The Pulpit Commentaries
Paul and Timotheus. St. Paul does not assume his official title in writing to the Macedonian Churches, Philippi and Thessalonica; it is used in all his other Epistles, except the short letter to Phlippians. His relations to the Philippians and Thessalonians were those of the deepest personal affection; there was no need of a formal introduction, especially in an Epistle which has so little of an official character as this to the Philippians. He joins the name of Timothy with his own, as in 2 Corinthians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Phlippians. Thus Timothy is associated with St. Paul in every Epistle in which another name is found except 1 Corinthians, where Sosthenes only is mentioned; this shows the intimate affection that bound St. Paul to his "own son in the faith." There was a special reason for mentioning Timothy in this Epistle, as he was so well known to the Philippians, and St. Paul was intending (Philippians 2:19) to send him shortly to Philippi. But St. Paul writes in his own name from the beginning. Timothy was not in any sense a joint author; he may possibly have been St. Paul's amanuensis, as Tertius was in the case of the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:22). Possibly also motives of humility led St. Paul to insert other names besides his own; but it was not to support his teaching by additional authority—he was "an apostle, not of man, neither by man," and needed not the weight of other names. The servants of Jesus Christ; slaves, literally: "made free from sin and become servants [slaves] to God," whose service is perfect freedom. We belong to him: he he is our Master ( κύριος δεσπότης) as well as Father, we are his slaves as well as his sons: "Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price.'' Compare the words of the "damsel possessed with a spirit of divination" at Philippi: "These men are the servants [slaves] of the most high God." She felt the difference between her state and theirs; she was the slave of her Philip-plan masters, of the evil spirit too; St. Paul and his companion were the slaves of God most high. In the best manuscripts, as in the R.V., "Christ" is put before "Jesus" here. The apostle frequently sets the official before the personal name of our Lord; possibly because he knew not the Lord Jesus after the flesh, but saw him first as the Messiah, the Christ of God. To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi. The word "all" is of very frequent occurrence in this Epistle. There may possibly be a reference to the dissensions alluded to in Philippians 4:2; or, as some think, to the supplies sent for St. Paul's assistance; he addresses all alike, not only those who contributed; he does not recognize their divisions. But it is, perhaps, only the natural expression of his warm affection: the apostle was beloved by all the Philippians, and all were dear to him; there was no hostile faction there, as at Corinth and else where. Compare the affectionate repetition, "always," "every," "all," in Verse 4. St. Paul uses the word "saint" as the general name for his converts, like "Christian." The word "Christian" occurs only three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). Christ's people are called "brethren," "disciples," or "saints." Thus St. Paul addresses the Corinthians generally as "saints," though many of them were far from possessing holiness of heart and life. The ancient Church was holy; the Israelites are called "a holy nation,'' "saints of the Most High." They were holy by God's election, his chosen people, separated unto him by the rite of circumcision. By the same election the Christian Church is holy, dedicated to God in baptism. This holiness of dedication does not necessarily involve the actual existence of that inner holiness of heart "without which no man shall see the Lord." But it does imply the bounden duty of striving after that spiritual holiness. "Ye are the temple of the living God," St. Paul says to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 6:16). "for God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people … therefore … let us cleanse ourselves from el! filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." The Greek word ἅγιος (in our translation sometimes "holy," sometimes "saint") is the usual rendering for the Hebrew #$woqf. The primary idea of the Hebrew word seems to be that of separation—separation from all that defileth. God is "of purer eyes than to behold evil;" those who are dedicated to him must strive by his grace to purify themselves even as he is pure. "Be ye holy, for I am holy." In Christ Jesus. They are saints in virtue of their relation to Christ. They were once" baptized into one body"—the mystical body of Christ. Holiness of dedication can issue in holiness of heart and life only by abiding in him (comp. John 15:4-6). All saints are one body in Christ; they are knit together into one communion and fellowship by their personal union with the one Lord. With the bishops and deacons. In the New Testament the word ἐπίσκοπος is synonymous with πρεσβύτερος (comp. Acts 20:17; 1 Peter 5:1, 1 Peter 5:2; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Titus 1:5-7). St. Paul is addressing the elders of the Church at Philippi, not bishops in our sense of the word. It is possible that Epaphroditus may have been the presiding bishop of the Church (see notes on Philippians 2:25 and Philippians 4:3). If so, we see a reason why the second and third orders of the ministry only are mentioned, as Epaphroditus was the bearer of the Epistle. But diocesan episcopacy does not seem to have become general till the last quarter of the first century. We know that Paul and Barnabas "ordained elders in every Church" in their first missionary journey; we need not, therefore, be surprised at the mention of these official designations in this Epistle, which was written seventeen or eighteen years later. St. Paul's address to the elders of the Church at Ephesus shows the importance which he attached to the office and to the faithful performance of its duties. Perhaps "the bishops and deacons" are specially mentioned here as having collected. the contributions sent to St. Paul; so Chrysostom and Meyer. On the whole subject, see Bishop Lightfoot's exhaustive 'Dissertation on the Christian Ministry,' in his volume on the Epistle to the Philippians.
Grace be unto you, and peace. This combination of the Greek and Hebrew salutations is the common form in St. Paul's earlier Epistles; in the pastoral Epistles "mercy" is added. Grace is the favor of God, free and sovereign, which rests on the faithful Christian, and brings the gift of peace; which is, first, reconciliation with God and, secondly, the childlike confidence and trustful hope which result from faith in Christ's atonement. From God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father is the first Author of our salvation; God the Son, the Word made flesh, brought the message of peace from heaven, and reconciled us to God.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. All St. Paul's Epistles, except those to the Galatiaus, 1 Timothy, and Titus, begin with a thanksgiving. In this Epistle the thanksgiving is especially warm and earnest; no cloud of doubt darkened the apostle's confidence in the Philippians; he pours forth his gratitude to God for their spiritual gifts fervently and without reserve. My God. The pronoun expresses the inner consciousness of personal relations with God; it reminds us of Acts 27:23, "God, whose I am, and whom I serve." Upon all my remembrance of you (as R.V.) is the more exact rendering. The remembrance (not mention)was continuous; he "had them in his heart," and that unbroken remembrance resulted in unbroken thanksgiving.
Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy. Perhaps the first part of this verse is better joined with Philippians 1:3, "I thank my God … always in every prayer of mine for you all;" so Bishop Lightfoot The Greek word for "prayer" and "request "is the same, better rendered "my supplication," he as the R.V.; it implies not merely a lifting up of the heart to God, but an earnest entreaty for a necessary gift. We meet now for the first time with that "joy" which is the keynote of this Epistle. "Summa epistolae, Gaudeo; gaudete;" so Bengel, who continues, "This Epistle of joy well follows that to the Ephesians, where love reigns. 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy.' Joy gives life to prayer."
For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; rather, as R.V., for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel. This verse should be taken in connection with Philippians 1:3. St. Paul thanks God for their help, their co-operation towards the work of the gospel. They helped forward the work by their prayers, their labors, and their liberal bounty. This fellowship began "in the beginning of the gospel," when the Philippians sent aid to the apostle at Thessalonica and Corinth; it continued "until now" ten years; they had just sent their alms to St. Paul at Rome by phroditus (Philippians 4:10).
Being confident of this very thing. St. Paul's thanksgiving refers, not only to the past, but also to the future. He has a confident trustfulness in God's power and love. The words αὐτὸ τοῦτο might mean "on this account," i.e. on account of the perseverance described in Philippians 1:5, but the order seems to support the ordinary rendering. That he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it; rather, as R.V., which began. Both ἐναρξάμενος and ἐπιτελέσει have (Bishop Lightfoot) a sacrificial reference. The good work is self-consecration, the sacrifice of themselves, their souls and bodies, issuing in the co-operation of labor and almsgiving. This sacrificial metaphor recurs in Philippians 2:17. The good work is God's; he began it and he will perfect it. The beginning (Bengel) is the pledge of the consummation. Yet it is also their work—their co-operation towards the gospel (comp. Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13). Until the day of Jesus Christ. The perfecting will go on until the great day. To the individual Christian that clay is practically the day of his death; though, indeed, the process of perfecting may be going on in the holy dead till they obtain their perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul. These words do not imply that St. Paul expected the second advent during the life of his Philippian converts. The words "in you" must be understood as meaning "in your hearts," not merely "among you."
Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all. It is meet; rather, just, right. To think this; to entertain this confidence concerning you. Because I have you in my heart; or, because you have me in your heart. But the order of the words, and Philippians 1:8, make the first rendering the more probable. His love for them increases his confidence. Inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. These words may be taken with the preceding, "I have you in my heart during my imprisonment and defense." So Chrysostom, whose words are very striking: οὕτω γάρ ἐστι τυραννικὸν ὁ ἔρως ὁ πνευματικὸς ὡς μηδενὶ παραχωρεῖν καιρῷ. But it is, perhaps, more natural to take them with the following. Ye all are partakers of my grace; rather, ye all are partakers with me of the grace. They were partakers of the grace of God given to him in his bonds and in his work. The like grace was given to them both for the passive and active sides of the Christian life—both in endurance of suffering and in propagating the gospel. Thus there seems to be no reference in the words "defense and confirmation'' to his public defense before Caesar (which probably had not yet taken place), but generally to his work of preaching the gospel, which was both apologetic, meeting the objections of adversaries, and aggressive, asserting the truth.
For God is my record—rather, witness (comp. Romans 1:9)—how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. The word σπλάγχνα, here rendered "bowels," means the heart, liver, etc.. he not the entrails. The expression is remarkable, and is well illustrated by Bengel's striking words, "Paulus non in Pauli, sed Jesu Christi movetur visceribus." "Not I, but Christ liveth in me." He is so united with Christ that he feels with the heart of Christ, he loves with the love of Christ.
And this I pray. This is the purport of the prayer already mentioned in Philippians 1:4. The conjunction ἵνα marks the end of St. Paul's prayer, and so its purport. That your love may abound yet more and more. Your love; not love for the apostle only, but the grace of Christian charity. St. Paul finds no fault with the Philippians, but "ignis in apostolo nunquam dicit, Sufficit" (Bengel). He prays for their continued growth in love, but not unintelligent love. In knowledge and in all judgment. ἐπίγνωσις is a stronger word than γνῶσις: it means full, complete knowledge. The Greek αἴσθησις (literally, sense) occurs only here in the New Testament, though αἰσθητήρια (organs of sense) is found in Hebrews 5:14. "Discernment," the rendering of R.V., is more correct than "judgment." It is, Bishop Wordsworth says, "that delicate tact and instinct, which almost intuitively perceives what is right, and almost unconsciously shrinks from what is wrong." It cannot exist without love. "Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." With love there comes a spiritual sense, spiritual sight, spiritual hearing, a sense of the beauty of holiness, a fine perception of Christian propriety; ἡ ἀγάπη οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ.
That ye may approve things that are excellent. Love, issuing in spiritual discernment, would enable them to recognize, to test, to prove things that are excellent; so Bengel, "Non modo prae malts bona, seal in bonds optima." This seems better than the alternative rendering, "to prove the things that differ" (comp. Romans 2:18). That ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. εἰλικρινής according to the common derivation (from εἵλη, sunlight, and κρίνω), means "judged in the full light of the sun," that is, pure, true; comp. John 2:21, "He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." According to another possible derivation, the word would mean "unmixed," that is, genuine, sincere. "Without offense" may be taken actively or passively; without giving offense (causing stumbling) to others, or without stumbling themselves. Perhaps the latter sense is more suitable here. He prays that the Philippians may be true and pure inwardly, and blameless in their outward lives. "Till," rather, "against the day of Christ." The preposition εἰς does not denote time only, as ἄχρις in Verse 6; it implies preparation.
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness. The best manuscripts read "fruit." He prays that their love may abound, not only in knowledge and discernment, but also in the fruit of holy living. The fruit of righteousness is sanctification, which springs from justification, and manifests itself in holy living (comp. Amos 6:12; Galatians 5:22). Which are by Jesus Christ; rather, through. The righteousness of God's saints is not that" which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ" (comp. John 15:4). The branch lives by the life of the vine; the Christian lives by the life of Christ. It is his life, living in, assimilated by the Christian soul, which brings forth the fruit of righteousness. Unto the glory and praise of God. The righteousness of God's saints, springing from the abiding presence of Christ, shows forth the glory of God. The glory of God is his majesty in itself; praise is the acknowledgment of this majesty by the voice and heart of man. The glory of God is the end of all Christian effort.
But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel. After thanksgiving and prayer, St. Paul turns to his own imprisonment at Rome. That imprisonment, he says, has resulted in the furtherance of the gospel, rather than, as might have been expected, in its hindrance.
So that my bonds in Christ are manifest; rather, as R.V., so that my bonds became manifest in Christ. At first he seemed like ether prisoners; afterwards it became known that he suffered bonds, not for any crime, but in Christ, i.e. in fellowship with Christ and in consequence of the relation in which he stood to Christ. In all the palace; rather, as R.V., throughout the whole Praetorian Guard; literally, in the whole praetorium, The word elsewhere means a governor's house: Pilate's house in the Gospels, Herod's palace in Acts 23:35. But at Rome the name so used would give unnecessary offense, and there is no proof that it was ever used for the palatium there. St. Paul must have heard it constantly as the name of the Praetorian regiment; he was kept chained to a soldier of that corps (Acts 28:16); and as his guard was continually relieved, his name and sufferings for Christ would become gradually known throughout the force. Others, on the authority of a passage in Dion Cassius, understand the word of the barracks of that part of the Praetorian guard attached to the imperial residence on the Palatine. But the passage relates to the time of Augustus, before the Praetorian cohorts were established by Tiberius in the camp outside of the Colline Gate. And in all other places; rather, as R.V. and to all the rest; generally, that is, throughout the city.
And many of the brethren in the Lord; rather, and that most. Most of the brethren took courage; there were exceptions. Waxing confident by my bonds. The words, "in the Lord," are perhaps better taken with being "confident." Their confidence rests upon St. Paul's bonds, but it is in the Lord. St. Paul's example gives them courage, because they know that he is suffering for the love of Christ, and is supported in his sufferings by the grace of Christ. Are much more bold to speak the word without fear; better, more abundantly, as R.V. The best manuscripts read here, "the Word of God."
Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife. The Judaizing party, whom St. Paul censures in Philippians 3:2, preached Christ, but not from pure motives. Like the writers of the pseudo-Clementines, they envied St. Paul, and in the wicked madness of the odium theologicum, they wished to distress St. Paul, to depreciate his preaching, and to exalt their own. And some also of good will. The word generally means God's good pleasure, as in Philippians 2:13, but here simply good will, benevolence towards St. Paul.
Philippians 1:16, Philippians 1:17
These two verses must change places according to the reading of the best manuscripts. The clauses are inverted by the figure chiasmus. But the other of love; read, as R.V., the one do it of love. This is better than the other possible rendering, "those who are of love do it." Knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. κεῖμαι. I am set or appointed, as in 1 Thessalonians 2:3; not, as some understand, I lie in prison. They preach Christ out of love—love for Christ, and love for Paul for Christ's sake. The one preach Christ of contention; read and translate, as R.V., but the other proclaim Christ of faction; perhaps rather, announce ( καταγγέλλουσιν); bring news of Christ; and that they do out of factious-ness. ἐριθεία, derived from ἕριθος, a hired servant, means labor for hire, and is commonly used of hired canvassers, in the sense of factiousness, party spirit. It is reckoned by St. Paul in Galatians 5:20 among the works of the flesh, and is condemned also in Romans 2:8. Not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds; rather, as R.V. (reading with the best manuscripts ἐγείρειν), thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds. Their motives were not pure; they wished to make St. Paul feel the helplessness of imprisonment, and to increase his affliction by opposing his doctrines, and by forming a party insisting on the observance of the ceremonial law. Bishop Lightfoot translates θλίψιν ἐγείρειν "to make my chains gall me."
What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; rather, only that, as R.V. (comp. Acts 20:23). What is the result of all this preaching? Only that Christ is announced, that the story of Christ is told. The motives of the preachers may not be good, but the result is good; the gospel facts are made more widely known, not only by those who preach in sincerity, but even by means of those who strive to promote their own party ends under the pretense of preaching Christ. And I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. St. Paul rejoices in the good which God brings out of evil; though that good is produced by the outward agency of his own adversaries. Yea, and I shall rejoice. He will not allow himself to be vexed by the bitterness of his opponents, he will not imitate their party spirit; his joy will continue, for he knows that, in spite of present hindrances, the result is assured.
For I know that this shall turn to my salvation. τοῦτο, this, refers to the general preaching of Christ, rather than (as Calvin and others interpret) to the affliction raised up for St. Paul. The opposition of his enemies will stir him up to greater activity and earnestness, and so conduce to his spiritual well-being now and to his salvation hereafter. This he knows, for "all things work together for good to them that love God." Some, as Chrysostom, understand σωτηρία here of present safety or deliverance from prison; but this seems improbable. The words are quoted from Job 13:16, Septuagint Version. Through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. He knows that they pray for him; he humbly believes that those prayers assist him in working out his own salvation. As the prayer ascends, says Bengel, the supply of the Spirit descends; comp. Galatians 2:5, "He that ministereth ['supplieth,' R.V.] to you the Spirit." The Spirit is the supply; the Lord Jesus sends the quickening Spirit from the Father. Others, as Meyer, make the genitive subjective, and interpret "the aid which the Spirit supplies." The Spirit is here called "the Spirit of Jesus Christ"—"proceeding from the Father and the Son." So also Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:9; Acts 16:7 (in the true reading), "the Spirit of Jesus."
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed. The Greek word for "earnest expectation," which occurs also in Romans 8:19, means literally, a watching with outstretched head, with the attention concentrated on one object, and turned away from all others. Neither his sufferings nor the opposition of the Judaizers will put him to shame. But that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. After " boldness" (literally, boldness of speech) we should expect the active form, "I shall magnify." St. Paul, in his humility, prefers the pasture, "Christ shall be magnified.'' Boldness of speech was to be his part, the glory should be Christ's. Whatever the issue might be, whether a life of Christian labor or a martyr's death, it would be well. The apostles were not omniscient, says Bengel, in relation to their own future lot; they lived in faith and hope.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Others, as Calvin, render (not so well), "For to me Christ is gain both in life and in death." The alternative suggested in Philippians 1:20 leads St. Paul to a short digression on the comparative advantages of life and death; he is content with either. Life is blessed, for it is Christ; comp. Colossians 2:4, "Christ, who is our Life," and Galatians it. 20, "Not I, but Christ liveth in me;" "Quit-quid rive, Christum vivo" (Bengel). The life of Christ lives, breathes, energizes, in the life of his saints. His flesh, his incarnate life is their meat; his blood, the mystery of his atonement, is the drink of their souls. He abideth in them, and they in him. And yet death is gain; the slate of death, not the act of dying, is meant (the infinitive is aorist, τὸ ἀποθανεῖν), for the dead in Christ are at home with the Lord ( ἐνδημοῦντες πρὸς τὸν κύριον) in a far more blessed sense than the saints on earth.
But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not; or perhaps, as Meyer, "I make not known." St. Paul wavers between his own personal longing for rest in Paradise with Christ, and the thought that the continuance of his life on earth might conduce to the spreading of the gospel. The grammar of the Greek sentence aptly represents the apostle's hesitation. The construction is almost hopelessly confused. Perhaps the interpretation of the R.V. is the simplest: "But if to live in the flesh,—if this is the fruit of my work, then what shall choose I wot not." Thus καρπός is parallel with κέρδος (Philippians 1:21); τὸ ζῇν ἐν σαρκι is also a gain, a fruit; the genitive is one of apposition; the work itself is the fruit. St. Paul, says Bengel, regards his work as fruit, others seek fruit from their work. Bishop Lightfoot proposes another rendering, "But what if my living in the flesh will bear fruit, etc.? In fact what to choose I know not." Surely, says Bengel, the Christian's lot is excellent; he can hesitate only in the choice of blessings; disappointed he cannot be.
For I am in a strait betwixt two; rather, but (so the best manuscripts) I am straitened, hemmed in (Bishop Lightfoot) betwixt the two alternatives, life and death, pressing upon me, constraining me on either side. Having a desire to depart; having my desire set towards departing εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι). The word occurs again in 2 Timothy 4:6, ὁ καιρὸς τῆς ἐμῆς ἀναλύσεως It is used of a ship, to loose from its moorings; or a camp, to break up; comp. 2 Corinthians 5:1, "If our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved ( καταλυθῇ)." Probably here the metaphor is taken from tent life; to loosen, to remove the tent, the temporary abode, in the journey to the heavenly city. And to be with Christ. The holy dead are with Christ, they rest from their labors; they live unto God (Luke 20:38); they do not sleep idly without consciousness, for they are described in Holy Scripture as witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) of the race set before living Christians (comp. also 2 Corinthians 5:6, 2 Corinthians 5:8 and Acts 7:59). Yet they are elsewhere described as sleeping (1 Corinthians 15:51, 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:15); for the rest of the spirits of just men in Paradise is as a sleep compared with the perfect consummation and bliss of God's elect, both in body and soul, in his everlasting glory. Which is far better; read and translate, for it is by much very far better. He piles up comparatives, as if unable to find words capable of expressing the glory of his hope.
Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. To abide by the flesh (if with some authorities the preposition is omitted), to hold to this human life with all its trials, is more needful for your sake. Meyer quotes Seneca, 'Epist.' 98, "Vitae suae adjici nihil desiderat sua causa, sed eorum, quibus utilis est."
And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all. Being persuaded of this, that my life is needful for you; or, as others render, "And this I certainly, confidently know." The first translation seems preferable, for St. Paul's assurance does not seem to rest on direct inspiration, but on a calculation of probabilities. The apostles could not always foresee their own future (Acts 20:22). Bishop Lightfoot says, "The same word οἶδα is used Acts 20:25, where he expresses his belief that he shall not see his Asiatic converts again. Viewed as infallible presentiments, the two are hardly reconcilable; for the one assumes, the other negatives, his release. The assurance here recorded was fulfilled (1 Timothy 1:3); while the presentiment there expressed was overruled by events (2 Timothy 1:15, 2 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 4:20)." For your furtherance and joy of faith; for the progress and joy of your faith, that you may continually increase in faith and take delight in it. Joy is the key-note of this Epistle.
That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again. Glorying or boasting ( καύχημα), not rejoicing. Perhaps rather, as Meyer," That the matter in which you have to glory [i.e. the bliss in which you rejoice as Christians] may increase abundantly in Christ Jesus [as the element or sphere of the glorying] in me [as the instrument or cause]."
