With two final appeals Paul brings 3:1-21 to conclusion. At the same time he reaches further back into the letter to bring closure to the twin issues raised in 1:27—2:18: that they remain steadfast in the gospel and do so as one person in the one Spirit. The appeals belong together; they are expressed with great skill, full of friendship indicators.
The first appeal is directed toward the whole community; simultaneously it applies the preceding word of future hope, recalls the primary exhortation of 1:27 with which the "their affairs" sections of the letter began, and leads into the specific appeal of 4:2-3.
Friendship here takes the form of a remarkable elaboration of Paul's ordinary vocative, brothers [and sisters]: it becomes my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown. This profusion of modifiers reminds them once again of his deep feelings for them and his deep concern for their present and future. The first set (whom I love and long for) recalls their primary relationship: his love for them accompanied by a deep longing for them. So much does this relational concern matter to him that he repeats—awkwardly from the perspective of grammar, but effectively from the perspective of relationship—the vocative "beloved" at the end of the sentence (NIV dear friends, evidence that English is not comfortable with such repetition). The second set is eschatological and is as prospective as the former is retrospective, looking toward the time when 3:20-21 will have come to fulfillment and the Philippians stand before Christ with Paul as my joy and crown (cf. 1 Thess 2:19), his "boast on the day of Christ" (2:16).
Nearly getting lost in this piling up of endearing vocatives is the appeal itself, stand firm (recalling 1:27), now modified with "thus" (NIV this is how) and in the Lord. During the Philippians' present distress they are to stand firm in the Lord, firmly planted in relationship with the same Lord whose coming they eagerly await and who will then subject all things to himself (3:20-21). And they are "thus" to stand firm, referring probably to the whole of 3:1-21, but especially to their imitation of Paul by their upright "walk" even as they bend every effort to attain the final prize.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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