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How Christians Should Live
We were told that when Minister Wu, of China, was addressing an American audience in Washington, D. C., upon comparative religions, he said that the difference between Christianity and Confucianism lay in the two ideals. The ideals of Confucianism consisted of ethics which were possible of human attainment, whereas the ethics of Christ were beyond the reach of mankind. He illustrated the ethics of Christ, by a partial reading of the Beatitudes, set down in the sermon on the mount. We were told that he said men in the flesh could not live so high and so holy as Christ of Nazareth demanded.
We agree with Minister Wu, in so far as the natural man is concerned. However, that which is impossible to one living in the flesh, is possible to the one who walks in the Spirit. The chapter we are considering today, presents some of the highest reaches of Christian life. We will study it therefore, not seeking merely to know what God asks of His children, but seeking, withal, to know the power from above, through which such a life is made possible.
By way of introducing the chapter we will consider the two opening verses, putting their different statements in the form of queries.
1. Is there any consolation in Christ? Paul presupposed that there was, when he said, "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ * * fulfill ye my joy." We believe, indeed, that our God is the God of all consolation, and the God of all comfort. The first chapter of I Corinthians definitely says so. In Philippians 2:3 , He is called the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. In Philippians 2:6 , He is our consolation. In Philippians 2:7 , He is the same.
The Corinthians knew what it was to be troubled on every hand. Their afflictions abounded, but whether they were persecuted or afflicted their consolations also abounded. Paul told them, "Our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation."
2. Is there any comfort of love? This is more than consolation. To us the thought of "the comfort of love" is that of John leaning his head upon the breast of his Lord. That he loved Christ, we know. We also know that Christ loved him. In the upper room there was much of sorrow among the disciples, because of Christ's words concerning His death. Mid all the distress, John quietly dropped his head over and rested upon the Lord. Have you known this comfort of love, which is your heritage?
3. Is there any fellowship of the Spirit? The benediction as given in the last verse of II Corinthians includes the expression, the fellowship of the Holy Ghost. What is this fellowship? It is a partnership. It is a union, and a comradeship with the Spirit, in all that the Spirit is and does.
The Lord Jesus Christ sent the Holy Ghost as a Paraclete; one to walk at our side. Do we revel in this wonderful privilege which is ours? Alas, some believers have never so much as known whether there be an Holy Ghost. Let us yield ourselves fully unto Him, that we may really have the fellowship of the Spirit.
4. Are there any bowels and mercies? This is a peculiar expression to us, because, when we think of bowels, we do not think of meries; but what the Lord had in mind are those tender administrations of mercies which have to do with the physical and natural man, providing for the needs of saints. We are familiar with the statement, "But whoso * * seeth his brother hath need and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him how dwelleth the love of God in him?" Truly the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of loving watch-care, the Spirit that provides for the needs of others.
How dark the world would be if the Lord Jesus had not demonstrated the deeper meanings of tender mercies toward others? He, though rich above, became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich.
5. The call, "Fulfill ye my joy." This statement is climactic. What the apostle is saying is that the four things noted above indwelling the saints, would make him happy. He knew that the way to fill others with joy, was to manifest these marvelous heights of spiritual light; for, where ever these qualifications are lacking, joy is lacking. Where ever they are found, there is peace and compassion, and blessed fellowship.
I. THE SECRET OF CHRISTIAN UNITY (Philippians 2:2-50.2.4 )
We have just been considering the fellowship of the Spirit. That fellowship leads to fellowship with one another. The fellowship one with another is thus stated in verses two to four:
1. "That ye be likeminded, having the same love." Of course when we are likeminded we have one mind, and we naturally have one accord. You remember, doubtless, at Pentecost how the saints were filled with the Spirit, and how it is written, "And they continued steadfastly, * * in fellowship." We also read, "And all that believed were together, and had all things common." Then come the words, "And they continuing daily with one accord."