Only let your conversation be. St. Paul exhorts the Philippians to steadfastness. Only, whatever happens, whether I come or no, πολιτεύεσθε, behave as citizens (comp. Philippians 3:20, ἡμῶν τὸ πολιτεῦμα and Ephesians 2:19, συμπολῖται τῶν ἁγίων. The verb also occurs in Acts 23:1, "I have lived ( πεπολίτευμαι) in all good conscience towards God." St. Paul was himself a Roman citizen; he was writing from Rome; his presence the re was caused by his having exercised the rights of citizenship in appealing to Caesar. He was writing to a place largely inhabited by Roman citizens (for Philippi was a Roman colony), a place in which he had declared himself to be a Roman (Acts 16:37). The metaphor was natural. Some of you are citizens of Rome, the imperial city; live, all of you, as citizens of the heavenly country, the city of the living God. As it becometh the gospel of Christ; rather, as R.V. margin, behave as citizens worthily of. There is a striking parallel in Polycarp's letter to these same Philippians (sect. 5). ἑὰν πολιτευσώμεθα ἀξίως αὐτοῦ καὶ συμβασιλεύσομεν αὐτῷ literally, "If we live as citizens worthily of him, we shall also reign with him." That whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit. The metaphor is military, and follows naturally from the thought of citizenship. Philippi was a military colony, its chief magistrates were praetors, στρατηγοί (Acts 16:20), literally, "generals" (comp. Ephesians 6:13 and Galatians 5:1). Spirit is the highest part of our immaterial nature, which, when enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God, can rise into communion with God, and discern the truths of the world unseen. In one spirit; because the spirits of believers are knit together into one fellowship by the one Holy Spirit of God abiding in them all. This distinction between spirit and soul occurs again in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. The soul is the lower part of our inner being, the seat of the appetites, passions, affections, connected above with the πνεῦμα, below with the σάρξ With one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; with one soul (not mind); i.e. with all the desires and emotions concentrated on one object, all acting together in the one great work; comp. Acts 4:32, "Striving together with one another for the faith," rather than "striving together with the faith." The personification of faith, though approved by high authority, seems forced and improbable. Faith is here used objectively; the faith of the gospel is the doctrine of the gospel, as Galatians 1:23, "The faith which once he destroyed."
And in nothing terrified by your adversaries; literally, snared, as a frightened horse. Which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation; translate, seeing that it (your courage) is to them an evident token of perdition, but (with the best manuscripts) of your salvation. And that of God. These words are to be taken with "an evident token." The courage of God's saints in the midst of dangers is a proof of his presence and favor, a token of final victory.
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. On you it was conferred ( ἐχαρίσθη) as a gracious gift, a free spontaneous act of Divine bounty. Faith in Christ is the gift of God, so is "the fellowship of his sufferings." It is not a burden, but a privilege:" In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."
Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. These words are best taken with Philippians 1:27, Philippians 1:28 and Philippians 1:29 being parenthetical. The apostle returns to the military or gladiatorial metaphor of a contest, ἀγών. He had himself been persecuted at Philippi (Acts 16:1 Thessalonians Acts 2:2); now the Philippians heard of his Roman imprisonment, and were themselves suffering similar persecutions.
Philippians 1:1, Philippians 1:2
I. ST. PAUL'S DESCRIPTION OF HIMSELF. He is a servant of Jesus Christ.
1. He does not here style himself an apostle. The title was unnecessary in writing to the Philippians; he does not assume it needlessly. He associates Timotheus with himself. In the presence of the blessed Lord and Master distinctions sink into insignificance.
2. Paul and Timotheus are alike "servants." But that name, in its inner meaning, is a lofty title. He who belongs wholly to Christ, who is the slave of Christ, bought with the blood of Christ, is free from sin; he must be free, says St. Chrysostom, from all other masters, or he would be only in part the servant of Christ.
II. HIS DESCRIPTION OF THE PHILIPPIAN CHRISTIANS. He calls them "saints in Christ Jesus." It is true that the word "saint" may be used here in an official sense, as equivalent to "Christian." But:
1. It implies the necessity of that which all who are to see God in heaven must possess, holiness of heart and life. We believe in the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth the elect people of God; that belief pledges us to follow after personal holiness. We have been once dedicated to God; the great aim of life should be self-consecration—the entire consecration of our whole nature, spirit, soul, and body, to his blessed service.
2. Saints are such only by being in Christ Jesus. The living branch abides in vital union with the vine; the saint abides in spiritual union with the Savior. God taketh away the unfruitful branch; the unfruitful branch is the ungodly Christian—a branch, indeed, but without fruit, withered, dead. Spiritual life is sustained only by union with Christ, by the abiding presence of Christ, who is the Bread of life, the Life of the world. If we would be saints, not in name only, but in heart and in truth, we must strive above all things to live habitually, consciously, lovingly, in that "fellowship which is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."
III. THE SALUTATION—WHAT CHRISTIAN GOOD WISHES SHOULD BE.
1. Grace. Grace is the favor of God, unbought, undeserved, freely given, out of his generous bounty. That grace is the origin of our salvation: "By grace ye are saved." It is the source of holiness: "By the grace of God I am what I am." It is an unfailing support in all troubles and distresses: "My grace is sufficient for thee." It should be our earnest effort not "to receive the grace of God in vain," but "to continue in the grace of God;" for that grace "bringeth salvation."
2. Peace. Peace is
1. To be servants, slaves, of Christ; wholly given up to him; content with that service which is perfect freedom.
2. To think the best of others, to esteem them better than ourselves.
3. To wish them the best wishes—grace and peace.
St. Paul an example to all Christian ministers.
I. HE REMEMBERS HIS CONVERTS. He was possessed through and through with an ardent love of souls. Like the good Shepherd, he knew his sheep, and cared for them with a sincere, self-sacrificing affection. He worked for them while he could; in prison he does not forget them. His thoughts are not taken up with his own hardships and dangers. The care of all the Churches still occupies his mind. He has his converts in his heart; it is his joy to think on their progress in holiness, to thank God for his grace vouchsafed unto them.
II. HE PRAYS FOR THEM.
1. Intercessory prayer was part of his daily work. He had learned of the Lord that men "ought always to pray, and not to faint;" and he "prayed to God always." Thus his time was fully occupied; his mind was active. He was chained to a soldier, he could not visit his converts; but he could think of them, he could pray for them. And he did what he could. He teaches us by his example to make prayers and supplications, and to give thanks for all men.
2. He prays for all, always. We notice the constant repetition of the word "all" in this Epistle. There were dissensions, it seems, among the Philippians. The apostle will not recognize their differences; he loves them all, he prays for all: all are dear to him, all have their place in his prayers.
3. His prayers flow from love. He loves them, he longs for them all, and that "in the bowels of Jesus Christ." He loves them as Christ loves them; nay, more than that, he loves them with the love of Christ, with the heart of Christ; for Christ was his life: "Not I, but Christ liveth in me." Hence he could say (would to God that we could say the same!) that he loved with Christ's love. Mark the intensity of his consciousness of the blessed presence of Christ in all his power and love abiding within him.
III. HIS HUMILITY. None labored as St. Paul labored, but he was wholly free from vain-glory.
1. He gives the glory to God. It was God who began the good work in the hearts of the Philippians; God began it; God will complete it. God is everything, the apostle nothing. Yet this confidence in God makes the apostle work all the more i it increases his efforts, it deepens the earnestness of his prayers.
2. He recognizes the fellowship of the Philippians. They had assisted him in the furtherance of the gospel both by their gifts and by their labors. He acknowledges their help; he thanks God for it; he regards them all as partakers of his grace. Grace had been given to him to endure and to labor. The like grace, he says, had been granted to the Philippians; he is thankful
IV. HIS SINCERITY. "God is my witness," he says: his love for the Philippians is deep and true; God who sooth the secrets of the heart, knows how he longs after them. Living always in the felt presence of God, he knows, and gladly knows, that no thoughts of his heart are hidden from God.
1. Pray for the strong love of souls.
2. Pray for a transparent sincerity and truthfulness of heart.
3. Be humble; without humility there can be no real progress in holiness.
4. Give much time to intercessory prayer.
St. Paul's prayer for the Philippians.
I. THAT THEIR LOVE ABOUND MORE AND MORE.
1. God had begun in them the good work, the work of faith, faith that worketh by love. St. Paul recognizes the reality of their love; it was true and deep. But:
2. There is always room for growth in love; it is the noblest of Christian graces, the most precious of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Christian's desire for love is without limit. ἀκόρεστον ἀγαθὸν τοῦτο, says Chrysostom. "Owe no man anything," says the apostle, "but to love one another." Love is always owing; we can never love our brethren as we ought. Still less can we attain to that soul-absorbing love which we owe to God. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." The commandment is very deep and searching; we can never obey it perfectly; we shall be always in debt. But we may approach ever nearer and nearer to that fullness of perfect love. Therefore the Christian's prayer for love is unceasing, deepening in earnestness as he grows in the knowledge of Christ. The Christian life is a continual progress. "The path of the just is as the shining light, shining more and more" Love must be ever growing, or it will lose its freshness.
II. HE PRAYS FOR THEIR GROWTH IN KNOWLEDGE.
1. Christian love is not indiscriminate, unintelligent; it is informed and directed by spiritual knowledge. Love is informed by knowledge.
2. Love increases knowledge. For it is not book knowledge of which St. Paul is speaking, but heart knowledge. The knowledge of Christian experience is the personal knowledge of God gained by communion with him. Only love can know him; for like is known by like. "He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love." And, on the other hand, "Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." The religions sense, the tact which distinguishes good from evil, which approves among good things the best and holiest, flows out of love.
III. HE PRAYS FOR THEIR GROWTH IN PURITY. The word means singleness of mind, simplicity, sincerity, purity. "If thine eye be single, thy whole body is full of light." This sincerity, this singleness of purpose, springs from love. Holy love refines the whole nature; for it brings the Christian daily into nearer fellowship with Christ, who alone can cleanse the sinful heart. "If we walk in the light … the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." That inward purity results in outward blamelessness, and prepares the soul against the day of Christ.
IV. HE PRAYS FOR THEIR GROWTH IN OBEDIENCE. Love must work; it cannot lie dormant in the soul. It must produce the fruit of righteousness. But that fruit of righteousness is:
1. Through Jesus Christ. "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine;" nor can the Christian bring forth the fruit of holy living, except he abide in Christ. The life of the vine lives in the branch; the life of Christ lives in the Christian soul, and bears the fruit of holiness.
2. And to the glory and praise of God. The ultimate end of the righteousness of the saints is the glory of God. Therefore we are taught to pray "that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name." There can be no nobler ambition: to live for God; only to seek his glory; to love him, not for what he has to give us, but because he is so holy, so loving, so glorious; to be willing to live or to die; to do great things in the world, or to be unknown and obscure, if only he may be glorified;—this is the noblest aim of life, the highest theme of prayer.
1. Pray much for others; cultivate the habit of intercessory prayer.
2. Pray for the continual growth and diffusion of love, knowledge, righteousness.
3. Seek above all things the glory of God.
The apostle's own circumstances.
His holy unselfishness. He measures his condition, not by its present hardships or comforts, but by the facilities which it gives for spreading the knowledge of Christ.
I. HIS IMPRISONMENT HAS TURNED TO THE FURTHERANCE OF THE GOSPEL. It was not to have been expected; the area of his preaching was contracted; he himself was suffering and confined. But God makes "all things work together for good to them that love him;" even things that might seem likely to interfere with their spiritual work.
1. His chains attracted attention: it became manifest that he was a prisoner "in Christ," living in Christ, suffering in and with Christ, for the sake of Christ.
2. Listeners gathered round him: the Prectorian soldiers, among whom he lived, one of whom, in continual rotation, guarded him: others too—"all the rest." His imprisonment became widely known. The strange fact (it was strange then) that these hardships were endured voluntarily, from religious motives, excited curiosity, interest; hence many converts.
3. His example encouraged others. Some were timid, frightened. But the greater number of the brethren took courage to preach fearlessly. Example is better than precept. The sight of a suffering saint, patient, contented, happy, does more to win souls than hundreds of sermons. It is a visible proof of the power of Christ.
II. ST. PAUL A CENTRE OF MISSION WORK.
1. His presence in Rome led to much preaching; his example, his energy, stirred up others. There was much activity. But alas! there were dissensions even in the primitive Church. There was a Judaizing party at Rome who hated the apostle. Their zeal was kindled by his success; they preached, but with the design of winning adherents to the Law. Hence there was a division.
2. Some preached of good will; they knew that St. Paul was set for the defense of the gospel. The sight of his earnestness, his sufferings, excited their sympathies, quickened their affections; they were eager to help on the good work, to carry the gospel message into places which the imprisoned apostle could not reach. They preached out of love—love for St. Paul, love for the work, love for Christ.
3. But others preached of envy and party spirit. They did preach Christ in a sense; they brought news of Christ, they made known the facts of the gospel, they spread the knowledge of Christ's life and death. But they were not sincere; they did not in their hearts care for the salvation of souls; they preached really for their party—it was party zeal, not love, that stimulated their efforts. They were like the Pharisees of whom our Lord said, "Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves' (Matthew 23:15). They envied St. Paul's success, and sought to raise up a party against him, to make him feel more bitterly the confinement of his chains. The gift of preaching is far inferior to the grace of charity. The eloquent preacher may be ambitious, worldly, actuated by party spirit, not by the love of Christ.
III. ST. PAUL IS HAPPY BECAUSE CHRIST IS PREACHED. He seeks not his own glory; he is not troubled for himself when others disparage his preaching or his conduct. He is wholly free from party spirit, from sectarian animosities, from earthly motives. He rejoices in the progress of the gospel, though that progress may be due in part to the preaching of men who differ widely from himself, and who are his personal opponents. What an example of unselfish charity!
1. Never to give way to despondency.
2. Never to allow ourselves to think that we could serve God better if our circumstances were other than they are.
3. Always to try to do our best where we are, knowing that he can bring good out of evil.
4. The exceeding value of the silent influence of holy example.
5. The great danger of party spirit, the blessedness of charity.
Philippians 1:19, Philippians 1:20
St. Paul's own hope.
I. HIS HOLY CONFIDENCE. He knows that God will make all things, even this opposition, work together for his eternal salvation. The activity of his adversaries will stimulate him to greater zeal; it will kindle the sympathy of his friends, and lead them to pray for him more earnestly. Mark his absolute self-surrender, his entire submission to the holy will of God.
II. THE SOURCE OF STRENGTH.
1. Intercessory prayer. He knows that the Philip-plans will pray for him. When they hear of the bitter opposition of his Judaizing adversaries, they will pray the more earnestly that help may be given him in his perplexities and trials. He gladly believes that their prayers in his behalf will be heard. He knows the power of prayer. He, the great apostle, is thankful for the prayers of the humblest Christian. The highest saints are ever the lowliest.
2. The supply of the Spirit given in answer to the prayer of faith. "My Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him." In proportion to the depth, the strength, the reality of prayer, the help of the Spirit is given. That help issues in salvation; "to be spiritually minded is life." The presence of the Spirit in the soul is the earnest, the pledge, of our inheritance in heaven. He works within us that holiness without which we cannot see God. His writing in the heart is the counterpart of those golden characters of love in which the names of God's saints are written in the Lamb's book of life.
III. THE RESULT OF THAT STRENGTH.
1. Boldness of speech. A gift to be earnestly desired by all Christian ministers: boldness to preach the Word; to be instant in season and out of season; to reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering. It is a rare gift; it requires that strength of conviction, that vividness of hope, that deep humility, which were characteristic of St. Paul. With all his thoughts concentrated on the one great desire of glorifying Christ, with his assured confidence that in nothing he should be ashamed, with his absolute trust in the fulfillment of God's promises, he could speak from the fullness of his own personal experience, boldly, persuasively, with a holy enthusiasm which mightily drew the hearts of men. Oh that we could follow him as he followed Christ!
2. The glory of Christ. It is this that St. Paul desires with such intense eagerness; not his own glory, not earthly success or earthly comforts, but that Christ may be magnified in his body. He is content to leave the issues of life or death wholly in the hand of God; willing to live, if his apostolic activity is needed for the spread of the gospel; willing to die, if the death of martyrdom would best serve his Master's cause. His one desire is that Christ should be magnified in his servant.
1. To value intercessory prayer, to pray ourselves for others, to desire their prayers for us.
2. To prize above all things the daily supply of the influences of the Holy Spirit.
3. To pray for boldness of speech.
4. But only that Christ may be glorified.
The great alternative, life or death.
I. ST. PAUL IS PREPARED FOR EITHER; "for," he says, "to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
1. Christ was his life. Christ was magnified, not in his body only, in his labors and suffering, but in his spirit. The presence of Christ filled his whole conscious existence; communion with Christ was to him the very breath of life. Life was worth having only so far as the life of Christ was realized in the apostle's life. The outward life, with its comforts or its hardships, was as nothing in comparison with this inner life of the spirit. "Dost thou not, O blessed Paul, live the common life of men?" exclaims St. Chrysostom; "dost thou not see the sun, dost thou not breathe the air, dost thou not need sleep, food, clothing, like ourselves?" Yes, he needed these things; he sent for his cloak and books. But he lived in the spirit of the Savior's words, "Take no thought [no anxious thought] for your life;" "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." His real life was hidden—hidden with Christ whose presence filled his soul. He was dead unto the world, but alive unto God. He was conscious of high thoughts burning within him; there was a power there and an energy that lifted him up and strengthened him and filled him with calm and holy joy in all his many trials. But that new life was not his life: "Not I, but Christ." Christ was there; that sacred presence influenced the whole conscious life of the apostle, keeping up a current of pure, high, heavenly thought within his heart. Where that blessed presence dwelleth the outward life sinks into comparative insignificance. St. Paul scarcely counted that outward life as belonging to himself; it was full of change, shadowy, unreal His true, real life was the Life that lived within him. "To me to live is Christ."
2. Death would be gain to St. Paul. Life in Christ is blessed; still more blessed are the holy dead. They rest from their labors; death removes them from the temptations, conflicts, cares of life. And to depart is to be with Christ, in his immediate presence. To see him thus, without the intervention of the veil of flesh, is gain, unutterable gain. But we must know by our own experience the power of Christ's life indwelling in our souls before we can feel with the apostle that death is truly gain.
II. ST. PAUL KNOWS NOT WHICH TO CHOOSE, LIFE OR DEATH. Who can tell the blessedness of such advanced holiness? Who would not gladly accept St. Paul's sufferings to share his calm faith? Life is blessed, for it is life in Christ. Death is blessed, "by much very far better," for it is to be with Christ. The apostle hesitates; he is in a strait between two alternatives—work for Christ here, and the life with Christ in Paradise.
1. For himself his desire is set towards departing. Death is to him but the weighing anchor, or the taking down of his tent, the last stage in his journey to the heavenly country. The blessedness awaiting him there is beyond the power of language to express; it needs the tongue of angels.
2. But he fears there may be something of selfishness in this lowing to depart. His continued life on earth may be necessary for the progress of the gospel. For his converts' sake he is willing to remain, for their furtherance and joy. A high example of most entire unselfishness.
3. He leaves his will submissive to the higher will of God. God knows better than he what is best for the Church and for himself. One thing he knows: if his presence is needful, he shall continue with his converts; for his life and death are in the hands of God, and God doeth all things well.
1. Death is no strange thing to the advanced Christian; he lives in habitual preparation for it.
2. He knows that he is in the hands of God; knowing this, he is content to live, and content to die; "Thy will be done."
3. More than this, he hath a desire to depart, for to depart is to be with Christ.
4. But this holy resignation, this calm and blessed hope, implies a life of fellowship with Christ. "To me to live is Christ." Be it our most eager desire, our most earnest effort, thus to live.
I. CHRISTIAN CONVERSATION THE CONDITION OF CHRISTIAN JOY. Only (the word is emphatic)—only, St. Paul says, whether he lives or dies, whether he comes again or sees them in the flesh no more, whatever happens to him or to them—let them mind this one thing, holy living. This must be, he says, your one desire, your one aim, to live as Christian men should live.
II. ST. PAUL ADDRESSES THE PHILIPPIANS AS MEMBERS OF A CHURCH; not isolated individuals, but members of a community, knit together into one body.
1. We are citizens of the heavenly commonwealth, under the one heavenly King. We must fight under his banner against the common enemy. There is need of united action: union is strength; we must stand fast, keeping our ground as in battle, striving together. Disunion breaks the power of the great army; it dissipates Christian energy, and impedes grievously the progress of the gospel.
2. Christian union is the unity of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God, abiding in the whole Church and in each individual Christian, is the bond of union. The spirit of the believer is the sphere of his influence. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit;" "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace." The more fully he abideth in us, the more shall we be disposed to love one another, to hate party spirit, to remember that we are one body in Christ.
3. If we preserve the unity of the Spirit, we shall strive together with one soul. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit will direct all our affections, emotions, and desires to bear on the one great object, the progress of the faith.
4. This Christian energy, this holy courage, is the gift of God. It shows that his presence goeth with the Christian host. It is the pledge of victory to his servants, of ruin to their adversaries.
5. And it implies willingness to suffer. Patience, as well as courage, is the gift of God. It is as high a privilege to be called to suffer with Christ and for Christ, as it is to work for him.
1. The gospel is the good tidings of God's unspeakable gift: think of your Christian privileges, your Christian responsibilities, and walk worthily of the gospel.
2. Pray for the grace of perseverance, pray for it daily, earnestly.
3. Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit.
4. Remember that suffering comes from our Father in heaven; he chasteneth us for our profit. Suffering meekly borne, borne in the faith of Christ and out of love for Christ, becomes a blessing.
HOMILIES BY T. CROSKERY
Philippians 1:1, Philippians 1:2
Apostolic address and salutation.
The Apostle Paul is as characteristic in his greetings as in the substance of his epistolary writings.
I. THE AUTHORS OF THE GREETING. "Paul and Timotheus, bond-slaves of Jesus Christ."
1. The apostle associates Timothy with himself as one who had labored at Philippi and was well known to the Christians of that city. Timothy, besides, was then his companion at Rome. It was natural that he should name the disciple who was associated with him through a longer range of time than any other—extending, indeed, from the date of his first missionary journey till near the very time of his martyrdom.
2. He does not call himself an apostle, because the assertion of his official designation was not needful at Philippi, but places himself on a level with Timothy, by bringing into prominence their common relationship to the Lord as "bond-slaves of Jesus Christ." They belonged to him as Master, and bore his marks in their very bodies, and were supremely devoted to his service.
II. THE PERSONS TO WHOM THE GREETING WAS ADDRESSED. "To the saints which are in Christ Jesus at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons."
1. They dwelt in Philipi, an important city of Macedonia, which, thirty-four years before, was the scene of a great battle which determined the prevalence of the imperial system of Rome. It was still more celebrated as the first city in Europe which received the gospel—"thus opening up the long vista of what has become Western Christendom."
2. They were "saints in Christ Jesus;" with a ten years' history. The title must have had a special force in the case of those addressed with such a warmth of affection. Their saintship was grounded in their union with Christ. It is interesting to mark the prominence of female names both in the first founding of the Church and in its later developments, as noticed in the Epistle. Who can say whether the delicate and untiring generosity of the Philippian Church to the apostle may not have been mainly due to these saintly women, who enjoyed in Macedonia, as women, a far more independent position than in other parts of the world? There is at all events a sweet tenderness in Philippian piety which made the designation of "saints" peculiarly appropriate.
3. The greeting was extended to the bishops and deaths along with the saints.
III. THE FRIENDLY GREETING OF THE APOSTLE. "Grace to you and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (see Homilies on Galatians 1:3 and Ephesians 1:2).
Thanksgiving for their fellowship in the gospel.
I. THANKSGIVING IS A NATURAL AND PROPER EXERCISE OF THE BELIEVING HEART, The apostle usually giving in the case of the Philippians.
1. Scripture has psalms of thanksgiving. (Nehemiah 12:8.)
2. We have constant reason for thanksgiving. We thank God for temporal mercies (Exodus 15:1, Exodus 15:2); for spiritual mercies (Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4); for deliverance from the body of death (Romans 7:25); but, above all, for Christ, his unspeakable Gift (Luke 2:38).
II. THE APOSTLE'S THANKSGIVING WAS BASED UPON HIS ENTIRE REMEMBRANCE OF HIS CONVERTS. "Upon my whole remembrance of you." Gratitude is usually fed by memory. They had been often in his remembrance for ten years back. Every fresh token of their affection received in his trials and imprisonments would revive the thought of them.
III. THE OCCASIONS OF HIS THANKSGIVING. "Always in every prayer of mire for you all, making request with joy." There is something significant in "the studied cumulation'' of the "alls" in the passage. It marks the overflowing heart.
1. The apostle was much in prayer for his converts. He had a large heart, for he prayed for them all, Ministers should bear their people much upon their hearts in prayer to God. They should pray always for their people. The apostle prayed for his converts as often as he remembered them
2. His prayers for the Philippians were always with joy. "Making request with joy." Though he was a prisoner exposed to all the morbid depression caused by isolation, joy mingled with all his prayers. The sum of this Epistle is, Gaudeo; gaudete. Eighteen times does the word occur in its verbal or substantive forms. Joy is a true fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The apostle mingled joy with his requests,
IV. THE CAUSE FOR WHICH HE RETURNED THANKS TO GOD. "For your fellowship in aid of the gospel from the first day until now." It was a fellowship of faith and love and service with a view to the furtherance of the gospel. It implied:
1. A cordial and united action.
2. A thoughtful consideration for the apostle's wants.
3. A continuance in well-doing,
which was at once a proof of the gospel's power in their hearts, a demonstration of Christian consistency, and a means for sustained success in gospel work.—T.C.
The grounds of the apostle's thanksgiving.
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which began a good work in you will perfect it till the day of Christ."
I. THE SUBJECT OF HIS CONFIDENCE. "A good work," regarded:
1. In itself. It is the work of grace or salvation in the human soul.
2. In its development. It has a beginning and an ending. It is God, not man, who begins it; and he who begins it ends it. It is thus a good work,
II. THE GROUNDS OF HIS CONFIDENCE. Not in the power of priesthood or sacrament, but in the character and resources of the Worker. He who begins will end it, for he has fixed a day for its completeness—"the very day of Christ." Not the day of death, but the day of Christ, because man does not exist in his completely glorified condition till he stands in the redemption of both body and soul. The grounds of a believer's perseverance are not, therefore, to be found in his own watchfulness or his own strength, but
III. HOW THIS CONFIDENCE OPERATED IN THE APOSTLE. It did not prevent him from praying for his converts or exhorting them to the use of means for their continuance in grace. It suggests
Philippians 1:7, Philippians 1:8
A double explanation of the origin of this confidence.
"Even as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, and because in my bonds and in my defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye are all partakers with me of my grace." The apostle has found the objective ground of his confidence in the exclusively Divine source of the "good work;" but this confidence is justified at once by his own love to the Philippians and by their spiritual fellowship with him in sufferings and service.
I. LOVE INSPIRES CONFIDENCE. "I have you in my heart." Therefore, he says, it is right for him to cherish this confidence respecting them. It is the nature of love to have this confident hope, for it "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things' (1 Corinthians 13:7). The intensity of his love enhanced his confidence. The apostle's love was peculiarly tender. "For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ." The appeal to God marks the sincerity of his love. But its true origin, its pattern, its fervency, are only to be found in the bowels of Christ. The heart of the apostle throbs in unison with the heart of Christ.
II. ANOTHER GROUND OF CONFIDENCE WAS THEIR SYMPATHETIC FELLOWSHIP WITH HIM IN SUFFERING AND IN SERVICE.
1. They identified themselves with him "in his bonds" by ministering once and again to his necessities and cheering him by their sympathies. They remembered him "as an ambassador in bonds," as we are all bound to "remember them that are in bonds as bound with them" (Hebrews 13:2). They did it, too, at a time when Roman sympathy seems to have been sorely wanting. It is strange that.. he with a Church in the capital of the world, he should have been dependent upon the charity of the far distant Philippians.
2. They identified themselves heartily both with his defense of the gospel either before heathen magistrates or Jewish opponents, and with his positive establishment of the truth. There is a negative and a positive side in the great teaching office of the Church.—T.C.
The apostle's prayer.
He had spoken of praying for them. This was the purport of his prayers: "And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and in all discernment."
I. THE INCREASE OF LOVE THE MAIN THING IN RELIGION.
1. The language implies the existence of this love as well as its imperfection. It had been manifest in many ways; but there were social rivalries and jealousies and disputes at Philippi. Therefore the apostle prays that their love may abound more and more.
2. absolutely that he speaks of, the grand principle, the motive power of Christian life. Matthew Henry says it is the law of Christ's kingdom, the lesson of his school, the livery of his family.
3. It is love fed by knowledge and guided by judgment; for it is to abound "in perfect knowledge and universal discernment."
(a) This is needed to feed love. We cannot love an unknown person; we cannot love an unknown gospel; we cannot love one another except so far as we know one another. The more we know of our blessed Redeemer the more shall we love him. Love is not a blind attachment.
(b) It is needed to regulate love. Love without knowledge may lead a Christian into mistakes, irregularities, improprieties, like a foolishly fond father who spoils his child. Love may waste itself on worthless or frivolous objects, or it may attempt impracticable projects by unwarrantable means; but if knowledge be the guide, these mistakes will be prevented.
II. THE ENDS ACCOMPLISHED BY A LOVE THUS REGULATED.
1. Christian capacity to discern excellent things. "That you may be able to prove things that are excellent." Love, rightly guided, penetrates through all disguises of error. It is, in fact, a mighty preservative against error. The Christian is able "to prove all things, and hold fast that which is good." He does not lose sight of the true proportions and relations of truth. But the spiritual capacity of believers is found to differ like the natural capacities of men. Some are very deficient in the power of spiritual discernment, yet this may be mainly due to the weakness of love. Those who are strong maintain the tranquillity of their own mind, and will be a stay to the timid and the weak. Cecil says, "A sound heart is the best casuist."
2. Sincerity. "That ye may be sincere." Love, rightly guided, brings out the deep reality of Christian character, and presents it in a holy simplicity without stratagem, diplomacy, or manoeuvre. A sincere man has all the strength that springs from an undivided heart: his love is without dissimulation; his sincerity is a godly sincerity, which realizes the impossibility of uniting the interests and pleasures and pursuits of the present world with those of true religion.
3. The absence of offense. "And void of offense." It seems hard to be so in a world to which the gospel itself is an offense. Yet, though we are not to compromise the principles of the gospel, we are to live peaceably with all men, to take wrong rather than give offense, to have a good report from them that are without, to be "blameless and harmless as the sons of God." The duration of this temper of sincerity and inoffensiveness is "against the day of Christ "—the day of final account before the Judge, as if to imply the undeviating consistency of a life thus divinely ordered.
4. Positive fruitfulness in Christian life. "Being filled with the fruit of righteousness, which is by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." There is more needed than mere harmlessness: there must be a positive development of Christian life.
Furtherance of the gospel through the apostle's imprisonment.
He now proceeds to inform his converts of his condition at Rome, with his hopes and his fears for the future. His imprisonment had in two important respects signally promoted the growth of Christianity in the great metropolis of the world.
I. HIS SUFFERINGS FOR CHRIST HAD BECOME KNOWN TO THE SOLDIERS OF THE PRAETORIAN GUARD AND TO OTHERS. "My bonds have become manifest in Christ throughout the Praetorian Guard, and to all the rest." This was important for two reasons.
1. Because thee soldiers were connected with "Caesar's household." We may well suppose that the saints in that household referred to afterwards (Philippians 4:22) owed their conversion to the apostle's ministry.
2. Because Christianity would thus be brought under the eye of the world. These soldiers were part of an army which then covered the world with its conquests.
3. But the special importance lay in the fact that he was recognized as a prisoner, not for that, or murder, or ill-doing, but for his profession of the gospel.
II. HIS SUFFERINGS FOR CHRIST HAD THE EFFECT OF INSPIRING MINISTERS WITH GREATER COURAGE IN PREACHING THE GOSPEL. "And the greater part of the brethren, having in the Lord confidence in my bonds, are more abundantly bold to preach the gospel without fear." This implies:
1. That the ministry was then a dangerous servia, for it exposed preachers to violence and death.
2. That the example of triumphant faith and joyful endurance cannot be without its effect. The courage of the apostle, a fearfully critical time, breathed new strength into "the brethren."—T.C.
A significant difference among the apostle's brethren.
They were all actively engaged in preaching the gospel, but they were not actuated by the same motives.
I. THE DIFFERENT SPIRIT OF THE TWO CLASSES OF PREACHERS. "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will." The one class were actuated by a genuine good will to Christ and his apostle. The other class were actuated by envy and discord. They envied the popularity of the apostle among the Gentile Churches, and showed a disagreeably quarrelsome temper. They were evidently Judaists who could little brook the overthrow of the Mosaic institute and Jewish commonwealth which seemed to be involved in the triumph of the apostle's gospel. Yet they preached Christ.
II. THE MOTIVES OF THE TWO CLASSES. "The one do it of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel; but the other proclaim Christ of faction, not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds." Notice:
1. The pure motive of one class—love—which ought to be the spring of all gospel action. Love to Christ, love to the truth, love to the souls of men, ought to be the abiding motive of all preachers. These brethren had special regard for the apostle on account of his destined place in the evangelization of the world.
2. The impure motive of the other class—a base partisanship designed to make the apostle's bonds more galling. There are allusions to this fierce party spirit among the Judaists in most of the apostle's writings, aggravated as it often was by intense bitterness to the apostle.
3. Yet both classes preached Christ. The language of the apostle is applied to both classes. It is sad to think of men preaching Christ from bad motives, especially where Erich motives may imply a tinge of doctrinal imperfection in the method of preaching him. Yet the Lord accepts the services of weak, imperfect, sinful men in his vineyard.
III. THE JOY OF THE APOSTLE AT THIS WIDESPREAD ACTIVITY OF THE TWO CLASSES.
1. It might appear more natural for him to denounce these Judaists with words of sharp rebuke. Perhaps his own enforced inactivity as a preacher may have led him to rejoice in the Christian labors of men who knew Christ "only after the flesh."
2. His joy shows a large and forgiving nature. "What then? only that in every way, whether with masked design or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." The conduct of the apostle teaches us:
Philippians 1:19, Philippians 1:20
The bearing of his various trials upon his salvation.
"And I know that this will turn out to my salvation."
I. CONSIDER THE APOSTLE'S CONCERN FOR HIS OWN SALVATION. He does not refer here to his release from captivity, but to the salvation of his soul.
1. Salvation has several significations in Scripture. It sometimes means conversion, sometimes sanctification, sometimes glorification,—that is, some one or other of three different parts of it; or it signifies all three together. In the first sense it is a past act and complete; in the second, it is a present experience and progressive; in the third, a blessed expectation. The apostle does not use the word here in the first, but in the second and third senses.
2. We are not to suppose that he had any doubt concerning his salvation, but merely that he sought that spiritual growth and that enlargement of spiritual labors that would determine the degree of his blessedness hereafter.
II. HIS SALVATION WAS TO BE PROMOTED BY SANCTIFIED TRIALS. He refers here evidently to the perplexities and troubles by which ungentle and unloving brethren had tried "to raise up affliction to his bonds."
1. Affliction has no naturally sanctifying tendency. It embitters, it hardens, it deadens the soul.
2. It is affliction sanctified by a loving Father that deepens and purifies spiritual experience. (Hebrews 12:7-11.) There are two means suggested towards this end.
III. THIS SALVATION IS IDENTIFIED WITH HIS SUCCESSFUL PROMOTION OF THE GOSPEL. "According to my earnest desire and hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but as always, so now also with all boldness, Christ shall be magnified in my body whether by life or by death."
1. The supply of the Spirit justified his desire and hope that he would boldly proclaim Christ. He was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 1:12).
2. It would ensure the glorification of Christ in his body, by his labors if he lived, by his edifying patience and peace if he died.
IV. HIS CONVICTION OF THIS PACT. "I know that this will turn out to my salvation." He knew it:
1. From his knowledge of the discipline of the covenant.
2. From his knowledge of God's promises.
3. From his own past experiences of God's dealings with himself.—T.C.
The grand alternatives.
"To me to live is Christ, to die is gain." This elucidates as well as confirms his previous statement.
I. HIS NATURAL LIFE FINDS ITS SUPREME OBJECT IN CHRIST. The apostle does not here assert that Christ is his spiritual life, for the reference is strictly limited to his "life in the flesh." That life is supremely devoted to Christ.
1. In all its thoughts. There never was a man whose intellectual life was so wrapped up in his Savior; his plans, his anxieties, his hopes, centred in him; every thought was brought into subjection to him; therefore his thoughts were not vain, or selfish, or earthly.
2. In all its deeds. The apostle abounded in labors more than the other apostles. Yet Christ was the object of such holy activity. His ceaseless, exhausting works of love found their spring in the love of Christ as they marked his supreme devotion. Thus Christ was his life. It ought so to be with us all. "For whether we live, we live unto the Lord."
II. HIS DEATH WOULD BE GAIN. "To die is gain."
1. This assertion seems hard to reconcile with human feeling. Death always involves loss of some sort. To the saint it involves the loss of many pure enjoyments of life, of happy domestic ties, of the means and opportunities of working for Christ; while to the sinner it is utter, irreparable loss.
2. The assertion is not that of a mere pessimist, who asks, "Is life worth living?" nor of a worn-out roue, who has outlived the very sensation of enjoyment; nor of a holy man wearied out with exhausting labors and anxious to get quit of trials and persecutions. There is nothing in the apostle's writings to justify the conclusion that he was sour, or morose, or cynical, or merely attached to the scene of human existence at the point of duty; for he possessed hearty human sympathies and entered with spirit into all the schemes of true Christian life.
3. His assertion marks the true connection that exists between death and the believer's gain. Death is pure gain; for it puts an end to all the losses which so largely shake human comfort in this life, to all the evils of sin, and to all temptations to sin; and it puts the believer in possession of his full inheritance with the perfection of grace, the blessed vision of God, the society of the just made perfect. It is gain:
The apostle's dilemma.
The last sentence touched his more personal life; but now he think's of his official relation to others, with its large promise of blessing to the world. This thought creates his dilemma. He does not know whether to choose life or death. Let us mark the two sides of the dilemma.
I. THE CHOICE OF LIFE. This had no relation to himself. It had exclusive relation to others.
1. His life would be more fruitful in labors for others. "But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor. That is, his life would be fruitful through his unceasing labors. "The life of a pious minister is far more profitable for his people than his death." The Church wants him, the world wants him, his family wants him. There was no leisure in the long career of the apostle. His life was brimful of labor to the last.
2. His life would be more advantageous to others than his death. "Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful on your account." On the shoulders of this apostle rested the care of all the Churches; he was in the front of battle all his life; the Christians everywhere looked to him for help and guidance; while there were still many dark spots of earth to which he might carry the glad tidings of salvation. The apostle was not one of those men who live too long alike for their reputation and their happiness; he had not outlived his power of work; he had shown no signs of failure, for he was still abundant in labors and in consolations and in the strength which inspires confidence.
II. THE CHOICE OF DEATH. "I am hemmed in on both sides, having a desire to depart, and be with Christ, which is very far better."
1. The desire of death is not sinful, but rather commendable, as a sign of faith and fearlessness. There is a longing for death on the part of the miserable, who are "weary of their life," and only anxious to escape from its evils. The longing sometimes deepens into the madness that leads to suicide. This longing is sinful, because it is selfish, and seems to argue a weak trust in the Divine hand which supports our life. But there is a longing without any selfish element, that springs out of the desire to escape from sin into a state of perfect holiness. Such a desire for death argues our belief in a future state, our faith in the Lord's mercy, our love to him, and our interest in his manifested glory.
2. Death involves our immediate translation into Christ's presence. "Having a desire to depart, and be with Christ." There is no ground for the supposition of a long sleep of the soul between death and the resurrection, however difficult it may be to conceive the conscious existence of a disembodied spirit. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." To be with Christ implies:
3. Presence with Christ is far better than anything life can give. It is better
Philippians 1:25, Philippians 1:26
The apostle's personal conviction as to his future course.
He might be uncertain as to which he should choose, but he was fully confident as to what would befall him. Notice—
I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS CONTINUANCE WITH HIS CONVERTS. "And being confidently persuaded of this [that his life would be for their spiritual advantage] I know that I shall abide, and abide with you all." His knowledge was not necessarily derived from special revelation or from mere presentiment, but represents his firm personal conviction that he would survive his present imprisonment. His assurance was eventually fulfilled, as we know by his labors during the remaining years of his life. He knew that his times were in God's hands, and that the same Lord who foretold the manner of Peter's end would fix the time of his own end. He could feel he was immortal till his work was done.
II. THE EFFECT OF HIS CONTINUED LABOURS. "For your furtherance and joy of faith." The life of a minister is intimately associated with the spiritual comfort of his flock.
1. The apostle would be the means of increasing their faith.
2. The apostle would contribute to the joy of their faith.
III. THE ULTIMATE DESIGN OF HIS CONTINUANCE. "That your matter for boasting [in the fact of your condition as Christians] may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my coming to you again."
1. The element of increase in Christian living and Christian privilege is in Christ Jesus; for it is in virtue of its connection with the head "that the body maketh increase of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:16).
2. The instrumental source of increase is "in me"—through the apostle's continued labor.
3. It would be still more marked by his personal visits to his converts; for he would come to them in fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.—T.C.
Philippians 1:27, Philippians 1:28
Practical counsel for holy and consistent living.
"Only let your manner of life be as it becometh the gospel of Christ."
I. THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST IS THE TRUE STANDARD OF CHRISTIAN PIETY AS WELL AS "THE POWER OF GOD TO SALVATION." It is so:
1. By virtue of the doctrines it reveals for our comfort.
2. By virtue of the precepts it inculcates for our guidance; for it embodies in itself that which is at once "the law of Christ," "the law of love," "the law of liberty."
3. By virtue of the privileges it confers to secure holy living.
4. By virtue of the prospects it holds out as "a recompense of reward."
II. CHRISTIAN LIFE MUST BE ORDERED ACCORDING TO THIS STANDARD, The original term suggests membership in a society, according to the idea of privilege which makes believers "fellow-citizens of the saints." Our practice must accord with our profession. Like the gospel of Christ, we must be true and faithful, peaceful and loving, gracious and humble. Our walk must be consistently the same, whether our religious guides are present or absent.
III. THE CHRISTIAN WALK IS TO MANIFEST ITSELF IN A FIRM AND SOLID UNITY. "That ye stand fast in one spirit." There were divergences of action, if not of thought, manifest among the pious Philippians, which made it necessary to counsel them to a steadfast unity of position and effort. We cannot grow in grace unless we live in peace, and we cannot hold our ground against the rushing tides of worldliness and sin which threaten to overwhelm us unless we are strongly rooted in Christ and his gracious gospel. This stability of position will have a twofold effect.
1. It will enable us to fight in concert for the faith of the gospel. "With one soul striving in concert with the faith of the gospel." If there was to be striving at all, it must not be in a way of contention, but of united endeavor to promote and defend the cause of Christ. Unity immensely enhances the power of the truth. This language implies
2. It will make you superior to the fears of adversaries. "And in nothing terrified by your adversaries." There will be no wavering on your part, through the assaults of unbelieving Jews or Gentiles. There is a double argument or encouragement here presented: "seeing it [your fearlessness] is to them an evident token of destruction, but to you of salvation, and that of God."
(a) that suffering Christians will certainly be saved,
(b) and that their salvation will be great as well as certain.—T.C.
Philippians 1:29, Philippians 1:30
The privilege of suffering.
There is reason given, by way of encouragement, for their steadfastness in suffering. "For unto you it was freely given on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe upon him, but also to suffer for his sake."
I. THE DISPENSATION OF SUFFERING ASSIGNED TO THE SAINTS. Their sufferings fall not cut by chance. They are divinely ordered. They are even divinely given.
1. Their ability to endure these sufferings is the gift of Christ. "In the world ye shall have tribulation; in me ye shall have peace." "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
2. Their comforts in sufferings are the gift of Christ. Thus they are led to rejoice in tribulation, for he has sent his Comforter to dwell in their hearts.
3. The sufferings in question are profitable to themselves as well as honoring to the Lord. He doth not afflict willingly, but for our profit. Through our suffering we may glorify the Lord by encouraging and confirming the faith of others.
4. The sufferings will not be without, reward. "If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12). "Blessed are you when men persecute you … for great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:11, Matthew 5:12).
II. FAITH IN CHRIST MUST GO BEFORE SUFFERING FOR HIM, "Unto you it is given … to believe upon him."
1. Faith is God's gift, as it is the first effect of regeneration, which is God's work. Christ purchased for us, not merely salvation, but all the means thereunto. It is the Lord who opens our eyes, renews our wills, and persuades and enables us to accept Christ in the gospel.
2. It is by this faith we are enabled to suffer patiently. Without the shield of faith we could not resist the anger of persecutors. By faith we are made strong at the root like the seaweed that grows on the rock, no matter how much it may be lashed hither and thither by the ceaseless action of the waves.
III. ENCOURAGEMENT TO PATIENT PERSEVERANCE BY THE EXAMPLE OF THE APOSTLE. "Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me." There must be a right spirit as well as a good cause to suffer for.
1. The similarity between the sufferings of the apostle and those of his converts.
2. The sufferings of the ministers of Christ ought to encourage their people to like patience and firmness.—T.C.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
Philippians 1:1, Philippians 1:2
Saints, bishops, and deacons.
In the beginning of this earliest Epistle of the captivity, according to the showing of Lightfoot, the apostle does not deem it needful to declare his apostleship or to indulge in even the semblance of self-assertion. Bracketing Timotheus with himself, he simply declares that they are slaves ( δοῦλοι) of Jesus Christ, and as such desire to address the constituents of the Philippian Church. The contents of this Epistle are eminently joy-inspiring; it is, in fact, marvellous that such consolation should come from captivity to those enjoying freedom. But Godways are oftentimes surprising.
I. LET US LOOK AT CHRIST'S SLAVES. (Philippians 1:1.) Paul and Timothy, as the slaves of Christ, felt that they were not their own, but bought with a price. They were, therefore, bound to glorify God in their bodies, in their spirits, and in all their possessions. And to such wide responsibilities they cheerfully responded, so that it was their constant joy to live for Jesus. He was their Lord; hence the title is given to him in the second verse. But they felt this slavery to be perfect freedom, and rejoiced in the thought that the mark or brand of Christ was upon them (cf. Romans 6:18-22; 2 Corinthians 2:17). As the slaves of Christ, moreover, it was impossible for them to be the slaves of men (1 Corinthians 7:23). And truly it is only when we are possessed, body and soul, by Christ, and when we have merged our will in his, that we rise into lordship over ourselves and become heirs of all things. It is this slavery to Christ which proves the real emancipation of the spirit.
