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CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 1:1. Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ.—There is no necessity for Paul to mention his apostolate, inasmuch as the Philippians had never even thought of calling it in question. “Paul an apostle and Timothy a servant” was a distinction too invidious for Paul to make. There is a fine aroma of courtesy in what is not said as well as in what is said here. Bishops and deacons.—“It is incredible that St. Paul should recognise only the bishops and deacons (if ‘presbyters’ were a different order from ‘bishops’). It seems therefore to follow of necessity that the ‘bishops’ were identical with the ‘presbyters’ ” (Lightfoot).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 1:1-50.1.2
I. Addressed to a fully organised Church.—“To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Philippians 1:1). Christianity, which began with the quiet meetings in the humble Jewish proseucha, or oratory, by the river-side, had so far spread in Philippi as to settle down into a stable and permanent Church organisation. This is the first instance in which bishops and deacons are mentioned, and specially addressed in the apostolic salutation. The former are sometimes called elders, presbyters, rulers, or presidents, and were empowered to take the oversight of the whole Church, to instruct, exhort, and rule the members; the latter were chosen to take care of the poor, and to manage the finances of the Church. The bishop attended to the internal, the deacons to the external affairs of the Christian community. The title presbyter implied the rank, the bishop the duties of the office. As the apostles by their frequent absence were unable to take the personal oversight of the Churches they founded, they appointed officers in each Church. As the Churches multiplied, and the Church-life developed, the organisation became more compact and complete. It is noticeable in this instance that the apostle addresses the whole Church more than its presiding ministers. It should be ever remembered that the minister exists for the Church, not the Church for the minister. The clergy are not the Church, but, under God, the servants and religious guides of the people. The Christian Church is the glory and stability of a nation. When at Brussels Lord Chesterfield was invited by Voltaire to sup with him and Madame C—. The conversation happening to turn upon the affairs of England, “I think, my lord,” said Madame C—, “that the Parliament of England consists of five or six hundred of the best-informed men of the kingdom?” “True, madame, they are generally supposed to be so.” “What, then, can be the reason they tolerate so great an absurdity as the Christian religion?” “I suppose, madame,” replied his lordship, “it is because they have not been able to substitute anything better in its stead; when they can, I do not doubt but in their wisdom they will readily adopt it.”
II. Valued as emanating from distinguished Christian pioneers.—“Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1). The significance and worth of a salutation depend upon the character and reputation of those from whom it comes. Paul was honoured by the Philippians as their father in the gospel, and as one who had won a high distinction by his conspicuous abilities and labours in other spheres; and Timothy was well known to them as a devoted minister and fellow-helper of the apostle. Words coming from such a source would be gratefully welcomed and fondly cherished. Paul does not give prominence to his apostleship, as in the inscriptions to other epistles. The Philippians had already sufficient proof of his apostolic authority and power. Paul and his colleagues were reverenced as “the servants of Jesus Christ.” They acknowledged subjection, not to man, but to Christ; they lived to advance His interests and honour, and found their highest joy in His service, though attended with hard toil, unreasoning persecution, and unparalleled suffering. The Baptist Missionary Society adopted for its motto a device found upon an ancient medal representing a bullock standing between a plough and an altar, with the inscription, “Ready for either, for toil or for sacrifice.” The service of Christ is a life of self-sacrifice; but that is the pathway of duty, of blessing, of reward, of glory.
III. Invokes the bestowment of great blessings.—“Grace be unto you, and peace” (Philippians 1:2). Grace and peace are divine gifts, proceeding from “God the Father,” as the original and active Source of all blessings, and from “the Lord Jesus Christ” who is now exalted to the right hand of the divine majesty to bestow those blessings upon His people. Grace, the unmerited favour of God, is the exhaustless fountain of all other blessings, and includes the ever-flowing stream of the Holy Spirit’s influences; peace, the result of grace, is the tranquillity and joy of heart realised on reconciliation with God. The very form of this salutation implies the union of Jew, Greek, and Gentile. The Greek salutation was “joy,” akin to the word for grace. The Roman was “health,” the intermediate term between grace and peace. The Hebrew was “peace,” including both temporal and spiritual prosperity. The great mission of the gospel is to spread peace on earth, peace with men, following on peace with God. The believer enjoys peace even in the midst of trial and suffering. One of the martyrs, exposed to public derision in an iron cage, is reported to have said to a bystander, who expressed surprise at the cheerfulness he manifested, “You can see these bars, but you cannot hear the music in my conscience.”
1. Religion teaches the truest courtesy.
2. The unselfish heart wishes well to all.
3. That greeting is the most genuine that recognises the claims of God.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 1:1-50.1.2. The Apostolic Greeting.—
1. Unity and concord amongst ministers in giving joint testimony to the same truths add weight to what they preach. Preachers are in a special manner the servants of Christ as being wholly and perpetually dedicated to His service.
2. As to make a man internally and spiritually holy it is necessary he be in Christ by faith, so to make him externally holy requires a visible and external union with Christ in professing truths relating to Him.
3. The dignity of a minister or of any Church officer does not exempt him from the necessity of being taught, exhorted, reproved, and comforted.
4. God’s grace is the fountain from which peace with God, with our own conscience, and all sanctified prosperity and peace among ourselves do flow. In seeking things from God we look to Him, not as standing disaffected to us and at a distance, but as our Father.—Fergusson.
Philippians 1:1. The Commencement of the Gospel at Philippi.
I. To secure the widest diffusion of the gospel great centres should be the first places chosen for the concentration of its forces.
II. The gospel of universal adaptation has a world-wide mission.—The first three converts embraced different nationalities, employments, social grades,—Lydia, the oriental trader, the Grecian female slave and soothsayer, the Roman keeper of the prison. Christ has demolished all barriers to the exercise of divine mercy.
III. The duty and privilege of Christian parents to consecrate their children and home to Christ (Acts 16:15; Acts 16:33-44.16.34; Acts 16:40).
IV. Civic distinctions subordinated to Christ will further the gospel and adorn the Christian name.—Paul’s Roman citizenship gained his freedom and silenced his enemies. His chain connects the history of Rome and Philippi. The Christian’s spirit can defy the inner prison to suppress its praise or prayer (Acts 16:25).
Philippians 1:2. God our Father.—Christ aimed at raising men from the bondage of mere servants into the freedom of sons. He taught that God our Father was henceforth to be—
I. The sole Model of perfection. (Matthew 5:48).
II. The sole Rewarder of almsgiving (Matthew 6:4).
III. The sole Hearer of prayer (Matthew 6:6).
IV. The sole Observer of fastings (Matthew 6:18).
V. The sole Provider of daily wants (Matthew 6:26-40.6.33).—Lay Preacher.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 1:3. I thank my God.—The keynote of the whole epistle. As the apostle’s strains of praise had been heard by the prisoners in the Philippian gaol, so now from another captivity the Church hears a song of sweet contentment. “My God.” The personal appropriation and the quiet contentment of the apostle both speak in this emphatic phrase.
Philippians 1:4. Always in every prayer of mine for you all.—Notice the comprehensive “always,” “every,” “all,” indicating special attachment to the Philippians. With joy.—The sum of the epistle is, “I rejoice.… Rejoice ye.” “He recalls to our minds the runner who at the supreme moment of Grecian history brought to Athens the news of Marathon. Worn, panting, exhausted with the effort to be the herald of deliverance, he sank in death on the threshold of the first house which he reached with the tidings of victory, and sighed forth his gallant soul in one great sob, almost in the very same words as those used by the apostle, ‘Rejoice ye; we rejoice’ ” (Farrar, after Lightfoot).
