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Philippians 3

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Verses 1-11

Philippians 3:1-11

Finally, my brethren

Prideless pride


What were the things not irksome and safe?

(1) Counsels in some lost Epistles.

(2) Messages delivered by word of mouth through his delegates.

(3) Earlier verbal communications.

(4) Something in the Epistle.

The latter probably referring--

(a) to the main topic of the letter--rejoicing, or making their boast in Christ; or

(b) to their dissentions, a reference in the making of which he was interrupted. Each supplies a good sense. In the first case he proposes to dwell once more on that which will be the sure antidote to false pride, in the other he will add some further counsels respecting their dissensions.

2. Since the apostle seems to be about to conclude, what occasioned the interruption? Probably some outbreak of Jewish proselytism respecting which he warns the Philippians in plain language. At the word “concision” he enters on a fresh line of thought which occupies the rest of the chapter.

He affirms that he and his gentile brethren have the most valid claim to what the Jews so dearly prized. “We are the circumcision.” He justifies his assertion by describing--

1. The nature of their worship. The one essential thing in worship is its spirit. The kind of worship the proselytizers offered rested largely on forms. If the form were only according to their pattern it was enough. The apostle, on the contrary, takes his stand on the requirement of our Lord: “God is a spirit,” etc. Heart, not hand, lip, knee worship was the main thing, and in this respect they and he were more in harmony with the purpose of circumcision than those who submitted to the rite.

2. The ground of their trust. They rested in position rather than privilege. Circumcision was the sum of Jewish privilege. It was the main thing about which the Jews boasted. But their high privilege had not led them to a high morality, but had been made a cloak for sin. In contrast with this Paul puts Christian conduct. Christians rejoiced, or made their boast, in Christ Jesus, and had no confidence in the flesh. They looked to Him as the fulfiller of all righteousness for us and the example of all righteousness in us. Theirs was a prideless pride.

He argues with the Jew on his own ground. The ground of their boasting might well be his as regards--

1. Inherited privileges.

(1) The Jews make much of circumcision and the time of its performance. If before the eighth day it is nothing; if after, of less value. That, then, which the strictest Jews demand is true of me.

(2) They also talk of the old stock. I belong to it.

(3) They pride themselves on their tribe. What will compare with mine?

(4) Nay, more; scattered among the Gentiles, exposed to taint, to loss of language and custom, yet my ancestors remained pure in every sense. I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews.

2. Personal acts.

(1) What of the law? I belonged by choice to the separated sect.

(2) What of zeal? These men are making much of that; but did not I persecute the Church?

(3) And as for righteousness, when was I a defaulter?

3. Here surely was ground for boasting had he been so disposed. But--

The whole of these most coveted things he now counts loss. He relinquished them all to win Christ. He changes the figure. He had been speaking of gain and loss; he now speaks of entering on a race.

1. He divests himself of all self-righteous robes. He felt himself disqualified for the contest in any such dress.

2. He desires to lay firmest hold of Christ.

3. He seeks to feel the full meaning of the resurrection power, the propulsion to a higher and nobler purpose.

4. He asks to share the sufferings of Christ. Note this, inasmuch as many talk as though the sufferings of Christ had dispensed with their own.

5. He would be fashioned to the likeness of His death.

6. And so he would reach the goal--resurrection, i.e., complete newness of life through Christ Jesus. Conclusion:

This delineation has its practical bearing on ourselves.

1. It puts privileges in their true place. They increase our obligation to serve God.

2. External religiousness is put in its right place.

3. We are shown where we shall only find the true safeguard against modern delusions on religious questions--in Christ. (J. J. Goadby.)

Rejoice in the Lord--

Grounds of Christian rejoicing

He who would rejoice in the Lord must--

Beware of error (verses 1-3).

Renounce all and trust in Christ only (verses 4-8).

Embrace the fulness of Christ (verses 9-11). (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Rejoice in the Lord is the text of the whole chapter. After a long chapter on the suppression of self and the absorption of every faculty in the service of Christ, here seems to be the reward. Observe--

1. It is “in the Lord.” There are two estates of men, “in the flesh,” and “in the Lord.” To be in the latter estate is to possess all that can minister to happiness. So we are here reminded that we can command our own happiness. It is enforced as a duty. Joy is a feeling that ranges over all life and time. It remembers from what it has been rescued; it rejoices in present security; it hopes for more than it can conceive in the future.

2. But if the Christian is seduced from Christ the joy departs, and gives place to a deeper desolation than the soul has ever known. It was this danger that the apostle dreaded, arising from two errors; one doctrinal, which would teach them to cease to trust in Christ alone: another practical, which would make them selfish and carnal, and so enemies of the Cross.

Christian rejoicing “defended against its judaizing” enemies. The apostle bids the Philippians beware of the dogs, evil workers, concision, suggestive phrases, the last implying that circumcision having served its purpose had become dishonoured as well as disused; the word was now but a synonym of a Christian profession (Colossians 2:11; Romans 2:29). Those were the true circumcision who--

1. Worship God in the spirit, i.e., they offer a worship which is ordered, prompted, released from ceremony and made acceptable by the Spirit of God.

(1) The Holy Ghost is the Master of all Christian worship.

(2) The object of that worship or service is included in the term and not expressed (Romans 9:4; Act 26:-7; Romans 12:1).

(3) The worship presented is “in spirit and in truth,” because the communism of man’s spirit with God through the indwelling spirit (Romans 8:26; Jude 1:20) is His own temple. But this must be external also. The word “circumcision” indicates the fellowship of those who, by this symbolic rite, were dedicated to God. And Christian public worship is the common spiritual homage of men who are serving God in their spirits while they are serving Him in His house.

(4) But the Spirit unites no human spirit to God which is not holy; and so the cutting off of sin was what circumcision always signified (Romans 2:29).

2. Rejoice in Christ Jesus, i.e., confide or glory. They have learned that circumcision has given place to baptism; but they put trust in neither. They trust only in Christ, and as they trust they glory.

3. Have no confidence in the flesh.

(1) In the fleshly ordinance which cannot be retained without dishonouring Christ.

(2) In the “fleshly,” i.e., personal and national prerogatives of the circumcised members of the old covenant. They renounced Judaism with all its advantages.

(3) In anything that human nature can do to win the Divine favour. (W. D. Pope, D. D.)

It is God’s will that we should rejoice in Him

What is it to rejoice? Delight is the soul’s acquiescence, or resting itself, in what it apprehends to be good. There is a two-fold delight.

1. Bodily or sensitive called pleasure, which proceeds from some impression made by a suitable object upon the senses. Of which note--

(1) This in itself is not sinful, because both the sense and the object and the suitableness of them were all made by God.

(2) Hence it is permitted by God (Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 5:19).

(3) But corrupt man is too apt to sin in these sensitive pleasures, either--

(a) in the unlawful object (Psalms 62:4),

(b) or in the manner by excessiveness (Jude 1:12).

2. Rational or spiritual joy, seated in the soul itself.

What is it to rejoice in the Lord?

1. God was pleased at first to order the soul of man so that it bad a natural tendency and suitableness to the nature of God.

2. But the soul being disordered by sin is apt to rejoice in nothing but externals.

3. It is therefore God’s will that we labour after our primitive perfections and joys, so as to delight ourselves--

(1) In Him as God and our God (Psalms 28:7; Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 12:18).

(2) In His--

(a) works (Psalms 104:31);

(b) Word (Psalms 1:2; Psalms 119:103);

(c) properties; goodness (Luke 18:19); mercy; justice; power (Psalms 63:5-7); wisdom; truth; omnipresence.

How doth it appear that we ought and may thus rejoice?

1. From Scripture.

(1) God commands it (Psalms 32:11; Philippians 4:4).

(2) Christ prays for it (John 17:13).

(3) This is one great end of His promises (Romans 15:4).

(4) It is one great end of the ministry (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15; 2 Corinthians 1:24).

(5) It is the end of Christ’s sending the Spirit (John 16:7). The Spirit comforts us by--

(a) Renewing us.

(b) Convincing us it is our duty (John 16:9).

(c) Witnessing our adoption (Galatians 4:6).

(d) Blessing His ordinances to us.

(e) Bringing and directing us to Christ for it (John 14:26).

(f) Weaning us from fleshly delights.

(g) Powerfully working comfort in us (Galatians 5:22).

2. From reason. We should rejoice because--

(1) God hath given us that power.

(2) There is nothing in this world that we can have any solid joy in, because not suitable to the soul.

(3) There is none but God we can rationally rejoice in.

3. But doth not God sometimes command us to mourn? (Ecclesiastes 3:4; Isaiah 22:12; Joel 2:12-13).

(1) This sorrow consists not in abstaining from spiritual but natural joy.

(2) It maketh way for spiritual joy.

(3) It should be accompanied with it (Psalms 2:11).


1. Information.

(1) Observe God’s goodness to His creatures in making it their duty to rejoice.

(2) The privilege of Christians above all others (John 16:22).

(3) The false calumny that is laid on holiness as depriving us of joy (John 14:1).

(4) Our misery is all from ourselves (Hosea 13:9).

(5) In the excellency of Christian joy above all others; it is in the Lord.

2. Exhortation: Rejoice.

(1) Consider the necessity. God commands it for His glory and the credit of religion.

(2) Consider the excellency, above all other joy.

(a) It is spiritual, the joy of the soul (Psalms 33:21).

(b) Pure and unmixed (Proverbs 14:13).

(c) Easy and cheap.

(d) Real and true

(e) Universal in respect of time, place, and condition.

(f) Surpassing (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

(g) Well grounded; on God’s mercy and Christ’s merits (1 Peter 1:8).

(h) Full and satisfying (John 17:13; Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15).

(3) Consider this excellency in its nature.

(a) In the cause: God; the Father, the Son (John 17:13), the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

(b) In the subject; the soul (Luke 1:46-47).

(c) The object; the chiefest good.

(d) The end: the glory of God as the ultimate, the good of man the subordinate.

(e) The effects. It will destroy our sinful joy (Psalms 16:11); lessen our esteem of the world (Psalms 4:7); enlarge our hearts and make them more capacious of heavenly things; facilitate all duties (Nehemiah 8:10; Deuteronomy 28:47); make us long more alter heaven (Psalms 119:20); support us in our afflictions (1 Peter 1:6-8); defend us against temptations.

Means and directions.

1. Labour after a right know ledge of God (Psalms 9:10).

2. Endeavour to get an interest in Him.

3. Get thy evidences clear and keep them so (Job 19:25; Psalms 27:1).

4. Convince thyself it is thy duty to rejoice.

5. Live above the temperature of the body.

6. Study well the nature of justification (Romans 4:5; Romans 5:1).

(1) Christ was made sin for us;

(2) and we righteous in Him.

7. Have frequent recourse to the promises (Hebrews 13:5-6).

8. Let the eye of faith be constantly fixed on the attributes of God (Isaiah 45:24; Psalms 57:1; Psalms 57:7).

9. Have a care of what will damp thy joys.

(1) Wilful sins.

(2) Nice questions about election.

(3) Dark providences (Ecclesiastes 9:1).

10. Often meditate on a Christian’s privileges.

(1) That He hath God for His Father and portion.

(2) Christ for his Advocate (1 John 2:1).

(3) All things working for His good (Romans 8:28).

(4) A kingdom provided for him (John 14:1-2).


1. My sins are many and great. Answer:

(1) God’s mercies are more and greater (Isaiah 55:7).

(2) So are Christ’s merits (Hebrews 7:25).

(3) So are the promises (Ezekiel 18:21-22).

2. My corruptions are strong. Answer:

(1) They are not too strong for God.

(2) Christ came to subdue them.

(3) God has promised to subdue them (Hebrews 10:16; Ezekiel 36:2; Ezekiel 36:5-27).

3. The devil oft tempts me. Answer:

(1) So he did Christ.

(2) He can tempt thee no farther than God sees good.

(3) God’s grace shall be sufficient for thee.

4. God hath forsaken me. Answer:

(1) It is only for a while.

(2) He will again receive thee (Isaiah 49:13-15; Psalms 42:11).

5. I have many losses and crosses. Answer:

(1) That is no new thing to saints (1 Peter 4:12-13).

(2) It is often a sign of God’s love (Hebrews 12:6-7; Amos 3:2).

(3) Their end is good (Hebrews 12:10).

(4) And their effect (2 Corinthians 4:17; Psalms 42:11). (Bishop Beveridge.)

Rejoice in the Lord as your savior. When Candace’s treasurer found that Jesus had suffered for him on the cross, “he went on his way rejoicing.” Our acceptance with God makes heaven rejoice--the return of the prodigal affords the greatest happiness to himself and all others.

Rejoice in the Lord as your guide. They were journeying on in comparative fear. In tribulation even the saints rejoice because their Saviour will deliver them.

Rejoice in the Lord as your reward. (Weekly Pulpit.)

Christian joy

Its nature. The joy of faith--felt not seen--yet real and solid.

Its source and security. Christ supplies--sustains it.

Its perpetuity it is an apostle’s last injunction--must endure forever. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The joy of Christian brethren

The chapter contains a general exhortation to several duties. This verse tells you how to do them--“rejoicing.”

The appellation--“Brethren.” By loving compellation he labours to enter into their hearts. If exhortation comes from the pride of man, the pride of man will beat it back. Why are Christians brethren?

1. They have the same beginning of life from the same Father; the same common brother Christ; the same food, the Word of God; the same promises and inheritance.

2. The word is indicative of equality. This should fill up the valleys of hearts dejected here in regard to mean estates; as also pull down the mountains of proud hearts.

3. It is a name of dignity belonging to the heirs of heaven.

4. It is a word of love.

The exhortation.

1. It is the Christian’s duty to rejoice. It is commanded here.

2. It is reasonable that they should rejoice. They are free from the spiritual Egypt; why should they not sing as the delivered Israelites. They have peace with God and an assured hope.

3. It belongs only to Christians to rejoice. Others have neither cause nor commandment to do so.

The limitation--“In the Lord.”

1. In whom? Christ is our Lord--

(1) By gift. God has given us all to Him.

(2) By conquest. He hath gotten the victory over Satan for us.

(3) By marriage.

2. How?

(1) By adherence to Him. We must rest contented with Him as our only and sufficient joy.

(2) Obedience to His laws; delighting in them.

The means.

1. Faith. It is the sense of our reconciliation that makes us rejoice (Romans 5:2; 1 Peter 1:6). Whatever strengthens or weakens faith, strengthens or weakens joy.

2. Peace. Whatever disturbs our peace disturbs our joy.

3. Prayer. Pray that your joy may be full.

4. Christian communion. As the two disciples’ hearts did burn within them when they talked with Christ.


1. Why, then, are God’s children sorrowful?

(1) Their sorrow proceeds from the want of the perfections necessary to make them absolute Christians indeed.

(2) They do not adorn their profession, and so God hides the comfortable presence of His Spirit.

(3) The sorrow may only be apparent, for their joy is a hidden joy. The feast is kept in the conscience and not always manifest.

(4) While they live here they have ever a mixture of joy and grief to temper one another.

2. Is not the Christian fuller of sorrow than of joy? If so, it arises from ignorance of the grounds of comfort or from want of application of them. Let him then--

(1) Compare all discomforts with the joy he may have, and he will find that it countervails a world of sorrow, for it is endless, and one day will be full.

(2) Take heed of the hindrances of this joy. Sins committed and not repented (1 Chronicles 2:7).

(3) Take heed of negligence in good duties and to do them thoroughly. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Joy in the Lord

Evangelical religion is often charged with making men gloomy, averse to sharing the innocent pleasures of life, and thus has been made repulsive to the young especially. The charge finds some support in the demeanour of many Christians in whom, from defective views of duty, the gospel is not permitted to exert its sweetening power. By such religion is grievously misrepresented. Jesus was “the man of sorrows” because He bore the world’s guilt; but when the bitter work was over He was “anointed with the oil of gladness.” Christians ought to share this. Being “in the Lord” they should be full of gladness.

To the unregenerate man Christian joy is unintelligible. It belongs to a sphere with which he has no acquaintance. He sees the restraints which religion imposes, but of its blessed communion with God he sees nothing. Its hopes to him are visionary. He cannot think the yoke of Jesus to be easy.

To the true Christian this joy is reasonable, and even when he is not happy he feels he ought to be.

1. It springs from love to Christ. Out in the world we find Marahs; its springs are full of bitterness. In Christ. “with joy we draw water from the wells of salvation.”

2. The citizens of the spiritual Zion may well be joyful in their King. What city is like ours? Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth. God hath called her walls Salvation and her gates Praise. Prosperity is within her palaces. Through her midst flows the river of life, and there is the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. The King abides amongst us. To all our petitions His ear is open; to all our wants His bounteous hand. His service is glorious liberty.

3. We have perfect security. No power can pluck us out of our Saviour’s hand; for with His infinite goodness is conjoined an infinite grossness.

4. In the contemplation of providence there is an unfailing source of joy. The natural satisfaction which outward comforts bring is pervaded and glorified by the thankfulness of hearts rejoicing in their Father’s goodness. Anxiety, pain, and bereavement may be appointed to us, but that they are a Father’s appointment will prevent despondency and maintain peace.

5. Innocent enjoyments have a new charm “in the Lord.” He who began His miracles by contributing to social pleasure, changes the common into the noble and refreshing. Friendship has one added sweetness, nature a new and glorious beauty, and study a satisfaction altogether peculiar, now that intellectual improvement is felt to be polishing a shaft for the Master’s quiver.

6. Next to the ineffable delight of seeing Jesus as His Saviour is the delight which fills the believer’s heart in helping others to see Him as theirs.

The reasons why many Christians have little of this joy are various. In some it is due--

1. To temperament. Of this class the Apostle Thomas may be taken as a type. In many, the nervous tendency to religious melancholy developes insanity, as in the case of Cowper. The care of a physician and the watchful love of friends may be of service to joyless Christians.

2. To defective apprehension of the fulness and freeness of the gospel. The glorious liberty has been so little understood that while living in the air of freedom many have fallen back into “the spirit of bondage again to fear.”

3. To feeble spirituality and indulgence in sin. Worldliness, like a killing parasite, has wreathed itself round the energies of the soul. The pleasures of life have stolen away the time from duty. Mists rise from a mind cherishing sinful desire and hide the face of God. We know why David had to pray, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” And all that is well, and it is to be hoped that this gloom is the harbinger of repentance, and the opening of his heart to the Sun of Righteousness. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

Joy in the Lord

The greatest painter--at least one of the greatest painters--of the devoutest period of the Middle Age, a man who, as men said, used to kneel and pray till the angels came to him to be painted, whose works, as they adorn the walls of Florence, open up to us a world we had hardly dreamt of before,--that greatest of painters--Fra Angelieo da Fiesole--in some of his most beautiful pictures, has, amidst a multitude of exquisitely pencilled faces combined in groups, made each face of varying expression, but each expressive gaze of joy and thankfulness steadily fixed upon one central figure--the figure of the Redeemer. (Knox Little.)

The elevating power of joy

You go out on a bright spring morning into the green fields, you hear above you a voice that thrills you through with pleasure; you don’t see anything distinctly; but from the clouds there comes a warbling note, a rising splendour of music, as the lark ascends towards heaven. There is in every cadence the outwelling of an unconscious, yet real, joy. It is a parable of God’s working. The little creature, as she ascends and sings, sings and ascends, is simply proclaiming the truth that was seen in the life of Jesus: joy is a power to exalt. (Knox Little.)

Joy is not always ecstasy

We ought not to seek too high joys. We may be bright without transfiguration. The even flow of constant cheerfulness strengthens; while great excitements, driving us with fierce speed, both rack the ship, and end often in explosions. If we were just ready to break out of the body with delight, I know not but we should disdain many things important to be done. Low measures of feeling are better than ecstasies for ordinary life. God sends his rain in gentle drops, else flowers would be beaten to pieces. (H. W. Beecher.)

The importance of Christian joy

The duty is an important one. The tone of the apostle here and elsewhere brings this out very clearly. Nothing is more calculated to commend the gospel to those around us, than proof that its influence on the hearts which receive it is to make them bright and happy. This commendation is, of course, specially impressive where outward circumstances are of a kind naturally tending to sadden. When, in deep poverty, or on a bed of pain, a Christian is contented, calm, joyous, there is here “an epistle of Christ” written in letters so large and fair, that even careless observers can hardly help reading its testimony to the reality and potency of Divine grace. Where the lights of this world have been in so large a measure withdrawn, it must be plain that such brightness of heart can come only through a beam of sunshine straight from heaven to that heart. For the spiritual progress of the believer himself, too, it is of very much moment that he “rejoice in the Lord.” Nehemiah’s statement holds true for all time: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” We know the power of happiness, of a genial, buoyant spirit, in carrying forward the ordinary work of life. In the work of the spiritual life--resistance to temptation, and earnest labour for the Master--there is no sustaining power to be compared with joy. Walking in darkness, enveloped in spiritual gloom, we move slowly, stumble, fall. In the sunshine, we press forward with bounding step in the way of God’s commandments, “running, and net weary”; wherefore, “O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

To write the same things to you--


That can never be too much taught which cannot be too well learned. By learning the same things often--

Dull and unexpert understandings are much helped.

You are stirred up into greater wariness than otherwise ye would. (H. Airay, D. D.)

Dwelling on the same things is necessary even for the best Christians, because--

Truth is supernatural, and our minds are carnal. That therefore which is to keep our changeful minds must be assiduous, or else our minds will sink into their first estate.

We often disregard the truth at the first, second, or third presentation (Job 33:14).

There is such a breadth and depth in the word of God, that although we often hear the same thing we never come to understand the full extent. Our souls are narrow. Spiritual meat requires digestion, and therefore repetition.

Corruptions and worldly business tend to thrust out the consideration of the truth. We cannot have two things in our mind at the same time in strength. Whence it comes to pass that the better being ever subject to be thrust out needs to be hammered in with often repetition.

Our memories are very weak to retain anything that is good. Good things sink through them as water through a sieve; there is need therefore of remembrances. After this manner God hath dealt with man in renewing the promises, and Christ in His parables (Matthew 13:1-58), although with variety, teaching ministers to avoid tediousness. Conclusion:

1. Let it not be grievous to ministers to do what is for the safety of God’s children. Peter cast often and got nothing, yet at Christ’s word he cast again. God, that blesseth not every cast, may bless the cast to the catching of many.

2. If we hear the same things often, let us hear them as an impression which may carry force and work upon our hearts more strongly than before. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

The usefulness of repetitio


1. A story we have often heard or read, however fascinating at first, will gradually lose much of its interest. If read for amusement it would be quite out of the nature of things that a book should please us so much on the second or third perusal as on the first: but if read for instruction the case is somewhat altered. We are conscious that many parts are imperfectly mastered, and we do not hesitate to apply ourselves again and again to the study. But even when instruction is the object, a truth which has once settled in our minds will lose its power of gaining our attention.

2. When we pass from human literature to Divine, we carry our dispositions and habits with us, and we shall be tempted to reckon ourselves so well acquainted with certain portions of the Bible as to reckon further study of them superfluous. Now there is no truth of Christianity that will not repay further outlay of time and attention. Whatever our progress, we are only beginners. Yet while the text sets itself against that craving for novelties in religion which is the mark of a mind diseased, it does not circumscribe the range of inquiry. “The same things” were confined to no narrow groove.

The nature of scriptural truth demonstrates that repetition can never be useless. It is a property of the truths of the Bible that the simplest involve the most difficult, while the more sublime and mysterious prove, under some shape or another, the plain and the elementary. It is a simple truth, e.g., that the Eternal Son of God died as the Surety of the lost human race, but you introduce with it a whole library of divinity, for there is not one truth of our religion that is not contained in it--the guilt of sin, the love of God, the Trinity, etc. And if the most elementary doctrine is virtually a summary of the Bible, then to ply men with it is virtually to ply men with the whole system of Christianity. And then if I have the fact that Christ died for sin put continually before me, it is a mistake to suppose that it will always call up the selfsame idea. I shall sometimes view the atonement as demonstrative of Christ’s love; sometimes of the greatness of man’s sin, etc., etc. And these doctrines derived from the atonement will gain power and clearness from their association with it. And so with the rest.

The agency by which scriptural truth is expounded proves the usefulness of repetition. That agency is the Spirit of God. Hence it comes to pass that a text may have been read or heard a hundred times without making any impression, and yet on the next occasion it may seem charged with electric light and the whole mind within disturbed. And what holds good in conversion holds good for the whole course of Christian experience, and thus the Bible, however diligently studied, is always a new book, and its best known portions instead of being exhausted will often seem to have been indicted again. We have, therefore, an incontrovertible reason why “the same things” should be always useful. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The repetition of old truth is

Often necessary. Men let it slip--fail to improve it.

Never wearisome. It is precious to those who believe it--who deliver it.

Always safe. It quickens memory--stirs the heart--provokes effort--and helps to secure salvation. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Repeating the same teaching

It was the Sophists who scoffed at Socrates because he was always teaching “the same things,” and in this their mockery of the great heathen teacher they but disclosed their own folly. It was the Romanists in Reformation times who frequently laid to the charge of the Reformers that they were always harping upon the same string. It is a mark of the present day still to show a craving for what is new, and to find that craving too eagerly met and administered to; but as Paul knew, so do all preachers of the doctrines of grace know, that if the Divine Word Himself chose to utter the same truths ofttimes in the same form, they have their ample justification in that example of His which to them is also of necessity precept. (J. Hutchison, D. D.)

Verse 3

Philippians 3:3

For we are the circumcision--In all ages and under all dispensations there have been two antagonistic principles at work, two classes among the professed people of God; the carnal and the spiritual; those who relied on externals and those who relied on what is internal, an Israel according to the flesh, and an Israel according to the spirit.

The great question between the two has ever been and is, Who are the circumcision? the true people of God?

What is meant by “we are the circumcision?” Circumcision in the Old Testament was--

1. The symbol of regeneration.

2. The sign and seal of a covenant. It distinguished the people of God from other men, and assured them of their interest in the blessings of the covenant. The question therefore is tantamount to this: Who are the people of God in such a sense as to be His spiritual children and heirs of His kingdom? The Judaizers said they were--Paul said Christians were.

The characteristics of those who are the true people of God or the true circumclsion.

1. They worship God in the Spirit, i.e., under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

(1) This includes

(a) that the inward principle of worship is no mere principle of nature, whether fear, natural reverence, or sentiment, but that love and devotion of which the Holy Spirit is the author.

(b) That the mode of worship is that which the Holy Spirit has enjoined. It is not a will worship, not the assiduous performance of things uncommanded of God, whether in matters of worship or life.

(2) It therefore stands opposed to

(a) insincere, hypocritical service;

(b) mere external and ceremonial service;

(c) all such service as the unrenewed and unspiritual do or can render. Such was Jewish and Judaizing worship; and all formalism, whether Papal or Protestant.

2. They rejoice or glory in Christ Jesus. This includes the recognition of Him

(1) as the ground of our confidence

(2) as the source of honour;

(3) as the object of delight.

How opposite is this spirit to that of the Judaizers, who gloried in the law, the theocracy, and their descent from Abraham.

3. They do not confide in the flesh. “Flesh” includes

(a) what is external, whether Abraham’s descent or circumcision; external obedience to the law, or religious ceremonies; baptism or membership in the true Church. This is Paul’s interpretation as given in the immediate context.

(b) What is opposed to spirit, i.e., nature.

(2) To have no confidence in it, therefore, means to have no confidence in ourselves, our own righteousness or strength. This also is included in Paul’s amplification. Those who do not trust in the flesh are those who renounce their own righteousness and embrace that of God: which is by the faith of Christ. Conclusion: It is by these criteria that we are to judge ourselves, and to determine the true form of religion, and of the Church. (C. Hodge, D. D.)

The true circumcision

Spiritual worship. There must be present worship. The rite of circumcision was administered once for all, and as an external badge this was sufficient. But true religion is a matter of daily life. A circumcised Jew who lived in sin was no true Jew; a baptized Christian may behave like a man of the world, in which case his baptism counts for nothing. The heart and soul of religion is personal devotion, daily worship.

2. This worship must be an inspiration of the Spirit of God. All worship requires some support. The formal worship of the Jew rested on ceremonies. When these were absent the worship perished. The Christian rests upon the influences of the Spirit, and where this is there is Divine life.

Christian enthusiasm. The expression “glory in Christ Jesus,” points to this.

1. The secret of the deepest religious life is personal devotion to Christ. Jesus at once demands adoration by His Spiritual greatness, and wins affection by His human sympathy.

2. This devotion is inspired by joyous enthusiasm. The Jew gloried in Abraham, but a greater than Abraham is here.

Freedom from superstition. For us, like Paul (see sequel),to cast off all confidence in privileged birth in a Christian home, membership in a historic Church, observance of venerable rites, and to trust wholly in spiritual religion, is a confirming sign of Divine sonship better than any rite such as circumcision. (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)

The true circumcision

The sacraments of Old and New Testaments are in substance the same. The Philippians who were baptized with water and the Holy Ghost are said to be circumcised. And so the apostle attributes our baptism and Lord’s supper after a sort to the Church of the Jews (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). As the covenant was always the same in substance, so the seals of it were the same too.

The reality of that which seducers pretend to, will more readily be found in those that conscientiously oppose them. These men ran down the apostle and others, giving out themselves only for the circumcised ones. But the apostle proves he had the better claim. Thus the works of holiness are to be found more with those that press justification by faith, than with others who would be looked on as great patrons of good works. Be not, then, deceived with fair speeches; examine matters to the bottom. Often those who have the highest pretences to right on their side go farthest from it.

The sign in religion without the thing signified is little worth.

1. All it can do is to give a name before men which they lose before God (Romans 2:28-29). Christian may be an honourable title before men, and an empty title before God.

2. The sign is a mere external thing on which nothing of weight for salvation can hang, and therefore when the Lord comes to judgment, He throws down all together (Jeremiah 9:25-26). For He looks not to the outward appearance but to the heart.

3. It is an inefficacious thing; as a body without a spirit. He who has got the sign only, has only the meanest half of the sacrament. Sacraments are seals of the covenant; but where there is no covenant there can be no seal; and what avails a seal at a blank.

4. Men in Christ’s livery may abide in the devil’s service and meet with his doom (Luke 13:26-27).

5. To apply all this.

(1) Baptism with water without the Holy Spirit is little worth. Many never reflect seriously on their baptism. Hence they live as though they had never sworn allegiance to the King of heaven, and were entirely their own, and will never renew it. Let me ask as touching this baptism:

(a) Baptized ye were with water, but were ye ever baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire--the thing signified? Alas, in consequence of the want of this, the universal coldness in the things of God.

(b) Hast thou realized that only the blood and Spirit of Christ can cleanse thee? In baptism is a profession of this. If not what avails thy baptism.

(c) Wast thou ever made partaker of the washing of regeneration? (Titus 3:5-6). Unto what then were ye baptized? (Acts 19:2).

(d) Where ye ever cut off from the old stock of Adam and ingrafted into Christ? (1 Corinthians 12:13). Baptized into the name of Christ, and yet not in Christ, but without Him makes sad work.

(e) Are lusts reigning: or are they dying, and your souls living a new life? (Romans 6:5-6). Has the water been but as that thrown upon a corpse?

(2) The Lord’s supper without the thing signified is little worth. To be partakers of the bread of the Lord without the bread which is the Lord will go but small length (John 6:57).

Believers in Christ are the true circumcision. They have in spirit which the Jews, by this ordinance, only had in the letter. Circumcision was--

1. A token of God’s covenant (Genesis 17:7-11). This honour have all God’s saints to have God Himself to be ours.

2. A distinction between Jews and others, as God’s people (Genesis 17:4). So believers are God’s people, His garden, while others are but His out field.

3. A cutting off of part of the flesh, signifying the believer’s privilege and duty (Colossians 2:11). Their hearts are circumcised to love the Lord; their ears to hear Him; their lips to speak for Him. (T. Boston, D. D.)

The marks of a true Christian

There are many things that have a name to live and are dead: faith without works; the form of godliness without the power; sacraments without holy desires; Christians without union with Christ. In exposing this the apostle’s intention was not to disparage the Old Testament sacraments, but to show that in common with the New their value consisted in their spiritual use and significance, in their connection with the moral affections, in their leading to Him who is the end of all sacraments. Consider--

The nature of a believer’s worship.

1. The word worship may be taken in the larger sense which includes all religious service. From which we learn that the believer’s life is to be one continued act of worship; his body is a living temple; his heart an altar for daily sacrifice; his calling that of “a priest unto God;” his whole conversation one hymn of praise. To worship God in the spirit, then, is to worship Him in the life. The fire of sacrifice is to come down on the domestic hearth, and “holiness unto the Lord” is to be written “on the bells of the horses.”

2. Still the reference to the Old Testament ritual would suggest that “worship” points to certain religious actions. To worship God in the spirit, then, is to worship Him--

(1) In simplicity as distinguished from hypocrisy. It is a fearful thing when a miser prays to be delivered from covetousness, a vindictive man from “malice, hatred,” etc.

(2) With reverence, as distinguished from all permitted indifference, deadness, reluctance, clockwork piety. Our heart and tongue should go together. Moses left his sandals at the foot of the mount, too many take their sandals and leave their hearts behind.

(3) In earnestness, as if we felt that important interests were suspended. The two worships are distinguished in that in one case an end is looked for, in the other the only care is to get the work done.

The object of the believer’s joy. We rejoice in Christ Jesus.

1. For the glory of His character.

2. For the dignity of His offices.

3. The blessedness of His work.

4. The completeness of His salvation.

5. The freedom of His service.

6. The reasonableness of His commands.

7. The unutterable recompences of His rewards.

The ground of a believer’s trust.

1. By “the flesh” St. Paul means anything that we are or have. The flesh in its best estate is a corrupt thing, and can therefore be no proper ground for confidence.

2. The apostle would take away our confidence from everything that is not Christ. He not only excludes all outward distinctions, national privileges, moral excellencies and attainments, but he strikes at that refined and subtle fallacy of Romanism which would lead us to have confidence in some indwelling grace, which would give efficacy to tears and perfection to human sanctity. St. Paul knew that it was not grace in the saints, but grace in Christ, that was to save him, and in that he could feel unbounded confidence. (D. Moore, M. A.)

The inheritors of the promises

The ground of the apostle’s claim.

1. To worship God in the spirit is--

(1) To worship God as a spirit.

(2) With our own spirit.

(3) By the help of the Holy Spirit.

To worship God in the flesh would be to worship God as though He were flesh, with the powers of the body alone, and by the influences and aids which work on the body (John 4:23; Malachi 1:11).

2. To rejoice in Christ Jesus is not only to believe in Him and receive Him, but gladly and gratefully to accept all His work and gifts and services, being cleansed by His blood, made righteous by His obedience, and being reconciled by His mediation (1 Peter 1:8). And if we connect this with the former, then it means to worship, pleading Christ’s sacrifice, trusting in His advocacy, and making Him in all respects our way to God.

3. Having no confidence, etc. What he means by flesh is evident from the words following--the administration of ordinances, birth of high noble blood, earnest external obedience. The flesh is the outward and material, not the inward and spiritual. Now, if we connect this third qualification with the first, to have no confidence in the flesh is to use the material without abusing it, making it secondary and subservient, to employ as much of the outward form in worship as is essential to spirit and life, but never as a substitute.

The lofty position Paul claims. The practice of circumcision existed, it may be, before it was imposed on Abraham, but it was ordained by God mainly with a spiritual object (Genesis 17:10, etc.), as the sign and seal of the Divine covenant; it testified to God’s faithfulness. What advantages then, hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? (Romans 9:4-5). Like privileges are possessed by such as worship God in the spirit, etc.

1. They are the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty.

2. They behold the bright ness of the Father’s glory (John 1:14; John 1:18).

3. They are the inheritors of great and precious promises. Even the promises made to Abraham are theirs (Romans 4:11-13; Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:7-9). But the believer is interested in a better covenant, established in better promises.

(1) A country was promised to Abraham--a good land; but Canaan shared in the universal curse. But the land promised to the Christian is a better country.

(2) It was promised to Abraham that his seed should become a great nation--those who rejoice in Christ are a holy nation, a peculiar people.

(3) God promised to Abraham to be his God, etc., and so (2 Corinthians 6:15)--

4. They are favoured with special Divine revelations (Hebrews 8:10-11; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

5. They are a royal priesthood.

6. They are connected with an ancient and sacred lineage. The Jew claimed Abraham as his father, and all the illustrious patriarchs and prophets as ancestors; but they whom Paul describes may claim as ancestors all who have like precious faith in every age.

7. While of the Israelites as concerning the flesh Christ came; of those, whom Paul describes, Christ comes as a gospel and a revelation to the world (2 Corinthians 2:14-15; 2 Corinthians 3:2-3).


1. Let us claim to be the circumcision in the presence of the Jew. To him, if he rejoice not in Christ Jesus we say, Your circumcision is counted uncircumcision: We are Abraham’s seed, and he is an alien. We envy not his connection by blood; we have a tie less corruptible. 2, We claim this position as Christians of simple customs, in spite of some who would withhold it because we follow not with them. We notice the stress which such lay upon consecrated edifices, sacramental efficacy, an authorized ministry, uniformity. We affirm that spiritual worship consecrates any structure, constitutes the worshipper a priest, and renders the simplest forms full of power and life.

3. We claim this in the face of the world; and if men demand of us a style and order of worship which would undermine spirituality, divert our complacency from Christ, and foster confidence in the flesh, let us not only not conform to their requirements, but let us deny that conformity would secure any increase of acceptableness or power.

(1) Of power! What is mightier than spiritual worship? What show of strength exceeds that manifest by rejoicing in Jesus? And is “no confidence in the flesh” loss of power (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

(2) And is there no beauty in simplicity? The utmost and highest is to be found in an assembly which worships God, etc.

4. Let us in godly fellow ship with all true churches maintain this position. (S. Martin.)

Spiritual heirship

1. A scholar trained at the feet of Gamaliel kneels before the Father “in spirit”; a Pharisee of the strictest sect has his shrunk heart expanded into “joy in Christ Jesus”; a proud professor feels “no confidence in the flesh.” “We are the circumcision,” he says, after this thorough readjusting of His religious relations. He thought so, as a Jew, when there was none to dispute the claim. As a Christian, with all Jewry despising that claim, he is sure of it.

2. Now to be able to say, “We are the circumcision,” to be clearly conscious of standing in the right line of spiritual descent is no mean distinction, no unproductive element in our expectations, that we should alienate it without cause.

Thoughtful students can hardly doubt that God has meant his Church to maintain an historic unity. No bend in its growth has ever been so abrupt as to choke the sap or sever the commerce of any branch with the root. Each moral revolution no less than each theological variation proves that the essence of faith is not perishable. Something of primitive power goes into the least offshoot. The three dispensations lay their ordaining hands on its head, with patriarchal blessings, Levitical unction, and gospel baptism. Let any holy family pitch its tent where it will, it shall not be out of that Divine order; reaching backward and forward--Calvary, Sinai, Mamre.

But blended with this law of its history, the church has to recognize another, constantly counterbalancing the gravitation towards indolence which might accrue from the former alone, and checking its complacency. For as it advances, some unexpected crisis is always breaking up the old distribution of forces; the original Providence readjusts the lines. Dismissing former tests of legitimacy, it brings fresh affiliations into the family, showing those often to be of “the circumcision” that had before been reckoned of the alienage; and disowning sons who forfeit favour by sinning against the Holy Ghost. Men claim to be Christians by birth; offer as a spiritual qualification, not a confession of faith, but a pedigree. Something like this has always been a presumption of religious majorities. And, as if to rebuff it, the propensity to proscription is no sooner settled, than a reformation is sent to disturb it. Some Paul of Samosata, some Constantine, or some Popish lineage is always secularizing the Church, and then some impracticable Wycliffe, dissenting Baxter, or erratic Huss, sloughs the form to act out the substance. Hypocrites vitiate the succession, and heretics ennoble the new blood. When the Jews refuse the apostle of their salvation, lo! he turns to the Gentiles. As if purposely to break up confidence in mere ecclesiasticism and clear the gospel of bondage, the visible Church is scarcely at any epoch suffered to enfold the Church spiritual with a clear circumference. And the instant any majority begins to be at ease in Zion, some terrible prophet comes crying out of the wilderness, “Repent!” shows what circumcision is, and turns the world of the Rabbis upside down. But always, observe, the old faith goes into the living body. (Bishop Huntington.)

Worship God in the Spirit--

Spiritual worship

What it is to worship God in the spirit.

1. Christ has respect to the whole of our service and obedience to God. The parts of it are two: holiness, or our duty to God; righteousness, or our duty to man (Luke 1:74-75). The Christian life is, as it were, one continued act of worship, where all our actions, natural, civil, and religious, meet in God (Acts 26:7; Revelation 7:15).

2. It has respect to those duties which are properly parts of worship. The Christian

(1) worships God with his heart, soul, and spirit, and not with his body only (Romans 1:9; John 4:24). This implies

(a) internal worship, called for by the first commandment. The true Christian’s soul is a temple of God.

(b) Outward joined to inward (1 Corinthians 6:20).

(c) Spirituality--faith; love; goodwill; sincerity.

(2) By assistance from and influence of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18; Jude 1:20).

(a) The Spirit gives habitual grace to make men capable of spiritual worship (John 3:6).

(b) He gives actual grace, influences to stir up grace (Rom 7:26).

This worship is a distinguishing mark of the true Christian.

1. All true Christians have it, for--

(1) All of them are spiritual (John 3:6). Everything that brings forth, brings forth its like.

(2) All of them have the Spirit of God dwelling in them (Romans 8:9).

(3) That worship which is merely outward is but the carcase of duties, unacceptable to God; and they who never perform more are hypocrites (Matthew 15:7-8).

(4) External worship is properly but the means of worship. Prayer, hearing, etc., tend to the promotion of love, trust, etc., and the enjoyment of God can never be found but in worshipping Him in the Spirit.

2. That none but true Christians have this privilege is plain from this, that all others are in the flesh (Jude 1:19). (T. Boston, D. D.)

God should be worshipped

With a knowledge of his true character. Otherwise it is mere Athenian worship. This is the great fault of the heathen. Hence the great importance of religious knowledge. This may be obtained from nature, and our own persons. And yet with all the perfections of deity before their eyes men do not like to retain God in their knowledge. But as man is a fallen creature, the knowledge which reason can furnish is not sufficient. Christ does not reveal His mercy, and show how sinners can be pardoned and restored. So God has revealed Himself in His Word, and now man is utterly without excuse if he do not know God and worship Him.

With reverence. This sentiment is natural when we come before any superior, how much more when we come before God. This is no slavish or superstitious dread, but that by virtue of which God’s children are distinguished from the wicked who have no fear of God before their eyes. God is a jealous God, and abominates levity. Reverence is the most prominent feature of angelic worship. How shocking then is familiarity in the worship of man.

Humility. Nothing is more odious to God than pride, and nothing more acceptable than the contrite spirit. He dwells with such. It is most proper in regard to man’s moral and God’s exalted state, and upon it Christ pronounced his beatitudes.

Faith. Without this it is impossible to please God, and all worship must become an empty form. Its principal exercise has respect to Christ as the Mediator.

Concentration. Spiritual worship is interrupted by nothing so much as the wandering of our thoughts, and is one of the accusations brought against God’s ancient people.

Fervency. The crying defect of our worship is want of heart.

Scriptural, with such rites as God has appointed, and those only. As to external circumstances, time, place, attitude, these should be regulated by the apostle’s rule, “Let all things be done decently and in order;” but as it relates to the worship itself, nothing should be introduced but what is authorized by the Scriptures, such as prayer, singing, reading, administering the sacraments. “In vain do they worship Me,” etc. “Who hath required this at your hands.”

Frequency. Men are not required to spend their whole time at it. But God should be worshipped morning and evening; and the Lord’s day should be entirely devoted to the Lord’s service. We cannot go to an excess here unless we make this duty exclude others which are equally incumbent. “Pray without ceasing.” (A. Alexander, D. D.)

Rejoice in Christ Jesus--

Rejoicing in Christ Jesus

Its nature.

1. It is an act of love. The acts of love are desire and delight, and they both agree in this Chat they are conversant about good, and are founded in esteem. But they differ because desire is the motion and exercise of love, and delight the quiet and repose of it. All, however, meet in Christ.

2. It is an act of love begotten in us by the sense of the love of Christ (1 John 4:19). The object of love is goodness.

(1) The goodness that is in Christ, moral and beneficial (Psalms 119:140; Psalms 100:5; Psalms 119:68).

(2) The goodness that floweth from Him (Titus 3:4).

(3) The goodness we expect from Him in this world and the next (Luke 7:47; Matthew 5:12).

3. This love of Christ--

(1) Is revealed in the gospel (Acts 13:48).

(2) Is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost (Romans 5:5).

(3) Is received by faith (1 Peter 1:18; Romans 15:13), which faith is

(a) assent, a certain belief of the truth of the gospel concerning Christ as the only sufficient Saviour (John 4:42; John 6:69).

(b) Consent, a readiness to obey the gospel.

(c) Affiance, a reposing of our hearts on God’s promise of pardon and eternal life (Hebrews 3:6).

(4) Is improved by meditation (Psalms 104:34).

(5) Is enjoyed more than all other things whatsoever (Psalms 35:9; Psalms 63:5; Psalms 73:25).

The spiritual profit of it.

1. It is such a joy as doth enlarge the heart in duty and strengthens us in the way of God (Nehemiah 8:10; Psalms 119:14; Psalms 40:8). The hardest services are sweetened by the love of Christ.

2. It is a cordial to fortify us against and to sweeten--

(1) Common afflictions (Habakkuk 3:17-18; Romans 12:12; Hebrews 12:2).

(2) Persecutions (Acts 5:41; Hebrews 10:34; Mat 5:12; 1 Peter 4:13; James 1:2).

3. It draws off the heart from the delights of the flesh.

The helps by which it is raised in us.

1. A sense of sin and misery. The grievousness of the disease makes recovery the more delightful.

2. An entire confidence in Christ (1 Peter 2:7; Philippians 3:8).

3. A constant use of the means.

(1) The Word;

(2) prayer (John 16:24).

(3) The sacraments.

4. Sincerity of obedience (1 Corinthians 5:8). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Rejoicing in Christ is

A holy complacency in him. We cannot be well pleased with anything unless we see a suitableness in it to us. There is a three-fold suitableness of Christ.

1. A suitable ness to the Divine perfections concerned in the salvation of sinners that is sweetly discerned by the believer and acquiesced in (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

2. A suitableness of Christ to the ease of the soul which the believer sees and is pleased with. If you lodge a starving man in a palace, clothe him with costly attire, and fill his pockets with gold, what good can these do him? They are not meat, and so are not suitable to his case. But Christ is to ours every way (1 Corinthians 1:30-31), and no one else is.

(1) As He is God-man; the Mediator answering at once the honour of God and the sinner’s necessities.

(2) In His offices. As Prophet, the Interpreter of the Father’s mind; as Priest, the Atonement and Intercessor; as King, the Conqueror and Ruler.

3. A suitableness to the mind, or we could not rejoice in Him. He is suited to every unbeliever’s case, but alas! not to their minds. Give a natural man his idols, the drunkard his cups, the miser his gold, these are suitable to their mind, but as unsuitable to their case as a sword for a madman or poison for the sick. But the believer is made partaker of the Divine nature, and Christ is, therefore, suitable not only to his case but to his mind (1 Peter 2:4; Psalms 73:25). There is none beside Him, none like Him, none after Him--the altogether lovely. Believers are pleased at heart--

(1) That He should build the temple of the Lord, and have the glory of it (Zechariah 6:12-13) as is appointed of God. But this suits not the minds of natural men (1 Peter 2:7-8).

(2) With His laws (Isaiah 33:22). Christ’s yoke is welcome to them because His law is suitable to them, and they to it (Psalms 119:128), for it is written on their hearts.

(3) With the fulness of the spirit of sanctification which He communicates (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). There is nothing the true believer rejoices in more than the Christ-given spirit of holiness imparted, enjoyed, and acted out.

A rolling of the soul over on him for all.

1. Their weight of guilt--“through faith in His blood” (Romans 3:25). Christ is the city of refuge from the law.

2. Their weight of duties.

(1) For performance. Christ lays His yoke upon the believer, and he receives it and lays himself and it again on Christ the fountain of strength. Hence it becomes an easy yoke, which before was insupportable. For duties are a dead weight while laid on by the hand of the law (John 15:5), but from Christ the believer receives a kind of derived omnipotency (Philippians 4:13; Philippians 2:13). He makes the will for the work, and the work for us when He has wrought the will for it.

(2) For acceptance (Hebrews 11:4). Duties rightly done are the returns of influences from heaven which are communicated from Christ, and so go back through Him.

A rest of the heart in Christ as a fit match for the soul. For as in marriage there is first a view of such a person as a fit match, whereupon follows choice and acceptance; and in case the person chosen answer the expectation, there ariseth a rest which is solid joy, so it is when the soul is pleased with Christ. There is found in Him--

1. Rest for the conscience: otherwise there is none except where it be lulled to sleep. Now Christ finds His elect seeking rest and finding none in the law; He gives it them through His blood (Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:7).

2. Rest for the heart.

(1) Our hearts are full of desires of happiness which crave for satisfaction. Hence universal human restlessness.

(2) The natural man goeth through the dry places of the creature seeking rest and finding none (Jeremiah 2:3; Ecclesiastes 10:15; Isaiah 55:2). Christ finds His elect thus wandering, and discovers Himself as the fountain of satisfaction, and the desires of the soul centreing and meeting in Christ abide in Him and are satisfied (Psalms 73:25; Philippians 4:18; 2 Samuel 23:5).

A confession of Christ unto salvation. This is plainly intimated in the original “glorying in Christ.” As the image of God impressed on man’s soul at creation shone through his body, as a candle through a lantern, so that complacency, confidence, and rest of the heart in Christ will shine forth in the life.

1. With respect to the believer’s ordinary conversation.

(1) This inward rejoicing wears off the air of pride (1 Peter 5:5).

(2) Grace will circumcise the self-commending lips.

(3) Gracious souls will readily discover in their serious converse a tendency towards the grace of Christ.

(4) Rejoicing in Christ will make men tender in their judgment of others (Galatians 6:1).

(5) Such as rejoice in Christ will have familiar converse with the Word, and relish of it (Isaiah 59:21).

(6) They will have a respect to the place where Christ’s honour dwells, and to ordinances (Psalms 63:1-2).

2. With respect to suffering.

(1) The saints will keep on Christ’s side though it be lowest.

(2) They will be resigned and contented.

(3) They will glory in any cross Christ puts upon them. (T. Boston, D. D.)

Glorying in Christ

Negatively. The true circumcision gloried not--

1. In themselves.

2. In anything about themselves--circumcision or Abrahamic descent.

3. In Christ and something else--in Him and Moses.

Positively. They gloried in Christ.

1. In His great condescension.

2. In His birth and its wonders.

3. In His life and its blessings.

4. In His death and its benefits.

5. In His resurrection and ascension, and their pledges.

6. In His return, and its stupendous and permanent results. (Professor Eadie.)

Have no confidence in the flesh--This is an inference from the last, and means that the Christian who rejoices in Christ hath no confidence in anything that is not Christ or in Christ.

In point of justification.

1. The saints have no confidence in external things.

(1) Man’s externals--things which God never made duty, but are made so by man (Matthew 15:9). All unscriptural institutions, opinions, and practices, under whatever pretensions of holiness, carry off men from Christ and are subservient to self (Matthew 15:4-6; Corinthians 18-21).

(2) Nor even in God’s externals. E.g.

(a) In their external condition in the world which we receive by God’s providence. The carnal poor think that thereby they will be relieved of eternal poverty, and the carnal rich in this world, that they will be before others in the world to come (Hosea 12:8; Romans 14:17). You may be miserable here and through eternity (Job 15:23-24); or fare sumptuously here and be in torment by and by (Luke 16:1-31).

(b) In their external privileges (verses 5, 7; 2 Corinthians 5:16; Luke 13:26-27).

(c) In their external attainments (verses 6-7). Great confidence have some in their negative holiness (Luke 18:11; Matthew 5:20).

(d) In their external duties (verse 8). There are two classes opposite to the Christian in this--the ignorant, who do little or nothing, and yet say they serve God as well as they can; and those who have the full form of godliness and rest in that. But as they are mere external duties they are abominable to God (Isaiah 1:11, etc.; Mark 10:20-21).

(e) In their external sufferings. The glorified put nothing down to their tribulation, but all to Christ’s blood. “Therefore are they before the throne.”

2. The saints have no confidence for the favour of God in internals. There is no exception but one (Colossians 1:27). They have no confidence in internal--

(1) dispositions (Proverbs 28:26). Many have a confidence in what they call their good hearts; but if God’s testimony is to be believed, it is a false confidence (Jeremiah 17:9).

(2) Exercises on their own spirits.

(3) Attainments (Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:8).

(4) Graces.

In point of sanctification. As they have taken Him alone for justification, so for this (1 Corinthians 1:30). The saints have no confidence for this.

1. In their stock of natural and acquired abilities (2 Corinthians 3:5), knowledge, utterance, good temper, etc.

2. In the means, such as the Word, sacraments, prayer, etc. Knowing that it is the Spirit that quickeneth (John 6:63).

3. In their purposes and resolutions for holiness (2 Timothy 1:12).

4. In their vows and engagements to holiness (Isaiah 45:23-24).

5. In their own endeavours after holiness (Psalms 127:1).

6. In the good frame and disposition of their hearts, i.e., in actual grace, a most desirable thing, but no staff to lean upon (1 Chronicles 29:17-18).

7. In habitual grace. Paul had a good stock of it, but he did not venture to live on it (Galatians 2:20). Grace within the saints is a well whose springs are often dry; but the grace without them in Christ is an ever-flowing fountain (John 6:57). (T. Boston, D. D.)

Verses 4-10

Philippians 3:4-10

Though I might also have confidence in the flesh--Observe


Paul’s advantages--Superior to those which men generally put confidence in--respecting his birth and religious training, his rigid profession and orthodoxy, his zeal and blameless conduct.

The insufficiency of them as a ground of confidence--they could not confer peace, secure the favour of God--supersede the necessity of an inward change.

His renunciation of thee was necessary, complete, wise, and intelligent. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The faith of St. Paul

St. Paul is here speaking of himself. Generally this is not wise, but circumstances may sometimes justify it,

1. The man who has been healed has a right to speak of the remedy, and ought to do so. St. Paul had been changed; the selfish man had become unselfish; the wild persecutor had been tamed.

2. The experience of St. Paul was very profitable. If you can do good by telling your experience, tell it. It is a delicate thing to speak of one’s self; people who have little experience are often the greatest speakers; but there is a false delicacy which must be overcome.

3. Paul’s purpose was also to glorify his Master. These verses resemble a tree with many branches, but they have but one root. The central thought is--


1. It was of the right nature. There is a faith which never goes deeper than the intellect. It is like the smile of some people who do not know how to smile, and which only touches certain places on the face. There is another faith that breaks right through the soul, and moves the man to his very centre. Such was Paul’s; it took possession of heart, soul, and mind.

2. It was a mighty faith. There is a faith right enough in its way, but very feeble. It resembles a man who is walking in a path about which he has some doubt. He looks to the right, to the left; behind and before; he proceeds slowly, hesitatingly, but he does proceed. But Paul received Christ with open arms, without caution or reserve.

The working of this faith and what it did in Paul. On faith taking possession of the heart two things are sure to follow.

1. Self-renunciation. If your faith has not made you cast anything away, you ought to look into it. Now Paul had three things of which he was very proud.

(1) Jewish extraction. Men in all ages have been proud of their ancestors. The Jews had many things of which they could boast. They were the chosen people. They had Divine revelation. The worship of the true God was established among them. They had a great history. Angels walked their valleys; wondrous things were done on their mountain tops. They have had greater influence over the world than any other nation. It is a great thing to belong to such a stock, and to belong to it was regarded as being safe forever. St. Paul, however, cast it aside as loss for Christ.

(2) Legal righteousness. Paul was a Pharisee, and as such--

(a) He knew the laws of Moses well. He had a most correct creed.

(b) He practised the religion of the Pharisees. There was a two-fold righteousness; real as before God, love to God and man; apparent as before man, the observance of rites and public duties. Paul had little of the former; he had the latter to perfection, but he cast it out.

(3) Religious zeal. Zeal is about the strongest word you can use to express a warm state of mind, and if there is anything of which a man is proud it is this. It is one of the noblest of virtues, but do not seek to display it as Jehu--it will come out of itself. Better do with your zeal what Paul did. “I count it loss for Christ; I will not hope for salvation from it.”

2. Reception of Jesus Christ. Observe--

(1) His estimate of the knowledge of Christ. There are three things in this which make all other knowledge dim, and all other possessions worthless; the Fatherhood of God, the mediation of Christ, and immortality with Christ in heaven. These destroy man’s three great enemies.

(a) The mediation of Christ--sin;

(b) immortality--death;

(c) the Fatherhood of God--fear.

(2) He desired to be united to Christ. How can a person be united to another? You have friends in Australia, but you are as near them as ever, by confidence, sympathy, and the deepest feelings of your nature. To be united to Christ is for you to love Him, and for Him to send forth His sympathy towards you. In the one case you are “found in Him,” in the other He is “in you.”

(3) He believed that there was an infinite fulness of blessing in Christ, and that by union with Christ this would become His. The soul that is united to Christ shall not want.

(a) It shall have full and free pardon.

(b) It shall be justified before God through the sacrifice of Christ.

(c) Be quickened with the life that is in Christ.

(d) Have a true rightness which is produced by God in and on the soul, that will bear the test of judgment, and be beautiful in the light of heaven.

(e) End its journey by sitting with Christ, and enjoying His glory. (T. Jones, D. D.)

Privileges no ground of trust

The list sounds much as if you or I were to say something of this kind: “I am of a good Presbyterian stock. One of my ancestors fought at Bothwell Bridge for ‘Christ’s crown and covenant,’ and another died as a martyr in the same cause in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh. There have been several ministers in my line, and many elders. I was baptized in a Presbyterian church, attended the Sabbath school, and became a communicant when I was eighteen. I have always attended the church regularly, kept up family worship, and lived a decorous life. I am well read in sound theology; hold rigidly in my opinions by the Westminster Confession; and have now and again taken a part in controversies about election, or the extent of the atonement.” This is all well, very well, so far as it goes. But if you or I be in any degree looking to these things--to any of them, or to all of them taken together--as a ground of hope for eternity, we are, in so far, occupying a religious position corresponding very exactly with that of Paul before his conversion to Christ. (R. Johnstone, LL. D.)

Verses 7-9

Philippians 3:7-9

What things were gain to me those I counted loss for Christ

The Christian’s accounts

The Christian keeps an accurate account book.

He reckons up with an enlightened judgment his gains and losses. And most important is it that he should: for the question of questions is, What is gain to me and what is loss?

The answer given by the world. Examine the accounts of nine-tenths and you will find--

1. Health and money entered as clear gains, comfort, ease, tranquillity, prosperity, carried to the side of profit.

2. Sickness, disappointment, contraction of the means of pleasure, decay of trade, sorrow, bereavement, entered as unmixed loss.

3. And when we come to matters bearing on the interest of the soul we find that the natural heart has entered on the side of eternal gain, good character, punctuality of attendance at Christian ordinances, a conscience silent as to definite injuries against neighbours. And gain it is in a sense, for it is better to have a good conscience than a bad one, to be moral than immoral. St. Paul says no word about morality being a loss, or that he would have valued Christ more had he been a greater sinner.

The Christian’s answer. For Christ’s sake Paul now accounts as loss all that he had once accounted gain. He was an Israelite of direct descent. Would he have been a better man had he been born a Gentile and an idolater? He had been blameless in his observance of the ceremonial, and, as he understood it, of the moral law--does he regret that he had not habitually broken it? None of these things. The loss was that he had trusted in these things, and looked to them for salvation. He thought that God must be satisfied with so unexceptionable a genealogy, so diligent a worshipper.

2. In this point of view many of us need instruction and warning. What are we trusting in?

(1) Some of us are putting off the question altogether and saying, “I will live while I can and die when I must; I will not torment myself before the time--many years hence I hope.”

(2) But this childish and suicidal infatuation is not in all of us. There are those who have religion. What is it? Is it more than a moral life, a Sunday worship, a trusting in God’s mercy? But where is Christ in all this? What know you of the thought, “What things were gain to me,” etc? What of your own are you discarding in order to rest in Christ alone? Where are your transfers from one side of your reckoning to the other because of Christ? And many of us die in the strength of a gospel which has no Christ in it; no demolition of self, either of self-confidence or seeking, and no exaltation of Christ on the ruins of self, either as Saviour or Lord. We are at best what St. Paul was before his conversion--alas, without his good conscience or scrupulous obedience. (Dean Vaughan.)

A business-like account

Our Saviour’s advice to those who wished to be His servants was to count the cost. He did not wish to enlist any one by keeping him in ignorance of the requirements of His service. The exercise of our judgments in the gospel is required. Do not imagine that religion consists in wild fanaticism which never considers. The apostle here gives us the word “count” three times over. He was skilled in spiritual arithmetic and very careful in his reckoning. He seems here to be in a mercantile frame of mind, adding and subtracting and balancing.

The apostle’s calculations.

1. His counting at the outset of his Christian life “What things were gain,” etc.

(1) He dwelt on the several items, noting each with great distinctness. The list reads like a catalogue. His Jewish advantages had been as precious pearls to him once.

(2) What is there per contra. Nothing on the other side but one item; but that one outweighed the many. That one was not Christianity, the Church, or the orthodox faith, but Christ.

