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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Philippians 1

 

 

Verse 1-2

Verses 1-3

Philippians 1:1-3

Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi

Paul’s greeting to the Philippians

1.
Servants of Jesus Christ is the most royal title which human beings can assume.

2. Saints take precedence of bishops and deacons forasmuch as character is immortal, while office is but temporary.

3. All blessing is with the absolute; even the chief of the apostles can only bless ministerially, not primarily.

I. The power of memory. Remembrance is a very heaven or hell. Memory follows man like his own shadow. A man of gladsome recollections can never be absolutely alone. Whenever the apostle took an excursion across the mountains and through the valleys of his gone lifetime he caught sight of the loving Philippians, and their very names gladdened him--as a long-absent traveller might be gladdened by the pinnacles of the city of his home.

II. Man serves God by aiding God’s servants. Paul thanked God for the blessing of kind, helpful men.

III. The more enlarged and susceptible the heart, the more easily can service be rendered to it. It is easier to win the benediction of a great and noble heart than of a withered and sapless bone. Look at Elisha and the woman of Shunem; see Christ blessing the woman for her one box of nard; and Paul prostrating himself before God at the little kindnesses of the Philippians.

IV. How good a thing it is to serve the great, and inferentially, how sublime a thing to live and die in the service of the greatest. If Paul remembered these benefactions, he has also left this testimony: “God is not unrighteous to forget your work of faith and labour of love.” In both cases it is a question of memory. Nor will God forget the man who never does a good deed.

V. Each of us should leave a memory that shall be cherished and blessed. A noble life is not necessarily made up of great efforts, but of little acts of consideration, well-timed smiles of encouragement, gentle words and generous interpretations. Not one of us, how hidden and feeble soever, need live a sterile life.

VI. Every man must determine for himself the memory he leaves behind him; whether he will so live that “every remembrance” of him shall induce thankfulness to God, or his name be a burden which memory would willingly cast off.

VII. Paul stands forth as an illustrious man while the Philippians are not known to us by more than their general name. The hidden workers are not on that account to deem themselves useless. Where would the oak be but for invisible agents? (J. Parker, D. D.)

The apostolic salutation

teaches--

I. What we ought to be. Servants of Jesus Christ; saints; useful in His Church.

II. What we need. Grace; peace.

III. Whence these blessings flow. From God: from Jesus Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The blessings of the gospel

I. Their nature.

II. The source from whence they are derived.

III. The channels by which they are dispensed.

IV. The end for which they are given. That we may be holy, useful. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Address and salutation

I. The author.

1. Paul had full confidence in the love and obedience of the Philippians. Hence, as in Thessalonians, he drops the official title, because he knew that no such assertion of his claim to be heard and obeyed was needed.

2. He introduces the name of Timothy as his dear friend, well known to the Philippians. This was natural, but was only a courtesy. The letter is Paul’s alone, and carries with it full apostolic authority. When Timothy is referred to again it is in the third person (chap. 2:10).

3. The designation, “servants,” etc., is a beautiful one. James, the Lord’s brother, similarly begins his letter. It describes all who, by taking Christ as their Master, have entered into true freedom.

II. The Church.

1. Saints.

2. Bishops and deacons. These are mentioned probably because--

III. The prayer. The highest form of Christian life is seen when energetic love is fully pervaded by a spirit of gentleness and sympathy, exhibiting itself in true politeness to all of all social positions, and in little things as well as great. Paul’s letters, written in the midst of arduous work, yet show diligent attention to all the kindly courtesies of social life.

1. From “grace,” the free favour of God, come all our blessings. Its reference here is to the manifestation of the Divine favour in the enlightening and sanctifying influences of the Holy Ghost. Grace to transform the naturally sinful into the likeness of the sinless Jesus is what is asked of God.

2. The meet companion of grace is peace, springing from the knowledge of God’s love in Christ. An Eastern, when he enters a house, says, “Peace be to this house,” as thoughtlessly as we say, “Good morning”; but the courtesies of Christians should have reality of significance.

3. The prayer is presented to God our Father, “from whom cometh every good gift,” and the Lord Jesus Christ who humbled Himself that, in a way consistent with the glory of the Divine character, “grace and peace” might be bestowed on man. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

The salutation

I. St. Paul, the writer.

1. He omits his apostolical authority. The term apostle is not added here nor in Thessalonians and Phlippians. His dignity as their father in Christ was supreme and incontestable. The man rather than the apostle speaks in every sentence. The spirit of his apostolical prerogative is felt all the more because of the absence of its letter.

2. He unites his own name with that of Timothy, whose name appears with his for a fourth time, because--

3. The bond between them was the common service of Christ Jesus. The apostolic name would not have been common. It was specific and unshared. “Servants” in a sense belongs to all who belong to Christ. But here the term has relation to Christ as Lord, who assigns to all and to each their sphere of duty.

II. The church of the Philippians.

1. Its essential spiritual character. “All the saints,” etc., is the most profound and sacred definition of the true Church which the New Testament contains.

(a) That they are consecrated to God in Christ Jesus; redeemed from the curse of the law; no longer condemned with the world but accepted in the beloved. Hence they realize the ideal relation, a holy nation and a peculiar people.

(b) That they are not with Him, following Him only, but “in Christ,” in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, the Holy Ghost and all His influences; full redemption and all its powers of life and sanctity. But all things in Him are ours.

(c) All this being true we are furnished with a safeguard against a double error, There is a tendency to regard this word as synonymous with Christian people; but we must not suffer it to become merely a conventional official term. On the other hand there are those who make it disparage the visible Church. But here “saints” mean those who are baptized into the visible community, and signifies not only that they are truly members of Christ, but that they profess to belong to Him.

2. Its outward organic form.

III. The greeting.

1. As an apostolic salutation it is peculiar to St. Paul. It is pronounced in the name of God. It is not even in inspired man to bless his fellow. All benediction comes from God as all doxology goes back to Him.

2. But it is also an invocation of grace and peace upon the Christian Church.

Paul and Timothy

(A sermon to old and young):--In the text we have age and youth, autumn and spring, the golden eventide and the fair light of early days. We see--

I. Age and youth together. Not separate, looking askance at each other, divided by incompatibilities or jealousies, but in union. The young often flee from the old; the old are often impatient with the young. The advantages of this union are obvious.

1. The old will contribute the wisdom of experience.

2. The young will quicken animation and hope.

II. Though age and youth are together age takes precedence of youth. Paul first. A principle of right settles all questions of priority. It is not beautiful because not right that youth should take precedence. There are many ways of taking virtual precedence.

1. Contradiction.

2. Impatience.

3. Neglect.

III. Though age takes precedence of youth yet both are engaged in common service. “Servants,” not Paul the master. See how one great relationship determines all minor conditions and attitudes. As between themselves Paul was father, renowned, senior; Timothy was son, obscure, junior; but as before Christ, the one Lord, they were both servants. The Alps are great mountains in themselves, but are less than pimples in relation to the world. The earth, a great globe in itself, is a speck of light to the nearest star. The important tradesman in a small town is lost in a great city. The right way to take our proper measure and to chasten our ambition is to look at the highest relationships of all. The great man dwindles into his proper proportions when he looks at the Creator; the mighty potentate as he looks at the King of kings; the philanthropist as he looks at the Saviour. The noisy rushing train seems to be going fast; let it look at the flying stars and be humble. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The saints at Philippi

Lessons taught by the commencement of the gospel here.

1. To secure the widest diffusion of the gospel, great centres should be the first places chosen for the concentration of its forces.

2. The gospel of universal adaptation has a worldwide mission (Romans 1:15-16). The three first converts embraced different nationalities, employments, social grades. They were Lydia, the Oriental trader; the Grecian female slave and soothsayer; the Roman “keeper of the prison.” “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free; there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christ has demolished all barriers to the exercise of Divine mercy.

3. The duty and privilege of Christian parents to consecrate their children and home to Christ (Acts 16:15; Acts 16:33-34; Acts 16:40).

4. Civic distinctions, subordinated to Christ, will further the gospel and adorn the Christian name. Paul’s Roman citizenship gained his freedom and silenced his enemies.

5. His chain connects the history of Rome and Philippi.

6. The Christian’s spirit can defy “the inner prison” to suppress its praise or prayer (Acts 16:25). (G. C. Ballard.)

Philippi

was anciently called Krenides or the “Springs” on account of its numerous fountains in which the Gangitis has its sources. Philip (in 358 B.C.) enlarged the old town and fortified it, and named it after himself. After the famous battle Augustus conferred special honours upon it, and made it a Roman colony. A military settlement had been made in it, chiefly of the soldiers who had fought under Antony, so that it was a protecting garrison on the confines of Macedonia. A colonia was a reproduction in miniature of the mother city. The Roman law ruled, and the Roman insignia were everywhere seen. The municipal affairs were managed by decemvirs or praetors, and its lands were free from taxation. It thus possessed a rank far above that of a municipium or a civitas libera, and was very different from a settlement ( ἀποικία) founded by adventurers or emigrants. Highly favoured as Philippi had been, it was in need of help. Political franchise and Roman rites, Greek tastes and studies, wide and varied commerce, could not give it the requisite aid. It was sunk in a spiritual gloom, which needed a higher light that Italian jurisprudence or Hellenic culture could bring it. The spear and phalanx of Macedonia had been famous, and had carried conquest and civilization through a great portion of the eastern world; the sun of Greece had not wholly set, and epicurians and stoics still sought after wisdom; the sovereignty of Rome had secured peace in all her provinces, and her great roads not only served for the march of the soldier, but for the cortege of the trader; art and law, beauty and power, song and wealth, the statue and the drama, survived and were adored; but there was in many a heart a sense of want and powerlessness, an indefinite longing after some higher good and portion, a painless and restless agitation, which only he of Tarsus could soothe and satisfy, with his preaching the God-Man--the life and hope and centre of humanity. Many remains of antiquity, such as are supposed to belong to the forum and the palace, are on the site of Philippi. The Turks now call it Felibedjik. (Professor Eadie.)

With the bishops and deacons--As St. Paul addresses his Epistle to all the faithful at Philippi, especially distinguishing them from the bishops and deacons, it thus appears clear that his intention is that all true Christians, whatever may be their condition in the Church, should read his letters, in opposition to the presumption of those who deny them to the people. Believers, enjoy boldly the right which St. Paul has given you in his writings. Search and study them carefully. You are not less the people of God than were the Philippians. (J. Daille.)

Order of God

The Philippians are reminded at the very outset that God is not the author of confusion, but of order. All are not ministers, though all are members of the Church of Christ. Let those who form the congregation duly recognize and receive the ministrations of those who are set over them in the Lord. Let them not forget discipline in privilege. If they are Christians they have still something to learn: they need pastors and teachers, even though they have but one Lord and Master. (Dean Vaughan.)

Peace

The word in the original use of it means that which binds together. There thus lies in the very term a testimony to eternal truth, that man can be at peace only when all his varied interests are “bound by gold chains about the feet of God.” The multitude of the angelic host praising God at Jesus’ birth sang of “peace on earth.” The multitude of human worshippers at Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of David sang responsive of “peace in heaven.” Peace, then, is the sign and seal of Christ’s kingdom, both in its state of patience here and in its state of glory hereafter. (J. Hutchison, D. D.)

Ministers servants of Christ

Dr. Parr, in his life of Archbishop Usher, relates that while that prelate was once preaching in the church at Covent Garden, a message arrived from the court that the king wished immediately to see him. He descended from the pulpit, listened to the command, and told the messenger that he was then, as he saw, employed in God’s business, but as soon as he had done, he would attend upon the king to understand his pleasure; and then continued his sermon.

Christian peace

Christian peace, the peace which Christ gives, the peace which He sheds abroad in the heart, is it aught else than such a glorified harmony--the expelling from man’s life of all that was causing disturbance there, all that was hindering him from chiming in with the music of heaven, all that would have made him a jarring and a dissonant note, left out from the great dance and minstrelsy of the spheres, in which now shall mingle forever the consenting songs of redeemed men and elect angels? (Archbishop Trench.)

Peace

Peace is the opposite of passion, and of labour, toil, and effort. Peace is that state in which there are no desires madly demanding an impossible gratification; that state in which there is no misery., no remorse; no sting. (F. W. Robertson.)

Grace a continuity

The acts of breathing which I performed yesterday will not keep me alive today; I must continue to breathe afresh every moment, or animal life ceases. In like manner yesterday’s grace and spiritual strength must be renewed, and the Holy Spirit must continue to breathe on my soul, from moment to moment, in order to my enjoying the consolations, and to my working the works of God. (Toplady.)

Grace comes from God

As grace is at first from God, so it is continually from Him, and is maintained by Him, as much as light in the atmosphere is all day long from the sun, as well as at first dawning, or at sun rising. (J. Edwards.)

The honour of serving Christ

When the Spartan king advanced against the enemy, he had always with him some one that had been crowned in the public games of Greece. And they tell us that a Lacedaemonian, when large sums were offered him on condition that he would not enter the Olympic lists, refused them. Having with much difficulty thrown his antagonists in wrestling, one put this question to him, “Spartan, what will you get by this victory? “He answered with a smile, “I shall have the honour to fight foremost in the ranks of my prince.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verses 3-11

Philippians 1:3-11

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you

Retrospect and forecast

I.
The retrospect.

1. Its subject--“fellowship of the gospel.”

2. The emotions it awakened.

II. The forecast. It is founded on the same cooperation.

1. The apostle’s confident hope in regard to their future. Confidence in character is of tardy growth, and is often disappointed. Paul’s was based on two grounds.

2. The staple of His prayer. It is a prayer for the growth of that which already exists in them; and one which implies their active cooperation in fulfilling the subject of His petitions; that their love may grow in knowledge and perception.

3. The remaining portion of the forecast refers to the fruits of which love, knowledge, and a powerful moral sense are the roots.

Pleasant memories and bright hopes

The apostle’s usual practice was to begin with thanksgiving. He delights to recognize good in those to whom he writes, even where there is much to reprove. In melancholy contrast stands the Epistle to the Galatians. In a Christian the natural outflow of gladness is in thanks to our Father in heaven. More distinctively Christian is it when the heart gives thanks for the good of others; but most of all when, as here, for the spiritual good of others.

I. An expression of gratitude for the past history of the Philippian Church (verses 3-5).

1. Its object--“My God.” The “my” well illustrates the broadening influence of Christianity; its tendency to slay the selfishness of the human heart. The wise believer knows that the widening of the range of blessing brings no diminution of individual blessing.

2. Its occasion. He had vividly before him “the kindness of their youth, the love of their espousals” to the Saviour. With this good beginning he knew that their history since had on the whole accorded. How rare in any age such a Church! How sweet to a pastor such a memory.

3. Its form.

4. Its ground. Every true Church is an association for advancing the gospel.

II. The expression of gratitude for an assured hope in regard to the future.

1. Every work of God is good, particularly His work of saving grace, which makes sinful men “good.” Paul believed that the same grace would bring the good work to completeness. God does not do things by halves.

2. Having this happy conviction Paul is confident that the good would be carried on “until the day of Jesus Christ”--the day of the resurrection when body as well as soul will be glorified.

3. But diligence, watchfulness, and prayer, is necessary “to make our calling and election sure.” The perseverance of the saints is a perseverance in faith and holiness. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

The true spirit of prayer

I. Thanksgiving (verse 3).

II. Petition (verse 4).

III. Confident faith (verse 6).

IV. Christian charity (verses 7-8).

V. Intercession (verses 9-10).

VI. Holy purpose.

VII. Praise. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Here are--

I. Pleasant memories. Inspiring gratitude, joy, prayer.

II. Confident hopes. The work is begun; must be continued; completed.

III. Loving fellowship. In bonds; in the defence of the gospel; in the enjoyment of special grace. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Blessed remembrance and joyful prayers

I. The remembrance. No one looked back with deeper solicitude on past labours than Paul. Memory plays an important part in secular, religious, and national life. It influences the present and casts its shadow on the future.

1. Look at the general religious aspect of the subject. The history of the Church is full of imperishable monuments of life and character. This history has created an enthusiasm which has resulted in acts of the highest importance and use. Same histories debase, this elevates; some depress, this strengthens.

2. Look at the particular religious history of this subject. The history of this Church was interwoven with the apostle’s liveliest interest. He was the founder of it, and it developed virtues which excited his warmest admiration. So there are tender recollections of the work of grace clustering around every particular Church. If we, at any time, are cold or despondent, let us open the chronicles of the Churches of our early days, gather around us the warm hearts which cheered us then, and though dead they will speak to us words of life and encouragement.

II. The prayers. We call prayer “the burden of a sigh, the falling of a tear.” There is that in our life which lends sorrow to prayer. Much of this, however, is wrong--lamentation over pardoned sins, etc. We are under an obligation to approach the throne of grace with joy.

1. We may look at this in its general aspect. It arose from an absence of selfish desires, and absorption in the condition and want of others. Paul’s heart was bound up with the interests of the Church. At Philippi there was everything to evoke spiritual joy. Paul, therefore, joyfully prayed for a larger blessing. Let us approach God with praise for the prosperity of the Church, and with prayer for its increase.

2. If we narrow our field of observation every Christian must feel thankful for his new heart. If the glory of creation, the goodness of providence, excites gratitude, much more this the chiefest of God’s works. Let us supplicate its further perfection. (Weekly Pulpit.)

Christian remembrances

I. Inspire gratitude.

II. Provoke prayer.

III. Awaken joy.

IV. Cement fellowship, (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Happy memories

those--

1. That are prompted by the Spirit of God.

2. That recall the past joy of harvest.

3. That cause to abide With us, fruit long since reaped.

4. That link us still in association with distant but kindred spirits.

5. That evoke perennial gratitude to God.

6. That enrich our own moral worth.

They “shall be had in everlasting remembrance,” whose life on earth gives birth to memories such as these. (G. G. Ballard.)

A cheerful prisoner

At midnight in the Philippian prison Paul and Silas sang praises to God. The same joyous spirit breathes through this Epistle. And yet now he was a prisoner at Rome.

I. The sorrow of his imprisonment is tempered by his thought of God.

1. He recognizes God as his God. He knows that God has led him and redeemed him, and that nothing can separate him from His love (Psalms 63:2). As it was with Paul and David, so it may be with us. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee.”

II. The sorrow of his separation from the Philippians is lightened by thought of their welfare.

1. He remembered them in his thanksgivings.

2. He remembered them in his supplications.

My God

I. Between God and him there was a reciprocal community of--

1. Being.

2. Love.

3. Sympathy.

4. Effort.

Blessed consummation of life when myself, as the court of final appeal, gives place to “my God.” Then “He calls a worm His friend, He calls Himself my God.”

II. The ground of this relationship.

1. He is my Master, my Provider, my Redeemer, my Father, my Friend. “Whose I am and whom I serve.”

2. Faith gathers up these long-forgotten links, and welds them into a golden chain, whereby the heart is consciously rebound to God. Appropriating faith commands the fulness of God’s heart and the omnipotence of His hand.

III. Its effect. Deeper than any mere channel of its communication, true gratitude has its spring in the immediate and responsive fellowship existing between the soul and God. (G. G. Ballard.)

The introduction to the Epistle

Masters of the art of elocution teach us that the business of the exordium is to gain the goodwill of those to whom we speak. In fact, as hatred, dislike, and indifference close the entrance to men’s hearts, it is necessary when we desire to persuade them that first of all we should prepare their minds, and fill them with a prepossession in our favour, so that our arguments may be received into their understandings. To this end the apostle labours in verses 1-12. (J. Daille.)


Verses 3-11

Philippians 1:3-11

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you

Retrospect and forecast

I.
The retrospect.

1. Its subject--“fellowship of the gospel.”

2. The emotions it awakened.

II. The forecast. It is founded on the same cooperation.

1. The apostle’s confident hope in regard to their future. Confidence in character is of tardy growth, and is often disappointed. Paul’s was based on two grounds.

2. The staple of His prayer. It is a prayer for the growth of that which already exists in them; and one which implies their active cooperation in fulfilling the subject of His petitions; that their love may grow in knowledge and perception.

3. The remaining portion of the forecast refers to the fruits of which love, knowledge, and a powerful moral sense are the roots.

Pleasant memories and bright hopes

The apostle’s usual practice was to begin with thanksgiving. He delights to recognize good in those to whom he writes, even where there is much to reprove. In melancholy contrast stands the Epistle to the Galatians. In a Christian the natural outflow of gladness is in thanks to our Father in heaven. More distinctively Christian is it when the heart gives thanks for the good of others; but most of all when, as here, for the spiritual good of others.

I. An expression of gratitude for the past history of the Philippian Church (verses 3-5).

1. Its object--“My God.” The “my” well illustrates the broadening influence of Christianity; its tendency to slay the selfishness of the human heart. The wise believer knows that the widening of the range of blessing brings no diminution of individual blessing.

2. Its occasion. He had vividly before him “the kindness of their youth, the love of their espousals” to the Saviour. With this good beginning he knew that their history since had on the whole accorded. How rare in any age such a Church! How sweet to a pastor such a memory.

3. Its form.

4. Its ground. Every true Church is an association for advancing the gospel.

II. The expression of gratitude for an assured hope in regard to the future.

1. Every work of God is good, particularly His work of saving grace, which makes sinful men “good.” Paul believed that the same grace would bring the good work to completeness. God does not do things by halves.

2. Having this happy conviction Paul is confident that the good would be carried on “until the day of Jesus Christ”--the day of the resurrection when body as well as soul will be glorified.

3. But diligence, watchfulness, and prayer, is necessary “to make our calling and election sure.” The perseverance of the saints is a perseverance in faith and holiness. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

The true spirit of prayer

I. Thanksgiving (verse 3).

II. Petition (verse 4).

III. Confident faith (verse 6).

IV. Christian charity (verses 7-8).

V. Intercession (verses 9-10).

VI. Holy purpose.

VII. Praise. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Here are--

I. Pleasant memories. Inspiring gratitude, joy, prayer.

II. Confident hopes. The work is begun; must be continued; completed.

III. Loving fellowship. In bonds; in the defence of the gospel; in the enjoyment of special grace. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Blessed remembrance and joyful prayers

I. The remembrance. No one looked back with deeper solicitude on past labours than Paul. Memory plays an important part in secular, religious, and national life. It influences the present and casts its shadow on the future.

1. Look at the general religious aspect of the subject. The history of the Church is full of imperishable monuments of life and character. This history has created an enthusiasm which has resulted in acts of the highest importance and use. Same histories debase, this elevates; some depress, this strengthens.

2. Look at the particular religious history of this subject. The history of this Church was interwoven with the apostle’s liveliest interest. He was the founder of it, and it developed virtues which excited his warmest admiration. So there are tender recollections of the work of grace clustering around every particular Church. If we, at any time, are cold or despondent, let us open the chronicles of the Churches of our early days, gather around us the warm hearts which cheered us then, and though dead they will speak to us words of life and encouragement.

II. The prayers. We call prayer “the burden of a sigh, the falling of a tear.” There is that in our life which lends sorrow to prayer. Much of this, however, is wrong--lamentation over pardoned sins, etc. We are under an obligation to approach the throne of grace with joy.

1. We may look at this in its general aspect. It arose from an absence of selfish desires, and absorption in the condition and want of others. Paul’s heart was bound up with the interests of the Church. At Philippi there was everything to evoke spiritual joy. Paul, therefore, joyfully prayed for a larger blessing. Let us approach God with praise for the prosperity of the Church, and with prayer for its increase.

2. If we narrow our field of observation every Christian must feel thankful for his new heart. If the glory of creation, the goodness of providence, excites gratitude, much more this the chiefest of God’s works. Let us supplicate its further perfection. (Weekly Pulpit.)

Christian remembrances

I. Inspire gratitude.

II. Provoke prayer.

III. Awaken joy.

IV. Cement fellowship, (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Happy memories

those--

1. That are prompted by the Spirit of God.

2. That recall the past joy of harvest.

3. That cause to abide With us, fruit long since reaped.

4. That link us still in association with distant but kindred spirits.

5. That evoke perennial gratitude to God.

6. That enrich our own moral worth.

They “shall be had in everlasting remembrance,” whose life on earth gives birth to memories such as these. (G. G. Ballard.)

A cheerful prisoner

At midnight in the Philippian prison Paul and Silas sang praises to God. The same joyous spirit breathes through this Epistle. And yet now he was a prisoner at Rome.

I. The sorrow of his imprisonment is tempered by his thought of God.

1. He recognizes God as his God. He knows that God has led him and redeemed him, and that nothing can separate him from His love (Psalms 63:2). As it was with Paul and David, so it may be with us. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee.”

II. The sorrow of his separation from the Philippians is lightened by thought of their welfare.

1. He remembered them in his thanksgivings.

2. He remembered them in his supplications.

My God

I. Between God and him there was a reciprocal community of--

1. Being.

2. Love.

3. Sympathy.

4. Effort.

Blessed consummation of life when myself, as the court of final appeal, gives place to “my God.” Then “He calls a worm His friend, He calls Himself my God.”

II. The ground of this relationship.

1. He is my Master, my Provider, my Redeemer, my Father, my Friend. “Whose I am and whom I serve.”

2. Faith gathers up these long-forgotten links, and welds them into a golden chain, whereby the heart is consciously rebound to God. Appropriating faith commands the fulness of God’s heart and the omnipotence of His hand.

III. Its effect. Deeper than any mere channel of its communication, true gratitude has its spring in the immediate and responsive fellowship existing between the soul and God. (G. G. Ballard.)

The introduction to the Epistle

Masters of the art of elocution teach us that the business of the exordium is to gain the goodwill of those to whom we speak. In fact, as hatred, dislike, and indifference close the entrance to men’s hearts, it is necessary when we desire to persuade them that first of all we should prepare their minds, and fill them with a prepossession in our favour, so that our arguments may be received into their understandings. To this end the apostle labours in verses 1-12. (J. Daille.)


Verse 4-5

Philippians 1:4-5

Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy

I.
The quality of the apostle’s prayer.

1. Prayer may be varied according to the spiritual mood of the suppliant. In some instances prayer may hardly rise beyond a mere duty; in other cases it may become the supreme joy of the heart.

2. The mood need not impair the sincerity. You may pursue the same journey through a thick and troubled atmosphere, as well as through the brightness and calm of the summer light; the path is the same, the goal is the same, the purpose is the same, yet in the one case the soul may sit as a bird with folded wings, and in the other it may be soaring and singing through the streaming glory.

II. Its object. Fellowship in the gospel I take to mean unanimity, entireness of accord, and I see no reason why the apostle himself should not be included in that fellowship.

1. The centralizing influence of God’s redeeming and sanctifying idea. No agent, principle, doctrine, has done, or can do, so much in the education and consolidation of heart power as the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul thanks God for their mutual accord, and this may exhaust the grammatical significance of his language; but the fact that he is joyfully thankful for this unanimity brings us into the presence of the sublime idea--

2. That Christianity is the most influential of all heart-uniting forces.

The joy of the faithful minister over the progress of the gospel

I. Joy always.

II. Joy is every prayer.

III. Joy overall. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Pure joy

I. Springs from Divine communication.

II. Succeeds a previous sorrow.

III. Is superior to human surroundings.

IV. Is sustained by answered prayer. (G. C. Ballard.)

Intercession for others

I. An exalted privilege.

II. A holy duty.

III. A happy employment. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Present rewards of Christian work

I. Work done creates grateful remembrances.

II. Grateful remembrances create a zest for prayer.

III. Prayer deepens joy. (G. G. Ballard.)

Fellowship and progress

I. Fellowship.

1. The bond of union--Christ. The attraction was irresistible to all who had come near enough to feel the force of the magnet of Divine love. This power directed all faculties, possessions, desires, in the same course. As He had not lived for Himself neither did they. The result was brotherly union. As all the rivers flow to find one common rest in the sea, so their melted hearts ran into the one fellowship--the Church. Here they found protection from the chill of the world and the storm of persecution. Weak faith was strengthened; the timid heart emboldened; unity begat strength and numbers, and augmented influence. The communal life brought together a vast capital to be invested in the cause which was so dear to their own heart.

2. Concerted action. The Christian communities existed as much, if not more, for external labour as for internal edification. As no Christian lived to himself, the whole Church could not possibly confine its wealth of power and influence within its Own circle. They lived one for another that all might live for the salvation of the world. The idea generally attached to a community is that it exists exclusively for the benefit of its own order, but the Christian society is built on the principle of give in order to receive. The Christians at Philippi met for prayer and for general improvement, in order to give the light of the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus to the world.

3. The transmission of moral influence is only possible through sympathetic media. The best cable chain would not convey an electric message any distance, but a small copper wire would do so round the globe. Divine truth must proceed from the heart of the Church, and be anointed with the unction of pure motives and tender sympathies, to accomplish its mission among men. The experimental expression of the truth is the most powerful and successful.

II. Perseverance--“from the first day until now.” The converts had not relapsed into idolatry, nor were any idolatrous practices incorporated in their worship. They had resisted all worldly influences. The converts held on their way, progressing in knowledge and the Christian graces. When the apostle looked towards this Church, he saw signs of growth and increased vigour.

1. True Christian fellowship absorbs the whole man, thought, desire, association, and progression. It is the family of God, with ample room for the development of human nature. Of all fruitfulness, true manhood is the greatest. The consummation of fellowship is found in the man Christ Jesus.

2. Christian fellowship absorbs all time and service. From the first day to the last, and from the last day on through eternity its bonds are unrelaxed. It is not a temporary engagement, but an everlasting covenant. Some of its forms must undergo changes, but its essence is the same, even fellowship with the Father and the Son, and communion with the saints. (Weekly Pulpit.)

Our fellowship in the gospel

I. How originated.

II. What it implies.

III. What it requires. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

True gospel fellowship

1. Lives which adorn it.

2. Hearts which beat for it.

3. Lips which testify for it.

4. Hands which work for it.

5. Gifts which extend it. (G. G. Ballard.)

Paul’s activity and prayerfulness

While his life was one of unexampled activity, it was also one of continual prayerfulness. These two aspects of his life are mutually explanatory. His activity was unwearied, just because his prayerfulness was unceasing. His religion was a life, and the heart of that life was prayer. The risen and exalted Saviour’s words uttered regarding him at his conversion held good ever afterwards: “Behold, he prayeth.” “As a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” he had all prayer as the weapon of his warfare. (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)


Verse 6

Philippians 1:6

“Being confident of this very thing.

Spiritual culture

I. The signs whereby we may know God has begun this gracious work.

1. The signs are not to be sought in any set methods or patterns by which God is supposed to begin His work of training the soul for Himself. His ways are endless. Some souls have to be smitten: for others a gentle look is enough, e.g., Saul and Zacchaeus.

2. There are certain impressions and effects produced by the preaching of the gospel or by the ways of God in His providence which are sometimes mistaken for signs of a gracious work. The consequences of sin may fill the conscience with remorse, and vows made to begin a new life. A sense of happiness springs up in emotional natures on a very superficial acquaintance with religion and its responsibilities. Nor is the sign found in a head well informed.

3. What then is the sign? Love to God, Christ, man, showing itself in trust and obedience, and goodness.

II. The conditions under which this good work will be perfected by God.

1. Remember that so long as you are in this world the work is incomplete. For the development of a soul in Christ’s likeness time is necessary. “First the blade,” etc. Some are discouraged because they cannot see the full corn at once. If it is time for the full corn, however, do not be satisfied with the ear or blade. It is the indolent man who thinks he has only to believe once for all.

2. You must concur in God’s work as it advances from stage to stage till it is completed in the day of Jesus Christ. Growth proceeds slowly if it is to endure. Mushrooms spring up in the night but they soon decay. (R. Tuck, B. A.)

Paul’s confidence was

I. Totally isolated from judaism and self (Philippians 3:3-7).

II. Grounded solely in Christ.

1. As his medium of access to the mind, the heart, the power of God (Ephesians 3:12).

2. As the repository of all his interests (2 Timothy 1:12).

3. As being united to Him by love bonds which neither the mere incidents of life, nor satanic power could sever (Romans 8:38-39).

III. A means of perpetuating living relations between him and the churches which he bad formed. He expresses his confidence--

1. In the sympathy of the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:14-15; 2 Corinthians 2:3).

2. In the steadfastness of the Galatians in Christianity (Galatians 5:10).

3. In the obedience of the Thessalonians to his teaching (2 Thessalonians 3:4).

4. In the purity and intelligence of the Romans (Romans 15:14).

5. In the final perfectness of the Philippians.

IV. The seed he lived to disseminate among men. (G. G. Ballard.)

Confidence and completion

I. Of what was paul confident?

1. That the work of salvation in this people would be perfected. They were running a race, and he was confident that they would receive the prize. They were the workmanship of the Divine redeeming hand; Paul was confident that the work would not be forsaken by the Workman. That God would perfect this work. “It is God that worketh in you.” Paul knew that his own influence was nothing, except as it was the medium and the vehicle of the influence of God.

2. That the work would be finished in the day of the Lord. In that day every work will be tried as by fire. God’s work in this people would appear then to be perfected. A sublime persuasion, this! To stand on some moorland and see some young oaks planted, and feel quite confident that they would grow to perfection; to visit a dockyard slip, and to see the timbers of the keel of a first-rate man-of-war laid down, and to feel confident that she would answer every trial of her strength, until she had rendered full service to the nation; to be present at some important public undertaking, and to feel sure that it would be noble, and prosperous, and of national benefit; to hear the birth cry of a human being, and to feel confident that its path from the cradle to the sepulchre would be that shining brighter and brighter unto perfect day, are all glorious positions; but they cannot be compared, so far as true greatness and moral grandeur are concerned, with the position of Paul here. The sublimity of this persuasion is largely connected with the love of Paul’s heart. The multitude are thoughtless, indifferent, and careless about each other, or they are envious and malicious. But this is true, sincere, pure Christian love, which writes, “Being confident of this very thing.”

II. On what did Paul’s confidence rest?

1. On the character and resources of the Worker. It does not rest on the Church. Not because Church polity is all right, because you are thoroughly orthodox, nor because your modes of worship are just what they ought to be. The foundation of his confidence was God in Christ. Men fail in work by loss of means and of power, by change of purpose, by their dependence upon others, and by reason of death. But it is not thus with the Creator.

2. On the nature and quality of the work about which he is assured. The work is remedial to the creature, and supremely honourable to the redeeming God.

3. On the fact that the commencement of this work was by God Himself. The beginning is the pledge of the consummation. Even a wise man does nothing at random.

4. On the fact that a day is fixed for exhibiting this work in all its completeness. The day of Christ, without redemption, would indeed be a dark day.

5. He happens to blend with all this his own experience of the faithfulness and wealth of the redeeming God--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

III. How did this confidence operate on paul?

1. It did not prevent Paul praying for these people.

2. It gave fervency and gladness to his intercessions.

3. It did not keep Paul from exhorting the people and directing them to the use of means. Conclusion: Cherish such confidence concerning yourselves and each other, but be devoutly careful not to abuse it. (S. Martin.)

Divine workmanship

I. Its highest sphere--man (Ephesians 2:10).

II. Its chosen instrumentality--holy men (1 Corinthians 4:9).

III. Its model--Divine perfectness (Matthew 5:48).

IV. Its law of accomplishment--gradual but certain progression--“begun, perform.”

V. Its guarantee of completion--God’s will. His willingness is--

1. Revealed in His word.

2. Embodied in Christ the Foundation.

3. Ratified by experience.

4. Plighted to us in the earnest of the Spirit. (G. G. Ballard.)

“A good work”

I. The good work.

1. Its nature. A new creation (Ephesians 2:10), without which we have neither will nor power to perform good works (Philippians 2:13).

2. Its property. It is a good work because--

II. The grounds of Paul’s confidence that this good work would be completed.

1. The perfections of God’s works (Deuteronomy 32:4) in creation, providence, and grace.

2. The atonement of Christ (John 10:15).

3. The Christian’s union to Christ (John 14:19).

4. The earnest of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22).

5. The nature of the life Christ gives (John 10:28).

6. The intercession of Christ (Hebrews 7:22; John 11:42; John 17:24). (S. Barnard.)

The good work within

I. A gracious operation.

1. It is good. Why? Because--

(a) In respect of the soul that is the subject of it, which passes from death unto life, from sin to holiness, etc.

(b) In respect to families. When this good work is begun in the hearts of parents religion with all its pleasantness and peace dwells in the house, and God commands His blessing.

(c) Upon ministers, who thereby are made not ashamed of the gospel.

(d) Upon the Church, whose increase and prosperity is the edification and comfort of individual believers.

(e) To the world. Every convert exercises, like salt, a purifying and preserving influence.

(f) On heaven itself (Luke 15:10).

2. It is a work.

II. Its important situation--“in you.” Not only in the head but in the heart.

1. It is evident that it is an inward work from the many figures which denote it--temple; inner man; good seed.

2. How does it exist then?

Conclusion:

1. This inward religion will be evidenced by corresponding fruits without.

2. You in whom this good work is be thankful, for “by the grace of God you are what you are.” Be anxious, watchful, prayerful, too, that it may go on.

3. You in whom it is begun, but fear that it is not, compare what your feelings and desires are with what they were.

4. You who think it is within you, but whose life proves that it is not, fear and tremble.

5. You who show no desire for it--if there is not a good work in you, there is an evil work there, evil in its origin, effects, end. Contemplate your danger. (Congregational Remembrancer.)

I. A wonderful fact. “He who began the work.”

1. The work is Divine. No part of God’s work bears so distinctly the signs of divinity (James 1:18). Human agency is the channel.

2. The work is gracious. Wisdom is here and power, but goodness is a special feature. God’s compassion in the gospel is a power to make us good. To make men wise, rich, happy, healthy, is a great work--but to make them good is better (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

3. The work is progressive. The stages of spiritual life are like those of physical life advancing towards manhood.

II. A glorious certainty.

1. The resources of God are inexhaustible (Isaiah 46:9-10).

2. The faithfulness of God is unfailing (Hosea 2:20).

3. Perfection is God’s end in everything. (Weekly Pulpit.)

Whether this good work relates entirely to the special act of beneficence which had called forth this Epistle may be fairly disputed. Taken upon this narrow ground the apostle’s joy would be but the refinement of selfishness. Rather he lays down a great principle respecting the Divine method of working, viz., to begin is to finish, and that principle, wide enough to encompass the universe, will also comprehend every detail of Christian service.

I. God works by a plan--to prepare manhood for the final day--a period of time, or a perfection of development; the “day” of death, of judgment, or of the completeness of Christian manhood.

