Bibliotheca Sacra 155 (July-September 1998) 316-326.

          Copyright © 1998 by Dallas Theological Seminary.  Cited with permission.

 

 

           PAUL'S CORPORATE WITNESS

                         IN PHILIPPIANS

 

 

                                      George W. Murray

 

 

As noted in a previous article,1 the apostle Paul often min-

istered with others in his evangelistic efforts. He seldom worked

alone. Luke reported in the Book of Acts numerous occasions

when Paul served with fellow workers, actively engaging in cor-

porate evangelism.

            The Book of Philippians, too, highlights Paul's emphasis on

fellowship in evangelism. The themes of unity and witnessing

are seen, as Martin observes, in the two words "gospel" (eu]ag-

ge<lion) and "fellowship" (koinwni<a).2 In Philippians "gospel"

denotes the work of evangelism and "fellowship" points to active

partnership in that activity.3

            At the beginning of this epistle Paul thanked the Philippians

for their "partnership in the gospel" (1:5, NIV).4 He spoke of their

"defending and confirming the gospel" with him (v. 7) and about

his circumstances that served to advance the gospel (v. 12). He

mentioned the brethren who spoke "the word of God" (v. 14), he re-

ferred to those who "preach Christ" (vv. 15, 17), and he rejoiced be-

cause "Christ is preached" (v. 18).5 He exhorted the Philippians to

 

George W. Murray is Executive Director, The Evangelical Alliance Mission,

Wheaton, Illinois.

 

1 George W. Murray, "Paul's Corporate Evangelism in the Book of Acts," Biblio-

theca Sacra 155 (April—June 1998): 189—200.

2 Ralph P. Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians (Grand Rapids: Eerd-

mans, 1959), 46.

3 Ibid.

4 All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, unless noted

otherwise.

5 It is not wrong to equate Christ with the gospel. "If we were to sum up the con-

tent of the Gospel in a single word, it would be Jesus the Christ" (Gerhard

Friedrich, "eu]aggeli<zomai ktl.," Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed.

Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley [Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 19641, 2:731 [italics his]).

 

                                                    316



                  Paul's Corporate Witness in Philippians                      317

 

live a life "worthy of the gospel of Christ" and to be "contending as

one man for the faith of the gospel" (v. 27).

            Believers are to "shine like stars" and to "hold out the word of

life" in a "depraved generation" (2:15-16). Paul commended

Timothy because he "served with me in the work of the gospel" (v.

22). Euodia and Synteche shared with Paul and others "in the

cause of the gospel" (4:3). Near the end of the letter, Paul referred

to the time when the gospel was first preached to them (v. 15).

            These references reveal that the gospel weighed heavily on

the heart of Paul as he wrote this letter. His concern for the propa-

gation of the good news shows up in his use of a number of words

in connection with the gospel: "defending" (1:7), "confirming"

(v. 7), "advance" (v. 12), "speak" (v. 14), "preach" (khru<ssw in v.

15; katagge<llw in v. 18), "contending for" (v. 27), "hold out" (2:16),

"served . . . in the work of" (v. 22), and "contended . . . in the

cause of" (4:3).

            Concerned for the unity of the Philippian believers, Paul

urged them to be "standing firm in one spirit, with one mind [lit.,

soul] striving together" (1:27, NASB), to be "of the same mind,

maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one pur-

pose" (2:2, NASB), and to "live in harmony in the Lord" (4:2,

NASB). Recognizing that true humility is the key to unity, Paul

cited the example of Jesus Christ (2:5-11). Unity is indeed a ma-

jor emphasis of this letter. Commenting on Paul's purposes for

writing the epistle, Foulkes says, "News brought to him indicated

the dangers of divisions and party spirit among the Philippian

Christians, and he wanted to exhort them to live and act and wit-

ness in the unity of the Spirit."6 He spoke of the fellowship

(koinwni<a) of believers in 1:5 ("your partnership in the gospel")

and in 2:1 ("fellowship of the Spirit" [NASB], i.e., fellowship that

comes from the Holy Spirit).7

            Several times Paul indicated the importance of unified wit-

nessing: 1:5; 1:7; 1:27-28; 2:14-16; 2:22; 2:25-30; 4:3; and 4:21.

