John Calvin Complete Commentary - Philippians 1:6 - 1:6

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - Philippians 1:6 - 1:6


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6Persuaded of this very thing. An additional ground of joy is furnished in his confidence in them for the time to come. (33) But some one will say, why should men dare to assure themselves for to-morrow amidst so great an infirmity of nature, amidst so many impediments, ruggednesses, and precipices? (34) Paul, assuredly, did not derive this confidence from the steadfastness or excellence of men, but simply from the fact, that God had manifested his love to the Philippians. And undoubtedly this is the true manner of acknowledging God’ benefits — when we derive from them occasion of hoping well as to the future. (35) For as they are tokens at once of his goodness, and of his fatherly benevolence towards us, what ingratitude were it to derive from this no confirmation of hope and good courage! In addition to this, God is not like men, so as to be wearied out or exhausted by conferring kindness. (36) Let, therefore, believers exercise themselves in constant meditation upon the favors which God confers, that they may encourage and confirm hope as to the time to come, and always ponder in their mind this syllogism: God does not forsake the work which his own hands have begun, as the Prophet bears witness, (Psa_138:8; Isa_64:8;) we are the work of his hands; therefore he will complete what he has begun in us. When I say that we are the work of his hands, I do not refer to mere creation, but to the calling by which we are adopted into the number of his sons. For it is a token to us of our election, that the Lord has called us effectually to himself by his Spirit.

It is asked, however, whether any one can be certain as to the salvation of others, for Paul here is not speaking of himself but of the Philippians. I answer, that the assurance which an individual has respecting his own salvation, is very different from what he has as to that of another. For the Spirit of God is a witness to me of my calling, as he is to each of the elect. As to others, we have no testimony, except from the outward efficacy of the Spirit; that is, in so far as the grace of God shews itself in them, so that we come to know it. There is, therefore, a great difference, because the assurance of faith remains inwardly shut up, and does not extend itself to others. But wherever we see any such tokens of Divine election as can be perceived by us, we ought immediately to be stirred up to entertain good hope, both in order that we may not be envious (37) towards our neighbors, and withhold from them an equitable and kind judgment of charity; and also, that we may be grateful to God. (38) This, however, is a general rule both as to ourselves and as to others — that, distrusting our own strength, we depend entirely upon God alone.

Until the day of Jesus Christ The chief thing, indeed, to be understood here is — until the termination of the conflict. Now the conflict is terminated by death. As, however, the Spirit is accustomed to speak in this manner in reference to the last coming of Christ, it were better to extend the advancement of the grace of Christ to the resurrection of the flesh. For although those who have been freed from the mortal body do no longer contend with the lusts of the flesh, and are, as the expression is, beyond the reach of a single dart, (39) yet there will be no absurdity in speaking of them as in the way of advancement, (40) inasmuch as they have not yet reached the point at which they aspire, — they do not yet enjoy the felicity and glory which they have hoped for; and in fine, the day has not yet shone which is to discover the treasures which lie hid in hope. And in truth, when hope is treated of, our eyes must always be directed forward to a blessed resurrection, as the grand object in view.

(33) “Qu’ se confioit d’ qu’ perseuereroyent de reste de leur vie;” — “ he had confidence in them that they would persevere during the remainder of their life.”

(34) “Entre tant d’ mauuais passages et fascheuses rencontres, voire mesme des dangers de tomber tout a plat en perdition;” — “ so many impediments, hard passes, and disagreeable collisions, nay, even so many hazards of falling headlong into perdition.”

(35) See CALVIN on the Corinthians, vol. 2, p. 121.

(36) “Il ne se lasse point en bien faisant, et son thresor ne diminue point;” — “ does not weary himself in doing good, and does not diminish his treasure.”

(37) “Enuieux et desdaigneux;” — “ and disdainful.”

(38) “Pour recognoistre le bien que Dieu leur a fait, et n’ point ingrats enuers luy;” — “ we may acknowledge the kindness which God has shewn them, and may not be ungrateful to him.”

(39) “Extra teli jactum “ — Virgil makes use of a corresponding phrase — “intra jactum teli;” — “ the reach of a dart.” Virg. Æ 11:608. — Ed.

(40) “En voye de proufiter, ou auancer;” — “ the way of making progress, or advancement.”