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We have here one of the most precious Views of Jesus. Paul exhorts the Church by Christ's Example. He shows the Blessedness of a Life of Faith and Humility.
(1) ¶ If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, (2) Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (3) Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (4) Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. (5) Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (6) Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (7) But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (8) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (9) Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: (10) That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; (11) And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The opening of this Chapter, in several of the first verses of it, is abundantly sweet and interesting; and I could find subject matter to say much, yea, to fill many pages, in dwelling on those great and unanswerable arguments for following up what the Apostle so affectionately recommends. Who indeed can need more than the consolation of Christ, the fellowship of the Spirit, and the bowels and mercies of God, to endear, and enforce everything that he enjoins. But while I hope the Reader will feel grace to all that Paul hath said on this ground; (as I pray for grace to feel the same motives myself) I must beg to pass over all these things, as the fruits and effects in the divine life, to attend to the grand cause of the whole, in the Person and work of Jesus, as here set forth by the Apostle. Never surely was there exhibited, before the world, such a representation as Paul hath here drawn of his Lord and Master. All subjects in comparison of it are light and uninteresting. Cold and insensible indeed must be that man's soul that can hear, or read, what Paul hath here said of the Lord Jesus Christ, and hear, or read it, unmoved. I lament the shortness I am constrained to prescribe to myself, in a work of this kind, when the subject itself is endless. But the Reader will I hope indulge me, while glancing at some of the great points of it.
The Apostle begins the relation he hath here set forth of his divine Master, in marking down the first, and leading feature of all in his essential nature and Godhead. Who being in the form of God, and with whom it was no robbery to be equal with God. If there were no other portions in the Scriptures, which openly and fully declare the essential divinity of Christ, this one most plainly reveals it. This glory of the Godhead of Christ, as the Son of God, is spoken of substantially, and essentially, as his nature, his own; underived, equal with God. Reader observe this; for it is most blessed.
The second volume Paul marks, in this world of mystery, Christ's Person, is, his making himself of no reputation. This is the great point in the beginning of Christ's humiliation. The Son of God vacating his glory; emptying himself of it, as the word in the original means. And here begins also, as standing towards the Church, the wonders of his Person. For when the Son of God condescended, for the vast purposes contained in the design, to take into union with himself that holy portion of our nature, which might form and constitute with the Godhead one Christ: there was still such glory attached to his Person, as God and man united, as demanded the universal adoration, love, and obedience of all creatures. Hence we read, that when God the Father bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith: And let all the Angels of God worship him. Hebrews 1:6 . So that, before a single act had been wrought by Christ for the redemption of the Church only, the Son of God had betrothed our nature to himself: he had a Personal glory, as God-man, which called for all the praise of creation. Let the Reader mark this also!
But Paul goes on to the third volume, in this mysterious work, when he saith: He not only made himself of no reputation, but took an him the form of a serpent, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Language fails to describe, what the utmost stretch of the human mind cannot adequately conceive, the vastness of this work. But the great stress of this immense design, as recorded in this Scripture, lies in Christ's unparalleled humility, in this self-debasement, and in this state submitting to the death of the cross; and this, not passively, but actively, and voluntarily; and all this, sustaining personal dishonor, shame, and pain, for those great purposes, for which the whole was intended.
Now, then, the Apostle introduceth the subject, of the grand, and pre-disposing cause of all, namely, to the glory of God the Father. This was the first, and ultimate object. The Son of God divests himself of his glory, for the Father's glory. He emptieth himself of his personal honor, for the Father's honor. And, by this process, he brings in a greater revenue, both of glory, and honor, than sin in man had tarnished, or could have tarnished, by millions of beings, and in millions of years. And thus we see, (though all we now see, is but as through a glass darkly,) how deep, and sure, the infinite designs of God have been laid, for revealing the Lord's glory, and making known to the Church, what Paul calls the manifold wisdom of God. Ephesians 3:10 .
Well might the Apostle make that blessed conclusion which he hath made, to this mysterious subject, concerning the exaltation of the Lord Jesus; and the universal bending of every knee, and the confession of every tongue, to his glory. For if the whole creation of God could be convened into one congregation, and proclamation was made, for sin and Satan, every man's own guilty conscience, and all the arrests of God's law and justice, to give in their claims, on the sinner, for his dishonoring God by sin; it must be found, that Christ, as the sinner's representative, (and made a surety by God himself, Hebrews 7:21-22 .) hath done more, to honor God, than all the sins of men hath done, to dishonor him. Yea, so infinitely precious, so incalculably great, hath been, and is, the vast merits, and blood-shedding of Christ, in doing away sin by the sacrifice of himself; that over and above the honor restored to God by the Lord Jesus, there is a redundancy of merit, that millions of ages can never so fully recompense, so as to say, the whole is paid, and nothing more is due.
Now, Reader, pause over the vast subject, and ponder it well. And although, what I have brought before you, is but the merest outlines of the mystery, of God manifest in the flesh, (for the dimensions of the whole is infinite,) yet, as a man who hath ascended an high hill, and looketh round to the utmost horizon, can only take into his view a small part of what is before him, though he is ravished with the boundless prospect: so the heart, can only contemplate in part, the vast subject. Oh! what praise must be suited for Him, whom God, in his mediator-character, hath highly exalted, and given a Name above every name? It is blessed to behold Christ, in all his personal-glories, and in all his relative-glories, and in all his office-glories, as God-man Mediator. When John saw him by vision in heaven, he beheld, that on his head were many crowns. Revelation 19:12 . And, beyond all doubt, the Son of God in our nature, hath acquired glory like so many rays of brightness, by every personal act of his, which belong to him as God-man Mediator. Reader! it will be your happiness, and mine, to see him as John saw him, with the many crowns, if we can behold the very crown of our own personal redemption, among them upon his sacred head. For as Jesus, when ascending from earth to heaven, was crowned with glory and honor, for his triumphs in redemption: Hebrews 2:9 so is He crowned by every single redeemed sinner, when he descends in the power of his Spirit, upon that sinner's heart, to give him t he light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ! Then it is, the heart is regenerated, and made joyful in the Lord: the knee of faith and love bends before Him; and the tongue bursts forth, in praises to his name, and in the loudest acclamations confesseth, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
(12) ¶ Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (13) For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
I pause over these verses, to consider them by themselves, as they ought to be considered. For, notwithstanding they begin with a Wherefore, yet they do not seem to have any immediate connection, with what was said before, or what follows. And I pause over them the rather, because, perhaps few verses in the word of God, have been more insisted upon, by a certain persuasion of men, in bringing them forward to support their different opinions, by way of strengthening, as they would fain suppose, their favorite doctrines. Reader! it would be always well, if we were to come to the Scriptures with a teachable mind to learn and not with a view to teach, or to take portions of them here and there, to give a supposed strength to our own opinion, already formed. If, like children, and with the simplicity of little children, (for the highest taught child of God in this life is no more,) we were all to sit at the feet of Jesus for instruction; party spirit, would not then be carried to the extent, to which it sometimes most unhappily is.
In relation to this well-known passage, in which we are commanded to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; the words which immediately follow, (and which from the word for, seems very plainly to intimate, that they are to be joined to what went before,) gives the reason for this great attention: because, it is God which worketh in you, both to will, and to do, of his good pleasure. In humbly offering my judgment upon the passage, I shall rather do it by enquiry, than by decision; rather in proposing to the Reader, what appears to me to be the genuine sense of it, than in positively saying, what it is. I would, therefore, very meekly ask, whether it can be supposed, that the Holy Ghost, when commanding the Church to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, meant to intimate, that salvation was in any part procurable by man's work, instead of Christ's blood, and righteousness? Doth not God the Holy Ghost, in every part of his Scriptures, ascribe the whole of salvation to the Lord Jesus? Are we not told, again and again, that there is salvation in no other? Nay, is not every part, and portion of salvation, from beginning to end, in awakening, regenerating, redeeming, justifying, sanctifying grace; all expressly said, to be God's gift, and not man's deservings? And, is not Christ himself declared to be, both the Alpha, and Omega; the Author, and the Finisher, of our faith? When the Reader hath duly pondered these things, I would beg his attention to the further view of the subject.
Upon the supposition, that any part of salvation depended upon our working it out, while, by so much, the infinitely precious value of Christ's blood and righteousness is thereby lessened, as not being the whole cause of acceptance before God, but depending at the same time, upon our working out our own salvation, to co-operate with it; it becomes a question of vast moment, to ascertain, in what way, and by what means, this working out is to be accomplished; since the word of God uniformly in every part, most decidedly declares, and every child of God, savingly called by grace, daily knows the same, that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think (much less to do,) anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God. 2 Corinthians 3:5 . If the working out our own salvation, here spoken of, with fear and trembling, be meant to imply, an atom, by way of assisting in the cause, or of obtaining acceptance with God, would it not have been said: what work of this meritorious kind became necessary; and what things are essential, to the accomplishment of this purpose? If working, according to our general idea of working in labors after holiness, and the like, be here meant; would the Holy Ghost have left the subject in so undetermined a manner, without particularly specifying, what works those were, which in fear and trembling, we were to secure our own salvation by; and which, if this be supposed the sense of the expression to work, lessens, if not totally throws to the ground, the merits of Christ's death; and raiseth up causes for our taking confidence before God for our good works, which all the other parts of Scripture unceasingly labor to destroy.
If it be asked, in what sense I accept this Scripture I humbly answer; I accept it simply as the whole passage stands altogether, one complete whole. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure. If it be God, which worketh in me to will; so that I cannot will a good thought, or intention, without the Lord willeth it in me, neither when the Lord hath worked in me that will; I cannot do that good purpose, without he that first moved it, gives energy to the performance of it, well doth it become me to be always alive and active in the important work, which this Almighty mover is, working in me, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. The work I am thus working out, is not the work of labor, or of merit, or of justification, or of recommendation to God, but simply an employment, in a constant attendance upon it, and that of such earnestness and anxiety, as men of the world, when engaged in an arduous concern, are fearful and trembling in, lest they should fail of success. Not a bondage fear, but an holy, child-like fear. Not a fear of the loss of divine love for the adoption of children prevents such apprehensions, and the faithful Covenant promises of God in Christ, render it impossible. But the fear of an holy weariness in the path of grace, as those who rejoice in full assurance of faith, but rejoice with trembling. Beholding the wreck of our fallen nature, in the instance of the floating carcases all around, we bless the God of our salvation, that he hath brought us by his grace safe on shore, while we tremble to look back and see the tremendous storm from whence we have escaped. If this be the meaning of the passage it is truly blessed, and in exact conformity to the whole tenor of Scripture. I find, through grace, the Lord working in me, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. He worketh in me, to show me my total helplessness in myself, and my complete all-sufficiency in Christ. Conscious of the infinite importance of salvation, I feel the Lord's grace, prompting me to an unceasing desire after the Lord, so that I am working from life, not for life; from grace, not for grace. And thus I am going humbly and softly all my days, as one, who hath an object of such infinite moment before him, that while rejoicing in Christ, I am trembling in myself. These are my views of the scripture, and which I now leave with the Reader to his own judgment, under the Lord's blessing.
(14) ¶ Do all things without murmurings and disputings: (15) That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; (16) Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. (17) Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. (18) For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me. (19) But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. (20) For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. (21) For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. (22) But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. (23) Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. (24) But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. (25) Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. (26) For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. (27) For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. (28) I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. (29) Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: (30) Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
All that is contained within these verses, is so plain, as to need no Comment. They beautifully set forth the state of the Church in Paul's days, and show, what mutual affection subsisted, between the several members of Christ's mystical body. They manifest the Apostle's anxiety, for the spiritual, and temporal welfare, of the Church; the affection of Timothy, and Epaphroditus, for the people; and their regard for the Apostle, and them. Nothing can give a more interesting testimony, with what love they took part in each other's concern, than what is said in the close of this Chapter. We shall do well, to keep it in remembrance as a lovely model of the primitive Church. And let us beg of the Great Head of the Church, to cement all his members at the present hour in himself, and to one another, by the same sweet spirit of union, that all the world may know, whose we are, and to whom we belong, by that oneness of soul, which distinguish all the regenerated disciples of Jesus Christ.
READER! do not fail to remark, both the nature of the arguments, and the affectionate claims of them, by which the Apostle aims to allure the Church to a oneness of mind and heart, to Christ and his people. What could he say more persuasively in those high claims than when recommending them by the consolations of Christ, the fellowship of the Holy Ghost; and the bowels, and mercies, of God the Father? But, while I earnestly desire the Reader to remark this, as he goes, I beg him yet more particularly to attend to what God the Holy Ghost hath recorded, in this mot blessed Chapter, concerning the Person, Godhead, manhood, grace, and glory, of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the Father's glory in Him. Reader! was there ever a more precious form of words, brought together within the compass of a few verses, than what is here done, to exalt, and extol, to the Church's view, the personal dignity, and the personal humbleness, of Christ, in the accomplishment of the great purposes of revelation? Who that reads it, and reads it with an enlightened eye, but must feel his whole soul going forth in desires after Christ, to be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge! Oh! for grace, that the same mind may be in us, which was in Christ Jesus!
Reader! let us seek strength from the Lord, for every act of faith upon the Lord, that while both the Lord's word and our daily experience teach us, that it is GOD which worketh in us, both to will and to do of his good pleasure; that will may be discovered by us, in leading us wholly to Christ; and that doing, may be made known to us, to be the Lord's work in us: for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Lord! I would beg for myself, and for all thy redeemed ones, to be so found, in the daily exercise of thy willing, and doing, in me, with an holy fear, and trembling, as those who had always before their eyes the infinite importance of their own salvation; while confident of safety, in the Covenant-promises of God my Father, and the complete, and finished redemption, of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lord! grant, that I may have my whole conversation here below, while continuing in the present time-state of the Church, as the blameless, and harmless sons of God, without rebuke; holding forth the word of life, and in the midst of a crooked, and perverse nation, shining as lights in the world!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Philippians 2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29