 

                                       PHILIPPIANS 1:5

In this verse Paul spoke of the Philippians' partnership (koinwni<a)

with him in furthering the gospel. This was not simply a common

enjoyment of the benefits of the gospel. Rather, it denoted an ac-

tive partnership in propagating the gospel. The Philippians indi-

 

6 Francis Foulkes, "Philippians," in The New Bible Commentary, ed. Donald

Guthrie et al. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 1126.

7 Robert P. Lightner, "Philippians," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New

Testament, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 653.

 



318              BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July-September 1998

 

sated the reality of their partnership in the gospel not by “a quiet

enjoyment of it, but [by] a keen activity in the interest of it.”8

            Koinwni<a occurs fourteen times in Paul's writings.9 Before

the New Testament era the word signified the “close union and

brotherly bond between men,”10 and the close relationship be-

tween God and human beings.11 Paul used the word in both

ways.12 In both cases the word refers to two or more persons shar-

ing something in common.13 In 1:5 the idea of partnership

(koinwni<a) and gospel propagation (ei]j to> eu]agge<lion) are linked.

            Friedrich says koinwni<a in this verse refers not to the Philip-

pians' partnership in spreading the gospel, but to their fellowship

in the gospel itself, that is, their fellowship as believers.14 Light-

foot believes the fellowship includes sympathy with Paul's suffer-

ings, but he does not exclude the possibility of corporate witness.15

Eadie, however, rejects these ideas for a more general view. "The

noun is followed by the genitive of the thing participated in, or

with ei]j, denoting its object. We, therefore, take koinwni<a in a

general sense, and the following clause so closely connected with

it, through the nonrepetition of the article, as assigning its end or

purpose. Thus understood, it denotes participation, or community

of interest in whatever the gospel had for its object.''16

            Eadie adds that everyone pertaining to the defense and prop-

agation of the gospel was a matter of concern to the Philippians,

and he calls their common participation with Paul "a palpable co-

partnery" in gospel witness.17 Muller points out that ei]j with the

 

8 Jacobus J. Muller, The Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and to Philemon,

New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1980), 40.

9 It also occurs in Acts 2:42; Hebrews 13:16; and 1 John 1:3 (twice), 6-7.

10 J. Schattenmann, "koinwni<a," in New International Dictionary of New Testa-

ment Theology, ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 1:640.

11 Friedrick Hauck, "koino<j ktl.," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testa-

ment (1965), 3:801.

12 Schattenmann, "koinwni<a," 1:643.

13 J. Y. Campbell, "Koinwni<a and Its Cognates in the New Testament," Journal of

Biblical Literature 51 (1932): 353.

14 Friedrich, "eu]aggeli<zomai ktl.," 2:732.

15 J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians (1913; reprint, Grand

Rapids: Zondervan, 1953), 83. Peter T. O'Brian points out that the Philippians

shared in Paul's sufferings because they were engaged in gospel witness ("The Fel-

lowship Theme in Philippians," Reformed Theological Review 37 [1978]: 13).

16 John Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the

Philippians (1859; reprint, Minneapolis: James and Klock, 1977), 9.

17 Ibid.

 



                  Paul's Corporate Witness in Philippians                    319

 

accusative includes the idea of motion, direction, and a "striving

towards," thus denoting definite activity in gospel witness.18

Hendricksen concurs by referring to the partnership of Philippi-

ans 1:5 as "an active participation in gospel activity."19  Koinwni<a,

then, in this verse refers not only to what believers do for each

other, but also what they do together for others.

            This partnership in evangelism took place between Paul and

the Philippian believers when they were together ("from the first

day") and when they were apart ("until now"). Therefore part-

nership in evangelism does not always involve physical pres-

ence. However, even when Paul was apart from them, the believ-

ers at Philippi were one with him in the task of evangelism

through their prayers (1:19) and gifts (4:15), and by sending Epa-

phroditus to take care of the apostle's needs and to be his "fellow

worker" (2:25). The Philippians, Paul pointed out, sent Epa-

phroditus not just to take him a financial gift, but also to help him

in his ministry as they themselves would have done had it been

possible for them to be there.

            Since koinwni<a ei]j to> eu]agge<lion denotes active partnership

in gospel witness, Paul's thankfulness expressed in 1:3 takes on

greater significance. He was grateful for their partnership in

evangelism. Viewing verse 4 as parenthetical,20 Paul wrote in

verses 3 and 5, "I thank my God . . . because of your partnership

in [the furtherance on the gospel." Lightfoot points out that the

"good work" in verse 6 refers to the Philippians' cooperative

evangelism with Paul.21 On the surface it would seem that the

"good work" of verse 6 refers generally to God's work of salvation

in the Philippians. However, verse 6 continues the thought of

verse 5. This cooperative evangelism, then, was not primarily the

idea of Paul or the Philippians; it was a good work begun and

continued by God.

