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Philippian Studies: Chapter 12 - The Collection for St Paul: The Farewell

By H. C. G. Moule

         "Is thy cruse of comfort wasting?
         rise and share it with another,
         And through all the years of famine
         it shall serve thee
               and thy brother.

         "Is thy burthen hard and heavy?
         do thy steps drag wearily?
         Help to bear thy brother's burthen;
         God will bear both it and thee.

         "Is the heart a living power?
         self-entwin'd, its strength sinks low;
         It can only live in loving,
         and by serving love will grow."
                     E. RUNDLE CHARLES.

      PHILIPPIANS iv. 10-23

      The Philippian alms--His sense of their faithful love--He has received in full--A passage in the Scriptural manner--The letter closes--"Christ is preached"--"Together with them"

      The work of dictation is nearly done in the Roman lodging.   The manuscript will soon be complete, and then soon rolled up and sealed, ready for Epaphroditus; he will place it with reverence and care in his baggage, and see it safe to Philippi.

      But one topic has to be handled yet before the end.   "Now concerning the collection!"   Epaphroditus, who had brought with him to Rome the loving alms of the Philippian believers, must carry back no common thanks to them.   All honour shall be done by the Lord's great servant to those who have done the Lord this service in him; they shall know how it has rejoiced and warmed his heart; they shall be made very sure that "inasmuch as they have done it to" their Missionary "they have done it to" their KING.

      We do not know how much the money amounted to.   It was not improbably a substantial sum.   Among the contributors might be Lydia, whose means may well have been comfortable; and the Keeper of the Prison would be by no means a beggar: what gratitude to St Paul glowed in both those hearts!   But not in theirs only; the rank and file of the mission would do all that love could do for the man who had manifested JESUS to them. And when that is the spirit, the liberality will often be surprising. Not long ago in one of our North American missions a small meeting of poor Christian Indians apologized for the scantiness of their collection for missionary objects; it was worth only L7; they would do better the next time!

      But small or large, the Philippian gift was precious with the weight of love.   And no doubt it was exceedingly useful practically.   It would secure for the imprisoned missionary many alleviating personal comforts, and part of it would probably be spent upon the work of evangelization in Rome and its neighbourhood; for then as now work inevitably meant expense.

      Ver. 10.   +But+, to turn now from teaching to thanking--+I rejoice+ (echaren: the English present best gives the point of the "epistolary" aorist) +in the Lord+, in our union of heart and life with Him, +greatly, that now at length+, after an interval which was no fault of yours, +you have blossomed, out[1] into+ loving +thought on my behalf+.   +With a view to this+ (eph o), this effort to aid me, you +were, I know+ (kai), +taking thought+ (ephroneite), even when you made no sign; +but you were at a loss for opportunity+ for the transmission; no bearer for your bounty could be spared, or found.

      Ver. 11.   +Not that I speak thus in the tone of need+ (kath usteresin), as if I had been wondering, and fretting, and suspecting you of forgetfulness or of parsimony; no, I have been in a happier mood than that; +for I, for my part+ (ego: slightly emphatic), have learnt (emathon: our perfect tense best gives this aorist) +to be, in my actual circumstances, self-sufficing+ (autarkes); "carrying with me all I have"; independent, not of grace, but of surroundings.

      Ver. 12.   +I know both+ (kai, not de) +how to run low,[2] and how to run over+, as I do now, with your bounty; and both experiences need a teaching from above if they are to be rightly borne.   +In everything and in all things+, in the details and in the total, I have been let into the secret, I have been initiated into the "mystery,"[3] +of being full fed and of being hungry, of+

      Ver. 13.   +running over and of coming short.   For all things I am strong in Him who makes me able.+[4]

      But not even this joyful testimony to the enabling presence of his Lord must divert his thought from the loving act of the Philippians.   He seems about to dilate on the glorious theme of what he can be and do in Christ; the wonder of that experience on which he entered at the crisis detailed in 2 Cor. xii. is surely powerfully upon him; the "My grace is sufficient for thee"; the sense of even exultation in weakness and imperfection, "that the power of Christ may overshadow" him.   But all this leaves perfectly undisturbed his delicate sympathy with the dear Macedonian converts.   And so he will assure them that no spiritual "sufficiency" can blunt the sense of their generous kindness.

      Ver. 14.   +Yet you did well+, you did a fair, good deed, +when you joined together+ (sunkoinonesantes) +in participating in my tribulation+, with the partnership of a sympathy which feels the suffering it relieves.   +But you

      Ver. 15.   +know+, (to add a thought on your previous bounties, which may as it were correct (de) the thought that I needed this last bounty to assure me of your love,) you know, +Philippians,[5] that in the beginning of the Gospel+, in the early days of the mission in your region, +when I left Macedonia+, parting from you on my way south, in order to quit Macedonia (Roman Northern Greece) for Achaia (Roman Southern Greece), via Thessalonica and Beroea,[6] +no church participated with me+, helped me in my labours, +in the matter of giving and taking+, (they giving and I taking the needed monetary aid,) +but you alone+.   But

      Ver. 16.   you did so; +because even in Thessalonica+; even when I was still there, in a place which was but ninety miles away,[7] and in the same province still; twice over (kai hapax kai dis) +you sent+ aid +to my need+, within the few weeks which I spent at Thessalonica.

      Again he will not be misunderstood.   This warmly expressed gratitude may conceivably be mistaken for an indirect petition, "thanks for favours to come."   So with sensitive delicacy he pursues:

      Ver. 17.   +Not that I am in quest of+ (epizeto: almost, "I am hunting for") +the gift+, the mere sum of money, in and for itself; +but I am in quest of the interest that is accumulating to your account+;[8] I am bent upon just such a developement of your generosity as will win from the heavenly Master more and yet more of that supreme reward, His own "Well done, good and

      Ver. 18.   faithful."   +But+ (he is still anxious, lest this too should be mistaken for a personal bid for more) +I have received in full+ (apecho); you have amply discharged love's obligations, in the gift now sent; +and I run over+; the largeness of your bounty makes an overflow.   +I have been filled full, in accepting from Epaphroditus what+ came +from you; an odour of fragrancy, a sacrifice acceptable, pleasing to God+, to whom you have really presented what you have sent to the man who serves Him--this evidence of your sacrifice to Him of yourselves and your possessions, a burnt offering (Lev. i. 9) of surrender, a peace offering (Lev. ii. 2, iii. 5) of thanksgiving.[9]   I cannot

      Ver. 19.   requite you; +but my God shall fill up every need of yours+ (pasan chreian, not p.ten chr.), making up to you in His own loving providence the gap in your means left by this your bounty, and enriching you the while in soul, +according to+, on the scale of, +His wealth, in glory, in Christ Jesus+.   Yes, He will draw on no less a treasury than that of "His glory," His own Nature of almighty Love, as it is manifested to and for you "in Christ Jesus," in whom "all the

      Ver. 20.   Fulness dwells."[10]   +But now to our God and Father+, to Him of whom I and you are alike the dear children, +be the glory+, the praise for this and for all like acts of His children's love, +for ever and ever+; "to the ages of the ages," the endless cycles of eternal life, in which shall it be fully seen how He was the Secret of all the holiness of all His saints.   Amen.

      So the utterance of thanks for a loving and liberal collection closes. Here is another case of the phenomenon we have seen already--the beautiful skill with which a local and personal incident is used as the occasion for a whole revelation of grace and truth.   We can easily imagine a gift like that which came from Philippi acknowledged with a few cordial words which would adequately express gratitude and pleasure, but would otherwise terminate wholly in themselves.   How different is this paragraph!   Throughout it, side by side, run at once the most perfect and delicate human courtesy and considerateness, and suggestions of eternal and spiritual relations, in which "the gift" touches at every point the heart of the Lord, and the promises of grace, and the hope of glory.   This message of thanks gives us, just in passing, such oracles of blessing as, "I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me," and "My God shall supply all your need."   It is on one side a model of nobility and fineness of human thought and feeling, on the other an oracle of God.   This is just in the manner of Scripture.   "Never book spake like this Book."