II. God is not fickle in the prosecution of his purposes. He begins not that He may conduct an experiment, but that He may perform a design.

III. God has so revealed himself in the education of the individual and the training of society as to justify “the most emphatic expression of “confidence” on the part of his church. The past fortells the future. When the world was young it needed Elijahs, Ezekiels, and Daniels; but the richer the world becomes in history the louder and sweeter will be its tone of confidence. God cannot publish any amended edition of Himself. You may therefore make the past the source of the widest inferences. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The perseverance of the saints

The passage suggests--

I. That real religion is a work upon the heart.

1. In opposition to the mere profession of orthodox sentiments and opinions. The truth may be held in unrighteousness. Christ is not only set forth a propitiation before His people, but is made unto them “wisdom,” etc. The gospel must be received as well as believed.

2. In opposition to a bare attendance upon the prescribed duties of religion. This will indeed follow but only as a means, not as an end.

II. That this work is a good work.

1. It has respect to the immortal soul.

2. It qualifies for fellowship with God the chief good.

3. It is productive of good fruits.

4. Its fruition is glory.

III. That it is the province of God to begin this work. Every other cause is inadequate.

IV. That wherever God begins a work of grace he will carry it on and perfect it.

1. He cannot be at a loss to accomplish the work He has commenced. As it is not more difficult to create than to uphold, so it is as easy for Him to communicate great supplies of grace as it was to bestow it at the first.

2. To suppose otherwise would be altogether inconsistent with His purposes of grace and love.

3. But God will perfect His work by the use of means.

Hence perseverance is not only a privilege but a duty.

V. That the second coming of Christ is the period when the work of grace shall be perfected and publicly recognized. (Congregational Remembrancer.)

Sanctification and perseverance

Sanctification, unlike the act of justification, is a work of the Holy Spirit, which will not be completed till the soul is perfected in glory. It is the gradual transformation of the renovated but imperfect heart continued until this corruptible shall put on incorruption.

I. This work consists in--

1. A gradual purification of our nature. Regeneration is the first act, but by mournful experience Paul knew, and we know, that the remains of depravity are left behind. These it is the work of sanctification to remove.

2. A correspondent purification of our lives so that our obedience gradually approaches nearer the standard of holiness (Ephesians 2:10).

II. The motives which should induce us to seek this sanctification.

1. God commands it.

2. The love of Christ urges it.

3. We can only be prepared for glory by it.

4. It alone will enable us to glorify God. (J. Foot, D. D.)

The day of Jesus Christ

Man has his day; Christ shall have His. When--

1. His toil and suffering shall be remunerated.

2. His government be vindicated.

3. His glory be revealed.

4. All men be brought into closest relations with Him.

5. His kingship receive universal recognition on whose head are many crowns.

That day is--

The present dispensation

I. Excelleth in glory the former.

II. Is incomplete in its results as yet.

III. Is culminative to a higher and final glory.

IV. Is rich in spiritual forces.

V. Is one is which divine operations for man’s welfare are all pervasive.

VI. Is marvellous in its history.

VII. Is accumulative in its events towards, and formative of, a future time.

Former dispensations gradually opened the path of man from the guilt of Eden to the altar of atonement: this dispensation shall terminate in dissipating the shame of the cross by the glory of the Redeemer’s kingdom. (G. G. Ballard.)

The danger and security of the Christian

The dangers which attend the spiritual life are of the most appalling character. The life of a Christian is a series of miracles. See a spark living in mid ocean, see a stone hanging in the air, see health blooming in a lazar house, and the snow-white swan among rivers of filth, and you behold an image of the Christian life. The new nature is kept alive between the jaws of death, preserved by the power of God from instant destruction; by no power less than Divine could its existence be continued. When the instructed Christian sees his surroundings, he finds himself to be like a defenceless dove flying to her nest, while against her tens of thousands of arrows are levelled. The Christian life is like that dove’s anxious flight, as it threads its way between the death-bearing shafts of the enemy, and by constant miracle escapes unhurt. The enlightened Christian sees himself to be like a traveller, standing on the narrow summit of a lofty ridge; on the right hand and on the left are gulfs unfathomable, yawning for his destruction; if it were not that by Divine grace his feet are made like hinds’ feet, so that he is able to stand upon his high places, he would long ere this have fallen to his eternal destruction. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The faithfulness of God

Grandly did the old Scottish believer, of whom Dr. Brown tells us in his “Horae Subsecivae,” respond to the challenge of her pastor regarding the ground of her confidence. Janet, said the minister, “what would you say, if after all He has done for you, God should let you drop into hell?” “E’en’s (even as) He likes,” answered Janet. “If He does, He’ll lose mair than I’ll do.” At first sight Janet’s reply looks irreverent, if not something worse. As we contemplate it, however, its sublimity grows upon us. Like the Psalmist she could say, “I on Thy Word rely” (Psalms 119:114, metrical version). If His Word were broken, if His faithfulness should fail, if that foundation could be destroyed, truly He would lose more than His trusting child. (Clerical Library.)

The perfection of God’s works

Show me for once a world abandoned and thrown aside half formed; show me a universe east off from the Great Potter’s wheel, with the design in outline, the clay half hardened, and the form unshapely from incompleteness. Direct me, I pray you, to a star, a sun, a satellite--nay, I will challenge you on lower ground: point me out a plant, an emmet, a grain of dust that hath about it any semblance of incompleteness. All that man completes, let him polish as he may, when it is put under the microscope, is but roughly finished, because man has only reached a certain stage, and cannot get beyond it; it is perfection to his feeble optics, but it is not absolute perfection. But all God’s works are finished with wondrous care; He as accurately fashions the dust of a butterfly’s wing, as those mighty orbs that gladden the silent night. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The basis of Paul’s confidence

He had one great historical instance to commend his theological inference. For he knew, with all the depth and intensity of a late and reluctant realization, that the whole history of his own people had been one vast illustration of the truth on which he relied. In them, far back, in the very childhood of the race, God had begun a good work: patriarchs, psalmists, prophets had by faith been confident that He would perform it: and He had actually performed it until the day of Jesus Christ, until His first coming. From the call of Abraham to the Incarnation one purpose had been steadfast, one work had moved on a line determined from the beginning--all that vast period, with its surprises and disasters, its restless shirtings, its immeasurable contrasts, had been spanned by one dominant conception--through all that seemed so disorderly and aimless there had sped the evolution of one supreme design--from first to last one thought held good, one will pressed on--and He who came at last could look back across the centuries to that majestic, solitary form upon the far-distant watch-tower, and could declare--“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it and was glad.” (J. Paget, D. D.)

Means of progress in the Divine life

Man is not formed in his infancy, but passes through several stages which bring him gradually to perfection; one polishes his memory, another sharpens his mind; this strengthens his judgment, and that embellishes his manners; so is it with the work of piety. For this new man who must be brought to perfection, can only be so by various degrees. He has his infancy before he attains his riper years. As in the schools of painters they first draw the figures with the pencil, and then add the colouring, giving them at different sittings and with much labour the last gloss of perfection, which in the studies of those which they adorn steals the senses of the beholders; so in the school of God, the faithful are begun and the work sketched, and then they are polished and finished. Here this work is well begun; but it can only be finished in heaven. We are the pencil sketch of the work of God to which He daily adds some touch; but the last finishing stroke we shall not receive till the great day of the Lord. (J. Daille.)

The perseverance of the saints does not supersede human effort

If any of you should be well assured that, in a certain line of business, you would make a vast sum of money, would that confidence lead you to refuse that business, would it lead you to lie in bed all day, or to desert your post altogether? No, the assurance that you would be diligent and would prosper would make you diligent. I will borrow a metaphor from the revelries of the season, such as Paul aforetime borrowed from the games of Greece--if any rider at the races should be confident that he was destined to win, would that make him slacken speed? Napoleon believed himself to be the child of destiny, did that freeze his energies? To show you that the certainty of a thing does not hinder a man from striving after it, but rather quickens him, I will give you an anecdote of myself: it happened to me when I was but a child of some ten years of age, or less. Mr. Richard Knill, of happy and glorious memory, an earnest worker for Christ, felt moved, I know not why, to take me on his knee, at my grandfather’s house, and to utter words like these, which were treasured up by the family, and by myself especially, “This child,” said he, “will preach the gospel, and he will preach it to the largest congregations of our times.” I believed his prophecy, and my standing here today is partly occasioned by such belief. It did not hinder me in my diligence in seeking to educate myself because I believed I was destined to preach the gospel to large congregations; not at all, but the prophecy helped forward its own fulfilment; and I prayed, and sought, and strove, always having this Star of Bethlehem before me, that the day should come when I should preach the gospel. Even so the belief that we shall one day be perfect, never hinders any true believer from diligence, but is the highest possible incentive to make a man struggle with the corruptions of the flesh, and seek to persevere according to God’s promise. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The permanence and sacrificial character of the work of grace

These words, found linked together more than once in Pauline usage, e.g., 2 Corinthians 8:6, Galatians 3:3, have probably a sacrificial import. They are used in describing religious ceremonials, and especially the ritual of sacrifice. The metaphor then may be this: just as a sacrifice, when once it is solemnly inaugurated, is carried through with all the appropriate rites to its completion, so every work of grace in the believer’s heart, being not only God’s work, but a work which is an offering presented unto Him, will be carried on to its proper consummation. Nothing will be allowed to come in the way, so as to render it a half-finished, a mutilated, an imperfect thing. Begun, it must be “performed.” Paul is now writing to a Christian community composed for the most part of those who had once been heathen; his language therefore purposely takes appropriate colouring from their former but now forsaken rites. There is, he would say, a sacrifice carried on within their souls, a work of grace, a work shown in Christian liberality, which God will not permit to remain mutilated and incomplete. This explanation is all the more probable in view of a similar figure found in 2:17. There substantially the same metaphor appears distinctly on the surface, which at least lies only hidden here. It reminds us of the infinite solemnity belonging to every good work wrought within us and wrought by us. It is “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.” But the apostle directs the thought forward to the final completion of this service, “until the day of Jesus Christ.” (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)

The day of Jesus Christ

That is the goal of our race. That is the point to which every Christian eye is directed. Every other day of our lives, every other day of the world’s existence, is a day; a common, ordinary, casual day and no more: this is the day. It is sometimes so called without further epithet or explanation (1 Corinthians 3:13; Hebrews 10:25). Do we remember, do we live in the remembrance of all that is involved in it? The day of Jesus Christ is the day which is His altogether; the day which shall reveal Him as He is, disclose His real greatness, put down every rival power, and erect His throne forever as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Where shall we be then? Shall we be among those slothful and disobedient servants who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord? or rather among those who have been long waiting for Him with loins girt and lights burning, and to whom the day of the revelation of Jesus Christ will be also the day of their own final manifestation as the sons of God? (Dean Vaughan.)


Verses 7-11

Philippians 1:7-11

I have you in my heart--

Aboundings of love

I.
Was it a slip of the pen when Paul wrote “I have you in my heart”? Will he modify it? No, he will make it more than it was. Lest it should be supposed that it was only his manner of speech, and that he is only uttering a passing sentiment, he puts before what he has to say a solemn asseveration. “God is my witness.” Such a form of expression would hardly be regarded in these days as meeting the laws of taste and propriety, and some object to it on the ground that God cannot be called into court to witness to a thing, and that after all it is only the testimony of a man. Granted: Yet it is the highest form in which testimony can be given. And apart from the apostle’s anxiety to be believed, there was a naturalness in his using it which would not belong to any other. He was often alone, separated from his converts, but he carried them about with him in his heart. He often spoke to God about them, so that God knew of his love to them. And not only so; it is as though he said, “Did I say I had you in my heart? I should rather have said, ‘I long after you in the heart of Jesus Christ.’ ‘I love, yet not I, but Christ loveth in me.’ His heart and mine meet in unison here.”

II. Loving thus how natural that he should pray about their love. He asks that the great love faculty should fill their souls. “In all knowledge.” There is the knowledge of the schoolboy, of the well-informed man, of the philosopher. Here it is the latter, the higher knowledge, such as is strong meat to the strong man. “In all perception.” The first term deals with the general knowledge of the gospel; this comes down to particulars of Christian apprehension, “That ye may approve things that are excellent” or “try things that differ.” It is good to have the faculty for so discerning, that we may never call darkness light; but the apostle prays for more, even that in the region of things, all of which are good and true, they may discern the most excellent, always seeing and choosing the best. Again, there are different ways of doing good things. So that the apostle goes on to pray that they may be “sincere and without offence” or “stumbling”--anything that prevents advance.

III. The prayer is summed up in the words: “that ye may be filled with the fruits of righteousness.” In so doing they would have the sublime glory of living to the praise of God--the highest end and aim of being. Men living the Christian life by distinct intent and aim achieve the noblest thing in actual result. Bat a little thing does it seem? Every little stream contributes to the majestic swell of the ocean, so every fruitful life is sending its little to contribute to the fulness of the Divine glory.

IV. The relation between the phrase, “that your love may abound,” and all that comes after. That is the root phrase, the key to the position, mother to all the virtues. Love will produce all these, and make a beautiful character. The soul is a living house having many doors. Some, the greatest number, stand by the door of reason, and strive to enter, and many go in. But when they get in they find the house full of company. How did they get in? By other doors, or by the windows. From deep convictions, blossoming hopes, and heavenly aspirings, but most got in by the door of love. This is not so imposing a way of entrance. There is no great knocker to this door called logic. You come in by it softly, you do but whisper, and are admitted.

V. The practical use of all this is that we should take the best things we can think of to promote the aboundings of love. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The sixth verse was like the peal of a trumpet; the seventh is the low sweet murmur of the summer morning. The expression of the text is of singular beauty. Who can measure the circumference of a truly philanthropic heart? Has arithmetic any cunning art by which to calculate the girth of that organ of affection? A man in Rome carrying the Philippian Church in his heart!

I. He who carries the world elsewhere than in his heart will soon wish to cast off his burden.

II. He who carries the good in his heart can never be desolate. Loneliness is an impossibility to the well-stored heart.

III. He whose heart is engaged with the tender offices of affection is the profoundest interpreter and the most efficient servant of mankind.

IV. He who enshrines his benefactors in his heart has broken the dominion of selfishness. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Reasons for Paul’s confidence

I. The common interest--“defence and confirmation.”

1. They sympathized with the apostle in his trials. These trials arose not out of political or moral offences, but out of his defence and propagation of the gospel. The Philippians made common cause with him, supporting him by gifts and prayer. The true character of Christianity is seen here. When the Jews are in sackcloth and ashes, Esther is pleading their cause; when Peter is in prison, the disciples are praying for his release. The Church is one in adversity as well as prosperity; one in prison as well as in heaven. Remember that as you think of missionaries, and your persecuted brethren in the home, workshop, etc. (Hebrews 13:3).

2. They seconded the apostle’s efforts by their lives and labours. They lived the gospel he preached. Their sympathy was deeper than attachment to his person, or admiration of his character. “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” “See how these Christians love one another,” was the evidence wrung from minds full of animus. No power can shake the gospel when firmly rooted in the life of the Church. Sceptics may as well scoff at the light of the sun as ignore the gospel of the life and character.

II. The mutual love and esteem which this service produces--“I have you in my heart;” as we say of a friend, “He has a warm place in my heart.”

1. It was a great love.

2. Constant love. The old adage “out of sight, out of mind,” was not true here.

3. Increasing love. Many streams dry up, but “let brotherly love continue.”

III. The common source of blessedness--“partakers with me,” etc.

1. By the one sacrifice of Jesus they were saved from sin. There is but one fountain opened for sin.

2. The example of Jesus led them all in the right way. With one accord all believers “show forth the praises of Him who hath called them,” etc.

3. His presence was their one source of inspiration. Daily communion with Jesus kept their zeal burning, and their work advancing.

4. His coming was their only hope. (Weekly Pulpit.)

Observe--

I. What a faithful minister delights to think of in his flock: That they will be--

1. Steadfast.

2. Progressive.

3. Triumphant.

II. Why he delights to think so. Because--

1. He loves them.

2. Labours for them.

3. Suffers for them. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The fellowship of the gospel

We have here a wider idea of that than in verse 5. The apostle and the Philippians being one in their faith in Christ, were one also in their love of each other. Being one with the apostle in Christ, they were one with him in all the vicissitudes of his experience. He refers to himself as in two different situations; in the one he was bound as a prisoner, in the other he was defending and confirming the gospel. In each case the Philippians were partakers of his grace.

I. The advocacy of the best of causes may bring a man into social humiliation.

II. Social humiliation does not necessarily involve moral dishonour.

III. While the morally honourable are suffering from social humiliation they will not be abandoned by the partakers of the same grace. Another proof of the uniting and consolidating force of Christianity. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The unifying influence of Christian love

There are instincts in human nature by which we love the beautiful, the useful, the tender, and the loving; but this love drew its inspiration from character and from life. This is the result of the love of Christ in us. Two drops of rain fall on the same stone, and near each other. By the force of the affinity they will travel the short distance, and unite. Divine love comes down in drops, which attract each other to form the Christian Church. In the concerted action of that society, all intellects are fused into one wisdom; all consciences unite to make one great moral force: all hearts are joined, as so many embers gathered together to make a large fire; all wills are blended to create a power before which opposition must cease. As water will find its level, so the love of Christians will rise as high as its source. The Saviour loved the world, and died for it; so St. John says that we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (The Study.)

The heart of Paul and the heart of Christ

As Bengel says, “Christ, not Paul, lived in Paul; wherefore Paul is moved not in the heart of Paul, but in the heart of Jesus Christ.” Springing from such a depth, Paul’s love could not but rise to vast proportions. The heart of Jesus, infinitely tender, thrown open to men, was the home of the captive apostle--the well spring of sacrificing love; where man is brought nearest to God. (G. G. Ballard.)

The apologetic value of Paul’s bonds

So then Paul’s bonds were a confirmation of the gospel, and a defence. And most truly so. For if he had shunned bonds, he might have been thought a deceiver; but now by enduring everything, both bonds and affliction, he shows that he suffers this for no human reason, but for God, who rewards. For no one would have been willing to die, or to incur such great risks; no one would have chosen to come into collision with such an emperor, I mean, as Nero, unless he had looked to another far greater King. Truly a confirmation of the gospel were his bonds. See how he more than succeeded in turning all things to their opposite. For what they supposed to be a weakness and a detraction, that he calls a confirmation; and had not this taken place, there had been a weakness. (Chrysostom.)

Ministers carry the images of their people in their hearts

After the battle of Gettysburg, a soldier was found dead upon the field, holding in his hand the picture of three small children. No clue to his name could be found. In the terrors of battle he had comforted himself with this picture. It was published, and by this means the children were found in a village of Western New York. Even so do faithful ministers carry the souls of their converts with them wherever they go.


Verse 8

Philippians 1:8

God is my witness how greatly I long after you all

Paul’s tender regard for the Philippians

I.
Its witness--God.

1. This appeal should not be made frequently, or on trivial occasions; but should be reserved for seasons of peculiar solemnity, as here. Paul wanted to give them an assurance of his regard such as would be their consolation when he was gone.

2. But though the parade of this witness should be spared, the consciousness of it should pervade all our life. It is easy to deceive our fellow man. It is healthful to be constantly reminded of an onlooker who is not mocked. His company, however, is shunned by many for good reasons. No man chooses the living God as his habitual company who is not reconciled to him through Christ.

3. What a blessed state to be in; to let all our affections towards our brethren flow and reflow in the Divine presence.

II. Its source--“the bowels,”--the strong compassion of Christ. From that fountain his own pity flowed.

1. He was free to testify, “In me dwelleth no good thing.” True; no pity flowed from his cruel heart or dimmed his cruel eye when Stephen died. He was not at that time in Christ. From the memory of his former self he writes Titus 3:3.

2. Now the very love that glowed in the bosom of Jesus was communicated to His disciple. It was not a love of mere nature or an affection of party.

3. His new position gave him a new view and new affections. He had risen with Christ, and from the heavenly places the old divisions between Jew and Greek, etc., had disappeared, and one line only divided the race into two compartments, those who were in Christ Jesus and those who were not. He loved the whole, but rejoiced over the brethren with joy unspeakable.

III. Its character and strength--“How greatly,” etc.

1. Learn from the fact that he called God to witness it, that in order to get into communion with God it is not necessary to banish your brother out of sight. The law is that “he who loveth God, love his brother also.”

2. The extent and distribution of his affection--“all.” Probably they were not all alike attractive. The longing was one as it burned in Paul’s heart; but it was many coloured as it streamed on a promiscuous congregation. Light is for all the same, but it becomes various as it falls on various surfaces.

Brotherly love

I. Its sources--“the tender mercies of Jesus Christ.” Here the hardness of our hearts is melted. Sin has dried up the wells of sympathy, broken the family ties of mankind. Jesus collects the fragments, places them in the furnace of his love, and welds them together.

1. The restoration of the family likeness. When we see God the Father in each other, we begin to love one another. The spirit of Christ generates that love. When we meet in Christ we experience the first touch of heart. The ministry of the tender mercies of Christ quickens those who are dead in trespasses and sins.

2. On the basis of brotherly love human society is reconstructed. The branches touch each other in the vine. The whole fabric rests on the one corner stone, Christ. By the power of the Cross the clouds of selfishness are rolled back. The social instincts are sanctified to constitute universal society.

II. Its attestation--“God is my witness.” The evidence was an inward consciousness, and an outward life. Omniscience was the final court of appeal.

1. Love to the Church is an evidence of our conversion by the truth (1 John 3:14).

2. Through the Church we commune with God. The heavens declare God’s glory, the earth His riches, the Bible His will, human experience in the Church His goodness. The historical side of religion administers to the spiritual. The wisdom of Paul, the zeal of Peter, the affection of John, bring God nearer to the heart. Every believer is a vessel of the Holy Ghost; and to drink of His experience is to commune with the Divine.

III. The functions of spiritual longings. Paul’s supreme desire was to be near the Philippians, and to be of service to their growth. Thereby he would witness--

1. To the love of God.

2. Against the hatred of the sinful heart.

3. To the final society of the blest. (Weekly Pulpit.)

Apostolic solicitude

I. Its objects.

II. Occasion.

III. Principle.

IV. Intensity.

V. Evidence. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Saints longing for saints

is a prophecy that all saints are destined to be brought into one assembly. God will satisfy all the desires which He creates; He will feed the soul which He has made hungry; and as He has given us the spirit of true fellowship, so will He supply the means of its full enjoyment. Out of all this comes heaven. The good longing for the good; the creature yearning for the Creator; the redeemed sighing for the Redeemer; the dew of the morning trembling with the hope of being taken up by the infinite light: what is all this but the premonition of celestial life. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The consistency of love of man with love of God

He is a jealous God to the effect of commanding, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me;” but even in His own sight you may cherish to the full all your love of the brethren. The sun, at his rising, extinguishes all the stars of heaven, but not the flowers of earth; so when you get into the presence of God, none other is permitted to stand on a level with Himself, but into His presence you may boldly bring all your brethren of human kind. In His presence you may keep every affection that is inherited by nature or ingrafted by grace. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

Universality of Christian love

A lamp lighted on the top of a pillar casts light on some objects, and a shadow on others; but the sun spreads day over all. The love that is grafted into Christ is universal; like His own. There is no respect of persons with God; and none with the godly as far as they act in character. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

“The bowels of Jesus Christ”

The σπάγχνα are properly the nobler viscera, the heart, lungs, liver, etc., as distinguished from the ἔντερς, the lower viscera, the intestines. The σπλάγχνα alone seem to be regarded by the Greeks as the seat of affections, whether anger, love, pity, or jealousy. (Bishop Lightfoot.)


Verse 9

Philippians 1:9

That your love abound yet more and more in all knowledge and in all Judgment

Paul’s prayer

I.
Its subject matter--“Your love.”

II. Its burden--“May abound,” etc.

III. Its aim--“That ye may approve,” etc. (G. G. Ballard.)

Definiteness in prayer

1. Implies a deep consciousness of an intelligently apprehended need.

2. Is becoming when an intelligent being addresses the Divine Intelligence.

3. Is essential, from the very nature of prayer.

4. Affords a fixed ground for the exercise of faith.

5. Emboldens supplication.

6. Inspires hope of a definite response. (G. G. Ballard.)

Love

II. God’s love, embraced by faith into the inmost personality of man, is the central force of Christian life.

II. Christian love.

1. Receives its first impulse from God’s love.

2. Is sustained in activity by its power.

3. Moves in a refluent orbit of increasing circles which continuously grow (Romans 5:20).

III. Abounding love. As the river, although perfect, perpetuates itself only by its ever-onward flow, as the full ocean at spring tide “aboundeth yet more and more,” so love, in abounding, gathers that true freshness, vigour, and activity, whereby it has power to abound yet more and more. (G. G. Ballard.)

Love’s spring tides

1. Roll to us immediately from the heart of God.

2. Are in harmony with His reign of grace.

3. Bring to us the fullest manifestation of His love.

4. Thrill us with holy excitement though performing monotonous duties, and inspire a holy daring though in view of the fiery trial.

5. Overleap in their impetuous progress every landmark of stern propriety set up by cold conventionalism.

6. Know no limits save “knowledge and judgment” (G. G. Ballard.)

Love and knowledge

Such passages as these have a peculiar value for serious Christians; for one of the great questions of Christian life is, What is it best to pray for? Here Paul gives us a regulating principle for many of our own most earnest prayers.

I. We see what St. Paul takes for granted as the underlying substance, the raw material of the divine life of the soul of man--“Love.”

1. He does not pray that their knowledge may abound more and more in love. Whenever knowledge and love are put in competition, the precedence is always given to love. As compared with knowledge love is intrinsically stronger, and worth more practically. To be knit to God by love is better than to speculate about Him. To enwrap other men in the flame of a passionate enthusiasm is better than to analyze rival systems of ethical, social, or political truth.

2. A personal affection for Jesus our Lord is the first step, the fundamental thing in real Christianity. What is it that provokes love?

3. To love Christ is to love

II. St. Paul would have this love abound more and more in knowledge-- ἐπιγνωσις--the higher knowledge.

1. There is a period in the growth of love when such knowledge is imperatively required. In its earliest stages the loving soul lives only in the warmth and light of its object. It asks no questions; it only loves. But from the nature of the case this period comes to an end, not because love grows cold but because it becomes more exacting. It cannot live apart from thought, and sooner or later must come to an understanding with it. It must know something accurately about its object, and begins to ask questions which must be wisely and truly answered, or in its deep disappointment it will sicken and die.

2. How repeatedly this truth is realized in the case of the sons of deeply religious people, and in people who have been deeply religious themselves, but have passed from fervent love to deep despair, because its training in knowledge has been neglected.

3. This law will explain what happened in the Early Church. At first love reigned alone, unenquiring, ecstatic. But when the Gentiles pressed into the fold questions could not be but asked. And so in God’s providence love had to, and did, grow more and more in knowledge. Each of the four groups of St. Paul’s Epistles marks a distinct stage in the doctrinal insight of the Church. Each of the great Alexandrian teachers, Clement, Origen, Dionysius, Athanasius, and Cyril poured a flood of light upon the Christian conscience. The Church passed from the agonies of the Coliseum and the catacombs to define, and to recognize before she defined, the unchanging faith at Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon.

4. What has been said applies to education. This must begin with the heart. Until a pupil’s affections are won, the true groundwork of the process is not mastered. The repression of love will assuredly, sooner or later, avenge itself. Witness the case of J.S. Mill. (Canon Liddon.)

Love abounding through knowledge

This climax is unexpected. We should have thought “in fervour, zeal, self-sacrifice.” Instead of that the direction is upward from the heart to the head.

I. Knowledge reveals character and character draws out love. We can only love a person whom we know to be lovable. This holds especially true of our relations to God. Enmity comes of ignorance of Him. Hence, in Jesus He has given us a revelation of His heart, and to know Christ is to love God. “My people is destroyed for lack of knowledge,” is the epitaph written over the graves of scores of dead Christians. Neglecting the diligent study of the Scriptures they have no nutriment for their love, and it starves.

II. Knowledge of God brings us into communion with that Divine life which is the spring of all Divine love. If God is love, the more we come into fellowship with Himself the more we shall come into the exercise and experience of His love. But it is only through knowledge that we can come into this experience. (A. J. Gordon.)

Knowledge the basis of love

I. What are we to understand by Christians having the true knowledge of God. This cannot mean perfect knowledge. None but Deity can comprehend Deity. But we may have a true knowledge, and the difference between the two is that the former is a knowledge of all things that are true concerning God, and the latter of some things which are true. And what Christians know is as true as if they knew everything, They know, e.g., God to be self-existent, omnipotent, just, merciful, etc., although they do not know the ground of His self-existence, etc. No man knows everything about anything, but the little he knows is as true as though he knew all.

II. How Christians gain this true, though partial, knowledge of God.

1. By the light of nature, “The invisible things,” etc.

2. By Divine revelation. Though God cannot tell men in any language all things about Himself, He can tell some things in their language which they can understand.

III. Their true love for God is founded on their true knowledge of God. They do not love or worship an unknown God. Knowledge not ignorance is the mother of their devotion: which will appear if we consider--

1. That if Christians should love God for what is not true concerning Him, they would love a false character of God, which would not be true, but false love--the same as loving a false god, which is the essence of idolatry.

2. It is the knowledge which Christians have of the real and supreme excellency of God that lays them under moral obligation to love Him supremely. The more they know of God the more they feel themselves bound to love Him with all their heart.

Improvement: If Christians have some true knowledge of God from His works and Word, then--

1. They may have some true knowledge of every doctrine that God has revealed.

2. There is a propriety in preaching upon any doctrine that God has revealed.

3. Christians have no right to disbelieve any doctrine because there is something mysterious in it. If we disbelieve on this ground, we must disbelieve everything.

4. Those who have gained this certain knowledge ought to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.

5. There is no excuse for religious errors. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

The importance of Christian knowledge

I. The subjects which Christianity presents are the most important and sublime in the universe.

II. Just conceptions of the truth of God are indispensable to the possession of true holiness. What is holiness but obedience to truth; truth desired, loved, obeyed? But how is truth to be obeyed unless it is known? It is an unchanging law of our being that the heart is affected through the medium of the understanding.

III. Without the spirit of theological research it is impossible to make rapid advances in the divine life. Christians have much to learn of God that they may desire greater manifestations of His glory; of themselves, that they may be stimulated to greater attainments; of their obligations, that they may press after perfect holiness. There are, of course, instances in which growth in knowledge does not secure growth in grace; but that is because truth does not make its appropriate impression on the mind, and is opposed by sin. But the clearer our views of God the more fervent our love of Him; of sin, the more self-abasing our repentance; of Christ, the stronger our faith; of duty, the stronger our desires to perform it.

IV. The attainment of religious knowledge is the source of pure and elevated enjoyment. Of all the prospective emotions the desire of knowledge is the most exalted. The pleasures of intellect transcend those of sense. How much purer and higher the felicity consequent on advances in the knowledge of God. The veriest infant in the school of Christ finds his understanding satisfied, his heart filled with love at the discovery of every new principle in the Word of God.

V. Religious knowledge widens the sphere of Christian usefulness. A well-informed Christian possesses a weight of character and a power of moral feeling, which exert the best influence. Such a man is always ready for action. If the spirit of His master rests upon him in proportion to his intellectual attainments, he will instruct the ignorant, etc. The Church has sustained no small detriment from the ignorance of good men.

VI. The character of our age furnishes a reason for solicitude in relation to the doctrines of the Bible. There is a strange apathy to the truth. It is an age of business, and not of investigation. Conclusion:

1. Ministers ought not to be reproached for instructive preaching, and for not yielding to the demand for sensationalism.

2. The love of truth is the conclusive test of Christian character.

3. Rest not in intellectual attainments in religion. (Gardiner Spring, D. D.)

Knowledge and judgment

These are the limits which define the course of love, and thus deepen it.

I. Advanced knowledge is derived from--

1. Experience.

2. Attentive study of--

II. Moral perception.

1. Results from the full exertion of every moral sense.

2. It is a medium of communication with the unseen and eternal.

3. As a medium of communication with God it makes the soul superior to, and independent of, the senses. When these close at eventide, the moral senses only open wider for the morning sun.

4. It robes the soul with a halo of light more assuring and glorious than “the glory cloud” emitted.

5. It imparts to the soul that delicate tact and instinct which almost instinctively perceives what is right, and almost unconsciously shrinks from what is wrong.

6. It is indestructible by death, and shall be an imperishable avenue for the soul’s perpetual advance in knowledge. (G. G. Ballard.)

Love inseparable from Christian life

Goethe says, “We hear of a particular regulation in force in the British naval service. The whole cordage, from the strongest to the weakest, has a red thread moving throughout it, which cannot be twisted out with out undoing it all. In this way even the smallest parts are recognized as the property of the Crown.” Love in the Christian character, we may say, is that which is woven into every part of it, is that which cannot be removed without destroying the whole, and is that which is enduring and indestructible evidence that the character is owned by Him who is King. (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)

Love: its critical function

Love abounding in all discernment distinguishes the wrong from the right, just as a good ear distinguishes a false and imperfect note from the true. (Webster and Wilkinson.)

The training of love

As we train the bodily senses of sight, and touch, and hearing to discriminate accurately, and bring them by exercise, voluntary or involuntary, to exquisite precision and almost unfailing accuracy, so our love must be trained to be itself a universal spiritual sense, at once the eye and the ear and the hand of the heart, seeing and hearing and touching in things Divine, with a sure and delicate feeling that seldom needs correction. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

Regulated love

The chariot in ancient warfare had its two occupants, the warrior and the charioteer: the one could not engage the enemy unless the other held the reins and guided the course. So love, the true, the only commissioned soldier in that warfare whose every triumph is peace, can fight towards victory only when knowledge directs and controls every movement that is made. (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)

Advancement in knowledge must be constant

Spain once held both sides of the Mediterranean at the Straits of Gibraltar. So highly did she value her possessions, that she stamped on her coin the two Pillars of Hercules (as the promontories of rock were called); and on a scroll thrown over these were the words, ne plus ultra, “no more beyond.” But one day a bold spirit sailed far beyond these pillars, and found a new world of beauty. Then Spain, wisely convinced of ignorance, struck the word ne from the coin, and left plus ultra, “more beyond.” How many a man, whose conceit is great, thinks he has reached the limits of knowledge, when further investigation would open to him a continent of truth before unknown. (Bp. Simpson)

The excellence of love

We have many servants who regard their work as drudgery, and though they do their duties, they do them with no regard for our interests: but the old-fashioned servants were of another kind. If you have any such, you will prize one of such above a thousand others. They love their master, and they identify themselves with his interests. Old John did not want orders, he was a law to himself, he served from love. When his master one day spoke about their parting, he wanted to know where his master was going, for he had no idea of going himself: he was part and parcel of the household, and was worth his weight in diamonds. You may well say, “I would give my eyes to get such a servant as that.” I dare say you would. Our Lord Jesus gave Himself that He might make such servants out of us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Love rich in purse

A poor widow contributed to the Dorpatian Branch of the Russian Bible Society a rouble; and, to the question whether that sum was not rather too much for one in her circumstances, she answered, “Love is not afraid of giving too much.”

Intelligent love

Blind love fails in any sphere of action. A true-hearted boy, who finds his mother suddenly made a widow, and his young sisters and himself fatherless, and sees want coming on with fierce visage and rapid steps like an armed man, is impelled by his love to the dear ones around him to rush at once into the midst of the struggle of life; and in the place, and with the weapons, of a full-grown man, give the enemy battle. The love and the zeal are most beautiful and admirable, yet those among the onlookers who have experience of the world’s difficulty cannot but fear that the young hero may soon be brought home from the battlefield wounded and bleeding and despondent. He needs training. His love must have the knowledge of men and things along with it, before it is likely to reach its aim. So with Christian love generally, going forth to do work for God and man in the world. Having talents entrusted to us by God to lay out for Him, we must strive--by the study of our powers and opportunities, temptations and dangers; by the consideration of present circumstances, and by cautious forecast; by carefully looking in and out, and at all things in the light of God’s Word--to become wise and successful spiritual traffickers. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

The love of God without knowledge

The affections of the human soul are certainly not devoid of heavenly aspirations; but what if they do not clearly know God? Then, like the vine stretching up its tendril fingers and finding no support, and so falling back again to creep upon the earth from which it sprung, the heart that fails to find God, only loves the world the more desperately and hopelessly. Blessed be God, therefore, for the Cross of Christ, that trellis for the heart’s affection. It is this by which the soul learns to know the love of God; and upon it the renewed affections climb higher and higher; beneath it they strike their roots deeper and deeper; upon its arms they reach out farther and farther; ever-more increasing in love by increasing in knowledge. (A. J. Gordon.)

The knowledge of Christ the mainstay of brotherly love

Two burnished reflectors can radiate the brightness from one to the other if there be a light between them. But, if each only reflects from the other, there can be no illumination: because neither furnishes any supply of light. So two Christians, reciprocating each other’s affections, will make but a poor exhibit of brotherly love, unless they have Christ between them as the centre and source of their life. And there is just as little to admire in mutual fellowship among Christians, unless Christ be in the midst of them as the centre of that fellowship. To exhort one another, to comfort one another, and to love one another, are all most solemn duties. But where will be the profit in them unless Christ be the central theme, and His grace and glory be the central objects of our admiration and praise? The cherubim stood with “their faces one toward another;” but the mercy seat was between. And it was upon faces bending in eager gaze upon those “things which the angels desire to look into,” that the glory of God was reflected. If we get cheer and brightness from looking into each other’s faces, and communing with each other in the services of God’s house, it will be because Christ stands in the midst of us, the object of all our meditations and the fountain of all our joys. “This is eternal life, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent.” “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” (A. J. Gordon.)


Verses 9-11

Philippians 1:9-11

And this I pray

The recorded prayers of St.Paul

are eight in number.

I. For the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:17-23; Ephesians 3:14-21).

II. For the Colossians (Colossians 1:9-14).

III. For the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 3:10-13; 1 Thessalonians 1:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 3:16).

IV. For the Philippians (in loco). (G. G. Ballard.)

St. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians

These words contain a petition for--

I. The enlargement of the affections by the improvement of the intellectual powers.

II. An increase of love in knowledge and judgment with reference to the improvement of the moral character. (C. Lawson.)

The prayer tells us that love should be--

I. Progressive.

II. Intelligent.

III. Discriminating.

IV. Sincere.

V. Without offence.

VI. Constant.

VII. Fruitful. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. The apostle’s action of praying. The Philippians abounded in love, etc., yet the apostle prayed that they might abound yet more and more. Whence observe--

1. The continual necessity of prayer. Whatsoever graces the Lord hath bestowed on us yet we have still need to pray that we may abound more and more in Him (1 Thessalonians 5:17; James 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:12). And the reason why we are continually so to pray is plain; for

2. Christians are not to stand still, or be content with good beginnings, but to grow (Hebrews 6:1; Philippians 3:12). And how should any man think otherwise, considering what enemies hinder our perfection. These continually bid us such battle, that if either we stand or give back we must generally take the foil.

II. The things for which he prays.

1. That their love to God and one another might abound.

2. That they may abound more and more in knowledge, viz., of God’s will out of His Word (1 Corinthians 14:20; Hebrews 6:1). This then may teach us--

3. That they may abound more and more in all judgment, i.e., in sound judgment, that having their wits exercised through long custom, they may discern both good and evil; and abound also in an experience of spiritual things in themselves, that they might spiritually feel in their hearts that which they knew out of the word (Psalms 34:8). This should teach us to so observe the mercies and judgments of the Lord that we may have an experimental knowledge of them (Psalms 34:6).

4. That their “love” might be grounded in sound “knowledge and judgment,” that each having help of other, and being furnished by other, they might the better “discern things that differ.” Though we have all knowledge and not love we are nothing. So, on the other hand, though we have all love and no knowledge, it is nothing. Which of these soever grows up without other, like Jonah’s gourd, will quickly wither. Our care then must be that our love abound in knowledge, that we may know on whom our love ought principally to be set; and in all judgment, that knowing whom we ought to love we may love them as we ought (Galatians 6:10). Otherwise our love may do more harm than good; as zeal without knowledge.

III. The ends wherefore he prays.

1. That they might discern things that differ one from another, virtue and vice, false and true prophets, corrupt and uncorrupt doctrine, and so might follow the good and fly the bad (Romans 2:18). Very justly, then, are they to be reproved that in seeking after knowledge even out of the Scriptures propose any other end.

2. That they might be pure from any leaven of corruption in doctrine, life, or manners as white wool never dyed, fine flour never leavened. For it is not enough to know the difference between purity and impurity (1 Corinthians 5:6-7; Matthew 16:12; 1 Timothy 5:22).

3. That they might not stumble, but hold on a constant course without falling, slipping back, or standing at a stay (Galatians 3:3; Luke 9:62).

4. That they might be fruitful in all good works.

IV. Observations for our instruction.

1. We are not only to do the things that are good, but to abound in them (Colossians 1:9-10; John 15:5-8; Acts 9:36). Why?

2. Let this stir us up and forward to every good work. (H. Airay, D. D.)

I. Christian love in its proper growth and manifestation.

1. This love is not that specially which was cherished towards the apostle. From his point of view that was already much more than he had looked for. Nor is it brotherly love, or love to all men, or love towards God and Christ, or loving activity in Christian service. It is rather love in the absolute sense of the term--the inward state of the heart, which is also the motive power of the life.

2. It is no mere rhetorical accident which makes this grace the very essence of the renewed life. It is the life of the believer’s soul, and the soul of his life. It is with conscious design, therefore, and perfect propriety, that he who penned 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 should here specify love as the distinctive mark of the life hid with Christ in God.

3. This love, although the bond of perfectness, is itself never perfect on earth. Here there must be a persistent going on to perfection. The manifold outgoings of love need direction and control.

(a) Of Christ--a clear perception of the Saviour’s person, character, and work, accompanied by a heart interest therein.

(b) Of the deep things of God.

4. The function of love thus regulated is to approve the things that are excellent. Love has to prove and so approve things that differ (marg.) in being better. What are those excellent things? See Philippians 4:8-9.

5. A practical and much needed lesson lies in this. Love may set on foot many schemes of usefulness, and yet the issue may be failure, because the abounding love has not been in knowledge and discernment. It can never be right to cultivate one central grace to the neglect of the others.

II. The perfection of the Christian life thereby attained.

1. “Sincere,” i.e., spotless, pure, clear. Some see here a military figure, the result of dividing an army into several sections, so as to separate the more hardy and valiant, as Gideon set apart his three hundred. According to this the word means selected and so excellent. Others see an agricultural figure. Select, pure as corn that is purged by the winnowing fan or threshing roller. But the view that it means tested or judged by the sunbeam is the most probable. Christ’s people as here depicted, therefore, are like the gem held up to the sunlight, and found to be without a flaw; walking in the light of truth, and the white radiance of eternity.

2. It follows that they become in relation to others “void of offence,” giving no occasion for stumbling. A Christian who is consistent in his own character is also inoffensive in his conduct. His unconscious example, as well as words and deeds, is a power only for good.

3. This he does unto the day of Christ. (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)

In one word the apostle prayed that the Philippians might grow. Moral dwarfs never pray that others may become moral giants. A man cannot transcend himself. Only the firmament can embrace the stars. The apostle prays--

I. That love may abound in moral tact. True love is intelligent. We are to love God with “all our mind.” As knowledge is the basis of faith, so is it the first condition of love.

II. For an enlargement and quickening of the discriminating faculty, that they might distinguish between things that differ, that so they might elect the right. A man is known by his verdicts. The artist sees where the clown but looks. The more we love Christ the more shall we be qualified to perceive every charm in moral life. He who approves the excellent will defend it.

III. For their sincerity. The word has a double meaning.

1. In the Greek it signifies that which is proved in the sunlight. Christians are to be so true that the solar light of infinite rectitude cannot find any stain or derangement in their character.

2. In the Latin it means “without wax;” clarified honey, free from all admixture. The Christian life is to be so refined as to be thoroughly free from foreign elements.

IV. “Being filled,” etc. (verse 11). Paul, beginning at the centre, finds his way to the circumference; beginning with the spiritual, he culminates in the practical (John 15:1-5). See the connection between Christ and fruit. This call to practical life shows that Christianity is not a mocking pretence, a theological dream, or a speculative science, but a sublime, vital, and vitalizing reality. The doctrines acknowledged in this prayer are--

1. That Christian life is progressive.

2. That God is ready to cooperate with His people for their moral enrichment.

3. That the entire manhood is to bear fruit. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Let it be your earnest concern and prayer--

I. That your love may abound in all knowledge and judgment.

1. The love you should aspire after is Christian love.

2. Your being Church members supposes that you are already partakers of this love in some prevailing degree, as Paul inferred in this case. Persons lacking this ought not to be Church members; for love is the great band of union and communion.

3. The prayer intimates that it is not perfect, but that you ought to seek further progress in it.

4. The text suggests that it should be a judicious love. Light should kindle all your warmth. Without knowledge and judgment your love will be like a land flood, that overfloweth with a rapid stream, but hath no springs to maintain it, or banks to conduct it to a regular course. Take heed of an ignorant, ungovernable, and misjudged love of you know not what, or why.

II. That ye may approve, etc. (verse 10). We are to prove all things by the unerring touchstone of God’s Word, and by a spiritual taste according to it. The more acquaintance we have with the things of God the better they recommend themselves to us (Psalms 34:8; 1 Peter 2:2-3).

III. That ye may be sincere, etc. (verse 10). Some understand “sincere” as referring to God, and “without offence” as referring to man. But why should not each refer to both?

1. Sincerity is not so much a distinct grace as an essential quality running through all our graces and duties, distinguishing them from false appearances in their exercise towards God and man.

2. “Without offence” (Acts 24:16).

IV. “That ye may be filled,” etc. (verse 11).

1. The nature of a man must be changed in its moral frame by regenerating grace before he can bear fruits of righteousness.

2. They are by Jesus Christ--

True Christian love

Our power to help and bless each other is primarily the power of prayer. Prayer directs and impels to services of love; secures the efficiency and success of all other ministrations; appeals to the foundation of good, and fills the channel of blessing sometimes to overflowing. And Paul knowing all this writes not merely, “I preach, teach, warn, labour,” but “I pray.” He prays in harmony with the words of the Lord Jesus that they may abound “more and more” in love. Some people seem to have enough religion, and very little that enough is. Paul’s cry was ever for “more”--if he had light, if he felt himself unusually strong, if he felt his inner life enriched from God’s fulness, his cry still was “more.” So he prayed--not that the Philippians were marrow-minded, thin-souled, cold-hearted people.

I. There was love in the hearts of the saints at Philippi. This was the chief evidence of their being saints. The absence of this, no matter what had been present, would have cast a cloud on their Christian profession.

II. This love was manifested. It was not stagnant like the waters of a tarn, but flowed as a stream which, descending from the hills, runs through the valleys. Christian benevolence must not Sleep in the depths of your nature. What if God’s pity had slept in His! If it be there then make ways for it, so that the living water may reach a thirsty world.

III. The love of others may be affected by our prayers. Sometimes no other agency will succeed, as in the case of a crabbed professing Christian who is impervious to speech, example, and other acts of loving kindness. We can pray that God would expand that Harrow soul.

IV. The love of a true Christian is not a stationary principle: because life underlies it. (S. Martin.)

Love--the heart’s eye

Love is a faculty of spiritual knowledge. Metaphysicians think the faculty of sight is to be found principally among the intellectual powers. As a power of sight Paul says five things about love.

I. It discerns spiritually, i.e., it sees those objects which belong to the spiritual sphere. Love sees as no other faculty can--

1. The truths of the gospel.

2. God Himself.

3. The precepts of the Saviour.

4. The promises.

5. Christian duty and responsibility.

II. It discriminates. Some people say that love is blind, which is true in a sense. But love has also widely open eyes. It separates right from wrong views of God, of human character, of Christian duty. Prejudice never discriminates, nor pride, vanity, cowardice, pugnacity, ambition.

III. It appreciates. Dislike and hatred depreciate; indifference values nothing; love approves what is excellent. You will see what is excellent in others in the degree of your love. If you have not Christian love you will fail to see much that is Christian in God’s Church.

IV. It prevents mistakes. It makes a man sincere and without offence. The sincere but unloving are sometimes most offensive. The deficient in love are often most insincere. The two things in social and Church life are often separated. You have the sincere and the loving as separate classes. But why should they not be brought together? The Christian is not obtrusive, obstinate, exacting, compromising.

V. It remains unimpaired to the end. The understanding may fail, and the memory, but love never. A beautiful illustration of this we sometimes see in old Christians. Conclusion: The day of Christ comes apace. In the fires of that day love only will survive. (S. Martin.)

Perseverance to the day of Christ

The “day” governs the whole petition. Let us mark the ascending order and cumulative force of the supplications--

1. For the steady increase of their love in the knowledge of truth and in the moral tact of its appreciation;

2. For their perfection internal and external of moral character; and--

3. For their final acceptance thus perfected in the testing day of Christ.

I. The regulating principle of Christian life.

1. The Philippians had been already taught of God to love Himself and one another. The apostle now prays for its abundant increase, not by arbitrary and absolute effusion into their hearts, but as the result of being fed by Divine truth and diligently practised.

2. “Knowledge” is the apprehension or arrangement of truth in the mind, but spiritual knowledge, partly as being bound up with our spiritual nature and needs, and chiefly as being imparted by the Holy Ghost.

3. Judgment is the faculty of spiritual discernment: that moral sensitiveness of the renewed mind which is quick to perceive the good and evil in every doctrine, practice, and contingency of daily life (Hebrews 5:14). As knowledge is truth stored up in the mind, so judgment is the mind itself applying that knowledge to the endless occasions which arise for distinguishing between what should be sought and what shunned.

4. The approval of things that are excellent is the operation of this knowledge and discrimination in the mind itself--the precious insight of love which, using its knowledge and its tact, distinguishes in every case what is more excellent and at once approves of it. It is the inward legislator that often tells us what is the commandment where outward legislation fails. The praise of charity in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 is little more than the praise of its marvellous discrimination. Almost all that can look like, without being, religion is there condemned by the judge among the graces.

II. From the regulating principle the prayer now passes to the perfect character, as established in the world, under the guidance and control of enlightened love. Paul exhibits the whole compass of godliness under two aspects, inward and outward--first in their separation and then in their union.

1. Sincere signifies that flawless simplicity of heart which is able to endure every test. The last and most perfect test is the eye of God. What the sun is in nature the Great Detector is in religious life. Those whom God sees thus pure in heart have it as the reward of their purity that they see God. This sacred simplicity is a pearl of great price. Hence it is made a matter of prayer; such cleanness is the express creation of God; but not so as to exclude the consecration of our own effort and habitual watchfulness.

2. “Without offence.” The prayer asks for preservation through the blessing of God on the wise solicitude of charity, from doing anything that should hinder the salvation of any one. The Christian’s thoughtful charity must show its tact in this that his conduct shall at once rebuke the sin of others, and direct them to the beauty of holiness.

3. When the prayer proceeds to the “fruit of righteousness” it completes the picture of this perfection, at the same time that it explains more fully the meaning of “sincere and without offence.”

III. We must go back to that central word, “the day of Christ,” which completes the meaning of the prayer. Jesus the Judge will in that day acknowledge the purity which He now approves, and confirm and reward the righteousness He now creates. Christian integrity, sealed in one sense by death, is to be reexamined, and finally, with the whole universe as witness, ratified in the great day. Conclusion: Those who are tempted by their creed or indolence to rely on the supposed necessity that a salvation once begun must be finally accomplished are reminded by the tone and words of the prayer that without their inward and outward holiness that blessed issue shall not be attained. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)


Verse 10

Philippians 1:10

That ye may approve the things that are excellent

True religion is

I.
The highest intelligence.

II. The fairest accomplishment.

III. The most enduring possession. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Life work

I. Respects judgment--motive--action.

II. Requires energy--till the day of Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Spiritual discrimination

I. Demands the exercise of the most intelligent and sensitive charity.

II. Commands a wide field of effort, viz., the bad, the good, the better, the best--in character, life, doctrine, practice, enjoyment, attainment.

III. Implies the admission and use of a noble liberty of thought, judgment, and action.

IV. Involves a weighty and far-reaching responsibility.

V. Is essential to a pure and blameless life. (G. G. Ballard.)

Discerning with a purpose

I. A suggestion that a spirit of discernment is required from believers in Christ Jesus. The reference is founded on the common action of comparing one thing with another, so as to find the best. A capability to prove which is best for us bodily in food, e.g., would save us from many physical ailments. How many spiritual troubles might be avoided if, in prayer and preaching, we always fixed upon what best presented the glory and grace of Christ. Possessing this faculty we should--

1. Know what course it would be right to take in spiritual difficulties. The banker draws his finger across a bank note and says, “That is forged,” or “That is genuine.” His senses are exercised to prove them. So we ought to be able to perceive the signs of evil, however covered up, and the marks of God’s will, however faint.

2. Understand the relation between duty and comfort.

II. A purpose placed in view of this spirit of discernment.

1. It has respect to the day of Christ, when every man’s work will be tried.

2. It has set before it sincerity and blamelessness.

The things that are excellent

Two things are necessary for all noble life.

1. That we have some ideal of duty.

2. That we are honest in trying to realize this ideal. The words before us suggest these necessities.

I. As Christians we ought to approve things that are excellent.

1. Not merely things which are opposed, or differ, as good and bad. It requires no gift of grace to do this. Natural conscience tells us what is right and wrong. All know that truth is better than falsehood. When men call good evil, they are condemned as much by the world as the Church. It is melancholy to think, however, that some have fallen as low as this in Christian communities, and make a gain of godliness.

2. Paul had a higher level of thought in view--a certain spiritual sensitiveness which recoils from evil, and is drawn to good.

3. We all fail more or less in the cultivation of this higher mindedness. The world is too much with us, weighing down our desires, and whispering a religion of convenience, rather than of aspiration. Our frequent failures, too, tend to keep us contented at a low level.

4. The fineness of spiritual perception is of value in the world. It is a key which unlocks secrets of character. It is not easily deceived. It knows what is true and excellent in art, literature, society, and politics, more readily than others who let their moral ideals grow dim.

II. The further necessity of our being sincere and without offence. Our life and thought must be knit together, our ideal translated into fact.

1. Sincerity is the basis of all good character. A man whose inner and outer life is a contradiction loses even the respect of the world. It would be better if all Christian Churches were more intent on the realities of Christian character; their reward would be greater, and their contentions less.

2. We are also to be without offence. (Principal Tulloch.)

Sincere and without offence

I. A few words against insincerity.

1. Against all forms of it. We are all in danger of it, and its sources are numberless, insidious, and within our own breast. It arises from the prevalent excitement; men pleasing, fiction, ritualism.

2. Against religious insincerity. Here the danger is greatest. Men don’t counterfeit copper, but gold, He that takes a bad sovereign loses twenty times as much as he who takes a bad shilling. Hence the Word of God is singularly full, and strong against this evil, and religion is described as “wisdom that cometh from above;” without hypocrisy; faith unfeigned; unfeigned love of the brethren; love without dissimulation.

3. Remember our Lord’s conduct against it. Every other form of evil is condemned, but with pity and hope. Hypocrisy is branded as beyond the reach of mercy.

II. A few words to promote sincerity. A life sincere and without reproach is sure to be--

1. Harmless and useful. No stumbling block is more fatal than insincerity. We naturally trust the appearance of goodness; but if it proves rottennesss, and gives way, we stumble and hurt ourselves. Few things stagger young Christians more than the inconsistencies of older Christians. Sincerity, however, silences reproach, inspires confidence, commands respect, kindles affection, draws to fellowship.

2. Strong. St. James speaks of a “double-minded man,” i.e., a man with two souls--one his real self, the other what he pretends to be. These are sure to play at see-saw. Such a life resembles ploughing with an ox and an ass, always ungainly and inefficient. Such a life is sure to stifle prayer. Reuben was unstable as water, and he did not excel. In opposition to this, the Bible commends the single heart and the single eye. What a man sees clearly he can grip tightly: when he sees his course plainly he goes on confidently.

3. Happy. When conscience smiles all is sunshine; when it frowns it will be to a man what Mordecai was to Haman. “Our rejoicing is this: the testimony of our conscience,” etc.

4. Pre-eminently a life with God.

5. Will find its consummation in the coming of the Lord. (J. Aldis.)

Christian rectitude

The word “sincere” means a life which has the brightest light flung upon it, which is tried in that light, and approved as genuine. Christian rectitude consists in--

I. Internal sincerity. This involves--

1. A concentratedness of heart upon one object.

2. A thoroughness of life’s uniformity to that one object.

3. An unostentatious but manifest integrity.

4. The completeness of that manifestation shall be proportionate to the brightness of the testing light.

II. External blamelessness,

1. Without being found guilty of an offence.

2. Without giving one.

3. Without taking one.

III. A present state of life, with a glorious future destination. Then--

1. Life shall be judged.

2. Life shall be made manifest.

3. Rectitude of life shall be approved.

4. Rectitude of life shall be rewarded.

5. The “good work” begun in grace shall be crowned in glory. (G. G. Ballard.)

The discernment of things excellent

A housekeeper very rarely buys a supply of food without going through the process of noting different kinds so as to get that which is good. The man who works effectively on the Stock Exchange is the man who discerns the little differences which make one stock preferable to another, and who first observes the indications that a stock is about to take a more excellent place in the mart. I believe it is a habit of religions people, when they come into a new neighbourhood, to go from one place of worship to another, making comparisons amongst them, so as to prove that one which will best suit their temperaments--perhaps they would say, so as to approve that which is excellent. (J. Aldis.)

Discernment the result of experience

When offered food, a child takes palatableness only into account, and will as readily eat, if it be pleasant to the taste, what is unwholesome or even poisonous, as what is most nourishing. The power of discriminating, so as “to refuse the evil and choose the good,” comes by experience. Now the skill which experience, to a great extent unsought, thus gives in the physical sphere, must, in the spiritual, be sought by definite pursuit. Observation and reading, the reading particularly of the biographies of eminent Christians--and especially the Bible biographies, which have an absolute truthfulness seldom even approached in others--these will supply materials, the thoughtful and prayerful consideration of which will produce acuteness of moral perception. There are Christians in whom natural delicacy of feeling and accuracy of judgment, fostered by various helpful surroundings, give, from the very beginning of their religious life, a faculty of spiritual discrimination which acts almost with the readiness and certainty of an instinct. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

“Sincere and without offence”

Are words closely connected. “Sincere” seems to be an allusion to a practice common then and now. In the bazaars in the East goods are stored away in very obscure places, and persons go in to make their purchases, and purchase them in that dull light. Those who wish to know the matter thoroughly take the goods to the open space where the sunbeam plays, and then, under the full blaze of the light, if no flaw, and if no stain shall be revealed, the article is pronounced “sincere” in the sense of the text, and consequently without offence. He that walks in darkness knows not where he is going. He strikes against this, and he strikes against that, and he cannot understand it. He gets bewildered and ultimately overthrown. (J. Aldis.)

Sincerity

Some of us have seen the glorious blue of the Rhone, as it leaves the Lake of Geneva. A little way down, we have seen the Arve, loaded with mud, rush into the same channel. We have watched the two streams flow side by side, each in its own division of the channel, as if the pure could not permit the impure Co mingle with it. But the earthly insinuates itself fully at last, and the river flows on, its colour still blue, but sadly changed from the heaven-like blue of its beginnings. Have we not often mourned, brethren, to see something like this in a Christian life--the hue of earth spreading itself lamentably over the hue of heaven? Faith in Christ brings the water from “the upper springs,” to make the stream pure and sweet; but the muddy and bitter water from the world ever presses in, to mar and pollute. But “love, abounding in knowledge and in all judgment,” can keep the stream clear, so that it reveals itself truly as a branch of the “pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, which proceedeth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

Sincerity

In the palmy days of Roman prosperity, when her merchants lived in their marble palaces on the banks of the Tiber, there was a sort of emulation in the grandeur and artistic adornment of their dwellings. Good sculptors were eagerly sought after and employed. But tricks were sometimes practised, then as now; thus, if the sculptor came upon a flaw in the marble, or chipped a piece out by accident, he had a carefully prepared wax, with which he filled in the chink, and so carefully fixed it as to be imperceptible. In process of time, however, heat or damp would affect the wax, and reveal its presence. The consequence was, that when new contracts were made for commissioned works of art, a clause was added to the effect that they were to be sine cera, or without cement. Hence we have a word picture of great significance. (J. Tesseyman.)

Sincere Christians

A flying fish sometimes attempts to fly, but it is no bird for all that. It only takes a little flight and then it is in the water again; but a true bird keeps on the wing, especially if it is such a bird as the eagle, whose untiring wing bears it above the clouds. Let us beware of prayers which leap up like a grasshopper and are soon down again. Let our prayers have the wings of a dove, let them fly away from earth and rest in God. Hypocrites pray by fits and starts; the genuine Christian “prays without ceasing.”

One fault may spoil a life

Did you ever write a letter, and just as you were finishing it let your pen fall on it, or a drop of ink blot the fair page? It was the work of a moment, but the evil could not be effectually effaced. Did you never cut, yourself unexpectedly and quickly? It took days or weeks to heal the wound, and even then a scar remained. It is related of Lord Brougham that one day he occupied a conspicuous place in a group to have his daguerreotype taken. But at an unfortunate moment he moved. The picture was taken, but his face was blurred. Do you ask what application we would make of these facts? Just this: “It takes a lifetime to build a character; only takes one moment to destroy it.”

Without offence

The word as used in the New Testament does not mean what we mean when we use the word now. You say you gave So-and-so “offence.” You mean you made him angry. Well, if you put anything in a man’s way in the dark and he strikes against it and he falls over it and hurts himself, most likely he will be angry. But the Bible does not concern itself about feeling. That is of no consequence. The Bible concerns itself with a man’s being hurt--the mischief done. Hence always in the New Testament it means, concerning a man himself, that in his conduct and temper and speech he should not put anything in his practical course of life that may cause him to stumble and fall, not because he would be irritated but because he would be hurt. And so, with regard to others, we are to do nothing which might prove as a stumbling block in a man’s way as he is going on in his life, lest he also should strike against it and fall over it and be hurt. (J. Aldis.)

The day of Christ

It is striking to observe how diversified are the appellations given to that day: “The day of judgment,” “the day of wrath,” “the day,” “that day,” “the great day,” “the last day,” “the day of God,” “the day of Christ.” Here it is, “the day of Christ”--the day that is coming, when He will give the crown of righteousness to all them that love His appearing. The day of His finished work, when grace brightens into glory. The day of Christ, when His doctrines will be made clear, no longer veiled in mystery, or troubled by debate; when the merit of His righteousness and sacrifice will be shown forth in the safety and honour of His redeemed and justified; when the splendour of His example will shine out full-orbed in the millions of imitations of that example, each one peculiar, but each one by grace made perfect at last, and all its perfection being the harmony betwixt itself and the example that had been set. “The day of Christ.” The day of His triumph, every obstacle surmounted, every foe vanquished; the day of His recompense when He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall receive the joy set before Him, and “present to Himself a glorious Church not having spot or wrinkle,” etc. (J. Aldis.)


Verse 11

Philippians 1:11

Being titled with the fruits of righteousness--

Divine culture:

I.
The field--The loving heart.

II. The seed--Righteousness.

III. The fruit--Abundant.

IV. The husbandman--Jesus Christ.

V. The end--“The glory and praise of God.” (G. G. Ballard.)

Righteousness

I. Its nature.

II. Its fruits.

III. Its source.

IV. Its end. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. The fruit.

II. The power by which it is produced.

III. The motive.

IV. The measure of righteousness. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The fruits of righteousness

I. What they are: good works, so called because they spring from righteousness as fruit from a tree. We must first be righteous, by the righteousness of God in us before we can do the works that are good. What this righteousness is Paul explains in Romans 3:9.

1. Learn to beware of them who tell you that our good works are that righteousness whereby we are justified before God. As well say that the fruit is the tree.

2. Beware of them that tell you that men not begotten in the faith of Christ are able to do the things that are good and pleasing to God.

3. Let this teach us how to examine our works whether they be good or no. Do they proceed from a lively faith in Christ Jesus?

II. Their author. Christ who is the author of every good thing in us by the grace of His Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:5; Philippians 2:13).

1. Let this warn us against them who would persuade us that we are able of ourselves to do that which is good.

2. Let this teach us to give all the praise to Him to whom it is due (Revelation 5:13).

III. Their end (1 Corinthians 10:31; Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12). Let this try our motives. Do we do good that we may gain heaven or that we may glorify God? (H. Airay, D. D.)

Gospel holiness

I. The experience--“Fruits of righteousness.” Righteousness is right-mindedness.

1. Integrity is the fruit toward God and man.

2. Tenderness of conscience.

3. With these and other virtues we are to be filled.

4. Although the world may reproach us.

II. The means--Union with Christ. Granted this, good works are inevitable, as a good tree must produce good fruits.

III. The end. God can take delight in nothing but holiness. It is His own nature. (J. Summerfield, A. M.)

Spiritual attainment

I. Righteousness of heart precedes righteousness of life.

II. Righteousness of heart is self-disseminating. Its fruit is--

1. Living.

2. Of harmonious unity.

3. Luxuriant.

III. Righteousness of heart, the only thing that can fill the capacities of man.

IV. Fulness of righteousness--fruit, is all Divine. It is Divine--

1. In its source--“God giveth the increase.”

2. In its medium of communication--“which is by Jesus Christ.”

3. In its end--“unto the glory and praise of God.”

Fruits of righteousness

Just as the fruits which men, with grateful and rejoicing hearts, gather in at harvest home are not only much in quantity, but also many in variety, so in the Church, the garden of the Lord, His planting that He may be glorified, there are manifold good thoughts and deeds and impulses, all springing up from the one seed of love, and maturing to life eternal to be garnered in when “the harvest of the earth is ripe.” (J. Hutchison, D. D.)

Abounding fruitfulness

It is not enough to give no offence, you must edify; to abstain from evil, you must do good. As the perfection of a tree is to bring forth good fruits, and not simply that it should not bear bad. For according to that, those which bear no fruit at all might pass for good trees. Thus the praise of a Christian is to lead a life which is not only exempt from the corruption of sin, but which abounds in all kinds of virtues, which is covered and enriched by holy acts worthy of the name by which we are called. For He has snatched us from the soil of the world, or more properly of hell, where, like the plants of Sodom, we bore but empty and useless fruits, and those which were poisonous and deadly. He has transplanted us into the paradise of God, His Church; where, by the efficacy of His blood, His Word, and His Spirit, He hath shed in us thoughts, hopes, and affections totally different from those we had formerly, namely, hatred and contempt for the world and sin, admiration and love for heaven and holiness. (J. Daille.)

Advantages of advanced piety

Fighting faults is the most discouraging thing in the world. When corn reaches a certain height, no more weeds can grow among it. The corn overshadows and grows them down. Let men fill themselves full of good things. Let them make their love, and purity, and kindness to grow up like corn that every evil and noxious thing within them may be overshadowed and die. (H. W. Beecher.)

The trees of righteousness blossoming, and bringing forth fruit

I. How a Christian brings forth fruit. I answer: he brings forth fruit “in the vine”; by nature we are barren; there is not one good blossom growing on us; but when by faith we are engrafted into Christ, then we grow and fructify; “as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in Me.” Jesus Christ is that blessed root which shoots up that sap of grace into His branches.

II. What that fruit is which a good Christian brings forth.

1. A Christian brings forth inward fruit: “love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.”

2. A Christian brings forth outward fruit.

3. A Christian brings forth kindly fruit. The godly man bringeth forth his fruit; that is, he brings forth that fruit which is proper for him to bear. But what is this kindly and proper fruit? I answer, when we are good in our callings and relations; in a magistrate, justice is kindly fruit; in a minister, zeal; in a parent, instruction; in a child, reverence; in a master, good example; in a servant, obedience; in the husband, love; in the wife, submission; in a tradesman, diligence; in a soldier, innocence. A tree of God’s planting brings forth His fruit, that which is suitable and proper. I shall never believe him to be good, that doth not bear kindly fruit; a good Christian, but a bad master; a good Christian, but a bad parent, doth not sound well. The excellency of a Christian is to bring forth proper fruit; wherein lies the good ness of a member in the body, but to discharge its proper office? the eye is to see, the ear to hear, etc. So the excellency of a Christian is to bring forth that fruit which God hath assigned to him: what is a thing good for which doth not do its proper work? what is a clock good for that will not strike? what is a ship good for that will not sail? what is a rose good for that doth not smell? what is that professor good for that doth not send forth a sweet perfume in his relation? the commendation of a thing is when it puts forth its proper virtue. Not to bring forth suitable fruit, spoils all the other fruit which we bring forth. If a man were to make a medicine, and should leave out the chief ingredient, the medicine would lose its virtue. Relative graces do much beautify and set off a Christian; it is the beauty of a star to shine in its proper orb; relative grace doth bespangle a Christian.

4. A good Christian brings forth seasonable fruit, he that bringeth forth fruit in his season; everything is beautiful in his time. That may be good at one time, which at another may be out of season. There is a great deal of skill in the right timing of a thing; duties of religion must be performed in the fit juncture of time.

I. It shows us who is a Christian in God’s calendar, namely, the fruit-bearing Christian. As soon as the sap of grace is infused, it puts forth itself in evangelical fruit.

II. Here is an indictment against three sorts.

1. Such as bring forth no fruit; “Israel is an empty vine.” O how many unfruitful hearers are there, who evaporate into nothing but froth and fume, being like those ears which run out all into straw I they give God neither the early fruit nor the latter. To the unfruitful Christian let me say four things.

2. It reproves such as bring forth evil fruit.

3. It reproves such as bring forth good fruit, but to a bad end; “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself”: a man had as good bring forth no fruit, as bring forth fruit unto himself. What is it for one to bring forth fruit unto himself? Prayer is good; but when a man prays only to showy his parts, this is to bring forth fruit unto himself. Works of mercy are good, but when a man gives alms, not so much to feed the poor, as to feed his pride, now he brings forth fruit to himself, and this fruit is worm eaten.

III. 1. Let this exhort all to fruitfulness.

(a) They do not bring forth fruit in the Vine they bring forth in the strength of parts, not in the strength of Christ.

(b) Hypocrites bring forth something like fruit, but it is not the right fruit. The fruit they bear is not sweet.

2. It exhorts them that do bear fruit, that they would bring forth more fruit; do not think you have fruit enough, but bring forth further degrees of sanctity; “every branch that beareth fruit, he pruneth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”

IV. The last use is of direction. I shall lay down some means to fruitfulness.

1. Be sensible of unfruitfulness.

2. If you would be fruitful, remove those things which will hinder fruitfulness. Cherishing any secret lust in the heart; sin lived in, is like vermin to the tree, which destroys the fruit; grace cannot thrive in a sinful heart.

3. The third means to fruitfulness is weeping for sin. Moisture helps germination in trees; holy tears do water the trees of God, and make them more fruitful.

4. If you would be fruitful often apply the blood of Christ, and the promises.

5. Another means to fruitfulness is humility. The low grounds are most fruitful: “the valleys are covered with corn”; the humble heart is the fruitful heart.

6. If you would be fruitful in grace, be much in good conference; “then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another.”

7. If you would be fruit-bearing trees, be near the water of the sanctuary; “he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out the roots by the river; her leaf shall be green, nor shall it cease from yielding fruit.”

8. And lastly, if you would fructify apace, go, to God and desire Him to make you fruitful; God is called the Husbandman, and He hath an art above all other husbandmen; they can plant and prune trees, but if they be dead they cannot make them bear. (T. Watson.)


Verses 12-20

Philippians 1:12-20

I would ye should understand, brethren

Ministerial life

Its aim, pursuit, and success, ought to be--

I.
Transparent. This a true minister’s--

1. Duty.

2. Desire.

3. Privilege.

II. Familiar to the Church. This--

1. Demanded by their community of interest.

2. Necessary to the growth of their mutual sympathy.

3. His vindication against false rumours and slander.

4. Should ever bring glory to God.

5. Ought to be cultivated, intelligent, and loving. (G. G. Ballard.)

The gospel in Rome

I. The spread of the Gospel through the apostle’s imprisonment.

1. His imprisonment gave notoriety to the cause for which he was imprisoned.

2. His own soldier guards heard him talk to his visitors, and themselves became the means of extending the cause. As one man relieved another day after day, the whole of the imperial guard was brought under Christian teaching.

3. These guards would make this strange prisoner the theme of many homes in the city.

4. The apostle’s calmness and consistency began to tell on the Christians themselves.

II. The unveiling of the apostle’s heart through the spread of the gospel. We see--

1. His perfect self-forgetfulness. Neither his imprisonment nor the preaching of envy and strife could disturb his confidence in Christ.

2. His large and hopeful charity. Even the Judaizers preached Christ.

3. His spirit of humble and trustful dependence--

4. His thorough and absorbing devotedness to his work. Conclusion:

Note--

1. The power of personal influence.

2. That this influence can, only be sustained by personal union with Christ. (J. J. Goadby.)

The gospel in Rome

The Philippians had expressed through Epaphroditus, no doubt, besides warm sympathy with Paul, anxiety respecting his prospects and those of the gospel. Not merely was there a clog on the great missionary himself, but his persecution was likely to discourage the Roman Christians. He hastens to re assure them.

I. The first result of God’s gracious intervention to make the wrath of man praise Him was that the cause of Paul’s imprisonment became extensively known.

1. His bonds were “well known as being in connection with Christ.” This was no doubt the form in which the cause of his imprisonment would present itself; yet the full and precious force of She “in Christ” is to be held fast here. It was through his union with Christ--

2. This was known among the Praetorian guards. He had no privacy day or night, and seeing his purity, patience, gentleness, and kindness, they soon saw that he was no criminal, and felt that his bonds were in Christ.

3. In all other places, to all who knew anything about His imprisonment.

II. The second result was that Paul’s example became stimulating.

1. We may infer that in the early Church every member according to his opportunities spoke the word of the Lord. “Most” of the members of the Roman Church were certainly evangelists. The discoverer of a remedy is bound by humanity to make the remedy known: so surely should he who knows of the Divine physician. In heathen countries evangelism is the immediate fruit of conversion; but also many professing Christians never speak a word for Christ.

2. The observation of the apostle’s endurance of suffering strengthened the faith of the Church, and spurred them to increased effort. Thus it comes that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. This was the effect of the death of Stephen; of the persecution of the Waldenses and of the Malagasy.

3. The secret of this is told in the little phrase “in the Lord.” The man out of Christ can see only the chains and the possibilities of death: the man who is “in Christ” sees also--

4. The preachers were under the influence of strangely divergent motives, but the apostle rejoiced that, however, perfectly or imperfectly, Christ was preached by all. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

Paul’s sorrows and joys

I. Paul’s sorrows. Persecuted--imprisoned--insulted.

II. Paul’s joys. The progress of the gospel--the love, courage, and confidence of the brethren--the proclamation of Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Paul’s captivity

I. The first result was that it had been serviceable for the diffusion of the truth among those who otherwise might not have heard of it. Man may be bound but not the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:9). We may almost trace his rejoicing in his chain (Acts 28:20; 2 Timothy 1:16). They were to him as links of spiritual pearls; his garb of affliction as a robe of beauty because they were manifest in Christ. He was soon seen not to be a political offender or a law breaker, but a humble patient, contented witness for Christ.

II. The second result was that it made those who were already relievers increasingly bold of speech. If he could preach in fetters much more should they preach in freedom. But there is a dark shadow on the picture, Christ was preached from varying motives. Yet the apostle will rejoice that He is preached at all. In the Epistle to the Galatians the preachers of Christ of envy and strife were unsparingly denounced; but here he is not comparing party with party, but Christianity with heathenism. Even an imperfect gospel was precious in view of the nameless corruptions of Rome. The same experience is seen still in mission fields, all minor differences of Church organization and creed dwindle into nothingness in the presence of the hideous corruption of the pagan world. So ought it to be in Christian lands in view of home heathenism. (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)

The gospel furthered by opposition

I. The experience of Paul. He was brought into notoriety--into contact with persons of influence--to Rome the centre human power--had leisure to write his Epistles.

II. The experience of all believers. Nothing happens by chance--all things are overruled by Christ--we should therefore gladly toil and suffer in His cause. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Things concerning himself

Knowing the deep solicitude of the Philippians, but not to what extent they may have been misinformed as to his imprisonment, he makes haste to set their minds at rest. But if we expect that he will dilate upon the details of his external fortunes, or open the secrets of his prison house, we shall be disappointed. What little may be recovered of these must be gathered from other sources.

I. There can be no doubt that St. Paul here refers to that imprisonment with which the Book of the Acts closes. Regard this event--

1. Under the purely human aspect. Three times in his life was St. Paul, as he gloried in saying, “a prisoner of Jesus Christ,” besides “bonds oft.” The first was at Caesarea, when he pleaded his own and his Master’s cause, and claimed the right of a Roman citizen to appeal unto Caesar. In this he gratified one of the deepest desires of his heart. “I must see Rome.” It was his holy ambition to carry the gospel to the centre of the world. The Lord ratified the desire of his heart. “As thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so shalt thou bear witness in Rome.” But His Master had not indicated that He was to go bound. Apostles, like ourselves, must wait for the unfoldings of providence. He reached Rome and was subjected to mild restraint. During two years he was kept in suspense: then he seems to have been dismissed, but returned again after a few years’ mission to the West, to the same place, and was beheaded. All this is what he meant by the “things that concern me.” As to those details we should have been so glad to receive, about himself and the Roman Church, he is silent, perhaps because his letters were closely watched.

2. When he lays the stress on “have fallen out rather,” he gives us a hint of another side of the matter. The hand of God had been leading him in a way he knew not. It was not Paul alone who had appealed unto Caesar, but Christ in him and Christ’s cause. It was part of the manifold wisdom of God that he should consolidate the Church in Rome. St. Paul’s special revelation of truth--“my gospel”--was necessary to the perfection of evangelical teaching, and therefore was he, not Peter, sent to Rome.

II. Rather unto the furtherence of the Gospel. The apostle’s imprisonment had positively tended to promote the kingdom of Christ.

1. Generally this had been the case. Paul was still the centre of the European gospel, and had time and opportunity now for a calm survey of the whole estate of Christ’s Church. His spirit was surrendered to the undisturbed influence of meditation and prayer. What the three great Epistles--Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians--owe to this seclusion, those who study them may conjecture. Certain it is they have tended greatly to the furtherence of the gospel.

2. More particularly his bonds have promoted the gospel--

(a) The first class of these preachers are described as feeling the good influence of the apostle’s bonds in two ways: first they were inspired with boldness by his Christian endurance; secondly, their love to the cause of Christ was increased by their sympathy with his devotion as set for the defence of the gospel.

(b) But these bonds stirred up a different class of preachers; the weak brethren of whom he speaks as exerting so much influence in Rome (Romans 14:1-23). Weak in faith and scrupulosity, but strong in prejudice and bitterness, who thought that by preaching a more contracted gospel, they would add bitterness to his bonds. As a confederate company they were actuated by “strife” and “faction”; being only in a minority, they sought to increase their numbers and raise a party that would neutralize this Gentile gospel.

3. By a remarkable expression St. Paul declares his self-forgetting concentration of heart on the furtherance of Christ’s gospel (verse 18).

(a) His pure and loyal exultation that by all means the name of Christ was more widely proclaimed.

(b) His gladness that what was mingled with so much private disquietude would issue in the furtherance of his own salvation. Fidelity to public duty must go hand in hand with trembling solicity for individual fidelity.

(c) To what did he look for personal assurance and establishment in grace? Not to any guaranteed apostolical prerogative; not to the long-disciplined, strength of his moral nature; but to the common heritage of all Christians--“the supply of Christ’s Spirit” through the prayers of his fellow saints united with his own. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

The triumphs of the gospel

I. Continue in spite of oppression.

II. Are secured by opposite agencies.

III. Are a source of joy to its adherents. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The things that have happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel--The Philippians looked upon the imprisonment as a calamity; Paul assures them that it was an element of prosperity. This shows how much our estimate of men and things depends upon the angle from which we conduct the examination. Circumstances are often the only lexicons which can determine the meaning of words. “Ruin” at Philippi meant “coronation” at Rome. Much depends on the plane of vision as well as upon optical power. There is a germ of prophecy here. By and by we shall see life from higher standpoints. It is better for the student to study his dark problems at Rome than at Philippi. Circumstances the most untoward may in reality be advancing the Divine kingdom. Every purpose of God may be thwarted, but the outcome of the ages will show that God’s great plan has been realized.

I. God’s providence is not to be interpreted in fragments.

II. The moral is higher than the personal. Paul is in prison; the gospel is free.

III. The bonds of one man may give inspiration to the liberty of another (verse 14).

IV. The spread of the Gospel depends upon no one man.

V. Even the afflicted have a mission. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Bonds in Christ

I. Cannot arrest the spread of the Gospel.

II. Are the promise of future glory.

III. Are more honourable than an imperial crown, for--

1. They are worn in the service of the King of kings.

2. Worn in royal spirit.

3. Made the means of confirming others.

4. Overruled for the extension of the kingdom. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Paul’s bonds in Christ exhibited

I. His own moral blamelessness.

II. His self devotion to Christ.

III. His real dignity. The omen of civil degradation was the sign of his relationship with the Lord of the universe.

IV. His moral freedom. (G. G. Ballard.)

The ministry of Paul the prisoner

I. The things that have happened unto me (see history of Paul as the prisoner of Jesus Christ, Acts 21:1-40; Acts 28:1-31)

1. Popular tumult in Jerusalem.

2. Apprehension by Lysias, bound and ordered to be examined by scourging.

3. Placed at the bar of the Sanhedrim and ordered to be smitten on the mouth by the High Priest.

4. Conspiracy against his life, exposed, defeated.

5. Taken prisoner to Caesarea. Tried before Felix. Then before Festus, afterwards before Agrippa and Berenice.

6. Appeals to Caesar, shipwrecked, arrives at Rome.

7. In Rome delivered to the captain of the guard, permitted to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him (Acts 28:30-31) for two years.

II. Have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel. The development of events in a consecrated life--

1. Is the work of an overruling Providence.

2. Produces startling results, disappointing alike to the hopes of enemies and the fears of friends.

3. Whatever may be its starting point, attains its end in the advancement of the gospel.

4. Illustrates how moral principles when tried in suffering become mighty forces in the world’s evangelization.

5. A pledge that suffering with Christ shall be followed by a fellowship of glory. (G. G. Ballard.)

The powerlessness of persecution

I. Persecutions further rather than hinder the Gospel. In all ages the Church has been increased rather than diminished by them (Exodus 1:1-22; Daniel 3:1-30). When Christ was crucified they thought they had rooted out His name and doctrine forever; but by the Cross the kingdom was established.

II. How comes this to pass? Not by the intentions of enemies, nor the virtue of the saints’ sufferings.

1. By the power of Christ (Psalms 2:1).

2. When men see the saints’ undauntedness, their patience, the power of God strengthening them, and their triumph over death, their very example brings many into the Church.

3. The Word of God is not bound, though the preacher may be (2 Timothy 2:9).

III. The use.

1. To be comforted in all our troubles which the wicked raise up against us, if the gospel is advanced thereby.

2. To condemn the faintness and backsliding of many in troubles (Luke 14:26-27).

3. Not to doubt of the truth or dislike professors when they are persecuted. (H. Airay, D. D.)

Christian boldness

I. The result of a firm confidence in the Lord.

II. Increases upon the approach of persecution.

III. Necessary to true witness bearing. (G. G. Ballard.)

Expectations unexpectedly fulfilled

Paul was in Rome. His earnest wish was gratified, but how differently from what he had expected. But he did not murmur. All had happened for the furtherance of the gospel. Let us look at the circumstances by which, notwithstanding his imprisonment, his original expectations were now unexpectedly realized. Consider--

I. The amount of liberty granted him. For some unknown reason, instead of being shut up within the Praetorian barracks, he was permitted to dwell in a hired lodging of his own, and “receive all who might come to him.” He was not forbidden to preach to his visitors, and many would go away deeply impressed.

II. The additional efficacy given to his preaching by his bonds. He was kept under strict guard, being chained to a Roman soldier. It might have been thought that had he been allowed to go unfettered he might have accomplished more. But the fact of his bondage drew multitudes who might otherwise not have heard him, and his chains were a token of his sincerity. It became manifest that his bonds were in Christ and that he was not afraid of imprisonment or death. Onesimus was but one of many begotten by his bonds.

III. Into what unexpected quarters his influence penetrated. Had a Roman Christian previous to Paul’s coming been asked what section of the population would be the last to feel the power of the gospel he would probably have pointed to the rude, hardened soldiers who were in attendance on Nero. But Paul comes and lo! the praetorium is one of the first places to feel his influence.

IV. How his imprisonment influenced many of those who were already preaching the Gospel. We might have thought that the sight of Paul’s chains would depress. Instead of this it quickened their zeal. Let us learn a lesson of hope in God.

1. For the progress of His kingdom.

2. For our own welfare. (T. C. Finlayson.)

Irresistible moral influence

Moral influence springing from and devoted to Christ resists all mere physical and local restrictions. Paul’s moral influence exerted a mighty power.

I. Under the most disadvantageous circumstances--in bonds.

II. With a very limited opportunity--one soldier daily.

III. Upon a class of mind and heart not easily impressed, viz., the guard which had charge of him, a prisoner.

IV. Throughout the city--notwithstanding the restraints of “his own hired house.”

V. Reaching the further field, by first fully cultivating the one at hand. (G. G. Ballard.)

The furtherance of the gospel

Progress--the figure is perhaps military. As the progress of armies is facilitated by the cutting down of obstructing trees, so trials were but the means of cutting down all hindrances to the onward march of the truth. (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)

Hindrances as helps

The Boers’ determined opposition to Livingstone’s purpose to evangelize by native teachers occasioned his continued efforts to penetrate westward until he crossed the continent, and committed himself fully to his great life work as a missionary explorer. (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

Unfavourable circumstance, may be turned to advantage

In one place near the Hospice of St. Bernard, I met with a curious natural conservatory. The under surface of the snow having been melted by the warmth of the soil, which in Alpine regions is always markedly higher than that of the air, was not in contact with it. A snowy vault was thus formed, glazed on the top with thin plates of transparent ice; and here grew a most lovely cushion of the Aretia Helvetica, covered with hundreds of its delicate rosy flowers, like a miniature hydrangea blossom. The dark colour of the soil favoured the absorption of heat; and, prisoned in its crystal cave, this little fairy grew and blossomed securely from the very heart of winter, the unfavourable circumstances around all seeming so many ministers of good, increasing its strength, and enhancing its loveliness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The advantage of disadvantage

I never had in all my life so great an inlet into the Word of God as now. Those Scriptures that I saw nothing in before are made in this place and state to shine upon me. I have seen that here which I am persuaded I shall never in this world be able to express. (John Bunyan, in Bedford Jail.)

Character of St. Paul’s captivity

The degree of restraint put upon a person labouring under a criminal charge was determined by various circumstances: by the nature of the charge itself, by the rank and reputation of the accused, by the degree of guilt presumed to attach to him. Those most leniently dealt with were handed over to their friends, who thus became sureties for their appearance; the worst offenders were thrown into prison and loaded with chains. The captivity of St. Paul was neither the severest nor the lightest possible. By his appeal to Caesar he had placed himself at the emperor’s disposal. Accordingly on his arrival at Rome he is delivered over to the prefect of the praetorians under whose charge he remained throughout his captivity. He represents himself as strictly a prisoner; he speaks again and again of his bonds. At times he mentions his coupling chain. According to Roman custom he was bound by the hand to the soldier who guarded him, and was never left alone day or night. As the soldiers would relieve guard in constant succession, the praetorians one by one were brought into communication with the prisoner of Jesus Christ, and thus he was able to affirm that his bonds had borne witness to the gospel “throughout the imperial regiment.” On the other hand his confinement was not so severe as this, standing alone, might seem to imply. It is certain that all had free access to him, and that he was allowed to converse and write without restraint. He was not thrown into prison, but lived in rooms of his own. When he first arrived he was taken to temporary lodgings: either to a house of public entertainment, or to the abode of some friend. But afterwards he rented a dwelling of his own, and there he remained apparently till his release. (Bishop Lightfoot.)

Who could see without emotion that venerable form subjected by iron links to the coarse control of the soldier who stood beside him? How often must the tears of the assembly have been called forth by the upraising of that fettered hand, and the clanking of the chain which checked its energetic action. (Conybeare and Howson.)

Good out of evil

The cloud, while it obscures the sun, sends down the fertilizing shower. This theatre was prepared for his punishment, and it became the scene of his triumph. This persecution, which was intended to cover him with shame, overwhelmed him with honour; it was to blacken and wither his name, and it rendered it illustrious in the first city and in the most superb court in the universe. Oh the vanity of the thoughts of the wicked! Oh the admirable wisdom of the providence of God! He causes the Jew to open the apostle’s mouth, when he thinks that he is closing it, and makes him spread his voice throughout the world, in desiring to banish him from Judea. He had formerly conducted Joseph to the highest pitch of glory in the same way, through the fury of his unnatural brethren. Persecution, slavery, and imprisonment had also been as it were the ladders to his prosperity. Since then He has always in the same way used them in the conduct of His people, overthrowing the designs of His enemies, and turning the artifices of their malice, and the excess of their fury, directly contrary to their intentions; multiplying His Church by the deaths and massacres which seemed likely to destroy it; lighting His gospel by those very means which appeared likely to extinguish it; and drawing the brightest glory of His servants from their deepest disgrace. (J. Daille.)


Verses 12-20

Philippians 1:12-20

I would ye should understand, brethren

Ministerial life

Its aim, pursuit, and success, ought to be--

I.
Transparent. This a true minister’s--

1. Duty.

2. Desire.

3. Privilege.

II. Familiar to the Church. This--

1. Demanded by their community of interest.

2. Necessary to the growth of their mutual sympathy.

3. His vindication against false rumours and slander.

4. Should ever bring glory to God.

5. Ought to be cultivated, intelligent, and loving. (G. G. Ballard.)

The gospel in Rome

I. The spread of the Gospel through the apostle’s imprisonment.

1. His imprisonment gave notoriety to the cause for which he was imprisoned.

2. His own soldier guards heard him talk to his visitors, and themselves became the means of extending the cause. As one man relieved another day after day, the whole of the imperial guard was brought under Christian teaching.

3. These guards would make this strange prisoner the theme of many homes in the city.

4. The apostle’s calmness and consistency began to tell on the Christians themselves.

II. The unveiling of the apostle’s heart through the spread of the gospel. We see--

1. His perfect self-forgetfulness. Neither his imprisonment nor the preaching of envy and strife could disturb his confidence in Christ.

2. His large and hopeful charity. Even the Judaizers preached Christ.

3. His spirit of humble and trustful dependence--

4. His thorough and absorbing devotedness to his work. Conclusion:

Note--

1. The power of personal influence.

2. That this influence can, only be sustained by personal union with Christ. (J. J. Goadby.)

The gospel in Rome

The Philippians had expressed through Epaphroditus, no doubt, besides warm sympathy with Paul, anxiety respecting his prospects and those of the gospel. Not merely was there a clog on the great missionary himself, but his persecution was likely to discourage the Roman Christians. He hastens to re assure them.

I. The first result of God’s gracious intervention to make the wrath of man praise Him was that the cause of Paul’s imprisonment became extensively known.

1. His bonds were “well known as being in connection with Christ.” This was no doubt the form in which the cause of his imprisonment would present itself; yet the full and precious force of She “in Christ” is to be held fast here. It was through his union with Christ--

2. This was known among the Praetorian guards. He had no privacy day or night, and seeing his purity, patience, gentleness, and kindness, they soon saw that he was no criminal, and felt that his bonds were in Christ.

3. In all other places, to all who knew anything about His imprisonment.

II. The second result was that Paul’s example became stimulating.

1. We may infer that in the early Church every member according to his opportunities spoke the word of the Lord. “Most” of the members of the Roman Church were certainly evangelists. The discoverer of a remedy is bound by humanity to make the remedy known: so surely should he who knows of the Divine physician. In heathen countries evangelism is the immediate fruit of conversion; but also many professing Christians never speak a word for Christ.

2. The observation of the apostle’s endurance of suffering strengthened the faith of the Church, and spurred them to increased effort. Thus it comes that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. This was the effect of the death of Stephen; of the persecution of the Waldenses and of the Malagasy.

3. The secret of this is told in the little phrase “in the Lord.” The man out of Christ can see only the chains and the possibilities of death: the man who is “in Christ” sees also--

4. The preachers were under the influence of strangely divergent motives, but the apostle rejoiced that, however, perfectly or imperfectly, Christ was preached by all. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

Paul’s sorrows and joys

I. Paul’s sorrows. Persecuted--imprisoned--insulted.

II. Paul’s joys. The progress of the gospel--the love, courage, and confidence of the brethren--the proclamation of Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Paul’s captivity

I. The first result was that it had been serviceable for the diffusion of the truth among those who otherwise might not have heard of it. Man may be bound but not the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:9). We may almost trace his rejoicing in his chain (Acts 28:20; 2 Timothy 1:16). They were to him as links of spiritual pearls; his garb of affliction as a robe of beauty because they were manifest in Christ. He was soon seen not to be a political offender or a law breaker, but a humble patient, contented witness for Christ.

II. The second result was that it made those who were already relievers increasingly bold of speech. If he could preach in fetters much more should they preach in freedom. But there is a dark shadow on the picture, Christ was preached from varying motives. Yet the apostle will rejoice that He is preached at all. In the Epistle to the Galatians the preachers of Christ of envy and strife were unsparingly denounced; but here he is not comparing party with party, but Christianity with heathenism. Even an imperfect gospel was precious in view of the nameless corruptions of Rome. The same experience is seen still in mission fields, all minor differences of Church organization and creed dwindle into nothingness in the presence of the hideous corruption of the pagan world. So ought it to be in Christian lands in view of home heathenism. (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)

The gospel furthered by opposition

I. The experience of Paul. He was brought into notoriety--into contact with persons of influence--to Rome the centre human power--had leisure to write his Epistles.

II. The experience of all believers. Nothing happens by chance--all things are overruled by Christ--we should therefore gladly toil and suffer in His cause. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Things concerning himself

Knowing the deep solicitude of the Philippians, but not to what extent they may have been misinformed as to his imprisonment, he makes haste to set their minds at rest. But if we expect that he will dilate upon the details of his external fortunes, or open the secrets of his prison house, we shall be disappointed. What little may be recovered of these must be gathered from other sources.

I. There can be no doubt that St. Paul here refers to that imprisonment with which the Book of the Acts closes. Regard this event--

1. Under the purely human aspect. Three times in his life was St. Paul, as he gloried in saying, “a prisoner of Jesus Christ,” besides “bonds oft.” The first was at Caesarea, when he pleaded his own and his Master’s cause, and claimed the right of a Roman citizen to appeal unto Caesar. In this he gratified one of the deepest desires of his heart. “I must see Rome.” It was his holy ambition to carry the gospel to the centre of the world. The Lord ratified the desire of his heart. “As thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so shalt thou bear witness in Rome.” But His Master had not indicated that He was to go bound. Apostles, like ourselves, must wait for the unfoldings of providence. He reached Rome and was subjected to mild restraint. During two years he was kept in suspense: then he seems to have been dismissed, but returned again after a few years’ mission to the West, to the same place, and was beheaded. All this is what he meant by the “things that concern me.” As to those details we should have been so glad to receive, about himself and the Roman Church, he is silent, perhaps because his letters were closely watched.

2. When he lays the stress on “have fallen out rather,” he gives us a hint of another side of the matter. The hand of God had been leading him in a way he knew not. It was not Paul alone who had appealed unto Caesar, but Christ in him and Christ’s cause. It was part of the manifold wisdom of God that he should consolidate the Church in Rome. St. Paul’s special revelation of truth--“my gospel”--was necessary to the perfection of evangelical teaching, and therefore was he, not Peter, sent to Rome.

II. Rather unto the furtherence of the Gospel. The apostle’s imprisonment had positively tended to promote the kingdom of Christ.

1. Generally this had been the case. Paul was still the centre of the European gospel, and had time and opportunity now for a calm survey of the whole estate of Christ’s Church. His spirit was surrendered to the undisturbed influence of meditation and prayer. What the three great Epistles--Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians--owe to this seclusion, those who study them may conjecture. Certain it is they have tended greatly to the furtherence of the gospel.

2. More particularly his bonds have promoted the gospel--

(a) The first class of these preachers are described as feeling the good influence of the apostle’s bonds in two ways: first they were inspired with boldness by his Christian endurance; secondly, their love to the cause of Christ was increased by their sympathy with his devotion as set for the defence of the gospel.

(b) But these bonds stirred up a different class of preachers; the weak brethren of whom he speaks as exerting so much influence in Rome (Romans 14:1-23). Weak in faith and scrupulosity, but strong in prejudice and bitterness, who thought that by preaching a more contracted gospel, they would add bitterness to his bonds. As a confederate company they were actuated by “strife” and “faction”; being only in a minority, they sought to increase their numbers and raise a party that would neutralize this Gentile gospel.

3. By a remarkable expression St. Paul declares his self-forgetting concentration of heart on the furtherance of Christ’s gospel (verse 18).

(a) His pure and loyal exultation that by all means the name of Christ was more widely proclaimed.

(b) His gladness that what was mingled with so much private disquietude would issue in the furtherance of his own salvation. Fidelity to public duty must go hand in hand with trembling solicity for individual fidelity.

(c) To what did he look for personal assurance and establishment in grace? Not to any guaranteed apostolical prerogative; not to the long-disciplined, strength of his moral nature; but to the common heritage of all Christians--“the supply of Christ’s Spirit” through the prayers of his fellow saints united with his own. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

The triumphs of the gospel

I. Continue in spite of oppression.

II. Are secured by opposite agencies.

III. Are a source of joy to its adherents. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The things that have happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel--The Philippians looked upon the imprisonment as a calamity; Paul assures them that it was an element of prosperity. This shows how much our estimate of men and things depends upon the angle from which we conduct the examination. Circumstances are often the only lexicons which can determine the meaning of words. “Ruin” at Philippi meant “coronation” at Rome. Much depends on the plane of vision as well as upon optical power. There is a germ of prophecy here. By and by we shall see life from higher standpoints. It is better for the student to study his dark problems at Rome than at Philippi. Circumstances the most untoward may in reality be advancing the Divine kingdom. Every purpose of God may be thwarted, but the outcome of the ages will show that God’s great plan has been realized.

I. God’s providence is not to be interpreted in fragments.

II. The moral is higher than the personal. Paul is in prison; the gospel is free.

III. The bonds of one man may give inspiration to the liberty of another (verse 14).

IV. The spread of the Gospel depends upon no one man.

V. Even the afflicted have a mission. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Bonds in Christ

I. Cannot arrest the spread of the Gospel.

II. Are the promise of future glory.

III. Are more honourable than an imperial crown, for--

1. They are worn in the service of the King of kings.

2. Worn in royal spirit.

3. Made the means of confirming others.

4. Overruled for the extension of the kingdom. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Paul’s bonds in Christ exhibited

I. His own moral blamelessness.

II. His self devotion to Christ.

III. His real dignity. The omen of civil degradation was the sign of his relationship with the Lord of the universe.

IV. His moral freedom. (G. G. Ballard.)

The ministry of Paul the prisoner

I. The things that have happened unto me (see history of Paul as the prisoner of Jesus Christ, Acts 21:1-40; Acts 28:1-31)

1. Popular tumult in Jerusalem.

2. Apprehension by Lysias, bound and ordered to be examined by scourging.

3. Placed at the bar of the Sanhedrim and ordered to be smitten on the mouth by the High Priest.

4. Conspiracy against his life, exposed, defeated.

5. Taken prisoner to Caesarea. Tried before Felix. Then before Festus, afterwards before Agrippa and Berenice.

6. Appeals to Caesar, shipwrecked, arrives at Rome.

7. In Rome delivered to the captain of the guard, permitted to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him (Acts 28:30-31) for two years.

II. Have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel. The development of events in a consecrated life--

1. Is the work of an overruling Providence.

2. Produces startling results, disappointing alike to the hopes of enemies and the fears of friends.

3. Whatever may be its starting point, attains its end in the advancement of the gospel.

4. Illustrates how moral principles when tried in suffering become mighty forces in the world’s evangelization.

5. A pledge that suffering with Christ shall be followed by a fellowship of glory. (G. G. Ballard.)

The powerlessness of persecution

I. Persecutions further rather than hinder the Gospel. In all ages the Church has been increased rather than diminished by them (Exodus 1:1-22; Daniel 3:1-30). When Christ was crucified they thought they had rooted out His name and doctrine forever; but by the Cross the kingdom was established.

II. How comes this to pass? Not by the intentions of enemies, nor the virtue of the saints’ sufferings.

1. By the power of Christ (Psalms 2:1).

2. When men see the saints’ undauntedness, their patience, the power of God strengthening them, and their triumph over death, their very example brings many into the Church.

3. The Word of God is not bound, though the preacher may be (2 Timothy 2:9).

III. The use.

1. To be comforted in all our troubles which the wicked raise up against us, if the gospel is advanced thereby.

2. To condemn the faintness and backsliding of many in troubles (Luke 14:26-27).

3. Not to doubt of the truth or dislike professors when they are persecuted. (H. Airay, D. D.)

Christian boldness

I. The result of a firm confidence in the Lord.

II. Increases upon the approach of persecution.

III. Necessary to true witness bearing. (G. G. Ballard.)

Expectations unexpectedly fulfilled

Paul was in Rome. His earnest wish was gratified, but how differently from what he had expected. But he did not murmur. All had happened for the furtherance of the gospel. Let us look at the circumstances by which, notwithstanding his imprisonment, his original expectations were now unexpectedly realized. Consider--

I. The amount of liberty granted him. For some unknown reason, instead of being shut up within the Praetorian barracks, he was permitted to dwell in a hired lodging of his own, and “receive all who might come to him.” He was not forbidden to preach to his visitors, and many would go away deeply impressed.

II. The additional efficacy given to his preaching by his bonds. He was kept under strict guard, being chained to a Roman soldier. It might have been thought that had he been allowed to go unfettered he might have accomplished more. But the fact of his bondage drew multitudes who might otherwise not have heard him, and his chains were a token of his sincerity. It became manifest that his bonds were in Christ and that he was not afraid of imprisonment or death. Onesimus was but one of many begotten by his bonds.

III. Into what unexpected quarters his influence penetrated. Had a Roman Christian previous to Paul’s coming been asked what section of the population would be the last to feel the power of the gospel he would probably have pointed to the rude, hardened soldiers who were in attendance on Nero. But Paul comes and lo! the praetorium is one of the first places to feel his influence.

IV. How his imprisonment influenced many of those who were already preaching the Gospel. We might have thought that the sight of Paul’s chains would depress. Instead of this it quickened their zeal. Let us learn a lesson of hope in God.

1. For the progress of His kingdom.

2. For our own welfare. (T. C. Finlayson.)

Irresistible moral influence

Moral influence springing from and devoted to Christ resists all mere physical and local restrictions. Paul’s moral influence exerted a mighty power.

I. Under the most disadvantageous circumstances--in bonds.

II. With a very limited opportunity--one soldier daily.

III. Upon a class of mind and heart not easily impressed, viz., the guard which had charge of him, a prisoner.

IV. Throughout the city--notwithstanding the restraints of “his own hired house.”

V. Reaching the further field, by first fully cultivating the one at hand. (G. G. Ballard.)

The furtherance of the gospel

Progress--the figure is perhaps military. As the progress of armies is facilitated by the cutting down of obstructing trees, so trials were but the means of cutting down all hindrances to the onward march of the truth. (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)

Hindrances as helps

The Boers’ determined opposition to Livingstone’s purpose to evangelize by native teachers occasioned his continued efforts to penetrate westward until he crossed the continent, and committed himself fully to his great life work as a missionary explorer. (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

Unfavourable circumstance, may be turned to advantage

In one place near the Hospice of St. Bernard, I met with a curious natural conservatory. The under surface of the snow having been melted by the warmth of the soil, which in Alpine regions is always markedly higher than that of the air, was not in contact with it. A snowy vault was thus formed, glazed on the top with thin plates of transparent ice; and here grew a most lovely cushion of the Aretia Helvetica, covered with hundreds of its delicate rosy flowers, like a miniature hydrangea blossom. The dark colour of the soil favoured the absorption of heat; and, prisoned in its crystal cave, this little fairy grew and blossomed securely from the very heart of winter, the unfavourable circumstances around all seeming so many ministers of good, increasing its strength, and enhancing its loveliness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The advantage of disadvantage

I never had in all my life so great an inlet into the Word of God as now. Those Scriptures that I saw nothing in before are made in this place and state to shine upon me. I have seen that here which I am persuaded I shall never in this world be able to express. (John Bunyan, in Bedford Jail.)

Character of St. Paul’s captivity

The degree of restraint put upon a person labouring under a criminal charge was determined by various circumstances: by the nature of the charge itself, by the rank and reputation of the accused, by the degree of guilt presumed to attach to him. Those most leniently dealt with were handed over to their friends, who thus became sureties for their appearance; the worst offenders were thrown into prison and loaded with chains. The captivity of St. Paul was neither the severest nor the lightest possible. By his appeal to Caesar he had placed himself at the emperor’s disposal. Accordingly on his arrival at Rome he is delivered over to the prefect of the praetorians under whose charge he remained throughout his captivity. He represents himself as strictly a prisoner; he speaks again and again of his bonds. At times he mentions his coupling chain. According to Roman custom he was bound by the hand to the soldier who guarded him, and was never left alone day or night. As the soldiers would relieve guard in constant succession, the praetorians one by one were brought into communication with the prisoner of Jesus Christ, and thus he was able to affirm that his bonds had borne witness to the gospel “throughout the imperial regiment.” On the other hand his confinement was not so severe as this, standing alone, might seem to imply. It is certain that all had free access to him, and that he was allowed to converse and write without restraint. He was not thrown into prison, but lived in rooms of his own. When he first arrived he was taken to temporary lodgings: either to a house of public entertainment, or to the abode of some friend. But afterwards he rented a dwelling of his own, and there he remained apparently till his release. (Bishop Lightfoot.)

Who could see without emotion that venerable form subjected by iron links to the coarse control of the soldier who stood beside him? How often must the tears of the assembly have been called forth by the upraising of that fettered hand, and the clanking of the chain which checked its energetic action. (Conybeare and Howson.)

Good out of evil

The cloud, while it obscures the sun, sends down the fertilizing shower. This theatre was prepared for his punishment, and it became the scene of his triumph. This persecution, which was intended to cover him with shame, overwhelmed him with honour; it was to blacken and wither his name, and it rendered it illustrious in the first city and in the most superb court in the universe. Oh the vanity of the thoughts of the wicked! Oh the admirable wisdom of the providence of God! He causes the Jew to open the apostle’s mouth, when he thinks that he is closing it, and makes him spread his voice throughout the world, in desiring to banish him from Judea. He had formerly conducted Joseph to the highest pitch of glory in the same way, through the fury of his unnatural brethren. Persecution, slavery, and imprisonment had also been as it were the ladders to his prosperity. Since then He has always in the same way used them in the conduct of His people, overthrowing the designs of His enemies, and turning the artifices of their malice, and the excess of their fury, directly contrary to their intentions; multiplying His Church by the deaths and massacres which seemed likely to destroy it; lighting His gospel by those very means which appeared likely to extinguish it; and drawing the brightest glory of His servants from their deepest disgrace. (J. Daille.)


Verse 15

Philippians 1:15

Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife

Observe

I.
A good act may be prompted by a bad motive.

II. The good remains though the object fails. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Motives

I. Vary widely.

II. Do not affect the nature but the moral quality of an action.

III. Determine not the result but the reward. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The text suggests--

I. Diverse developement of human disposition.

II. The possibility of doing a good deed through a bad motive.

III. The impossibility of entirely concealing motives.

IV. The action of self-seekers turned into the good man’s source of joy.

V. Man is never so diabolized as when making a good cause the means of grieving and tormenting the Church.

VI. The mere fact that a man preaches Christ is not a proof of his personal salvation: and if this can be affirmed of preaching, how much more may it be affirmed of learning. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Two voices on the same subject

I. The voice of selfishness.

II. The voice of love. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The real and counterfeit in the Christian ministry

I. Where they correspond.

1. Both adopt the Christian name.

2. Both utter the same shibboleth.

3. Both are active in preaching Christ.

II. Where they differ.

1. In heart. “Contention” moves the one; “love” reigns in the other.

2. In spirit. “Envy and strife” move the one; “goodwill” actuates the other.

3. In source of strength. Love of party animates the one; confidence in the Lord emboldens the other.

4. In aim. That of the one is to advance, it may be, a lifeless Church; that of the other to propel the gospel of Christ.

5. The depth and accuracy of conviction. The one “supposing to rid,” etc. (Philippians 1:16); the other “knowing that,” etc. (Philippians 1:17). (G. G. Ballard.)

A spurious ministry

I. The elements formative of it.

1. An imperfect apprehension of Christ’s mission.

2. A total absence of Christ’s Spirit.

3. Thought and sympathy, narrowed by early prejudice and preconceived ideas.

4. Christ made subservient to the doctrines, ritual, and history of a system.

II. The results inseparable from it.

1. The cross degraded into a rallying point for party strife.

2. The basest spirit indulged under the pretence of fulfilling a sacred office.

4. Zeal for propagating a creed, greater than to save a lost world.

III. The germ of it.

1. May exist in those who zealously preach Christ.

2. Consists in a moral contradiction between the heart of the preacher and the theme of his discourse--contentiousness and Christ.

3. Produces impurity of motive in Christian work--“not sincerely.”

4. Biases the judgment to expect results which are never realized--“supposing.”

5. Inspires aims which are unchristian--“to add affliction.” (G. G. Ballard.)

The preaching of Christ

I. The theme. His person and work--His grace and power--His gifts and promises--His example and requirements.

II. The motive. Sometimes impure; as sectarian, mercenary, ambitious--sometimes sincere; from love to God and man.

III. The result. Some good every way--Christ is exalted--the faithful rejoice, (J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. The preaching of Christ. No preaching can bear this designation which does not constitute Him the grand object of it. From the first the holy men who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit pointed to Him. All the Scriptures lead, remotely, perhaps, but certainly, to the Cross of Christ. He is to be preached as the only object of faith, and the sole source of salvation. Opposition must not hinder, nor heresy divert this.

II. The scale on which Christ is to be preached.

1. To all peoples--Philippians and Romans, Europeans and Africans.

2. By men of all views and denominations, Jewish and Gentile Christians; Roman Catholics and Protestants; Anglicans and Dissenters, etc.

III. The spirit in which this should be received. There are two classes interested.

1. Ministers should rejoice when they see the gospel spreading on all sides and among all denominations. Let it not be said of them, “Ye know not what spirit ye are off.” No jealous or envious feeling at others’ successes should be cherished by them.

2. Congregations while loyal to their own Church should put a generous construction on the work of others.

IV. The glorious results arising out of this.

1. In time.

2. In eternity. (W. B. Collyer, D. D.)

Toleration

I. We see here the true ground of Christian toleration.

1. Negatively.

2. Positively. It is a generous confidence in the vitality of truth and its ultimate victory, born of hope, nursed by courage, adopted by love.

II. If Paul’s spirit be right then we need to amend our view of social and moral responsibility. He saw bad men taking his place yet he let them go on, rejoiced in their work, though not in the motive of it. Had he lived in our day he would have been told, “You cannot afford to sit in a Church where these men teach or you will be responsible for their teaching.” He would have replied, “Who made you a judge; to their own master they stand or fall.” Every man is responsible for bin own conduct and belief to God. If I please to work with men who are heretical on some points of theology, but who are right in the point in which I work with them (Unitarian temperance reformers, e.g.), I am not responsible for their wrong beliefs, but only for that part which I take. Paul was grieved at the amount of error that was in these men, but the small amount of truth he saw pleased him more.

III. This Christian toleration founded in faith and love, leads to the real and only real union possible to the Christian church. External formulas are not unimportant, but there never will be Christian union in this world until men feel that the invisible, spiritual elements of truth, the interior experience of soul, are transcendently more important than the idea forms, or the government forms, or the worship forms of the Church. Humanity is our common bond outside; why should not Christianity be within? “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. (H. W. Beecher.)

Love of Christ and the brethren the essential qualification for preaching Christ

I. It gives impulse to all true motive power. From this sprung their “goodwill.”

II. It is keen in perceiving, even in chains, the will of God. “Knowing that I am set.”

III. It is quick in cooperating to accomplish the will of God when known.

IV. It binds the heart in sympathy to all who suffer in the defence of the gospel.

V. It is the mightiest force that men can wield for the gospel’s triumph. (G. G. Ballard.)

The preaching of Christ a reason for joy and holy exultation

I. Let us inquire what the apostle intended by the preaching of Christ.

1. The exhibition of Jesus as the Messiah sent to save a guilty world.”

2. The publication of His great work, and ultimate design in visiting this world.

3. The assertion of His claims on all mankind.

II. Glorious as this theme is, yet many preach it from corrupt motives.

1. Some for gain--money, position, influence.

2. Some for victory in a controversial battle.

3. Yet if Christ is really preached, whatever may be the condemnation of the preacher, Christ’s end will he secured.

III. The reasons why the preaching of Christ, under any circumstances, is a just occasion for holy joy.

1. By this means the enemies of Christ are made to bear unequivocal testimony to His dignity and glory, and to promote the interests of truth without intending it: as the heathen writers quoted by Paul, and the devils’ confession of Christ.

2. As the world can only be renovated by the preaching of Christ, so even His enemies who preach Him contribute to this event. Think of the heathen world; the acceptance of Christ in any sense and from any hands cannot but better it.

3. We may be assured that God will certainly overrule the preaching of Christ, even by wicked men, to accomplish His purpose of mercy. In much inferior matters God controls the movements of bad men for His own glory. He did so in the case of Judas. Is it not then correct to argue that if God sub ordinates the malignity, ambition, and haughtiness of men to the accomplishment of His providential purposes, He will also overrule them to serve His designs of mercy? Witness the Reformation under Henry VIII.

Application:

1. Our cause for rejoicing is exceedingly great. Notwithstanding there are many parts where the gospel is imperfectly preached, yet there are thousands of holy men who preach Christ from the purest motives.

2. Let us manifest our gratitude to Him who is preached by a more lively zeal in His cause.

3. Let us who love Christ draw into closer union with one another. If we allow bickering and strife while Christ’s cause may prosper we shall be ruined.

4. Let the despondent be encouraged--anyhow Christ is preached. The gospel is advancing in spite of our fears. (Isaac Mann, M. A.)

Allowable contention

God grant that we may contend with other Churches as the vine with the olive--which of us shall bear the best fruit; but not as the briar with the thistle, which of us will be the most unprofitable. (Lord Bacon.)

An imprisoned preacher’s thoughts

Paul was imprisoned for preaching the gospel, and was persecuted by them who but for him would not have had a gospel to preach.

1. The apostle had, by nature, a temper that could not bear very much being abused. He was naturally sensitive and aggressive. In prison and helpless no doubt there were slight heavings of the old volcano at the conduct of his opponents. Moreover his conscience was an inspired one, and he must have felt, “Who is a judge of orthodoxy if I am not?” Did he then rouse the alarm and denounce these preachers of envy and strife? No, he rejoiced where few could have rejoiced, viz., in prison, and at what few could have rejoiced, viz., that his enemies were doing good.

2. Paul might have felt that his life was thrown away, that God had need of him. Many feel that everything must be done, and that there is none to do it hut themselves. Paul had a right to feel so if any man had. But the thought never seems to have occurred to him. No doubt he felt the cowardliness and the cruelty of these men, but the feeling was swallowed up in the reflection that they were doing his work when he could not do it himself.

3. Paul held that so precious is this truth of Jesus that no man can present even a particle of it that is not worth presenting. You cannot preach Christ so that it is not worth while to have preached Him thus. It is better that He should be preached by bad men for bad purposes than not preached at all.

4. It would have been enough in Paul to have said less than he did, such as “I trust all will be for the best. I hope it will do some good, but I fear it will do much harm. Of course I cannot associate with them.” On the contrary he exults over the certain good of the issue. The hounds of love are better than the hounds of theology to hunt heretics with. How painful not to know the difference between conscience and combativeness.

5. Consider in a few deductions the temptations to which men who are working for religious ends are liable.

I. The danger of substituting activity for the loving graces. The bee that goes buzzing about the flowers in the spring is very useful; but, after all, I think the flowers, that never stir or buzz, are full as interesting and far more important. The buzzing bee gets a good deal of honey, but he would not get a particle if it were not for the silent flowers which contain it all. There is a great peril of an external rattling activity leaving the heart cold, mechanical, and even malevolent.

II. The danger of arrogance.

1. There are a great many people who say that all Churches must be constituted, work, and believe as their own.

2. Many of us have got beyond that, but how many of us can rejoice in the Church whose services has swallowed up ours. But all that Paul wanted was that work should be done, whoever did it; and even rejoiced that others would have the credit for the work he did. Conclusion: From the beginning until today the power of preaching has been and henceforth mill be, not in ideas but in disposition. (H. W. Beecher.)

The motives of Paul’s enemies

I. It may be that the enemies of the apostle hoped that their preaching would irritate Nero and his officers against Christianity, and that, offended at this new increase which this doctrine had received, they would quickly discharge their anger upon a prisoner, who was the principal support of this growing religion, either by putting him to death suddenly or by condemning him to some more grievous trouble than his present prison.

II. It may be that envy had inspired them with the thought, that by labouring in preaching the Gospel they should obtain a part of the apostle’s glory, and that by making good use of the time of his imprisonment, to establish themselves in the minds of the disciples, they should by degrees take away the credit and authority which he possessed; and judging of him by themselves, they imagined that it would be an immense increase to his affliction to see them thus enriched and decorated with his spoils. Such or such like were the thoughts of these wretched men. Judge by this what is the nature of vice, and how horrible its impudence in daring thus to profane the most sacred things, and to abuse them so vilely for, its own ungodly purpose. Thus Satan sometimes clothes himself as an angel of light to further the works of darkness. From which you see that it is not enough that Our actions be good and praiseworthy, if our intentions are not pure and upright. It is to profane the good to do it with a bad end in view.

2. See how the thoughts of vice are not only impudent, but even foolish and vain. These deceivers, judging of St. Paul by themselves, believed that their preaching would vex him. Poor creatures! how little you knew of this high-minded man, to imagine that so small a thing could trouble him! (J. Daille.)

Christ preached by love

I once asked a distinguished artist what place he gave to labour in art. “Labour,” he said, in effect, “is the beginning, the middle, and the end of art.” Turning then to another--“And you,” I inquired, “what do you consider the great force in art:” “Love,” he replied. In their two answers I found but one truth. (Boree.)

Evangelical congratulation

How Paul would have rejoiced had he been living now. The ministry at Rome must have been on a comparatively insignificant scale. But for every man who preached the gospel then thousands are preaching it now. Why should there have been such rejoicing in connection with the preaching of Christ crucified.

I. Because thereby the renovation of fallen man is intelligently proposed.

1. High time, by common consent, something was done in that direction, and many are the projects suggested for it.

2. Can you look at these laudable secondary considerations without marking their fatal defect? They deal with man externally and say not a word about his internal renovation. If you leave a man’s heart untouched there is that there which will laugh all your culture to scorn. If his heart be right all will be right, but not otherwise.

3. The gospel aims at making the heart right, and succeeds wherever it is accepted.

II. Because thereby the renovation is graciously guaranteed.

1. With the preaching of Christ God has formally connected the exertion of His power. “With God all things are possible.” The preacher is a fellow worker with God.

2. With this preaching God has been pleased to associate the accomplishment of His purposes.

3. He has identified with preaching the manifestation of His sympathies. (W. Brock, D. D.)

Goodwill--

Goodwill the spirit common to the brotherhood of the Christian ministry

I. It is God-like.

1. The spirit characteristic of all God’s will towards men.

2. The spirit manifested by His Son.

3. The spirit of the gospel message.

II. It is yielded to an honoured brother.

1. To him as a man--his character, aims, and life.

2. To his labours in the cause of Christ.

3. To his future success. (G. G. Ballard.)

The defence of the gospel

I. Is necessary. It has many powerful, malignant enemies.

II. Is imperative upon its professors, whether ministers or people.

III. Must be maintained in love to the truth, its advocates, and even its opponents. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Observe

I. The cause to be defended.

II. The opposition to which it is exposed.

III. The means of its defence.

IV. The persons who ought to defend it. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The opponents of St. Paul

In the Corinthian Church there was a party that said, “I am of Cephas”--followers of the apostle of the circumcision, and hostile to those who named themselves from Paul. It is very probable that this Petrine party held high views about the law; but there is no hint in the Epistle to the Corinthians that they either held or taught such mischievous errors as were propagated in Galatia. Minor matters of ceremonial seem rather to have occupied them (1 Corinthians 8:10). But there is no question that the apostle’s authority was impugned in Corinth, and in all likelihood by the Petrine party, because he had not been personally called by Jesus as Simon had been; and by the same party his right to pecuniary support from the Churches seems to have been denied or disputed. While therefore there was comparative purity in the section that took Peter for its head and watchword; there was also keen and resolute opposition to the person and prerogative of the Apostle to the Gentiles. To meet all the requirements of the case before us we have only to suppose that such a party was formed at Rome, and Romans 14:1-23. seems to indicate their existence. If there was a company of believing Jews, who held the essential doctrines of the gospel, but was combative on points of inferior value, and in connection with the social institutions of their people, and who at the same time were bitter and unscrupulous antagonists of the apostle, from such an impression of his opinions as is indicated by James in Acts 21:20-21, then such a party might preach Christ, and yet cherish towards St. Paul all those feelings of envy and ill will he ascribes to them. Chrysostom touches the truth when he says they were jealous of the apostle. Calvin writes feelingly, “Paul says nothing here which I myself have not experienced. For there are men living now who have preached the gospel with no other design than to gratify the rage of the wicked by persecuting pious pastors.” (Professor Eadie.)

Paul’s joy in the preaching of his enemies

Paul’s example is a rebuke to the excessive ecclesiastical spirit. He saw something good in the worst men who preached. Modern precisionists see the worst in the best men. Paul looked on the good side. Modern orthodoxy is disposed always to look on the bad side. If a vase was cracked, Paul turned it round and looked upon the side where it was not cracked. If a vase is cracked, we are disposed to turn it round and look on the side where the crack comes. Paul would certainly rather have men preach Christ that loved Christ; but rather than that Christ should not be preached he was willing that those who did not love Him should preach. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christ really though inadequately preached

The rising sun in the morning brings ten thousand noxious insects to life, brings miasma from the morass, and sets disease flying through the land; nevertheless, in spite of malaria, and in spite of all venemous insects that then begin to move, and in spite of all mischiefs which waking men begin to perform, it is infinitely better that the sun should rise, and that these evils should take place, than that it should be everlastingly dark. It was better to have Christ preached by bad men than not at all. It was better to have the gospel imperfectly delivered than not to have it made known in any way, or only to a limited extent. The truth preached with manifold and manifest error is a thousand times better than none at all. While the full and symmetrical truth as it is in Jesus will do far more good, and good of a far higher type, than any fragmentary views, yet such is the vitality and power of Christian truth, that its very fragments are potent for good. One may stand before an ample glass, long and broad, which reflects the whole figure, and the whole room, giving every part in proportion and in relation. Break that mirror into a thousand fragments, and each one of these pieces will give back to you your face; and though the amplitude of view and the relations of objects are gone, yet the smallest fragment, in its nature and uses, is a mirror still, and you can see your face withal. A full Christ reflects men, time, and immortality; but let error shatter the celestial glass, and its fragments, reduced in value, do in part some of that work which the whole did; and they are precious. (H. W. Beecher.)

The preaching of Christ by whatever lips a source of satisfaction to Christians

“You (Scotch commissioners and Presbyterian clergy after Dunbar) say that you have just cause to regret that men of civil employments should usurp the calling of the ministry to the scandal of the Reformed Kirks. Are you troubled that Christ is preached? Is preaching so exclusively your function? I thought the covenant and those professors of it could have been willing that any should speak good of the name of Christ; if not it is no covenant of God’s approving.” (Oliver Cromwell.)

Power of the Bible even in faulty versions

A railway man asked for a genuine Catholic Bible, as he was not allowed to read a heretical version like Luther’s. “Here is the book you want,” said the colporteur, handing him a Van Ess copy. “Yes; that is the book,” said the man, after looking at it well. That happened a few weeks ago, and now Jesus is his All, and he finds the same grand truths about Him, whether he takes Luther’s translation or Van Ess’s. God’s Word shall not return void to Him. (Anstera.)

Power of Christ preached

The surest way of turning a person from one pleasure is to give him a greater pleasure on the opposite side. A weeping willow planted by a pond in a pleasure garden turns all to one side in its growth, and that the side on which the water lies. No dealing with its roots or with its branches will avail to change its attitude; but place a larger expanse of water on the opposite side, and the tree will turn spontaneously and hang the other way. So must man’s heart be won. (William Arnot.)

The influence of the gospel

This is the weapon that has won victories over hearts of every kind, in every quarter of the globe. Greenlanders, Africans, South Sea Islanders, Hindoos, and Chinese, have all alike felt its power. Just as that huge iron tube, which crosses the Menai Straits, is more affected and bent by half an hour’s sunshine than by all the dead weight that can be placed in it, so in like manner the hearts of savages have melted before the Cross when every other argument seemed to move them no more than if they had been stones. (Bp. Ryle.)


Verse 19

Philippians 1:19

For I know that this shall turn to my salvation

Mark

I.
The confidence of the declaration--“I know.” Not an angel could utter a truer note of triumph. Righteousness is a prophetic power. The good man can infallibly predict the issue of moral operation.

II. The ground of this confidence. “This shall turn,” viz., the preaching of Christ. His joy does not arise from the fact that certain persons preached, but from the higher fact that Christ was preached; not that bad men were working, but that a good work was being done.

III. The extension of the truth is the best guarantee of personal happiness. A man of less moral grandeur would have started the argument from himself. Let me be free and then the gospel shall triumph; but he knew nothing of such self-idolatry. He said Christ shall be preached, and Christ’s servants in due time shall be free. When it goes well with the Master it goes well with the servant.

IV. The Gospel has everything to hope from being allowed to reveal its own credentials. Proclaim it--ministers, teachers; it sounds well from any lips--philosophers, babes and sucklings, unlearned. By whomsoever pronounced, the celestial fire will strike through every syllable.

V. The greatest man in the Church may be served by the supplication of the good. The apostle associates his salvation with the prayer of the Philippians. No man is so far advanced as to be beyond the range of prayer. Here a child is of value. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Salvation and its means

I. The salvation provided by Christ is radically a spiritual salvation. It extends indeed to all the elements of our nature, being an emancipation of the whole man from the bondage of death; but the condition of the body follows that of the soul. In a sense we enter into spiritual salvation at conversion, for “he that believeth hath everlasting life.” But the word is generally applied to the state of perfect purity and beauty and blessedness for the whole nature which the day of Christ will bring in.

II. All God’s providential dealings with His people are intended to be a training for salvation, whether pleasant or like Paul’s at Rome, “not joyous but grievous,” a discipline fitted to ripen the flower of holy character, which will be fully opened in its glorious beauty in heaven.

III. By the measure in which we avail ourselves of this training our salvation will be affected.

1. All who reach heaven will be perfectly happy up to the full measure of their capacities, because being “pure in heart,” they will “see God” as fully as their natures can see Him.

2. But the eyes of those who availed themselves but little of the light, of truth, who looked at God but seldom, will be able to look at Him only from far; whilst those whose eyes have been much accustomed to the light here, will stand in the foremost circles, and there with ravished hearts gaze on the infinite glory. Some will have an abundant entrance, while others will be saved only as “through fire.”

IV. Remembering these things, what manner of persons ought we to be.

1. In all holy conversation and godliness.

2. In prayer and effort.

3. So that the Divine training may” turn to our salvation.”

V. How then shall we obtain this spiritual profit?

1. Through the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

2. This supply is obtained largely through the Church’s prayer. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

The supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ

I. The supply. The Holy Spirit is the sole agent of the Saviour’s will in the inward work of grace; nor is the indwelling and operation of Christ ever mentioned without the accompaniment of this truth. Not that the Spirit is supplied merely as an influence; He is both the Giver and the Gift; just as the Savior is the Victim and Priest. The gospel is a ministration of the Spirit by the Spirit, and the apostle hopes for the supply to his soul of all that grace which the Spirit, the Keeper of Christ’s treasury, has to bestow.

II. The prayer. He relies on the Philippians’ intercessions, answering to those he always offered for them (verse 4). It is simply His most graceful way of asking them to pray for him--not, simply with reference to the official work of the gospel, but to the good of his own soul. Mutual prayer is bound up with the very essence of the Christian system.

III. The connection between the two. He seems to place himself between them and his Lord. The Spirit of Jesus flows unto him in proportion as the prayers of his fellow Christians and his own flow out towards Him in supplication. We are what the supply of the Saviour’s Spirit makes us; that is the measure of our life, strength, perception of truth, performance of duty, and attainment in grace. But that is dependent on individual and common prayer; and the prayer for the Spirit is offered through the same Spirit in whom as well as for whom we pray. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

The ministers’ plea

I. The prayer of the church.

1. In reference to Paul.

2. In reference particularly to ministers.

(a) To help them in their duties, so that they may be made effectual.

(b) They are burdened with remarkable responsibilities.

(c) They have an experience singular to themselves.

(d) They have subtle, numerous, and peculiar temptations--pride; despondency.

(e) They have many discouragements.

(a) Of all who profit by our ministry. If you feed upon the Word pray that others may do so; if you don’t, do not unkindly speak of it everywhere, but tell the Lord about it.

(b) Of converts.

(c) Of the aged with their experience, and the young with their freshness.

(d) Of the absent through sickness, etc. How effective the ministry of the helpless who can yet pray.

(a) It should be daily work.

(b) If we expect a blessing on our families through the ministry, we should as families ask God to bless it.

(c) Then there are our prayer meetings, etc.

(d) There should be especial prayer by each Christian at home before every service.

II. The supply of the Spirit.

1. The Spirit we want is--

2. This Spirit is essential to every true minister. All other gifts, however desirable, may be dispensed with, but for the conversion of souls this is the one essential.

3. The supply of the Spirit is essential to the edification of the Church of God. To build up a church.

4. For the conversion of sinners. Who can enlighten the blind eye, quicken the dead soul, but the Spirit?

5. For the progress of the gospel and the victory of truth. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The relation between prayer and the supply of the Spirit

I believe in the efficacy of united prayer, but each one must pray. There would be no clouds unless the drop of dew from each blade of grass were exhaled by the sun. Each drop ascending in vapour falls again in the blessed shower which removes the drought. So the grace that trembles upon each one of you must exhale in prayer, and a blessing will come clown upon the Church of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The necessity of the Spirit in spiritual work

There is an old Romish story, that a certain famous preacher was to preach on a certain occasion, but he missed his way and was too late, and the devil knowing of it put on the appearance of the minister, took his place, and preached a sermon to the people, who supposed they were listening to the famous divine whom they had expected. The devil preached upon hell, and was very much at home, so that he delivered a marvellous sermon, in which he exhorted persons to escape from the wrath to come. As he was finishing his sermon, in came the preacher himself, and the devil was obliged to resume his own form. The holy man then questioned him, “How dare you preach as you have done, warning men to escape from hell?” “Oh,” said the devil, “it will do no hurt to my kingdom, for I have no unction.” The story is grotesque, but the truth is in it. The same sermon may be preached and the same words uttered, but without unction there is nothing in it. The unction of the Holy One is true power; therefore, brethren, we need your prayers that we may obtain the supply of the Spirit upon our ministry; for otherwise it will lack unction, which will amount to lacking heart and soul. It will be a dead ministry, and how can a dead ministry be of any service to the people of God? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Prayer for ministers

John Livingston of Scotland once spent a whole night with a company of his brethren in prayer for God’s blessing, all of them together besieging the throne; and the next day, under his sermon, five hundred souls were converted. All the world has heard how the audience of the elder Pres. Edwards was moved by his terrible sermon on “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God;” some of them even grasping hold of the pillars of the sanctuary, from feeling that their feet were actually sliding into the pit. But the secret of that sermon’s power is known to but very few. Some Christians in that vicinity (Enfield, Mass.) had become alarmed, lest, while God was blessing other places, He should in anger pass them by; and so they met on the evening preceding the preaching of that sermon, and spent the whole of the night in agonizing prayer. (Dr. H. C. Fish.)

Cheerfulness in trial

At a certain period the Methodist Society in Dublin was greatly agitated by divisions. A good but very anxious brother wrote to Mr. Wesley on the subject, told him the real state of things, deplored it exceedingly, and concluded his communication by inquiring, “Where, sir, are all these things to end?” The venerable Wesley replied: “Dear brother, you ask where are all these things to end?” “Why, in glory to God in the highest,” to be sure; “and on earth peace, and goodwill among men.” (Anecdotes of the Wesleys.)

Benefit of trial

It is rough work that polishes. Look at the pebbles on the shore! Far inland, where some arm of the sea thrusts itself deep into the bosom of the land, and expanding into a salt loch, lies girdled by the mountains, sheltered from the storms that agitate the deep, the pebbles on the beach are rough, not beautiful; angular, not rounded. It is where long white lines of breakers roar, and the rattling shingle is rolled about on the strand, that its pebbles are rounded and polished. As in nature, as in the arts, so in grace; it is rough treatment that gives souls as well as stones their lustre; the more the diamond is cut the brighter it sparkles; and in what seems hard dealing, there God has no end in view but to perfect His people’s graces. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)


Verse 20

Philippians 1:20

According to my earnest expectation and my hope

Paul’s expectation

I.
Paul had as expectation.

1. This seems natural if we regard his character and temper.

2. When Jesus spoke to him Paul found a Master, and at once a new object of expectation and hope was found.

II. The expectation was that Christ would be magnified in him.

1. Notice the change of self-estimate. Had Paul joined some secular cause he would have regarded himself as conferring a favour: but when he joined the Church he only congratulated himself on finding mercy. This self-abnegation was because he found Christ all in all.

2. He expected that Christ would be magnified in his body: it seems more natural for us to think his spirit. But the body is the manifestation of the spirit. In the spirit Christ is felt, in the body He is seen. If the life is degraded Christ is not in the spirit.

3. He expected that Christ would be magnified in his body irrespective of time or circumstance, life or death. Christ’s grace is sufficient for this.

III. Of this expectation he was not ashamed but entertained it boldly.

1. Some Christians feel ashamed of a bold, vigorous magnification of Christ. “What will the world say?”

2. Some Christians feel afraid to magnify Christ. “What will the world do?” (A. J. Bamford, B. A.)

Paul’s Expectation

I. “Expectation” and “hope” are words which connect the heart with the future.

II. No power can so light up the future and throw over it the hues of immortal beauty as childlike trust in God.

III. The unexpectant and hopeless man is living only half a life; but he who is living on false hopes and expectations is wasting life.

IV. It is right that the body should be turned to moral account. Christ purchased the whole man. The passions are not to have their own wild way. The blood is not to be the master of the man.

V. The possibility of being ready for life or death. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Christ magnified

I. Every bad man is an injury to creation. God may, it is true, overrule this for the general good. If an unholy man has been of any service he has been made so in spite of himself; he never designed it or desired it. If he has, like a lighthouse, served as a warning to others, that is God’s work. Every good man is useful and aims to be. But how is a good man to be useful.

I. By magnifying Christ.

1. Christ is the most splendid object in existence.

2. While speaking of magnifying Christ it is proper to be reminded that there are some who do all they can to diminish Him.

3. But while some dishonour Christ there are others who magnify Him. How?

4. It was thus that Paul magnified Christ. Not only was the Christian system as a whole confirmed in Him, but its distinguishing doctrines.

II. In order to magnify Christ all the circumstances of our life must be subservient to that end.

1. Our active services.

2. Our afflictions.

3. Our life and conduct.

4. Our death. (Caleb Morris.)

The Savior magnified in His people

I. How Christ is magnified in the Christian’s life. To magnify is to make great, or to celebrate existing greatness. In the second sense only can Christ be magnified. Christ is magnified--

1. In the conversion of His people.

2. In their sanctification.

3. In their devoted labours in His cause.

4. In their trials and sufferings.

5. In the abiding results which their services secure.

II. How Christ is magnified in the Christian’s death.

1. By raising his soul above the dread which it naturally inspires.

2. By abiding hopes and consolations in his death.

3. Through the influence which his death exerts on those who survive.

Conclusion: Our theme ought to lead us--

1. To see the power and glory of the Saviour.

2. The characters to whom only the text applies.

3. The grand aim of the Christian ministry.

4. That the Christian need not be painfully anxious about the events, of life. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Christ made great

I. How is this principle manifested. As God of course He cannot be made great; only in His mediatorial character. In this He is made great.

1. By God the Father (Philippians 2:10).

2. By the angels. They did so when He was on earth. They do so in heaven.

3. By every individual partaker of His great salvation; by Paul and us.

4. In earnest evangelism.

5. In hopeful death.

II. In what does its excellency appear.

1. This is all men’s moral obligation.

2. The God greatest moral excellence.

3. The only right principle of action.

4. Because always honours it. (N. M. Harry.)

Earnest expectation

Found only here and in Romans 8:19. It means the waiting with the head raised, and the eye fixed on that point of the horizon from which the expected object is to come. What a plastic representation! An artist might make a statue of hope out of this Greek term. (J. Hutchison, D. D.)


Verse 21

Philippians 1:21

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain

The apostle’s alternative

The language is like a great river which, flowing through some country, bends first from the one side and then from the other, and then comes back into its straight course.
There is a triple movement of thought and feeling.

1. There is the absorbing devotion which this man has to Christ.

2. Then comes in the bend of the stream; a rock on the margin sends the waters away in another direction. He thinks about others.

3. Then comes the third feeling when he apprehends it to be his duty to stop and work.

I. The first attitude of the apostle’s mind. Here we get the grand, noble simplicity and unity or continuity of life and death to a devout man thinking about himself.

1. Look at the noble theory of life. In all senses in which you can use the words, Christ is this man’s life.

2. Wheresoever life is thus simple and of a piece, death will be gain, continuous and increasing.

II. The second bend or reach. The hesitation which arises from the contemplation of life as a field for work. The broken language of the original expresses the broken waters of the river as it takes the turn. “I am in a strait,” like a man hedged up between two walls, not knowing how to turn. Paul was the subject of two counter attractions, that of death and that of life.

1. Notice how be talks about the former. “I desire to depart,” weigh an anchor or lift the pegs of a tent. To be with Christ that is the attraction. He draws us, and we run after Him. This is no morbid, sentimental desire for death arising out of hatred with life.

2. Then think of that reason for living which overbears the wish for death. “There is work to be done, and so I feel that life tugs at me.” How different to many men’s clinging to life, because of the judgment after death.

III. Notice the beautiful calm solution of the question--not an equipoise of hesitation, something pulling two different ways, and so the rest of equal forces acting. “I know that I shall abide and continue with you all”--a calm taking what God wills about the matter. Stick to your tasks, and in God’s time you will have rest and reward. Conclusion: Here are two theories of life for you. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” “To live is self, and to die is loss and despair.” Which? (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Christian life and death

I. The proper scope and character of all truly Christian life.

1. Such life is never aimless; but how many people could give no rational answer to the question, What are you living for?

2. Its aim, however, does not lie within the circle of the seen and temporary. While not indifferent to the claims of the present world, its ambition pitches higher.

3. Its end and substance is Christ.

4. A life is possible which, while in a sense Christ, Shall not be such in the full and proper sense of the term. St. Paul has just spoken of Christians who were insincere and contentious. So now there are men whose life is Christ, predominately, it may be, but not wholly.

II. What Christian death is, and how it ought to be regarded.

1. It is Christian death of which he speaks, yet we cannot but be struck with an assumption he makes concerning death in general--living, only not in the flesh. “All live unto God.”

2. The life out of the flesh which Christians live is a higher and more advanced life than that of the present. Not that there is anything essentially evil or degrading in the flesh; but death will, to those who love Christ, obviously be so far gain that it will clear away a throng of hindrances to the free consecration of the soul to God.

3. The pre eminence is defined as being with Christ.

4. St. Paul does not measure this preeminence of Christian death over Christian life. He is content with a general statement of its exceeding superiority; it is “much more than much better.”

III. Christian life and death regarded as an alternative.

1. Ordinarily, even Christians recoil from death, partly for want of an adequate faith, partly from physical shrinking.

2. Within limits this desire for life is not blameworthy. Such a sense of future blessedness as should spoil earth for us is nowhere encouraged in Scripture; it would be incompatible with our duty to God and man, and in many eases it is desirable for others that we should stay.

3. But whether life be more or less desirable, it should be spent under the assurance that death is gain, i.e., if life be Christ, otherwise we have no reason to expect that death would bring any advantage.

4. Granting this, however, if the will of God ordains life, it is an unspeakable grace to live and not die. It is service for the blessed Master, the fruit of which is so ample that we can afford to wait for everlasting life. Be death ever so desirable, it is our own fault if the happiness of life does not more than counterbalance the trial of it. Other things being equal, the more life, the more heaven.

Conclusion:

1. How startling a contrast the current life of man forms with this lofty ideal.

2. When this august profession is more than a profession, how rare is the type of character which answers to the apostolic model.

3. Yet this same life is the only secure, rational, and happy life to live. (J. D. Geden, D. D.)

The Christian’s estimate of life and death

I. The Christian’s life a description of it. The Christian lives--

1. From Christ. Christ is the source of his existence.

2. On Christ. Christ is the support of the life He has given, nourishing it with communications from Him self.

3. To Christ. Coming from Him, He is its aim and end.

II. The desire he has while living this life (Philippians 1:23).

1. “To set loose a second time,” as vessels, not outward bound, but from a foreign port on a return voyage. He is not looking back on the country behind him, he is looking on the sea which he has to cross before he can get home.

2. Why? Because Christ is there. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee?”

3. This is the result of the new life which tends towards Christ, its source.

4. Thus to be with Christ is “beyond all comparison better.” There is a fruition of Christ above, compared with which the highest enjoyment we can get out of Him here is as nothing.

III. A feeling in the Christian’s mind counteracting this desire, viz., a desire to remain, springing from--

1. Love to Christ. “To me to live is Christ”--it is for Christ’s honour and glory to live a fruitful life.

2. Love for his fellow men. Love for self would say “Go”; love for perishing sinners is stronger, and says “Stay.” The hesitation only lasted as long as he was speaking of it. (C. Bradley, M. A.)

A comparative view of life and death

I. By those who look at life on its bright side.

1. To me to live is gaiety, delightful society; and to die is the quenching of all joy, to plunge into I know not what, and to go where I do not wish to go.

2. To me to live is the indulgence of the luxury of my senses; to die is the destruction of all that gratifies them.

3. To me to live is affluence in what all are coveting; to die would be to have all this seized by others.

4. To me to live is successful enterprise, competition overcome, prosperity, power, fame; to die that would be to lose the field of my career.

II. By those who look on the dark side. To me to live is a hard thing; it is to endure privation, poverty, pain. Well then, would you die in preference? Oh, no, that would be worse. Why so? Sometimes the person can hardly tell--there is an undefined horror of death, but sometimes there is the power of conscience in the case.

III. By whose who look on life irreligiously.

1. To me to live is a course in which my pleasures are poisoned with vexation; but at any rate it is for so long an exemption from what I have to expect hereafter. Besides, while I live I may repent and reform; but to me to die is perdition.

2. To me to live, says the atheist, is to have the play of all my senses, to take all I dare or can of immediate good, to exult in defiance of what superstition has feigned an almighty power, perhaps to command great attention by my genius. On the contrary, to die is to have all this broken up, and to become a clod of earth.

IV. By the Christian. To live is Christ and to die is to be with Him, therefore gain--far better. (John Foster.)

To live is Christ and to die is gain

That which a man loves supremely is that for which he lives--money, fame, pleasure, etc. The lofty altitude of moral nature to which we have to aspire is to find in Christ our only reason for living. Apart from this, the yearning aspirations and voids of humanity can never be satisfied.

I. Life in Christ comprehends all true life--science, air, beauty, music, all that adorns the saint, strengthens the worker, sustains the sufferer. All life rooted in Christ will bear all manner of fruits and be beautiful with all the hues of heaven. Into what base are our life roots struck?

II. Life in Christ can see the ulterior phase of what men call death. The eye of true life can see clear through the dispensation of dying, and behold the “gain;” can see straight through the troubled night of the final act of man upon earth, and gladden itself with the sight of the morning glory that falls forever on the hills of heaven. To die is mystery; speculation; life’s most desperate venture; annihilation-this is the creed of those whose life is not centred in Christ. Compare this creed with the gain which Christianity discloses. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Christian life and death

There are only two questions that a truly wise man would think it of any essential consequence to ask in regard to himself, “What is the proper object of life?” “What is beyond life?” Here, then, only they are completely answered. Let us--

I. Inquire into the meaning of the words, “to me to live is Christ.” True experimental Christianity is--

1. A life of dependence on Christ, as of children on the head of a family. This dependence is

2. A life of communion with Christ; as between two dearest friends. This is

3. A life of conformity and devotedness to Christ, as servants to an illustrious and beloved master. This is entire, and embraces

II. The ground we have to infer that when “to live is Christ,” to die will be gain. Because--

1. To whatever world death shall introduce us, Christ will be Lord of it. “I have the keys of Hades,” etc. “I go to prepare a place for you.”

2. The graces and tempers of such a life as the Christian’s must be the root and commencement of the happiness of that world, whatever it be as to particulars. “Whatsoever a man soweth.” “Blessed are the poor in Spirit,” etc.

3. We are assured that there will be an illustrious manifestation of Christ for the very purpose of making death gain. “Our conversation is in heaven,” etc. (1 Corinthians 15:42).

Improvement:

1. What an unspeakable advantage has the Christian over every other character.

2. Let the Christian be satisfied that death is gain, without prying into particulars.

3. Learn the importance of keeping together what God has made inseparable. Life Christ, and death gain. (T. N. Toller.)

Christian life and death

I. Christian life.

1. Separation for Christ, from the world, self, sin.

2. Dedication to Christ. All are dedicating their life to something--fashion, money, pleasure, science, fame.

3. Use by Christ. Religion is not a man’s transformation into something different, but his acceptance by Christ for the accomplishment of his purpose.

4. Likeness to Christ, in love and knowledge.

5. Concealment in Christ.

II. Christian death. “Gain,” because heaven.

1. No more trial and sickness, but eternal health and peace.

2. No more bereavement, but eternal union.

3. No more superstition, but eternal light.

4. No more sorrow over the dissensions of Christ’s Church, but eternal harmony.

5. No more spiritual ignorance, but perfect knowledge.

6. No more temptation and sin, but perfect safety and holiness.

7. No more death, but the fadeless life. (H. G. Guinness.)

Christly life and gainful death

I. The Christian’s life is Christ.

1. Obedience to Christ’s precepts. These preferred

2. Admiration of Christ’s character. Jesus is regarded as--

3. Devotion to Christ’s interests. True Christians seek--

4. Inspiration by Christ’s Spirit.

5. Sustentation by Christ’s power.

II. The Christian’s death is gain.

1. Physically. The resurrection body will be characterized by--

2. Mentally.

3. Socially. Death introduces the Christian to--

4. Spiritually. After his decease the Christian has--

The good man’s life and death

1. How ominously the words “live” and “die” follow each other. There is but a comma between them. Life is but death’s vestibule.

2. If you would get a fair estimate of the happiness of a man, you must judge him in these two closely connected things, his life and his death. Solon said, “Call no man happy till he is dead; for you know not what changes may pass upon him in life.” We add, “because if the life to come be miserable that shall far outweigh the highest happiness he has enjoyed in this.”

I. The good man’s life.

1. It derives its parentage from Christ. The righteous man has two lives, that which he has inherited from his parents, and a spiritual life, which is as much above mental life as that is above the animal or the plant.

2. Christ is its sustenance. Without Christ the newborn spirit must become vague emptiness.

3. The fashion of his life is Christ. Every man has a model by which he endeavours to shape his life. Men do not always do a thing because it is right, but because some one does it whom we take as a standard of propriety. What an outcry there is against a man who dares to be singular, and says, “I will not follow your model, I will follow Christ.”

4. The end of his life is Christ; not wealth, respectability.

5. Its happiness and glory is all in Christ.

II. The good man’s death. Why does not death spare the good and take the bad. Gain! is it not loss in every sense? No; in every sense in which it is loss it is immeasurable gain.

1. He loses friends, wife, children; but only for a time; he gains them forever.

2. He loses his wealth; but, he gains eternal riches, and those who have no money to lose are made rich forevermore.

3. He loses the means of grace, but gains heaven.

4. He loses his partial knowledge; but sees face to face. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Life and death in Christ

I. Life in Christ. Life for this man is--

1. Negatively. Not

2. Positively. His life is not a life with Christ, nor even in Christ. His very life was Christ. His former self was lost. Henceforth he lives Christ. His common life, when he lies down and rises up, when he labours and rests, in private and public.

II. Death in Christ. The substance of the inheritance beyond we know from Philippians 1:23 is the same Christ. What are the gains?

1. Peace instead of war. Here Christ and conflict; there Christ and peace.

2. Here Christ and ignorance; seeing in part, through a glass darkly; there Christ and light.

3. Here Christ and sins; there Christ and purity.

4. Here Christ and pain; there Christ and perfect joy. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

The significance of the apostle’s sentiment

When did he utter this? It was not as he rose from earth dazzled into blindness by the Redeemer’s glory, and the words of the first commission were ringing in his ears. It was not in Damascus, while as the scales fell from his eyes he recognized the Lord’s goodness and power. Nor was it in Arabia where supernatural wisdom so fully unfolded to him the facts and truths which he was so uniformly to proclaim. It sprang not from some momentary elation as at Cyprus where he confounded the sorcerer and converted the Roman proconsul. No, it was written at Rome, in bonds, and after years of unparalleled toil and suffering. His past career had been signalized by stripes, imprisonment, shipwrecks, and unnumbered perils, but he did not regret them. He had been “in weariness and painfulness,” etc., but his ardour was unchilled; and let him only be freed, and his life prolonged, and his motto would still be, “For me to live is Christ.” It did not repent the venerable confessor now, when he was old, infirm, and a prisoner, with a terrible doom suspended over him, that he had done, travelled, spoken, and suffered so much for Christ. Nor was the statement like a suspicious vow in a scene of danger, which is too often wrung from cowardice, and held up as a bribe to the Great Preserver, but forgotten when the crisis passes, and he who made it laughs at his own timidity. No. It was no new course that the apostle proposed, it was only a continuation of those previous habits which his bondage had for a season interrupted. Could there be increase to a zeal that had never flagged, or could those labours be multiplied which had filled every moment and called out every energy? In fine, the saying was no idle boast, like that of Peter at the last supper--the flash of a sudden enthusiasm so soon to be drowned in tears. For the apostle had the warrant of a long career to justify his assertion, and who can doubt that he would have verified it, and nobly shown, as hitherto, for him to live was Christ? He sighed not under the burden, as if age needed repose; or sank into self-complacency, as if he had done enough, for the Lord’s commission was still upon him, and the wants of the world were as numerous and pressing as to claim his last word and urge his last step. (Professor Eadie.)

The reason why some men cling to life

I remember when I used to live in the south of England, there was a story abroad about some man that was thrown over the face of the Isle of Wight chalk cliffs. They found him in the morning lying down there among the white boulders and black seaweed, and below the finger nails there was powdered chalk that he had scraped in his desperate clutch as he fell to save himself. My friends, there are some of you that grasp at life like that, and for something of the same reason, because you are afraid of the smash when you get down to the bottom. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

To me to live is Christ--

1. The rendering is literally, “To me life is Christ,” life altogether, everywhere, always is neither more nor less than this.

2. The word has wide application. The blade of grass, the tree, the worm, bird, behest, man, God, live. But there is life proper to each. In the lower forms it is simple, but as we ascend life becomes more complex, difficult, and, therefore, more noble. That is the noblest thing which surmounts disaster or suffering which retrieves itself or is retrieved. The life of man has so suffered, and has been so retrieved.

3. The text expresses an infinite indebtedness. No man could confer a benefit on fellow man so great as to put him under this law. Not to benefactor, defender, deliverer, could you say this.

I. This canon rules the thought. The intellectual life is Christ’s. This is not, however, to impair mental freedom. Man may expatiate on any field, making fresh discoveries at every step. But from the vantage ground of the Christ life all acquired knowledge can he put in right relations and error detected. Christ does not reveal all truth, but places man on the mountaintop of truth, where he is never out of the view of some truths.

II. Take life as sentiment--thought with aroma in it, and beauty in it, without which no life is complete. How shall we keep the poetry in our life? Only by having the beauty of Christ’s life.

III. Take life as force--active moral force. A life without much force may be pure and good, but it can never be beneficent. A life with force may be destructive. To constitute good human force we need more than energy and self-will. We need right motives and wise means. If you leave Jesus Christ out of your life you cannot have any of them perfectly, “Be strong in the Lord,” etc.

IV. Take life as hope, aspiration, destiny. What is life if it be not this much. Without an assured future, no present of any kind can be worth a hearty interest. Have we an assured future without Jesus Christ? “Because He lives we shall live also.” Conclusion: Is it Christ for you to live, or money, sentient pleasure, ambition, indifference, emptiness? (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Christ our life

We can see what this did for Paul.

1. It gave steady perseverance to his endeavours.

2. It put a tone of charity on all his intercourse.

3. It gave him calmness under trial and persecution.

I. So far as our life is feeling we may say the text. Take--

1. Our thinking. The unity, peace, freedom, safe guidance of our thoughts, follow and are assured if to us to think is Christ.

2. Our trusting. No fear comes to us out of the uncertainty and insecurity of our earthly trusts if our great trust rests on Christ.

3. Our loving. There will be an ever-enlarging love to men if our first love be set on Christ.

4. Our hoping--that hope is full of immortality which can build on this sure foundation, “Jesus is mine.”

II. So far as our life is association, we may say the text.

1. In friendship His presence can make our hearts burn within us.

2. In the family He can be the all-hallowing thought sanctifying the home life.

3. In society He can make by His unseen presence our social fellowships purer and more truly happy. If this is not so it is because we have permitted the un-Christly stamp to get printed on our associations.

III. So far as life is activity we may say the text.

1. In business, “Let every man wherein he is called,” etc.

2. In the Church.

3. In the world of morals, politics, science: all these are spheres of Christ’s rule. (R. Tuck, B. A.)

Christ the saints’ life

1. There is no other name but Christ’s which has life in it. There is no life in the world’s wealth, learning, honour, love. If they do not destroy, they afford no protection or sustenance. To be Christless is to be lifeless.

2. Is it possible that St. Paul can he speaking of a mere man? This is not an accidental expression of temporary excitement. It is a sentiment that pervades his writings (Philippians 3:7-9; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 6:14). On the Socinian hypothesis all this is extravagant and idolatrous. Where do we find succeeding prophets speaking thus of Moses?

3. Paul means that Christ constituted his life. In what sense?

I. Christ was the bestower and sustainer of it. He was this naturally (Hebrews 1:2; John 1:3; Hebrews 1:3). On this ground Adam in his state of innocence would have said that the Son of God was his life. But Paul was thinking of Christ as--

1. The life of pardon. Distinguish the gaining of pardon and the persuasion that it has been gained. A rebel may be pardoned without knowing it, but before he can be happy he must know it. Paul knew fully that Christ had forgiven him.

2. The life of love. Pardon properly is only the capacity for living; but love is the soul’s life. How this love burned in Paul towards God and towards man.

3. The life of hope. Hope is life; despair is death. The unbeliever is hopeless and therefore lifeless.

II. Christ was the object of the energies of that life he had bestowed. Paul had three reasons for his engrossing consecration to Christ.

1. A reason of justice. Christ had surrendered His life for him, and equity demanded that he should consecrate his life to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Life for life: Christ gave all He could give: Paul returns all he can. Gratitude facilitates the justice, and makes the duty a delight.

2. A reason of self-interest.

3. A reason of taste. He liked the work for its own sake. (W. Anderson, LL. D.)

To serve Christ must be our one aim

It is said of Thomas Pett, the miser, that his pulse rose and fell with the funds. He never lay down or rose that he did not bless the inventor of compound interest. His one gloomy apartment was never brightened with coal, candle, or the countenance of a visitor, and he never ate a morsel at his own expense. Of course he made money, for he gave himself wholly to it; and we ought not to forget that the same single-mindedness and self-denial would make Christians rich towards God. What is wanted in the service of Christ is the same unity of purpose which has ruled all men who have won the object for which they lived. He who makes God’s glory the one only aim before which all other things bow themselves, is the man to bring honour to his Lord. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The ideal of Christian life

For me to live is--

I. Faith in Christ.

1. Without faith life is dwarfed and desolate.

2. The grander faith’s object, and the firmer faith’s trust, the nobler the life.

3. Christ is the grandest object, and faith in Him the strongest trust.

II. Meditation on Christ.

1. We can come very near Him.

2. This meditation is sweet. The thought of Christ the antidote to life’s sorrows.

III. Action for Christ.

1. Inspired by the loftiest motive: Christ.

2. Of the most diverse character.

3. With the best result.

IV. Hope in Christ.

1. He is the hope of this life and consequently glorifies it.

2. He is our hope for eternity--“Because I live ye shall live also.” (Paxton Hood.)

The great end and business of a Christian’s life is to glorify Christ

I. I argue it thus:--

1. We have life from Him; life, therefore, should be to Him. A supernatural influence causeth a supernatural tendency. As rivers run into the sea from whence their channels are filled, so doth grace cause all the issues and outgoings of the spiritual life to return to Christ from whence they came.

2. The right Christ has to our service. We are His by every right and title (Romans 14:7-9).

II. To make this clear let us examine the several titles Christ hath to a believer.

1. By creation (Hebrews 1:2). Note--

2. Preservation, by which the title of creation is daily renewed and reinforced (Acts 17:28; Hebrews 1:3).

3. Redemption (1 Corinthians 6:20). Consider--

4. Conquest (Colossians 1:13).

5. Actual possession (1 Corinthians 6:15).

6. Resignation and voluntary consent (Song of Solomon 2:16; 2 Corinthians 8:5; 2 Chronicles 30:8).

III. The use. To persuade us to make it our business to honour Christ and advance Him.

1. Directions.

2. Motives.

(a) For the present an interest in Christ’s intercession (John 17:9-10).

(b) Heaven in the eternity to come. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Diverse views and aims of life

To some men to live is a man, for a man; they are content to merge their individuality in his; they do not care to be known if he is known; they always wish to be regarded as his friends; they live on his words; they immortalize themselves by recording them; to please him is their highest honour and felicity, and they leave a beautiful biography behind them in which they entomb and lose themselves, and rear a monument to the memory of their idol. Such was Boswell’s “Life of Johnson”--“To me to live is Johnson!” Such was Lockhart’s “Life of Scott”--“To me to live is Scott!” Such is the elegant tribute of Tacitus to Julius Agricola!” “To me to live is Agricola” Such is the, to me, sad and shocking life of Cicero, by Dr. Middleton--“To me to live is Cicero!” But Paul said, “To me to live is Christ!” To some men to live is a science. They are absorbed by it; the pursuit of it is the unconscious charm of their existence. All things and all bodies are regarded as through the lens supplied by it. To Lyell and Murchison--“To me to live is Geology!” To Rosse or Nicholl--“To me to live is Astronomy!” To Liebig or Davy, to Faraday or Matueccei--“To me to live is Chemistry or Electricity?” To Owen or Cuvier--“To me to live is Comparative Anatomy! “To Young--“To me to live is a Rosetta stone!” But Paul said, “To me to live is Christ!” And some men live for an idea. They live for it; in it; become martyrs to it. Bravely, but sometimes very foolishly, they identify the whole world with their one idea. If it expires all perishes. Hence Vane and Sidney would say, “To me to live is a Republic!” Hence Leibnitz and Kant and Descartes concentrated their life on an idea. But Paul said, “To me to live is Christ!” And to some men to live is self. “What shall I eat, and what shall I drink, and wherewithal shall I be clothed?” (Paxton Hood.)

Life in Christ

Behold yonder flower; it lives by means of the plant on which it grows; does it not? Did not the plant give it birth? and does not the plant supply it nourishment? and if you separate it from the plant will it not die? Now, consider it once more--it lives for the plant on which it grows; does it not? Does it not blossom into beauty that it may adorn it as a lovely ornament, and ripen into maturity that it may serve it by forming precious seed? Just so Paul grew as a flower upon Christ. He felt that he lived by Christ; and so he determined to live for Christ; and the sweet meaning contained in this fragrant saying that he breathes out an offering to Jesus in the thought of life for Christ. (H. G. Guinness.)

Christ the grandest life

If life is to be measured by the dignity of its affections, by their purity and power, then what affection is so lofty, so inspiring, so ennobling, as the love of Christ? If life is to be estimated by its raptures of exalted hope, its frequent glimpses of unfathomed being, its cadencies of harmony borne upon the ear from distant spheres of praise, then what raptures are so glowing as those kindled by the life of Christ? If life is to be estimated by what it performs, and by its motives to performance, then what life can hold so lengthened a series of unselfish exploits, as his who lives for Christ? What motive can occupy so high a ground or purpose, so glorious an aim? “For me to live is Christ.” (Paxton Hood.)

Love the true life

Our love is our life. What is your life? It is even that which is your strongest love. We do not live indeed until we love in real earnest; and the greater, the nobler our love, the greater and the nobler will be the life born from it. And hence there are many persons who have lived long in the world, but they have never begun to live indeed. No one has begun to live whose whole existence has been consumed upon the life of self. We do not know what we are capable of till something crosses our path, and says, “Live for me.” Look at that gay girl, merry and thoughtless, careless and quite unprophetic of the future, simply living on from day to day, from wave to wave of laughter and pleasure--the privileged and licensed plague of the family. Let a year or two roll round, and look at her again. She is not less interesting--nay, but how much more interesting? Young as she is--almost venerable--the merry gaiety is gone, and in its place the sweet seriousness of wifehood; and all the powers of her being have been aroused, for a little helpless being has fallen at her feet, and said to her, through its blue eyes, “Take care of me.” If she could put her thoughts into speech she would say, “For me to live is my darling.” It has revolutionized her--it has robbed her of her selfish coquetry, and given to her a selfishness almost divine. It is so with the husband and the father. He is most capable of noble exertions as the love of his life takes noble shapes to him, and rouses to noble energies. Nor can I conceive how the heavy and monotonous wheels of business could roll on at all, if God had not made our nature so, that the social love becomes a sacred incentive to action, and in spite of himself man is made to live for beings outside of himself--to find his happiness in their happiness--and thus to find that “Life is indeed more than meat, and the body than raiment.” But this principle of our existence is intensified when we become the subjects of a holy, divine affection--when we become so related to divine persons and realities as to say, “To me to live is Christ.” Then a great affection enthrones itself, so that it takes possession of all our powers, “body, soul, and spirit;” it sways a sceptre over all, and unites all to itself; it commands the resources of the mind and the heart, and makes them all its own. (Paxton Hood.)

Christ the end of life

As the river’s flowing, even away amid inland hills, is all advance towards the distant sea: as the blossom’s beauty, even in early April days, is all progress towards the autumn fruit; so all St. Paul’s life, even those acts and thoughts that seemed remotest, was a means to an end--Christ. (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

Various degrees in living Christ

Suppose you have three students sitting with their canvas on easels before the work of some great painter. They have looked on that work until all have caught inspiration from it, and, with painstaking earnestness, they all try to reproduce what they see in the picture before them. Each will do his very best; each will have some palpable resemblance to the work, but each will differ from the others according to his ability, And with ourselves there is not the slightest reason for discouragement, though we are not able to reach the same degree of excellence that is obtained by some fellow disciple. Let every one try, as near as possible, to reproduce the original. (W. G. Pascoe.)

The means of living Christ

A vine is growing; it grows in good ground; it grows strong. It draws the sap of the ground, and bears much fruit; but the fruit is bad. It is bitter to the taste, and poisonous. Another vine grows near it--a good vine--all good. They take a branch of the good vine, and bend it gently towards the wild vine, and they lay a strong hand on the wild vine, and bend it towards the good vine. They touch. They are fastened--the branch of the good vine to the stem of the evil. As yet this produces no change on the wild vine; but it is some needful preparatory work. They now make an opening in the stem of the wild vine, and another in the branch of the good vine. They place them into each other at the wound, and bind them up. The wounds heat, and the two have grown into each other. The next step in the process is to cut off the head of the wild vine, and leave instead the now engrafted branch of the good. Then the branch of the good is severed from its parent stem. The root of the evil tree remains; but its head now is the new and the good tree. “I live,” murmurs the root and stem of the old evil tree far below.” I live--you live; you have no leaf, no flower, no fruit: all the life is in the new tree. “I live,” still humbly murmurs the old root out of the ground; “nevertheless not I, but the new good tree liveth in me; and the life that I now live in the ground, I live through the new and good tree, which loved me, and gave itself for me.” This cutting, and bleeding, and binding, and grafting process took place while the patient was prostrate and blind outside the gate of Damascus. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

The constancy of Paul’s purpose to live Christ

Changed and varied the scenes around might be, but the heart was always the same: true to its one grand object far more steadily than the magnetic needle which does not always point to the north. The pinched miser might for a minute forget his wealth: a spring of something better might gush unawares in the ambitious man’s heart, and make him forget the aim of his ambition: the watching mother might for a brief instant be startled into a forgetfulness that would take away the heavy burden of the seldom ceasing remembrance of her little dying babe: but the moment never came and the place never was, in which the great Apostle of the Gentiles forgot his Saviour. Was it too much, then, when looking over a life thus leavened and pervaded, he said, with a truthfulness of which words were but poor expression, “To me to live is Christ!” (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

Why Christianity does not prevail

The chief reason why Christianity does not yet pervade the world, is that Christ does not pervade the life of Christians. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

To die is gain

I. What kind of an event death is.

1. It is the most dreadful of events.

(a) Its cause and sin.

(b) Its forerunners--spiritual and bodily.

(c) Its accompaniments, forced separation, burial.

(d) “After death the judgment.”

2. It is the most decisive event. It places the righteous beyond the possibility of fear, and the ungodly beyond the possibility of hope.

3. It is that event in which the excellency of religion pre eminently appears. Religion does not prevent the hissing of the serpent, but it extracts his sting; it does not show another entrance into Canaan than through the Jordan, but it divides the flood.

II. In what sense dying is a gain. It exchanges earth for heaven. Think of--

1. Its beauty.

2. Its purity.

3. Its pleasures.

4. Its friendship. (A. Pope.)

Death a gain

I. Physically: freedom from bodily restrictions, pain, and temptation.

II. Mentally. The liberation of the mind; multiplication of subject of thought; heavenly inspiration.

III. Socially. Reunion of friends; indefinite enlargement of the circle of acquaintance; society under the happiest, healthiest, and permanent conditions.

IV. Spiritually. “Forever with the Lord.” (W. H. H. Murray.)

The gain of dying

I. In regard to death itself it is not a gain. It is part of the curse, the effect of sin. We may look further and consider these things as they bear upon eternity. The irrevocable step is taken. Every other step may be recovered, but not this. If death be not gain, what is it? Infinite, eternal loss. It is no small thing--

He that hath not death for his gain, what has he for his gain?

II. In what sense can the child of God say that death is gain.

1. Negatively.

2. Positively. Because--

The saints’ death gain

I. The conviction of the apostle.

1. It did not rest on observation or speculation. These would lead a man to regard death as the very reverse. We naturally shrink from death, and that because death is unnatural, yet we know it to be the destiny of every one of us. An element of uncertainty mingles with every other expectation, but with this none. Think, too, of its irrevocableness. Many of our efforts may be repeated, but there is no repetition of death. Mere human speculation, even in the wisest, never approached a conviction that death could bring gain. Strong desire and sublime guessing, this is all we find in Socrates or Cicero.

2. Paul’s conviction rested on faith in Christ as the conqueror of death. The causes of aversion to death include the “dread of some thing after death.” The only adequate explanation of death is that it is the wages of sin. The glorious tidings of the gospel are that Christ hath borne the curse and overthrown the power of death. Death is abolished, only the form remains. The saint shrinks from dying but has no fear of death.

3. The conviction stood in the very closest relation with the clause, “To live is Christ.” Only those who are alive unto God will find death to be gain.

II. The fact that to the Christian death is gain.

1. It is wider, deeper, clearer, more accurate knowledge of God and truth.

2. It is perfect holiness. “We shall be like Him.”

3. We shall enter a glorious society.

4. We shall engage in joyful tireless work. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

The benefit of death

I. Immediately on death man is capable of gain. The text is altogether against the notion of the soul’s sleep between death and the resurrection.

1. The soul is distinct from the body and is not merely the vigour of the blood (Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 11:7). It is distinct

2. The soul can exercise its operations apart from the body (2 Corinthians 12:2).

3. That the souls of the saints do exist apart from the body appeareth from Scripture (Philippians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 5:1-2; Luke 23:43).

II. What this gain is.

1. Its nature.

(a) A freedom from all misery (Revelation 14:13; Revelation 21:21; Matthew 25:21). There is to be no serpent in the upper Paradise.

(b) Freedom from sin (1 Corinthians 15:26; Ephesians 5:27; Jude 1:24).

(a) The vision of God (1 Corinthians 22:12); 1 John 3:2).

(b) The full fruition of God (2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:2) in holiness and happiness.

2. Its comfortable adjuncts.

III. We shall lose nothing that shall not be made up.

1. Do we lose friends? They are better in heaven, and we shall rejoin them.

2. Is it ordinances that we lose? There the Lamb shall be the light of the New Temple. We shall study Divinity in the light of Christ’s face; and drink of the fruit of the vine new with Christ (Matthew 26:29).

3. Communion with God (1 Thessalonians 4:17). There will be no cloud on that day.

4. Service and opportunities for glorifying God. We shall be more active in his praise. The instrument will be perfectly in tune. Here we often jar, There will be no spot or blemish (Ephesians 5:27).

5. Comforts of this world. They are of use in our passage, and we must possess as if we possessed not (1 Corinthians 7:31); but there we are free from all needs. No man complains when he is recovered out of a disease, that he needs no more physic.

IV. Use.

1. To commend Christ’s service to you. If you have dedicated your life to Him, then death will be better (Galatians 6:8).

2. A meditation for the dying. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The benefits which believers receive at death

In what respect death is gain to believers.

I. In respect of them souls. It separates souls from bodies, not to their loss but to their gain. It is with the souls of believers as with Paul and his company in Acts 27:1-44. The ship broke in pieces, but the passengers came all safe to land. The benefit is two-fold.

1. Perfection in holiness (Hebrews 12:23), which up to this consisted only in gradual advances. This perfection consists in--

(a) Their understandings shall be perfectly illuminated (1 Corinthians 13:12).

(b) Their wills shall be perfectly upright, so that they shall will nothing but good, without the least bias to the other side (Revelation 21:27). A perfect conformity betwixt God’s will and theirs, without the least possible jarring (1 John 3:2).

(c) The executive faculty shall then perfectly answer the will with ease and delight (Matthew 6:10).

2. Immediate entering into glory (Luke 23:43). Here consider--

(a) A glorious place (2 Corinthians 5:1; John 14:2; Revelation 21:23).

(b) A glorious society (Hebrews 12:23-24; John 17:24).

(c) A glorious state. What eye hath not seen. Rest and perfect blessedness.

II. In respect of their bodies. Death cannot harm them.

1. It cannot separate them from Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

2. It is a stage in their progress towards the resurrection. The saint’s dust is precious, locked up in the grave as in a cabinet, till the Lord have further use for it. (T. Boston, D. D.)

The antidote of death

I. To whom the startling expression applies. To Christians and no others. The text is limited in its application by the previous clause. Character and privilege are unseparably connected. To all but Christians death is everlasting ruin.

II. The meaning of thy expression.

1. There are few words that have a more powerful influence over human affairs than gain. It is the folly and the sin of men that they do not extend the application of it to moral subjects. Blessed the man who in reckoning up his gains can enter death as one of the items.

2. How wonderful does this appear when we consider what death is--the most fearful thing in the universe next to hell and sin. Yet it is gain to the believer. True, he loses all that is most precious to him in life upon earth; but all that he loses here compared with what he gains in heaven is as the surrender of a little homestead and a contracted farm to gain a kingdom and a crown, or parting with a single farthing for the acquisition of a princely revenue. Death is gain.

(a) In heaven there will be all things really desirable. Here many of our desires are unreasonable and their objects unattainable, or if attained injurious, but in heaven there is no improper desire. We shall wish only for what is right and shall never be disappointed.

(b) All things great and glorious. Here the things we desire are not great, and there is a disproportion between the object we covet and the intensity of our longings. There we shall have put away childish things.

Two words are descriptive of the heavenly state.

(a) Life--Eternal life. We know now only imperfectly what it is to live. There our intellectual, spiritual, and social being will be in full and everlasting development.

(b) Glory. We shall not merely behold its infinite glories, but shall say, “All these are mine.” Here possession and enjoyment are often separated; but in heaven the objective source of happiness and the subjective condition of the soul will be in harmony.

III. Leaving these general remarks we may notice the residence of the righteous. Consider--

1. The agreeable and happy associates of all who reach that blessed world.

2. Their employments. True, we shall rest from our labours, but activity and glory will not be labour.

3. Their condition. They have the light of perfect knowledge irradiating their understanding, the glow of perfect love warming their hearts, the purity of perfect holiness diffused through their character forever. This gain accrues to all who live to Christ. We may advance a step further, and say that the death of a believer is, in a sense, gain to Christ. He is magnified by the death of His saints, in the support He administers, the consolation He imparts, the triumphant joys He inspires.

Conclusion:

1. What a proof we have in this subject of the truth, excellence, and sustaining power of Christianity.

2. What a powerful means to overcome the undue love of life and fear of death.

3. How this subject should reconcile us to the death of our pious friends. (J. A. James.)

Socrates and Paul on death

Socrates in prison in Athens, as Paul was in Rome, unjustly accused, too, as he was, a good teacher further, according to his light, though a despised and rejected one, was sustained by the consciousness that no crime had been his, by the thought, also, that his suffering and death were of God’s will. But among his last words, before the hemlock bowl had done its work, was this saddest saying to his friends: “It is now time to depart:--for me to die--for you to live--but which of us is going to a better thing, is uncertain to every one except only to the Deity.” These words are not unlike those of Paul, but nothing of Paul’s hope and assurance glows within them. All is gloomy uncertainty, if not even despair. There is nothing said of gain, and where it is to be found. (J. Hutchinson, D. D.)

The testimony of nature and of Christ concerning death

This is indeed a strange sound in the ears of nature, a sound of which nature knows nothing, and which sorely puzzles her. Death gain Why, in nature’s account book death is sheer loss, the loss of everything, the loss of life, and of all that makes life pleasant and happy, the loss of the green fields and of the blue sky, of the sun and the moon and the stars, of the fresh air, of our homes and our gardens, of health, and strength, and mirth, and thought, and friendship, and love. It is the loss of all these bright and precious joys: and what does it give us in exchange? Darkness, and coldness, and numbness--a house of clay, with worms for our bedfellows--rottenness and nothingness. And can this be gain? Yes, brethren, if you are in Christ, as sure as Christ liveth, as sure as God liveth, it is gain. It is the passing from impurity to purity, from imperfection to perfection, from corruption to incorruption, from mortality to immortality, from broken glimpses of joy glancing through clouds of sorrow, to the full ever-beaming sunshine of the presence of God. (Archdeacon Hare.)

Christ and death

As a father wades out into a stream to encourage his timid child to cross, so Christ went down into the river men had dreaded, but whose waters are full of cleansing, and whose farther waves beat on a golden shore. I regret to say that Christians are slow to improve the privilege of knowledge and faith. (W. H. H. Murray.)

What makes death gain

A leafless wood may preach you an awful sermon. Not only may you look upon it as a host of skeletons; it may also cry to you to bethink yourselves that even as these trees stand naked from head to foot before the eye of heaven, so will your souls ere long stand utterly bare and naked before the eye of God. Every cloak and mask you may have clad them in will be torn off. Every fading leaf and perishing flower--whatever is bred by the sun of this world, or put forth to win the eyes of this world--all the dress and drapery of our minds and hearts--our cleverness, our skill, our learning, our knowledge, our prudence, our industry, our gaiety, our good fellowship--all those qualities of fair seeming which have no higher aim than to look well in the sight of our neighbours--will be swept away; and nothing will remain but the skeletons of our souls, shivering in the sight of men and of angels, in the day of that last and terrible winter, when the glory of this world will have waned, and death will have spread out his hand over all the generations of mankind. Nothing will remain but the naked trunk and leafless branches of our souls, except those seeds of Christian faith and love, which may have remained secretly wrapt up in the bosom of the flowers. The leaf dies; for the leaf has no life in it. The flower dies; for the flower has no life in it. But the seed, if it be the seed of Christian faith and love, has life in it, and cannot die. When it falls to the ground, Christ sends His angels to gather it up, and bids them lay it by in the storehouses of heaven. By the world, indeed, it is unseen. The world perceives no difference between the flower that has seed in it, and the flower that has no seed. To the outward eye they look the same; for the outward eye sees only what is outward. But Christ knows His own: He beholds the seed within the heart of the flower: and He will not suffer it to die or to be lost. In the last day He will bring it forth, and will crown the branches again with the undying flowers of heaven. (Archdeacon Hare.)

The death of saints magnifies Christ

Rev. J. Hervey: Oh, welcome death! thou mayst well be reckoned among the treasures of the Christian. The great conflict is over; all is done. To live is Christ, but to die is gain--Dr. Payson: The battle’s fought--the battle’s fought; and the victory is won; the victory is won forever! I am going to bathe in an ocean of purity, and benevolence, and happiness to all eternity. Faith and patience, hold out--Rev. G. Roberts: Be quiet, my son? Be quiet, my son? No, no! If I had the voice of an angel I would rouse the inhabitants of Baltimore, for the purpose of telling them of the joys of redeeming love, Victory! Victory! Victory through the blood of the Lamb!--Rev. P. Hardcastle: On the second day before his death his pulse was feeble, and he was evidently sinking. When asked, “Can you say that the precious Word which you have been preaching is now your individual salvation?” “Yes,” said he, “and my strength.” “And your comfort?” “Yes, and my peace.” “And your refuge?” “Yes,” said the dying man, “and my life, my life, my life!” He passed away in the sixtieth year of his age, and the thirty-fifth of his ministry--Rev. J. Dickens: “My dear brother, do you not already see the towers of the New Jerusalem?” said a Christian brother. “I do,” was his reply. When asked by the same person if they should engage in prayer, he said--“I would rather engage in praise.” In that exercise he spent his last breath. The last words uttered were--“Glory! Glory! Come, Lord Jesus!” (J. Bate.)

Two prospects in death

Before some of us there rise the high, cold, great snow mountains, on the summits of which nothing can live, and when we come to the base of them we look up and feel the trackless impassable wastes, and know not what lies beyond; but before others of us this man and those who hold with him, there has been a tunnel cut through the Alps, and it goes straight on, and comes out, keeping on in the same direction, beneath a bluer sky, and with a brighter land, with summer plains and a happier life spread before us in the warm south. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Contrasted views of death

“To die is gain,” said Paul. “Out upon thee, thou ugly, foul phantom,” said Charles Lamb, the mere man of letters, “I detest, abhor, and execrate thee, to be shunned as a universal viper, to be branded, proscribed, and evil spoken of. I care not to be carried with the tide that smoothly bears human life to eternity. I am in love with this green earth, the face of town and country, the unspeakable rural solitudes and the sweet security of streets. I would set up my tabernacle here--a new state of being staggers me.” (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

Death differently viewed by different characters

You have been in a ship when it entered the harbour, and you have noticed the different looks of the passengers as they turned their eyes ashore. There was one who, that he might not lose a moment’s time, had got everything ready for landing long ago; and now he smiles and beckons to yonder party on the pier, who in their turn, are so eager to meet him, that they almost press over the margin of the quay; and no sooner is the gangway thrown across, than he has hold of the arm of one, and another is triumphant on his shoulder, and all the rest are leaping before and after him on their homeward way. But there is another, who showed no alacrity. He gazed with pensive eye on the nearer coast and seemed to grudge that the trip was over. He was a stranger going amongst strangers, and though sometimes during the voyage he had a momentary hope that something unexpected might occur, and that some friendly face might recognize him in regions where he was going an alien and an adventurer--no such welcoming face is there, and with reluctant steps he quits the vessel, and commits himself to the unknown country. And now that every one else has disembarked, who is this unhappy man whom they have brought on deck, and whom, groaning in his heavy chains, they are conducting to the dreaded shore? Alas! he is a felon and a runaway, whom they are bringing back to take his trial there; and no wonder he is loath to land. Now, dear brethren, our ship is sailing fast. We shall soon hear the rasping of the shallows, and the commotion overhead, which bespeak the port in view. When it comes to that, how shall you feel? Are you a stranger, or a convict, or are you going home? Can you say, “I know whom I have believed”? Have you a Friend within the veil? And however much you may enjoy the voyage, and however much you may like your fellow passengers, does your heart sometimes leap up at the prospect of seeing Jesus as he is, and so being ever with the Lord? (James Hamilton, D. D.)

Happy to live or die in Christ

Just before Calvin died he wrote to a friend these words: “My respiration is difficult, and I am about to breathe the last gasp, happy to live and die in Jesus Christ, who is gain to all His children in life and death.” He felt what Paul felt.

Ready for life or death

A lady once said to John Wesley, “Suppose you knew you were to die at 12 o’clock tomorrow night, how would you employ the intervening time?” “Why, just as I intend to spend it now. I would preach this evening at Gloucester, and again at 5 o’clock tomorrow morning. After that I should ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the afternoon, meet the Societies in the evening. Then repair to friend Martin’s, who expects to entertain me, converse and pray with the family as usual, retire to my room at 10 o’clock, commend myself to my heavenly Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in glory!”

A believer’s privilege at death

1. Believers at death shall gain the glorious sight of God. They shall see Him intellectually with the eyes of their mind, which divines call the beatifical vision; if there were not such an intellectual sight of God, how do the spirits of just men, made perfect, see Him? They shall behold the glorified body of Jesus Christ; and if it be pleasant to behold the sun, then how blessed a sight will it be to see Christ the Sun of Righteousness clothed with our human nature, shining in glory above the angels? Through Christ’s flesh, as through a transparent glass, some bright rays and beams of the Godhead shall display themselves to glorified eyes; the sight of God through Christ will be very complacential and delightful; the terror of God’s essence will be taken away; God’s majesty will be mixed with beauty, and sweetened with clemency; it will be infinitely delightful to the saints to see the amiable aspects and smiles of God’s face.

2. The saints at death shall not only have a sight of God, but shall enjoy the love of God; there shall be no more a vail on God’s face, nor His smiles chequered with frowns, but His love shall discover itself in all its orient beauty and fragrant sweetness. Here the saints pray for God’s love, and they have a few drops, but there they shall have as much as their vessel can receive. To know this love that passeth knowledge, this will cause jubilation of spirit, and create such holy raptures of joy in the saints as are superlative, and would soon overwhelm them if God did not make them able to bear it.

3. Believers at death shall gain a celestial palace, an house not made with hands. Here the saints are straitened for room, they have but mean cottages to live in, but they shall have a royal palace to live in; here is but their sojourning house, there in heaven is their mansion house, an house built high above all the visible orbs, an house bespangled with light, enriched with pearls and precious stones. And this is not their landlord’s house, but their Father’s house; and this house stands all upon consecrated ground; it is set out by transparent glass to show the holiness of it.

4. Believers at death shall gain perfection of holiness. Here grace was but in its cradle, very imperfect; we cannot write a copy of holiness without blotting; believers are said to receive but “the first fruits of the Spirit.” But at death the saints shall arrive at perfection, their knowledge clear, their sanctity perfect, their sun shall be in its full meridian splendour. How come the saints to have all this gain? Believers have a right to all this gain at death upon divers accounts: by virtue of the Father’s donation, the Son’s purchase, the Holy Ghost’s earnest--and faith’s acceptance. Therefore the state of future glory is called the saints’ proper inheritance. They are heirs of God, and have a right to inherit. See the great difference between the death of the godly and the wicked; the godly are gainers at death, the wicked are great losers at death. They lose four things:

1. They lose the world.

2. They lose their souls.

3. They lose heaven.

4. They lose their hopes; for though they lived wickedly, yet they hoped God was merciful, and they hoped that they should go to heaven.

Some plants thrive best when they are transplanted: believers, when they are by death transplanted, cannot choose but thrive, because they have Christ’s sweet sunbeams shining upon them. And what though the passage through the valley of the shadow of death be troublesome? who would not be willing to pass a tempestuous sea if he were sure to be crowned so soon as he came to shore? What benefits do believers receive at death?

I. The saints at death have great immunities and freedoms. An apprentice when out of his time is made free: when the saints are out of their time of living, then they are made free, not made free till death.

1. At death they are freed from a body of sin.

II. At death the saints shall be freed from all the troubles and incumbrances to which this life is subject. There are many things to embitter life and cause trouble, and death frees us from all.

1. Care. Care is a spiritual canker which eats out the comfort of life; death is the cure of care.

2. Fear. Fear is the ague of the soul which sets it a shaking; “there is torment in fear.” Fear is like Prometheus’s vulture, it gnaws upon the heart.

3. Labour. “All things are full of labour.” They rest from their labours.

4. Suffering. Believers are as a lily among thorns; as the dove among the birds of prey.

5. Temptation. Though Satan be a conquered enemy, yet he is a restless enemy. After death hath shot its darts at us, the devil shall have done shooting his; though grace puts a believer out of the devil’s possession, only death frees him from the devil’s temptation.

6. Sorrow. Believers are here in a strange country, why then should they not be willing to go out of it? Death beats off their fetters of sin, and sets them free. Who goes weeping from a jail? Besides our own sins, the sins of others. O then be willing to depart out of the tents of Kedar! (T. Watson.)

Victory after death

Caesar, after his victories, in token of honour, had a chair of ivory set for him in the senate, and a throne in the theatre; the saints, having obtained their victories over sin and Satan, shall be enthroned with Christ in the empyrean heaven. To sit with Christ denotes safety: to sit on the throne, dignity: “this honour have all the saints.” In glory is a blessed rest--“there remaineth therefore a rest.” A happy transit from labour to rest. Here we can have no rest, tossed and turned as a ball on a racket, “we are troubled on every side.” How can a ship rest in a storm? But after death the saints get into their haven. Everything is quiet in the centre; God is “the centre where the soul doth sweetly acquiesce.” A Christian, after his weary marches and battles, shall put off his bloody armour, and rest himself upon the bosom of Jesus, that bed of perfume; when death hath given the saints the wings of a dove, then they shall fly away to paradise and be at rest. (T. Watson.)


Verses 21-26

Verses 22-26

Philippians 1:22-26

But if I live in the flesh this is the fruit of my labour

I.
The personal weighed with the public, or the difficulties of the veteran philanthropist.

II. Man’s sublimest reason for not wishing immediate translation is that he may be of spiritual service to the world.

III. The next best condition to that of being with Christ is to be working for his people.” To be with Christ … to abide with you.” How could there be hesitation in deciding the choice? Selfishness could not have hesitated. True, but selfishness would never have been called upon to make the election. Benevolence has its difficulties as well as selfishness. Love lifts a finger to the heavens and points another to the earth. The choice is between gain and service, and rightly estimated service is gain. It is worth all pain and inconvenience to remain out of heaven so long as you can prepare your contemporaries for it. You are with Christ as long as you are with His work. The apostle is not a dreamy contemplatist always wishing for some more pleasant conditions of existence. He is a worker who finds satisfaction in labour. There is a disease in the Church which confounds religion with wishing for heaven. Persons afflicted with it hold their heads so erectly as not to see the spiritual darkness around them. They are dreamers, transcendentalists, but are they Christians? They are fond of hymns that warble the blessedness of heaven; they revel in texts that describe the rest, the power, the fascinations of the heavenly state. Let such diseased ones mark how the apostle conjoins “labour” and “gain,” and how he balances what is “needful” for man with what would be pleasant to himself; and let them be rebuked and stimulated by the joy with which he anticipated restoration to his laborious life.

IV. There is only one world in which you can serve men evangelically; do not be in indecent haste to escape the opportunity. When you wish to enter heaven may you have a strong drawing to the service still to be done on earth.

V. God never leaves the earth entirely destitute of great men. Elijah may deem himself alone, but God knows that there are seven thousand who have never kissed the world’s dumb god. (J. Parker, D. D.)

St. Paul’s choice

As an overfondness for life is a mean, effeminate passion that exposes us to the basest impressions, and renders us insensible to every honourable purpose, so a contempt of death has been esteemed one of the principal ingredients in a great character. From the views of heathen morality it is difficult to understand why he who had no sure prospect of another life should be over prodigal of this; but when we behold a man raised above the world by a just sense of immortality we cannot but applaud the example as an honour to human nature, and a glorious instance of the power of the gospel. Notice--

I. The reasons that inclined Paul to desire to depart--“To be with Christ.”

1. This signifies that state of happiness revealed by our Lord in His promise to His disciples that where He was they should be also.

2. What the nature and degree of it is the Scripture has nowhere informed us; and, indeed, in our present state exact notions of it are impossible.

3. It is enough to know that to be with Christ is to be partakers of His glory. This is two-fold.

II. The motives that reconciled him to a longer stay.

1. He had not only a certain prospect of happiness in another life, but uncommon reasons to be weary of this.

2. But persecuted and discouraged as he was and would still be, his charity for the souls of men, and his zeal for his Master, prevailed with him to defer his own felicity. He was moved with compassion to the errors of a deluded world, and affected with the concern of a father for the happiness of his converts.

III. The submission he expresses to the wisdom and appointment of God. He did not presume to make his own choice. He knew (Philippians 1:25) that God had determined he should abide, and therefore he cheerfully acquiesces in the Divine will, and is as eager to promote the glory of God in one world as to partake of it in another. Application:

1. The prospect of being with Christ is as much ours as it was his.

2. This prospect is a powerful support against death, and a great encouragement to duty.

3. The prospect, however, of being of use to Christ here should beget a willingness to postpone our departure that Christ’s will may be done. (J. Rogers, D. D.)

A strait betwixt two

I. Continuance. Continued life meant--

1. Continued labour. Nothing which God makes is without a work to do. “All things are full of labour.” To God’s moral creatures is given the sublime privilege that not blindly through the action of material laws, but consciously and by resolutions of their own, they may fulfil the end of their existence.

2. “Fruit of labour”--success in the work to which God calls him.

3. This, then, is what Paul sees to counterbalance the influence of the reflection “to die is gain.”

II. Departure.

1. One grand thought. Paul’s wish was that by departure he should be with Christ.

2. Some Christians have held that the intermediate state is one of sleep. But our Lord’s declaration to the dying thief disposes of that; and had it been Paul’s view he would have counted it better to remain with Christ here.

3. To depart and be with Christ was “better by very far” than remaining in a world of ignorance, and sin, and trouble.

III. The strait between the two.

1. Of struggle between liking and a sense of duty every soul of any strength and nobleness has experience every day.

2. Paul was led to choose the less desirable personally out of love to Christ and His cause.

3. The principle on which this choice was based is that God, having a plan of life for each of His people, no one of them will pass away so long as any work remains for them to do. No Christian dies prematurely. (R. Johnson, LL. B.)


Verse 23-24

Philippians 1:23-24

I am in a strait betwixt two

Christ is best: or, St.
Paul’s strait

I. St. Paul’s strait. His soul was as a ship between two winds, tossed up and down; as iron between two loadstones, drawn first one way and then another. The people of God are often in great straits. Some things are so exceedingly bad that without deliberation we ought to abominate them; some things so good that we should immediately cling to them; others again are of a doubtful nature, requiring our best consideration, as Paul’s here.

II. One ground of this strait was his present desire.

1. I have a desire. When there is anything set before the soul having a magnetical force to draw out the motives thereof we call that a desire, even though for the present the soul desires it not. This desire was--

2. I desire to depart.

3. I desire to be with Christ.

4. The consummation of this desire would be far better than anything or everything else. God reserves the best for the last. The Christian is happy in life, happier in death, happiest in heaven.

5. How shall we attain this desire? Let us carry ourselves as Paul did (chap. 3:20).

III. The other ground of his strait was his present conviction that to stay was better for them.

1. The lives of worthy men are very needful for the Church of God, because God’s method is to bless man by man.

2. Holy men can deny themselves and their own best good for the Church’s benefit. Because--

3. Use.

Willing to wait, but ready to go

I. The two desires.

1. To depart and be with Christ. This desire is composed of two parts--a vestibule somewhat dark and forbidding, through which the pilgrim must pass, and a temple unspeakably glorious, which is to be his home.

2. To abide in the flesh.

II. The Christian balanced evenly between the two desires.

1. To depart was far better.

2. To stay was more needful.

3. The desire to be with Christ does not make life unhappy, because it is balanced by the pleasure of working for Christ; the desire to work for Christ does not make the approach of dissolution painful, because it is balanced by the expectation of being soon ever with the Lord.

4. These two constitute the spiritual man. They are the right and left sides of the new creature in Christ Jesus. Where both grow equally, there is no halting; where both have grown well, the step is steady and the progress great.

III. Practical lessons.

1. This text is sufficient to destroy the whole fabric of Romish prayer to departed saints.

2. The chief use of a Christian in the world is to do good.

3. You cannot be effectively useful to those who are in need on earth unless you hold by faith and hope to Christ on high.

4. Living hope of going to be with Christ is the only anodyne which can neutralize the pain of parting with those who are dear to us in the body. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

The attractions of heaven checked by the claims of earth

I. Having a desire to depart. A disciple of Christ may have a desire to depart.

1. For the sake of having the departing over. This is more terrible in prospect than in realization or in retrospect. We shrink from the strangeness of a new habitation however glorious; from the dark valley, however bright the yonder light.

2. For the sake of heaven’s attractions as--

3. For the sake of the objects of our holiest affections--our Father, our glorified Saviour, unfallen spirits, redeemed souls.

4. For the sake of the realization of our highest hopes. The weary look for rest, the hindered worker for unfettered action, the sad for gladness, the solitary for congenial society, the fearful for safety, the doubtful for certainty.

II. There were claims which held Paul to earth.

1. Had Paul been a husband and a father he could have turned to his household and said, “for you.” But his only tie to earth was God’s Church. There is a peculiar connection between the man who has been the means of another’s conversion or spiritual progress which can never be dissolved and which no other can take up. Paul, therefore, desired to live to instruct and comfort his converts, guide the whole Church, and win souls for Christ.

2. This double attraction perplexed, him and it was a good sign, a sign of life and high sensibility. Those whose religious life is monotonous have not much life in them.

3. This perplexity only existed until the will of God was expressed to him. As soon as he knew that he said, “I am ready; the time of my departure is at hand.” Conclusion: The right state is to be attracted by Christ, wherever Christ is, in His Church on earth or His Church in heaven; and to the place in which we can most glorify Him. (S. Martin.)

The desire of the apostle; yet his perplexity

Nothing is more unpleasant than uncertainty and indecision. Shall I take a journey or not? Sometimes the ease is very important; marriage, e.g. What a strait was Jacob in between starvation and letting Benjamin go to Egypt, and David with his three things to choose. Paul was now in a strait not between two evil but between two good things. It was the strait of a man in a garden between a peach and a nectarine; a rose and a lily. He was between living and dying; but Christ was connected with both; whether he should enjoy Christ in heaven or serve Him on earth.

I. His representation of death. Consider--

1. Its nature--departure.

2. The preference he gives it. “Far better” than what?

II. His desire after it.

1. The desire of death can never be natural.

2. The fear of death is as natural as hunger and sleep; and there is no evil in it. If anything can raise us above it it must be supernatural.

3. There may be more who feel this desire than you are aware of.

4. Christians have more of this readiness to die as they approach death.

III. The counter balance by which he was willing to remain. The apostle shows the sense he had of his own importance, and the self-denial he was willing to exercise in order to be useful. Humility does not consist in ignorance. (W. Jay.)

Life more our business than death

At a private meeting of friends George Whitefield, after adverting to the difficulties attending the gospel ministry, said that he was weary with the burdens of the day, and declared it to be his great consolation that in a short time his work would be done, and he should depart and be with Christ. He then appealed to the ministers present, and asked if they had not entirely similar feelings. They generally assented, with the exception of Mr. Tennent. On seeing this, Mr. Whitefield, tapping him on the knee, said: “Well, Brother Tennent, you are the oldest man among us; do you not rejoice to think that your time is so near at hand when you will be called home?” Mr. Tennent bluntly answered that he had no wish about it. Being pressed for some opinion more definite and decided; he then added: “I have nothing to do with death. My business is to live as long as I can, and as well as I can, and serve my Master as faithfully as I can until He shall think proper to call me home.” It proved a word in season to the great evangelist, helping him more calmly and patiently to hold on his way. (J. L. Nye.)

I. The saints are sometimes in straits (2 Samuel 24:14).

II. They mind not their own but the glory of God and good of others (chap. 2:21).

III. The truly pious desire to depart and be with Christ.

1. What is it to depart? (2 Peter 1:14; 2 Corinthians 5:1). To go into the other world.

2. What to be with Christ?

3. Why do they desire to be with Christ? Because--

4. It is better to be with Christ than here (Matthew 17:4). We shall have better--

St. Paul’s doubt and desire

I. Paul is his strait. He would be with Christ and yet with the Philippians; he would be dissolved and yet live. He resolved, however, at last against himself.

1. For the glory of God; the prime motive of our Christian obedience. We must neither live nor die but to God’s glory.

2. For the good of the brethren, wherein God’s glory is greatly manifested (2 Corinthians 12:15).

3. This was only possible to a man already in Christ, and imbued by His Spirit.

4. If the same mind be in us which was in Paul we should look upon our calling as Christians as the most delightful yet most troublesome calling.

II. Paul’s desire.

1. The desire carries nothing in it that hath any opposition to the will of God. It is not wrought in us by impatience or sense of injuries as is the case of Stoics.

2. This desire is from heaven, heavenly (Hebrews 4:9; 2 Timothy 4:8). We love Christ and would be where His honour dwelleth.

3. This desire--

Paul’s desire to depart

I. The apostle’s description of death.

1. Negatively. He does not call it--

2. Positively. He calls it--

(a) We shall see Him as He is.

(b) We shall commune with Him.

(c) We shall enjoy full fruition of Him.

II. The apostle’s desire.

1. Some men are seared by it.

2. Others with a seared conscience meet it with an idiot resignation.

3. The apostle panted to be gone: as the captain with his rich freight longs for the harbour, as the conqueror longs for his crown.

III. The apostle’s reasons.

1. Others besides he have longed to die.

2. Paul felt this desire because he knew that being with Christ--

Forever with the Lord

I. The apostle’s certainty respecting the disembodied state.

1. Paul was an eminently conscientious man who would not say what he did not believe to be true, and a man of well-balanced reason, logic preponderating among his faculties.

2. Now this Paul was convinced of a future state. He did not believe in purgatory, much less that the soul sleeps until the resurrection.

3. What made this conscientious and collected man come to this conclusion? I suppose he would have replied first that he had been converted by a sight of the Lord Jesus. He was sure he had seen Him, and that He had come from somewhere and gone somewhere; and recollecting the prayer, “I will that they be with me where I am,” he was quite certain that as soon as saints died they were with Christ.

4. Remember this judicious and truthful witness had other distinct evidence of the disembodied state. He had been caught up into Paradise. It was, therefore, not merely matter of belief but of observation.

5. Paul had no doubt then, nor need you. If you believe in Him there is no condemnation, and if so, no separation (Romans 8:1-39) either in this life or that which is to come.

II. The apostle’s idea of that state.

1. It is a one-sided idea and almost a one-worded description: an inclusive idea, for it takes in all the heaven which the largest mind can conceive.

2. Being with Christ is so great a thing that he mentioned it alone.

3. What is it to be with Christ?

III. The apostle’s estimate of this disembodied state. “Very far better.”

1. St. Paul does not claim for this state that it is the believer’s highest condition, because one half of him is left behind. The fulness of our glory is the resurrection. Yet for one half of his manhood to be with Christ is far better than for the whole of his being to be here under the best possible conditions, not merely of worldly wealth, etc.

he had got above all that--but of spiritual excellence and blessing.

2. Concerning our departed friends, then, how can we sorrow?

3. With regard to ourselves what is there to fear?

4. All this points to the fountain of bliss while we are here. The nearer we get to Christ the more we shall participate in what makes the joy of heaven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Better to be with Christ than here

I. What is it to be with Christ? It implies--

1. Our being where He is (John 14:2-4).

2. Our enjoying what He enjoys.

II. How is it better?

1. In its immunities.

(a) Errors in judgment (1 Corinthians 13:12).

(b) Disorder in affections.

(c) Infirmity in actions.

2. In its enjoyments, which are better; because--

III. Uses. Labour to get to Christ.

1. Means.

2. Motives.

(a) It is possible.

(b) It is desired by God (Ezekiel 33:11).

(c) You will repent ere long unless you do.

(a) It is a thing of the greatest concern (Luke 10:42).

(b) It is the only thing needful (Luke 10:42).

(a) Your time is short.

(b) The work is great.

(c) You know not when you will be called to account. (Bishop Beveridge.)

Paul and Voltaire

I was lately looking over Voltaire’s correspondence with one of his literary female acquaintances, and no less than three times in his letters does he say, “I dread death and hate life.” Was it so with the Apostle Paul? Did he dread death? What is his language--“I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better.” Did he hate life? “Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you, and, having this confidence,” etc. (W. Jay.)

Strait

From the word strait employed in our translation we are apt to take up the notion of pain and difficulty. This is not the idea which the apostle intended to express. Literally the word signifies to be between two, and held by both at the same time. In ordinary circumstances, and in the present case especially, this is pleasanter and safer than to be held by only one. This strait is the happiest condition in which a living man can be. It is not a position of distraction from which he would fain escape, but a position of solid repose. To be grasped and drawn by either of these emotions alone would bend and break a man; to be attracted equally by both produces a delicious equilibrium. The spiritual fact may be explained by a material example. Suppose a man is standing aloft upon a pedestal where he finds room to plant his feet and no more. Suppose that one neighbour stands near him on the right hand, and another near him on the left. If one of these grasp and draw him, his posture immediately becomes uneasy and dangerous. Under the strain he does not keep his footing easily, and will not keep it long. But if both should grasp him, either seizing a hand, and draw with equal force in opposite directions, the result would be an erect attitude and an easy position. Such precisely in the spiritual department is the equilibrium of a believer who is held and drawn by both these desires at once. It is the strait betwixt two that makes him easy. Either of these desires wanting the other would distress him in proportion to its strength. On the one hand, a desire to abide in the flesh without a balancing desire to depart and to be with Christ, is a painful condition. The weight hanging on one side racks the person all over. Most men are crushed in this manner all their days. The Redeemer knows this sorrow and provides relief. One specific design of His coming was “to deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” As soon as one of these tremblers is begotten again into a living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the balance is restored and deliverance effected. On the other hand, the converse is equally true, although not equally common. To experience a desire to depart, unbalanced by a desire to abide in the flesh, is also a painful experience. Many Christians pass through at least a short period of this unevenness and uneasiness before they are set free. Whatever may be the immediate causes which have made life wearisome to a Christian, whenever the desire to abide dies out, the desire to depart distracts him. It may be that most of us at present would gladly bargain for such a state of mind at the close of life, as being the safest; but it is, notwithstanding, and not the less a painful state of mind. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

Death, a departure

I shall never forget the cry of the late Rev. Dr. De Witt, of New York, as he stood at the grave of his wife. After the body had been lowered to its resting place, that venerable man of God leaned over the open space and said: “Farewell, my honoured, faithful, beloved wife. The bond that bound us is severed, thou art in glory, I am still on earth, but we shall meet again. Farewell, farewell!” (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Heaven our home

As a home the believer delights to think of it. Thus when, lately bending over a dying saint, and expressing our sorrow to see him laid so low, with the radiant countenance rather of one who had just left heaven, than of one about to enter it, he raised and clasped his hands, and exclaimed in ecstasy, “I am going home.” Happy the family of which God is the Father, Jesus the elder Brother, and all the “saints in light” are brethren. (T. Guthrie.)

Longing for home

I have heard a story of the celebrated Mr. William Dawson, who used to call himself “Billy” Dawson, much to the point. On one occasion, when he and some other Methodist friends were spending the evening together, a dear friend of mine happened to be present, and heard what passed. They were praying that Mr. Dawson’s life might be spared for many years to come, that such an earnest man might be kept in the Church for the next twenty or thirty years. At last, as they were just in the middle of prayer, William Dawson said, “Lord, don’t hear ‘em: I want to get my work done, and go home; I don’t want to be here any longer than there is needs be;” and the brethren stopped their prayers, thunderstruck as they witnessed his emotion. Now I believe that feeling will often pass over the earnest working Christian. “Oh,” saith he, “I am not lazy; I am not idle; but still, I would like to get my work done.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Death a gain

The most you can do to a good man is to persecute him; and the worst that persecution can do is to kill him. And killing a good man is as bad as it would be to spite a ship by launching it. The soul is built for heaven, and the ship for the ocean, and blessed be the hour that gives both to the true element. (H. W. Beecher.)

The desire to depart

As birds in the hour of transmigration feel the impulse of southern lands, and gladly spread their wings for the realm of light and bloom, so may we, in the death hour, feel the sweet solicitations of the life beyond, and joyfully soar from the chill and shadow of earth to fold our wings and sing in the summer of an eternal heaven! (H. W. Beecher.)

To depart is to be with Christ

The Rev. Alexander Fisher, of Dunfermline, an excellent young minister, in the afternoon of the day on which he died, inquired what the hour was, and on being informed, said, “What would you think if I were in heaven tonight?” It was answered, “Then you will be with your Saviour, and see Him face to face.” His pale emaciated countenance seemed to beam with delight, and his faltering lips uttered, “Glory, glory, glory!”

Ready for heaven

A little child was playing with her mother, and they were talking about heaven. The mother had been telling of the joy and glories of that happy world. The matchless beauty of the angels, the golden streets and pearly gates, and the exultant song of redemption. “There is no sickness in those bright realms, no pain, no death, no sorrow, nor sighing, nor tears, no sin; for all will be pure and holy.” “Oh, dear mother!” exclaimed the little child, in her amazement and delight, “let us all go now!” “We must wait a little,” said the mother, “wait until God shall send for us.” “Well, dear mother,” responded the child, in a tone of disappointment, “if we can’t start now, as any rate, let us pack up and be ready!” There is a whole sermon in that one sentence: “Let us pack up and be ready!” Oh, what a world of difference between being ready and unready! (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

Christ, heaven’s supreme attraction

Being with Christ is so great a thing that he mentioned it alone, because his love was so concentrated upon Christ that he could think of nothing else in connection with heaven. There is a wife here, perhaps, and her husband is in India. He has been long away, and the years of his forced absence have been weary to her. She has had loving messages from him and kind letters, but often has she sighed, and her heart has looked out of the windows towards the east, yearning for his return; but now she has received a letter entreating her to go out to her husband, and without hesitation she has resolved to go. Now, if you ask her what she is going to India for, the reply will be, “I am going to my husband.” But she has a brother there, she has many old friends there, her husband has a handsome estate there. Yes, there may be other inducements to make the voyage, but to be with her beloved is the master object of her journey. She is going to the man she loves with all her soul, and she is longing for the country, whatever that country may be, because he is there. It is so with the Christian, only enhanced in a tenfold degree. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Depart

The word “depart” means strictly to take to pieces. The living man is contemplated as a complex machine, and it is intimated that at death its joints are loosed, and the whole is broken up into its constituent elements. This life in the body is like a watch. By food, and drink, and air, it is wound up daily, and so kept going. At last the machinery, by gradual wear and tear, or by some sudden accident, is brought to a stand. Then it is taken down--taken to pieces--in order that it may be purified and perfected, and set agoing again, not to measure then the changing seasons of time, but to move on, without waste or weariness, in a limitless eternity. More immediately, the dissolution or untying probably refers to the separation of soul and body. The band that knit them together is broken at death. The soul escapes, and the body, meantime, returns to dust. In this view the works of the watch never stand still. When life from God was first breathed into that immortal being, it was wound up, once for all, to go for ever. At the shock of death it is severed from its case of flesh. Outer casement, and figured dial, and pointed hands, all remain with us, and all stand still. But these never were the moving springs. These were shells to protect the tender from injury where the road was rough, and indices to make the movements palpable to bodily sense; but the vital motion of the departed spirit continues uninterrupted, unimpeded, in a region where no violence is dreaded, and no sign to the senses is required. (W. Arnot, D. D.)


Verse 25

Philippians 1:25

Having this confidence--This “I know” of the apostle has something like its parallel in that of Luther, when his friend and true yoke fellow, Melancthon, lay at the point of death.
The reformer, it is said, after earnest prayer approached the sick bed, and uttered these prophetic words, “Cheer up, Philip; you are not going to die.” Luther was in no sense prophesying, but he had been praying; and in answer to his prayer the conviction was irresistibly borne in upon his mind and heart, that his colleague, for whom so much work was waiting, would yet live to do it. What, then, of personal conviction Luther asserted about another, Paul here asserts about himself. We thus see that blended humility and trustfulness, more especially in strongly emotional natures, can dare sometimes to use the bold language of assured conviction even in regard to issues which are to us uncertain, for they are with God alone. But it is to be noticed that this language never can be used when merely personal or private ends are in view. When Paul said “I know” in this case, he was indeed alluding to his own future, but he was contemplating it in relation not to his own individual interests, but solely to his friends’ “progress and joy in the faith,”--their advancement in the inner life through strengthening faith, and their joy, as overflowing out of that faith, in their outward life of Christian service. All this would be theirs by his presence restored to them for a time, more than by any letter, however tender, he could write to them
. (J. Hutchison, D. D.)


Verses 27-30

Philippians 1:27-30

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ

A call to a four-fold manifestation of spiritual life

I.
To holiness (Philippians 1:27). As if he had said, I have one dominating wish in reference to you.

1. It is well to know what God’s princes wish for us. The noblest desire one man can cherish for another is that he may be like Jesus.

2. There is but one ideal life in the Church. But here is a difficulty: how can the lowest copy the highest? Would it not have been wiser to have set forth a man who excelled in one moral feature, and to have said, “Transcribe that,” and so on until all the graces had been gradually acquired? Is not the setting forth of absolute perfection exorbitant and demanding too much from the helpless sinner? Let us see. What does moral perfection begin in? It begins in the disposition, the will, the heart. If you are urged to escape from polar winter to tropical summer, it is not meant that the journey is to be accomplished at a stride, but step by step. When a child is required to be perfect as a musician it is not intended that in one day his uncrafty fingers should liberate the angel strains. So with the growth of the acorn into the oak. And so when our Saviour tells us to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect He means that we are to grow in grace. In all our growing and striving Christ Himself is with us, and His grace is all-sufficient.

II. To unanimity (Philippians 1:27). This is not monotony. The root of true unity is oneness in the love and service of Christ. Christendom is in reality one, though apparently many. The coat is of many colours, the heart is one. This is particularly seen in the time of threatened danger. The armies of defence have never come from any particular section of the Church. How illogical the decision to have nothing to do with religion because the Church is divided. There are so many styles of building, and so many modifications of those styles, some Doric, others classic--are people so perplexed with these varieties as to renounce architecture altogether and resolved to reside in the open air? Try the same with clothing, patriotism, business. Do men give up commerce because some tradesmen are insolvent? Do you give up housekeeping because some chimneys smoke?

III. To courage (Philippians 1:28). Timidity is a symptom of moral feebleness, an impediment in the path of moral progress. Timidity on the part of one may dishearten the courage of a multitude. It arises from distrust in God. How many a man of noble powers and enlarged culture, for want of strength in a crisis, the courage to utter the decisive word, fails and trembles, and becomes the prey of the mean.

IV. Fearlessness in the strife is to be associated with magnanimity in endurance (Philippians 1:29-30). The strong in heart are called to suffer. Suffering is an education, a means of grace. Think of the hidden and silent heroism that is going on day by day. How many a man otherwise mighty fails in suffering! (J. Parker, D. D.)

Christian citizenship

There was one drawback to the apostle’s delight in thinking of the Philippians. It was not doctrinal unsoundness, or denial of his authority, but the spirit of social rivalry and partizanship. This he hints at by the recurrence of the word “all” in the former part of this chapter, and he now deals with it in a most delicate but effective way. He shows, in a manner which they as Roman citizens were quick to understand, the leading duties of gospel citizenship and their enforcing motives.

I. The duties of this Christian citizenship.

1. Stand firmly by the charter of your citizenship--the gospel--all of you, all together. Be a compact body. The apostle puts stress upon the Christian spirit as the outcome of the Christian faith, and does not dream, like some recent men, that the one can exist apart from the other.

2. Be unitedly zealous for the common faith. Zeal for the truth is not only to impel them to stand by the truth, but to make it known. There is a zeal which begins and ends with self, or which will show itself in its own way only, and a zeal which spends itself not so much against the common foe as against those of their own party who differ in minor things. What the apostle commends is a right kind of zeal rightly directed.

3. Be bold in facing your foe. The opposition was formidable--Jews and Gentiles singly and combined; the attack was likely to be sudden.

II. The motives by which they are enforced.

1. An attention to these duties attests their true apprehension and enjoyment of Christianity itself (Philippians 2:1).

2. The power of Divine love.

3. Obedience to those duties will bear witness to the reality of their communion with God.

4. It is also thus a true testimony to the compassion and tenderness which Christ alone puts into men’s hearts.

5. Doing thus you will make my cup of gladness run over. (J. J. Goadby.)

Citizens of heaven

The meaning is, Play the citizen in a manner worthy of the gospel. Paul does not mean, of course, Discharge your civic duties as Christian men, though some Christian Englishmen need that reminder; but their city was the heavenly Jerusalem.

I. Keep fresh the sense of belonging to the mother city. Paul was writing from Rome, where he might see how the consciousness of being a Roman gave dignity to a man. He would kindle a similar feeling in Christians.

1. We belong to another polity than that with which we are connected by the bonds of sense.

2. Therefore it is a great part of Christian discipline to keep a vivid consciousness that there is an unseen order of things. The future life is present to an innumerable company.

3. There is a present connection between all Christians and the heavenly city. The life of Christian men on earth and in heaven is fundamentally the same; in principle, motive, taste, aim, etc. As Philippi was to Rome, so is earth to heaven, a colony on the outskirts of the empire, ringed round by barbarians, and separated by seas, but keeping open its communications, and one in citizenship.

4. Our true habitat is elsewhere; so let us set our affections on things above. The descendants of the original settlers in our colonies talk still of coming to England as going “home,” though they were born in Australia and have lived there all their lives.

5. How need that feeling of detachment from the present sadden our spirits or weaken our interest in things around us? To recognize our separation from the order of things in which we “move” because we “have our being” in that majestic unseen order makes life great, not small.

II. Live by the laws of the city.

1. The Philippian colonists were governed by the code of Rome. They owed no obedience to the law of the province of Macedonia. So Christian men are not to be governed by maxims and rules of conduct which prevail in the province, but from the capital.

2. The gospel is not merely to be believed, but to be obeyed. Like some of the ancient municipal charters, the grant of privileges and proclamation of freedom is also the sovereign code which imposes duties and shapes life. A gospel of laziness and mere exemption from hell is not Paul’s gospel.

3. That law is all-sufficient. In Christ we have the realized ideal, the flawless example, and instead of a thousand precepts, all duty is resolved into one--be like Christ.

4. Live worthy of the gospel, then. How grand the unity and simplicity thus breathed into our duties.

5. Such an all-comprehensive precept is not a mere toothless generality. Let a man try honestly to shape his life by it, and he will find soon enough how close it grips him. The tiny round of the dewdrop is shaped by the same laws which mould the giant planet.

6. It is an exclusive commandment, shutting out obedience to other codes, however common or fashionable. We are governed from home, and give no submission to provincial authorities. Never mind what people say about you, or what may be their maxims or ways. The censures or praises of men need not move us. We report to headquarters, and subordinate estimates need be nothing to us. We appeal unto Caesar.

III. Fight for the advance of the dominions of the city.

1. Like the armed colonies which Rome had on her frontier, who received their bits of land on condition of holding the border against the enemy, and pushing it forward a league or two, so Christian soldiers are set down to be “wardens of the marches,” and to

2. Such work is ever needed, and never more than now, when a wave of unbelief seems passing over us, and when material comfort is so attractive. Close your ranks for the fight.

IV. Be sure of victory.

1. “Terrified” refers to a horse shying or plunging at some object. It is generally things half-seen, and mistaken for something dreadful, that makes horses shy; it is usually a half-look at adversaries and a mistaken estimate of their strength that makes Christians afraid. Go up to your fears and speak to them, and, as ghosts are said to do, they will generally fade away.

2. Such courage is based on a sure hope. “Our citizenship is in heaven.” The outlying colony knows that the Emperor is marching to its relief. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Ministerial solicitude

I. The appropriate metaphor. The Church is a city, set on a hill. The Divine mind has expended infinite treasures on it. It is a masterpiece of perfection. Its foundation is Christ.

1. We expect to see order in a city: so there must be laws and government in the Church.

2. There is to be beauty in a city: so all excellence should be in the Church.

3. In a city we expect commerce; so the Church is to send her merchandise to all parts.

4. In an imperial city we look for the residence of the sovereign, and this is the comfort of the Church--“The Lord of hosts is with us.”

5. As it is a city, it is a place of chartered privileges--the free gifts of the reigning monarch.

II. The general direction. What does this venerable citizen say to his fellow citizens? It is not the profession of citizenship that will avail.

1. With regard to your principles: God gave His Son to die for you rebels; therefore you owe your lives to Him.

2. Let your conversation be as becometh the privileges of the gospel--how varied and rich they are.

3. Let it be as becometh the holy practice required by the gospel. “Let your light so shine,” etc.

III. The particular enumeration.

1. Steadfastness. I never knew a man who was always changing whose piety was deep and sincere. Be steadfast in your attachment to

2. Unity

3. Energy and activity. (T. Mortimer, M. A.)

A minister’s desire on behalf of his people

I. We have a duty. We are citizens of no mean city (Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 12:23). What an unspeakable privilege; our duty is to act up to it (Ephesians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:12).

2. Remember that the glory of the gospel is connected with the conversation of its professors. A treasure is entrusted to you; do not tarnish it, lose it, barter it.

II. Some particulars of our duty specified. “That ye stand fast.” It is easy for a man to be obstinate and head strong in maintaining his own opinions; but the difficulty is for a man to stand fast in the gospel, viz.

1. In one spirit--a steady union of affection (Acts 1:14; Acts 2:46), without jarring or discord.

2. In one spirit for the common faith. When a man’s opinion about the things of the world is attacked, how ready he is to defend it, but what a cold indifference there is about Christian principles.

III. The desire expressed for this gospel conversation. “Only.” Paul seems to have lost sight of other themes--only let me see this, and I shall be happy. This was comprehensive of everything else. (T. Woodroffe.)

Citizenship

(Text in conjunction with Philippians 3:20.) Paul was a Roman citizen. By virtue of this, be possessed rights, privileges, and immunities denied to strangers. He now turns it to spiritual account.

I. True believers are citizens of heaven. Here they are strangers and pilgrims. Their thoughts and affections point to the heavenly Jerusalem. But they cannot say with Paul, “I was free born.” Like the captain, “With a great sum they obtained this freedom” (1 Peter 1:18-19). It is the believer’s interest in Christ, the purchaser of his freedom, which constitutes him a citizen of heaven.

II. Citizens of heaven should reflect in their lives the dignity and holiness of their city. As royal children they must behave royally. We do not expect princely bearing in the pauper, and we look only for earthly mindedness in the citizens of earth. When Alexander was asked to run in the Olympic games, he replied, “I will if kings are to be my antagonists.”

III. Heaven’s laws for the life of its citizens upon earth are contained in the gospel of their king. The one great law of which all the rest are only particular applications is “Christ our life.” “He left us an example.”

IV. Lives which harmonize and illustrate these laws are worthy of the heaven to which they belong. Lessons:

1. Prize the privilege.

2. Study the laws.

3. Live the life. (J. B. Norton.)

Conversation becoming the gospel

Consider--

I. The gospel in--

1. The dignity which it confers.

2. The knowledge it communicates.

3. The spirit it enjoins. Peace with God, joy, God’s love, the manifestation of the mercy we enjoy, walking in love, blamelessly.

II. The attendant advantages.

1. Stedfastness. Changing circumstances, heresies, worldliness, try this stability.

2. Unity.

3. Zeal for the success of the truth.

Conversation becoming the gospel

I. What in the gospel must our conversation become?

1. The doctrine of the gospel. Living as those who believe--

2. The discipline of the gospel. That all things be done--

3. Our expectations from the gospel. Live as those who expect (1 John 3:4)--

4. Our profession of the gospel, for which we have these rules.

II. Why walk as becometh the gospel?

1. Otherwise we are a shame to the gospel (Hebrews 6:6).

2. Enemies to Christ (Philippians 3:18-19).

3. You will receive no benefit from the gospel (Hebrews 4:1-2).

4. The gospel will rise in judgment against you (John 3:19).

5. But if you walk as becometh the gospel, all its promises shall be made good unto you (John 1:29; John 14:2; Matthew 25:34).

III. What conversation is that which becometh the gospel?

1. Towards God.

2. Towards man.

IV. Use. Walk thus according to the gospel.

1. Motives.

2. Means.

Conversation becoming the gospel

I. A conversation becoming the gospel must be wise, for the gospel is a system of knowledge. Hence it is called light. There are three states with regard to gospel knowledge.

1. The heathen are children of night.

2. The Jews had some light.

3. Christians are children of the light and of the day. Christians ought to excel in this light.

II. A conversation becoming the gospel should be cheerful, for the gospel is a system of joy.

1. As such it was predicted.

2. Joyful results universally followed its establishment.

3. It has lost none of its power to bless.

III. A conversation becoming the gospel must be holy, for the gospel is a system of sanctity.

1. There is no holiness in theory or practice outside. But--

2. The gospel

IV. A conversation worthy the gospel should be charitable, for the gospel is a system of benevolence. Nothing is more unbecoming to it than a selfish, grasping temper. (W. Jay.)

Christian consistency

I. Paul “pleaded for a consistent Christian Church. The Christian’s life is to harmonize with his creed. His life must be characterized by--

1. Truthfulness. God is the author of truth; the Holy Spirit the spirit of truth; the gospel the word of truth; and the Christian must be a man of truth.

2. Love. This is the first and great commandment in the evidence of discipleship, the inspiration of duty, and is due to foes as well as friends.

3. Holiness in thought, desire, and action.

II. For a united Church. The early Christians were frequently exhorted to be one in faith, feeling, spirit, and action; the bond was to be love, and the end the establishment of the gospel. This union was necessary--

1. To resist their common adversaries, who were and are combined, persistent, powerful.

2. To develop their Christian graces. Our minds and hearts are enlarged by the intercourse of good men. The bold encourage the timid, the wise instruct the ignorant, the strong shelter the weak. The manifold diversities of our nature and condition constitute the perfection of the Church, as the members of the body.

3. To establish the true faith. The success of the whole depends on the agreement of the parts.

III. For a zealous Church. Christians are to stand by, struggle for, suffer, and even die with one another.

1. This zeal is demanded for a noble object.

2. The object inspires the zeal. It calls into exercise our highest faculties; it informs the judgment, subdues the will, sanctifies the affections, and ennobles the soul. It has done more for the race than all the moralists or philanthropists who have ever lived.

3. This zeal is to be exercised in a commendable spirit, “together.” Christians are not to strive against one another. The earnest Christian has no time for useless debate. Cultivate the spirit of brotherly sympathy. (G. J. Procter.)

Christian consistency

I. What is that deportment which becometh a professor of the gospel of Christ?

1. With respect to the world.

2. With respect to his prevailing sentiments.

3. With respect to sin.

4. With respect to the aim and business of his life. To promote the glory of God (Matthew 5:14-16; 1 Corinthians 10:31-32).

II. Why such a deportment should be maintained.

1. Because it would bring joy to those who watch for your souls (Philippians 2:1; Philippians 4:1).

2. Because of the advantage--“the witness in yourself” of your conversion.

3. Because it prepares the mind for the season of affliction and the solemnities of death.

4. Because it is the will and commandment of Christ.

Conclusion:

1. The world vigilantly watches and judges the character and conduct of professors. The want of consistency in Christians has done more harm to Christianity than all the ravings of infidels.

2. God’s eye is constantly upon us.

3. The plea of not being a professor will be no plea in the hour of death for a sinful life. (I. Spencer, D. D.)

Christian consistency

I. The general character of Christian consistency.

II. Its special requirements.

III. Paramount importance.

IV. Gratifying results. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. What the conduct is which becomes the gospel.

1. It must be the genuine result of gospel dispositions. Conduct is the birth of principle; what is seen in the life is the development of what exists in the heart. The tree must be good before the fruit can be good. But we must not judge altogether by outward appearance. All is not gold that glitters. A fair show in the flesh is naught unless the heart be right with God. The gospel makes the heart right.

2. Must be maintained under the influence of gospel principles and in the use of gospel ordinances. Everything is liable to deterioration; institutions, buildings, metals of the finest polish, Christians of the most exalted piety. We must live by faith, by the love of God in the keeping of His commandments, by an attention to the means of grace.

3. Must resemble gospel patterns. The gospel is not a collection of maxims and doctrines so much as an exhibition of examples. “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

4. Must be conformable to gospel precepts. The gospel is not merely an offer of mercy and a promise of blessing. The law is not made void through faith. Where much is given, much is required. The epitome of these precepts is “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world.”

II. What obligations are we under to maintain this conduct?

1. God requires it. For this end He has given His revelation. “Not every one that saith, Lord, Lord,” etc. The will of God is righteous, and no creature can resist it with impunity.

2. Consistency requires it. Profession without practice is hypocrisy. Actions speak louder than words. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

3. Our personal comfort requires it. “Our rejoicing is the testimony of our conscience.” Without this peace is a delusion.

4. Our connection with society requires it. We owe to society what we cannot adequately repay but by the blessings of the life of the gospel.

5. Our final salvation requires it. We shall be judged according to our works.

Conclusion:

1. How excellent is the Christian religion.

2. How illiberal and unreasonable to censure it on account of its inconsistent professors. (R. Treffry.)

The gospel

’s power in a Christian’s life:--

I. What the gospel is.

1. It is the gospel of Christ because--

2. It is the gospel of Christ. Good news.

II. Our conversation must be such as becometh the gospel. The gospel is--

1. Simple. So should we be in our dress, our speech, our behaviour. Wherever you find the Christian you ought not to want a key to him. He should be a transparent man like Nathaniel and “as little children.”

2. True. Gold without dross. So should the Christian be in his talk. There should be no scandal, oath taking, equivocation, still less lying.

3. Fearless. It calls things by their right names, and is the very reverse of what is now called charity. Be honest and brave in your profession and action,

4. Gentle. Bad temper is quite contrary to the gospel. Have a lion’s heart, but a lady’s hand.

5. Loving. Without love the Christian is as sounding brass.

6. Merciful. Harsh or miserly people do not become the gospel.

7. Holy. The Christian must be holy as Christ is holy.

III. The stern necessity of a conversation that becometh the gospel.

1. If you do not live like this you will make your innocent fellow members suffer. You tempt others, and bring discredit on the whole Church.

2. You make your Lord suffer. The world lays your sin at the door of your religion.

3. You will pull down all the witness you have ever borne for Christ. How can your children, neighbours, etc., believe you if you act inconsistently. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christian conduct is made up of little things

See to it that each hour’s feelings, and thoughts, and actions are pure and true; then will your life be such. The mightiest maze of magnificent harmonies that ever a Beethoven gave to the world, is but single notes, and all its complicated and interlacing strains are resolvable into individualities. The wide pasture is but separate spears of grass; the sheeted bloom of the prairies but isolated flowers.

Striving together for the faith of the gospel--

1. The phrase, “faith of the gospel,” has a distinct significance in the New Testament. It refers to the Divine revelation of mercy and love in the Son of God, and its acceptance by earnest and penitent trust. It is connected with long lives of antecedent prophecy, symbolical services, the constant yearning of the world for a Redeemer, and the Messianic hope of the Jews.

2. This message of redemption meets with endless forms of acceptance and rejection.

3. It is one of the vital questions of the day how to meet and overcome this opposition.

I. The pulpit is naturally called into requisition.

1. But is it to be the teacher of philosophy? Then its function is to wrestle with the doubts, to antagonize the unbelief of the day. But this attitude is only a negative one, and to take up in detail the varied assaults would only be to advertize and disseminate them.

2. The real business of the pulpit, as de fined by Scripture, is to preach Christ and Him crucified, and by the proclamation of positive truth there the unbelief of the day will best be met.

II. The press competes with the pulpit in the education of the multitude. Here unbelief finds full and systematized expression, but so may and so does Christianity. The bane and the antidote exist side by side, and sceptical assaults along the whole line of the faith have been repelled in current literature. Here scientific objections can be and are met by scientific men.

III. But the individual Christian life is the best defender of the faith. The union of Christians in the conversation which becometh the gospel will render the faith invincible. (W. A. Snively, D. D.)

Means in aid of the propagation of the gospel

I. The faith of the gospel. “The faith which was once delivered to the saints,” “the truth as it is in Jesus”: viz.--

1. The truth about God. His unity and three-fold Personality.

2. About man--his fall and ruin.

3. About redemption--the Incarnation and Atonement of Christ; the acceptance of salvation by faith; regeneration and sanctification by the Holy Ghost.

4. About immortality.

II. The import of the apostle’s language concerning it. The Philippians are to strive together for it. The gospel was a precious deposit; they were to hold it fast in opposition to all who would rob them of it; they were to preserve it in its original purity, in opposition to those who sought to adulterate it. But it was not to be a concealed treasure, or appropriated exclusively by themselves, but was to be communicated to their fellow men.

1. All Christians may and must aid in disseminating the faith of the gospel. Some think this the business of ministers. Paul told the “saints” as well as the bishops and deacons to do it. Christians may do this.

2. In this good work Christians should be zealous. “Striving” as the competitors in the games. Nothing is more offensive to Christ than lukewarmness.

Unity and action

I. The object for whose perpetuity you are to cooperate. The whole gospel, not its promises, or precepts, or doctrines alone, still less any particular views relating to them, such as Calvinism or Arminianism. We have to contend for the faith, not a fragment of it. Why are Christians to strive together for this?

1. Because they alone understand and prize it. By the grace of the Spirit they see its value. To them Christ is all. His gospel is the book of their hearts. They cannot but love what is precious. To others it may be dull.

2. Because to them its honourable privileges are granted. Their religious privileges become duties in consequence of their obligations to Him who had saved them. Their duties become privileges in consequence of their low: to Him who first loved them.

3. Because the enemies of the Master are watchful and active.

II. The position you are to maintain. It was net required of them to assume the position of an united phalanx. God had assigned that as He has to us. We are simply to “stand fast in one spirit” in it. You have the gospel verities--unitedly maintain them. Divide and conquer is the policy of the adversary; close your ranks and win is ours. “Every kingdom divided against itself shall not stand.”

III. The unity of purpose you are to cherish.

1. Be of one mind on the subject of unity itself.

2. On the subject of social prayer: “If two of you shall agree, etc.”

3. With respect to the mutual ministry: Support your pastors and love them.

4. In doing good to all men. (W. Leask, D. D.)

Stand fast

The word στήκετε in the original signifies to hold on, and to remain firm at one’s post, and is derived from the combats, in which each endeavour to keep his place, and to maintain himself in his seat, without going back, or being shaken by all the attacks of the enemy. The apostle, employing this image to represent to us the life of the faithful, means, that in this spiritual warfare we should never allow ourselves to be drawn from that position in which God has placed us, and that all together, like his faithful and valiant soldiers, courageously repulsing the enemy, we should always stand firm, without quitting either the faith or the profession which by His grace we have made. (J. Daille.)

Striving together

As a wrestler grapples his antagonist, and strains himself for the mastery, so the Christian must struggle against every enemy of the truth. (G. J. Procter.)

Concord in the Church

As there is no body or society more noble than the Church, so there is none in which union and concord are more necessary. You are begotten of the same seed, i.e., of the gospel, brought up in the same family, nourished with the same food, animated by the same spirit, destined to the same inheritance. If so many close ties cannot unite you, at any rate let this common warfare in which you are engaged, this common danger that you run, and these common enemies with whom you contend, extinguish your differences, and make you rally together for your common preservation and defence. Often among the kingdoms of the earth, the fear of an enemy without stays the misunderstandings and quarrels within. Let us imitate in this respect the prudence of the children of this world. Whatever you may have of wisdom or courage, turn it against the enemy. May he alone feel the vigour of your arm, and the point of your weapons. It is not against your brother that they should be employed. They are made, and they have been given you, to defend, and not to wound him; to preserve, and not to shed his blood. I say it with regret, it is nothing but our division, my brethren, which has prevented the defeat of the enemy, and the triumph of the Church. If we had all fought together, we should long ago have been conquerors. (J. Daille.)


Verses 27-30

Philippians 1:27-30

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ

A call to a four-fold manifestation of spiritual life

I.
To holiness (Philippians 1:27). As if he had said, I have one dominating wish in reference to you.

1. It is well to know what God’s princes wish for us. The noblest desire one man can cherish for another is that he may be like Jesus.

2. There is but one ideal life in the Church. But here is a difficulty: how can the lowest copy the highest? Would it not have been wiser to have set forth a man who excelled in one moral feature, and to have said, “Transcribe that,” and so on until all the graces had been gradually acquired? Is not the setting forth of absolute perfection exorbitant and demanding too much from the helpless sinner? Let us see. What does moral perfection begin in? It begins in the disposition, the will, the heart. If you are urged to escape from polar winter to tropical summer, it is not meant that the journey is to be accomplished at a stride, but step by step. When a child is required to be perfect as a musician it is not intended that in one day his uncrafty fingers should liberate the angel strains. So with the growth of the acorn into the oak. And so when our Saviour tells us to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect He means that we are to grow in grace. In all our growing and striving Christ Himself is with us, and His grace is all-sufficient.

II. To unanimity (Philippians 1:27). This is not monotony. The root of true unity is oneness in the love and service of Christ. Christendom is in reality one, though apparently many. The coat is of many colours, the heart is one. This is particularly seen in the time of threatened danger. The armies of defence have never come from any particular section of the Church. How illogical the decision to have nothing to do with religion because the Church is divided. There are so many styles of building, and so many modifications of those styles, some Doric, others classic--are people so perplexed with these varieties as to renounce architecture altogether and resolved to reside in the open air? Try the same with clothing, patriotism, business. Do men give up commerce because some tradesmen are insolvent? Do you give up housekeeping because some chimneys smoke?

III. To courage (Philippians 1:28). Timidity is a symptom of moral feebleness, an impediment in the path of moral progress. Timidity on the part of one may dishearten the courage of a multitude. It arises from distrust in God. How many a man of noble powers and enlarged culture, for want of strength in a crisis, the courage to utter the decisive word, fails and trembles, and becomes the prey of the mean.

IV. Fearlessness in the strife is to be associated with magnanimity in endurance (Philippians 1:29-30). The strong in heart are called to suffer. Suffering is an education, a means of grace. Think of the hidden and silent heroism that is going on day by day. How many a man otherwise mighty fails in suffering! (J. Parker, D. D.)

Christian citizenship

There was one drawback to the apostle’s delight in thinking of the Philippians. It was not doctrinal unsoundness, or denial of his authority, but the spirit of social rivalry and partizanship. This he hints at by the recurrence of the word “all” in the former part of this chapter, and he now deals with it in a most delicate but effective way. He shows, in a manner which they as Roman citizens were quick to understand, the leading duties of gospel citizenship and their enforcing motives.

I. The duties of this Christian citizenship.

1. Stand firmly by the charter of your citizenship--the gospel--all of you, all together. Be a compact body. The apostle puts stress upon the Christian spirit as the outcome of the Christian faith, and does not dream, like some recent men, that the one can exist apart from the other.

2. Be unitedly zealous for the common faith. Zeal for the truth is not only to impel them to stand by the truth, but to make it known. There is a zeal which begins and ends with self, or which will show itself in its own way only, and a zeal which spends itself not so much against the common foe as against those of their own party who differ in minor things. What the apostle commends is a right kind of zeal rightly directed.

3. Be bold in facing your foe. The opposition was formidable--Jews and Gentiles singly and combined; the attack was likely to be sudden.

II. The motives by which they are enforced.

1. An attention to these duties attests their true apprehension and enjoyment of Christianity itself (Philippians 2:1).

2. The power of Divine love.

3. Obedience to those duties will bear witness to the reality of their communion with God.

4. It is also thus a true testimony to the compassion and tenderness which Christ alone puts into men’s hearts.

5. Doing thus you will make my cup of gladness run over. (J. J. Goadby.)

Citizens of heaven

The meaning is, Play the citizen in a manner worthy of the gospel. Paul does not mean, of course, Discharge your civic duties as Christian men, though some Christian Englishmen need that reminder; but their city was the heavenly Jerusalem.

I. Keep fresh the sense of belonging to the mother city. Paul was writing from Rome, where he might see how the consciousness of being a Roman gave dignity to a man. He would kindle a similar feeling in Christians.

1. We belong to another polity than that with which we are connected by the bonds of sense.

2. Therefore it is a great part of Christian discipline to keep a vivid consciousness that there is an unseen order of things. The future life is present to an innumerable company.

3. There is a present connection between all Christians and the heavenly city. The life of Christian men on earth and in heaven is fundamentally the same; in principle, motive, taste, aim, etc. As Philippi was to Rome, so is earth to heaven, a colony on the outskirts of the empire, ringed round by barbarians, and separated by seas, but keeping open its communications, and one in citizenship.

4. Our true habitat is elsewhere; so let us set our affections on things above. The descendants of the original settlers in our colonies talk still of coming to England as going “home,” though they were born in Australia and have lived there all their lives.

5. How need that feeling of detachment from the present sadden our spirits or weaken our interest in things around us? To recognize our separation from the order of things in which we “move” because we “have our being” in that majestic unseen order makes life great, not small.

II. Live by the laws of the city.

1. The Philippian colonists were governed by the code of Rome. They owed no obedience to the law of the province of Macedonia. So Christian men are not to be governed by maxims and rules of conduct which prevail in the province, but from the capital.

2. The gospel is not merely to be believed, but to be obeyed. Like some of the ancient municipal charters, the grant of privileges and proclamation of freedom is also the sovereign code which imposes duties and shapes life. A gospel of laziness and mere exemption from hell is not Paul’s gospel.

3. That law is all-sufficient. In Christ we have the realized ideal, the flawless example, and instead of a thousand precepts, all duty is resolved into one--be like Christ.

4. Live worthy of the gospel, then. How grand the unity and simplicity thus breathed into our duties.

5. Such an all-comprehensive precept is not a mere toothless generality. Let a man try honestly to shape his life by it, and he will find soon enough how close it grips him. The tiny round of the dewdrop is shaped by the same laws which mould the giant planet.

6. It is an exclusive commandment, shutting out obedience to other codes, however common or fashionable. We are governed from home, and give no submission to provincial authorities. Never mind what people say about you, or what may be their maxims or ways. The censures or praises of men need not move us. We report to headquarters, and subordinate estimates need be nothing to us. We appeal unto Caesar.

III. Fight for the advance of the dominions of the city.

1. Like the armed colonies which Rome had on her frontier, who received their bits of land on condition of holding the border against the enemy, and pushing it forward a league or two, so Christian soldiers are set down to be “wardens of the marches,” and to

2. Such work is ever needed, and never more than now, when a wave of unbelief seems passing over us, and when material comfort is so attractive. Close your ranks for the fight.

IV. Be sure of victory.

1. “Terrified” refers to a horse shying or plunging at some object. It is generally things half-seen, and mistaken for something dreadful, that makes horses shy; it is usually a half-look at adversaries and a mistaken estimate of their strength that makes Christians afraid. Go up to your fears and speak to them, and, as ghosts are said to do, they will generally fade away.

2. Such courage is based on a sure hope. “Our citizenship is in heaven.” The outlying colony knows that the Emperor is marching to its relief. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Ministerial solicitude

I. The appropriate metaphor. The Church is a city, set on a hill. The Divine mind has expended infinite treasures on it. It is a masterpiece of perfection. Its foundation is Christ.

1. We expect to see order in a city: so there must be laws and government in the Church.

2. There is to be beauty in a city: so all excellence should be in the Church.

3. In a city we expect commerce; so the Church is to send her merchandise to all parts.

4. In an imperial city we look for the residence of the sovereign, and this is the comfort of the Church--“The Lord of hosts is with us.”

5. As it is a city, it is a place of chartered privileges--the free gifts of the reigning monarch.

II. The general direction. What does this venerable citizen say to his fellow citizens? It is not the profession of citizenship that will avail.

1. With regard to your principles: God gave His Son to die for you rebels; therefore you owe your lives to Him.

2. Let your conversation be as becometh the privileges of the gospel--how varied and rich they are.

3. Let it be as becometh the holy practice required by the gospel. “Let your light so shine,” etc.

III. The particular enumeration.

1. Steadfastness. I never knew a man who was always changing whose piety was deep and sincere. Be steadfast in your attachment to

2. Unity

3. Energy and activity. (T. Mortimer, M. A.)

A minister’s desire on behalf of his people

I. We have a duty. We are citizens of no mean city (Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 12:23). What an unspeakable privilege; our duty is to act up to it (Ephesians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:12).

2. Remember that the glory of the gospel is connected with the conversation of its professors. A treasure is entrusted to you; do not tarnish it, lose it, barter it.

II. Some particulars of our duty specified. “That ye stand fast.” It is easy for a man to be obstinate and head strong in maintaining his own opinions; but the difficulty is for a man to stand fast in the gospel, viz.

1. In one spirit--a steady union of affection (Acts 1:14; Acts 2:46), without jarring or discord.

2. In one spirit for the common faith. When a man’s opinion about the things of the world is attacked, how ready he is to defend it, but what a cold indifference there is about Christian principles.

III. The desire expressed for this gospel conversation. “Only.” Paul seems to have lost sight of other themes--only let me see this, and I shall be happy. This was comprehensive of everything else. (T. Woodroffe.)

Citizenship

(Text in conjunction with Philippians 3:20.) Paul was a Roman citizen. By virtue of this, be possessed rights, privileges, and immunities denied to strangers. He now turns it to spiritual account.

I. True believers are citizens of heaven. Here they are strangers and pilgrims. Their thoughts and affections point to the heavenly Jerusalem. But they cannot say with Paul, “I was free born.” Like the captain, “With a great sum they obtained this freedom” (1 Peter 1:18-19). It is the believer’s interest in Christ, the purchaser of his freedom, which constitutes him a citizen of heaven.

II. Citizens of heaven should reflect in their lives the dignity and holiness of their city. As royal children they must behave royally. We do not expect princely bearing in the pauper, and we look only for earthly mindedness in the citizens of earth. When Alexander was asked to run in the Olympic games, he replied, “I will if kings are to be my antagonists.”

III. Heaven’s laws for the life of its citizens upon earth are contained in the gospel of their king. The one great law of which all the rest are only particular applications is “Christ our life.” “He left us an example.”

IV. Lives which harmonize and illustrate these laws are worthy of the heaven to which they belong. Lessons:

1. Prize the privilege.

2. Study the laws.

3. Live the life. (J. B. Norton.)

Conversation becoming the gospel

Consider--

I. The gospel in--

1. The dignity which it confers.

2. The knowledge it communicates.

3. The spirit it enjoins. Peace with God, joy, God’s love, the manifestation of the mercy we enjoy, walking in love, blamelessly.

II. The attendant advantages.

1. Stedfastness. Changing circumstances, heresies, worldliness, try this stability.

2. Unity.

3. Zeal for the success of the truth.

Conversation becoming the gospel

I. What in the gospel must our conversation become?

1. The doctrine of the gospel. Living as those who believe--

2. The discipline of the gospel. That all things be done--

3. Our expectations from the gospel. Live as those who expect (1 John 3:4)--

4. Our profession of the gospel, for which we have these rules.

II. Why walk as becometh the gospel?

1. Otherwise we are a shame to the gospel (Hebrews 6:6).

2. Enemies to Christ (Philippians 3:18-19).

3. You will receive no benefit from the gospel (Hebrews 4:1-2).

4. The gospel will rise in judgment against you (John 3:19).

5. But if you walk as becometh the gospel, all its promises shall be made good unto you (John 1:29; John 14:2; Matthew 25:34).

III. What conversation is that which becometh the gospel?

1. Towards God.

2. Towards man.

IV. Use. Walk thus according to the gospel.

1. Motives.

2. Means.

Conversation becoming the gospel

I. A conversation becoming the gospel must be wise, for the gospel is a system of knowledge. Hence it is called light. There are three states with regard to gospel knowledge.

1. The heathen are children of night.

2. The Jews had some light.

3. Christians are children of the light and of the day. Christians ought to excel in this light.

II. A conversation becoming the gospel should be cheerful, for the gospel is a system of joy.

1. As such it was predicted.

2. Joyful results universally followed its establishment.

3. It has lost none of its power to bless.

III. A conversation becoming the gospel must be holy, for the gospel is a system of sanctity.

1. There is no holiness in theory or practice outside. But--

2. The gospel

IV. A conversation worthy the gospel should be charitable, for the gospel is a system of benevolence. Nothing is more unbecoming to it than a selfish, grasping temper. (W. Jay.)

Christian consistency

I. Paul “pleaded for a consistent Christian Church. The Christian’s life is to harmonize with his creed. His life must be characterized by--

1. Truthfulness. God is the author of truth; the Holy Spirit the spirit of truth; the gospel the word of truth; and the Christian must be a man of truth.

2. Love. This is the first and great commandment in the evidence of discipleship, the inspiration of duty, and is due to foes as well as friends.

3. Holiness in thought, desire, and action.

II. For a united Church. The early Christians were frequently exhorted to be one in faith, feeling, spirit, and action; the bond was to be love, and the end the establishment of the gospel. This union was necessary--

1. To resist their common adversaries, who were and are combined, persistent, powerful.

2. To develop their Christian graces. Our minds and hearts are enlarged by the intercourse of good men. The bold encourage the timid, the wise instruct the ignorant, the strong shelter the weak. The manifold diversities of our nature and condition constitute the perfection of the Church, as the members of the body.

3. To establish the true faith. The success of the whole depends on the agreement of the parts.

III. For a zealous Church. Christians are to stand by, struggle for, suffer, and even die with one another.

1. This zeal is demanded for a noble object.

2. The object inspires the zeal. It calls into exercise our highest faculties; it informs the judgment, subdues the will, sanctifies the affections, and ennobles the soul. It has done more for the race than all the moralists or philanthropists who have ever lived.

3. This zeal is to be exercised in a commendable spirit, “together.” Christians are not to strive against one another. The earnest Christian has no time for useless debate. Cultivate the spirit of brotherly sympathy. (G. J. Procter.)

Christian consistency

I. What is that deportment which becometh a professor of the gospel of Christ?

1. With respect to the world.

2. With respect to his prevailing sentiments.

3. With respect to sin.

4. With respect to the aim and business of his life. To promote the glory of God (Matthew 5:14-16; 1 Corinthians 10:31-32).

II. Why such a deportment should be maintained.

1. Because it would bring joy to those who watch for your souls (Philippians 2:1; Philippians 4:1).

2. Because of the advantage--“the witness in yourself” of your conversion.

3. Because it prepares the mind for the season of affliction and the solemnities of death.

4. Because it is the will and commandment of Christ.

Conclusion:

1. The world vigilantly watches and judges the character and conduct of professors. The want of consistency in Christians has done more harm to Christianity than all the ravings of infidels.

2. God’s eye is constantly upon us.

3. The plea of not being a professor will be no plea in the hour of death for a sinful life. (I. Spencer, D. D.)

Christian consistency

I. The general character of Christian consistency.

II. Its special requirements.

III. Paramount importance.

IV. Gratifying results. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. What the conduct is which becomes the gospel.

1. It must be the genuine result of gospel dispositions. Conduct is the birth of principle; what is seen in the life is the development of what exists in the heart. The tree must be good before the fruit can be good. But we must not judge altogether by outward appearance. All is not gold that glitters. A fair show in the flesh is naught unless the heart be right with God. The gospel makes the heart right.

2. Must be maintained under the influence of gospel principles and in the use of gospel ordinances. Everything is liable to deterioration; institutions, buildings, metals of the finest polish, Christians of the most exalted piety. We must live by faith, by the love of God in the keeping of His commandments, by an attention to the means of grace.

3. Must resemble gospel patterns. The gospel is not a collection of maxims and doctrines so much as an exhibition of examples. “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

4. Must be conformable to gospel precepts. The gospel is not merely an offer of mercy and a promise of blessing. The law is not made void through faith. Where much is given, much is required. The epitome of these precepts is “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world.”

II. What obligations are we under to maintain this conduct?

1. God requires it. For this end He has given His revelation. “Not every one that saith, Lord, Lord,” etc. The will of God is righteous, and no creature can resist it with impunity.

2. Consistency requires it. Profession without practice is hypocrisy. Actions speak louder than words. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

3. Our personal comfort requires it. “Our rejoicing is the testimony of our conscience.” Without this peace is a delusion.

4. Our connection with society requires it. We owe to society what we cannot adequately repay but by the blessings of the life of the gospel.

5. Our final salvation requires it. We shall be judged according to our works.

Conclusion:

1. How excellent is the Christian religion.

2. How illiberal and unreasonable to censure it on account of its inconsistent professors. (R. Treffry.)

The gospel

’s power in a Christian’s life:--

I. What the gospel is.

1. It is the gospel of Christ because--

2. It is the gospel of Christ. Good news.

II. Our conversation must be such as becometh the gospel. The gospel is--

1. Simple. So should we be in our dress, our speech, our behaviour. Wherever you find the Christian you ought not to want a key to him. He should be a transparent man like Nathaniel and “as little children.”

2. True. Gold without dross. So should the Christian be in his talk. There should be no scandal, oath taking, equivocation, still less lying.

3. Fearless. It calls things by their right names, and is the very reverse of what is now called charity. Be honest and brave in your profession and action,

4. Gentle. Bad temper is quite contrary to the gospel. Have a lion’s heart, but a lady’s hand.

5. Loving. Without love the Christian is as sounding brass.

6. Merciful. Harsh or miserly people do not become the gospel.

7. Holy. The Christian must be holy as Christ is holy.

III. The stern necessity of a conversation that becometh the gospel.

1. If you do not live like this you will make your innocent fellow members suffer. You tempt others, and bring discredit on the whole Church.

2. You make your Lord suffer. The world lays your sin at the door of your religion.

3. You will pull down all the witness you have ever borne for Christ. How can your children, neighbours, etc., believe you if you act inconsistently. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christian conduct is made up of little things

See to it that each hour’s feelings, and thoughts, and actions are pure and true; then will your life be such. The mightiest maze of magnificent harmonies that ever a Beethoven gave to the world, is but single notes, and all its complicated and interlacing strains are resolvable into individualities. The wide pasture is but separate spears of grass; the sheeted bloom of the prairies but isolated flowers.

Striving together for the faith of the gospel--

1. The phrase, “faith of the gospel,” has a distinct significance in the New Testament. It refers to the Divine revelation of mercy and love in the Son of God, and its acceptance by earnest and penitent trust. It is connected with long lives of antecedent prophecy, symbolical services, the constant yearning of the world for a Redeemer, and the Messianic hope of the Jews.

2. This message of redemption meets with endless forms of acceptance and rejection.

3. It is one of the vital questions of the day how to meet and overcome this opposition.

I. The pulpit is naturally called into requisition.

1. But is it to be the teacher of philosophy? Then its function is to wrestle with the doubts, to antagonize the unbelief of the day. But this attitude is only a negative one, and to take up in detail the varied assaults would only be to advertize and disseminate them.

2. The real business of the pulpit, as de fined by Scripture, is to preach Christ and Him crucified, and by the proclamation of positive truth there the unbelief of the day will best be met.

II. The press competes with the pulpit in the education of the multitude. Here unbelief finds full and systematized expression, but so may and so does Christianity. The bane and the antidote exist side by side, and sceptical assaults along the whole line of the faith have been repelled in current literature. Here scientific objections can be and are met by scientific men.

III. But the individual Christian life is the best defender of the faith. The union of Christians in the conversation which becometh the gospel will render the faith invincible. (W. A. Snively, D. D.)

Means in aid of the propagation of the gospel

I. The faith of the gospel. “The faith which was once delivered to the saints,” “the truth as it is in Jesus”: viz.--

1. The truth about God. His unity and three-fold Personality.

2. About man--his fall and ruin.

3. About redemption--the Incarnation and Atonement of Christ; the acceptance of salvation by faith; regeneration and sanctification by the Holy Ghost.

4. About immortality.

II. The import of the apostle’s language concerning it. The Philippians are to strive together for it. The gospel was a precious deposit; they were to hold it fast in opposition to all who would rob them of it; they were to preserve it in its original purity, in opposition to those who sought to adulterate it. But it was not to be a concealed treasure, or appropriated exclusively by themselves, but was to be communicated to their fellow men.

1. All Christians may and must aid in disseminating the faith of the gospel. Some think this the business of ministers. Paul told the “saints” as well as the bishops and deacons to do it. Christians may do this.

2. In this good work Christians should be zealous. “Striving” as the competitors in the games. Nothing is more offensive to Christ than lukewarmness.

Unity and action

I. The object for whose perpetuity you are to cooperate. The whole gospel, not its promises, or precepts, or doctrines alone, still less any particular views relating to them, such as Calvinism or Arminianism. We have to contend for the faith, not a fragment of it. Why are Christians to strive together for this?

1. Because they alone understand and prize it. By the grace of the Spirit they see its value. To them Christ is all. His gospel is the book of their hearts. They cannot but love what is precious. To others it may be dull.

2. Because to them its honourable privileges are granted. Their religious privileges become duties in consequence of their obligations to Him who had saved them. Their duties become privileges in consequence of their low: to Him who first loved them.

3. Because the enemies of the Master are watchful and active.

II. The position you are to maintain. It was net required of them to assume the position of an united phalanx. God had assigned that as He has to us. We are simply to “stand fast in one spirit” in it. You have the gospel verities--unitedly maintain them. Divide and conquer is the policy of the adversary; close your ranks and win is ours. “Every kingdom divided against itself shall not stand.”

III. The unity of purpose you are to cherish.

1. Be of one mind on the subject of unity itself.

2. On the subject of social prayer: “If two of you shall agree, etc.”

3. With respect to the mutual ministry: Support your pastors and love them.

4. In doing good to all men. (W. Leask, D. D.)

Stand fast

The word στήκετε in the original signifies to hold on, and to remain firm at one’s post, and is derived from the combats, in which each endeavour to keep his place, and to maintain himself in his seat, without going back, or being shaken by all the attacks of the enemy. The apostle, employing this image to represent to us the life of the faithful, means, that in this spiritual warfare we should never allow ourselves to be drawn from that position in which God has placed us, and that all together, like his faithful and valiant soldiers, courageously repulsing the enemy, we should always stand firm, without quitting either the faith or the profession which by His grace we have made. (J. Daille.)

Striving together

As a wrestler grapples his antagonist, and strains himself for the mastery, so the Christian must struggle against every enemy of the truth. (G. J. Procter.)

Concord in the Church

As there is no body or society more noble than the Church, so there is none in which union and concord are more necessary. You are begotten of the same seed, i.e., of the gospel, brought up in the same family, nourished with the same food, animated by the same spirit, destined to the same inheritance. If so many close ties cannot unite you, at any rate let this common warfare in which you are engaged, this common danger that you run, and these common enemies with whom you contend, extinguish your differences, and make you rally together for your common preservation and defence. Often among the kingdoms of the earth, the fear of an enemy without stays the misunderstandings and quarrels within. Let us imitate in this respect the prudence of the children of this world. Whatever you may have of wisdom or courage, turn it against the enemy. May he alone feel the vigour of your arm, and the point of your weapons. It is not against your brother that they should be employed. They are made, and they have been given you, to defend, and not to wound him; to preserve, and not to shed his blood. I say it with regret, it is nothing but our division, my brethren, which has prevented the defeat of the enemy, and the triumph of the Church. If we had all fought together, we should long ago have been conquerors. (J. Daille.)


Verse 28

Philippians 1:28

In nothing terrified by your adversaries

Courage

I.
The need Of it.

II. The proofs of it.

III. The advantage of it; it is a sign of perdition to your foes--of salvation to you. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. Your adversaries are numerous, mighty, terrible, yet they will certainly perish.

II. Your salvation is near, sure, glorious, and that of God. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

An evident token of perdition.

Tokens of perdition

Perdition means hopeless ruin. A token is a premonition. The natural world is full of warnings. A change in the atmosphere or in the order of things, a coming disaster or great event, is heralded by certain phenomena, which long experience and observation know how to interpret. So also in the political, social, moral, and religious spheres. So evident are these tokens to the discerning that it is not difficult to forecast the future. On this principle Paul interprets the conduct of adversaries. And every preacher of the gospel is warranted in accepting certain traits of character and developments of depravity as “evident tokens of perdition” in those in whom they are found, and hold them forth as warnings, “beacon lights” in the world. Let me specify a few such tokens, not from the infidel, or openly immoral classes, but from the respectable and Church-going class of sinners.

I. A state of habitual moral insensibility on the momentous and infinitely interesting matter of salvation.

II. A quiet, sleeping conscience, under the sunlight of the Bible, and the faithful and searching appeals of God’s ambassadors.

III. Convictions of sin lost, and relapse into greater carelessness and insensibility than ever before, after a period of religious interest.

IV. Passed by and left undisturbed in their sins--left, it may be, to scoff and oppose--when God’s Holy Spirit has been sent down in mighty power to awaken and convert souls and gather in the harvest.

V. Where providential chastisements fail of their end, and, instead of humble, penitent submission and tearful recognition of God’s hand in them, there is a proud, unyielding spirit of bitterness. Now where such things appear, “perdition” is nigh; the final wrath is imminent; the last sands of hope are falling; the knell of despair is ready to sound! (Homiletic Monthly.)

Tokens of perdition

I. A false hope of piety. There are many who deceive themselves with a spurious religion, and while they have a name to live, are dead.

II. Premature depravity. Though the principle of sin is inherent in every human bosom, it attains a more early and rank luxuriance in some cases than in others.

III. Inveteracy in transgression. The almost invincible force of habit is a subject of universal remark.

IV. Confirmed belief of destructive error. The confidence which the votaries of error repose in its delusions is widely different in different persons. With some it is little more than a cherished wish that their system were true.

V. Unsanctified worldly prosperity.

VI. Apathy of mind under divine chastisement.

VII. Return to insensibility after serious impressions.

VIII. An impenitent old age. (Christian Age.)

Men not terrified

John Noyes, kissing the stake, said, “Blessed be the time that ever I was born for this day.” To his fellow martyrs he said, “We shall not lose our lives in this fire, but change them for a better, and for coals have pearls.” Hugh Laverocke, comforting John-a-Price, his fellow martyr, said unto him, “Be of good comfort, my brother, for my Lord of London is our good physician. He will cure thee of all thy blindness, and me of my lameness this day.” Joyce Lewis--“When I behold the uglisome face of death, I am afraid; but when I consider Christ’s amiable countenance, I take heart again.” John Huss said to a countryman who threw a faggot at his head, “Oh, holy simplicity, God send thee better light! You roast the goose now, but a swan shall come after me, and he shall escape your fire.” Huss, a goose in the Bohemian language; and Luther, a swan. Castilia Rupea--“Though you throw my body down off this steep hill, yet will my soul mount upwards again. Your blasphemies more offend my mind than your torments do my body.” Doctor Taylor, as he was going to martyrdom: “I shall this day deceive the worms in Hadley churchyard,” and fetching a leap or two when he came within two miles of Hadley, “Now,” saith he, “lack I but two stiles, and I am even at my Father’s house.”

In nothing affrighted

The rendering of the Revised Version is very happily chosen. The word is used of horses shying in view of any unusual or unexpected object. Believers are apt to be so scared; but then it is implied in the word used that a sudden fright or panic may after all arise from trifling cause. It is that which need not disturb. Whatever it is that causes the alarm it is seen to be powerless, even to vanish whenever it is boldly approached. All such trials to God’s people are like the lions in the narrow path leading to the Palace Beautiful of Bunyan’s allegory. They were chained as the Pilgrim espied them, but he knew it not. They have therefore only to be courageously approached, and then the voice of Watchful is heard, “Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for discovery of those that have none. Keep in the midst of the path, and no hurt shall come unto thee.” (J. Hutchison, D. D.)


Verse 29-30

Philippians 1:29-30

Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ

Fellowship with the martyrs and confessors

I.
Like faith.

II. Like conflicts.

III. Like honour. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The Christian’s life is

I. A life of faith. This faith is--

1. The gift of God--“is given you.”

2. A particular gift bestowed on a particular people, distinguishing them from all others. The Christian knows and enjoys what no one else does.

II. A life of suffering.

1. Christ’s life was full of it, and so, therefore, is the believer’s.

2. Some sufferings he shares with the humanity to which he belongs,

3. Some trials are peculiar to the Christian arising from

III. The life of suffering proves the life of faith. Others are rebellious, or stoically resigned; the Christian bows out of love to Christ, and is supported by Christ in response to faith. (J. W. Reeve, M. A.)

The gifts of God

I. What they are. The power to believe--to suffer.

II. Their inestimable value.

1. Faith brings peace, joy, righteousness.

2. Patient suffering brings deliverance, conquest, glory. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Unto you it is given to believe

I. Faith is the gift of God. He supplies the ground, the means, the power.

II. It is given to you. You can accept the ground, use the means, exercise the power.

III. How far have you improved it? You cannot reach the higher standpoint before the lower; every one has a measure of ability; therefore repent, believe. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Unto you it is given to suffer

God gives you--

I. The opportunity.

II. The power.

III. The honour.

IV. The reward of suffering for Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Suffering for Christ

It is said that men learned to despise pain before Christ. This is true. But where, save in Christian literature and history, do you find suffering converted into joy, esteemed as an honour, and borne as a badge of royalty. As a king grants charters and honours, so Christ as our Sovereign gives His disciples the privilege of faith and alliance to Him. And he still further honours them by permitting them to suffer on His behalf. Let us see what kind of sufferings are included in this charter.

I. All inflicted directly for our adhesion to the name and worship of Christ. Physical persecution, social, domestic.

II. All arising from the effectual preaching of truth, whether by ministers or private disciples. We are not to count the suffering which comes from our own headstrong rashness in speech or administration, but that which comes from a calm inflexible advocacy of the truth as it is in Jesus. For this it is an honour to suffer.

III. All which arises from the application of Christian truth to human disposition and conduct, to the manners of society, to the selfishness and injustice of men. Labourers in this harvest field will have their bosom full of sheaves, and their head crowned with thorns. Let a man have a conscience, and he will perforce find himself a warrior. What affinity is there between generosity and greed.

IV. All suffering not of the nature of obloquy. All self-denials, watchings, labours, cares, weariness, incident to a life devoted to the cause of God. Those whose parish is the dungeon, the hospital, the purlieus of vice.

V. All consequent upon a strife with self and circumstances for the purpose of augmenting Christian dispositions. Our internal conflicts are often greater than our external. What suffering is involved in our strife with the world, the flesh, and the devil; in our endeavour to be patient under sickness and misfortune, resigned in the midst of sorrows and bereavement.

VI. All arising from the service we perform on behalf of others. Mothers with their children in hearing and up-bringing, friends, philanthropists. Conclusion: I remark in view of this exposition--

1. We are not to seek suffering on purpose. Suffering without moral impulse is of no account.

2. It is a shame for a man to entertain an ideal of Christian life which is ease and freedom from inconvenience.

3. All true education consists in preparation for and endurance of suffering Let parents see to this.

4. We may form a proper judgment of those who are called to labour for God Those prepared to regard suffering as an honour, and to count the victory as worth any price. (H. W. Beecher.)

The value of suffering

To this refiner’s fire may doubtless be ascribed in part the lustre and purity of their faith as compared with other Churches. (Bishop Lightfoot.)

Persecutions only raked away the ashes, so that the spiritual flame was steady and brilliant. (Professor Eadie.)

The grace and honour of suffering

The men whom a general, at the critical moment of a great battle, specially appoints to hold the key of his position, or whom, in the assault of a besieged city, he sends on a “forlorn hope,” are, by his choice of them for peril and probable suffering, marked out as in his judgment “the bravest of the brave.” Their comrades, even while rejoicing in their hearts, it may be, that the selection has left themselves out, feel that those on whom the choice has fallen are honoured. Similarly, is there not “grace” shown in the choice made by the “Captain of salvation,” when in His providence He calls this soldier of the cross, and that, to suffer or die under the standard? In the old persecuting times in our country, men who “bore in their bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus,” in limbs crushed by the iron boot or torn by the rack--looking back in after days upon the patience which the Saviour had given them amid their anguish, and the increase of spiritual wisdom and energy which had come through the trial to themselves, and to some extent also to others, could not but esteem the suffering for Christ as a “gift of grace.” When under sentence of death, good Bishop Ridley wrote thus to his relatives: “I warn you all, my beloved kinsfolk, that ye be not amazed or astonished at the kind of my departure or dissolution; for I assure you I think it the most honour that ever I was called unto in all my life. And therefore I thank God heartily for it, that it hath pleased Him to call me, of His great mercy, unto this high honour, to suffer death willingly for His sake and in His cause; unto the which honour He called the holy prophets, and His dearly beloved apostles, and His blessed chosen martyrs.” And when the end came, and Latimer and he were burned at the same stake--whilst the persecutors could see only the flame which consumed the flesh, the faith of the martyrs could discern for themselves a chariot of fire waiting to bear them home to their Lord, and for their country a fire of pious zeal lighted up, which all the arts of the wicked one should never be able to put out. There was great “grace” there. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

The service of suffering

Dr. Tronchin, talking one day with the son of Caesar Malan about his father, who was lying on his deathbed, said, “How often have I not heard even his friends say, when I spoke with admiration of the work of your father, ‘Malan serves God with fire, courage, and perseverance, because the service which God requires of him is an active service, and consists in an activity which responds to his tastes and talents.’ But wait before judging him definitely until God calls him to a passive service of suffering.” God is doing this under our eyes at this hour, and under our eyes also His servant is found faithful. (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

The honor of suffering for Christ

One of the witnesses for the truth when imprisoned for conscience’ sake in the days of Queen Mary, is said to have thus written to a friend: “A prisoner for Christ! What is this for a poor worm! Such honour have not all the saints. Both the degrees which I took at the University have not set me so high as the honour of becoming a prisoner of the Lord.”

The mystery of suffering

“Unaccountable this!” said the Wax, as from the flame it dropped melting upon the Paper beneath. “Do not grieve,” said the Paper; “I am sure it is all right.” “I was never in such agony!” exclaimed the Wax, still dropping. “It is not without a good design, and will end well,” replied the Paper. The Wax was unable to reply at once, owing to a strong pressure; and when it again looked up it bore a beautiful impression, the counterpart of the seal which had been applied to it. “Ah! I comprehend now,” said the Wax, no longer in suffering. “I was softened in order to receive this lovely durable impress. Yes; I see now it was all right, because it has given to me the beautiful likeness which I could not otherwise have obtained.” (Mrs. Prosser.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Philippians 1:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/philippians-1.html. 1905-1909. New York.


Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 28th, 2017
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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