 

                                  PHILIPPIANS 1:7

In this verse Paul wrote of defending and confirming the gospel.

Based on his words "in chains" in this same verse, some writers

believe this refers to his suffering and defense as a prisoner,

 

18 Muller, The Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and Philemon, 40.

19 William Hendricksen, Exposition of Philippians, New Testament Commentary

(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1962), 52.

20 Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, 83; and Muller, The Epistles of

Paul to the Philippians and Philemon, 39.

21 Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, 84.

 



320       BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July-September 1998

 

rather than to his preaching ministry.22 However, Paul seemed to

make a distinction between being "in chains" and defending and

confirming the gospel. Seeing this distinction, Eadie points out

that this phrase cannot be restricted to suffering, since the

speaker's reference to God's grace at the end of the verse refers

equally to his a]plogi% ("defense") and his desmoi?j ("chains").23

The phrase "the defense and confirmation of the gospel" clearly

refers to evangelistic activity. As Lightfoot points out, "a]pologi<a

implies the negative or defensive side of Paul's preaching" and

"bebai<wsij [confirmation] denotes the positive or aggressive side,

the direct advancement and establishment of the Gospel."24

            Paul then linked the Philippian believers with him by stating

that in both of these things they were "partakers" (sugkoinwnou<j)

with him of God's grace, that is, partners in activities (suffering

and evangelism) connected with God's grace. They were

"copartakers of his [Paul's] grace in evangelical labor."25 That

is, they joined with Paul in defending and confirming the gospel,

and that joint activity evidenced God's grace.26

 

                             PHILIPPIANS 1:27–28

Paul exhorted the Philippians to "stand firm in one spirit . . . for

the faith of the gospel." Here again he spoke of united witness. Be-

sides commending these believers for their participation with

him in evangelism (v. 5), he urged them to join in the same cause

even in his absence.

            Sunaqle<w (lit., "striving together") is used only twice in the

New Testament, and both occurrences are in Philippians (1:27;

4:3). "The unity here envisioned is one of striving or struggling

side by side, like gladiators, against a common foe. This strug-

gle, moreover, is not only against a foe, but for the gospel-truth."27

In the phrase "for the faith of the gospel" pi<stij is objective,

denoting the contents of belief (as in Jude 3). This phrase t^<

 

22 For example Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, 63; and Muller,

The Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and Philemon, 43.

23 Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippi-

ans, 14.

24 Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, 85.

25 Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippi-

ans, 14.

26 Their suffering resulted directly from evangelism. Paul wrote, "I am in chains

for Christ" (1:13) and "I am put here [prison] for the defense of the gospel" (v. 16).

27 Hendricksen, Exposition of Philippians, 86-87.



                      Paul's Corporate Witness in Philippians                    321

 

pi<stei tou? eu]aggeli<ou, occurring only here in the New Testament

(Phil. 1:27), could be translated "with the faith of the gospel? But

the idea of "on behalf of the gospel"28 seems preferable, since the

same word for striving (sunaqle<w) in 4:3 clearly denotes work for

the gospel, as seen by its link with the phrase e]n t&? eu]aggeli<&.

            The words "contending as one man for the faith of the gospel"

is part of a long sentence that begins with a command ("conduct

yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ," v. 27) and

ends with a theological statement ("This is a sign to them that

they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by

God," v. 28). Both the command and the theological statement re-

late to the words "contending as one man for the faith of the

gospel."

            The command "conduct yourselves" (politeu<omai) can be

translated, "discharge your obligations as citizens."29 The

Philippians were to act as citizens of the gospel. "The polis of an-

cient Greece was not merely a place of human habitation, but was

the theatre of corporate activity of every kind, in which the indi-

vidual citizen found scope for the use of all his gifts and the real-

ization of all his potentialities; it was ‘the highest of all fellow-

ships or associations, which embraces all the others and exists for

the attainment of the highest of all goods’ (Aristotle, Politics, A.

1252a). The verb (politeu<esqai) as used here by Paul rests upon

the transfer of these general conceptions to the church, and bears

upon the corporate life of the Christian community of Philippi?"30

            The verb politeu<esqai "seems always to refer to public duties

devolving on a man as a member of a body."31 Just as a person

living in Philippi, a Roman colony, would betray the fact that he

is a Roman citizen by his behavior, so a Christian by his conduct

should betray the fact that he is a citizen of the gospel.32 True citi-

zens of the gospel seek to propagate that gospel in the context of

unified cooperation with other believers. In effect, Paul was say-

ing that by their behaving as citizens of the gospel he would know

(even if he never got back to Philippi) that they would be standing

"firm in one spirit" together for the gospel.

 

28 Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippi-

ans, 74.

29 Raymond R. Brewer, "The Meaning of Politeuesthe in Philippians 1:27," Jour-

nal of Biblical Literature 73 (1954): 83.

33 Francis W. Beare, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians, 2d ed.

(London: Adam and Black, 1969), 66.

31 Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, 105.

32 In Philippians 3:20 Paul reinforced this idea by pointing out that "our citizen-

ship [poli<teuma] is in heaven."



322     BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July—September 1998

 

            The theological statement points back to what Paul already

had said. Their united and courageous witness (v. 27) evidenced

their saving relationship with the Lord (v. 28). The phrase "and

that by God" shows that the apostle's exhortation to show their

gospel citizenship by united, courageous witness was God's will.

Some commentators say tou?to a]po> qeou? refers only to "salva-

tion" (swthri<aj),33 whereas others say it refers to the word "sign"

(e@ndeicij).34 However, both of these words are feminine, whereas

tou?to is neuter. Thus tou?to refers not to "salvation" or "sign" but

to the fact of their courageous witness and its results.35

 

                            PHILIPPIANS 2:14–16

These verses also indicate the importance of unified witness.

Paul pleaded for unity between believers ("do everything without

complaining or arguing") in order to carry out an effective wit-

ness "in which you shine like stars . . . as you hold out the word of

life"). This appeal for unity is so that (i!na) they will be effective

witnesses—"blameless and pure . . . without fault" in an evil

world in which they are to "shine like stars," holding forth God's

word (v. 15). By their unity they could "present an unbroken front

in their conflict for the faith."36

            As stars, believers are to dispel spiritual darkness by en-

lightening the hearts of the unsaved.37 They are to hold out or hold

forth38 the word of life (lo<gon zwh?j), an expression the believers

would clearly understand as a reference to the gospel.

 

33 John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians,

Philippians and Colossians, trans. T. H. L. Parker, vol. 11 of Calvin's Commen-

taries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 242; and Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer,

Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistles to the Philippians and Colos-

sians, and to Philemon, trans. John C. Moore, vol. 9 of Critical and Exegetical

Commentary on the New Testament (Winona Lake, IN: Alpha, 1884), 44.

34 Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, 106.

35 Homer A. Kent Jr., "Philippians," in The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Grand

Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 119; and Hendricksen, Exposition of Philippians, 90.

36 H. A. A. Kennedy, "Philippians," in The Expositor's Greek Testament, ed. W.

Robertson Nicoll (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 3:440.

37 Beare, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians, 92.

38  ]Epe<xontej can also be translated "hold fast" as in the New American Standard

Bible. However, the force of the prefix e]pi-, the use of the word in nonbiblical liter-

ature (Homer, Iliad 9.489; 22.494), and the immediate context (in which it is linked

with the shining stars) make "hold out" (in the sense of "to offer") preferable. See

Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, 118; Eadie, A Commentary on the

Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, 143-44; and Muller, The Epis-

tles of Paul to the Philippians and Philemon, 94.



                  Paul's Corporate Witness in Philippians                   323

 

                              PHILIPPIANS 2:22

In Philippians 2:22 Paul said that Timothy was like "a son with

his father" who had "served with me in the work of the gospel." Ei]j

to> eu]agge<lion ("in the gospel") clearly denotes evangelistic

proclamation,39 as it does in 1:5 and 4:3. In 1 Thessalonians 3:2

Paul called Timothy "our brother and God's fellow worker in

spreading the gospel of Christ [e]n t&? eu]aggeli& tou? Xristou?]." By

using the father-son image, Paul was not saying Timothy was

subordinate to him. (Paul did not say Timothy served him, but

that Timothy served with him.) Paul and Timothy were partners

together in the business of the gospel. Also Timothy's intimate

union with Paul in gospel witness was proof of his worth as a

Christian worker ("Timothy has proved himself").

