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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Philippians 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 3

DISCOURSE: 2151

THE TRUE CHRISTIAN DELINEATED

Philippians 3:3. We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

IT is much to be lamented that the nature of genuine Christianity is but little understood. An assent to the fundamental articles of our faith, and a conformity to certain rites and ceremonies, are thought sufficient grounds for concluding ourselves real Christians, notwithstanding we are plainly warned by God himself, that religion does not consist in these things [Note: Romans 2:28-29.]. Persons may be, and often are, very zealous advocates for the externals of religion, while they are altogether destitute of its life and power. Such were those whom St. Paul calls, not the sheep of Christ, but “dogs;” not saints, but “evil-workers;” not the circumcision, but, in a way of contempt, “the concision,” because all their piety consisted in a zeal for the cutting of the flesh. Against such persons he thrice enjoins us to “beware;” and then contrasts with theirs the character of the true Christian.

There are three discriminating points which distinguish the circumcision, or the true Christians, from all who are Christians only in name and profession:

I. They worship God in the Spirit—

[Many never bow their knees before God at all. What they are, they themselves shall judge. Others observe the form of prayer both in public and in private; but their hearts are not engaged; nor is there any difference in their frame, whether they confess their sins, or ask for blessings, or acknowledge benefits received. All their services are without life, and without devotion.

The true Christian, on the contrary, though not always in the same frame, “worships God in the Spirit,” that is, not only with the inmost affections of his soul, but through the direction and assistance of the Holy Ghost [Note: Jude, ver. 20. Romans 8:15; Romans 8:26.]. If we could see him in his closet before God, we should often behold him bathed in tears, and with hands and eyes lifted up to heaven imploring mercy at the hands of God. His thanksgivings too are not an unmeaning compliment, but an heartfelt grateful acknowledgment, suited in a measure to the mercies he has received. He “pours out his soul before God [Note: Psalms 42:4. 1 Samuel 1:15.],” and “stirs up himself to lay hold on God [Note: Isaiah 64:7.],” and says, like Jacob, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me [Note: Genesis 32:26.].”

Let us examine to which of these classes we belong — — — and we may know infallibly what is our state before God.]

II. They rejoice in Christ Jesus—

[The world have their joys, such as they are, arising from the things of time and sense. Some know no happiness but in lewdness and intemperance. Others, moving either in a continual round of fashionable amusements, or in the pursuit of wealth or honour, find all their pleasure in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. Others more rationally seek their happiness in the acquisition of knowledge. While others seem contented to move, like a horse in a mill, in the same round of daily occupation, without aiming at any thing further than an exemption from trouble, and an easy passage through life.

But the true Christian, while he is alive to all the joys that are possessed by others, as far as they are pleasing to God, and profitable to his soul, has joys of a far higher nature. He has felt his need of mercy, and has found mercy through Christ Jesus. Hence the very name of “Jesus is precious to him:” and the richest gratification he can possibly enjoy is, to contemplate the glory and excellency of his beloved. He does not indeed always feel the same delight in the Saviour; but his richest consolations and sublimest joys arise from this source, insomuch that all the pleasures of sense are nothing in his eyes in comparison of one hour’s fellowship with the Son of God [Note: Psalms 4:6.]. Indeed he would not wish to be happy when he is at a distance from his Lord: in such a state he would consider happiness rather a curse than a blessing. But in whatever state he be with respect to temporal things, a sight of his adorable Saviour will render him completely happy [Note: 1 Peter 1:8.].

Here again let us inquire into our own experience. We need no surer test of our state than that before us. Let us examine ourselves with care — — — and “the Lord give us understanding in all things!”]

III. They have no confidence in the flesh—

[The ungodly world, if in prosperity, “make gold their confidence [Note: Job 31:24.],” and “trust in their uncertain riches [Note: 1 Timothy 6:17.].” If, on the other hand, they be in adversity, they look no higher than to their own exertions, or than to their earthly friends to deliver them. The same creature-confidence pervades all their spiritual concerns: they “lean altogether on an arm of flesh,” and trust in their own goodness or repentance to recommend them to God, and their own strength and resolution to fulfil his will.

The true Christian is the very reverse of this. We say not that he has no bias towards these evils, for his old nature still remains within him: but his views with respect to these things are altogether altered; and, though he neglects not any means which are proper to be used, he trusts in God only to maintain his prosperity, or to restore it when he has been pleased to afflict him with any calamity. With respect to his soul also he has no hope but in God. To the free mercy of God in Christ Jesus he trusts for every blessing. In the atoning sacrifice and prevailing intercession of Jesus he confides, as the ground of his acceptance with his reconciled God. On the all-powerful grace of Christ he relies, as that which alone can enable him to subdue his enemies, and to serve his God. Feeling that he is in himself ignorant, guilty, polluted, and enslaved, he renounces all self-confidence, and makes Jesus his wisdom, his righteousness, his sanctification, and redemption.

Surely there can be no difficulty in ascertaining our proper character, if only we will make this point also a matter of serious self-examination — — —]

Address—

1. Those who, according to these distinctions, must be considered as devoid of real Christianity—

[Remember who it is that cuts you off from the number of true Christians: it is not man, but God, even that God who will judge you in the last day according to his own word. O continue not in such a state; but seek that circumcision of the heart which, though condemned by men, shall ultimately have praise of God.]

2. Those who have reason from the foregoing remarks to hope that they are Christians indeed—

[What reason have you to bless God for the mercies that have been vouchsafed to you! But remember, it is not by past experience merely you are to judge, but by the continued habit of your mind. Rest not satisfied with any thing you have known; lest you “begin in the Spirit, and end in the flesh.” The text does not characterize the Christian by what he has done, but by what he yet does: and therefore “press forward, forgetting what is behind, and reaching forth unto what is before:” and “as you have received how to walk and to please God, so endeavour to abound more and more,”]


Verse 7-8

DISCOURSE: 2152

THE EXCELLENCY OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST

Philippians 3:7-8. What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but toss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.

MANKIND in general are agitated by various and contending passions, while the true Christian enjoys serenity and composure: he is indeed tempted like others to gratify his corrupt nature; but he has one supreme desire which overcomes and regulates all the rest. He is compared to a wise merchant, who having found a pearl of great price, sells all that he has and buys it. Whatever stands in competition with the welfare of his soul will be renounced by him; and, with the Apostle, he will “count all things but loss for Christ.” To impress this truth more deeply on our minds, we shall consider,

I. What things Paul had which were gain to him—

Amongst all the sons of men there never was any in whom so many and so great excellencies combined, as in the Apostle Paul—

[In respect of civil distinctions, he was highly dignified by birth, being “an Hebrew of the Hebrews [Note: Philippians 3:5.].” He was also eminent for learning, having been “brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, and profited above many his equals [Note: Acts 22:3. Galatians 1:14.].”