Philippians 1:5. “Fellowship here denotes co-operation in the widest sense, their participation with the apostle, whether in sympathy or in suffering, or in active labour, or in any other way. At the same time, their almsgiving was a signal instance of this co-operation, and seems to have been foremost in the apostle’s mind” (Lightfoot). He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it.—“The observation of the ebb and flow of the tide for so many days and months and ages together, as it has been observed by mankind, gives us a full assurance that it will ebb and flow again to-morrow” (Bishop Butler). Another sort of assurance comes in here. It is an offence to every worthy thought of God that He should begin and not be able to finish (Isaiah 26:12).
Philippians 1:7. Meet for me to think this.—“To form this opinion.” That the apostle cherished a warm affection for these Philippians would have been, if alone, a very flimsy foundation for hopes so substantial. Was not Judas cherished in a warmer heart than Paul’s? But their sympathy and active co-operation made such an opinion not a pious hope, but a reasonable likelihood. Defence and confirmation.—The “defence” (ἀπολογία) is the clearing away of objections—the preparation of the ground; the “confirmation” is the positive settlement on the ground so prepared. “The two together will thus comprise all modes of preaching and extending the truth” (Lightfoot). Partaken of my grace.—The grace whether of preaching or of suffering for the gospel. See Philippians 1:29, where “given” requires the addition “as a favour.” “You are privileged … to suffer.”
Philippians 1:8. God is my record.—As in Romans 1:9. When we feel language too weak to bear our impassioned feeling, it may be well to remember the “Yea, yea” of the Master rather than copy this oath. In the bowels of Jesus Christ.—R.V. “in the tender mercies.” This is quite an Eastern form of expression. Among the Malays a term of endearment is “my liver”; we choose the heart as the seat of the affections. For the figure, cf. Galatians 2:20.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 1:3-50.1.8
Eulogy of Christian Excellence—
I. Prompted by pleasant memories of faithful co-operation in Christian work.—“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, … for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, … inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace” (Philippians 1:3; Philippians 1:5; Philippians 1:7). The apostle remembers with joy the way in which the Philippians first received the gospel, the effect it produced upon their lives, the eagerness with which they entered into his plans for its wider propagation, the liberality, though not themselves a rich people, they showed to their needy brethren in other Churches, the affectionate attachment they displayed towards himself, the help they afforded him when in imprisonment, and the many ways in which they cheerfully co-operated with him in the defence and establishment of the truth. They had laboured, suffered, triumphed, and rejoiced together. The apostle’s eulogy of their character was not flattery, but sober and just commendation of tried and sterling excellencies. Our happiest memories—memories that become more vivid as life advances—are of those days in which we laboured most earnestly in the service of God.
II. Springs from a loving appreciation and tender Christian solicitude.—“Even as it is meet for me to think thus of you all, because I have you in my heart.… For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:7-50.1.8). There was something about the Philippians that captivated the heart of the apostle. He loved them because they loved his Master, and because they sought to spread the gospel he preached. Love begets love, and there is no power in uniting hearts like the love of Christ. The love of the apostle was manifested in a yearning desire for their advancement in personal godliness. “All real spiritual love,” says Alford, “is but a portion of Christ’s love which yearns in all who are united to Him.” Christian love is not mere self-indulgence of a pleasant feeling; its unselfishness is evident in seeking to advance the highest spiritual interests of the person loved. It is something more than a refined and noble sentiment. The finest feeling may be very superficial. Some friends were drinking tea one evening at the house of Mr. Mackenzie, the author of The Man of Feeling, and waited for some time for his arrival. At length he came in heated and excited, and exclaimed, “What a glorious evening I have had!” They thought he spoke of the weather, which was singularly beautiful; but he went on to detail the intense enjoyment he had had in witnessing a cock-fight. Mrs. Mackenzie listened some time in silence; then, looking up in his face, she remarked in her gentle voice, “Oh, Harry, Harry, your feeling is all on paper!”
III. Strengthened by the assurance of increasing Christian devotion.—“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” (Philippians 1:6). Even man, fickle as he is, does not begin work at random and without purpose; some time or other he hopes to finish it. But God, who begins the work of the new spiritual creation in the soul, is constantly striving to finish it, until it shall be presented perfect at the day of Christ. The apostle had no doubt about the divine working, and he rejoiced in the evidence he had that his converts were increasing in spiritual fervour and devotion. Faithfulness to God strengthens fidelity in every duty of life. On board the flag-ship of a celebrated commander a complaint was made by the captain against a number of the crew for disturbing the ship’s company by frequent noises. The admiral ordered an inquiry to be made. The accusation was that these men were Methodists, and that when their watch was below they were in the constant habit of reading the Bible to each other aloud, of frequently joining in social prayer and singing of psalms and hymns. After the statement had been proved, the admiral asked, “What is the general conduct of these men on deck—orderly or disobedient, cleanly or the contrary?” “Always orderly, obedient, and cleanly,” was the reply “When the watch is called, do they linger, or are they ready?” “Always ready at the first call.” “You have seen these men in battle, sir; do they stand to their guns or shrink?” “They are the most intrepid men in the ship, my lord, and will die at their post.” “Let them alone, then,” was the decisive answer of this magnanimous commander; “if Methodists are such men, I wish that all my crew were Methodists.”
IV. Expressed in thanksgiving and joyous prayer.—“I thank my God … always in every prayer of mine for you all, making request with joy” (Philippians 1:3-50.1.4). Joy is the characteristic feature in this epistle, as love is in that to the Ephesians. Love and joy are the two firstfruits of the Spirit. Joy gives especial animation to prayers. It marked the apostle’s high opinion of them, that there was almost everything in them to give him joy, and almost nothing to give him pain (Fausset). The labour of prayer is sure, if persisted in, to merge into the joy of prayer. Prayer is a blessing to others as well as to ourselves. The father of Sir Philip Sydney enjoined upon his son, when he went to school, never to neglect thoughtful prayer. It was golden advice, and doubtless his faithful obedience to the precept helped to make Philip Sydney the peerless flower of knighthood, and the stainless man that he was—a man for whom, months after his death, every gentleman in England wore mourning.
1. Christian excellence is a reflection of the character of Christ.
2. Christian excellence is acquired by praying and working.
3. Genuine Christianity is its own best eulogy.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 1:3. Happy Memories.
I. Those that are prompted by the Spirit of God.
II. Those that recall the past joy of harvest.
III. Those that still link us in association with distant but kindred spirits.
IV. Those that evoke perennial gratitude to God.
V. Those that enrich our own moral worth.—Lay Preacher.
Philippians 1:4-50.1.5. Fellowship in the Gospel.
I. Christian ministers have a claim to maintenance from the people.
II. Fellowship is making another a fellow-partaker of what belongs to us.
III. The apostle Paul while claiming his privilege was cautious in using it.
IV. The voluntary system has advantages, but greater disadvantages.—Archbishop Whately.
Philippians 1:4. “Making request with joy.” Pure Joy—
I. Springs from divine communications.
II. Succeeds a previous sorrow.
III. Is superior to human surroundings.
IV. Is sustained by answered prayer.—Lay Preacher.
Philippians 1:5. True Gospel Fellowship.
Lives which adorn it.
Hearts which beat for it.
Lips which testify for it.
Hands which work for it.
Gifts which extend it.—Ibid.
Philippians 1:6. Grounds of Confidence in the Believer’s Salvation.
I. That the Philippians persevered in the midst of great difficulties, opposition, and persecution.
II. That their persevering fellowship in the gospel had been characterised by great purity and consistency of Christian life.
III. That they gave evidences of zeal for the propagation of religion and of liberality in contributing of their worldly substance to this end.
1. This doctrine affords comfort and hope to struggling Christians.
2. The grounds of assurance forbid presumptuous confidence and stimulate to watchfulness and effort.—Homiletic Monthly.
The Perseverance of the Saints.
I. I shall adduce some of the principal arguments in support of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.—
1. The decree of election.
2. The merit of Christ’s sufferings and death.
3. The intercession of Christ.
4. The promises of God.
5. The constitution of the covenant of grace.
6. The statements of Scripture in regard to the constant indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all believers.
II. I shall consider some of the most plausible objections which have been urged against this doctrine.—
1. That some of the most eminent saints have fallen into very grievous sins. They did not fall totally and finally.
2. That many who were long regarded as true Christians do in point of fact finally apostatise. They never were true Christians.
3. That there are in Scripture many earnest exhortations to watchfulness, and many awful warnings against apostasy. God works by means and motives.
4. That believers being assured of their ultimate recovery will be encouraged to sin. The perseverance of the saints is perseverance in holiness.
(1) Has a good work begun in you?
(2) If so, remember that while the perseverance of the saints is promised as a privilege, it is also enjoined as a duty.—G. Brooks.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 1:9. In knowledge and in all judgment.—“Perfect knowledge (as in Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 4:13) and universal discernment.” “The one deals with general principles, the other is concerned with practical applications” (Lightfoot).
Philippians 1:10. That ye may approve things that are excellent.—St. Paul would have his dear Philippians to be connoisseurs of whatever is morally and spiritually excellent. That ye may be sincere.—Bearing a close scrutiny, in the strongest light, or according to another derivation of the word, perhaps more true if less beautiful, made pure by sifting. And without offence.—Might be either “without stumbling,” as Acts 24:16, or “not causing offence. Lightfoot prefers the former, Meyer the latter. Beet unites the two.
Philippians 1:11. Fruits of righteousness.—“A harvest of righteousness.” Which are through Jesus Christ.—A more precise definition of “fruits.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 1:9-50.1.11
A Prayer for Christian Love—
I. That it may be regulated by knowledge and discretion.—“And this I pray, that your love may abound … in knowledge and in all judgment” (Philippians 1:9).
1. So as to test what is best.—“That ye may approve things that are excellent” (Philippians 1:10)—test things that differ. Two faculties of the mind are to be brought into exercise—knowledge, the acquisitive faculty; and judgment, the perceptive faculty. Love is not a wild, ignorant enthusiasm, but the warm affection of a heart, guided by extensive and accurate knowledge, and by a clear, spiritual perception. From a number of good things we select and utilise the best.
2. So as to maintain a blameless life.—“That ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10). Be so transparent in heart and life as neither to give nor take offence, and when examined in the light of the day of Christ to be adjudged blameless. To live a useful and holy life we must both think and feel aright. Love will ever prompt us to the holiest conduct and to the best work. “I once asked a distinguished artist,” said Boree, “what place he gave to labour in art. ‘Labour is the beginning, the middle, and the end of art,’ was the answer. I turned to another and inquired, ‘What do you consider as the great force in art?’ ‘Love,’ was the reply. In these two answers I found but one truth.”
II. That it may stimulate the growth of a high Christian character.—
1. A high Christian character is the outcome of righteous principles. “Being filled with the fruits—the fruit—of righteousness.” All Christian virtues are from the one common root of the Spirit. It is He who plants them in the heart, fosters their growth, brings them to perfection, and fills the soul with them as the trees are laden with ripened fruit. The apostle prays for more love, because love impels us to act righteously in all things, even in the minor affairs of life. “Just as the quality of life,” says Maclaren, “may be as perfect in the minutest animalculæ, of which there may be millions in a cubic inch and generations may die in an hour—just as perfect in the smallest insect as in behemoth, biggest born of earth, so righteousness may be as completely embodied, as perfectly set forth, as fully operative in the tiniest action that I can do, as in the largest that an immortal spirit can be set to perform. The circle that is in a gnat’s eye is as true a circle as the one that holds within its sweep all the stars, and the sphere that a dewdrop makes is as perfect a sphere as that of the world. All duties are the same which are done from the same motives; all actions which are not so done are all alike sins.”
2. A high Christian character honours God.—“Which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11). The righteousness which exalts man honours God. It is a practical manifestation of the grace communicated through Jesus Christ, and adorns the doctrine which is according to godliness. There are those who live soberly and righteously in this present world; but what about their duty to God? God is not in all their thoughts. That there has been no acceptance into their lives of Christ—without which acceptance God is a stranger to us and we strangers to God, no consecration to Christ, no referring to His will, no love to His person, and no zeal for His glory—of all this they are perfectly aware. And the thought of their heart is, that the omission is of no great consequence, and so long as they live soberly and righteously, it matters little or nothing whether they do or do not live godly. The power lacking is that for which the apostle prays—the power of love, whole-hearted love to Christ.
III. That it may be enjoyed in ever-increasing measure.—“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more” (Philippians 1:9). Some time ago the public mind was filled with uneasiness in expectation of a high tide which was to visit our shores, and which it was feared would work great mischief. As the time drew near, the anxiety increased. At length the tide flowed in, rose to its highest point, and then retired, bearing with it the fears that had agitated the public mind. Why this alarm? Because all know the unmanageable, destructive power of water, when it once bursts its bounds. Love, unlike water, the more it abounds and overflows the greater the benefits it bestows. There is no fear that we shall love God too much; it is our shame and loss that we love Him so little. Love chafes against all limitations.
1. Love is the essence of Christianity.
2. Love should govern every part of the Christian life.
3. Love may be augmented by earnest prayer.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 1:9-50.1.10. The Apostle’s Prayer for Abounding Love—
I. In its application to the affections.—“That your love may abound yet more and more” (Philippians 1:9).
1. Love to God.—
(1) Because of the supreme excellence of His character.
(2) Because of His generous interposition in the work of human redemption.
(3) Because of the benefits He is constantly bestowing.
2. Love to one another.—Love promotes brotherly unity—oneness of feeling, of aim, of effort. Unity promotes strength. To strength in its combined action victory is given.
3. Love to the unsaved.—The law of Moses insisted, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour”; to which the Pharisees made this addition, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.” Christ interprets the law of love in the command, “I say unto you, Love your enemies.”
II. In its application to the intellect.—“In knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent” (Philippians 1:9-50.1.10). Knowledge, the faculty to acquire information; judgment, the faculty to discern its value and use: the one leads to the sources of truth and appropriates its stores, the other selects and uses what is acquired. These two faculties necessary—
1. In judging revealed truth.
2. In judging Christian experience.
3. In selecting what is best in all truths.
III. In its application to the conduct.—“That ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10).
1. An inward state.—Sincerity, transparency of character.
2. An outward walk.—Inoffensive ness of conduct. Not designedly giving offence; sacrificing everything but principle rather than grieve or mislead a weak brother.
3. Perseverance in an upright life.—“Till the day of Christ.” This is the scorner’s day; the good are hated and despised; but the day of Christ is coming, and will rectify all wrongs. A day of blessing and honour to the good, of confusion and punishment to the wicked; of approval to the one, of condemnation to the other.
Philippians 1:9. “And this I pray.” Definiteness in Prayer—
I. Implies a deep consciousness of an intelligently apprehended need.
II. Becoming, when an intelligent being addresses the divine Intelligence.
III. Essential from the very nature of prayer.
IV. Affords a fixed ground from the exercise of faith.
V. Emboldens supplication.
VI. Inspires hope of a definite response.—Lay Preacher.
Philippians 1:10. “That ye may approve things that are excellent.” Spiritual Discrimination—
I. Demands the exercise of the most intelligent and sensitive charity.
II. Commands a wide field of effort—the bad, the good, the better, the best—in character, life, doctrine, practice, enjoyment, attainment.
III. Implies the admission and use of a noble liberty of thought, judgment, and action.
IV. Involves a weighty and far-reaching responsibility.
V. Is essential to a pure and blameless life.—Ibid.
“That ye may be sincere.” The Value of Sincerity in Youth.
There is a false sincerity which is a compound of ignorance and obstinacy. The heathen may be devout and sincere in his idolatry, but he is a heathen still. The Mahometan may be devout and sincere in his worship of the one God, but he rejects the Christ who is the source and substance of all true religion. The sceptic may be devout and earnest in his investigation of the facts of the universe; but he ignores the great moral truths on which he stumbles in the course of his inquiries, and refuses to accept and be influenced by them. There is no craze of the wildest fanatic that may not be adopted as an article of faith, if apparent sincerity is to be the test of its genuineness. The fact is, a man may be sincere, but grossly mistaken. A sincere heart is that through which the light of God shines, unimpeded by duplicity and sin, and is a condition of heart obtained only by living much in the presence and the light of God.
I. Be sincere in the search after truth.—Truth must be sought for its own sake, and is revealed only to the humble and sincere seeker. It is of supreme importance to you to find the truth. Truth has but one direction and one goal—it terminates in the radiant presence of a living personality. When you come into the presence of truth, you come into the presence of God. Truth has a living embodiment in Christ Jesus. If you desire a solution of the perplexing riddles of life, if you would understand the principles on which God governs the universe, if you wish to dissipate the doubts that becloud and harass the mind, if you desire rest and peace of conscience, and to obtain strength and inspiration to live a happy, useful, and noble life—then seek the truth as it is in Jesus; and if you are really sincere, you shall not seek in vain.
II. Be sincere in your social intercourse with one another.—
1. In your friendships.
2. In your promises.
III. Be sincere in the service of God.
IV. Be sincere in the cultivation of your own personal piety.
I. Consists in internal sincerity.—
1. This involves a concentratedness of heart upon one object.
2. A thoroughness of life’s uniformity to that one object.
3. An unostentatious but manifest integrity.
4. The completeness of that manifestation should be proportionate to the brightness of the testing light.
II. Consists in external blamelessness.—
1. Without being found guilty of offence.
2. Without giving offence.
3. Without taking offence.
III. Consists in a present state of life, with a glorious future destination.—“That ye may be without offence till the day of Christ.”
1. Then life shall be judged.
2. Life shall be made manifest.
3. Rectitude of life shall be approved.
4. Rectitude of life shall be rewarded.—Lay Preacher.
Philippians 1:11. Fruits of Righteousness.
I. The nature of righteousness.—
1. Sometimes the term refers to the divine Being, and signifies the purity of His nature and the perfection of His works.
2. Here it signifies personal holiness.
II. The fruits of righteousness.—
1. Christian righteousness is productive of gracious fruits. These fruits are internal in the heart, and external in the life.
2. The fruits of righteousness are abundant and progressive.—“Being filled with the fruits.”
III. The Author of righteousness.—“Which are by Jesus Christ.”
1. Righteousness is purchased by Christ as our Redeemer.
2. Is derived from Him as our Saviour.
IV. The results of righteousness.—“Unto the glory and praise of God.”
1. Righteousness is to the glory and praise of God in the scheme of redemption.
2. In the subjects of redemption.
1. This subject should stimulate our desires.
2. Promote our devotion.
3. Inspire us with praise.—Theological Sketch Book.
I. Righteousness of heart precedes righteousness of life.
II. Righteousness of heart is self-disseminating.—
1. Its fruit is living.
2. Of harmonious unity.
III. Righteousness of heart is the only thing that can fill the capacities of man.
IV. Fulness of righteousness is all divine.—
1. In its source.
2. In its medium of communication. “By Jesus Christ.”
3. In its end. “Unto the glory and praise of God.” Glory before men: praise among men.—Lay Preacher.
The field.—The loving heart.
The husbandman.—Jesus Christ.
The end.—The glory and praise of God.—Ibid.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 1:12. The things which happened unto me.—Precisely the same phrase as in Ephesians 6:21; is translated “my affairs” (so Colossians 4:7). These circumstances were such as naturally would fill the friends of the apostle with concern for him personally. As to the effect on the spread of the gospel—ever St. Paul’s chief solicitude—they had been apprehensive. Rather unto the furtherance.—Not to the hindrance, as to your fears seemed likely. It is the same triumphant note which rises, in a later imprisonment, above personal indignity and suffering. “I may be bound, the message I bear is at liberty” (2 Timothy 2:9).
Philippians 1:13. Bonds in Christ are manifest.—R.V. “bonds became manifest in Christ.” It is not simply as a private prisoner that he is bound; it is matter of public note that he is bound for Christ’s sake. In all the palace.—R.V. text, “throughout the whole prætorian guard.” R.V. margin, “in the whole prætorium.” “The best supported meaning of ‘prætorium’ is—the soldiers composing the imperial regiments” (Lightfoot). “The barracks of the imperial body-guard” to whose “colonel” Paul was given in charge on his arrival in Rome (Acts 28:16)” (Meyer). “As the soldiers would relieve guard in constant succession, the prætorians one by one were brought into communication with ‘the prisoner of Jesus Christ’ ” (Lightfoot). In all other places.—The italicised places of the A.V. text must be dropped; the margin is better. A loose way of saying “to others besides the military.”
Philippians 1:14. Confident by my bonds.—The bonds might have been thought to be sufficient to intimidate the brethren; but the policy of stamping out has oftener resulted in spreading the gospel.
Philippians 1:15. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife.—Not some of the brethren emboldened by the apostle’s chain, perhaps, although one sees no reason why the Judaisers would not, with redoubled energy, spread their views when he whom they so violently opposed was for the time being silenced, as they imagined. “Of envy.” Lightfoot refers to the saying of the comic poet Philemon with its play on the word, “Thou teachest me many things ungrudgingly because of a grudge” (on account of envy). The glaring in consistency of preaching a gospel of goodwill from such a motive as envy, the Worst form of ill-will, must be closely observed here.
Philippians 1:16-50.1.17.—These verses are transposed in R.V.; the order of the A.V. is against decisive testimony (Meyer).
Philippians 1:16. To add affliction to my bonds.—“To make my chains gall me,” Lightfoot strikingly translates. One can almost imagine St. Paul starting up, and straining at the wrist of the soldier to whom he was chained, as he hears of the intrigues of a party whose one object it was to impose an effete ritual on men called to liberty in Christ.
Philippians 1:17. For the defence of the gospel.—Many a man in the apostle’s place would have found himself absorbed by the question how best to make a good defence of himself.