 

                             PHILIPPIANS 2:25-30

In 2:25–30 Paul commended Epaphroditus for his partnership in

the work of the Lord. Epaphroditus was Paul's "fellow worker"

(sunergo<j) and "fellow soldier" (sustratiw<thj).40  Sunergo<j refers

"to a work or achievement which is more or less equally divided

among fellow-workers. . . . Their assistance in proclaiming the

gospel means they share with the apostle the burden of the min-

istry of reconciliation."41

            However, did not Epaphroditus come to minister to Paul,

rather than with Paul, since he is called the one "whom you sent to

take care of my needs"? While it is true that Epaphroditus minis-

tered to Paul, the terms "brother," "fellow worker," and "fellow

soldier" reveal that he was involved in joint ministry with Paul.

These three words are arranged in an ascending scale, denoting

"common sympathy, common work, common danger and toil

and suffering."42

 

39 Timothy was a member of Paul's evangelistic team in the apostle's second and

third missionary journeys (Acts 16:3; 19:22). Apart from Philip (Acts 21:8), Timothy

is the only person called an "evangelist" in the New Testament (2 Tim. 4:5),

40 The word sunergo<j appears thirteen times in the New Testament; twelve of

these occurrences are in Paul's writings (Rom. 16:3, 9, 21; 1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 1:24; 8:23;

Phil. 2:25; 4:3; Col. 4:11; 1 Thess. 3:2; Phile. 1, 24), and the other is in 3 John 8. The

word means "helper or fellow worker" and often referred to those who helped in

spreading the gospel. The word sustratiw<thj appears only twice in the New Tes-

tament (Phil. 2:25; Phile. 2). It means "comrade in arms," and is used figuratively "of

those who devote themselves to the service of the gospel" (Walter Bauer, William F.

Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

and Other Early Christian Literature, 2d ed., rev. F. Wilbur Gingrich and Freder-

ick W. Danker [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979], 795).

41 Georg Bertram, "sunergo<j ktl.," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testa-

ment 7 (1971): 872, 875.

42 Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, 123.



324     BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July-September 1998

 

            The fact that Epaphroditus almost died for the work of Christ

indicates this involvement in service. At the end of this passage

Paul wrote that Epaphroditus risked his life "to make up for the

help43 you could not give me" (v. 30). Since the Philippian believ-

ers were helping Paul through their prayers (1:19) and gifts

(4:18), the help they could not give may have been the "partnership

in the gospel" which Paul had experienced with them in Philippi

"from the first day" (1:5).

 

                                   PHILIPPIANS 4:3

In this verse the apostle mentioned three examples of corporate

activity, at least one of which involves evangelism. They are (a)

the person Paul called his "loyal yokefellow" who worked with

Paul, (b) the "yokefellow's" help to Euodia and Syntyche, and (c)

Euodia and Syntyche, who contended at Paul's side in the cause of

the gospel, along with Clement and Paul's other associates.

            Paul addressed someone whom he called su<zuge, an adjective

denoting "yoked together," which is used here as a noun.44 This

expression clearly portrays the idea of working together, "a per-

son who pulls well in a harness for two."45

            Paul then asked this "loyal yokefellow" to "help" Euodia and

Syntyche. In the middle voice with the dative of a person the word

"help" (sullamba<nw) occurs only here and in Luke 5:7.46 In the

latter verse the word describes fishermen who were helping each

other bring in a net of fish. Perhaps Paul was asking this com-

rade to engage in gospel activity with these women. However,

more likely Paul was asking him to help these women resolve

their differences. These women had previously engaged in joint

 

43 The word used here is leitourgi<a, "service as a priest." Paul equated such ser-

vice with the preaching of the gospel when he said that God gave him grace "to be a

minister [leitourgo>n] of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of pro-

claiming the gospel of God" (Rom. 15:16).

44 W. E. Vine, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament

Words (Nashville: Nelson, 1996), 692, 246.

45 Hendricksen, Exposition of Philippians, 191. Bruce believes Paul was address-

ing Luke, who seems to have stayed in Philippi for the seven years separating the

first "we" passage of Acts (16:17) from the second (20:5). If so, Paul used the word

"yokefellow" to describe one with whom he had engaged in evangelistic activity

(16:13). See F. F. Bruce, "Synzygus," in The New Bible Dictionary, ed. J. D. Douglas

(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962), 1229.

