good will, and by their supplication of the Philippian disciples in his behalf, and by the assistance of the Spirit, when he should speak in his own defence, or rather in defence of the truth.
This might result in his being set at liberty, which he styles το ζην, to zain "the living;" or, all these influences might fail, and he would be condemned to death. This he styles το αποθανειν, to apothanein, "the dying."
Here, then, his body stood related to two things-a judicial acquittal, or "life;" and a judicial condemnation, or "death." Now, he saith,
"My earnest expectation and hope is, that in nothing I shall be confounded, but with all boldness of speech, as at all times, also now Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether through life, or through death."
He had no conception of Christ being magnified by himself in any way apart from body. He never talked about Christ being magnified in his immortal soul. This is a clerical conceit, not an apostolic principle.
If his body lived, it would be Christ living in him, by faith and His spirit, and working through him; so that such a living was for him "a fruit of labour," or, as we should say, "a life of labour," or a laborious life.
But if his body died-if it were put to death by the judicial sentence of the Prætorian officials of the Great Red Dragon, Christ would also be magnified in the maltreatment and execution of his body to death; for the death of the body would have been incurred in consequence of his bold defence of Christ's doctrine.
"The dying" would be "gain" for him; for "he that loses his life for my sake," saith Jesus,
"shall find it ... . . for the Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works"-Matt. 16:27
-and not before.
But he was straitened by two considerations-the desirableness of at once resting from his perilous labours by falling "asleep in Jesus" (as he expresses it elsewhere), and so waiting for his return; and the desirableness of continuing his labours in the care of all the ecclesias, seeing that apostacy was revealing itself on every side.
So, then, as the general good was to be preferred to his own ease, the conviction seemed to gather strength that the Lord would not permit the Devil to devour him; and therefore he ended his cogitation upon this point, in saying,
"I know that I shall continue and remain among you all to the advancement and rejoicing of your faith."
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Mar 1857
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Here again Paul briefly and beautifully expresses our walk in the world—"To me, to live is Christ." All his life was bound up in Christ—all his activities centered in him.
Outside of Christ there is no life—he is the Way of Life—all else is death. How dimly we seem to perceive what was so living and vivid to Paul!
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.39
And so it must come to be with us, if we are to live at all, in any true, and spiritual, and joyful sense.
The love of Christ was Paul's greatest possession -- the fellowship of Christ his greatest pleasure. We need not pity Paul for the burden of his suffering, nor commiserate him for the loss of all the rubbish the stupid world holds dear.
Rather we should envy him for the unassailable joy of his single-minded devotion, and emulate him in his casting aside of all things that he might win Christ.
Bro Growcott 'In labours More Abundant'.
23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
Depart and be With Christ
Well, this does look damaging, but to the Greek: the word translated here "depart" is analusai, which occurs in Luke 12:36, and is rendered "return." Read, it in this light, and see what it means:
"For the returning of (Christ) and being with Christ."
The Christadelphian, July 1872
A DESIRE FOR THE RETURNING
"whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest."
If a man would praise the Lord; if he would remember him; if he would celebrate his name and give him thanks; if he would hope in his truth; if he would do any thing, and have any knowledge and wisdom after he departs this life, he must rise from the dead.
Paul was thoroughly convinced of this; hence his anxiety as expressed in his letter to the Philippians that
"he might know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings being made conformable to his death: if by any means he might attain to the resurrection from among the dead"—eis teen exanastasin toon nekroon.
Does the reader imagine in the face of these testimonies that Paul had "a desire to depart" into the death-state; that he thought there was anything to gain in that region of darkness and silence by dying; or that he considered that when dead he should be "present with the Lord?"
No, Paul said none other things, and believed none other things than what Moses and the prophets testified; and these writers are in entire harmony with himself and all that is written in the New Testament, and this men would soon discover if they understood the Old.
Paul knew that as a living man in any sense he stood related only to two states, the present and the future; and that as a dead man he would know nothing he could offer no praise, he could have no recollection of the past and no hope for the future.
...If we understand this we are delivered from the perverting influence of the heathen philosophy, or mythology of "spirit worlds," (which have no existence save in the mesmerized imaginations of clairvoyant familiars and those who deal with them,) which constitutes the mysticism of sectarianism, the flesh-eating "cancer" that destroys the truth.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, June 1851
Depart and be With Christ
This is one of the strongest texts appealed to by those who believe(?) and advocate the "Immortality of Souls," "Purgatory," "Intermediate State," and a variety of other un-scriptural nonsense;-opinions held by Catholic and Protestant, subversive of the Word of truth.
Had the above passage been a correct rendering of the words of Paul, and not perverted by human wisdom and folly, it would have been clear and free from that obscurity which envelopes others of a similar character.
The above is a fair specimen from our authorized version of the Sacred Oracles, calculate to mislead the simple and unwary into the same tenets or principles held by those employed by king James to give to the people a correct translation. No one, however bigoted, but will admit that fallible men are likely to commit errors in such an undertaking.
Our text purports to give the import of the Apostle's idea when writing to the Holy Ones at Philippi. This it fails to do; his words when correctly rendered are in unison with the whole tenor of his teachings.
"But I am perplexed because of the two, having the earnest desire for the RETURNING (to analusai) and for the being with Christ, (which is) very far better."
The same verb analusai translated "returning" only occurs in one other place in the Greek Testament, namely, Luke 12:36, where it is properly rendered "return." Here Jesus was discoursing with his disciples on the Kingdom and his return.
"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. * * And be ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he shall RETURN (analusai) on account of the marriage ceremonies (toon gamcon, gen. plural), that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately"-Luke 12:32, 36
This waiting for their lord was the attitude of Christ's disciples, and also of the apostle Paul. Their minds were not fixed upon their souls leaving their mortal bodies, and "winging their mystic flight to future worlds:" no, but they were waiting for the returning of the lord to celebrate the nuptails with his bride.
"While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight, there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. * * And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready, went in with him to the nuptials (tous gamous;) and the door was shut."-Math. 25:5, 6, 10.
...The return of the Lord was the hope of the primitive disciples, and pre-eminently so of the apostle Paul. This was founded on the positive declaration of Jesus himself, as the following passage proves:-
"I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, ye may also be."-John 14:3.
...the whole tenor of the New Testament writing on this subject, show that Paul's "earnest desire" was not for death, or for the intermediate state of the sects, but for the return of his Lord.
...The Scriptures when properly translated and understood, afford no succor to those who believe in disembodied ghosts, "neverdying souls," and immortal spirits, being borne aloft on angels' wings to the presence of the Uncreated One. His abode is beyond the ken of mortal eye, or the range of human volition-in the "light which no man can approach unto: whom no man hath seen, nor can see." Let those who are carried away by such mental illusions and vain philosophy, abandon their speculations, and "receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save their souls."
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Aug 1856.
Depart and be with Christ
In the first place, we remark, that Paul did not write what is attributed to him in the common version of the New Testament. Before, then, we can interpret his words, we must ascertain what he said; and because the English does not truly report them, we decline the impossible task of scripturally expounding the English text. What, then, did the apostle say? Let us see! "I know," saith he,
"that this (the preaching of Christ in pretence or truth, see ver. 18,) will result in deliverance to me through your supplication, and assistance of the spirit of Jesus Christ: according to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing I shall be confounded, but with all boldness of speech, as at all times, also now Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether through life or through death.
For to me the living is Christ, and the dying, gain. But since the living in flesh is for me a fruit of labour, what even I myself shall choose I know not. For I am straitened by the two, having the earnest desire for the returning and being with Christ, far better by much. But the continuing in the flesh (is) more needful on account of you. And having this conviction, I know that I shall continue and remain among you all, to the advancement and rejoicing of your faith."
Now, with such a translation as this, which cannot be set aside, no one would ever have thought of referring to the passage in proof of immortal-soulism in any of its details. There is one word in the Greek, however, the sense of which is uncertain, and in dispute with the schoolmen of the Apostacy. That word is the verb, ̓ναλῦσαι, analusai, aor. 1. inf. act. It comes from αναλυε, analuo, which is compounded of ανα, back again, and λυω, to loose.
It is particularly applied by Homer, to loosening the cables of a ship in order to sail from port. "Hence," says Parkhurst, "in the N. Test., to return or depart, and occurs in Luke 12:36; where Wetstein shows that this verb, followed by απο των δειπνων, εκ σνμποσιον, &c., is, in the Greek writers, likewise used for returning, or departing from a supper-from a banquet, &c.
The text in Luke reads thus: "Be ye," saith Jesus to his disciples,
"like to men waiting for their lord; at length he shall return (αναλυσει, analusei) for the nuptials: so that coming and having knocked, immediately they shall open to him. Happy are those servants, whom the Lord coming shall find watching."
Here the sense of the verb is obvious enough to any other than a mind spoiled by the philosophy and vain deceit of the schools. These know nothing about "the nuptials," so that in reading the text they cannot see the sense.
"At length the Lord shall return for the nuptials."
Or read it thus:
"At length the Lord shall depart for the nuptials;"
who cannot see that "depart" here signifies return; for, for the Lord to depart when the "at length" shall have expired, is equivalent to his setting out from where he is, that he may go to where the bride resides.
Now, Paul tells us that the Ecclesia is his bride; and she is notoriously a resident on earth. (See Eph. 5:23-32; Rev. 19:7, 8.) He will, therefore, depart from heaven to earth, to be finally and forever united to the espoused who are waiting for him. This was the earnest expectation and hope of the apostles, as it was of all whom they enlightened, and as it is now of all who have any scriptural claim to the name of Christian. This is styled in Scripture, The Returning; and is thus expressed in Acts 1:11-
"This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into the heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into the heaven."
All true Christ[adelphians], in all ages and generations since, have been waiting and watching for this event, upon which depends their life and glory in the Aions.
"Constantly hope for the gift to be brought to you," saith Peter, "at the unveiling of Jesus Christ"-1 Pet. 1:13.
But we need not multiply words on this point: the returning or departing is one of the first or elementary principles of the oracles of God.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Mar 1857
27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
This epistle contains no criticism or rebuke. But if there was one thing in which Paul thought it advisable to exhort them, this would be it.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.39