      Now the close comes.   The greetings which those who are one in the Lord cannot but send to one another in His name, have to be spoken, and then the scribe's pen will rest.

      Ver. 21.   +Salute every saint in Christ Jesus+, every holy one of your circle, holy because in Him; pass the greetings round from my heart to each member of the Church.   And as I write, the Christians now around me, my personal friends upon the spot, must send their message too; +there salute you all the brethren who are with me+.   And not they only, but all the believers of the Roman mission, represented around me in my chamber as I dictate, do the same; and among them one class asks to join with special warmth; +there+

      Ver. 22.   +salute you all the saints, but particularly those who belong to+ (oi ek) +the household of the Emperor+ (kaisaros); the Christians gathered from the retainers of the Palace; peculiar in their circumstances of temptation, and quickened thereby to a special warmth of faith and love.[11]

      Nothing is left now but the final message from the Lord Himself; the invocation of that "grace" which means in fact no abstract somewhat but His living Self, present in His people's inmost being, to vivify and to bless.

      Ver. 23.   +The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.[12] Amen.+

      The voice is silent; the pen is laid aside.   In due time the papyrus roll, inestimable manuscript, is made ready for its journey.   And perhaps as it now lies drying the Missionary and his brethren turn to further conversation on the beloved Philippian Church, and recall many a scene in the days that are over, and which are now gliding far into the past of the crowded years; and they speak again of the brightness of Philippian Christian life, and the shadows that lie on it here and there; and then, while the Praetorian sentinel looks on in wonder, or perhaps joins in as a believer, they pray together for Philippi, and pour out their praises to the Father and the Son, and anticipate the day of glory.

      It is all over now; it all happened very long ago.   But though that blessed group of our elder brethren "are all gone into the world of light" these many more than eighteen hundred human years, that Letter is our contemporary still.   "The word of God liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Pet. i. 23); it is never out of date, never touched by the pathetic glamour of the past, with the suggestion of farewells, and waxings old, and vanishings away.   To us to-day, so near the twentieth century, the Epistle to the Philippians is immortal, modern, true for our whole world and time.

      And what is its secret, its elixir of undying life?   It is the Name of Jesus Christ.   It is that these pages are the message of "the chosen Vessel" about that Name.

      Our studies in the Epistle shall close with that reflexion.   The incidental topics and interests of the document are numerous indeed; but the main theme is one, and it is Jesus Christ.   From first to last, under every variety of reference, "Christ is preached."

      Let me quote from a Sermon preached many years ago, the last of a series in which I attempted to unfold the Epistle to a Christian congregation in the beloved Church of Fordington, Dorchester, then my Father's cure and charge.

      "The mere number of mentions of the Saviour's name is remarkable.   More than forty times we have it in this short compass; that is to say, it occurs, amidst all the variety of subjects, on an average of about once in every two or three verses.   This is indeed perfectly characteristic, not of this Epistle only but of the whole New Testament.   What the Apostles preached was not a thing but a Person; Christ, Christ Jesus, Christ Jesus the Lord.

      "But let us not look only on this frequency of mention.   Let us gather up something of what these mentions say 'concerning the King.'

      "The writer begins with describing himself and his associates as the servants, the absolute bondmen, of Jesus Christ.   And truly such servants witness to the worthiness of their Master.

      "He addresses those to whom he writes as saints, as holy ones, in Jesus Christ.   Their standing, their character, their all, depends on Him; on union with Him, on life in Him.   Without Him, apart from Him, they would not be saints at all.

      "The writer speaks of his imprisonment at Rome; the subject is full of Jesus Christ.   'My bonds in Christ' is his remarkable description of captivity.   And the result of that captivity was, to his exceeding joy, just this, amidst a great variety of conditions in detail, including some exquisite trials to patience and peace: 'Christ is being preached'; 'that Christ may be magnified in my body, whether by life or death.'   He is kept absolutely cheerful and at rest; and the secret is Jesus Christ.