Such a unity, is the call of God. In one place it is expressed as "The unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace." The church is rent with sects and cisms. This is because the church is not dominated with the Spirit of Christ. Where the Holy Spirit rules, we have everyone taking the same care one for another.
2. "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory." If we will only fulfill God's call, and walk in lowliness of mind; if we will esteem each, the other better than himself; if we will look every man not upon his own things, but upon the things of others, we will find the secret of unity in the Spirit. As long as we are self-centered and proud, and given to vainglorying we will create strife and contention. So many are prone to say, "I must have my rights." They also say, "If I do not look after Number 1, no one else will."
The pathway to unity in Christ, is a lowly path. It is the path where we are not looking after ourselves, but after the saints with whom we mix and mingle. Would that this Spirit of the Lord, might dominate us. The words ring in our minds: "The things of others." Weigh this matter. Write it over every day's work that you do, over every gift that you make, over every service you render. If we live for Christ, we will live for others. If we live for others, we will be living in the Spirit of Christ.
II. THE MIND OF CHRIST (Philippians 2:5-50.2.8 )
1. Saints are admonished to have the mind of Christ. No doubt many of you have read the book, "In His Steps." This book indeed carries a very high ideal, teaching us that we should live as Christ lived in all things. We fear the book, however, fails to tell us how this life can be lived. There is only one way to walk in the footsteps of Christ, and that is by having Christ, the mind of Christ, in Us.
2. The mind of Christ set forth. Philippians 2:6-50.2.7 and Philippians 2:8 tell us about the mind of Christ, which we are to exemplify.
(1) It was the mind, as seen in One Who was God. Verse 6 tells us that, "Being in the form of God, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God. We all know that Jesus Christ is God. "For in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." We cannot now discourse upon the deity of Christ. It is acclaimed in the whole Bible. He was God incarnate in flesh. What we wish now to emphasize, is that none of us in our inherent worth and glory, can even dare to make ourselves comparable to His inherent glory and Godhead.
(2) It was the mind of God, making Himself of no reputation. The Lord Jesus took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. Surely we may do well to have this mind in us. If our Lord received not honor of men, should we? If our Lord never sought to Himself of reputation; why should we be so particular about ours? If our Lord took the form of a servant, why should we desire to be recognized as lords?
(3) It was the mind of God, the God-man, to humble Himself. His humiliation went so far as obedience unto death, even the death of the ignominious Cross. Upon that Cross, the One who knew no sin, the One who was the Creator of all things; the One who was God manifest in flesh, hung between two thieves, malefactors, the scum of men.
Shall we exalt ourselves, when He humbled Himself? Shall we demand to live, when He was willing to die? Shall we demand in death, a bed of roses, when He died on a rugged Cross? Shall we seek to die mid our friends, when He died between His enemies?
III. THE EXALTATION OF CHRIST (Philippians 2:9-50.2.11 )
1. God hath also highly exalted Him. The little word "also" is full of meaning. It tells us that Christ's humbling of Himself, was the cause of God's exalting Him. God highly exalted Him, because He humbled Himself even unto death.
Think not that Jesus had not always been exalted; for, He had been equal with the Father in glory. Philippians 2:9 does no more than tell us that the Cross which He bore, made possible a new glory, a new exaltation. In the book of Revelation this high exaltation of the Son of God, our Saviour, is explained in chapters four and five thus: "Worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." Thus, Christ received a new honor because of His humiliation. The parallel for us, is this: if we will humble ourselves with Him, we shall be exalted with Him; if we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him; if we go outside the camp with Him and bear his reproach, we shall go inside the camp and bear His renown.
2. God hath given Him a name that is above every name. I cannot tell you that name. In His Second Advent, as He rides upon the white horse, we read: "He had a name written, that no man knew but He Himself." There is a name that Jesus Christ will bear, when He returns to earth; at that name every knee will bow. Then all will confess that Jesus Christ, is Lord, to the Glory of the Father.
Think you that the saints who have been victors in Christ, and have gone out with Him, bearing His shame shall not also have a name? Listen to these words, "To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it."
3. God hath commanded that every knee should bow, and every tongue should confess Jesus Christ is Lord. That will be a wonderful day, when all things in heaven, and earth, and under the earth, and every tongue, shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. God wants every one to do that now, of his own free will, and unto his present salvation. Deep in our own hearts we feel that if anyone refuses to bow now, confessing Christ; he will be compelled to bow (to his condemnation) acknowledging that Christ is God.
IV. WORKING OUT OUR SALVATION (Philippians 2:12-50.2.13 )
1. The great wherefore. The apostle Paul is addressing his beloved. He is writing, in the Spirit, to those in Christ who have obeyed the Lord, not as in His presence only, but also in His absence. These are the ones he addresses with the great wherefore.
The word "wherefore" links Philippians 2:12 and Philippians 2:13 unto all that we have been considering today. It tells us that, in view of all that Christ is, and all that He has done; in view of the fact that He is God, and yet that He took upon Himself the form of a servant, and became in fashion as a man; in view of the fact that he was obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross; and, in view of the fact that having been and having done all of this He was highly exalted and given a name; that we should "wherefore," (for this reason,) work out our own salvation.
2. The deeper meaning of "working out your own salvation." The salvation referred to, is the exaltation which Christ will bring with Him, for us: it is the new name which Christ will give those who overcome.
There is no one who knows the Scripture, who would dare for one moment to suggest that any man can work for salvation from sin and for eternal life. We are saved by the blood of the Lamb. We are saved by grace through faith. Both of which is not of ourselves; we are saved, not of works, lest any man should boast. Wherever there are works, there is no grace.
Now, however, those addressed as "beloved," as "obedient"; those addressed as the "servants of God," and "of Jesus Christ" are urged to go on through with Christ, that they may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering; being conformed unto His death.
It is the saints who are urged to have the mind of Christ in them, that thus they may work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Not afraid by any means, that they might loose eternal life; not trembling because they may fall into Hell; no such thing as that. They are to work out that glorious consummation called here salvation. It is of this salvation that Peter speaks, when he says, "salvation ready to be revealed in the last time," It is the salvation of which we read in Hebrews, "And unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
3. God's promised help. If anyone is afraid that he may never attain unto this high Christian life, exemplified in the mind and life of Christ, Philippians 2:13 gives you a promise, "For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure." Are we then trying to work for our salvation from Hell? Not at all. We are working out, what God is working in; and that is the high reaches of power both to will and to do the good pleasures of God. The result of doing that good pleasure will be our new exaltation, and our new name.
V. A CALL TO BLAMELESS AND HARMLESS LIVING (Philippians 2:14-50.2.18 )
1. We must not murmur concerning our call to humility. Some might say, "Yes, I'll take the Calvary route." I will give up strife, and vainglorying. I will walk in lowliness of mind; I will esteem others better than myself; I will not look on my own things, but at the things of others in other words I will have the mind of Christ. To such a one God says, do all these things without murmuring and disputing. Never complain as you suffer. Never murmur as you pay the price. If you glory at all, glory in your humiliations, and debasements, and sufferings, but never murmur concerning them.
2. We must be the sons of God, without rebuke. When are we without rebuke? When we are blameless; and harmless, because we are blameless. Neither is our blameless-ness suggestive of the fact that God does not see evil in us. It does mean that we are blameless, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. The world can find no fault within us. Our manner of life is without blame, and being without blame we are causing no harm. We are not causing a wicked people to blaspheme God, because of what we are and do. In the epistle of Peter we are told that we should show forth the praises of Him who is called out of darkness into His glorious light.
When sons of God are not blameless, their lives are always a bane and not a blessing.
3. We must shine as lights in the world. Oh, that Christians would realize the dignity of their position. What Christ was to the world, so are we. He said I am the light of the world. Now we are told to shine as lights in the world. Think of the gloom and darkness there would be on earth, if the sun and the moon and the stars failed to shine. Think of the darkness when we shine not.
VI. PAUL'S DESIRE TO REJOICE IN THE DAY OF CHRIST (Philippians 2:16-50.2.18 )
1. The apostle's final admonition. After he had called upon the saints at Phillipi to live blameless, and harmless, as the sons of God; after he had urged them to shine as lights in the world; he closed with this significant statement, "Holding forth the word of life." He did not tell them that they were the word of life, but he did tell them that they could hold it forth, and proclaim it, and live it.
Do you remember how the apostle said to Timothy, "Keep that which is committed to thy trust?" I am holding in my hand the Bible. It is the only Word that is life, and that can beget life. What a wonderful privilege is ours to preach it, and to tell it forth. We have seen it working, and we know its power.
2. The apostle's great desire. Why had Paul admonished the saints at Philippi? In order that he might rejoice in the days to come. Paul wrote to the saints at Thessalonica saying, "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, at His coming?" Yes, they were his glory, and his joy.
How would Paul feel if the saints of Philippi, should not be confessed among the overcomers? He would feel just as sad, as he would feel happy, if, in that day they were approved.
3. The apostle's dread. What! Did Paul have any fear concerning these delightful believers in Philippi? Perhaps not, but he plainly told them that if they did not stand approved, so that he could rejoice in the day of Christ, he would feel that he had run in vain, and had labored in vain. Here is something for every pastor to consider. Are you so preaching to your people, and so instructing them in the deeper things of God, that you may present them not as babes, but as full grown, and perfect before the Bema, at His coming?
VII. TWO GREAT HEROES OF THE FAITH (Philippians 2:19-50.2.28 )
1. The young man Timothy. Paul was sending Timothy shortly unto the saints of Philippi and he said some things about him, which are worthy of note.
(1) He said, "I have no man likeminded who will naturally care for your state. For, all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's."
Study these words at your leisure in connection with the Philippians 2:3-50.2.5 , which we have already considered. Paul told these saints about "lowliness of mind" about "esteeming others better than themselves," about "looking every man on the things of others." Now, Paul used Timotheous as an example. He thinks of no man more likeminded, to care for the things of others. Then he adds, "For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's."
(2) He said, "Ye know the proof of him." Then the apostle referred to how Timothy had been to him, as a son is to a father; and how he had served him in the Gospel. Thank God for Timothy.
2. The man Epaphroditus.
(1) Paul speaks of this man as a brother, a companion in labor, a fellow soldier, and as one who had ministered to his wants. Time forbids longer discourse, but our hearts and minds are filled as we ask, simply, can these things be said of you?
(2) Paul tells of this man's longings and heaviness for the saints. If you want one of the sweetest touches of Christian character to be found in the Bible, read this. Epaphroditus longed for them, and was heavy for them, because, "That ye had heard that he had been sick." He hadn't grieved because he had been sick, but because they had heard he had been sick. The pains of his illness were nothing comparable to the grief he had, because they grieved. In other words this wonderful man of God did not want any of his sorrows, to be a burden and a sorrow unto others.
(3) Paul writes that he was sick, "Nigh unto death." Then, with what joy did Paul add, "But God had mercy on him." Here is a little touch of the power of God. That God can heal, and that He did heal. Not only this, but also we have in this verse Paul's deep love for Epaphroditus. He said concerning the sickness of his friend, that God had mercy on him, "Lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow."
(4) Paul gives a few final suggestions. He says to the saints, "Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness." He also says, "Hold such in reputation." We are told in the Book, to give honor to whom honor is due.
As we close let us give you this man's ministry in a nutshell. It is all wrapped up in Philippians 2:30 . "Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me."
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Philippians 2". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent