This post contains commentary on Philippians 1:1-11 along with two introductory summaries. The fist on Phil 1:1-2; the second on Phil 1:3-11. Underlined words indicate that a definition or note will be given. Text in red, if any, are my additions.
INSCRIPTION AND GREETING
A Summary of Philippians 1:1-2
St. Paul together with Timothy, his trusted companion and probably his amanuensis at this time, addresses in artless and affectionate terms the beloved faithful of Philippi and their spiritual leaders, wishing them, in combined Greek and Hebrew forms, grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus, their Saviour.
amanuensis: one who writes down the dictation of another; a secretary.
artless: simple, natural, unpretentious.
Phil 1:1. Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ; to all the saints in Christ Jesus, who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.
Paul, the author of this letter. He omits the title “apostle” here because there is no reason to require insistence on his divine authority and mission. See on Rom 1:1. There Fr. Callan writes:
Called to be an apostle, i.e., called by a special vocation (κλητός= klētos) to go and preach the Gospel. The term “apostle” means one sent, as a messenger, a commissioned agent. Thus all the Apostles were messengers sent by Christ to announce the kingdom of God, to proclaim the good tidings of redemption and salvation. St. Paul was equal in dignity to the twelve, because like them, he was called and instructed immediately by Christ Himself (Gal 1:1). Sometimes in an opening address St Paul had to insist on his apostolic status because of trouble makers in the church (e.g., 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1). Sometimes it was more directly necessitated by the fact that he was not acquainted firsthand with the church he is writing to (e.g., Rom 1:1-7; Col 1:1). In these two letters both issues may have contributed. The greeting in the two letters to Thessalonica have no descriptive title at all. Here in Philippians he describes himself as a slave or servant of Jesus Christ because he wishes to associate the Phillippians service to him with his own service (see Phil 1:3-7, 29-30; 2:25, 29-30).
Timothy, who was with Paul at this time and perhaps wrote down the present Epistle, and who had helped the Apostle in founding the Church at Philippi (Acts 16:1ff). For further particulars about Timothy, see Introduction to 1 Timothy in this volume.
Servants. Literally, “slaves,” but in a redeemed and figurative sense of that degrading word.
Jesus Christ. There is more evidence for the reverse order of these terms, “Christ Jesus.” This title of our Lord is peculiarly Pauline, occurring in the two orders about 165 times in his Epistles.
All the saints, i.e., all those who by their religious profession have separated themselves from the world and consecrated themselves to God. The Apostle says “all,” showing no distinction, and no cause of distinction, such as factions or sects.
Philippi. See Introduction, No. 1. Read it here.
With the bishops, etc. This is the only time St, Paul mentions the clergy in the inscription of a letter. In early times the title “bishop” was given to the heads of the various local churches, whether they were bishops In the strict sense of the word or only priests; the term here being in the plural doubtless means priests or presbyters. See Acts 21:17, 28; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Tim. 3:1-13, 5:17, where the terms “bishops” and “presbyters” are interchanged. St. Paul names the bishops and deacons most likely because they took the principal part in sending gifts and helps to him.
Phil 1:2. Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace . . . peace. See on Eph. 1:2.
God our Father, etc. The Father is the ultimate source of all blessings, and Christ, His co-equal Son, is the medium and channel. See also on Eph. 1:2.
THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER FOR THE PHILIPPIANS
A Summary of Philippians 3:3-11
Here the Apostle begins to speak in the first person singular, showing that the letter is his own, and not a joint work between him and Timothy. He thanks God for the part the Philippians have had in the work of the Gospel and in the merits of his sufiferings (Phil 1:3-8), and he prays that they may continually progress in spiritual knowledge and in the grace of Him to whom they owe their spiritual life, so as to be perfect when the heavenly Bridegroom comes to call them to their eternal rewards (Phil 1:9-1 1).
3. I give thanks to my God in every remembrance of you,
4. Always in all my prayers, making supplication for you all, with joy,
3-4. The Apostle assures his readers that in all his remembrance of them he thanks God, who is the source of all their spiritual blessings, and that in all his petitions it is a cause of joy to him to make requests for them.
In all my prayers. Better, “In every request of mine.”
5. For your communication in the gospel of Christ from the first day unto now,
He assigns the reason for his supplication with joy In their behalf, namely, their “communication in the gospel, etc.,” i.e., their co-operation with him in the work of spreading the Gospel from the first day they heard it preached up to the time this letter was written. The reference is to the devotedness, labors, sufferings, gifts, etc., by which they had participated with the Apostle in the propagation and furtherance of the Gospel.
6. Being confident of this very thing, that he, who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus.
The Apostle now tells the Philippians that he feels certain that God the Father who began in them the work of their redemption and sanctification will complete the process, bringing it to perfection against the day of their deliverance from the present life. Thus, he teaches the necessity of grace, not only to begin a good work in the supernatural order, but also to continue it and to persevere in it until death (cf. Conc. Trid., sess. VI, cap. 13).
A good work, i.e., their conversion to Christianity, which was followed by their labor and zeal in behalf of the Gospel and St. Paul.
The day of Christ Jesus is a frequent expression with St. Paul, and refers to our Lord’s coming in judgment, whether at the death of the individual or at the end of time to judge the world. The similar expression of the Old Testament, “the day of the Lord,” meant the day of God’s visitation of the earth in judgment and redemption.
7. Indeed it is right for me to be so minded in regard of you all, for that I have you in my heart; that in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of my grace.
He gives the reason for the confidence expressed in the preceding verse. It is perfectly right and natural that he should feel thus toward the Philippians, because of his intimate and tender love for them, and because, through the help they have given him, they are sharers in the “grace” of his apostolate, whether exercised in “bonds,” i.e., in prison, or in “defence” of himself and of his preaching against the accusations and calumnies of the Jews, or “in confirmation of the gospel,” i.e., in explaining and proving the truth of the Gospel before Jews and Gentiles (Acts 28:23 ff.). “For that I have you in my heart” may also be rendered “for that you have me in your heart,” i.e., he is mindful of them because they also remember him.
The gaudii mei of the Vulgate should be gratiæ meæ, to agree with the Greek.
8. For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the heart of Christ Jesus.
As a proof of his ardent love for the faithful of Philippi St. Paul now invokes God, who reads the heart, as his witness; he loves them all with the love wherewith Christ loves them; his heart is one with the heart of his Master.
In visceribus of the Vulgate means with the most ardent love, the Greek of which is properly rendered in English by “heart,” as it refers to the seat of tender and noble affections. The Greek also reverses the order of Jesu Christi of the Vulgate here.
9. And this I pray, that your charity may more and more abound in knowledge and in all discernment,
In verse 4 the Apostle told his readers that he prayed for them all with joy. Now he tells them what he requested for them, namely, that their “charity” (i.e., their love of God and their neighbor) might continually increase and become ever more perfect “in knowledge,” i.e., in full, developed understanding (επιγνωσει) of Christian virtues, and “in all discernment,” i.e., practical judgment (αισθησει) as to the application of those virtues in dealing with their neighbor.
10. That you may approve the better things, that you may be sincere and without offence unto the day of Christ,
This full knowledge and judgment St. Paul requests for the Philippians in order that they may be able to appraise things according to their true worth; that, distinguishing between the moral values of their actions, they “may approve, etc.,” i.e., that they may test and choose those which are more excellent, with the result that they “may be sincere” (i.e., pure and innocent in the sight of God) “and without offence” (i.e., that their conduct may be no obstacle or stumbling block to their neighbor).
Unto the day of Christ, i.e., when the Lord comes to judge and reward them according to their works. See on verse 6 above.
11. Filled with the fruit of justice, through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
The Apostle wishes the faithful not only to be innocent and blameless, but also to be “filled with the fruit of justice,” i.e., with good works, which can be done only through the grace of Christ. “Justice” here is better rendered “justness” or “righteousness,” which implies a complete harmony between the soul and God; it is given through Christ. “Only so far as the life of the believer is absorbed in the life of Christ, does the righteousness of Christ become his own” (Lightfoot). Hence our Lord said: “I am the true vine, etc.” (John 15:1 ff.).
Unto the glory, etc. The glory and praise of God is the last end and true goal of all our charity, justice, good works, etc., as the Apostle here reminds us.