(3) Not only after putting the one under the other and making a subtraction did he find that his earthly advantages were less than Christ; he found these gains transformed into a loss. There was not a plus on that side to stand in proportion to a plus on this; they were turned into a minus of actual deficit. Not that he meant that to be a “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” etc., was in itself a loss--the advantage was “much every way;” but he meant that with respect to Christ those things became a disadvantage, because their tendency had been to keep him from trusting Christ. It is a grand thing to have led a virtuous life; but this blessing may, by our own folly, become a curse, if we place it in opposition to the righteousness of Christ, and dream that we have no need of a Saviour.

2. His estimate for the time then present. We are always anxious to hear what a man has to say about a thing after he has tried it. After twenty years of experience Paul had an opportunity of revising his balance sheet; and makes the strong affirmation--“Yea, doubtless I count,” etc. He has made the original summary even more comprehensive, but he stands to the same estimate and uses not barely the word “Christ,” but the fuller expression, “the excellency of the knowledge,” etc. Now he has come to know the Christ in whom before he had trusted. Christ is better loved as he is better known.

(1) The words show the points upon which he had fullest knowledge. He knew the Lord as--

(a) Christ, the Messiah anointed and sent of the Father.

(b) Jesus, the anointed and actual Saviour.

(c) My Lord. His was an appropriating knowledge.

(2) The text implies that he knew Christ by faith. He believed, and hence he knew.

(3) He knew Him by experience, “and the power of His resurrection.” This is excellent knowledge when the power of a fact is realized within and shown in the life.

(4) More than that Paul aimed to know more by a growing likeness to Him.

(5) There is no knowledge in this world comparable to this, for it concerns the highest conceivable object, and no man hath it but by the Holy Ghost.

(6) If you would see its excellency look at its effects--it makes us humble, delivers us from the power of sin, elevates the motives, sweetens the feelings, gives nobility to the life, and will continue to progress when every other knowledge is laid aside.

3. His third counting may be regarded as his life estimate. “For whom I have,” etc. Here his estimate sets out with actual test and practical proof. He is a prisoner, with nothing in the world; he has lost caste, has no longer his own righteousness: Christ is his all and nothing else. Does he regret the loss of all things? No, he counts it an actual deliverance to have lost them.

(1) In his first and second countings these things were “loss,” now they are “dung.”

(2) In his second estimate he spoke of “knowing” Christ, but now he speaks of “winning” Him, or rather “gaining,” for he keeps to the mercantile figure all through.

(3) Further, his aim is to be “found in Him,” as a bird in the air, a fish in the sea, a member in the body--as a fugitive shelters himself in his hiding place; so in Christ as never to come out of Him, so that whenever any one looks for him he may find him in Jesus.

(4) Notice how Paul keeps to what he began with, viz., his unrobing himself of his boastings in the flesh, and his arraying himself with Christ--“not having mine own righteousness,” etc.

our own calculations.

1. Do we join in Paul’s earlier estimate. You will never be saved till you lose all your legal hopes.

2. After many years of profession do you still continue in the same mind and make the same estimate? Not if you have settled down on something other than Christ.

3. You cannot join Paul in the last calculation--“I have suffered the loss of all things,” but do you think you could have done so if required for Christ’s sake? Your forefathers did so.

4. Seeing God has left you your worldly comforts have you used all things for His sake.

5. If Christ be to you so that all things are dung and dross in comparison, do you not want Him for your children, your friends, etc. What a man values for himself he values for others. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ is true gain

Earthly good--

Brings no peace, Christ does.

Can give no satisfaction, Christ can.

Loses its power to gratify, Christ never.

Is attended with care and trouble. Christ is full of consolation.

At best of the earth earthly. Christ opens heaven.

Has its limit. In Christ all fulness dwells.

Must have its period. Christ lives forever. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Life for Christ

The life which we owe to Christ and hold in Christ we are bound by the strongest claims to use for Christ. Life is a thing to be used. And if you admit that it was once forfeited, but that Christ has bought it back for you by His death, and that you keep it only by your connection with Him, then you hold it on false pretences if you use it in any other way but for Him. There are two ways in which “life for Christ” may be understood.

(1) In order to obtain Him--“that I may win Christ,” i.e., finally enjoy Him; or

(2) as the Master puts it, “for My sake.” We take it in the latter sense. A man may live a very good life--he may have a natural tendency towards it, or a conscientious feeling may lead him to it; but all the while he may fall short of this--that it is not for Christ. The motive is diluted by worldly motives and is very feeble, while God measures everything by the loving standard of the one motive--was it for Christ? This life for Christ--

Must not be an uncertain thing. Taken up and laid down at pleasure, by fits and starts, remembered and forgotten, but must be the result of deep conviction. To this end--

1. Consecrate your life to Christ in the most express and solemn way you can, on your knees. Lay the sacrifice upon the altar. Invest it with the sacredness of an irrevocable pledge.

2. Renew that act of self-dedication at not very long intervals.

3. Write it on everything you have and are, body, soul, time, talents, business, family, etc.

Must enter into your trials. When you are in bodily or mental distress, and when you are going through the discipline of bitter daily friction, think thus--“I will sanctify and ennoble this suffering by bearing it for Christ.” He bore much more for me, and these are the “marks of the Lord Jesus” now laid upon me.

Must eater into your happiness. Christ is happy in your happiness and for His sake you must be happy: and your happiness must not fail to make others happy.

Must be a life of ministry.

1. In defence of Christ.

2. In the extension of His cause.

3. In having some positive work to do for Him. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The importance of spiritual accounts

Turning to the mercantile figure we are reminded of the paramount importance of having the record books of our inner life rightly kept. The great German satirist, Heinrich Heine, has scornfully depicted the mere worldling thus: “Business men have the same religion throughout the whole world. They find in their office their church, in their desk their prayer cushion, in their ledger their Bible. The warehouse is their inner sanctuary; the exchange bell is their summons to prayer; their God is their gold; their faith is their credit.” The apostle was never so low in the scale as these words represent justly the mere worldling to be. He was, even as Saul the persecutor, of a very different and a far higher type. None the less these scathing words describe too closely the character and conduct of countless thousands, who all the time are not ashamed and not afraid to bear the name of Christian. But in contrast to such a picture we have the new man, renewed in heart and life; he, too, has his all-engrossing concerns. He, too, has his books, recording the transactions which take place in his inmost soul. He keeps them rightly. No false entries are seen there. The things of the world, whatever their value in themselves may be, are, as related to the soul’s interests, entered as loss. The things of the kingdom alone appear as gain. True wealth--that which alone can claim the name of sub stance--is summed up in righteousness: life in Christ Jesus--life which in Him is everlasting. (J. Hutchison, D. D.)

The gain of loss

He who loses anything and gets wisdom by it is a gainer by the toss. (LEstrange.)

Loss for gain

When the captain leaves the harbour he has a cargo on board of which he takes great care, but when a tremendous wind is blowing and the ship labours, being too heavily laden, and there is great fear that she will not outride the storm, see how eagerly the sailors lighten the ship. They bring up from the hold with all diligence the very things which before they prized, and they seem rejoiced to heave them into the sea. Never men more eager to get than these are to throw away. There go the casks of flour, the bars of iron, the manufactured goods: overboard go valuable bales of merchandise; nothing seems to be worth keeping. How is this? Are not these things good? Yes, but nor good to a sinking ship. Anything must go to save life, anything to outride the storm. And so the apostle says that in order to win Christ and to be found in Him he flung the whole cargo of his beloved confidences over, and was as glad to get rid of them as if they were only dung. This he did to win Christ, and that fact suggests another picture: an English war ship of the olden times is cruising the ocean, and she spies a Spanish galleon in the distance laden with gold from the Indies. Captain and men are determined to overtake and capture her, for they have a relish for prize money; but their vessel sails heavily. What then? If she will not move because of her load they fling into the sea everything they can lay their hands on, knowing that if they can capture the Spanish vessel the booty will make amends for all they lose and vastly more. Do you wonder at their eagerness to lose the little to gain the great? Sailor, why cast overboard those useful things? “Oh,” says he, “they are nothing compared with that prize over yonder. If we can but get side by side and board her we will soon make up for all that we now throw into the sea.” And so it is with the man who is in earnest to win Christ and to be found in Him. Overboard go circumcision and Phariseeism, and the blamelessness touching the law, and all that, for he knows that he will find a better righteousness in Christ than any which he foregoes, yea, find everything in Christ which he now, for his Lord’s sake, counts but as the slag of the furnace. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Self-renunciation for Christ not to be regretted

The poet George Herbert was so highly connected, and in such favour at court, that at one time a secretaryship of state seemed to him not unattainable. But he gave up all such prospects for the work of a humble clergy man, and in looking back upon the time he made his choice, he could say, “I think myself more happy than if I had attained what then I had so ambitiously thirsted for. And I can now behold the court with an impartial eye, and see plainly that it is made up of frauds and bitters, and flattery, and many other such empty imaginary and painted pleasures--pleasures which are so empty as not to satisfy when they are enjoyed. But in God and His service is a fulness of all joy and pleasure and no satiety.” (J. F. B. Tinling.)

Raymond Lully, or Lullius, to whom the Arabic professorship at Oxford owes its origin, was the first Christian missionary to the Moslems. When shipwrecked near Pisa, after many years of missionary labour, though upwards of seventy, his ardour was unabated. “Once,” he wrote, “I was fairly rich; once I had a wife and children; once I tasted freely of the pleasures of this life. But all these things I gladly resigned that I might spread abroad a knowledge of the truth. I studied Arabic, and several times went forth to preach the gospel to the Saracens. I have been in prison, I have been scourged, for years I have striven to persuade the princes of Christendom to befriend the common cause of converting the Mohammedans. Now, though old and poor, I do not despair; I am ready, if it be God’s will, to persevere unto death.” And he did so, being stoned to death at Bergia, in Africa, in 1314, after gathering a little flock of converts. (Sunday at Home.)

Worldly honour consecrated to Christ

T.A. Ragland, an eminent mathematician, and a devoted Christian, gained the silver cup at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, four years in succession. One of these was dedicated to God for the communion service of a small native Church, mainly gathered by him in Southern India, and all were set apart for the same purpose in connection with his itinerating missionary service. (J. F. B. Tinling.)

Diverse estimates of Paul’s sacrifices

Porphyry, the philosopher, said that it was a pity that such a man as Paul was thrown away upon our religion. And the monarch of Morocco told the English ambassador in King John’s time that he had lately read Paul’s Epistles, which he liked so well that were he now to choose his religion, he would before any other embrace Christianity. “But every one ought,” said he, “to die in his own religion”; and the leaving of the faith in which he was born was the only thing he disliked in that apostle. (J. Trapp.)

Verse 8

Philippians 3:8

Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord--These words are added by way of amplification.

1. To show his perseverance in the contempt of all outward advantages. “I have counted,” and “do still count.” He had not repented of his choice.

2. To comprehend all other things besides Jewish privileges. A Christian can deny anything for Christ’s sake.

3. To show the reality of his assertion--“Yea, doubtless.” It was not pretension, or naked approbation, or speculation, but practical esteem.

(1) This contempt is set forth

(a) in its vehemence and greatness, “loss,” “dung;”

(b) in its reality and sincerity. Men approve things that are excellent (Romans 2:18), yet have no mind to embrace them, because they cannot deny temptations--but St. Paul says, “I have suffered,” etc.

(2) The causes of this contempt were--

(a) The excellency of Christ’s knowledge.

(b) To gain Christ. Let us now consider--

Paul’s self-denial.

1. The universality of its extent--“All things.” This is to be observed--

(1) Partly because some can deny a few things for Christ, but not all. But if we keep back anything the price is too short (Mark 10:21). If a woman love but one man more than her husband, though she love him better than millions, it is a breach of the marriage covenant. When men come into possession of a house all persons must be outed, or possession is not valid; you must deliver up all to Christ, or He will accept of none.

(2) Partly to show that not only things unlawful must be denied, but even things lawful must be rejected or disesteemed for His sake.

(a) That our sins must be renounced is out of question (Ephesians 4:22). These were never worth keeping. It is no strange notion of the physician if he require the patient to part with the disease, or he who gives us new apparel to bid us part with our rags.

(b) Lawful things when they come into competition with Christ, such as the comfort of our relations, honour, natural supports, and even life (Luke 14:26).

2. The degree--with loathing and indignation. Whilst we stand peddling and hanker after these things, the temptation is not fully off; but we are like crows, though driven from carrion, keep within scent of it.

3. Here is his resolution actually verified. He had “suffered the loss of all things.” We have not realized this, not being called upon, but the same spirit must be in us. All things that draw us off from Christ must be actually contemned.

The reasons why it binds all Christians.

1. This is plainly inferred out of--

(1) The faith of the gospel.

(a) As that faith is sound belief of the veracity of God we are pledged to crucify the flesh, and wait with confidence on God in the midst of afflictions.

(b) As it is acceptance of good so we refuse worldly things as our felicity and portion.

(2) The love of the gospel; for we are to love Christ superlatively (Psalms 73:25; Matthew 6:24); therefore (Matthew 10:37).

(3) The hope of the gospel which is everlasting life (Rom 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Mark 10:29-30).

(4) The obedience of the gospel (Matthew 16:24).

2. Because Christ hath deserved this esteem.

(1) By what He is to us.

(a) More excellent than all things else. The world’s good is uncertain and empty.

(b) More necessary--we can dispense with everything else.

(c) More beneficial; in Him alone is salvation and happiness to be found.

(2) By what He hath done for us (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

3. This esteem will show itself.

(1) In labouring to get Christ above all, and with the hazard of all (Matthew 6:33; Matthew 13:45-46).

(2) In a care to keep Christ above all. He is your life (Galatians 2:20), your strength (1 John 4:4), your blessedness (Colossians 1:27).

(3) In grief for losing Christ above all (Matthew 9:15; Psalms 51:10-12).

(4) By delighting in Him, and in the testimonies of His love above all (1 Peter 1:8).

(5) By loving all other things for Christ’s sake. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The knowledge of Christ

1. The analysis of our faculties into--thought, feeling, and volition, may be important to the understanding and classification of the phenomena of our nature; but these faculties are neither independent nor distinct. The exercise of one includes that of the other. There is always an exercise of will in thought, of feeling in cognition. In the Scriptures knowledge is not mere intellectual apprehension; it includes the proper apprehension not only of the object, but of its qualities; and if those qualities be aesthetic or moral, it includes the due apprehension of them, and the state of feelings which answers to them.

2. The knowledge of Christ, therefore, is hot the apprehension of what He is, simply by the intellect, but also a due apprehension of His glory, and involves not as a consequence merely, but as one of its elements, the corresponding feeling of adoration, delight, desire, and complacency. This knowledge--


1. A knowledge of Christ’s person as God and man.

2. The knowledge of this work in the redemption of man.

3. Of His relation to us, and of the benefits we derive from Him, justification, adoption, sanctification, eternal life.

Is superlatively excellent: because--

1. He is Himself the perfect object of knowledge.

2. Because eternal life, the hope of the soul, consists in that knowledge. The possession of it enlightens and enlarges the intellect, purifies the heart, and renders perfectly blessed.

3. Without this knowledge we are not only ignorant of God, but of the way of salvation. We know not how to be justified or sanctified. We of necessity, therefore, are left to seek and trust in other ineffectual methods of obtaining these blessings.


1. All religion is included in this--to know Christ. To this we should concentrate all our attention and efforts. It is vain to seek the knowledge of God or His favour, to strive after holiness and peace in any other way.

2. The only test of Christian character is found here. Men may be benevolent, in a certain sense pious, but they cannot be Christians unless they know Christ, and find in that their spiritual life.

3. The only way to save men is not by preaching the doctrines of natural religion, nor by holding up the law, nor by expounding the anthropological doctrines of the Bible. These things are important in their place, but they are subordinate to preaching Christ, i.e., holding Him up in His person, His work, etc., as the great object of knowledge, and, as such, the great object of love, the only ground of confidence, and our only and all-sufficient portion. (C. Hodge, D. D.)

The knowledge of Christ

Its nature.

1. Speculative.

2. Experimental.

3. Practical.

Its excellency in--

1. Itself.

2. Its use.

3. Its effect.

Its value. Incomparable; all else but dung and dross.

Its power.

1. To sway the judgment.

2. Induce sacrifice.

3. Excite effort. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The more we know of some things, the less we admire them; a minute inspection reveals deficiencies; but the reverse is true about Jesus Christ. So St. Paul felt, and so feels every genuine Christian.

The value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. This knowledge--

1. Contains all that can satisfy the understanding. If we derive pleasure from the knowledge of art, science, literature, history, how much more may we derive from the discoveries of Divine truth? This leaves all the discoveries of scholars at an immense distance. If men were to propound to the wisest, “How shall man be just with God?” it would baffle them. But the knowledge of Christ solves this. The truths of the incarnation, death, etc., of Christ, while the profoundest are yet the most simple. To regard this knowledge, therefore, with indifference is a mark of a weak mind. And, besides, it is the constant study of the angels of heaven who behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

2. Pacifies the conscience. Some men would give all the world for a peaceful conscience. Think of what they do to procure it--amusement, repentance, business, etc., alas, are only opiates. But let a man be alive to the discoveries of the gospel, see justice satisfied in the death of Christ, and know that God is reconciled through His Son, and the storm will be stilled.

3. Purifies the heart. In all the lessons of human wisdom there are two incurable defects.

(1) They are often only conjectures.

(2) They propose no motives of sufficient weight. Now this knowledge has been tried, and has been found to be saving, and no imaginable motives could be stronger than “for the sake of Christ,” and “to win Christ.”

4. Saves the soul. “This is life eternal,” etc.

The distinguishing characters of the Christian’s regard for that knowledge.

1. It is personal--“I count.” The error of the Jews was that they substituted relative for personal piety. They gloried in their relation to Abraham, etc. So now a great many depend upon the merits of others. The religion of some is hereditary, or by proxy. But neither the devil nor Christ will be served in this way.

2. Decided and unequivocal. “Yea, doubtless.” The Christianity of many is very vacillating; but this Christ rejects, and even man contemns.

3. Rational--“I count.” Men sometimes set up a blazing profession because their feelings have been wrought upon, and without any idea of what the profession involves. But the cost ought to be counted, and must be if there is to be any stability.

4. Supreme--“All things.”

(1) We are to count all things sinful as loss for this knowledge.

(2) Things that are lawful. All that is valued on earth must be subordinated to this. (W. Henry.)

The excellency of the knowledge of Christ appears

In the sacrifices the apostle made to secure it.

In the benefits it secures.

1. Righteousness.

2. Resurrection power.

3. A glorious hope.

In the disposition it creates.

1. A correct estimate of ourselves.

2. Earnest purpose.

3. Persevering effort.

4. Love and unity. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The knowledge of Christ is so excellent, that a gracious heart counteth all things dung and dross rather than miss it.

1. The knowledge here spoken of. Knowledge is two fold.

(1) A bare speculative knowledge. Even this is a great privilege (1 Peter 1:12; Ephesians 3:10); but if we are content with it we shall perish. It was not those who saw the ark, but those who entered it who were saved.

(2) A saving knowledge such as is accompanied by

(a) Faith, i.e., a certain persuasion of the truth of our redemption by Christ upon evidence so as we may venture our souls and all our interest in His hands (John 6:69; Acts 2:36; John 17:8).

(b) Love.

(c) Obedience (1 John 2:4).

2. Why is this knowledge so prized?

(1) It is valuable in itself; better than all other.

(a) From the Author (Matthew 16:16; John 6:45; 1 John 2:20).

(b) The matter to be known, Christ the Saviour of the world. This is comfortable knowledge if we consider our deep necessity (Colossians 1:21; Job 14:4; 2 Timothy 2:26; 1 Thessalonians 1:10), and His sufficiency to do us good (Acts 20:28; Colossians 1:20; Colossians 1:27).

(c) The effect. It is a renewing and transforming knowledge (Colossians 3:10; 1 John 2:2).

(2) The subjects who thus esteem Christ.

(a) Their minds are changed (Jeremiah 31:34). By this they have a spirit of discerning.

(b) Their hearts (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

3. Uses.

(1) Of reproof.

(a) To those who study all things but Christ. If God hath laid out the riches of His grace and wisdom to do us good, surely it deserveth our best thoughts.

(b) To those who content themselves with the form of knowledge (Romans 2:20). Christianity is not only to be believed, but felt (1 Peter 2:3). Experience is the best seal and confirmation (2 Peter 1:8).

(2) Of exhortation. Consider--

(a) The necessity. You must know Christ before you can believe and love Him (2 Timothy 1:12).

(b) The pleasantness.

(c) The profit (John 17:3).

(3) Bless God that He hath given thee this knowledge, and do not murmur if He hath denied thee other things. Remember

(a) how it excelleth all other gifts.

(b) How a true value and esteem of Christ lesseneth all other things.

Jesus Christ must be known as Lord.

1. What this Lordship of Christ is--the new light of propriety and government over all men which Christ now hath as being the Sovereign of the world.

(1) It is superadded to the former sovereignty and dominion which the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost had as Creator (Revelation 5:12).

2. It is derivative, and cannot be supreme, but subordinate (Matthew 28:18; John 17:2; Philippians 2:11).

(3) It is beneficial to us. Its end is to effect man’s recovery to peace with and loyalty to God.

2. How this right accrueth to Christ.

(1) By purchase (Romans 14:9).

(2) By grant (Acts 2:26).

3. How we come to be concerned in it.

(1) By our passive subjection, and

(2) voluntary submission (2 Corinthians 8:5).

4. What our concern is.

(1) Our privileges and immunities.

(a) Freedom from the curse and rigour of the law (Galatians 5:18);

(b) from the guilt of sin (Colossians 1:13-14);

(c) the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10); and deliverance to grace and glory.

(2) Our duties (Hebrews 5:9). Privilege and duty must not be separated (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21).

5. Use, to persuade us to own Christ as a Lord.

(1) Let us enter into the state of servants and vassals to Him by renouncing the devil, the world, and the flesh, who were once our lords, but were, indeed, our enemies (Isaiah 26:13).

(2) Be not subjects in name add by profession only (Colossians 1:10).

There should be some application when we consider Christ and address ourselves to know Him.

1. What is this application?

(1) Some distinctions.

(a) The application of comfort is when I respect Christ under such a term as implies some privilege to me, that He is my Saviour, etc. (Galatians 2:20); ,but the application that respects duty is when I apprehend Him under a term which inferreth my obligation to obedience--“my Lord.”

(b) The application of faith is a particular application of Christ and the promise to ourselves, so as to excite us to look after the benefits for which Christ is appointed: the application of assurance is when I actually determine that my own sins are pardoned and I adopted into God’s family (1 John 3:19).

(c) The application may be implicit, dark, and reserved, when we have not so full a persuasion of our good estate, but comfortable encouragement to wait upon God in the way of duty; it may also be explicit, clear, and open (Ephesians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 5:1).

(2) Some observations.

(a) The application of faith may be without the application of assurance; sometimes they go together.

(b) The one is necessary, the other comfortable.

(c) It is a support to have the darker way of applying Christ and His benefits, when we have not the full certainty that they belong to us.

2. Why there should be such an application of Christ.

(1) Because things that nearly concern us do most affect us. The love of God in general doth not so affect me as when I know “He loved me and gave Himself for me.”

(2) Without some application there can be no interest and benefit to us. General grace must be made particular. Christ’s blood will not avail unless it be sprinkled.

(3) The Scripture insisteth much on a personal entering into covenant with God (2 Chronicles 30:8).

(4) Our personal interest in Christ is the ground of our comfort and confidence (Habakkuk 3:18; Luke 1:17). Application:

1. Resolve to give yourself up to Him to serve Him. A believer cannot always say, “Christ is mine”; but he can say “I am His” (Psalms 119:94).

2. In applying Christ seek necessary grace rather than comfort.

3. When God draweth--run (Song of Solomon 1:4). When He knocketh, open (Revelation 3:10). (T. Manton, D. D.)

The excellency of the knowledge of Christ

Its notes are--

Certainty. Concerning moral and religious truth men have been most uncertain, and have bewildered themselves in endless speculations. And yet, on such subjects, certainty is of the utmost importance. The knowledge of Christ is certain. What God teaches must be absolute truth. He can neither deceive, nor be deceived. That Christianity is a system of Divine knowledge from God is proved--

1. By prophecy.

2. Miracles.

3. Experience (John 7:17).

Majesty and grandeur. Great thoughts in religion are necessary for man; and true religion must in its own nature have them. It is one of the characteristics of false religion to inculcate low thoughts of God and Divine things. Take the Christian conception of God--eternal, just, merciful, redeeming.

Suitableness and adaptation. It is in all its parts knowledge for us. No kind of useful knowledge is to be undervalued. Many branches are of great importance. But all such is--

1. Partial. A king may be a criminal before God.

2. Temporary. But look at the knowledge of Christ.

(1) It is salvation for sinners.

(2) Communion with God for them who have been afar off.

(3) Comfort in affliction.

(4) Life in death, and all this for us, not for devils or angels.

Comprehensiveness. It is not only light itself, it gives light to everything beside, not a star, but a sun. He who knows Christ knows--

1. Creation (Colossians 1:16).

2. History. Human writers narrate the events, in Christ their purpose is discovered. The call of Abraham, etc., all stand connected with the designs of providence in regard to the spiritual interests of mankind. The Roman Empire was designed to be the wide field for the triumphs of Christ. The voyage of Columbus was intended to bring America into the Christian fold.

3. Daily providence.

4. The sepulchre.

Holiness. Human knowledge does not sanctify, it often pollutes, and there is also a knowledge of Christ which leaves us in sin and under condemnation. But this knowledge leads to holiness. Conclusion:

1. Would you possess this knowledge? You must count all this but loss for it.

2. If this knowledge is incalculably excellent, then it is our duty to diffuse it. (R. Watson.)

The excellency of the knowledge of Christ

It surpasses all other.

Is only communicated by the spirit of God.

Exalts the nature of man.

Brings peace, holiness, salvation.

Is permanently valuable.

Is worth any sacrifice.

Secures eternal gain. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

What this knowledge is.

1. Comparatively--

(1) It stands opposed to the ignorance of the heathen (1 Corinthians 1:21; Romans 1:21; Acts 17:23).

(2) It is distinguished from the knowledge of the law of Moses (John 1:17; Hebrews 10:1).

(3) It is superior to the speculative unsanctified notions of nominal Christians (Titus 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:5; 2 Timothy 2:19; Luke 13:27).

2. Positively. It is--

(1) Spiritual (Ephesians 1:17; John 6:63).

(2) Supernatural (1 Corinthians 2:14); the sole prerogative of the supernaturally renewed man.

(3) Experimental (2 Thessalonians 2:10; 1 Peter 2:2-3).

(4) Practical It is sometimes put for the whole of religion (1 John 2:3-4).

3. Specifically. It is the knowledge of Christ.

(1) Christ Himself is the object of it.

(2) His character, also, and office and work (1 Corinthians 2:2; John 1:14).

(3) Faith is included (Isaiah 53:11; Psalms 9:10).

Its excellency.

1. It is most necessary. Of many things we may be ignorant, because we cannot attain the knowledge of them; and of many others we may safely be ignorant; but this knowledge is necessary to salvation (Proverbs 19:2). There can be no faith in or love to Jesus without it. Satan takes the greatest pains to prevent its attainment, and God to communicate it (1 Timothy 2:4).

2. Most heavenly. Every good gift comes from God, but this especially (2 Corinthians 4:6; Isaiah 54:13).

3. Most useful.

4. Every kind of knowledge is useful in its place; for it is to the mind what light is to the eyes; but this exceeds all other.

(1) It converts the soul (Acts 26:18);

(2) regenerates (Colossians 3:10);

(3) humbles; other puffs up (Isaiah 6:5; Job 40:4; Revelation 1:17);

(4) encourages (Psalms 9:10; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Timothy 1:12).

4. Is most pleasant. Knowledge in general is grateful to the mind, yet some kinds are painful (Ecclesiastes 1:18). There must be a good deal of pains to get it, a good deal of care to keep it; the more we know the more it seems to us remains to be known, and the folly and misery of man the more apparent. But this knowledge is easily attained, and he who increaseth it increaseth joy (Psalms 119:72; Psalms 119:162; Jeremiah 15:16).

Conclusion: Is this knowledge so excellent, then?

1. Do we possess it? (1 Corinthians 15:34; John 3:19). If not, seek it at once (James 1:5; Proverbs 2:3-7).

2. If so, be thankful (Matthew 13:16; Luke 10:21; Jeremiah 9:23-24).

3. But do not be proud. The wisest know but little of what is to be known (Hosea 6:3; 2 Peter 3:18). (G. Burder.)

The excellency of the knowledge of Christ

If the soul be without knowledge it is not good. This is true in regard to worldly knowledge; much more to heavenly.

Its object--Christ Jesus. It--

1. Comprehends adoring views of the Divinity of His Person. Do away with these, and scriptural revelation becomes chaos.

2. Involves intelligent apprehensions of the mediatorial and vicarious character of His work (Romans 3:25).

3. Includes a believing and experimental acquaintance with the way in which sinners become interested in the blessings of redemption by being reconciled to God through faith in Christ.

4. Implies an obedient regard and solemn recognition of the high authority of Christ as King and Lawgiver.

Its nature.

1. It is not visual and corporeal, but intellectual and theoretical. The former was the ease in the days of our Saviour’s flesh, and yet to many it was of no avail. While something more than head knowledge is required, yet that is essential. Ignorance is not the mother of devotion.

2. Experimental and appropriating; this is unintelligible to carnal men. Who can make a blind man understand colours, or a deaf man sounds. Sin has got into the heart, Christ also must get there.

3. Practical and constraining. Mere uninfluential knowledge of Christ will only aggravate the sinner’s doom. Hell is full of it, Does your knowledge, then, lead you to love good works, to hate sin, to be humble and obedient?

Its excellency.

1. It is the essence of all gospel truth.

2. By it alone we obtain a comprehensive and accurate knowledge of the Divine character. “The world by wisdom knew not God,” but he that hath seen Christ, hath seen the Father.

3. It may be seen in the excellency of those who have made and still make it their chief study. Angels, Prophets, Apostles, and the greatest of uninspired geniuses--Bacon, Newton, Milton, Locke.

4. In the excellent effects it produces on individual character. There is no necessary connection between science and sanctity, but that between the knowledge of Christ and purity and charity is inevitable.

5. In its improving influence on society at large. Compare heathen nations with Christian.

6. The possession of it stander in inseparable connection with the salvation of the soul. What is civilization compared with this?

7. It shall outlive and eclipse all other knowledge. (Josiah Redford.)

The excellency of this knowledge

arises from the fact--

That in Christ all Divine and human excellencies are combined. Whatever beauty resides in the Divine attributes, for “in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” and whatever perfection of human virtues, because He was “holy, harmless, undefiled,” etc.

That it has a transforming and assimilating effect on all who believingly contemplate it. “God is love, and he that dwelleth in love,” etc. “Beholding His glory, we are transformed,” etc.

It is intimately connected with our justification. As faith is belief of the truth, this knowledge includes it.

Its tendency is to generate lively hope, and fill the soul with peace and joy.

It fits the soul for heaven. “This is life eternal,” etc.

It will be forever increasing. However high the saints may rise, still Christ will be the inexhaustible source of their increase of knowledge. Conclusion: If the knowledge of Christ be so excellent--

1. It should be our constant and vigorous effort to increase in it daily.

2. We should endeavour to extend it to as many of our fellow creatures as we can reach. (A. Alexander, D. D.)

What knowledge of Christ is that which is so excellent? It is--

1. Extensive. Apprehending Him as--

(1) Christ, i.e., His nature and offices--the anointed Prophet, Priest, and King.

(2) Jesus, i.e., His intention and execution of those offices--viz., salvation.

(3) Lord, i.e., the consequents of those offices--dominion in Christ, subjection in us (Romans 14:9). Many will take Christ as Saviour who will not own Him as Lord, but this is to apprehend Christ without His crown, and so not an excellent knowledge.

2. Appropriating. The marrow of the gospel lies in the pronouns “my” and “ours.” To apprehend Christ yours on good grounds is the excellency of this knowledge.

3. Effectual. It has a powerful efficacy on the heart and life.

(1) On the judgment; when this knowledge in Christ is exalted as the chiefest among ten thousand, and the richest treasure esteemed dross in comparison with His riches.

(2) On the affections. To kindle desire and raise joy in Christ.

(3) On the practice. The profits of sin and its pleasures are renounced as well as self-righteousness.

4. Fiducial. It brings the soul to rest in Christ and His righteousness alone for pardon and acceptance, and to cast away all those rotten proofs of good nature, harmlessness, accomplishments, etc.

6. Useful. He that has it studies to improve Christ, and to use Him for those blessed purposes for which He is given (Philippians 3:9-10).

Why this knowledge is excellent. Because--

1. It is that knowledge which the most excellent creatures on earth and the most exalted in heaven desired, obtained, and gloried in. Abraham (John 8:56); Moses (Hebrews 11:26); the Prophets (1 Peter 1:10-11); and Kings (Luke 10:23-24); Paul (1 Corinthians 2:1-2); angels (1 Peter 1:12; Exodus 37:9).

2. In knowing Christ we know the glorious excellencies of God (John 14:7; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6).

3. It makes those who have it excellent (2 Corinthians 3:16; 2Co 3:18; 1 John 3:2; Philippians 3:21). Note the degrees by which fallen man is raised by this knowledge.

(1) The removal of that which makes him vile (2 Peter 2:20).

(2) Partaking of the Divine nature, i.e., of His holiness, the image of God (Colossians 3:10). All things pertaining to life and godliness are given through this knowledge (2 Peter 1:3-4).

(3) Investing us with the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 53:11).

(4) Eternal glory (John 17:3).

Christ Himself is most excellent, therefore this knowledge is excellent knowledge.

1. There is nothing in Him but is excellent. There is a mixture in all created beings--the heavens (Job 15:15); angels (Job 4:18); but Christ is altogether lovely and higher than the heavens.

2. All the excellencies that are in the creatures are eminently in Christ.

3. All these excellencies are in Him in a more excellent manner.

(1) Perfectly, without a shadow of imperfection.

(2) Infinitely, without limit.

(3) Unchangeably and eternally.

4. Innumerably more excellencies than are in all creatures together are in Christ alone, for in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.


1. Reproof to those who neglect or despise this knowledge.

(1) Those who are not diligent to get and increase it. No knowledge worth having is to be had without diligence, and how sad that many are so busy about lower knowledge that they say they have no time for this.

(2) Those who strive not to communicate this knowledge. To this may be attributed the ruin of families and commonwealths, and lays you under dreadful threatenings.

2. Exhortation.

(1) To those that want it--be you persuaded to get it.

(2) To those of you who have some of it--grow in it.

(3) To attain it.

(a) Be convinced of and humbled for your want of it.

(b) Lay a good groundwork in the principles of the knowledge of Christ, otherwise you will but build in the air (Hebrews 6:1).

(c) Let the Word of God be familiar to you (Colossians 3:16; John 5:39; Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

(d) Make use of those who are already acquainted with Christ (Hebrews 10:25; Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 15:7).

(e) Be much in seeking God (James 1:5).

(4) To grow in it.

(a) Make all your other knowledge subservient to this. See Christ in everything that is good, make your knowledge of what is evil heighten your desire of Christ.

(b) Get nearer Him and keep near.

(c) Fix the eye of your souls upon Him (Exodus 37:9). Study the excellences of His person, the advantages of His offices, the riches of His grace.

(d) Seek it not for curiosity, but that you may enjoy Christ more.

(e) Content not yourselves with light without heat. Let every spark of knowledge kindle zeal and love.

(f) Live up to the knowledge you have; that is the way to attain more. Let the light that shines in your minds shine in your lives (John 7:17).

(g) Let humility keep pace with knowledge.

(h) Make use of Christ’s prophetical office. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)

The more excellent knowledge

The object of this knowledge. Unlike all other objects of human study it is single. Human science diverges into several branches. And then it is not a thing or a system, but an individual. It is a knowledge of Christ Jesus as--

1. God. To take a lower view of Him is to degrade His dignity and destroy His atonement. He is the Creator, and as the creator of a thing, must be greater than the thing created, so the knowledge of Christ must be superior to that of nature.

2. The only revealer of God. You may study science in all its branches and be totally ignorant of God. The heathen world is an evidence of this. But Christ is the revealer of the Father’s mind and heart.

3. The Redeemer. As guilty sinners, under the curse and condemnation of the law, we wanted a Saviour who should bear our sins and provide such a salvation as would harmonize the moral attributes of God, and make it honourable in God to pardon. Jesus Christ is such a Saviour.

4. The Provider and the channel of the Holy Spirit, by whose power alone we become living souls. Unspeakable as is God’s precious gift to us, without the gift of the Spirit it had been of no avail. Take out the science of dynamics from the other sciences and you reduce them to a shadow. The Spirit provides the spiritual dynamics of Christianity and makes redemption effective.

Its transcendent excellency.

1. Its majesty and grandeur. What is there that can be compared to it. The time will come when those around whose name an halo of scientific glory exists will stand upon the confines of eternity. Where will the splendour of human science be then?

2. Its certainty. There is a degree of uncertainty attaching to all science. You will rarely find two scientists perfectly to coincide. But there is no doubt as to Christ’s personality, the lustre of His Deity, the efficacy of His atonement, etc. The only uncertainty is that which man’s depraved nature invents.

3. Its adaptation to the highest interests of our nature, and its supply for all our yearnings after happiness, knowledge, and a nobler state of being.

4. The only knowledge that meets the solemnity of a dying bed is this. Here Bacon and Butler had to lie their dying heads. (O. Winslow, D. D.)

The excellency of Christian knowledge

Knowledge is one of the most valuable of all attainments. Happiness and usefulness depend upon it. The image of God consists in “knowledge” as well as righteousness, etc. It is indispensable for the formation of character and the regulation of conduct. All knowledge is good, but its highest subject is the greatest Being. Hence it follows that religion must of necessity embrace the highest kind of knowledge, and the knowledge of Christ is that of “God manifest in the flesh,” exemplifying the perfections of the Divine character, fulfilling the purposes of the Divine mind. This is the theme to which the apostle deliberately bent his unequalled powers, and the more we know of it the less shall we wonder that he determined to know nothing else. This is the theme in which he prays that believers may be well instructed (Ephesians 1:16-19; Ephesians 3:14-19.)

What is implied in this knowledge of Christ. The whole substance of gospel truth, because every truth in Scripture relates to Him, and derives its value and use from this connection. In this view the knowledge of Christ is not limited to the facts of His personal history, but represents the sum and substance of saving knowledge. It is remarkable how Paul makes every other topic tributary to this. When he refers to the principles of natural religion it is to awaken sinners to their need of Christ. When he speaks of the past history of the world it is to show how it was a preparation for Him. He expounds the prophets, the types, the obligations of the moral law, all with reference to Him. He cannot recommend charity without speaking of Christ, nor express gratitude for temporal mercies without thanking God for His unspeakable gift (Colossians 3:11). Christ, then, is the one grand subject of the gospel, and everything, whether in nature, providence, or Scripture, is to be viewed in its relation to Him.

Its peculiar excellency and transcendent value. Knowledge is excellent in proportion to--

1. The greatness and dignity of its subject. Some subjects are so inconsiderable that the knowledge of them is of little value, and a mind may be full of them without being enlarged, because the subject of its thought is insignificant. There is a distinction between the subject of our thoughts and the mere fact which may give rise to them; e.g., in examining a flower a peasant may be studying the Divine perfections; in examining a world a philosopher may be studying the mere laws of matter; and hence the grandeur of a subject is not to be estimated by the magnitude of the object, but by the quality or relation which occupies the mind. On this principle the humblest disciple may be occupied with loftier contemplations than ever occur to an irreligious philosopher.

2. Its certainty. The mind may be dazzled by a splendid conjecture, and astonished by a wonderful narrative, but it can rest in neither until verified. The knowledge of Christ excels all other, inasmuch as it rests on the infallible testimony of God.

3. Its necessity. There are many interesting subjects of curious research, but they are not of urgent concern. There are others necessary for some, but not for all. But in the knowledge of Christ all men are deeply interested, inasmuch as their safety and happiness depend upon it.

4. The magnitude of the evils it averts and the value of the benefits it secures. Secular knowledge is valuable because it averts temporal calamities and promotes temporal comfort, but the knowledge of Christ has reference to the interests of the immortal soul.

5. The moral influence it exerts. Many kinds of knowledge have no direct influence on character or conduct, but in this knowledge, all that is useful in truth is blended with whatever is beautiful in morals, and both are so represented that no man can be familiarized with the Bible without being elevated. Take, e.g., the character of Christ.

6. The stability of its objects and the permanence of its use. “The things which are seen are temporal,” etc. Religion only, of all the forms of human knowledge, is immortal; the usefulness of every other is only temporary. (J. Buchanan, D. D.)

Christ Jesus duly prized

The manner in which the apostle delivers himself on this great subject.

1. He openly professeth his esteem of Christ above all, and that not in general, but from his own experience, which teacheth us that the saints should avowedly profess their superlative esteem of Christ. Christ is not only to be enjoyed but to be confessed. This is for His glory, and that others may fall in love with Him.

2. With the utmost certainty--“yea, doubtless.” He was not halting between two opinions. This is necessary for us with respect--

(1) To the outward truths of religion, because--

(a) Doubts are both afflictive and sinful.

(b) They are enemies to our faith.

(c) They are the spring of apostasy.

(d) They are prejudicial to the growth of religion. So, then, for confirmation, study the word of truth; give yourselves up to the teaching of the Spirit of truth, and walk in the truth.

(2) To the inward truth of religion. We should seek this certainty.

(a) Because the saints may attain to it. “He that hath my commandments” etc. “Give diligence to make your calling,” etc. sure.

(b) Because doubts are hurtful.

(c) The case of our day calls for it. A doubting Christian is unfit to act for Christ in a difficult time. Therefore awake from sleep; walk closely with God; examine yourselves; receive the Spirit so freely given of God to bear witness with yours.

3. With affection, counting all things loss and dung. The excellency of Christ naturally fires gracious hearts, because--

(1) All their hopes are in Him, and

(2) all their desires.

The grand scope of the apostle. Jesus is absolutely matchless. All sheaves bow to Him. The transcendent excellency of Christ is proved.

1. By testimony on the part of--

(1) God (Isaiah 13:1; John 3:16).

(2) Angels (Luke 2:10-14).

(3) Saints in heaven.

(4) Saints on earth.

(5) His enemies.

2. By evidence.

(1) He is God, “the true God and eternal life;” therefore His excellence is infinite.

(2) He is commensurate to the desires of the soul, which all the creatures combined are not. But “it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell.”

(3) Whatever excellence is in anything else, it is derived from Him.

(4) All things besides Christ cannot make a man happy, but Christ can.

(a) The creatures want sufficiency; but Christ is completely satisfactory (Psalms 73:25).

(b) Certainty; but Christ is unchangeable.

(5) He can do for us what no other can, procure pardon for sin, peace with God, a right to heaven.

3. By comparison. No person or thing is to be compared with Him.

(1) Men on earth; the greatest one His vassals, the best only good through Him.

(2) Saints in heaven are only like the lilies wearing a glory for which they never toiled.

(3) Angels are all servants.

(4) The highest earthly good is a broken cistern, and even grace and glory are but His gifts.


1. They have a poor portion who are without Christ.

2. They have made a good choice that have received Christ.

3. We are to stand on nothing so as we may gain Christ. (T. Boston, D. D.)

That only is the true knowledge of Christ which terminates in an interest in and enjoyment of Him. To confirm this consider--

1. That all the knowledge of Christ that brings not to Him is but splendid ignorance according to the Word.

2. That knowledge of Christ which is not an interest in Him is mere opinion which is dubious and uncertain. It may be a good opinion, but it is not certainty. You will not commit your money to a stranger of whom you have only a good opinion. So it is with those who have only a speculative knowledge of Christ. Two points of saving knowledge exemplify this. Do you take Him for and instead of all? (Matthew 13:45-46). Have you committed your soul unto Him?

3. The true knowledge of Christ engages the heart and captivates the soul--“They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee.” As the loadstone draws iron, so does Christ the sinner.

4. The saving knowledge of Christ differs not in kind, but degree, from heaven’s happiness (John 17:8).

All things are but loss is comparison with this knowledge.

1. In what respect?

(1) Singly.

(2) All together. What are the stars without the sun?

2. Proofs and illustrations.

(1) An interest in Christ makes God ours, for lie is God.

(2) This interest is the one thing necessary.

All things must go for necessaries (Matthew 6:25). Other things are mere conveniences. Man’s desire is to be happy, and nothing outside of Christ is necessary to this end, for with Christ man may be happy and lack every earthly blessing (Philippians 4:13). Everything that one really needs is comprehended in this: “He that spared not His own Son” etc.

(3) This interest is satisfying to the soul, while nothing else can give satisfaction, He is substance, all else is shadow and dream. In Him are both suitability and fulness.

(4) This interest is a most enriching interest--“All things are yours.”

(a) The Christian hath more in possession than the greatest on earth. What so great as a kingdom? The Christian hath the kingdom of God within him. Monarchs lose their kingdoms because they are outside them. Christ is in us the hope of glory.

(b) The little that a Christian hath, having Christ, is more valuable than the abundance of a Christless man.

(c) The Christian makes a sanctified use of what he possesses, and so “all things work together for good.” The abundance of the ungodly is their curse.

(d) What the Christian hath he hath for nothing, but others will have to pay a dear reckoning for what they have--“What is a man profited,” etc.

(e) The Christian hath a far better right to his little, for it comes by covenant and not simply by common providence.

(f) The Christian’s portion is but an earnest.

(5) This interest is the only lasting interest. It will abide when we have lost all other things (Matthew 6:19-20).

3. An induction of particulars.

(1) Knowledge of other things is no way comparable to the knowledge of Christ either for pleasure or profit. Grotius said, “I have destroyed life, laboriously doing nothing.”

(2) Compared with Christ riches are lighter than vanity (Proverbs 23:5).

(3) Worldly reputation depend, upon the uncertain thoughts of others and may be easily stained; but the Christian shall shine with eternal honour.

(4) There is no ease that is permanently pleasant but in Christ.

(5) Friends are much valued, but how often do they prove themselves like brooks dried up (Job 6:15). Christ is a friend that will help in all cases.

(6) Domestic and social relations are great mercies, but we must part from them.

(7) Liberty is but a devil’s chain without Christ.

(8) Life and self are loss without Christ.


1. Of Information.

(1) How foolish are men who, like Martha, are diligent to get other things, but who neglect the one thing needful.

(2) Men are gainers, lose what they will for Christ.

2. Of exhortation.

(1) Christ is willing to receive you.

(2) Consider what you are without Him.

(3) An interest in Christ is the best interest you can have in the world. (T. Boston, D. D.)

That I may win Christ.

1. Christ is gained when we get an interest in Him and in His benefits (1 Corinthians 1:9; Hebrews 3:14). The ungodly have no part in Him. The apostle had won Christ already, but he would win a full enjoyment of Him.

2. The word κερδησω is put in opposition to the loss he had incurred, and means that there was enough in Christ to compensate him.

What gain we have in having Christ.

1. He is our ransom from the wrath of God, and so you have somewhat whereby to appease your guilty fears (Colossians 1:14).

2. He hath purchased God’s favour that we may have comfortable access to Him (Hebrews 10:19).

3. Our natures are renewed, and not only the favour and fellowship of God restored, but His image also (Titus 3:5-6; 2 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 12:10).

4. Christ is our treasury and storehouse, from whence we fetch all our supplies (1 Corinthians 1:30).

5. By Him we are made heirs of eternal life (Romans 8:17).

How much this gain excels all other.

1. It is most comfortable, for here is comfort at all times and in all cases (Philippians 1:21).

2. Most universal (1 Corinthians 3:22-23; 1 Timothy 4:8).

3. Everlasting (Luke 10:42).

4. Sanctifying.


1. For reproof of--

(1) Those who take no pains to get it (Matthew 16:26; Luke 16:25).

(2) Those who part with Christ for temporal profit (Hebrews 12:16).

2. Per instruction.

(1) If Christ be gain then we may make some losses for Christ if we may not have them and Him too (Hebrews 11:26; Mark 10:29-30).

(2) We should not murmur when others go away with other things, if we have Christ (Psalms 17:14-15).

3. To persuade you to get Christ.

(1) He is the best gain if God be preferred before the creature, eternal glory before finding riches, the soul before the body.

(2) This gain may be gotten at a cheap rate (Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 3:18). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Winning Christ

It is the Christian’s grand object, and should be the design of every one to win or gain Christ.

1. What it is to win Him and how. It is to get Him to be ours and enjoy Him. It imports that we are naturally without Him (Ephesians 2:12).

(1) We must work and win as labourers do (Philippians 2:12).

(2) We must fight and win as soldiers--“The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence,” etc. Whenever a soul is on its way to Christ, the alarm is sounded in hell, and if the soul would bare Him it must be in opposition to flesh and blood, and principalities and powers.

(3) We must wrestle and win as those do who strive for the mastery (Ephesians 6:12-14).

(4) We must run and win as racers do.

(5) We must trade and win as merchants do (Mark 10:22).

2. Some reasons.

(1) If we win Christ we gain all (Matthew 13:45-46).

(2) If we win not Christ we gain nothing and lose all (Matthew 16:26).

Those whose grand object is to win Christ, will count all but dung that comes in competition with this bargain. They will count--

1. Nothing too much for Him, but be content to have Him on any terms.

2. Cost what it will they will not think they are even hands but gainers.

3. Have what they will they will count they have nothing while they have not Christ.

4. Be about them what they will, if Christ be not in them they will count them loathsome.

5. Be in their way what will, to hinder them from Christ, they will shovel it out of the way rather than be kept back from Christ.

They are truly winners, lose what they will, who gain Christ. Winning Christ--

1. We gain a ransom for our souls.

2. A treasure. Solomon counted all that was in the world as two great cyphers--“vanity and vexation.” But in Christ all is precious; grace, pardon, peace. They were purchased with precious blood (1 Peter 1:19; they are wrapped up in precious promises (2 Peter 1:4).

3. That which will turn everything to our advantage--“All things work together for good.” This is the stone that turns all to gold.

4. A heirship. (T. Boston, D. D.)

To win Christ

Is great gain.

Is the noblest object of ambition.

Is worthy of every sacrifice.

Requires self-renunciation and faith (verse 9).

Winning Christ

To the apostle Christ was--

So identified with the truth, that when he gained Him he gained the highest knowledge.

So identified with the life that when he gained Him he was endowed with the noblest form of it.

So identified with spiritual influence, that when he gained Him his whole nature was filled with power and gladness. (Professor Eadie.)

Winning Christ

The world has ever shown curiosity with regard to the inner lives of its great men. Hence it is that few branches of literature are more popular than autobiographies. The Church shares this curiosity with regard to the eminent servants of Christ; and it has pleased God with regard to two of them to gratify this feeling. David and St. Paul are to us more than historic characters; we are admitted into the inner workings of their hearts. In the text we have the key and master spring of all the apostle’s actions and motives.

What is meant by winning Christ.

1. Remember that St. Paul did not write these words in the first fervour and flush of a new conversion. It often happens with new converts that their impressions and resolutions are like the early blossoms of spring, which perish in the bitter winds. When the apostle wrote these words he had been serving Christ for thirty years, and had derived no earthly advantage, but had suffered every earthly loss for Him. Can any votary of pleasure after thirty years’ service of self, sin, and Satan say that there is nothing more he desires so much as a few more of those sinful gratifications?

2. That which was before St. Paul was not Christianity but Christ. There is a wide difference between a system and a Saviour, between abstract truth and a living, loving person. This is always the object which St. Paul sets before himself and his readers; hence the vital interest of his life and writings.

3. The apostle desires to win Christ and be found in Him. Here we have the key phrase of St. Paul’s writings; but it is only a continuation of the Master’s teaching (John 15:1-27)

(1) This has reference to the believer’s legal condition before God. By faith man becomes one in Christ, and when God looks upon him, He looks upon him as being “a man in Christ.”

(2) But this has also a moral reference, being quickened in Christ from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. There is a great distinction between all human morality and the morality of the gospel. Heathen morals are many of them very beautiful, but they lack the grand disideratum--the motive power. In the gospel we get not only perfect precepts, but the motive union with Christ. And there is this distinction. In ancient times there were thousands of followers of the systems of Aristotle or of Plato, but whoever heard of such an expression as “in Aristotle.” Christ, however, is not an external teacher, but He is in me and I in Him, and so I have power to obey His law.

What is involved in this.

1. The loss of all that St. Paul counted gain. If ever a man could have gone to heaven without Christ it was he. He was conscientious, earnest, and ecclesiastically all that could be required. He had a high position and brilliant prospects. But he gave up everything to come as you must come, an empty handed, empty hearted sinner to Christ. But besides self-righteousness and worldly advantages to be given up, a Christian must expect to bear ridicule and persecution.

2. But for all this loss he was amply compensated by the gaining of Christ. What will be the wealth of all the Indies to us when we come to die. (Canon Miller.)

Winning Christ

The person who wishes to win Christ. This coming from Paul awakens--

1. Admiration. What an instance of the influence of Divine grace I He had been Christ’s bitterest foe. Here we see the prophecy fulfilled, “Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree,” etc.

2. Inquiry. Had not Paul won Him already? Yes, but his experience was the same as that of all other Christians in whom we find the good work begun but not completed. The Christian finds the war still going on in his members, desires a livelier assurance, wishes to grow in grace and to know more and more of Christ. It was exactly so with St. Paul.

The value of the prize. Saints are said to be the excellent of the earth; but He is fairer than the children of men--“altogether lovely.” They have some excellencies, He has all; theirs are derived, His original; theirs imperfect, His complete; theirs finite, His infinite. He is the fountain of life.

1. Are wisdom and knowledge valuable? In Him are hid all the treasures of them.

2. Are power and strength? “He giveth power to the weak.”

3. Wealth? His are unsearchable riches.

4. Life? He that hath the Son hath life.

5. Peace? “In Me ye shall have peace.”

6. Security? “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” All this gain is to be reaped in life; but the believer gains much more by death: for then we shall awake in His likeness.

The possibility of winning this prize. To what purpose otherwise is its display? Two questions arise.

1. Am I now a partaker of Christ? Have you ever felt your need of Him, sought Him, received Him? Do you believe in His name, renounce every other foundation, build upon Him, place all your dependence in Him? Then you may claim all the benefits of His salvation as your own.

2. May I become a par taker of Him? “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.” That you may win Him He sends forth His servants with invitations; He offers His blessings gratuitously; He throws a thousand impediments in your downward course, so that you may go to Him.

The dreadfulness of losing this prize. What would you do without Christ if you were to meet with--

1. Prosperity. If a Christian met with it, he would possess it with safeguards, receive it with thankfulness, use it with diligence, as a good steward. In a worldly man’s hands it is as a razor in the hands of a child--“The prosperity of fools destroys them.”

2. Adversity. The Christian in this has “the consolation of Israel,” and has more left in Christ than he has lost; but the worldling loses all without compensation.

3. Death. Only the Christian can meet that with equanimity, for Christ has robbed it of its terrors.

4. The day of judgment. (W. Jay.)

The great prize

To win Christ is the supreme achievement of this life.

Substitutes for Christ. Some have one thing, and others another in His place. Paul had just enumerated several things, whose possession, while he was without Christ, gave him a certain sort of pleasure.

But circumstances change the value of things.

Things he had gained by the exchange.

Queries of profit and loss.

1. What is our gain without Christ?

2. What is our loss without Christ?

3. What must we lose to gain Christ?

4. What do we gain with Christ?

5. What must we do to win Christ?

6. What is the danger of losing Christ?

7. To what extent have we given up all things for Christ and the excellency of His knowledge? (L. O. Thompson.)

To win Christ and be found in Him

is perfect security and consummate blessedness. The language suggests a goal and a starting post; that “I may win Christ,” the goal or end I have been seeking to reach; that “I may be found in Him,” ready not only for resistance to old adversaries, but for a new start and onward movement towards Divine perfection. Consider--

What it is to win Christ.

1. To count Him gain in opposition to what Paul once counted gain. There is an entirely new estimate of gain and loss. What is gain to me is what puts me on a right footing with God. Thus I once thought that my personal qualifications of birth, privilege, attainment might do. Now I see that for any such purpose they are worthless. In view of the end for which I once pressed then I now perceive Christ to be gain. There is much implied in your perceiving this.

(1) You are in earnest as regards the end with reference to which you estimate what is gain (verse 2). Is this so? Naturally it is not so. You care little about righting your position towards God; or is it your anxiety to stand well with Him?

(2) If the latter, it is no wonder that what things were gain to you are now counted loss, for they seem but to aggravate your condition of wrong standing, however good they may be in a sense, and however you may multiply them.

(3) But just as all else is thus felt to be worthless Christ is seen to be gain. What a relief to find in Christ the reconciler and the peacemaker; the justifier of the ungodly and the revealer of God. How thoroughly He meets our case. I see an instant end of the weary attempt to amend the old position, and a way wonderfully open for the immediate occupying of a new one.

2. Christ is coveted and sought as gain. It is not enough to count Christ as gain. This is often done by those who evince an unconquerable repugnance to accept the gospel. But Christ must be really and earnestly sought as well as desired.

3. Christ is appropriated as gain. It is for nothing short of this that you are called upon to count all things but loss. This is to be done by faith alone.

4. Christ is, won so as to be enjoyed as gain; and yet not as the miser wins wealth to hoard it, or the spendthrift to waste it, but for profitable use.

To be found in Christ is it the fitting sequel of winning Christ.

1. For defence, that I may meet every adversary.

2. To meet and obey the high calling of God, that I may press on. As one with Him I would know more of Him. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

The believer’s refuge

Paul had previously sheltered himself in fleshly confidence.

The refuge.

1. There are many refuges of lies.

(1) The refuge of wilful ignorance. “We are no scholars” is often only an excuse for negligence and indifference. Do they wish to know better? if not the excuse will not screen the sinner in the day of God’s visitation.

(2) The refuge of carnal ease. Many live as though there were only the body to care for, and cry, “Peace, when there is no peace.” Remember the rich fool!

(3) Worldly pleasure. This is the refuge of many of our youth particularly. But unblessed of God it is delusive and borders close on misery.

(4) Self-righteousness, a house built on sand as Paul found it.

(5) A hasty inconsiderate profession of religion from whatever motive.

2. Opposed to all this is Christ.

(1) In His person.

(2) In His love.

(3) In His offices and work.

The believer’s safety in it against--

1. The world.

2. The flesh.

3. The devil.


1. Abide in your refuge.

2. Welcome others to it. (W. Mudge, B. A.)

The superfluosness of the law

According to the design of God the advantages and sacraments of the law are of no avail since the manifestation of His Son, and that those who now beguile themselves with them lose their time and their trouble, as completely as though, after the rising of the sun, they still used the light of a lamp; or as if, in the strength of manhood, a person were retained in all the exercises and sports of childhood. (J. Daille.)

Loss for gain

Even as a poor beggar discovering a rich mine or some vast treasures, is ready to leap for joy that he has found that which will make him rich forever; he casts away his former rags, he despises his former poor and wooden furniture, for he has discovered that which will enrich him and make his condition plentiful; so the soul to whom the Lord has made this rich, this excellent discovery of Christ, he has found a mine more precious than gold, and larger than all the face of the earth; he casts off the rags of his own righteousness; his former accomplishments are now but as a beggar’s furniture; his heart is full of joy; he says, Rejoice, O, my soul; rejoice with me, my friends, for I have discovered the unsearchable riches of Christ. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)

The excellency of the knowledge of Christ in the excellence of its subject

If the real worth and dignity of our knowledge in any department depend on the subject to which our thoughts are directed, it were easy to show that the religious peasant may find a nobler subject of thought in the structure of a flower, than the irreligious philosopher finds in the structure of a world! (J. Buchanan, D. D.)

The relation of the knowledge of Christ to the gospel scheme

It is said of Phidias, the celebrated sculptor, that in preparing the design, and in executing the elaborate carving of the shield of Minerva, over the portico of the Acropolis of Athens, he so curiously wrought and intertwined his own name with the work, that it could not be obliterated or taken out anywhere without injuring the whole. So Jesus Christ cannot be taken away from any part of the system of Divine truth, without doing irreparable injury to the beauty and perfection of the whole Christian system--“for to Him gave all the prophets witness.” Christ was typically seen in Melchesidec, King of Salem; in the binding of Isaac as a sacrifice; in the persecution of Joseph. There was a knowledge of Christ Jesus set forth in the paschal lamb, as eaten by the Israelites, and in the lifting up of the brazen serpent. Christ was painted in hieroglyphics and read by the Jews in all their ceremonial observances. Look in what varied views and degrees the ancient seers had an apprehension of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, for he was the Shiloh of departing Jacob; Isaiah’s “Root of Jesse;” Jeremiah’s “Branch;” Ezekiel’s “Ruler among the people;” Haggai’s “Desire of all nations;” Daniel’s “Ancient of Days;” Zechariah’s “Fountain;” and Malachi’s “Sun of Righteousness.” All these figures had their substance in their great Antitype. All their predictions had their measure of accomplishment in Jesus Christ. The writers of the Old and New Testaments are like the cherubim overshadowing the ark--face to face, and looking down at the propitiatory, which is Christ. (J. Redford.)

The superiority of the knowledge of Christ

When we are in the dark we are glad of candlelight, and glow worms will make a fair show in our eyes; but when the sun is risen and shines in his full strength, then candlelight seems needless or offensive, and the worms that glittered in the dark, made no better show than other vermin. So when men are in the state of nature and darkness, then their Church privileges and carnal prerogatives, then their outward performances and self-righteousness, make a fine show in their eyes. They are apt to glory in them, and rely on them, as that by which they may gain the favour of God and eternal life. Ay, but when Christ appears, when the Sun of Righteousness arises in the heart and discovers His excellency, His all-sufficiency, then a man’s own sparks vanish; then all his formerly beloved and rich esteemed ornaments are cast off; then all he has, and all he has done, privileges and outward services, are loss and dung. None but Christ for pardon, acceptance, life. This is the excellent effect of this excellent knowledge. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)

The excellent effect of the knowledge of Christ

The practical applications and uses of this knowledge are as important as its direct and immediate influence on the mind. The least practical kind of knowledge is useful, if it raise the mind above those sordid tendencies to which ignorance is allied; but the knowledge of geometry is the more valuable by reason of its many useful applications to mechanical arts; and astronomy itself, the sublimest of all the sciences, by reason of the aids which it affords to the practical art of navigation. The spiritual astronomy, which points to Christ as the Morning Star, gives a directory also to guide our course amidst the storms and tempests of that voyage in which we are all embarked. It lays down for our guidance a clear, simple, and comprehensive rule for the whole conduct of life, marking out the end at which we should steadfastly aim, and the means by which we should seek to attain it: and it affords us the blessed assurance that Christ Himself will be our leader, and His Spirit our guide. It is applicable, not only for our direction in every condition of life, but also for our comfort and support in the hour of trial: imparting those blessed consolations which the world can neither give nor take away; and even, in the hour of death, when all other knowledge fails, and leaves the soul to sink alone and unbefriended into eternity, this knowledge gives us that hope which is an anchor, sure and stedfast, entering into that which is within the veil. (J. Buchanan, B. D.)

The necessity of letting go every false confidence

One night an inquirer, long under deep conviction, but still unsaved, dreamt that he was walking along the edge of a terrible precipice, and fell over it into a terrible abyss. As he was failing he grasped a little branch of some bush that was growing halfway down. There he hung and cried for help. He could feel the branch giving way. He looked into the black yawning gulf beneath, and again cried out for help. Looking up he saw, in his dream, Christ standing on the edge, and saying, “Let go the twig and I will save you.” Looking at the terrible abyss below, he could not. He cried again; and again came the same answer. At length he felt the branch slipping, and, in the utter desperateness of his despair, he let go the branch--when, lo! in an instant, the arms of Jesus were about him, and he was safe. He awoke. It was but a dream of the night. Yet from the vividness and instructiveness of its imagery, he was enabled to let go every false confidence and rely only on the true. Would that every anxious soul would go and do like wise! (J. L. Nye.)

The true method of reflection

If we rightly reject the world it is because, in the pure processes of our spirit, we have taken from it its nutriment. And, therefore, viewing what was in Christ as in comparison with Judaism, Paul felt that the old forms and types and usages were now as the refuse which the spirit had put away on receiving for itself, and appropriating for its full health and growth and nutriment, Christ’s revelation. (T. T. Lynch.)

Willinghood lightening sacrifice

Men who have made the greatest sacrifices for the cause of Christ have hardly been conscious of them. So Livingstone, as late as 1857, said, “I never made a sacrifice;” and Hudson Taylor, the leader of the China Inland Mission, has publicly made the same statement of himself. It was in this spirit that Samuel Rutherford said, “The Cross of Christ is the sweetest burden I ever bore; it is such a burden as wings are to a bird, or as sails are to a ship.” (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

Verse 9

Philippians 3:9

And be found in him





Complete. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Found in Christ

Show how or when God comes to search and the saints are found in Christ. The world is a confused heap, and many times the counterfeits are found among the jewels, but God hath searching times and will find them out.

1. The preaching of the Word is a time of plain searching in Christ.

2. A time of temptation.

3. A season of the Church’s trouble and persecution. A true friend is known in adversity, so is Christ to the believer, and he to Christ.

4. The time of death and judgment.

How and when they shall be found who are found in Christ.

1. As branches in the true vine (John 15:1-6). So are they safe, for barren trees shall be cut down for the fire, but Christ mystical is a tree the axe cannot approach.

2. In a place of refuge. “The Lord shall be as a sanctuary to them.” They are in the city of refuge where one drop of wrath cannot fall.

3. Under a covert, in a hiding place--even the Mediator’s covenant blood.

4. In the covenant, in Christ’s chariot (Song of Solomon 3:9-10; Isaiah 27:4-5).

The reasons.

1. God will search and find out every one of us, be where we will. We may deceive ourselves and others, but God is not mocked who searchest the reins.

2. If God find us out of Christ we are undone. We shall have nothing to shelter us when He draws us out of our lurking holes.

3. if we are found in Christ we shall be safe in time and eternity, blow the storm as it may. Over trouble He will lift up our head; and when death comes it shall be without its sting.

The uses. Let it be your great care to be found in Christ as Noah in the ark, and Lot in Zoar.

1. Let not the searching time find you at a disadvantage.

(1) In an unregenerate state--“dead in trespasses and sins.” This is a soul-ruining state, fire meeting stubble; the judge the criminal.

2. Be found in Christ.

(1) United to Him by His Spirit through faith.

(2) Walking in Him.

(3) Living in Him and upon Him (Galatians 2:20).

The motives.

1. If you be found in Christ, He will be found in you, so shall you have a double security in time of trial (John 17:21-23). Christ is found in believers as in His own house.

(1) His dwelling, and who will not defend that.

(2) His banquetting house. What provisions He brings with Him for storm and Beige.

(3) His fortified house. “None shall pluck them out of My hand.”

(4) His temple, which He will not allow to be profaned.

(5) His garden. He “will water it every moment,” hedge it about and preserve it.

(6) As the soul in the body (Colossians 3:4; Galatians 2:20; Acts 2:25-27).

2. If you be not found in Christ you will be found in a bad case in time and in eternity. (T. Boston, D. D.)

Found in Christ

The phrase implies--

1. That there is an estate in Christ.

2. An abiding in it.

Let us explain the phrase. It is taken from plants which are grafted into stocks, or from the branches which are in the tree. Of this union there are three degrees.

1. We are in Christ in the eternal love and purpose of God.

2. When Christ died we were in Him as a public person.

3. More properly now by faith, as friends are in one another by love. But as Christ is in heaven, how can we be united to Him? I answer, If a tree did reach to heaven and have its root in the earth, doth this hinder the union of root and branches. And although Christ be in heaven, yet are we united to Him by His Spirit, and receive influence from Him of all grace and goodness.

The doctrines that are cleared hereby.

1. Justification by faith. For if the question is, How are we saved by Christ’s righteousness? I answer, Christ and we are one, and whatsoever He hath is ours.

2. The sacrament. The Paoists would have the bread transubstantiated, that the body of Christ may be united to us. But I ask, How is the foot united to head? By spiritual vigour passing to and fro through the body. It is not, therefore, necessary that there should be corporal union. Christ comforted His disciples more by His Spirit when He departed, than He did by His corporal presence.

The comfort of this. Before we were in Christ we were in a state of horror and condemnation. But now we are in Him--

1. Our nature is exalted to the Godhead.

2. Whatever we may lose in other states here is a state that cannot be shaken.

3. Blessed are those who die in the Lord.

4. After death we shall be with Him in our Father’s house. 5, All who touch us touch Him (Acts 9:4).

The duties which spring out of this.

1. In duties towards God how thankful we ought to be to Him.

2. It ought to stir us up to duties in respect to our fellow members, particularly in charity to Christ’s poor.

3. Towards ourselves. We are to carry ourselves with dignity, and to grow up into our living head.

How shall we come to be found in Christ.

1. We must come where He is.

2. We must separate ourselves from what is contrary to Christ.


1. That a Christian is continually under Christ’s wing till he be in heaven.

2. There is such a time when God will search men out and lay them open as they are.

3. The foundation of future happiness must be laid now. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Not having mine own righteousness--

The two righteousnesses

The distinction between two sorts of righteousness.

1. His own is either.

(1) The false, superficial righteousness which He had as a Pharisee (Philippians 3:6), or

(2) any that might stand in competition with Christ.

2. The righteousness of God is His gracious method of pardoning penitent believers in the gospel, and accepting them to life in Christ. This is so called because--

(1) It is found out by God (Job 33:24).

(2) Given by God (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

(3) Accepted by God (Matthew 3:17).

The description of these opposite righteousnesses.

1. His own is by “the law,” the other that which is “by the faith of Christ,” i.e. appointed by God, merited by Christ, and received by faith.

2. These are often opposed (Romans 3:21-22; Romans 10:3).

3. The law may be taken in two ways, either for--

(1) The law of works, which required a man to be justified by a perfect, sinless obedience of his own. This is opposed to the righteousness of God by faith in Christ (Romans 1:17-18; Romans 3:20), and by justification is impossible, for none of us have it. If we had, there were no sin, and no place for Christ; but we have all broken with God, and can show no work justifiable by the law (Romans 3:12).

(2) Or the ceremonial law. By this Paul proves that no man can be justified, and therefore the Jews sought righteousness where it was not to be found, and were guilty of a three-fold error.

(a) They thought that pardon and acceptance were to be secured by the bare works of that law.

(b) They overlooked and rejected Christ, who is the end of righteousness to every believer.

(c) They would keep up this law when it was to be abrogated.

His different respect to either.

1. That which he renounced was

(1) partly the superficial righteousness of conformity to the external law, a mere speculative righteousness, and

(2) partly the righteousness of the law covenant which some falsely fancied they might fulfil.

2. That which he affected was “to be found in Christ,” etc.

(1) The state of His person, or the way this is applied.

(a) The word “found” is emphatic, and often used with respect to the day of judgment (2Co 5:3; 2 Peter 3:14; Matthew 24:46). It implies that the last day is one of exact search and trial.

(b) “In Christ,” i.e., incorporated into His mystical body, or united to Him by the Spirit (John 15:2; Romans 8:1). Being united to Him by faith, love, and holiness, we are made partakers of His righteousness.

(2) The righteousness with which He would appear before God. The righteousness of the new covenant is two fold.

(a) The supreme righteousness is Christ’s obedience unto death (Romans 5:18-19), i.e., our great righteousness before God by which His justice is satisfied, and by the merit of which all the blessings of the new covenant are procured for us.

(b) The subordinate righteousness, or the way and means and conditions by which we get an interest in and a right to this supreme righteousness is faith (Romans 4:3), and our continuance in it is conditional on a new obedience (1 John 3:7; 1 John 2:29). This has respect to the final judgment (Matthew 25:46), where the righteous are those who are fruitful in good works. Conclusion: We are justified by faith only, without works, as Paul asserted; and by works and not by faith only, which is the assertion of James. Justification hath respect to some accusation, and as there is a two-fold law of works and grace, there is a two-fold accusation and justification. Now when we are accused as breakers of the law of works we plead Christ’s satisfaction as our righteousness, no works of our own. But when we are accused as non-performers of the conditions of the covenant of grace, as being neglecters of Christ the Mediator, we are justified by producing our faith or sincere obedience. Whence learn--

1. That the day of judgment will be a day of exact search and trial (Romans 14:12).

2. That in this day there is no appearing before God with safety and comfort without righteousness of some sort or another (1 Samuel 6:20).

3. The righteousness of the law of works we cannot have (Galatians 3:10; Romans 3:23; Psalms 143:3).

4. Man having broken this law, is lost or disabled to his own recovery, or to do anything whereby to satisfy God (Romans 5:6).

5. Because man was under such an impotency Christ became the Mediator, and

(1) Became a sacrifice to offended justice (Ephesians 5:2).

(2) A ransom for sinners (1 Timothy 2:6).

6. Upon His death Christ acquired a new right of dominion over the world, to save on His own terms (Romans 14:9 : Acts 2:36; Philippians 2:7-11).

7. Being possessed of this Lordship, He has made a new law of grace for our recovery (Mark 16:16; John 3:16-18).

(1) He hath set down the terms of life and death.

(2) The privileges of the new grant are exceeding great--pardon, peace, adoption, the gift of the Spirit, and the right to glory.

(3) The danger of final impenitency and refusing these things, and not submitting to this righteousness is very grievous (Hebrews 10:39).

8. The terms of the new law are repentance, faith, and new obedience. (T. Manton, D. D.)


The righteousness of the law--

1. Consists in works.

2. Is our own.

3. Is defective and useless.

The righteousness of faith--

1. Is through Christ.

2. Perfect.

3. Acceptable to God. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

What is meant by Christ’s righteousness. Righteousness is the result of obedience to the law. Christ fulfilled the law in our room.

1. By His active obedience to its commands. Now the law demands of the sinner were very high.

(1) Spotlessness of nature, for if the fountain be poisoned, how can the streams be wholesome. The Son of God satisfied this demand by taking on Himself a sinless body and soul.

(2) An obedience as broad as the law--“Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things.” Christ fulfilled all righteousness and did no sin.

(3) An obedience raised to the highest degree the law requires. It is not enough to be sincere or do one’s best. Christ answered this by His perfect love to God and man.

(4) Continuance to the end without the least failure (Galatians 3:10). Christ became obedient unto death.

2. By his passive obedience. Failing in active righteousness the law takes hold of the sinner and says, “Pay what thou owest.”

(1) The law required life as the penalty of transgression--“In the day that thou eatest,” etc. Christ satisfied this demand by dying “the just for the unjust.”

(2) The sufferings must be voluntary, for God hates robbery for burnt offering. Christ for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.

This righteousness is received by faith. It is received and becomes ours by faith, as faith unites us to Christ. Upon this union follows a communion with Christ in His righteousness. The soul by faith marries with Christ and the righteousness is its dowry. The soul flies to Christ for refuge, and that righteousness is its cover.

Confirm the doctrine.

1. That only can shelter us from the wrath of God which satisfies His law, and this righteousness alone satisfies His law.

2. It is the righteousness of God, so called because--

(1) It is of Him who is God (Jeremiah 23:6).

(2) Accepted of God.

3. It is the righteousness of the only wise God to save sinners, when nothing else could do it (Psalms 40:6-7).


1. Never entertain low thoughts of sin. It is the worst of evils, which could not be remedied but by the sufferings of Christ.

2. Never entertain low thoughts of forgiveness. Every pardon is the price of blood more precious than a thousand worlds. (T. Boston, D. D.)

The believer’s righteousness

Its nature.

1. Not personal, but through Christ.

2. Not of the law but by faith.

Its enjoyment.

1. In Christ in whom the believer dwells.

2. Is found here and hereafter.

Its sufficiency.

1. It is purposed.

2. Originated.

3. Effected.

4. Approved by God. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christ and faith

History and our own personal life has no more strange and pathetic page than is suggested by the words, “I have suffered the loss of all things.”

1. We are started on an infinite journey; and no surer witness to this exists than in the easy and familiar way in which we let object after object fall from our lives in our pursuit of what seems to be greater. Or like a general who leaves the stronghold he is defending, deserting cannon and baggage and the unfinished toil of months because the tide of battle has set elsewhere and all his force must be concentrated there, so are we in the great battle of life.

2. The same thing is true in higher regions. We cannot rest in intellectual attainment. We climb where thought is giddy; and at last, here is law. Where is God? Without that discovery know ledge is dross, and we can suffer the loss of it if we can but reach Him and be right with Him.

The failure of legal righteousness to being us peace. Through such a process as that to which we have referred the apostle had passed in the urgent march of his spirit to its home in the heart of Christ. There is a tone almost of solemn mocking in the appeal he makes to the past. “My Saviour did not find me among the offscourings of the world. He did not pick me from the mire. If any man had a right to boast I had.” But it all led him to the “O wretched man that I am,” etc. This law, under the mountain shadow of which we have been standing, brought him, brings us, no peace. All that it can do is to open the doors of the temple, which by faith we must enter if we would behold God.

The heart’s cry for a righteousness of God.

1. There is a condition where no such cry is heard--the Pharisaical. A man may go on looking at the outward so long, and so succeed in stifling his spiritual aspirations as to arrive at the conclusion that all he can do is to obey the letter of the law.

2. But a man who has found out that even strict obedience to the moral law cannot reveal God will understand this cry. The highest commands that law ever laid, and the lowliest obedience ever rendered, have no Divine significance but in the revelation of an Infinite Person, to whom we stand personally related. We ask to be clothed with Himself.

The righteousness that is revealed to faith. To the apostle the voice of faith that is in Christ was a sufficient answer to this cry. “Not having mine own righteousness.” The Incarnation was the only possible answer for God to give and for us to receive. The law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ that we might receive Himself. This is enough, and in Christ we have the righteousness of God. (L. Mann.)

The righteousness of God by faith

This righteousness is the only ground of acceptance with God. It is not of mine, but of God, as in His grace He has provided it, so that it is said of us we are “justified freely by His grace.” It is wrought out by Christ and in His blood (Romans 5:9); or it is “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” It becomes ours through faith. This faith is “counted for righteousness,” or subjectively “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” Of the possessor of such righteousness it may be said that “a man is justified in the sight of God.” Christ obeyed the law for us and suffered its penalty, and the merit of this obedience unto death becomes ours as soon as we can say, “We have believed in Jesus.” He that was unrighteous becomes righteous, and escapes the condemnation which sin merits (Romans 8:1; Romans 1:18); nay, enjoys the benefit of redemption (Ephesians 1:7). When works of law are disclaimed, and faith is simply reposed on God, guilt is cancelled, acceptance enjoyed, and such a change of state involves a change of character (Romans 8:4). The sinner is not indeed held by any legal fiction to be innocent. The entire process implies his guilt, but he is no longer exposed to its penalty; he is held, or dealt with, as a righteous person, “the external justice of Christ Jesus being imputed to Him” (Hooker). And the result is (Romans 8:30). This righteousness, Divine in its origin, awful in its medium, and fraught with such results, was the essential element of Paul’s religion and the distinctive tenets of His theology. (Professor Eadie.)

Imputed righteousness

The grand truth of this doctrine lies just here--when a sinner casts himself in penitence on the mercy of his Saviour, God estimates him not according to what he has been, or is in himself, but according to what he is in relation to Christ. We ourselves are constantly estimating things and persons as they stand related to other things and persons. The geologist estimates the significance of certain remains according to the strata in which they are “found.” The chemist estimates the action of certain elements according as they are “found in” this or that combination. The merchant estimates goods according as they stand related to the needs of this or that market. You present your sample; he refuses. “These things won’t sell now out yonder in Brazil.” You say, “Oh! but judge them on their own merits; see what excellent cloth, what beautiful patterns.” But it is of no use. You go into a garden in the early spring when the leaves are just beginning to appear. Two branches are touching each other. The gardener says, “This branch will be laden with fruit, but that will have little or none upon it.” You see no difference. The leaves are as fresh and green on the one as on the other. But the gardener judges them according to their relations. The one branch is “found in” a tree which he knows to be fruitful, the other in one he knows to be almost barren. Is it a fiction when he imputes the qualities of the stock to the branch? Or he comes into your garden and sees in one of your borders a plant which is not thriving. “That plant,” he says, “will die here, put it in the hothouse.” He comes back in a few weeks, and the same plant is “found in” the hothouse. “It is all right now,” he says. He does not mean that it has recovered vitality or beauty, but it is in the fair way to health. Its change of relation has “saved” it. Or, say that you go into the studio of a famous artist, and you see him sketching a picture on the canvas. It is but little--only a faint outline; but he tells you his idea, and you know how he has worked out other ideas. It is only a beginning as yet; but it stands related to a master hand, and you can imagine what it will be when finished. Your estimate of the same picture would be very different if you “found” it in the studio, and under the hand of an inferior artist. Or again, you may be told that a newborn babe and a newborn ape are each a mere piece of flesh and blood, and that under the dissecting knife little difference could be detected between them. But the babe is “found in” humanity. It stands related to the human race, and you estimate it according to its latent capacities, although at present there may be no sign of distinctive intelligence. Or, you may apply to have your life insured, and you go to a physician to be examined. He inquires as to any illness you may have had, and into your present state. But he also asks about your parents; when, and of what they died, and also about your brothers and sisters. You might say, “Why not judge of my case purely upon its own merits?” No; his judgment will depend partly on the family stock in which you are found, and he will “impute” to you the healthy or unhealthy qualities of the family stock. And is God not to estimate men according to their relation to Himself, and to His Son? No man is “justified” in living a life of sin, nor in living a life of self-confident Pharisiasm; but when a man comes in a humble and contrite heart and throws himself on the mercy of the righteous One, praying for pardon, and cleansing, and strength to live a better life, his relation is changed and he is justified. (T. C. Finlayson.)

Salvation in Christ

A man had been condemned in a Spanish court to be shot, but being an American citizen, and also of English birth, the consuls of the two countries interposed, and declared that the Spanish authorities had no power to put him to death. What did they do to secure his life when their protest was not sufficient? They wrapped him up in their flags, they covered him with the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack, and defied the executioners. “Now fire a shot if you dare, for if you do so, you defy the nations represented by those flags, and you will bring the powers of those two great empires upon you.” There stood the man, and before him the soldiery, and though a single shot might have ended his life, yet he was as invulnerable as though encased in triple steel. Even so Jesus Christ has taken my poor guilty soul ever since I believed in Him, and has wrapped around me the blood-red flag of His atoning sacrifice; and before God can destroy me or any other soul that is wrapped in the atonement, He must insult His Son and dishonour His sacrifice, and that He will never do, blessed be His name. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 10

Philippians 3:10

That I may know Him

The path of life




Fellowship with Christ.

Conformity to his death. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The believer’s aspirations

It is said that St. Augustine wished to have seen three things before he died; Rome in its glory, Christ in the flesh, and Paul in his preaching. But many have seen the first without being the holier, the second without being happier, and heard the third and yet went to perdition. But Paul, in this and the previous chapters, expresses seven wishes which centre in Christ--that he might know Christ, win Christ, magnify Christ, be conformed to Christ, be found in Christ, rejoice in the day of Christ, and be forever with Christ. Now these correspond perfectly with the desires of every child of God. Here Paul desires--

To know Christ. St. Paul appreciated the value of other departments of knowledge. He was a scholar and a theologian; but after he had learned Christ they seemed to fade in interest. This knowledge was the subject of his preaching everywhere, as he told the Corinthians and the Galatians. He wished to know Christ.

1. Increasingly. The more he knew Him the more he wanted to know, and no wonder, for

(1) in Him is everything worthy to be known.

(2) This knowledge never cloys.

2. Experimentally. To know in Scripture is to see and to taste. It is not the speculative knowledge that devils have, nor mere historical knowledge, but such as a hungry man has when he eats, and a thirsty man when he drinks. It is appropriative of Christ--“My Lord,” “My Saviour.”

3. Superlatively (verse 8). For what is the widest and most delightful knowledge in the presence of this? but as sounding brass, vanity.

The power of his resurrection. The word “power” makes all the difference between religion in the head and in the heart, between possession and profession. It is one thing to have knowledge, and another to have it vitally and brought into action. Christ’s resurrection has a vast power.

1. In our justification. His ransom could avail nothing without His resurrection. “If Christ be not raised your faith is vain.” But by it the Father publicly testified His approval

2. In our sanctification, which is the renewing of our nature and the strengthening of our graces by the Holy Spirit, who is the fruit of the resurrection.

3. In our edification. Every sermon, etc., is vain if Christ be not risen. All the means of Christian growth are dependent upon it (Ephesians 4:7-14). What power it gave to apostolic preaching.

4. In our glorification. There had been no resurrection for us without Christ’s. As in Adam, the covenant head, all died; so in Christ, the covenant head of Adam’s posterity, all shall be made alive.

The fellowship of his sufferings. Not in His merits: the crown must be forever on His head. We know this.

1. By partaking of the benefit of His sufferings, pardon, etc.

2. By communion with Him through the channel of His sufferings--His Divine humanity, hanging on the Cross, and commemorated in the sacrament.

3. By enduring for His sake the same sufferings which He endured--the world’s frowns, Satan’s temptations. “Is the servant above his master.”

Conformity unto his death. Why not His life? That is not excluded. But His death presents in a condensed form all that we could desire to he on earth. We see in Him--

1. Great patience under suffering.

2. Great faith.

3. Great compassion for dying men.

4. Great filial tenderness.

5. Great love for repenting sinners. (J. Sherman.)

Knowing Christ

He who of mortal men knew Christ best confesses that he knew Him but imperfectly.

1. How much, then, must there be in Him to know. Do we lose a sense of the Redeemer’s majesty by familiarity with His name? See, then, His chief disciple, after years of contemplation, imitation, and adoration, confessing that the great object of God, manifest in the flesh, seems greater than ever, so that at the last he offers the prayer suitable to a novice.

2. This is true of all the works of God, whether in the material or the spiritual world, and is illustrated by what a climber sees of the starry firmament: from the bottom the mountain tops seem among the stars, but as he ascends they seem to recede, and their vastness and distance are best seen from the summit.

3. What Paul meant is clearer from the following explanations.

Knowing the power of His resurrection. Paul laboured and suffered much, and was pursued by great infirmity and frequent depression; but he saw above him the figure of the once suffering but now risen Christ--his brother throned and crowned. Looking up it seems as if he were moved to say, “Would that I could be raised out of what I am, and become as He is--victor over sin, sorrow, and death.” In this sense we may feel the power of Christ’s resurrection. In Christ, risen and glorified, is the image in which we may behold what we may become.

A share of Christ’s sufferings the condition of a share in His resurrection. He has just expressed a desire to resemble Christ glorified, but he here checks himself in order to show that what he desires is not an easy and instantaneous change. What he seeks is not simply repose and relief. He is perfectly willing to resemble Christ glorified by passing through the intermediate stages. He, too, would reach the crown through the Cross, remembering that “it is enough for the disciple to be as his Master.” Whoever then would know Christ must face--

1. Suffering--the suffering of arduous effort, patient resignation, and trust when faith is tempted to fail.

2. Death--the death to much that is attractive here, and especially to sin, as well as to the death of the body. (T. M. Herbert, M. A.)

The experimental knowledge of Christ

An experimental knowledge of Christ is so great a blessing that we should count all things but loss to get it. It is sometimes expressed by taste. Sight is the knowledge of faith, taste that of experience (1 Peter 2:3; Psalms 34:8). When we taste His goodness or feel His power we have an experimental knowledge of Christ. Many know how to talk about Him but feel nothing. Men speak of His salvation from day to day, but have not the effects of it. When we find within ourselves the fruits of His sufferings, the comfort of His promises, the likeness of His death, the power of His resurrection, then we know Christ experimentally. The benefits it confers show its value. Experience--

1. Gives us a more intimate knowledge of things. While we know them by hearsay we know them only by guess and imagination, but when we know them by experience we know them in truth. He that reads about the sweetness of honey may guess at it, but he that tastes it knows what it is (Colossians 1:6). A man who has travelled through a country knows it better than he who knows it only by a map.

2. Gives greater confirmation of the truth. A man needs no reason to convince him that fire is hot who has been scorched, or that weather is cold who feels it in his fingers. So when the promises of God are verified we see that there is more than letters and syllables (Psalms 18:30; 1 Corinthians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:5).

3. Gives greater excitement to the love of Christ and His ways. The more we feel the necessity of Christ and know His usefulness in binding up our broken hearts, the more we shall love Him as our Saviour (1 John 4:19). We may know the truth of the gospel by other means, but we cannot know that it belongs to us by any other means.

4. Engages us more to zeal and diligence in the heavenly life, which reports and exhortations often fail to do.

(1) Because when, e.g., we have experience of the power of Christ’s resurrection it begets a new life within which inclines us to heavenly things--there is a principle to work with (Galatians 5:25).

(2) When this life is gratified with the rewards of obedience, such as peace and comfort, it is an argument above all others to press for more. The Cauls when they had once tasted the Italian grape must get into the country where it grew. The spies were sent to bring the clusters of Canaan into the wilderness to animate the Israelites to put in for the good land. So God gives us the Spirit not only as an earnest (1 Corinthians 1:22) to show us how sure, but as first fruits to show us how good (Romans 8:23).

(3) When this life is obstructed by folly and sin, you find more of Christ’s displeasure in your inward man (Ephesians 4:30) than can possibly be represented to your outward condition.


1. It is a dangerous temptation when the gospel comes in word only (1 Corinthians 4:20). It must follow either that you settle in a cold form (2 Timothy 3:5) or into an open denying of Christ and the excellency of His religion.

2. If you have not this knowledge how will you be able to carry on this spiritual life with any delight, seriousness, or success? (1 John 5:3-10).

3. Without it you can have no assurance of your own interest (Romans 4:4-5; 1 John 4:17).

4. Without it you will neither honour Christianity nor propagate it.

(1) By word (Psalms 34:8). A report of a report at second or third hand is no valid testimony. None can speak with such confidence as those who feel what they speak (2 Corinthians 1:4).

(2) By work (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-7).


1. A sound belief of the doctrines of the gospel (1 John 5:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). We cannot feel the power of the truth till we receive it.

2. Serious meditation and consideration (Psalms 45:1; Acts 16:14).

3. Close application. Things work not upon us at a distance (Job 5:27). Conclusion:

1. Look for experience rather in the way of sanctification than of comfort. The one is not so necessary as the other, and the Spirit may cease to comfort that He may sanctify.

2. Look to the thing end not to the measure or degree (T. Manton, D. D.)

Experimental knowledge of Christ

1. A man may have a competent and very extensive acquaintance with the whole doctrine of the Christian religion, and yet if he has not an experimental knowledge of Christ it is all vain as to salvation.

2. In the previous verse the apostle deals with his gain in point of justification, here in point of sanctification.

What this experimental knowledge is. An inward and spiritual feeling of what we hear and believe, concerning Christ and His truths, whereby answerable impressions are made on our souls (Psalms 34:8; John 4:42).

1. The Scripture says of Christ that He is the way to the Father (John 14:6). Now the man who has tried many other ways and finds no access, at length comes by Christ and finds communion with God. This is experimental knowledge (Romans 5:1-2).

2. Christ’s blood purges the conscience, etc. (Hebrews 9:1-28). The experimental Christian knows that sin defiles the conscience and unfits him to serve God. At length he looks to God in Christ and throws his guilt into the sea of Christ’s blood; then the sting is taken from the conscience and the soul is enabled to serve God as a son with a father.

3. Christ is fully satisfying to the soul (Psalms 73:25; Habakkuk 3:17-18). We all know this by report, the Christian knows it by experience. Sometimes in the midst of all his enjoyment he says, “These are not my portion,” and when deprived of these he can encourage himself in God (1 Samuel 30:6; 1 Samuel 1:18).

4. Christ helps His people to bear afflictions and keeps them from sinking under them. The Christian sometimes tries to bear his burden alone and finds it too heavy for him. Then he goes to Christ and lays it on the great burden-bearer and is helped (Psalms 28:7; Isaiah 43:2; 2 Corinthians 8:9-10).

5. Christ is made unto us wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:20). When the Christian leans to his own understanding he mistakes his way at noonday, but when he gives himself up to be led by Christ as a blind man, he is conducted in a way he knew not, and blesses the Lord who has given him counsel.

6. Christ is made unto us sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30), Apart from Christ the Christian wrestles in vain and his graces lie dead; but when he renews the actings of faith in Christ, and flings down self-confidence, he becomes more than conqueror.

Confirmation of the point. Consider--

1. The Scripture testimonies concerning this.

(1) To learn religion in all the power and parts of it is to learn Christ (Ephesians 4:20-24).

(2) There needs no more to be known, for this comprehends all (1 Corinthians 2:2).

(3) It is the sum and substance of a believer’s life (Philippians 1:21). Yea, eternal life itself (John 17:3).

2. All true religion is our likeness to God. This is impossible without Christ, for He is the only channel of those influences which makes us partakers of the Divine nature (2 Corinthians 4:6).

3. Whatever religion a man seems to have that does not come and is maintained in this way, is but nature varnished over: for “he that honoureth not the Son,” etc.

The means. Faith closing with Christ.

1. Belief that Christ is such a one as He is held out in the gospel to be. It is the want of this that mars this knowledge (Isaiah 53:1).

2. Closure with Christ, to the very end that the soul may so know Him.

3. Union with Christ, so making way for this knowledge which is the happy result of union.


1. Religion is not a matter of mere speculation to satisfy curiosity, but a matter of practice. An unexperimental professor is like a foolish sick man who entertains those about him with fine discourses of the nature of medicines, but in the meantime is dying for the want of application of them.

2. The sweet of religion lies in the experience of it (Psalms 63:5; Psalms 19:11). Religion would not be the burden it is if we would by experience carry it beyond dry, sapless notions.

3. All the profit of religion lies in the experience of it (Matthew 7:22). Painted fire will never burn, and the sight of water will never wash.

4. The experimental Christian is the only one whose religion will bring him to heaven, which is experimental religion perfected. (T. Boston, D. D.)

Do you know Him

Let us pass by that crowd of outer-court worshippers who are content to live without knowing Christ. I do not mean the ungodly and profane, these are altogether strangers and foreigners, but--

1. Those who are content to know Christ’s historic life. These know the life of Christ, but not Christ the life.

2. Those who know and prize Christ’s doctrine, but do not know him. Addison tells us that the reason why so many books are printed with the portraits of their authors is that the interested readers want to know what appearance the author had. This is very natural Why then do you rest satisfied with Christ’s words without desiring to know Him who is the “Word”?

3. Those who are delighted with Christ’s example. That is well as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. His example will be better understood as we know Himself.

4. Those who are perfectly at ease with knowing Christ’s sacrifice. This is a blessed attainment, but we should not forget that He was the sacrifice and is greater than it.

5. Those who look for His coming and forget His presence.

6. Those who are satisfied with hearing or reading about Christ: but Paul did not say, “I have heard of Him whom I believe,” but “I know.”

7. Those who are persuaded to their ruin that they know Him but do not.

Let us draw curtain after curtain, which shall admit us to know more of Christ.

1. We know a person when we recognize him: and to this extent we know the queen, because we have seen her, and so by a Divine illumination we must know Christ who He is and what He was.

2. By a practical acquaintance with what He does. They tell me Christ is a cleanser, I know Him because He has washed me in His blood; that He is a deliverer, I know Him because He has set me free; that He is a sovereign, I know Him because He has subdued my enemies; that He is food, my spirit feeds on Him.

3. We know a man in a better sense when we are on speaking terms with him. I know a man not only so as to recognize him, and because I have dealt with him, but because we are speaking acquaintances. So we know Christ if we pray to Him.

4. But we know a person better when he invites us to his house; we go and go again, and the oftener we go the better we know him. Do you visit Christ’s banquetting house, and has He permitted you to enjoy the sweets of being one of His family?

5. And yet after frequent visits you may not know a man in the highest sense: you say to his wife, “Your husband never seems to suffer from depression, or to change.” “Ah,” she says, “you do not know him as I do.” That man has grown much in grace who has come to recognize his marriage union with his Lord. Now we have the intimacy of love and delight.

6. But a Christian may get nearer than this. The most loving wife may not perfectly know her husband, yet a Christian may grow to be perfectly identified with Christ. Looking at all this might not Christ well say now, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me.”

Consider what sort of knowledge this is.

1. If I know Him I shall have a very vivid sense of His personality. He will not be to me a myth, a vision, a spirit, but a real person. Then there must be a personal knowledge on my part, not a hearsay, second-hand knowledge.

2. It must be intelligent. I must know His nature, offices, works, and glory.

3. Affectionate. It was said of Garibaldi that he charmed all who got into his society. Being near Christ His love warms our hearts.

4. Satisfying.

5. Exciting. The more we know the more we want to know.

6. Happy.

7. Refreshing.

8. Sanctifying.

Seek, then, this knowledge.

1. It is worth having. Paul gave up everything for it.

2. There is nothing like this to fill you with courage. When Dr. Andrew Reed found some difficulty in founding one of his orphan asylums, he drew upon a piece of paper the cross, and then he said to himself, “What, despair in the face of the Cross;” and then he drew a ring round it and wrote, nil disperandum! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Uses of the knowledge of Christ

Paul’s acquaintance with Christ--

Reconciled him to the painful vicissitudes of outward circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13).

Brought him help under the emergencies of special danger (2 Timothy 4:16-18).

Secured him support amidst the special inward trials of his personal life (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). (Dean Vaughan.)

Characteristics of the knowledge of Christ

The apostle aimed to know Him as being in Him. Such knowledge is inspired by the consciousness--not elaborated by the intellect. It rises up from within; is not gathered from without. It does not accumulate evidence to test the truth--it “has the witness” in itself. It needs not to repair to the cistern and draw--it has in itself “a well of water springing,” etc. It knows, because it feels; it ascertains, not because it studies, but because it enjoys union, and possesses the righteousness of God through faith. She that touched the tassel of His robe had a knowledge of Christ deeper and truer by far than the crowds that thronged about Him: for “virtue” had come out of Him, and she felt it in herself. Only this kind of knowledge possesses “the excellency,” for it is connected with justification, as was intimated by Isaiah; and it is “eternal life,” as declared by Jesus (Isaiah 53:11; John 17:3). The apostle could not set so high a value on mere external knowledge, or a mere acquaintance with the fact and dates of Christ’s career. For it is quite possible for a man to want the element of living experience, and yet be able to argue himself into the Messiahship of the Son of Mary; to gaze on His miracles and deduce from them a Divine commission without bowing to its authority; aye, and to linger by the Cross, and see in it a mysterious and complete expiation, without accepting the pardon and peace which the blood of the atonement secures. (Professor Eadie.)

The knowledge of Christ a personal knowledge

The knowledge about which the apostle speaks is a personal knowledge. It presupposes intellectual knowledge, but is something else. It is the knowledge of which we speak when we say of a man “I know him.” What do we mean when we say this? Do we not mean, I have seen him, observed him, conversed with him, interchanged thoughts with him, spent time with him, done things with him, have been admitted into his confidence, written to him, and heard from him? These things and such as these are what make up personal knowledge between man and man. We should never say, “I know such or such a great man of history--I know Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon”--merely because we have read of them, and could give an account of their exploits. We should not say this even of the great men of our own time, its statesmen, generals, or philosophers--no, not even if we had seen them in public, or heard them speak, or read their writings--unless also we had been admitted to their society, and had exchanged with them the confidences which a man gives his friend. Even thus is it with the knowledge of Christ. We have no right to say, “I know Christ,” merely because we have read of Him in Scripture, or because He has taught in our streets. We have no right to say so unless He has spoken to us, and we to Him. Unless we have access to His privacy, and can tell Him our secrets. Unless we can go in and out where He dwells, and talk with Him as a man talketh with his friend. Unless we have not only read in Scripture that He is wise and merciful, etc., but have also acted on that information, and found Him so for ourselves. Unless in temptation we have cried unto Him, and received strength; unless in trouble we have applied to Him and experienced a very present help. (Dean Vaughan.)

The natural desire of a Christian for the knowledge of his Saviour

Suppose yourself a man condemned to the lions in the Roman amphitheatre. A ponderous door is drawn up, and forth there rushes the monarch of the forest. You must slay him or be torn to pieces. You tremble; your joints are loosed; you are paralyzed with fear. But what is this? A great unknown leaps from the gazing multitude and confronts the monster. He quails not at the roaring of the devourer, but dashes on him till the lion slinks towards his den, dragging himself along in pain and fear. The hero lifts you up, smiles into your bloodless face, whispers comfort in your ear, and bids you be of good courage, for you are free. Do you not think that there would arise at once in your heart a desire to know your deliverer? As the guards conducted you into the open street, and you breathed the cool, fresh air, would not the first question, be, “Who was my deliverer, that I may fall at his feet and bless him?” You are not, however, informed, but instead of it you are led away to a noble mansion, where your wounds are healed with salve of rarest power. You are clothed in sumptuous apparel; you are made to sit down at a feast; you rest upon the softest down. The next morning you are attended by servants who guard you from evil and minister to your good. Day after day, week after week, your wants are supplied. I am sure that your curiosity would grow more and more intense. You would scarcely neglect an opportunity of asking the servants, “Tell me, who is my noble benefactor, for I must know him?” “Well, but” they would say, “is it not enough for you that you are delivered from the lion?” “Nay,” say you, “it is for that very reason that I pant to know him.” “Your wants are richly supplied--why are you vexed by curiosity as to the hand which reaches you the boon? If your garment is worn out, there is another. Long before hunger oppresses you, the table is well loaded. What more do you want?” But your reply is, “It is because I have no wants, that, therefore, my soul longs to know my generous friend.” Suppose that as you wake up one morning, you find lying upon your pillow a precious love token from your unknown friend, and engraved with a tender inscription. Your curiosity now knows no bounds. But you are informed that this wondrous being has not only done for you what you have seen, but that he was imprisoned and scourged for your sake, for he had a love to you so great, that death itself could not overcome it, you are informed that he is every moment occupied in your interests, because he has sworn by himself that where he is there you shall be; his honours you shall share, and of his happiness you shall be the crown. Why, methinks you would say, “Tell me, men and women, any of you who know him, who and what he is;” and if they said, “But it is enough for you to know that he loves you, and to have daily proofs of his goodness,” you would say, “No, these love tokens increase my thirst. If ye see him, tell him I am sick of love. The flagons which he sends me, and the love tokens which he gives me, they stay me for awhile with the assurance of his affection, but they only impel me onward with the more unconquerable desire that I may know him. I must know him; I cannot live without knowing him. His goodness makes me thirst, and pant, and faint, and even die, that I may know him.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The progressive knowledge of Christ

Did you ever visit the manufactory of splendid porcelain at Sevres? I have done so. If anybody should say to me, “Do you know the manufactory at Sevres?” I should say, “Yes, I do, and no, I do not. I know it, for I have seen the building; I have seen the rooms in which the articles are exhibited for sale, and I have seen the museum and model room; but I do not know the factory as I would like to know it, for I have not seen the process of manufacture, and have not been admitted into the workshops, as some are.” Suppose I had seen, however, the process of the moulding of the clay, and the laying on of the rich designs, if anybody should still say to me, “Do you know how they manufacture those wonderful articles?” I should very likely still be compelled to say, “No, I do not, because there are certain secrets, certain private rooms into which neither friend nor foe can be admitted, lest the process should be open to the world.” So, you see, I might say I knew, and yet might not half know; and when I half knew, still there would be so much left, that I might be compelled to say, “I do not know.” How many different ways there are of knowing a person--and even so there are all these different ways of knowing Christ; so that you may keep on all your lifetime, still wishing to get into another room, and another room, nearer and nearer to the great secret, still panting to “know Him.” Good Rutherford says, “I urge upon you a nearer communion with Christ, and a growing communion. There are curtains to be drawn by, in Christ, that we never shut, and new foldings in love with Him. I despair that ever I shall win to the far end of that love; there are so many plies in it. Therefore, dig deep, and set by as much time in the day for Him as you can, He will be won by labour.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

And the power of His resurrection.

The power of Christ’s resurrection

There are those who think it indicative of an unspiritual state of mind to lay stress on the physical resurrection of Christ. They tell us that the all-important matter is His resurrection in the hearts of His disciples. But Paul regarded it as a fact of transcendent importance. He and the other apostles regarded it as a power.

For inspiring faith in Christ as the son of God.

For our justification (Romans 4:25). The resurrection was a pledge that God had accepted the sacrifice.

For inspiring within us the hope of glory. Death is to the eye of sense a mystery, and the materialistic doctrine darkens what faint hope of immortality may be within us. But Christ’s resurrection “brought life and immortality to light.” He conquered death, and to believe that He is “the first fruits of them that slept,” is to receive power to break the tyranny of death (verse 21).

To sanctify our nature. This is perhaps Paul’s leading idea. To identify ourselves with a risen Redeemer must exert a purifying effect on our souls (Colossians 3:1). (T. C. Finlayson)


The power of Christ’s resurrection

As seen in Christ himself (Ephesians 1:17-21).

1. In it Christ as man was invested with all the power and glory of the Godhead. “All power is given unto Me.”

2. When He returns it will be in the fulness of the resurrection glory.

In the justification of the believer.

1. Resurrection implies death, and to know Christ in His resurrection is to know that we died in His death as our surety (Romans 6:7)

2. As judicially one with Christ in His death, the believer is one with Him in His resurrection.

In the life of the believer.

1. We who were dead in trespasses and sins are quickened by it into life.

2. This life is sustained by a constant supply from the fountain head.

3. By this power we rise above the world and sit in heavenly places with Christ.

Is the believer’s service.

1. Observe its acting in the earliest possessors of it.

2. Employ it in testifying to its power.

In the believer’s resurrection.

1. Christ’s resurrection is the pledge of ours.

2. Ensures the triumph and glorification of the Church. (C. Graham.)

The power of Christ’s resurrection

In relation to sin.

1. The death of Christ, had the redemptive effort ended there, had sealed man’s doom forever; the resurrection made it vital, the spring of purifying and renewing for the world. From the ground the blood of Christ, like that of Abel, cries out against humanity. It is from heaven that Jesus preaches peace through His blood, and makes it a power to save.

2. The resurrection brought to man precisely the power he needed for victorious resistance to that by which his higher life was in process of being destroyed. The risen form threw glorious light on the flesh, as completing the incarnation. The body was redeemed by it from degradation, and consecrated as the Spirit’s organ and shrine forever.

3. When Christ had risen, men saw that the vileness, the curse, the stain, was the work of an alien and intrusive force which might be expelled, and in the might of that belief men for the first time rose in victory over those passions which had defiled the body.

In relation to sorrow.

1. The mountains of the world are great or as nothing according as we view them from a valley or from a star, so all the storms and crosses of life dwindle looked at from the height of “Jesus and the resurrection.”

2. The resurrection maintains the continuity of the life of the man of sorrows and the reigning king. So we need not shrink from our sorrows if we but bear in mind the glory that shall follow.

3. Nay, the men who first realized the power of the resurrection, “gloried in tribulations.” It made them one with Christ, which guaranteed the ultimate victory.

In relation to death.

1. We have little power of realizing the anguish with which the men of old peered into the unseen. This was the world of light, of life--that of shadows and ghosts. To the children of the resurrection it is exactly the reverse. The sorrow and gloom is of time, the light and joy are everlasting.

2. The resurrection wedded the two worlds. Who now dreads to live or to die? Because “living or dying we are the Lord’s.” (Baldwin Brown, B. A.)


The power of Christ’s resurrection

As a fact. That is our faith. Your philosophers who do not believe in miracle do not believe it possible, because they do not allow that God can interfere with, and is above the system He arranged. But we believe that God who made the world administers His own laws and interposes if He thinks fit. The power of the resurrection, proving the truth of Christianity as a whole, proves its exclusiveness as a system of Divine thought which is to constitute the religion of man.

As a doctrine. The fact enshrines a thought. Simply considered as a fact, having power over the reason, as a part of the evidence of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus is the same as that of Lazarus. But as a doctrine it is very different. “Jesus died,” according to the Scriptures, and according to the Scriptures “He rose again.” It is the fulfilment of a Divine purpose; and its power is an appeal to our spiritual nature, our conscience, and sense of guilt.

As a type. As Christ died and rose, we are to die to sin and live to God, “as those who are alive from the dead.”

As a motive. Observe how these thoughts interweave. The resurrection as a fact operates upon the intellect and gives assurance of truth; as a doctrine it deepens the truth and touches consciences and expresses reconciliation with God; as a type, we rising from the dead and walking with Christ--that is the developed experience of the Christian man in the life of God. Christ was not glorified immediately. He lived for forty days a different life from His former one. So must we under the power of the resurrection. Christ is risen, therefore “Seek those things that are above.”

As a model (verse 21). Conclusion: These transcendental thoughts, so far from unfitting us for the sober duties of life, ennoble and beautify life. A servant girl may act on a principle which may bring her into harmony with the angels. You need not wait for Sunday to engage in Divine service. You have but to realize in the shop or the market the power of the resurrection. (T. Binney, D. D.)

The power of Christ’s resurrection

1. We need more and more to look at the facts of the Christian dispensation; the doctrines we are required to believe have their foundations in these facts. Our tendency is to treat Christian doctrines as if they were speculations.

2. The resurrection is an accomplished fact. It is sometimes attributed to Christ alone; sometimes to the Father; sometimes to the Spirit; so that it is brought before us as a blessed manifestation of the power of the redeeming God.

3. The power of the resurrection may signify--

(1) The power which effected it;

(2) the power of the fact itself, or--

(3) the power with which Christ was endowed at it, and these words may include all.

4. To know the power, etc., is--

(1) To recognize it as a reality.

(2) To comprehend and appreciate it in its relation with man’s redemption.

(3) To feel its force upon the life. The resurrection of Christ is--

An example of the almighty life-giving power of God. To know its power is to be conscious of the working of the same upon ourselves, quickening, renewing, enlightening, invigorating.

A confirmation forever of the claims of Jesus of Nazareth. To know its power is to feel assured that the son of Mary is the Son of God. This is essential to our taking full advantage of His riches and resources.

The sign and seal of the truth of the gospel. To know its power is to see that truth sealed not by His blood simply, but by His hand in the newness of His glorified life. Why is it we do not declare that truth more constantly and zealously? Because of our unbelief. Those who cordially believe it are constantly repeating it.

Adapted to strengthen our trust in him. To know its power is to feel our confidence strengthened in sorrow and death.

Calculated to awake within us the most glorious hopes. To know its power is to become the subjects by its influence of new and enlarged expectations, desires, aspirations and affections.

Fitted to raise us into newness of life. To feel its power is to rise with Him and set our affections on things above. VII. Able to give courage in approaching suffering. To know its power is to feel strengthened to endure all the will of God. VIII. Suited to raise the believer above the fear of death. To know its power is to feel that it is a pledge of immortality. (S. Martin.)

The power of the resurrection

As the assurance of immorality (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:14, etc.).

As the triumph over six and the pledge of justification (Romans 4:24-25).

As asserting the dignity and enforcing the claims of the human body (1 Corinthians 6:13-15; Philippians 3:21).

Thus stimulating the whole moral and spiritual being (Romans 6:4, etc.; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:12). (Bishop Lightfoot.)

What is intended by the power of Christ’s resurrection. The influence which that great event has upon the other parts of His mediatorial character and offices, connected with the safety and happiness of His people. This may be traced--

1. In the open and uncontroverted declaration of His Divine Sonship (Romans 1:4; Psalms 2:1-12; cf. Acts 13:32; Hebrews 1:3-5).

2. In its influence upon our justification (Romans 4:25).

3. In its effect on our sanctification (John 7:39; John 16:7-8).

4. In the exaltation of the saints to glory of which it is the procuring cause--“Because I live,” etc. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

What is it to know that power?

1. Not merely the illumination of the understanding but--

2. The heart felt experience of what is said to be known (Colossians 2:12-13; Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 2:4-22, corresponding to what the resurrection meant for Christ.

(1) Our Sonship--“begotten again to a lively hope.”

(2) Our freedom from the law’s penalties, which He has satisfied.

(3) Our entrance into the glory whither He as our fore runner has gone.

Why, as believers, we should desire that knowledge more and more. Because--

1. It is essential to the Christian character.

2. It tends to strengthen faith.

3. It teaches the true estimate of life with all its cares, and death with all its terrors.


1. The religion of Christ in all its parts is intended to be practical and experimental.

2. The Christian should be always pressing onwards to higher attainments of knowledge, faith, and holiness. (C. Neat.)

The power of the resurrection

In our justification.

In our regeneration. The Divine Agent in this is He of whom Christ said, “If I go not away the Comforter will not come.” So that the resurrection was essential to our being raised morally “from the death of sin to the life of righteousness.”

In our sanctification. Our continuance and progressive growth in grace begun at regeneration is the work of the same Spirit.

In our consolation and hope (1 Thessalonians 4:1-18; 1 Corinthians 15:1-58).

In our anticipation. The moral magnet that draws up the grovelling affections and hopes of a man from earth to heaven is the risen Christ. Conclusion: We must know this power, by being justified, etc., which is the moral proof of Christ’s resurrection. (H. Stowell, M. A.)

(Text in conjunction with Mark 16:3-4.)

The resurrection is a power

To heal conscience. No system of thought that does not admit the fact of sin, or attempt to explain its meaning, or assist us in becoming delivered from its dominion, can hope to satisfy the needs of mankind. In all ages and countries the human heart has had two questions to ask about it, which nothing but the resurrection can completely answer. One is about pardon, and the other about righteousness. The one seeks peace with God, the other His image. And the resurrection is the power for both. It looks back and it points forward. It implies the Cross, and it presumes the Ascension. Why did He die? Not only as a Martyr, but as a Sin-bearer (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24). But if He had only died, while we should have admired the unparalleled sacrifice, we should have mourned its uselessness. But in the resurrection we see the sacrifice accepted, peace ensured, and eternal life given. Sin on the conscience is one stone rolled away, and sin in the will another. His grace helps us to die to sin, and live to God through union with Him who, as He bore our sins, and identified Himself with our misery, is also made righteousness unto us, whereby we through our regeneration grafted into Him, are before God righteous in His righteousness.

To ennoble duty. What is life? Is it but as the dipping of an insect’s wing into the brimming flood of some tropical river--the quick submerging into a devouring sea of one after another of the myriad barks that are ever being launched on it, each with its solitary voyager--a journey between two nights. Then assuredly the saddest mystery about it is that it should ever have been given us at all. But in the light of the resurrection life is seen to be worth living, for the stone of a purposeless existence is rolled away (1 Corinthians 15:22); and with its new aims and responsibilities and functions and motives this life has a new meaning and force. There is--

1. Its stupendous responsibility, for some day we shall rise to receive the things done in our body--that is, their results, whether they be good or bad.

2. Its potential grace (Colossians 3:1).

3. Its majestic consecration (Romans 12:1). (Bishop Thorold.)

The power of Christ’s resurrection

In it--

The unity of doctrine in the Old and New Testaments is illustrated and confirmed.

Man’s natural yearnings after immortality are met and satisfied.

A powerful stimulus is given to Christian character.

We have a pledge of the triumph of the Church, and the coming of the Lord. (Homiletic Monthly.)

The power of Christ’s resurrection

In every occurrence there are to be considered the fact--that which actually occurs--and the consequences, actual or possible--what St. Paul calls “its power.” We know the fact of an occurrence when we have handled the proofs which show that it really took place; when we know how it has been described, what were its several aspects; but we know of the “power” of the fact when we can trace what its effects have been, or what they might have been or might be. It is easier to apprehend a fact than to take the measure of its consequences, its practical meaning, its power. If I throw a stone, I can ascertain the weight of the stone, the moment at which it leaves my hand, the distance of the spot at which it touches the ground. But what is hard to ascertain is the effect of the stone’s passage through the air; the thousands of insects instantaneously disabled or destroyed by it; the radiation of disturbance caused by the displacement of the atmosphere, and extending, it may be, into regions which defy calculation. All of us understand more or less, at least, the general outline of the succession of recent events in Egypt; but what will be, in the course of time, their import and influence upon the condition and history of our own country and of the world, who shall say? So to apprehend a fact is one thing; it is quite another to feel its power. When then St. Paul utters his prayer he implies that already he has knowledge of the fact. St. Paul, being thus sure of the resurrection as a fact, was not embarrassed by an a priori doctrine forbidding him to ignore it. He was not like those old schoolmen whom Lord Bacon condemned, and who, instead of learning what to think about nature from the facts of nature, endeavoured to persuade themselves that the facts of nature corresponded somehow with what they already thought about it. St. Paul, then, had no need to pray, as have many in our time, that he might be assured of the fact of Christ’s resurrection; what he did pray for was that he might increasingly understand its power. This power may be observed--

In the way is which a true belief in it enables a man to realize habitually the moral government of the world by God. Our age is not one in which men believe, that whatever happens, all is overruled by a Being who is perfectly good and wise. There are circumstances in the modern world which make belief in the Divine government harder than it was for our ancestors. One is our wider outlook. Thanks to the Press, to the railway, to the telegraph, we know a great deal more of what is going on all over the world than did any previous generation of men; and one consequence is this--that human life presents itself to many minds as a much more tangled and inexplicable thing than it ever did before. The disappointments in store for the conscience which is eagerly searching for clear traces of a law of right vigorously asserting itself are so frequent and so great, that men lose heart where heart and purpose are specially needful. Now, here the certainty that Jesus Christ arose from the dead asserts what St. Paul calls its “power,” for when Jesus Christ was crucified it might have seemed--it did seem--that the sun of God’s justice had gone down, that while all the Vices were being feasted and crowned in Rome, all the Virtues could be crucified with impunity in Jerusalem. But when He burst forth from the grave He proclaimed to men’s senses as well as to their consciences that the real law which rules the world is moral and not material, and that the sun of God’s righteousness, if it is at times overclouded in human history, is sure to reappear.

In the firm persuasion it should create that the Christian creed is true as a whole and in its several parts.

1. It is a proof that the Christian creed is true. There are many truths of Christianity which do not contribute anything to prove its general truth, although they could not be denied or lost sight of without fatally impairing its integrity. Take, for example, our Lord’s perpetual intercession in heaven. We believe in this because the apostles have so taught us. We do not believe in the creed as a whole, because we believe in Christ’s intercession. It is otherwise with the resurrection, which is a proof that the Christian faith is true because it is the certificate of our Lord’s mission from heaven, to which He Himself pointed as the warrant of His claims (John 2:19; Matthew 12:39-40; John 6:62; Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:9-10; Matthew 17:21; Matthew 17:23; John 10:18; Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33. Joh 16:16; Matthew 26:31-33). The resurrection was thus constantly before Christ’s mind, because it was to be the warrant of His mission. And when He did rise, He redeemed the pledge which He had given to His disciples and to the world. The first preachers of Christianity understood this. The resurrection was the proof to which they constantly pointed that our Lord was really what He claimed to be (Acts 17:18; Acts 2:22-24; Acts 2:32),

2. What is the true value of this fact among the credentials of Christianity?

(1) Paley makes a great mistake when he rests the whole case of Christianity upon the fact that the resurrection was so certain to its first preachers, that they willingly gave their lives to attest it. This mistake lay not in insisting on this fact--which is, indeed, of the very first importance as an evidence of Christianity--but in insisting on it as if it stood alone, and would of itself and unsupported prove to all minds the truth of the Christian creed; the truth being that the evidences of Christianity are not one and simple, but many and complex. Their strength lies in their convergence. The fabric which its Divine Architect meant to rest upon a group of pillars cannot be safely rested, even by a man of genius, upon one.

(2) Another mistake is, that it is of no value whatever as an evidence of Christianity--Christianity is said to be recommended solely by the moral character of Christ; the supernatural incidents of His earthly life, and notably His resurrection, are treated as an embarrassing addition. This estimate of the evidential value of the resurrection is altogether opposed to the mind of our Lord and His apostles. They did not mean the resurrection to stand alone; but they assigned to it the highest place among the facts and considerations which go to show that Christianity is true: a countersign in the world of Nature to the teaching of our Lord in the court of conscience--the outward miracle assures us through the senses that the Being who is the Author of Nature is the same Being as He who speaks to conscience in the moral law, in the Sermon on the Mount, in the whole character and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we heard the inward voice of conscience alone we might doubt whether there was really anything external which warranted it; if we witnessed the outward miracle alone we might see in it a mere wonder with no moral consequence. But when the Teacher whose voice pierces, rouses, quickens the conscience is accredited by an interference with the observed course of Nature, the combined evidence is in reason overwhelming.

In the spiritual life of Christians. Our Lord is not merely our authoritative Teacher, or Redeemer, but also, through real union with us, the Author of a new life within us. St. Paul teaches us this again and again. Sometimes he speaks of our Lord as though He were a sphere of being within which the Christian lives: (2 Corinthians 5:17); sometimes as the inhabitant of the Christian soul (Colossians 1:27). This union is not metaphor, it is a certain experience. Our Lord, then, dwells in Christians, and, as a consequence, the New Testament teaches us that the mysteries of His earthly life are reproduced, after a manner, in the Christian soul. If Christ is born supernaturally of a virgin mother, the Christian is made God’s child by adoption and grace; apostles are in travail until Christ be formed in their converts. If Christ is crucified on Mount Calvary, the Christian, too, has a Calvary where he is crucified with Christ, crucifies “the flesh, with the affections and lusts.” If Christ, while apostles behold, is taken up into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Christian in heart and mind with Him ascends, with Him continually dwells, is made to sit together with Him in heavenly places. And, in like manner, if Christ rose from the dead the third day, according to the Scriptures, the Christian also has experience of an inward resurrection. Conclusion: Of this power lodged in the Christian soul there are three characteristics.

1. Christ rose really. It was not a phantom that haunted the upper chamber, etc. And our Easter resurrection from sin will be no less real if it is His power by which we are rising (Revelation 3:1).

2. Our Lord rose to lead, for the most part, a hidden life. On the day of His resurrection He appeared five times, but rarely afterwards during the forty days. So it is with the risen life of the soul. It is not constantly flaunted before the eyes of men; it seeks retirement, solitude, and the sincerities which these ensure (Colossians 3:1-4).

3. Our Lord being raised, “dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him,” etc. So with him who shares that risen life. (Canon Liddon.)

The power of the resurrection in sorrow

The letter of condolence written by Sulpicius to his friend Cicero who was mourning the loss of his beloved daughter, beautiful as it is, shows us that the best comfort which sentiment and philosophy can offer, is utterly powerless to bind up the broken heart. “Why grieve?” asks the sympathizing Roman, doing all that kindness and ingenuity could suggest to comfort his afflicted friend. “Surely after seeing your country enslaved, your heart should be indifferent to so small a matter as the loss of a poor, weak, tender woman.” And then Sulpicius gravely adds, as if such considerations could console the afflicted, “Do not forget that you are Cicero--the wise, the philosophical Cicero, who was wont to give advice to others. Remember those judicious counsels now, and let it not be said that fortitude is the single virtue to which my friend is a stranger.” Philosophy had not quite expended itself in these vapid platitudes, but the chief ground of comfort was reserved for the last. “In my return out of Asia,” the well-meaning Sulpicius goes on to say, “as I was sailing from AEgina towards Megara, I amused myself with contemplating the circumjacent countries. Behind me lay AEgina, before me Megara; on my right I saw Piraeus, and on my left Corinth. These cities, once so flourishing and magnificent, now presented nothing to my view but a sad spectacle of desolation. Alas, I said to myself, shall such a short-lived creature as man complain, when one of his race falls either by the hand of violence, or by the common cause of nature, while in this narrow compass so many great and glorious cities, formed for a much longer duration, thus lie extended in ruins?” Cold comfort, this! Would such reasoning help you to dry your scalding tears? Does it not seem like a hollow mockery of the heart’s great grief? When, however, “the power of Christ’s resurrection” is known and felt, with what different eyes we look upon the grassy mounds which cover the remains of the departed! The dismal spot is changed at once into a field sown with the seeds of immortality. The Saviour’s blood-stained banner, emblazoned with the cross, which is carried before His people, in their triumphal march, bears the cheering inscription, “I am the resurrection and the life!” (J. N. Norton.)

The fellowship of His sufferings--

The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings

What it implies--a believing appreciation of them--evidenced by suffering in Christ’s service, for His sake, with and for the benefit of His people.

Why an object of ambition. It implies gratitude, honour, hope, union with Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

These sufferings may be considered in two ways.

As expiatory of our, sins, borne by Jesus Christ in our stead in His quality of surety. And of these we are partakers, inasmuch as, embracing them by faith, God imputes them to us, and communicates to us the fruit thereof, namely, Divine and perfect righteousness, by which, absolved from all our sins, we become acceptable to God as His dear children, and can never more be called to endure any meritorious or expiatory sufferings as were those of the Saviour.

As models, patterns which Jesus has left us to follow, showing us the path by which it is the good pleasure of the Father to conduct us to salvation. And thus we are partakers with Him, being called to suffer after His example. And this fellowship may also be considered--

1. As interior, the mortification of sin within us, the crucifixion of the old nature, transpiercing it with His thorns and nails, drinking of His vinegar, and thus putting it to death by degrees; in which the passion of the Saviour is represented within our hearts (Romans 6:5-6; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 5:24).

2. Exterior; the part we have in the afflictions and persecutions of the Church, for the confirmation of the truth of God, for the glory of Jesus, for the edification of men (Romans 8:29; 2 Timothy 3:12.) (J. Daille.)

The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings

Fellowship with Christ generally.

1. In the enjoyment of the Divine favour--“This is My beloved Son,” “We are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” “Behold what manner of love,” etc. What a word for

(1) Aliens and outcasts.

(2) Timorous disciples.

(3) Happy believers.

(4) Dying saints.

2. In the possession of the Spirit. To Him the Spirit was given without measure for the perfect fulfilment of all His offices; and because we are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.

(1) For conversion.

(2) Sanctification.

(3) Enjoyment.

(4) As an earnest of heaven.

3. In His merits.

(1) The righteousness of Christ was perfect in its universality, motive, duration, spirituality.

(2) We may have fellowship in these merits, for Christ is “the Lord our righteousness.”

4. In His resurrection.

5. In His glory.

Fellowship with Christ in His sufferings. This is explained by the following clause.

1. What is there in the saints which should die? Sin. How does this principle of sin manifest itself? In--

(1) Unbelief.

(2) Hardness of heart.

(3) Impenitence.

(4) Alienation from God.

(5) Pride.

(6) Envy.

(7) Earthly-mindedness.

2. How does this principle die, so that we may be conformed to the death of Christ?

(1) Not by a natural death, but a violent one inflicted by an outside hand. It will never die of its own accord, or of disease. It must be mortified, crucified.

(2) Crucifixion was an ignominious death reserved for slaves and rebels, and does not sin merit such a death?

(3) A lingering death. And so sin does not die all at once. This should teach us patience, watchfulness, continued looking unto Jesus.

3. How may we know that we have His fellowship? By

(1) our hatred of sin;

(2) our fervent prayer against it;

(3) our desire for sanctification;

(4) our joyful anticipation of a sinless world. (A. Pope.)

By the fellowship of His sufferings

1. We are not here to understand a participation in those He endured as the substitute for sinners, although in a certain sense we do share them, and that not only in the sense of enjoying their advantages. They are ours because Christ suffered in our room and stead. But here Paul refers to Christ’s sufferings in general.

2. Nor are we to understand them as metaphorical; that as Christ died, so are we to die to sin; as Christ was nailed to the cross, so are we to crucify our corrupt passions. This is an important truth, and Paul emphasizes it elsewhere. But here it is a real fellowship in positive pain to which he adverts.

3. This was a strange desire, one which few of us would entertain. We wish to have fellowship in joy, and seek how we can pass through life with the least inconvenience. It would not have been surprising had the apostle denied fellowship with Christ in His glory. Yet he did not desire suffering for its own sake, but for its benefit. He knew well that God’s order was first the cross, then the crown; fellowship with Christ, first in suffering, then in glory.

In what sufferings can we have fellowship with Christ?

1. Negatively.

(1) Not in His atoning sufferings. These He bore alone, and we cannot partake in them. No man can make atonement for his own or others’ sins.

(2) Not in sufferings which arise out of guilt. As we cannot be partakers in Christ’s atoning, He cannot partake of our sinful sufferings. In the accusation of conscience, sense of guilt, fear of wrath, loss of character, evil effects in self and others, He can have no share. He “was holy, harmless,” etc.

(3) Not in certain forms of bodily affliction. Christ never was sick or unwell. Of course there is an important sense in which He was a partaker of this class of sufferings. His deep sympathy, sensitive tenderness, made Him feel the afflictions of others keenly.

2. Positively. We are partakers in those which arise--

(1) Front persecution for righteousness’ sake. Such constituted a large portion of our Lord’s. His whole life was one of persecution, beginning with His birth, closing only with His death. In this respect the apostles were conformed to their Master. It is true, thank God, that we are not now liable to sufferings of the same nature; but a man who maintains a high standard of religion, and condemns the world by his conduct, will meet with persecution in the way of petty annoyances, designed misconceptions, and coldness.

(2) From sympathy with the distressed. Every distress Christ witnessed was photographed on His soul. “We have not a High Priest who cannot be touched,” etc. In this sense believers must be conformed to Christ. The same loving, sympathizing spirit that was in Him must be in them.

(3) From grief for sin. Much of Christ’s sorrow arose from unavoidable intercourse with the wicked. When infinite purity comes in contact with impurity, sorrow and moral indignation must be the result. And so it is with true believers. The state of the world around them, drunkenness, Sabbath profanation, etc., must be peculiarly afflictive.

(4) From spiritual distress. This Christ knew well in Gethsemane and on the cross, when He complained of spiritual desertion, and similar sufferings are experienced by believers when the light of God’s countenance is obscured.

The benefits arising from this fellowship. “Sorrow is better than laughter.” Uninterrupted prosperity has a prejudicial influence over our spiritual nature, and tempts us to forget God. Suffering--

1. Purifies the soul. In the furnace of affliction the dross of earth is removed, passions are mortified; pride is humbled, and so our graces are confirmed and strengthened.

2. Draws forth the better qualities of a man. The seeds of virtue germinate in the hotbed of affliction.

3. Enables us to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4, etc.).

4. Prepares for heaven. “Our light afflictions,” etc. Conclusion: Suffering by itself will not produce these benefits; only when accompanied by the operation of the Holy Ghost. The fire which melts some substances hardens others: so some are improved by affliction, while others by reason of their own perverseness are made worse. (P. J. Gloag, D. D.)

The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings

This knowledge of Christ and His sufferings here so ardently desired. We may have it--

1. By an actual participation in suffering for His sake. Many persons of affected sensibility feel a sort of delight in following Christ into the judgment hall and to Calvary who have no heart to make sacrifice for His service. Their hearts seem moved, but when persecution arises they walk no more with Him.

2. By the cordial reception of the benefits secured to us by His sufferings in the exercise of a lively faith.

(1) Pardon.

(2) Purity.

(3) Reconciliation and peace.

(4) Life spiritual and eternal.

3. By a tender sympathy with all His followers in the sufferings they endure. All the members of the body feel if one be afflicted, so do all the members of the body of Christ.

The grounds of this preference.

1. The knowledge transcends all other as to its importance. All else is earthly and therefore transient; this affects the dearest and eternal interests of men.

2. It is infinitely more valuable than testimony or theory. (T. Raffles, D. D.)

The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings

Historically the disciples found themselves incapable of entering into the fellowship and sufferings of Jesus till touched by the power of His resurrection. They gathered with Him round the supper table, and gazed into His sorrowful countenance, but could not understand the mystery of His sufferings. There was a veil upon their heart, and a strange indescribable barrier between them and Him. “They were amazed” as Jesus went before them to Jerusalem, “and as they followed they were afraid.” They stood beside Him bravely for a moment in the garden, but when they saw Him bound and helpless when they expected miraculous power, they all forsook Him and fled. How different it was when these very men saw things as in the light of the glory that burst from that broken tomb; then they began to understand all that Moses and the prophets had spoken, and their hearts burned within them as they began for the first time to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings. A little further on in their history, and the power of the risen Christ has come down in the flood tide of Pentecost, and what a change is wrought. They who shrank back from suffering--that Peter who was ready to say, “That be far from Thee, Lord,” and denied his Master--that man gathers his fellows round him, and they lift up the voice of praise, rejoicing that they are counted worthy to suffer persecution for the sake of Christ. And as it was with them historically, so it seems to be doctrinally here. Do we desire that the Lord may nerve us to participate in His sufferings? In pro portion to the tide of new resurrection, life is strong in us. Shall we dare to stretch out our trembling hand to grasp His cup?

The fellowship of His sufferings. The word “fellowship” occurs in the case of the partnership which existed between the fishermen of Galilee, and in the case of the early Christians, who “had all things common.” So we are not only permitted to sympathize with Christ as the Man of sorrows, but that, just as two partners in a firm are both joint possessors of the capital which belongs to the firm, so that wondrous wealth of sorrow which belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ, so far as it is a source of wealth, belongs in a measure to us, who are partners with Him. As the wealth of the disciples was thrown into one fund, and distributed amongst all, so the wealth of sorrow which belonged to our great Head is thrown into one fund with all the sorrows of those who are His members, and we are partakers with Him of that which is no longer to us a source of loss, but, on the contrary, a perennial source of gain. And to this common fund we are each of us permitted in our measure to contribute (Colossians 1:24).

The fellowship of His sufferings.

1. Fellowship with the sufferer. Mere suffering will do nothing for us. We may torture ourselves if we will, but shall continue as ungodlike as before. What we want is to suffer in the right way, and that is in fellowship with Christ. How did He suffer? Not by entailing suffering on Himself, or courting it for its own sake. He was the Man of sorrows because it was His meat to do His Father’s will. Considerations of pleasure and pain were subordinate. Psalms 118:27, is prophetic of the passion.

(1) God’s light--the light of the Divine purpose resting upon the problem of human life--indicated the way that led to Calvary. It led the Son into the darkness; yet it was not the less precious to the heart of the Son for that. And we, too, if we would have real fellowship with Jesus, must see to it that our fellowship is intelligent fellowship. Some of the broken hearted followers of Christ gathered round His cross, and certainly suffered while He suffered. Yet had they no real fellowship in His sufferings, because they had not risen to the discovery of His design. Is it not too often so even with us? We have our sorrows; but the ray of light has not yet entered our souls, and the result is that we have no fellowship with Christ in our sufferings; and this, not so much because God is unwilling to give us the light, as because we shrink, like Peter, from the illumination which reveals the cross, and thus His light becomes obscured, and we lose the moral power which should have raised us into fellowship with His sufferings.

(2) How strong were the cords with which Christ was bound! It was not the brute force of the soldiers, nor the mandate of the governor, nor even the cruel nails that fastened Him to the tree. These He could have broken, but there were other cords, and of how strong, that bound Him there. There was the cord of--

(a) Obedience. The Father’s will had revealed itself, and that was law to Him.

(b) Love, and that glowed with furnace heat towards God and man that proved itself stronger than death. Blessed are they whose love grows with sorrow. It is only thus that we rise to true fellowship with the sufferings of Christ.

(c) Faith. His very enemies bore witness that He trusted in God. His last words upon the cross testified that His trust remained unshaken. If we would rise into fellowship with His sufferings, it must be by stepping forward in the spirit of faith, even though it should be into a burning, fiery furnace. Suffering ceases to be sanctified when it is infected with mistrust.

2. Our privilege of fellowship in the sufferings. Much was borne that we might not have to bear; but as I gaze at yonder cross I interpret the nature of our fellowship in the light of the next clause. Take the voices which sound from the dying Son of Man.

(1) “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do!” Can I have fellowship in that? I believe there is not one of us that follows our Lord fully, but we shall be more or less misunderstood, misinterpreted, but let us endeavour to enter into sympathy with the heart and mind of Jesus; and then, if a rough word is spoken, or a brother does not seem to understand us, Christ’s prayer will rise to our lips.

(2) “I thirst.” Thank God our thirst shall never be what His was. Yet I am reminded, “Blessed are they that thirst,” etc. And do not be cast down that you have not received the fulness of blessing. Is it not something that your thirst for God and righteousness makes you in a sense partaker of the sufferings of Jesus.

(3) “Woman, behold thy son! Son, behold thy mother.” In that I see something that I may have fellowship with. In the midst of all His agony He found time to think upon the sorrows of His broken hearted mother and His lonely disciple, and to mingle their griefs with His own. How is human sorrow sanctified by such a revelation as this? Does bereavement come? The same pangs that shot through my Saviour’s heart are become mine, and I am a partaker with Him.

(4) “My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He was forsaken in order that you and I might not be forsaken. And yet, let us consider what it was that caused that cry: it was the dark shadow of imputed sin coming between His soul and God. And as we enter into the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus, our views of sin will become more keen and clear, and also bring along with them a more painful emotion than could otherwise be ours. Let me enter into the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus, that will make me hate sin.

(5) “This day shalt Thou be with Me in Paradise.” Parched are His lips, and His heart breaking; yet when that dying malefactor’s cry reaches His ear, His eye is turned upon that poor dying man, and the word of peace and pardon is spoken; and the suffering Son of Man takes on Himself the burden of the dying sufferer at His side. Oh for a heart to sorrow in all the sorrows of humanity!

(6) “It is finished.” Oh to be partakers with Christ in the glory of that last cry, which is the triumphant issue of suffering. When the will has been so fully yielded that God has been able to work out His own purpose in us, and to reveal His Son in us, then may it one day come to our turn to exclaim with St. Paul, “I have finished my course.”

3. Fellowship in the result of His sufferings. He, the Captain of our salvation, was made “perfect through suffering.” Even so, while there never was a time that the will of the Man Christ Jesus was opposed to the will of the Father, yet there was a time when its obedience was not completed, and thus He learnt obedience by the things which He suffered. If we learn what it is to be conformed to the image of His death, as our wilfulness and waywardness learn to submit themselves to the gentle discipline of suffering, and if in each fresh cross we find a fresh revelation of the loving will of the Father, how calm, how resurrection-like our lives must needs become! (W. M. H. H. Aitken, M. A.)

The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings

There are senses in which we can have no community with our Lord in His sufferings.

1. They were distinct in kind from ours.

(1) They were meritorious, whereas we cam never have any merit in God’s sight.

(2) Voluntary, whereas all ours are deserved being entailed by sin.

2. They were distinct in degree.

(1) In all their bitterness they were foreseen, whereas ours are hidden, and come in drops only.

(2) In absolute magnitude. He bore the whole burden of human suffering. Our sympathies are mighty, but the facts on which they are founded, and the persons they concern, are limited.

(3) In capacity for suffering He surpassed us. It is a token of God’s mercy as well as our infirmity that we are benumbed by pain. The crash which lights on a man and maims him, leaves him feeling for a moment unhurt. And so with great mental suffering. Often in the course of mighty calamities the chief sufferer endures less than those who pity him. But when in the depth of the valley of humiliation Christ was ever awake to each particular of His great load of woe, and when they offered Him the stupefying potion He put it from Him.

(4) In the matter and form and nature of His suffering He surpassed us. What was it that wrung that “My soul is exceeding sorrowful.” Was it the mere prospect of pain and shame? Can we suppose that that courage which has often borne on the sons of men to torture and ignominy, foreseen and chosen, was not present in Him? No. Death had a sting, but it was not pain, nor shame; it was sin.

But here we touch a point where we may enter into the fellowship of His sufferings. If He became sin for us we are the sinners. Imputed guilt crushed Him; shall actual guilt bring to us no similar suffering? Of this the natural man knows nothing. Terror on account of sin may throw over his soul its dark shadow, but this is not fellowship with Christ’s sufferings.

1. Whence, then, does this fellowship date? When first the Holy Spirit convinces of the hatefulness of sin.

2. This fellowship is an acquirement worthy of our highest ambition. We may avoid it, and live as we think a far more comfortable life. Shall we with the dread of death ever before us? Is it not worth while to get rid of this with all its grievous bondage?

3. The Christian should need no such argument, for the very purpose of his existence is to be conformed to Christ, but this he cannot be without the fellowship of His sufferings. The Captain of our salvation was made perfect through them; so must we be. (Dean Alford.)

The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings

It seems an awful wish that any mortal should dare to aspire to share the sufferings of the Man of sorrows; stranger still when we remember the actual sufferings of that mortal; stranger still that He should tell us to wish it for ourselves.

The nature of this fellowship.

1. It is not any imitation of Christ’s sufferings. Paul might have had them as had the impenitent thief, without any fellowship with Christ. We, too, may suffer beside Christ without suffering with Him.

2. The sufferings of Christ were peculiarly His own. Every heart knows its own bitterness.

(1) We shall not find them in the outward circumstances of His life. There have been more painful lives and agonizing deaths than His.

(2) We see their intensity in the fact that Christ’s life was perfectly holy. He loved God perfectly in a world where God was not loved, where His law was broken, and His name defamed. And remember He saw iniquity as none else could see it; and yet He loved the men whose sin He loathed, and because He loved them He bore the awful burden of their sin.

(3) In this our Lord’s life followed a universal law. It is a law of organic life, that the lowest form of it has least power of suffering; the highest form of it most. The eye that is the quickest to see beauty is most pained by deformity; the ear that most loves harmony is most pained by discord. But give a spiritual eye that loves the beauty of holiness; a spiritual ear that loves the harmony of righteousness, and place them in the midst of disorder and evil, and you have a nature that, just because it is perfect, must be sorrowful.

3. Now we see what is meant by this fellowship. Paul wished to be raised in the scale of being, and he knew that he could not have Christ’s holiness without Christ’s sadness, His grace without His grief. Such must be the law of our life. If we would come nearer Christ we must have His sufferings. You may escape them, but only by descending in the scale of being, just as a deaf man escapes the pain of discord, the palsied the pain of touch.

4. Is this a gloomy view of religion? Yes, to those who have mistaken what religion is, to the selfish, the cowardly, and the slothful, whose religion is only a device for getting to heaven as comfortably as they can.

Its reward.

1. Those who share the pains of Christ are entitled to His joys. The same capacity for pain that marks the highest nature also shows its capacity for pleasure. The joy of Christ was in the love He bore His Father, although that also made His grief. If He grieved that the world had not known His Father, it was joy to Him to gather those to whom He taught the Father’s love. If it was grief to the Good Shepherd to see the sheep wandering, it was joy to bring it back to the fold. And for this joy He endured the cross. And it may be our joy to do likewise, and to have the brighter fellowship even in the meanness of your toil.

2. In every pain you endure for Christ there is a prophecy of the glory that you shall yet share with Christ. God has made nothing for pain. For every creature God has provided its proper element, and for every desire its lawful gratification. If, then, God has made a new creature in Christ Jesus, He has provided for it an element and gratification for its spiritual desires. The plant that struggles toward the light testifies that light is its proper element; the captive eagle that spreads its wings in vain testifies that its proper home is in the broad fields of air. And when the soul of the Christian pines for the light, and its wings of faith and hope spread themselves, unable to bear him to the home he loves, it is a certain proof that there is a light, a freedom, and a blessedness in the place our Lord has gone to prepare, and he welcomes the pain as preparing him for the place. (Bishop Magee.)

The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings

In what respects a Christian may have fellowship with the sufferings of his master.

1. By comprehending their character, objects, and results.

(1) Those who think of them as chiefly corporeal, or proceeding from the treatment of men, or from natural causes, cannot share this fellowship. The body was tortured, but “my soul is troubled.” There was no cross in the garden; nor does the prospect of suffering explain the agony there; nor the endurance His cry. “God hath put Him to grief,” and those who regard His sorrows as those of a martyr can have no fellowship with Him who was “wounded for our transgressions.”

(2) They who limit the effect of these sufferings to their moral influence can have no fellowship with Him it is true that Christ has set all mourners an example; but “He also offered Himself without spot.” God setting him forth as a propitiation is something distinct from setting us an example.

(3) But the belief of this is not everything, notwithstanding what doctrinal Pharisees may say. The devils have it but are not better for it, and a man may be sound in his ideas about these things without caring an atom for them.

2. By faith in them as real and efficacious, and by appropriating their fruits to ourselves. When I feel and know that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth me from sin I have the highest kind of this fellowship. I may not know all that God has revealed about the blood of Jesus, nor be able to satisfy a theologian, but just as I know that the sun gives me light, and food nourishment, so I may know that Christ’s blood takes away sin.

3. By suffering as far as possible in His Spirit. There were sorrows into which we cannot follow Him, and His Spirit was so perfect that our imitation must be very imperfect. But we have fellowship thus:

(1) The lowly born and despised disciple may have fellowship with the sufferings of Him whom sinners contemned because He was the carpenter’s son.

(2) The poor may have fellowship with Him who had not where to lay His head.

(3) The hidden disciple, called to stand and wait, may have fellowship with Him who lived, with but one exception, in the seclusion of Nazareth for thirty years.

(4) The tempted likewise.

(5) The despised.

(6) The forsaken.

(7) The agonized; and

(8) The dying.

Wherefore is this fellowship desirable?

1. Our enjoyment of the everlasting benefits of Christ’s sufferings is dependent on this fellowship.

2. It assists our comprehension of Christ’s love.

3. We learn to value more highly what has been secured by Christ’s suffering.

4. It tends to relieve the burden of our sorrows.

5. It extinguishes our love for the world.

How may i attain it? Like Paul, you must count all things loss. Such knowledge requires much sacrifice.

1. If you pride yourself on your family you can have no fellowship with Him who endured contempt as the carpenter’s son.

2. If your great aim is to be wealthy you can have no fellowship with the sufferings of Christ in His poverty.

3. If your object is applause, what communion can there be between you and “the despised and rejected of men”? (S. Martin.)

The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings

In relation to pain.

1. The pains of life are as various as bodies and souls. Our sensibilities are very various; one thing hurts one person and another another; what is agony to me my neighbour scarcely feels. This is true of the roughnesses of life, its calumnies, its disappointments; of those trials which come through the affections, and those which come through the ambitions of our nature. And those to whom sorrow does not come go in quest of it; they have self-made troubles as hard to endure as those God sends. Nay, there is this compensation, that real suffering drives out imaginary, and where the lot is that of want or anguish the distresses of mere sentiment are excluded. But no Christian escapes distress of some kind.

2. But in all this there is lacking as yet the essential feature of a fellowship in Christ’s sufferings. For this faith is needful, and devotion, submission, the support of a heavenly arm, and the expectation of a heavenly home. St. Paul’s life was Christ. All his desires, interests, objects, were swallowed up in the living to Christ’s glory. It was in this sort of life that trouble met Him (2 Corinthians 6:5). What becomes of us when we drag ourselves into this comparison. But if we suffer no great things on Christ’s behalf, let us see at least that common life is lived in remembrance of Him, life’s pleasures subordinated to His will, life’s anxieties, sorrows, sicknesses, endured patiently in His strength.

In relation to sin. In the highest sense we cannot share Christ’s sufferings, and, thank God, need not. He has done all. We can add nothing. But that conflict with sin, with its assaults, wiles, contradictions, and perversenesses, temptations which He waged, every one of His servants must have his share, and that conflict means suffering, as every man who has had to do battle with a besetting sin will bear witness. He carries its scars yet, and will carry them to his grave. As Christ, the Captain of our salvation, resisted unto blood, striving against sin, so must we, and in the midst of the conflict remember that He is with you (1 John 4:4; 2 Kings 6:15-17). (Dean Vaughan.)

Christ suffering in His members

Some two hundred years ago, there was a dark period of suffering in Scotland, when deeds of bloody cruelty were committed on God’s people, not out done by Indian butcheries. One day the tide is flowing in Solway Firth, rushing like a race horse with snowy mane to the shore. It is occupied by groups of weeping spectators. They keep their eyes fixed on two objects out upon the wet sands. There, two women, each tied fast by their arms and limbs to a stake, stand within the sea mark; and many an earnest prayer is going up to heaven that Christ who bends from His throne to the sight would help them now in their dreadful hour of need. The elder of the two is staked furthest out. Margaret, the younger martyr, stands bound, a fair sacrifice, near by the shore. Well, on the big billows come, hissing to their naked feet; on, and further on they come, death riding on the top of the waves, and eyed by these tender women with unflinching courage. The waters rise and rise, till, amid a scream and cry of horror from the shore, the lessening form of her that had death first to face, is lost in the foam of the surging wave. It recedes, but only to return, and now, the sufferer gasping for breath, her death struggle is begun; and now for Margaret’s trial, and her noble answer. “What see you yonder?” said their murderers as they pointed to her fellow confessor in the suffocating agonies of a protracted death. Response full of the boldest faith, and brightest hope; she firmly answered, “I see Christ suffering in one of His own members.” (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings

A dear suffering Christian on a bed of sickness, which has now proved the portal of heaven, shrank for a while from the prospect of prolonged anguish which opened before her. In the vision of the morning there appeared to her a minute crown twined here and there with thorns, and by the side of this tiny ensign of the Saviour’s deep, abounding love, lay another crown, composed wholly of thorns, large murderous spines, such as doubtless composed the wreath of painful mockery that bound the brow of the Son of God. “I thought,” said she, “the angels might have brought it; for some one seemed to say, pointing to the large heavy crown, ‘I wore this for thee; wear thine for Me,’“ and meekly she bent her head, and wore the wreath, and now she has laid it by for the crown which she wears. (Anna Shipton.)

Sweetness of fellowship with Christ

Oh! how sweet a cross it is to see a cross betwixt Christ and us; to hear our Redeemer say, at every sigh, and every blow, and every loss of a believer, “Half mine!” (S. Rutherford.)

Fellowship with Christ’s suffering

An intimate friend of Handel’s called upon him just as he was in the middle of setting the words of “He was despised” to music, and found the great composer sobbing with tears, so greatly had this passage and the rest of his morning’s work affected the master. (Musical Anecdotes.)

Vicarious suffering common

Suffering in human life is very widely vicarious. Every man feels this in himself; one part of his being paying another’s penalty. If he loves overmuch, it is not love that suffers, but conscientiousness. If his passions are unduly excited, it is his moral nature that feels the transgression. If the brain be overwrought, the body feels it. The first lesson of life is one of vicarious suffering. As we go to the ship to see friends depart, and leave them with cheers and benedictions, and wafted kisses; so, when a young spirit is about to be launched into this earthly life, one would think that troops of angels would attend it, and with hope and gladness see it on its way. But no. Silently it passes the bounds of the unseen land; and the gate which opens to admit it to this is a gate of tears and moans. Through the sorrow of another is it ushered into existence. Love cannot clasp all it yearns for in its bosom, without first suffering for it. The child lives upon its parent’s life. The child which has no one to suffer for it is a miserable wretch. And from this point onward, in every relation of life, one man suffers for another’s benefit. It is the law of social life; and I do not see why we should think it strange that Christ obeyed the same law, only in a grander way. (H. W. Beecher.)

Fellowship with suffering longed for

Thuanus tells, that a Gallic lord being led forth to martyrdom in company with some equally faithful, though plebeian professors, saw that out of regard to his rank the officers put on him no chains, while each of his brethren bore them; upon which he cried, “Let me, I pray you, be clipped of none of my honours; I, too, for love of Jesus, would wear a chain!” (S. Coley.)

Being made conformable unto His death--The death of Christ is presented to us in three different lights.

1. As the noblest expression of Divine love for man; as the infinitely meritorious price of our redemption; as the only safe ground of a trembling sinner’s hope.

2. As the strongest and most endearing motive to holiness of life--“constraining us.”

3. As a suitable pattern for imitation, which is the meaning here.

Let us analyse this eminently distinguishing feature of Christian attainment. There is conformity--

1. To the principles involved in the Saviour’s death. It was not merely an affecting and mysterious historical event. It represents the principles which lie at the foundation of God’s moral character and government, and are most vitally connected with man’s hopes as a guilty and helpless being.

(1) These principles are--

(a) That Jehovah is a just and holy Being, and that evil cannot dwell with Him.

(b) That the Divine administration implies the punishment of sin as well as the reward of righteousness.

(c) That the moral law of God is a transcript of His own character, and as such, must be vindicated in all its honours and claims.

(d) That God has an unalterable right to the obedience of His creatures.

(e) That satisfaction must he given to the demands of the perfect law before transgressors can be admitted to mercy.

(f) That without shedding of blood is no remission of sins.

(2) To these principles the mind of the believer must and will be conformed.

(a) He acquiesces in them as essential and worthy of God.

(b) He looks on man as a guilty being and on God as a righteous judge.

(c) He adores and admires the holiness as well as the love of Jehovah.

(d) He contemplates with delight at the foot of the Cross the harmony of the Divine attributes.

(e) And in opposition to the infidel who derides the scheme, the Socinian who extracts from it all its value, the Pharisee who seeks to achieve a salvation for himself, he exclaims, “God forbid” (Galatians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 2:2).

2. In the motives which prompted to it.

(1) Love to God and man; the former because God s honour required vindication; the latter because man needed mercy. This love, of course, passeth knowledge, and in a sense cannot be imitated; but still in the experience of its benefits we may be conformed to it and cherish a corresponding feeling towards God and man, by giving to our Creator and Redeemer the highest place in our affections and service, and by devoting ourselves to the welfare of mankind.

(2) A holy desire to glorify God in the destruction of sin and the advancement of universal holiness. We are conformed to this when the Divine glory is the end of all our actions, and when we wage war against sin.

3. In the ends for which He died.

(1) As a witness for truth; and we must conform ourselves to this by acknowledging the reality and Divine original of truth thus attested.

(2) To expiate the guilt of sin: to conform to this we must repent, believe, and accept His salvation fully, and seek the salvation of others.

4. In the temper and spirit of His death. He suffered--

(1) Voluntarily and cheerfully--do we suffer willingly?

(2) With patience and resignation--are we stubborn?

(3) With meek benevolence--are we revengeful?

(4) In the exercise of lively faith--do we give way to despair?

We shall deduce from the subject those illustrations of the scheme of practical Christianity it is fitted to unfold. We have an illustration of--

1. The practical character of the doctrine of the atonement. Having for one of its main objects deliverance from the power of sin and the promotion of universal holiness, it is fitted to cherish a love of practical godliness.

2. The inseparable connection between faith and holiness. Without faith, the principles and motives which most powerfully prompt to holiness could not gain access to the mind: without holiness, there can be no genuine faith, for the graces of holiness are its effects and fruits.

3. The subject enters deeply into the essentials of Christian experience and life. Religion does not consist in the use of means; the ordinances of religion are only the means of leading the soul to God and holiness, of being conformable to Christ’s death. (R. Burns, D. D.)

Conformity to Christ’s death

The participle “being made” is present, and implies a process that is going on and will continue through life--not an act like justification, simultaneous with the exercise of faith. “Made conformable” means being cast in the same form, being brought into such a community and likeness that one sketch, outline, shape, will represent both.

This shaping in the form of Christ’s death is one of the Christian’s earnest endeavours and most cherished objects. No advantage in life, nothing that tempts ordinary men can attract Him in comparison of this. Here is a text for us to try ourselves by. What is the shape that we must be like. Christ’s death was a death unto sin. “In that He died He died unto sin.” The suffering of the previous verse is a different thing from this, yet it co-exists with this in the spiritual life. Fellowship with Christ’s sufferings is the endless conflict of the believer’s course, ever wearing and wearying Him. Conformity to Christ’s death is the deep calm of indifference to sin with all its allurements, ever setting in together with and over against the conflict. The two are in different portions of His being. The conflict with sin is carried on at the surface, and also very much beneath the surface--even in the region where the two wills, the old and the new, are ever struggling and wrestling for the mastery; and sometimes its more terrible paroxysms seem to penetrate, and shake, and threaten to carry away the whole man: but there is an inner depth, in which the peace which passeth understanding has its hold and reign: and there, in that centre of his being, is this death to sin going on. As Christ died to sin, passed out from the penalty and imputation of sin, He had no more to do with it. So each of the brethren who are being made like Him are losing part and interest in sin, weaned from its power, alienated from its motives and objects; the distance ever widening between it and them; the breach becoming ever more and more irreconcilable.

The method by which this is brought about.

1. Not by any mere strong action of the will--any acquired philosophical indifference to sin and temptation. Sin is too strong for any resolve.

2. No; in our Christian life, Christ is first and midst and last: and no mere moral strength or determination can be reckoned on as accessory to Him in his great work. This being conformed to Christ’s death is brought in, is carried on, is completed, by faith. When I first see Christ linked to me by the bonds of God’s everlasting covenant, then faith begins its work within me; then, the first utter dislike to sin, as sin, is bred in my heart.

3. But faith in what? In Christ’s death, in its atoning efficacy and its necessity. Then alone does sin appear in its proper hatefulness when I see that this was what helped to nail Him there; when I enter into my Redeemer’s woe and understand what it was that caused it. I become knit to Him and weaned from it--crucified with Him, so that though the motions towards it are yet felt in my body, yet I have no disposition in its favour.

Let us follow out this conformity into some of its attendant circumstances.

1. We have seen it in its total severance from sin and sinners. But where were they meantime? Did they rest quiet? Did they allow this ever lasting protest against the pollution, the selfishness, the hatefulness of sin before God, to be lifted up in peace? Ah no: there they were beneath His cross, scoffing at Him and aggravating His death pangs. And so it will be with us. Sin and the devil will not let us alone in its various stages. The nearer we approach in like ness to Him, the more will His enemies treat us as they treated Him. No longer by the scourge, and the crown of thorns, and the cross--but by mockery and scorn, by coldness and alienation, which in our present state of ripened social order are weapons as powerful as any outward persecution was then.

2. He died to all human ambition. Whatever projects His followers may have formed for Him were defeated by it. Just so thy fondly cherished hopes of earthly distinction must be laid down at the foot of His cross; thou must be content, so far as they are concerned, to be stripped and nailed to the cross of shame, and made a spectacle to men.

3. All self-righteousness is nailed to the cross, His was the only meritorious death. If I am being conformed to it I am nothing; nothing as ground of hope, or as cause of fear.

4. Nor should we entirely dismiss such a theme without one look onwards. “If we be dead with Christ, we shall also live with Him.” The Christian should never end with Calvary, nor with the mortification of the body, nor with deadness to sin; but ever carry his thoughts onward to that blessed consummation, to which these are the entrance and necessary conditions. (Dean Alford.)

The martyr spirit

A Chinese convert, when trying to persuade his countrymen to give up their idols and believe in Christ, was ridiculed and scorned, and at last pelted with mud and stones till his face was red with the blood that flowed from the cuts in his temples. Mr. Johnson, the missionary, meeting him, said, “You have had bad treatment today.” He smilingly replied, “They may kill me if they will love Jesus.”

Verse 11

Philippians 3:11

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead


Paul in the context reckoneth up his gain by Christ

Viz., his justification and sanctification; but his gain reacheth further, even to glorious resurrection.

The benefit to be obtained by Christ. How is this a privilege since there is a resurrection of the wicked? (Acts 24:15). But theirs is one to condemnation (John 5:29), and so a fall rather than a rising. Therefore the faithful are only called the Children of the Resurrection (Luke 20:36). The word here is not ἀνάστασις, but εξανάστασις, to express the full and blessed resurrection that no evil shall follow (Luke 14:14).

The submission of a self-denying believer to use any means to obtain it. The words seem to express a doubtfulness, but indeed they do not (2 Corinthians 5:1), for there is no uncertainty in God’s promise. Why doth he then thus express himself?

1. To intimate the difficulty, thereby to quicken his desire and diligence.

2. To express the variety of the means by which God bringeth His people to glory (Philippians 3:10).

3. To set forth his full submission (Luke 14:26).

4. His unwearied diligence and earnest endeavour to obtain this happiness, whatever it cost him.

5. The value of this benefit, and his vehement desire to attain it. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The doctrine here taught is that the blessedness of the saints at the resurrection is so great that we should be content to use any means and run any hazards to attain it.

What is the happiness of the saints in that day.

1. Our personal inherent blessedness is glory revealed in us (Romans 8:18).

(1) The body hath its felicity.

(a) Because the man cannot be happy till the body be raised again. The soul alone doth not constitute human nature.

(b) It is agreeable to the wisdom and goodness of God that the body which had its share in the work should share the reward.

(c) The estate of those who die will not be worse than that of those who are only changed at Christ’s coming, or there would be a disparity.

(d) In the heavenly state there are objects which can only be discerned by the bodily senses--the human nature of Christ, e.g.

(e) As Christ was taken to heaven bodily, so shall we, for we bear the image of the heavenly one (Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:42-44).

(2) For the happiness of the soul. We shall be satisfied with the vision of God and transformed Into his likeness (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

2. Adherent privileges.

(1) Justification: We have that now by faith; then we shall have our absolution from the Judge’s mouth.

(2) Adoption. We have that light now (John 1:12)--then the full fruition thereof (Romans 8:23).

(3) Redemption. That day is called “the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30), because then we are completely delivered from all misery, both of soul and body (Ephesians 1:14).

The means whereby God bringeth us thither.

1. The way of our holiness and the active part of our obedience.

(1) Dying to sin (Romans 8:13; Galatians 6:8).

(2) Living to God. The spiritual life is heaven begun (2 Peter 3:14; Luke 21:36; Acts 24:15-16).

2. As to passive obedience observe--

(1) That no suffering must be excepted out of our resignation (Matthew 16:25; Luke 14:26).

(2) This must be endured cheerfully.

The reason why, rather than fail, we must submit to any means which God hath appointed.

1. From the absolute dominion and prerogative of God, both to make laws and to put us on what trials He pleaseth to appoint.

2. From the goodness and suitableness of His laws.

(1) There is wisdom in them.

(2) We have no reason to be discouraged, for Divine help is assured (2 Timothy 4:17-18).

(3) The Divine comfort is to be had (1 Peter 4:14; Romans 5:5).

3. The great difficulty lieth not in a respect of the end, but the means; and so the trial of our sincerity must be rather looked for there.

4. The hope propounded will bear this submission. Immortal happiness is most durable, and endless misery most terrible; the world is vanity, heaven real. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The resurrection

There is a happy estate hereafter which begins with the resurrection. More happy than that which Adam lost or from which the angels fell.

The beginning of this happy estate is at the resurrection.

1. All good shall be perfected.

2. All evil cease.

3. Body as well as soul, perfected being, shall enjoy the fulness of the one and immunity from the other.

The apostle makes the resurrection the last thing, thereby establishing an order (Luke 24:26; 2 Timothy 2:12). Calvary comes before Olivet in the experience of both Christ and His people.

It is hard to come to heaven because of this Divine order.

1. Away then with all idle and secure thoughts of sparing ourselves. We must come to health by physic.

2. In all crosses let us not look into the state we are in so much as that we are going to. We are going to a palace and should not be dejected because of the narrowness of the way (Hebrews 12:21).

3. Labour for a right esteem of the things of this world. They are momentary and fading:

4. Labour to strengthen our graces.

(1) Faith to assure us that we are God’s children, and have heaven laid up for us.

(2) Hope which makes us cheer fully endure in expectation of what faith believes.

(3) Love to Christ which made Paul desire to be with Him which was best of all (Philippians 1:23). (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

The resurrection

(ἐξανὰστασις) of the saints

Is distinguished from that of the wicked--by its glory (Philippians 3:21). Daniel 12:2 --By its precedence (1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:23). Revelation 20:5 --By its results (John 5:29).

Is an object of Christian ambition--requiring faith--consecration--effort.

Will amply repay every sacrifice--of self-gratification--earthly advantage--life. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The resurrection of the just

No one could be more convinced than Paul of the blessedness in which the saint enters at death, and he was wonderfully qualified by visions and revelations to entertain this conviction. Yet he sets his heart upon that which could only be remote. What, then, must be that sequel which can fix and overwhelm such a mind, that while an instantaneous heaven lies before it, is transported beyond it to splendours which it agonizes to “attain”?

What is that entire satisfaction and climax for which the text teaches us to long and labour. Immortality as an idea was not unknown to the pagans, but the resurrection is the almost exclusive doctrine of Scripture.

1. That resurrection will be simultaneous, and the judgment of all will immediately succeed it.

2. Yet it is not unnatural that this common event should sometimes be specially regarded and personally applied. In the language of Paul to the Corinthians it is argued in the case of believers from their union with Christ. He mentions not the wicked who shall rise for different reasons. They could never wish to attain the resurrection. The first resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:15) is shared by the dead over those who have never died, and that of Revelation 20:6, is of souls.

3. St. Paul desired but a share in the general resurrection, attended as that event would be to him and all the people of God with consequences of surpassing happiness and glory.

4. Yet searching the experience of present Christians we do not find this hope ardently cherished. Thousands are contented with the salvation and glorification of the soul; this is to be deplored as the slight of a matchless good. Apart from the resurrection man is incomplete.

What are the scriptural representations of its accompaniments and consequences.

1. The mutual recognition of saints in heaven. Is violence to be done to memory, and can love be changed? Can a spirit made perfect be wanting in sympathies which so much purified it from imperfection?

2. The happiness of our future condition is made chiefly to depend on our resemblance to Christ.

3. There the saints shall be fully acknowledged. They who here were unknown and hated shall there shine forth as the sun.

4. Christians shall be glorified with their Master.

5. We therefore find the righteous in Scripture earnestly seeking and exultantly hailing this resurrection. Why? Because--

(1) It is the triumph of Christ.

(2) The full redemption of the believer.

(3) The restitution of our entire nature.

(4) Purposes will then be indicated which our present mixed being has not hitherto revealed, for both mind and body; the latter will then be a perfect instrument for the soul.

(5) A congeniality will be established between the risen saints and the materialism of their glorious abode.

(6) In the reintegration of our manhood shall be displayed the most perfect spectacle of the beauty of holiness.

(7) There will be endless progression.

What are the determinations by which it is to be won. The manner or method supposes far higher means than those we can command. The “power of the resurrection” alone secures our confidence. The “means,” however, in this connection, refer not to the causative but the moral; to the influence of present character and conduct on this event. We often mark the influence of former conduct on our present condition; and so we exist and act for all the future of our immortality.

1. What prayer, then, should we devote to this attainment?

2. What anticipation should familiarize it?

3. What preparation should facilitate it? “Mortify therefore your members.”

4. What counterpart should we exhibit of it. (R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)

The attainment of the resurrection

Paul’s aim. How can that future rising be attained at all by man’s effort in time?

1. Paul has been speaking of a spiritual fellowship with Christ’s sufferings and death and rising, and then as a direct result he passes to this, from which we infer that the resurrection in the future is the result of man’s spiritual life in the present. Men fancy that the future glory of the risen Christian is by a kind of miracle suddenly added beyond the grave. Paul regards it as a glory daily growing now, to be manifested then. It is an outgrowth of fellowship with Christ, and its blessedness will be greater or less according to the perfection of that fellowship.

2. In what manner was this Christian life a constant attainment of the resurrection? The “power of Christ’s resurrection” is the influence in the soul which renders its life a gradual growth towards the rising glory of man.

(1) The risen Christ is the pledge of a risen life. Christ did not rise merely to prove our immortality; if that were all its meaning it would only deepen man’s fear. We do not want immortality unless we know that our life, throwing off its sins, shall rise upwards to God. Rising to God Christ showed that man is accepted by the Father, rising in the human, He showed how, through Him, human life should rise into life Divine.

(2) The rising of Christ is a power to elevate life. We have fellowship not with the past, but with the living Jesus: we are moulded by the power not only of a dying Saviour, but of the living friend. He carries our sympathies upwards with Himself to God and the spiritual world.

(3) Hence arises the gradual attainment of the resurrection, every experience of our risen life makes us feel the necessity of the future; yet every experience is an actual attaining of that future.

Paul’s endeavour. The necessity of this agonizing endeavour arises from two facts.

1. The difficulty of accomplishing it. This is so--

(1) Because our souls are subject to the influences of three great worlds.

(a) By its fascinations this old earth appeals to our hearts, and seems by many arms to bind us to itself as our home.

(b) The dark world of unbelief and indifference awakening the carnal nature renders the Christian life an inevitable struggle.

(c) At the same time through the love of God and the Cross of Christ heaven is attracting the soul.

(2) Because of the incessant and dominant power of our easily besetting sin. This power arises largely in that every man thinks his own weakness small and insignificant.

(3) And then listen to Paul after his high attainments telling us that he has to keep his body under lest he should be a castaway.

2. The glory of its attainment. You know how this raised Paul to exertion. He moved onwards to eternity under the constant influence of its attraction. Alas! how feebly we feel this as a motive for endeavour. We lash ourselves into exertion by fear, when we might be so cheered into it by sweet hope as to become unconscious of toil. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

The attainment of the resurrection dependent on fellowship with Christ

Just as the perfect beauty of the flower lies dormant in the seed, and through its burial in the cold earth is invisibly developing itself, to bloom forth at the voice of spring, so the perfect beauty of the resurrection is hidden in the Christian now; and, by all his toil and struggle, that germ of glory is growing. Just as the mental power and strong determined will of the man are hidden in the child, and are maturing unconsciously through all the wonder of its infancy, so the resurrection manhood of the soul is lying in it during this childhood of Time; and by the education of fellowship with Christ, and struggle to be Christ-like, is advancing to its final splendour. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

Verse 12

Philippians 3:12

Not as though I had attained, either were already perfect--In these words we have


A disclaiming of present perfection in two expressions.

1. “Not as though I had already attained.” This is an agonistical word for receiving the reward due to the conqueror. In the races there was a crown of leaves generally set over the goal, that the foremost might catch it, and carry it away with him (1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Timothy 6:12).

2. “Or were already perfect”--another agonistical word. Though the runner was to seize the crown as his right, yet the judges interposed before he could put it on his head, and when he received it from them he was adjudged a perfect racer or wrestler as the case might be. The word “perfect” was used--

(1) Of their strength and agility, having passed the agonistical exercises (2 Corinthians 13:9).

(2) Of their reward. When the crown was adjudged them, or when they had done worthily, the more excellent had the more excellent rewards, which were called perfect crowns.

An earnest endeavour for the future.

The reason of his diligence. Christ’s apprehending is--

1. In effectual calling, as He puts us upon this race, or inclineth us to it.

2. By constant support, for having apprehended us He still upholds us. (T. Manton, D. D.)

None of God’s children, however assured, can look upon themselves as out of danger till their race be ended.

1. God’s children may have assurance, as Paul had. This is the ease--

(1) When grace discovers itself in eminent self-denying acts, and is not a sleepy habit or a buried seed (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

(2) When evidence is not blotted by frequent interruptions of the spiritual life by sin (2 Corinthians 1:12).

(3) Because they have the Spirit of adoption (Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14).

(4) They have a sense of the love of God and His rich mercies in Christ.

(a) By acquaintance with Him (Joh 22:21).

(b) By intercourse with Him (1 Peter 2:3; Ephesians 3:12).

(c) By the experiences of their afflictions (Romans 5:3-5).

(d) By present rewards of obedience (John 14:21; John 14:23).

(5) The change wrought is a sensible one and may he plainly discovered (Ephesians 5:8).

2. God’s children cannot look upon themselves as past all care and holy solicitude. Reasons.

(1) Because there is no period put to our duty but life. It is not enough to begin with God; we must go on in His way till we come home to Him (Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 6:11; Philippians 2:12).

(2) During our lives there is something more to suffer, some lust to conquer, some grace to strengthen.

(3) Some have left their first love (Revelation 2:4); have fainted in the race (Galatians 5:7).

(4) The nature of this assurance is to exclude fear, which hath torment; but not the fear of caution and diligence (Proverbs 28:14; 1 Peter 1:17).

3. Uses.

(1) To show us the difference between carnal security and solid assurance.

(a) There is a difference in the grounds; the one is a slight presumption of the end without the means, and the other goeth on solid evidences (1 John 3:19). The one is sand, the other is rock.

(b) They differ in effects; the one benumbeth the conscience into stupid peace; the other revives the conscience and fills it with joy and peace through believing (Romans 15:13; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Peter 1:8).

(c) They differ in the way they are procured or maintained. Foolish presumption costs a man nothing, but true assurance is gotten with diligence (2 Peter 1:10; 2 Peter 3:14), and is kept with watchfulness (Hebrews 4:1; Hebrews 12:28-29; 1 Corinthians 10:1-2).

(2) To teach us the necessity of

(a) diligence;

(b) watchfulness;

(c) self-denial.

Whatsoever degrees we have attained we must press forward to perfection.

1. Reasons.

(1) By this our title is assured.

(2) By this our hearts are more prepared in this life for our happiness (Colossians 1:12; 1 John 3:3).

(3) By this our glory and blessedness are increased.

2. Use: to persuade us to get ground in our race, which we do as our title is mere assured by self-denying obedience.

(1) Our end will bear it, to see God and enjoy Him (1 Thessalonians 2:12). How much better than all those worldly things upon which we lay out so much.

(2) The glory of God requires it. Less grace may serve for our safety and comfort (John 15:8; Matthew 5:16).

(3) The notion of grace implies it, which is continuous (Proverbs 4:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16). There is requisite to this--

(a) A strong faith in the world to come (Hebrews 10:39).

(b) A fervent love, levelling and directing all our actions to God’s glory (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

(c) A lively hope quickening and strengthening our resolutions for God and heaven 1 Peter 1:13).

It is a great encouragement in the spiritual race that Christ apprehended us for this end that we may apprehend the crown of life. Christ’s apprehension implies--

1. That any motion towards that which is spiritually good proceeds first and wholly from Christ. He is author and finisher (Acts 16:14; Acts 26:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

2. A motion and subordinate operation on our part. He infuses a new life, which we receive from Christ to use it and live by it (Song of Solomon 1:4; Romans 12:2).

3. The tendency of this life is to God and heaven (2 Peter 1:4; Colossians 3:1-3).

4. Christ having apprehended us still keeps us in His own hands.

5. Use: to press us to answer Christ’s apprehension by our exact, resolved, diligent pursuit of eternal life, that will declare that we are apprehended and will be guided by Christ to the land of promise. Two motives.

(1) Our obligation to Christ.

(2) Christ’s interest in us. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Conversion illustrated in the case of Paul

How is the work of conversion effected. Paul says, “I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” How this was done may be seen from Acts 9:16.

1. Christ got possession of Paul’s understanding by appearing to Him in glory. Having once seen the Saviour’s glory Paul could not resist His claims.

2. Christ got possession of Paul’s heart by assuring him of His grace.

3. Christ got possession of Paul’s life. Having surrendered mind and affections he would not be likely to make any reserve. Nor did he; and ever after he said, “To me to live is Christ.”

To what is the work of conversion expected to lead? To perfection. Paul expected to be perfect--

1. In character.

2. In his whole nature--physically (verse 21); morally, by being sanctified wholly; intellectually, by having all the powers of the mind so fitly harmonized that there should be no undue preponderance, but that each should lend its own proper aid in working out for the renewed man that eternal progression in knowledge to which he is destined.

3. In all his external circumstances. The society, employments, joys of heaven, will make us fully and forever blest.

Who are the subjects of this change? How are we to know them? What proof did Paul give of it? The text shows us--

1. That he highly appreciated his future destiny (verses 20-21; 2 Corinthians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 5:1-9).

2. That he cherished a lively sense of his present deficiencies--“Not as though,” etc.

3. That he made it the one great business of his life to realize the blessings of the gospel, both in this life and the next (verses 12-14 and 7-9). Compare yourselves with Paul. (J. Jordan.)

A call to perseverance

Our attainments vary, but none is actually secure or absolutely perfect.

Our duty, to continue in the exercise of faith, self-denial effort.

Our hope. To gain the full reward, to which Christ has designed us. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christian perfection

The sense in which Christians are not perfect. They are not so perfect as to be free--

1. From ignorance: they may know many things material and spiritual, but they do not know the Almighty unto perfection nor many of His ways.

2. From mistake. They do not mistake things essential to salvation; but in non-essentials they err and frequently: in regard, e.g., to facts and their circumstances, and the character of men, and the interpretation of Scripture.

3. From infirmities. They are free indeed from what the worldly calls his infirmity--drunkenness, etc.

but not from weakness or slowness of understanding, and the infirmities of speech and behaviour which spring there from.

4. From temptation, since Christ was tempted.

5. Now are they absolutely perfect. How much soever a man has attained he must yet “grow in grace.”

The sense in which Christians are perfect.

1. They are free from outward sin. (1Jn 3:8-9; 1 John 3:18; Romans 6:1-2; Romans 6:5-7; Romans 6:11; Romans 6:14-18; 1 Peter 4:1-2). It is not said, “He sinneth not wilfully, habitually, as other men, or as he did before.” Objection

(1) But did not Abraham, Moses, and David commit sin. Yes, but it does not follow that Christians must. Those who argue so seem never to have considered Matthew 11:11. We cannot measure the privileges of Christians by those formerly given to the Jews. Objection

(2) But are there not assertions which prove the same thing? (1Ki 8:46; 2 Chronicles 6:36; Ecclesiastes 7:20). Answer: From the day that sin entered the world there was not a just man that sinned not until the Son of God was manifested to take away our sins. “The heir as long as he is a child differeth nothing from a servant.” Holy men of old were, during the infant state of the Church, in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fulness of the times was come, etc. Now therefore we are no more servants but sons. So that whatsoever was the case of those under the law, since the gospel was given “he that is born of God sinneth not.” It is of great importance to observe the difference between the two dispensations (John 7:28). That this great salvation from sin was not given till Jesus was glorified, St. Peter plainly testifies (1 Peter 1:9-10). Objection

(3) But did not the apostles sin--St. Paul by his contention, St. Peter by his dissimulation? Yes, but how does that prove that Christians must commit sin. No necessity of sinning was laid upon them. The grace of God was sufficient for them, and it is surely sufficient for us. No man is tempted above that he is able to bear, and with the temptation there is a way of escape. Objection

(4) But does not James contradict this (verse 2). No; he does not refer to himself or Christians (see verses 9 and 1), where “we” is general or exclusive of Christians. Objection

(5) How shall we reconcile St. John with himself? (1 John 1:8; 1 John 1:10). Observe

(a) verse 10 fixes the sense of verse 8.

(b) The point under consideration is not whether we have or have not sinned heretofore; and neither of these verses asserts that we do sin, or commit it now.

(c) Verse 9 explains both verses 10 and 8.

We are cleansed from all unrighteousness that we may go and sin no more. St. John is well consistent with himself as well as with the other holy writers. He declares--

(a) “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.”

(b) No man can say I have not sinned, have no sin to be cleansed from.

(c) But God is ready to save us from past and future sins.

(d) “These things write,” etc. (1 John 2:1-2).

(e) But lest there should be any doubt on a subject of such vast importance the apostle resumes the subject in Chap. 3, where he carefully explains his own meaning (verses 7-10).

2. They are free from evil thoughts. But thoughts concerning evil are not always evil thoughts. Our Lord doubtless thought of the things spoken by the devil yet He had no sinful thought. And even thence it follows, neither have Christians (Luke 6:40). And indeed whence should evil thoughts proceed in the servant who is as His Master (Mar 7:21, cf. Matthew 12:33; Matthew 7:17-18). The same happy privilege St. Paul asserts from his own experience (2 Corinthians 10:4, etc).

3. From evil tempers. This is evident again from the declaration, “Everyone that is perfect shall be as His Master.” Christ had just been delivering some of the sublimest doctrines of Christianity, and some most grievous to flesh and blood--“Love your enemies,” etc. What other than this can St. Paul mean by “I am crucified with Christ,” etc. If 1 John 3:3 be true, then the Christian--

(1) Is purified from pride, for Christ was lowly of heart;

(2) from self-will or desire, for Christ desired to do only the will of the Father;

(3) from anger in the common sense of the word, for Christ was gentle and long-suffering. Conclusion: Thus doth Christ save His people from their sins. “We shall be saved” say some, “but not till death.” How is this to be reconciled with 1Jn 1:5; 1 John 4:17. See 2 Corinthians 7:1. (John Wesley, M. A.)

Apprehended that I may apprehend

Paul was apprehended by Christ or laid hold of. The reference is to the circumstances of His conversion.

1. What was it that arrested Paul? The perception of a perfection of moral character actualized before him in Christ and made possible for him through faith. Up to this time he had been seeking external things, but now with the vision of Christ there came upon him the conviction that even if he gained all these things he would still be fatally defective in the highest elements of his being. Thus, therefore, he was confronted with the great question: “Shall I go on and be content with the hollowness of Phariseeism and its inevitable issue? or shall I go back and build my life anew after the matchless pattern which has been set before me?” He could not get away till he had given it an answer.

2. There is not one who has ever come in contact with the gospel of Christ, who has not been laid hold of thus.

(1) Young man, as you have been devoting yourself to the idolatry of wealth, or to the pursuit of pleasure or ambition, you have been laid hold of. Christ has come to you through the faithful preacher, and brought you to a standstill by the death of some companion, or laid His hand upon you in sickness, and held you to your couch face to face with the question: “Have I been living a life such as an immortal man should live?”

(2) My middle-aged friend, you know about this too. Christ apprehended you and asked you to revise all your theories of life when you buried your darling out of your sight; when your business went all wrong, etc.

Paul did not refuse to lay hold of that which Jesus set before him.

1. There is here, therefore, a human agency as well as a Divine. The stopping of St. Paul in his career, the setting of the truth before him--all that was done for him. He had to choose for himself whether or no he would transfer himself from the service of the world to the service of Christ.

2. But not every one who has been laid hold of has thus responded to the Lord’s appeal--the young ruler who went away sorrowful; Herod, Felix, Agrippa.

3. So with some here. They have seen the wrongness of their present career, but they have not chosen to give it up for the way of Christ; because to do so would have involved the sacrifice of all that hitherto they have cherished. But what can the world do for you, that for its sake you should put away from you the glorious heritage which Jesus promises?

Paul was not content with a mere partial attainment of that which Christ had set before him.

1. If any man might have been excused for cherishing feelings of complacency it was Paul. Yet he did not go to sleep over the singularity of his conversion; nor rock himself in the cradle of his apostolic success, nor soothe himself with the opiate of his official position. No, ever his eye was fixed on Christ. The more elevated he became in character, the more elevated Christ became to him.

2. Let the distance between you and Christ shake you out of your complacency. Tell us less of what is behind. Don’t be always recounting the story of your conversion. Forget even your joining the Church. Look forward.

Paul was not discouraged because he had not yet fully apprehended. There is no note of despondency. His words are full of joyful exhilaration. There are three elements in this aspiration which should encourage those who grieve because they cannot realize perfection.

1. The joy of the soul is inseparably connected with the effort to reach that which is above it.

2. In this aspiration there was the evidence that he had made some progress.

3. The consciousness that he was not striving in his own might. He who helped Paul will help us. Even if we fail occasionally let us not be discouraged, for he who slips on the steep mountain is still higher up than he who is sleeping in the valley. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Apprehended but not apprehending

Who that has read that melancholy autobiography left behind him by John Stuart Mill can help recalling here the description which he has given of that which might have been the religious crisis of his life? These are his words: “I was in a dull state of nerves, such as everybody is occasionally liable to, unsusceptible to enjoyment or pleasurable excitement--one of those moods when what is pleasure at other times becomes insipid or indifferent--the state, I should think, in which converts to Methodism usually are when smitten by their first ‘conviction of sin.’ In this frame of mind it occurred to me to put the question directly to myself: ‘Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to could be completely effected at this very instant; would this be a great joy and happiness to you?’ And an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered, ‘No.’ At this my heart sank within me; the whole foundation on which my life was constructed fell down. All my happiness was to have been found in the continual pursuit of this end. The end had ceased to charm, and how could there ever again be any interest in the means? I seemed to have nothing left to live for.” Thus even to him, nurtured though he had been in atheism, and educated without a religion, the Saviour came, laying on him His arresting hand, and beseeching him to adopt a more stable foundation for his life. But alas! he, too, made “the great refusal,” and deliberately put away from him that which would have furnished him with a model that can never lose its relative superiority, no matter how we ourselves may grow, and with a motive that can never lose its power. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The misfortune of a realized ideal

I recall the story of the artist, who, standing before the latest production of his hands, burst into tears, and on being asked for the reason of his emotion, replied, “Because I am satisfied with my work.” He felt he had done all that was in him; that, in a word, he had overtaken his ideal, and so henceforward the joy of his art for him was gone. Perhaps, too, it was something of the same sort that made Alexander weep when he had conquered India. He had filled in the outline of his life which he had made for himself, and thought not that there was yet another world left him where conquest would be far more honourable, even the world within himself. But the Christian is delivered from this danger. He has always the joy of advancement, while yet there is ever something more in Christ beckoning him forward. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Verses 12-14

Philippians 3:12-14

Not as though I had already attained


The imperfection of our attainments.

The grandeur of our calling.

The necessity of effort.