Philippians 1:18. Whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached.—St. Paul evidently thinks the imperfect knowledge of Christ preferable to heathen ignorance of Him. The truth is mighty enough to take care of itself, without any hand that shakes with nervous apprehension to steady its ark. St. Paul is beforehand with our method of keeping a subject before the notice of the public. The policy of “never mentioning” was what St. Paul regarded as fatal.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 1:12-50.1.18
The Gospel Irrepressible—
I. Notwithstanding the circumscribed opportunities of its agents.—
1. Their sufferings for the gospel call attention to its claims. ‘The things which happened unto me have fallen out rather into the furtherance of the gospel; so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places” (Philippians 1:12-50.1.13). It might seem to the Philippians that the imprisonment of Paul would be unfavourable to the gospel and prevent its spread. He shows there was no ground for that fear; but that the gospel was becoming known in quarters which, but for his imprisonment, it was not likely to gain access. The palace referred to was the prætorium, or barrack of the prætorian guards attached to the palace of Nero on the Palatine Hill in Rome. The regular changes of guards was constantly furnishing new auditors for the irrepressible preacher, and he did not fail to zealously improve his opportunities. Thus the gospel, which the malice and bigotry of the Jews sought to suppress, found its way into Cæsar’s household, and ultimately captured the Roman empire for Christ. The persecutions of the gospel have been the best helpers of its success.
2. Their sufferings for the gospel stimulate the zeal of its propagators.—“Many of the brethren, … waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:14). The fortitude of the apostle in suffering, and his unwearied efforts to preach the gospel, increased the courage of his fellow-helpers in the same good work. The sufferings of the gospel pioneers contributed to the spread and triumph of the truth. The blood of Scotland’s proto-martyr, the noble Patrick Hamilton, and the memory of his dying prayer, “How long, O Lord, shall darkness cover this realm?” fomented the young Reformation life over a comparatively silent germinating period of more than twenty years. Knox, and with him Scotland, kindled at the pile of George Wishart. Andrew Melville caught the falling mantle of Knox. When Richard Cameron fell at Aird’s Moss—as if in answer to his own prayers as the action began, “Lord, spare the green and take the ripe!”—all the more strenuously strove Cargill, till he too, in the following year, sealed the truth with his blood. And more followed, and yet more, through that last and worst decade of the pitiless storm known as, by emphasis, the killing time. Through those terrible years Peden dragged out a living death, and as he thought of Cameron, now at rest, often exclaimed, “Oh to be with Ritchie!” Young Renwick too caught up the torn flag, nobly saying, “They are but standard-bearers who have fallen; the Master lives.” Thus one after another on blood-stained scaffold, or on blood-soaked field, fell the precious seed-grain, to rise in harvests manifold, till just at the darkest hour before the dawn of Renwick’s martyrdom closed the red roll in 1688—the year of the revolution—and the seed so long sown in tears was reaped in joy.
II. It is preached from a variety of motives.—
1. Some preach the gospel from the love of controversy. “Some indeed preach Christ of envy and strife … of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds” (Philippians 1:15-50.1.16). The Judaising teachers, taking advantage of the absence of the apostle, sought to propagate their erroneous theories of the gospel, and to annoy the apostle by depreciating his authority and his preaching. They aimed not so much at winning souls for Christ, as at exalting themselves and gaining credence to their corrupt opinions. They argued that Jesus of Nazareth was the King of Israel, hoping thereby to exasperate the Roman government against Paul, who preached the same truth, though in a different sense, and to cause increased pain to the apostle by insisting upon the obligation of obedience to the law in order to salvation. Yet in opposing the gospel they stated some of its leading truths, if only to refute them. Controversy is often a waste of strength. They are small, insignificant beings who quarrel oftenest. There’s a magnificent breed of cattle in the Vale of Clwyd, the most beautiful vale in Wales. They have scarcely any horns, but abundance of meat; yet if you ascend the hills on every side, there on the heights you find a breed which grows scarcely anything but horns, and from morning to night all you hear is the constant din of clashing weapons. So there are many Christians who live on the heights, the cold and barren heights of controversy. Everything they eat grows into horns, the strength of which they are constantly testing.
2. Some preach the gospel from the highest regard for its lofty message.—“Some also of goodwill … of love, knowing that I am set [appointed of God] for the defence of the gospel” (Philippians 1:15; Philippians 1:17). An intense love of the gospel and of the Christ of the gospel is the best preparation for preaching it. Preaching to be effectual must be as various as nature. The sun warms at the same moment that it enlightens; and unless religious truth be addressed at once to the reason and to the affections, unless it kindles while it guides, it is a useless splendour, it leaves the heart barren, it produces no fruits of godliness. Preaching should help us to a higher life. A man once heard an affecting sermon, and while highly commending it was asked what he remembered of it. “Truly,” he replied, “I remember nothing at all; but it made me resolve to live better, and by God’s grace I will.”
III. The propagation of the gospel by any means is matter of fervent joy.—“What then? notwithstanding, … Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:18). The false teachers gloated over Paul’s misfortune, and thought to trouble him by their way of presenting the gospel. But the proclamation of Christ, however done, roused attention, and could not but be of service. The apostle rejoiced in the good result of their bad intentions. The success of the gospel in any place and by any means, when that success is real, is always a cause of rejoicing to the good.
1. The gospel has a message for all classes.
2. Its faithful proclamation involves difficulty and suffering.
3. Its interests are often promoted from mixed motives.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 1:12-50.1.14. Christian Boldness.
I. Distinguish Christian boldness from its counterfeits, and set forth some of its leading attributes.—There is a false and hurtful boldness arising from—
2. A bad judgment.
3. Native rashness.
4. The pride of courage which scorns to fear the face of man.
5. Mere natural resolution.
6. A wilful obstinacy.
7. A domineering spirit. The boldness which God approves must be chiefly drawn from other sources and possess higher and more ethereal attributes.
1. It must be bottomed on holy love—love to God and love to man.
2. It must be humble.
3. Must be delicate and regardful of all the rules of decorum.
4. Must be wise, discreet, and prudent.
5. Must be faithful.
6. Must be grounded not merely on self-denial and submission to the will of God, but on humble confidence in Him.
II. Some motives to rouse us to this holy and elevated frame and to a corresponding course of conduct.—
1. This Christian heroism is absolutely necessary to clear up the evidences of our own piety.
2. Without rising up to this heroic and active zeal we cannot be faithful to God and our generation.
3. Estimate the importance of this duty by considering what would be the effect if all professing Christians were thus intrepid and faithful.
4. In many instances fear is altogether groundless, and is the mere suggestion of indolence.
5. For want of faithful admonition and entreaty many may have perished.—E. D. Griffin.
Philippians 1:12. The Development of Events in a Consecrated Life—
I. Is the work of an over-ruling Providence.
II. Produces startling results, disappointing alike to the hopes of the enemy and the fears of friends.
III. Whatever may be its starting-point attains its end in the furtherance of the gospel.
IV. Illustrates how moral principles when tried in suffering become mightier forces in the world’s evangelisation.
V. A pledge that fellowship of suffering with Christ shall be followed by a fellowship of glory.—Lay Preacher.
Philippians 1:13. Moral Influence.
I. Paul’s moral influence exerted a mighty power under the most disadvantageous circumstances—in bonds.
II. With a very limited opportunity—one soldier daily.
III. Upon a class of mind and heart not easily impressed—the guard which had charge of him.
IV. Throughout the city—notwithstanding the restraints of his own hired house.
V. Reaching the further field by first fully cultivating the one at hand.—Ibid.
Philippians 1:14. The Ministry of Paul’s Bonds.
I. It was loyal to his Roman citizenship (Acts 26:31-44.26.32).
II. Christ-like, it was silent amid provocation, self-sacrificing, persuasive.
III. It was fruitful in the furtherance of the gospel.—
1. By preaching it under the shadow of Nero’s palace.
2. By intensifying the love of it and zeal for it in the hearts of the brethren.
IV. It illustrates how Christ can erect a pulpit for Himself in the very camp of the enemy, and put a voice for His glory even into chains.—Lay Preacher.
Philippians 1:15. A Spurious Ministry.
I. The elements formative of it.—
1. An imperfect apprehension of Christ’s mission.
2. A total absence of Christ’s spirit.
3. Thought and sympathy narrowed by early prejudice and preconceived ideas.
4. Christ made subservient to the doctrines, ritual, and history of a system.
II. The results inseparable from it.—
1. The cross degraded into a rallying point for party strife.
2. The basest spirit indulged under the pretence of fulfilling a sacred office.
(1) Envy—displeasure at another’s good.
(2) Strife—selfish rivalry which seeks to gain the good belonging to another.
3. Christ preached merely to advance a party.
4. Zeal for propagating a creed greater than to save a lost world.—Ibid.
Philippians 1:16. The Germ of a Spurious Ministry—
I. May exist in those who zealously preach Christ.
II. Consists in a moral contradiction between the heart of the preacher and the theme of his discourse—contentiousness and Christ.
III. Produces impurity of motive in Christian work—“not sincerely.”
IV. Biases the judgment to expect results which are never realised—“supposing.”
V. Inspires aims which are un-Christian—“to add afflictions to my bonds.”
Philippians 1:17. The Real and the Counterfeit in the Christian Ministry.
I. They correspond.—
1. Both adopt the Christian name.
2. Both utter the same shibboleth.
3. Both active in preaching Christ.
II. They differ.—
1. In heart. Contention rules the one; love reigns in the other.
2. In spirit.—Envy and strife moves the one; goodwill actuates the other.
3. In source of strength.—Love of party animates the one; waxing confident in the Lord emboldens the other.
4. In aim.—That of the one is to advance, it may be, a lifeless Church; that of the other to propel the gospel of Christ.
5. In the depth and accuracy of conviction.—The one “supposing to add affliction to my bonds”; the other “knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.”—Lay Preacher.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 1:19. This shall turn to my salvation.—“Salvation in the highest sense. These trials will develop the spiritual life in the apostle, will be a pathway to the glories of heaven” (Lightfoot). Meyer prefers to render “will be salutary for me, without any more precise modal definition.” Supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.—“The Spirit of Jesus is both the giver and the gift” (Lightfoot).
Philippians 1:20. Earnest expectation.—Same word again in Romans 8:19 (not again in New Testament). “It is the waiting expectation that continues on the strain till the goal is attained” (Meyer). The intensive in the compound word implies abstraction from other things through intentness on one. Put to shame.—As a man might be who felt his cause not worth pleading, or as one overawed by an august presence. With all boldness, i.e. of speech. A man overpowered by shame loses the power of speech (see Matthew 22:12).
Philippians 1:21. For to me to live is Christ—The word of emphasis is to me, whatever it may be to others. If this be not the finest specimen of a surrendered soul, one may seek long for that which excels it. That life should be intolerable, nay inconceivable, except as the ego merges into Christ’s; this is the sanest and most blessed unio mystica (Galatians 2:20). And to die is gain.—It is the purely personal view—“to me”—which the apostle has before him. “The spirit that denies” says, that when all that a man hath has been bartered for life, he will think himself gainer. “More life and fuller” is what St. Paul sees through the sombre corridor. It is not simply the oblivious repose where “the wicked cease from troubling” that he yearns for. Nor is it a philosophical Nirvâna.
“For who to dumb forgetfulness a prey
This pleasing, anxious being e’er resigned?”
Philippians 1:22. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour (see R.V.).—“The grammar of the passage reflects the conflict of feeling in the apostle’s mind. He is tossed to and fro between the desire to labour for Christ in life and the desire to be united with Christ by death. The abrupt and disjointed sentences express this hesitation” (Lightfoot).
Philippians 1:23. I am in a strait betwixt two.—I am laid hold of by two forces drawing in opposite directions. “Desire” draws me away from earth; your “necessity” would keep me in it. As in the old mythology everything bowed before Necessity (ἀνάγκη), so here the apostle’s desire is held in check by the needs of his converts. To depart.—As a ship weighs anchor and glides out with set sails, or as a tent is struck by the Arabs as they noiselessly steal away. To be with Christ.—St. Paul regards the soul, whilst in the body, as a “settler” in a land of which he is not a native, an “emigrant” from other shores. But he would rather emigrate from the land of his sojourn and settle with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6; 2 Corinthians 5:8). “We come from God who is our home.” “As soon as I shall have taken the poison I shall stay no longer with you, but shall part from hence, and go to enjoy the felicity of the blessed” (Socrates to Crito). Which is far better.—R.V. “very far.” How far from uncertainty is the eager estimate of the life with Christ! It is one thing to extol the superiority of life away from the flesh in a Christian hymn, whilst health is robust; it is quite a different matter to covet it with the sword of martyrdom hanging over one’s head.
Philippians 1:25. I know that I shall abide.—Not a prophetic inspiration, but a personal conviction (Acts 20:25).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 1:19-50.1.26
The Noble Attitude of a Sufferer for the Truth.
I. The hostility of false brethren tends to the enlargement of the truth, whatever may be the fate of the sufferer.—
1. He is assured of personal blessing from the Spirit through prayer. “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19). The apostle already sees how his troubles and suffering may develop his own spiritual life and be a pathway to the glories of heaven. By the prayers of God’s people he looks for an abundant supply of the Spirit, by whose agency his salvation will be perfected. The enemies of the good man cannot rob him of his interest in Christ, and suffering only adds new lustre to every Christian grace. The Port Royalist exclaimed, “Let us labour and suffer; we have all eternity to rest in.” Paul, who, fighting with wild beasts, was a spectacle to angels and men, could reckon that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.”
2. The greatness of Christ is set forth by the courage given to the sufferer, though uncertain of what awaits him.—“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but … Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death” (Philippians 1:20). With the earnest expectation and hope of future glory, the apostle had no need to be ashamed of his work for God or of God’s work in him; but he regarded his sufferings, not as a setting forth of his own goodness, but of the glory of Jesus, who gave him strength and fortitude to endure. It is in tribulation that the grace of Christ is most conspicuous. The Redeemer was perfected through suffering; so are His followers.
II. The alternative of life or death presents a problem the sufferer is unable to solve.—“What I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two” (Philippians 1:22-50.1.23).
1. Life has great attractions.—
(1) Christ may be further exalted. “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). life is an opportunity for setting forth Christ, and this is done by carefully copying His example. “As I stood beside one of the wonderful Aubusson tapestries,” says Eugene Stock, “I said to the gentleman in charge, ‘How is this done?’ He showed me a small loom with a partly finished web upon it, and said that the weaver stands behind his work, with his materials by his side, and above him the picture he is to copy, exactly thread for thread and colour for colour. He cannot vary a thread or a shade without marring his picture.” It is a glorious thing for us to have a perfect life for example by which to form our lives. And we cannot vary a hair-breadth from that example without injuring our lives.
(2) More results of Christian work may be gathered. “But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour” (Philippians 1:22). The best use of life is to employ it in working for God. Work done for Him will remain when the worker is forgotten. In ministerial work we may garner the most precious fruits.
(3) Help may be afforded to others. “Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:24). Paul was the pioneer and founder of Christianity among the Gentiles, and the young Churches looked to him for leadership and counsel. It seemed every way desirable that for their sakes his life should be continued. No one felt this more keenly than himself, though he was assured that if that life was prematurely terminated the cause of the gospel was safe in the hands of God.