II. LET US LOOK AT THE CHURCH AT PHILIPPI. (Philippians 1:1.) Now, it was composed of saints ( ἁγίοις). These consecrated, dedicated souls formed the staple of the Church at Philippi. While Paul does not assert that saintliness characterized them all without exception who professed membership in the Church, he plainly indicates that it ought to characterize them all. As Lightfoot expresses it, "Though it does not assert moral qualifications as a fact in the persons designated, it implies them as a duty." Moreover, Paul in his charity addresses himself to all these saints; so as to heal any divisions which may have arisen among them and to bind them all into a unity of spirit and of aim. The sphere of their saintliness is Christ Jesus. It is through their union with the Lord that they become the consecrated men he means them to be. But in the Church there were two kinds of officers—"bishops and deacons." That these "bishops" are synonymous with "presbyters" must be admitted by all, especially after the Bishop of Durham's candid note. They were spiritual overseers of the flock of God, and the plurality of them in such a little place as Philippi shows how desirable it is to have a plurality of persons in a congregation charged with its spiritual oversight and doing all they can to promote its spiritual welfare. Lastly, there were "deacons" in Philippi, men charged with the temporal interests of the congregations and administering these most faithfully. This "division of labor" was introduced after the experiment of the commune, and was found to work so well that it was continued in the apostolic Church long after the experiment of communism had proved a failure (Acts 6:1-15.). The simple organization of these primitive Churches is most instructive. With "saints and bishops and deacons" the congregation was complete.
III. LET US LOOK AT PAUL'S DESIRE FOR THEM. (Verse 2.) Though saints in character, though bishops or deacons, as the case might be, by virtue of their office, they needed constant "grace" from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, with its resultant "peace." God establishes relations with our souls, not that we may become at any time independent of him, but that we may realize constant dependence on him. As children we are to gather round his feet and rejoice in his paternal favor. And Jesus Christ is to be our Lord, so that in submission to his holy will we may find our path of peace. It is only by this due subordination to the Divine that we can grow in peace and enjoy life to the full. As our lives are thus united to the infinite Fountain, we can grow in all the elements of spiritual power. Such a benediction was the best experience for the saints at Philippi, as it is the best experience for Church members everywhere.—R.M.E.
The apostle's intercession and assurance.
Having saluted a well-organized Church with its bishops and deacons, Paul proceeds to express his thanksgivings and his intercessions. From this Church at Philippi alone had he received supplies. By the hand of Epaphroditus they had forwarded their love-tokens to the imprisoned apostle, and he rejoiced in the sympathy this showed with the furtherance of the gospel. Accordingly he proceeds to prayer, and pours out his significant intercessions for these saints. And here let us notice—
I. HIS INTERCESSION FOR THEIR FELLOWSHIP IN THE FURTHERANCE OF THE GOSPEL. (Philippians 1:4, Philippians 1:5, Revised Version.) The intercession of the apostle was joyful. Our prayers should be less complaints than jubilations. It must have been delightful for Paul to dwell upon the missionary spirit which the saints at Philippi exhibited, and to intercede for its increase. As the firstfruits of the European mission, they entered most heartily into Paul's aspirations and did all they could to strengthen his hands. It was a missionary Church which he had established at Philippi. And after all, is not this the prime purpose which should animate every Church? A congregation is nothing if not missionary. It must die of paralysis if it is not seeking to extend the gospel. What we need is to be filled with something like the enthusiasm of the apostles in the propagation of the faith.
II. PAUL'S INTERCESSION WAS BACKED UP BY THE ASSURANCE THAT GOD WOULD ENABLE THEM TO PERSEVERE IN THEIR BLESSED POLICY. (Verse 6.) The relation of assurance to intercession is one of great interest as well as importance. A certain and sure hope makes prayer joyful and prevailing. Suppose that Paul had been uncertain about the perseverance of the Philippians in the policy of evangelization, how different must his intercessions have been! But because he was certain of it, he prayed prevailingly. But we must observe the ground of his assurance. The "good work" begun in them is evidently the missionary spirit. For every one that receives the gospel is led instinctively to seek to propagate the gospel. The absence of the missionary spirit is proof positive that the gospel has only been nominally received. Well, the apostle argues that when God begins a work, he means to finish it. Incompleteness is but a promise in any Divine work of subsequent perfection. God's plans are not so poorly formed as to fail. Until the day of Jesus Christ, therefore, a spiritual work begun in men's hearts will be carried on. The poetess strikes the true note when she ends her poem on "Incompleteness" with the words—
"Nor dare to blame God's gifts for incompleteness;
In that want their beauty lies; they roll
Towards some infinite depth of love and sweetness,
Bearing onwards man's reluctant soul."
The perseverance of the saints, therefore, in their large-hearted policy rests upon God's ability to make them persevere. Left to themselves, they could not stand or persevere an hour; but, helped by God, they continue steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.
III. THEIR SYMPATHY WITH THE APOSTLE HAD PROVED AND WAS PROVING A MEANS OF GRACE. (Verses 7, 8.) Between Paul and the Philippians there was the most thorough sympathy. They sorrowed over his imprisonment, they sympathized with him in all his struggles and apologies for the gospel. The hearts in Philippi beat in unison with the great heart in Rome. And this secured their spiritual progress. It was a means of grace. Paul's experience was reproduced in them. Sympathy was the means of sanctification. It is so always. When we learn to "weep with those that weep" and to "rejoice with those that do rejoice," we get a wider experience than is possible with the self-centred and self-contained. Progress in all the elements of spiritual power must result.
IV. PAUL PRAYS STILL FURTHER FOR THEIR SYMMETRY OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. (Verses 9, 10.) His desire is that they may grow symmetrically. Love is to abound in knowledge and in judgment; that is to say, it is to be intelligent and discriminating, so that they may test the things that are excellent, and be sincere and without offense till the day of Jesus Christ. The symmetry of Christian character is a most important fact of experience. The graces do not manifest monstrosities. They grow harmoniously. Hence it is the desire of the progressive soul that others may experience a kindred progress, and with duly balanced powers may pass onwards towards the perfection which is to synchronize with the day of Jesus Christ.
V. AND SUCH PROGRESS IMPLIES FRUITFULNESS. (Verse 11.) The fruits of righteousness are what God looks for. He plants the trees of righteousness that he may be glorified in their fruitfulness. His garden shall yet be filled with fruitful trees. Every barren cumberer shall yet be rooted out, that its place may be duly filled.—R.M.E.
The gospel promoted by persecution.
Paul, having stated the substance of his intercession for the Philippian saints, proceeds to show how his apparently unfortunate imprisonment was being providentially overruled for what they had so much at heart, the furtherance of the gospel. It is most instructive to notice how his great heart transmutes adversity into gold, and sees encouragement where others would glean only despair.
I. AS A NOTABLE PRISONER, PAUL WAS DRAWING THE ATTENTION OF MANY TO THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST FOR WHICH HE SUFFERED. (Philippians 1:12, Philippians 1:13.) Persecution only draws attention to the objects of it. The Praetorian Guards at the palace and many other individuals had their attention turned to the cause for which Paul suffered, through his presence as the prisoner in Rome. In no way could the world better advertise the Christian cause. In fact, persecution emphasizes any cause. It drives it of necessity into prominence. On the other hand, the gospel shows its Divine wisdom by its tolerance. For while the gospel has an intolerant side in brooking no possible rival, it has its tolerant side in refusing to use force and in charitably claiming those not against it as for it. Now, in this abstinence from all persecution, there is in the Christian policy the subtlest wisdom. It is a refusal to make rival systems famous. It is a judicious allowance of them to die a natural death, instead of resuscitating them by emphatic opposition.
II. PAUL'S IMPRISONMENT LED TO INCREASED PREACHING OF CHRIST. (Philippians 1:14-18.) This happened in two directions: those who sympathized with Paul were led to show a bolder front and fearlessly to preach Christ; those who envied him and tried to checkmate him hailed his imprisonment as their opportunity, and preached Christ in hope of vexing him. It seems at first a strange notion of the gospel being faithfully preached from such a motive. But we must remember that men may be orthodox as a matter of policy and for party purposes, when they have no heart in the substance of their orthodoxy at all. The Judaizers, therefore, who troubled Paul so much seem to have taken an orthodox "fit" when he got imprisoned, thinking thereby to get the more hold over his converts. But Paul rejoices at the preaching of Christ, even though some of the preaching is from party motives. He knows how important a knowledge of that dear Name is, and how the great Spirit can acknowledge an enemy as an instrument just as well as a friend. Let the knowledge of Christ be propagated by all means. Even when his enemies undertake the work, let us rejoice in it, for souls are better to hear truth even from the lips of the poorest partisans than not to hear it at all.
III. PAUL'S SANCTIFICATION THROUGH THE PROCESS WAS ASSURED. (Philippians 1:19.) Paul's salvation, like ours, is a continuous process, manifesting its reality in increasing sanctification. Now, his imprisonment and its blessed results were being sanctified to him through the intercessions of his friends at Philippi and through the unfailing supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The blessed Spirit can make seeming adversities to be glorious sanctifications for his people. Paul was made by imprisonment more spiritual, more earnest, more faithful to his Master. The prison was the path upwards to heaven.
IV. HIS CONFIDENT AND CHRIST-GLORIFYING BEARING UNTO THE END. (Philippians 1:20.) Paul did not yet know the issue of his trial. But whether he went to the block or regained liberty, Christ would be magnified by the courageous bearing of his servant. So that he saw the glory of the Master shining clear as a star above and through his bondage. What became of Paul was nothing to him; but what the world would think of Christ was all in all. When the Lord was magnified, all was indeed well Paul's poor "body" had now no other business in the world than to be an instrument for the magnifying of the Master. Let it be crushed or regain liberty, it would in patience or by persevering work promote the glory of him who had bought it and the spirit it enshrined with his blood. The nobility and magnanimity of the apostle in this passage are worthy of all imitation and praise. Such a spirit deserves to succeed in the subjugation of the world for Christ.—R.M.E.
Life here and hereafter.
The brave apostle, awaiting the slow issue of his case at Rome, has been speaking of the good effect of his imprisonment upon the promulgation of the gospel. He can see the good beneath the apparent evil. And now he speaks of the life he lives on earth and of the other life beyond the shadow of death. Let us notice the lessons as they are set before us here.
I. PAUL'S SELF-ABANDONMENT TO CHRIST. (Philippians 1:21.) He surrendered himself in a spirit of entire consecration to Jesus, that he might do as he pleased with him. As in the parallel passage, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20), Paul's life was one of inspiration. Christ's Spirit entered into him and took possession of it, and moulded it according to his own gracious purposes. Of course, Paul's life was not a perfect realization of this inspiration, but it was an approximate realization. " τὸ ζῇν signifies here," says Rilliet, in loco, "the life par excellence—the life alone worthy of this name, in opposition to τὸ ζῇν ἐν σαρκί—this life; it is Christ, ὁ χριστὸς ἡ ζωὴ ἡμῶν (Colossians 2:4). But the Christian, so long as he is here below, so long as he lives in the flesh, possesses Christ only incompletely, and has, consequently, only an imperfect life (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8)." Yet there is nothing that helps this approximation more than to face honestly the ideal that our lives ought to be lives abandoned to Christ and inspired by his Holy Spirit.
II. PAUL'S GAIN AFTER DEATH (Philippians 1:21.) For it is the aorist which is here used, τὸ ἀποθανεῖν and so the apostle's meaning manifestly is, to use Alford's words, that "the state after death, not the act of dying," is the gain. Death in itself is no gain, but it leads to gain beyond it. The imperfect conditions of the present state being removed, the inspiration will have freer play, and all the gain which it necessarily entails. We can only feebly image the glorious condition beyond death; but to escape sin and be filled with the Spirit of Christ must be gain incalculable.
III. PAUL'S PAUSE UPON THE BRINK. (Philippians 1:22.) He now speaks about the probability of his abiding some time longer in the flesh, and he shows that, if the fruit of his work depended upon this continuance in life, he dare not complainingly, desire to be released. He consequently pauses and leaves the issue in the higher hands of God. So that, as one writer sententiously puts it, he was "willing to wait, but ready to go." Bengel's remark is also most beautiful: "Alius ex opore fructum quaerit; Paulus ipsum opus pro fructu habet." Let it be ours not to seek our reward out of our work, but always in it!
IV. PAUL'S EQUILIBRIUM. (Philippians 1:28.) The two desires which were so nicely balanced were—to depart and he with Christ which is very far better, and to abide in the flesh. The one would be a personal experience altogether blissful; the other would be a patience still fruitful in the welfare of others. Between the two he maintains a holy equilibrium. In either alternative he can be happy with his Lord.
V. PAUL'S ASSURANCE OF MORE WORK IN THE PRESENT WORLD. (Philippians 1:24-26.) Paul did not hesitate to affirm that his life was a valuable one to the Philippian Church. There was no false modesty about the man. Moreover, his work for them would be with a view to their progress and joy in believing. Especially would this be promoted if he were allowed to visit the Macedonian Church again. If, then, this be the first Epistle of the captivity, as Lightfoot seems to think, the present assurance of Paul would correspond to these premonitions about recovery, which the Lord's servants often have in times of sickness. Is there not often an impression that a sick person will recover because of his own confident assurance of it? And when this is allied to such a holy and wholesome desire for the fulfillment of the Lord's work among men as Paul here manifests, it becomes intensely beautiful. We thus see that the life here and the life hereafter only tally when they are consecrated to Christ. It can consequently be left to the all-wise Lord whether meanwhile he would have our service there or here. Those who by his grace are willing to serve him with their whole hearts have nothing to fear, but everything to hope for, in the unending future with all its opportunities.—R.M.E.
The gifts of faith and of suffering.
Paul's release is still problematical; it is needful, therefore, that he should make provision in case he should still be absent from them. He calls them consequently to citizenship ( ποιτεύεσθε) worthy of the gospel, and to the acceptance of those gifts which that citizenship implies.
I. THE PHILIPPIANS ARE TO BE FAITHFUL CITIZENS OF GOD'S KINGDOM. (Philippians 1:27.) Now, what is it which is prized in God's kingdom as of prime importance? It is "the faith of the gospel;" that is, the body of truth of which the gospel is the expression. It is not for territory nor for treasure God's faithful citizens fight, but for truth. Hence the spirit which befits the kingdom is unity in struggling for the truth as it is in Jesus. When the Philippians were able to keep this before them as the first anxiety and concern, then would they be acting in some measure worthy of their high calling. And after all, there is nothing worth fighting for but truth. Wars of aggrandizement are now discredited throughout the civilized world; and some pretext related to truth must now be set forth as the ground of war. If the citizens of this world and its kingdoms are brought to this, the citizens of the nobler kingdom should contend earnestly and only for the faith once delivered to the saints.
II. THEY ARE TO BE FEARLESS CITIZENS AS WELL. (Verse 28.) In contending for truth we must expect opposition; but before our adversaries we are bound to be fearless. Courage is a grace peculiarly fitted for God's witnesses. His people can say surely "Greater is he that is for us than all they that be against us." And in this matter of Christian courage Paul and Silas had given the Philippians excellent example. Imprisoned on the occasion of their first visit, they had aroused the attention of the entire prison by singing praises at midnight as their feet were fast in the stocks. And in this more serious imprisonment of Paul out of which this Epistle came, he was illustrating that heroism which he looked for in the Philippians. It was the fearless and dauntless citizen of God's kingdom who was calling for fearlessness from his fellows.
III. THEIR FEARLESSNESS WOULD BE A TOKEN AT ONCE OF THEIR OWN SALVATION AND OF THEIR OPPONENTS' DOOM. (Verse 28.) The courage and heroism of God's witnesses was a sign of coming victory and salvation. It was also a sign of defeat and doom to their adversaries. A triumphant spirit often carries the day against fearful odds. God seems to give his people assurance of victory, and then to make that assurance a most powerful element in the issue. The dauntless are carried through discouragement to triumph.
IV. BELIEVING AND SUFFERING ARE TWIN GIFTS OF GOD. (Verse 29.) This arrangement brings the whole course of God's administration before us. He gives his people on Christ's behalf, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. It is sweet to think of faith being thus the gift of God. The suspicion which we cherish by nature gives place to the trust which comes through grace. And with trust there comes suffering. It is a most precious gift. In Miss Procter's 'Legends and Lyrics' we have an exquisite piece entitled "Treasures," where the following verse will help to elucidate this passage:—
"Suffering that I dreaded,
Ignorant of her charms,
Laid the fair child, Pity,
Smiling in my arms."
V. THE SIMILARITY OF EXPERIENCE BETWEEN PAUL AND THE PHILIPPIANS. (Verse 30.) For Paul's experience had embraced the twin gifts too. He had learned to believe on Christ and to suffer for him. There had nothing happened unto him, therefore, but that which is common to men; and he wishes the Philippians to appreciate this. Our temptation is to represent our trials as unparalleled. The truth is that they can be paralleled and exceeded by the experience in the next house or next street. Paul at Philippi and Paul at Rome presents the common inheritance of faith and trial which the people of God everywhere experience. Let us consequently take kindly to what God gives—he sends us trial and he sends us faith in such blessed proportions as to ensure a character in some way worthy of his kingdom.—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY R. FINLAYSON
Philippians 1:1, Philippians 1:2
This Epistle of Paul breathes throughout the tenderest affection and most passionate longing toward the Philippians. It was called forth by a token of their affection in a contribution for his support sent by Epaphroditus. It is pervaded by a deeper tone of satisfaction than any other of his Epistles. It is characteristically epistolary in its freedom of plan and familiarity of expression. Written without a dogmatic purpose, there is one important doctrinal passage in it; and there is a breaking off to warn against two antagonistic types of error—Judaic formalism and antinomian licence. With all that was commendable in the Philippians, there was something of the spirit of rivalry among them. The counteracting of this gives, in several places, a turn to the thought.
1. The writers. "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus." The Philippians are so loyal to Paul that he does not need to make use of his official designation. He associates with himself Timothy, as both of them standing in common subordination to Christ as Savior. They are both his servants, i.e. bound to carry out the ends of his salvation. Timothy was known to the readers of this Epistle, as having assisted in the foundation of their Church and as having subsequently visited them. From the natural interest he thus had in them he was to be at no distant period Paul's ambassador for the purpose of inquiring into their state. There can be no doubt that Paul is properly the writer of the Epistle; for, in the third verse, Timothy is lost sight of, and, when he is afterward referred to, it is in the third person. At the same time, Timothy must be regarded as joining with Paul, not only in the salutation, but in the whole sentiment of the Epistle. Written down by him, or read over by him or to him, he was of one mind with Paul in every expression he used to the Philippian Church.
2. The persons addressed.
II. THE SALUTATION (same as in Ephesians).
1. The two words of salutation. "Grace to you and peace." The best security for others being blessed is the Divine graciousness which makes all the Divine dealings mean peace.
2. The twofold source to which we look in salutation. "From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." The Father who has blessed us bless them too. Jesus Christ, who has revealed the Father's power to bless, as Lord dispense to them out of the stores in his Father's house as he has dispensed to us.—R.F.
Expression of interest.
1. Whom he thanked. "I thank my God." As it was in connection with their matters that he thanked God, he might have said, "I thank your God." As he made common cause with them, he might have said, "I thank our God." As he felt personally indebted to God on their account, what he says is, "I thank my God."
2. Upon what he proceeded in thanksgiving. "Upon all my remembrance of you." This was a gracious word with which, as a wise overseer, to bespeak a hearing from them. It was the highest praise he could have bestowed upon them. His relations with them had been of the happiest nature. Not a shadow had passed over their intercourse. There was nothing in their past history as a Church that he recalled with regretfulness. His whole recollection of them made him thank his God.
3. How he thanked God. "Always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy." His interest in them carried him to the throne of grace. It was his habit to pray for them, as for all the Churches he had founded. He had a means of reaching them through heaven. And whenever he prayed on their behalf (and this was a care which came upon him daily) the remembrance of them called forth his thanksgivings, which gave a tone of joy to his prayers. What was uniformly in his prayers could not but come out in his Epistle. And so it has been remarked by Bengel, "The sum of the Epistle is, 'I rejoice; rejoice ye.'"
4. For what particularly he thanked God. "For your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now." They were partners with him for a holy end. That end was to further the gospel. They could not accomplish this cud in the same way that Paul did. But they could contribute for his support; and, thus relieving him from the necessity of working with his own hands, they put him in a better position for furthering the gospel They also helped by the prayers they offered up to God on his behalf. They especially helped in what they evinced in their lives of the power of the gospel. That was putting a powerful argument into the mouth of the apostle. In trying to persuade others he could point to what the gospel had done for them. All that help in the gospel they had rendered him from the first day they had heard until then. He had continually been held up by them in the proclamation of the gospel.
II. CONFIDENT HOPE.
1. To what directed. "That he which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ." The good work immediately referred to was co-operation with the apostle in furthering the gospel. But the language is general, and may be referred to the work of grace as a whole.
(a) It is a work wrought in us. "In you," says the apostle. There is a work to be wrought on external nature. We are to subdue the earth, according to the primeval command; we are to turn it to good uses. But that is really accidental, relative to the work that is to be wrought in us. What is essential is that we, the workers, the subduers of the earth, should be in our normal state. And there can be no doubt that is what will be looked into when we have done with earth and all its works. What with all our working have we wrought in ourselves?
(b) It is a work which consists in giving forms of goodness to our nature. A man of cultivated taste can make the bare ground assume forms of beauty. He can turn it into a garden—the surface taken advantage of, the soil highly cultivated, flowers and trees disposed of with reference to season, color, size—all so arranged as to be pleasing to the eye. So our nature has to be made to assume Divine forms. It has to be charactered by God—its peculiarities preserved, its powers cultivated, all so ordered under his plastic hand as to be a garden in which he can take delight.
(c) It is a work which consists in the emancipation of our nature from evil forms. This earth of ours in its natural state needs much subduing by the iron, directed by the mind of man. Our nature is to be compared to a piece of ground in its natural wildness, which is ill to subdue to usefulness and loveliness. It needs much subduing by the grace of God, that it may be delivered from the evil that is in it, while brought forth into all goodness. Our minds need to be delivered from vanity, and brought into captivity to Christ. Our memories need to be delivered from treacherousness, and made reliable and ready in the service of Christ. Our affections need to be weaned from the world, and set Christ. Our consciences need to be delivered from searedness, and endued with tenderness. Our wills, especially, need to be delivered from weakness, and endued with power. It is throughout a work of liberation, emancipation, the transforming of the waste so that—
"Flowers of grace in freshness start,
Where once the weeds of error grew."
(a) It is to be traced to the Father's love. Take one who has experienced something of The "good work" in his heart—what is its history? If it is traced back and back, its beginnings are to be found in the motions of the Father's love. It goes further back than even the Divine counsels. For it was the love behind, essentially belonging to him as Father, that made him think of and decree our salvation.
(b) It is to be traced to the work of the Son. This is not going so far back as the Father's counsels; it is rather the carrying out of these counsels. The work of Christ outside of us is the reason why the good work can go forward in us. The Son of God, coming into our nature and grappling with all the difficulties of our position, obtained for us redemptive virtue. That is the decisive fact to which the good work in us is to be traced back, just as the healing of men's bodies of old was to be traced back to the miraculous virtue that was in Christ.
(c) It is to be traced to the operations of the Spirit. This is God coming into closest contact with us. Left to ourselves the redemptive work of Christ would have been a dead work. But it was followed up by the Spirit of Christ coming into our heart, producing in us the desire for salvation, holding up before us saving merit, saving truth. And the good work in us is to be traced back to his gracious working.
"And every virtue we possess,
And every victory won,
And every thought of holiness,
Are his alone."
"The transformation of apostate man
From fool to wise, from earthly to Divine,
Is work for him that made him."
(a) We confide in the infinitude of the Father's love. If we had only our own interest in our salvation to look to, we might be afraid of it dying out. But sooner will light die out of the sun than love die out of the heart of God. And we have that inextinguishable love to rely upon to complete our salvation for us.
(b) We confide in the infinitude of the Savior's merit. If we had only our own worthiness to think of, we might often enough hide our head in the dust. But fuller than the sea is of water is Christ of merit. And infinitely beyond our need does his merit extend. And to his far-reaching merit can we look for the completion of our salvation.
(c) We confide in the infinitude of the Spirit's power. If we had only ourselves to look to, we might well despair, considering the elements of weakness, of fickleness, that are in our hearts. But more penetrating, subduing than fire is the working of the Spirit. And when we are ready to stand aghast at the evil we discover in our hearts, let us look away to the might of the Spirit that can infinitely more than conquer it all.
(a) He is bound by his wisdom. When he began the good work he must have had a distinct end in view. And he must have known all the difficulties in the way beforehand, especially the badness of our hearts. In the knowledge of all difficulties he must have seen his way to the desired end all clear. To begin to build without knowing how to finish is foolishness, with which only man is chargeable. There are no half-finished worlds in God's universe.
(b) He is bound by his faithfulness. There is the Old Testament promise, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." Such a word as this is encouraging: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." And the very fact that he has begun a good work in us, apart from any word of promise, may be taken as a pledge that he will see to it being completed. Observe the nexus of our experience. It is when we have experienced something of the good work in us that we can assure ourselves in God that he will complete it. We have, therefore, in the first place, to satisfy ourselves about the reality of our experience. Are there the signs of a good work begun in our hearts? Is there the seeking after God for the blessing? Is there the endeavor to do the Divine will? If we cannot satisfy ourselves, we are not beyond hope while we can say—
Love of God, so pure and changeless;
Blood of Christ, so rich and free;
Grace of God, so strong and boundless,
Magnify them all in me—
2. Its justification.
1. For increase of love, associated with knowledge and discernment. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment." He has already given them credit for love in its manifestations. He here assumes that their love abounded. Still, he wished higher things for them in love. Especially did he wish to see it associated with knowledge and discernment. The former points more to fullness of contents; the Latter more to quickness of perception. The former is used generally; the latter distributively—all discernment, i.e. every act of the spiritual sense, or its application to every occasion. We need not wonder that love, in order to be perfected, needs to be brought under the influence of truth. Love is regulated by truth. In proportion to its force it is apt to be erratic. We need sometimes to drag it at the heels of duty. We need to keep it from being placed on unworthy objects. We need to keep it from seeking worthy objects in unworthy ways. Christ needed to rebuke Peter's love to him, which mistakenly forbade him to die. Love is nourished by truth. With imperfect knowledge our love must be starved. We need to have the field of truth ever opened up before us, that love may be fed. We must see beauty in Christ in order that we may desire him. The apostle then prayed for the Philippians, that they might have an enlarged knowledge and a finer perception, in order that their hearts might be more warmly affected, especially toward him who is the altogether Lovely.
2. Aim in the elements associated with love. "That ye may approve the things that are excellent." Some translate, "That ye may prove the things that differ." But the apostle is a point beyond that. The object of enlarged knowledge and a fine spiritual sense is that love may be combined with the approbation of excellent things, or things that stand out amongst the good. necessary to a rounded character? Is it not necessary in a world And is that not like this, if love would have its virgin purity and due warmth, that we should have a keen eye to detect the spurious, the base, that we should set aside for our highest approbation the things that tower up among the good?
3. Ultimate design.
(1) Inward state "That ye may be sincere and void of offense unto the day of Christ." "Sincere," in its derivation points to honey without any admixture of wax. So are we to have heavenly excellence without any admixture of earthliness. Unmixed in our motives (which is a condition of excellence), we shall not be chargeable with giving others offense, or putting obstacles in their way. Especially in view of the day of Christ does it become us to see that we are clear from the blood of all men.
Thoughts suggested by his captivity.
I. PROGRESS OF THE GOSPEL IN ROME.
1. Generally. "Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel." It might have been expected that his imprisonment, which is principally referred to, would have fallen out to the hindrance of the gospel. But Paul would have his Philippian brethren know, for their comfort and confirmation, that, though to some extent it had been a disadvantage, yet to a greater extent it had been an advantage· It was with it as with the early persecutions as a whole. They were intended by the Church's enemies to be for its destruction; but Divine wisdom overruled them for its increase. The scattering of the disciples brought about the fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel, "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." The imprisonment of the ark was the fall of Dagon. The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church.
2. In two particulars.
3. More detailed statement in connection with the second particular. "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one do it of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel: but the other proclaim Christ of faction, not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds." The first-mentioned class here is not to be identified with the minority of the verse just considered. For they could not be characterized as brethren in the Lord, and then as insincere. But the general class of those who spoke the word being suggested, we are told of some of them that they were actuated with unfriendly feelings towards Paul, and of others of them that they were actuated with friendly feelings. It showed the strength of the gospel movement in Rome, that it drew into it even those who were not friendly to Paul. Their first feeling was that of envy. Who would have thought of Paul becoming an object of envy in his bonds? Yet so it was, to the praise of an all-wise God, he conducted a movement in Rome from his very prison, personally and by his agents, with so much success that some were drawn into the movement from very envy toward him. Their further feeling was that of mischief. As Satan, envious of our first parents, desired to destroy their bliss by introducing sin, so they, filled with envy because of the good movement carried on by Paul, desired to destroy it by introducing division. To this badness of motive they did not add badness of doctrine. If they were Judaists at heart, they did not put forward Judaism in their teaching. That would have been to have defeated their ends, in view of the strong Christian character of the movement. No, they were more cunning. They were false prophets, inwardly ravening wolves, but they knew to appear in sheep's clothing. They preached Christ, as the others preached Christ. They were Pauline in their doctrine; but it was to gain influence, in order to use it for the subverting of Paul. The other class mentioned here is to be identified with the majority previously mentioned. They were his brethren in the Lord, and they were brotherly toward him. Their feeling was that of good will. And, loving Paul and sympathizing with him in his strivings, they preached Christ. Taking the two classes in an inverted order, of the latter he now says that they preached Christ of love. As love is the great moving cause in God, so it was in them as under his influence. Love worked in them, along with the knowledge of the position for which Paul was destined. He was set for the defense of the gospel. He was appointed to make a stand against worldly powers, to bear the brunt of their opposition to Christ. It was a perilous position, requiring extraordinary courage, and its perilousness was not yet past; but they were willing to subserve him in it, in cheering his heart by the preaching of Christ. Turning now to the first class, he declares that their feeling was a spirit of faction, such as rules only in unregenerate hearts. They did not preach Christ sincerely, i.e. from love for him, or desire to extend the knowledge of his Name. But what moved them to preach Christ, or rather—for another word is now used with a slight change in meaning—to make Christ fully known, was the thought (not knowledge, as in the previous clause, and the apostle seems to indicate that it was nothing more than a thought) that it would never be realized—the thought of raising up affliction for him in his bonds, apparently by undermining his influence and forming an antagonistic party.
4. Feelings of the apostle in view of what has been stated.
(a) Assurance that it would result in good to him. "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation, through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." The apostle seems to have in view the whole state of matters described. His imprisonment is in the background, and in the foreground this on which he has been dwelling, that there were around him in his imprisonment many who preached Christ from friendly feelings toward him, but some also who made the preaching of Christ only a cloak for designs against him. He knew—his tone is that of certainty—that this would turn differently from what it was in part intended to do, to his highest good. But they must give him their prayers. He needed them in the critical position in which he was placed. Yes, God, who knew all the movements that affected him, and could counterwork all the designs of his enemies, must extend his help. He must especially, through their prayers for this, supply the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Then would he be able to act, even as Christ acted, so that all that happened to him would turn—though that might not be its nature—to his good.
(b) Hopefulness as to his accomplishing his destiny. "According to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing shall I be put to shame, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death." God had wrought for him in the past, and so he was not without hope for the future. Nay, he had an earnest expectation and hope. His eye, taken off everything else, was strained toward this, that in nothing he should be put to shame, in not exhibiting the proper spirit or carrying out his proper destiny. The proper spirit for his circumstances was boldness. God had always enabled him to be bold in the past; he would not allow him to be faint-hearted now, when he was looking forward to his trial. And his proper destiny, as he conceived it, was this, that Christ should be magnified in his body, whether that body should be preserved alive for the future service of the Master, or whether it should be given up in martyrdom. Thus through one instrumentality viz. Paul's imprisonment, it was true, that God wrought various ends. Let us, even when we do not see what he is doing, trust in him as all-wise. "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." The forces of evil may seem to hold the Church in imprisonment; but let us trust that from the imprisoned Church, made, to feel the cruel hand of worldliness and scepticism, there shall go forth a wider, more glorious proclamation of Christ, as alone meeting the wants of men. And let us trust, too, that the Church shall come forth purified, saved, and more hopeful against the forces of evil. And if we feel individually as in a prison-house, from evil without or within, let us look to the all-wise God to make our prison-house the means of Christ being better known, and of our souls being blessed with more of the elements of salvation, and with more hopefulness of accomplishing our destiny to the glory of Christ.
II. HE CALMLY CONTEMPLATES THE QUESTION OF LIFE OR DEATH.
1. He feels If, at the advantage to himself is in dying.
(a) What it is to make Christ the end of our life. It is to make everything a means toward the advancement of the glory of Christ. This is the aspect in which it is regarded in the context, and to which the connecting word refers us. It was the ambition of the apostle that Christ should be magnified in his body by life or by death. We are to seek nearer ends, such as self-preservation, proficiency in our earthly calling, but not as ends in themselves. There is only one absolute end, and that is Christ. Everything is to be set aside as useless, impertinent, which cannot be directed to Christ. Even a life devoted to science, to philanthropy, must be rejected as unworthy, unless it is humbly lived for Christ. All our efforts, as all our prayers, must be in his Name, all the fruits of our life we must lay at his feet. We have to plan our lives differently; for that is dependent on our natural capacities and on our circumstances; but there is to be this unity in them all, that they are to be planned so that they shall bring the largest revenue of glory to Christ. Let us, then, have our end clearly in view, and let us pursue it intelligently, and with all the simplicity and abandonment with which men of the world sometimes pursue their ends.
(b) Why Christ is the end of our life. It was Christ who was the reason for our being originally brought into existence. And as we came from his hand (for by him, as well as for him, were all things made) we were rich in opportunity. By sin, however, our existence became so heavily weighted, that, left to ourselves, it would have been better if we had not been born. We owe it to Christ that, by coming into our nature and dying for us, he has made our life worth living. He has redeemed it from the disability of sin, and has made it rich in the opportunity of everlasting glory. And on account of what he has done for us, he is entitled to be the end of our life.
(c) How Christ is fitted to be the end of our life.
( α) He fills the imagination. In him we have One to live for, who combines in his character every excellence, and in the superlative degree, who leaves every other immeasurably behind, who towers high above the highest flight of the strongest imagination. And while the story of his life is more wonderful than is to be found in romance, it has all the charm of reality.
( β) He appeals to the heart. Love is the great argument by which he makes his appeal to us. He goes down to the lowest depths for us, and then, coming up, he beseeches us by his tears and agonies. In life's trials, from his own experience of them, he encourages us and beckons us on: "In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
( γ) He calls forth the energies. Worldly objects call forth the energies of men. "Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise (that last infirmity of noble minds) to scorn delights and live laborious days." To have a loved one to labor for has been the spur to many a man's energies, which otherwise would have flagged. It is the glory of Christ that, though he is viewless, he calls forth our energies purely, equally, in the highest degree, with the greatest pleasureableness. Paul tells us that Christ was the end of his life. When he was thirty years of age, he suddenly discovered that he had been entirely mistaken in the end of his life, and that he had lived all these years to no purpose. Then, in a miraculous manner, the claims of Christ asserted their power over him, and from that point the crucified One became the magnet of his course. To him to live was Christ. Grasping the plan of his life, he made everything subservient to the magnifying of the Savior, in the making of him known. It was Christ who ever came into the study of his imagination. It was Christ whose Name was branded into his heart. It was his unseen Savior who drew forth from him a power of work beyond what has ever been witnessed.
2. The consideration of advantage to others by his continuing in life makes him undecided. "But if to live in the flesh,—if this is the fruit of my work, then what I shall choose I wet not. But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better." He has shown a leaning to the alternative of dying. But had the other alternative, viz. living in the flesh, no hold upon him? How did it stand related to his work, i.e. the work given him on earth to do? Had he yet accomplished all the good to others that was intended by his labors? Let it be supposed that his living in the flesh was the condition of carrying out his life-task in its fruitfulness to others, then he felt at a loss which alternative to choose. He was in a strait betwixt the two. He felt the obligation of finishing his life-work with all the good that might result from it to others. But he felt, on the other hand, a desire to depart and be with Christ, which was very far better. Let the form of the desire be noted. He had a desire to depart. The reference is to breaking up a camp. Our body is the earthly tabernacle in which we live. We have a natural aversion to break up our earthly encampment. We become attached to our dwelling and its surroundings, even by long use. The apostle had triumphed over this, so as even to desire to break up his earthly encampment. Severe or long-continued sickness may bring on the desire for death. "As a servant," says Job, "earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work: so am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me. When I lie down, I say, When shall i arise, and the night be gone? and I am hall of tossings to and fro until the dawning of the day." Old age may make us feel that we are becoming unfitted for life. "I am this day fourscore years old: … can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women?" Or our uncongenial surroundings may make us sigh for a change. "Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!" What had principally influence with the apostle was the attraction of the life beyond. The earthly breaking up, or what he elsewhere calls his absence from the body, would be his presence with the Lord. He felt drawn to the Lord, with whom he had vital union and communion, and to the invisible world over which he presided, and to the people who were there happy with him. He felt that to have face-to-face and affectionate intercourse with him, to have a new comprehension of his mind and a new reception of his Spirit, was better than being here. It was far better. Nay, he uses a triple comparative, and his language, deliberately chosen, is, that it is "very far better." It is to have Christ in his incomparable worth and glory disclosed to us and enjoyed by us as he cannot be here.
3. The consideration of advantage especially to the Philipians by his continuing in life ultimately prevails with him. "Yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide, yea, and abide with you all." While he had a strong tending toward the Lord, it was not an impatient, precipitate tending. He was not mutinous against the Divine disposal of him. There was wisdom in his state of mind. He saw clearly that it was for his own advantage to depart. But he saw, at the same time, that it was more needful, for such as the Philippians, that he should abide in the flesh. And when it came to be a question between personal bliss and work to be done by him, there could be no doubt on what side his decision would be given. He had enough of the spirit of the Master, like him, to forego heavenly bliss for earthly work. He was not one to decline present duty, and to grasp at the prize without having run the prescribed race. While he was even desirous to embrace the gain of dying; he could not refuse the obedience of life. Out of the confidence that he had work to do rose the knowledge that he would abide with the Philippians, and still abide with them. The decisiveness with which he thus speaks of abiding shows that he contemplated a successful termination to his trial. He would abide after the great crisis was past. We are not to understand him speaking with prophetic certainty. He knew that the Ephesians would see his face no more when he parted with them at Miletus; he knew that he would abide for the sake of the Philippians. There is reason to think that he was mistaken in the first case, and that he was right in the second case. In both cases he simply proceeded on his own reasonings. In the former case it was anticipated evil at Jerusalem which weighed with him. In the latter case it was the consideration of work to be done especially among the Philippians. Twofold object contemplated in his continuance.
(1) On his part. "For your progress and joy in the faith."
(a) Progress in the faith. He had rendered them assistance in the past. He had introduced them into the faith of the gospel. He had, by visits to them and agents sent to them, helped them forward in the faith. He here intimates to them that it would be his object, when released from imprisonment, of which he was confident, to pay them a visit, and to present Christ so that their faith would become more enlightened, more lively, more steadfast.
(b) Joy in the faith. This is the blessed result of believing. "The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing." If we believe that God goes out toward us in infinite love, that in Christ he is favorable to us as sinners, dud has laid up for us everlasting happiness, then there is, in what we believe, foundation for a joy which should be ecstatic.
III. HE EXHORTS THEM TO PERFORM THEIR DUTIES AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS.
1. Generally. "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ." The leading word in the original means, "perform your duties as citizens," and the further thought is that we are to perform our duties in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ which has made us members of so great a commonwealth. And it need not be wondered at that the apostle should adopt the form of expression, writing from the Roman metropolis to a city which was invested with the Roman franchise. The citizens of Philippi could appreciate the force of an appeal founded upon their possession of the political franchise. It was this ground which they took up against Paul and Silas: "These men set forth customs which it is not lawful for us to receive or to observe, being Romans." The apostle here proceeds upon their being members of a greater commonwealth than the Roman. It was a commonwealth presided over by a greater than Caesar, even the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a commonwealth where members were admitted to greater privileges than Rome could bestow, viz. sonship with right of access to God, right of Divine protection, right of Divine direction, right of Divine strengthening, and right of dwelling with God at last. Let them perform their duties as citizens, then, in a manner worthy of the gospel which had admitted them to so great privileges.
2. Their performance of their duties as Christian citizens to be independent of his presence with them. "That, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear of your state." This brings out the force of the foregoing "only." Their performance of their duties was not to be dependent on his presence with them. He proceeds upon the supposition of his being re]cased. When released, it would be his endeavor to come and see them. But it was possible that Providence might direct his steps elsewhere. And even though he came and saw them, it could only be for a time. He could not, in justice to others, be always with them. But whether he came and saw them, or was absent, he would hear (by attraction to latter) of their state, whether they were performing their duties as Christian citizens or not.
3. He specifies two duties which devolved upon them as citizens in connection with military service.
(a) Their undauntedness a Divine token. "Which is for them an evident token of perdition, but of your salvation, and that from God." It was a Divine token with a double meaning. It was a token of perdition to the adversaries. It was a proof that they were in the wrong, seeing that, by all their threatenings and tortures, they could not make the Christians blench. And it was a token of salvation, of final victory, to the Christians. It was a proof to them that they were in the right, and would be shown to be in the right, seeing that their faith raised them above the influence of fear.
(b) Called to a high destiny which they shared with Paul. "Because to you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer in his behalf: having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me." To all who deserve the name of Christians it is given to witness for Christ by their faith. To some it is given to witness for Christ by their sufferings. Of this number was Paul, who had earned the name of confessor when at Philippi, and was bearing the same name at Rome. He was in painful conflict with the powers of the world. And the same conflict these Philippian Christians endured. Let them rejoice in their high destiny, that thereby they were enrolled in the noble army of confessors and martyrs.—R.F.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
Philippians 1:1, Philippians 1:2
"This Epistle," says the learned Lewin, "was written during Paul's captivity, en to tols desmois men (Philippians 1:7), and at Rome (Philippians 4:22). And Paul had been long enough a prisoner to have produced great effects both in the Praetorium and elsewhere (Philippians 1:13). The long captivity of the apostle before the date of the letter appears also from this. The Philippians had heard of his imprisonment at Rome, and had sent him pecuniary relief by the hands of Epaphroditus (Philippians 1:7; Philippians 4:18); and Epaphroditus had fallen ill at Rome (Philippians 2:27), the Philippians heard of it, and the report to that effect had gone back from Philippi to Rome (Philippians 2:26). In short, the Epistle was written when Paul was in such confident expectation of his release that he was making arrangements for his departure, and he tells us that his intentions were, immediately on being released, to send off Timothy to Philippi to learn their state and to bring back word to Paul in the West, and then both were to sail together to the East, and after some little interval Paul hoped to visit Philippi in person." In this salutation we have three subjects for thought—
I. THE MOST DIGNIFIED OF ALL OFFICES, "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ? The apostle does not here assert his apostleship as in some other places, but speaks of himself and Timotheus simply as. the servants of Jesus Christ. Now, whilst to be a servant of some men and institutions implies degradation, to be the servant of Jesus Christ is to sustain an orifice the most honourable and glorious; for note the following things connected with this service:—
1. It meets with the full concurrence of conscience. There are many services in which men are engaged, some most lucrative, some associated with worldly honors, yet they fail to enlist the full concurrence of conscience, nay, conscience often raises its protest against them, and it often happens that the protests are so strong that men have felt bound to resign. But in this service conscience goes with every effort put forth; for to serve Christ is to ran with the principles of eternal right, to render to the Almighty his claims, and to all creatures their due.
2. It affords ample scope for the full development of the soul's faculties. In how many services have men to be engaged in this world which only excite and employ certain powers of the mind, leaving all the others in a state of decay and torpor! Millions feel that the work in which they are engaged is so unworthy of their natures that they lack both self-satisfaction and freedom. The services make no demand upon their powers of investigation, speculation, invention, creation, and their central moral sensibilities; all is machinery. But in the service of Christ there is both an urgent demand and an immeasurable scope for the wonderful powers and possibilities of the human soul. In this service men advance with every effort, not as the mere creatures of time, but as the offspring of God and the citizens of the universe. By this service we grow up into him.
3. It is a service that contributes to the well-being of all and the ill-being of none. In all the selfish services of time, whilst there may be a contributing to the temporal interests of some, there is an injury inflicted on others; what one gains the other loses. What man has ever made a fortune or risen to power that has not invaded the rights and damaged the interests of others? But in this service good is rendered to all and evil to none. It is a service of universal benevolence, a service for the common weal, a service that goes against all the ills that afflict the race, and for all the blessings that can enrich and ennoble.
4. It is a service, that ensures the approbation of God and of all consciences in the universe. Does the service of the politician or the ecclesiastic or the warrior secure the approval of Almighty God? Not as such; nor do they secure the approbation of universal conscience. But the service of Christ does. He says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" and all consciences with every effort echo the approval. Policy, passion, and prejudice often condemn the genuine servants of Christ, but their consciences never. the law of their moral constitution compels them to say, "Well done!" to the right.
5. It is a service whose worth is determined, not by result, but by motive. The service of a man in the employ of human masters is estimated, not by motive, but by results. If the motive be corrupt, utterly selfish, so long as the results contribute to the interests of the master, the servant is pronounced a good one. Not so with the service of Christ. Motive is everything; though a man may effect in Christianity what may be considered wonderful success, prophesy in abundance, and cast out devils by hosts, he is deemed utterly worthless, only as stubble and fit for the fire. "Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity," etc. What service, then, approaches this, ay, is comparable to this, in its sublime dignity? To be a servant of Christ is to be the sublimest of prophets, the most Divine of priests, the most glorious of kings.
II. THE MOST EXALTED OF ALL STATES. "To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." "Bishop" and "presbyter" are equivalents in the apostolic Epistles, though the two terms have different origins—the one, presbyter, or elder, a Jewish title; the other, bishop, or overseer, of heathen origin, used in classic Greek for commissioner. Deacons we find the origin of in Acts 1:6, Acts 1:7. Now, while it is noteworthy that the Philippian Church had its two officers—the bishop and the deacon—these officers were spiritually in the same state as the private members. What was that state? "In Christ Jesus." The distinction between them and the others was not a distinction of state but simply of service or of office, and unless their state had been identical their office would have been invalid. A true Church and all its members must be in Christ Jesus. What does this mean? It is an expression of very frequent occurrence in the writings of the apostle. In Christo. What meaneth it? We can attach three intelligible ideas to the expression.
1. In his affections as his friends. When we say that a child is in the heart of its parent, or such a sister is in the heart of her brother, or such a wife in the heart of her husband, we know what it means. In fact, all that we really love live in our hearts; they often prompt us to thought and inspire us to act. Now, Christ loves all men, and all men are in his heart; but his love for his friends is special, deep, and tender. "Ye are my friends." Every genuine disciple is in the heart of Christ.
2. In his school as his pupils. Christ is a Teacher of absolute truth, a Teacher of humanity. He has established a school, and to all he gives the invitation, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Now, all who enter this school are his disciples. What a Teacher is Christ! "Never man spake like this Man." What an inexpressible privilege to be in this school!
3. In his character as their Example. Without figure man everywhere lives in the character of man. The present age lives in the character of the past, and so back; the millions of unrenewed men live in the character of Adam, imbibe his selfishness, and practice his disloyalty. All regenerate men live in the character of Christ, appropriate his grand ideas, cherish his spirit, and imitate his Divine virtues; thus they become like him. Much more is included in being in Christ, but this is sufficient to indicate and to show that it is the most exalted of all states. The man who is in Christ has broken away from the enthralling influence of materialism, is rising to a mastery over external circumstances, and over his carnal passions and lusts, is towering higher and higher into the regions of unclouded light and of ineffable joys and imperishable delights.
III. THE MOST PHILANTHROPIC OF ALL ASPIRATIONS. "Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." This is Paul's general salutation, and is found in almost every Epistle. It is also often employed by Peter and John. "Grace" means favor, and the wish expressed by the apostle is that the Divine favor and peace may flow to them from the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. What greater blessings than these—God's favor and God's peace! And what wishes more philanthropic than these can be conceived of! Most men express philanthropic wishes towards their fellow-men at times: some wish health, riches, long life, and great enjoyment; but he who wishes the favor and peace of God wishes infinitely more than all these. The patriot wishes men to be free, the total abstainer wishes men to be sober, the religious denominationalist wishes men to join his sect; but Paul's wish here is grander, more comprehensive and Divine than these—he wishes men to have the favor and the peace of God. "Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ."
CONCLUSION. The fundamental question which presses on us is—Are we "in Christ Jesus"? Not—Are we in this system or that, in this Church or that? but—Are we "in Christ Jesus"? If so, we are secure from all dangers, ripe for all worlds, and for futurities, on the march of everlasting progress, light, and blessedness.
I would live my life in Christo,
In his holy thoughts and love,
I would cherish his high purpose,
In his Spirit live and move.
I would fight my foes in Christo,
They are many, they are strong;
In his strength I'll bear the contest,
Striving ever 'gainst the wrong.
Aid me, Lord, to live in Christo;
Oh! in Christo let me live.
I would find my joy in Christo
Joy which earth cannot afford;
I would drink of that life-river
Streaming from his quickening Word,
I would gain my rights in Christo—
Rights of freedom and of peace;
From my guilt and from my bondage
He alone can give release.
Aid me, Lord, to serve in Christo;
Oh! in Christo let me serve.
I would die my death in Christo,
Breathing in his love I'm blest;
When this frame to dust returneth,
I shall enter into rest.
In that rest I shall adore him
In the strains of sacred love,
With the ransom'd of all races
Gather'd in the heavens above.
Aid me, Lord, to die in Christo;
Oh! in Christo let me die.
Paul's gratitude for good men.
"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now." There are two things noteworthy here at the outset.
1. A minister's hearty recognition of the moral worth of his people. "I thank my God upon every remembrance." This implies on the writer's part a very high appreciation of the spiritual excellence of those to whom he wrote. The recognition of worth in others is the indication of a generous nature, an incumbent obligation, and in truth is a rare virtue. So selfish is human nature that the majority of mankind not only ignore the virtues of others, but eagerly mark and magnify their imperfections. It is said that Enoch had this testimony, that "he pleased God," and we, like our Maker, should readily bear testimony to worth wherever it appears.
2. A minister's lively vigilance over the interests of his people. "Upon every remembrance," and "in every prayer," "for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now." He watched over them, not with the eye of curiosity or censorship, anxious to discover and expose their defects, but with the eye of tender love, yearning, as it were, for the sight of moral beauty, and heartily thankful whenever it appeared. There are two things connected with Paul's gratitude as here disclosed, very remarkable and worthy of imitation.
I. It was gratitude to men EXPRESSED IN PRAYER TO ALMIGHTY GOD. It is common to express our gratitude for services to others by florid utterances or kindly offices, but somewhat rare to give it voice in prayer to Almighty God. "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy" or, as it would be better rendered, "I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you at all times in every prayer of mine for you all." Mark:
1. The fervor of the prayer. What intense earnestness breathes through this utterance! the man's soul seems aglow with devout, philanthropic zeal.
2. The universality of the prayer. "For you all." A similar expression Paul uses in relation to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:2): "We give thanks to God always for you all." There is not one of you for whom we—that is, Paul and Timotheus—do not give thanks. Now, what better way is there to show gratitude to men than by interceding for them all with the common Father? There is no way more practicable. We may be too poor or too weak to return their favors, but none are too poor or weak to pray. There is no way more effective. If the all-merciful Father confer on them his favor they will have more than worlds can bestow.
II. It was gratitude to men on ACCOUNT OF CONTRIBUTION'S TO THE COMMON GOOD. "For your fellowship in the gospel," or towards the gospel. Dr. Samuel Davidson renders it, "For your fellowship in respect of the gospel." What is meant is, I presume, for your fellow-working or your working with us in the fellowship of the gospel. Some suppose that the special reference is here to the contribution that they made towards his temporal needs as referred to in Philippians 4:15, "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only." But if he refers to this specially, the high probability is that he also refers to their co-operation with him in the general service of the gospel. The apostle felt that, whatever services they rendered him, they were rendered, not for his own sake, but for the sake of the grand cause in which they were mutually interested. As a private disciple it mattered little or nothing to him whether he fared well or ill, died of starvation or martyrdom; but inasmuch as he was entrusted with the gospel he felt the continuation of his existence of some moment to the common good. "Nevertheless," he says, "to abide in the flesh is more needful for you; and having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith" (verses 24, 25). His gratitude, then, was not on account of any favor they had shown to him as an individual saint, for personal comforts, but to him as a public man laboring for the common good. What a lofty gratitude is this: so unselfish, so sublimely generous! When will the time come when men shall be thankful to each other, not merely for personal benefits, but for the services they rendered to the general weal? Every man who helps on the cause of truth, Christly virtue, and human happiness in the world, whether he belongs to our nation, our Church, or not, deserves our gratitude. In truth, the best way for us to serve ourselves as individuals is to serve the race by diffusing that system of moral and remedial truth which alone can crush the demon ills and create the Divine beatitudes of the race. Never can we be sufficiently thankful to Heaven for the mere existence of good men in this world of ours. They are the "salt of the earth," counteracting that corruption in which all impenitent souls find their hell. They are the ozone in the moral atmosphere of life. They are the highest revelation of God on this earth and the highest exemplification of duty. Like stars, they reveal the infinite above us, and throw light upon our path below.—D.T.
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all all in the bowels of Jesus Christ." These words bring under our notice personal Christianity.
I. In this the greatest apostle HAD THE STRONGEST CONFIDENCE. "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it." The apostle seems to have had confidence:
1. In its character. It is "a good work." Genuine religion is in every sense a good thing.
2. In its internality. "In you." Some would read, "amongst you," supposing the reference to be to the influence of Christianity on Philippi and its neighborhood; but there is no authority for this. It is "in you." Christianity is a good thing outside of us, yet unless it enters into our natures, permeates, inspires, dominates, etc., he it is of no service—no more service than the noontide sun is to the man whose eyes are scaled in darkness.
3. In its divinity. "He which hath begun a good work." He, undoubtedly the all-loving Father. Every good in the universe begins with the good One. The first good thoughts, sympathy, volitions, aims, principles of action in the human soul, originate with him, from whence comes every "good and perfect gift." Personal Christianity in a man is a Divine thing; it is the eternal Logos made flesh.
4. In its perpetuity. "Will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." "The day of Jesus Christ." "So also in Philippians 1:10; Philippians 2:16; and in 1 Corinthians 1:18, 'the day of our Lord Jesus Christ;' in all other Epistles, 'the day of our Lord' (as in 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2), or still more commonly both in Gospel and Epistles, 'that day.' As is usual in the Epistles, the day of the Lord is spoken of as if it were near at hand. St. Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 declines to pronounce that it is near, yet does not say that it is far away, and only teaches that there is much to be done even in the development of and-Christian power before it does come. It is, of course, clear that, in respect of the confidence here expressed, it makes no difference whether it be near or far away. The reality of the judgment as final and complete is the one point important, the times and seasons matter not to us" (Dr. Barry). Whatever period is here pointed to, it must not be supposed as conveying the idea that this "good work" terminates at that period, "until the day." It does not say that then it will become extinct. The idea it suggests rather to me is that, having existed up to that period under most inauspicious circumstances, struggling with awful difficulties, after that, when all that is unfavourable is removed, it will go on for ever. The doctrine of final perseverance, as it has been called, has engaged immense discussion, often foolish, sometimes acrimonious, seldom useful. It should not be looked upon as a doctrine, but rather regarded as a duty, and as a law of spiritual life.
II. With this the greatest apostle FELT THE INTENSEST SYMPATHY. "Even as it is meet [right] for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace;" or rather as in the margin, "partakers with me of grace." His sympathy with them is shown by the fact that:
1. They occupied his thoughts. "Even as it is meet;" diakion, that is just, or right, to have this prayerful confidence. According to a law of mind, we must always think of those with whom we have the deepest sympathy. The chief object of love is ever the chief subject of thought.
2. They filled his heart. "I have you in my heart." And the reason he assigns is because of their hearty identification with him in his ministry. "Inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace." What a blessed thing it is for a man to have himself in the heart of a true-hearted, truly generous one!
3. They inspired his Christliness. "For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ." The word "bowels" should be translated "heart"—"I long after you all in the heart of Christ Jesus" (Dr. Samuel Davidson). In another place the apostle says, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." Perhaps what the apostle means here is—All that I have in me of the ideas, spirit, and aim of Christ are excited to a yearning for your good when! think of you. It is a characteristic of a genuine disciple that he is under the inspiration and control of the same great moral passion as his Master; viz. disinterested, self-sacrificing, all-conquering love. "All real spiritual love is but a portion of Christ's love which yearns for all to be united to him" (Dean Alford).—D.T.
The augmentation of Christly love ensures the improvement of the whole man.
"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." Here again the apostle prays that that love for Christ, which they had shown in their deep, generous, and practical sympathy for him as Christ's minister, might not merely continue, but abound yet more and more. "The original verb here," says Dr. Barry, "signifies to overflow, a sense which our word 'abound' properly has, but has in general usage partially lost; and St. Paul's meaning clearly is that love shall not only primarily fill the heart, but overflow in secondary influence on the spiritual understanding." The words suggest that the augrmentation of Christly love ensures the improvement of the whole man. It secures—
I. THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE INTELLECT. It promotes:
1. Knowledge. "And this I pray, that your love may abound … in knowledge (epignosei)." The knowledge here must be regarded as spiritual knowledge—the knowledge of God in Christ. "Here St. Paul singles out the kind of love—the enthusiasm of love to God and man, which he knew that the Philippians had—and prays that it may overflow from the emotional to the intellectual element of their nature, and become, as we constantly see that it does become, in simple and loving characters, a means of spiritual insight in knowledge and all 'judgment,' or rather, all perception." Love is the inspiration of all true knowledge. As we love an object, the more stimulus has the intellect to inquire into everything concerning it or him. The more love for God abounds, the more earnest will the intellect be in "inquiring in his temple "and the universe.
2. Perception. "And in all judgment (aisthesei)." This means, perhaps, discernment or insight. There is evidently a distinction between mere intelligence and intuition. I may know all the facts of a man's life, and vet not possess that insight into his inner springs of action necessary to understand him. There are great technical theologians, who lack the spiritual eye to peer into the underlying, eternal, principles of truth. It is love that opens and quickens this eye of "judgment," or spiritual discrimination.
3. Shrewdness. "That ye may approve things that are excellent;" margin, "that ye may try things that differ." Shrewdness is that faculty of the mind which enables a man almost without the use of the critical power to see the reality under all the forms with which it is invested. There are many intelligent men—men, too, of intuition, who are not shrewd, not quick and accurate in the discernment of the worth of things. Now, love to God promotes this intellectual shrewdness of soul, the shrewdness that guards it from all imposture. This is an age in which men talk much of intellectual improvement, and numerous mechanical methods are proposed. But here is the infallible one. Let men's love to God abound more and more, and all the wheels of intellect will be set ageing.
II. THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE CONSCIENCE. Here the language of the text implies that this love improves the conscience.
1. By giving it a sympathy with the true only. "Things that are excellent." The original constitution of conscience was to do this evermore. It does this in heaven; it once, perhaps, did this on earth; but now, alas! throughout the greater portion of the race in all lands, its sympathies are not with "the things that are excellent." So awfully has it been corrupted that it yields its concurrence to idolatry, cruelty, priestcrafts, frauds, and falsehoods of endless kinds. When true love to God acts upon it, nothing but "the things that are excellent" will do for it; it rejects, spurns, and damns all others.
2. By making it thoroughly sincere. "That ye may be sincere (eilikrineis)." This word is only used here and in 2 Peter 1:8; and the corresponding substantive, "sincerity," in 1 Corinthians 5:8; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 2:17. It signifies purity tested and found clear of all base mixtures, a genuine, incorruptible conscience—a conscience that leads a man to sacrifice all he has, even life itself, rather than swerve an iota from the right and the true. Love to God promotes such a conscience. It did so with the apostles, with all the holy martyrs, and with the Divine Man himself.
3. By securing it from blameableness. "Without offense." In the Acts we read of a "conscience void of offense towards God and man." It is essential that such a conscience should rule the entire man, and that itself should be ruled by the will of the great God. According to the law of mind, the object we love most becomes our moral monarch: when God becomes the paramount object of our affection, he becomes the Ruler of our conscience. This state of conscience is to be "till the day of Christ." It does not mean that it will end afterwards, but that after that it is sure to be perpetuated.
III. THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE LIFE. "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness,'' etc. Paul's language in Romans 6:22 may be taken as a commentary on this expression: "Being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." Observe:
1. That a righteous life comes to us through Christ. "The fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ." Men are only made morally right by faith in Christ. Philosophically there is no other way of doing so. Christ came into the world to make man morally right, or, to use Old Testament language, to establish rectitude or judgment on the earth.
2. That a righteous life redounds to the glory of God. "Unto the glory and praise of God." It is the highest manifestation of God—it is God "manifested in the flesh." "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." But the "fruits of righteousness," or a righteous life, are ensured only by the abounding and the overflowing of love to God in the soul. All must be love. Love is not only the inspiration of God, the root of the universe, but the fountain of all virtue and happiness. Let love, then, abound.—D.T.
A grand principle and a splendid example.
"But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; and many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." In all probability the Philippian Christians, as well, perhaps, as most other of the existing Churches that he had planted, would fear that his imprisonment at Rome would prevent the spread of the gospel. Here he assures them of the contrary, and tells them that it had "fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel." In these words we discover two very important subjects of thought.
I. A GRAND PRINCIPLE IN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD. What is the principle? The overruling of evil for good. Nothing would seem a greater evil in the early dawn of Christianity than the imprisonment of St. Paul. There, banished from his own country, bound in bonds, imprisoned by the Praetorian Guard, chained day and night to some Roman soldier, utterly unable to go beyond the limited scene of his imprisonment, or to address—as he had often done—vast multitudes. There he was for two long years. During that period it would seem as if the sun of Christianity had gone down to rise no more, leaving the world to go back into Jewish and Gentile darkness, intolerance, and superstition. But here the apostle says it was not so. It helped, not hindered, the onward march of gospel truth. He indicates here how it tended in this direction.
1. By extending its knowledge in the imperial city. "So that my bonds in Christ ['margin, 'for Christ'] are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places." Or, as Dr. Samuel Davidson renders it, "So that my bonds became manifest in all the Praetorian Guard, and in all the rest." All the Praetorian regiments, who, of course, were the most numerous and influential men in the imperial city—the city which conquered the world—would, of course, guard the apostle by turns, and to each and all who were in special connection with him at the time he, of course, would not only reveal his own morally noble and soul-commanding character, but earnestly expound that grand system of world-wide philanthropy for which he was in bonds. In this way the gospel would spread in Rome from soldier to soldier, and from the soldiers to the civilians. Perhaps there could have been no way more effective of spreading the gospel than this.
2. By encouraging the work of propagation. "Many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear." "There is," says Dr. Barry, "a twofold sense here, corresponding to the twofold division of preachers made below. Those who preached Christ 'of contention' trusted in St. Paul's captivity as giving them scope; those who preached of 'good will' found in it a striking example of evil overruled for good, and so gained from it fresh encouragement." The expression, "many of the brethren," of course implies not all, and those who did not were Judaizing Christians and were affected with enmity towards Paul, and would preach in their own spirit and in their own way; whilst the others, "the many," would by the noble conduct of Paul as a prisoner, and by the constantly extending circulation of the gospel through the Prtetorian regiments take encouragement and catch inspiration. Here, then, is an example of the principle of evil being overruled for good. "A strange chemistry of providence this," says Matthew Henry, in his quaint way, "to extract so great a good as the enlargement of the gospel out of so great an evil as the confinement of the apostle." Three remarks may be offered in relation to this principle.
II. A SPLENDID EXAMPLE FOR THE IMITATION OF PREACHERS. "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will," etc. Observe:
1. The apostle speaks of two classes in his day. One preached from a factious, or a party, spirit. They preached from "envy and strife." This shows beyond question that the Judaizing party—the bitter antagonists of Paul—were at work in Rome, preaching in their way the gospel; preaching it, not from pure love to Christ and souls, but to gratify their own factious spirit and to serve their own little sect. A sectarian preaching of the gospel has, alas! ever been common; it is rampant to-day in England—men preaching for sects rather than for souls. The other class of preachers in Rome were those who preached of "good will" and "of love." These had in them that love of Christ which constrained them to proclaim the gospel. They had no factious spirit; they were neither of the party of Cephas nor of Paul, but of Christ only; they knew "nothing amongst men save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Oh that we had more of such preachers in this age! John Wesley, in modern times, was one of the splendid examples of this class of preachers; he broke himself off from all sects, and would, I have no doubt, have recoiled with pain at the idea of a sect ever being formed bearing his name.
2. The apostle's sublime magnanimity in relation to all preachers. "What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." He overlooks the motives that prompt men to proclaim Christ in his exultation in the fact that Christ was preached. The motives belong to God, and he will deal with them; the message is for humanity, and its proclamation by every tongue would render service. Should we not enter into this spirit? If the gospel is preached, whether by Papists or Protestants, Ritualists or Evangelicals, Churchmen or Dissenters, what matters to us so long as it is preached? So long as the clarion sends its blast to warn those who have never before heard of the approaching danger, what matters it whose lungs supply the breath? Let us try to catch the magnanimous spirit of Paul, and to imitate his splendid example in this respect.
"I saw one man, armed simply with God's Word,
Enter the soul of many fellow-men,
And pierce them sharply as a two-edged sword,
While conscience echoed back his words again,
Till, even as showers of fertilizing rain
Sink through the bosom of the valley clod,
So their hearts opened to the wholesome pain,
And hundreds knelt upon the flowery sod,
One good man's earnest prayer the link 'twixt them and God?
Philippians 1:19, Philippians 1:20
The magnifying of Christ the supreme end of life.
"For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death." Here the apostle expresses the belief that all the endeavors of his enemies, especially of those who, he said, sought to add "affliction to his bonds," will turn out to his deliverance. The word "salvation" here does not refer to salvation of the soul, but to Paul's temporal rescue and security. In the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth verses of this chapter he utters very clearly his assurance that he should be delivered from his enemies and continue with the Philippians for their "furtherance and joy of faith." It is now many years ago, when a boy, I attended the ministry of Reverend Caleb Morris, at Fetter Lane Chapel, and the sermon he preached the Sunday previous to my first entering his church was on this text. It was his first discourse after a dangerous and protracted illness, and the proposition he drew from the passage and laid down was that "usefulness is the aim of every genuine evangelical ministry." He then went on to remark that the passage suggested that, in order to be useful, three things were necessary.
1. To magnify Christ. "Christ shall be magnified in my body," etc.
2. To render all the circumstances of life subservient to that end.
3. To have supplies of the Spirit of Christ. I proceed, in a somewhat modified form, to give some of the beautiful thoughts of that distinguished preacher.
I. The supreme purpose of life is to MAGNIFY CHRIST. "Christ shall be magnified." Every living man is either an injury or a blessing to creation—every bad man is an injury, every good man is a blessing. Goodness is at once the cause, the evidence, and the measure of moral usefulness. But how is this usefulness achieved? By magnifying Christ. But how are you to magnify Christ? Not by making him greater than he is. This would be impossible. His "name is above every name." He is Lord of all; "Of him, and to him, and through him, are all things." All heaven feels that he is the greatest; there he is seen as he is; is supremely worshipped and adored. Hell, too, feels his greatness: "The everlasting destruction with which the lost are punished, comes from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power." It is to be done:
1. By giving him the pre-eminence in your own soul. Putting him on the throne of your being, and crowning him Lord of all, having all the activities and faculties ruled by him as the moral Monarch of the soul.
2. By promoting his sovereignty over others. Seeking to establish his kingdom, the kingdom of peace and truth and righteousness over all contemporaries. Sad, terribly sad, it is that many who profess to magnify him degrade him. They degrade him by flippant and irreverent repetitions of his holy Name, by misrepresenting his work. They speak of him as a poor Victim on the cross rather than as a triumphant Victor—One who, in his sufferings, is to be pitied rather than applauded. They speak of him as a Purchaser of Divine love for man rather than as its grand Messenger and omnipotent proof. They represent him as One who seems to be in deep need of man's humble services; and in their hymns they call upon their hearers to "Stand up and fight for Jesus," as if Jesus were in difficulties and wanted their help to relieve him. They seem to trade in his holy Name. The crafty priest employs him in order to gain power over the people, mercenary preachers and authors in order to get gain. These magnify themselves under the pretense of magnifying Christ. "The false teachers to whom the apostle refers in this chapter were guilty of this, as are not a few in the nineteenth century. For instance, they who take up Christianity with a view to amass wealth, to gain honor, or to subserve political designs. This is very wicked. It is to betray Christianity with the kiss of treachery, in order to deliver it up to the fury of its foes. It is to purchase earthly toys with the blood of souls. It is to drink damnation from consecrated vessels."
II. In order to magnify Christ, THE WHOLE OF OUR LIFE SHOULD BE CONSECRATED TO THAT PURPOSE. Observe:
1. The circumstance of life here indicated. "In my body, whether it be by life or by death."
2. The intense desire that it should be so is here indicated. "According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body." This was his "earnest expectation "—an expression which implies an intense and painful longing, not only expectation, but hope. There may be expectation where there is not hope. Hope implies desire for an object as well as a probability of obtaining it. "That in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always," etc. This was his grand purpose, and he would not have that purpose frustrated so as to be ashamed, but would, with wonted boldness and courage, struggle on to its ultimate triumph.
III. In order to consecrate the whole of our life to that purpose we require THE INTERCESSION OF THE GOOD, AND A SUPPLY OF THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST JESUS.
1. The intercession of the good. "Through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." This overruling of all enmity to his safety he hopes for, through the intercession of the Philippian Church (comp. Phlippians 1:23) and the fresh supply of grace which, through such intercession, may be given to him. For the word "supply" in this sense, see Ephesians 4:15; and comp. Galatians 2:5; Corinthians Galatians 2:19. "Through your prayer." By an instinct of our nature involuntarily we breathe intercessions to heaven on behalf of those in whom we are most vitally interested. This is natural; this is right. Whether intercessions of any kind secure direct answers or not, the assurance of them is always most encouraging to their object. If I know that a good man is earnestly interceding for me in my mission, I have an assurance that he will use every effort to contribute to my success. Hence Paul always felt encouraged by the prayers of the good.
2. The supply of the Spirit. "Of the application of this name to the Holy Ghost we have instances in Romans 8:9; 2 Corinthians 2:17; Galatians 4:6; 1 Peter 1:11. Of these the first is the most notable, since in two clauses of the same sentence we have first the Spirit of God and then the Spirit of Christ. But the name has always some speciality of emphasis. Thus the whole conception of the passage is of Christ: 'For me to live is of Christ;' hence the use of this special and comparatively rare name of the Holy Ghost" (Dr. Barry). These two things Paul felt would enable him to consecrate his whole life to the life of Christ—"the intercessions of the good," and the "supply of the Spirit of Christ."—D.T.
An ideal life blooming into a happy death.
"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Paul, having expressed in the close of the preceding verse his supreme resolve that Christ should be magnified in his body, whether it be by life or by death, here describes the life he was determined to live, and the death which he was certain to realize. The subject of these words is—An ideal life blooming into a happy death. Here is—
I. AN IDEAL LIFE. "For to me to live is Christ." An utterance this terse and pithy, carrying the divinest idea of life. The meaning may be thus expressed: living, I shall live Christ. I shall live as he lived, with the same master purpose and inspiration. In relation to this life two remarks may be made.
1. It is sadly rare. Indeed, it is rare to live at all; living and existing are widely different conditions of being. All who breathe, sleep, eat, drink, follow out their animal instincts, exist; but none but those who have some dominant purpose that fires their passions and concentrates their faculties, live. To live means earnestness in some pursuit or other; the pursuit may be political, martial, mercantile, literary, artistic, or religious, and all who are earnest in their quest may be said to live. But this kind of life is rare. Millions exist on this earth for seventy years, and do not in this sense live one day; whereas those who have lived earnestly have become grey and old in a single night. The martyr, the night previous to his execution, lives years in a few hours. The thoughtless thousands who bowed to the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, existed; the three Hebrew youths lived an age the night before they were thrown into the fiery furnace. Saul of Tarsus lived the three days and three nights after he was divinely smitten with the conviction of sin, while he lay still and sightless. Indeed, to be earnest in anything is to live. If you take a census of those who exist on the earth, you have only to count the numbers that breathe, and they are legion; but if you take the census of those who live, you must count the souls that are really in earnest, and they are in a terrible minority. But whilst it is rare for men to live at all, it is far rarer for men to live to Christ, to live the ideal life, the life in which all bodily impulses are governed by the intellect, and all the intellectual faculties governed by the conscience, and all the powers of the conscience ruled by the will of God. To live as Christ lived is to become incarnations of him. This was the life that Paul determined to live, and with this deter-ruination he brought all the rivulets issuing from the heart-ocean of his being into the majestic stream of a Christly philanthropy and devotion. Alas! again, how rare this life! If the masses of men who are really in earnest, and who therefore live, were to express their belief. he they would say, "For us to live is wealth, power, science;"—no more. Christ is no more to them than any of the gods of Olympus.
2. It is manifestly imperative. It is urged on every man by the authority of reason, conscience, and the gospel.
II. AN IDEAL LIFE BLOOMING INTO A HAPPY DEATH. "To die is gain." To whom? To the man whose life is Christly. It is not gain to those who live to sensual enjoyments and worldly interests. No; by it they lose all that makes tolerable the existence. But to the Christly man it is "gain " on two accounts.
1. On account of what it takes away. Physical afflictions, secular anxieties, mental imperfections, moral depravities, spiritual temptations; in one word, all that pains the body, deludes the judgment, saddens the heart, and deadens the conscience.
2. On account of what it bestows. Perfection in his being, character, friendships, worship, enjoyments. Death is indeed then "gain." Shall the Christ-living man dread it? Shall the diseased man dread the hour in which he leaves his couch of suffering and weakness, and goes forth into the green fields of nature with vigorous limbs and buoyant health? Shall the exile dread the hour when the bark that bears him from the scenes of long banishment shall touch his native shores? Shall the prisoner under the sentence of death dread the hour, promised by the clemency of his sovereign, when his fetters shall be struck off, and his dungeon door be opened, and he shall go forth to family and friends again? Sooner may this be than a Christ-living man dread death.
CONCLUSION. How often preachers exhort their hearers to prepare for death, urging sometimes with marvellous animal vehemence most utilitarian considerations! Let them cease this work, and urge them to prepare to live Christ: right living ensures happy dying. The ideal life lived out will bloom and fructify into a blessed immortality.—D.T.
Self-love and social love.
"But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not," etc. Dr. Samuel Davidson's rendering of this passage, which is as follows, is evidently an improvement on our own version: "But if to live in the flesh this is some fruit of work; and what I shall choose I know not. But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire towards departing and being with Christ, for it is very far better: but to abide in the flesh is more necessary for your sakes. And of this I am confidently persuaded, that I shall abide, and abide with you all for the advancement and joy of the faith: that in me your matter for glorifying may abound in Christ Jesus through my presence again with you." There are three loves in all human souls—self-love, which concerns itself with one's own interest; social love, which concerns itself with the good of others; and religious love, which concerns itself with the claims of God. Being constitutional, they are all good and designed to answer useful purposes in the full and perfect development of our nature. They, however, separately considered, are not of equal value. The second, social love, is greater than the first; the third, religious love, is greater than either—it underlies both, and is intended to be the inspiration and ruler of both. Society is greater than the individual, and God is infinitely greater than both. He is the all. Bishop Butler, if I recollect rightly, in one of his sermons on human nature, expounds the nature and relative importance of the two loves—the love of self and the love of society. These two are set forth in the text as working in the mind of the apostle.
I. Here is SELF-LOVE DESIRING EXIT from the world. "Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better." Observe two things.
1. Paul's idea of the nature of his death.
2. Paul's idea of the advantage of his death. "Far better." Is not the noble bark better out on the boundless sea, with its sails unfurled, filled by the propitious breeze, and moving under the smiles of a sunny azure, than tied up in the dusky docks? Is it not better to gaze into the eye and listen to the living voice of the object of our chief affection than to be leagues away as a matter of consciousness? Hence Paul desired death; his self-love yearned for it. So far as he himself was concerned it would be in every way an advantage.
II. Here is SOCIAL LOVE URGING CONTINUANCE in the world. "Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." To promote the gospel amongst them, and to diffuse it amongst his contemporaries, was an object very dear to Paul's heart. But he felt that if he were not to remain in the flesh, but to depart into the great spirit-realm, his power in this direction would be at an end. And this I take to be:
1. A solemn fact. We can only serve our fellow-men while we are in the flesh. There is no proof that one of all the millions of departed saints has been able, by personal agency, to render any good whatever to any left on earth, however near and dear to his heart. All personal communications seem to cease at death.
2. A practical fact. This fact should influence every man to do the utmost he can to render spiritual service to his fellow-man during his life. When Paul departed, society lost the influence of his personal presence, and the personal presence of a good man is always most beneficent. And more, he lost his personal agency too—he delivered no more speeches, be wrote no mere letters, his voice was hushed, his pen was stilled for ever. Earth alone is the sphere in which we can serve our fellow-men. Pious parents can no more help their children when they are gone, pious pastors cease to serve their congregations when they have passed away. Hence any work we have to do must be done now and here. Here then, were the two principles, the love of self and the love of society, working in the mind of the apostle, one urging him to depart and the other to remain, so that he says, "What I shall choose I wet not." I am in suspense. "I am in a strait betwixt two," that is, between the aspirations of the two loves.
III. Here is SELF-LOVE OVERCOME BY SOCIAL, LOVE. "And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith." "I know." That is, it is my present feeling. The knowledge sprang from his desire, the wish was father to the thought. On the whole, his choice was to remain. In reaching this decision he felt assured of two things.
1. That he would have trying work. "But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor." "If I live, my life will be one continuous labor, productive of much fruit, keeping me back from my reward, but useful to you" (Lewin).
2. That he should render useful service. "And continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; that your rejoicing may be more abundant in Christ Jesus for me by my coming to you again." Most heartily did he desire such a joy in their faith, that they might abundantly rejoice in the continuation of his presence and work amongst them.
Conclusion. Paul's experience here is sublime and exemplary. His love of self was submerged in his philanthropy, his love for his contemporaries. He sought not his own things, but the things of others. He said, "For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen, according to the flesh." It is the Christly spirit, the spirit of self-sacrificing love, and this alone is genuine Christianity.—D.T.
A life of consistency, unity, and courage.
"Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ," etc. The apostle here means that, whether he should come to them or not—for he was not certain on the point—they should be careful to pursue a certain course of conduct. "By supposing," says Bengel, "this or that future contingency men may persuade themselves that they will be such and such as they ought to be. But it is better always without evasion to perform present duties under present circumstances." Their obligation to live a Christly life was independent of the contingency of the circumstances of his life. He might visit them or he might not; he might remain in the flesh or he might depart. In any case he urges on them consistency of conduct, unity of life, and fearlessness of soul. He urges on them—
I. CONSISTENCY OF CONDUCT. "Let your conversation (politeuesthe) be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." I take this to mean, fulfill your duties as citizens, worthy of the gospel of Christ. This is a most comprehensive view of the duty of those who profess to believe in the gospel; it means, act worthy of your profession, be consistent. You profess to believe in a God: act worthy of that profession, be reverent, be devout, be thankful. You profess to believe in Christ: walk worthy of a true disciple, be docile, be studious, be loyal. You profess to believe in future retribution: regulate your present conduct in accordance with that faith, subordinate the world to the soul, he and consecrate the soul to almighty love. In Philippians 3:20 Paul says, "Our conversation is in heaven;" that is, our citizenship is in heaven. The genuine disciple of Christ is now a citizen of heaven, he is ruled by the laws of heaven, he enjoys the rights of heaven. This being so, how super-worldly and morally stately should be our deportment here! The discrepancy between the creed of Christian men and their daily conduct is a terrible sin and a tremendous curse.
II. UNITY OF LIFE. "That whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." Here is:
1. Unity of heart. "In one spirit, with one mind [soul]." Unity of heart consisteth not in uniformity of opinions or beliefs, but in identity of supreme purpose and love. There is only one meeting and mingling place of souls, and that is in the object of paramount affection.
2. Unity of labor. what is the labor? "Striving together for the faith of the gospel," or more properly, "with the faith of the gospel."
III. FEARLESSNESS OF SOUL. "In nothing terrified by your adversaries." "Terrified." "The original word is strong—starting or flinching, like a scared animal. This fearlessness in the absence of all earthly means of protection or victory is a sign of a Divine strength made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 13:9) not a complete and infallible sign (for it has often accompanied mere fanatic delusion), but a sign real as far as it goes, having its right force in harmony with others. The effect which it had on the heathen themselves is shown even by the affected contempt with which the Stoics spoke of it as a kind of 'madness,' a morbid habit, a sheer obstinacy" (Dr. Barry). Two remarks are suggested concerning this Christian fearlessness.
1. It bodes good to its possessor, but evil to its adversaries. It is "an evident token of perdition" to the opponents of the gospel, but "salvation" to its genuine disciple. A man who has well-founded moral fearlessness of soul is safe amidst hostile hosts, and his very fearlessness will make hostile hosts fear and tremble.
2. It is well four, tied and often nobly developed. It is the gift of God, it is not an inherent Stoical self-sufficiency. It is given as a provision for the suffering condition to which Christians are subject. It is given to Christians, not only "to believe on Christ, but also to suffer for his sake." "In the world ye shall have tribulation," etc. How splendidly developed was this fearlessness of soul in Pant! "Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me." They saw his sufferings (Acts 16:24). "None of these things move me."
Conclusion. Such was the course of life which this apostle in the prospect of death urged on the Philippians—consistency of conduct, unity of life, and fearlessness of soul; and all these are as binding on us and as necessary for our good as they were in the case of the Philippian Church.—D.T.
HOMILIES BY V. HUTTON
Philippians 1:1, Philippians 1:2
The Philippian Church (the firstborn Church of Europe) a type of the Catholic Church.
I. IT IS IN THE WORLD. Philippi, a city of importance as a center of trade and traffic. A Roman colony reproducing on a minute scale the institutions of the empire city.
II. IT IS NOT OR THE WORLD, BUT IS CHRIST. In him its life is hidden. Three times in these two verses are its members reminded of him. The Church is nothing except so far as it is the living body of Christ and partakes of his grace and peace.
III. IT IS CATHOLIC. We possess a particularly full account of the first preaching of the gospel at Philippi (Acts 16:1-40.). Three of its earliest converts are remarkable—Lydia, a Jewish proselyte; a Greek slave; a Roman jailor. These may be taken to represent the three leading divisions of the human family, all of which are to be embraced by the Catholic Church. Their conversion also illustrates the truth that in Christ Jesus there is no distinction of male or female, bond or free.
IV. IT TRANSFIGURES HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS INTO DIVINE. It is of the Church at Philippi that it is especially recorded that the faith was received, not merely by individuals, but by whole families (Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33). The family is the Divine unit in God's natural organization of mankind. May not this fact in some measure account for the singular freedom of the Philippian Church from the grosset forms of error, and for the simplicity of its faith and love?
V. IT IS APOSTOLIC. It receives its teaching from the mouth of the apostles and is in communion with them.
VI. IT IS AN ORDERLY AND ORGANIZED COMMUNITY, WITH ITS BISHOPS AND DEACONS.
VII. IT ABIDES. Being the possessor of a life which it derives from the spiritual world, it outlasts the visible and external order of things. The city of Philippi has long since ceased to be; it is almost impossible to trace any reminiscence of its former importance. The Church of Philippi lives still in the words of this Epistle, and exercises a power and an influence which can never cease to be.—V.W.H.
Christian joy not dependent upon outward circumstances.
I. 1. The outward circumstances of St. Paul's life, at the time of his writing this Epistle, were singularly joyless. A prisoner in Rome, awaiting his trial, deprived of the power of freely preaching the gospel when and where he would, compelled to be in the society of his Roman guard night and day.
2. Notwithstanding these untoward conditions he is inwardly full of joy. The key-note of the Epistle is rejoice.
3. The joy which fills him is not merely a selfish joy at his own acceptance with God; it is a sympathetic joy which rejoices in the growth of God's kingdom. This is the joy of the angels. This is the joy of Jesus himself. This is the joy which he promises to bestow upon his disciples, (John 15:11; John 17:13). This is the joy of the Lord into which they who have used well the talents entrusted to them are to enter. This joy is not mere selfish exultation in our own rescue from the pains of hell, but a sense of bliss at the victory which God has won, and a joy at being permitted to minister more entirely to his glory.
II. 1. We can possess this joy here and hereafter if we are filled with the unselfish desire that others should be blessed and that God should be glorified in them. We deprive ourselves of it if we are guilty of envy at the spiritual progress which they are making, and at the evident tokens of God's grace working in them.
2. We can contribute to this joy. By our own steadfastness in the faith we add to the treasury of joy which is the possession of the whole Church. We give joy to the angels. We are able to increase the joy even of our Lord, who, seeing of the travail of his soul, is satisfied.—V.W.H.
The truest guarantee of perseverance.
I. ST. PAUL'S CONFIDENCE THAT THESE PHILIPPIANS WOULD PERSEVERE UNTO THE END.
II. THE GROUNDS ON WHICH BE RESTS THIS CONFIDENCE.
1. That it is God's work. If we know that God is working in us we can trust him to complete his work.
2. God's work demands man's he's co-operation. St. Paul recognizes in the zeal which these Philippians displayed in the furtherance of the gospel (verse 5) the best evidence of their co-operation with God, and therefore the best guarantee of their perseverance.
III. WHAT THIS ZEAL IS NOT. It is not the same as anxiety for the victory of a party, of a particular set of views, or of our own personal influence. It is not a devotion to the merely external aspects of religion.
IV. WHAT THIS ZEAL IS. It is joy at the progress or God's kiugdom in human souls by whatever methods that progress may have been brought about. It is readiness to bear witness for Christ and to work for him.
V. THIS ZEAL FOR THE FURTHERANCE OF THE GOSPEL IS:
1. Apostolic (Acts 11:23).
2. It is angelic (Luke 2:13, Luke 2:14).
3. It is Divine.
VI. THIS WITNESS-REARING IS IN ITSELF AN ELEMENT OF STRENGTH; and therefore of perseverance (Romans 10:10).
VII. If you lack perseverance, remember its secret, which is that it is to be found a GENUINE CO-OPERATION IN GOD'S WORK for mankind.—V.W.H.
The communion of saints.
I. COMMUNION IN SUFFERING. "In my bonds." These Philippians had to endure hardship in the cause of the gospel. Every Christian has to endure such hardships, either external or internal. Such conflicts are necessary links which unite us to the family of God. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth."
II. COMMUNION IN MINISTRY. "In the defense and confirmation of the gospel." The little which we can do, each in our own restricted sphere, for the furtherance of God's kingdom, partakes of the character of the work of even a St. Paul, and brings us into communion with him.
III. COMMUNION IN SYMPATHY. "I have you in my heart." However humble may be the work which we can do for God, or the sufferings which we can endure for him, if they are done or borne according to the ability which he has given us, they bring us into sympathy with all who in every age have sought to do like work and to endure like sufferings.
IV. COMMUNION IN GRACE. "Ye all are partakers of my grace." As all the faithful are blessed with faithful Abraham (Galatians 2:9), even although their faith is but a faint shadow of his, so all workers and sufferers in God's service share in the blessing which has been bestowed upon apostles and martyrs.
V. COMMUNION IN CHARITY. St. Paul speaks as if the fact that "all" were partakers of his grace depended upon his being able to speak thus of them "all.'' The want of unity among Christians deprives them of the full benefits of the communion of saints (Matthew 18:20; Acts 2:1; Acts 4:32).—V.W.H.
The life of God in the soul of man.
I. THE ELEMENT WHICH IS PECULIAR TO IT AND WHICH BETOKENS ITS PRESENCE—LOVE. "We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren" (1 John 2:14). "Love is the fulfilling of the Law."
II. ITS MANIFESTATION. If this love is the genuine fruit of God's Spirit within us, it will lead us to the knowledge of him and to the discernment of that which is pleasing in his sight. Being of God, it reveals God, so that new experiences of him are being constantly vouchsafed to the soul that possesses it. Being thus taught of God, the soul turns naturally to the things that are excellent;. he as the bee turns naturally to the honey-bearing flowers. Thus in the difficult task of deciding which to choose of two apparent but opposing duties, the soul indwelt by God is guided by a Divine instinct.
III. ITS RESULT. The preservation of the whole man from the power of evil, so that both in his inner being and in his external conduct he is blameless and brings forth the fruit which is natural to a condition of righteousness.
IV. THE SOURCE OF ITS POWER—CHRIST. The righteousness thus worked in us is not the righteousness of self-improvement, or of self-discipline, or of adherence to a law, but the righteousness which is imparted to us by the indwelling Christ.
V. ITS ULTIMATE AIM—THE GLORY OF GOD. (Philippians 1:11.)—V.W.H.
The benefits conferred upon men by the stead, fast confession of our faith.
I. ON THE UNCONVERTED. To such it is an evidence of the truth, No witness is more effective than the consistent faithfulness of a professing Christian. Such witnesses for Christ by bravely resisting all inducements to abandon him, and of Christ by manifesting his strength in human weakness. Thus it witnesses to him. It is by such witness that Christ is now to be manifested to the heathen. The Church is the Epiphany star. We cannot now appeal to the evidence of miracles, but we can show the moral miracle of a sinner saved. So long as the Church possesses the Spirit of Christ, so long can we speak the invitation of Philip, "Come and see."
II. ON OUR FELLOW-CHRISTIANS. It encourages them to join us in our confession and thus strengthens their grasp of the power of Christ.
III. the IMPORTANCE OF OPENLY ACKNOWLEDGING OUR ALLEGIANCE TO CHRIST, such the world will be convinced that he is a living power and not merely a name upon our lips. By such they who are young in faith will be emboldened to declare themselves more positively on his side, and will thus receive more of him.—V.W.H.
The spirit of faction.
I. WHAT IT IS. Like nearly all human errors, it has its origin in a good trait in our nature which has become corrupted by the introduction of evil motives. It springs from the desire men have to act in common. The Christian development of this desire is the communion of saints. The ideal of redeemed mankind is that it is the body of Christ, which is not a fortuitous concourse of atoms, but a living organism, each part necessary to the whole. Faction corrupts this grand idea and breaks up men into fragments, each of which is indwelt, not by the Spirit of Christ, but by the spirit of envy.
II. WHAT IT MAY BECOME. A corrupter of religion; using the subject-matter of the gospel, not as a means for building up souls into Christ, but of magnifying self.
III. HOW IT MAY BE DEALT WITH. St. Paul is ever hopeful of human nature. He sees even in its degradation elements of better things. Just as men's well-meant actions never do all the good they anticipate, so their evil deeds do not do all the harm they appear calculated to do. The mixture of human motives and the insufficiency of human powers have their blessings as well as their curse.
IV. HOW TO BE FREE FROM THIS SPIRIT OF FACTION. St. Paul evidently was free from it. He longs (Philippians 1:20) not that Christ should magnify him, or that he should magnify Christ, but that Christ should be magnified in him; i.e. that Christ should use him as he wills, exalting him or humiliating him, making him serviceable or discarding him, just as it may prove most to his glory.—V.W.H.
The gain of death.
I. Two MOODS IN WHICH PEOPLE FEEL THAT TO DIE IS GAIN.
1. The wrong wood, but the more usual one. When it is an expression of weariness and a desire to escape from suffering, responsibility, labor, temptation. This desire is a selfish one, and may mean no more than that he who expresses it is living for himself.
2. The right mood. When "to live is Christ." This is the mood in which St. Paul speaks. Christ had so taken possession of him that he was no longer living a separated life, but Christ's life was being lived in him. This is a bard life, but a joyous one. They who experience it find that it includes his cross, his yoke, his peace, his joy.
II. How can it be gain TO DIE, IF TO LIVE IS CHRIST? To die cannot be more than Christ! But it can be more of Christ. To the Christian death is a closer union with Christ, and is to find a higher life in him. To Jesus' to die was gain, and in the Christian, in whom Christ lives, the experience of Jesus is reproduced. He finds in death, not more of Christ crucified, but more of Christ risen, which is the exaltation of Christ crucified. Note how the "Nunc Dimittis" breathes this same spirit. Spoken by one who had seen the salvation of God, and to whom, therefore, to live was Christ, he is ready to depart, knowing that he will thereby see more of Christ. Only when we can say, "To live is Christ," can we say, "To die is gain." Only when Christ is in our arms and in our hearts can we say, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace."—V.W.H.
Fruit and gain.
St. Paul is balancing the comparative advantages of death and life. He is doubtful which to choose. To die is gain; to live is to be fruitful. When he has put the question in this form his doubts vanish. Gain for himself is not to be considered in comparison with fruit for his Master and for mankind.
I. THE END OF CREATED NATURE IS THE PRODUCTION, OF FRUIT. It is through fruit that the life of nature is prolonged, for the fruit is also the seed. The purpose of grace is that it should be fruitful. The Lord desired that his disciples should glorify God in bringing forth much fruit. It was in seeing his seed that he was to prolong his days. When the harvest of the world is ripe it will be reaped. When the number of the elect is complete the end will come.
II. FRUIT CAN ONLY BE PRODUCED BY THE SURRENDER OF LIFE. The corn of wheat must die if it would bring forth fruit. The vine must be purged. The exuberant natural growth of the plant must be checked if it is to be fruitful. The tree which bears leaves only is not merely useless, it is doomed to destruction, since it has no power of reproducing the life which has been bestowed upon it.
III. Our prayer should be, not that we may GAIN salvation for ourselves, but that we may bring forth FRUIT for our Master's service.—V.W.H.
Exhortation to unity:
I. Love for those who HAVE LABOURED FOR US IN THE GOSPEL. Many can feel this love who are not yet capable of rising to a sense of love towards God. This lower affection may lead to the higher love of which it is a reflection.
II. THE DISCOMFITURE OF THOSE WHO ARE HOSTILE TO THE GOSPEL. This need not be opposed to love. The gospel is set for the fail of many as well as for their rising again. It is good for the wicked to be brought low, for only in thus failing is there any hope of their being finally saved.
III. A PEELING OF PRIDE THAT WE ARE CONNECTED WITH THE GREAT ONES OF THE CHURCH. The communion of suffering is ever part of the communion of saints. St. Paul is not here appealing to the highest motives, but to motives which are common to our human nature, and which may properly be used on the side of faith. Everything which is truly human is from God and is to be enlisted in his service.—V.W.H.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
An ancient letter.
We not only miss the drift of many parts of the Bible, but we also lose much of the interest they might excite in us, when we fail to observe the circumstances under which they were written. in the Epistle to the Philippians, for example, we have a letter addressed by a remarkable man under very touching conditions to a community of people in whom he felt deep interest. The primary, historical purpose of the writing is determined by these hers.
I. THE WRITER. St. Paul. Though Timothy is also mentioned in the salutation, he could have had little or nothing to do with the contents, because the apostle speaks throughout personally and individually. His authority not being questioned at Philippi, St. Paul has no need to assert his apostleship, and in genuine humility he writes of himself equally with his young companion, Timothy, as a servant of Jesus Christ.
1. The greatest Christian humbles himself as a bondservant before Christ.
2. The most independent mind in the Church when true to the gospel bows in obedience to the mind of Christ.
3. It is the function of Christian ministers not to seek their own advantages and not to be men-pleasers, but to serve Christ.
II. THE PEOPLE ADDRESSED.
1. The letter is sent to the whole Church at Philippi "all the saints," as well as the officers. The Bible is for all Christians. St. Paul knew nothing of esoteric doctrines.
2. Differences of official position are recognized—saints, bishops, deacons. Order, discipline, instruction, and administration required such organization from the first, and require them in some form now.
3. Christians are called saints, because
Unless a man is better in character for being a Christian his profession is a mockery.
4. Christians are "in Christ." Personal relation to Christ, the ingrafting of the olive branch, is the primary requisite of the Christian life.
III. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE WAITER AND RECEIVERS OF THE LETTER.
1. The writer is a prisoner awaiting trial on a capital charge. The martyr's lofty self-sacrifice and solemn joy characterize the Epistle.
2. The people addressed are feeble, poor, and persecuted. Yet their beautiful character immortalizes them. There is no Church that we could point to with more satisfaction as the model of primitive Christianity. Thus an obscure and humble community of Christians may be an example to the great Churches.
IV. THE CHARACTER OF THE LETTER.
1. It is uncontroversial. St. Paul was often forced into controversy. But his choicest thoughts come out in calmer moments.
2. It is personal. Nowhere else does the apostle reveal so fully his own private convictions and spiritual experiences. It is difficult to do this humbly, truly, and wholesomely. But when well done it is of rare interest. Hence the value of the private letters of great and good men.
3. It is unusually full of tender feeling. St. Paul was no mere intellectual teacher, and no hard-souled man of energy. His greatest ideas were saturated with emotion. In this Epistle he reveals the tenderness, sympathy, and joy of the deepest Christian experience.
4. It is a grand witness to the power of the gospel
Begun, continued, and ridded in God.
This phrase describes the first essential condition of the Christian life.
I. CHRISTIANS HAVE A GOOD WORK GOING ON WITHIN THEM.
1. Christianity is first of all internal. What is in us is the matter of chief importance.
2. A work is going on in the heart of the Christian, creating, developing, training, pruning, purging, building up.
3. This work is good. It is good for the soul to be brought from death to life, and for others that sympathy may be shown them and active good done as was the case with the Philippians in their relations to St. Paul.
II. THE WORK IS AS YET ONLY IN THE BEGINNING. A perfect Christian is the result of years of training. The new birth produces a babe in Christ. Much spiritual nourishment and education are required to develop the full-grown man.
III. THE WORK IS BEGUN BY GOD.
1. It begins in a new creation. God only can create. So great a change as is required in turning from a life of selfish sin to a life self-sacrificing holiness can only be effected by a Divine influence. That influence is put forth so that the greatest sinner may become the greatest saint.
2. Though the work is conditioned by our faith, still that is "not of ourselves, it is the gift of God."
IV. THE FACT THAT GOD HAS BEGUN THE GOOD WORK IS A GROUND FOR THINKING THAT HE WILL COMPLETE IT.
1. The character of God implies this. He is not fickle that he should change, nor weak that he should fail.
2. The nature of the work implies this. The first step is the hardest. Every stage in the Christian progress is a prophecy of future stages. The force of habit which was before set against the good work becomes increasingly engaged in supporting it.
V. THE OBJECT OF COMPLETING THE GOOD WORK IS THAT IT MAY BE READY FOR the DAY OF CHRIST.
1. That day is a day of trial. In the first age it came with the destruction of Jerusalem and consequent troubles. We need to be strengthened in the time of calm that we may stand firm in the storm.
2. Glorious victory follows the trouble of the day of Christ. Christians should be ready to share in that triumph.
VI. THE GOOD WORK WILL ONLY BE BEGUN, CONTINUED, AND ENDED IN GOD WHEN WE CO-OPERATE. That is not stated here. But it is stated elsewhere (e.g. Philippians 2:12). St. Paul is "persuaded" of success with the work in the Philippians partly on account of what he knows of their disposition and behavior. We must exercise faith and obedience in the strength of God and for the reception of God's work in us.—W.F.A.
Philippians 1:9, Philippians 1:10
The things that excel
St. Paul prays that his readers may have that finer spiritual perception (aisthesis) which is produced by an increase of love in order that they may discern the greater worth of those good things which differ from other good things in being more excellent. The high endowment would not be necessary for the discrimination of the coarser contrasts of good and evil, light and darkness, etc. It is plain, therefore, that different shades of goodness, gradations of worthiness, successive ranks of spiritual merit, are what the apostle desires us to be able to appreciate.
I. GOOD THINGS STAND IN DIFFERENT RANKS OF EXCELLENCY, In nature some things are better than others, being more beautiful, or more delicately organized, or capable of serving higher ends. When God created the world he saw that everything was good; yet the dog is superior to the worm, and man to the dog. In spiritual things differences exist even among things wholly good in themselves.
1. In the being of God. If we may dare to compare mysteries so high and sacred as the attributes of God, we may see how they range themselves in rank and order—all glorious, yet mounting one above another to the supernal height of glory. To the Mohammedan, God is chiefly known as Almighty; the Alexandrian Jew thought most of his wisdom; the prophets of the Old Testament upheld his awful righteousness; Christians see him chiefly as One whose name is Love. Now, omnipotence is good, and supreme wisdom is better, and the moral excellence of righteousness is better still; but love is best of all.
2. In the blessings of the gospel. Christ healed sick bodies, and some poor folk were content with that blessing; but he also healed sick souls, and this was a higher blessing. The gospel delivers us from the doom of guilt; but it also saves the soul from its own internal corruption, which is a greater good. It offers peace and comfort; but it also inspires patience in suffering and faithfulness in toil, and these are better things.
3. In our own religious aims. To be saved is good; to glorify God is better. It is well to seek the purest blessings for ourselves; it is better to deny ourselves in love to God and man, etc.
4. In prayer. Good earthly gifts may be sought; spiritual graces are more desirable. But the highest prayer will be for reconciliation with the will of God.
5. In the Bible. It is foolish to read the Bible straight through indis-criminatingly. All of it is not of equal value. We should discover and use most the best parts.
6. In literature, society, and innocent human affairs.
7. In the use of our time, money, etc. We may be doing no harm; but are we making the best possible use of these things?
II. THE SUPERIOR EXCELLENCE OF THE BETTER THINGS CAN ONLY BE DISCERNED BY THAT FINER SPIRITUAL SENSE WHICH COMES WITH AN INCREASE OF LOVE. It is not that they are artificially hidden. Christianity knows of no esoteric doctrines jealously guarded from the uninitiated. It is that we have not the faculty to discern them.
1. Though we may see at once the general characteristic differences, we need spiritual insight for the application of them to particular cases.
2. Though we may know the difference of value intellectually, we cannot at first realize it in feeling and life. If while a man knows that Beethoven's sonatas are infinitely superior to street songs, he still prefers the latter, to him, practically, these are the better. He must have higher musical gifts or training to appreciate the good music. In like manner we need spiritual training for the discerning of the best spiritual things. This training is not intellectual. It is the growth of love. For love is the eye of the soul. Love of God will help us to understand him. Love of Christ will explain to us the true worth of the gospel. Love of men will help us to appreciate the best pursuits in life. Love of heavenly things will enable us to seek the best of them.—W.F.A.
Christianity promoted by being persecuted.
It might naturally have been thought that the arrest of the missionary journeys of St. Paul, and the shock of his imprisonment, would have seriously checked the spread of the gospel. The apostle is anxious that his readers should understand that these apparently untoward events have had the very opposite effect, and this in two ways.
I. THE WORK OF ST. PAUL WAS RENDERED MORE EFFECTIVE BY THE VERY PERSECUTIONS HE SUFFERED.
1. The area of his influence was extended. He had long wished to preach the gospel in Rome (e.g. Romans 1:8-15). Persecution sent him there, The particular circumstances of his residence in Rome further gave him an opportunity of reaching classes of people who would have been almost inaccessible to him if he had gone there as a free visitor. Living among Praetorian soldiers, if not in the Praetorian camp itself, St. Paul was able to preach Christ to the cream of the Roman army. The prisoner became a missionary to his guard, and was successful in winning converts among those stern soldiers.
2. The force of his influence was intensified. He always preached Christ by his life, but never more eloquently than when in bonds for the sake of his great Master. The sight of the brave old man awaiting trial on a capital charge, not only possessing his soul in patience, but rejoicing in tribulation, and earnestly preaching the gospel beneath the very shadow of Nero's palace, was enough to strike the attention of the most thoughtless.
II. OTHER CHRISTIANS WERE INSPIRED WITH GREATER CONFIDENCE AND ENERGY BY THE SIGHT OF THE PERSECUTED APOSTLE. They were made confident through his bonds.
1. The example of St. Paul inspired them. Courage rouses courage. Noble self-devotion calls forth responsive echoes in the hearts of others. We feel ashamed of standing idle while our brother is toiling in the midst of danger and suffering.
2. The success of St. Paul encouraged them. Half-heartedness in missionary efforts comes of unbelief in the real utility of them. When we see the fruitfulness of these efforts we are urged to extend them.
3. The independent action of St. Paul excited the jealousy of some. In Rome, which was a stronghold of Judaic Christianity, the great apostle of the Gentiles preached his more liberal gospel. This greatly disturbed some of the prevailing school. But, unlike their brothers in Corinth, they did not directly oppose the work of St. Paul. They rather proclaimed their own version of the gospel more zealously. In so doing they, being true followers of Christ as well as the apostle they suspected, preached Christ. Thus sectarian rivalry may be overruled for the extension of the gospel.—W.F.A.
Christ preached in sectarian jealousy.
It is scarcely possible to conceive of a more magnificent breadth of charity, a more heroic self-abnegation, or a more ardent devotion to Christ than St. Paul here manifests. His preaching at Rome appears to have excited opposition in the Judaizing section of the Church there. In jealousy of the influence gained by the great apostle, this party was roused to more earnest missionary enterprise on their own account. Their motive was miserably narrow and ungenerous. But they little understood the spirit of the man whom they thought to annoy. The last thing that mean and selfish men can comprehend is the larger heart of a better nature. St. Paul completely triumphed over this miserable attempt at raising up afflictions for him in his bonds. Instead of being irritated at the injury done to himself, he utterly forgot that injury in his joy that a flesh impetus was given to the preaching of Christ. What a noble example for all Christians!
I. THE PREACHING OF CHRIST IS THE MOST IMPORTANT WORK OF the CHURCH. There were truths dear to the heart of St. Paul which the Judaizing party denied, and it was part of the life-work of the apostle to vindicate these truths. But he clearly saw that they were subsidiary to the great, common Christian gospel. Therefore he would rather see the gospel preached by men who were at the same time resisting those truths, than that the secondary truths should triumph but missionary work be less zealously promoted. We are all in danger of losing theological perspective. We are inclined to magnify our own special views to the neglect of the truth that is common to all Christendom. To make Christ known—not to preach this or that doctrine about Christ, but to reveal Christ himself in his beautiful life, death, and resurrection—this is to preach the gospel, and all else is of minor importance.
II. CHRIST MAY BE PREACHED IN A GREAT VARIETY OF WAYS. The more illiberal Christians set forth the gospel in a very different way from St. Paul's method. Yet he had insight to see that the essential truth was proclaimed by them.
1. Because men do not pronounce our "shibboleth," let us not refuse to recognize that they preach our Christ, the one Christ.
2. Moreover, note that, as a rule, the grounds on which Christians agree are far more important than those on which they differ.
3. Observe also that, though the spirit and motive of the preacher are important, the truth of the gospel is of more importance; so that, though this be proclaimed with an unworthy motive (as here in very spite to St. Paul), yet, being proclaimed, it may reach the hearts of men and do its own work.
III. DIVISIONS AMONG CHRISTIANS MAY LEAD TO ThE MORE ZEALOUS PREACHING OF CHRIST. We naturally deplore these divisions. They are very injurious to Christian charity. They generate sectarian bitterness of spirit and narrowness of thought. They lead to much waste of effort in controversy and to a scandal in the eyes of the world. On the other hand, they undoubtedly excite greater zeal in propagating the gospel. The sects provoke one another to good works. The motive may not be the highest; still, the result is that the gospel is preached more energetically and with more variety, so as to reach different classes of mind. And often the emulation is not unworthy. Each party is honestly desirous not to be found wanting, and is stimulated by the example of the rest. Competition, which greatly encourages efficiency in study and in business, is not without its influence in religion. Competitive Christianity may be, indeed, a low form of religion, but it is much better than lifeless Christianity.
IV. THE TRUE SERVANT OF CHRIST WILL VALUE THE PREACHING OF CHRIST MORE THAN THE EXTENSION OF HIS OWN VIEWS AND INFLUENCE. It is exceedingly difficult really to rejoice at efforts which weaken our own particular cause while they promote the great cause of Christ. But this is because we think more of ourselves than of Christ. Greater devotion to Christ will issue in larger charity to rivals and enemies. When we can say, "To me to live is Christ," we shall be able to experience the grand feeling of St. Paul in rising above the provocation of jealous opposition to himself with the joy of witnessing a more earnest preaching of Christ.—W.F.A.
"To me to live is Christ."
Here is the secret of the wonderful life of St. Paul and the ideal of the true Christian life everywhere. In so far as we approach this ideal we are Christian. The whole scope and aim and energy of Christianity are included in the conception of "living Christ.."
I. CHRIST GIVES THE PATTERN FOR THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Christianity is Christlikeness. Only they who have the Spirit of Christ are his. The one call of Christ is "Follow me." St. Paul carries this truth out very fully in his descriptions of the assimilation of the Christian to Christ through every stage—birth (in the new birth), humiliation, self-denial and service in life, death (to sin and the old life), resurrection (to the newer spiritual life), and ascension (the setting our affections on heavenly things). We must beware of mere servile imitation in following the footsteps of our Lord. We are to seek to have the mind that was in him. If our circumstances are different from these of the first disciples, we have to inquire, not simply what was done in Galilee in the first century, but what would Christ do in England in the nineteenth century?
II. CHRIST INSPIRES THE PURPOSE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The Christian is the servant of Christ. His object in life should not be to seek his own welfare, but to do Christ's work. It may be that he will suffer personal loss. That will not stand in his way if his spirit is right. For if Christ has died for us the least we can do is to live for him; and even though hardships ensue, we have to remember that we have only to be like Simon, bearing the cross, whilst Christ was nailed to it. So long, therefore, as our object is simply to secure the salvation of our own souls, to be sure of peace here and of heaven hereafter, we have not learnt the very alphabet of the Christian life. That life consists in denying ourselves and living for Christ.
III. CHRIST INSPIRES THE POWER NECESSARY FOR THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. To live as Christ lived! To deny ourselves and serve Christ! These are hard things, impossible simply as duties to be performed in our own strength. But the gospel of the cross is "the power of God." Morally, the influence of the love of Christ constraining us is great. Spiritually, the power of the indwelling Christ is the real secret of the Christian life.—W.F.A.
Philippians 1:23, Philippians 1:24
St. Paul is in a strait between his personal desire to depart and be with Christ, and his unselfish willingness to remain on earth for the good of the Church.
I. THE PERSONAL DESIRE TO DEPART AND BE WITH CHRIST. This is no mere sentimental yearning for death, such as very young people sometimes dream about. St. Paul is an old man, and old men commonly cling to life. He is in bonds, however; he has fought a good fight; he feels the weariness of a life of extraordinary hardship and toil; soberly, earnestly, reverently, he longs to be with Christ.
1. St. Paul had a gram! faith in the future life. He was not; simply resigned, he longed for the great change. His was not Hamlet's wish—
"To die,—to sleep,—
No mere; and, by a sleep, to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to."
Many have devoutly wished for this consummation, longing only to be at peace, "where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest." St. Paul's great desire was positive—life with Christ.
2. The essential Christian blessedness is to be with Christ. We know exceedingly little about the future life. When we pass from rhetorical images to distinct facts, the chief, almost the only, thing we know is that Christians will be with Christ (John 14:3).
"My knowledge of that life is small,—
The eye of faith is dim;
But 'tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with him."
(1) Only they who have followed Christ on earth can dwell with Christ in heaven.
II. THE UNSELFISH WILLINGNESS TO REMAIN ON EARTH TO SERVE THE CHURCH. St. Paul was resigned to life. His conception of Christianity was unselfish service. Men sometimes ask—Why are not Christians taken straight to heaven out of the troubles and temptations of this world? One reason for remaining here is their own discipline. Another is the work they have to do. As Christ came into the world to bless mankind, Christians are retained in the world that they may be the salt of the earth. But they should remember that they are pilgrims and strangers; in the world, but not of it; serving the world, but looking for their greatest joy above it. Let every man ask him-self—Is it for the good of my fellow-men that I should be continued in life? How many useful lives are cut down! How many cumberers of the ground are spared by the long-suffering mercy of God, in the hope that they may yet bear fruit, though at the eleventh hour!—W.F.A.
Suffering in behalf of Christ.
St. Paul feels peculiar sympathy for the Philippians on account of the fact that they are like himself in suffering persecution on account of Christ. Common sufferings promote common sympathies. Only they who have suffered themselves can understand the sufferings of others. Thus it seems to be part of the mission of pain to enlarge and deepen our sympathies.
I. CHRISTIANS MAY BE CALLED TO SUFFER IN BEHALF OF CHRIST. Let a man count the cost. To be a Christian is not only to believe on Christ. It may involve loss, pain, death.
1. We may suffer through our connection with Christ. Thus was it with the persecuted. Now, we may have to give up lucrative but un-Christlike occupations, and to meet with ridicule or opposition in our attempt to serve Christ faithfully.
2. We may suffer for the cause of Christ. We may serve him by our suffering. Faithful endurance is itself a grand witness to Christ. The martyr preaches Christ as truly as the missionary. Even the patient endurance of pain because it is Christ's will that we should bear it does honor to Christ. Many a helpless sufferer, who thinks his life a useless burden to others, teaches such high lessons by the spirit of faith and love with which he endures, that he serves Christ more effectually in his sick-chamber than others by the most vigorous activity in wide fields of enterprise.
II. IT IS A REAL BLESSING TO BE PERMITTED TO SUFFER IN BEHALF OF CHRIST. St. Paul regards the fact with joy.
1. It is proof of fidelity. Not being "affrighted by the adversaries," the presented have their faith confirmed in their trials.
2. It is means of serving Christ. It is an honor and a joy to serve Christ in any way, and most of all where the service is most effective.
3. It is a proof of peculiar distinction. The best soldiers are selected for the hardest service. The martyrs are the flower of the Christian army. It will lead to the greatest reward,
Wednesday, April 26th, 2017
the Second Week after Easter
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