The prospect of reward. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Failure and progress

1. It is a painful feeling to look back on life and feel that a great object is unaccomplished. The philosopher has this, who in spite of brilliant prospects finds after hard effort the problems of life to be insoluble. The would be liberator of an oppressed nation feels the same when, after vast expenditure of time and money and suffering, he dies with a tyrant on the throne and the people no better for freedom than when he began. The Christian’s feeling is even more painful, when he measures what he has done with what he might or ought to have done.

2. This, too, has to be observed of the Christian that, as he advances in the Christian course, his standard of perfection rises, and what once satisfied him now fails to do so.

3. The feeling of not having attained is also disheartening. Is the past to be the criterion of the future?

4. The feeling is deepened by the thought of all the struggle and strife to attain perfection, and all seemingly to little purpose. And soon he must meet the Great Judge who, however merciful, commands him to be perfect.

5. The apostle withdraws our attention from this feeling about the past to the future.

It is not a healthy thing to brood over past sin.

1. There is such a thing as disturbing the balance between the two parts of repentance, sorrow for sin and active obedience.

(1) Sorrow for sin is foundation work. Should a man be employed all his life in laying foundations?

(2) It is subordinate work, for it has no value apart from its action on character.

2. Brooding over the past has a dangerous influence on character, and has a tendency to remorse or despair.

3. The natural course is from sorrow to pass to obedience, remembering gospel provisions and motives.

I must not infer what my religious future will be from the past. The doctrine of probabilities is a very good one to go upon in worldly matters, wherever a permanent law prevails. Here the rule would he “remembering” the things behind, etc. But there are factors in the spiritual life which can change the face of things. To say that it is improbable that the Spirit will give you more strength hereafter than now would be an impious restraint on the action of the freest of Beings. Such a habit, moreover, is destructive of faith and hope. Forget the past and believe that it is possible for you to grow faster in goodness in one year than you have grown in ten; and that there are resources inconceivably great within your reach.

We must not remember the past as our standard of action or character. Here we must draw a distinction. The man who is conscious of high purposes running through the web of life may be glad, as he takes his reviews of bygone days, that the grace of God has enabled him to live on the whole near to the level of Christian principles--but there must ever be a discontent with themselves in the minds of Christians. And he may well suspect himself of declension or something more who is content to live as he has lived. Hence to forget the past and to remember it in order to avoid its evils are the same thing.

The soul must be so occupied with the future that the past shall only be subordinate and subsidiary. If I have been in wretchedness the remembrance is of no account except to help me to escape from it. If I have been poor exertion to gain is the main thing. Whatever the past, the Christian’s future has in it possibilities almost infinite. (Pres. Woolsey.)


The goal at which the apostle aimed was moral perfection. No man can define this moral perfection; but let no man object on that account. All the grandest things defy definition. Music, the perfection of sound; beauty, the perfection of form and colour; poetry, the perfection of thought--no one can define these, nor can any one the music, beauty, and poetry of our highest nature and life.

The apostle acknowledges that he has not reached this perfection.

1. Are we to understand that Paul felt unsubdued pride, selfishness, etc. No. That which is not perfect is imperfect; but sin is not imperfection; it is contradiction. The contradictory element was destroyed, but imperfection remained, the normal elements of his nature had not attained their fulness and strength and beauty.

2. Who of us has attained? We are told of young people who have “finished their education.” Think of having finished ones education with a world like this about us! Much more in the things of Christ.

The apostle tells us what he does to attain that moral perfection which is the prize of victory. “One thing I do,” etc. Scientists tell us of arrested developements in nature, but instances of that in spiritual life are more numerous. This is to a large extent because men are trammelled by the things behind.

1. There are the restrictions of habit. Terrible is the peril of routine, the benumbing influence of familiarity and commonplace. We must break away from this.

2. The discouragements of failure. Here the waters of forgetfulness are the waters of life. We are saved by hope, not by memory.

3. The tyranny of success. The success of many musicians, artists, preachers, masters, etc,, contents them, and instead of being an inspiration is a stultification. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Paul’s ideal of life

The whole doctrine of the Christian ideal is contained in this section of apostolic experience. An ideal is sometimes called a standard, and so, in some sense, it is; but a standard is something measured, whereas an ideal is changeable, ever mounting higher and higher. Men do not go on a journey or build a house aimlessly, much less should they live aimlessly. They should set before them a distinct idea of character. We call it an ideal because it proceeds from the faculty of ideality or imagination, and presents all subjects in their perfectness. It is a glorious element in the human mind, for there is so much to draw men down from what is noble. And an ideal should always run far beyond realization. The man whose standard is far beneath his power must inevitably go down.

There are three classes of men.

1. Those who have no ideal whatever. They are born Hottentots and they remain so. If they are born into mechanical life, mechanics they remain. These have food and raiment, and, being fired with no inspiration, they are contented.

2. There are those who have an ideal which is pure romancing. They are simple dreamers. They imagine themselves to be now a warrior, now an artist, now an orator, and fill up the hour of their dream with the fancied dignity. These things have no relation to practical life; on the contrary they come back with less nerve and a greater inclination to avoid the burdens of life.

3. There are those who have a clear conception of the possibilities of human development, and who bring enough of reason with their imagination to give definiteness and purpose to their ideals. In this class we should seek to be found.

There are many kinds of ideals.

1. Those which respect the external, secular condition of men. There are those who say, “I will not be a second workman to any man.” Their ideal lies in their trade. The ideal of others consists in being rich, or high up in society. These things are not wrong, if they are parts of a comprehensive scheme that includes everything--body and soul. It is better to have these as ideals than to be aimless. But it is imperfect and may be ruinous. A man may sacrifice his own life and moral well being for the purpose of pouring molten gold into his children’s throats that destroys him in making and them in taking.

2. There are those who rise higher and take in an ideal which includes secular character as well as secular condition; who propose to be honoured among men; some by art, some by literature, some by statesmanship, etc. They intend to be respected for integrity and known for power. But these aim at character only as a thing within the bounds of time, and necessarily dwarf themselves. For man is a creature of two worlds, and in this he is at his least estate.

3. Others include the whole manhood for both worlds--the apostle’s ideal. He substantially declared, “Nothing is done while anything remains undone.” “Not as though I had attained.”

This delineates the noblest form of ambition and the noblest ideal of life. Life is transformed by it.

1. Such an ideal unites and harmonizes life and redeems it from being a mere series of disconnected experiences and passages.

2. It stimulates and inspires the soul. A man may have no motive to life who merely has an ideal of wealth or ambition when these become impossible to him. You cannot make a man like Paul bankrupt. He has still, when all is gone, a house not made with hands.

3. It redeems men from indolence.

4. It is the cure for conceit.

5. It maintains spring and enterprise to the end of life, and fires men up at the very last with solemn purposes and noble resolves. Conclusion: Avoid one rock which is fatal to nobility. Because you have broken your purpose don’t let it go unmended: when you have failed to reach your ideal don’t despair but try again. (H. W. Beecher.)

The ideal and the actual

The ideal of Christian life and character. St. Paul was a most ambitious man, but his aim was to be something. So his ideal was personal, not something wrought out or imagined or embodied in a system or a creed. He wanted to be like Christ. That for him was perfection.

The apostle had not reached his mark.

1. He had a consciousness of incompletion which was forced upon him by a variety of experiences.

(1) His particular form of ambition--being as distinct from having--which, connected with Christ, was an egoism which promoted true humility. Hence he was keenly alive to his imperfections.

(2) His sense of limitations. The feeling would be forced upon him that he was capable of better things.

2. All this has its lessons.

(1) It gives us heart for ourselves and courage in our work for others.

(2) It rebukes self-satisfaction and complacency.

(3) It teaches us to recognize Christian character below perfection, and to cultivate charity for the imperfect.

But it was the fixed practical purpose of his life to reach it. Did he do nothing beside? Nothing. He did indeed many things, but the many made one. And had he been a Manchester man he would so have bought and sold, etc., that in doing it he would have been doing the one thing.

His method of progress.

1. Forgetfulness of things which belong to immature and unripened states.

2. A gathering up of the totality of nature into purpose and effort. (W. Hubbard.)

Few believers perfect here

When Allston died he left many pictures which were mostly sketches, yet with here and there a part finished up with wonderful beauty. So I think Christians go to heaven with their virtues mostly in outline, only here and there a part completed. But “that which is in part shall be done away,” and God shall finish the pictures in His own forms and colours. (H. W. Beecher.)

Aim at perfection

Thy heed of it. Our actual attainments are small--we have much to learn and experience.

The means. A humble estimate of ourselves--leaving the things behind and reaching to those that are before--pressing to the goal.

The incentive. We would be perfect (see Barnes). In non-essentials we may differ, and God will in due time set us right--but in this we must have one rule and one mind. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christian progress

Wherein we may make progress.

1. In our views of the excellence of religion.

2. In our love to God and Christ.

3. In holiness.

4. In heavenly-mindedness.

The necessity of this progress. This is seen--

1. In the frequency with which the Christian life is compared to a warfare and a race.

2. In the urgent commands of God.

3. In the nature of religion to which progress is indispensable.

The means.

1. A firm belief that Divine influences may be obtained at all times, and to the full extent of our wants, by humble, earnest prayer.

2. Constant application to Divine ordinances.

3. A continual view of the Cross.

4. A constant vision of the prize.

5. A study of eminent examples. (T. Craig.)

The struggle for perfection

We go into a sculptor’s studio, and there stands a block of marble on which the sculptor is working; the marble is all white and pure, yet the image is imperfect; the hand is beginning to beckon, the foot to move, thought is gathering on the brow, the lips seem as if they would soon speak, yet the statue is still imperfect; nothing faulty in the material, but it is not yet wrought into the fulness of the sculptor’s ideal. So it was with the apostle; the vicious element was purged, but his deep soul had not yet been wrought into the fulness of the Divine ideal. He went out after larger measures, intenser experiences of love, power, light, fellowship, and blessedness, beyond all his past or present enjoyments. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Unrealized possibilities

You remember how the mightiest discoverer in natural science of modem times, Sir Isaac Newton, said, towards the close of his career, that he was but as a child who had gathered a few shells on the shores of an illimitable sea. He saw stretching before him a vast ocean of knowledge, which his life had been too short, which even his powers had been too weak, to explore. What he felt in things natural, St. Paul felt in things spiritual--that there were heights above him which he had never scaled, depths beneath him which he had never fathomed; that, rich as he was in Christ, there were yet hidden in that Lord treasures of wisdom and knowledge which would make him far richer still; that God was unsearchable, unfathomable, a shoreless sea, an ocean of perfections; of which he understood a little, of which he was understanding ever something more; but which man could no more take in than he could hold the sea and all its multitudinous waves in the hollow of his hand. Skirts of His glory St. Paul had seen, but not His train which filled the temple of the universe. Secrets of Christ’s power he had known, who in this very Epistle declared, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me;” and yet he felt that there was a power of Christ, transcending all which even he had known; and like some great earthly conqueror, who should esteem nothing won while anything remained to win, nothing accomplished while anything was yet possible to accomplish; who slighted, despised, trampled under foot all his old successes in the eager pursuit of new; even so this mighty spiritual athlete, this captain, commander, conqueror, leader of the hosts of the Lord, could not stay his steps, could not arrest his course. (Abp. Trench.)

More and yet more

You know what the general said when one of his officers rode up and cried, “Sir, we have taken a standard.” “Take another,” cried he. Another officer salutes him, and exclaims, “Sir, we have taken two guns.” “Take two more,” was the sole reply. This way lies the reward of holy service: you have done much; you shall do more. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

No retreat

It is said that at the battle of Alma, when one of the regiments was being beaten back by the Russians, the ensign in front stood his ground as the troops retreated. The captain shouted to him to bring back the colours. But the reply of the ensign was, “Bring up the men to the colours.” The dignity of Immanuel’s ministry can never be lowered to meet our littleness. The men must come up to the colours. (New Testament Anecdotes.)

Verses 13-14

Philippians 3:13-14

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended


Imperfection acknowledged. Those that have made greatest progress are usually most sensible of imperfections.

1. The reasons of this point.

(1) In respect of grace.

(a) As grace increases light increases, and so they are most sensible of defects. Novices who know little are most apt to be puffed up (1 Timothy 3:6). Plutarch tells us that when young men came to study at Athens they were wise men; after they had studied a little only lovers of wisdom, but afterwards found themselves fools.

(b) As grace increases love to God is increased, and so sin is more hated.

(c) They have more experience of the craft of Satan (2 Corinthians 2:11), and the rocks on which they may split.

(2) Because of the world, which they have proved to be vanity and vexation of spirit.

(3) Because of themselves. The longer they live the more they are acquainted with themselves, both by meditation and commerce with God, whose perfections should beget humility (Job 42:5-6).

(4) Their estate being changed they have now to look to progress in it; and good men cannot run fast enough in the heavenly race.

2. The uses.

(1) To teach us that growth in grace and humility usually go together. The laden boughs do most hang their heads.

(2) Let us be sensible of our imperfections.

(a) In point of knowledge (Proverbs 26:12).

(b) In point of daily practice (Mark 8:37).

(c) In point of perseverance (Ezekiel 33:13).

Perfection desired.

1. The thing pursued after was “the prize,” etc. The prize of eternal glory is set before those whom God hath “called” in Christ.

(1) The calling is

(a) outward (Matthew 22:14);

(b) inward by the operation of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 1:9).

(2) In this calling God in Christ hath the greatest hand.

(3) The nature of this calling.

(a) The work of God is to give grace whereby the heart of man is changed and sanctified (2 Corinthians 4:6).

(b) The duty of man is to be obedient to the heavenly call (John 1:12; Jeremiah 3:22; Psalms 40:8; Psalms 27:8; Acts 9:6).

(c) The benefits flowing from both. There is a change in disposition, from sin to holiness; in condition, from misery to happiness.

2. The manner of the prosecution. Those that would be Christians indeed must make heavenly things their scope.

(1) The ways in which this is done.

(a) Habitually, when you have first fixed your end and renounced the devil, the world, etc., and chosen the better part (2 Corinthians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 5:9).

(b) Actually. It is not enough to choose this part, we must often actually think of it to renew lively affections (Proverbs 4:25).

(2) The intention of the end is either

(a) formal and explicit, by express thoughts of the world to come when the mind and heart are in heaven (Matthew 6:21); or

(b) implicit and virtual, by the ready, unobserved act of a potent habit (Philippians 3:20). This is necessary that we may be sincere (2 Corinthians 1:12). To direct our way; when the eye is on the mark you may the better steer your course towards it. To quicken old endeavours (1 Corinthians 9:24). For joy and solace (Romans 5:2-3). To make us constant (Hebrews 10:39).

3. The earnestness of the pursuit.

(1) His diligence.

(2) His perseverance.

(a) Forgetting the past.

(b) Pressing onward. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Christian progress

The things behind which are to be forgotten.

1. Past sinful pleasures.

2. Past evil acquaintances.

3. Past good works.

The things before.

1. Increased holiness.

2. The prize of eternal glory. (W. P. Insley, M. A.)

Religion is a progressive principle, and that not merely by Divine appointment, but from its very nature. This is the only satisfactory evidence that religion exists at all. It is also the chief source of happiness here, and a large ingredient in it hereafter. It is not, however, always equally marked and measurable. The incoming tide has receding waves; so let no man judge his neighbour a hypocrite because he thinks he sees a retrograde movement. This progressive character may be argued--

From the nature of the subject in which the change is wrought. Man, an essentially active being. As previous to conversion the soul was in progress, going from one degree of evil to another, so it may be expected to make progress in the new direction given it.

From the nature of the power which effects the change. If the effect could be ascribed to chance, or to momentary impulse, it might be expected to be stationary, or even to cease or disappear, but when the power of God, almighty and unceasing, is the sole efficient cause of conversion, it is unreasonable to suppose that the life created can be at a standstill.

From the means employed to effect the change. Had these been of a natural or ordinary character, such as human wisdom might devise and human power set in motion, then we might infer that God intended us to rest contented with actual attainments. But could it be to keep piety alive without improvement or increase that God gave His Son, that that Son came to die, that the Spirit was given? From the prodigality and divinity of the agents and instrumentalities religion cannot he a stationary thing. The purpose must be adequate to the means.

From the end for which the change is produced. That end is--

1. Not deliverance from present pain.

2. Not mere deliverance from future misery.

3. Nor, indeed, man’s restoration by itself. If the end were in man he would usurp God’s place.

4. The end is for God’s glory. This cannot be adequately promoted by stationary religion.

From the nature of the change itself. As far as Scripture and experience reveal it, it is but an incipient change, and must be carried on forever. This change does not consist in anything corporeal, but in the mind, and not in the structure of the mind, in the creation of new faculties or the destruction of old ones, but in new desires, dispositions, and affections. These must have their objects, and their actings on those objects must increase their strength, enlarge their scope, and stimulate their energies.

From the manner in which God has been pleased to enforce the obligation to progress.

1. The emptiness of past achievements.

2. The weight of future glory. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)

Christian progress by oblivion of the past

There are some views of the apostle which are discouraging. His almost superhuman career, and his calm superiority to temptation seem to place him far beyond the reach of imitation. But here we see him frail and struggling like the rest of us, a sight precious--

(1) To the man, because it tells him that what he feels Paul felt, imperfect, feeble, far from what he would wish to be, yet with sanguine hope expecting progress in the saintly life.

(2) To the minister, because it tells him that his very weakness may be his people’s strength.

The apostle’s aim--Perfection.

1. Less than this no Christian can aim at. There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises that by these we might be partakers of the Divine nature. Not merely to be equal to the standard of our day or even to surpass it: but to be pure as Christ is pure, “perfect as our Father in heaven.”

2. It is easily conceivable why this perfection is unattainable here. Faultlessness is conceivable, being merely the negation of evil; but perfection is positive, the attainment of all conceivable excellence. Like truth, you may labour on for years and never reach it, yet your labour is not in vain. Every figure you add makes the fraction nearer than the last to the million millionth.

3. To this object the apostle gave himself with singleness of aim--“this one thing.”

4. In pressing towards this mark St. Paul attained a prize. The mark was perfection of character--the prize was blessedness. But he did not aim at the prize, but at the mark. In becoming perfect he attained happiness, but that was not his primary aim. In student life there are those who seek knowledge for its own sake, and those who seek it for the prize. To the first knowledge is its own reward, the second are not genuine lovers of knowledge. That is a spurious goodness which is good for the sake of reward. The child who speaks truth for the sake of the praise of truth is not truthful. The man who is honest because honesty is the best policy, has not integrity in his heart. He who endeavours to be holy, etc., to win heaven has only a counterfeit religion. God for His own sake, Goodness because it is good, Truth because it is lovely--are the Christian’s aim. The prize is only an incentive, inseparable from success, but is not the aim itself. With this limitation, however, it is a Christian duty to dwell much more on the thought of future blessedness than most men do. If ever the apostle’s step began to flag, the radiant diadem before him gave new vigour to his heart. It is our privilege, if we are on our way to God, to keep steadily before us the thought of home. It was so with Moses and with our Lord.

The means which st. Paul found available for the attainment of Divine and perfect character.

1. What are the things behind which are to be forgotten?

(1) The days of innocence. We come into the world with tendencies to evil; but there was a time when there were only tendencies. We call that innocence. And when men come bitterly to feel that it is gone they look back upon it with regret. In this there is much that is feeble and sentimental. Our early innocence is nothing more than ignorance of evil. Christian life is not a retaining of that or a returning to it. We lose our negative sinlessness and put on a firm, manly holiness.

(2) The days of youth. Up to a certain period it is our tendency to look forwards; but as we arrive at middle age it is the tendency to look back with the remorseful feeling that the days of youth are gone by half enjoyed. This is a natural feeling, but not the high Christian tone of feeling. We have an inheritance incorruptible, etc. What have we to do with things past? And so manhood in the Christian life is a better thing than boyhood, because riper; and old age ought to be brighter, calmer, and more serene than manhood. There is a second youth for man better and holier than the first, if he will look on and not back.

(3) Past errors. There is that rueful, self-accusing temper, which is always looking back. Something of this we ought to have, but not that only. Faith is having the heart to try again. “Forget the things that are behind.” We shall do better next time. Under this head we include all those mistakes which belong to circumstances. Some of these are irreparable. A wrong profession, e.g., has been chosen. It is wise to forget all that. It is not by regretting what is irreparable that true work is done, but by making the best of what we are. Poor mediocrity may secure the fewest false steps, but he is the best who wins victory by the retrieval of mistakes.

(4) Past guilt. Bad as the results have been of making light of sin, those of brooding over it have been worse. Remorse has done more evil than even hardihood. We want everything that is hopeful for our task, for it is not an easy one. And therefore it is that the gospel comes to the guiltiest with the inspiring news of pardon. Do not stop too long to weep over spilt water. Conclusion:

1. Christian progress is only possible in Christ. It is a high calling, and therefore seems impossible; but it is in Christ Jesus, and therefore to be achieved.

2. Out of Christ it is madness to look on. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

The law of progress

1. The apostle here corrects a misapprehension, which might have been occasioned by his previous language. The mighty moral act which changed the whole tenor of his life did not so contain in itself his spiritual history as to make all further aspirations and efforts superfluous. Unspiritual men have thought to compound with heaven by one supreme sacrifice, and so to escape from the wearing trials of the daily struggle. St. Paul maintains that at his conversion he was laid hold of so that he might attain that for which he was still striving, and now with the whole history of the Acts behind him, and having written his greatest Epistles and founded his noblest Churches, and having been caught up into Paradise and heard unspeakable words, he yet forgets those things that are behind, etc.

2. In these words we catch the echo of the most familiar and potent watchword of modern times. The most opposite aspirations and determined antagonists; government, society, art, science, even religion, are ranged under the banner of progress.

(1) The source and motive of progress is a sense of want.

(2) This is kept alive by an ideal of possible perfection which haunts the soul, and is a relic of Eden. This is largely the distinction of man from the beast. It is the effort to satisfy an unquenchable thirst for the infinite.

(3) Allied to this is the mighty power of hope. It may fail, and be seduced and degraded, yet its very errors bear witness to its strength and the greatness of its origin.

(4) But is not this yearning joined to this hope of realization among the dispositions which welcome revelation to the soul? Was not revelation for ages a progress from Eden to Moriah, to Sinai, to Calvary? and although it is now complete (Jude 1:3), yet it has become the principle of progress. On the one hand, through the Church it leavens the world gradually; and, on the other, the apostle here is a sample of its progressive power within the soul, and that it has enriched and is still enriching human thought, ennobled character, and given an original impulse to entire sciences, and created virtues that are impossible without it, are simple matters of fact.

True progress must be the progress of man as distinct from anything which is properly outside him.

1. Contrast this with one of the most general conceptions of progress at the present day--that which ministers dignity and well being to man’s outward life. Political reforms, great constructive efforts, rapid locomotion, sanitary improvements, vast accumulations of capital seconded by vast outlays, inventions which economize labour or relieve pain--these are progress. It is almost a marketable commodity; it can be measured, weighed, valued. Mental speculation that does not invent or cannot be utilized, morals which do not sanction economical theories or subserve epicureanism--these are the enemies of progress. We are bidden compare English life today with that of the time of our grandfathers. But forgetting the vast achievements of the past and present, we are bidden to look forward to the new triumphs which await us or our children. As contrasted with our grandfathers we are great and powerful; yet for our descendents there is reserved a land of promise, compared with which our modern civilization is but as the desert. To these enthusiasms the Church of God replies in no unfriendly spirit. She has not forgotten the blessing of Eden (Genesis 1:28). Nay, material progress contributes real, if indirect service to the higher interests of man.

2. But at the same time society may be well organized, while man himself is barbarous and selfish. Man’s conquests over matter are no adequate measure of the true progress of man. For he is a spiritual being, linked by his higher nature to an immaterial world. Man can rule matter because he is superior to it. Comprehend your matchless dignity in your Creator’s world. Each of you has, or rather is, that with which nothing material, atom or planet, can rightly challenge comparison. Each is in the depth of his personality a spiritual substance.

3. Let it be thankfully granted that as a means to a higher end, material improvement is a healthful condition of human life and a blessing from God. But its exaggeration at the expense of what it should subserve is fatal to the progress of man. When the sense of the eternal, and all the finer sensibilities have been crushed out by the worship of matter, man sinks in the creation of God, even though he should learn year by year to wield more and more power over the dead atoms around him. A high material civilization does but arm the human brute with new instruments of his lust or his ferocity, unless it go hand in hand with a power that can penetrate his heart and mould his will.

Must embrace the whole of human nature. It must not consist in the undue development of a single power or faculty.

1. To some progress is co-extensive with the growth of the mind. And it is our sacred duty to cultivate intellect long and well; not indeed that it may be a pledge of selfish temporal advancement, but as an instrument of religious work. And the religious development of intellect is unquestionably a prominent feature of true human progress. But it is only one feature.

2. When intellectual energy is substituted for moral and spiritual energy; when a man’s mind is developed at the expense of his heart and will, he deserves compassion. Pure intellectualism is apt to fall short even of the lower measures of duty, and when unbalanced by a warm heart and a vigorous will, the mere cultivation of mind makes a man alternately selfish and weak.

Must include or at least recognize the attendant facts and outlying conditions of human life.

1. The Fall. How rarely do secular theories of human progress condescend to recognize this solemn fact, even when they do not in terms reject it. Yet there are witnesses to it beyond the precincts of theology. There is the pagan doctrine of the difficulty of virtue; there is the spontaneous tendency to evil profoundly imbedded in humankind, and admitted by unChristian writers; and there is man’s undeniable aversion for his brother man when in a state of nature. So that when man’s life is organized into human society, and society is furnishing itself into government, it can only secure itself against tyranny and corruption by a mechanical system of checks and counterchecks.

2. The wonderful phenomenon of grace. Grace is not that mere barren inoperative sentiment of good will or favour on the part of God. In God to will is to act, to favour is to bless, and thus grace is a positive boon conferred on man (Ephesians 3:20); the might of the everlasting Spirit renovating man by uniting him to Christ.

3. Immortality. Can any theory of progress dare to claim our attention which, while not venturing to reject this, in practice proceeds as if they were uncertain or improbable? What a poor, narrow conception of man’s capacity for progress is that which sees no horizon beyond the tomb. This is worse than educating a child without training him for the duties or guarding him against the dangers of coming manhood. (Canon Liddon.)

The Christian race

Behold an excellent description of a Christian course, borrowed from the exercise of running a race, being a manlike and commendable exercise, fitting men and enabling them for war. The very heathen herein condemns us, whose ordinary chief exercises are but good company as we call them, continual lying at taverns, to the impoverishing of our estates and weakening our bodies? The kind I condemn not, but the excess is such as the heathen would be ashamed of; for which they shall even rise up in judgment against us, and condemn us. But from the simile, we may gather thus much, that Christianity is a race. The beginning of this race is at the beginning of our conversion. It should begin at our baptism. The first thing we should know ought to be God. The race is the performance of good duties, concerning our general calling, and concerning our particular. For the length of our races, some are longer, some shorter, but the end of every man’s race is the end of his life. Some men’s ways are plainer, some rougher. The prize is fulness of joy. The lookers on are heaven, earth, and hell. God is the institutor of this race, and the rewarder. The helpers are Christ, good angels, and the Church, which helps by prayer. The hinderers are the devil and his instruments, who hinder us by slanders, persecutions, and the like. For ground of this race in us, we are to know that man is created with understanding, directing him to do things to a good end and scope. Other creatures are carried to their end, as the shaft out of a bow, only man foreseeing his end, apprehends means thereto. His end is to receive reconciliation and union with God, to which he aims by doing some things, suffering others, and resisting others. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

The laws and hindrances of the Christian race

For preparation.

1. The laws.

(1) As those who ran had to use such diet as did strengthen, not cloy, and such apparel as might cover, not clog them, so the Christian (Hebrews 12:1).

(2) We must consider the ways we are to run in, and what dangers we are like to meet with. The want of this is the ground of apostasy.

(3) We must enter the race betimes. The devil’s trick is to tell us we have plenty of time; but life is uncertain, and youth is the best time to get into training.

2. Hindrances.

(1) Hope of long life.

(2) A conceit that when we have given our names to Christ we must bid adieu to all delight.

(3) A despair of getting through.

For continuance.

1. Laws.

(1) You must resolve to hold on without failing in good duties.

(2) You must look to gain ground, and grow from grace to grace.

(3) You must do all things with all your might.

(4) You must run cheerfully and speedily.

2. Hindrances.

(1) Idle scruples which are as dust thrown in the eyes of runners, and temptations which are as stones to their feet.

(2) Sins against conscience.

(3) Ill and dull company.

(4) Wandering minds. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)


So far as acceptance with God is concerned a Christian is complete in Christ as soon as he believes. But while the work of Christ for us is complete, that of the Holy Spirit in us is not complete, but is continually carried on from day to day. The condition in which every believer should be found is that of progress. Nearly every figure by which Christians are described implies this. We are plants in the Lord’s field, but we are sown that we may grow. “First the blade,” etc. We are born into the family of God; but there are babes, little children, etc. Is the Christian a pilgrim? Then he must not sit down as if rooted to a place. Is he a warrior, wrestler, etc.? These figures are the very opposite of idleness. Admire our apostle as--

Forming a just estimate upon his present condition. “I count,” as if he had taken stock, made a careful estimate, and had come to a conclusion. The conclusion was dissatisfaction; nor was this to be regretted: it was a sign of true grace. And yet he was vastly superior to any of us. Shame then on us poor dwarfs if we are so vain as to account ourselves as having apprehended. Yet there are those who prate of having reached a higher life than this. But self-complacency is the mother of spiritual declension. We have observed--

1. That the best of men do not talk of their attainments. Their tone is self-depreciation, not self-content. Everybody could see their beauty of character but themselves. Shallow streams brawl and bubble, but deep waters flow on in silence.

2. That we, in our holiest moments, do not feel self-complacent. Job spoke up for his innocence till the Lord revealed Himself. We shall never see the beauty of Christ without perceiving our own deformity.

3. That whatever shape self-satisfaction may assume it is a shirking of the hardships of Christian soldierhood. Some shirk watchfulness and repentance by believing that the only sanctification they need is already theirs by imputation. Personal holiness, they say, is legal. Others believe they have perfection in the flesh, and others yet attain complacency by the notion that they have overcome all their sins by believing they have done so, as if believing a battle won could win it.

4. That complacency can be reached by many roads.

(1) Enthusiasts reach it by sheer intoxication of excitement.

(2) Antinomians by imagining that the law is abolished, and that sin is not sin in the saints.

(3) Cowards, who say we cannot conquer all sin, and, therefore, we need not aim at it.

5. That complacency has its root in forgetfulness of the awful holiness of God’s law, and the heinousness of sin.

Placing the past in its true light. “Forgetting,” etc.

1. He does not mean--

(1) That He forgot the mercy of God he had enjoyed.

(2) That he forgot the sins he had committed.

2. We must follow out his figure. If a racer were to pass most of his fellows, and then look round and rejoice over the distance covered he must lose the race. His only hope is to forget all behind.

(1) So must it be with past sins overcome. Perhaps at this moment you can honestly say, “I have overcome a fierce temper,” “I have bestirred a naturally indolent spirit.” Stop long enough to say, “Thank God for that”; but do not pause to congratulate yourselves, or it may be soon undone. The easiest way to give resurrection to old corruptions is to erect a trophy over their graves. Yonder friend is very humble, but if he were to boast of it there would be an end of it.

(2) So with all the work we have done. Some people have good memories as to their performances. They used to serve God wonderfully when they were young. In middle life they wrought marvels, but now they rest on their oars. As long as you are in the world forget what you have done, and go forward--individuals, churches, denominations.

Paul having put the past and present in their proper places goes on to the future, aspiring eagerly to make it glorious. We ought to be reaching forward, to be like Jesus. He who would be a great artist must not follow low models. “Be ye perfect.” Shall we ever reach it. Millions have who are before the throne, and we shall too by God’s good help.

Putting forth all his exertions to reach that which he desires.

1. “This one thing I do.” He might have attempted other things, and did, but all with reference to this one purpose.

2. Why? Because he felt God had called him to it.

3. Moreover he saw the crown. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The great prize

The purpose of Paul: What is involved in it?

1. Supreme love to Christ and consecration to His service.

2. Deadness to all human ambitions and merely earthly good. So absorbed is the soul in this one idea that it becomes the master passion of life; and the world, the flesh, and all things else cease to have any attraction.

3. Not satisfied with any measure of past attainment, or service, or consecration, but continually reaching forth with ever-growing ardour. There, in full view, is the “goal,” and the racer’s eye is fixed on it.

Paul’s meaning as to the prize was a personal resemblance to Christ, and a desire to be near him. His vision of Christ in the infinite attractiveness of His character, and in the glory and blessedness of His presence and reign in heaven, made him long to be like Him, and to have, not only a place in His kingdom, but a place hard by the throne of the Lamb. Multitudes of Christians are content just to be saved--to get inside the heavenly gate. But Paul rebukes this spirit. He had a higher and truer ambition.

How the great prize is to be won. In no other way than Paul won it.

1. The mind must contemplate it, the heart be fixed upon it, until the power of it shall overmaster all other objects and passions.

2. The purpose to gain it must be single as well as supreme. Divided affection, and allegiance, half-hearted strivings, will end in disappointment and disaster. The whole soul, purpose, and trend of life must be in the direct line of daily striving.

3. To insure success, all dead weights must be thrown off, all unnecessary hindrances avoided, all entangling alliances sacrificed, and “the sins which do so easily beset” or hinder us, put away. (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

Life’s contests and prizes

Such was the language of the most masterful man that ever trod the earth, and this utterance is the keynote of his marvellously successful life.

Singleness of eye, unity of purpose, concentration of power. This one thing I do, he cries, and he does it.

His was a sanctified, but boundless ambition, forever reaching forth in the direction of higher acquisitions of spiritual truth and nobler results of Christian work.

Paul pressed even toward a definite work. Paul’s mark was the highest that ever loomed up before a human soul.

This was also the prize he sought. Earth has its prizes, its crowns, its plaudits, its splendid fortunes. Heaven’s real prize is Christ Himself, and so Paul’s aspiration was, “That I may win Christ and be found in Him.” (P. S. Henson, D. D.)

Paul’s view of life

Was what it should be.

Forgetful or oblivious towards the past.

1. Of course the figure is not strictly applicable to the reality. Life cannot break itself from the past. The continuity of life cannot be divided at any point. Nor would it be well if it could. Up to whatever point we have run our race we have accumulated experience which has entered into life’s texture and given it direction and colour which it will more or less always keep. And Paul did not mean it in this sense. There are dark days and bright faces that will never die away.

2. What the apostle means is that we are to forget the things which are behind as no longer practically concerning us. Nothing can now be altered.

(1) Did we stand well in the past? Then let us not take credit for it. There is no time for self-elation or self-sufficiency. As soon as you begin to dwell with self-complacency on the past you lose your ideal of duty, and your right sense of the claims of the future and the present. This is the mark of a small and never of a great life.

(2) Have we done imperfectly or ill in the past? Let us not brood or despair. The past is done with us, let us have done with it, and in putting off the old let us put on the new. The future is before you; the present is still yours.

Eager and full of aspiration towards the future.

1. Life by itself has a tendency to stagnate, to grow commonplace, bounded in desire and aim. The young live mainly in the future; but by and by the vision fades away or becomes limited. A definite prospect of duty opens up within which the man must work, and find his happiness in working. Many lives are wrecked at this point, just because they wilt not settle and go to some definite work. The world neglected, neglects them. The very dream of hope to do something better has been their rum.

2. But this is no reason why a hopeful eagerness towards the future should die out of life. All right-minded men should have their gaze so far on the future that they may hope to become better and have more enthusiasm and patient continuance in well doing. This is to stretch forth unto the things before; to have not merely an ideal, but to work out our character, by God’s help, more and more into the forms of that ideal.

3. In whatever respect we feel that we are offenders against the law of Divine perfection revealed in Christ let us be more active. It is too often the case as life goes on to get contented with our characters such as they are.

Energetic in the present.

1. Paul did not perplex himself with questions as to the meaning of life, or use of it. He was not found asking, as clever writers now are, Is life worth living? Such is only the case when a kind of sickness has come over human speculation. Paul had too much common sense and manliness, and moreover had a real work to do.

2. His example may be beyond us, but the spirit that moved him to work may be ours. It is not necessary that we should have any great work to do, although we have all such work in the improvement of our own characters, and in making life sweet around us.

3. Unlike many in our day, who have cast the hope of the future away from them, we have something for which to work--the mark for the prize of the high calling. (Principal Tullock.)

Memory, hope, and work

The future for the young, we say, the present for the middle-aged, the past for the old. But these words of sublime hopefulness are from “Paul the Aged.”

Live in the future.

1. The two objects of hope and effort are distinct though connected. The mark is reached by the runner’s effort, the prize is the reward given for victory. The former stands for “being made conformable unto Christ’s death,” the latter for “attaining the resurrection;” or the mark is likeness to Christ, and the prize whatsoever glory and felicity God shall give besides.

2. Then there is to be a distinct recognition of moral perfection as our conscious aim, and our efforts are allowably stimulated by the hope of the fair reward it ensures. If you want to be blessed you must be good; if you want to get to heaven you must be like Christ.

3. Our highest condition is not the attainment of perfection, but the recognition of heights above us as yet unreached.

(1) Such recognition is the condition of all progress. The artist who is satisfied with his transcript of his ideal will never grow any more. Unless we saw an ideal far above us, the actual would never approximate toward it. The unrest born of the contrast between these two marks man off from the happy contentment of the brutes beneath him, and the happy peacefulness of the angels of God.

(2) That is eminently true of “growth in grace.” The type for us is the express image of God in Christ. To that supreme beauty our nature is capable of unlimited approach. No bounds can be set to it.

(3) There are two ideas in that notion of perfection.

(a) Extirpation of sin;

(b) Attainment of the Divine likeness.

Sin may be extirpated, and yet the second process may be in its infancy. And we shall not stop growing in heaven, but through the eternities we shall be growing wiser, nobler, stronger, greater, and more filled with God.

(4) This grand future should draw our thoughts all the more to itself, because it is not only grand, but certain. “We know that … we shall be like Him.”

(5) And therefore that habit of living in the future should make us glad and confident. And that is the true temper for wider interests than our own. Live in the future for yourselves, and for the world. Believe in a millennium of some sort or other, because that faith is wrapped up in the confidence that God loves us all, and is shaping this earth’s history to His own perfect aim, and instead of lamenting “the former days were better,” let us believe that the time will come when our brethren with us will have reached the mark, and the purposes of God finished in a redeemed humanity and a perfected world.

Let that bright, certain, infinite future dwarf for us the narrow and stained past.

1. This advice goes dead against much “experimental” Christianity; but it is wise for all that. All sorts of backward looking are a positive weakness and impediment to a man in running a race. Time given to such occupation is withdrawn from the actual work of life. A man cannot run with his eyes over his shoulder; he is sure to knock against somebody, and so be delayed and hindered. And if you stand there looking backwards instead of making the best of your way out of evil, the evil will catch you up. Remembering always tends to become a substitute for doing. But take the injunction more specifically.

1. Forget past failures. They are apt to weaken you. You say, “I shall never be any better. Experience teaches me my limits.” So it does. There are certain things we shall never be able to do, but it says nothing about the limits in our line of things. There is no limit in that respect, and to take the past as proving it is to deny the power of God’s gospel, the expansibility of the soul, and the promise of the Divine Spirit.

2. Forget past attainments.

(1) They are apt to become food for complacency and every vain confidence. We are apt to say, “At such and such a time I was converted and growing in Christian attainments. Then my heart was cleaving to the Lord, and filled with His fulness.” Yes, and you ate your dinner twenty years ago; will that serve to strengthen you for today? The rain fell on the young spring wheat when you and I were boys; will that do anything towards this year’s harvest?

(2) These attainments, like failures, do very often become the measure of our notion as to what we shall be able to do in the future, and so cripple us.

2. Forget past circumstances, whether sorrows or joys. The one are not without remedy, the other not perfect. Both are past; why remember them? Why should you carry about parched corn when you dwell among fields white unto harvest? Why clasp a handful of poor withered flowers when the grass is sown with their bright eyes opening to the sunshine?

Let hopes for the future and lessons from the past lead to strenuous work for the present. “This one thing I do.”

1. Be the past and future what they may, I cannot reach the one nor forget the other except by setting myself with all my might to present duties and by reducing all duties to various forms of one life purpose.

2. How is that noble ideal reached? It is the spirit in which, not the work at which, we work that makes life one. A hundred processes may go to the manufacture of a pin. We may all be trying to be like Jesus Christ, whatever may be the material at which we toil. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Behind and before

1. This is the language of men who subdue the world, the motto of all heroes, the secret of all triumph.

2. We here observe one of those laws of compensation by which nature would atone for the inequality of her gifts. All men have not great talents: but all men may have great industry, and as talents are useless without diligence, one talent improved by honest labour will make a greater man than ten that rust unused.

3. Paul’s entire life was an illustration of the text. As a lad he was bent on scholarship, and won honours at the feet of Gamaliel; as a member of the Jewish Church by his prodigal ability he soon placed himself beyond parallel. As a convert to Christianity he was the same man in singleness and intensity of purpose.

4. Another feature in Paul’s character. He arrogates no particular saintship. His fellow disciples are not left to infer that his path is accessible to no traveller but himself, He preaches to sinners as the chief of sinners, to Christians as a fellow citizen; the race and fight were his no less than theirs.

What are those things which Paul left behind and forgot.

1. Whatever he had given up for Christ (verse 7). He forgot them in the sense of neglecting them. He not only never repented these sacrifices, he forgot them. The Israelites fondly recollected the fleshpots of Egypt, and there are Christians who dispute with themselves whether in the sensitive jealousy of their first love they did not make too many sacrifices for their Master. The man who calculates with even a tincture of discontent what he has suffered for Jesus, has never seen the Cross.

2. The errors and doubts that marked his first approach to Christ.

(1) He never said but once, “Who art thou, Lord? What wilt Thou have me do?” As soon as it pleased God to reveal His Son to Paul, he disentangled his mind forever from the elements or rudiments that typified and foreshadowed Christ, and never returned to those beggarly elements. Mark the confidence of his personal feelings when he finds occasion to impart them--“I know whom I have believed.” This is the language of a man who has laid aside forever the doubt of his acceptance with God, of Christ’s ability to save, of his Master’s constant presence and guiding spirit. Doubts on other matters arising in the progress of his ministry he would discuss in their proper time, but those which had been once disposed of were forgotten forever.

(2) What a melancholy religion is theirs who are ever contending with old doubts. After the Lord has shown Himself to the eye of faith, they seem unable to let this matter rest. A conversation with an unbeliever, the perusal of a book, the pressure of a besetting sin, disturbs their assurance, and they go over the old ground.

(3) Having obtained faith in Jesus and adoption into God’s family, they ought to give all diligence to add to their faith courage to confess it. A bold utterance of our trust in Jesus is an excellent remedy for unbelieving fears. To this boldness of confession they should add knowledge, and follow on to know the Lord. This will multiply instances of His faithfulness. And then, lest knowledge should puff up, there should follow self-discipline, meek endurance, fervent piety towards God, and charity to men.

We have seen what Paul left behind: let us now come up to the front and look into the distance for the things towards which Paul is running, and reaching as he runs. These are all embraced in fellowship with Christ.

1. Few knew more of Christ than Paul, yet he considered his attainments but as the first steps in a path of ever-unfolding discovery. Jesus was a mine just opened; and he describes his prospects like a man almost bewildered by the sudden inheritance of wealth untold.

2. To win Christ was not to gain His favour simply, but to be conformed to His image. (E. E. Jenkins, LL. D.)

Spiritual barbarism

Two thoughts are here suggested.

1. The apostle’s principle is the very one which makes the civilized man distinct from the barbarian. The characteristic of the former is restless progressiveness; of the latter, supineness and stagnation..

(1) The civilizing man has his caravan track, but he will have one directer and easier. He has turnpikes and stage coaches, but he must level or tunnel the mountain, and lay a pavement of iron, and chain his ear to a horse of fire. The earth yields him enough to eat, but he will not live by bread alone; he must eat bread enough to bring with it a better provided life; so he contrives steam ploughs and threshers to make the arm of the farmer equal to the productive power of the sun and field. He finds the pen too slow, hence his types and cylinders scatter libraries. On the other hand, the barbarian is content to live in a hut, to scratch the ground with a stick, to trudge on foot with a trail for a road. He takes the world as he finds it, and leaves it as he found it.

(2) But the one sort do not all live where civilization prevails, nor do the others in lands where barbarism is dominant. Every civilized region has risen out of barbarism, and we see the barbarian spirit in stagnant conservatism resisting improvement.

(3) None the less does the old barbarian strain come to the surface. When a man thinks of his moral condition, he says, “I am as good as the average of my neighbours.” It is this from which man has to be saved.

2. A rule which God has made fundamental in the world, we must make so in individual life.

(1) Since the day when man first lighted a fire to boil his pot, and hollowed out his first canoe, up to the day when the latest development of these contrivances appears in the steamship which can sail three thousand miles a week, the world has never rested in its advance. What achievements has the world made and forgotten in achieving better. Again and again it would seem as if the men of Babylon, of Memphis, of Athens, and Rome must have said to themselves, “No more beyond.” Modern men have said this, and prophesied dire results from setting up of power instead of hand looms, sewing machines instead of needles, locomotives instead of coach horses. But the world moved on to “forget the things behind,” etc.

(2) Said the popes to those who saw a purer Church and truth attainable, “No more beyond, except the fire for those who would disturb our established order.” So said the English kings of the seventeenth century to the uprising spirit of liberty. So say the theologians today; but the world and the Church move on. There are branches to spring from the ever-growing trees that have not yet even budded.

(3) What God works in the great whole, we are to work in our part. He in the man, we as the molecules of the man are to be of one mind--“forgetting,” etc.

From these thoughts we may draw fresh convictions for the realizations of the spiritual capabilities of our nature.

1. While we derive inspirations of confidence from contemplating the grand law of the world’s increasing progress, must we not see a stern rebuke upon every life not in harmony with this law?

2. On what principle is our personal life and thought conducted? So far as relates to our worldly condition, our constant endeavour for betterment as the necessity of an undecaying life. How then about the far more important thing? All unimproveable life must sooner or later run out. When the law of development will not work, the law of decay and dissolution is the only one that will. Work, then, with the better law intelligently, consistently, perseveringly.

3. The great reproach of Christianity is its passive content with an average morality, and a life devoid of aspiration to higher levels--in a word, its spiritual barbarism, stagnant, supine, and poor in power. (J M. Whiton, Ph. D.)

Winter leaves

Trees have their winter as well as their summer foliage. Every one is familiar with the buds which tip the extremities of every branch in spring. On the outside they are covered with dry, glossy scales, which are true leaves of the lowest type. They are formed in spring, and grow during the whole summer, though very slowly, owing to the diversion of the sap from them to the foliage, behind which they are hid. As the season advances, the sap gradually ceases to flow to the summer leaves, which therefore ultimately fade and fall from the tree; and the last movements of it, at the end of autumn, are directed towards the buds, in order to prepare them for taking at the proper time the place of the generation of leaves that has just perished. But in spring, the buds, stimulated by the unwonted sunshine, begin to open at their sharp extremities. And as the young green leaves within expand in the genial atmosphere, the services of the bud scales, or covering leaves, are no longer needed, and by and by they roll away, and fall one by one from the tree, strewing the ground beneath till it looks like a threshing floor. Thus every tree has a double leaf fall every year. The winter leaves, which are designed for the protection of the bud during winter, are pushed off by the growth of the summer leaves from the bud in spring; and the summer leaves, which are designed for the nourishment and growth of the tree in summer, wither and fall off in autumn. Cold is fatal to the summer leaves; warmth is fatal to the winter leaves. Inactivity renders useless the summer leaves; and growth supersedes the winter leaves.

The apostle’s life affords many striking illustrations of this.

1. In his unconverted state, there were many things on which he prided himself--the scenes and associations of his youth, the eager sympathies of his opening intellect, and his ardent affection for the polity and religion of his fathers. But all these natural qualifications of the man belonged to the winter or unregenerate state of his soul; were winter leaves that hid and confined the germ of spiritual life.

2. But although worthless as grounds of justification, they had their own value in training and fitting him for his work. Like the bud scales, they afforded protection and nourishment. All that he had acquired, he laid on the altar.

3. And when the great crisis of his life came--the spring time of his conversion, a light exceeding the brightness of the noonday sun shone upon him; and in this warm genial atmosphere of grace, the germ of spiritual life unfolded itself within, and burst its wrappings. Old forms ceased to have any hold upon his affections and homage. He died to his former self and all its experiences, and lived a new life in Jesus. The winter leaves having served their purpose, now dropped off, and the summer leaves of grace--the blossoms of holiness, the fruits of righteousness--had full liberty to grow and develop themselves.

4. But we must not suppose that the dropping was without effort or pain. It sometimes needs a severe gust of wind to shake off the scales that still linger around the bud. And it was with a sore wrench that St. Paul tore himself away from all his former cherished associations.

5. But even in his converted state there were many things which Paul required to forget. The branch of a tree puts forth bud after bud in its gradual growth anal enlargement. These summer leaves, having added a cubit to the stature of the branch, pass away; and the added growth in its turn puts forth a new bud covered with its scales or winter leaves, which drop off the following spring, and allow the imprisoned summer leaves once more to unfold themselves in the sunny air. And so was it with St. Paul. His spiritual life from the beginning to the end was a series of fresh beginnings. Not once merely at conversion, but often in his converted state, had he to form and to drop the winter leaves in the process of spiritual growth. There were many things by which his spiritual life was nourished and guarded--which had to be blotted out if he would go on to perfection. And so he reached forth unto those things which were before.

Are not the lessons of such a life very broad and intelligible.

1. Forgetfulness of what is behind is an essential element in the progress of every believer. In our conversion we must separate ourselves from the associations of our unregenerate state, and count those things that were gain to us, loss, so that we may be found in Christ. These winter leaves must fall off, when the vernal season of grace has come, and we who were dead in trespasses and sins are made alive unto God.

2. But not at this initiatory stage merely is there to be a discarding of the things that are behind. At every subsequent stage of our growth there must be the same process. By a course of prosperity our souls are made to unfold in gratitude to God and beneficence to men. In a season of sorrow we are made more heavenly reminded. But these means are not to be cherished as if they were the end. We are to keep them in the background, and prize the character they have formed for the glory of God, and not for self-complacency. These winter leaves that cherished and nourished our growth in grace must drop off from time to time, with each new attainment that we “may rise on stepping stones of our dead selves to nobler things.”

3. But not the means of growth and formative processes of the Christian character only, must be left behind and forgotten; the very ends, the growths themselves, must also be superseded. In a certain sense each attainment must be the bud covering of a succeeding attainment, and fall away when it is matured. There must be a double leaf fall from the soul as well as from the tree. The summer leaves that are cherished must drop off as well as the winter leaves that cherished them. And so the beautiful blossoms of grace must be left behind. To rest satisfied with attainment is to check development. It is amazing how soon when we cease to forget the things that are behind, and remain stationary we degenerate. When means become ends, they encase us with a hard covering impervious to the tender influences of heaven.

St. Paul exhorted the Hebrew Christians to leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ, and to go on to perfection. And such an exhortation is still greatly needed.

1. Very many believers stop short at the very initial processes of grace, and imagine that these are the final ends--that nothing more can be desired or attained. It is as if the life of the tree always remained in the bud, instead of casting off its wrappings and expanding into summer foliage and fruit. Conversion is indeed all essential, for while the heart is unchanged there can be neither life nor growth; but it is merely the commencement of a course. Conversion, justification, and peace are the first principles of the doctrine of Christ. They are not, indeed, to be dropped as mere bud scales, as mere means to an end--for they are the basis upon which all the subsequent efforts of the spiritual life are to be made. But just as in the unfolding buds of the lilac and horse chestnut tree, the covering leaves of winter, pass through intermediate changes--in the one into the blades of the leaf, and in the other into the leaf stalks--so the principles of the doctrine of Christ are to be carried on in the growth, and their substance is to be used up and modified, as it were, in the expansion of the soul. In this sense the things that are behind are to be forgotten.

2. It is vain to tell the believer to forget the things that are behind, to discard the preparatory means by which he advances in piety by a mere temporary effort of will. He cannot do so. It is only by growing that he can get rid of the things no longer essential; and what he cannot remove, except by a violent destructive wrench, will fall off easily, and of its own accord, when superseded and rendered effete by growth.

3. To this development we should be further stimulated by the consideration that the bud whose growth is arrested becomes transformed into a thorn. If our winter leaves--the experiences that contribute to form our character, and which are appropriate to the various stages of our growth--be allowed to remain unchanged and unforgotten, and to choke up our spiritual life so as to arrest its advancement, they will be changed into thorns. The peace that we trust in will vanish in sorrow. The attainment with which we are satisfied becomes a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet us lest we be exalted above measure. It is no unusual thing to see a branch of a tree whose vital activity is so enfeebled that its growth is arrested. Its terminal bud loses the power of throwing off its winter leaves, because no summer leaves form in its interior. The bud then dies, and the branch withers and becomes fit for the burning. And so it is, alas! no unusual thing to see branches in Christ whose spiritual life is so weak that their growth is at a standstill. They lose the power of forgetting the things that are behind, because they are not reaching forth unto those things which are before. They are therefore in danger of perishing. There is a sense, indeed, in which we cannot forget the things that are behind, strive as we may. The winter leaves or bud scales of a tree leave behind them when they drop off a peculiar mark or scar on the bark, just as the summer leaves do when they fall. On every branch a series of these scars, in the shape of rings closely set together, may be seen, indicating the points where each growing shoot entered on the stage of rest. And so every experience through which we pass, every act we perform, goes into the very substance of our being, and we can never be after it what we were before it. But though these things cannot in this sense be forgotten, they should not be allowed to hang around us to impede our efforts at improvement, any more than the development of the tree is impeded by its scars. We must remember the failures and sins of the past in order to magnify the mercy that forgave.


1. Taking a comprehensive view of the universe, we find that everything has a special object to perform, and when that object is accomplished, the agency perishes. The material system of nature will some day be dissolved. Life on earth is not an end, but a means--a state of discipline and preparation for something higher and nobler beyond, and is therefore transitory in its duration. So, too, the means of grace are the scaffolding by the aid of which the spiritual life is built up, and will be removed as a deformity when the building is completed. Everything that is purely subordinate and distinctive in religion--that is extraneous to the spiritual nature, however necessary to educate it--will vanish as the winter leaves of time from the expanding bud of everlasting life. “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three.”

2. It is through loss that all gain in this world is made. But in heaven a different law of development will prevail. In the trees of warm climates the buds have no winter leaves or protective scales, being simply formed of the ordinary leaves rolled up; consequently they expand in growth without losing anything. And so it will be in the eternal summer above. There will be a constant unfolding of the fulness of immortal life from glory to glory; but there will be no loss of the processes and experiences through which the unfolding will take place. The means and the end will be one and the same. There will be a constant reaching forth unto those things which are before, but there will be no forgetting the things that are behind. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

This one thing I do--


The secret of all moral force, of all spiritual success, of all reality, is concentration. And what is concentration? The whole man gathering himself up to a point--oneness of being, body, soul, spirit--the will, judgment, energy in unity. And what is unity? The reflection of the one great God. What a beautiful thing is unity, where all the attributes of God meet together in love; beautiful is the world of harmonies in the home where there is no jarring element, in the knit Church, in the man who, having learned the pervading power of the love of Jesus, says henceforth, “This one thing I do.”

There are two ways in which we may make religion one thing.

1. The exclusive way. A man may determine to have nothing to do with anything not essentially religious.

2. The inclusive way, when a man makes a wide circle of engagements converge towards religion.

To make life, as it ought to be, one, the great requisite is to have one fixed aim. It is the want of this that makes the life of so many weak, uncertain, capricious. The far, high, gathering point, high enough to sustain life, is only one--the glory of God. Some of you did once live for another object--pleasure, self, sin. You served your master with good service. What you have to do now is to throw as much heart into the new purpose as you did once into the old.

The glory of God is the right end of man, because--

1. All the lines of life go up to it. You can eat and drink to it, and do whatever you do to it.

2. It is God’s end: the end for which God is, for which He gave Christ, for which He does everything.

Under this end of ends and subservient to it it is the duty of every one to have some distinct Christian purpose always before him. It is marvellous how, when you have a work in hand for God, it will brace up your whole being. If you are troubled with wandering thoughts in prayer or in Church, it is because your outer life is not concentrated. If you would live a braced life everywhere you would find fixedness of thought in your devotions. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Concentration the secret of dispatch

The famous De Witt, one of the greatest statesmen of his age, being asked how he was able to dispatch the multitude of affairs in which he was engaged, replied that his” whole art consisted in doing one thing at a time. (S. Budgett.)

Devotion to a single purpose essential to success

That was a grand action of old Jerome when he laid all his pressing engagements aside to achieve a purpose to which he felt a call from heaven. He had a large congregation--as large a one as any of us need want; but he said to his people, “Now, it is of necessity that the New Testament should be translated; you must find another preacher. The translation must be made; I am bound for the wilderness, and shall not return till my task is finished.” Away he went with his manuscripts, and prayed and laboured, and produced a work--the Latin Vulgate--which will last as long as the world stands; on the whole, a most wonderful translation of Holy Scripture. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

One point best

I asked Sir James Scarlett what was the secret of his preeminent success as an advocate. He replied that he took care to press home the one principal point of the case without paying much regard to the others. He also said that he know the secret of being short. “I find,” said he, “that when I exceed half an hour I am always doing mischief to my client; if I drive into the heads of the jury unimportant matter, I drive out matter more important which I had previously lodged there.” (Sir T. F. Buxton.)

Want of application

A Frenchman hit off in a single phrase the characteristic quality of the inhabitants of a particular district, in which a friend of his proposed to settle and buy land. “Beware,” said he, “of working a purchase there; I know the men of that department; the students who come from it to our veterinary school in Paris do not strike hard upon this anvil; they want energy, and you will not get any satisfactory return on the capital you may invest there.” (S. Smiles, LL. D.)

A life’s purpose

He has a purpose that miner’s son. That purpose is the acquisition of knowledge. He speedily exhausts the resources of Mansfeld, reads hard, devours lectures at Magdeburg, and at the age of eighteen has outstripped his fellows, has a university for his admirer, and professors predicting for him the most successful career of the age. He has a purpose that scholar of Erfurt. That purpose is the discovery of truth, for in an old library he has stumbled on a Bible. Follow him out into the new world which that volume has flashed upon his soul. With Pilate’s question on his lip and in his heart, he foregoes his brilliant prospects--parts without a sigh with academical distinctions--takes monastic vows in an Augustine convent; until at last Pilate’s question answered on Pilate’s stairs--then comes the thrice repeated gospel whisper, “The just shall live by faith,” and the glad evangel scatters the darkening and shreds off the paralysis, and he rises into moral freedom, a new man in the Lord! He has a purpose that Augustine monk. That purpose is the Reformation. Waiting with the modesty of the hero until he is forced into the strife, with the courage of the hero he steps into the breach to do battle for the living truth. (W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)

An indomitable purpose

On one bright summer day the boy, then just seven years old, lay on the bank of the rivulet which flows through the old domain of his house to join the Isis. Then, as threescore and ten years later he told the tale, rose in his mind a scheme which through all the turns of his eventful career, was never abandoned. He would recover the estate which belonged to his fathers. He would be Hastings of Daylesford. This purpose formed in infancy and poverty, grew stronger as his intellect expanded and his fortunes rose. He pursued his plan with that calm but indomitable force of will which was the most striking peculiarity of his character. When, under a tropical sun, he ruled 50,000,000 of Asiatics, his hopes, amidst all the cares of war, finance, and legislation, still pointed to Daylesford, the possession of it being the summit of his ambition. At length the wish was accomplished; and the domain, alienated more than seventy years before, returned to the descendants of its old lords, and when his public life was closed forever, it was to Daylesford that he retired to die. (Lord Macaulay.)

Forgetting the things that are behind--

Things past





Griefs. (Professor Hollard.)

Things behind

The things behind and the memory of them may be helpful or hurtful. We often find the former, e.g., God’s mercies are to be remembered as a theme of gratitude; past sins to produce penitence; former history as ground of warning and hope (Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 9:7; Psalms 77:5; Psalms 103:2; Ezekiel 16:63). Paul speaks of the past as hurtful, a hindrance. He speaks as a runner; perfect as regards equipment, consecration, aim; but not perfected as having attained the goal; he looks not behind him but hurries on. The memory of things behind--

May cause declension. Israel remembered the fleshpots of Egypt and turned back and tempted God. Lot’s wife looked back and perished. Many in answer to Christ’s call say, “Suffer me first to--.” Rich young ruler.

1. Former character and prospects have to be forgotten.

2. Former sins.

3. Former companionships, or they may draw the soul back to perdition.

May foster self-satisfaction and pride.

1. Victories achieved; temptations resisted elated Samson to his hurt. Even when the glory is given to God there is apt to be a ring of self-satisfaction, “I am not as other men.” If we have taken a gun from the enemy, let us go and take another, and not sit idly down.

2. Sacrifices may become a cause of pride--“Lord, we have left all and followed Thee.” Yet what does the “all” amount to.

3. So of trials.

4. Of attainments. We may say of ourselves, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But whatever they are, they are as nothing compared with what is before; and inasmuch as they are all of grace, we have nothing to glory of.

5. Past enjoyments.

6. The people we have left. “If any man love father or mother more than Me,” etc.

May lead to discouragement.

1. Falls and failures: no use trying any more.

2. Difficulties and dangers: David thought he would one day fall by the hand of Saul.

3. Guilt contracted; time lost; work undone; salvation neglected; resolutions broken; convictions stifled--all this and much more may be behind. But brooding is no more to be encouraged than boasting. Start afresh. (J. Smith, M. A.)

Forgetting the things that are behind

We are as children taught as in a play; instructed by toys and pictures. But the day does come when the form should be lost to us in the reality, the letter lost in the spirit. The bird must forget its nest, the seed its husk, the flower its bud. The tree may be full of bloom, and an orchard is a beauteous sight, but the blossom must wither away and be forgotten in the fruit. These things get behind, they pertain to the past, and are of it. The bud must burst, the flower blow, the nest foul. That in which the seeds of things were bound and nourished must become a dried and worthless skin; and the finest foliage must fade; and to such things it is unwise to hold. They should be forgotten, and, whether you forget them or not (and some men never do), they are sure to get behind; and if you do not forget them you are behind also, and can never reach the goal. (W. Hubbard.)

Look not at the past

We are like one sailing down rapid stream, intensely anxious as to the issue of our voyage, and fearful of the dangers which await us, and yet turning our backs on both, and trying to derive encouragement from gazing at that portion of our course already past, and every moment growing less and less visible. Of what avail, to such a mariner, is even distinct view of some distant point long since swept by, when his vessel is approaching some perilous pass, or passing through some vast and foaming estuary into the deep sea. Oh, surely it is then time to forget what is past, and to bend forward to reach forth to that which is before. (J. W. Alexander, D. D.)

Forget past sorrows

A writer tells how years, long years before, he cut the initials of his name in the bark of a tree, and after many years he came and trod through the tasselled grass to the grey old beech tree where he had whittled his boyish name. The blackbirds were singing among the alders, the green foliage of the branches spread above, the green carpet spread a sward below, and through the interlacing boughs were glimpses of the ancient blue of the firmament; but when he found the tree he could not discover the letters of his name, only a curious scar in the bark. So the scars of the heart heal over; and, indeed, however sorrowful and bitter a man’s experiences, he must be a woeful and a miserable man who, in this world of great interests, can find nothing to talk of but his own griefs, the neglect he has received, the extortions and vexations by which he has suffered. What a petty world such a man must live in; under what a low sky he must walk; in what, a muggy atmosphere he must breathe. Oh, let us remember that hate is transitory, is temporal, like the sear on the bark of a tree; but love, goodwill, is eternal, like the grey old firmament, which, old as it is, was never younger than it is today. “Forget the things which are behind.” There is strength in forgetting; “let the dead bury their dead.” We can only be cheerful while we forget. (Paxton Hood.)

The memory of past sorrows not to obliterate the appreciation of present mercies

I once crossed the “Warm Spring Mountain” in the early morning. The sun was just rising. All the valley between the Blue Ridge and the Alleghenies was filled with a silvery mist, level at the surface as a sea line. But above the horizontal sea, three or four mountain peaks projected themselves like islands dotting the expanse. Thus it is with the memories of past sorrows. They emerge from the sea which has swallowed up so much else. We cannot forget our early griefs and bereavements. But we must not permit them to obliterate the appreciation of present mercies. We must hear the voice of the Master, saying, Thy brother, thy sister, thy child shall rise again. Remembered griefs are prophetic of coming joys. Forgetting the things which are behind we press forward to the time when “we shall be ever with one another and with the Lord.” (M. D. Hoge, D. D.)

The sense in which the past cannot be forgotten

Paul could not have meant that he literally forgot the past, for had he done so, both present and future would have been alike useless to him. The past is the sculptor, the ten thousand touches of whose chisel have given to our present lives the shapes they wear; it is the painter too that has coloured these forms with every tint and hue they bear. All the influences that have made our actual characters what they now are came out of the past, just as the seed sown in earlier seasons, with their sunshine and rain, make the subsequent harvest. Were we to forget past knowledge, ours would be the ignorance of infancy; if past experiences were obliterated, our imbecility would be that of idiocy. If history is philosophy teaching by example, the erasure of the remembrance of the events of our own history would strip both philosophy and religion of the power to teach at all. (M. D. Hoge, D. D.)

The hindering force of past habit

You find some certain type of Christian character, or exercise of Christian grace, that is easy and natural to you, and you come to know how to do it. It becomes your special habit, which is all right, but it also tends to become your limit, which is wrong. Habits are like fences, very good to guard the soul from sudden incursions of trespassers, but very bad when the trunk has grown up and presses against their stubborn rings. And many of us simply keep on doing the narrow round of things that we fancy we can do well, or have always been in the way of doing, like barrel organs, grinding our poor little set of tunes, without any notion of the great sea of music that stretches all round about us, and which is not pegged out upon our cylinders at all. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The danger of looking back

There may have been floating in the apostle’s mind, combined with the image of the racer, some remembrance of the old story in the Book of Genesis about Lot’s wife. She looked back, and as she stood there gazing behind her, precious time was irrevocably lost, the fugitives swept on in front, and the swift-flying death that struck her with terror, as she saw it pressing close behind, caught her up. She was whelmed in the fiery destruction that filled the air; and as the shower of ashes at Pompeii moulded themselves over the forms of the poor wretches that were smothered by them, and preserved till today the print of the very waves of their hair and the texture of their dress, “salt” was crusted round that living core, and she perished, because she wasted in trembling retrospect the flying moments which, rightly used, would have set her in safety. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Reaching forth to the things which are before--

All things are prospective

The impulse of a river is ever onward. So of all things physical and intellectual. The world’s building was prospective. Animal organism reads onward toward the image of God. Everything in earth’s geology, and everything on earth’s surface, point towards a future. The little child is telling what he intends when he is a man. Thoughts fly on wings toward the tomorrow. The affections, the adhesive powers of the soul, speak the same language. Now, why all this? What does it mean? It must mean something. It means that there is a future and a God. God has gone that way. He has passed through, and these are His footprints. If there is no God, no future, let the atheist tell us what the meaning is. (Homiletic Monthly.)

The things that are before

There are things before every Christian towards which he is proceeding. There is childhood, youth, manhood in Christian life. Here you see the difference between a self-deceiver and a Christian. There is no growth before a hypocrite any more than there is in an artificial flower. He may change, but there is no life in him, and therefore he cannot advance. There are things before him.

1. As one endowed with talents which must be ceaselessly used. God gives him opportunities. He must use them. Some do not see their opportunities because their eyes are shut: some see their opportunities but do not use them, because they are indolent or their talents rusty from long disuse.

2. As one exposed to fresh demands on principles and powers of all kinds. The exhibition of new phases of character is before him. He may not have known much trouble, but he has to undergo the discipline of suffering. Then in working there has not been much demand made on patience.

3. As one must continue to the end.

4. Death.

5. The everlasting kingdom.

There are certain things before every church. The body is not one member but many. Before the Church, therefore, is--1 The real, conscious, manifested unity of all its members. To join the Church is not sufficient, you must contribute to its life.

2. Continued and ever improving mutual service. Each is to help the others.

3. The increase of itself.

4. An extending and improving influence on society.

5. An increasing ministration to the whole body of Christ.

6. The preaching of the gospel to every creature.

While certain things are before every Christian and every Church, particular things are before particular Christians and Churches. Every mineral is not a diamond. Every star is not a sun. (S. Martin.)

Paul reached forth to the things before.

As regarded his own improvement. He sought--

1. Absolute pardon. Continued demerit calls for continued mercy.

2. Absolute assurance of forgiveness.

3. Absolute conformity to the Divine character and will as immediately and specifically exhibited in Christ.

4. The fellowship of the Spirit in all its perfection.

5. A perfect accordance in present action with the prospect of the great day.

As regarded a diffusive usefulness. The same perfection he aimed at for himself he aimed at for “every man” (Colossians 1:28). (D. King, LL. D.)

The racer as charioteer

St. Paul is like one of those eager charioteers of whom his guardsmen so often spoke to him when they had returned from the contests in the Circus Maximus, and joined their shouts to those of the myriads who cheered their favourite colours--leaning forward in his flying car, bending over the shaken rein and the goaded steed, forgetting everything--every peril, every competitor, every circling of the meta in the rear, as he pressed on for the goal by which sat the judges with the palm garlands that formed the prize. (Archdeacon Farrar.)

The racer as runner

The picture is that of a racer in his agony of struggle and hope. You see him!--every muscle strained and every vein starting--the quick and short heaving of his chest--the big drops gathered on his brow--his body bending forward, as if with frantic gesture he already clutched the goal--his eye, now glancing aside with a momentary sparkle at objects so rapidly disappearing behind him, and then fixing itself on the garland in eager anticipation. The apostle is not leaving, he is forgetting the things behind; he is not merely looking, he is reaching forth unto the things before; not only does he run, he presses toward the mark; nor was he occupied, weakened, or delayed by a variety of pursuits--“This one thing I do.” (Professor Eadie.)

Pressing forward

The idea is that of a man stretching himself out towards something as a runner does, with his body straining forward, the hand and the eye drawn onward towards the goal. He does not think of the furlongs that he has passed, he heeds not the nature of the ground over which he runs. The sharp stones in the path do not stay him, nor the flowerets in the grass catch his glance. The white faces of the crowd around the course are seen as in a flash as he rushes past them to the winning post, and the parsley garland that hangs there is all that he is conscious of. “They do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.” Let us, with eye and hand flung forward, “stretch out towards the things that are before,” and imitate that example--not in the fierce whirl of excitement, indeed, but in fixed regard to, and concentrated desire of, the mark and the prize. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Christian perfection

is like those problems in mathematics where we can never find the true answer. We may go on working the sum for years, and though each succeeding figure brings us nearer to it, we can never actually reach it. (H. Melvil, B. D.)

The varied means of obtaining perfection

Perfection is being, not doing--it is not to effect an act but to achieve a character. If the aim of life were to do something, then, as in an earthly business, except in doing this one thing the business would he at a standstill. The student is riot doing the one thing of student life when he has ceased to think or read. The labourer leaves his work undone when the spade is not in his hand, and he sits beneath the hedge to rest. But in Christian life, every moment and every act is an opportunity for doing the one thing of becoming Christ-like. Every day is full of a most impressive experience. Every temptation to evil temper which can assail us today will be an opportunity to decide the question whether we shall gain the calmness and the rest of Christ, or whether we shall be tossed by the restlessness and agitation of the world. Nay, the very vicissitudes of the seasons, day and night, heat and cold, affecting us variably, and producing exhilaration or depression, are so contrived as to conduce towards the being which we become, and decide whether we shall be masters of ourselves, or whether we shall be swept at the mercy of accident and circumstance, miserably susceptible of merely outward influences. Infinite as are the varieties of life, so manifold are the paths to saintly character; and he who has not found out how directly or indirectly to make everything converge towards his soul’s sanctification, has as yet missed the meaning of this life. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Practice necessary to perfection

A neighbour near my study persists in practising upon the flute. He bores my ears as with an augur, and renders it almost an impossibility to think. Up and down the scale he remorselessly runs, until even the calamity of temporary deafness would almost be welcome to me. Yet he teaches me that I must practise if I would be perfect; must exercise myself unto godliness if I would be skilful; must, in fact, make myself familiar with the Word of God, with holy living, and saintly dying. Such practice, moreover, will be as charming as my neighbour’s flute is intolerable. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Singleness of aim

Confucius’ son once said to him, “I apply myself with diligence to every kind of study, and neglect nothing that could render me clever and ingenious; but still I do not advance.” “Omit some of your pursuits,” replied Confucius, “and you will get on better. Among those who travel constantly on foot, have you ever observed any who run? It is essential to do everything in order, and only grasp that which is within the reach of your arm; for otherwise you give yourself useless trouble. Those who, like yourself, desire to do everything in one day, do nothing to the end of their lives, while others who steadily adhere to one pursuit find that they have accomplished their purpose.”

Singleness of aim

“Mr. A. often laughs at me,” said Professor Henry once, in Princeton College Laboratory, “because I have but one idea. He talks about everything, aims to excel in many things; but I have learned that if I ever make a breach, I must play my guns continually on one point.”

The power of a single aim

Paul’s experience teaches us that one unmutilated and entire idea is as much as a man can entertain in his soul, or actualize in his lifetime. Nor herein was Paul’s experience anomalous. Such has been the experience as well of all truly efficient men. None of them ever entertained more than one great aim or purpose of being. Noah was a man of one idea. His idea was an ark! And though he did other things, yet the one great thought, moving as a glorious dream through all his chambers of imagery, was something that would float upon stormy and shoreless seas! And this one thing he did--he built. Abraham was of this class. His one idea was a city. He, too, did other things; he trained his servants, commanded his household after him, etc. But amidst his fairest dreams by the ancestral waters, a great voice out of heaven spake to him of “a city which hath foundations, whose builder was God.” And evermore afterwards he journeyed towards that city. Nor of regenerated men only is the thought true--of all men who retain amid their moral ruins some lines of the mutilated Divine image--is this a characteristic. A singleness of aim and effort ever hath been--ever will be--the secret of all noble human accomplishment. Napoleon was the most efficient man of his own time, not because gifted above his fellows, either physically or intellectually, but because universal empire was his single aim--he lived only to conquer! Demosthenes was the prince of all earth’s orators, not because God gave him a splendid voice, and exquisite grace of motion, but because eloquence was his one idea. He lived only to sweep, as with a roused tempest, over all the AEolian sympathies of the human heart. Newton was the king of astronomers, not because his eye was keener as it scanned the heavens, nor because God gave him mighty wings to sweep through the empyrean, but because, with the power of an omnipresent dream, the constellations of heaven were flashing on his soul! The stars were in his heart. His life was in the stars. So is it ever: singleness of aim, oneness of effort--the gathering of thought, feeling, heart, soul, life into one intense absorbing passion--is the secret of all greatness. And no wonder that Paul was the very chief of the apostles, so that the earth shook at his tread, as when a giant goes on pilgrimage; not because he had read Grecian lore in Cilician schools, and mastered the Hebrew law at Gamaliel’s feet, but because, with his heart all afire within him, and his eye, as the eagle’s on the sun, fixed on one sublime purpose--in that one thing he gloried--to that one thing he tended. (C. Wadsworth.)

The nobility of a single aim

What a noble thing any life becomes that has driven through it the strength of a uniting single purpose, like a strong shaft of iron bolting together the two tottering walls, of some old building! (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The importance of a high aim

The life of man is a vagrant, changeful, desultoriness; like that of children sporting on an enameled meadow, chasing now a painted butterfly, which loses its charm by being caught--now a wreath of mist, which falls damp upon the hand with disappointment--now a feather of thistledown, which is crushed in the grasp. In the midst of all this fickleness, St. Paul had found a purpose to which he gave the undivided energy of his soul. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)


Look at the machine stamped with the date of half-a-dozen different patents in consecutive years, and see there the image of the diligent inventor bent on alternate excellence, to whom each improvement makes a stepping stone to another improvement, and each difficulty mastered gives greater skill to master the remaining difficulty, until the original creative idea is rounded out in a consummate instrument. Such is the true life of the spirit conformed to the Divine law of progress--not a drift, but a race; not a dream, but a study; not self-contentment, but self-criticism and self-improvement, with the eye on the Divine model, and constantly saying to itself, “This one thing I do.” (J. M. Whiton, Ph. D.)

Progress more than motion

Progress is the great law of life, but by those even who say so, its principle is not always seen. Progress--what do you mean by that?--is it in the increase of the quantity of material productions? is it in the growth of a nation in the numbers of its population, or in its territory? is it in the advance of agriculture or manufactures? is it in the increase of the superior quality of material appliances? is it in the increase of knowledge, of science, of art? is it in the evolution of the man from the child? the philosopher from the savage? Oh, there is something more and higher than all this and these. Men forget it is with us as it is with our planet. There is a circular movement in which all motions turn on themselves, and return to the point from whence they first set out, and then there is an onward movement, as when the whole system is borne upward into infinite space. It is so with man; he is the subject of a succession of events, that which hath been is now and shall be. How wonderfully the preacher in Ecclesiastes describes this circular movement (chap. 1:5). (Paxton Hood.)

The onward movement of the soul

Man is the creature of the same senses; he beholds the same sun, the same streams, and flying clouds; youth succeeds to infancy, and the festival of nature is followed by decay. We live on food, the blood circulates through the frame; and all these motions return on themselves; but there is another motion in man, there is an onward movement--he is a being of religious instincts; and to foster and fan their flames is the end of all religious services and exercises. Oh, is it not sad when the onward movement of the soul is forgotten! The world is good for an inn; but an inn is not a home; and it is unwise to lay any plan of life in which provision is not made for the infinite future of the soul. Do you not see how every good thing takes hold of and leans upon a higher thing? how civilization leans on morality? As a child leans on a parent, and a wife on a husband, and a husband on a wife, and so at last all things lean on God; and well it is that it is so, for he can at any time take off the wheels of the most rapid chariot, He can break the wings of the proudest ambition, and He is, in fact, constantly saying, “Arise, this is not your rest.” (Paxton Hood.)

Christian progress as it nears its end

Rivers do not grow shallower as they roll away from their sources, and so it has been well said, the heart’s river ought not to be an exception. It should flow on widening and deepening till it meets the ocean and mingles with it. (M. D. Hoge, D. D.)

Christian progress impelled by a single purpose

You have stood upon our shores, and seen a ship under full press of sail making for her destination. How she throws aside the seaweed and the waves--how straight amidst the currents she holds her bow--how she strains upon her way, and goes resolutely to her point! The winds are strong, hut the helm overrules the winds, and turns them to account. Life is going on onboard that vessel in many forms, but they are all moving on together to the port--there is a master principle which everything obeys, and they all delight to have it so. And as that ship pursues her bent and often homeward course, it is an emblem to you every day you look at it, of the condition of the life of that man who has had the grace given him to say, “This one thing I do.” For so, by just such singleness of purpose, such independence of external things, such a straight, unbending way, the great purpose of life is to be gained, heaven is to be won, and God glorified. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The enemy will advance if the Christian does not

The Confederate General Longstreet, during the battle of Gettysburg, had one of his generals come up to him and report that he was unable to bring up his men again so as to charge the enemy. “Very well,” said the general, “just let them remain where they are; the enemy’s going to advance, and will spare you the trouble.” (W. Baxendale.)

Progress inevitable to the Christian

If the spark which grace has kindled had been left to itself, or to the feeble breath of mortals to preserve it, we might well suppose that nothing more than its continued existence was intended; but when we find an unbroken current of life-giving air from the breath of the Almighty brought to play upon that spark, we may conclude with safety that it was meant to glow and kindle to a flame, and that the flame was meant to rise and spread, and to become a conflagration; so that what at first was but a seed of fire, smothered in ashes, drenched in rain, or blown at random by the viewless winds, shall yet light up the whole horizon, and dye the very heavens with its crimson. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)

Progress unlimited for the Christian

No bounds can be set to that progress of growth. There is no point on that happy voyage, beyond which icy cliffs and a frozen ocean forbid a passage; but before us, to the verge of our horizon of today, stretch the open waters; and when that furthest point of vision lies as far astern as it now gleams ahead, the same boundless sapphire sea will draw our yearning desires, and bear onwards our advancing powers. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Progress in heaven

I believe that we shall live through all the eternities that are before us, growing wiser, nobler, stronger, greater; plunging deeper into God, and being more and more filled with more and more of Him. So we shall move forever as in ascending spirals that rise ever higher, and draw ever closer to the throne we compass and to Him that dwells alone; ever perfect, yet ever growing, for we have an inexhaustible Saviour to absorb into our hearts, and we have hearts that never reach the ultimate term and bound of their indefinite possibility of receiving. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Dissatisfaction the motive of progress

Dissatisfaction is always the first step in improvement. Dissatisfied with the pen, man invented the printing press. Dissatisfied with the chariot, man careers on the locomotive. Dissatisfied with the velocity even of steam, man links his thoughts to God’s thunderbolts! This, in regard of all things, is the true inspiration. A being fully contented with present attainments, with no aspirations unto things above and beyond him, should be either a god or an idiot! Heaven’s pity on the poor soul on this earth all restful and satisfied! Genius--the most Godlike of intellectual gifts, is only this restless creative agony--an impulse driving the spirit to beat its wings like an imprisoned eagle, till there be blood on the plumes and the wires of the prison house; forcing the yearning heart abroad like an unblessed spirit, away from the actual in search of the possible; to dig in every desert for a living spring; to climb every mountain top for a farther look into heaven. Caesar was the very demi-god of his generation, because a possessed world could not satisfy him. Paul was the very chief of the apostles, because, sick of all present attainments, he “counted himself not to have apprehended.” (C. Wadsworth.)

A noble despair

“During the nine years that I was his wife,” says the widow of the great artist Opie,” I never saw him satisfied with one of his productions, and often, very often, have I seen him enter my sitting room, and throwing himself in an agony of despondence on the sofa, exclaim, ‘I never, never shall be a painter as long as I live!’“ It was a noble despair, such as is never felt by the self-complacent daubers of sign boards, and it bore the panting aspirant up to one of the highest niches in the artistic annals of his country. The selfsame dissatisfaction with present attainments is a potent force to bear the Christian onward to the most eminent degree of spirituality and holiness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The passion for progress

It has been said that “no other word turns up so often in the speeches of Albert the Good as that of progress, no other idea was so constantly in his mind; and that no sacrifice of time, thought, money, or responsibility seemed to him too great when he could make it the cause of national or individual progress.” (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

Forward the true direction

Livingstone having broken fresh ground among the Bakhatlas, wrote to the London Missionary Society explaining what he had done, and expressing the hope of their approval. At the same time he said he was at their disposal to go anywhere--provided it be forward. (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

The unreasonableness of non-progressiveness

To stay complacently where we are in the religious life is as if a tree should congratulate itself on being higher than the shrubs, on its green leaves, on its glowing blossoms, whilst all the time it has not known the supreme coronation of the summer fruits; or it is as if a caterpillar should stay exultant with its spots and stripes, its fine silks, its succulent cabbage leaf, whilst all the glorious life of the butterfly on the burning roses is untasted. The best we have known is low, poor, dim, narrow, insipid, compared with the larger experiences which await us in Christ. Say not “you will rest on your laurels.” Your moral laurels today are only bits of straw and flowers of grass. Keep putting those laurels from you; look up, toil on, press forward, until your brow wear the amaranth of full and immortal perfection. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Verse 15

Philippians 3:15

As many as be perfect be thus minded

Christian maturity


Its signs.

1. Humility.

2. Singleness of purpose.

3. Charity.

Its duties.

1. Persevering effort.

2. Forbearance with others.

3. The encouragement of the weak. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The soul’s perfection

The word “perfect” does not express the idea of moral completeness so much as that of physical maturity. It means “full grown,” as in contrast to “babes.” And the perfect here are exhorted to cultivate the sense of not having “already attained,” and to be constantly reaching forth to unattained heights, so that a sense of imperfection and a continual effort after higher life are parts of Paul’s perfect man. And it is to be further noted that “perfect” people may be otherwise minded, and so stand in need of the hope that God would by degrees show them their divergence from His pattern.

There are people whom without exaggeration the judgment of truth calls perfect. In the language of the New Testament men are “saints” who had many sins, and “perfect” who had many imperfections.

1. The main thing about a character is not the degree to which it has attained completeness in its ideal, but what that ideal is. The distance a man has walked is of less consequence than the direction in which his face is turned. Men are to be ranged according to their aims rather than their achievements. The visionary who attempts something high and accomplishes little is often a nobler man than he who aims at marks on the low levels and hits them.

2. So there is a class of aims so absolutely corresponding to man’s nature and relations, that to take them for one’s own and to approximate to them in some measure may fairly be called the perfection of human nature. The literal force of the word “having reached the end” gives pertinence to that question. And there need be, in that ease, no doubt about the answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” He who lives for God is doing what he was made and meant to do, and however imperfect, he is more nearly perfect than the fairest character against which the damning accusation may be brought, “The God in whose hand thy breath is … thou hast not glorified.” People ask sneeringly about David, “Is this the man after God’s own heart.” Yes; not because religion has a different morality from that of the world (except in being higher), nor because saints make up for adultery and murder by singing psalms, but because the main set of the life was towards God.

3. Such men have in them the germ of a life which has no natural end but absolute completeness. The small seed may grow very slowly here and be only a poor bit of green, but it has Divine germinant virtue within, and waits but being carried to its own clime to flourish.

Two of the characteristics of this perfection. “Thus minded” carries us back to the preceding clauses, Think as I do of yourselves, and do as I do.

1. “Not as though I were already perfect,” etc., shows us that true Christian perfection has in it a constant consciousness of imperfection. In all fields of effort, as faculty grows consciousness of insufficiency grows with it. The more we know the more we know our ignorance. Only people who never have or will do anything, or else raw apprentices, with the mercifully granted self-confidence which gets beaten out soon enough, think that they can do everything. So in Christian life. Conscience becomes more sensitive as we get nearer right; the worse a man is the less he hears it. One little stain will be conspicuous on a brightly polished blade, but if it be all dirty a dozen more or fewer will make little difference.

2. A constant striving after further advance. How vigorously this temper is put in the context. So yearning forward and setting all the current of his being, both faculty and desire, to the yet unreached mark, the Christian man is to live.

3. This buoyant energy of hope and effort is to be the result of the consciousness of imperfection. This, however, paralyses many. Men lament their evil and slow progress and remain the same year after year. How different this from the grand wholesome completeness of Paul’s view here which embraces both elements.

The coexistence of these characteristics with their opposites. “If in anything ye be otherwise minded” refers not to difference of opinion among themselves, but a divergence of character from the pattern set before them. If in any sense ye are unconscious of your imperfections, or are nonprogressive, God will show you what you are. Plainly he supposes that a good man may pass for a time under the dominion of impulses and theories of another kind from those which rule his life.

1. He does not expect the complete and uninterrupted dominion of these higher powers. The higher life is planted, but its germination is a work of time. The conditions of our life are in conflict. Interruptions from external circumstances, struggles of flesh with spirit, are the lot even of the most advanced.

2. Such an admission does not make such interruptions less blameworthy. That piece of sharp practice, that burst of bad temper--could we have helped it or not?

3. The feelings with which we should regard sin and contradictions in ourselves and others should be so far altered by such thoughts, that we should be slow to pronounce that a man cannot be a Christian because he has done so and so. A single act, if it be in contradiction to a man’s main tendency, is not necessarily an incompatibility.

The crowning hope that lies in these words is the certainty of a gradual but complete attainment of all the Christian’s aspirations after God and goodness.

1. The ground of that confidence lies in no natural tendency in us or effort of ours, but solely, in God. Paul is certain that “God will reveal,” etc., because He is God. He has learned that God is not in the habit of leaving off His work before He has done.

2. By the discipline of daily life, merciful chastisements, His Word, the secret influences of His Spirit, etc. He will reveal to the lowly soul all that is wanting in its knowledge, and communicate to it all that is lacking in character.

3. So for us, then, the true temper is confidence in His power and will, an earnest waiting upon Him, a brave forward yearning hope, blended with a lowly consciousness of imperfection. Presumption should be as far from us as despair. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

What kind of perfection is attainable in this life

Explain the point by several distinctions.

1. There is a perfection of the reward and a perfection of grace.

(1) Of the reward the saints will have in heaven when they are freed from all sinful weakness (1 Corinthians 13:10; Ephesians 5:17; Jude 1:24). This we have not in this world, but because we expect it in the next we are to labour after the highest perfection in holiness here, because allowed imperfection is a disesteem of blessedness (1 John 3:3). He that looketh for a sinless state will get as much as he can of it now.

(2) The perfection of grace and holiness is such as the saints may attain unto in this life (Colossians 4:12).

2. Legal and evangelical; the one is where there is no sin, the other no guile; the one stands in an exact conformity to God’s law, the other in a sincere endeavour to fulfil it; the one can endure the balance, the other only the touchstone.

(1) Legal perfection is described in Galatians 3:10, and supposes a man innocent, and requires that he keep so. This is impossible through the weakness of the flesh (Romans 8:3).

(2) Evangelical (2 Kings 20:3) is consistent with weakness (2 Chronicles 15:17). This all must have (1 Chronicles 28:9). What is done for God must be done willingly and with all the exactness possible. Some do many things that are good, but their hearts are not perfect with God (2 Chronicles 25:2); the heart is divided between God and other things (Hosea 10:2; James 1:8).

3. Absolute and comparative.

(1) That is absolutely perfect to which nothing is wanting. This is in Christ only, not in us.

(a) Where there are so many relics of the flesh a man cannot be absolutely perfect (Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:24).

(b) There is none but sometimes sin (1 Kings 8:46; Ecclesiastes 7:20; James 3:2; 1 John 1:8).

(c) There is none but need the mercy of God and ought to pray for this as for daily bread (Matthew 6:13).

(2) Comparative perfection is two fold.

(a) When the professors of Christianity are compared with those that live under other institutions. They that submit to Christ’s terms are said to be perfect, because Christianity itself is perfection (Matthew 19:21).

(b) When compared with others of the same profession, believers are distinguished into perfect and imperfect. Though none can attain to absolute perfection, yet there are several degrees of grace, and diversities of growth (Ephesians 4:13-14; 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1Co 3:1; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Hebrews 5:13-14). It is a monstrous thing after many years’ growth to be an infant still.

4. Of parts and of degrees.

(1) Of parts, when we have all things that belong to a sincere Christian--as living creatures are perfect as soon as they are brought forth. Thus a Christian must have grace to enlighten and govern, one grace added to another (James 1:4). What is defective in parts cannot be supplied by any after growth. Leave out any necessary grace and the new creature is maimed; some leave out temperance, or patience, or love (1 Peter 5:7).

(2) Of degrees, when thing has attained its highest pitch. So we are only perfect in heaven (Hebrews 12:23).

5. Of growth and consummation.

(1) Things are said to be done when they are begun to be done (2 Corinthians 5:17). And so they are said to be perfect who are in the way of perfection (2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16). This perfection is taken--

(a) As to means (Ephesians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:10).

(b) As to improvement of means (2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Peter 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:1).

(2) Consummate; when after the hazards of life we are presented to Christ (Colossians 1:28); and by Christ to God (Colossians 1:22).

The reasons we must be perfect.

1. We have a perfect God (Matthew 5:43) whom we are required to imitate, and therefore we must not set bounds to our holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16).

2. We have a perfect rule (Psalms 19:7; 2 Timothy 3:17).

3. We have a perfect Redeemer (Colossians 2:10).

4. There is a perfect reward (Ephesians 4:13).

The motives of this perfection.

1. What you lost in Adam must be recovered in Christ, or else you dishonour your Redeemer (Romans 5:17).

2. We pray for perfection and therefore must endeavour after it, otherwise our prayers are a mockery (Matthew 6:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

3. In our making covenant we purpose to do the will of God, and so must endeavour to carry it out, otherwise it is not made with a true heart (Hebrews 10:22; Psalms 18:23; Revelation 3:2).

4. Consider the comfort and peace of the man who presses toward perfection (Psalms 37:37).

The means.

1. See that the work be begun, for there must be converting grace before confirming grace. What good will it do to blow a dead coal, or to seek strength before we have life.

2. The radical graces must be strengthened--strong faith, fervent love, lively hope.

3. Use the means with all seriousness and good conscience.

(1) In the Word you have principles of faith, obligations to love, arguments of hope, and therefore are built up (Acts 20:32).

(2) The sacraments strengthen our faith and hope as a bond or vow, and excite and engage our love and obedience.

(3) Prayer (1 Peter 5:10).

4. Think much and often of your perfect blessedness which you expect according to promise, which will quicken and excite you to more diligence. There will be--

(1) A complete vision of God and Christ (1 Corinthians 13:12).

(2) A complete possession and fruition of God (Ephesians 3:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30).

(3) A complete transformation into the image of Christ (1 John 3:2; Psalms 17:15).

(4) A complete delectation arising from all this (Psalms 16:11.)

The notes.

1. When there is such a base esteem of worldly things that our affections are weakened to them every day (Galatians 6:14).

2. When more unsatisfied with present degrees of holiness with a constant desire to grow better.

3. When we are swayed more by love than by fear (Galatians 4:6; 1 John 4:18).

4. When we are more humble and see more of our defects than others do. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Christian perfection

Its signs.

1. A base esteem of worldly privileges and honours (verse 7).

2. A. forgetting of the past and an earnest pressing towards the prize (verses 12-13).

3. A desire for the coming of Christ, such as banishes the fear of death.

4. Sweet communion with Christ and boldness of access without fear of God’s presence or judgment.

5. Stability amidst either prosperity or adversity.

6. Experience in finding out Satan’s devices, whereas a beginner, for want of experience and practice, runs, ere he is aware, into many offences, and looks for no remedy.

7. Strength to stand against the bitter blasts and oppositions of the world. Nothing could move Paul or separate him from the love of Christ, but immature Christians are shaken or blown away.

8. Endurance of the infirmities of others (Galatians 6:1).

9. Knowledge of particular wants, and hence a seeking after further supplies of grace.

10. Ability and endeavour to beget other Christians. It is the property of a grown creature to beget its like. A weak Christian has enough to do to look to himself.

Its means.

1. We must know the order. We must first grow in fundamental graces, for we water not leaves but the root of our plants. When root graces are diligently cherished, works, like leaves, will soon put forth.

2. Whatsoever we do we must do it with the best advantage, labouring to practise as many graces as we can.

3. We must not neglect little things, small occasions of doing good, or beginnings of evil.

4. We must keep our affections to holy exercises and means, and consider what will fit our disposition when indisposed. Are we dull in prayer? Then read. If that will not be endured, use communion of saints.

Its motives--Consider--

1. The privilege of a perfect Christian (Psalms 46:5).

2. The beautiful example he sets, so as to make others in love with religion.

3. The glory he secures for God.

4. The close communion he has with Christ.

5. His blessed reward. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

If in anything ye be otherwise minded--

Differences of opinion

Must necessarily arise from--

1. the diversity of the human mind;

2. Habit;

3. Attainment.

Ought to be regarded with forbearance.

1. The perfect must not despise the weak.

2. The weak must not judge the perfect (Romans 14:3).

Are best removed by prayer. God gives wisdom to all who seek it. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

A persuasive to unity in things indifferent

When God’s people are divided in opinion they should not come to an open rupture.

What lenity and forbearance should de used.

1. There often are differences of opinion about lesser things in the Church, partly because of different degrees of light--all barks that sail to heaven draw not a like depth of water--and partly because of the remainders of corruption.

2. When differences arise we should take care they come not to open breach. This is the course Paul takes here. So should we, because the Church is in danger of being rent and destroyed (Galatians 5:15), because the world is scandalized (John 17:21), mutual means of edification hindered (Galatians 4:16), and the power of godliness lost.

3. To prevent this all lenity must be used. This I shall state

(1) as to the matter of the strife. If we agree in substantials let us go by the same rule and mind the same thing.

(2) As to the persons contending there is a difference. Paul distinguishes between erring Christians and their factious guides (Philippians 3:2).

4. The forbearance itself is not out of necessity but voluntary choice and Christian compassion, knowing that we need as much from God and others. Nor is it a forbearance of policy, till we get opportunity to suppress others (Ephesians 4:2-3). There are four graces that enforce it.

(1) Lowliness--a sense of personal infirmity.

(2) Meekness (James 3:17).

(3) Long suffering.

(4) Love (1 Peter 4:8; 1 Corinthians 13:4; 1 Corinthians 13:7).

5. In this forbearance, both strong and weak have their part.

(1) What they are not to do.

(a) Not to leave the truth or do anything against it. Strings in tune must not be brought down to strings out of tune, but the reverse.

(b) Not to connive at sin or error (Leviticus 19:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:15).

(2) What they are to do.

(a) The strong are not to deal rigorously with the weak, but wait till God declare the truth unto them, and promote their conviction with all gentleness (Isaiah 40:11).

(b) The weak are not to rend and cut themselves off from the rest of Christians, or be strange to them on every lesser dissent, but to be teachable and lay aside obstinate prejudices, and examine into the cause of the difference; and leave room for the discovery of God’s mind.

The reasons for this exercise of this lenity and forbearance.

1. From the necessity, excellency, and utility of union. What more clear in the Scriptures than that Christians should endeavour to be united. Christ prayed for it (John 17:21-23); Paul enforces it (Philippians 2:1-2); those that cause divisions are sternly cautioned (Romans 16:17-18); unity is pressed by the most cogent arguments (Ephesians 4:4-6).

2. From the consideration of our mutual frailties. Hebrews 5:2 should be verified in us (Galatians 6:1; Romans 14:1).

3. From the consideration of the probability of Divine illumination.

(1) This illumination comes from God only (Acts 16:4; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7). Let us, then, in meekness use the means and refer the issue to God (2 Timothy 2:25). If we force men before they are convinced it may only make hypocrites.

(2) This illumination is given by degrees (Mark 8:24-25).

(3) They who are not for the present may be afterwards instructed in the truth. The apostle proceeded in the hopes of that.

(a) Upon the supposition that they were already converted (Philippians 1:6).

(b) That they were humble and tractable (Psalms 25:9).

(c) That they will not neglect any means of study and prayer (Proverbs 2:4; Psalms 119:18).

(d) That they continue in the communion of the Church.

(e) That they walk according to their light (John 7:17).

4. From the temper of those who are perfect. A grounded Christian bears with the infirmity of others and helps them.

Considerations helpful to this forbearance.

1. In how many things we agree, in how few we differ. There is a three-fold unity.

(1) In mind (Romans 15:5-6).

(2) In heart (Acts 4:32).

(3) In scope (Romans 15:5-7; Jeremiah 32:39).

2. Take more notice of their graces than of their infirmities (Revelation 2:2; Revelation 2:5-6).

3. Remember how open the enforcements to love and unity are, and in how much the grounds of separation lie in the dark and are doubtful.

4. Think of God’s love and forbearance towards us.

5. This forbearance cannot be expected from others unless shown to others (James 3:2; Matthew 7:12; Matthew 18:28).

6. How dangerous it is to reject any whom Christ will own for His. Will Christ admit him, and you cast him out (Romans 14:3)?

7. As we must not give offence so we must not take it (1 Corinthians 13:5; Matthew 5:9).

8. Our endeavour for unity ought to be earnest and constant (Ephesians 4:3; 2 Corinthians 12:15). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Perfect and imperfect

The perfect ones, among whom, by the idiom he employs, the apostle places himself, are those who have burst the fetters of intellectual and spiritual bondage; who have made some advancement in the Divine life, who are acquainted with the higher forms of truth, and are no strangers to the impulses and powers of Divine grace; who are the circumcision; who by the spirit worship God; who are conscious of union with Christ, of possessing righteousness through faith in Him, and some measure of conformity to Him, and who cherish through Him the hope of a happy resurrection. And, perhaps, if we take in the previous context the imperfect are those who have not been able so fully to rise above all confidence in the flesh; who still thought circumcision might not be wholly without value; who would scruple to count all such things dead and positive loss, but hankered after some of them; and who, in formally renouncing them secretly or unawares, clung to them, and might not distinctly comprehend the freeness, adaptation, and perfection of that righteousness which is through the faith of Christ. They could not be perfect runners, for they had not laid aside every weight. (Professor Eadie.)

Perfection evidenced by consciousness of imperfection

The thick skin of a savage will not be disturbed by lying on sharp stones, while a crumpled rose leaf robs the Sybarite of his sleep. So the habit of evil hardens the cuticle of conscience, and the practice of goodness restores tenderness and sensibility; and many a man laden with crime knows less of its tingling than some fair soul that looks almost spotless to all eyes but its own. As men grow better they become like that glycerine barometer recently introduced, on which a fall or a rise that would have been invisible with mercury to record it takes up inches, and is glaringly conspicuous. Good people sometimes wonder, and some times are made doubtful and sad about themselves by this abiding and even increased consciousness of sin. There is no need to be so. The higher the temperature the more chilling would it be to pass into an ice house, and the more our lives are brought into fellowship with the perfect life the more shall we feel our own shortcomings. Let us be thankful if our consciences speak to us more loudly than they used to do. It is a sign of growing holiness, as the tingling in a frost-bitten limb is of returning life. Let us seek to cultivate and increase the sense of our own imperfection, and be sure that the diminution of a consciousness of sin means not diminished power of sin, but lessened horror of it, lessened perception of right, lessened love of goodness, and is an omen of death, not a symptom of life. Painter, scholar, craftsman all know that the condition of advance is the recognition of an ideal not attained. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Means of progress

Let our spirits stretch out all their powers to the better things beyond, as the plants grown in darkness will send out pale shoots that feel blindly towards the light, or the seed sown on the top of a rock will grope down the bare stone for the earth by which it must be fed. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Practice the best means of the attainment of knowledge

As surely as we live, this truth of truths can only be so discerned; to those who act on what they know, more shall be revealed; and thus, if any man will do His will, he shall know the doctrine whether it be of God. Any man--not the man who has most means of knowing, who has the subtlest brains, or sits under the most orthodox preacher, or has his library fullest of most orthodox books--but the man who strives to know, who takes God at His word, and sets himself to dig up the heavenly mystery, roots and all, before sunset and the night come, when no man can work. Beside such a man, God stands in more and more visible presence as he toils, and teaches him that which no preacher can teach, no earthly authority gainsay. (J. Ruskin.)

The illuminating circle widening

The mists that shrouded the earth before the dawn do not take their flight at the very first touch of the morning sun. But before his waxing strength they disappear. So will it be, the apostle says, with moral mists. God’s dealings in this respect, in the dispensation of His grace, accord with what we see every day in the physical sphere. Within certain limits, the exercise of power tends to bring more power. “To him that hath is given.” To the “shatirs” who run before the king of Persia--as “Elijah girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel”--practice from childhood has given such activity of limb, that they can keep pace for many hours with a fleet horse. The swing of the heavy hammer makes the muscles of the blacksmith’s arms “strong as iron bands.” Similarly, “if a man be willing to do the will of God,” which is the legitimate exercise of such religious knowledge as he has, “he shall know of the doctrine” further. The believer who, “whereto he has attained, walks by the same,” will find his “attainment” increasing continually. For the man who fills his sphere of light with spiritual vigilance--strenuous opposition to the temptations of the world, and the flesh, and the devil--earnest effort, according to opportunity, to extend the kingdom of truth and righteousness--the illuminated circle will steadily widen. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

Verses 15-19

Philippians 3:15-19

Let us therefore

The imitation of Paul


The general exhortation includes them all with himself.

1. The fundamental principle of all “perfect,” i.e., well-instructed and mature Christians, must be to count the goal of religion the attainment of Christ, and the blessedness of religion the practical end of life. Those are perfect who have already finished their course as far as it leads through carnal ordinances, and from them to Christ the end of the law. They have this preparatory or first perfection, in that they have put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11), became spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:6), and are so far made perfect in grace. This is one of several designations, such as “adult,” “strong,” etc., which mark those who have entered in the course, and has no more reference to moral perfection than “saints” has to sanctity.

2. This preliminary perfection is quite consistent with much lingering imperfection. It was quite possible that some of them might give up old dependence on the law while retaining some of the beggarly elements. But the apostle expresses his hope that in every minor particular, as in the fundamental principle, they would be brought to think rightly. But the condition is that they continued “thus minded” as to the great essential. Those who “will to do His will shall know of the doctrine,” was the Saviour’s promise, and St. Paul here gives us only another version of the same promise. Those whose hearts are clear as to the ruling principle and aim of life shall, if they seek the guidance of the Divine Spirit, the source of the greater as well as of the lesser revelations, shall never be suffered to go astray.

3. The life must perseveringly conform to the great principle if this promise is to be fulfilled (Philippians 3:16). Those who have the right aim in their Christian life must walk by it still, whatever the measure of their progress be. The plough must be held to the end of the furrow; to look back is to be unfit for the kingdom of God.

St. Paul exhorts them to copy his example, and that of all true Christians of whom he made himself the representative.

1. “Be ye imitators together.” The emphasis of their union in this imitation is in danger of being lost unless we consider the deep purpose of it. Very much of the blessedness and strength of religion is the result of close compact fellowship. The Philippians must unite and stir each other up to emulation in this matter, in case of any defection; warning each other, and generally making this imitation the subject of common effort. The apostle knows how effectual a stimulant is the holy example of the saints.

2. This emulous and united imitation of the apostle is enforced by a vivid and pathetic description of the practical Judaizers who were otherwise minded. They are to be “marked” in the particulars which miserably distinguished them from the apostolic standard. Their life and walk were to be studied and compared with a better model. Before St. Paul had depicted the evil of their doctrine; now he points to their practice. They are enemies of the Cross in their spirit, desires, aims, conduct, and whole compass of their being. They were not referred to as a distinct class; they are diffused through the churches as an unholy leaven.

3. Nothing so stirred the apostle’s soul as men’s opposition to the Cross. He estimated all things by their relation to the atonement.

4. It is their end that first fills his thought, because he had just been paying tribute to the “end of the Lord” in the resurrection of the saints. That end was destruction (1 Corinthians 1:19; Philippians 1:18; Romans 1:22-23).

5. Many of the Gentile moralists had used these very words to condemn Epicureanism. “The worship of the belly” had become a current phrase (1 Romans 16:18; 1 Corinthians 15:22). While he wept over their unspeakable folly and coming end, he mourned over their degradation--“whose glory,” etc.

6. The real secret of the dissolute living of these enemies of the Cross lies in the words “who mind earthly things.” Mind means intellect and heart. The contrast is presented in Colossians 3:2. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)


How far attainable.

Cannot be absolute.

Consists with difference of opinion.

Is distinguished by charity. The apostle does not despise those who differ from him, but is sure they will receive clearer light.

Is determined by constancy and perseverance. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

True religion frees men from dangerous errors

There is that in religion which is necessary fixed, immutable, and clear, about which good men (“perfect”) do not differ--the things which are--

1. Perfectly agreeable to the Divine nature.

2. Perfectly agreeable to human nature.

(1) The great materials of natural light.

(2) The great articles of the Christian faith.

There is also in religion that which is not so necessary, immutable, and clear, in which good men may be otherwise minded. Here we may note--

1. The causes of error.

(1) The creature’s fallibility.

(2) Accidental prejudices from education, converse, strong imagination, melancholy, intellectual weakness, affectation, singularity, worldly interest.

(3) The darkness of things themselves: as where there is less of reason to be said for a thing, or where the rule of faith is short. Here the rule is so far as God has not determined we are referred to reason; and where both reason and revelation seem silent our proper course is stay and expectance rather than peremptory conclusion. ‘Tis hard to get rid of an error, therefore, take heed of admitting one.

(4) Nonimprovement of intellectuals. Men are greatly encumbered by business, and others do not think and examine.

(5) The want of necessary helps, as friends, books, freedom of converse, and opportunity. It betters men’s health to live and breathe in a free and open air. Had some but once heard a suggestion to the contrary they had escaped their mistakes. The greatest help is God’s Spirit, and the next, searching company.

2. The preservatives against error are--

(1) Care of right information. We owe this to truth, and to our own souls.

(2) Modesty and humility (Psalms 25:9; Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 3:18). He is not likely to learn who is not of a teachable spirit.

(3) A general intention to entertain and submit to all truth whatsoever and whensoever it shall appear, and an implicit faith in God where the sense of any text is not clear.

(4) An ingenuous dealing with truth, and love of it for itself, both in respect of the ground on which you receive it, and the use which you make of it.

(5) A perception of the fatal issue of wilfulness and wantonness of opinion in the shameful miscarriages of such as have given themselves up to dreams and fancies--as the Munster Anabaptists and the ancient Gnostics.

3. The uses to be made of this.

(1) Let us live in the sense of our own fallibility: this will make us temperate and cautious. In fallibility is a crooked principle.

(2) Although error be nowhere to be countenanced, yet it is not everywhere severely to be challenged (Galatians 6:1; John 8:7; Acts 3:17). The best are liable to mistakes.

(3) We have not done our task in the world till we are well-informed in our judgment concerning right and wrong, till we are refined in spirit to relish and taste; and reformed in life to do and practise.

There is reason to think that God will bring out of particular mistake him that is right in the main. “God shall reveal,” etc. This is spoken reasonably and becomingly in respect to God, and hopefully and charitably in regard to man; not as prophetic, but as likely and credible.

1. On God’s part: because--

(1) of God’s relation to us as Father and Teacher. Men look up to Him for bodily food; why not for intellectual communications.

(2) God has so declared and promised (Psalms 25:9; Proverbs 3:33; Jam 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5; John 8:17; John 16:13).

(3) God begins with us with intention to go on if we be not perverse and wilful (John 16:12). In the case before us God had begun, and they were resolved to press toward the mark.

2. On our part. By truth already received we have a double advantage for receiving more.

(1) The way to the understanding, which was obstructed, has been opened.

(2) The mind is brought into a disposition to receive all Divine truth.

3. On the part of truth, because--

(1) Truth is connatural to our souls.

(2) The several truths mutually depend on each other; one helping to the discovery of another, and each being declaratory and convictive of the same error.

4. Here it is to be observed--

(1) That this is more for the certain guidance of any honest man than he can in Scripture show for his infallibility who usurps the title of head of the Church.

(2) That we have warrant to think and speak things worthy of God, and tending to our encouragement in good behaviour.

5. Lest I should give any advantage to enthusiasm I superadd--

(1) Keep within the compass of the case. The condition here is that we press toward the mark, and God’s blessings are conditional everywhere.

(2) Put off pride. The full soul loathes the honeycomb. Presumption and conceit wholly indispose men for learning (Psalms 25:9; Psalms 3:7).

(3) “God will reveal,” does not necessarily import immediate inspiration. One way or other is the course of His providence, and by some instrument or lover of truth we shall be told what we have to do (Acts 8:35).

(4) Where knowledge is pursued by practice there is other expectation than from speculation alone (John 7:17; Acts 5:32).

6. Inferences:

(1) The purity of a man’s mind, the sincerity of his intention, the honesty of his heart, are his great security.

(2) In ways of uprightness and integrity we may presume upon God’s leading us into all the truth we are required to know.

(3) Give a fair amount of patience to those who mean well.

Those who agree in the main but differ in other particulars, ought nevertheless to hold together (verse 16). There is harmony, notwithstanding difference in some apprehensions, in all degrees of perfection.

1. This is a representation of the heavenly state. There is no discord there, and, therefore, there should be accord in those who are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20).

2. It is the cause of religion (James 3:17; Psalms 131:1-2). It is a scandal to the world when professors do not agree, making strangers ask with Pilate, “What is truth?” Disagreement has tired out the best of men. Good-tempered Melanchthon’s satisfaction when he came to die was that he was free “from temptation to sin, from the troubles of the world, and from the fury of theologies.” It was Origen’s argument against Celsus that through the virtue and efficacy of religion the state of the Church was calm and quiet, whereas other states were turbulent (2 Corinthians 12:20).

3. It is the conversation of Christians with each other for mutual gain and advantage.

(1) For spiritual edification, whereas if variance obtains there will be alienation of hearts and suspension of Christian acts (Mal 3:26).

(2) For their better subsistence is an evil world. Foreign opposition and force cannot do the mischief that internal feuds may.

(3) There is more hearts ease and quiet of mind.

4. This prevents all mischiefs which infest humanity, such as factions, suspicions, heart burnings, plottings, competitions, and envious comparisons; whereas there should be but one division--the Church and the world.

5. Objections.

(1) We do not think alike. Nor do we in other matters. There are different opinions in philosophy. There are different constellations. We differ in age, stature, feature, etc. These varieties display the wisdom of the Creator. Yet all agreeing in human nature we are fit companions for each other. Why then should not they who meet in the regenerate nature and agree in the articles of faith and principle of good life, overlook subordinate differences.

(2) Errors are dangerous.

(a) That is not thy charge but His. To say what is fit to persuade is all thou canst do; the rest must remain with God.

(b) Since all things that are necessary to salvation are in the Holy Scriptures, none but those who are gross neglectors err dangerously.

(3) But where is zeal for God and truth. This has its principal operation on one’s self, and shows itself on others in the strength of argument, seasonable and renewed proposals.

6. Suggestions.

(1) All that are right in the main are virtually informed by the same spirit, and the things they agree in are far more and weighty than those wherein they differ.

(2) Why should men differ in religion, which is the greatest bond of union?

(3) Why should we be aggrieved, when every one uses but his own right, and every man has a right of judging if he be capable?

(4) Why dost thou lay so much stress upon difference in such points wherein if thou art temperate and sober thou art afraid peremptorily to assert?

(5) Hast thou never erred?

(6) Will difference produce the harmony thou seekest?

(7) Is it safe to reject a man whom we cannot conclude God has cast off?

(8) Why should I think that essential in another which I dare not assert is necessary for my acceptance with God.

(9) I came leisurely to knowledge myself, may not days teach my neighbour wisdom?

(10) What was I taught of God for but to teach others? (Luke 22:32; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

(11) Shall we disown that which is good in them because they are not such as we would have them?

(12) Do not many differences arise from constitution and circumstances rather than from. Perversity?

(13) Why part from them on earth whom we may meet with in heaven?

7. Cautions.

(1) Great reverence is to be given to superiors. Government is not to be disturbed upon pretence of private judgment.

(2) No disturbance must thence arise to the Church of God (1 Corinthians 11:16).

(3) ‘Tis safer to err in an error that is common than in one which is personal.

(4) It becomes the modesty of particular persons when their sentiments are singular to bethink themselves better. (B. Whichcote, D. D.)

The temper to be cultivated by Christians of different denominations towards each other

1. Paul ever kept the dictates of his elevated and inspired judgment under the guidance of Christian kindness. He permits no part of the Christian character to be abridged by another. He never allows his earnestness in maintaining truth and opposing error so betray him into bitterness; nor does he permit his generosity to impair his faithfulness.

2. Our text is a happy combination of these qualities, and is an enforcement of them on others. Were we to imitate them there would be an end of our unhappy dissentions on religious matters.

There is a great and growing number of those with whom we should conscientiously unite. Look around and see how many there are who are perfect and thus minded in reference to the most important matters. The rule then should be the rule now (verses 8-14).

1. We ought to seek and cultivate the society of such, by friendly association and public communion, etc.

2. Let us use the means to promote the mutual improvement of such and of ourselves.

3. Let us do all we can to render our reciprocal union more perfect and our usefulness more extensive.

There are some who differ from us in matters of great importance--how does the principle apply to them? To have no communion with them would be to expel them from the sacred ark into the ranks of the enemy. Those to whom the apostle refers are evidently not those who renounce and revile evangelical truth, but those whose knowledge or whose means or susceptibility for instruction are deficient.

1. Let us give a fair and comprehensive consideration to the way in which their religious characters have been formed.

(1) Education may early have produced an unfavourable impression, or they may have attended an incompetent ministry.

(2) We ought to pay regard to the difficulties and misapprehensions which lie in the use of words, which may be employed ambiguously or ignorantly.

(3) We should reflect what would probably have been the effect upon our minds had we been placed in their circumstances.

(4) When we see in them the apparent evidences of real holiness let us not be backward to acknowledge it.

2. How we ought to act towards them.

(1) With justice. Let us not misrepresent them, nor exaggerate the differences between us.

(2) With kindness. Let us see that our temper be sweet and our manner pleasing.

(3) We should take great care to prevent them imagining that we maintain salvation to be suspended on a mere theoretical belief of some points of doctrine.

There are Christians prom whom we differ on matters of smaller moment.

1. Let us show them the most sincere and honest respect and kindness.

2. Let us cultivate friendly intercourse with them as far as they are disposed to reciprocate it.

3. Let us hold with them religious communion on proper occasions so far as our and their principles permit.

4. When we state and argue for the points in which we differ from them let us take care to deal justly by them.

5. Let us take equal pains, without intrusion, to make them correctly acquainted with our sentiments.

6. Let everything in our speaking and writing, etc., be a demonstration that we esteem the essential principle and expansive morality of the gospel infinitely above the strict bounds of controversial preciseness and ecclesiastical form. (J. Pye Smith, D. D.)

Verse 16

Philippians 3:16

Nevertheless whereto we have already attained

The Divine rule of faith and practice


God has left His Church a rule of faith and manners. This is a rule whereby men must walk, otherwise we should be in a labyrinth of error, having no other light but the torch of nature.

The properties of this rule.

1. Unchangeableness. Therefore we must bring all to it; not it to all.

2. Perspicuous. “A lamp unto my feet,” etc.

3. Homogeneal. All things therein are spiritual and holy; and therefore, when the question is about religion, we must have recourse thereto as the only absolute complete rule.

A Christian walketh by this rule. He thinks it not sufficient to take a step, but keeps a right course steadfastly onward. How may this be done?

1. Let us treasure up the word in our consciences. Let us get the rule within us; get the articles of faith and assurance of the promises, and let this be betimes while we are young. It is the ordinary cry, “The Scriptures are hard, they cannot understand them.” But the reason is they are bred up in earthly businesses, and are stuffed with them so as they find no place for the Word; and it is a miracle to see men thus brought up to live by this rule.

2. When we have once treasured up the knowledge of these things, we must learn to apply them upon several occasions; for where no practice is, there knowledge is idle, and makes us worthy of more stripes. Many have general truths in their minds, but coming to apply them, they find a great want. David knew adultery was a sin, and Peter knew it was dangerous for a man to rely on himself, yet how foully did they fall.

3. Let us compare our experience with our rule. We shall find there is nothing therein but is fulfilled; there is no suffering but for sin; and that besides heaven hereafter, God rewards particular obedience here with particular rewards; and particular sin with particular corrections. We shall know that His judgments are not scarecrows.

4. Be inquisitive and watchful over our particular steps. Take and hear admonitions and instructions. Those that are otherwise minded, no marvel if they, like libertines, spurn against all instruction and advice, and accordingly feel the smart of their ways before they see it.

5. Get a wonderful jealousy over our hearts. We often offend in thoughts and desires, which God, the searcher of the heart, looks into; and we must therefore be jealous of idle thoughts and words. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Christian proficiency

In its measures--various--we may have outstripped others--are yet far behind.

Its means.

1. Determined by the will of God.

2. Proved by experience.

3. Must be persevered in. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The spirit of the warning

is that knowledge, already enjoyed and proved in a spiritual race, should not lie dormant because it is defective. It needed not so much to be rectified as supplemented. Therefore, as far as you have its guidance take it. Walk up to the light you have and you will get more. Walk with me so far as you discern the common path, and at the point of divergence God shall rightly direct you as to the subsequent course. He who employs what he has, prepares himself for further gifts. When the morning bursts suddenly on one wakened out of sleep, it dazzles and pains him; but to him who on his journey has blessed the dawn, and walked by its glimmer, the solar radiance brings with it a gradual and cheering influence. (Professor Eadie.)

The necessity of fixed rules

I have never noticed a single living twig which nature had not provided with a covering of bark. A creedless Church is like a barkless tree. The bark, it is true, should grow with the growth of the tree; but some bark seems a necessity of growth. I have looked down the microscope into the first beginnings of life, and seen at the very bottom of all existence a mass of protoplasmic pulp; but the cell, which is the unit of growth, is a nucleus of life protected by a wall of formed matter. This natural analogy of growth will hardly mislead us in the higher spheres of mind and morals. Some formed matter, some fixed beliefs, world seem to be necessities of the growth of religion. (N. Smyth, D. D.)

Walk in a straight road

“No man was ever lost in a straight road.” This famous saying, which is attributed to the Emperor Akbar, is worthy of a place among the proverbs of Solomon. It is worthy, too, of a place in the memory of every Christian who would walk worthily of his holy profession, and would keep off forbidden ground.

Steady perseverance

It is not by fits and starts that men become holy. It is not occasional, but continuous, prolonged, and lifelong efforts that are required; to be daily at it; always at it; resting but to renew the work; falling but to rise again. It is not by a few, rough, spasmodic blows of the hammer, that a graceful statue is brought out of the marble block, but by the labour of continuous days, and many delicate touches of the sculptor’s chisel. It is not a sudden gush of water, the roaring torrent of a summer flood, but a continuous flow, that wears the rock, and a constant dropping that hollows out the stone. It is not with a rush and a spring that we are to reach Christ’s character, attain to perfect saintship; but step by step, foot by foot, hand over hand, we are slowly and often painfully to mount the ladder that rests on earth, and rises to heaven. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Verse 17

Philippians 3:17

Brethren, be followers together of me

Incentives to a Christian walk


Copy great examples.

Beware of false professors.

1. They mind earthly things.

2. Are enemies of Christ.

3. Their end is destruction.

Look to the end.

1. Your home is in heaven.

2. Christ comes to fetch you.

3. Will fashion you for it. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christian example

Together with the rules of religion we must propound God’s graces in us as examples for others to imitate.

Imitation implies four things.

1. A doing that which another doth.

2. A doing it in the same manner.

3. A doing thereof grounded on the same affections, not as in a play where the king is often a varlet; but as a child who endeavours to imitate the father in mind as well as body.

4. A doing with an earnest desire to be like Him: so we should desire to be like Christ, and only like others as they are like Him.

Hence we may gather the ground why we have not only rules in scripture but examples.

1. They show that the things commanded are possible.

2. They show us the way and the means more plainly.

3. They show how graceful and acceptable they are when done. So the Scripture allures to obedience.


1. We ought to follow others, and especially those who are above others. Then--

(1) Reverence not only the eye of God, but of weak Christians. We are to be careful not to give them a bad example.

(2) Deny yourselves in liberties, especially when we are in the presence of such as wilt take scandal.

(3) Demean yourselves so as to respect those with whom you converse. Grace will teach us to honour the meanest.

2. If we are bound to give good example then woe to the world for offences. What shall become of those who wound and vex continually the hearts of those with whom they converse.

3. As we must give good example so we must endeavour to take good from other’s example; and to this end--

(1) We must study them.

(2) Not to uncover their shame or weakness, for this is a poisonous disposition; but as we use glasses to see ourselves by.

(3) We are to observe the best and not those who are inferior to us (1 Corinthians 4:16; 2 Corinthians 10:12).

(4) We must learn truth before we practise, for the best have their blemishes.

(5) We must labour to have hearts softened and sanctified by grace, for a stony heart will receive no impression.

(6) We are to look to every one that hath any good thing worthy of imitation, as those who delight in gardens when they hear of any choice flowers, will have a slip for their own garden. When we see any choice flower of grace let us get a slip of it (Romans 1:12). (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Example is living instruction

Embodied virtue or vice cannot but be attended with the consequences of a wide-spreading influence. In the example of St. Paul here before us we see--

As utter rejection of any righteousness of his own as a plea of justification.

A cordial acceptance of the redeemer.

An unremitting pursuit after that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. Conclusion: The nobility of the Christian calling.

1. The superiority of its enjoyments. (W. Higgin, M. A.)

A minister’s example


Consist with his teaching.

Be formed on the apostolic modeL.

Be observed and imitated as far as it accords with the truth. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The duty of imitating good examples

The apostle persuades the Philippians to agree in the imitation of his practice in forsaking all for Christ. There were differences among them. He would have them agree in one common rule, hope, example, that they might avoid those whose walking was not a pattern (verse 18). The lesson is also enforced in 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:7; Hebrews 13:7.

There are several sorts of examples.

1. That of saints living in former ages and now.

(1) Those in former ages (Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 12:1; James 5:10). These should be regarded by us because--

(a) They are so many and various, suited to all, and for all Christian ends. The prince in Josiah and Hezekiah; the councilor in Hushai; the rich in Abraham; the poor in the Shunamite; the courtier in the Ethiopian eunuch; the captive in Daniel; the afflicted in Job; the banished in Joseph; the soldier in Cornelius; women in Sarah (1 Peter 3:6); magistrates in Moses and Nehemiah; ministers in the apostles. And then of all graces: Abraham for faith, David for devotion, Job for patience, Paul for diligence.

(b) These show that there is nothing impossible in our duty. Difficulties have been overcome in Divine strength and can still be. They were of the same nature, etc., with us (James 5:17).

(c) Their examples are a standing testimony to confirm by experience the truth and reality of our blessed hopes (Hebrews 12:1), and thus serve to confirm our faith and excite our hope and love.

(2) Those now living; for God has left us a continual succession of good examples, and these add this above all that are past.

(a) That they are in our eye.

(b) There is greater provocation in the examples of the living (2 Corinthians 9:2; Hebrews 10:24).

(c) These are yet in the way and can better help us as being within our reach (Hebrews 13:3; 1 Peter 5:9).

2. That of pastors and ordinary Christians (1Pe 5:3; 1 Corinthians 4:15-16; Hebrews 13:7).

What is this imitation.

1. There must be an action. To imitate is not to commemorate, or admire and commend, but to do likewise (John 8:39).

2. A conformity to the example both for matter and manner (Luke 1:17) with the same affection of zeal and courage against sin.

3. A purpose and endeavour of imitating and not by accident. Christ must be imitated principally, and then His choice servants.

How far we must imitate.

1. Not in evil things; for the best have their blemishes

2. Not in exempted cases or things done by special command (Genesis 22:10; Exodus 12:35; Num 25:27; 2 Kings 1:10) or infallible gifts.

Why we must imitate the good examples set before us.

1. Because it is a great part of the communion of saints to profit by one another’s graces (Romans 1:12).

2. It is one end of these graces; for God hath bestowed them, not only for their benefit who have them, but also for the sake of others (chap. 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:7).

3. They show us the way to heaven more clearly and compendiously (1 Peter 3:1).

4. In the example of others we have encouragement as well as instruction (1Pe 5:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 6:12).


1. To show us that good examples

(1) must be given,

(a) Consider what regard we owe to weak Christians that we set them not an ill copy.

(b) We shall have to give an account of those sins into which we draw others. Jeroboam’s idolatry outlived him, and so a man may sin after he is dead (1 Timothy 5:22).

(c) God is severe on His scandalous children (1 Samuel 12:14; 2 Samuel 12:10-12).

(d) God’s people are to show forth His praises (1 Peter 2:9; Isaiah 43:10).

(e) It is a greater honour to be than to take an example (1 Thessalonians 1:7; Ephesians 1:12).

(2) Must be taken.

(a) It is a shame to come short of those who are upon the same level with us.

(b) There are none but may learn something from others.

(c) We are accountable for good examples as for other helps and means of grace.

2. To show us how cautious we should be not to be infected by bad examples.

Heroes to make us exemplary.

1. Love to God or zeal for His glory (Psalms 119:165).

2. Love to the brethren’s souls (1 John 2:10).

3. A sincere seriousness in our profession (Philippians 1:10).

4. Watchfulness (2Co 6:3; 1 Corinthians 10:32; Luke 17:3).

5. Mortification (Matthew 5:9).

6. A heart in heaven. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Example is powerful

Dr. Percy called upon Johnson to take him to Goldsmith’s lodgings; he found Johnson arrayed with unusual care in a new suit of clothes, a new hat, and a well-powdered wig, and could not but notice his uncommon spruceness. “Why, sir,” replied Johnson, “I hear that Goldsmith, who is a very great sloven, justifies his disregard of cleanliness and decency by quoting my practice, and I am desirous this night to show him a better example.” (Washington Irving.)

Whilst stationed in Scotland, Colonel Durnford happened to be between Berwick and Holy Island, where a small craft had struck on the coast during a storm. Seeing the hesitation of the fishermen to go to the rescue, he jumped into a boat, calling out, “Will none of you come with me? If not, I shall go alone;” and a volunteer crew at once joined him, and succeeded in rescuing those in peril. (Literary World.)

“Don’t you ever take wine?” said a hospitable, easy-souled bishop to a friend, before whom he pushed the Madeira. “Are you afraid of it?” “No,” replied his wiser friend; “I am afraid of the example.”

Verses 17-18

Philippians 3:17-18

For many walk of whom I have told you often

False professors


Their character.

1. Sensual.

2. Without shame.

3. Earthly.

Their spirit.

1. Opposed to the Spirit;

2. Doctrine;

3. Cause of the Cross.

Their end.

1. Certain destruction.

2. Aggravated misery.

The feelings with which they are to be regarded.

1. Sorrow.

2. Pity.

3. Fear (Jude 1:23). (J. Lyth, D. D.)

False professors solemnly warned

Paul was a model pastor.

1. Watchful: his eyes were ever on the Churches.

2. Honest: he did not flinch from telling the whole truth.

3. Affectionate--“Tell you even weeping.” Paul wept for three things.

Their guilt.

1. They were sensual persons. There were those in the early Church who would go from the Lord’s table to heathen feasts, others indulged in the lusts of the flesh. And are not some professors so fond of the table and dress as to make a god of their body.

2. They did mind earthly things, and so we have ambitious, covetous Christians. They gloried in their shame, and a professing sinner generally does so more than any one else.

The mischief they were doing. He says emphatically that they are the enemies. The infidel, the swearer, the persecutor is an enemy. Christ is wounded in gin palaces, etc., but most grievously of all in the house of His friends. Caesar wept not till Brutus stabbed him. It is honourable to be defeated by enemies, but disgraceful to be betrayed by friends. The wicked professor is the worst enemy because--

1. He grieves the Church more than any one else.

2. Nothing divides the Church so much.

3. Nothing has ever hurt poor sinners more. Many seekers would find sooner if it were not for the ill lives of professors.

4. They give the devil more theme for laughter, and the enemy more cause for joy than any other class.

Because he knew their doom--“Destruction.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The sensual and worldly exposed

1. The object of the apostle in the statement of his own consecration in the earlier part of the chapter was that he might the more emphatically express his desire to others that they would imitate his example (Philippians 3:15-16), and enjoy with him the reward (Philippians 3:20-21). He did not wish to stand on an elevation solitary and unapproached.

2. The exhortation is enforced by a distressing contrast--men who desired to be considered the followers of Christ, but over whom the obligations of religion had no power and who were proceeding fast through deep degradation to perdition. Observe--

The guilt attributed to the characters described. They were members and perhaps teachers; not open blasphemers but pretended votaries. They were--

1. Sensualists.

(1) “Whose God is their belly” denotes the gross and brutish indulgences to which they resorted for pleasure (Romans 16:17-18). To pamper the appetites of the body is a tendency the power and prevalence of which cannot be sufficiently mourned (Mark 7:21-23; Galatians 5:19-21), and even where there is the restraint which arises from civil institutions, care of reputation, and other motives, there is but a modification in the development of the evil, and not the removal of the evil itself. The purpose of the gospel is to overcome the propensities of original nature and turn men away from what is degrading to what is sanctifying. But there was and is an attempt to pervert the principle of the gospel, and, by the most infamous of all sophisms, to show that we are permitted to “sin that grace may abound.” Awful and abominable is that heresy which would thus attempt to poison the waters of purity at their very fountain.

(2) The strength of the sensuality thus deprecated is expressed with remarkable force. “Whose God is their belly”; and under the sovereign influence of that debasing passion they “glory in their shame.” They make a virtue of their subjection, a boast of their idolatry. They who regard the gratification of their appetites as the end of their existence are worshippers of their loathsome passions. They have as much denied the God of heaven as if they had acknowledged the deities of Olympus.

2. Worldlings. It may seem strange that this disposition should be placed in connection with the others as of the same kind and degree of criminality, but the phrase used expresses absorption in the concerns of the present world to the exclusion of another. And this neglect of futurity arises from the same depravity as the other. Worldliness, condemned as “idolatry,” is only another development of depravity; for Christianity is designed to impress our race with the high solemnities of a world to come (Matthew 6:19-21; Colossians 2:2; 1 John 2:15), and when you are told of men who “mind earthly things” you are told of men who commit a sweeping act of blasphemy against the whole.

The conclusions deduced as to these characters on Christian principles. It is affirmed--

1. They are malignant adversaries of the mediatorial character and work of the Son of God.

(1) When men are enemies of the Cross, they are hostile to every purpose for which Christ came into the world.

(2) In this manner a charge is advanced of special emphasis and solemnity. There is not ascribed a mere ordinary failure to comply with some of the precepts of religion, but a direct and daring enmity against that without which religion would be nothing (Rom 6:4-6; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Titus 2:14; Colossians 3:11). They are enemies because--

(a) They refute the grand design for which alone it was ever regarded.

(b) They are the means of degrading it in the world, and exposing it to public reproach. It is not the Jew, the heathen, the savage persecutor, or the blaspheming infidel, but the man who assumes the cross as his badge.

2. Their career terminates in the woes of avenging retribution. The Cross affords the only hope of salvation. The votaries of passions and habits so hostile to the purifying principles and purposes of redeeming love are therefore necessarily placed under the awful anathema of heaven (2 Peter 2:10 to end).

The impulse which the contemplation of such characters inspires. “Tell you even weeping.” Their case dwelt much on his mind, and occupied much of his ministry. To the same anxiety he refers especially in Acts 20:18-19; Acts 20:29-31. This proceeded--

1. From a dread lest the disciples of the gospel should contract their guilt. There was a loud call for vigilance lest the infection should spread.

2. From a deep concern for the peril of those by whom the guilt had been contracted already. Paul was not only anxious for the Church, but for his fellow immortals actually in a state of condemnation (Psalms 119:136; Jeremiah 9:1; Luke 19:41-42). It is not possible surely to contemplate the present debasement and final ruin of the sinner without sincere and heart-rending sorrow. (J. Parsons.)

The Cross and its enemies

The cross of Christ. To the nations of antiquity the cross conveyed the same idea as the gibbet does today. It was a badge of infamy. The Cross of Christ, however, includes all the truths involved in His death. It was not the crucifixion these people opposed, but the principles associated therewith. Regard it, then, as the symbol of debasing truths, of notions most offensive to pride. For in the Cross we see the extreme evil of sin, the necessity of a righteousness beyond man’s power, the need of the substitution of a perfect sacrifice to our salvation.

1. The source of powerful motives. There is no more powerful incentive to holiness than in the Cross. Its profession commits a man to deadness to the sin for which Christ died.

2. The signal of an amazing conflict. Christ’s death resulted from the depravity of the Jews, and the machinations of the devil. By that the arch enemy thought holiness would be overthrown, and thus he stirred all his agencies in earth and hell to effect it. But God so ordered it that it led on to a conflict with the principles of evil, which shall terminate in the final triumph of Christ. Opposed now, He and we with Him shall be ultimately victorious.

The enemies of the cross. They are described in verse 2 as opposed to the Christians in verse 3, etc.

1. They were proud men who valued their own righteousness. Gross sensual evils are not the only things offensive to God; all substitutes for the Cross as the only means of salvation are obnoxious to Him.

2. Sensual men who lived for their own pleasure. The Cross means mortification of the flesh; to pamper it, therefore, is to defeat the purpose of the Cross.

3. Worldly men who held to their possessions in opposition to the desire for heavenly things (verse 19). The votaries of pleasure, the anxious, the miser, etc., come under this category.

4. Timid men who screened their own persons, for fear of worldly loss or persecution.

The awful condition of all such persons.

1. They glory in their degradation; in their self-righteousness, sinful pleasures, or worldliness, or cowardice.

2. They pursue their own destruction--“The wages of sin is death.” (J. Blackburn.)

Consistency and usefulness

The conscience of a backsliding professor was smitten by the active and earnest efforts of a more faithful brother, whom he at length offered to assist in devotional services. To this objection was made by one who said, “I cannot hear him pray for me. His life does not pray. Let him repent of his unfaithfulness and confess to God and men, and then we will hear him.” If we would have our prayers credited as sincere, our lives must be in accordance with them. (Paxton Hood.)

Enemies of the Cross of Christ: their suicidal policy

What would you think if there were to be an insurrection in a hospital, and sick man should conspire with sick man, and on a certain day should rise up and reject the doctors and nurses? There they would be--sickness and disease within, and all the help without! Yet what is a hospital compared with this fever-ridden world, which goes swinging in pain and anguish through the centuries, when men say, “We have got rid of the atonement, and we have got rid of the Bible”? Yes, and you have rid yourselves of salvation. (H. W. Beecher.)

Professed friends secret foes

When a small band of Protestants were striving for their liberties in Switzerland, they bravely defended a pass against an immense host. Though their dearest friends were slain, and they themselves were weary and ready to drop with fatigue, they stood firm in the defence of the cause they had espoused. On a sudden, however, a cry was heard--a dread and terrible shriek. The enemy was winding up a steep acclivity, and when the commander turned his eye thither, O how his brow gathered with storm! He ground his teeth, and stamped his foot, for he knew that some caitiff Protestant had led the bloodthirsty foe up the goat track to slay his friends. Then turning to his friends, he said, “On;” and like a lion on his prey, they rushed upon their enemies, ready now to die, for a friend had betrayed them. So feels the bold hearted Christian when he sees his fellow member betraying Christ, when he beholds the citadel of Christianity given up to its foes by those who pretend to be its friends. Beloved, I would rather have a thousand devils out of the Church than have one in it. I do not care about all the adversaries outside; our greatest cause of fear is from the crafty wolves in sheep’s clothing that devour the flock. It is against such that we would denounce in holy wrath the solemn sentence of Divine indignation, and for such we would shed our bitterest tears of sorrow. They are “the enemies of the Cross of Christ.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 18

Philippians 3:18

And now tell you even weeping that they are enemies to the Cross of Christ


The causes or Paul’s grief.

1. Negatively. It was not hatred and ill will to their persons, nor emulation of their credit, nor desire of venting reproaches. Some men’s zeal against error is as much to be feared as others lapsing into it. Ithacus had nothing good in him but his hatred of the Priscillianists, and this so far transported him that every zealous man was a Priscillianist.

2. Positively--

(1) Pure zeal for God’s glory (Psalms 69:9; Romans 15:3).

(2) The Church’s welfare (Psalms 122:9; Isaiah 62:1; Psalms 137:6). Pity to souls, both of the ringleaders and their proselytes.

(3) Clear apprehensions of the mischievous effects of sin.

The brand He puts on them over whom He weeps. “Enemies of the Cross of Christ.”

1. To clear this observe--

(1) That those who profess friendship to Christ may yet be enemies to Him.

(2) That friendship and enmity to Christ is not interpreted so much by external profession as by the constitution of our hearts and the course of our conversation (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21; 1 Peter 1:17).

(3) That the worldly spirit is that constitution of heart which is blank opposite to the Cross.

2. To prove this--

(1) The Scripture expressly asserts it (James 4:4; Matthew 6:24; 1 John 2:15).

(2) Experience confirms it.

(a) It was the worldly spirit that caused the Jews to persecute Christ and His servants (James 2:5-6; Luke 16:14).

(b) This makes the nominal Christian to be such an opposer of Christ’s spiritual kingdom, and to content himself with the name of Christianity.

(c) This distinguishes the hypocrites from the sincere.

(d) This hinders the sincere from doing all they would for God.

(3) Reason evidences it.

(a) From the intent of the Cross, which was to be an expiation for sin. To cross this end is to refuse God’s remedy. The Cross also purchased for us that Spirit of power and all those helps of grace by which we overcome the world (Galatians 1:4). Now those who mind earthly things defeat the end of the Spirit. The Cross, too, purchased heaven, and those who aim at earthly happiness contradict this. The Cross, too, is a pattern and example of suffering, patience, and a glorious issue, each of which worldliness contemns.

(b) From the nature of the religion founded on the Cross--faith, hope, and love--which a worldly spirit destroys.


1. To show how mistaken they are who reconcile the love of the world with a profession of godliness (Luk 18:23; 1 Peter 5:2; Romans 16:8).

2. To press those who would be sincere Christians to mortify their affections to earthly things.

(1) Christ counts none friends of His who love not His Cross.

(2) The true virtue of Christ’s Cross is only found by those who are crucified by it to the world.

(3) Till this be done your love to God and hope of heaven are questionable. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The Cross of Christ and its enemies

What is the cross? Not simply the instrument of torture, but the sufferings Christ endured and the blessings which result from them. In this enlarged acceptation consider the Cross as--

1. The foundation of our hope as fallen sinners. To the sinner viewing futurity apart from the atonement the prospect is appalling.

2. The source of our spiritual enjoyment, peace, joy, access to and fellowship with God.

3. The main the me of the gospel ministry. It furnishes the preacher with a rich and endless variety of topics, of which it is the harmonizing and illustrative principle.

4. The most legitimate object in which we may triumph, and of which we may make our boast. Some boast of their ancestors, wealth, honours, learning, etc.

5. The pledge of everlasting glory.

Who are its enemies?

1. Those who deprive it of its saving virtue.

2. Those who decline its purchased privileges.

3. Those who preach another gospel of which it is not the centre.

4. Those who make their boast of any other object.

5. Those who reject it as the condition of their heavenly crown. (R. Cameron.)

Enemies of the Cross

St. Paul was in the habit of repeating the same things to his converts. We learn from this not only that he thought the Philippians should be on their guard against the enemies of the Cross, but that he feared the lesson would be forgotten unless repeated time after time. There is an incessant craving for novelty, so that the preacher is likely to find himself blamed if he dwells chiefly on truths a hundred times told, and yet these simple truths are those which most need being pressed on men.

St. Paul’s distress at what he had to say. Why did the apostle weep? What is there in the sins of others to cause a righteous man to weep? Nay, he would not be a righteous man if they did not move him to tears. We do not expect it of the wicked. They are not moved by their own sins, it were strange indeed if they were moved by those of their fellows. But if we Christians only think of the wretchedness of the wicked in this life and that to come, there is cause enough to fill the breast of every one of us with grief too mighty for utterance. You who cannot see a fellow creature in pain without feeling pain may witness a scene of such misery as was never found on earth, and be indifferent to it if you can.

Those who called forth this tearful and frequent mention. Not enemies of Christ but of His Cross, and therefore those who opposed or disliked the truths associated with the death of our Redeemer. Putting aside the speculative enmity of the Socinian and the profligate who is only the enemy of the Cross as he is the enemy of all religion, we notice--

1. Those who in any measure or degree would set aside the work of mediation and look to their own righteousness for salvation.

2. The inconsistent professor, whose practice is at open variance with the gospel. The Cross is so constructed that it inculcates holiness while it offers pardon.

3. The covetous, who oppose its example of self-sacrifice. (H. Melvill, D. D.)

Enemies of the Cross

The text is a parenthesis enclosing, like some good garden, flowers of apostolic virtue and weeds of Philippian wickedness.

The fidelity of the apostle is commended by--

1. His warning,” I have told you.” As wisdom hath eyes to note evils, so faithfulness hath a tongue to notify them. We are seers of God in respect of our eyes, and prophets in respect of our tongues. We are blind guides if we see not, and dumb dogs if we give not warning of what we see. We should not be like dials or watches to teach the eye, but like clocks and ‘larums to ring in the ear. God will never thank us for keeping His counsel, but for divulging it. The prophet prays, “Set a door before my lips,” not a wall, but a door that may be seasonably let loose and free when convenience or necessity require it. If I see a blind man walking towards some deep pit and do not warn him, I am not less guilty of his death than if I had thrust him down (Ezekiel 33:7). A sleeping sentinel is the loss of a whole city.

2. The frequence of the warning--not once or seldom, but often. St. Paul feared not tautology, rather like a skilful workman he beats still on the same anvil. There can never be too much warning where there can never be enough heed. Nice ears are all for variety of doctrines; as palates of meats. St. Paul hates to feed this wanton humour, and tells them this single diet is safe for them. We tell over the same coins, and spend night after day in the same game without weariness. There is an itch of the ear which St. Paul foresaw would prove epidemical in latter times. Too many pulpits are full of curious affectations, new crochets, strange mixtures of opinions, insomuch that old and plain forms are grown stale and despicable. There cannot be a more certain argument of a decayed and sickly stomach than the loathing of wholesome and solid food, and longing after new and artificial composition. O foolish Israelites, with whom too much frequence made the food of angels contemptible. “The full despiseth the honeycomb,” and there are many thus full of the world and sinful corruptions. But for us let not these dainties of heaven lose their worth for their store. Often inculcation of warnings necessarily implies danger, and there is much danger of the infection of evil.

3. The passion--“Weeping.” What is it that could wring tears from those eyes? Even the same that fetched them from our Saviour, and from all eyes that pretend to holiness--compassion of sinners. What shall I say to such as make merry with sin? O that we should laugh at that for which our Saviour wept and bled. Tears do well in the pulpit. As it is in the buckets of some pumps, that water must be first poured down into them ere they can fetch up water in abundance; so must our tears be let down to fetch up more from our hearers. Worldly men as they have hard hearts have dry eyes, but the tender hearts of God’s children are ever lightly attended with weeping eyes. And if good men spend tears on sinners how much more ought sinners to weep for themselves. See who it was for whom Paul wept: dogs and the concision. So, then, Christ’s charitable children should not desire or rejoice in the destruction of those who profess hostility against them. Every man can mourn for the fall of a friend, but to be thus deeply affected with the sins or judgments of wicked persons is incident to none but a tender and charitable heart. God’s children are like their Father (1 Timothy 2:4 : Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 33:11).

The wickedness of the false teachers.

1. Their number--“many.” Note, then, that the rarity of conscionable men should make them more observed and valued, as grains of gold amidst the rubbish of the ore and dust. Paucity is wont to carry contempt with it; but with Christians one is worth more than a thousand. It is better to follow one Noah into the ark than to perish with a world of unbelievers. “Many” are opposed to “us.” It is not for us to stand upon the fear of an imputation of singularity: we may not do as the most, but as the best, The world is apt to make an ill use of multitude: on the one side arguing the better part by the greater, on the other arguing mischief tolerable because abetted by many. If the first should hold good paganism would carry it from Christianity, and hell from heaven. “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.” What abatement of torment will it be to be condemned with many. If the second, that which heightens evils should plead for their immunity, so none but weak mischiefs should receive opposition. Strong thieves should escape while petty pilferers should be punished. Away with this base pusillanimity. If the devils can say “my name is legion,” let your powerful commands cast them out.

2. Their motion--“walk.”

(1) Natural. Walking is living. Every minute is a new pace. None can stop our passage. Whether we do something or nothing we move on by insensible steps toward our long home.

(2) Voluntary. So the wicked ones walk like their setter (Job 1:7). Wickedness is seldom other than active.

(3) Walking implies an ordinary mode of life. It is not a step, or a pace, that can make a walk, but a proceeding on with many shirtings of our feet. It is no judging of a man by one action. The best man may step aside as David and Peter--but their walk was in the ways of God’s commandments. What is the course of men’s lives? If drunkenness, debauchery, etc., their walk is an ill way to an evil end; pity those and labour to reclaim them. But if their general course be holy it is not a particular miscarriage that can be a just ground of censure.

3. Their quality--“Enemies of the Cross of Christ.” But who can but hate that which was the cause of the death of our best Friend. Surely we love not Christ if we hate not what was accessory to His murder. But if we regard it as improved by Christ for man we must love it. The cross was the death that gives us life; so that we cannot be at once enemies of the Cross and friends of the crucified.

(1) As Christ, so His Cross has many false friends who are no other than enemies. Unjust favours are as injurious as derogations. To deify a saint is as bad as devilizing him. Romanists exceed in this way their devotions to the Cross; whose friendship to the altar is a defiance to the sacrifice.

(2) The Philippian Pseudapostles were enemies.

(a) In doctrine, who joined circumcision and other legalities with the Cross, so by a pretended partnership detracting from the virtue of Christ’s death. And so, now how palpable enemies are they who hold Christ’s satisfaction imperfect without ours.

(b) In practice, viz., those who shift off persecution by conformity to the present world--caring more for a whole skin than a sound soul--and loose livers. Christ’s Cross is our redemption from sin; and those who wilfully sin frustrate the Cross and mock at redemption (Galatians 2:20).

4. Their end. A woeful condition beyond all thoughts. Here is every circumstance that may add horror to a condition.

(1) Suddenness (Psalms 37:2; Isaiah 5:24; Proverbs 10:25; Psalms 73:19).

(2) Extremity. The wrath of God is as Himself infinite.

(3) Impossibility of release. If the torment might have an end there were some comfort. O mad sinners, that for a little momentary contentment east themselves into everlasting perdition! (Bishop Hall.)

Enemies of the cross

There is reason to believe that many professors of religion are enemies to the cross of Christ (Matthew 13:24-30; Matthew 13:47-50; Matthew 7:21; Matthew 7:23). But observe in passing--

1. That Christianity is not responsible for hypocrites and self-deceived professors. Religion does not produce nor countenance hypocrisy.

2. Christianity does not stand alone. There are many false friends, patriots, professors of honesty, temperance, etc.

3. We claim for Christianity only the good it has done, and point to the sinners it has reformed.

4. We ask that on this subject the language of discrimination and justice should be used.

How may we determine when professors are enemies to the Cross of Christ?

1. When they have not been born again. “The carnal mind is enmity with God.”

2. When they live in the indulgence of any known sin. It needs no argument to show that the man who is seeking my hurt in any way is my enemy. The man who indulges in known sin shows that he disregards God’s authority, and despises the work of Christ which is to cleanse us from all iniquity.

3. When they pursue a doubtful or undecided course of conduct without any effort to know what is right.

4. When they manifest in their conduct none of the peculiarities of those who truly love Him. These are not morality, good temper, etc., for worldly men have these. Christ did not die that His followers might be like other men, but that they should he a peculiar people.

5. When they have a deeper interest in their worldly affairs than in the cause of their Redeemer (verse 19, Philippians 2:21; 2 Timothy 3:2). The proof of this proposition lies in a nutshell.

(1) Christ said, “He that is not for Me is against Me.”

(2) There is no better way of knowing a man’s character than observation of his walk and conversation.

(3) The interests of Christ’s kingdom are intended to be supreme. He seeks no divided sway (Luke 14:26).

(4) The principles of Christianity cannot lie dormant in the soul. If they exist they will be manifested.

6. When nothing can induce them to give up their worldly concerns for the cause of religion upon God’s demands. We make a great mistake when we speak of our time, talents, property. The affairs of this life, as well as prayer and praise, should be pursued as part of the service we owe to God. The gospel was designed to overcome the love of the world, and to induce men to surrender all when God urges His claims (Luke 9:23; Luke 14:26).

(1) If a professed follower of Christ will not abandon those amusements which are obviously and certainly inconsistent with the gospel, he is the enemy of the Cross of Christ.

(2) So is he who will not surrender his property to God when He demands it for His service.

(3) And he who employs all his time in doing his own will.

7. When they are opposed to all that is peculiar in the doctrines of Christianity.

(1) When the doctrines of the Bible in general are admitted, but in detail are denied.

(2) When those truths which are found in natural religion are acknowledged, but the truths peculiar to the gospel are doubted.

(3) When a man will not examine those doctrines to satisfy his own mind whether they are true or false.

(4) When a man becomes angry when those doctrines are preached.

(5) When in the circle of the worldly he is unwilling that it should be known that he holds them.

8. When they are opposed to the peculiar duties of Christianity.

(1) When the obligations of piety are admitted in general but denied in particular.

(2) When there is no sympathy with the plans of true Christians in the spread of the gospel.

(3) When all the sympathies are on the side of the enemy of Christ.

Why is the fact of their being in the Church fitted to excite grief. Because--

1. They are cherishing hopes that will be disappointed, and are exposed to danger that is unfelt (2 Corinthians 2:4).

2. Their influence.

(1) The loss of so much positive strength to the cause of the Redeemer.

(2) It tends to discourage the true friends of God.

(3) It is a real hindrance to the cause of God, for “he that is not with Me is against Me.”

(4) It gives occasion for the reproach and opposition of a wicked world.

(5) It is the occasion of the loss of the souls of men. An ungodly parent adds to his own destruction that of his children.

3. The slender probability that they will ever be saved. The apostle did not anticipate the conversion of those whose end was destruction (Matthew 13:30). There is more hope for the open sinner and the heathen than for the self-deluded professor. (A. Barnes, D. D.)

Inconsistency is

Common. Many betray their profession by their--

1. Spirit.

2. Temper.

3. Conduct.

Enmity to the cross. It--

1. Contradicts its teaching.

2. Puts discredit on its glory.

3. Hinders its success.

Matter of regret. The inconsistent--

1. Dishonour Christ.

2. Injure others.

3. Ruin themselves. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The significance of manly tears

It is an unusual and a distressing thing to see a man weep. Women may not be ashamed of their tears, nor seek to hide them; and when we see them weep, we do not turn away, but hasten to their side, saying, “Woman, why weepest thou?” But men are ashamed to weep. They brush the failing tear from their eye to hide it, or when they cannot restrain their grief, like Peter, they go from the presence of men to weep bitterly in private. There is something so sacred and so solemn, or else so ludicrous, in the tears of men, that friends feel it kindly not to notice when they fall, or, like the friends of Job, to pause awhile in silence ere they ask, Man, why weepest thou? As a rule, man cannot bear to speak of, nor to be spoken to about, their tears. How strange, then, is the contrast in our text, where Paul is not only seen weeping privately in his prison at Rome, but writing to the distant Church at Philippi to tell them of his tears! Similar examples we find among the prophets. There were times when they did not try to repress nor to hide their tears, but desired, and proclaimed aloud that they desired, to weep, saying, “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night!” Now, why was it thus? Why was it that strong men desired to weep, and not to hide their tears? The answer is plain and striking. They thus wept, and proclaimed their weeping, not when they wept for themselves, but over others. When they wept for themselves, like Peter, they went out to a secret place to weep alone before their God. But when they saw how evil men ran on in sin, they did not hide, but showed the rivers of tears that ran down their cheeks. There was no shame nor weakness in tears like these. (W. Grant.)

Tears for sinners

It is not so much anger as grief which should be excited in us by the prevalence of iniquity. Nature may make our eyes flash fire, but grace will make them shed tears, as God’s law is broken and His authority defied. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Saint-like tears

Let no man say that tears argue weakness; even the firmest marble weeps in a resolution of the air. Nay, such tears as these argue strength of piety and heavenly affections. To weep for fear is childish; that is unbeseeming a man; to weep for anger is womanish and weak; to weep for mere grief is human; for sin, Christian; but for true zeal and compassion, is saint-like and Divine: every one of these drops is a pearl. Behold the precious liquor which is reserved, as the dearest relique of heaven, in the bottles of the Almighty; every dram whereof is valued at an eternal weight of glory. Even a cup of cold water shall be rewarded; and, behold, every drop of this warm water is more worth than many cups of cold. “Weep thus awhile, and laugh forever; sow thus in tears, and be sure to reap in joy.” (Bishop Hall.)

Verse 19

Philippians 3:19

Whose end is destruction


Their sin. Earthly mindedness. It seems hard to say that we should not at all mind earthly things. These are necessary to sweeten our pilgrimage, and support us during our service. We have our “earthly house” that must be maintained (2 Corinthians 5:1). Therefore God does allow us in some sort to mind earthly things, but--

1. Not only. Some mind them who have no tincture of religion (Psalms 10:4; Romans 8:5; Luke 10:42; Luke 12:21).

2. Not chiefly. The gross worldling is discovered by his only minding, the secret worldling by his chiefly minding. The rule is that spiritual things must be sought in the first place (Matthew 6:33), and we must trust God for other things in the way of honest endeavours. The minding of earthly things is when religion is subordinate to the world, when the lean kine devour the fat (Luke 8:14). This matter will be known by three things.

(1) What is your chief end and scope? It must be God and heaven (2 Corinthians 4:18; Philippians 3:14). The end cuts out the work and forms the thoughts.

(2) What is your chief business? If it be about earthly things you are earthly minded. Surely our great business is to obtain salvation by Christ (chap. 2:12). It is dangerous to miscarry in so weighty a work.

(3) What is the great joy and trouble of your hearts? Is it to have and want the world? (Luke 12:19). The saints fetch their solace from spiritual things (Psalms 4:6-7; Psalms 119:14; Psalms 94:19; Psalms 30:7); but if disappointment in the world be the cause of our trouble, and happiness in the world feedeth our icy, surely we mind these things most.

3. Alas! a child of God is often too worldly. In particular acts he may carry himself too much like an earthly minded man, but no prevalent covetousness, voluptuousness, or ambition possesses his heart instead of God. He is growing out of these distempers and settling his soul to his constant bent, work, and joy.

The aggravations of this sin.

1. “Whose God is their belly.”

(1) They prize the belly. Provision for the flesh is the sum of worldly happiness. But the world yields no more than bodily food and clothing, which the poorest may attain without so much ado. Are they nearer to true comfort and further from the grave? (Psalms 17:14). You say that some rich men will not afford themselves conveniences, but fare hard. Answer--

(a) Covetousness is usually the purveyor of the flesh (Romans 8:5). Those who seem to deal hardly with it, please it--by hoarding if not by spending.

(b) They are twice fools, for they transgress the laws both of nature end of grace (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19).

(c) They lay it up for them who spend it on the belly; and as one goes to hell for getting, so does the other for spending, till it revolve into hands that will use it better (Ecclesiastes 2:26; Proverbs 13:22; Job 27:17). Estates are ruined by sins of omission as well as commission.

(2) This belly is made a god. Our god is that which we value most, and for whose sake we do things (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5).

(3) How justly are they deprived of eternal salvation.

(a) They put a vile scorn on God and Christ (2 Timothy 3:4; 1 John 2:15).

(b) They that serve a base god cannot but have a base spirit. Every man’s temper is as his god is (Psalms 115:8),

(c) They are not only unfit for God, but opposite to Him (James 4:4).

2. Their glory is in their shame.

(1) That which a man prizes most he will glory in, be it wealth, honour, parts, or the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Man will glory in something. True Christians renounce all carnal gloryings (2 Corinthians 1:12; Galatians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 15:10).

(2) The true object of glorying is God and Christ (Jeremiah 9:23-24; Jeremiah 4:2; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

(3) Not only benefits but sufferings for Christ should be more to us than all the world (Hebrews 11:26; Acts 5:41; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

(4) A mortified estate is a greater cause for glory than an exalted, because it is a far greater mercy (Galatians 6:14; James 1:9-10).

(5) The carnal rejoice in earthly things as pleasing to the flesh; and so do the godly, as far as the flesh remaineth in them; but this is our weakness and disgrace.

(6) This is to bid defiance to religion and to glory in your shame when you bless yourselves more for having an estate in the world than an interest in the promises. This is as if it were a sign of prudence to glory in the finding of a pin.

Their punishment--“Their end,” etc.

1. It is good to look to the end of things (Deuteronomy 32:29; Lamentations 1:9; Jeremiah 17:11; Hebrews 13:7).

2. Worldly pleasures will end in everlasting destruction (1 Timothy 6:9-10; Romans 6:21; Romans 6:23; Galatians 6:8; Romans 8:6; Romans 8:13; 2 Corinthians 11:15).

3. The punishment is the more dreadful to give us the more help, and the more powerful argument against those pleasing lusts. It is sweet to please the flesh, but it will cost us dear.


1. Do we mind earthly things or heavenly?

(1) Do not fix them as your scope (1 Timothy 6:9).

(2) Let not this be your great work (Matthew 6:24).

(3) Let not earthly things be your great delight (1 Corinthians 7:29-30; Philippians 4:12; Psalms 62:10).

(4) When your estate is yet to be made or gotten, let your desires be modest (Isaiah 5:8; Ecclesiastes 5:10; Hebrews 13:5).

(5) Moderate your cares about these things (Matthew 6:25-32; Philippians 4:5-6; 1 Peter 5:7).

(6) Be willing to resign them to Christ when the enjoyment of them is inconsistent with your fidelity to Him (Luke 14:33).

5. To dissuade us from earthly mindedness consider--

(1) You must shortly die and come to your account, and according to the account you give and the preparation you have made you must live in endless joy or misery.

(2) The danger of abundance (Matthew 19:24; Ecclesiastes 5:11-12; Luke 12:48).

(3) See by faith those sure, great, and glorious things which are infinitely more worthy your love and labour (Colossians 3:2; Hebrews 11:25).

(4) Think often of your great necessities (Luke 10:42). (T. Manton, D. D.)


Its manifestations.

1. Sensuality.

2. Pride.

3. Covetousness.

Its shame. It degrades--

1. The understanding.

2. The moral nature.

3. The immortal spirit.

Its end.

1. Ruin.

2. Misery. (J. Lyth, D. D.)


There is--

1. A philosophic materialism which reduces the soul to a series of phenomena to be accounted for by superiority of physical organization in man, and makes God an expression for the sum of nature’s workings.

2. A practical materialism which does not trouble itself to deny the existence of the soul or the claims of God, but is nevertheless buried in matter, and swallowed up of earthliness. There were baptized Christians in Philippi who were enemies of the Cross, because while wearing the Christian name they were given up to sensuality. This, in various forms, is a crying evil in all prosperous times. The text is applicable to the worldling now.

Who are they who mind earthly things?

1. Those whose sole care is the increase of wealth. Business occupies their whole attentions. Material interests absorb their whole soul. Such was the man described by our Lord (Luke 7:18, etc.). These divorce what God has joined together--diligence in business and fervency of spirit.

2. Those whose sole enjoyment is the pleasures of this life (Luke 16:19). “Whose god is their belly” describes one type of sensual enjoyment. But a man wholly given up to even innocent enjoyment is, in truth, a mere sensualist. He neglects and despises the pleasures of--

(1) devotion;

(2) godly companionship;

(3) heavenly anticipation (Philippians 3:20).

What is the end of those who mind earthly things? “Destruction.” “They that sow to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption” (Luke 16:24-25). (Family Churchman.)

Illustrations of the apostle’s sentiment

Even heathen thought in its higher types could brand sensualists as κοιλιοδαίμονες, men who worshipped belly gods. The striking words which Euripides puts into the mouth of the Cyclops, the type of this class, have often been cited in this connection: “I sacrifice to no one but myself; not to the gods, but to this my belly, the greatest of the gods; for to eat and drink each day is the god for wise men.” We have, further, the greatest of the German poets representing Mephistopheles as contemptuously, yet insinuatingly saying to the fool rejoicing in his possessions, “Du hast dafur was Schluud und Bauch begehrt.” And we have the words of scathing denunciation of John Ruskin, “The creation over which God appointed us kings, and in which we have chosen to live as swine.” With such instances of the contempt with which men can justly regard the lower, baser levels of life, we can the better comprehend the indignant yet sorrowing scorn with which the apostle contemplates the objects of his denunciation. In view, too, of such grossness of nature as is here depicted, we can listen to the call which Chrysostom has addressed to every true cross bearer--the call to higher things--“Thou hast received a belly that thou mayest feed, not distend it; that thou mayest have the mastery over it, not have it as mistress over thee; that it may minister to thee for the nourishment of the other parts, not that thou mayest minister to it; not that thou mayest exceed limits. The sea, when it passes its bounds, doth not work so many evils as the belly doth to our body, together with our soul.” They are men who, in the contemptuous words of the Roman satirist, in their all-engrossing care for their belly and their amusements, ask no other favours of their emperor than “bread and circus games.” They are those who, as Cornelius a Lapide puts it, are like the moles, ever concerned with the earth, ever blindly digging in the earth, and ever breathing of the earth, whereas Christians feed on heavenly food and breathe the air of heaven. Or once more, we can recognize these men in the picture in the interpreter’s chamber of Bunyan’s allegory, “The man that could look no way but downwards, with the muck rake in his hand, while there stood over his head one with a celestial crown in his hand, and proffered him that crown for his muck rake; but the man did neither look up nor regard, but raked to himself the straws, the small sticks, and dust of the floor.” (J. Hutchison, D. D.)

The curse of carnality

Carnal men are daily partakers of the serpent’s curse: they go on their belly, and eat dust. (Archbishop Leighton.)

Whose god is their belly

The Sicilians erected an altar and a statue in the temple of Ceres to Adephagia, the goddess of gluttony, thus literally illustrating these words. Similar examples of the personification and worship of lusts abound in modern heathenism. (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

Glory and shame

Of Anacreon, the famous lyric poet (520 B.C.), whose genius was devoted to the praise of sensual pleasures, the people of Athens raised a statue in the citadel, in which he was represented as an old drunken man singing. He had lived to eighty-five, and was choked at last by a grape stone. (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

Belly worship reproved

A gentleman in England, who had a chapel attached to his house, was visited by a person from London, to whom he showed the chapel. “What a glorious kitchen this would make!” said the visitor. “When I make a god of my belly,” replied the gentleman, “I will make a kitchen of my chapel.” (Biblical Museum.)

The love of this world is a great hindrance to the gospel

Dr. Justus Jonus told Dr. Martin Luther of a noble and powerful Misnian who above all things occupied himself in amassing gold and silver, and was so buried in darkness that he gave no heed to the five books of Moses, and had even said to Duke John Frederick, who was discoursing with him upon the gospel, “Sir, the gospel pays no interest.” “Have you no grains?” interposed Luther; and then told this fable:--“A lion, making a great feast, invited all the beasts, and with them some swine. When all manner of dainties were set before the guests, the swine asked, ‘Have you no grains?’” “Even so,” continued the Doctor, “even so, in these days, is it with our epicureans; we preachers set before them, in our churches, the most dainty and costly dishes, as everlasting salvation, the remission of sins, and God’s grace; but they, like swine, turn up their snouts, and ask for guilders: offer a cow nutmeg, and she will reject it for old hay. This reminds me of the answer of certain parishioners to their minister, Ambrose R. He had been earnestly exhorting them to come and listen to the Word of God. ‘Well,’ said they, ‘if you will tap a good barrel of beer for us we’ll come with all our hearts and hear you.’ The gospel at Wittenberg is like unto the rain which, falling upon a river, produces little effect; but descending upon a dry, thirsty soil, renders it fertile.” (Luthers Table Talk.)

Verses 20-21

Philippians 3:20-21

For our conversation is in heaven--Observe


Heaven is described as a polity.

Every believer has an interest in it.

This interest influences his conduct.

1. He confesses himself a stranger on earth.

2. Denies himself.

3. Sets his affections on things above.

The great obstacle to his complete happiness is his humiliated body.

He anticipates its glorification.

Christ will effect it at His coming.

Therefore we look for Him. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The Christian’s country

1. “Conversation” has much the same meaning as the political word “constitution.” “Citizenship” is a good rendering if to the ordinary meaning of political standing and privilege be added the mode of a nation’s government, the character of its laws, the tone and habits of its citizens.

2. The word rendered “is” denotes that our constitution endures and rules.

3. States have their heads; ours is “the Lord Jesus Christ.”

4. There are here two practical motives by which St. Paul urges the Philippians to walk so that they have true Christian teachers for an ensample.

The energy of loyalty.

1. Loyalty is reverence for, not mere submission to law. A man may be obedient for fear of punishment. A loyal man will not think much of a penalty to be escaped. The privilege of his citizenship was the protection of every Roman. By pleading this Paul escaped the lash. But that would be a poor loyalty which only pleaded privilege without the homage of submission. The loyal Roman would behave himself as a freeman. Regard for others would be instilled into him by reverence for the law which protected all. They are not loyal Englishmen who by their vices have brought shame on the English name in foreign lands. Attachment to one’s country will lead a man to live worthy of it.

2. You see how loyalty to heaven affected Paul. It was a pain to him that there were Christians unmindful of their heavenly character, dishonouring themselves and casting contempt on their citizenship. The honour of the heavenly citizen is the strong motive by which he appeals to his disciples. Loyalty to a higher order is an energy to resist temptation. True patriotic pride is an impulse to sons to prove worthy of their sires; a name is theirs which they must not dishonour. The higher law of the household constrains many to purity of thought and manly struggle. The thought of home, wife, children, parents, deprives temptation of all its force. Loyalty to the sanctities of household piety is the energy of a pure and reverent life. In this way Paul appeals to the Philippians when he says “we are citizens of heaven.” He is putting them on their honour, while around them are many who have fallen from their profession.

3. Reflect on the obligations of your heavenly home. How pure, lowly, gentle, etc., you expect to be when there. But to all this we are actually called now. Many a man reflecting on his end hopes for a previous time of amendment. In this he shows his recognition of the heavenly character. And we are now citizens of heaven, and its life must be our life on earth.

The inspiration of hope.

1. Note the sudden change in Paul’s writing. Having introduced the fact of the heavenly citizenship, as an admonition he turns to dwell on the hope it inspires. The Philippians had seen Paul’s degradation change into triumph on the mention of the words, “I am a Roman citizen.” Then the imperial law of Rome had been his protection; now he was enduring wrong at the hands of the emperor himself. The contrast between human statecraft and heavenly rule comes up sharp before him, and in a burst of triumph he utters his expectation of his King’s appearance.

2. Paul knew what was the bondage of the body. How often had the zeal of his spirit worn out the feeble flesh. It is deeply pathetic to think of this man of inspired will, dauntless courage, and deathless energy, suffering humiliation because of the tried and suffering frame. But the body was not “vile.” He is finding no fault with it. It is answering the purpose of humiliation for which it was designed. His master was keeping him down in feeble flesh that any spiritual pride in him might be checked. Think of it, you of hasty spirit; this man, noblest of all who have borne Christ’s image, submitted meekly to this restriction.

3. But it was in hope of a blessed transformation. Wisely ordered is the body of humiliation, lest the terrible sin of spiritual arrogance should be ours. But wise and kind as is the discipline, we long for it to be over. Our body is, indeed, a “body of humiliation”; we must have it changed ere we can be free. But we shall be free. Guard we the Spirit, and He by the energy with which He is able to subdue all things to Himself will “change the body,” etc. (A. Mackennal, D. D.)

The citizenship and the hope

The citizenship. The meaning of the apostle is expressed more fully in Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 12:22; Galatians 4:26. Believers are already numbered among the citizens of the eternal city.

1. They are introduced among the denizens of glory by regeneration.

2. They live according to the laws of their Divine sovereign.

3. They enjoy the immunities of the celestial citizenship--freedom from the guilt and power of sin, peace which passeth all understanding, complete safety.

4. They are engaged in the employments of the city of God; for they delight to do His will.

5. These considerations should have a practical influence on our heart and conduct. If citizens of heaven, we ought not to degrade ourselves by the slavery of earth.

The hope.

1. The coming of Christ. The original expresses earnest expectation and intense desire. Paul was intent upon and delighted with the animating prospect.

(1) The foundation of the hope was the sure Word of God. For Jesus had repeatedly declared that He would come again (Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:26), and the angels at the ascension (Acts 1:11).

(2) At His second advent Jesus will accomplish all the predictions which relate to His kingdom and glory (Daniel 7:13-14).

2. The resurrection of the saints.

(1) The bodies of the faithful will be transformed into the likeness of the glorious body of Christ (Romans 6:1-23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-58). Christ’s glorious body is--

(a) Immortal. “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more.” “Neither can they who are counted worthy to attain that world and the resurrection from the dead die any more.” “Upon such the second death hath no power.”

(b) Incorruptible; and so the bodies of God’s people will be free from all deformity and sin. “Sown in corruption” they shall be “raised in incorruption.”

(c) Identical. As Christ was known after His resurrection, so every believer will be known to those with whom he conversed here.

(d) Spiritual. Christ stood before His disciples when the doors were shut. And though we know little of the change which will pass upon us, we may safely believe that the body will be refined from all that now causes it to hang as a clog upon the aspirations and operations of the immaterial spirit. The senses will be wonderfully improved, so that we shall see God, hear the harmonies of the celestial choir, taste the rivers of pleasures, and speak the language of heaven.

(2) Wondrous is this blessed hope; but let it not be thought incredible. As if to silence every objection, the text tells us that the transformation will be effected by the almighty power of God. (C. Neat.)

Christian citizenship

The heavenly citizenship of Christians.

1. Their city “heaven.” The allusion here is to the love of a Jew, Greek, or Roman, for his metropolis. The apostle represents true Christians as composing a commonwealth whose city is not earthly, but the heavenly Jerusalem: the metropolis of the great empire of the universe where God dwells, where angels do His pleasure, where the spirits of good men are gathered, and to which all true Christians are continually ascending.

2. Their enrollment. Formerly they were “aliens,” but they were invested with the citizenship by pardon. Upon the penitent acceptance of reconciliation through Christ their name is inscribed in the book of life.

3. Their privileges.

(1) Freedom. That had an importance when the apostle wrote which it has not now. It is of little consequence to be free of any cry, however distinguished, when the great body of the people are free. But in Rome the great body of the people were slaves. Every man who is not liberated by the grace of Christ is under the power of the god of this world. We have no proof of our citizenship unless we have been enabled by Divine power to break off our sins.

(2) Admission to honourable employment and office. There is a diversity of offices, but every Christian is an official character and bears the honourable relation of priest in God’s temple. The city is a holy city, a temple itself.

(3) Fellowship with the whole body.

(a) Saints on earth. Every Christian receives the benefit of the prayers of the millions of Christians who reside on earth.

(b) Angels, who are ministering spirits.

(c) God.

(4) Right to common property.

(a) The blessings of providence.

(b) The benedictions and hopes of grace.

(c) Heirship with the humanity of Jesus Christ.

(d) Inheritance in God.

The conduct manifested by Christians and corresponding with their privilege.

1. This must be the conversation of the whole community. All collective bodies acquire a genius, a common character. The Greeks were remarkable for refinement, the Romans for a lofty ambition, the citizens of heaven for holiness. The nations of them that are saved walk in the heavenly city clad in white as an emblem of purity, bearing palms as a symbol of victory. Unless our genius, our whole character, be holy, we do not carry about with us the mark of our city. If you are living under the influence of unsanctified passions, your claim of citizenship is unfounded.

2. We boast of the institutions of our city--“God forbid that I should glory,” etc. Wherever there is a spirit of shame there is treachery, and wherever there is treachery Christ disowns us.

3. Courage. When the rulers saw the boldness of Peter and John, they took know ledge of them that they had been with Him who never knew how to fear man. This courage arises from the fact that every Christian is under the protection of his Lord. Wherever a Roman went his shield was the magistrate of Rome; wherever an Englishman goes he feels himself under the protection of his country.

4. Our citizenship will be seen in our spirit. We shall feel for the common cause, endeavour to spread the cause of Christ, and rejoice in seeing the heavenly city continually crowded with new inhabitants.

5. He who converses as a citizen of heaven has his affections there, and does not mind earthly things. How natural when at a distance from our native land or home to turn our thoughts towards it. What shall we say of citizens of heaven who never think of it, or to whom the thought is dull?

6. This heavenly state of mind can only be preserved by looking for the Saviour the Lord from heaven. (R. Watson.)

Heavenly Citizenship

By a city or state we understand a multitude or society of people, united in one body, governed by the same laws, enjoying the same rights, subject to the same prince, and having among them the same form of policy. From whence it is evident that the Christian Church is a state, since all these conditions belong to it. But this holy republic differs entirely from the kingdoms of the world in many respects, but more especially in this (which includes all the others,) that it is in heaven, whereas all others are on the earth (Daniel 2:44). And therefore this state is called “the kingdom of heaven,” “the city of God,” “Jerusalem that is above,” and “the new Jerusalem.” And herein it differs not only from the kingdoms of this world, but from the state of Adam in Paradise and the Jews under the theocracy. This Divine city is really in heaven because--

Jesus its Prince and Builder is heavenly (1 Corinthians 15:47). Not formed of earth and dust like Adam, the head of the first republic; nor by virtue of flesh and blood like Moses, the founder of the Jewish polity; but formed of celestial mould and animated by the Holy Spirit. As His origin was heaven, so also is His abode there; there is His court, and the seat of His empire, whether you consider His Divine or human nature. For although as God He is everywhere, filling all space with His essence, yet Scripture particularly insists upon His presence in the heavens, because there is no place in the universe where that presence is so gloriously manifested, to the utter exclusion of sin, death, and sorrow. The palaces of princes, how magnificent soever they may be, are all here below; and even the Paradise destined for the habitation of man, though delightful was yet terrestrial.

As our King is in the heavens, so from thence is the root of our extraction. True believers are not sprung from the dust as Adam, nor from the loins of Jacob as Israelites, but from the Eternal Spirit after the pattern of Christ (John 3:3-5). For the Holy Spirit, rendering the Word of Life, which is the seed of our regeneration, fertile within us, forms us into new creatures, fit to enter into the heavenly state.

This heaven is our home and rest. We live on earth in the character of pilgrims and strangers till the work of our trial be completed. There already dwelt the first fruits of our society, and there will the remainder of the happy citizens assemble. Heaven is the eternal city to which we aspire.

In heaven are also to be found the armies of our state; not weak soldiers armed with wood, or even iron, whose fidelity may be corrupted by the artifice of the enemy, whose strength may be weakened by a thousand casualties, and whose life may be taken by the sword; but immortal warriors, millions of angels clothed with wisdom and strength incorruptible. They watch over us night and day, and are sent here and there upon errands of mercy to us by our gracious Prince.

In this same place are our dignities and honours preserved; the thrones on which we shall hereafter sit; the cities of which our Master will give us the dominion in reward of our faithfulness; the incorruptible crowns with which He will ornament our foreheads; the kingdoms and priesthoods with which He will invest us. (J. Daille.)

Our conversation in heaven

A heavenly mindedness is necessary for that.

1. A heavenly mindedness must accompany a conversation in heaven; i.e., our heart is in heaven, our mind is directed thence.

2. As is the mind, so is the conduct. Worldly mindedness is enmity against Christ and His Cross--the friendship of the world is enmity against God.

3. As is the conduct, so shall be the end. Contrast of the earthly and heavenly minded (verses 19, 20).

There must be a change of heart in us.

1. We must be translated into the kingdom of heaven. By nature we are not heavenly minded; selfishness, sin, has made us earthly minded, estranged our heart from God.

2. This change can be wrought only by faith in Christ. (J. Neiling.)

The Christian’s relation to the heavenly world

What that relation is. Citizenship.

1. It is founded on the provisions of the evangelical economy. The object of that economy is the expression of God’s love for man--the Father seeking His child. The relation of a believer to God is that of a child to a father. Hence in the gospel our privileges and prospects are all “because we are sons;” “if children, then heirs” (1 John 3:1-2).

2. This relation is maintained by a corresponding spirit. Not only is thy name written in heaven, but the name of God is written in thy heart and life. The relation is not hereditary, but moral. It is

(1) a spirit of abstraction from this world, not ascetic indeed, but that spirit which walks in the world, and displays its spirit and example to the world. They who would live for men must live with men. The Christian is here as a foreigner, but he cannot travel to his Father’s house without being a blessing.

(2) A spirit of devotion to that state of society to which he belongs, viz., heaven.

(3) A spirit of solicitude for preparation to depart when called upon--“Locking for the Saviour.”

The blissful prospect of the Christian in consequence of this relation. We have here--

1. A just representation of man at his best estate. He possesses a “body of humiliation.” The body is not abstractedly vile, and therefore we should not say that it is vile because it is dust, frail, etc. Nothing is vile that God has made; but the body reminds us of our humble state, and bears a brand it will never lose till the morning of the resurrection.

2. But it shall be fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body, the result of which will be the qualification of the transformed saints for heaven.

The foundation on which our confidence is reposed the Saviour.

1. His promised appearance.

2. His omnipotent energy. (T. Lessey.)

The attractions of heaven

Our citizenship is there.

1. We are born from;

2. Registered in;

3. Made meet for;

4. Admitted to the fellowship of heaven.

Our Lord is there.

1. We look for His coming.

2. According to promise.

3. To complete our salvation.

Our consummated happiness is there.

1. The body will be changed and glorified.

2. The purpose of grace fulfilled. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The characteristics of the true Christian

1. The present is not the principal state of man, and should never be viewed separate from another to which it bears the same relation as infancy to manhood, seed time to harvest.

2. This consideration teaches us the true importance of the present period. The grand question is, Where are we to reside forever?

3. Some never afford this subject a moment’s thought, others remain in a state of uncertainty. But Christians, conscious of the reality of their religion and the blindness of their condition, say, “Our conversation is in heaven.”

The Christian’s state.

1. The original sometimes signifies a certain alliance, and means citizenship; and sometimes a peculiar behaviour. The one infers and explains the other. The believer stands in connection with another world--“a better country, even an heavenly”; he is a citizen of no mean city--one “whose builder and maker is God.” How did a man boast in being a citizen of Rome! Think, then, what a privilege it is to belong to a state which “Eye hath not seen,” etc. Hence our Lord teaches His disciples to prefer their being registered there to the power and fame of working miracles.

2. As the Christian is allied to such a country, a suitable mode of living becomes him. A citizen of Rome could live in the most distant provinces. A citizen of heaven resides on earth, but he is a stranger and a foreigner. Though in the world he is not of it. And though certain purposes detain him here, his principles, habits, speech, show that he belongs to “a peculiar people.” He acts under an impression of heaven, and with reference to it. His chief care is to gain it.

His expectation.

1. This reminds us of the present abode of the Redeemer. Hence we need not wonder that Christians should have their conversation there. Where their treasure is there is their heart. The removal of a dear friend will frequently Tender a place indifferent to us, and we change our neighbourhood to be near him. So rising with Christ we seek those things which are above, where He sitteth.

2. Though our Redeemer is now in heaven He will come thence. He does not forget His friends. He communicates with them, and supplies them, and has promised to “come again and receive them to Himself.” And how wonderful the difference between His former and His future coming. Then He was seen of few, now “every eye shall see Him.” Then “the world knew Him not”; now “we shall see Him as He is.” Then “He was despised and rejected of men”; now He “shall come in the clouds of heaven, with all the holy angels.” Then He was born in a stable and nailed to a cross; now “He shall sit on the throne of His glory.”

3. The state of the Christian’s mind with regard to this appearance. He looks for Him.

(1) He believes His coming; and this distinguishes him from infidels.

(2) He pays attention to His coming; and thus he is distinguished from nominal Christians. We prepare for the reception of a friend, much more for a king; but the Personage expected is the King of kings. And the Christian waits with his “loins girded and his lamps burning,” and, “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, lives soberly … looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing.”

4. The character under which the Christian waits for Him--“The Saviour.” This was the name given Him at His birth, because He should save His people from their sins. This work He is coming to finish.

His destiny.

1. The subject changed. Much of the wisdom and power of God are displayed in the formation of the human frame, and therefore it cannot wholly be a “vile body.” But when we view it as degraded by the Fall, as prostituted to the purposes of sin; when we think of its low and sordid appetites and infirmities, its diseases, its dissolution, we acknowledge the propriety of calling it a body of humiliation. But this body is not to be annihilated, only changed.

2. The model to which it will be conformed--“His glorious body.” The comparison does not regard His body in the days of His flesh; but to the post-resurrection glorified body when it was free from everything animal and humiliating. A glimpse of His glory was given at the Transfiguration, to Saul, and to John. A conformity to this glory is not too great a privilege for our hope. As sure as we now resemble our Saviour in disposition shall we be like Him in person; and the same mind will be followed with the same body.

3. The omnipotent agency by which the work is to be accomplished. Such a renovation is nothing else than the most stupendous of miracles, and therefore it demands more than kindness to effect it. The reanimation and organization of millions of dead bodies will not exhaust Him who is able to subdue all things unto Himself.


1. To be thankful for the discoveries of revelation. The wisest philosophers were worse off than the most illiterate of Christians.

2. The importance the Scripture attaches to the doctrine of the resurrection. The intermediate state is imperfect. Man was embodied in his original, and will be in his ultimate condition.

3. Let this thought be combined with the thought of death.

(1) Remember it in view of your own dissolution, and, as you look toward the grave, take courage and drink in the revelation--“I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

(2) Remember it when you lose your pious friends. You have not parted from them forever.

4. Are you the children of the resurrection? For though the resurrection as an event is universal, as a privilege it is limited. Can that be a deliverance which raises a man from a bad state and consigns him to a worse? (W. Jay.)

The heavenly citizenship

Our citizenship.

1. Its nature.

2. Its immunities.

3. Its responsibilities.

Our privilege.

1. Citizens of no mean city.

2. The foundation of outright.

3. Its advantages.

Our duty.

1. To cultivate heavenly dispositions, affections, habits.

2. To glory in our privileges and prospects.

3. To labour for the enlargement of heaven.

Our hope--the coming of Christ.

1. From whence? Heaven.

2. How?

(1) Personally.

(2) Gloriously.

3. What for?

(1) To destroy His foes.

(2) To save His people and introduce them to heaven.

4. Its certainty established by

(1) His own promise.

(2) The general testimony of revelation.

(3) The purpose of God.

5. Its anticipation.

(1) A duty.

(2) Supposes faith, fitness, desire, research, active preparation. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The perfect life

Paul is rebuking the world life of his time. He tells the Philippians of the call to the higher life. As the “mind” of Christ is different from that of the world so is His “rule.” It is described as a scheme of life introducing to the perfect condition of heaven, and forming part of it. The “perfect” Christian looks steadfastly up into heaven as containing Christ, and representing the law, ideal, and aim of his conduct.

Its origin.

1. A spirit and outlook so ethereal must have a correspondingly lofty cause, h desire that reaches to heaven must have heaven for its source and attraction.

2. The spirit of man can, and has, become a partaker of the heavenly sphere while dwelling among earthly conditions.

3. What is it that links us with that sphere? Christ. His life imparted to us has created this other worldliness of thought, feeling, purpose. He is to us the embodiment of heaven, the centre of its interest and life.

4. The manner of His continuous influence is expressed in the term “Saviour.” It is a rescue of our spiritual nature from inertness and fatal debility, and through that it works upon the whole man towards the attainment of a far-reaching destiny.

Its method of development.

1. The circumstances in which our spiritual life is to be perfected are not completely realized in the present.

2. But our higher life has to commence amid earthly conditions. The defects and sins of our fellows have to be confronted, and our own failings and depravities have to be brought under.

3. In nature the rule is that the more complex and highly organized a living creature is the slower is its development. The young of animals attain the full use of their faculties much sooner than the child. But this life has its seat in the mind, and, considering this, we cannot wonder if it be slow.

4. It must also be uncertain. Frequent lapses, seasons of depression, periods of apparent standing still. Yet, on the whole, progress. Much of this uncertainty is due to the fact that it is a movement from body to spirit. Not only has it to assimilate truth, it has to contend with error and evil tendencies. The “body of humiliation” is the graveyard of many a hope, the register of many a sin, the condition of spiritual weakness.

5. A bodily principle will ever cleave to us, but it will be sublimated and made more amenable to the dictates of the Spirit. The perfect life is not realized in pure spirit; the salvation of the body is included. Laggard in the earthly development, it may in other realms be a true helpmeet and enricher of the spirit.

6. Christ in us is the hope and effectual realization of future glory for body and soul.

Its culminating glory. The city, with its rights and privileges of citizenship, its order, law, society, and civilization in ancient times, constituted the haven of liberty and the sanctuary of the higher hopes of man. So Paul and John, when they contemplate the future, naturally think of it as an etherealized Rome or Jerusalem. It is a common life. We are to be perfected together. The society and political relationships of the world will have their correspondences on high.

1. Order and government will exist in the noblest forms. Righteousness will be the universal law.

2. Of this life the centre and sustaining power will be the Saviour. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

Citizenship detected by speech

Our very speech should be such that our citizenship should be detected. We should not be able to live long in a house without men finding out what we are. A friend of mine once went across to America, and landing I think at Boston, he knew nobody, but hearing a man say, when somebody had dropped a cask on the quay, “Look out there, or else you will make a Coggeshall job of it,” he said, “You are an Essex man, I know, for that is a proverb never used anywhere but in Essex: give me your hand;” and they were friends at once. So there should be a ring of true metal about our speech and conversation, so that when a brother meets us, he can say, “You are a Christian, I know, for none but Christians speak like that, or act like that.” “Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth, for thy speech betrayeth thee.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Preparing for home

Some years ago a traveller, who had recently returned from Jerusalem, discovered, in conversation with Humboldt, that he was as thoroughly conversant with the streets and houses of Jerusalem as he was himself; whereupon he asked the aged philosopher how long it was since he visited Jerusalem. He replied, “I have never been there, but I expected to go sixty years since, and I prepared myself.” Should not the heavenly home boas familiar to those who expect to dwell there eternally? (C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. By using this metaphor the apostle appealed to one of the strongest and purest feelings in the breasts of the men of that day. In modern times it is scarcely possible to appreciate the full force of such an appeal. One city will never again exert the influence of Rome, nor kindle a similar enthusiasm. Citizenship will never again be what it was in Rome. As a mother beloved her citizens cared for her, were proud of their connection with her, would spill their blood in her defence. For services endured, to enter Rome in triumph was the highest honour; to be banished for offences against her, the deepest disgrace. All that was worth living and dying for was implied in citizenship. It spoke of privileges to be preserved, traditions to be maintained, glory to be kept untarnished.

2. Such an appeal was appropriately made to the Philippians. Philippi was a military settlement (colonia), and its inhabitants had the privileges of Roman citizens. Here, too, it was that Paul stood on his dignity and right (Acts 16:17). Possibly the remembrance of these facts suggested the metaphor, though it would come naturally from the apostle writing from Rome.

The metaphor would suggest certain tests by which a citizen of the heavenly city may be distinguished from a mere citizen of the world. A good citizen--

1. Will conform to the laws of his city. Are we obeying the laws of heaven?

2. Will oppose the enemies of his city. Are we fighting against sin, or are we at peace with evil?

3. Will be active and zealous in all that concerns the welfare and advancement of his city. Is the petition, “Thy kingdom come” an utterance of the lips only, or the acted prayer of our lives?

4. Will subordinate private and personal interests to the interests of his city. Are our lives characterized by self-seeking or self-surrender?

5. Will fear to disgrace the good name and honourable tradition of his city. Do we behave as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ? (Philippians 1:27).

The metaphor may remind us of the nature of the earthly life. It is a pilgrimage. Man has not reached that perfect home where his full powers can be developed and exercised, and his loftiest expectations realized. The noblest of all ages have felt this. The “Republic” of Plato is an acknowledgment of it, while the testimony of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs is unanimous (Heb 11:13-16, cf. Genesis 43:9; 1Co 29:15; Psa 29:12; Psalms 119:19; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 Peter 2:11). Pilgrims may admire the varied beauty, and enjoy the richness and fertility of the lands through which they pass, but their thoughts and deepest affections will be homewards. They will live in a condition of expectancy, which will determine the character of all their relations to the land of their sojourn. So the citizens of heaven, while thanking God for every good and perfect gift, will nevertheless regard all earthly beauty, richness, and joy but as a type of the spiritual things which God has prepared for those who love Him in the perfect city which “eye hath not seen,” etc. (L. Shackleford.)

Our heavenly citizenship

The means of entrance. There are only three ways by which men can become citizens; by all three are we citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem.

1. By purchase. He who was King of that beautiful city gave up His kingdom for a season that He might buy for us an admission to it.

2. By gift. Thus God speaks to those who “take hold of My covenant, even unto them will I give in My house … a place and a name.” “He that overcometh … I will write upon him the name … of the city of my God.”

3. By birth. Because birth is better than purchase or gift we are born again that we should have our settlement no longer in a slavish world, but be born free.

The time--Now. It would be much if we could say, “Our citizenship will be in heaven”; but we can affirm that it is so.

The rights.

1. Immunities. Doubtless it is because there are so many immunities that heaven is generally described by negatives--no tears, dividings, sighs, temptations, conflicts, labour, sin, death. And if we could receive it all these immunities are now for us. For if Christ has borne our sins, where can there be any condemnation? What labour can there be that is not rest?

2. Privileges.

(1) It is the privilege of every citizen to be represented. Accordingly Christ has gone into the heavens to do and say what we cannot do and say.

(a) He represents us as a substitute, showing in heaven His wounds and sufferings that we may have none.

(b) As a forerunner, that we may ultimately sit where He sits, and joy as He joys.

(2) A citizen is under the laws of His own state and no other. He may appeal up to this. We are under the law of liberty, and are judged by no man.

(3) A citizen may go in and out. Is he not free of his own state? But ours is a holy liberty.

(4) A citizen has a right to go to the presence of the King. We have free access to the throne of grace.

The obligations.

1. Every man’s heart ought to be at his own home, and if heaven be your home your heart is there. You may go up and down in the necessary things of this world, and be like the traveller in a foreign country, always gathering something you can take home. There will be nothing worth much to you which has not something of heaven in it.

2. You must be a loyal subject; and if so you will carry the glory of the kingdom to which you belong as a trust, and try to extend its influence. There will be nothing so dear to you as to make that city and its king dear to somebody. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Citizenship in heaven

There can be no comparison between a soaring seraph and a crawling worm: there ought to be none between Christians and men of the world, only a contrast. If we were what we profess to be we should be as distinct a people as a white race in Ethiopia. There should be no more difficulty in distinguishing the Christian from the worldly than the sheep from the goat.

If our citizenship be in heaven then we are aliens here. “We have no continuing city,” but “desire a better country.” Yet, though strangers and foreigners on earth, we share all the inconveniences of the flesh. No exemption is granted us from the common lot of mankind. In times of adversity we suffer, and in prosperous times we share the bounty of the God of providence.

1. A good man will not live a week in a foreign land without seeking to do good. The Good Samaritan sought the good not only of the Samaritans but of the Jews. Since we are here “to do good and to communicate” we must “forget not;” we must act as recruiters for the better land.

2. It behoves aliens to keep themselves quiet. What business have foreigners to plot against a country of which they are not citizens. So in the world we must be orderly sojourners, submitting ourselves constantly to those in authority, leading peaceable lives, fearing God, honouring the king, “submitting to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.”

3. As aliens we have privileges as well as duties. The prince of this world may make his vassals serve him, but he cannot raise a conscription upon aliens. The child of God claims an immunity from the commands of Satan.

4. As we are free from the conscription of the state we are not eligible to its honours. An Englishman at New York is not eligible for the Presidency. It is of ill omen to hear the world say “Well done” to the Christian man.

5. As aliens it is not for us to hoard up this world’s treasures. The money of this world is not current in Paradise, and when we reach it, if regret is possible, we shall wish that we had laid up more treasure in our fatherland.

Though aliens on earth we are citizens of heaven.

1. We are under heaven’s government. Christ, its King, reigns in us; its laws are the laws of our consciences; our daily prayer is, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

2. We share heaven’s honours. The glory which belongs to beatified saints is ours, for we are already sons of God, wear the robe of Christ’s righteousness, have angels for our servitors.

3. We have common rights in the property of heaven. “Things present or things to come: all are ours.”

4. We enjoy the delights of heaven.

5. Our names are written in the roll of heaven’s free men.

Our walk and acts are such as are consistent with our dignity as heavenly citizens. Among the old Romans, when a dastardly act was proposed, it was thought a sufficient refusal to say Romanus sum. Surely it should be a sufficient incentive to every good thing if we can claim to be freemen of the eternal city.

1. In heaven they are holy; so must we be if our citizenship is not a mere pretence.

2. They are happy; so we must rejoice in the Lord always.

3. They are obedient; so we must follow the faintest monitions of the Divine will.

4. They are active; so, day and night, we should be praising and serving God.

5. They are peaceful; so we should find rest in Christ.

We might read our text as though it said Our commerce is in heaven. We are trading on earth, but the bulk of our trade is with heaven.

1. By meditation.

2. By thought.

3. In our hymns. There is a song which the band is forbidden to play to the Swiss soldiery in foreign lands, because it reminds them of the cowbells of their native hills. If the men hear it they are sure to desert. So there are some of our hymns which make us homesick.

4. By hopes and loves. It is right that the patriot should love his country.

5. Just as people in a foreign land are always glad to have letters from their country, I hope we have much communication with our fatherland, both from and to. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The true Christian

The Christian is a pilgrim and a stranger upon earth.

1. This world is not destined to be his home; and in his application of the knowledge of this fact lies the difference between him and other men. Men in general live as if they would live forever. But the very nature of the Christian, his knowledge of his situation, and the prospects he has in view, all conspire to banish from him that delusion.

2. The Christian, being in this situation, is exposed to many hardships. He is far from home, and is deprived of its comforts. He cannot relish the pleasures of the world like the votaries of mammon. He may linger for s moment on his journey in the enjoyment of those pleasures which, being innocent in themselves, he is permitted to enjoy; but neither his own feelings nor his external situation will permit him to continue.

The Christian is in the enjoyment of peculiar privileges. Even the boasted privileges of imperial Rome dwindle into nothing in comparison.

1. The inhabitant of any country is under the protection of the government to which he belongs, wherever he is placed. So the Christian is everywhere under the protection of the Almighty. Surely, then, he ought never to be alarmed at the prospect of calamity. Should it come it will work for good.

2. The Christian is indebted to the care and protection of his fellow citizens. He is encompassed by an angelic host who watch his steps and shield him from danger.

3. In becoming a citizen of heaven the Christian is highly honoured. This honour arises out of his own nature and the nature of heaven. In himself man is a degraded being; yet sanctified he becomes the favourite of heaven in the present life, and will be exalted at last to God’s right hand. And what is implied in this exaltation who can tell.

The Christian is distinguished by a peculiar mode of conduct.

1. Every true citizen is obviously patriot, no matter whether his country be beautiful or barren, There are few passions so strong as love of country, and none have given birth to nobler actions. The Christian is also a patriot, and in disinterested attachment to his country and readiness to die a martyr in her cause is surpassed by none; and, considering what that country is, no wonder.

2. Every good citizen must observe the laws of his country, and for this the Christian is distinguished. God’s laws are his continual study, are sweeter than honey, their observance is his delight, their transgression his deepest sorrow.

3. Every good citizen must love his fellow citizens, and love to the brethren is a marked characteristic of Christians.

The Christian cherishes an acquaintance and holds communion with heaven.

1. If there be a Christian with whom this is not the case the carnal policy of men will furnish him with an instructive lesson. Men do not emigrate to a land without knowing its nature. The Christian must know something of heaven, and be convinced that its nature is congenial with his own.

2. The employments of the celestial world are in unison with the feelings of its citizens, whether on earth or in heaven. The Christian’s affections are set not on earth but on things above.

3. Intercourse with heaven is chiefly effected by prayer, and is with the Father and the Son. This intercourse makes the place of it, wherever it may be, the house of God and the gate of heaven.

4. The effects of this communion are most valuable, and felt in adversity. If we have, then, no friend to whom we can unbosom our griefs we are wretched indeed. But the Christian has a Friend whose ear is ever open and whose hand is ever ready.

Heaven is the Christian’s eternal home. (J. Stark.)

Heavenly citizenship

Christians are citizens of heaven.

1. By birth. Thus was Paul a Roman citizen. We may well claim for our country the place from which we derived our life.

2. By enrollment. All who are born from above are registered from above. Their names are “written in the Lamb’s book of life.” No objection urged against the entry shall be deemed valid.

3. By affinity. As strangers yearn for the home of their birth, so we have instincts and desires which point to a heavenly origin. Thus streams flow towards the ocean, and flames ascend to the sun.

4. Our education is a further evidence. A child’s future may be inferred from the instruction which fits him for it. Travellers preparing for a foreign residence learn the language. So Christians are educated for heaven. This is the object of afflictions. Earthly trial is heavenly discipline, and works out for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

5. The exercise of our Christian graces indicates where our country is.

(1) Faith is the substance of the heaven hoped for, the evidence of the glory unseen.

(2) Hope’s object and realization is heaven.

(3) Charity, while finding scope for exercise here, has for her true home, and her full and everlasting development, the New Jerusalem.

6. Our citizenship is in heaven because our Father’s home is there. Where He dwells we cannot be strangers. “Our Father which art in heaven.”

7. This, too, is the residence of the King, and therefore the city of His friends and subjects.

8. There our friends are gathering.

9. Heaven is our home, and we are expected there.

Heaven being our city, our life should be heavenly. Admiring the beauties with which the Creator has decked the earth; thankfully enjoying the gifts of His providence; humanly feeling for our own and others’ sorrows; diligently performing our duties, etc., let us bear about us the inspiring assurance that our conversation is in heaven.

1. Let us not, in the pursuit of any earthly object, be so eager as to absorb our thoughts. Let us not be elated by prosperity, nor depressed by adversity.

2. Let us prize our vocation above all our other possessions and privileges. Are men zealous in attaining earthly distinctions? Let us “give all diligence to make our calling and election sure.” The holy alone are enrolled as citizens of heaven.

3. The honour and interests of our country are committed to us. As an Englishman abroad ought to feel that the honour of his country is compromised by his conduct, and that he must act as a representative of his nation; so let us while strangers and sojourners remember that we are representatives of heaven.

4. As a loyal citizen desires to promote the prosperity of his country so should we try to promote the best interests of the Church. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Heavenly Citizenship

The proper country of a real Christian is not that in which he first drew breath, nor that in which God has fixed the bounds of his earthly habitation.

He is citizen of a city of which excellent things are spoken.

1. It is beautiful for situation (Psalms 48:2). In this respect no other can be compared to it, for it stands not on earth but in heaven.

2. Its foundations are most gloriously laid (Ephesians 2:20).

3. Its builder is God (Hebrews 11:10).

4. It will survive every other city, being “eternal in the heavens.”

5. Its strength is invincible (Isaiah 26:1).

6. It is distinguished from every other city by its inhabitants (Hebrews 12:23), who are all holy (Revelation 21:27), and all happy (Revelation 21:4; Isaiah 35:10).

7. But the grand distinction is its King (Revelation 22:3-5).

How may he be distinguished from the citizens of the world?

1. By the dress he wears. This is how we distinguish inhabitants of different countries. We read that the saints are clothed in white robes, having been washed in the blood of the Lamb. But they were washed and first worn here.

2. By his language. Different nations are distinguished by different tongues. The language spoken in Jerusalem above is that of love and holiness (Psalms 149:6), but it was learned and first used here (Ephesians 4:29; Psalms 15:3).

3. By his works. The occupation of the saints in light is the continual service of God (Revelation 7:15); so is that of the saints below (Romans 12:1).

4. By his constant communications with his city. (A. Roberts, M. A.)

The happiness of a heavenly conversation

To have our conversation in heaven implies--

The serious thoughts and considerations of heaven.

1. The happiness of this state.

(1) It is incomparably beyond any happiness in this world.

(a) None of the comforts of this life are pure and unmixed. There is something of vanity and vexation of spirit in all our enjoyments, either in getting, having, or after them. But the happiness of the next world is without alloy (Revelation 22:3-5).

(b) The enjoyments of this life are uncertain. When we think we have fastest hold of them they often slip out of our hands. The very greatness of an estate has been the cause of the loss of both it and its owner; but the happiness of heaven is as unchangeable as the fountain from which it springs.

(c) The enjoyments of the world are unsatisfying. Either we, or the things of this world, or both, are so fantastical that we can neither be well with them nor well without them. If we be hungry, we are in pain; if full, uneasy; if poor, we think ourselves miserable; if rich, really so. Nay, so far from affording satisfaction, the sweetest of them is most apt to satiate and cloy us. If they go off quickly they signify nothing, and if they stay long we are sick of them. But the delights of the other world as they will give us full satisfaction, so we shall never be weary of them.

(2) It is very great in itself. Its chief ingredients are--

(a) Perfection of knowledge. What can be more delightful than to have our understanding entertained with a clear sight of the best and most perfect Being, with the knowledge of all His works, and the wise designs of His providence. The Queen of Sheba thought Solomon’s servants happy in having the opportunity of standing before him to hear his wisdom; but in the other world it shall be a happiness to Solomon himself to stand before God, to admire His wisdom and behold His glory.

(b) The most delightful exercise of love. What greater happiness can be imagined than to converse freely with the most excellent, without anything of folly, disguise, jealousy, or design upon one another? for then there will be none of those vices and passions of covetousness, hatred, envy, ambition, wrath, and peevishness which now spoil the pleasure and disturb the quiet of mankind. All quarrels and contentions will be effectually hindered, not by force, but by love; and all those controversies in religion, which are now hotly agitated, will then be finally determined, not as we endeavour to aid them now, by canons and decrees, but by a perfect knowledge and convincing light.

(c) And when this blessed society is met together, and thus united by love, they shall all join in gratitude to Him who hath so blessed them.

(3) This happiness shall be eternal. If the happiness of heaven were such as the joys of this world, it were fit they should be as short; but being so excellent it would scarce be a happiness if not eternal, if we could see the end of them at never so great a distance.

(4) It is far above anything we can now conceive.

(a) In this imperfect state we are not capable of a full representation. That would let in joys upon us too big for our narrow capacities, too strong for weak mortality (1 Corinthians 13:9-11).

(b) But no sooner shall we enter upon the joys of the other world but our minds will he raised to a strength and activity as much above that of the most knowing persons in this world as the thoughts of the wisest philosopher are above those of s child.

2. The means whereby we may come to be partakers of this happiness--holiness (Hebrews 5:9; Titus 2:11-12; Hebrews 12:14).

(1) Holiness is not only a condition but a necessary qualification. This is the force of St. John’s reasoning (1 John 3:1-3). “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” To see God is to be happy; but unless we be like Him we cannot be happy. The sight and presence of God would be no happiness to the man who is not like God in disposition. From hence he infers “every man that hath this hope,” etc.

(2) This life is our preparation for the future. It is true that heaven perfects those holy dispositions which are begun here, but it alters no man as to his main state. “He that is filthy let him be filthy still.” The happiness of heaven consists in such things as a wicked man has no relish for. If a covetous, ambitious, voluptuous man were in heaven lie would be tormented with a continual thirst for which there was no gratification. All the joys of that place are purely spiritual and can only be relished by those who have purified themselves as God is pure.

(3) From all this it appears how necessary it is for us to prepare ourselves for this blessed state by the constant endeavours of holy life. Until this be done we are not meet to be partakers of its felicities.

The effect which these considerations should have on our hearts and lives.

1. To convince us of the vanity of this world God has on purpose made it troublesome that there might be no sufficient temptation to reasonable men to take them off from the thoughts of their future happiness; that God and heaven might have no rival here.

2. To make us industrious to be and do good that we may be qualified for future happiness. Men are very industrious to be rich and great: did we value heaven half as much as it deserves we should take infinitely more pains to secure it. And how should the thought that we are hasting towards another world, and that our eternal happiness is at stake quicken our endeavours.

3. To mitigate the afflictions of this life. No matter how rough the way provided it leads to happiness (Romans 8:18). The evils of this life afflict men more or less according as the soul is fortified with considerations proper to support us under them. And when we are safely landed, with what pleasure shall we look back upon those boisterous sins we have escaped.

4. To make us sincere in our professions and actions. Did men firmly believe the reward of another world, their religion would not be only in show and pretence, but in life and reality. For there we shall be rewarded not for what we seemed to be, but for what we really were.

5. To arm us against the fear of death. (Archbp. Tillotson.)

A heavenly mind here

1. Whatever incompatibility there may be between having residence in one world and a conversation in another, Christianity boldly meets it and puts it out of the way. In old English a man’s “conversation” meant not the mere act of his tongue, but his conduct, and so revealed to what kingdom his heart belonged. An American agent or ambassador has a temporary dwelling in Athens. Living on that foreign soil, occupied daily with its affairs, its landscape winning his admiration, and its faces and manners his goodwill, he remembers that his stay is short; he expects to be called back where his treasure is and his heart abides.

2. When our faith commands us to have our conversation in heaven it does not require us to be bad citizens of the world where we now are. We are not bidden to be absent minded. The man may make hearty attachments where he tarries, pay tribute and live cheerfully and helpfully. And yet none the less he desires a better country, a city first in his love and always in his hopes. So Christ teaches that we can be faithful to every present relationship, and yet never forget our celestial patriotism. We can be in the world without minding earthly things.

3. This glory is the original glory of our Christian estate. Till Christ came, the majestic fact that our little human tent is overarched by an infinite heaven of light scarcely anywhere broke through the pagan shadows. Men as a rule looked downward at matter, and their conversation was this world’s wars and lusts. In Asiatic pomp there was not one house of charity; in Alexandrian science not one school of virtue; in Greek beauty no beauty of holiness; in the discipline of Roman armies no heavenly law of righteousness.

4. In the midst of such a society we see Paul saying, “Our conversation,” etc. The earthly and the heavenly mind, then. The choice between these is what the gospel is pressing on our conscience.

What hinders. It is said “We must take the world as it is. It is no use flying in the face of an immense majority. Your ideal is lovely and well enough as a seventh-day picture of impossible sanctity. But while we live in an earthly commonwealth, if we expect to get on with it we must keep on pleasant terms with it, and not be over critical as to its principles.”

1. If this answer were valid it would settle the whole question on the anti-Christian side. The Church would be an organized failure. Instead of fearless witnessing for Christ and fighting against wrong, we should have a cowardly system of mutual compromises and flatteries.

2. But then even the careless mind has a deeper-toned conviction than this. Most people know that the principal glories of the past have gathered round a few brave and suffering men who have stood out against their times. Inward voices respond in almost every breast to the righteousness of this order of souls.

3. Before they give away their manhood for the sake of getting on with the world, some citizens will inquire to what end the world is getting on.

4. And then, whatever we say or do, the Word of God refuses to be altered, and tells us not only that we can but we must, unless we mean to die eternally, live above the world while we live in it.

5. Besides, falsehood and sensuality were never prevalent enough to incapacitate a man for a clean and godly life, if that soul willed it.

6. Nothing in society or custom takes off the wrong doer’s sin or its retribution. There lives a God with whom multitudes, usages, etc., are not of the least account. We cannot say at the Divine tribunal, “Blame society; I only went with the rest, and was no worse than they.” You may presume that offences will come, but “woe to that man by whom they come.”

Christianity means to reach society on a broad scale, but it must reach it through persons gathered one by one into its own heavenly citizenship. It has to do with conviction, affection, faith; and these are properties of individuals before they can be of communities. Christ did not publish a plan of political reform, or a schedule of social science. Meeting his countrymen in little groups, or one by one, He showed them the beauty of the heavenly conversation while they were fishermen or publicans. So began the everlasting empire which soon lifted itself over the palaces of Constantinople and Rome. We all desire ours to be a Christian country; then we must be Christian men.

There are those who have not consciously made up their minds to keep God’s commandments out and out, who yet would be shocked at the idea of our social life returning to barbarism; and others nominally Christian who make no pretence to conform their practice to Christ’s law. But this notion that we are any safer and better for living in a land of professed Christianity whose principles we daily ignore is a delusion whose absurdity is seen as soon as stated. What we need to realize is that every scheme attempting to cure the morals of the people must fall unless it puts the soul into a direct conversation with Him.

In these times the faith is put back not so much by persecution as corruption. We live in days of indulgence and education. Ever since Eve’s parley it has been the strategy of evil to gain admission without having its character suspected. If the moral sense is obstinate leach it to call evil good. If conscience defies a sword drug it with narcotics. Once radically unsettle a man’s mind as to the obligations of duty, and you work a far more comprehensive depravity in him than by only enticing him now and then into single bad actions against which his conscience continues to cry out.

So the true confessors of this age are the men and women who exercise their consciences day by day to discern between good and evil; souls that keep so far back within the entrenchments of a heavenly citizenship as to be out of all risk of slipping over into dishonour; men of business who will not take a second look at the tempter for an additional thousand a year; women who choose that good part with Mary’s friend, rather than wade through ambiguities neck deep to conquests of social ambition; children that would rather be laughed at than disobey.

There are two worlds within us, as well as earth and heaven without us; and one of them is apt to get the mastery. Take as the Divine image of the one, the Saviour’s sacramental prayer in John 17:1-26, or St. Paul’s description, at the close of Romans 8:1-39 of the love of God. For the other take any unbelieving sensualist’s frank testimony: Lord Chesterfield’s, e.g. “I have run the rounds of business and pleasure, and have clone with them all. Shall I tell you that I bear this melancholy situation with resignation? No; I bear it because I must. I think of nothing but killing time, now it has become my enemy, and my resolution is to sleep in the carriage to the end of the journey.” Now to say nothing of what happens when the journey ends, and of the waking out of sleep, and of the new question that will rise before a man who has so poorly succeeded in killing time, that time killed him--viz., how to kill eternity--leaving all that, we see the contradiction between the two worlds complete. The warfare between the principles that lie at the roots of them is a deadly warfare, and still it goes on. Take sides then at once with God and heaven. (Bp. Huntington.)

Citizenship and conversation

It is not difficult to see how the “citizenship” comes to be called “conversation.” “Conversation” is “being conversant.” When we talk together, it is called “conversation.” Because we are “conversant” with the subject, therefore it is called “conversation.” And “conversant” means “going up and down in a thing.” That is the literal meaning of the word. And we “go up and down,” we move about in, and therefore we are conversant with the things, and the people, and the city, to which we belong. So “citizenship” is called “conversation.” “Our conversation”--our familiar habits, our daily life and routine, that with which we have to do,--“our conversation, our citizenship, is in heaven.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Heavenly citizenship

As the conversation of the Israelites was in the temple of Jerusalem, however distant they might be from it with regard to the body, because to it their thoughts and affections turned; towards that place they lifted their eyes in prayer when absent, and from thence expected the required succour, no captivity, no misfortune obliterating the memory of that holy sanctuary, the source of all their joys: so also the Christian beholds in heaven the true Ark, the Lord Christ, where all the fulness of the Godhead dwells, not in types and figures as in the Mosaic ark, but in truth and reality. In heaven their faith dwells, their hope rests, elevated above all terrestrial things, penetrating within the veil, anchoring upon the Rock of Ages. There dwells the soul in love; and beholding throughout the rest of the universe nothing but vanity and sin, it retires continually into this heavenly palace, where it may worship the Lord in spirit and in truth (Colossians 2:1-2). (J. Daille.)

The manifestation of the citizenship

We should, in fact, seek while we are here to keep up the manners and customs of the good old fatherland, so that, as in Paris, the Parisian soon says, “There goes John Bull,” so they should be able to say in this land, “There goes a heavenly citizen, one who is with us, and among us, but is not of us.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The citizenship maintained by communications with the mother country

We send our prayers there as letters to our Father, and we get His letters back in this blessed volume of His word. You go into an Australian settler’s hut, and you find a news paper. Where from, sir? A gazette from the south of France, a journal from America? Oh no, it is a newspaper from England, addressed to him in his old mother’s handwriting, bearing the postage stamp with the good Queen’s face in the corner; and he likes it, though it be only a newspaper from some little pottering country town, with no news in it; yet he likes it better, perhaps, than The Times itself, because it talks to him about the village where he lived, and consequently touches a special string in the harp of his soul. So must it be with heaven. This book, the Bible, is the newspaper of heaven, and therefore we must love it. The sermons which are preached are good news from a far country. The hymns we sing are notes by which we tell our Father of our welfare here, and by which He whispers into our soul His continued love to us. All these are and must be pleasant to us, for our commerce is with heaven. I hope, too, we are sending a good deal home. I like to see our young fellows when they go out to live in the bush, recollect their mother at home. They say “She had a hard struggle to bring us up when our father died, and she scraped her little together to help us to emigrate.” John and Tom mutually agree, “the first gold we get at the diggings we will send home to mother.” And it goes home. Well, I hope you are sending a great many things home. I hope as we are aliens here, we are not laying up our treasures here, where we may lose it, but packing it off as quickly as we can to our own country. There are many ways of doing it. God has many banks; and they are all safe ones. We have but to serve His Church, or serve the souls which Christ has bought with His blood, or help His poor, clothe His naked, and feed His hungry, and we send our treasures beyond sea in a safe ship, and so we keep up our commerce with the skies. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The certificate of home

A peasant girl intently watching the bears at Berne, allowed her bag containing various homely treasures to slip from her arm. One of the bears immediately seized it and began in a way that would have been extremely comical, but for the poor girl’s distress, to pull out the articles, one by one, before tearing them to pieces. The keeper not being within reach, no rescue was possible, and for a few moments the poor peasant wept as if her heart would break. At length a bright thought struck her, and putting her hand into the bosom of her dress she drew from it a paper, and exclaimed with joy, “It is my certificate of home; thank God this bear has not got that.” Now this Heimath Schein, as it is called in Switzerland and Germany, is necessary as a passport. Without it she could not have left her country, and was liable at any time to be imprisoned as unable to prove herself a member of the canton. The Christian, too, has his “certificate of home,” and need never be inconsolable while he can put his hand upon that, whatever else may have fallen under the power of the destroyer. (Sunday at Home)


The influence of heavenly mindedness

As the daily business of the royal observatory is rarely mentioned or thought of in the traffic and bustle of the world, though it stands in intimate and vital relations to navigation and commerce, and so to all the interests of society; so the men and women whose “conversation is in heaven,” although they may appear unpractical to some thoughtless persons, are able to give the soundest advice, and to exert the most beneficent influence. (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

Citizenship a revealer

As the spear of Milton’s Ithuriel had the power, by its touch, of making evil spirits stand forth in their native blackness and uncomeliness, however skilfully they had disguised themselves as angels of light; so the Christian’s sense of his relation to heaven reveals to his heart the essential vanity and despicableness of any form of life which is alien from the will of God. The application of the touchstone question, “How would such conduct answer in heaven? How would such conduct become one who hopes for heaven, and deems himself a citizen of heaven?” - this shows things as they are. (R. Johnstone, LL. B.)

From whence we look for the Saviour

Sometimes I wait through the weary years with great comfort. There was a ship some time ago outside a certain harbour. A heavy sea made the ship roll fearfully. A dense fog blotted out all buoys and lights. The captain never left the wheel. He could not tell his way into the harbour, and no pilot could get out to him for a long time. Eager passengers urged him to be courageous and make a dash for the harbour. He said “No; it is not my duty to run so great a risk. A pilot is required here, and I will wait for one if I wait a week.” The truest courage is that which can bear to be charged with cowardice. To wait is much wiser than when you cannot hear the fog horn and have no pilot yet to steam on and wreck your vessel on the rocks. Our prudent captain waited his time, and at last he espied the pilot’s boat coming to him over the boiling sea. When the pilot was at his work the captain’s anxious waiting was over. The Church is like that vessel, she is pitched to and fro in the storm and the dark, and the pilot has not yet come. The weather is very threatening. All around the darkness hangs like a pall. But Jesus will come, walking on the water, before long; He will bring us safe to the desired haven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 21

Philippians 3:21

Who shall change our vile body

The humiliation and glorification of the body


Our present state of existence is one of much humiliation. We are in vile bodies--

1. If you remember their origin. They are formed from the earth. We are indeed “curiously wrought,” and exhibit proofs of the goodness, wisdom, and power of God; but let the body be analyzed, and decomposed, and wherein does it differ from the dust we despise? “God knoweth our frame and remembereth that we are dust.” What a fine lesson of humility is here.

2. Our bodies are tainted with sin and therefore vile. Always connect with the meanness of your origin the idea that you are infected with iniquity. We have unclean bodies which are the prisons of our souls. You have but to reflect on your proneness to impurity, to forgetfulness of God, and what but for Adam’s fall you might have been, to warrant your saying “behold I am vile.”

3. Our bodies are exposed to sickness, and destined to death. “Thou shalt eat bread in sorrow till thou return to the ground.” All this is true of all, and yet how many try to hide it in the elaborate trickery of dress and the disgraceful vanities of the age. The body is only valuable as the casket of an inestimable jewel.

The ennobling change which shall pass on that which is how subject to humiliation. It is not intended for our state of vileness to last. To shut out as infidels do the prospects of futurity is an act of unparalleled madness. In the gospel life and immortality are brought to light. But the specific hope of the text is not for those who are “enemies of the Cross,” etc., but for those who “count all things loss,” etc.

1. The time when this great and ennobling change is to occur. At the coming of Christ at the general resurrection; when the universe shall sink in years, the elements melt with fervent heat, when the last moment of time shall pass, and the whole of our race be assembled.

2. The precise nature of this change--like unto the Saviour’s glorious body.

(1) In spirituality. The earthliness of our bodies will be removed, and made light and buoyant, no more gross and material; “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”

(2) In holiness. On earth He was “holy, harmless, undefiled” and is so now. None can enter heaven without holiness: therefore our bodies will be purged of sin.

(3) In immortality. “Christ being raised from the dead dicta no more.” “Because I live, ye shall live also.” The immortal Saviour shall reign over an immortal people.

3. The specific agency by which this great change shall be effected.

(1) By Him whom we call Lord and God. If there be any who are ready to take Him down from His Divine elevation let them mark this Divine prerogative. “As the Father raiseth up the dead,” etc. (Romans 14:9).

(2) By His mighty power. What power must he have who raises the dead?

(3) The particular principle is that by which He is able to subdue all things.

The accomplishment of this chance ought to be made a matter of joyful expectation. The great sin of men is not looking forward. For time they are ready to give all; for eternity nothing. But we Christians look for the coming of Christ--

1. As we hate sin, because we shall then be perfectly holy.

2. As we desire communion with God, because we shall see Him as He is, and be made like Him.

3. As we wish to arrive at the true grandeur and perfection of our nature, because we shall be changed into the image of moral beauty.

4. As we desire the perfect triumphs of the Redeemer’s kingdom, because then all things shall be put under His feet.

5. As we desire a meeting with all the great and good, because then we shall rejoice in an association with the family of God forever. (J. Parsons.)

The vile body made glorious

The word “vile,” in ordinary usage, represents that which is mean and despicable. This is not the thought of the Apostle Paul. The substance of the body is not in itself vile. There is nothing vile in the elements of the human frame or in their combination. The construction of the body is not vile. There is so much of Divine design, wisdom, and skill displayed in every part of the human body, that the attributes of the Creator seem to be enthroned or enshrined in it. The uses of the body are not vile, so far, at least, as the body is rightly used, and the members are instruments of righteousness unto God. It is not Paul’s habit to speak in contempt of the human frame. The body is, nevertheless, as the subject of disease and infirmity, as sustained by toil and by the sweat of the brow, as appointed to die, and as liable to the motions of sin, in a state of debasement. It is in a state of humiliation.

The change here predicted.

1. The transformation in substance. This will consist in the change of the present natural material, to what the apostle calls “spiritual.” There is almost a contradiction involved in speaking of any substance as being spiritual, but we see very many changes in the substance of nature which are very like a change from that which is grossly material, to that which is refined and spiritual. Take, say, a lump of rough ice. Apply heat to it; and the change effected is to water. The material is nearer the spiritual as water than it was as ice. Continue to apply heat to this melted ice, and you get from it a cloud of vapour floating in the air. Here is something kindred to the change of that which is material into that which is spiritual, and, perhaps, the change of which the text speaks is of this kind or of this class. Or take, say, a grain of wheat and drop it into the ground; it germinates; and presently it comes up to a beauteous blade. How much more like the spiritual is that green spiritual blade, than the hard, cold, apparently lifeless thing called a seed which you cast into the ground? “Flesh and blood,” we are told, “cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Of these qualities we may mention strength. How little, in certain aspects, the body can bear I Compared with the spirits of some men how weak is the body. God Himself is clothed with activity, is ceaselessly active. Those who are redeemed to God by Jesus Christ are saved from morbid inactivity. There is as strong a desire to do, as there is to be and to enjoy. Now, to have a body that will endure this doing, because constituted of a material that will never wear, and that will never waste! Oh, how glorious will this be!

(1) The transformation, so far as the substance is concerned, will be from a wasting material to a permanent substance. We all know that our bodies are now constituted on the principle of waste and repair. The future body will not be based on this arrangement.

(2) The transformation will be from a corruptible substance to an incorruptible--from a substance exposed to many ills, to a substance the heir only to vigour and to pleasure.

2. The change in the form may be gathered from Revelation 1:13. The transformation will be from the mixture of comeliness and uncomeliness to perfect purity--from heaviness to lightness and agility--from dwarfishness or overgrowth to perfect stature--from the expression which sin and sorrow give to the human countenance unto the expression of perfect righteousness and of fulness of joy. Now all this is involved in the words, “fashioned like unto His glorious body.” The body of the Lord Jesus Christ is a body that his Father thinks worthy of Him. It is a body suited to His dignity as King of kings, to the glorious city over which He reigns, and which harmonizes with all that is sublime and beauteous there. And when our bodies shall be fashioned like it what a change this will be; like that between the colours on a painter’s palette, and the picture on the canvas, yet not like because infinitely surpassing it, or as the change which passes over the earth, when the winter is gone and the time of the singing of birds is come.

Jesus Christ will be the Transformer. The Redeemer has taken us men entirely in hand to do everything for us. We want a sacrifice, a righteous standing with God, regeneration, teaching, comfort in tribulation, victory in battle, and He provides them all. In the text Christ is doing our part of His work for us. He has already transformed our spirits, and will in due time change our bodies. The tendency of this working is to subdue everything to His purpose, so that all things may have this one issue--the working out of a complete salvation. The text exhibits--

The resources of Christ. He literally can do everything for you. Inwardly you are His workmanship, for you are newly created in Him; but more still will be done, even the transformation. Will you not, then, look more constantly to Christ? You cannot look to Him too much. He delights in your cherishing large expectations.

2. The completeness of redemption. Christ takes the body into His redeeming hand, He changes that, and He makes that perfect. Why not trust Him to perfect all that concerneth you?

3. The future glory of the saints. What is there involving dignity, or pleasure, or joy, that is not provided for in that Father’s house to which the Saviour has gone that He may prepare a place for us.

4. One great object of the Christian’s hope. The existence of hope in our nature is an illustration of the goodness of God. We double our sorrows by our fears. But what shall we say of the effect upon our joys of hope? We enjoy some promised or coming blessing, over, and over, and over again, long before it reaches our hands. Weary in this pilgrimage of life, whither are the weary steps which you are taking today carrying you? Every step carries you nearer home. Every pain tells that the hour is near in which the Lord Jesus Christ “shall change the body of your humiliation.” Wait a little, and your redemption will be consummated, and it will be as though you had never known a fallen world like this, and a humbled nature like this. (S. Martin.)

The redemption of the body

The subject of the process. In our present fallen state the bodies, even of the saints, exhibit marks of degradation, and furnish the causes by which that degradation is manifested.

1. Our bodies, as they were created, so are they now supported, by nutriment derived from the earth on which we tread.

2. They are liable to be painfully affected by various elements and agencies of physical nature.

3. They are subject to manifold injuries, and sufferings, and diseases.

4. They are ultimately destined to return to the dust from whence they were taken.

5. On these accounts, and with a tacit comparison of what the body is with what it was, with what it would have been, if sin had not marred it--and with what it shall be--that the apostle terms it the body of our humiliation, but too sadly in keeping with the fallen and degraded soul, till renewed by the grace of the Almighty Spirit.

The process.

1. Not an absolute change, but a transformation and modification. This presupposes and implies the doctrine of the resurrection.

2. The model, according to which this change is accomplished, is nothing less than the glorified humanity of Christ.

The agency. Surely He who made that which was not can make that which has been to be again. And, therefore, the text refers us to the Omnipotence of God. So wondrous a change is only explicable on the hypothesis of miracle.

The lessons. The doctrine is--

1. Highly illustrative of the glory of the Divine attributes.

(1) How glorious will be that wisdom, which, through all the mutations of time shall keep its eye upon those integral and ultimate parts of the human body, which are essential to its identity, through all their various transitions, and which will collect those scattered particles and recombine them into a beauteous frame.

(2) How glorious that power which will accomplish that purpose.

(3) How glorious that justice which will sooner or later render to every man in his body according to what he hath done.

(4) How glorious that mercy which first makes men saints and constitutes them citizens of heaven, and finally admits them to the city of which they are made free by grace.

2. Calls upon us to remember and recognize with devout gratitude our special obligation to the Christian revelation, which brings this “life” and this “immortality,” not only of the spirit but of the body, “to light.”

3. Furnishes a powerful motive to submission when we are called upon to suffer bodily infirmity.

4. Affords an antidote against the tormenting fear of death for ourselves in ordinary life, and in the common process of human decay and mortality, as well as a strong consolation on the occasion of the removal of our beloved friends from time to eternity.

5. Shows us the fitness and propriety of that decent and reverential respect, which in Christian lands is ordinarily paid to the interment even of the mortal remains of departed and glorified friends?

6. Ought to convince us of the necessity of glorifying God with our bodies as well as our spirits. (Jabez Bunting, D. D.)

The resurrection of the body

Our sinful condition. Our body is a humble one.

1. Because of its sin, which brought all evil into the world.

2. Because of the immense labour that is necessary to supply its wants, abridging the time for intellectual and religious pursuits, and that only to feed that which will die.

3. As a hindrance to the richest feelings of which the heart is capable.

4. As doomed to die, and to inflict the keenest pain on beloved survivors.

The glorious scene which is peculiar to Christianity.

1. The fact of the resurrection. This identical body shall rise. We cannot say in what that identity consists. The body often changes its substance, but its identity abides. If only a similar body there were no resurrection, only a new creation. We depend, however, on scriptural proof.

(1) The resurrection of Christ. “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.”

(2) The extent of redemption, which includes the body. “Ye are not your own,” etc. “We wait for the adoption, to wit the redemption of the body.” Christ cannot lose His own.

(3) Both body and soul have sinned or wrought righteousness, hence both body and soul must be rewarded or punished.

(4) The application of the term “sleep” to death--which cannot refer to the soul; hence, death is the body collecting new vigour for the morning of the resurrection.

(5) The great designation of Christ. “He must reign … the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

2. At the resurrection there shall be a transformation of the bodies of the saints. What does it imply.

(1) That there shall be no more death, Christ dieth no more, nor His.

(2) Conformity to the body of Christ means no more deformity. Deformity in the countenance is sometimes the effect of sin, sometimes of accident: but there will be no more of either.

(3) Excessive care, necessary for the support of the body, shall then exist no more.

(4) The body will no more be a hindrance, but an assistant to the operations of the spirit.

The means by which this is to be effected. Doubtless the apostle introduced this to answer all objections. The whole is a miracle, but God makes miracles as great every day. (R. Watson.)

The body as it is and as it is to be

The body as it is.

1. In regard to its dignity.

(1) For this we must go back to its creation.

(a) It is represented as a mass of unorganized matter.

(b) Then it became an organized body.

(c) After that breath is infused into it and it became an animated substance. The latter element imparts to the human system surpassing worth.

(2) Dignity is imparted to the body in the process of redemption.

(a) It has become a sanctified thing through the incarnation. Christ could touch nothing that He did not ennoble.

(b) It has a dignity arising from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

(c) There are direct intimations that the body stands in a certain relation to mediatorial designs and purposes, and that Christ requires it for the advancement of His kingdom.

“Glorify God in your body;” “Present your bodies a living sacrifice; The body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” For most of its operations the mind requires the assistance of the body, and anatomists say that the very structure of our frames is such as presupposes their being used for the carrying out of mental objects and inventions. But the body was intended of God to be the handmaid in higher departments, to be the servant of the renewed will, and the will of the true disciple moves only in obedience to the will of his Master. So Christ speaks through His servant’s mouth, works through his hands, controls his eye and ear lest they run after vanity, lifts up the feet on their mission of mercy and love.

(3) All this shows why the apostle insists not only that we should have “our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience,” but also that we should have “our bodies washed with pure water,” for in baptism the, body is made a consecrated thing.

2. In regard to its humiliation. It is humbled--

(1) On account of our moral degeneracy and the curse entailed thereby. Every pain, disease, mark of old age, grave, remind us of this.

(2) Because it is the seat of sin. Hence the expression “body of this death,” and the necessity of keeping the body under.

(3) In consequence of the labour and pain required to provide for its wants.

(4) In that it is a hindrance to the soul’s powers.

The body as it is to be. The apostle uses the word “transfigure,” perhaps, with a designed reference to the glorious splendours of the Mount of Transfiguration.

Practical results.

1. The essential, inalienable sanctity of the body as a member of Christ and a temple of His spirit.

2. The folly and sin of undue carefulness in regard to bodily necessities.

3. The needlessness of the fear of death. (D. Moore, M. A.)

The power of Christ illustrated by the resurrection

The whole of our life is interwoven with the life of Christ. His first coming has been to us salvation. We live still because He lives. The completion of our salvation in the deliverance of our body from the bondage of corruption is wrapped up in His personal resurrection and quickening power.

The marvel which is to be wrought by our Lord at His coming.

1. He will change the body in which our humiliation is manifested and enclosed, and will transform it until it is like the body in which He enjoys and reveals His glory. Three times human eyes have seen something of the body of glory--in the face of Moses, after his forty days’ communion; in the transfiguration of Christ; in the angel face of Stephen.

2. Turning to 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 we learn--

(1) That the body is corruptible, subject to decay; but the new body shall be incorruptible. For the immortal spirit it shall be the immortal companion.

(2) It is sown in weakness, weak to perform our will, weaker still to perform God’s, weak to do and to suffer; but it is to be raised in power and be made like unto the angels who excel in strength.

(3) It is a natural or soulish body--a body fit for the soul, for the lowest faculties of our mental nature; but it will be raised a spiritual body, adapted to the noblest portion of our nature, suitable for the highest aspirations of perfected humanity.

(4) It is sinful, its members have been instruments of unrighteousness. It is true it is the temple of the Holy Ghost, but there are traces about it of the time when it was a den of thieves. But it awaits the time when it shall be perfectly sinless.

(5) Being sinless it shall be painless. Truly, we who are in this tabernacle do groan. Up yonder the rod shall no longer chasten, the faultiness being removed.

(6) The spiritual body will not need to sleep, for it will serve God day and night in His temple without weariness.

(7) It will be perfect. If the saints have lost a sense or a limb or are halt or maimed they will not be so in heaven, for as to body and soul “they are without fault before the throne of God.” “We shall be like Him,” therefore beautiful.

3. The miracle will be amazing if you view it as occurring to those who shall be alive when Christ comes. Reflect, however, that most will be in their graves, and of many all trace will have disappeared.

4. By what possibility then can the self same bodies be raised? I answer, it needs a miracle to make any of these dry bones live, and a miracle being granted impossibility vanishes. He who formed each atom from nothing can gather each particle from confusion.

This power which is to raise the dead is resident in Christ at this moment. It is not some new power which Christ will take in the latter days.

1. This power is ascribed to Christ as the Saviour, and it is precisely in that capacity that we need the exercise of His power at this moment. How large, then, may be our expectations for the conversion of men. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. If as Saviour He will wake the dead, He can now quicken the spiritually dead. Your own regeneration was as remarkable an instance of Divine power as the resurrection will be.

2. Opposition may be expected to this power, but that resistance will be overcome. There will be no resistance to the resurrection, but to the spiritual there is prejudice, hatred of Christ, sinful preferences, etc. But “He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.”

3. The text includes all supposable cases. Not here and there one, but all things. No man is so fallen but Jesus can save him.

4. Nothing is said concerning the unfitness of the means. The text obliterates man altogether. Jesus can and will do it all.

5. The ability is present with the Saviour. He is as strong now as He ever will be, for He changes not.

6. The text suggests a parallel between the resurrection and the subduing of all things.

(1) All men are dead in sin, but He can raise them; many corrupt with vice, but He can transform them; some lost to hope as though their bodies were scattered to the winds--but He who raises the dead of all sorts can raise sinners of all sorts by the self same power.

(2) As the dead are to be made like unto Christ, so the wicked when converted are made like Him. Brilliant examples of virtue shall be found in those who were terrible instances of vice.

The work which we desire to see accomplished. The Saviour subduing souls, not to our way of thinking, to our Church, to the honour of our powers of persuasion, but “unto Himself.”

1. This subjection is eminently desirable since it consists in transformation.

2. To be subjected to Christ is to be fitted for heaven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The raiser of the dead

St. Paul had been speaking of some whose interests were centred in earthly things. Of them he says that their end is destruction, etc. And in contrast with this way of passing life he describes the life of Christ’s true servants. Their citizenship is in heaven. They are in the position of emigrants for whom the friendly government of a colony should provide, before their arrival at their destined country, a home and a rest. Heaven, then, as being already their country, naturally occupies a first place in their thoughts; but they cannot set foot in it until a great change has passed over them. It is upon this change, and upon the person of Him who is to effect it, that their eyes are naturally and constantly fixed while the present scene lasts.

The nature of the change referred to.

1. The human body in its present stage of existence. “Our body of humiliation.” The human frame appeared to the Greek artist the most beautiful thing in nature. It was the form which seemed to the Greeks most nearly to unveil the Divine beauty to the eye of sense. How impossible to imagine the phrase of the apostle upon the lips of the men who decorated the Parthenon! It implies that the man who uses it has seen deeper and higher than the realm of sense. The Greek knew only this visible world, and he made the most of it. The Hebrew had had a revelation of a higher beauty; and when men have come into contact with the Eternal, they sit lightly to the things of time. The Greek was occupied with the matchless outline of the human form. The Hebrew could not forget that his bodily eye rested after all on a perishable mass of animated clay (Isaiah 40:6-7; Psalms 90:5-6; Job 14:1-2; James 4:14).

2. Not that the phrase implies any one-sided depreciation of the body such as we meet with in heathen ascetics. Christianity on this subject keeps strictly a middle way between two opposite errors. On the one hand, the body has seemed to some to be man’s all in all just as it has to some of our modern materialists; and then it has been supposed that life either ceased altogether with death, or was, after death, so attenuated down into a purely shadowy existence as to lose all the importance which belongs to reality. And, on the other hand, the body has been treated as a mere incumbrance, having no true inherent relation to the complete life of man--the soul’s prison house--the degrading fetter which binds noble spirits down to the soil of earth--the mere instrument of a being who is complete without it, and who is never free, never himself, till he is delivered from it. And the effect, the moral effect, of the first of these opinions is certainly, upon the whole, to encourage unbounded sensual indulgence, and, of the second, to encourage suicide, since, if the alliance between soul and body is so disadvantageous and so unnatural, the sooner it is put an end to the better.

3. Between these opposite exaggerations revelation holds on a middle course. Death is the disturbance of that union of soul and body which constitutes man; and this irregular interruption of the true life of man ends at the resurrection, when man re-enters upon the normal conditions of his complete being.

4. And yet, masterful as the body is, it is not the governing element in human nature. Man is something higher, nobler, than the animal form with which he is so intimately identified. Man lives on the frontier of two vast mysterious worlds--the world of pure spirit and the world of animal existence. Our nature as a whole, has been ennobled as well as invigorated by the Son of God. He has taken body and soul alike, and joined it by an indissoluble union to His own eternal person. His body exists at the right hand of God, and thereby it confers a patent of nobility of which our race can never be deprived. And yet, while this life lasts, how great is the interval between our condition and His! How unlike to ours is the body of glory which rose from the tomb in its indescribable beauty, in its freedom of movement, in its inaccessibility to decay, in its spirituality of texture!

5. “His glorious body!” Christ’s greatest gift is yet to come. We shall die as do the creatures around us; whether by violence or by slow decay. But He will gather up what death has left, and will transfigure it with the splendours of a new life (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).

The ground of the great Christian expectation of a glorified body in a future life. How shall we get it? “According to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.”

1. Everything of course depends on that. St. Paul had no doubt that Jesus Christ, crucified some thirty years before, was living and reigning and had actual jurisdiction over all things in heaven and earth.

2. It seems very strange to many that the elements of the human frame resolved into dust many centuries ago should be recollected and endowed with a new and more glorious life. What has become of the particles; they have passed through animals and vegetables, and by this time are scattered in a thousand directions. How are they to be rescued from this oft repeated appropriation. It is an astonishing exertion of superhuman power which is under consideration, but it is not more than any reasonable believer in God would assent to upon sufficient evidence of His declared will. No man can believe in God, without believing in an act of power, compared with which the resurrection of the dead is a trivial incident. To believe in God is to believe in the original creation of all things out of nothing, and creation is, after all, the great miracle. And the man who believes it will not question God’s Word merely because the results to which it is pledged are what we call miraculous. By the very act of believing in God he believes in an initial miracle, compared with which all that can possibly follow is insignificant.

Such a faith as this in the resurrection must have great consequences.

1. If we parted company with the body at death for good and all, it would not matter much what was done with this perishing husk. But if this body of humiliation has before it a splendid destiny, then we shall treat it in life and in death as princes are treated who live in expectation of a throne--with all the care and honour that its prospects demand. And hence, after death, respect for the human body is a natural result of Christian belief in the resurrection. Just as the body of the Lord Jesus was carefully wrapped in fine linen and laid in a tomb until the morn of Easter, so, ever since, the bodies of departed Christian believers have been looked upon with eyes conveying something of the faith, something of the love, of Nicodemus and Joseph. We know that they, too, will rise. We know that we are not handling a lump of decaying matter which has lost its interest forever, and which will presently be resolved into its chemical constituents to be recombined no more. It lies before us, there in very truth, a body of humiliation. But one day--we are certain of it--it is to be fashioned like the glorious body of the ascended Son of God, and we treat it accordingly.

2. Much more important is our duty to the body during life.

(1) Guard it. You who are well off do what you can for the bodies of the poor. They, too, will rise. Let us all keep our bodies in temperance and chastity, from all that would bar entrance to the presence of Christ. Every man that hath the resurrection hope in him purifieth himself as Christ is pure. Do not forget how this sinful body may even here be made clean by Christ’s body, just as the soul may be washed with His most precious blood.

(2) Train it, not as a mere beautiful human frame, but as a future partaker in those scenes of transcendent joy and worship which are described in the Apocalypse. “Present your bodies,” says the apostle, “a living sacrifice”--in works certainly, and in that best of all kinds of work--in worship. Worship, including bodily reverence, as well as spiritual communion, is a direct preparation for heaven. The body, which never bends here before the Being of beings, is not likely to be joined to a spirit that has really learnt to hold communion with the Holy and the Infinite. In such matters as this Christian instinct is far better than argument. When eternity is once treated by a man as a practical reality, he is likely very soon to make up his mind how to bear himself among the things of time. (Canon Liddon.)

The body of our humiliation

Clothe that body in purple and fine linen; array it in royal robes; deck it with a kingly diadem; place it on a throne; give it the sceptre of dominion; let nations bow at his feet--it is “a vile body:” and Herod, while all the crowd were calling him a god, felt that he was one of the vilest of men. Animate that body with genius; light up that countenance with a flow of lofty spirit; let an intellectual nature beam out from those eyes; let deep thought work beneath that brow, and a towering spirit move those muscles--still the body is “vile;” and in the midst of the astonishing lucubrations of the indwelling spirit, it may sink into the loathesomeness of corruption. Nay, what is better, adorn the indwelling spirit with power; let the soul be redeemed and regenerated and sanctified and impressed with God’s image; let a soul born for glory look out through that face; let that body be the charge of angelic guardians; let that body be the temple of the Holy Ghost; let that body be sacred; let that body be associated with all that is estimable in the human character, with all that is dear and tender in social life; let that body attract wherever it moves--it is “a vile body,” liable to fall in a moment. It may be seized with the pangs of anguish, and in an instant be deprived of its indwelling spirit and left to loathesomeness and corruption. “A vile body.” We have all vile bodies--bodies of humiliation. Pride was not made for man--that is clear: pride will not do for man: “Man that is born of woman is of few days, and fall of trouble.” (T. Lessey.)

God made nothing vile

When Archbishop Whately was dying his chaplain read to him, among other scriptures, the words before us, but with his wonted clearness the great man interrupted the reader, saying, “No; the body of our humiliation, not our vile body. God made nothing vile.” (Canon Miller.)

The present glory and humiliation of the body

If you take man’s body in some of its aspects it is a noble thing. Surely there are marks of design upon it which speak of its Divine origin. Consider the marvellous mechanism of respiration and the circulation of the blood. Trace that network of arteries and veins. Note how the eye and the hand have been singled out as leading to the conclusion of the existence of a God. Mark every joint and every limb. Take our physical nature as you see it in its fair beauty in slumbering infancy. Look at the maiden in the first blush of her beauty or the matron in that beauty’s maturity, and then tell me if the body is not a beautiful thing; whether the contemplation of its out ward aspect or its interior mechanism be not a study for our wonder and admiration. But we turn to the other side and hear Paul speaking of it as a mere tent, which is to be taken down, and we turn to the last passage of the preacher of the Old Testament, and there we have a wonderful description so exquisite with its imagery and poetry of the day, “when the keepers of the house shall tremble,” etc., which sets forth the sinking and failing powers of old age. But if we want to see the humbling side of this body of ours we must listen to Abraham whose wife’s beauty had once been so great. She was so fair a woman that he was induced to lie for her, and yet a few years later from the same Abraham comes the piteous appeal, “Give me a burying place that I may bury my dead out of my sight”--the same fair, beloved Sarah. And in order, further, that we may see that this body is indeed a body of humiliation, listen to those words which go home to our hearts as we read them--“Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days.” (Canon Miller.)

The resurrection body changed

And so paper--that article so useful in human life, that repository of all the arts and sciences, that minister of all governments, that broker in all trade and commerce, that second memory of the human mind, that stable pillar of an immortal name--takes its origin from vile rags! The rag dealer trudges on foot or drives his cart through the towns and villages, and his arrival is the signal for searching every corner and gathering every old and useless shred. These he takes to the mill, and there they are picked, washed, mashed, shaped, and sized--in short, formed into a fabric beautiful enough to venture unabashed even into the presence of monarchs and princes. This reminds me of the resurrection of my mortal body. When deserted by the soul, I know not what better the body is than a worn and rejected rag. Accordingly, it is buried in the earth, and there gnawed by worms and reduced to dust and ashes. If, however, man’s art and device can produce so pure and white a fabric as paper from filthy rags, what should hinder God by His mighty power to raise this vile body of mine from the grave, and refine and fashion it like unto the glorious body of the Lord Jesus Christ? (Gotthold.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Philippians 3". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/philippians-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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