      "He has occasion to speak of his trial, with its delays, and its suspense between life and death.   The whole is full of Jesus Christ. 'To me to live is Christ'; He fills, and as it were makes, life for me.   'And to die is gain'--why?   Because 'to depart and to be with Christ is far, far better.'   The dilemma in which he stands (for he is 'in a strait betwixt the two') is a dilemma between Christ and Christ, Christ much and Christ more, Christ by faith and Christ by sight.

      "He dwells, in various places, on the life and duties of the Philippians.   His precepts are all this, in effect--Christ applied to conduct.   'Let your life-walk be as it becometh the Gospel of Christ'; 'Filled with the fruit of righteousness which is through Jesus Christ'; 'It is granted to you not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for His sake.'

      "In particular, he has to press on them the homely duty of practical self-forgetfulness.   He takes them for model and motive to the heaven of heavens, and shews them 'Christ Jesus' there, as for us men and for our salvation He prepares to come down, and comes.   'Let this mind be in you,' as you contemplate the original Glory, the amazing Incarnation, the atoning Death, of Christ Jesus.

      "He expresses hopes, intentions, resolutions, as to his own actions. All is still 'in Jesus Christ.'   'I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus,' 'I trust in the Lord to come myself shortly.'

      "Does he speak of the believer's joy?   'We rejoice in Christ Jesus,' 'Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice.'   Does he speak of pardon and of peace?   'I counted all things but loss that I might win Christ, and be found in Him, having the righteousness which is of God by faith.'   Does he speak of knowledge, and of power?   'That I might know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death'; 'I can do all things in Christ which strengtheneth me.'

      "He speaks of a holy immortality, of eternal glory, and of pleasures for evermore.   It is no vague aspiration; it is a sure and certain hope; and it is altogether in Jesus Christ.   'Our home, our citizenship, is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change the body of our humiliation into likeness to the body of His glory, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto--Himself.'

      "He bids his beloved converts stand fast; it is 'in the Lord.'   He bids them be of one mind; it is 'in the Lord.'   He bids them be always calm, always self-forgetting; 'the Lord is at hand.' He assures them of an all-sufficient resource for their every need; 'My God shall supply all, according to His riches, in glory, in Christ Jesus.'

      "His last message of blessing brings together their inmost being and this same wonderful Person; 'The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.   Amen.' . . .

      "What a witness it all is to the glory of our beloved Redeemer; to the majesty of His Person; to the fulness and perfection of His Work; to the solidity, the sobriety, the strength, of the faith which is in Him! There is no inflation or rhetoric in the language of the Epistle about Him.   Glowing with love, it is all clear and calm.   Yes, for Christ Jesus is not a phantom of the fancy; a hope floating on the thick waves of a wild enthusiasm.   He is an anchor, sure and steadfast.   Blessed are they who ride secure on the deep, held fast by Him.

      "The Epistle witnesses to Him as to a Treasure worth all our seeking, at any cost; infinitely precious to our joyful finding; infinitely deserving of our keeping, of our holding, our 'apprehending,' as He in His mercy has laid hold of us, and will keep hold of us, even to the end; 'unto the day of Jesus Christ.'   As then, so now;

         'He help'd His saints in ancient days
            Who trusted in His name;
         And we can witness to His praise,
            His love is still the same.'

      "May the Spirit bring home to our spirit this great witness of the Epistle; it has its perfect adaptation to each heart, to every life, to every hour.

      "Then hereafter we shall give God thanks yet better for 'Philippians,' as we too enter, late or soon, into that world where the Apostle, and Timotheus, and Epaphroditus, and Euodia, and Syntyche, and Clement, and the saints of Caesar's household, have so long beheld the Lord.   In that land of light we, who have believed, shall rest with them.   We shall know them.   In the long leisure of endless life we shall enjoy their company, amidst the multitudinous congregation of the just made perfect.   There we shall understand how, under the infinite differences of our earthly conditions, the one Hand led them and led us along the one way of salvation to the one end of everlasting life.   Above all, we there, with them, shall know JESUS CHRIST, even as we are known.   There we, with them, shall realize how to Him, and to Him alone, from all His servants, from Hebrew, and Roman, and Philippian, and Englishman, and African, from ancients and moderns, wise and ignorant, of all kinds and times, was due the whole praise of their whole salvation.

            'Conflicts and trials done
            His glory they behold,
         Where JESUS and His flock are one,
            One Shepherd and one fold.'"

      [1] Anethalete to huper emou phronein.   Literally, "you shot forth (as a branch) thought in my behalf."   (The English perfect best represents this aorist.)   The phrase is unmistakably pictorial, poetical.   If I read it aright, it is touched with a smile of gentle pleasantry; the warm heart comes out in a not undesigned quaintness of expression.

      [2] tapeinousthai is used in classical Greek of the falling of a river in drought.   Perhaps such an image is present in the language here.

      [3] Memuemai: the verb whose root is that of mysterion, mysterium, "mystery."   In the Greek world "mysteries" were systems of religious belief and practice derived, perhaps, from pre-Hellenic times, and jealously guarded from common knowledge by their votaries. Admission into their secrets, as into those of Freemasonry now, was sought by people of all kinds, from Roman consuls and emperors downwards; with the special hope of freedom from evil in this life and the next.   St Paul's use of this phenomenon to supply language for Christian experience is beautifully suggestive.   The knowledge of the peace of God is indeed an open secret, open to "whosoever will" "learn of Him."   But it is a secret, a mystery, none the less.

      [4] The word Christo should be omitted from the reading, though perfectly right as a note or explanation.--The iochus is the forth-putting of the dunamis--the action of the faculty.   He is ready to act (or to bear) in a power always latent, always present, through his union with his Lord.   The "all things" so met are, of course, the all things of the will of God, the choice of the Master for the servant in the way of circumstance and trial; not the all things of the mere wish or ambition of the servant.

      [5] Philippesioi: the Greek form represents a Latin Philippenses, by which the residents in the Roman "colony" would call themselves. So Corinthiensis means not a born Corinthian but a settler at Corinth.--Greek tends to represent a Latin syllable -ens by -es: so Klemes, Clemens.

      [6] See Acts xvii. 1-15.

      [7] On the Egnatian road.   He made three stages of the distance; Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica.

      [8] Ton karpon ton pleonazonta eis logon hymon.   I venture to render these words as above, as a monetary phrase, relating to principal and interest.   It is true that karpos is not found used in the sense of interest, for which the regular word is tokos.   But it would easily fit into the language of the money-market.   And St Chrysostom's comment here seems to show that he, a Greek, understood it thus: horas hoti ekeinois ho karpos tiktetai (tokos).

      [9] For osme euodias see Eph. v. 2.   The phrase is common in the Septuagint to render the Hebrew "savour of rest," the fume of the altar pictorially represented as smelt by the Deity.

      [10] This reference of doxa seems better than that which would connect it only with the eternal future, the glory of heaven, and make the sentence mean that He would hereafter requite them there.   He would indeed do so.   But the phrase pleroun pasan chreian hardly suggests that thought here.

      [11] "Bishop Lightfoot . . . (Philippians, pp. 171-178) has shewn with great fulness of proof that 'the household of Caesar' was a term embracing a vast number of persons, not only in Rome but in the provinces, all of whom were either actual or former slaves of the Emperor, filling every possible description of office more or less domestic.   The Bishop illustrates his statements from the . . . burial inscriptions of members of the 'Household' found . . . near Rome. . . . These inscriptions afford a curiously large number of coincidences with the list in Rom. xvi. . . .   Amplias, Urbanus, Apelles, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Patrobas, Philologus. . . .   Bishop Lightfoot infers from this whole evidence the great probability that the 'saints' greeted in Rom. xvi. were, on the whole, the same 'saints' who here send greeting from Rome. . . .   Their associations and functions, not only in the age of Nero but in the precincts of his court, and probably (for many of them) within the chambers of his palace, give a noble view in passing of the power of grace to triumph over circumstances, and to transfigure life where it seems most impossible" (Note in The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges).   See also the writer's commentary on the Ep. to the Romans (Expositor's Bible), pp. 423-425.

