Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "Later New Testament Epistles"



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Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible



THEME: Unity and Joy through having "the Mind of Christ" (2:5)


  1. INTRODUCTION 1:1-11

    1. Salutation 1-2
      Note prominence of the so-called "laity" (1)! Actually "the saints" comprised the church at Philippi; some of the saints were also bishops (overseers, i.e., elders) and deacons (ministers of the needs of its members). Among charter members of the church were probably Lydia (and her household); the girl delivered from demonic possession, and the jailer (and his household), Acts 16:12-36.

    2. Thanksgiving 3-8
      This church was very dear to Paul. They were the first to give toward his support. Paul's remembrance of them is always a cause for joy. Immediately upon being saved, the converts ministered to Paul's need.

    3. Prayer 9-11

      1. The petition of the prayer: an enlightened growing love 9-lOa "that your life may be more and more accompanied by clear knowledge and keen perception for testing things that differ" (Weymouth) or "enabling you to have a sense of what is vital" (Moffatt).

      2. The prospect of the prayer: a genuine approved life lOb-11 "so that ye may be pure (men of transparent character) and blameless--without cause for stumbling--until (in preparation for) the Day of Christ, your life covered with that harvest of righteousness which Jesus Christ produces to the glory and praise of God."


    1. Christ's LIFE in us (or Christ our LIFE) 1:12-26

      1. 1. Victory in adversity 12-18
        Contrary to what one would expect, my imprisonment has helped rather than hindered the spread of the gospel. God's way wais better than mine for:

        1. "Throughout the whole Praetorian guard, elsewhere it has become plain that these chains of mine are for the sake of Christ."
          This is the only way these soldiers would have ever heard the gospel. They would not have listened to a little Jewish street preacher.

        2. Paul's very chains had set dozens of people to work right there in Rome who would have just sat and listened to the "great Paul."
          Paul's example of courageous witnessing right among the palace guard has spurred others to action.

        3. Others are preaching Christ who would not otherwise do so, because they think they are adding bitterness to my bonds (as though I would envy their success!). But what of it! Christ is preached! Amen!

      2. Paul's interpretation, of life and definition of death 19-26
        Some think verse 19 means that he believes he will be released from prison. Others, that "turn out to my salvation" (quoted from Job 13:16) means that Paul sees in this enforced "playing second fiddle" a graciously designed way of saving him from the pride or self-interest so natural to one being greatly used of God; all of which helps toward the goal Paul ever had before him, namely, glorifying God and being acceptable to Him, whether in life or death (20; cp. 2 Cor. 5:8-9; 6:4; Acts 24:16). Thus Paul welcomes anything that helps him keep free from whatever would make him ashamed. "Thank you, Lord, I was needing a lesson." "I care not what path God leads me, life or death, just so Christ is magnified (made big) in my body."

        In the light of verse 21, if we were honest before God, how would we have to finish the sentence which begins "For to me to live is..."? Would we have to say?:

        1. "To me to live is ... the good opinion of others" Jn. 5:44 the crowd

        2. "To me to live is ... pleasure" 1 Tim. 5:6
          "Only one life -- twill soon be past."

        3. "To me to live is  ... my business" Mk. 8:36-37

        4. "To me to live is ... my ambition" Jer. 45:5a; Mt. 6:33

        5. "To me to live is ... my sweetheart" 1 Jn. 5:21

        6. "To me to live is ... money" 1 Tim. 6:6-11,17-19

        7. "To me to live is ... my family" Mt. 10:37

        8. "To me to live is ... sorrow" Phil. 4:4; Isa. 61:3,10

        9. "To me to live is ... myself" Lk. 9:23

          "Paul's interpretation of life" is "Christ living over again His life in me. "

          To me to live is to do His will; to me to live is to think His thoughts; to me to live is to live His way, to love His way. He is the Sun about whom the universe of my life revolves.

          His "definition of death" is revolutionary--not "loss, " says he, but "gain"! "Very far better" it is to be "with Christ. " He is in a quandary between the two. But because of their need of him, he feels God is going to keep him from death at present.

    2. Christ's LOWLINESS in us (or Christ our MEEKNESS) 1:27-2:30

      1. Exhortation to Philippians to walk worthy of the gospel 1:27-2:16

        1. In "one mind" 1:27-2:2

          "Only"--this is the important thing.

          All your preaching and work for God will amount to nothing if there is not unity and love among you. But united your testimony will have tremendous force.

          Make me happy here in prison by favorable reports "of your affairs."

        2. "In lowliness of mind.. .Christ's mind" 2:3-11

          This is the secret of being of one mind (unity).

          This pleased the Father, who exalted our Lord. First comes self-humbling, then glory. This is not the day of our glorification; that will come, But NOW God calls upon us to humble ourselves as Christ did.

          Compare the four Gospels: v.6 = Christ's self-humbling as King in Matthew; v.7a = Christ's self-humbling as the Servant in Mark; v.7b = Christ's self-humbling as Man in Luke; v.8 = Christ's self-humbling as God manifest in the flesh in John.

        3. Solve your problems at Philippi by practically applying this principle! 2:12-16
          Work out your own. deliverance from the problem that faces you at Philippi, and so much the more in my absence! I put you on your honor! If you cannot do a thing without murmuring, don't do it at all (1 Cor. 10:10). Do you think Christ murmured when He took the lowly place and washed feet (Jn. 13) or as He climbed Calvary?

          A light doesn't make any noise at all. Just be so different that they can't help but see you. Then you can hold forth the Word of life. But there is no use if you are not shining. People will say: "Who wants to belong to that church? They're always scrapping or getting hurt or grumbling about something."

      2. Example of apostles who walked worthy of the gospel 2:17-30

        1. Paul's example 17-18
          Willing to be poured out as a drink offering!

        2. Timothy's example 19-23
          What a solemn indictment (20-21) of the average Christian worker! One can serve Christ and yet miss the point of service like His! What a compliment to Timothy! "A son with a father"--like me!

        3. Epaphroditus' example 24-30

          What self-effacing service! Grieved because they heard he was sick! Regrets anything that would in any way burden them! Most people are angry because you didn't know they were sick!

          Verses 29-30 have not been fulfilled by the Church, especially in the case of worn-out missionaries. They have been ignored and shunted onto relatives, many times unbelieving relatives, who begrudge their existence. This condition breaks the spirit and the heart of returned warriors, especially because they are usually in ill health, which has caused their return.

          We should make some honorable provision for those who give their lives for Christ, Every nation in the world pensions its veterans; why not the Church?

        Philippians 2 (& 4)
        "Let this mind be in you" (v. 5)
        Galatians 5:22-23
        "Let this mind be in you"
        Self-humbling (6-8a) "meekness"
        Obedience (8b) "longsuffering and faithfulness"
        Yieldedness (12-13) "Self-control"
        Peacefulness -- suggested by the opposite (14) (4:5-6) "Peace"
        Joyful sacrifice (17) (4:4) "Joy"
        Selflessness ("things that be Christ's instead of "one's own") "Love"
        Consideration for others (25-26) "gentleness, goodness"
    3. Christ's RIGHTEOUSNESS in us (or Christ our RIGHTEOUSNESS) 3:1-9

      1. The Christian's peril of pollution 1-7

        1. From false teachers--"dogs" 1-3

        2. b. From false teaching 4-7
          If it were a question of "confidence in the flesh" as the false teachers falsely teach, I could now (and did) far outstrip them. There are seven supposed gains indicated in these verses (cp. supposed advantages of modern religiosity). Twenty-five years ago, however, I threw all that a Jew holds dear on the junk heap for Christ.

      2. The Christian's priceless possession 8-9
        The KNOWLEDGE of Christ as Saviour and the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God! What a priceless treasure! In comparison with this, all that the world looks upon as valuable (good standing in religious circles, etc.) are but garbage. And it is all mine--as a gift--through faith, not works!

        I "counted" (7), and still "I count" (8) after 25 years; my sufferings and "losses" (humanly speaking) have not caused me to reverse my decision, but rather to realize more of the value of Christ!

    4. Christ's FELLOWSHIP with us (or Christ our LOVER) 3:10-16
      Taking a slightly different viewpoint, chapter 3 might be called "Christ, the Believer's Prize": of Salvation (1-9); of Fellowship (10-12); of Reward at His Second Coming (13-21). But we will follow the scheme which Paul has started within 1:12.

      1. The Christian's passion for Christ's person 10-11
        The treasure of salvation is not an end in itself, but a means to an end, namely, constant fellowship with Jesus, the Lover of our Souls, the Fairest of Ten Thousand, the Altogether Lovely One.

        We are saved in order that we may fellowship with Him, entering into His very heart experiences, sharing His sufferings, His shame, but also His life and power, now (10) and later (11).

        Compare the home at Bethany with verse 10:
        Martha - "to know Him"
        Lazarus - "and the power of His resurrection"
        Mary - "and the fellowship of His sufferings"

        We get to know people by conversation and association with them.
        Thus we get to know Christ!

      2. The Christian's progress toward the prize 12-14
        Paul was not shooting at random, but at a target. He did not want to miss the purpose for which Christ saved him.
        Paul accomplished so much because he did not try to do everything, but just "one thing." Let us not spread ourselves too thin.

      3. The Christian's program of peace 15-16
        To fail to "get along" with fellow Christians is to advertise one's lack of Christian maturity (16).

        If we guide our steps by the standard we have, God will make clear His mind in cases of "honest difference of opinion" (15).

    5. Christ's PATTERN for us (or Christ our VICTOR) 3:17-4:9
      Paul is Christ's own pattern for our walk, as witnessed by His preserving and placing in the NT such a large proportion of its epistles from his pen. In verse 17 he says: "Copy me, brothers, one and all" (Moffatt); "Brethren, vie with one another in imitating me" (Weymouth); "Brothers, be comrades in imitating me and study those whose life and walk is according to the pattern I have set you" (Centenary). And in 4:9 he says: "Practice.. .what you heard me say and what you saw me do."

      Only one who could say, "To me to live is Christ," could afford to say such things as these! "But I can't live like this!" "Yes, you can. Christ is your Victor, your Victorious Life!"

      1. Copy me in my compassion for those who damn themselves 3:17-19
        Pity them, weep for them, pray for them; but do not fellowship with them! These are not men of the world, but professing Christians; some of them are teachers of error (3:2).

        Put your mind on Christ in heaven, not on appetites and things on earth. He does not say they steal and get drunk, etc. They may be very moral and cultured, but they serve self, mind earthly things, and are there­fore enemies of the cross, though they may talk about it and claim to be its friends. A Unitarian wrote "In the Cross of Christ I Glory" and "Nearer My God to Thee."

        One can come SO near and yet miss SO far! One should not glory in the shame of coming near to a cross on which hangs one who was not God manifest in the flesh but a man who was a noble martyr. No, we are saved by the blood of GOD (Acts 20:28)!

        Modernist unbelief glories in that of which it should be most ashamed!

      2. Copy me in my steadfastness produced by the hope of Christ's return 3:20-4:3

        1. Christ, the coming Victor 3:20-4:1 "But we"; "We, however, are free citizens of heaven, " as contrasted with those who mind earthly things.

          The New Translation says: "But we are a colony of heaven!" This was significant in that in Philippi was a colony of Rome; Romans were there to demonstrate the language, food, clothing, family life, and loyalty to the emperor of Romans.

          He is able to subdue and to change and to fashion. I shall be beautiful some day!

          What a cause for steadfastness (4:1)!

        2. The application to Euodias and Syntyche 4:2-3
          Steadfastness produced by the hope of the Lord's return, especially remembrance of our heavenly citizenship, cannot permit childish stubbornness. Life is too short; Christ's coming is too soon; the work is too pressing; the comradeship of the gospel is too dear; and souls are too precious to allow little personal differences to continue. (Play on English words: Euodias, "you're odious, " and Syntyche, "soon touchy"!)

      3. Copy me in my peace of mind, produced by casting all my care on Him who careth for me 4:4-7
        Here we have: The Cure for Care; The Antidote for Anxiety.
        "Be cheerful, unselfish, calm, prayerful," and the peace of God will garrison your hearts and thoughts like a cordon of sleepless sentinels in Christ Jesus!

        Resort to prayer to bring peace where there has been friction before (in the church).

      4. Copy me in thinking on the "bright side" 4:8-9
        "Thoughts weave the web of deeds." "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he"!

