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Bible Commentaries

Wells of Living Water Commentary
Philippians 3



Other Authors
Verses 4-14

Seven Pairs of Things

A Message of Contrasts

Phlippians 3:4-14


There is much said in the Bible by way of contrast. Heaven is contrasted with hell; life is contrasted with death; right is contrasted with wrong; light with darkness, truth with error.

Our Scripture circumscribes certain Bible contrasts with a word common to us all the word, "Things."

There are the things before, contrasted with the things behind; there are the things which are spiritual, contrasted with the things which are carnal. There are things visible, contrasted with things invisible. The things which are old are set over against the things which are new; the things of the flesh, against the things of the Spirit; the things of a man, against the things of God. Finally, we have the things which can be shaken, placed over against the things which cannot be shaken.

As the message progresses we will discern how wide a gulf lies between the highest ideals which govern the word, and work, and walk of man, and those which govern the Most High.

It is eminently true that when one becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus, old things pass away and all things become new. The regenerate life moves in a sphere which is unknown to the man of the world. The things he once loved, he hates; and the things once hated, are loved.

As high as the heavens are above the earth so high are the conceptions of the new life above the old. Once we loved earthly things, now we love the Heavenly; once we lived for self, now we live for God; once we were citizens in an earthly realm, with our treasures laid up down here; now we are citizens of a Heavenly sphere, and we are laying up our treasures far above terrestrial spheres.

When Jesus Christ was walking among men, He said, "No man hath ascended up to Heaven, but He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of man which is in Heaven." Thus while Christ was down here, He was up there. Everything in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ was a contrast to the lives of those with whom He mingled.

Men sought the applause of men; He received not the honor which is from beneath. Men sought their own things, He sought the things of others, and of God. Men doted upon riches, and honor, and human scholarship: He had no where to lay His head; He was despised and rejected of men; He was without "letters," having never learned.

There ought to be always these same contrasts between the saved and the unsaved. We are in the world, but we are not of it. The whole life of the believer in its aims, its conceptions, its loves, should stand forth in bold relief against the aims, the conceptions and the loves of the unbeliever. When both love the same things, live the same way, do the same deeds, hold to the same ideals, walk the same paths, something is radically wrong.

We are called to be a peculiar people; a people who are in the world, but not of it; a people who mind not earthly things.

I. THE OLD THINGS AND THE NEW (2 Corinthians 5:17 )

When the sinner comes to the Saviour there is a definite work of grace done in his heart. He is born from above; he is created of God after the image of Him who created him; he is made a partaker of the Divine nature; he puts on a new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.

How great is the change! It is as one taking leave of home and country to dwell in a new land and a new sphere.

The old life is left behind; it is reckoned dead; it is made powerless; it is left in the tomb. The new life is regnant; it is a blessed, pulsing, throbbing, energizing reality.

1. What are the old things which pass away? In Ephesians we read of what we were before grace met us. We were dead thank God, that is one "old thing" that has passed away! We shall never know eternal death, for we have passed out of death into life.

We walked in time past according to the course of the world that has passed away for, if any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him.

We walked according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who still energizes the sons of disobedience; we rejoice that Satan's power has passed away and that God has led us in the train of His triumph. In fact, we are seated with Him far above all principalities and powers.

We once had our conversation in the lusts of the flesh praise God, that has passed away! Our conversation now is of Him and His grace and glory.

We once fulfilled the desire of the flesh and of the mind. That, too, has passed now we walk in the Spirit, and mind the things of the Spirit.

We were children of wrath, now we are sons of delight and of blessing.

We were afar off, now we are made nigh by the Blood of Christ; we were aliens, now we are fellow-citizens with the saints and members of the household of God; we were strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world; now we are children; now we dwell under the new covenant; now we are living, looking for that Blessed Hope, and we are sons of God.

2. What are some of the "all things" which have become new? We have a new and abiding fellowship with the Father and with His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We have a new Paraclete, the blessed Holy Spirit to walk at our side, to comfort and guide, to teach and endue us. We have a new walk, in a new way, with a new group of comrades.

"Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,

Jesus, I come! Jesus, I come!

Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,

Jesus, I come to Thee!

Out of my sickness into Thy health,

Out of my want and into Thy wealth,

Out of my sin and into Thyself,

Jesus, I come to Thee!"


Paul had many things before him when he was known as Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of the Christians. He had human praise and plaudits before him. He had in view, a seat in the Sanhedrin, with recognition as a leader and a scholar. He had world honor and preferment, with power and prestige as the goal of his ambitions.

When Paul met Christ on the Damascus road, all of these things, which had been the goal of life, the things before, were reckoned as refuse, fit only for the garbage pile, and they became the things behind.

In lieu of the cast-off things "before," Paul placed other things in their stead. The things he now sought were abiding things, spiritual things, Heavenly things. He now wanted to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. He now wanted fellowship with Christ in His sufferings, and desired to be conformed unto His death.

Paul had one great supreme ambition and that was to win Christ, and to stand approved before Him at the end of his earthly journey. The things which once were so cherished and so dear, now were not only placed behind him, but they were forgotten.

Paul was in no sense as "Lot's wife." turning and looking back at what he had lost; he was in no sense as Israel, longing to return to Egypt and her fleshpots seasoned with garlic and onions.

Paul forgot the things that once were counted gain as he moved toward the things which were before. In fact, Paul pressed, stretched his neck, put all the vigor of his whole being into his reaching for the things before.

God make us likeminded!

Moses left Egypt with its riches and pleasures, as he saw the things before, and pressed toward them. David always lived with the Lord before his face. Let us walk, making the coming things the big things, the enduring and eternal things.

"Lord lift me up, and let me stand,

By faith on heaven's border land,

A higher plane than I have found,

Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."


1. The things of the flesh. Here is a contrast that it is well worth our while to consider. The flesh stands for the self-life; the old man, the man of Adam's line; the carnal, fleshly man. Paul wrote: "I know that in me, (that is, in my flesh.) dwelleth no good thing." The flesh then, stands for that part of the man which is called "me." The flesh then, is "meism"; it is the "ego," the "I."

The flesh has no good thing in it. "Self," the natural man, is that part of which David wrote, "In sin did my mother conceive me." The works of the flesh are manifest. They include such things as, "uncleanness, lasciviousness, * * hatred, * * wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like,"

The thing's of the flesh are those things which belong to the flesh, emanate from the flesh, adorn the flesh.

The flesh cannot give life, because it is altogether corrupted; it is not subject to the Law of God, "neither indeed can be." Those who live after the flesh cannot please God.

2. The things of the Spirit. We, who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affection and lusts thereof. We, who are after the Spirit, do mind the things of the Spirit. We, who are after the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body. God has said, "Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh."

Here is a vital matter. Let each one examine himself to discover the real motive power of his life. If we are the children of God, the Spirit dwells within us; the Spirit leads us, teaches us, strengthens us, and through Him we cry, "Abba, Father."

"If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."

"And His that gentle voice we hear,

Soft as the breath of even,

That checks each fault, that calms each fear,

And speaks of Heaven.

And every virtue we possess,

And every victory won,

And every thought of holiness,

Are His alone.

Spirit of purity and grace,

Our weakness pitying see;

Oh, make our hearts Thy dwelling-place,

And worthier of Thee."


1. The things of a man. These are the things which a man is, in himself. They include everything contained in the genius and wisdom of man. Under this heading comes the wisdom of this world, but this is foolishness with God. Again we place here the things that are mighty in the world; yet we read that, "the weakness of God is stronger than men." And "God hath chosen the foolish thing's of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world, and the things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are."

The things of man are those things on which men rely; the things upon which men build their boasted, trusted things.

2. The things of God These are the things which no man knoweth. They lie in a realm above the human and the natural.

For instance, a man may know the things of a man; but no man can, in the flesh, know the things of God. This is needed truth. Too many men have, by searching, tried to find out God. Too many men have thought by wisdom, to know God; whereas, "the world by wisdom, knew not God," It was the wisdom of this world, with all of its boasted scholarship, and glory, that crucified the Lord of Glory.

The things of God cannot be known save by the Spirit of God. The man of mind, the natural man cannot understand God, for "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." However, God hath revealed these things unto us by His Spirit, for the Spirit knoweth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

Those who know God, know Him not by the spirit of the world, for, "we have received, * * the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."

Let the students remember that they cannot be taught God's things by men, be they ever so wise, who are not themselves, taught of the Spirit of God, for "the natural man (the carnal man) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

"Come, Holy Ghost, for, moved by Thee,

The prophets wrote and spoke;

Unlock the truth, Thyself the Key,

Unseal the Sacred Book,"


1. The things on the earth. Man is an uplooker. God put his head on the top of him, and not on the bottom of him. To Cain, God said, "Why is thy countenance fallen?"

The men of the world are world-centered. Their whole being revolves around the earthly and the temporal. Their treasures are down here; their loves are here, their hearts are here.

The rich fool was a typical man of the world. He said, "I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry."

The man under the sun in Ecclesiastes is another typical man of the world. This man tried out many things; sought to know everything that was good for a man under the sun; all the days of his vain life, which he spent as a shadow. The book carries but one wail, the result of setting the affections on the things on the earth.

2. The things above the earth. The "heavenlies" is the only proper sphere for the believer's abode. Our conversation is in Heaven. Our citizenship is there; our treasures are there; our loves are there; our hopes center there.

God hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the Heavenly places. We are quickened with Christ; raised with Him, and made to sit with Him, far above all things.

No marvel that our text calls upon us to set our affection on the things above and not on the things which are on the earth. The things down here are vanishing things, fading things; the things above are the things that shall outlast the sun and abide for evermore.

"The home beyond the shadows,

Where all is calm and still;

Where holy joy and gladness

The troubled heart shall fill:

I'm longing for the Home land,

With golden gates so fair,

That ever stand wide open

To welcome pilgrims there."


We wish to urge more fully, the fact that there are things which can be shaken. The Prophet said, "I saw a great white throne, * * from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them."

Not alone will the earth pass away with a great noise, but everything connected with it must pass. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof." Every thing mundane is destined to decay and destruction. The world of Noah's day was destroyed with a flood; and "the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men."

How foolish men are to build on a foundation that must fall; to lay up their treasures where rust will decay; to place their treasures where treasures will fail.

The things that cannot be shaken are those which God builds. Mark the words: "Wherefore we, receiving a Kingdom which cannot be moved." Daniel saw in Nebuchadnezzar's dream the complete overthrow and disintegration of the kingdoms of men. He saw also the stone which smote those kingdoms becoming a great mountain and filling the whole earth. Then Daniel spoke these words, "In the days of these kings shall the God of Heaven set up a Kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: * * it shall stand for ever."

Thank God, that there is something sure and steadfast, that entereth into that within the veil. Let us not refuse this message from God. Let us begin today to live for the unshaken and unshakable things.

God's things unshaken last,

And evermore stand fast;

Though winds of hell have blown,

God is not overthrown,

He's faithful to His own,

Praise God His things stand fast.


1. The former things that shall pass away. For the first time in the Bible we face the passing of certain former things to which all men, saints and sinners were subjected. What are those things? Here they are, "tears," "sorrow," "pain," "crying," "death."

The Cross of Christ holds in it all the blessed fruition of deliverance for each trusting soul, from all of these things. However, we see not yet deliverance. Some times good men, untaught in the truth on this matter, prophesy that saints should never be sick, and never have pain, and never cry; and some even go so far as to say that they should never die. God does not say so.

These are "former things" which relate to a greater or less extent to all earth-dwellers. This in no wise means that Christ cannot nor that He does not heal. Neither does it mean that He is not a God of consolation and of comfort. It does mean, that the bitter cup must be tasted until the New Jerusalem is set up and all things are made new.

Saints die; good saints die; all saints die; and their death is prefaced by sorrow and sighing and pain. These things do not pass away when we are born again. They pass away when the present order passes. They pass only when Satan and all sin is for ever put away.

2. The all things new. How wonderful they will be! The new city; the new environment; the walls of precious stones; the gates of pearl; the river, and the trees, and the fruit! Think of the vastness of the New Jerusalem. Consider that the city hath no need of the sun nor of the moon nor of the stars to give it light, for the Lord God giveth it light and the Lamb is the light thereof.

All things new! All things having the glory of God! Think of the nations that walk in the light of the city. Behold; the leaves of the tree which are for the "health" of the nations.

All things new. No unclean thing shall enter therein; nothing that maketh abomination nor a lie. Bless God for all things new!

"I have read of a beautiful City,

Far away in the Kingdom of God;

I have read how its walls are of jasper,

How its streets are all golden and broad.

In the midst of the street is life's river,

Clear as crystal, and pure to behold;

But not half of that City's bright glory

To mortals has ever been told.

Not half has ever been told,

Not half has ever been told;

Not half of that City's bright glory

To mortals has ever been told."


We give for illustration, a poem which strikingly describes two attitudes toward Christ and grace.

I wake in the morning with thoughts of His love

Who is living for me in the Glory above.

Every minute expecting He'll call me away,

And that keeps me bright all the rest of the day;

But the moments speed forward and on comes the noon,

Yet still I am singing, "He'll come very soon":

And thus I am watching from morning to night,

And pluming my wings to be ready for flight!

There's a Man in the Glory I know very well,

I have known Him for years, and His goodness can tell;

One day in His mercy He knocked at my door,

And, seeking admission, knocked many times o'er;

But when I went to Him, and stood face to face,

And listened awhile to His story of grace,

How He suffered for sinners, and put away sin,

I heartily, thankfully welcomed Him in.

We have lived on together a number of years,

And that's why I have neither doubtings nor fears,

For my sins are all hid in the depths of the sea,

They were carried down there by the Man on the tree.

I am often surprised why the lip should be curled,

When I speak of my Lord to the man of the world,

And notice with sorrow his look of disdain,

When I tell him that Jesus is coming again.

He seems so content with his houses and gold,

While despising the Ark like the people of old;

And yet, at His Coming, I'm sure he would flee

Like the man in the garden, who ate of the tree.

I cannot but think it is foolish of souls

To put all their money in "bags which have holes,"

To find, in the day that is corning apace,

How lightly they valued the "riches of grace."

As fond as I am of His work in the field,

I would leave go the plow, I would lay down the shield;

The weapons of service I would put on the shelf,

And the sword in its scabbard, to be with Himself.

But I'll work on with pleasure while keeping ray eyes

On the end of the field where standeth the prize.

I would work for His glory, that when we shall meet,

I may have a large sheaf to lay down at His feet,

That He, too, with pleasure, His fruit may review.

Is the Man in Glory a stranger to you?

A stranger to Jesus? What? do you not know

He is washing poor sinners much whiter than snow?

Have you lived in a land where the Bible's unknown,

That you don't know the Man who is now on the throne?

Ah! did you but know half His beauty and power,

You would not be a stranger another half-hour;

I have known Him so long that I'm able to say,

The very worst sinner He'll not turn away:

The question of sin, I adoringly see,

The Man in the Glory has settled for me!

And as to my footsteps, whatever the scene,

The Man in the Glory is keeping me clean;

And therefore I'm singing, from morning to night,

The Man in the Glory is all my delight. G. G.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Philippians 3:4". "Living Water".

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 19th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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