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by Hamilton Smith
In the Epistle to the Philippians the Christian is viewed as a heavenly pilgrim, passing through this world on his way to Christ in glory. In the Apostle Paul we have an example of one who treads this heavenly path according to the mind of God. As he pursues his pilgrim way he is called to suffer bonds and imprisonment, and face the realities of life and death. He is opposed by adversaries, endures persecutions, and suffers the loss of all things. He walks through a dark world in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. He meets with sickness and sorrow. He has to contend against dogs, evil workers, and the concision. He mourns over those who seek their own things, and weeps over the enemies of the cross of Christ. At times he is faced with want and privations.
Nevertheless, in spite of all difficulties, he forgets the things that are behind and reaches out to the things that are before. At every step of this path he is sustained by having in view the glorious end of the journey - the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus.
Moreover the epistle presents not only the pilgrim path, but also the experiences that are enjoyed by one who takes this path. Such experience is true Christian experience, though not necessarily the experience of Christians. Alas! the experience of Christians is often far below proper Christian experience. The Christian may at times be depressed in mind, dull of spirit, and cold at heart. Obviously such experiences are not proper Christian experience. The epistle very blessedly presents the experience enjoyed by one who, in his journey through this world, lives the Christian life in its normal condition under the power of the Spirit of God.
We know that the Spirit of God has come to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us. Thus Christ is formed in us by being presented to us as our Life, our Pattern, our Object, and our Power. As we become followers of Christ, according to the example of the apostle, so shall we become true representatives of Christ, and enjoy true Christian experience.
In Philippians 1 Christ is presented as our life, and consequently everything is viewed in connection with Christ. The key word is "For me to live is Christ" ( Php_1:21 ).
In Philippians 2 . Christ is presented in humiliation as our pattern, giving grace to the Christian life. The key word is "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" ( Php_2:5 ).
In Philippians 3 . Christ is presented in glory as our object, giving energy to the Christian life. The key word being "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" ( Php_3:14 ).
In Philippians 4 . Christ is presented as our power, lifting us above the cares and anxieties of the pilgrim path. The key word is "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" ( Php_4:23 ).
For at least four years Paul had been a prisoner and, in the ways of God, allowed to suffer want. Hearing of his need the hearts of the Philippians were moved to send a gift. This gift drew forth from the apostle this touching letter of acknowledgment. He writes the epistle not as an apostle, but as a. servant of Jesus Christ, associating Timothy with himself. Thus the experience of which he speaks is not simply apostolic, but that which is proper to all Christians.
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29