2. Death admits to superior advantages.—“To die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Even by his death Christ would be glorified, and the apostle admitted not to shame or loss, as his enemies supposed, but to a state of blessed reward.
“Sorrow vanquished, labour ended,
“Why should I fear death?” said Sir Henry Vane, as he awaited his execution; “I find it rather shrinks from me than I from it.”
“Death wounds to heal; I sink, I rise, I reign;
Spring from my fetters, fasten in the skies,
Where blooming Eden withers in my sight.
Death gives us more than we in Eden lost.”
III. The undaunted sufferer is confident of continued opportunities of advancing the joy of believers in the truth.—“And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith, that your rejoicing may be more abundant” (Philippians 1:25-50.1.26). This assurance was verified by the apostle’s return to Philippi on his release from his first captivity. “Man is immortal till his work is done.” Life is short, and every moment of its duration should be spent for God and the good of others. Shall we repine at our trials which are but for a moment? “We are nearing home day by day,” wrote General Gordon. “No dark river, but divided waters are before us, and then let the world take its portion. Dust it is, and dust we will leave it. It is a long, weary journey, but we are well on the way of it. The yearly milestones quickly slip by, and as our days so will our strength be. The sand is flowing out of the glass, day and night, night and day; shake it not. You have a work to do here, to suffer even as Christ suffered.”
1. The highest virtues are not gained without suffering.
2. Suffering for the truth strengthens our attachment to it.
3. Suffering for the truth is often a means of spreading it.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 1:20. Christ the Christian’s Life.
I. Christ was the recognised Source of the apostle’s life.
II. Christ was the supreme Object of the apostle’s contemplation.
III. The glory of Christ was the great end of the apostle’s endeavours.—H. Simon.
Philippians 1:21. The Christian’s Life and Death.
I. The Christian’s life.—
1. It is a life in Christ.
(1) Begun in regeneration.
(2) Realised by faith.
(3) Sustained and increased by divine knowledge.
2. It is a life for Christ.—
(1) The example of Christ is its model.
(2) The will of Christ is its laws.
(3) The glory of Christ is its end.
II. The Christian’s death.—
1. The Christian’s death is a gain by being deprived of something.
(1) Deprived of the sinful body.
(2) Freed from temptation.
(3) From his enemies.
(4) From suffering.
(5) From death.
2. The Christian’s death is a gain by acquiring something.—
(1) Accelerated liberty to worship God.
(2) The ultimate addition of the glorified body with its exalted form and powers.
(3) The blessed reunion and fellowship with departed friends.
(4) The presence and companionship of Christ for ever.
Christian Life and Death.
I. The apostle’s language exhibits the proper scope and character of all truly Christian life.—The end and substance of the Christian life is Christ.
II. What Christian death is and how it ought to be regarded.—Death is not simply altered life. It is life elevated and ennobled. It is gain compared with life in the flesh. Death raises the saint to be with Christ.
III. The text puts Christian life and death before us regarded as an alternative.—Whether life be more or less desirable, less or more desired, it should be spent under the strong and penetrating assurance that to die is gain. Be death ever so desirable, it is our own fault if the happiness of life does not more than counterbalance the trial of it.—J. D. Geden.
“For to me to live is Christ.” Enthusiasm for Christ.
I. Enthusiasm for Christ in the home-life.
“The highest duties oft are found
Lying upon the lowest ground;
In hidden and unnoticed ways,
In household work on common days,
Whate’er is done for God alone
Thy God acceptable will own.”
II. Enthusiasm for Christ in public life.
“Trust no future, howe’er pleasant,
Let the dead past bury its dead;
Act, act in the living present,
Heart within and God o’erhead.”
III. Enthusiasm for Christ in Church-life.
“Come, labour on,
No time for rest till glows the western sky,
While the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,
And a glad sound comes with the setting sun,
Servants, well done!”
J. M. Forson.
The Christian’s estimate of living and dying.
I. The Christian’s estimate of living should be a life in Christ.—
1. A life of which Christ is the Source.
2. A life of which Christ is the Sustainer.
3. A life of which Christ is the Sphere.
II. The Christian’s estimate of living should be a life for Christ.—
1. A life spent in labouring for Him alone.
2. A life of continued suffering for Him.
3. A life of daring everything for Him.
III. The Christian’s estimate of dying should be that it is gain.—
1. Because death leads to closer and more uninterrupted union with Christ.
2. Because death lands the true believer in absolute security.
1. In some sense the utterance of the apostle is true of every Christian.
2. In its full sense it is only true of pre-eminent Christians.
3. The more it is true of any, the happier and more useful Christians they are.—Homiletic Quarterly.
The Believer’s Portion in both Worlds.
I. The believer’s life.—
1. Is originated by Christ.
2. Is sustained by Christ.
3. Is spent to the glory of Christ.
II. The believer’s end.—
1. The gain of sorrows escaped.
2. The gain of joys secured.
1. Improve life.
2. Prepare for death.—C. Clayton, M.A.
Philippians 1:23-50.1.24. Willing to wait, but ready to go.
1. The two desires.—
1. To depart and be with Christ.
(1) The exodus from this life by dissolution of the body—“to depart.”
(2) Christ’s presence the immediate portion of His people when their life on earth is done—“to be with Christ.”
2. To abide in the flesh.—It is a natural and lawful desire. The love of life—it is not necessary, it is not lawful to destroy it. Let it alone to the last. The way to deal with it is not to tear it violently out, so as to have, or say that you have, no desire to remain; but to get, through the grace of the Spirit, such a blessed hope of Christ’s presence as will gradually balance and at last overbalance the love of life, and make it at the appointed time come easily and gently away.
II. A Christian balanced evenly between these two desires.—“I am in a strait betwixt two.” The desire to be with Christ does not make life unhappy, because it is balanced by the pleasure of working for Christ in the world; the desire to work for Christ in the world does not make the approach of dissolution painful, because it is balanced by the expectation of being soon, of being ever with the Lord.
III. Practical Lessons.—
1. This one text is sufficient to destroy the whole fabric of Romish prayer to departed saints.
2. The chief use of a Christian in the world is to do good.
3. You cannot be effectively useful to those who are in need on earth unless you hold by faith and hope to Christ on high.
4. Living hope of going to be with Christ is the only anodyne which has power to neutralise the pain of parting with those dear to us.—W. Arnot.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 1:27. Your conversation.—R.V. “manner of life.” Margin, “behave as citizens.” Perform your duties as citizens. St. Paul in Philippi, by the assertion of his Roman citizenship, had brought the prætors to their knees (Acts 16:37-44.16.38), and is addressing men who could fully appreciate the honour of the jus Italicum conferred by Cæsar Augustus on their city. He would have them be mindful of their place in the kingdom which “cometh not with observation.” Whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear.—The question arises whether St. Paul meant to say if he visited them, they themselves would inform him of the condition of the Church; or whether he meant he would see for himself if he went, and if not at least he would hear. As he is actually distant, the idea of hearing is uppermost, and so we have “I may hear” where we might have expected “I shall learn.”
Philippians 1:28. In nothing terrified.—The phrase is a continuation of the idea of the amphitheatre in Philippians 1:27 (“striving together”). We must, it seems, recognise a double metaphor—behaving in the arena, before antagonists and spectators, like a horse that takes fright and bolts. The warning against such unworthy conduct might be rendered—
“In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb driven cattle.
Be a hero in the strife.”
