17If I should be offered. (138) The Greek word is
σπένδομαι, and accordingly there appears to be an allusion to those animals, by the slaughter of which agreements and treaties were confirmed among the ancients. For the Greeks specially employ the term
σπονδὰς to denote the victims by which treaties are confirmed. In this way, he calls his death the confirmation of their faith, which it certainly would be. That, however, the whole passage may be more clearly understood, he says that he offered sacrifice to God, when he consecrated them by the gospel. There is a similar expression in Rom_15:16; for in that passage he represents himself as a priest, who offers up the Gentiles to God by the gospel. Now, as the gospel is a spiritual sword for slaying victims, (139) so faith is, as it were, the oblation; for there is no faith without mortification, by means of which we are consecrated to God.
He makes use of the terms,
καὶ λειτουργίαν — sacrifice and service, the former of which refers to the Philippians, who had been offered up to God; and the latter to Paul, for it is the very act of sacrificing. The term, it is true, is equivalent to administration, and thus it includes functions and offices of every kind; but here it relates properly to the service of God — corresponding to the phrase made use of by the Latins — operari sacris — (to be employed in sacred rites (140)) Now Paul says that he will rejoice, if he shall be offered up upon a sacrifice of this nature — that it may be the more ratified and confirmed. This is to teach the gospel from the heart — when we are prepared to confirm with our own blood what we teach.
From this, however, a useful lesson is to be gathered as to the nature of faith — that it is not a vain thing, but of such a nature as to consecrate man to God. The ministers of the gospel have, also, here a singular consolation in being called priests of God, to present victims to him; (141) for with what ardor ought that man to apply himself to the pursuit of preaching, who knows that this is an acceptable sacrifice to God! The wretched Papists, having no knowledge of this kind of sacrifice, contrive another, which is utter sacrilege.
I rejoice with you, says he — so that if it should happen that he died, they would know that this took place for their profit, and would receive advantage from his death.
(138) Paul’ statement here is interpreted by Dr. John Brown as equivalent to the following: — “ my life be poured out as a libation over your conversion to Christ, ‘ joy and rejoice with you all.’ It could not be better sacrificed than in the cause of his glory and your salvation.” — Brown’ Discourses and Sayings of our Lord illustrated, vol. 3 p. 379. — Ed.
(139) “Pour tuer les bestes qu’ doit sacrifier;” — “ killing the animals that ought to be sacrificed.”
(140) See Liv. 50:1, c. 31, ad fin. — Ed.
(141) “Pour luy offrir en sacrifice les ames des fideles;” — “ offer to him in sacrifice the souls of the believers.”