46 The word sullamba<nw in the active voice occurs often in the Gospels and Acts

and means "to seize." However, in the middle voice with the dative of a person it

means "to take hold of together, to support, aid, help" (Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich,

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Litera-

ture, 784).



              Paul's Corporate Witness in Philippians                        325

 

evangelistic activity with the apostle Paul; they "contended at my

side" (sunh<qlhsa<n). The effectiveness of any continuing witness

by these women would be hampered unless their differences were

settled. Therefore Paul's plea for unity should be seen not only as

an end in itself, but also as a means to effective witness.

            "Contended at my side" translates sunaqle<w, which occurs

only here and in 1:27.  In both cases it denotes corporate activity in

the spread of the gospel. Here again e]n t&? eu]aggeli<&, a phrase

noted earlier, signifies gospel proclamation. There is no reason

to believe these women did not play an active partnership role in

gospel witness with the apostle Paul. The Book of Acts reveals that

women of the Helleniistic culture to which Paul ministered played

a prominent role in society (see, e.g., Acts 16:13; 17:4; 12). "If

Macedonia produced perhaps the most competent group of men the

world had yet seen, the women were in all respects the men's

counterparts; they played a large part in [business] affairs, re-

ceived envoys and obtained concessions for them from their hus-

bands, built temples, founded cities, engaged mercenaries, com-

manded armies, held fortresses, and acted on occasion as regents

or even co-rulers."47

            The command to Paul's "yokefellow" to help restore Euodia

and Synteche's broken unity suggests that he wanted to see them

restored to the corporate witness in which they once had been en-

gaged.

 

                                  PHILIPPIANS 4:21

Paul's statement, "The brothers who are with me send greetings,"

seems at first glance to be a salutation from the Christian com-

munity in Rome. However, in the next verse Paul sent greetings

from "all the saints." Thus a distinction is made between "the

brothers" and "the saints." This distinction can be seen else-

where in the New Testament. "The churches in the province of

Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly

in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. All

the brothers here send you greetings" (1 Cor. 16:19-20). "Peace to

the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord

Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph.

6:23-24). "Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to

Nympha and the church in her house" (Col. 4:15).

            "From such passages one may regard it as probable that when

used in the plural with the article, ‘the brothers’ in Pauline litera-

 

47 G. T. Griffen and W. W. Tarn, Hellenistic Civilisation, 3d ed. (1958), 98-99,

cited in Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, 165.



326      BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July-September 1998

 

ture fairly consistently refers to a relatively limited group of

workers, some of whom have the Christian mission and/or min-

istry as their primary occupation."48 Ellis also notes that "the

brothers" in 2 Corinthians 9:3, 5 and 3 John 3, 5, 10 were traveling

workers, probably preachers or teachers associated with or led by

an elder.49 Thus "the brothers" in Philippians 4:21 may well refer

to workers engaged in evangelism. In this particular instance,

Paul pointed out that they were "with me," in keeping with his

common practice of evangelizing in company with others.

 

                                      SUMMARY

 

Paul's letter to the Philippians demonstrates the importance of

unity in the propagation of the gospel.

            Philippians includes three clear cases of others who worked

together with the apostle Paul in evangelism: the Philippian be-

lievers (1:3–6), Timothy (2:22), and Euodia and Syntyche (4:3).

Also there is evidence that Paul worked together in evangelism

with Epaphroditus (2:25-30), Clement and other fellow workers

(4:3), and "the brothers" (4:21).

            In connection with the passages studied in Philippians, the

following observations can be made: Paul thanked God for corpo-

rate witness (1:3–5). Paul said God is the Initiator and Perfecter

of corporate witness (1:6). Corporate witness is a token of God's

grace (1:7). Corporate witness characterizes those who are

"citizens of the gospel" (1:27). Twice Paul urged unity in the con-

text of gospel witness (2:14–16; 4:3). Involvement in corporate

witness demonstrates that Christian workers have been tried and

stood the test (2:22). Paul said to welcome and honor the person

who worked together with him in corporate witness (2:25–30).

            Although in varying degrees, these passages all show the im-

portance of working together in evangelism. This points up the

value of the missions principle that evangelistic work be carried

out with co-workers and not in isolation.

 

48 E. Earle Ellis, "Paul and His Co-Workers," New Testament Studies 17 (July

1971): 445-48.

49 Ibid.

 

 

This material is cited with gracious permission from:       y

Dallas Theological Seminary

            3909 Swiss Ave.

            Dallas, TX   75204           

www.dts.edu

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu