Click here to join the effort!
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. This word "finally" (τὸ λοιπόν is frequently used by St. Paul to introduce a practical conclusion after the doctrinal portion of his Epistles: thus it occurs again in Philippians 4:8, and also in 2 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 6:10; 1Th 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:1. Some render χαίρετε "farewell;" but "rejoice" seems more suitable here. The golden thread of spiritual joy runs through this Epistle. "Rejoice in the Lord" is the oft-repeated refrain of St. Paul's solemn hymn of praise. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. "The same things:" does he refer to his oral instructions, to a previous Epistle now lost, to his exhortations to unity, or to his reiterated command "Rejoice"? The words seem most naturally to point to something in the same Epistle rather than to advice given on former occasions. It is true that Polycarp, in his letter to the Philippians (section 3), says that St. Paul wrote Epistles (ἐπιστολάς) to them; but there is no trace of any other Epistle; and the mere plural number is not sufficient to support the theory of other letters, the plural word being frequently used of a single letter. Bishop Lightfoot suggests the exhortation to unity in Philippians 2:2. But this topic does not reappear before Philippians 4:2. And the hypothesis of an interruption, which (as Bishop Lightfoot and others think) suddenly turned the apostle's thoughts into another channel and prevented him from explaining τὰ αὐτά (the same things) till Philippians 4:2, seems forced and unnecessary, notwithstanding the great authority by which it is supported. It seems more probable (Bengel and others) that St. Paul refers to the constant admonition of this Epistle, "Rejoice in the Lord." To repeat this again and again was to him not grievous (rather, with R.V., "irksome"), but safe for the Philippians. Christian joy has a close connection with safety, for it implies unswerving faith, and, more than that, the presence of Christ. Compare the oft-repeated exhortation of Psalms 37:1-40., "Fret not thyself: it tends only to evil-doing" (Psalms 37:8, in the Hebrew). Possibly, however, ἀσφαλές here, as in Acts 22:30 and. Acts 25:26, may mean "certain." The repetition is not irksome to St. Paul, while it makes his meaning and his wishes certain to the Philippians.
Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. The connection is, as given in Philippians 3:3, Rejoice in the Lord, not in the flesh; have confidence in him, not in the ceremonies of the Jewish Law. Compare the same contrast in Galatians 6:13, Galatians 6:14. There is certainly something abrupt in the sudden introduction of this polemic against Judaizing, especially in writing to Philippi, where there were not many Jews. But there may have been circumstances, unknown to us, which made the warning necessary; or, as some think, the apostle may have written this under excitement caused by the violent opposition of the Jewish faction at Rome. Beware; literally, mark, observe them, to be on your guard against them. The dogs. The article must be retained in the translation. The Jews called the Gentiles "dogs" (comp. Matthew 15:26, Matthew 15:27; Revelation 22:15), i.e. unclean, mainly because of their disregard of the distinction between clean and unclean food. St. Paul retorts the epithet: they are the dogs, who have confidence in the flesh, not in spiritual religion. Evil workers; so 2 Corinthians 11:13, where he calls them "deceitful workers." The Judaizers were active enough, like the Pharisees who "compassed sea and land to make one proselyte;" but their activity sprang from bad motives—they were evil workers, though their work was sometimes overruled for good (comp. Philippians 1:15-18). The concision (κατατομή, cutting, mutilation); a contemptuous word for "circumcision'' (περιτομή). Compare the Jewish contemptuous use of Isbosheth, man of shame, for Eshbaal, man of Baal, etc. Their circumcision is no better than a mutilation. Observe the paronomasia, the combination of like-sounding words, which is common in St. Paul's Epistles. Winer gives many examples in sect. lxviii.
For we are the circumcision. We: the apostle of the Gentiles identifies himself with the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 9:2); himself circumcised, he recognizes the great truth that they only are the true circumcision whose hearts are mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts. Which worship God in the spirit; read, with the best manuscripts, which worship by the Spirit of God. The word λατρεία, worship, is used specially of the Jewish ceremonial service (comp. Romans 9:4; Luke 2:37; Acts 26:7). We Christians, St. Paul means, have not only the true circumcision, but the only true worship: the temple service prefigured the spiritual worship of the Christian Church. By the Spirit; by his assistance, inspiration: "We know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:26). And rejoice in Christ Jesus; rather, glory καυχώμενοι). "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord," through whom alone we can obtain salvation, not in any external privileges. And have no confidence in the flesh. Neither in circumcision nor in any other outward rites.
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh; literally, though having myself confidence in the flesh also; that is, as well as in Christ. The apostle had both grounds of confidence: the one he renounces for the other; but no man could accuse him of despising that which he did not himself possess. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more. He claims the privileges of the Jew; they are his by right, but he counts them loss for Christ.
Circumcised the eighth day; literally, at circumcision eight days old. The apostle was not a proselyte, circumcised at his reception into the Jewish Church; nor an Ishmaelite, circumcised, like Ishmael, at the age of thirteen. Of the stock of Israel Neither were his parents proselytes; he was by descent an Israelite. He uses here the highest title of God's ancient people, the title which implied the inheritance of the covenant made with Jacob. Other nations were descended from Abraham and Isaac; the Israelites alone could claim Jacob for their ancestor; they only could glory in the covenant name given to him when he wrestled all night long with the angel, and proved himself a prince with God (comp. Trench, 'Synonyms of the New Testament,' sect. 39.). Of the tribe of Benjamin. His family had preserved their genealogy; he came from the tribe which gave the first king to Israel; which never swerved in its allegiance to the house of David; which, after the Captivity, united with Judah and the Levites to go up and build the house of the Lord (Ezra 1:5); the tribe of Esther and Mordecai; the tribe within whose boundary stood the holy city. A Hebrew of the Hebrews; rather, of Hebrews; omit the article. His father and mother were not only Israelites, but also they retained, though living at Tarsus, the Hebrew language and customs. St. Paul was not a Hellenist; he was brought up at Jerusalem under the great Rabban Gamaliel; he spoke Hebrew (Acts 21:40), and uses the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the Septuagint translation. All the descendants of Jacob were Israelites; those were called Hebrews distinctively who adhered to the use of the sacred language (Acts 6:1). As touching the Law, a Pharisee. He was by birth an Israelite, by education a Hebrew; he became by choice a Pharisee (Acts 23:6); he embraced the straitest sect "as regards Law," the sect which took the strictest view of the Law of Moses.
Concerning zeal, persecuting the Church. He was not only a Pharisee, but an energetic, zealous Pharisee; he carried out the principles of his sect, thinking that he did God service by persecuting those whom he counted as heretics. Touching the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless. As far as "the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees" went, the righteousness which is "in Law," which consists, that is, in the observance of formal rules; or which is "of Law" (Philippians 3:9), which springs, that is, from such observance, St. Paul was found blameless. "Rara sane laus et prope singularis," says Calvin, quoted by Alford; "videamus tureen quanti eam fecerit."
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ; literally, but such things as used to be gains to me, those I have counted as loss for Christ's sake. He used to regard these outward privileges, one by one, as so many items of gain; now he has learned to regard them, all in the aggregate, as so much loss because of Christ. They were loss because confidence in outward things tends to keep the soul from Christ. Τοῦ γὰρ ἡλίου φανέτος, says Chrysostom, προσκαθῆσθαι τῷ λύχνῳ ζημία.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss. He holds fast the truth which he once learned; he still counts all things as loss in comparison with the one thing needful. The particles used here (see Winer, sect. liii.) correct and strengthen the assertion of the last verse, both as to time, "I count," and as to extent, "all things," not only the privileges mentioned above. For the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. The preposition may be rendered "for the sake of," as in Philippians 3:7, or "because of." The knowledge of Christ is a blessing so surpassing and transcendent that nothing else is worthy to be called good in comparison with that one highest good. Its glory, like the rising sun, overwhelms and hides all lesser lights. My Lord. The pronoun expresses the warmth of his affection, the close personal communion between the apostle and the Savior (see Philippians 1:3). For whom I have suffered the loss of all things; rather, I suffered the loss of; literally, I was fined or mulcted; the aorist refers to the time of his conversion. All things (τὰ πάντα); all that I had in the world, my all, all things together (comp. Romans 8:32). He lost his all for Christ, for the sake of possessing Christ: with Christ God will freely give him all things (τὰ πάντα again). And do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. Σκύβαλα (also in Ecclesiasticus 27:4); dung, or perhaps refuse, dogs' meat; comp. Matthew 15:26, Matthew 15:27. There the Jews were the children, the Gentiles dogs. St. Paul here, as in Matthew 15:2, reverses the terms of the comparison; the legal privileges of the Jew nee but as crumbs thrown to dogs in comparison with the rich blessings of the gospel. Comp. also Matthew 16:26, where our Lord uses the same verbs, to lose and to gain; the whole world is but loss, the Savior says, compared with the never-dying soul. The loss of one's all in this world (St. Paul echoes the sacred words) is as nothing; all things put together are but as dung, compared with the one thing which St. Paul so longed to gain, Christ himself—his presence in the soul, spiritual union with the Lord. "To gain Christ is to lay fast hold upon him, to receive him inwardly into our bosoms, and so to make him ours and ourselves his, that we may be joined to him as our Head, espoused to him as our Husband, incorporated into him as our Nourishment, engrafted in him as our Stock, and laid upon him as a sure Foundation" (Bishop Hall, ' Christ Mystical,' ch. 6., quoted by Bishop EIlicott).
And be found in him; now, at the last day, always. In Christ; a member, that is, of his body, a living branch of the true Vine. Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the Law; rather, as R.V., not harding a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the Law. Not any righteousness of my own, such as that described in Philippians 3:6, the righteousness which consists in and results from conformity to an external law. But perhaps the words are best rendered, as in the margin of R.V., "Not having as my righteousness that which is of the Law." St. Paul was blameless as regards that righteousness which lies in legal observances: in that he puts no confidence, he seeks a better righteousness. But that which is through the faith of Christ; rather, as R.V., through faith in Christ. There is no article, and the genitive is objective. Through faith. God is the Giver, the Source of righteousness; it is given through faith as the means, on condition of faith. The righteousness which is of God by faith. Greek, "upon faith," based upon faith, or on condition of faith. St. Paul speaks of "having" this righteousness. Then it is his; yet it is not any righteousness of his own, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done;" but a righteousness of God given to him, merited, not by his works, but by the perfect obedience and the precious death of Christ, and granted unto all who are found in Christ. It comes from God, the one only Giver of all good things; it is obtained through faith as the instrument or means; and it is given on that faith—on condition, that is, of a living faith abiding in the soul. Thus St. Paul states incidentally, but simply and forcibly, the great doctrine of justification by faith.
That I may know him (τοῦ γνῶναι αὐτόν). For the grammatical construction, see Winer, sect. 44:b. For the sense, comp. John 17:3, where Dr. Westcott notes, "In such a connection, Knowledge expresses the apprehension of the truth by the whole nature of man. It is not an acquaintance with facts as external, nor an intellectual conviction of their reality, but an appropriation of them (so to speak) as an influencing power into the very being of him who knows them." Γινώσκειν differs from εἰδέναι: εἰδέναι is "to know," γιγνώσκειν is "to recognize" or "to become acquainted with." We must be found in Christ in order to know him; we must have that righteousness which is through the faith of Christ, for we can know him only by being made like unto him. Comp. 1 John 2:2, "When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is;" and now those who see him by faith are in their measure being transformed into the same image. For the knowledge here spoken of is a personal knowledge, gained, not by hearing or reading, but by direct personal communion with the Lord; it is not theoretical, but experimental. "non expertus fuerit, non intelligit" (Anselm, quoted by Meyer). And the power of his resurrection. The resurrection of Christ was a glorious manifestation of Divine power (Romans 1:4). That resurrection is now a power in the spiritual life of Christians: it stimulates the spiritual resurrection, the resurrection from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness (comp. Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12). It is the center of our most cherished hopes, the evidence of our immortality, the earnest of the resurrection of the body. And the fellowship of his sufferings. This clause and the last are bound together under one article, according to the best manuscripts. There is a very close connection between them (comp. Rom 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:11, 2 Timothy 2:12). To know the quickening power of his resurrection, we must share his sufferings. The Christian, meditating in loving thought on the sufferings of Christ, is led to feel ever a deeper, a more awful sympathy with the suffering Savior. And if, when we are called to suffer, we take it patiently, looking unto Jesus, then our sufferings are united with his sufferings, "we suffer with him." And he who hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows feels for us in his sacred heart, being "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." This fellowship in suffering leads through his grace to fellowship in glory. Being made conformable unto his death; rather, as R.V., becoming conformed. The participle is present: it implies a continual progress. It is derived from the word μορφή, form, used in Philippians 2:6 (where see note), and denotes, not a mere external resemblance, but a deep, real, inner conformity. The reference is not to the impending death of martyrdom, but to that daffy dying unto self and the world which the apostle exhibited in the heroic self-denials of his holy life: he was "crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20; comp. also 1 Corinthians 15:31).
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. The apostle uses the language of humble expectation. For the particles, "if by any means" (εἴ πως), comp. Acts 27:12; Romans 1:10; Romans 11:14. The verb "attain" means to arrive at the end of a journey; it presents the figure of a pilgrimage. Read, with R.V. and the best manuscripts, the resurrection from the dead. This phrase (used also in Luke 20:35 and Acts 4:2) means the resurrection of the blessed dead. This meaning is strengthened here by the repetition of the preposition with the word "resurrection" (ἐξανάστασις). The general resurrection is always called the resurrection of the dead.
Not as though I had already. attained, either were already perfect; the R.V. renders this clause more accurately, not that (I do not say that) I have already obtained. The verb is not the same with that translated "attain" in Philippians 3:11; it means to get, to win a prize, as in 1 Corinthians 9:24. The tense is aorist: "I say not that I did at once win the prize;" that is, at the time of his conversion. Compare the tenses used in 1 Corinthians 9:8, "I suffered the loss of all things;" and 1 Corinthians 9:12, "I was apprehended;" which both refer to the same time. The prize was gained in a moment; it needs the continued effort of a lifetime. St. Paul proceeds, using now the perfect tense, "Nor have I been already made perfect." He has not even now reached perfection; he is still working out his own salvation. There may be here a delicate allusion to the spiritual pride which seems to have disturbed the unity of the Philippians (see Philippians 2:2-4). But I follow after; rather, I pursue, I press on. If that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. The words rendered "for which" (ἐφ ᾧ) will admit three different interpretations:
(1) that of A.V., which implies the ellipse of the antecedent "that;"
(2) that given in the margin of R.V., "seeing that;" and
(3) that of the R.V., "for which," for which purpose I was also apprehended by Christ Jesus.
All these translations are possible, and all give a good sense. Perhaps (2) best suits the context, "I press on to lay hold o[the prize, because Christ first laid hold of me." The grace of the Lord Jesus furnishes the highest motive; it is the Christian's bounden duty to press on always in the Christian race, because Christ first called him.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; rather, perhaps, I reckon. Two of the best manuscripts read "not yet" (οὔπω). The pronouns are emphatic: whatever others may think of me or of themselves, "I reckon not myself to have apprehended.'' But this one thing. The ellipse here is forcible; some supply "I reckon;" others, "I say;" others, as A.V., "I do," which seems best suited to the context. I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. St. Paul concentrates all his thoughts and all his energies on the one great end of life, the one thing needful. He forgets those things which are behind; that is, not, as some explain, his Jewish privileges and distinctions, but that part of his Christian race already past. So Chrysostom, Καὶ γὰρ ὁ δρομεὺς οὐχ ὅσους ἤνυσεν ἀναλογίζεται διαύλους ἀλλ ὅσους λείπεται … Τί γὰρ ἡμᾶς ὠφελεῖ τὸ ἀνυσθὲν ὅταν τὸ λειπόμενον μὴ προστεθῇ; Reaching forth. The Greek word μὴ προστεθῇ; is singularly emphatic: it means that the athlete throws himself forward in the race with all his energies strained to the very utmost. Compare Bengel, "Oculus manum, manus pedem praevertit et trahit."
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; rather, with the best manuscripts, unto the prize. The first preposition, "towards," expresses the aim; the second, "unto," the end of the race. The high calling; the upward, heavenward calling. God is calling us all upward, heavenward, by the voice of the Lord Jesus, who is the Word of God. Comp. Hebrews 2:1, "Partakers of the heavenly calling." The words, "in Christ Jesus," are to be taken with "the high calling." It is God who calls: he calls us in the person of Christ, by the voice of Christ, "Come unto me." "It was his will that thou shouldst run the race below; he gives the crown above. Seest thou not that even here they crown the most honored of the athletes, not on the racecourse below, but the king calls them up, and crowns them there" (Chrysostom).
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded. "Perfect" here means mature, full grown, as opposed to babes or children. The word is so used (in the Greek) in 1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 4:13; Hebrews 5:14. "There is a difference," says Bengel, on Hebrews 5:12, "between the perfect and the perfected: the first are ready for the. race; the last are close upon the prize." St. Paul exhorts all full-grown Christians to imitate his perseverance; like him, to forsake any claims to legal righteousness; to seek that righteousness which is through the faith of Christ; to know Christ, to win Christ; to press ever forwards to obtain the prize. And if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.. If only we be in earnest, pressing onwards in the Christian race with sustained perseverance, God will, by the manifestation of his Spirit in our heart, correct any minor errors of doctrine or of practice. Comp. John 7:17, "If any man willeth to do (θέλῃ ποιεῖν) his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." "Otherwise" (ἑτέρως) seems here to mean otherwise thin is right, wrongly, amiss—a meaning which it has not unfrequently in classical Greek, and in our word "heterodox." Even this; rather, this too, as well as the one thing needful, the knowledge of Christ, which he has already revealed. Mark the word "reveal." Paul may teach, but living spiritual knowledge is a revelation from God. This passage shows that the word "perfect" is used here in a restricted sense, not of consummated holiness; as it implies that some of the "perfect" may be "otherwise minded," may be involved in minor errors. Good Christians must have that righteousness which is through faith; they must persevere: they may err in less essential points. It is a lesson of charity and humility.
Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Omit, with the best manuscripts, the words from "rule" to "thing," and translate, R.V., only, whereunto we have already attained, by that same (rule) let us walk; or, more literally, only, what we arrived at, by that same walk. Let there be no falling back; let us, at each point in our Christian course, maintain and walk according to that degree of grace at which we arrived. This explanation seems more probable than the other view, which understands the words, "by the same," of the rule of faith as opposed to the works of the Law.
Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample; rather, as R.V., imitators together. They are to unite, one and all, in imitating him. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 he gives the ground of this advice, "As I also am of Christ." Mark, here in order to imitate; elsewhere (as Romans 16:17) in order to avoid. He changes the singular number to the plural, modestly shrinking from proposing himself alone as their example. But "ensample" is still singular, because they all (Timothy, Epaphroditus, etc.) present the same image, all imitating Christ. Observe the change of metaphor: hitherto the Christian life has been compared to a race; now he speaks of walking; literally, walking about (περιπατεῖν), moving hither and thither in the daily path of life.
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; rather, I used to tell you; the tense is imperfect. He used to speak thus of them when he was at Philippi; now, during his absence, the evil has increased, and he repeats his warning with tears. "Paul weeps," says Chrysostom, "for those at whom others laugh; so true is his sympathy, so deep his care for all men." He seems to be speaking here, not of the Jews, but of nominal Christians, who used their liberty for a cloke of licentiousness. Such are enemies of the cross; they hate sell-denial, they will not take up their cross. By their evil lives they bring shame upon the religion of the cross.
Whose end is destruction; rather, as R.V., perdition. Observe the contrast: not the prize of the high calling, but everlasting death. Whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame (comp. Romans 16:18). They boast of their liberty, and pervert it into licence' (2 Peter 2:19). Who mind earthly things; rather, they who mind. The irregularity of the construction (he returns to the nominative) seems expressive of the apostle's indignation.
For our conversation is in heaven. The word "our" is emphatic; the apostle refers back to Philippians 3:17 : "Follow us, not those enemies of the cross; our conversation is in heaven; they mind earthly things." The A.V. has this same word "conversation" in Philippians 1:27, where the Greek (πολιτεύεσθε) is the verb corresponding with the noun (πολιτεῦΜα) which occurs here. The verb is used in the sense of a certain mode of life or conversation, as in Acts 23:1, but it does not appear that the noun ever bears that meaning. The rendering" citizenship" also seems deficient in authority. In classical Greek the word has three meanings:
(1) a form of government;
(2) political acts, politics;
(3) a commonwealth.
The last seems the most suitable here. The unworthy Christians mentioned in the last verse mind earthly things; but our city, our country, our home, is in heaven: there is the state of which we are citizens; there is the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn, whoso names are inscribed in the roll of the citizens of the heavenly city. Our real home is there now (ὑπάρχει); comp. Ephesians 2:19, "Ye are no longer strangers and foreigners, but ye are fellow-citizens of the saints" (comp. also Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:16 and Hebrews 13:14; Galatians 4:26). From whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; rather, we eagerly wait for (comp. Romans 8:23, Romans 8:25; Galatians 5:5) the Lord Jesus Christ as a Savior; comp. Isaiah 25:9, "This is the Lord; we have waited for him; we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body; rather, as R.V., who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory. Compare the description of our Lord's person and work in Philippians 2:6-8. There St. Paul tells us that he who was originally in the form of God took upon him the form of a servant, and was found in fashion as a man. Here he uses the derivatives of the same words "form" and "fashion" (μορδή and σχῆμα), to describe the change of the bodies of the saved at the resurrection. He had already told us (Philippians 2:10) that the Christian soul is being gradually conformed during life unto the death of Christ. He now tells us that this conformity of the Christian unto Christ is ultimately to extend to the body. The Lord shall change the outward fashion of our body; but this change will be more than a change of outward fashion: it will result in a real conformity of the resurrection-body of the believer unto the glorious body of the Lord. The body of our humiliation; not "vile body." St. Paul does not despise the body, like the Stoics and Gnostics; the Christian's body is a sacred thing—it is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and the seed of the resurrection-body. According to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. According to the working, the energy, of his power not only to change and glorify the bodies of the redeemed, but also to subdue all things, the whole universe, unto himself. "The apostle shows," says Chrysostom, "greater works of the Savior's power, that thou mightest believe in these."
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S PRIVILEGE.
1. It is in the Lord. "Rejoice in the Lord," the apostle says. The Lord, who once gave himself for us, gives himself to us now. "Behold," he says, "I stand at the door, and knock." If we listen to his voice, and open the door of our heart, he is ready to enter, to bless us with his sacred presence, to abide with us for ever. In his presence there is fullness of joy. We can know it only by experience.
"The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but his loved ones know."
The unspeakable Gift, the gift of Christ, is a gift of abiding joy.
2. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God is the pledged possession of all true Christians; and "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace." "The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." Then holy joy is an evidence of the indwelling of the Spirit; it shows that he is with the saints of God.
3. It is earnest of our inheritance; for it springs from the inworking of the Holy Spirit of promise. It is a foretaste of the joy of the Lord, which is reserved for the good and faithful servant. It is of all forms of joy the truest, deepest, most abiding; for it depends on no external cause, it is not much affected by the chances and changes of this mortal life. It supports the true Christian in trouble, in sickness, in the prospect of death. For it is in the Lord, resting on him, depending on his presence, flowing from communion with him.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S DUTY.
1. Because it is commanded. "Rejoice evermore," is equally binding with the parallel commandment, "Pray without ceasing." In this Epistle especially the apostle reiterates again and again with ever-increasing earnestness the exhortation to rejoice. "Rejoice in the Lord alway; again I will say, Rejoice."
2. Because it is enforced by the example of the saints. "Sorrowing, yet always rejoicing," is the motto of the Christian life. St. Paul with Silas in the dungeon at Philippi sang praises unto God. Now a prisoner at Rome, he could say, "I joy, and rejoice with you all." He was in bonds, encompassed with many hardships and afflictions, in daily danger of a violent death. But his soul was raised above his outward troubles by the blessed presence of the Lord within him. His heart was glad; the crown of righteousness laid up in heaven for all who love the appearing of the Lord was ever before his thoughts; he could rejoice himself; he could bid others rejoice with him. It is indeed a great example of the power of faith, an illustration of the Savior's words, "Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, and believe in me."
3. Because to be gloomy and melancholy implies a want of gratitude. The Christian who knows that his Redeemer liveth, that Christ the Son of God died for his sins and rose again for his justification, that he is even now interceding for him in heaven, ought to be bright and cheerful. He has no right to give way to despondent thoughts. The temptation will come sometimes; but it is a matter of duty to struggle against it; for to yield is to dishonor the Lord. "Count it all joy," says St. James, "when ye fall into divers temptations."
III. To BE ENFORCED BY CONSTANT EXHORTATION.
1. The gospel is ever fresh, ever new. "It is not irksome to write the same things, says St. Paul." The Christian is never tired of repeating, never tired of hearing, the blessed story of the love of Jesus. The Athenians "spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing." The Christian is content with the old, old story—the holy life, the blessed death, of Jesus Christ our Lord. It is sometimes the preacher's temptation to strain after novelty; he should seek simply to save souls.
2. It is hard to rejoice evermore; it is a duty to be frequently pressed. To rejoice in sickness, in distress, in times of anxiety, is very hard; but it is our duty; we must enforce it constantly upon ourselves, upon others. And it is a source of safety; the soul that is learning to rejoice in the Lord, to take delight in communion with him in prayer and praise and holy sacrament, is not easily separated from the love of Christ.
IV. CONTRASTS BETWEEN THE TRUE CHRISTIANS AND THE JUDAIZERS.
1. These last rejoice, not in the Lord, but in outward distinctions. They pride themselves on their circumcision, but it is merely outward, in the flesh. They may be clean ceremonially, but they are unclean in heart; for they are workers of evil.
2. The Christian has the true circumcision and the true worship. The true circumcision is "that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter." The true worship, too, is in the highest sense not that of form and ceremony, but inward and spiritual. The Christian worships by the Spirit of God, by his help, by his teaching, by his inspiration; all true prayer is prayer in the Holy Ghost.
3. The Christian glories only in Christ. "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." The Christian glories in the Savior's love, in the atonement wrought by his most precious blood, in his prevailing intercession, in the hope of seeing him face to face in his kingdom. In him is his confidence, not in any outward rite.
1. Pray for the great gift of holy joy: "Ask, and ye shall have."
2. To win that joy we must renounce confidence in the flesh.
3. We must worship by the Spirit of God, with real heart-worship, and that by the help of God the Holy Ghost.
The example of St. Paul.
I. WHAT HE RENOUNCED. All confidence in the flesh.
1. He enumerates the privileges of the Jew, and claims them as his own. He had the seal of circumcision, the inheritance of the covenant; he was brought up in the Hebrew learning; he belonged to the strictest sect; he was zealous; he had lived a blameless life. In outward grounds of confidence no man could surpass him. He had all the privileges that could issue from the Judaism of the time.
2. He renounces them all. He sums them up together and renounces them; more than that, he counts them as loss; further yet, he counts all things as loss in comparison with the one gracious presence, the one glorious hope which now fills his heart.
II. WHAT HE SOUGHT.
1. The knowledge of Christ. This knowledge is:
(1) A personal knowledge. "Mine own know me," says our Lord, in John 10:14, Revised Version, "as I know the Father." The knowledge wherewith the true sheep know the good Shepherd is compared by our Lord himself to the knowledge with which the Son of God knows the eternal Father. It is a knowledge of love, a knowledge of intimate personal communion. It is less in the intellect than in the heart; it is gained not so much by study, as by prayer and holy sacrament and the daily effort of faith to realize the Savior's nearness and to imitate his holy life.
(2) It is excellent. St. Paul can scarcely find words to express its excellency. Compared with this, all other things sink into insignificance; what was gain becomes loss; what was glory becomes shame. For this knowledge implies the presence of Christ, "Christ in you, the Hope of glory."
(3) Thus the Christian who knows Christ, wins Christ to be his own, his own most loving Savior, his own most gracious Friend; his very life, for "he that hath the Son hath life? And
(4) he is found-in Christ, incorporated into him, a living member of his mystical body, a fruitful branch of the true Vine.
2. The righteousness which is through the faith of Christ. They that are found in Christ have his righteousness. "Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). They have none of their own (that is, through their own works), for the righteousness which is in the Law is no true righteousness, and cannot endure the all-seeing eye of God. "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." This righteousness is of God, not ours; and yet in some sense it is ours, for it is given to us, given in the gift of Christ. "He that spared not his own Son,… how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" This righteousness is through faith; obtained (that is) through faith as the means or instrument; and it is by (or rather, upon) faith, given (that is) on condition of faith. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," was the message delivered by St. Paul in this very Philippi. "Only believe." Faith is spiritual sight; by faith the saints in all ages have endured, "as seeing him who is invisible." Faith is the spiritual vision of Christ; by faith we see him dying for us upon the cross; we see Christ crucified, and recognize him as our own Savior and Redeemer. Again, faith is the "substance ['the assurance,' Revised Version] of things hoped for;" it is trustfulness—trustfulness, in the love and promises of Christ. It involves distrust of self, and trust only in Christ. Ever less of self, ever more of Christ, is the law of spiritual progress. Faith is the condition of righteousness.
III. THE RESULT OF THIS SELF-RENUNCIATION. The ever-deepening knowledge of Christ. St. Paul prays to be found in Christ, that he may know him. This knowledge, which he seeks so earnestly, is an experimental knowledge; it is an ever-increasing acquaintance with Christ, a realization of the life of Christ in his sufferings and in his exaltation. We need to know:
1. The power of his resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is a spiritual power; it hath a power to lift us up into the resurrection-life, the new life that is hid with Christ in God. The soul that was raised with Christ seeks those things which are above, and that through the power of the Lord's resurrection realized in the heart. His resurrection, too, is the pledge and earnest of our own resurrection, and so kindles and stimulates self-denying Christian effort.
2. To know the power of his resurrection we must know the fellowship of his sufferings. The Christian life has joys of its own; it has also sufferings of its own. For:
(1) Besides the deep sorrow of contrition, the Christian sorrows for the griefs of others, for the sins of others, for the oppression and afflictions of the Church. And these sufferings are the sufferings of Christ; he suffers in and with his members. Hence the apostle says (Colossians 1:24). "I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the Church."
(2) We have fellowship with Christ's sufferings when we sympathize with his agony, with his cross; when, by the energy of faith we realize the Savior's sufferings, and, knowing that our sins added to his burden of woe, feel with him and for him.
(3) We share his sufferings when, suffering ourselves, we offer our sufferings to God by an act of faith; when, fixing our hearts upon the sufferings of Christ, we unite our sufferings with his by faith and prayer, casting all our care on him. Thus he bears our griefs and carries our sorrows; he suffers with us and we with him.
(4) Thus we become, little by little, conformed unto his death. The intense contemplation of the suffering Lord gradually impresses the likeness of his death upon the believing soul. That likeness is not outward and transient, but inward, deep, real. It is formed gradually; it varies in degree in different individuals or in the different stages of the Christian life; but in all true Christians it is real. It is a mortifying, a crucifixion of the old man; like the Savior's death upon the cross, slow and painful. But at last the believing soul struggles itself free from the body of sin and death into the new life, the life which is hid with Christ in God.
IV. THE BLESSED END.
1. The resurrection of the holy dead. That resurrection is the end of all our labors here; the end for which the Christian is content to count all earthly things as loss.
2. The spiritual resurrection here is the earnest of the glorious resurrection hereafter. The heavenly life begins here; the life of faith is the beginning of the life of glory. Both consist in union with Christ, who is our Life; both derive their joy and brightness only from his irradiating presence. They differ in degree, not in kind. The life of faith, when all present hindrances are removed, advanced, as it will be, to unspeakably higher degrees of purity and joy and fellowship with Christ, culminates in the life of glory. Hence it is that the excellency of the knowledge of Christ issues in the blessed resurrection of the holy dead.
1. St. Paul broke wholly with his unconverted life; so must we.
2. He experienced a complete change of thought, motive, aim; it must be so with us.
3. It was the constraining love of Christ that drew him from his old life; it is so still.
4. He suffered with Christ, he felt the power of his resurrection; so may it be with us.
St. Paul's humility.
I. HE HAS NOT YET ATTAINED; HE IS NOT PERFECT.
1. The most advanced Christian is always the humblest. The nearer we draw to Christ, the more we feel our own unworthiness. The light of Christ's holiness, manifested in the hearts of his saints, brings out into clearer light the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
2. But he is striving after perfection. The Christian knows his own weakness and sin, but he knows also that he is really following Christ. If we are doing so, we must know it; we must be conscious of real effort in the spiritual life.
3. Christ is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Christ first laid hold of St. Paul, therefore St. Paul strives to lay hold upon Christ; because he was apprehended, he hopes to apprehend. "We love him, because he first loved us."
4. This very sense of imperfection urges the Christian to sustained effort. He is never satisfied with himself, therefore he always presses onwards. He does not dwell with complacency on his attainments, but forgets the progress which he has made; in view of the far greater height which remains to scale, he throws himself into the work with ever-increasing energy.
5. Therefore he presses toward the mark. The crown of righteousness is laid up for all who love the appearing of the Lord. God is calling us thither, calling us upward, to higher degrees of the spiritual life now, to the perfection of that life in heaven. The prize of that upward calling is the heavenly glory. It is the end for which the Christian lives, which makes life worth having, worth living.
II. ALL ADVANCED CHRISTIANS MUST BE THUS MINDED.
1. The love of Christ, faith, humility, are essentials. All Christians alike must set the knowledge of Christ high above all other objects of desire. All must seek that righteousness which is through the faith of Christ; all must strive to win Christ, to be found in Christ, to know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings. All must be humble, dissatisfied with themselves; all must press onwards towards ever higher degrees of the spiritual life.
2. In this all must agree; in smaller matters there may be differences. St. Paul seems to imply that there will be differences. "If in anything ye be otherwise minded," he says; otherwise than is right, he seems to mean. There will be, there must be, errors. Men cannot all see alike. There are various degrees of illumination, of spiritual knowledge. And men are differently constituted; their characters, theft' early training, their education, their surroundings, their associations, differ indefinitely; all these circumstances act upon their habits of thought. Their opinions are the ultimate outcome of all these multitudinous influences. Doubtless we are to a large extent responsible for our opinions. It is our bounden duty to search the Scriptures, to think, to meditate, to pray for the guidance of God's Holy Spirit. He will guide us into all truth (all that is necessary for our salvation), if we seek his help with a single heart, in earnestness, and in humility. But he does not force all good men to think alike; he leaves room for the play of the individual character, for the manifold influences of temperament and training. The truth is one, the faith is one; but we look upon that one truth from various points of view. Hence there will be differences even among those who sincerely seek the truth. Truth is of momentous importance. Truth of doctrine and holiness of life together make up the saintly character; imperfections in either so far mar the beauty of the whole. But if the two cannot always coexist, holiness is far closer than doctrine to our soul's salvation. The good Samaritan was nearer to God than the priest or the Levite; though they were orthodox, while he was a schismatic.
3. But the promise is that to those who sincerely seek the truth God will certainly reveal it. Only let a man be like St. Paul in his humility and earnest perseverance, never satisfied with himself, never counting himself to have attained, but always pressing towards the mark, and God will reveal the truth to him, as he revealed it to St. Paul. Thus we learn that holy obedience is a condition of living spiritual knowledge, and that living spiritual knowledge is a gift of God. The letter of the Scripture is a subject for intellectual study, but the inner truth of the Scriptures, the knowledge of Christ, is a revelation from God. God hath hidden this from the wise and prudent, but he revealeth it to babes. God the Holy Ghost is the one only Teacher of this precious knowledge.
III. THERE MUST BE NO BACKSLIDING, NO LOSS OF SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE ONCE obtained. It must be our most earnest effort to maintain that degree of grace at which we have arrived, Mark how the apostle dwells on the necessity of perseverance. The life of very many professing Christians is a series of oscillations between permitted sin and feeble repentance. Hence there is no real progress; they remain year after year much as they have been—decent in their lives, and well-intentioned perhaps, but without any real growth in holiness, in self-denial, in humility. "The path of the just is as the shining light, shining more and more unto the perfect day." This ought to be the record of our lives; but this implies continual perseverance, and perseverance implies constant watchfulness and constant prayer.
Lessons. Learn from St. Paul's example:
1. Utterly to shrink from spiritual pride; it is a deadly poison; it makes men satisfied with their present attainments; it prevents their progress in holiness; it leads to backsliding.
2. Always to persevere.
3. To keep the prize of the high calling before the thoughts.
4. Not to judge harshly those who differ from us.
5. To pray for a fuller revelation of the truth to our souls.
The Christian minister must set an example to his flock.
I. TRUE SHEPHERD GOETH BEFORE HIS SHEEP. He should be able to say, like the apostle, "Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ." For the preacher's words have little influence if they are not enforced and illustrated by his life. A real earnest Christian life is a living power; its light shines before men; it leads others to glorify that God from whom all true religion comes. For it proves the truth of God's Word and promises; it. is a miracle of grace, more wonderful than miracles of power; it draws those who at first believed not the Word, to believe the works. The work of God's grace, manifested in the changed life of the believer, draws souls to God. Hence we must strive always to set a holy example. But we must, like Andrew, find Christ first ourselves if we would bring others to him. Alas! not all who point the way to heaven will enter there; not all who helped to build the ark were saved therein.
II. THE CHRISTIAN MUST MARK THE SAINTS OF GOD.
1. Their example is precious, full of gracious attraction. A true Christian, wherever he is, in whatever circumstances, is of inestimable value. Having himself received grace from God, he becomes a center of grace for others; rivers of living water flow from him.
2. Such examples increase our responsibility. St. Paul bids us mark them. If we do not, we neglect one of the greatest helps to a holy life which God provides for us. To read the lives of holy men, still more, if we have that great privilege, to know them, ought to excite in us a holy ardor and ambition. They are men like ourselves, encompassed with infirmities; they have by the grace of God attained a high degree of holiness; we may do the like if we persevere as they persevered. We must be followers together of such men; we must try to reach the holiness which they have gained; their humility, their self-denials, their charity, their holy joy, their delight in prayer and praise, ought to stir us up to a holy emulation. Such examples, if followed, are an unspeakable advantage; if neglected, they must greatly increase our danger and our condemnation.
3. Christ's saints are many; their example is one. Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, reflect in various degrees the one image of Christ. All Christians, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory. Their characters, their training, their opportunities, differ; they present some one grace, some another, more conspicuously than others; these different graces are so many different aspects of the one image of Christ. We may study these various graces severally as mixed with human frailty in the characters of saints; we may study them all combined in absolute perfection in the life of our Divine Savior.
III. BUT THERE ARE EVIL EXAMPLES IS THE CHURCH.
1. Many who are called by the Name of Christ wind earthly things. They will not take up their cross and deny themselves; they serve their own lusts. Such men are really enemies of the cross of Christ; they hate the cross, they shrink from the cross, and they grievously check the progress of the gospel. The Name of God is blasphemed through them. The end of such men is destruction.
2. Such evil lives cause real grief to the true Christian. St. Paul weeps when he speaks of them. Fools make a mock at sin; the apostle weeps. He knows the meaning of sin, its exceeding sinfulness, its awful danger. miserable thing to see men laugh at drunkenness or other forms of vice; these things kill the souls of men, souls for whom Christ died. The apostle reminds us of the psalmist, "Rivers of water run down mine eyes because men keep not thy Law."
1. To study the lives of holy men, to imitate their graces, to avoid their errors; their history is written for our admonition.
2. Above all, to study the one perfect Example, the life of Jesus Christ our Lord.
3. To set a good example ourselves, remembering the great influence of example for good or for evil.
4. shun evil examples, to mourn over them.
Philippians 3:20, Philippians 3:21
The grounds for following St. Paul and other holy men.
I. Our conservation is in heaven. The false brethren mirth earthly things; follow us.
1. Our commonwealth is in heaven; we are citizens of the heavenly country. Here we are citizens of this realm of England; we have our sovereign, our magistrates, our fellow-subjects, our duties, our privileges. It is a shadow of heavenly things. The heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, is our true home, our continuing city. The almighty God, King of kings and Lord of lords, is the center of that vast communion. The blessed angels, our guardians, are his ministers, standing before him, to do his will. The saints, living and departed, are our fellow-citizens, the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn who are written in heaven, and the spirits just men made perfect. There we have our privileges, the sacraments, the means of grace, the help of the Holy Spirit of God, the hope of everlasting blessedness. There we have our duties, all growing from the one highest law of love: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart;… thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
2. Our real home is there now (ὑπάρχει). We are citizens of the heavenly commonwealth first, then of our earthly country. We are Christians first, then Englishman. The first given at Antioch is cur highest title; it pledges us to unity, to holiness; pledges us to the service of the great Master, whose love passeth knowledge, whose life stands alone in its gracious beauty, in its perfect purity. Our home is in heaven, where he is; it is so new. "Ye are come to the city of the living God;" "Ye are fellow-citizens of the saints." Therefore "seek those things which are above." There must our treasure be, there must we set our hearts. We should try by God's grace to fill our minds with the blessed thought of heaven, to accustom ourselves to meditate daily upon its occupations, its never-ending worship, its unclouded contemplation of the Divine beauty. For there we hope to spend the ages of the everlasting life. will be, we trust, our last, our unspeakably most glorious prize; let us try to fill our thoughts and imaginations with it now, not with the poor prizes of earthly success. Thus let us seek to realize those striking words, "Our commonwealth is in heaven."
II. CHRIST IS IN HEAVEN NOW; WE WAIT FOR HIS COMING.
1. We are citizens of the heavenly country now; we have not yet its full privileges; we are heirs of the kingdom of heaven. But Christ is there now; he will come again as a Savior. Then he wilt make us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. For flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; we must be changed. He is changing our souls now (if we abide in him) by the power of his grace. Then he shall change our body, this body of our humiliation, the body which is now subject to disease and death, and sometimes, alas! to the defilement of sensual sin. He shall make it like, in true and deep resemblance, to the body of his glory. Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory."
2. For he is able to subdue all things unto himself. All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth. Therefore we may not doubt his power. He can raise these bodies of ours from the dust of the earth, no longer natural, corruptible, mortal; but spiritual, incorruptible, immortal. He can do this, for he can do greater things than these.
1. To regard heaven as our home.
2. To practice its employments, to learn the new song here on earth.
3. To remember that the eternal life begins here. "This is life eternal, to know … God and Jesus Christ."
4. To love the appearing of the Lord, to look earnestly for his coming.
5. To rejoice in the hope of rising in the glorious resurrection-body.
HOMILIES BY T. CROSKERY
"Finally, brethren, rejoice in the Lord." The key-note of the Epistle still recurs.
I. THE NATURE OF JOY IN THE LORD. It is to make him the object of our joy:
1. For what he is in himself, the God of love and light and blessing.
2. For what he is to us:
(1) our Preserver (Psalms 46:1, Psalms 46:2);
(2) our Redeemer (Hebrews 2:18; Psalms 27:1);
(3) our God (Hebrews 8:10).
The world rejoices in creation and sees no joy in God, but the believer finds the joy of the Lord to be his strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
II. THE DUTY OF REJOICING IN THE LORD.
1. It is a commanded duty.
2. Christ prays for it. (John 17:13.)
3. The Holy Spirit works it in us. (John 16:7; Galatians 5:22.)
4. It is necessary to the fullness of our Christian experience.
(1) As lessening our love of the world and of sinful pleasures (Psalms 4:7; Psalms 84:10).
(2) As making us more active in the Lord's service (Deuteronomy 28:47; Nehemiah 8:10).
(3) As supporting us under the weight of troubles (1 Peter 1:7, 1 Peter 1:8).
III. HOW WE OUGHT TO REJOICE IN THE LORD.
1. We ought to live above the world. (2 Corinthians 4:18.)
2. We ought to avoid everything inconsistent with this joy.
(1) Gross sins (2 Corinthians 1:12).
(2) Unbelieving thoughts.
3. We ought to cherish a constant trust in the Lord. (Hebrews 13:6; Isaiah 55:7; Isaiah 49:13, Isaiah 49:14. See hints on Philippians 4:1.)—T.C.
Philippians 3:2, Philippians 3:3
Serious warning against errorists.
The apostle, after counselling the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord, somewhat abruptly recalls the case of errorists of the Judaistic type, who, though not at Philippi, were not far from its boundaries. He deems it "safe" to give timely warning: "Beware of the dogs, of the evil-workers, of the concision."
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE JUDAIST ERRORISTS.
1. They were "dogs" in the Jewish sense, that is, impure and antichristian enemies of the truth. It would be a surprise for Jews to be descried by the epithet they themselves always applied so scornfully to Gentiles.
2. They were "evil-workers." There was no want of religious activity among them, but it had a selfish and evil root. The apostle elsewhere speaks of "false apostles, deceitful workers" (2 Corinthians 11:13). The Pharisees "compassed sea and land to make one proselyte" (Matthew 23:15). But their zeal was essentially evil.
3. They were "the concision"—the mutilation—who rejoiced in a mere manual, outward mutilation of the flesh, forgetful of the significance of the true circumcision.
II. FUNDAMENTAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN SUCH ERRORISTS AND THE TRUE CIRCUMCISION. "For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." There are three characteristic points involved in the circumcision of heart which belongs to all true believers, whether Jews or Gentiles.
1. Their worship is essentially spiritual. They "worship by the Spirit of God." It was not a worship by mere external rites, as if all its merit consisted in rigid ritualistic conformities, but the true worship of God, which is only possible through the influence of his Holy Spirit (John 4:23; Romans 8:26), who "helps our infirmities" of supplication. It is the characteristic of saints that they "pray in the Holy Ghost' (Jude 1:20).
2. Their entire dependence is in Christ Jesus. "Who glory in Christ Jesus." This is the essential distinction of the Christian. "Let him that glorieth glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31). He does not glory in rites or ordinances, but in a personal Redeemer, who saves him from his sins.
3. They have no confidence in mere external privileges. "And have no confidence in the flesh." The primary allusion here may be to circumcision, but the clause points to the merely outward and earthly in religious form. The Judaists gloried in the flesh. "Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also" (2 Corinthians 11:18; Galatians 6:13, Galatians 6:14).—T.C.
The apostle's estimate of his high privileges as a Jew.
The Judaists arrogated to themselves high privileges by virtue of their descent. The apostle shows that they can claim no superiority of privilege above himself, though he finds in these very privileges a quite insufficient ground of religious confidence.
I. HE REPUDIATES SACRAMENTAL EFFICACY. "Circumcised the eighth day." He was thus distinguished alike from the proselyte, who was circumcised on his conversion, and from the Ishmaelite, who was circumcised in his thirteenth year. He was a pure Jew.
II. HE REPUDIATES THE RELIGIOUS IMPORT OF AN HONOURED PARENTAGE.
1. "Of the stock of Israel." For he was no proselyte, but directly descended from Israel.
2. He was a member of the illustrious "tribe of Benjamin," which gave the first king to Israel, and had a foremost place among its armies. He did not, therefore, belong to any mere renegade tribe.
3. He was "a Hebrew of the Hebrews." Not only of pure blood, but untinged by Hellenistic tendencies.
III. HE REPUDIATES RELIGIOUS AUTHORITY. "As touching the Law, a Pharisee;" a member of the strictest and most authoritative sect of the Jews.
IV. HE REPUDIATES INTENSE EARNESTNESS, "As touching zeal, persecuting the Church."
V. HE REPUDIATES THE WORTH OF CEREMONIAL BLAMELESSNESS. "As touching the righteousness which is in the Law, showing myself blameless;" that is, the righteousness of formal precept as contrasted with the righteousness which is by faith (Philippians 3:9). All these characteristics and prerogatives, which "were gains to me," because I set them down to my credit religiously, my conversion changed into loss "for Christ's sake," because their repudiation was necessary "that I might gain Christ."—T.C.
The excellency of the knowledge of Christ.
"I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord."
I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST.
1. It implies a knowledge of the way of salt, afloat, the Word of God being our guide. (Romans 10:17.) Eternal life hinges upon it. "This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). It is by this knowledge we are justified. "By his knowledge shall my righteous Servant justify many" (Isaiah 53:11).
2. It implies an experimental acquaintance with him. It is he himself who gives us the knowledge of himself. "He hath given us an understanding that we may know him who is true" (1 John 5:20). We thus realize Christ in pardoning mercy, in subduing grace, in abiding peace.
II. THE EXCELLENCY OF THIS KNOWLEDGE. This may be set forth either positively by the nature and effects of the knowledge in question, or by contrasting it with all the things the apostle classes among "loss."
(1) The experience of all God's people attests its excellence.
(2) The Word of God proclaims its excellence (Jeremiah 9:24).
(3) It is through this knowledge we become partakers of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:3).
(4) It is by it we are enabled to escape the corruptions of the world (2 Peter 2:20).
2. By contrast with all things classed as loss. "I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." He had already included in this class all the distinguishing privileges and prerogatives of his Jewish descent, as well as three points in his personal character which, as a Jew, he had made the subject of boasting. But he now expands the language so as to include all things whatsoever, conceivable or inconceivable, as lying under the category of loss. Everything was valueless under the sun when weighed against the knowledge of Christ.
III. THE APOSTLE'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS POSSESSING CHRIST. "Christ Jesus my Lord." This is the happy language of assurance.
IV. HIS PRESENT AND ABIDING SENSE OF THE EXCELLENCY OF THIS KNOWLEDGE. He spoke before in the past tense, "I counted these things loss for Christ." He now gives us his present judgment respecting the whole momentous concern, "I do count them but loss and dung."—T.C.
The true ground of a sinner's hope.
The apostle then sets forth, in very impressive terms, the familiar way of salvation: "That I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith." Consider—
I. CHRIST THE PRESENT GAIN AND THE PRESENT SHELTER OF THE SINNER. The subject is presented under two aspects.
1. Christ the present Gain of the sinner. "That I may gain Christ." Consider:
(1) The person to be gained. "Christ." The Lord of heaven and earth, who has all treasures of happiness in his keeping, who is the supreme object of angelic worship and saintly adoration. It is the Lord, not man, even the highest man on earth, whose favor can prosper or save us.
(2) How is Christ to be gained?
(a) Not by tears;
(b) nor by confession to a priest;
(c) not by good works;
(d) nor even by our "suffering the loss of all things."
We gain Christ simply in the act of our believing; but, in accepting the righteousness of God in him by faith, we throw overboard all our righteousness and all our unrighteousness, just as the shipwrecked sailor, to save his life and his ship, throws his precious cargo into the sea.
(3) The peculiar characteristics of this gain.
(a) A man may gain much in this life and yet lose it again. This cannot be the case of the sinner who gains Christ.
(b) A man may gain much and be disappointed after all. The world is full of such disillusionments. But the sinner who gains Christ obtains bliss without end.
(c) If a sinner does not gain Christ he loses his immortal soul. Christ is the one star of hope in the sky of heaven.
2. Christ the present Shelter of the sinner. "And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith."
(1) The apostle repudiates all dependence on his own personal righteousness, even upon that righteousness which is of the Law, touching which he considered himself "blameless" from the Pharisaic standpoint.
(a) It is in keeping with his doctrine everywhere (Romans 2:20; Galatians 2:16.
(b) Human experience confirms the statement of the prophet that "all our righteous-nesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).
(c) Salvation is everywhere in Scripture represented, not as of debt, but as of flee grace (Romans 4:4, Romans 4:5).
(2) His entire dependence is on another's righteousness, which is described in two forms.
(a) "That which is through the faith of Christ;" that is, a righteousness which becomes ours through our believing in Christ, faith being in this case merely the receptive organ or instrumental cause.
(b) "The righteousness of God by faith;" that is, the righteousness which God provides for man's salvation as received by faith. The whole phaseology is thoroughly Pauline (see homiletical hints on Galatians 2:16).
II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST AS CONNECTED WITH THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS. "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." The saving knowledge of Christ must take in the fact of his resurrection as well as the fact of his death, because his resurrection was but the seal and crown of his redeeming sacrifice. Therefore the believer's aspiration is always to know Christ in the power of his resurrection.
1. "The power of his resurrection."
(1) There is a polemic aspect of this power; for he is declared to be "the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:3, Romans 1:4).
(2) Where is an apologetic aspect of it, as attesting his Divine mission (1 Corinthians 15:15).
(3) There is a dogmatic aspect of it, as indicating the acceptance of his sacrifice, and as it is the pledge of our justification (Romans 4:24, Romans 4:25).
(4) There is an ethical aspect of it, presented by its relation to our pursuit of holiness.
(a) It is the resurrection-power of Christ which gives the new life. "Because I live ye shall live also" (John 14:19).
(b) It is by virtue of the resurrection that the Holy Ghost comes to abide in the Church, as a Spirit of truth, grace, and consolation.
(c) It is By the same power we are enabled to subdue sin (Ephesians 1:19, Ephesians 1:20; Romans 6:1-23.; Galatians 2:20).
(d) It is the same power which inspires here (1 Peter 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:1-58.; Colossians 1:5).
(5) It has a prophetic aspect; for it is the pledge of our future resurrection (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14).
2. "The fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." We are to share in the sufferings he suffered, and to drink of the cup which he drank, not in relation merely to the suffering of persecution, but all suffering that arises out of our conflict with sin. We can thus understand such passages as 2 Corinthians 1:5; 1 Peter 4:13; Romans 6:5; Romans 8:17; 2Ti 2:11, 2 Timothy 2:12.
III. THE ULTIMATE OBJECT CONTEMPLATED BY THE APOSTLE. "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from the dead."
1. What he desired in, the future.
(1) Not a part in the general resurrection.
(2) Not spiritual resurrection, for that was already past.
(3) But a part in the resurrection of the just (Luke 20:35; Acts 4:2; 1 Peter 1:3). It is the resurrection of life.
2. Why he desired it.
(1) It would be final escape from evil.
(2) It would be the occasion of his final and blessed recognition by his Savior-Judge.
(3) It would be a pledge of his eternal happiness in heaven.
3. What his desire implies.
(1) A high appreciation of the value of this resurrection from the dead.
(2) A sense of its difficulty, as regarded from the human side.
(3) The persuasion of it may be attained in various degrees. There is a touch of hypothetic humility in his language.
(4) A disposition to submit to all providential arrangements that lead to it.—T.C.
The apostle's confession of his imperfection and his method of Christian progress.
There is a touching and instructive humility in the language of these verses.
I. HIS CONFESSION OF IMPERFECTION. "Not as though I had already attained or have been made perfect;" and again," I count not myself to have apprehended."
1. This argues a high estimate of a Christian's duty. There is no inconsistency in the consciousness of hidden imperfection and the thought of a lofty ideal. We must ever keep Christ himself before us as the only ideal to be copied and followed after through life.
2. It argues a humble estimate of himself. It is a remarkable confession from such a man. He had done and suffered much for Christ, yet he says, "I have not been made perfect." Such an experience ought to rebuke the lofty pretensions of perfectionists of every class.
3. Yet this humble estimate of himself, as well as his aspiration for higher holiness, is sure evidence that he had made some progress. A writer says, "That which is best in you is your appreciation of what is better in others."
II. HIS METHOD OF CHRISTIAN PROGRESS. This is expressed in two separate and significant sentences.
1. "I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I also was apprehended by Christ Jesus."
(1) This language evidently points to the scene on the road to Damascus, when the Lord "apprehended" him and changed the whole gent of his life. Conversion is, indeed, an apprehension, a laying hold upon a heart trader the sway of worldliness and sin, and bringing it under the sway of all-conquering grace. Nothing but the arresting hand of the Lord can stop any of us on our downward course, or break the dominion of the world over us, or destroy the power of sin in the heart.
(2) This language implies that the loving hand of the Savior is never lifted off any heart thus arrested tilt all that is implied in the gracious contact has been accomplished. There are two apprehensions. The believer has only, in the one case, to receive the gift of God, but, in the other case, the salvation which has become ours through that act is to be wrought out in a continuous, faithful reception of all that is involved in it.
2. "This one thing I do, forgetting the things that are past, and reaching forth to the things that are before, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
(1) There is here the oblivion of the past, not that we are to forget past errors or sins, or are not to repent of past mistakes which must always be subject of penitential thought, but we are not to allow a rueful temper to kill out heart, and hope. We are to regard the past. as so much really gained or accomplished that is to exercise no dragging or injurious effect upon our forward progress.
(2) There is here the concentration of all energies. "This one thing I do." A dispersion of energies is fatal to success in any work. The great heroes of the Church and of the world have been men of one idea, and concentrated all thought and effort in carrying it out. So the apostle had but one idea always before him, and made everything in providence and nature and grace contributory to the great work of his Christian sanctification.
(3) Untiring activity. "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
(a) The mark is perfect holiness.
(b) The prize is perfect blessedness.
(c) All his activity in this Divine race is sustained by the thought that he stands in the "high calling" of God and is supported by the grace of Christ Jesus.
It is a high calling, high as heaven, and seemingly inaccessible to men of such passions and infirmities as ours, but. then it is the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. This is our hope and our consolation.—T.C.
Philippians 3:15, Philippians 3:16
Practical exhortation to unity in religious life.
The apostle gathers up the conclusion to be drawn from the preceding verses. "Therefore let us, as many as be perfect, mind the same thing."
I. CONSIDER THE DUTY OF BELIEVERS TO WALK IN THE FULNESS OF PRESENT TRUTH. The saints, who are here described as perfect, including that very apostle who had just said he was not perfect, are to be regarded as perfect in the sense of adultness of understanding. They were not "babes in Christ;" they had put away childish things; they had assumed the apostle's position concerning the Law. But on this very ground they were to stand strongly consistent in all moral and spiritual development. They were to be like the apostle, forgetting the past and pressing onward to the mark for the heavenly prize.
II. BELIEVERS MAY NOT SEE EYE TO EYE, BUT ARE ENCOURAGED TO LOOK TO THE LORD FOR FULLER KNOWLEDGE. " And if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God will reveal even this to you." The principle is ever tree. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God? If a believer is rooted in the faith of Christ, the Lord will help him to see the truth respecting minor matters.
III. So FAR AS BELIEVERS AGREE, THEY OUGHT TO SHOW A VISIBLE CONFORMITY OF LIFE AND OPINION. "But let us walk according to that we have attained." Thus
(1) God is glorified;
(2) believers are maintained in a peaceful fellowship;
(3) the world is impressed and won by the exhibition of Christian unity.—T.C.
The imitation of good men.
"Brethren, be ye imitators together of me, and mark them who walk so as ye have us for an ensample."
I. THE DUTY OF FOLLOWING GOOD EXAMPLES.
1. We are commanded to do so. (1 Corinthians 11:1.)
2. The lives of many saints are expressly recorded for our imitation. (James 5:10, James 5:11, James 5:17; Philippians 4:9.)
3. the imitation is limited by several circumstances.
(1) By the example of Christ: "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).
(2) We are not to imitate such actions of good men as are to be condemned, nor even all such as are not condemned (Genesis 19:8; Genesis 42:15, Genesis 42:16; Genesis 27:25-27).
(3) The Word of God is to decide the rightness or the wrongness of the actions of good men.
II. THE USES OF SUCH IMITATION.
1. It stimulates to higher and better living. We are therefore to imitate good men in the graces for which they are most distinguished (Numbers 12:3; 1 Samuel 2:18; Job 1:21; Acts 5:41).
2. It is afresh recommendation of the gospel. (Matthew 5:16.)
3. It gives greater glory to God. (Romans 7:4.)—T.C.
Philippians 3:18, Philippians 3:19
The walk of mere worldly professors.
"For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ." The allusion is not to errorists merely, but to the antinomian formalists in the visible communion of the Church.
I. MANY PERSONS ARE FOUND IN THE COMMUNION OF THE CHURCH WHO ARE THE ENEMIES OF THE CROSS OF Christ. They were there even in apostolic days, in spite of gifts of discernment and the power of discipline. It is an altogether chimerical idea to think of a perfectly pure Church. There was no such Church in the days of Christ or the apostles. The persons here described appear to be of the same class as those referred to elsewhere as "they who serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly" (Romans 16:18); persons who caused "divisions and offenses," whose life was a practical denial of the principle that they who are Christ's "have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts" (Galatians 5:24).
II. MORAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THESE FORMALISTS AND THE DOOM THAT AWAITS THEM.
1. The real object of their worship. "Whose god is their belly." Like those referred to at Rome, they "served not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly" (Romans 16:18). They were sensual and self-indulgent, forgetting that "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking" (Romans 14:17).
2. The gross perversion of their moral judgments. "Whose glory is in their shame." They gloried, under the name of liberty, in what ought to have inspired feelings of shame, so as to bring upon them the retribution, "I will turn their glory into shame" (Hosea 4:7).
3. The earthly cast of their life. "Who mind earthly things."
(1) The apostle does not encourage the neglect of earthly things, much less cast any discredit on those natural feelings which link us to the realities of earthly life.
(2) But he censures the living for this present visible world to the neglect of the invisible kingdom by which we are surrounded. The earthly things may be pleasures, riches, honors, power, place. "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not" (Jeremiah 45:5). To mind them is
(a) to desire them (Colossians 2:2; Psalms 73:25);
(b) to admire them (Luke 21:5, Luke 21:6);
(c) to labor after them (John 6:27; Matthew 6:33);
(d) to concentrate thought and interest upon them.
(3) Reasons for not minding earthly things.
(a) They are beneath the consideration of Christians;
(b) we have higher things to mind (Philippians 2:20);
(c) the minding of heaven and earth is an inconsistent service (Matthew 6:24);
(d) earthly things are essentially uncertain, unsatisfying, inconstant, and momentary (Ecclesiastes 1:8; Proverbs 23:5; Luke 12:20).
4. The doom of these formalists. "Whose end is destruction." Notwithstanding their high professions and their ecclesiastical privileges, their end is eternal death. There is but one cad of such a life: "The end of those things is death" (Romans 6:21); "Whose end is to be burned" (Hebrews 6:8); "Whose end shall be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:15).
III. THE EMOTION OF THE APOSTLE AT THE CONTEMPLATION OF SUCH A CLASS OF SINNERS. "I tell you even weeping." He wept at their wickedness as much as at the thought of their deserved doom.
IV. THE NECESSITY OF REPEATED WARNINGS AGAINST EVIL IN THE CHURCH. "Of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping." It was needful that the apostle should lift the voice of warning against a tendency as fatal in its ultimate results as the deadliest heresy.—T.C.
Philippians 3:20, Philippians 3:21
The heavenly citizenship and its blessed expectations.
The apostle seems to say that these souls, with their earthly instincts, can have no fellowship with us; for we are citizens of a heavenly state. "For our citizenship is even now in heaven."
I. THE HEAVENLY CITIZENSHIP.
1. Consider its source. It comes, not by birth or manumission, but by the ransom-price of Jesus Christ. It is in Christ we become "fellow-citizens of the saints and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19).
2. Consider the duties this citizenship involves. We are to obey its laws and watch over the interests of Christ's kingdom.
3. Consider its privileges. We receive protection, guidance, and comfort.
II. ITS BLESSED EXPECTATIONS. "From whence also we wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."
1. Believers are always looking for the second coming of the Lord to judgment. (Titus 2:13; Acts 24:15; Acts 26:6, Acts 26:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:10.) It is the "blessed hope" of the saints (Titus 2:13).
2. There is the expectation of a transfiguration of our bodies by Christ's power. "Who shall fashion anew our vile body, that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself." This allusion to the glorious destiny of our bodies may have been due to the thought of the sensuality of the formalists just condemned.
(1) Consider the vileness of our bodies. Though fearfully and wonderfully made, and though temples of the Holy Ghost in case of all saints, our bodies are vile
(a) as to the materials of which they are composed we are mere dust and ashes;
(b) as to the diseases and infirmities that often darken the soul's life;
(c) as to sinful desires which find their principal seat or instigation in the body.
(2) Consider the transformation of our bodies. They are to be fashioned according to the likeness of Christ's glorious body. The change will be
(a) necessary, that the body may be a fitting dwelling-place for the glorified soul;
(b) amazing, for we cannot imagine its nature or extent;
(c) Divine, for it is to be conformed to Christ's glorious body.
(3) Consider the power which effects the change. "According to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself."
(a) It is not according to his power merely, but by its exercise, that the transformation will come.
(b) He who is able to subdue all things, even death itself (1 Corinthians 15:26), will subdue our bodies into their finally glorified condition.—T.C.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
Having called upon the Philippians for public spirit, he now speaks, as if about to close the Epistle, about joy in the Lord. Inasmuch, however, as the Judaizers were abroad, he deems it best to insert a parenthesis, which the world could ill spare, about the true people of God and the progress towards the "citizenship" of heaven. This third chapter is a magnificent parenthesis, in which the spiritual life is laid bare from its inception to its glorious close. In the verses now before us we have false and true Judaism contrasted.
I. CONSIDER THE JEWS FALSELY SO CALLED. (Verse 2.) The custom of the Jews, in their pride, was to regard themselves as children at God's table and all others as only "dogs" below it (Matthew 15:26). Paul reverses the figure, and has no hesitation in saying that the ritualists of his day, that is, the Jews who were preaching salvation by ceremonies, were only the "dogs" below the table, while believers in Jesus were the children at the feast. Moreover, as the dogs in the East are often captious scavengers, the Jews be here calls dogs were to be avoided by the Philippian converts just as one would avoid dangerous dogs. That he is not too severe in this judgment he shows by asserting that they have been "evil-workers." what had the history of the Judaizers been but that of "marplots"? They had done evil instead of good all through the infant Churches, turning the young converts away from the simplicity that was in Christ. Not only so, but the circumcision which they practiced and sought to enforce was only "concision" (κατατομή), i.e. mere mutilation. For once a man assigns a false value to a bloody rite like circumcision, and fancies he can contribute to his salvation by subjecting himself to the knife, he is merely mutilating the body and not benefiting the soul. These are not "the people of God," therefore, they are "Jews" only in name, who go about substituting ceremony-keeping for the faith as it is in Christ.
II. CONSIDER WHO ARE THE TRUE JEWS. (Verse 3.) Paul states very succinctly the characteristics of the true people of God. Those are truly circumcised (περιτομή) who have been so circumcised in heart as to worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Let us take these up in the reverse order.
1. The true people of God have given up confidence in the flesh. They have seen that no incision in the flesh can render them acceptable to the Supreme; that no physical breeding can secure a prize in the great day of judgment; that nothing that they are or can be or do can win acceptance before God. Self has ceased to be the ground of confidence.
2. The true people of God rejoice in Christ Jesus—rejoice in him as their Lord. (Verses 1, 3.) Self having ceased to be a ground of confidence or source of joy, Jesus has became the true Source. Pardon and acceptance are seen to be secured in him, and in his fellowship there is an unfailing fountain of delights. Out of the invisible comes a joy unspeakable and full of glory. We rejoice in him as all our Salvation and all our Desire.
3. The true people of God worship the Father in Spirit. This differentiates them from the formalists, whose delight and hope are in ceremonies. The Father, as an infinite spirit, can, we come to see, be approached acceptably only by our spirits. The bodily genuflexions, which go to make up the formalities, cannot be accounted worship. Unless the spirit moves reverentially within, all the formality is vain. The spirit, moreover, as we have just seen, realizes that it cannot be accepted by the Supreme on account of any supposed personal merit, but solely on account of the merit of the Lord Jesus. The worship which pleases the Father is the joyful worship which has its source in his Son. The outcome of felt obligation unto Jesus, it becomes fragrant in the nostrils of the Most High. Thus the spiritual Jews are made manifest. They gather spiritually minded around the feet of the great Father and adore him.—R.M.E.
Pride of birth and breeding.
Having touched on the subject of self-confidence, Paul can quote his own experience on the point. For many years he thought he might plume himself even more than other men on his pedigree and his personal rower. He had lived in the haze of self-satisfaction, and could quote a genealogy and personal record second to none. It becomes amusing in a Pharisee of the first century, and yet we have people who are just as ridiculous in their pride of birth and of breeding in the nineteenth century. It is surely worth a moment's analysis.
I. No MATTER HOW WELL BORN OR BRED A MAN MAY BE, IT CONSTITUTES NOT HIS MERIT, BUT HIS OBLIGATION. Paul was a thorough-bred Jew, and fancied this fact should save him. But whatever good we receive through inheritance is not our merit; it simply increases our obligation. It is a confusion of thought, therefore, to suppose that the Supreme will save any man because of the accident of his birth or his breeding. We shall be called to account for these advantages, and they should minister to humility and fear rather than to pride.
II. EXERTIONS TO SECURE A REPUTATION, INSTEAD OF TO GLORIFY GOD, INCREASE OUR SELFISHNESS INSTEAD OF ESTABLISHING ANY CLAIM TO SALVATION. Paul's zeal was undoubted in persecuting the Christians. He was the first persecutor of his time; so that, in addition to his pride of birth and breeding, he could plume himself upon a religious reputation without a parallel among his people. He thought that no one had such a claim upon the tribal God, the God of the Jews, as he. If self-righteousness could be established by mortal man, Paul believed he had accomplished it. He forgot that the establishment of reputations is a selfish motive at the best, and can have nothing but condemnation from a holy God. In analyzing our motives, consequently, we must be most careful. Unless we are on our guard, we shall find ourselves living the selfish life, manufacturing reputations rather than strictly regarding usefulness and God's glory.
III. BOTH OUR PEDIGREE AND OUR ZEAL ARE LOSSES TO US IF THEY DETAIN US FROM CHRIST. Paul had spent long years in thinking how well-bred and reputable a Jew he was. Occupied with self, he had never turned his eyes to the radiant Christ, who alone is worthy of such constant contemplation. His fancied merits had thus kept him for years from the profitable study of the person and character of Christ. As soon as, on the way to Damascus, he became acquainted with Christ, the loss of the self-righteous years pressed itself painfully upon him. He wondered that he had so long neglected such a Savior. He saw in him a subject worthy of eternal study, and he regretted that he had been so tardy in entering upon it. We are surely taught here that anything which shuts out Christ from us, it matters not what it may be, is a distinct loss to us. He is the only object worth absorbing our attention. When other objects—self in any of its forms—eclipse him, we are losers and not gainers by the distraction. Things good in themselves even, such as birth and breeding and activity, prove serious losses to us if they withdraw our souls from the contemplation of the Savior.—R.M.E.
Paul now exhibits himself to us in the light of an enthusiast in whose eyes the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ is all and in all. He regrets that so many fruitless years were spent away from Christ, and now he shows us all he hopes from him. He has surrendered everything for the sake of his Lord and Master. He has put away the thought of what he might have been had he remained a Jewish partisan. There was nothing beyond the ambition of Saul the persecutor had he remained true to the Jewish tradition. But he had cheerfully sacrificed every worldly prospect, he had cheerfully accepted a life of privation and contempt, he had learned to count such worldly advantages as but "the refuse of the table" when compared with the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is such enthusiasm that makes men of us! Let us now look at the gain got from Christ.
I. ACCEPTANCE IN HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Philippians 3:9.) We have seen how self-righteousness died within Paul. The sight of Christ on the way to Damascus cured him of all his self-satisfaction. Henceforth his religious reputation seemed but "filthy rags," utterly insufficient to clothe his spirit before the all-searching King. But instead of self-righteousness, he found provided by Christ a perfect righteousness, whose protection before God he could rejoice in. The idea of merit being transferred and imputed, though ridiculed by some superficial thinkers, is an everyday experience in life. The whole department of personal influence for the benefit of another is an illustration of it. We all benefit by the character and influence of others. We are glorified by their merits. The person from whom we want the favor knows the value and honor of our friend, and he considers us favourably because of him. In the very same way, then, God the Father regards sinners with favor because of the merit and righteousness of his Son, in whom poor sinners are asked to trust. Christ's glory is sufficient to encircle with radiance all the world.
II. ACQUAINTANCESHIP. (Philippians 3:10.) The difference between "knowing a person" and "knowing about a person" must never be forgotten. We may know a great deal about a person whose acquaintanceship we never acquire. We may in the same way know a great deal about Christ; we may be erudite theologians; and yet if we do not "know him" as our incomparable acquaintance, our Savior, our best Friend, all will be vain. Paul got acquainted with Christ on the way to Damascus, and that acquaintanceship he cultivated ever after by prayer, meditation, co-operation in Christ's work, and every means in his power. It is the essence of religion and of eternal life. "This is life eternal, to know [i.e. to be acquainted with] thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Let no man be content with anything short of this acquaintanceship with Jesus.
III. THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION. (Philippians 3:10.) This is a present experience. Our hearts are dead in trespasses, and sins, as Christ's body lay dead in Joseph's tomb. But the Spirit who quickened his dead body by a similar act quickens our dead souls, so that we experience in our spirits the power of our Lord's resurrection. Paul had passed through this experience. He had entered into "newness of life." He had risen out of the corruption of sin and spiritual death into the power of a new and spiritual life. The thrill of resurrection is first felt in this life. The dead soul hears the voice of the Son of God and starts into new life (John 5:25). Well may we say of this resurrection, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in this first resurrection; on such the second death can have no power."
IV. FELLOWSHIP IN SUFFERING. (Philippians 3:10.) It seems strange that Paul should reckon pain among the advantages obtained from Christ. But we must remember that as Christ's sufferings were vicarious, so the sufferings he sends upon his servants are so far vicarious also as to be for the good of others. Of coarse, in atonement we can have no fellowship with Christ. He was alone therein. But outside the atoning quality of Christ's suffering there is an element in which we can all share. Paul had serious suffering, but as he felt it was to make him a better workman, and so for the good of others, he was content to share it with his Lord. And here we must observe that sympathy is the closest fellowship between souls. What is sympathy? It is fellowship in suffering, It is in distress, in fiery trial, that hearts come nearest to one another. The Hebrew children never knew such fellowship in Babylon before as the Son of God gave them in the fiery furnace. It is here that the reason of our fiery trials lies. They are to bring us nearer the heart of Jesus. His sympathy is cheaply purchased by any pain. Paul's suffering life lay closer than other lives to the heart of Christ. How this should reconcile believers to trial! We may well "count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations" (James 1:2).
V. CONFORMITY TO CHRIST'S DEATH. (Philippians 3:10.) To be reconciled to death is a great experience. It was this which Jesus experienced on the cross. The amazement of Gethsemane and its sinless shrinking from the experience of death gave place to radiant welcome as the last hour came. "Father, into thine hands I commend my spirit," was the utterance of a Son fully satisfied with the Father's will in the matter of his death. Now, this brave spirit is within our reach. We, too, may look without blanching into the eye of the king of terrors. The sufferings and discipline of life are meant to bring us to this sweet conformity.
VI. RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD. (Philippians 3:11.) This is the crowning experience which Jesus is to give to Paul and all the faithful departed. The attainment of the resurrection is the climax of a spiritual process. We have risen spiritually into newness of life; we have been advancing steadily in the knowledge of Christ's mind and heart, and largely through life's trials; and physical resurrection will be the top-stone of the great experience. The notion is broached that resurrection is an immediate experience at death, so that we practically bid our bodies good-bye for evermore when we depart. This doctrine of Hymenens and Philetus, however, will not stand investigation. we must believe in a bodily resurrection at the last day. Then shall our full spiritual experience be reached and Christ's last great gift be ours.—R.M.E.
The river of forgetfulness.
Paul has sketched in the preceding verses what we may call his spiritual programme. Much of the attainment lies before him still, so much, in fact, that he lives in the future instead of in the past. His life is a race towards a goal. Now, just as in a race the runner forgets the ground gone over in his occupation with the remainder and the goal, so, in the spiritual life, there is a forgetfulness essential to progress. There is a river of Lethe in the city of God, which the prize-winners must drink if they are to run as giants refreshed. Let us study for a moment or two this river of forgetfulness.
I. THE MEMORY OF PAST SINS AND FAILURES MAY ONLY REPRODUCE THEM, 12, 13.) Memory is a precious gift; without it progress would be impossible. It is memory which enables us to carry on the advantages of past ages to the coming time. But the misery is that we burden memory with thoughts and feelings which cannot help, but hinder our future development. It is these thoughts and feelings which we must learn to forget. We content ourselves with mentioning here two.
1. Sins. Brooding over sin is a very unhealthy process. It is not the self-examination God recommends. It only reproduces and increases sin. Repentance is a grace which sorrows over sins as offenses against God which must not be repeated. We must not allow repentance, therefore, to be turned into repining. But can we safely forget past sins? Yes; if we come to the blood of Jesus and get washed therein, we may with safety forget our past sins, so far as the remembrance of them would detain us from a better record in time to come.
2. Failures. These, too, may be remembered so as to quench all hope of improvement. We may regulate our hope by the probabilities of the past, like calculations based upon statistics. But there is one factor in the spiritual life, the Spirit of God, who can put all past experience to shame and silence. Hence we are encouraged not to regulate our hope by the failures of the past, but by Lethean grace to face the future as if we had a successful record behind us. To translate a paragraph from a modern French author: "Feeble natures live in griefs instead of changing them into the apophthegms of experience. They saturate themselves with them and use them to retrace their steps daily into past misfortunes. To forget is the grand secret of strong and creative natures—to forget as Nature does, who never regards herself as passe, but recommences every hour the mysteries of her indefatigable births (enfantements)."
II. THE MEMORY OF PAST SUCCESSES AND ATTAINMENTS MAY DETAIN US FROM MORE SPLENDID TRIUMPHS. (Philippians 3:12-14.) The temptation is to make the past the standard and so to cut down the possibilities of the present and the future. But, as it has been well said, "It would be better to forget our whole life, sins and all, than to look back with a sense of satisfaction." Contentment with the past is fatal to all progress. Christianity never meant us to dote upon a golden age behind us, but to expect a golden age to come. Hence we must forget past attainments and successes and forge ahead. It is the looking back that endangers the climber who is passing upwards. His one hope of reaching the summit is by forgetting the things behind him and "grinding" on.
III. BY THIS POWER OF FORGETFULNESS WE SECURE PROPER CONCENTRATION OF CHRISTIAN PURPOSE. (Philippians 3:13.) For it is essential to enthusiasm to have our nature unified into a single glorious purpose. Hence Paul could say, "This one thing I do." He would not allow the past to distract him from proper concentration. One purpose of perfection dominated his whole life and conduct. Hence his draughts of the Lethean river fitted him for the sublime and single purpose of attaining the ideal of Christ. The soul who refuses to be distracted by the past, and sets himself steadily to fulfill the mission God has given him, will find in his concentration the secret of power.
IV. WHEN CHURCH MEMBERS FOLLOW UP THIS PRINCIPLE OF FORGETTING THE PAST, THEY COME TO SEE EYE TO EYE IN THE END. (Philippians 3:15, Philippians 3:16.) Paul advises the Philippians to be "thus minded," that is, to unite in forgetting the past, and if in other things they do not see eye to eye as yet, they will come to unity at last. It is a most important principle to follow. When individuals fall out, we advise them to "let bygones be bygones," and begin again. This is exactly Paul's idea. There seems to have been some dissension in Philippi, as verse 2 of next chapter shows. Here is Paul's recommendation: "Forget the things behind." It is upon the past our squabbles are built. Take away the memory and then we can begin afresh. It would thus seem that the city of God could ill spare this river of forgetfulness. Indeed, it is only in the city of God that it flows in crystal purity and can be drunk without danger. There are muddy streams which ingenuity provides, intoxicants which rob mankind through the senses of their memory; but the waking-time comes, and the furies are afoot once more. In the Lethe of God, on the contrary, we may drink and forget a painful, imperfect past, so far as this would keep us from a nobler future. "God," says Vinet, "in the ineffable power of his Spirit, makes us date from where he pleases. He separates us from that which was ourselves. He creates a new man, to which the old one is a stranger. For him there is no crime that cannot be blotted out, nor any restitution impossible; for him there is no time flown on without recall, no destruction, nor any manner of death. The past can swallow nothing up." Let us, then, judiciously cultivate this forgetfulness, and make the past the subordinate thing Christian progress requires it to be.—R.M.E.
Paul, having urged the duty of forgetting the things behind, now speaks of his own example still more pointedly. He has been minding this rule and walking before men as an illustration of its power. And in this occupation with the future his idea has been that he is a citizen of heaven, and is conducting himself daily as one who belongs to that better country. But, while advancing to the statement of this celestial citizenship, he pauses parenthetically over the state of those whose citizenship is of the earth and earthly. The contrast of this paragraph is between the citizens of the world and the citizens of heaven. We shall look at them in the order presented by the apostle.
I. THE CITIZENS OF THE WORLD. (Philippians 3:18, Philippians 3:19.) And here we have several things to notice.
1. The object of their adoration is the "belly-god." In heathenism the aim of life is for the most part to gratify the flesh. Appetite is master. The mind and heart are simply the slaves of appetite. Now, it is clear that, as a worshipper can never rise above the object of adoration, the man who worships appetite sinks into a mere quivering mass of appetite. Lust calls for satisfaction. Eating, drinking, and the gratification of the fleshly lusts become the sum total of life. The meaning of this devotion is the degradation of the man below the level of the beast.
2. Their glory is in their shame. That is to say, instead of being ashamed of their lustful courses, they actually glory in them. They parade their degradations. It is a terrible descent when men lose the sense of shame and brazen it out.
3. They mind earthly things. That is, they look no further for their rest. They settle down in this plague-stricken land. They allow their notions to be bounded by the horizon of the seen and the temporal. They take no broader view than this life affords them.
4. They are consequently enemies of Christ's cross, over which the holy are compelled to weep. For the cross is the great foe of worldly mindedness. It opposes the lusts of the flesh; it opposes the adoration of the appetites; it opposes self-indulgence in every sinful form; and consequently the citizens of this worm are its foes. But do we weep over these misguided men with the pathos of a Paul? Do we shed over them the tears of compassion, of zeal, of charity? We ought not to be content until the world's state evokes our tears.
II. THE CITIZENS OF HEAVEN. (Philippians 3:20, Philippians 3:21.) Paul declares here that "our citizenship (πολίτευμα) is in heaven." Now, this idea suggests:
1. That we ought to feel as "strangers and pilgrims here." Just as citizens of a foreign country do not feel at home, so heavenly citizens cannot feel at home on earth. They will recognize a certain strangeness in their environment, and be evermore looking away from earth and things seen to their" fatherland" (πατρίδα of Hebrews 11:14). But:
2. Our hope should center in the heavenly city. Earth cannot satisfy our longings; our hope flits away from earth to heaven. "We look for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." Heaven is regarded as our home, and we feel drawn as by a home-sickness towards the celestial world. We have "a desire to depart and he with Christ, which is far better."
3. We expect the advent of the Savior and the transformation of the body. The Lord Jesus has his home in heaven and is seated in the focus of power. His energy (ἐνέργεια) is such that he can subdue all things unto himself. And he is to appear for the special purpose of transforming our bodies of humiliation that they may be conformed "to the body of his glory" (Revised Version). His glorious body in the vigor of immortal youth is the type to which our changed bodies shall be conformed. Hence we hope for physical adaptation to an immortal career. And these gifts we expect from heaven and through the advent of our Savior. "Able-bodied citizens" we are yet to be. We are to lay down these tenements of clay and to be clothed with temples which will stand the wear and tear of an eternal existence. In these magnificent bodies we hope to serve God ceaselessly. As citizens of heaven, we shall need no respite from active service; there shall be no night and no repose in heaven; unwearying work shall prove life's lasting benediction.—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY R. FINLAYSON
The true circumcision.
Contemplated close of the Epistle. "Finally my brethren, rejoice in the Lord." It would seem that, at this point, the apostle contemplated bringing the Epistle to a close. He intimates that, in addition to what he has already said, he has only this further to say. He falls back on what has already been noticed as the key-note of the Epistle. Addressing them as his brethren, he calls upon them to rejoice in the Lord. He recognized no joy but what was in the Lord. We are to rejoice in our earthly blessings, as having them in the Lord. We are to rejoice even in our afflictions, as having them in the Lord. We are to rejoice in any success attending our efforts to bless others, as having it in the Lord. We are to rejoice especially in privileges of adoption, as having them in the Lord. "Howbeit in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." New start in the Epistle. "To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not irksome, but for you it is safe." The apostle would not have concluded the Epistle without recording his thanks for the contribution and sending salutations. But at this point he seems to have been interrupted, and meantime to have had his attention called to some fresh manifestation of Judaistic zeal. When he takes up his pen it is with this in his mind. And, before writing the words with which he had intended to close, he must sound the note of alarm. He deems it necessary, however, to give his reason for introducing the old theme, he had written as well as spoken much on the subject of Judaism; but it was not irksome to him to repeat what he had said. He had written as well as spoken so much on the subject to the Philippians that he feared it might be irksome to them to have a repetition. The reference would seem to be to a lost Epistle or lost Epistles. To this there is a manifest allusion in the Epistle of Polycarp. Writing to these same Philippians, about the beginning of the second century, he says, "Neither I nor another like me can attain to the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who, coming among you, taught the word of truth accurately and surely before the men of that day; who also, when absent, wrote letters to you, into which, if ye search, ye can be builded up unto the faith given to you." It did not lie within the design of the Spirit of inspiration to preserve all the words that Paul wrote to the Churches, any more than to preserve all the words that Christ spake in the course of his public ministry. What Paul had previously written during the ten years to the Church of Philippi alone on the one subject of Judaism was so extensive that he was afraid it might be irksome to them to have the same things repeated. But, whether irksome to them or not, he was assured that it would be safe. And on that ground he does not hesitate to repeat.
I. HE WARNS AGAINST THE JUDAIZERS. What he had before given at length he now gives in few, but expressive words.
1. Dogs. "Beware of the dogs." As Jesus called Herod a fox, so Paul calls the Judaizers dogs. We have laid hold more on the fidelity of the dog; the Greeks laid hold more on its bad habit of snarling; the Jews laid hold more on its want of niceness, in eating all manner of meats. Prowling about the city and living especially on the offal and refuse, it seemed to the Jews to picture the Gentiles, who, making no distinction of meats, were ceremonially unclean. By means of this appellation of the Gentiles, Christ made trial of the Canaanitish woman. And when John says, "Without are the dogs," he seems to refer generally to exclusion on the ground of moral impurity. In calling the Judaizers dogs, Paul is to be understood as throwing back on them their own term of reproach. They called the Gentile Christians dogs, because they made no distinction of meats, did not observe the washing of cups and platters. They, says Paul, were really the dogs, who, instead of the rich gospel provision, had only the "garbage of carnal ordinances."
2. Evil-workers. "Beware of the evil-workers." They are characterized in another place as deceitful workers. Here they are characterized as coil workers, i.e. where others were sowing the good seed they came and sowed the tares; where others were doing good work they came and tried to have it undone. And that was really their character; they did not seek fields of their own, but fields where the seed of the gospel had already been sown. They were especially workers against Christ, and all who preached Christ as the sole ground of the sinner's justification.
3. Concision. "Beware of the concision." As pope said of antipope, that he was not consecrated but execrated, and as Coleridge said of the French philosophy, that it was psilosophy, or the bare kind of philosophy; so Paul refuses to say of the Judaists that they were the circumcision, he will only say of them that they were the concision, i.e. they cut the body to no purpose, there was no real symbolism connected with it, as when the Mosaic economy had Divine sanction. They were cutters of the body, as the priests of Baal in Elijah's time, who, with loud crying, cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. They had no more reason for continuing the cutting of the body from Mosaism than the heathen had for cuttings in connection with their religion. Therefore he will not allow them to be the circumcision, but only the concision, or mutilators of the body.
II. HE DESCRIBES THE TRUE CIRCUMCISION. "For we are the circumcision." Whether circumcised in body or not, simply as Christians they answered to the idea, bore the character of the circumcision.
1. Spiritual worshippers. "Who worship by the Spirit of God." If he had characterized them by their outward mark, he would have said "the baptized;" but he prefers to point to the inward reality. The meaning of the mark of circumcision on the Jew was that he was set apart as a worshipper of God; in his own home and when he went up to the temple, he was to acknowledge God according to the appointed forms. As answering to the circumcision we also are set apart as worshippers of God, and the catholic clement in our worship is that it is by the dynamic influence of the Spirit of God that we worship. There is a power of the Spirit exerted over our carnality by which we are enabled to render an inward and a cordial worship. "The hour cometh, and now is," said Christ, "when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth."
2. Who have Christ as High Priest to glory in. "And glory in Christ Jesus." As worshippers we cannot approach God without having the services of a high priest. And Jesus is the High Priest of our confession. We glory in him because he has made real and fully satisfying atonement for sin. We glory in him as still making intercession for us. With such a High Priest We can have hope under the consciousness of sin, which is our daily experience. "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye may not sin. And, if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the Propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world."
3. And have renounced the flesh. "And have no confidence in the flesh." Glorying in what is outside of us, in Christ and his work, excludes having confidence in the flesh. Even under the Jewish theocracy outward earthly marks were not to be trusted in. One might have a special theocratic mark on him, and yet be untrue to the theocracy like Saul the King of Israel. If natural descent from Abraham had been sufficient to constitute a child of Abraham, then God of the very stories could have raised up children unto Abraham. Only on Christ, ca no fleshly marks, must we place our dependence for justification and adoption.
III. HE THINKS OF HIMSELF AS IN A BETTER POSITION FOR HAVING CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH THAN ANY OF THE JUDAIZERS. "Though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh: if any other man thinketh to have confidence in the flesh, I yet more." He singles himself out from the "we" of the previous verse. He had, in fact, renounced confidence in the flesh; but, for the moment, taking up the same ground with the Judaizers, he challenges comparison with them. He claims to be in a better position for confiding in the flesh than any of them.
1. Four marks connected with inherited privilege.
(1) Circumcision. "Circumcised the eighth day." The heathen were uncircumcised. Proselytes from heathenism were circumcised, but not the eighth day. The rite of circumcision was duly performed on him. He thus could claim to belong to a circle within the circle of the circumcised.
(2) Race. "Of the stock of Israel." There were some who were circumcised the eighth day who were not of pure Israelitish extraction. They were descended from members of an alien race who had been grafted into the stock of Israel. There had been no grafting in of any of Paul's ancestors; he was of the original stock, he could thus claim within the narrower circle, to belong to a narrower still.
(3) Tribe. "Of the tribe of Benjamin." he also mentions his tribe in writing to the Romans. His original name, Saul, pointed to his being of the same tribe with the first king of Israel. The renegade tribes were represented among the Jews. He was not a Jew of pure extraction belonging to any of the ten tribes, hut he belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, which alone had remained faithful to Judah when the kingdom was rent.
(4) Language and customs. "A Hebrew of Hebrews." Among the many Jews who were scattered abroad there were not a few who, while conforming to the Jewish religion, did not conform to the Hebrew language and customs. These were properly Hellenists. He was born at Tarsus, but he had been as strictly brought up as if he had been born in Judaea. He belonged to a family strict among Jewish families beyond the Holy Land, in which the Hebrew language was spoken and Hebrew customs retained.
2. Three marks involving personal choice.
(1) Law. "As touching the Law, a Pharisee." In a sense he inherited Pharisaism, for he tells us in another place that he was not only a Pharisee, but the son of a Pharisee. To inherited Pharisaism, when he came to the years of reflection, he gave his full assent, especially as against Sadduceeism. "The Pharisees stood in the closest and strictest relation to the Law, as they with their traditions were regarded as the most orthodox expositors, defenders, and observers of it." Paul could thus say, "After the straitest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee."
(2) Zeal. "As touching zeal, persecuting the Church." He was not only a strict Pharisee, but a Pharisee of the greatest fervent. he rightly gauged the strength of the Christian Church. He saw that, with its doctrine of a crucified and risen Savior, it had a peculiar power to enchant men's minds. It seemed to him to threaten the extinction of his loved Law-religion. And so he put himself forward as champion of the Law, and distinguished himself as persecutor of the Church. And that he now strangely puts into the scale as against the Jewish zealots. Regarding it as though it still belonged to him, and not as in Galatians 1:23 as what once belonged to him, he claims to be a better persecutor than any of them.
(3) Righteousness. "As touching the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless." Saul the Pharisee was one of those who went about to establish a righteousness of their own. In his youthful enthusiasm he felt equal to the task, and so successfully did he apply himself to it that, in the judgment of men, he was blameless. There was not the minutest particular in which he did not meet the Law's requirement. And, when the limitation is made to the judgment of men, we are not to understand that, in his thought at the time, which he now enters into to turn the scale against the zealots, he excluded, but rather that he took to himself justifying merit before God.
IV. HE IS IN THE SPIRIT OF THE TRUE CIRCUMCISION.
1. His past reckoning to which he adheres. "Howbeit what things were gain [gains] to me, these have I counted loss for Christ." The reference is to actual things in his pre-Christian position. Those which he has mentioned and others which he has not mentioned, were gains to him. The plural, which is not brought out in the translation, indicates that they were separate items by which he profited. They were not gains merely in his own judgment or expectation, but they were actually gains. "By means of them he was, within the old theocracy, put upon a path which had already brought him repute and influence, and promised to him yet far greater honors, power, and wealth in the future; a career rich in gain was opened up to him." But he was led to form an altered judgment regarding these things. This was not due to fickleness of judgment. This new judgment was characterized by wisdom. It was because there was discovered to him a greater gain in Christ. As interfering with this newly discovered gain, it seemed to him that he should sit down and write them under one category as loss. The use of the perfect brings down his past judgment to the present moment.
2. His reckoning in view of the present. "Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." "Yea verily, and" prepares for an outbidding of what he has said. He goes beyond the actual things by which he profited in his past position. He takes things by which there may be profit in their utmost universality. And his present reckoning regarding the wide range of things is that they also are to be written down under the category of loss. The greater gain by which he is attracted in this case is not Christ, but rather the knowledge of Christ as the greatest Gain. If he is actually the greatest Gain, then it behoves us to have an experimental knowledge of him according to what he is. We are especially to have the knowledge of him as Christ Jesus our Lord, i.e. as the Anointed of the Father to be Savior, to whom, as having accomplished salvation, we owe deepest submission. To this saving knowledge there belongs a supereminence, a surpassingness. It would be of no avail that, beyond all that science has reached, we knew all the secrets of nature, that we knew the whole constitution of the human mind, if we did not know Christ for salvation.
3. His past action passing into his present reckoning. "For whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may gain Christ." The reference is to the great crisis of his life. It showed him to be no mere theorist. He carried his judgment out into practice, though it entailed the loss of all things. He renounced the profit they had been to him at the time. And, thinking of them as what might still have been a profit to him, he is in no mood to retract. He adheres to his former renunciation in the strongest terms. His language now is, "I do count them but dung, that I may gain Christ." This will be considered too depreciatory a view of things. It will be considered too high doctrine by not a few who profess faith in Christ. What an incongruity would be caused by some professed Christians adopting this language! Is it not evident that they count many things as all-important to their existence, other than Christ? It must be admitted, too, that some whose Christian experience, though real, is not clear enough, will find difficulty here, and it is possible that, in the desire to be true to Christ, they may take to some perversion of Christianity. But there is no exaggeration in the apostle's language.
(1) All things are but as dung compared with Christ. There are certainly good things in the world. Our ingratitude makes us wonder that there are so many, and that our path is not strewed thick with ills. And, of things which are good, some are more desirable than others. We can compare them with one another, as good and better and best. But what can we compare with Christ? Shall we merely call him the best of all things, the highest good, allowing other things to be good alongside of him? No; he is the incomparable good, and, if other things are to be thought of at all in comparison with him, they are dross, refuse; while he alone is entitled to be called good. Excellent it may be in comparison with many other things; in comparison with him they have no positive value, but fall below the point of good. He is incomparable in his moral excellence. Challenged to say what our Beloved is more than another beloved, after exhausting all comparisons, we may well say, "Yea, he is altogether lovely." He is the bright, full manifestation of the beauty of God. He is incomparable, in the blessing he has procured for us. What are all earthly blessings in comparison with the salvation of the soul? If they are to be compared at all, are they not to be put down as dross, perishable, worthless, while the salvation of the soul alone stands the eternal tests?
(2) All things are to be pursued only for Christ. He alone is to be sought as our supreme End. On him alone we are to set our hearts in the full compass of their affection. Christ begins by saying, "Lovest thou me more than these?" and, after putting others out of comparison, he still continues to press the question, "Lovest thou me?" and again, "Lovest thou me?"—that our affection may more and more be drawn up toward him. Hear him again saying, "He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me." That is to say, our love to father, to mother, to child, is to be subordinated to our love to Christ. Hear him again using startling language, "If any man cometh unto me and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." That is to say, we are to be so independent of them as even to hate them as coming between us and our supreme End. All things are to be as dross when it is a question of duty to Christ. We are to be willing to part with earthly emoluments and expectations, as though they were utterly worthless, when it is necessary to our obtaining Christ as our Savior, or to our proving our faithfulness to him. We are to be willing even to part with our dearest friends, as having no absolute claim to them, at the call of Christ. Only there is to be noticed, for our comfort, that, when we pursue our earthly calling and love our earthly friends for the sake of Christ, esteeming them as dross in themselves and to be parted with as dross at the call of Christ, then it is true that they are redeemed from their worthlessness and are made to partake of the worthiness of Christ. The true wisdom, then, is to use all things, even our friends, as means, to make Christ alone the End.
V. THE GAIN THAT CHRIST IS. "And be found in him." The apostle desired to be regarded by God, and by man too, as within Christ as the sphere and element of his life. Thus it is that Christ becomes gain.
1. Beginning. "Not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." His former thought was to have a righteousness of his own, i.e. a righteousness wrought out from his own resources, of which he was the efficient cause, and to which, therefore, he could lay meritorious claim, of which he could boast. In another aspect it was a righteousness which was of the Law, i.e. which proceeded from its commands being followed. And so completely was he considered to have succeeded that, as he says in the sixth verse, he was found blameless. But a new light was thrown in upon this righteousness, which showed it to be utterly worthless. And he was led to abandon it for the sake of another righteousness which was to be found within Christ. · This righteousness he laid hold of by faith. The object of his faith was Christ, i.e. as having wrought out a righteousness infinitely worthy and well-pleasing to God, in the possession of which he was at once and fully justified, obtaining eternal covenant standing before God. This is a righteousness which is of God, i.e. of which God is the efficient cause, of which, therefore, he has all the glory. It is only ours by faith, or, as it should be translated, upon faith, i.e. as made over to us it rests upon a basis of faith.
2. Glance forward to the end. "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection." The object of our justification is that we may know Christ especially in connection with his resurrection. The resurrection was the crowning point of his life. It showed him to be completely victorious over sin and death. It was the Father's seal upon his work on earth. The power of his resurrection is most naturally regarded as the power which it has to make us personally victorious over sin and death. The "knowing" seems to belong to the present; state, inasmuch as it is followed by suffering and dying. We know the power of his resurrection in our being quickened together with him; but this not by itself. We know it rather as the earnest of a power that will make us completely victorious over sin and death. We think of the resurrection of Christ as a power exercised from the future. It is that by which we are being moulded, up to which we are being drawn.
3. The fact noted that we must suffer and die before coming to the resurrection from the dead. "And the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death; if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead." The mere fact of our suffering does not bring us into fellowship with Christ in his sufferings. Our sufferings must have a Christian character. There was a specialty n the apostle's sufferings. He was notably a sufferer for the cause of Christ, a sufferer in place of others, in some such way as Christ was a sufferer in place of others. It is this element of vicariousness that prominence is given to in his remarkable language to the Colossians, "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his body's sake which is the Church." But the language is not to be restricted to vicarious sufferings. Inasmuch as our ordinary sufferings are appointed by Christ, inasmuch as they are to be endured in the spirit in which Christ endured, inasmuch as Christ is to be magnified in them, we also may have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings. We may aspire to drink of the cup that he drank of, to be baptized with the baptism wherewith he was baptized. The apostle thinks of his sufferings as having their consummation in his death. His sufferings made him look forward to death; and the kind of sufferings made him look forward to martyrdom. And how did he contemplate his martyrdom? As a being conformed unto Christ's death. His ambition was that his death, whenever it happened, should bear the stamp of Christ's death. The process of conformation was already begun. He was becoming conformed unto Christ's death. In another place he refers to himself as "hearing about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus." He protested that he was dying daily. In his sufferings, in the uncertainty as to his life, he was becoming accustomed to die. And he was taking that form which was to be completed in his martyrdom. Our circumstances do not point to our needing to die a martyr's death. But inasmuch as it is Christ. who appoints our dying, inasmuch as we are called to die in the spirit in which Christ died, inasmuch as we are called to magnify Christ in our dying, we also may cherish the ambition of our having the stamp of Christ's death on ours. And in our present sufferings, in the constant uncertainty of life, we should already be receiving its form. The apostle wished to be in the closest accord with Christ in his sufferings and death, if by any means he should attain unto the resurrection from the dead. He founds upon our Lord's language, "But they that are accounted worthy to attain to that world, and the resurrection from the dead." This is what is called the first resurrection. "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection." This points us to the full manifestation of the power of Christ's resurrection. It marks the obtaining of (he condition, viz. the reunion of soul and body, upon which our perfected existence depends. It is putting the crown, once and for ever, upon our life. The apostle feels that the object is difficult of attainment. He will try all means of attaining to it. He will even drink of the cup of Christ's suffering; he will have the stamp of Christ's death on his, if that will secure its attainment.