      [12] Read meta tou pneumatos huon, not m. panton humon.


      ACTS xxviii. 16, 31

      "Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept
      him. . . .   preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things
      which concern the Lord Jesus Christ."

         (THE SOLDIER loquitur.)

         Father, the dawn is near! the shield
            Of Luna sinks remote and pale
         O'er Tiber and the Martial field;
            The breeze awakes; the cressets fail:
         This livelong night from set of sun
         Here have we talk'd: thy task is done.

         But yesterday I smil'd or frown'd
            To watch thy audience, soon and late,
         With scroll and style embattl'd round
            In barbarous accents ply debate;
         While this would chide, and that would start
         Sudden, as sword-struck in the heart.

         I laugh'd aside, or, tir'd, withdrew
            From the strange sound in waking dreams
         To Umbrian hills--the home I knew--
            The cottage by Mevania's streams:
         'Twas hush'd at length: the guests were flown,
         And thou wast left and I alone.

         Thou hast forgiven (I know thee now)
            The insults of this heathen tongue;
         The taunting questions why and how;
            The songs (oh madness!) that I sung:
         Thou hast forgiv'n the hateful strain
         Of dull defiance and disdain.

         Thy gaze, thy silence, they compell'd
            My own responsive: aw'd I stood
         Before thee; soften'd, search'd, and quell'd;
            The evil captive to the good:
         Half conscious, half entranc'd, I heard
         (While the stars mov'd) thy conquering word.

         These ears were dull to Grecian speech,
            This heart more dull to aught but sin;
         Yet the great Spirit bade thee reach,
            Wake, change, exalt, the soul within:
         I've heard; I know; thy Lord, ev'n He,
         JESUS, hath look'd from heaven on me.

         Thou saw'st me shake, and (spite of pride)
            Weep on thy hand: so stern thy truth:
         I own'd the terrors that abide
            Dread sequel to a rebel's youth:
         But soon I pour'd a happier shower
         To learn thy Saviour's dying power.

         Ah, speechless, rapt, I bent, to know
            Each wonder of that fateful day
         When midst thy zeal's terrific glow
            He met thee on the Syrian way:
         I saw, I felt, the scene: my soul
         Drank the new bliss, the new control.

         Father, the dawn is risen! the hour
            Is near, too near, when from this hand
         Thy chain must fall--from yonder tower
            Another guard must take my stand:
         The City stirs: I go, to meet
         The foe, the world, in camp and street;

         A Christian--yes, for ever now
            A Christian: so our Leader keep
         My faltering heart: to Him I bow,
            His, whether now I wake or sleep:
         In peace, in battle, His:--the day
         Breaks in the east: oh, once more pray!


Back to H. C. G. Moule index.

See Also:
   Preface and Introduction
   Chapter 1 - Introductory
   Chapter 2 - The Intimacy of Human Hearts in Christ
   Chapter 3 - The Apostle's Position and Circumstances
   Chapter 4 - The Christian's Peace and the Christian's Consistency
   Chapter 5 - Unity in Self-Forgetfulness: The Example of the Lord
   Chapter 6 - The Lord's Power in the Disciple's Life
   Chapter 7 - Timotheus And Epaphroditus
   Chapter 8 - Joy in the Lord and its Preserving Power
   Chapter 9 - Christian Standing and Christian Progress
   Chapter 10 - The Blessed Hope and its Power
   Chapter 11 - Purity and Peace in the Present Lord
   Chapter 12 - The Collection for St Paul: The Farewell


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