Nor was he less distinguished in respect of moral qualities. Such was the strictness of his principles, that he joined himself to the Pharisees, the strictest sect among the Jews [Note: Acts 26:5.]. His probity of conduct was irreproachable; for he had “lived in all good conscience before God from his very youth [Note: Acts 23:1.].” His zeal also, though not according to knowledge, was peculiarly carnest; insomuch that, touching the righteousness of the law, he was blameless; and he opposed the Gospel to the uttermost, because he thought it subverted the law of Moses [Note: Philippians 3:6. Acts 26:9-10.].

But however illustrious he was as a Jew, he was still more so as a Christian and an Apostle. His religious attainments were never equalled by any mere man. His exertions in the cause of Christ surpassed those of all the other Apostles [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:10.]. He also suffered more than any for the sake of the Gospel [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.]; yea, he was “in deaths oft,” “not counting his life dear to him, so that he might finish his course with joy.”]

These things might well be accounted gain to him—

[His civil distinctions might recommend him to his countrymen, and augment his influence [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:21-22. Acts 22:25-29.]. And though he would not make a parade of his learning, he found it useful on some occasions [Note: Thrice he quoted the Greek poets in confirmation of the truth: and took advantage of his knowledge of the Greek language to oppose more successfully the heathen idolatry. Acts 17:23.]. His moral qualities also might well be valuable in his sight: for though no strictness of principles, probity of conduct, or zeal for religion, could recommend him God, yet they were ample testimonies of the integrity of his heart. His religious attainments were still more deserving estimation; for though not meritorious in the sight of God, they tended greatly to the glory of God, and the edification of the church, and were undoubted evidences of his meetness for heaven. Well therefore might he rejoice, as he did, in the testimony of a good conscience [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:12.].]

But he possessed something of incomparably greater value than these things, as will appear, if we inquire,

II. What that was which he preferred before them—

The Apostle had happily attained the knowledge of Christ—

[A mere general uninteresting knowledge of Christ would not have been very high in his esteem: that, which he possessed, was distinct and experimental. He saw Christ as God, equal with the Father, though appearing in the form of a servant [Note: Philippians 2:6-7.]: he beheld him sustaining various offices in the economy of redemption, and executing them for his people’s good. He beheld him as the “Christ,” “anointed by the Spirit to preach glad tidings to the meek;” as “Jesus” the person commissioned to “save men from their sins;” and as “the Lord” who was constituted the living Head, the Supreme Governor, and the righteous Judge of his redeemed people.

But not even this distinct knowledge would have been valued by him, if it had not also been experimental. The expressions following the text respecting his “winning Christ, and being found in him, and knowing him in the power of his resurrection,” evidently imply that he tasted a sweetness, and felt a peculiar efficacy, in this knowledge. He found by happy experience that he had communion with Christ in his offices [Note: 1 John 1:3.]. He saw Christ not merely as a Prophet, a Priest, or a King, but as that very Teacher who had opened his eyes; that very Lamb that had taken away his sins; that very Head, to whom he himself was vitally united, and from whom he derived all his supplies of grace and strength. Hence in speaking of Christ he calls him, “Christ Jesus my Lord.”]

This it was which he esteemed beyond all other things—

[In comparison of this, his civil distinctions, his moral qualities, and even his religions attainments, appeared to him “as dung and dross.” He clearly perceived that none of those things could ever justify him at the tribunal of God; and that, if ever he were saved, he must “be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ:” hence he accounted his former gain to be not only dung, but “loss,” that is, not only useless, but prejudicial, if it diverted his eyes from Christ, or weakened his dependence upon him. Nor did he entertain the smallest doubt respecting the justness of his views; but repeated his assertions in the strongest and most decisive terms, “yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss.” Nor did his confidence proceed from inexperience; for repeating the same thing a third time, he adds, “for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung.”]

The propriety of his judgment will be seen by considering,

III. The grounds of his preference—

There was an “excellency” in that knowledge that far surpassed every thing else—

The object of it was truly wonderful—

[Who can think of an incarnate God, bearing the sins of his rebellious creatures, and not stand amazed? Who can view the wisdom, power, and goodness of God, as exhibited in the face of a dying Saviour, and not confess, that “great is the mystery of godliness?” The consideration of this alone had been a very sufficient ground for his declaration in the text.]

The effects of it transcend all that eye hath seen, or ear heard, or heart conceived—

[The knowledge of this adorable Saviour will comfort us under all troubles. None ever endured greater bodily trials than Paul; yet “none of them could move him; and he was exceeding joyful in all his tribulation [Note: Acts 20:24. 2 Corinthians 7:4.].” The trials of his soul were far greater; yet while he was groaning under their utmost weight, a view of Christ instantly turned his mourning into thanksgivings and the voice of melody [Note: Romans 7:24-25.]: and, on another occasion, while he was cruelly buffeted by Satan, an answer of peace from Christ enabled him to glory in his infirmities, and even to take pleasure in the most complicated distresses [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.].

Moreover, this knowledge will transform the soul into the image of God. Before his conversion, his zeal shewed itself in persecuting unto death the greatest friends both of God and man: how unlike the conduct of Jesus, who died for his very enemies! But when converted to the faith, he had “continual sorrow in his heart on account of his brethren’s obstinacy, and wished himself even accursed from Christ for their sake [Note: Romans 9:2-3.].” He, like his Divine Master, was willing to die for his enemies, and rejoiced exceedingly in the prospect of being sacrificed for the good of the Church [Note: Philippians 2:17-18.]. To what can we ascribe this change, but to the knowledge of Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14; 2 Corinthians 3:18.]? And if to that, what reason had he to prize it!

Lastly, this knowledge will avail for the salvation of all who possess it. Paul, though he thought himself “alive” before his conversion, found at last that he was really “dead [Note: Romans 7:9.]:” but after his conversion, he was no longer dead, either in reality, or in his own apprehension: he frequently speaks with the fullest assurance respecting the safety of his state [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:1-4.]; and teaches all who know Christ to expect with confidence a crown of righteousness in the day of judgment [Note: 2 Timothy 4:8.].

On such grounds we must not only approve the Apostle’s judgment, but account it madness to differ from him.]

Application—

[All of us possess something which we account gain. Some are more elevated by birth or fortune, others by education and learning: some value themselves on their moral qualities; others on their religious attainments: let us freely acknowledge the gain which may be found in these things [Note: If this be the subject of a Commemoration Sermon, the advantages arising from the institution may be stated, together with just acknowledgments both to God and the benefactors.]: but let us never forget that there is one thing of infinitely greater value than all those together, and for which our gain must be accounted loss. To have a distinct experimental knowledge of Christ, to be able to say, “He has loved me, and given himself for me” is of more value than ten thousand worlds: it is that, and that alone, which can ever comfort, sanctify, or save the soul. Let us then seek to know Christ and him crucified, and to “grow in the knowledge of him,” till we “see him as we are seen, and know him as we are known.”]


Verse 8-9

DISCOURSE: 2153

CHRIST, GAIN TO THE BELIEVER

Philippians 3:8-9. For whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win 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 which is of God by faith.

RESPECTING doctrines, as mere subjects of controversy, we need not be anxious; it is as influential principles that we are called to examine and maintain them: and, in this view, we cannot too “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.” That which is, above all other subjects, important to the soul, demands our attention at this time: and the Apostle’s zeal, in relation to it, shews with what holy jealousy we should conduct our investigation of it, and with what determination of heart we should hold fast that which shall approve itself as the truth of God. The two points to be noticed are,

I. The way of salvation, as stated by the Apostle—

He speaks of being “found in Christ,” clothed in a righteousness not his own. Let us consider what he means.

The Lord Jesus Christ has wrought out a righteousness for sinful man—

[He has come from heaven for that purpose: he has assumed our nature, that he might suffer and obey for us: for us he has suffered the full penalty due to our sins; and obeyed in all respects that law which we have violated. All this he has done as our Substitute and Surety; so that if the law require its penalties to be enforced, we can reply, that we have already sustained them in the person of our Lord: and if it require perfect obedience to its commands, we can reply, that we have already obeyed it in the person of our Lord: so that it has no ground whereon to condemn us: on the contrary, supposing us to be “found in Christ,” and to be “one with Christ,” which every true believer is, we may look up to God with confidence; having a righteousness of his own appointment; a righteousness commensurate with all the demands of law and justice; a righteousness wherein we may stand before him without spot or blemish.]

This righteousness is to be apprehended by faith—

[In no other manner can it be apprehended. It exists not in us, but in the Lord Jesus Christ; whose it is, and by whom it is imputed to us; and who is therefore called, “The Lord our Righteousness [Note: Jeremiah 23:6.].” If it be said, that, though it is Christ’s righteousness, and not ours, we yet may earn by our good works an interest in it; I answer, that we may as well earn salvation itself, as earn an interest in that righteousness whereby we are saved. The effect will be the same in either case: salvation will be of works, and not of grace; and every person who shall be saved, will have a ground of glorying in himself, as having purchased that whereby he is saved. But the Gospel salvation utterly excludes glorying [Note: Romans 3:27.]: and “it is by faith, on purpose that it may be by grace [Note: Romans 4:16.].” In truth, any attempt to purchase it would utterly make it void; and, however glorious it be in itself, it would profit us nothing [Note: Galatians 5:2-4.]. The Apostle, in our text, carefully excludes all his own righteousness from bearing any part in his salvation, and declares his reliance to be only and exclusively on that righteousness which is of God through faith in Christ. We say, then, respecting this righteousness, that it is “the righteousness of God:” it is the “righteousness of God without the law:” it is “the righteousness to which both the law and the prophets bear witness:” it is “the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ: and it is unto all, and upon all, them that believe [Note: Romans 3:21-22.].”]

All who are united to Christ by faith, shall be saved by it—

[By faith we are united unto Christ; and become one in law with him, even as a wife becomes one with her husband: and exactly as “he was made sin for us who knew no sin; so we, who had no righteousness of our own, are by faith made the righteousness of God in him [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:21.].” There is no exception of persons: all, whether Jews or Gentiles, and whether their sins have been of greater or less enormity, shall be equally accepted, if only they believe in him: for “his blood cleanseth from all sin [Note: 1 John 1:7.];” and “all who believe, shall be justified from all things [Note: Acts 13:39.].”]

Such being the way of salvation, as stated by the Apostle, let us notice,

II. His feelings in relation to it—

To obtain an interest in the righteousness of Christ was his supreme desire—

[If any man who ever lived might have had a righteousness of his own, the Apostle Paul might. His conduct previous to his conversion, though mistaken, was yet as exemplary, and as strictly conformable to the dictates of his conscience, as any man’s could be [Note: ver. 4–6.]. And, subsequent to his conversion, his whole soul was so entirely given up to his God and Saviour Jesus Christ, that he was not in any respect “a whit behind the very chiefest Apostles.” Yet, so conscious was he of the defects which accompanied his best services, that he disclaimed utterly all dependence on his own works, and desired to “be found in Christ; not having his own righteousness, which was of the law, but the righteousness which was of God through faith in Christ.” And why did he desire this, but because he knew that no other righteousness than that of Christ could ever justify him before God? He was perfectly convinced of this; so convinced, that when the Apostle Peter acted in a way that was likely to bring this truth into doubt, he reproved him openly, before the whole Church [Note: Galatians 2:11-16.]. Nay more; so strenuous was he in vindicating this truth, that he denounced a curse even against an angel from heaven, if one should be found ignorant or impious enough to maintain any doctrine that was opposed to it [Note: Galatians 1:8-9.]. He knew that the salvation of every human being was bound up in it; and therefore he would “give place, no, not for an hour,” to any created intelligence in relation to it [Note: Galatians 2:5.].]

In comparison of this, he regarded all other things with the utmost contempt—

[All other things “he counted but dung, that he might win Christ.” A stronger expression he could not have used. He not only willingly sacrificed, but held in perfect abhorrence, every thing that should stand in competition with an interest in the Redeemer’s righteousness. And he spake not this as a sanguine man, who knew not what difference might take place in his mind, when he should be put to the trial. No; he had been brought to the test; and had actually “suffered the loss of all things,” and yet counted them but dung. He had actually experienced what he was now affirming; and he gave this testimony with an assurance that would not admit of a moment’s doubt. He was like a man, who, “having found the pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it;” and never regretted for an instant the sacrifice he had made. The terms which he here uses in opposition to each other, “loss and gain,” are such as may lead us to a yet more appropriate illustration [Note: ἐζημιὡθην, κερδήσω.]; that of a ship-wrecked mariner, who as Paul himself advised, casts out the tackling, and the very food from the ship, in order to preserve the lives of those who are on board [Note: Acts 27:19; Acts 27:38.]. He takes no account of that which he loses: he is intent only on his gain: and, if he may but secure safety to the crew, he is content. Thus the Apostle, having gained Christ, considered as no better than dung all that he had parted with to secure so rich a portion.]

Address—

1. The worldly Christian—

[What a contrast is there between the Apostle Paul and you! He counted the whole world but dung for Christ; and you count (what shall I say?) Christ himself as of no value, in comparison of the world. The things of this world you will have, whatever you may be necessitated to pay for them. Pardon of sin, peace of conscience, yea, and all prospects of eternal glory, you will sacrifice for the things of time and sense. Your own soul, and the Lord Jesus Christ, are held cheap, in comparison of some fleeting vanity. The language of your heart is, ‘Let me gain pleasure, riches, honour; and then it signifies nothing what I may lose’ Judge ye, my brethren, whether these desires of yours can be right. Verily, either Paul must have been a wild, deluded enthusiast, or you are unworthy to “name the name of Christ.” Reflect, I beseech you, ere it be too late: and choose, not those “things which perish with the using,” but “that good part which shall never be taken away from you.”]

2. The self-righteous Christian—

[And what greater resemblance have you to this Holy Apostle? He utterly discarded all hope in his own righteousness, that he might be found in Christ; but you are holding fast your own righteousness, and accounting the idea of being saved by another’s righteousness as a dangerous delusion. This pride of yours is harder to subdue than any corporeal lust. It was this which caused the Pharisees to reject the Saviour “They would not submit to the righteousness of God.” Hence they perished, whilst millions of idolatrous and ungodly Gentiles embraced the Gospel. I pray you, think what you are doing; and before you determine to persist in your self-righteous views, see whether your righteousness be better than that of Paul. He had no slight ground of glorying, as a Jew: but what had he as a Christian? There he was surpassed by none: none ever did more for their Lord than he; none ever suffered more: yet could he find nothing in himself wherein to trust, and therefore he sought to be found in Christ alone. Thus also must you do: nor, if you refuse to do it, can you ever behold the face of God in peace.]

3. The lukewarm Christian—

[Many, alas! embrace the principles of the Gospel as principles, but never feel that interest in them which the Apostle did. They have suffered no loss for Christ, because they have never manifested such love to him as condemns an ignorant and unbelieving world. Had Noah never built an ark, he would never have been made such an object of derision as he was to the antediluvian world; and, if Lot had never “vexed his righteous soul with the ungodly deeds” of those who lived in Sodom, he would never have incurred, as he did, their contemptuous displeasure. You too, if you followed the Lord fully, would find, that the offence of the cross is not ceased: but that now, as formerly, “they who are born after the flesh will persecute those who are born after the Spirit.” In a word, if you valued and served the Lord Jesus Christ as the Apostle Paul did, you would surely be called to make some sacrifices for him: for “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Deceive not yourselves, my dear brethren: it is not a divided heart that Jesus will accept: you must feel “the constraining influence of his love,” and be animated by it to “live to Him who died for you, and rose again.” Then only will you be approved of him, when you “give yourselves wholly to him in body, soul, and spirit.” The lukewarm follower he will cast off with abhorrence [Note: Revelation 3:16.]. And let me ask, Is this unreasonable? Did he give up the glory of heaven for you; and will you account much of any sacrifice you may be called to make for him? Did he endure the curse of the law for you; and will you grudge to suffer any thing for him? Be in earnest, then: first, to form a proper estimate of Christ; and, next, to give up every thing that may stand in competition with him. So shall his righteousness be yours, and his glory be given you for an everlasting possession.]


Verse 10

DISCOURSE: 2154

THE POWER OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

Philippians 3:10. That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection.

MANY think that religion is not an object of choice, but rather of compulsion and constraint: and hence they frequently suggest to the godly, that the measure of piety to which they aspire is not necessary. But true Christians do not regard God as a task-master, standing over them with a rod; but as a Father, delighting in the happiness of his children: and they desire to act the part of duteous children, fulfilling his will to the utmost of their power. They are not satisfied with “winning Christ, and being found in him:” they would serve him, and honour him, and resemble him: and, like St. Paul, they desire to “know him, and the power of his resurrection.”

To elucidate this truth, I will shew,

I. What is meant by “the power of Christ’s resurrection”—

As the death of Christ has an efficacy, so his resurrection also has an influence,

1. On our justification—

[The death of Christ was not of itself sufficient. Under the law, the high-priest must not only offer sacrifice, but must take the blood of that sacrifice, and enter with it into the holy of holies, and sprinkle it there upon the mercy-seat and before the mercy-seat, and offer incense also there: nor, till these things were done, was he authorized to deliver his blessing to the people [Note: Leviticus 16:11-15.]. So the Lord Jesus must not only offer himself a sacrifice for sin; but must enter into heaven with his own blood, there to present it, in our behalf, before his God and Father [Note: Hebrews 9:24.]: nor without this would his work have been complete. Hence our justification is not only ascribed to his resurrection in conjunction with his death [Note: Romans 4:25.], but even in preference to his death [Note: Romans 8:34.]; since it was the completion of that which by his death was only begun.]

2. On our sanctification—

[None but the Spirit of God can sanctify the soul. But the Spirit would never have been given, if Jesus had not risen [Note: John 16:7.]. At his ascension to heaven, he received the Holy Spirit as the promise of the Father [Note: Acts 2:38-39.], and received him for the express purpose of sending him down into the hearts of his people [Note: Psalms 68:18.]. That he might begin and carry on his work in their hearts, he ascended to heaven; as it is said, “To this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living [Note: Romans 14:9.].”]

3. On our exaltation to glory—

[If Christ had not risen, neither should we have risen [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:21.]: for he burst the bands of death for us, and thereby destroyed its power to retain us under its dominion. He, in his resurrection, was “the first-fruits;” and his people will be the harvest [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:20.]. Whilst he was yet with his Disciples, he pointed out to them the connexion between his removal from them, and their exaltation to heaven: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you: and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also [Note: John 14:2-3.].” In a word, “he was the Forerunner” of his people: and all of them shall follow him in their season [Note: Hebrews 6:20.].]

Let me now proceed to shew,

II. What it is to “know Christ” as exercising this power—

It is not a speculative knowledge that is here spoken of, but a knowledge that is practical and experimental, and that enters into the very essence of true and vital religion. To “know Christ” as the Apostle desired to know him, we must have such views of him in his risen state as shall operate,

1. To confirm our faith—

[Certainly the proper ground of faith is God’s revealed word: but an experience of that word in our own souls gives a degree of assurance that never is, or can be, attained without. I believe, from the testimony of Scripture, that Jesus is an almighty and all-sufficient Saviour. But I find, from the peace which he has infused into my soul, and the power he has given me to mortify my lusts, and from the delight which he has enabled me to feel in communion with himself, that there is a reality in the Gospel, which a mere speculative believer has no conception of. A man, who has heard men’s testimony respecting the existence and influence of the sun, may be fully assured that such an orb does really exist. But the man who beholds its light, and feels its genial rays, will have a widely different conception of it. The former may argue better respecting it; but it is the latter alone who is really competent to appreciate it aright. And, in like manner, he alone knows Christ fully, who knows him experimentally, by the actual enjoyment of him in his own soul.]

2. To animate our hope—

[There is “a full assurance of hope,” which he alone who knows Christ experimentally can possess. I see him dying for me; risen for me; interceding for me; and carrying on his work within me. Can I doubt his love, his power, his grace, his truth, and faithfulness? Has he done so much for me, in order to forsake me at last, and to abandon me to deeper ruin? Has he done so much for me when I was living in direct hostility to him; and will he leave me, now that I seek his face, and desire to glorify his name? No: I can trust him, and I will. Well do I know my own sinfulness: but I know also the virtue of his blood. I know my weakness also: but I know also the sufficiency of his grace to save me even to the uttermost. I know, too, the treachery of my heart: but I know how sure his promise is; and that “where he has begun a good work, he will carry it on, and perfect it to the end [Note: Philippians 1:6.].” And therefore will I “hope, even against hope,” and “hold fast my confidence firm unto the end.”]

3. To sanctify and transform the soul—

[I see my Lord. I call to mind what he has designed in all the wonders of his love. He desires to have “a holy and peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Now, shall I counteract all his gracious designs? Shall I crucify him afresh, by continuing in my sins? Shall I not rather desire him to accomplish in me “all the good pleasure of his goodness;” and to “sanctify me throughout, in body, soul, and spirit?” Yes, for him will I live; and to him will I devote all the powers of my soul. There was nothing which he declined to do or suffer for me: and there is nothing which, with his help, I will not do and suffer for him.]

Thus we see,

1. What a practical thing religion is—

[Had there been any one truth in it that was merely speculative, methinks the doctrine of the resurrection might have been supposed to come under that particular class. But it has been seen how extremely practical this doctrine is; not merely as affording ground for faith and love, but as generating in the soul all that is amiable and praiseworthy. If then, any one object to religion, as consisting in abstract notions, or in any peculiar tenets, let its true nature be remembered, and its intrinsic excellence be extolled — — —]

2. That, in the practice of religion, the true Christian will know no limits on this side of absolute perfection—

Of the Apostle’s attainments none can doubt: yet did he desire to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, as much as if he had lived an entire stranger to piety even to that very hour. And so will every true Christian, like one in a race, forget all the ground that he has passed, and be intent only on that which is before him: nor will he ever be content, till he is “holy as God himself is holy, and perfect as his Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Then only will he be fully “satisfied, when he shall awake up with the perfect likeness of his God [Note: Psalms 17:15.].”]


Verses 13-15

DISCOURSE: 2155

HOLY AMBITION ENCOURAGED

Philippians 3:13-15. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.

TRUE religion affords such perfect satisfaction to the mind, that from the time we become possessed of it, we lose our relish for other things, and feel ourselves at rest, as having attained the summit of our ambition [Note: John 6:35.]. But though we cease to hunger or thirst after the vanities of time and sense, our appetite for spiritual blessings is quickened: nor can the richest acquisitions content us, as long as there remains any thing further to be enjoyed. This was St. Paul’s experience. He had been apprehended and arrested, as it were, by the Lord Jesus, in order that he might be made to possess all the treasures of grace and glory: and, from that hour, he could never be satisfied with any thing short of the full enjoyment of them [Note: ver. 12.]. And, while he cherished this holy ambition in his own bosom, he recommended it earnestly to all others.

There are, in the words before us, two things which he recommends from his own example:

I. An humble sense of our present attainments—

St. Paul, though so eminent, entertained but low thoughts of himself—

[Never was there a man more distinguished than he, whether we consider in general his love to God [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14. Acts 20:24; Acts 21:13.] and man [Note: Romans 9:1-3. Philippians 2:17.], or examine the particular graces that adorned his soul [Note: Sympathy, 2 Corinthians 11:29; Contentment, Philippians 4:11-12; Deadness to the world, Galatians 6:14; Industry, Romans 15:19; Self-denial, 1 Corinthians 9:15.]. He not only was not inferior to any other Apostle [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:5; 2 Corinthians 12:11.], but he laboured more abundantly than they all [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:10.]. Yet, from an impartial view of himself, as compared with the requirements of God’s law, and the example of his Divine Master, he was constrained to confess that he had not yet attained that measure either of knowledge or of holiness, which it was his duty, and his privilege, to possess. This, I say, he found from an exact computation [Note: λογίζομαι.], and has recorded it for the instruction of the Church in all ages.]

In this respect he proposes himself to us as an example—

[The word “perfect,” in the close of the text, is not to be understood in the strictest sense, (for then it would contradict what he had before said [Note: ver. 12.],) but as signifying that degree of maturity at which the generality of Christians arrive [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 14:20 and Ephesians 4:13.]. To persons of this description he says, “Be thus minded:” and surely it is impossible not to feel the propriety of the exhortation. Let any one of us, even the best amongst us, compare himself with the perfect law of God, or with the spotless example of our Lord, and will he not find in himself deficiencies without number? Let him even compare himself with Paul, a man of like passions with ourselves, and will he not appear a dwarf, a very child in comparison of him? Let him examine himself with respect to every Christian grace, and see whether he do not fall very far short of that bright pattern? Well then may all of us confess, that “we have not yet apprehended that for which we have been apprehended of Christ Jesus.”]

This however is not to discourage us, but to stimulate us to,

II. A diligent pursuit of higher attainments—

Glorious was the ardour with which the Apostle was animated in his high calling—

[He considered himself as “called by a reconciled God” to enter the lists in the Christian race, and as now actually contending for the prize. Much of his ground had he already passed over; but like the racers in the Olympic games, he “forgot what was behind,” and was mindful only of that which yet remained for him to do. He saw the prize in full view, and strained every nerve [Note: ἐπεκτεινόμενος.] in order to obtain it: and the nearer he approached the goal, the more earnestly did he “press forward,” desiring nothing but to “finish his course with joy.” This was “the one thing which he did.” Nothing else occupied his mind, nothing else was deemed worthy of one moment’s attention. Nothing could, in his apprehension, be lost, if that prize were gained; nor any thing gained, if that prize were lost.]

In this way he exhorts us also to prosecute the great concerns of our souls—

[The same prize which was set before him is held up to us also: and we are called by God to run for it. It may be that we have both clone and suffered much for God already: but we must not think of any thing that is passed (except for the purpose of humbling ourselves, or of glorifying God) we must be intent only on present duty, and engage in it with all our might. To get forward must be our constant uniform endeavour. It is “the one thing needful.” As persons running in a race find no time for loitering or diversion, but distinguish themselves from mere spectators by the exertions they make; so must we manifest to all around us that we have but one pursuit, with which we are determined that nothing shall interfere, and which we will never relax, till we have reached the goal.]

This subject is of peculiar use,

1. For reproof—

[How are they condemned who have never yet begun the Christian race! Do they expect to win the prize without running for it? This cannot be: “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent must take it by force.” Still more are they condemned who would discourage others that are engaged in the contest. Are they “like-minded” with the Apostle, who are constantly endeavouring to damp the ardour which they will not emulate? Nor are they less worthy of reproof who have relaxed their diligence in the ways of God. To such Paul says, “Ye did run well; who hath hindered you [Note: Galatians 5:7.]? Yes; inquire diligently who or what hath hindered you: for you had better be stripped of all that you possess, than be impeded by it in your Christian course. Shake off then the thick clay from your feet [Note: Habakkuk 2:6.]: put aside the garment that obstructs your progress [Note: Hebrews 12:1. εὐπερίστατον ἁμαρτίαν; See Beza’s note on those words.]: mortify the flesh that pleads for indulgence [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.]: and “run with patience the race that is set before you.”]

2. For encouragement—

[Some perhaps are faint, and ready almost to give up the contest. But behold the prize: will not that repay? And is not the attainment of it certain, if you hold on your way [Note: Matthew 24:13.]? Yea more, shall not your strength be renewed, if only you wait upon your God [Note: Isaiah 40:29-31.]? In a few more steps you will reach the goal: and will you stop when the prize is already, as it were, in your hands? O press forward: follow the Apostle: endure to the end; and receive “the crown of glory that fadeth not away.”]


Verse 17

DISCOURSE: 2156

OF FOLLOWING GOOD EXAMPLES

Philippians 3:17; Philippians 3:20. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. For our conversation is in heaven.

GREAT is the force of example, either to vitiate or improve the morals of those around us. There are few, even of real Christians, who do not, in some considerable degree, yield to its influence. The church at Philippi was, on the whole, distinguished for its attainments: yet even there, hypocrisy was found, and error had its advocates. The example of some worldly and sensual professors was likely to prove extremely injurious: while therefore the Apostle declares his grief occasioned by their misconduct, he exhorts the Church to unite in following rather the example that he had set them, and to notice with approbation all who conducted themselves agreeably to his advice.

The words that are in verses 18 and 19, being included in a parenthesis, those which are united in the text are properly connected with each other. In discoursing on them, we shall consider,

1. The Apostle’s example—

St. Paul considered himself as a citizen of heaven [Note: πολίτευμαἡμῶν might have been translated our citizenship.]—

[To be a citizen of Rome was deemed a high honour; and it was an honour which Paul possessed by virtue of his being a native of Tarsus, on which city this privilege had been conferred [Note: Acts 22:28.]. But Paul’s name was enrolled in a more glorious city, even in heaven itself [Note: Luke 10:20.]. He belonged to the society of saints and angels, who were united under Christ, their common head [Note: Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:15.]: and he had a communion with them in all their honours, their interests, and their enjoyments [Note: Ephesians 2:6.].]

In the exercise of his rights, he had his daily converse in heaven—

[As a person is daily conversant with that society to which he belongs, maintaining fellowship with them, and ordering his life according to their rules, so the Apostle lived, as it were, in heaven: his thoughts and affections were there continually: and he was emulating those around the throne by his constant endeavours to glorify God, and by walking habitually in the light of his countenance.]

While he mentions his example, he shews us,

II. The use that we should make of it—

We should imitate him ourselves—

[We are already joined to the society in heaven [Note: Hebrews 12:22-23.], provided we be united unto Christ by faith: and it behoves us to “walk worthy of our high calling.” Though we are in the world, we are not to be of it. “We have here no continuing city:” we are to be in this world as pilgrims only and so-journers: we must ever consider ourselves as strangers and foreigners, who, though living on earth are indeed fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God [Note: Ephesians 2:19.]. If we were travelling in a foreign land, we should regard the concerns of that land rather as objects of curiosity, than as matters in which we felt any deep interest: whereas the affairs of our own country, where our estates were situated, and our relations lived, would be regarded by us as matters of great moment. Thus should we be indifferent, as it were, to all the vanities of this life, and be wholly intent on our spiritual and eternal interests. We should be maintaining communion with our Head in heaven [Note: 1 John 1:3.], and growing up into a meetness for the exercises and enjoyments of the invisible world.]

We should also “mark those who” do imitate him—

[All of us should unite [Note: συμμιμηταί.] in following his example, and emulate each other in his holy employment. And, when any make higher attainments than ourselves we should not be ashamed to imitate them: we should observe [Note: σκοπεῖτε.] particularly what it is wherein they excel us, and how it is that they have been enabled to outstrip us. We should endeavour to encourage them; and together with them to press forward towards perfection [Note: Proverbs 15:24.].]

We may make use of this subject,

1. For reproof—

[How widely do the greater part of Christians differ from the Apostle! Nor is it only the profane, or the formal, that are condemned by his example, but even the godly also. Let all of us then be ashamed of the low sense we entertain of our privileges, and of the coldness with which we prosecute our eternal interests. Let us seek to have our views and dispositions more conformed to those of the saints of old; that at the second coming of our Lord we may behold him both with confidence and joy [Note: ver. 20, 21. with 1 John 2:28.].]

2. For encouragement—

[It is not to Apostles that these attainments are confined: they were common to many others in the Church at Philippi, who, together with the Apostle, are proposed as patterns unto us. Let none then imagine that this blessed state is beyond their reach; but rather let all aspire after it, as the one object of their ambition [Note: ver. 13, 14.]. Let all seek to know what a gloriously rich inheritance [Note: Ephesians 1:18.] they are even now permitted to enjoy; and, having by faith gained access into this grace, let them stand in it, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God [Note: Romans 5:2.].]


Verse 18-19

DISCOURSE: 2157

A WARNING TO THE EARTHLY-MINDED

Philippians 3:18-19. 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.

NOTWITHSTANDING the utter extinction of vital godliness from the heart of man, through the introduction of sin into the world, there remain within him some principles of goodness, weakened indeed, but still operative and lively. Among these we may notice humanity and compassion, which often work in the breasts of the unregenerate, so as even to shame those who are endued with a principle of true religion. There is, however, one essential difference between this disposition as it is exercised by unconverted men, and the same as cultivated by the godly: in the former, it extends no further than to the temporal condition of mankind; but in the latter, it terminates chiefly on their spiritual and eternal state. Hence we frequently see both Prophets and Apostles expressing with tears their concern for the souls of those around them. In the passage before us, St. Paul was filled with the tenderest emotions of pity, while he beheld the state of many in the Christian Church, whose character and end he most pathetically describes.

In illustrating his statement, we shall consider,

I. The lamentable state of some professors—

St. James speaks of a principle that is “earthly sensual, devilish [Note: James 3:15.],” and such is that, by which too many, who profess godliness, are actuated.

1. “Their belly is their god”—

[By “the belly,” we understand the sensual appetite [Note: Romans 16:18.]: and to make “a god” of it, is to yield ourselves up to its dominion. And must we go to heathen countries to find persons of this description? are not “many” such to be found in the Christian Church? Many, alas! are addicted to gluttony, to drunkenness, to whoredom: and among those who are free from these gross excesses, how many are there who have no higher end of life than to consult their own ease and pleasure, and whose labours in all their younger years, are with a view to provide these very enjoyments for them in the decline of life! What is this but to put the gratification of their sensual appetite in the place of God, whose will should be the only rule, and whose glory, the ultimate end, of all their actions?]

2. “They glory in their shame”—

[Whatever proceeds from a corrupt principle, whether it be approved or not among men, is really a ground of shame: yet how many will boast of their vilest excesses, perhaps, too, even of crimes which they have never committed! How many will glory in the insolence with which they have treated their superiors; the resentment they have shewn towards those who injured them; and the cunning they have exercised in a way of traffic; when, if they viewed these things aright, they would rather blush for them as vile iniquities, and mourn over them in dust and ashes!

Perhaps the Apostle had a more especial reference to the Judaizing teachers, who sought to distract the Church of God, and gloried in the number of their proselytes. Such he justly calls “dogs, and evil workers [Note: ver. 2.]:” and too many such there are also in this day, whose whole delight is to spread some favourite notions of their own, and who care not how many of Christ’s flock they scatter and destroy, if they can but increase their own party.

Now what is this but their sin and their shame? and to glory in sin, of whatever kind that sin be, is the very spirit of Satan himself, who accounts himself happy in proportion as he can weaken the kingdom of Christ, and establish his own empire over the hearts of men.]

3. “They mind earthly things“—

[To a certain degree earthly things must be minded: but we are not to savour, to relish, or to set our affections upon them [Note: φρονοῦντες. See Colossians 3:2.]. This would be as contrary to the mind and will of God, as to make a god of our belly, or to glory in our shame. Yet how many professed Christians are there who live under the habitual influence of an earthly mind, without ever conceiving that there is any thing wrong in their conduct! In spiritual employments they experience nothing but a stupid uniformity: but in temporal concerns they have many fluctuations of hope and fear, of joy and sorrow, according as their prospects of success brighten, or their apprehensions of disappointment increase. Whence arises this, but from the decided preference they give to carnal and earthly things, above those which are spiritual and heavenly?]

Fidelity requires, that, having delineated the conduct of these professors, we should set before you,

II. The warning here given them—

It is a painful task to rob any of their hopes, and to denounce the terrors of the Lord: and while we engage in it, we would, like the Apostle, proceed with the utmost tenderness and compassion. But we must, at the peril of our own souls, endeavour to undeceive those who are blinded by these delusions. Let such then know,

1. Their real character—

[Many, who are of this description, imagine that they are friends of the Gospel, and that they have a great regard both for Christ and his people. But indeed, “they are enemies of the cross of Christ:” they withstand its influence over themselves — — — and obstruct its influence over others — — —

What was the intent of the death of Christ but to redeem us from all iniquity [Note: Titus 2:14.], and to deliver us from this present evil world [Note: Galatians 1:4.], and to establish the dominion of Christ over our whole souls [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:5.]? This was the effect it produced on others [Note: Galatians 6:14.]; and would on us, if we thoroughly submitted to its influence. Whatever therefore we may imagine or profess, we really are enemies of the cross of Christ, as long as, in our spirit and conduct, we continue hostile to its main design.

The injury which such professors do to the cause of Christ, is incalculable. If they be openly profane, they explode religion altogether, and deter others from regarding its dictates; and if they be more decent in their conduct, they lead men, both by their conversation and example, to suppose that religion consists in mere forms or notions, instead of an entire subjugation of the soul to Christ. In what light then must they appear before God? If “he that gathereth not with Christ, is as one that scattereth abroad [Note: Matthew 12:30.],” much more must they, who are thus actively engaged in scattering the flock, be deemed his enemies. Yes, brethren, such persons, whatever they may profess, (with grief and sorrow I declare it,) they are no other than enemies of the cross of Christ.”]

2. Their certain end—

[It is no wonder that they who mistake their own character, should deceive themselves also with respect to the state to which they are fast approaching. They conclude that their eternal interests are safe: but God declares, that “their end is destruction.” Yes indeed! “their end must be according to their works.” And do not the Scriptures abundantly confirm this melancholy truth? “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die [Note: Romans 8:13.]:” “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him [Note: 1 John 2:15.];” “to be carnally-minded is death [Note: Romans 8:6.].” Dear brethren, in vain will be all pleas and pretences at the judgment-seat of Christ: to every worker of inquity, whether he have been an open sensualist, or hypocritical professor, it will be said, “Depart from me, I never knew you [Note: Matthew 7:22-23.].”]

We would subjoin a word or two of advice—

1. Beware lest you rest in an external profession of religion—

[It is easy to adopt the creed of Christians, and to conform our lives to that standard which obtains generally in the world. But it is no easy matter to be a consistent Christian. To maintain an uniform course of self-denial, and of deadness to earthly things, and to glory only in the Lord, these are hard lessons: yet nothing less than this will prove us Christians indeed. It is not by our creed, or our professions, that we shall be judged; but by our “walk” — — — By that therefore we must judge ourselves, if we would not be deceived to our eternal ruin.]

2. Be not offended with the Gospel on account of any misconduct in its professors—

[There were some even in the Apostles’ days who “walked” unworthy of their high and holy calling; yea, there were “many” But was the Gospel to be blamed for this? As for those who gave the occasion of offence, it was to them a ground of aggravated condemnation: but the Gospel itself was not a whit less “worthy of all acceptation.” So at this day, whatever the conduct of any professors of godliness may be, the Gospel which we preach is the “wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation” to all those who cordially embrace it. Instead therefore of being offended at it ourselves on account of the misconduct of others, let us study to adorn and recommend it by a consistent “walk” and a heavenly conversation.]

3. Watch over one another with care and tenderness—

[None are at liberty to say, “Am I my brother’s keeper [Note: Genesis 4:9.]?” We all should feel a tender concern for the welfare of our fellow-creatures: and especially when we behold those who profess to have the same faith and hope with ourselves, manifesting by their conduct the delusion of their minds, we should weep over them, and, with a mixture of fidelity and compassion, declare to them their danger. We are expressly told to “exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day [Note: Hebrews 3:13.]:” and though we shall not always give satisfaction to the persons whom we warn, yet shall we really perform towards them the kindest office, and perhaps save them from the destruction to which they wore hastening. Then shall we have reason to rejoice over them, as they also will have to bless God for us, to all eternity.]


Verse 20

DISCOURSE: 2156

OF FOLLOWING GOOD EXAMPLES

Philippians 3:17; Philippians 3:20. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. For our conversation is in heaven.

GREAT is the force of example, either to vitiate or improve the morals of those around us. There are few, even of real Christians, who do not, in some considerable degree, yield to its influence. The church at Philippi was, on the whole, distinguished for its attainments: yet even there, hypocrisy was found, and error had its advocates. The example of some worldly and sensual professors was likely to prove extremely injurious: while therefore the Apostle declares his grief occasioned by their misconduct, he exhorts the Church to unite in following rather the example that he had set them, and to notice with approbation all who conducted themselves agreeably to his advice.

The words that are in verses 18 and 19, being included in a parenthesis, those which are united in the text are properly connected with each other. In discoursing on them, we shall consider,

1. The Apostle’s example—

St. Paul considered himself as a citizen of heaven [Note: πολίτευμαἡμῶν might have been translated our citizenship.]—

[To be a citizen of Rome was deemed a high honour; and it was an honour which Paul possessed by virtue of his being a native of Tarsus, on which city this privilege had been conferred [Note: Acts 22:28.]. But Paul’s name was enrolled in a more glorious city, even in heaven itself [Note: Luke 10:20.]. He belonged to the society of saints and angels, who were united under Christ, their common head [Note: Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:15.]: and he had a communion with them in all their honours, their interests, and their enjoyments [Note: Ephesians 2:6.].]

In the exercise of his rights, he had his daily converse in heaven—

[As a person is daily conversant with that society to which he belongs, maintaining fellowship with them, and ordering his life according to their rules, so the Apostle lived, as it were, in heaven: his thoughts and affections were there continually: and he was emulating those around the throne by his constant endeavours to glorify God, and by walking habitually in the light of his countenance.]

While he mentions his example, he shews us,

II. The use that we should make of it—

We should imitate him ourselves—

[We are already joined to the society in heaven [Note: Hebrews 12:22-23.], provided we be united unto Christ by faith: and it behoves us to “walk worthy of our high calling.” Though we are in the world, we are not to be of it. “We have here no continuing city:” we are to be in this world as pilgrims only and so-journers: we must ever consider ourselves as strangers and foreigners, who, though living on earth are indeed fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God [Note: Ephesians 2:19.]. If we were travelling in a foreign land, we should regard the concerns of that land rather as objects of curiosity, than as matters in which we felt any deep interest: whereas the affairs of our own country, where our estates were situated, and our relations lived, would be regarded by us as matters of great moment. Thus should we be indifferent, as it were, to all the vanities of this life, and be wholly intent on our spiritual and eternal interests. We should be maintaining communion with our Head in heaven [Note: 1 John 1:3.], and growing up into a meetness for the exercises and enjoyments of the invisible world.]

We should also “mark those who” do imitate him—

[All of us should unite [Note: συμμιμηταί.] in following his example, and emulate each other in his holy employment. And, when any make higher attainments than ourselves we should not be ashamed to imitate them: we should observe [Note: σκοπεῖτε.] particularly what it is wherein they excel us, and how it is that they have been enabled to outstrip us. We should endeavour to encourage them; and together with them to press forward towards perfection [Note: Proverbs 15:24.].]

We may make use of this subject,

1. For reproof—

[How widely do the greater part of Christians differ from the Apostle! Nor is it only the profane, or the formal, that are condemned by his example, but even the godly also. Let all of us then be ashamed of the low sense we entertain of our privileges, and of the coldness with which we prosecute our eternal interests. Let us seek to have our views and dispositions more conformed to those of the saints of old; that at the second coming of our Lord we may behold him both with confidence and joy [Note: ver. 20, 21. with 1 John 2:28.].]

2. For encouragement—

[It is not to Apostles that these attainments are confined: they were common to many others in the Church at Philippi, who, together with the Apostle, are proposed as patterns unto us. Let none then imagine that this blessed state is beyond their reach; but rather let all aspire after it, as the one object of their ambition [Note: ver. 13, 14.]. Let all seek to know what a gloriously rich inheritance [Note: Ephesians 1:18.] they are even now permitted to enjoy; and, having by faith gained access into this grace, let them stand in it, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God [Note: Romans 5:2.].]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Philippians 3:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/philippians-3.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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