        There is so much that is sordid and sinful. Think on God's side about everything; about one another. Euodias and Syntyche! Think the things "of good report"; isn't there "any praise"? This is the Cure for Criticism.

        Think (8), and then do (9).

    6. Christ's SUFFICIENCY for us (or Christ our PROVIDER) 4:10-19
      Paul rejoices in their gift, not primarily because it supplies his need (for he is a "learned" man; he has learned to be CONTENT with what­ever the Lord provides), but because of two things: (1) because the gift is a fresh reminder of their love (10,14-16); and (2) because it is glorifying to God and will lay up treasure in heaven for them (17-18).

      When Paul says in verse 13 that he can do things through Christ, he does not mean that he can make two and two equal five or make black white, etc.; but as always the context determines. He is saying, "I can do all (these necessary) things (of verses 11 and 12) through Christ who strengtheneth me." He will never take me into a situation or allow a privation that He will not provide the strength and courage to endure!

      Verse 19 has been interpreted in three ways:

      1. Some think it means that God promises to supply the financial need of every Christian to save them from privation, and that all that is required is to plead this promise for exemption from want. We shall not hunger nor thirst. This certainly is not taught in the context. And why have godly Christians, e.g., Captain Gardiner, etc., who knew how to pray far better than we, starved to death or died in utter poverty? Certainly Paul's own experiences (2 Cor. 11:27;-1 Cor. 4:11-12; etc.) do not warrant the idea that we shall not go hungry, or even starve, if it be God's will.

      2. Some, seeing this difficulty to the common interpretation, have said that God promises to "supply all our need" in the sense that God may see we need privation and testing sometimes, and money other times, and physical strength other times; that whatever be our need (as GOD interprets it) at any time, He will supply. But this does violence to the plain emphasis of the context that a as they had supplied "things for the body" for Paul, so God would supply their financial need.

      3. What I believe to be the correct interpretation has been hinted at in the last sentence. We are accustomed to waving handkerchiefs to missionaries going away on a boat or plane, and occasionally hearing some zealous brother call out for their encouragement, "Philippians 4:19." But this is just the opposite of the passage. In 4:19 we see a missionary whose needs HAVE been supplied by a church saying to that church: "Because you have been faithful to God in ministering to me His missionary (in caring for my financial need), He will supply YOUR financial need, and that according to the heavenly riches of God obtainable through counter­signing a check in the name of Christ Jesus. " Thus I believe the verse is applicable only to those who have faithfully provided the needs of God's servants. (But, even then, "all our need" does not mean all our desires or wants, but that money which GOD knows we need to accomplish His present will for us.)

  3. CONCLUSION 4:20-23

    1. The gloria 20

    2. The greeting 21-22
      If one could live for Christ in Nero's palace, no one need ever say he cannot live for Christ in his environment!

    3. The grace 23
      They will need it to live above their own little pettiness!



Arthur S. Way in The Letters of St. Paul


For the events of the life of Paul after the close of the narrative of the Acts, our only direct source of information is his own letters. It is the unanimous tradition of the Church that he was tried at Rome and acquitted, and that for some two years he was a free man. As to his movements during that time there is no certainty and little agreement. He may possibly have carried out his intention, expressed in the letter to the Romans, of carrying the glad-tidings to Spain; but there is no trace of such a journey to be found in the letters which follow. He probably fulfilled his promise of visiting Philemon at Colossae; he speaks of leaving Ephesus for Macedonia; he refers to going with Titus to Crete, and to leaving him there on his departure. It may well be that he went around to all the churches he could visit in the time. We find him asking Titus to join him at Nicopolis, a flourishing seaport in Epirus on the East Coast of the Adriatic. Here it was, perhaps, that he was re-arrested, and sent to Rome to stand a second trial, with far less chance of acquittal. During his absence the great fire of Rome had occurred. Nero, charged with having caused it for his own amusement, was glad to shift the blame onto the shoulders of the Christians, whom (no doubt from their lack of sympathy with the heathen festivities which played so large a part in social life) popular prejudice had come to regard as "the enemies of the human race." The tolerance or favor with which the government may have been inclined at first to regard them had given place to ruthless hostility, and the "ringleader of the sect" had small chance of escape.

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