John Calvin Complete Commentary - Philippians 4:3 - 4:3

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - Philippians 4:3 - 4:3

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

3I entreat thee, also, true yokefellow I am not inclined to dispute as to the gender of the noun, and shall, accordingly, leave it undetermined (213), whether he addresses here a man or a woman. At the same time there is excessive weakness in the argument of Erasmus, who infers that it is a woman from the circumstance, that mention is made here of other women — as though he did not immediately subjoin the name of Clement in the same connection. I refrain, however, from that dispute: only I maintain that it is not Paul’ wife that is designated by this appellation. Those who maintain this, quote Clement and Ignatius as their authorities. If they quoted correctly, I would not certainly despise men of such eminence. But as writings are brought forward from Eusebius (214) which are spurious, and were contrived by ignorant monks (215), they are not deserving of much credit among readers of sound judgment (216)

Let us, therefore, inquire as to the thing itself, without taking any false impression from the opinions of men. When Paul wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians, he was, as he mentions, at that time unmarried.

“ the unmarried,” says he, “ widows, I say it is good that they should continue even as I am” (1Co_7:8.)

He wrote that Epistle at Ephesus (217) when he was prepared to leave it. Not long after, he proceeded to Jerusalem, where he was put in prison, and sent to Rome. Every one must perceive how unsuitable a period of time it would have been for marrying a wife, spent by him partly in journeying, and partly in prison. In addition to this, he was even at that time prepared to endure imprisonment and persecutions, as he himself testifies, according to Luke. (Act_21:13.) I am, at the same time, well aware what objection is usually brought forward in opposition to this — that Paul, though married, refrained from conjugal intercourse. The words, however, convey another meaning, for he is desirous that unmarried persons may have it in their power to remain in the same condition with himself. Now, what is that condition but celibacy? As to their bringing forward that passage —

Is it not lawful for me to lead about a wife (1Co_9:5,)

for the purpose of proving he had a wife, it is too silly to require any refutation (218). But granting that Paul was married, how came his wife to be at Philippi — a city which we do not read of his entering on more than two occasions, and in which it is probable he never remained so much as two whole months? In fine, nothing is more unlikely than that he speaks here of his wife; and to me it does not seem probable that he speaks of any female. I leave it, however, to the judgment of my readers. The word which Paul makes use of here ( συλλάμβανεσθαι means, to take hold of a thing and embrace it along with another person, with the view of giving help (219)

Whose names are in the book of life The book of life is the roll of the righteous, who are predestinated to life, as in the writings of Moses. (Exo_32:32.) God has this roll beside himself in safekeeping. Hence the book is nothing else than His eternal counsel, fixed in His own breast. In place of this term, Ezekiel employs this expression — the writing of the house of Israel. With the same view it is said in

Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and let them not be written among the righteous; (Psa_69:28)

that is, let them not be numbered among the elect of God, whom he receives within the limits of his Church and kingdom (220).

Should any one allege, that Paul therefore acts rashly in usurping to himself the right of pronouncing as to the secrets of God, I answer, that we may in some measure form a judgment from the token by which God manifests his election, but only in so far as our capacity admits. In all those, therefore, in whom we see the marks of adoption shine forth, let us in the mean time reckon those to be the sons of God until the books are opened, (Rev_20:12,) which will thoroughly bring all things to view. It belongs, it is true, to God alone now to know them that are his, (2Ti_2:19,) and to separate at least the lambs from the kids; (221) but it is our part to reckon in charity all to be lambs who, in a spirit of obedience, submit themselves to Christ as their Shepherd (222), who betake themselves to his fold, and remain there constantly. It is our part to set so high a value upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which he confers peculiarly on his elect, that they shall be to us the seals, as it were, of an election which is hid from us.

(213) “Je le laisse a disputer aux autres;” —” leave it to others to dispute as to this.”

(214) Comme ainsi soit qu’ metre en auant ie ne scay quels faux escrits sous le nom d’;” — “ they set forth I know not what spurious writings under the name of Eusebius.”

(215) “Et adioustez a son histoire;” — “ added to his history.”

(216) “Ils ne meritent point enuers les lecteurs de bon iugement, qu’ y adiouste grande foy;” — “ do not deserve, as to readers of good judgment, that much credit should be attached to them.”

(217) See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 2, pp. 70, 72, 78.

(218) See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 234, 235, 292.

(219) It is defined by Wahl, in his Clavis N. T. Philologica, as follows. Una manaum admoveo, i.e. opitulor,opem fero, iuvo ; (I lend a helping hand; that is, I assist, I bring assistance, I aid.) Ed.

(220) See Calvin on the Psalms, vol. 3, pp. 73, 74.

(221) “Les agneux des boucs;” — “ lambs from the goats.”

(222) “Christ vray Pastuer;” — “ the true Shepherd.”