VI. TWO ELEMENTS IN HIS STRIVING.
(1) He is humble. "Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect." At the root of his striving there was the consciousness that he had not already obtained, i.e. the resurrection from the dead, or was already made perfect, i.e. in the disposition which was necessary for obtaining the resurrection from the dead.
(2) He is intent on his aim. "But I press on, if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus." The apostle had been apprehended by Christ Jesus at his conversion. The power of a Stronger than he had been laid upon him, arresting him in his sinful career. This was with a view to his obtaining the resurrection from the dead. In sympathy with Christ in this aim he had made it his own aim, and was now pressing on that he might without fail apprehend it, have it safely within his grasp.
2. Illustrated. The illustration of the racer, already suggested, is now distinctly brought out.
(1) He is humble. "Brethren, I count not myself yet to have apprehended." There is no greater obstacle to success than self-esteem. The runner who, in his preparation or at any point in the race (which is principally to be thought of), counts that he has apprehended, i.e. makes himself sure of gaining the prize, calculates that he has safely distanced all competitors, is likely in the end to be unsuccessful. Paul was a runner in the Christian race. And he had made great progress from the starting-point toward the goal. He was a very different man in Christian experience, in power of service, from what he was when apprehended on the road to Damascus. But he would have the Philippian brethren know, for their benefit, seeing their danger was self-esteem, that he did not count himself to have apprehended, i.e. did not make himself sure of having all that was needed for grasping the prize. The inevitable effect of such a disposition would have been the relaxation of his energies, which would have made him a loser of the glorious prize within his reach.
(2) He is intent on his aim. "But one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Of the man intent on his aim there is no better illustration than the runner in the race. This one thing he does. For this he has girt up his loins, gathered his scattered energies into a unity. He does not self-contentedly occupy himself with the things which are behind, i.e. the part of the course that has been traversed. That would be to distract his attention and to give away an advantage. Upon the traversed course his back is turned, his eye does not wander back over it and measure its extent, it is even banished wholly from his memory, there is room in his mind for only one thing. He stretches forward to the things which are before, i.e. the part of the course that is yet to be traversed. His eye stretches away over it, and, as Bengel puts it, the eye reaching before draws on the hand, and the hand reaching before draws on the foot. See how his energies are on the stretch and are bent toward their aim. Mark where he is at present, and see him again how he is steadily, unweariedly, pressing on. His thought is to be the first to grasp that pole which is the goal—the first to grasp it, then he shall be called forward by the president of the games to obtain the prize, to be crowned with the laurel. Such a runner was Paul. One thing he did. He had a singular unity of purpose, even when he was mistaken in his end. As a Christian runner he girt up the loins of his mind, gathered his scattered energies into a unity, brought them to his one purpose. He did not please himself by dwelling on the past, telling the Philippians and others what he had accomplished. No; his thought was what was yet to be accomplished. What was there yet possible to him of Christian experience, of Christian usefulness? It was over this that his eye was stretched. It was toward this as an earnest runner that his energies were bent. See him when he is writing one Epistle, how earnest he is! See him again when there is taken up another production of his pen, how he is still pressing on! As he comes nearer the goal, with associations of martyrdom, how he increases in eagerness! His thought is to grasp what God had appointed him in his earthly career of Christian perfection. And, grasping that, then he knew that the great President of the games, seated high in heaven, would, in God's Name, call him forth to receive the immortal prize, to crown him with the unfading laurel.
VII. THREEFOLD EXHORTATION.
1. Let us aspire after higher attainment in the future. "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded." There is a distinction to be made between those who are perfect and those who are made perfect. The perfect (as the Greek word suggests) are those who are in sympathy with the end and in the right course, although they have not yet come to the end or are made perfect. There may thus be a kind of perfection from the beginning. But especially are those perfect who, when opportunity has been given, have gone on from the state of babes or mere starters in the race to a certain maturity of Christian experience. Opportunity being given, we should be numbered amongst the perfect, those who have attained to a certain skill in running. "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded." Let us not be satisfied with present attainment. Let us feel the attraction of the goal of Christian perfection. Let our eye stretch forward as over the intervening space up to this goal. Let our energies be bent as toward that which is difficult of attainment, toward that which will require all our singleness and intensity. And, for our own encouragement, let us also feel the attraction of the prize. Let us feel the attraction of the moment when, for faithfulness to him and to his end in apprehending us, the righteous Judge shall call us forward to receive the crown of righteousness.
2. Let us pray against present error. "And if in anything ye are otherwise minded, even this shall God reveal unto you." It is a case which is very likely to occur. We may be earnest in the main, and yet there may be some particular thing in regard to which we are self-satisfied, about which we are not sufficiently enlightened, and so we wander from the right course. Who can understand his errors? Under the consciousness of our own inability to understand, let us have recourse to God. The promise here is that he wilt discover every particular mistake to us. Let us look to God to show us wherein we are in error. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
3. Let us learn from past attainment. "Only, whereunto we have already attained, by that same rule let us walk." We may not go to past attainment for self-contentment, but we may go for lessons to be learnt. If we have attained to any skill in the Christian race, it is because we have followed the Bible as our rule. It has prescribed to us our course. Let us hold fast that which we have proved to be good. Let us act on the same principles on which we have hitherto acted in any attainment we have made. Let there be "faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth unto us the blessings of redemption." Following the rules we shall unfailingly advance up to the goal and receive the prize.—R.F.
Contrasted character's and destinies.
I. WHOM TO LOOK TO. "Brethren, be ye imitators together of me, and mark them which so walk even as ye have us for an ensample." There was no assumption in Paul putting himself before the Philippians for their imitation. He was simply proceeding on what belonged to the relation subsisting between them. It devolved on Timothy to be an example to believers in the various places where he labored in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity. So it devolved on Paul, as having the care of the Gentile Churches, to walk before them so that they might be directed in their walk. And, although he did not count himself perfect, yet he had earnestly endeavored to come up to this idea of his duty. He had carried his faithfulness to Christ to the extent of suffering imprisonment for him for a long period. In a brotherly manner, then, he asked them to imitate him. Let them hold to Christ under all circumstances. Let them not refuse the hardships to be endured in his service. Others were imitators of him and were proving themselves valiant for Christ and against persecution. Let them also be numbered among his imitators. He did not set himself exclusively forward for their imitation. He leaves the singular for the plural. "As ye have us for an example." He could join with himself other Christian teachers known to the Philippians. There was one type according to which they walked. Mark them among them who followed this type. "Mark the perfect man," says the psalmist. The New Testament form given to it by Paul is that we are to mark those who have, in their walk, the common Christian features.
II. WHOM TO TAKE WARNING FROM. There were others who walked differently. We are apparently to think of them as nominal Christians—owning the cross of Christ in their profession, disowning it in their practice.
1. Feelings with which the apostle calls attention to them. "For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping.' In this Paul echoes the words of the psalmist, "Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy Law." He echoes the words of the weeping prophet, "Hear ye, and give car; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and while ye look for light he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride: and mine eye shall weep sore and run down with tears." Chrysostom says here, "Paul weeps for those over whom other men laugh and are uproarious." It is an aggravating circumstance when men dishonor the Christian circle with which they are connected. But there is this, that Christ needed to weep over us when we were sinners, and still needs to weep over us for the sin which doth so easily beset us. And the more that others are in a state of sin, there is only the more need for our weeping over them and desiring their emancipation from their unhappy thraldom. Another circumstance which led to the tears of the apostle was their number. There were many who had disgraced their Christian profession. It was like a catastrophe involving the loss of many lives. But why did the apostle tell this to the Philippians? Why had he not been content with telling them once? Why had he continued telling them in his addresses when with them and in his messages when absent? Why, as he now thinks of it, with the pen in his hand or dictating to his amanuensis, do the tears begin to flow? It was because, being many, there was danger of this class appearing also in the Church of Philippi. Persistently, tearfully would he endeavor to stave off, to prevent, such a catastrophe.
2. Described generally.
(1) Character. "That they are the enemies of the cross of Christ." It is said of the heathen that they refused to have God in their knowledge. It is said of the Colossians in their heathen state that they were enemies in their mind in their evil works. It is in darker colors that the persons before us are painted. They are enemies of God, not in his unity or spirituality, but in the brightest exhibition of his moral excellence. The cross of Christ is a great fact, of which the great expression is this, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." The cross of Christ is God approaching men in greatest kindness—kindness displayed to his foes, kindness fitted to subdue the most hostile. It is the condemnation of the persons before us that, having had the cross of Christ presented to them so that they could not refuse to acknowledge the justice of its claims, they yet did not in reality yield to its claims, but opposed their will to the Divine benignity.
(2) End. "Whose end is perdition." It is an oppressive thought, that this should be the end of any who have been created for God's glory. But it is the inevitable consequence of opposing the cross of Christ. As the Foundation-stone of the Church, when not used as Foundation, is to become the Stone of vengeance, so the cross of Christ, when not used as the instrument of salvation, is to become the instrument of perdition. It is as though a beautiful work of art, on which much loving labor has been expended, were taken and broken into a thousand fragments. So is every one the object of perdition in his spiritual nature, lost to beauty and usefulness and happiness, who does not submit to the saving power of Christ.
3. Described more particularly.
(1) Indulgent of appetite. "Whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame." The apostle writes to the Roman Christians of those who served net our Lord Christ, but their own belly. They are described in more startling language here, as making a god of their belly. That is to say, the place belonging to God is usurped by the very lowest part of their nature: We are to eat and drink in order that we may do the great business of life; these make it the great business of life to eat and drink. Their supreme concern is, "What shall we eat, and what shall we drink?" To this object, as devotees, they consecrate their thoughts, their energies. As professed Christians, they should glory in the cross of Christ; their real antagonism to the cross comes out in their glorying in what is fitted to pamper appetite. It is glorying in their shame. It is unworthy of rational men, it is especially unworthy of men who profess to be Christians, that they should be taken up with their eating and drinking. It is taking the glory which belongs to them as made for God, as intended for a Christian immortality, and giving it to their animal nature. It is in gluttony, and also in drunkenness, stupefying themselves, obscuring their vision of God, unfitting themselves for his service. And those deserve to be covered with shame who so walk.
(2) Class to which they are referred. "Who mind earthly things." They belong to the earthly order of things; within it, their thoughts and interests are confined. One characteristic of the earthly is its perishableness. Such Epicureans as are here referred to make this even a reason for their indulgence of appetite, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." But what a skeleton does this introduce into their feasts! "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall bring to nought both it and them." Without being Epicureans and taken up with our eating and drinking, we may mind earthly things. If our minds do not rise above our earthly business, then we are living within the earthly order of things, that which is lower and which is doomed to perish.
"The cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherits shall dissolve,
And, like the insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind."
III. THE CHRISTIAN COMMONWEALTH
1. Its seat. "For our citizenship is in heaven." More exactly it is the state in connection with which we have citizenship. We properly belong to a heavenly order of things. And this points to the possession of higher privileges.
(1) Right of access to the sovereigns. This is very rarely taken advantage of under an earthly polity. We cannot weary our heavenly Sovereign by our frequent approaches to him, if only we are sincere. In Christ we have an established place before him. And our present mode of access to him by prayer will be turned into an eternal abiding with him.
(2) Right of protection. If a British citizen is within the law in travelling or trading within the bounds of a foreign state, he may rely upon the British power for his protection. Earth is like a foreign state to Christians; we may rely upon Christ meantime defending us from all our enemies. And ultimately he will withdraw us from the presence of enemies, to dwell entirely under the shadow of the Almighty.
(3) Right of education. It is right that a state should make provision for the education of all who are to be its citizens. The British state, to a certain extent, acts upon this principle. As Christian citizens, there is provision for our education, in the Bible and the ordinance of the ministry. And ultimately we shall be directly taught of God.
(4) Right of maintenance. The new-made citizen of a town has the right of trading within its boundaries for the purpose of maintenance. As citizens standing in a right relation to our liege Lord, he undertakes our maintenance in this world. And ultimately he will call us to sit at his own table.
2. Obtaining the condition necessary for the full enjoyment of privileges.
(1) He who obtains the condition. "From whence also we wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." The seat of the polity to which we belong being in the heavens, it is fitting that our aspiration should be heavenward. Our great Hope in that would is Christ, who has taken possession in our name. We wait for him to come, with his saving power, to us on earth, i.e. to bring us out of present disabilities, and to bring us into the full enjoyment of privileges.
(2) The condition to be obtained. "Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his' glory." (a) Transformation from a psychical body to a spiritual body. Our present body is psychical—so it is called in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians—i.e. it answers to our lower or animal nature. It has a certain material grossness about it; and it is very much hemmed in by material surroundings. Christ at his resurrection exchanged the psychical body which he shared with us for a spiritual body—so it is named, i.e. it is a body answering to our higher or spiritual nature, as the present body answers to our lower or animal nature. As seen in him, it was a body to which matter was no barrier. He appeared in the midst of his disciples when the doors were shut. It was a body to which distance was completely conquered. With it, when the time came, he could, at once and of his own accord, go up into heaven, only lingering in view for the sake of those whom he left behind. And his spiritual body is to rule the form of ours. (b) Transformation from the state of the Fall to the state of redemption. Our present body is called the body of humiliation. It is so in the aspect we have already considered. It is especially so in that the Fall has left its mark upon it as well as upon the soul. It is a body that is subject to weakness and disease terminating in death and corruption. Humiliation reaches its depth when this body becomes the prey of worms. Christ, in the body of his flesh, was subjected to the humiliation of weakness and suffering. He was also subjected to the humiliation of death. And, in addition, he was subjected to the humiliation of burial. At his resurrection the body of his humiliation, which had not seen corruption, was exchanged for the body of his glory, of which we can form some conception from the description of him as he appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration, and also as he was seen by the prisoner of Patmos in heaven. It was a body which bore a certain relation to previous humiliation; for there were the marks of the wounds in his hands and in his side. We are to think of it as a body which has received immortal power and beauty. And that gloriously transformed body of Christ is to rule the form of ours.
(3) Guarantee for the condition being obtained. "According to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself." Following upon his resurrection was his being invested with universal power. "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." The final adjustment will bear witness to his being able to subdue all things unto himself, i.e. unto his thought, his way of adjusting things. We may, therefore, feel assured, seeing that is his thought, that he will subdue the present material fallen body to the spiritual glorious type, which he has asserted in his own resurrection-body. This condition being obtained, we shall be admitted as Christian citizens to full privileges.—R.F.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
Rejoicing, eschewing, and imitating.
"Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord," etc. These verses present three subjects for reflection—the Being to rejoice in, the men to avoid, the worship to imitate.
I. THE BEING TO REJOICE IN. "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord." "The Lord" means undoubtedly Jesus Christ, the Savior of all men. But why rejoice in him?
1. Because of his-peerless excellence. He is the morally beautiful. Every moral virtue is united, harmonized, and coruscates in his character. Nothing inspires the heart with higher and purer joy than beauty. Admiration is happiness of a high type. The admiration of art is a joy, the admiration of nature a greater joy, the admiration of moral excellence is the highest joy of all. "Rejoice in the Lord."
2. Because of his riled relationship. He is our dearest Friend, cur elder Brother, our all-merciful, and almighty Redeemer. Well might we rejoice in such a relationship. "My Beloved is mine, and I am his."
3. Because of his benevolent enterprise. What philanthropic heart does not rejoice in the enterprise of any man to mitigate the woes and increase the happiness of his species? But what an enterprise is the enterprise of Christ! It is to break every fetter, unlock every prison door, dispel every cloud of ignorance and sorrow; it is to tread all human evils in the dust, hush all sorrows, wipe away all tears from off all faces. Well might the apostle enjoin the Philippians to "rejoice in the Lord." Sad that such an injunction should be required, for it might well have been supposed that all who knew the Lord would "rejoice" in him. This is a command, as truly a command as the command to believe, repent, not to steal, not to murder; and to break this command is as great a sin as to break any command in the Decalogue. To be happy in the Lord—and there is happiness nowhere else—is a moral obligation.
II. THE MEN TO AVOID. "To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous [irksome], but for you it is safe." What things does the apostle mean? Manifestly the warning which follows, "Beware of dogs, beware of evil-workers." The apostle here characterizes a class of men as "dogs." In Revelation 22:15 this class—there also called dogs—are described as excluded from the kingdom of heaven. Christ to the Syro-phoenician woman spoke of the Gentiles as dogs (Matthew 15:26). He did this, however, in accordance with the usage of his countrymen. Elsewhere the heavenly Teacher speaks of some men as "swine." The temperaments, disposition, and characters of men are widely different. "All flesh is not the same flesh." The men against whom the apostle warns the Philippians here were:
1. Men of a canine spirit. Ill-tempered men, snarling at all who differed from them. Who does not know men of the dog spirit? The querulous tone, the curl of scorn on the lip, the sardonic grin, reveal their canine nature.
2. Men of a canine spirit, who were in connection with the Church. "Beware of evil-workers, beware of the concision." They were Judaizing teachers, who endeavored to turn away men from the simplicity of the gospel by promoting Jewish rites and ceremonies, and thus they were evil-doers. Show me the man whose religion is sensuous, ritualistic, and technical, and you will show me the man who in all probability displays this canine spirit. A more ill-natured class of men I have never known than members of Calvinistic, Antinomian, and Ritualistic Churches; and they reveal more of the dog than of the angel. Now, Paul says avoid such, do not argue with them, do not "cast pearls before swine," do not put yourself in their power, stand aloof from them, heed neither their bark nor their grin.
III. THE WORSHIP TO IMITATE. "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." The worship here is marked by three things.
1. By spirituality. "Worship God in the Spirit."
2. By joyousness. "Rejoice in Christ Jesus." There is no worship without happiness; true worship is happiness.
3. By Divine confidence. "Have no confidence in the flesh."—D.T.
The cost and the value of personal Christianity.
"Though I might also have confidence in the flesh," etc. Notice—
I. THE COST WHICH THE APOSTLE PAID FOR HIS CHRISTIANITY. Metaphorically he sold a property that he at one time valued beyond, all price, and that his countrymen regarded as the wealthiest inheritance. Here he gives a summary of the distinguished privileges which belonged to him.
1. He refers to his Church status. "Circumcised the eighth day." Therefore not a proselyte, but a Jew. By this rite he became a member of the great Jewish commonwealth, or, as some call it, the Jewish Church.
2. He refers to his illustrious ancestry. "Of the stock of Israel." A true scion of the royal race. "Of the tribe of Benjamin." The tribe from whence came many of their distinguished monarchs, and the tribe to whom belonged the holy city.
3. He refers to his religious persuasion. "An Hebrew of the Hebrews." Elsewhere he says, "I truly am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the Law of the fathers, and was zealous before God" (Acts 22:3, Acts 22:4). A thorough Hebrew. Paul had something to boast of here. In his veins ran the blood which had quivered amid Egyptian plagues and rushed to the hearts of those that heard the voice of Sinai's trumpet.
4. He refers to his zealous devotedness. "Concerning zeal, persecuting the Church." He carried out his religious convictions with such zeal that he persecuted all who differed from him. Which is the worse—enthusiasm in a bad cause or lazy profession in a good one?
5. He refers to his ceremonial righteousness. "Touching the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless." All the commandments he kept "from his youth up." Such were the privileges that Paul enjoyed, and to him, as well as to his countrymen, they were beyond all price.
II. THE VALUE WHICH THE APOSTLE ATTACHED TO HIS CHRISTIANITY. He gave up Judaism with its gorgeous ritual and mighty memories and matchless histories, and does this for Christianity. Does he regret the loss, deplore the costly sacrifice? No. "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." When he practically accepted the religion of Jesus, all that he once gloried in became contemptible. "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus." Christianity is the science of sciences. Three remarks will illustrate the incalculable value of this science.
1. It accords with all true sciences.
2. It encourages all true sciences.
3. It transcends all true sciences.
Chrysostom says, "When the sun doth appear it is loss to sit by a candle."—D.T.
Phases of Christ.
"I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." Paul presents Christ in four aspects.
I. As A PRIZE. "That I may win Christ." What is it to win Christ? It is something more than to become acquainted with his biography, something more than to understand the doctrines he taught or the theory of his life and mission. To gain him is to gain his moral spirit. His moral spirit is himself—that which marked him off from all other men that have lived—that is the Christ. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
II. AS A REST. "Found in him." For the soul to be found in Christ is to be found in his character. We are all living in the characters of others. The unregenerate world lives in the fallen character of Adam. The regenerate world lives in Christ, in the character of Christ. Resting in his character as the branch rests in the trunk of the tree, deriving from it its life, its form, its hue, its fruit. Oh to live in his character, in his spotless purity, in his immeasurable love, in his matchless excellence! Those who do so will not have their "own righteousness, which is of the Law," etc., but his moral rectitude.
III. AS A THEME. "That I may know him." The knowledge here does not mean intellectual knowledge, but heart-knowledge, experimental knowledge.
1. Know him by experience personally. Before you can know a person you must have the spirit that animates him. Love alone can interpret love, etc.
2. Know by experience the power of his resurrection. All the spiritual significance and benefits of his resurrection from the dead.
3. Know by experience his sufferings. "Have fellowship with his sufferings." There are three kinds of suffering:
(1) those in which Christ could have no fellowship;
(2) those which he experienced, and in which men could have no fellowship; and
(3) those in which men are bound to have fellowship with Christ.
We are commanded to be partakers of some of his sufferings.
(1) We should have fellowship with the intense regret which he felt on account of the existence of moral evil. The fact of evil sat as a mountain of agony on the heart of Christ. Sin was a horrible thing to him, the "abominable thing "which he hated.
(2) We should have fellowship with the sorrowful sympathies which he had for the sufferings of men. His tears over Jerusalem, etc.
(3) We should have fellowship with those sufferings which he endured on account of the dishonor sin does to the infinite Father.
IV. AS A MODEL. "Conformable unto his death." What does this mean? To die in the manner which he died on the cross? No. But to live and die in the mood he did, which was self-sacrifice. He died, not for himself, but for others. "He gave himself a ransom for many." Self-sacrificing love is the essence of personal Christianity, and nothing else.—D.T.
The Grecian racecourse was well known to Paul and to all his readers, and hence he often uses it as a figure to illustrate the Christian life. The subject is spiritual advancement, onwardness in Divine excellence. The words suggest that this progress implies three things.
I. A CONSCIOUS DISSATISFACTION WITH THE PRESENT. By this I mean, not dissatisfaction with the events and circumstances of life—Divine providences—this would be foolish and impious, but with present moral attainments, for he says, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect." He was not satisfied with his present assimilation to Christ. He painfully felt the discrepancy. This dissatisfaction is ever the first step in soul-progress and the impelling motive afterwards. Indeed, dissatisfaction with present attainments is the spring of all advancement in everything in life. Dissatisfied with huts, men build houses; with the loose skin of beasts for their covering, they manufacture garments; with caligraphy, they invent the printing-press; with waggons, they construct steam-engines. He who feels satisfied with what he has, whether it be material, mental, or spiritual, will never seek to lay hold of something yet unattained.
II. A COMPARATIVE OBLIVIOUSNESS TO THE PAST. "Forgetting those things which are behind." The Olympic racer did not look behind him on the course, but on to the goal until he reached and grasped the pole. In soul-onwardness there must be a comparative obliviousness. We say comparative. Of course there must be and ought to be remembrances of past mercies to inspire our gratitude, of past sins to humble us before God. But attention to the past should be as nothing to that which we give to the future. Let the past go: it is irreparable and unavailing; the grand future must loom before us and absorb the soul. Look not behind you. Keep your eyes right onward upon the enchanting scenes that are spread out on the sunny heights.
III. A CONCENTRATED STRUGGLE FOR THE FUTURE. "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The prize of the Grecian racer was a garland of olive, or laurel, or pine, or apple. What is the moral prize? Moral perfection. To this all men are divinely called in Christ. In the true moral race men are to reach forth, not after happiness as an end, but after holiness; not after Paradise, but after perfection. This requires concentration. There must be no half-heartedness, no divided faculties; it must be the one thing; the whole soul must be set upon it. Concentration is essential to success in almost every department of life. Noah built his ark because he concentrated his being on the work. Abraham lived a pilgrim life because he set his heart on a city that had a foundation. Napoleon became nearly the master of Europe because he had set his heart on the infernal work. Demosthenes became one of the greatest orators of the world because oratory was the work on which he set his heart. So in all things. The attainment of holiness must be the "one thing" in life. Learning, literature, business, recreation, must be rendered subservient to this "one thing."—D.T.
"Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample." Three thoughts are suggested here concerning moral perfections.
I. THAT MORAL PERFECTION IS ATTAINABLE IN THIS LIFE. "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect." What is the perfection? No being is absolutely perfect but God; fallibility belongs to all rational creatureship. The perfection consists in the ruling principle of action, and that is supreme sympathy with the supremely Good. This is a thing perfect in itself; it can be strengthened, but is incapable of any modification. The perfection is, therefore, that of the embryo of character. The acorn is perfect as an acorn, not as an oak; the babe is perfect as a babe, not as a man; the dawn is perfect as a dawn, not as a noon. There is incompletion in development, but completion in the rudimental clement. All Christians have this or they are not Christians.
II. THAT THE MORAL PERFECTION ATTAINABLE IN THIS LIFE IS ESSENTIALLY PROGRESSIVE. Hence Paul speaks of "pressing towards the mark," of" walking by the same rule." The germinal principle is essentially growable. All life struggles for advancement. The acorn struggles to rise into majestic forests, infants into men, the unfledged eagle to soar into the heavens and to bask itself in sunny azure. Life not only creates its own organization, but goes on strengthening and enlarging it. There is the blade, the ear, the full corn in the ear.
III. THAT PROGRESS IN MORAL PERFECTION IS AN URGENT OBLIGATION. "Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." Like all life, it has not only an instinct and a capacity for growth, but it has a moral obligation to grow. There is no obligation on plantal or irrational life to grow, but on moral life it presses with all the force of the Divine will. The progress is here indicated by four things.
1. By a walk. "Let us walk." Walking implies life, deliberation, and onwardness.
2. By a walk in loving union with others. "Let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." We are so constituted that social intercourse is essential to the quickening, the development, and the satisfying of our natures. The society that is required for this is the society who attend" the same rule, mind the same thing," one in supreme aim and purpose. Thus walking, the soul advances, gets not only new energy for the old faculties, but new faculties developed.
3. By following the best examples. All life has its archetypes or ideals. The growth of true moral life requires this; hence Paul says, "Be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample." He does not say, I am a perfect example. But, on the contrary, he says, elsewhere, "Be ye followers of me, even as I am a follower of Christ." Be followers of me so far as I follow Christ.
CONCLUSION. Perseverance in goodness, then, is not to be preached as a doctrine, but propounded as a law and urged as a duty.—D.T.
Philippians 3:18, Philippians 3:19
Conventional Christians as viewed by genuine.
"For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things." The apostle here refers to those who had joined the Christian Church, but whose hearts were unchanged and whose theology was antinomian. In sooth they were mere nominal Christians, having a name to live, but were dead. Observe—
I. THAT THE CONDUCT OF MERE PROFESSORS OF CHRISTIANITY IS VERY BAD IN THE EYES OF GENUINE CHRISTIANS. To the eye of Paul, who was Christly in spirit, idea, and aim, the conduct of these men was revolting and lamentable. It appeared to him:
1. As and-Christian. "They are the enemies of the cross of Christ." Enemies not to the mere fact of the cross. To this, perhaps, they would have no hostility, but otherwise. But to the spirit of the cross, which was self-sacrificing love, they were practically opposed; they did not "take up the cross" and deny themselves. Theoretically they believed, in it, practically they denied it. For some reasons the greatest "enemies of the cross" are mere conventional Christians; they practically deny that which they profess theoretically to believe. All selfish, carnal, formalistic, ritualistic men are "enemies of the cross of Christ," and they are "many."
2. As ruinous. "Whose end is destruction." The conduct of the genuine Christian is restorative; that of the spurious or conventional, ruinous. Sin, the principle of death, is in it. "When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
3. As sensual. Their sensuality is here indicated:
(1) By a particular carnal indulgence. "Whose god is their belly." They ate and drank, not merely to allay the cravings of appetite and to sustain their frame, but in order to gratify their gastric tastes and sensibilities. The table to them was greater than science, literature, the universe; it was their "god."
(2) By a general habit of mind. "Who mind earthly things." No man should disparage "earthly things." The earth is the production, the revelation, and the minister of God, and to appreciate it as a school of instruction, a temple of worship, and a means of subsistence is what all should do. But to "mind earthly things," to live entirely in them and for them, this is the wrong; and conventional Christians as well as heathens and worldlings do this. They "set their affections on them," seek their glory from them, and look for their happiness in them. They are practical materialists, though theoretic spiritualists.
II. THAT THE CONDUCT OF MERE PROFESSORS OF CHRISTIANITY IS VERY HEART-DISTRESSING TO GENUINE CHRISTIANS. "Of whom I tell you even weeping." The sight of a genuine tear has an electric force; no eloquence so mighty. Such a tear streaming from the eye of a weak woman is powerful, from a strong man more powerful, from a man of transcendent greatness it is the most mighty moral force. Such a man was Paul, and a greater than Paul never lived; and here he is in tears. "Of whom I tell you even weeping." Such a man must have had a strong reason for such tears. Why did he weep?
1. Because the conduct of such mere conventional Christians was a mal-representation of Christ, the chief object of his love. Nominal Christians are the great slanderers and calumniators of the world's Redeemer. That man who ignores Christ is a saint compared to him who calumniates him. Such is the mere nominal Christian. All genuine Christians may well weep at the conduct of conventional Christians, who constitute the vast majority of our population, and are the reigning "principalities" in Church and state.
2. Because the conduct of such mere conventional Christians obstructs the progress of spiritual Christianity in the world. As obstructives to the flowing river of spiritual Christianity in the world, the Bradlaughs, as compared to the hireling preachers and the un-Christly members of Churches, are but as small pebbles to huge boulders. The waters roll comparatively smoothly over the former, but are chafed and blocked by the latter.
CONCLUSION. It is time, brothers, for us to estimate truly and to feel deeply the awful incongruity between the spirit of modern Churches and the spirit of Christianity. Talk about converting the world, the first thing to be done is to convert the Church!
Philippians 3:20, Philippians 3:21
The blessedness of the Christly.
"For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the [a] Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, [who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory] according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue [subject] all things unto himself." The word πολίτευμα which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, does not mean "speech" or "conduct," but "citizenship." The word "is" is emphatic, signifying "actually exists." If we are Christly our citizenship is not something to be, but is now. The passage, therefore, reveals to us glorious facts connected with the life of a Christly man.
I. HE IS A CITIZEN OF THE HIGHEST STATE. He is "in heaven"—heaven the glorious metropolis of God's spiritual empire. But how can this be? Is not heaven millions of leagues away, far beyond the reach or ken of men? Suppose it so, citizenship is not dependent on distance. Are not those at the antipodes citizens of the same commonwealth as ourselves? Two things make us citizens of a state.
1. That we be governed by its laws. What are the laws of heaven? The laws of love. In the New Testament these laws are sometimes called "the law of life," the "law of liberty," etc. Love is the supreme law of heaven, and every genuine Christian is governed by this law.
2. That we be invested with its rights. What are the rights which a good government secures to its citizens? Protection, liberty, freedom, facilities for advancement. Heaven secures all these to its citizens, wherever they are, on this planet or on any other. A Christly man enjoys perfect guardianship, glorious liberty, and facilities for everlasting progress.
II. HE IS A SUBJECT OF THE HIGHEST HOPES. Not only is a Christly man a citizen of heaven now, enjoying all its rights, but he is looking for, or waiting for, something glorious in the future.
1. The advent of a Savior. "From whence also we look for the Savior." Waiting for the return of him who is the supreme Object of his love. This attitude of mind implies four things.
(1) A belief that his Savior is somewhere in existence.
(2) A conviction that there is a period when he will appear.
(3) A consciousness of fitness to meet him.
(4) An assurance that his advent is desirable.
2. A glorious transformation. "Who shall change our vile body"—"body of humiliation.'' The body is not normally vile; not vile, either, in its organization or functions. As an organism it is exquisitely perfect—" fearfully and wonderfully made;" but in its abnormal state it is "vile" by reason of the diseases to which it is subject, the uses to which it is put, and the undue influence which its pampered appetites have obtained over the intellect, conscience, soul. But a glorious transformation awaits it.
(1) The model. "His glorious body." How glorious was his resurrection-body as he ascended to the heavens! How glorious will it appear as he comes on a great white throne to judge the world! The transformation to be wrought in this body is described in 1 Corinthians 15:42-54. Observe:
(2) The agency. "According to the working." That is, in virtue of the effectual working of his power to subject all things to himself. His power is not a dormant element, but an active force, a force working towards glorious results on behalf of his genuine disciples.—D.T.
HOMILIES BY V. HUTTON
I. ITS NECESSITY. In ordinary life there must be much of sameness. The same duties, occupations, interests, events, occur from day to day. The same temptations have to be met by the same spiritual weapons. This is very clearly scan when our duties are concerned with the training and teaching of others. The same faults must be rebuked, the same advice given, the same disappointments experienced.
II. ITS TEDIOUSNESS. Many feel this keenly and long for a greater variety and a life full of excitement and change.
III. ITS SAFETY.
1. For ourselves. Excitement ends in revulsion and exhaustion. Sameness builds up a regulated life. Our characters are formed by the repetition of ideas rather than by experiencing a succession of startling events.
2. For others. In dealing with them it is most important that we should be always the same. There is need of justice, self-control, an even temper, and an absence of caprice and partiality.
IV. ITS DIVINE CHARACTER. God is ever the same and works by his own divinely arranged laws. Our moods and our circumstances change, but our Lord is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Where would be our confidence if he were to change? Blessed to have an unchanging Friend and an unchanging home, where there is rest amidst all the changes of our external lives,—V.W.H.
Philippians 3:2, Philippians 3:3
Identity not to be found in continuity of form, but in harmony of the inner spirit.
I. USELESSNESS OF OUTWARD FORMS WHEN THEIR SPIRIT HAS PASSED OUT or THEM. The Judaizing party clung to their circumcision as if it were their title to acceptance with God. St. Paul shows that, since the substance, of which circumcision was the shadow, has been bestowed upon men, to insist upon the outward form was to forfeit the reality of which it was the forecast. The truly circumcised were such as, with or without the form, worshipped God in spirit and in truth. All forms have a tendency to lose their informing spirit and to become empty husks. If this takes place through the lukewarmness of those who use them, the true remedy is to seek to breathe in them once again the spirit which is their life. If that which was formerly their life now finds truer expression in newer forms, it may be a sign that the old has accomplished its purpose and should now cease to be.
II. OBSOLETE FORMS MAY BE HARMFUL AS WELL AS USELESS. They become so as soon as they are regarded as essential, apart from the inner spirit which makes them live. They then become loss instead of gain, and actual hindrances to the promotion of that which they were designed to promote.
III. SEEK TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN MEANS AND END. This is necessary, not only in the cultivation of spiritual life, but in the promotion of any purpose. Not unfrequently means are so multiplied that the end is obscured rather than forwarded. See that the means used are actually means to the desired end and are not tacitly usurping its place. Even the means of grace may cease to be means of grace.—V.W.H.
Philippians 3:8, Philippians 3:9
The knowledge of Christ the one thing needful.
I. WHAT IT IS. To know him is to know God, and to know God is eternal life. It is not knowledge about him, but knowledge of him, that we need. We must know him as we know a person.
II. HOW WE MUST SEEK THIS. All things that hinder us from obtaining this knowledge must be surrendered. Even such things as we have hitherto made a boast of must go if they are preventing us from knowing him. Our reputation for consistency, our hitherto unsuspected character, our most cherished occupations or friends,—all these are "loss" in comparison with the knowledge of him which is to be found in obedience to him.
III. WHAT IT WILL DO FOR US.
1. It will win Christ as Friend, Advocate, Redeemer, King. He will be on our side, however coldly earthly friends may regard us.
2. Thus winning him we shall be fouled in him. When the tempter conies to allure us he will not dare approach, for he will find us in him. When the accuser stands up at the last day to charge us with our many sins his words will fall powerless, for we shall he found in him who is our Defence.
IV. WHAT IT WILL BESTOW UPON US. Righteousness; not the merely external righteousness which may be secured by the punctual observance of legal duties, but the righteousness which is of God. This righteousness of his is incarnate in Christ, and is imparted by him to all who are in union with him through faith. This is complete righteousness, for it is the perfect righteousness which Christ himself has and is.—V.W.H.
Philippians 3:10, Philippians 3:11
The knowledge of Christ: its degrees and its purpose.
I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS PERSON. This is the initiatory step. We must first recognize him to be our own God and Savior, and One who is to be altogether longed for. Nathanael thus knew him (John 1:49), and St. Peter (Matthew 16:16).
II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION. This is a step beyond the simple knowledge of his person. It can be found only in our own spiritual experience when we recognize his power in the victory which he wins in us over the power of sin. St. Peter did not learn the power of Christ's resurrection until he had received the Holy Ghost.
III. THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS. When we have experienced the power of his resurrection we begin to find that his sufferings are ours and ours are his. We begin to feel something of that keenest of all his sufferings, the misery of the presence and the power of sin. At the same time, we find that, by a certain law of reciprocity, our own sufferings are no longer exclusively our own, but that he is bearing them with us and for us,
IV. BY THESE STAGES WE ARE MADE CONFORMABLE TO HIS DEATH. His death was an entire death unto sin; by our thus dwelling in him and he in us we also die unto sin.
V. THUS DYING UNTO SIN WE ATTAIN TO THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD; i.e. not merely to the extension of life after physical death, but to the complete resurrection, which is the entire victory over every form of death, natural or spiritual.—V.W.H.
The Christian race: conditions of victory.
1. The recognition that we are not yet conquerors, and that every effort on our part is necessary if we would secure the prize.
2. The knowledge that we are not running the race in our own strength, but that. we are seeking to seize upon a victory already designed for us. When we realize that Christ has grasped us we know that we are being upheld by him, and our confidence of final victory is no longer in ourselves, but in him.
3. The faith that we are freed from our past sins by the atoning power of Christ. If we cannot feel assured of this we are for ever worrying about the things which are behind instead of forgetting them, and are thus powerless to look forward to the things that are before. Look forwards and upwards, rather than backwards, if you would succeed in life's race.
4. Striving under such conditions we are more than conquerors through him who loves u s.—V.W.H.
Philippians 3:15, Philippians 3:16
A deficient faith will be accepted and enlightened if it be held in a good conscience.
The true law of spiritual progress has been laid down by St. Paul in the foregoing verses. At the same time, there are many who appear to be making such progress without any clear idea of these conditions or any definite grasp of the gospel scheme. How are we to regard such?
I. AS NOT FULLY ENLIGHTENED. He who is perfect, i.e. full grown in Christian experience, will realize that the progress described by St. Paul is the only true form of spiritual growth.
II. THEIR WANT OF ENLIGHTENMENT IS FROM WANT OF KNOWLEDGE AND NOT FROM AN EVIL CONSCIENCE. Such ignorance will not hinder them from receiving God's grace if they persevere in that to which their conscience guides them.
III. SUCH PERSEVERANCE WILL LEAD THEM INTO THE LIGHT. However deficient their knowledge may be, their faith is true and will not be left uninstructed. "If any man wills to do God's will, he shall know of the doctrine" (John 7:17). The woman who sought healing by touching the hem of Christ's garment is an example of uninstructed faith not without its reward. She is in error in imagining that his healing power proceeded from some magic effluence from his body rather than from his love. But it was an error of the head and not of the heart. She is right enough in her simple faith in him. By her faith she gains that which she sought; and more, even his blessing, "Go in peace!"—V.W.H.
Philippians 3:20, Philippians 3:21
Our heavenly citizenship.
The Christian is living in two spheres at the same time. Locally, he is a citizen of the world; spiritually, he is in heaven. Compare our Lord's description of the twofold condition of the apostles whom he was leaving—they were "in the world" and yet they were "in him" (John 16:33). These spheres are not of necessity opposed the one to the other, but they become so when the lower attempts to usurp the place which belongs to the higher.
I. THE DIFFICULTY OF REALIZING THIS HEAVENLY CITIZENSHIP. We are surrounded by the circumstances of our external lives, which press upon us very closely. We are now clothed with a "body of humiliation."
II. THE BLESSINGS WHICH PROCEED FROM REALIZING IT.
1. Faith in the power of our King; if we are his subjects he has a duty towards us which he will surely fulfill.
2. Love for the grace which he bestows.
3. Hope that he will come to free us from this divided service.
III. HE HAS HIMSELF SHARED IN THIS TWOFOLD LIFE. While on earth he was still "in heaven" (John 2:13).
IV. WE ARE TO SHARE IN HIS VICTORY OVER THE WORLD. The body of his humiliation has been changed into the body of his glory. We are to be changed in like manner, so that our outward condition as well as our inner life may partake of the heavenly citizenship.—V.W.H.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
(See on Philippians 4:4.)—W.F.A.
Jews regarded the Gentiles as dogs (Matthew 15:22, et seq.). The unclean feeding of these animals—the scavengers of Eastern cities—was supposed to be analogous to the Gentile freedom in eating all kinds of meats. St. Paul turns the tables, and calls the Judaizers who feed upon carnal ordinances dogs in comparison with Christians who live on the higher spiritual food.
I. CONTEMPTUOUS LANGUAGE MAY BE OCCASIONALLY PERMITTED IN CONTROVERSY. It is a most dangerous weapon. Rarely is it called for. Only they who have great kindness of heart can use it safely, and these people are the most loth to employ it at all. Still, even Christ called Herod a fox and spoke of casting pearls before swine. Contempt should only be for the baseness of a character, never for the human soul in which that baseness dwells. But there are some habits and thoughts which we should heartily despise, and which can be best condemned by contempt.
II. OPPROBRIOUS EPITHETS ARE APT TO REVERT ON THE HEAD OF THOSE WHO COIN THEM Jews who regard the Gentiles as dogs merit the same name when they cling to lower thinking and living than is consistent with Christianity. In despising others we may be preparing the way for contempt to fall on ourselves.
III. LACK OF SPIRITUALITY IS THE ROOT OF UNCLEANNESS. The Judaizers are dogs because they cling to carnal ordinances. The unspiritual is carnal, and the carnal in its unrestrained exercise is the unclean. Therefore the remedy for impurity of thought and action is not the observance of rigorous ritual, but the cultivation of a spiritual tone of mind.
IV. AS CHRISTIANS WE ARE REQUIRED TO SHUN THE FIRST APPROACH TO WHAT IS UNHOLY. The carnal ordinance must be avoided because it is the first step towards the carnal sin. We ought not to ask how far we can go safely in the direction of evil, but rather to strive to keep as far as possible away from it. Even the company of those who are unholy must be shunned. We are not only not to behave like the dogs; we are to beware of the dogs.—W.F.A.
Philippians 3:7, Philippians 3:8
All loss for Christ is gain.
No one of the early Christians was favored with richer religious endowments or with higher rank than those enjoyed by St. Paul, and no one was called to make more heavy social and ecclesiastical sacrifices in entering the Church. Yet the apostle regarded his former wealth of privileges as so much loss because it was a hindrance to his receiving true wealth in Christ, and the winning of Christ as not simply a balance of profit, but as wholly a gain; so that, though in the eyes of the world he had made an astounding sacrifice, in his own estimation he had made no sacrifice at all, but had got a pure and simple advantage from the exchange.
I. RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGES MAY BECOME RELIGIOUS HINDRANCES. In their origin and primary purpose, of course, they could not be so, or they would never be privileges. But changing circumstances and abuse of them may make them of more harm than good. A pure Jewish birth, Pharisaism, and the Law were once all good. But in St. Paul's day and in relation to Christianity they became positively injurious. So now a man's position and education in religion may be converted into a hindrance to his real Christian life.
1. We may be satisfied with these privileges and so not care to go on to the higher blessings. The self-complacent Pharisee does not ask for and therefore misses the grace which the penitent publican seeks and therefore finds. The religious possessions of the former result in his poverty, the poverty of the latter in his wealth.
2. We may be prejudiced by the nature of these privileges or by our experience of them. An imperfect religion is in itself better than no religion, but it becomes worse when it prejudices us against a higher faith.
II. THE GREATEST RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGES ARE OF NO USE WITHOUT CHRIST. St. Paul courts them as "but dung." To be born of Christian parents, to be educated in Christian truths, to be associated in Christian fellowship, and to be zealous in Christian work,—all these things will count as nothing for our soul's profit if we do not know, trust, love, and follow Christ. It is true that they who have not an opportunity of knowing Christ may be benefited by other religious aids. But when Christ is accessible a higher standard is set before us, and to live in the beggarly elements is worse than foolish—it is fatal.
III. WE MAY HAVE TO MAKE GREAT SACRIFICES IN ORDER TO RECEIVE CHRIST. We may have to give up worldly position, pleasant social connections, etc. We shall have to renounce all our Pharisaic righteousness. That structure which we have been building with so much care and admiring so devoutly must be razed to the ground. Let us count the cost.
IV. TO GAIN CHRIST IS SO PROFITABLE THAT THE LOSS OF ALL THINGS ELSE COUNTS AS NOTHING IN COMPARISON. It is not simply that the scale dips. It is that the weight on the other side is not felt; nay, that the value of the things given up is converted into its opposite, because they hindered the reception of Christ. In the great equation, all earthly things that stayed us from seeking Christ are lumped together and a minus sign affixed to the whole. If we have truly won Christ at the greatest cost we are conscious of no sacrifice. It is all infinite gain.—W.F.A.
"The fellowship of his sufferings."
I. THE CHRISTIAN IS CALLED INTO FELLOWSHIP OF HIS LORD'S SUFFERINGS.
1. He is called into fellowship with Christ. This is further implied by the clause, "becoming conformed unto his death." It is St. Paul's conception of the heart and essence of the Christian life. He constantly describes the process of our union with Christ as involving our repetition of Christ's experience of life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. The Christian life is an "Imitatio Christi."
2. The Christian is called to suffer with Christ. His life is not all suffering. Much Divine gladness shines across the path of his pilgrimage. But while new joys come with the gospel, new sorrows unfelt before also accompany it. Christ's joy is in his people (John 15:11). So also is his sorrow. The Christian has his Tabor and his Olivet; he has, too, his Gethsemane and his Calvary (Romans 6:5; 2 Corinthians 4:10).
3. The necessary experience of the Christian life involves a fellowship in the sufferings of Christ. The sufferings are not accidental.
(1) Externally, they are caused as Christ's were caused. "A servant is not above his lord. If they persecuted me they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). St. Paul suffered from Jewish jealousy, as Christ did before. More generally the hatred of darkness to light which raged against the great Light of the world besets and attacks all the children of light.
(2) Internally, we have to fight all evil, and the mortal conflict is painful.
(3) Sympathetically, our union with Christ leads us to sorrow with him in his sorrow.
II. THE FELLOWSHIP OF CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS IS ONE OF THE GREATEST CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGES. We might naturally take it to be quite otherwise. We might think it a thing to be submitted to simply as part of the necessary cost of entering the kingdom of heaven. But St. Paul reckons it as part of the gain in comparison with which all conceivable earthly advantages are but as refuse. How can this be? Surely we cannot embrace and love pain for its own sake.
1. Fellowship with Christ's sufferings is a great honor. It is something to be counted worthy to suffer with him. We honor our noblest heroes by selecting them for the most arduous tasks.
2. This fellowship preserves us from many evils. Sorrow is a spiritual antiseptic. It kills the germs of corruption that breed freely in luxury. To be admitted into the sacred temple of the sorrows of Christ, to be touched with the solemn awe of his agony, and to feel in ourselves some faint throbs of this sublime passion, all this is to be called above the earthly scenes of folly and sin and to receive a baptism of purification.
3. This fellowship leads us to participation in Christ's glory. The story does not end with the suffering. It looks tragic; but. it is no tragedy; for it issues in glad hallelujahs. But as even Christ was perfected through suffering, so much more must his disciples tread the via dolorosa in order to reach their triumph. It is they who suffer with him who will also be glorified together with him.—W.F.A.
Like the runner who will lose the prize if he mistake any point short of the goal for the end, or if he waste his time in looking back on the course traversed, the Christian must press forward with his face towards Christ, unresting till the great race is won.
I. WE MUST NOT CONSIDER ANY PRESENT ATTAINMENT SUFFICIENT, St, Paul was no novice when he wrote this Epistle. An old man, rich and ripe in many graces, far and away beyond the experience of most Christians, he still felt that he had not reached the great end of his efforts. How much less can inferior Christians allow themselves to be satisfied with what they have as yet acquired! The end is to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). We are not blamed if we have not yet reached that crown of goodness. But we are blamed if we are not pressing on to it and rest contented with anything short of it. Height above height rises before us. Let no inferior aim lull us to unfaithful indolence with its soothing prospects.
II. WE MUST LOOK FORWARD, NOT BACKWARD. Some men stand with their faces to the west, regretting the lost radiance of the setting sun. Others turn their gaze on the east, eager to catch the first streak of dawn. Surely the latter are the wiser. Our faces look forwards that we may see the path we are about to tread instead of looking only on the path already trodden.
1. We must forget past attainments. Otherwise they will be a snare, and out of the very fruit of good deeds may be distilled the poisonous narcotic that will prevent the repetition of them. Let the sweet fruit be cast away that the seed may be sown to produce future fruit.
2. We must forget past failures. It is foolish to dwell in idle regrets, for thus we neglect the duty of to-day in lamenting the neglect of yesterday's duty! It is positively wrong to clog our future efforts by carrying the burden of past sin. If God has forgiven our sin we should forget it.
3. We must forget past joys and sorrows—this only in a measure, of course. We are human, and there are wholesome uses of memory. But still the dreamy life of reflection is sadly hindering to progress. Greater joys open before us—even before the saddest, most desponding of us, if we are truly following Christ—than any that lie buried in the graves of the past. They who may hope for the joy of the resurrection reunion do foolishly to weep for ever at the tomb.
III. WE MUST STRETCH FORWARD TO THE THINGS WHICH ARE BEFORE. The picturesque figure represents the eager runner who stretches out his hand and bends his body towards the long-sought end of his endeavors. The eye must precede the foot. If our hearts are not already in heaven our souls cannot be travelling thither. Great effort is also necessary. The Christian must put forth all his energies. His life is a battle, a wrestling, a race.
IV. CHRIST IS THE END OF THE RACE.
1. He is the Goal. We are to strive to attain unto him. The Christian course is marked out by the footprints of. Christ. Every right step brings us nearer Christ, both in resemblance and in fellowship. Perfection is absolute Christ-likeness.
2. Christ is also the Prize. The end of the race is its own reward. And it is enough. To possess Christ is worth the loss of all earthly possessions (Philippians 3:7). It is, however, in the end, to give us the inheritance of all things (1 Corinthians 2:1-16:22, 23).—W.F.A.
I. DIVERSITY OF OPINION IS POSSIBLE AMONG GENUINE CHRISTIANS. St. Paul was writing to a Christian Church which he honored with rare commendation for its fidelity and spiritual attainments. Nevertheless, he admitted that some of his readers might not see truth as he saw it.
II. WE MUST NOT ATTEMPT TO FORCE OTHERS INTO AGREEMENT WITH OURSELVES. Every honest thinker must believe that his own view is correct, or he would abandon it. In fact, he only adopts it because he believes it to be true. Therefore he must wish others to agree with him. But he has no right to use violence, abuse, and recrimination. He should respect his brother's right to think. St. Paul was far superior to the Christians of Philippi. Yet he treated their possible difference of opinion with courtesy and gentleness.
III. IF WE ARE RIGHT IN THE COURSE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, DIFFERENCES OF OPINION ON SPECULATIVE POINTS WILL NOT BE FATAL. They are not unimportant. All truth is useful and all error injurious. Still, fidelity to Christ in practice is far more important than all else. And even men who are clogged and maimed by egregious errors—as we Protestants think Roman Catholic and Greek Christians must be—will reach the end safely if they are truly pressing forward to Christ.
IV. FIDELITY TO CHRIST WILL LEAD TO A REVELATION OF TRUTH ON THOSE POINTS WHERE WE ARE AS YET IN ERROR. It is not by controversy, much less by excommunication and brands of heresy, that error is eliminated from the Church. Nothing opens our eyes so clearly as faithful service. He will know the doctrine who keeps the commandment.—W.F.A.
When a man invites others to become imitators of himself he must be either possessed by an absurd self-admiration or almost entirely devoid of self-regarding feelings. The latter was the case with St. Paul. he saw the plain fact that there were points in which it was desirable for the Philippians to imitate him, and he was so unselfishly concerned for their welfare as never to have a passing thought that he might be laying himself open to a charge of self-glorification. The self-forgetful man will dare to do things which the self-conscious man shrinks from in modesty, and yet the former is the humbler of the two. It is the perfection of humility and self-abnegation to be able to stand as a model for others without a suggestion that one's own glory is advanced thereby, with nothing but regard for the interests of the others.
I. WE ARE NATURALLY IMITATIVE. If we do not follow good examples we go after the bad. Absolute originality is almost impossible. Imitation is largely unconscious. But it is profitable for us to make use of this powerful instinct by turning it towards the best models.
II. HUMAN EXAMPLES MAY BE FOLLOWED WITH GREAT ADVANTAGE. Our highest model is God, for we are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. Christ is our great Example. Still, there is large room for the influence of other men. Several things give force to this influence.
1. Similarity of circumstances. We can select an example front among men who have similar duties and temptations to our own. Our fellow-men have all to fight the same battle with sin.
2. Personal knowledge. We can understand best the examples of those lives which pass before our own eyes.
3. Affection. This draws us to follow those we love.
4. Special characteristics. In particular circumstances certain men become the best examples. Hence one use of biography, knowledge of mankind, etc.
III. THE EXAMPLE OF ST. PAUL IS OF PECULIAR VALUE. This may be considered in regard to his whole life and character. Note three particulars suggested by the context.
1. His liberality of sentiment. This was a special point for the Philippians who were threatened by Judaizing narrowness.
2. His ceaseless efforts after spiritual progress. (Verses 12-16.)
3. His spirituality. (Verses 18-21.)
IV. EVERY TEACHER SHOULD ENDEAVOUR TO LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Example will affect teaching one way or another. If it is bad it will either lead people astray or, if they resist its influence, it will discredit the teacher and frustrate his work. Without posing for imitation, every leader and teacher of men should be careful to be worthy of it.
V. IMITATION, TO BE PROFITABLE, MUST BE DISCRIMINATING AND FREE.
(1) That good models may be chosen; and
(2) that these may be followed in their good points and not in their bad points, for there is no more fascinating snare than the temptation to copy only the weakness of great men.
2. Free. A servile copying may lead us into positive wrong-doing, since "circumstances alter cases," and at best it is devoid of moral principle. We must imitate the spirit of our examples, translating this into the terms of our own individual requirements.—W.F.A.
Citizenship in heaven.
I. THE FACT. Christians are citizens of heaven.
1. They are under heavenly government. Other men are ruled by earthly influences—laws of the state, social customs, worldly expediency, etc. The true followers of Christ obey higher laws and serve an unseen King. It is their recognized aim to do God's will on earth as the angels do it in heaven. They confess supreme allegiance to a heavenly Lord.
2. They perform heavenly functions. To be a loyal citizen means to share in the common municipal life. This Christians undertake in their relations with the city above. Their conversation is to be in heaven. They are to set their affections on things above. Their chief concern is to do their work on earth so as best to promote the glory of heaven. Generally they are to shape their lives according to the celestial polity.
3. They enjoy heavenly privileges. Citizenship is a privilege. This was well understood in St. Paul's day, when some men prided themselves in being born Romans, while others were willing to pay a great price to obtain the rights of Roman citizenship (Acts 22:28). Englishmen now claim protection and immunity from foreign exactions in all parts of the world on account of their nationality. So Christians have the high privileges of Divine liberty, safety, and honor that accompany a heavenly citizenship.
II. THE INFLUENCE OF THIS FACT. If it be a truth that Christians are citizens of heaven, it must be a most important truth. Yet many men who consider themselves Christians live as though they had not the faintest conception of the significance of their heavenly relationship. Others have taken the opposite course; forsaking the joys and duties of earth, and treating the world as a sort of Siberia, they have lived like exiles waiting only for the time of their departure. Clearly this is not the use of the heavenly citizenship which the apostles would have advised.
1. It should lead to living worthily. It is a disgrace for an Englishman, on visiting a country of savages, to abandon the decencies of civilization and adopt the practices of the natives. Christians belong to a higher kingdom than anything earthly. They are, therefore, to see to it that they do not degrade their citizenship by following the evil customs of the world, but abstain from fleshly lusts as strangers and pilgrims (1 Peter 2:11). Living in the world, enjoying its innocent fruits, and doing their daily work, they are to keep themselves undefiled and to behave with the purity and charity that befit the fellow-citizens of angels.
2. This citizenship should prevent Christians from being disappointed at receiving adversity in, this world. They are to expect it. This is not their rest. Sojourners on earth, they are not to be surprised if they miss some of the treasures of those who have only earthly possessions.
3. This hot should inspire a constant hope. True Christians must live in the future. Their heavenly citizenship is the promise and pledge of the enjoyment of the inheritance of the saints in light. They are to look for "a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." Members of the higher kingdom, they should live in expectation of the glorious advent of their great King.—W.F.A.
The renewal of the body.
I. OUR BODY IS A MARK OF OUR HUMILIATION. It is "the body of our humiliation," not "our vile body," as the Authorized Version has it. St. Paul did not share the Stoic contempt for the body; much less did he anticipate the Manichcan hatred of it which is the true parent of asceticism. But neither did he altogether admire the body in its present condition, as the disciples of our modern school of carnal aestheticism glory in doing. He regarded it as a great evidence of our humiliation. His words give little warrant for Origen's strange doctrine that pre-existing human souls, having sinned and fallen in a purely spiritual sphere, were imprisoned in bodies for their punishment and discipline, and that, if they profit by the purgatorial earthly life, they will be liberated from these bodies and restored to the spiritual world. Two simpler facts come nearer to the teaching of St. Paul.
1. We have outgrown our body. The body which is glorious in the animal becomes in many respects a hindrance and a source of shame to the man. The fact that the body, so fearfully and wonderfully made, is a mark of humiliation, proves that we have a higher nature and belong to nobler living.
2. We have degraded our body. By making that a master which should be a servant we show our own humiliation. By lowering the body itself to sinful ends we turn it into a visible proof of our degradation.
II. WE NEED A SUITABLE BODY. The body will not simply be cast aside as a worthless thing, like the old skin sloughed off by the serpent. It is a work of God who made all things well. It has great purposes to serve, for it is our medium of communication with the external world. A disembodied spirit is an insulated spirit. By means of the body we receive information from without, and we also execute our will on things outside us. The scholar must have eyes and ears as well as an attentive mind; and the workman must have muscular arms and deft fingers as well as good plans and aims. Probably we shall always need some sort of body, stone sort of medium through which to receive knowledge and accomplish actions.
III. CHRIST WILL FASHION OUR BODY ANEW. The gospel comes to man as a whole, body and soul; and it offers salvation to both parts of his nature. It begins the double process on earth. Christ healed the sick. Christianity cares for the bodily condition of men. The hospital is a most Christian institution. By ameliorating the sanitary condition of men we indirectly help even their moral and spiritual life. Hereafter a bodily renewal is to be accomplished. What it shall be we cannot tell. But the distinct teaching of the New Testament is that the resurrection will not revive the body as we now have it. We are to be "changed," to have a spiritual body; what is sown in corruption will be raised in incorruption. Christ's risen body is the type of this. We may be assured that all that is humiliating and provocative of evil will vanish, while greater sensitiveness and flexibility in ministering to the soul and responding to its ideas and volitions will be enjoyed.—W.F.A.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Philippians 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29