Which is to them an evident token of perdition.—When once they have discovered that all their artifices have not the least power to alarm you, will not this be a clear indication that they fight on behalf of a failing cause? But to you of salvation, and that of God.—The Christian gladiator does not anxiously await the signal of life or death from the fickle crowd. The great President of the contest Himself has given him a sure token of deliverance (Lightfoot).
Philippians 1:29. It is given in the behalf of Christ.—God has granted you the high privilege of suffering for Christ; this is the surest sign that He looks upon you with favour (Ibid.). The veterans in Philippi would understand well enough that a position involving personal danger might be a mark of favour from the prefect to the private soldier.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 1:27-50.1.30
Exhortation to Christian Bravery.
I. To act as becometh Christian citizens.—“Only let your conversation be as becometh the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). Whether the apostle is able to visit them again or not, he exhorts the Philippians to attend diligently to present duties, and act in all things with the dignity and fidelity becoming members of the heavenly commonwealth. The Christian finding himself living for a time in this world as in a dark place, where other gods are worshipped, where men sell themselves for gain, where he is tempted to do as others do, and is asked to coquette with the world, to mind earthly things, should at once take his stand and say: “I cannot; I am a citizen of heaven, my affections are set on things above; I cannot come down to your level, I have come out from the world and may not touch the unclean thing; I have formed other tastes, have other pleasures; other rules regulate my conduct; I cannot live as you live, nor do as you do.”
1. Be united in spiritual steadfastness.—“That ye stand fast in one spirit” (Philippians 1:27). The Spirit inspires the highest courage, and helps all who partake of His influence to stand fast in their integrity. “For God hath given us not the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
2. Earnestly and unitedly maintain the faith.—“With one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). With one soul, penetrated by the same Spirit, unitedly strive to maintain the gospel in its purity, as it was committed unto them. Every true believer should be a valiant champion for the truth. Men who have no settled faith are like those birds that frequent the Golden Horn, and are to be seen from Constantinople, of which it is said they are always on the wing and never rest. No one ever saw them alight on the water or on the land; they are for ever poised in mid-air. The natives call them lost souls, seeking rest and finding none. To lose our hold of the gospel is to be doomed to unrest and misery. To attempt to stand alone is to court defeat. Union is strength.
3. Remember the interest of your religious teachers in your endeavours.—“That whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs” (Philippians 1:27). The anxious minister is ever deeply concerned in the welfare of his people. He rejoices in their faithfulness and progress; he mourns over their laxity and defeat; he encourages them in their labours and struggles in the spread of the truth. Our defection from the gospel is not only a loss to ourselves, but a disappointment and sorrow to others.
II. To act with fearlessness in the midst of opposition.—“And in nothing terrified by your adversaries” (Philippians 1:28). Opposition should nerve to more resolute resistance. The enemies of the good are the enemies of God, and the good man, with God on his side, need not fear either their numbers or their ferocity. One of their ancient kings said, “The Lacedæmonians seldom inquire the number of their enemies, but the place where they could be found.” When a certain captain rushed in haste to his general and said, “The enemy is coming in such vast numbers, it will be useless to resist,” the general replied, “Our duty is not to count our enemies, but to conquer them.” And conquer them they did.
1. This fearlessness a proof of the inevitable punishment of their opponents.—“Which is to them an evident token of perdition” (Philippians 1:28). In contending hopelessly against you they are only rushing on to their own destruction. Your bravery in the contest, and their own consciousness of the weakness of their own cause, will strike terror into their hearts, so that they will be easily routed.
2. This fearlessness a proof of the salvation of the steadfast.—“But to you of salvation, and that of God” (Philippians 1:28). God who gives courage to the steadfast and helps them in the conflict, ensures to them the victory. We are not saved because we are brave for God and truth, but the courageous soul will not fail of salvation.
III. To accept suffering for the truth as a privilege and a discipline.—
1. It is suffering for Christ. “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). Suffering is no evidence of the divine displeasure, but is often a signal proof of the divine regard. There is no virtue in the mere endurance of suffering, but in the Christ-like spirit with which it is borne. There lived in a village near Burnley a girl who was persecuted in her own home because she was a Christian. She struggled on bravely, seeking strength from God, and rejoicing that she was a partaker of Christ’s sufferings. The struggle was too much for her; but He willed it so, and at length her sufferings were ended. When they came to take off the clothes from her poor dead body, they found a piece of paper sewn inside her dress, and on it was written, “He opened not His mouth.”
2. It is suffering which the best of men have endured.—“Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Philippians 1:30). Suffering for the truth links us with Paul and his contemporaries, and with the noble army of martyrs in all ages. Christ has taught us how to suffer, and for His sake we can bear pain and calumny without complaining and without retaliation. Mrs. Sherwood relates that, pained at seeing Henry Martyn completely prostrate by his tormentor, Sabat, the apostate, she exclaimed, “Why subject yourself to all this? Rid yourself of this Sabat at once.” He replied, “Not if his spirit was ten times more acrimonious and exasperating.” Then smiling in his gentle, winning manner, he pointed upwards and whispered in low and earnest tones, “For Him!”
1. The Christian spirit inspires the loftiest heroism.
2. To strive to be good excites the opposition of the wicked.
3. One true Christian hero is an encouragement to many.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 1:27. Christian Consistency.
I. The apostle pleaded for a consistent Christian Church.—
1. The Christian life must be characterised by truthfulness.
2. By love.
3. By purity.
II. The apostle pleaded for a united Christian Church.—
1. This union was necessary to resist their common adversaries.
2. To develop their Christian graces.
3. To establish the true faith.
III. The apostle pleaded for a zealous Christian Church.—
1. This zeal demanded for a noble object. “The faith of the gospel.”
2. To be exercised in a commendable manner. “Striving together.”—J. T. Woodhouse.
I. What that conduct is which becomes the gospel.—
1. It must be the genuine result of gospel dispositions.
2. It must be maintained under the influence of gospel principles and in the use of gospel ordinances.
3. It must resemble gospel patterns.
4. It must be conformable to gospel precepts.
II. What obligations are we under to maintain this conduct.—
1. God requires us to conduct ourselves according to the gospel.
2. Consistency requires it.
3. Our personal comfort requires it.
4. Our connection with society requires it.
5. Our final salvation requires it.
1. How excellent is the Christian religion.
2. How illiberal and unreasonable is the conduct of those who censure Christianity on account of the unworthy actions of its inconsistent professors.—R. Treffry.
The Effects of the Gospel upon those who receive it.
I. Illustrate the exhortation of the apostle.—
1. The gospel of Christ is a system which assumes and proceeds upon the incalculable value of the soul.
2. Which assumes and depicts the danger and guilt of the soul, and provides a plan for its immediate restoration to the divine favour.
3. Is a system of peculiar and authoritative truth.
4. Is a system of godliness.
5. Of morals.
6. Of universal charity.
II. The sources of the apostle’s anxiety.—
1. He desired the Philippians thus to act from a regard to the honour of the gospel and its author.
2. Out of a regard for the Philippians themselves.
3. From a regard to the Gentiles.
4. From a regard to himself, his own peace, and his own joy.—T. Binney.
Philippians 1:28-50.1.29. Conflict and Suffering.—
1. Faith in Christ must go before suffering for Christ, so that to suffer for Him is of greater importance, and in some respects more honourable, than simply to believe in Him.
2. Then are sufferings truly Christian and an evidence of salvation, when as the sufferer is first a believer, so his sufferings are for Christ’s sake—for His truth.
3. Christian courage under suffering will not be kept up without conflict.
4. In suffering for truth nothing befalls us but what is common to men.—Fergusson.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Philippians 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany