Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE AUTHORS OF THE GREETING. "Paul and Timotheus, bond-slaves of Jesus Christ."
1. The apostle associates Timothy with himself as one who had labored at Philippi and was well known to the Christians of that city. Timothy, besides, was then his companion at Rome. It was natural that he should name the disciple who was associated with him through a longer range of time than any other - extending, indeed, from the date of his first missionary journey till near the very time of his martyrdom.
2. He does not call himself an apostle, because the assertion of his official designation was not needful at Philippi, but places himself on a level with Timothy, by bringing into prominence their common relationship to the Lord as "bond-slaves of Jesus Christ." They belonged to him as Master, and bore his marks in their very bodies, and were supremely devoted to his service.
II. THE PERSONS TO WHOM THE GREETING WAS ADDRESSED. "To the saints which are in Christ Jesus at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons."
1. They dwelt in Philipi, an important city of Macedonia, which, thirty-four years before, was the scene of a great battle which determined the prevalence of the imperial system of Rome. It was still more celebrated as the first city in Europe which received the gospel - "thus opening up the long vista of what has become Western Christendom."
2. They were "saints in Christ Jesus;" with a ten years' history. The title must have had a special force in the case of those addressed with such a warmth of affection. Their saintship was grounded in their union with Christ. It is interesting to mark the prominence of female names both in the first founding of the Church and in its later developments, as noticed in the Epistle. Who can say whether the delicate and untiring generosity of the Philippian Church to the apostle may not have been mainly due to these saintly women, who enjoyed in Macedonia, as women, a far more independent position than in other parts of the world? There is at all events a sweet tenderness in Philippian piety which made the designation of "saints" peculiarly appropriate.
3. The greeting was extended to the bishops and deaths along with the saints.
(1) This implies that Philippian Christianity was fully organized.
(2) It suggests that the bishops and deacons may have taken an active part in the contribution to the apostle's wants.
(3) Yet the apostle, by his mode of greeting, lends no sanction to hierarchical usurpation, for, instead of greeting "the bishops and deacons, together with the saints at Philippi," he assigns the first place to the Christian flock.
δοῦλοι) of Jesus Christ, and as such desire to address the constituents of the Philippian Church. The contents of this Epistle are eminently joy-inspiring; it is, in fact, marvellous that such consolation should come from captivity to those enjoying freedom. But Godways are oftentimes surprising.
I. LET US LOOK AT CHRIST'S SLAVES. (Ver. 1.) Paul and Timothy, as the slaves of Christ, felt that they were not their own, but bought with a price. They were, therefore, bound to glorify God in their bodies, in their spirits, and in all their possessions. And to such wide responsibilities they cheerfully responded, so that it was their constant joy to live for Jesus. He was their Lord; hence the title is given to him in the second verse. But they felt this slavery to be perfect freedom, and rejoiced in the thought that the mark or brand of Christ was upon them (cf. Romans 6:18-22; 2 Corinthians 2:17). As the slaves of Christ, moreover, it was impossible for them to be the slaves of men (1 Corinthians 7:23). And truly it is only when we are possessed, body and soul, by Christ, and when we have merged our will in his, that we rise into lordship over ourselves and become heirs of all things. It is this slavery to Christ which proves the real emancipation of the spirit.
II. LET US LOOK AT THE CHURCH AT PHILIPPI. (Ver. 1.) Now, it was composed of saints (ἁγίοις). These consecrated, dedicated souls formed the staple of the Church at Philippi. While Paul does not assert that saintliness characterized them all without exception who professed membership in the Church, he plainly indicates that it ought to characterize them all. As Lightfoot expresses it, "Though it does not assert moral qualifications as a fact in the persons designated, it implies them as a duty." Moreover, Paul in his charity addresses himself to all these saints; so as to heal any divisions which may have arisen among them and to bind them all into a unity of spirit and of aim. The sphere of their saintliness is Christ Jesus. It is through their union with the Lord that they become the consecrated men he means them to be. But in the Church there were two kinds of officers - "bishops and deacons." That these "bishops" are synonymous with "presbyters" must be admitted by all, especially after the Bishop of Durham's candid note. They were spiritual overseers of the flock of God, and the plurality of them in such a little place as Philippi shows how desirable it is to have a plurality of persons in a congregation charged with its spiritual oversight and doing all they can to promote its spiritual welfare. Lastly, there were "deacons" in Philippi, men charged with the temporal interests of the congregations and administering these most faithfully. This "division of labor" was introduced after the experiment of the commune, and was found to work so well that it was continued in the apostolic Church long after the experiment of communism had proved a failure (Acts 6.). The simple organization of these primitive Churches is most instructive. With "saints and bishops and deacons" the congregation was complete.
III. LET US LOOK AT PAUL'S DESIRE FOR THEM. (Ver. 2.) Though saints in character, though bishops or deacons, as the case might be, by virtue of their office, they needed constant "grace" from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, with its resultant "peace." God establishes relations with our souls, not that we may become at any time independent of him, but that we may realize constant dependence on him. As children we are to gather round his feet and rejoice in his paternal favor. And Jesus Christ is to be our Lord, so that in submission to his holy will we may find our path of peace. It is only by this due subordination to the Divine that we can grow in peace and enjoy life to the full. As our lives are thus united to the infinite Fountain, we can grow in all the elements of spiritual power. Such a benediction was the best experience for the saints at Philippi, as it is the best experience for Church members everywhere. - R.M.E.
- Judaic formalism and antinomian licence. With all that was commendable in the Philippians, there was something of the spirit of rivalry among them. The counteracting of this gives, in several places, a turn to the thought.
1. The writers. "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus." The Philippians are so loyal to Paul that he does not need to make use of his official designation. He associates with himself Timothy, as both of them standing in common subordination to Christ as Savior. They are both his servants, i.e. bound to carry out the ends of his salvation. Timothy was known to the readers of this Epistle, as having assisted in the foundation of their Church and as having subsequently visited them. From the natural interest he thus had in them he was to be at no distant period Paul's ambassador for the purpose of inquiring into their state. There can be no doubt that Paul is properly the writer of the Epistle; for, in the third verse, Timothy is lost sight of, and, when he is afterward referred to, it is in the third person. At the same time, Timothy must be regarded as joining with Paul, not only in the salutation, but in the whole sentiment of the Epistle. Written down by him, or read over by him or to him, he was of one mind with Paul in every expression he used to the Philippian Church.
2. The persons addressed.
(1) The members of the Church. "To all the saints in Christ Jesus." They were saints, not by nature, but through the cleansing efficacy of Christ's blood. They were saints, not so much in actuality, as in idea, in aspiration. They regarded purity, separation from the world, as their distinctive badge. They were like the wearers of the white robes in the temple, appointed to dwell under the Infinite Purity. They might not be all genuine; but the apostle addresses them with a studied universality according to what they professed to be. Locality. "Which are at Philippi." The city of Philippi was situated in Macedonia, on the borders of Thrace; it derived its name from the great Philip of Macedon, who, about B.C. 356, founded it on the site of the ancient Crenides, or Wells. The plain on which it was situated was watered by the Gangites, a tributary of the Strymon. In the battle of Philippi, fought in B.C. 42, between Antony and Octavius against Brutus and Cassius, the fortunes of the Roman Republic were finally lost, and the place, thus made memorable, soon afterwards became what it is styled in the Acts of the Apostles, a Roman colony. It is especially memorable for the Christian Church as the first place in Europe where the gospel was preached. This was about the year 53, in the course of Paul's second missionary journey. Brought by a compulsion from "the Spirit of Jesus" opposite the European coast, in a night vision there appeared to Paul a man of Macedonia beseeching him, and saying, "Come over into Macedonia, and help us." Without delay, he crossed the sea, and from the port of Ncapolis pressed on to Philippi. On the sabbath day he sought the Jewish place of prayer, which was without the gate by the banks of the Gangites; and, sitting down, he addressed the assembled women. The baptism of an Asiatic proselytess, Lydia, and her household is mentioned as the first triumph of the gospel on European ground. The first European converted on European ground, of which the record tells us, was a Python-possessed slave-girl. And this led on to the conversion of the Roman jailor. Amid a storm of persecution Paul had to leave Philippi; at a distance of five years he paid them a double visit, and at a distance of ten years from his first visit he writes this letter.
(2) The office-bearers. "With the bishops and deacons." There was a regularly constituted Church at Philippi. Two orders of office-bearers are mentioned. The deacons who attended to the temporal affairs of the Church are included in the salutation, as to them it would specially fall to see to the contribution. The retention of the title "bishops" in the Revised translation is objectionable on the ground of ambiguity. No one imagines that within ten years there was a plurality of bishops, as a third order of office-bearers, in the Christian community of Philippi.
II. THE SALUTATION (same as in Ephesians).
1. The two words of salutation. "Grace to you and peace." The best security for others being blessed is the Divine graciousness which makes all the Divine dealings mean peace.
2. The twofold source to which we look in salutation. "From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." The Father who has blessed us bless them too. Jesus Christ, who has revealed the Father's power to bless, as Lord dispense to them out of the stores in his Father's house as he has dispensed to us. - R.F.
to tols desmois men (Philippians 1:7), and at Rome (Philippians 4:22). And Paul had been long enough a prisoner to have produced great effects both in the Praetorium and elsewhere (Philippians 1:13). The long captivity of the apostle before the date of the letter appears also from this. The Philippians had heard of his imprisonment at Rome, and had sent him pecuniary relief by the hands of Epaphroditus (Philippians 1:7; Philippians 4:18); and Epaphroditus had fallen ill at Rome (Philippians 2:27), the Philippians heard of it, and the report to that effect had gone back from Philippi to Rome (Philippians 2:26). In short, the Epistle was written when Paul was in such confident expectation of his release that he was making arrangements for his departure, and he tells us that his intentions were, immediately on being released, to send off Timothy to Philippi to learn their state and to bring back word to Paul in the West, and then both were to sail together to the East, and after some little interval Paul hoped to visit Philippi in person." In this salutation we have three subjects for thought -
I. THE MOST DIGNIFIED OF ALL OFFICES, "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ? The apostle does not here assert his apostleship as in some other places, but speaks of himself and Timotheus simply as. the servants of Jesus Christ. Now, whilst to be a servant of some men and institutions implies degradation, to be the servant of Jesus Christ is to sustain an orifice the most honourable and glorious; for note the following things connected with this service: -
1. It meets with the full concurrence of conscience. There are many services in which men are engaged, some most lucrative, some associated with worldly honors, yet they fail to enlist the full concurrence of conscience, nay, conscience often raises its protest against them, and it often happens that the protests are so strong that men have felt bound to resign. But in this service conscience goes with every effort put forth; for to serve Christ is to ran with the principles of eternal right, to render to the Almighty his claims, and to all creatures their due.
2. It affords ample scope for the full development of the soul's faculties. In how many services have men to be engaged in this world which only excite and employ certain powers of the mind, leaving all the others in a state of decay and torpor! Millions feel that the work in which they are engaged is so unworthy of their natures that they lack both self-satisfaction and freedom. The services make no demand upon their powers of investigation, speculation, invention, creation, and their central moral sensibilities; all is machinery. But in the service of Christ there is both an urgent demand and an immeasurable scope for the wonderful powers and possibilities of the human soul. In this service men advance with every effort, not as the mere creatures of time, but as the offspring of God and the citizens of the universe. By this service we grow up into him.
3. It is a service that contributes to the well-being of all and the ill-being of none. In all the selfish services of time, whilst there may be a contributing to the temporal interests of some, there is an injury inflicted on others; what one gains the other loses. What man has ever made a fortune or risen to power that has not invaded the rights and damaged the interests of others? But in this service good is rendered to all and evil to none. It is a service of universal benevolence, a service for the common weal, a service that goes against all the ills that afflict the race, and for all the blessings that can enrich and ennoble.
4. It is a service, that ensures the approbation of God and of all consciences in the universe. Does the service of the politician or the ecclesiastic or the warrior secure the approval of Almighty God? Not as such; nor do they secure the approbation of universal conscience. But the service of Christ does. He says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" and all consciences with every effort echo the approval. Policy, passion, and prejudice often condemn the genuine servants of Christ, but their consciences never. the law of their moral constitution compels them to say, "Well done!" to the right.
5. It is a service whose worth is determined, not by result, but by motive. The service of a man in the employ of human masters is estimated, not by motive, but by results. If the motive be corrupt, utterly selfish, so long as the results contribute to the interests of the master, the servant is pronounced a good one. Not so with the service of Christ. Motive is everything; though a man may effect in Christianity what may be considered wonderful success, prophesy in abundance, and cast out devils by hosts, he is deemed utterly worthless, only as stubble and fit for the fire. "Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity," etc. What service, then, approaches this, ay, is comparable to this, in its sublime dignity? To be a servant of Christ is to be the sublimest of prophets, the most Divine of priests, the most glorious of kings.
II. THE MOST EXALTED OF ALL STATES. "To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." "Bishop" and "presbyter" are equivalents in the apostolic Epistles, though the two terms have different origins - the one, presbyter, or elder, a Jewish title; the other, bishop, or overseer, of heathen origin, used in classic Greek for commissioner. Deacons we find the origin of in Acts 1:6,
7. Now, while it is noteworthy that the Philippian Church had its two officers - the bishop and the deacon - these officers were spiritually in the same state as the private members. What was that state? "In Christ Jesus." The distinction between them and the others was not a distinction of state but simply of service or of office, and unless their state had been identical their office would have been invalid. A true Church and all its members must be in Christ Jesus. What does this mean? It is an expression of very frequent occurrence in the writings of the apostle. In Christo. What meaneth it? We can attach three intelligible ideas to the expression.
1. In his affections as his friends. When we say that a child is in the heart of its parent, or such a sister is in the heart of her brother, or such a wife in the heart of her husband, we know what it means. In fact, all that we really love live in our hearts; they often prompt us to thought and inspire us to act. Now, Christ loves all men, and all men are in his heart; but his love for his friends is special, deep, and tender. "Ye are my friends." Every genuine disciple is in the heart of Christ.
2. In his school as his pupils. Christ is a Teacher of absolute truth, a Teacher of humanity. He has established a school, and to all he gives the invitation, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Now, all who enter this school are his disciples. What a Teacher is Christ! "Never man spake like this Man." What an inexpressible privilege to be in this school!
3. In his character as their Example. Without figure man everywhere lives in the character of man. The present age lives in the character of the past, and so back; the millions of unrenewed men live in the character of Adam, imbibe his selfishness, and practice his disloyalty. All regenerate men live in the character of Christ, appropriate his grand ideas, cherish his spirit, and imitate his Divine virtues; thus they become like him. Much more is included in being in Christ, but this is sufficient to indicate and to show that it is the most exalted of all states. The man who is in Christ has broken away from the enthralling influence of materialism, is rising to a mastery over external circumstances, and over his carnal passions and lusts, is towering higher and higher into the regions of unclouded light and of ineffable joys and imperishable delights.
III. THE MOST PHILANTHROPIC OF ALL ASPIRATIONS. "Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." This is Paul's general salutation, and is found in almost every Epistle. It is also often employed by Peter and John. "Grace" means favor, and the wish expressed by the apostle is that the Divine favor and peace may flow to them from the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. What greater blessings than these - God's favor and God's peace! And what wishes more philanthropic than these can be conceived of! Most men express philanthropic wishes towards their fellow-men at times: some wish health, riches, long life, and great enjoyment; but he who wishes the favor and peace of God wishes infinitely more than all these. The patriot wishes men to be free, the total abstainer wishes men to be sober, the religious denominationalist wishes men to join his sect; but Paul's wish here is grander, more comprehensive and Divine than these - he wishes men to have the favor and the peace of God. "Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ."
CONCLUSION. The fundamental question which presses on us is - Are we "in Christ Jesus"? Not - Are we in this system or that, in this Church or that? but - Are we "in Christ Jesus"? If so, we are secure from all dangers, ripe for all worlds, and for futurities, on the march of everlasting progress, light, and blessedness.
I would live my life in Christo, I would fight my foes in Christo, Aid me, Lord, to live in Christo; I would drink of that life-river From my guilt and from my bondage I would die my death in Christo, In that rest I shall adore him
I would fight my foes in Christo, Aid me, Lord, to live in Christo; I would drink of that life-river From my guilt and from my bondage I would die my death in Christo, In that rest I shall adore him
Aid me, Lord, to live in Christo;
I would drink of that life-river
From my guilt and from my bondage I would die my death in Christo, In that rest I shall adore him
I. IT IS IN THE WORLD. Philippi, a city of importance as a center of trade and traffic. A Roman colony reproducing on a minute scale the institutions of the empire city.
II. IT IS NOT OR THE WORLD, BUT IS CHRIST. In him its life is hidden. Three times in these two verses are its members reminded of him. The Church is nothing except so far as it is the living body of Christ and partakes of his grace and peace.
III. IT IS CATHOLIC. We possess a particularly full account of the first preaching of the gospel at Philippi (Acts 16.). Three of its earliest converts are remarkable - Lydia, a Jewish proselyte; a Greek slave; a Roman jailor. These may be taken to represent the three leading divisions of the human family, all of which are to be embraced by the Catholic Church. Their conversion also illustrates the truth that in Christ Jesus there is no distinction of male or female, bond or free.
IV. IT TRANSFIGURES HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS INTO DIVINE. It is of the Church at Philippi that it is especially recorded that the faith was received, not merely by individuals, but by whole families (Acts 16:15, 33). The family is the Divine unit in God's natural organization of mankind. May not this fact in some measure account for the singular freedom of the Philippian Church from the grosset forms of error, and for the simplicity of its faith and love?
V. IT IS APOSTOLIC. It receives its teaching from the mouth of the apostles and is in communion with them.
VI. IT IS AN ORDERLY AND ORGANIZED COMMUNITY, WITH ITS BISHOPS AND DEACONS.
VII. IT ABIDES. Being the possessor of a life which it derives from the spiritual world, it outlasts the visible and external order of things. The city of Philippi has long since ceased to be; it is almost impossible to trace any reminiscence of its former importance. The Church of Philippi lives still in the words of this Epistle, and exercises a power and an influence which can never cease to be. - V.W.H.
I. THE WRITER. St. Paul. Though Timothy is also mentioned in the salutation, he could have had little or nothing to do with the contents, because the apostle speaks throughout personally and individually. His authority not being questioned at Philippi, St. Paul has no need to assert his apostleship, and in genuine humility he writes of himself equally with his young companion, Timothy, as a servant of Jesus Christ.
1. The greatest Christian humbles himself as a bondservant before Christ.
2. The most independent mind in the Church when true to the gospel bows in obedience to the mind of Christ.
3. It is the function of Christian ministers not to seek their own advantages and not to be men-pleasers, but to serve Christ.
II. THE PEOPLE ADDRESSED.
1. The letter is sent to the whole Church at Philippi "all the saints," as well as the officers. The Bible is for all Christians. St. Paul knew nothing of esoteric doctrines.
2. Differences of official position are recognized - saints, bishops, deacons. Order, discipline, instruction, and administration required such organization from the first, and require them in some form now.
3. Christians are called saints, because
(1) they are consecrated men, and
(2) inward holiness is begun in them.
Unless a man is better in character for being a Christian his profession is a mockery.
4. Christians are "in Christ." Personal relation to Christ, the ingrafting of the olive branch, is the primary requisite of the Christian life.
III. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE WAITER AND RECEIVERS OF THE LETTER.
1. The writer is a prisoner awaiting trial on a capital charge. The martyr's lofty self-sacrifice and solemn joy characterize the Epistle.
2. The people addressed are feeble, poor, and persecuted. Yet their beautiful character immortalizes them. There is no Church that we could point to with more satisfaction as the model of primitive Christianity. Thus an obscure and humble community of Christians may be an example to the great Churches.
IV. THE CHARACTER OF THE LETTER.
1. It is uncontroversial. St. Paul was often forced into controversy. But his choicest thoughts come out in calmer moments.
2. It is personal. Nowhere else does the apostle reveal so fully his own private convictions and spiritual experiences. It is difficult to do this humbly, truly, and wholesomely. But when well done it is of rare interest. Hence the value of the private letters of great and good men.
3. It is unusually full of tender feeling. St. Paul was no mere intellectual teacher, and no hard-souled man of energy. His greatest ideas were saturated with emotion. In this Epistle he reveals the tenderness, sympathy, and joy of the deepest Christian experience.
4. It is a grand witness to the power of the gospel
(1) in the transformation of the fiery persecutor Saul into this tender-hearted Apostle Paul;
(2) in infusing all-absorbing devotion to Christ;
(3) in kindling brotherly love between Christians; and
(4) in sustaining the soul under the heaviest troubles with a resignation that faith raises to joyous confidence. - W.F.A.
I. THANKSGIVING IS A NATURAL AND PROPER EXERCISE OF THE BELIEVING HEART, The apostle usually giving in the case of the Philippians.
1. Scripture has psalms of thanksgiving. (Nehemiah 12:8.)
2. We have constant reason for thanksgiving. We thank God for temporal mercies (Exodus 15:1, 2); for spiritual mercies (Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4); for deliverance from the body of death (Romans 7:25); but, above all, for Christ, his unspeakable Gift (Luke 2:38).
II. THE APOSTLE'S THANKSGIVING WAS BASED UPON HIS ENTIRE REMEMBRANCE OF HIS CONVERTS. "Upon my whole remembrance of you." Gratitude is usually fed by memory. They had been often in his remembrance for ten years back. Every fresh token of their affection received in his trials and imprisonments would revive the thought of them.
III. THE OCCASIONS OF HIS THANKSGIVING. "Always in every prayer of mire for you all, making request with joy." There is something significant in "the studied cumulation" of the "alls" in the passage. It marks the overflowing heart.
1. The apostle was much in prayer for his converts. He had a large heart, for he prayed for them all, Ministers should bear their people much upon their hearts in prayer to God. They should pray always for their people. The apostle prayed for his converts as often as he remembered them
(1) because "the anxiety of all the Churches" was upon him;
(2) because he had a deep affection for them;
(3) because they were exposed to great dangers at once from errorists and from persecutors.
2. His prayers for the Philippians were always with joy. "Making request with joy." Though he was a prisoner exposed to all the morbid depression caused by isolation, joy mingled with all his prayers. The sum of this Epistle is, Gaudeo; gaudete. Eighteen times does the word occur in its verbal or substantive forms. Joy is a true fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The apostle mingled joy with his requests,
(1) because the converts at Philippi were very dear to him;
(2) because they were so mindful of his necessities;
(3) because they abounded in many spiritual graces.
IV. THE CAUSE FOR WHICH HE RETURNED THANKS TO GOD. "For your fellowship in aid of the gospel from the first day until now." It was a fellowship of faith and love and service with a view to the furtherance of the gospel. It implied:
1. A cordial and united action.
2. A thoughtful consideration for the apostle's wants.
3. A continuance in well-doing,
which was at once a proof of the gospel's power in their hearts, a demonstration of Christian consistency, and a means for sustained success in gospel work. - T.C.
I. HIS INTERCESSION FOR THEIR FELLOWSHIP IN THE FURTHERANCE OF THE GOSPEL. (Vers. 4, 5, Revised Version.) The intercession of the apostle was joyful. Our prayers should be less complaints than jubilations. It must have been delightful for Paul to dwell upon the missionary spirit which the saints at Philippi exhibited, and to intercede for its increase. As the firstfruits of the European mission, they entered most heartily into Paul's aspirations and did all they could to strengthen his hands. It was a missionary Church which he had established at Philippi. And after all, is not this the prime purpose which should animate every Church? A congregation is nothing if not missionary. It must die of paralysis if it is not seeking to extend the gospel. What we need is to be filled with something like the enthusiasm of the apostles in the propagation of the faith.
II. PAUL'S INTERCESSION WAS BACKED UP BY THE ASSURANCE THAT GOD WOULD ENABLE THEM TO PERSEVERE IN THEIR BLESSED POLICY. (Ver. 6.) The relation of assurance to intercession is one of great interest as well as importance. A certain and sure hope makes prayer joyful and prevailing. Suppose that Paul had been uncertain about the perseverance of the Philippians in the policy of evangelization, how different must his intercessions have been! But because he was certain of it, he prayed prevailingly. But we must observe the ground of his assurance. The "good work" begun in them is evidently the missionary spirit. For every one that receives the gospel is led instinctively to seek to propagate the gospel. The absence of the missionary spirit is proof positive that the gospel has only been nominally received. Well, the apostle argues that when God begins a work, he means to finish it. Incompleteness is but a promise in any Divine work of subsequent perfection. God's plans are not so poorly formed as to fail. Until the day of Jesus Christ, therefore, a spiritual work begun in men's hearts will be carried on. The poetess strikes the true note when she ends her poem on "Incompleteness" with the words -
"Nor dare to blame God's gifts for incompleteness;
III. THEIR SYMPATHY WITH THE APOSTLE HAD PROVED AND WAS PROVING A MEANS OF GRACE. (Vers. 7, 8.) Between Paul and the Philippians there was the most thorough sympathy. They sorrowed over his imprisonment, they sympathized with him in all his struggles and apologies for the gospel. The hearts in Philippi beat in unison with the great heart in Rome. And this secured their spiritual progress. It was a means of grace. Paul's experience was reproduced in them. Sympathy was the means of sanctification. It is so always. When we learn to "weep with those that weep" and to "rejoice with those that do rejoice," we get a wider experience than is possible with the self-centred and self-contained. Progress in all the elements of spiritual power must result.
IV. PAUL PRAYS STILL FURTHER FOR THEIR SYMMETRY OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. (Vers. 9, 10.) His desire is that they may grow symmetrically. Love is to abound in knowledge and in judgment; that is to say, it is to be intelligent and discriminating, so that they may test the things that are excellent, and be sincere and without offense till the day of Jesus Christ. The symmetry of Christian character is a most important fact of experience. The graces do not manifest monstrosities. They grow harmoniously. Hence it is the desire of the progressive soul that others may experience a kindred progress, and with duly balanced powers may pass onwards towards the perfection which is to synchronize with the day of Jesus Christ.
V. AND SUCH PROGRESS IMPLIES FRUITFULNESS. (Ver. 11.) The fruits of righteousness are what God looks for. He plants the trees of righteousness that he may be glorified in their fruitfulness. His garden shall yet be filled with fruitful trees. Every barren cumberer shall yet be rooted out, that its place may be duly filled. - R.M.E.
1. Whom he thanked. "I thank my God." As it was in connection with their matters that he thanked God, he might have said, "I thank your God." As he made common cause with them, he might have said, "I thank our God." As he felt personally indebted to God on their account, what he says is, "I thank my God."
2. Upon what he proceeded in thanksgiving. "Upon all my remembrance of you." This was a gracious word with which, as a wise overseer, to bespeak a hearing from them. It was the highest praise he could have bestowed upon them. His relations with them had been of the happiest nature. Not a shadow had passed over their intercourse. There was nothing in their past history as a Church that he recalled with regretfulness. His whole recollection of them made him thank his God.
3. How he thanked God. "Always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy." His interest in them carried him to the throne of grace. It was his habit to pray for them, as for all the Churches he had founded. He had a means of reaching them through heaven. And whenever he prayed on their behalf (and this was a care which came upon him daily) the remembrance of them called forth his thanksgivings, which gave a tone of joy to his prayers. What was uniformly in his prayers could not but come out in his Epistle. And so it has been remarked by Bengel, "The sum of the Epistle is, 'I rejoice; rejoice ye."
4. For what particularly he thanked God. "For your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now." They were partners with him for a holy end. That end was to further the gospel. They could not accomplish this cud in the same way that Paul did. But they could contribute for his support; and, thus relieving him from the necessity of working with his own hands, they put him in a better position for furthering the gospel They also helped by the prayers they offered up to God on his behalf. They especially helped in what they evinced in their lives of the power of the gospel. That was putting a powerful argument into the mouth of the apostle. In trying to persuade others he could point to what the gospel had done for them. All that help in the gospel they had rendered him from the first day they had heard until then. He had continually been held up by them in the proclamation of the gospel.
II. CONFIDENT HOPE.
1. To what directed. "That he which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ." The good work immediately referred to was co-operation with the apostle in furthering the gospel. But the language is general, and may be referred to the work of grace as a whole.
(1) How the work can be said to be good.
(a) It is a work wrought in us. "In you," says the apostle. There is a work to be wrought on external nature. We are to subdue the earth, according to the primeval command; we are to turn it to good uses. But that is really accidental, relative to the work that is to be wrought in us. What is essential is that we, the workers, the subduers of the earth, should be in our normal state. And there can be no doubt that is what will be looked into when we have done with earth and all its works. What with all our working have we wrought in ourselves?
(b) It is a work which consists in giving forms of goodness to our nature. A man of cultivated taste can make the bare ground assume forms of beauty. He can turn it into a garden - the surface taken advantage of, the soil highly cultivated, flowers and trees disposed of with reference to season, color, size - all so arranged as to be pleasing to the eye. So our nature has to be made to assume Divine forms. It has to be charactered by God - its peculiarities preserved, its powers cultivated, all so ordered under his plastic hand as to be a garden in which he can take delight.
(c) It is a work which consists in the emancipation of our nature from evil forms. This earth of ours in its natural state needs much subduing by the iron, directed by the mind of man. Our nature is to be compared to a piece of ground in its natural wildness, which is ill to subdue to usefulness and loveliness. It needs much subduing by the grace of God, that it may be delivered from the evil that is in it, while brought forth into all goodness. Our minds need to be delivered from vanity, and brought into captivity to Christ. Our memories need to be delivered from treacherousness, and made reliable and ready in the service of Christ. Our affections need to be weaned from the world, and set Christ. Our consciences need to be delivered from searedness, and endued with tenderness. Our wills, especially, need to be delivered from weakness, and endued with power. It is throughout a work of liberation, emancipation, the transforming of the waste so that -
"Flowers of grace in freshness start, (2) How God can be said to begin the good work in us. (a) It is to be traced to the Father's love. Take one who has experienced something of The "good work" in his heart - what is its history? If it is traced back and back, its beginnings are to be found in the motions of the Father's love. It goes further back than even the Divine counsels. For it was the love behind, essentially belonging to him as Father, that made him think of and decree our salvation. (b) It is to be traced to the work of the Son. This is not going so far back as the Father's counsels; it is rather the carrying out of these counsels. The work of Christ outside of us is the reason why the good work can go forward in us. The Son of God, coming into our nature and grappling with all the difficulties of our position, obtained for us redemptive virtue. That is the decisive fact to which the good work in us is to be traced back, just as the healing of men's bodies of old was to be traced back to the miraculous virtue that was in Christ. (c) It is to be traced to the operations of the Spirit. This is God coming into closest contact with us. Left to ourselves the redemptive work of Christ would have been a dead work. But it was followed up by the Spirit of Christ coming into our heart, producing in us the desire for salvation, holding up before us saving merit, saving truth. And the good work in us is to be traced back to his gracious working. "And every virtue we possess, (3) Our ground of confidence in God that he will perfect the good work in us. The work is emphatically God's. "The transformation of apostate man (a) We confide in the infinitude of the Father's love. If we had only our own interest in our salvation to look to, we might be afraid of it dying out. But sooner will light die out of the sun than love die out of the heart of God. And we have that inextinguishable love to rely upon to complete our salvation for us. (b) We confide in the infinitude of the Savior's merit. If we had only our own worthiness to think of, we might often enough hide our head in the dust. But fuller than the sea is of water is Christ of merit. And infinitely beyond our need does his merit extend. And to his far-reaching merit can we look for the completion of our salvation. (c) We confide in the infinitude of the Spirit's power. If we had only ourselves to look to, we might well despair, considering the elements of weakness, of fickleness, that are in our hearts. But more penetrating, subduing than fire is the working of the Spirit. And when we are ready to stand aghast at the evil we discover in our hearts, let us look away to the might of the Spirit that can infinitely more than conquer it all. (4) Our ground of confidence in God especially as having begun the good work. (a) He is bound by his wisdom. When he began the good work he must have had a distinct end in view. And he must have known all the difficulties in the way beforehand, especially the badness of our hearts. In the knowledge of all difficulties he must have seen his way to the desired end all clear. To begin to build without knowing how to finish is foolishness, with which only man is chargeable. There are no half-finished worlds in God's universe. (b) He is bound by his faithfulness. There is the Old Testament promise, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." Such a word as this is encouraging: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." And the very fact that he has begun a good work in us, apart from any word of promise, may be taken as a pledge that he will see to it being completed. Observe the nexus of our experience. It is when we have experienced something of the good work in us that we can assure ourselves in God that he will complete it. We have, therefore, in the first place, to satisfy ourselves about the reality of our experience. Are there the signs of a good work begun in our hearts? Is there the seeking after God for the blessing? Is there the endeavor to do the Divine will? If we cannot satisfy ourselves, we are not beyond hope while we can say - Love of God, so pure and changeless; (5) The time toward which we look for the completion of the work. He says not "day of our death;" for, though it is practically that to each of us, yet that signifies nothing as to the completion of the work. But he says "day of Jesus Christ," because the work is to be completed in connection with the saving power of Christ upon us; and not only so, but, more definitely, in connection with the full manifestation of the saving power of Christ upon us. For, as is said in Colossians, "When Christ who is our Life shall be manifested ['as he is not now manifested]. he then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory." 2. Its justification. (1) Love resting on participation. "Even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers with me of grace." It was right for him to cherish a confident hope regarding one and all of them, because he felt the warmest love toward them. He uses a strong expression - he had them in his heart. "Open my heart," says R. Browning, "and you will see graven on it, 'Italy.'" So on the opened heart of the apostle to this hour in heaven may be seen graven on it, among other names, "Philippi." Grace operated in them as it did in him. In his bonds they helped him by their sympathy with him. In his exertions for the gospel they also helped him. When he stood up in defense of the gospel, before heathen magistrates and unbelieving Jews, he was emboldened by the thought of their unwavering confidence in him. And when he was engaged in confirmation of the gospel by his teaching among those who came under his influence, he was indebted to them for what he could point to in them of the power of the gospel, and especially for their spontaneously contributing to his support. They were thus in a remarkable manner partners with him in grace. And as he hoped for himself, so as confidently did he hope for them, that there would be a completion of the good work begun. (2) Love going out in longing. "For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus." Love longs for its object. He could call God to witness that he longed eagerly after one and all of them. This was not merely a longing to be present with them, but a longing after communion with them in the Spirit in their increasing approximation to Christ. For he longed after them in sympathy with Christ. He notes a wonderful identity; it was as though Christ were yearning in him. Christ, in Paul, had a yearning after the Philippian community, though it was not conspicuous for its numbers, and had only been ten years in existence. Does he not yearn yet after Christian societies, however humble, and through Christian hearts? III. PETITION. 1. For increase of love, associated with knowledge and discernment. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment." He has already given them credit for love in its manifestations. He here assumes that their love abounded. Still, he wished higher things for them in love. Especially did he wish to see it associated with knowledge and discernment. The former points more to fullness of contents; the Latter more to quickness of perception. The former is used generally; the latter distributively - all discernment, i.e. every act of the spiritual sense, or its application to every occasion. We need not wonder that love, in order to be perfected, needs to be brought under the influence of truth. Love is regulated by truth. In proportion to its force it is apt to be erratic. We need sometimes to drag it at the heels of duty. We need to keep it from being placed on unworthy objects. We need to keep it from seeking worthy objects in unworthy ways. Christ needed to rebuke Peter's love to him, which mistakenly forbade him to die. Love is nourished by truth. With imperfect knowledge our love must be starved. We need to have the field of truth ever opened up before us, that love may be fed. We must see beauty in Christ in order that we may desire him. The apostle then prayed for the Philippians, that they might have an enlarged knowledge and a finer perception, in order that their hearts might be more warmly affected, especially toward him who is the altogether Lovely. 2. Aim in the elements associated with love. "That ye may approve the things that are excellent." Some translate, "That ye may prove the things that differ." But the apostle is a point beyond that. The object of enlarged knowledge and a fine spiritual sense is that love may be combined with the approbation of excellent things, or things that stand out amongst the good. necessary to a rounded character? Is it not necessary in a world And is that not like this, if love would have its virgin purity and due warmth, that we should have a keen eye to detect the spurious, the base, that we should set aside for our highest approbation the things that tower up among the good? 3. Ultimate design. (1) Inward state "That ye may be sincere and void of offense unto the day of Christ." "Sincere," in its derivation points to honey without any admixture of wax. So are we to have heavenly excellence without any admixture of earthliness. Unmixed in our motives (which is a condition of excellence), we shall not be chargeable with giving others offense, or putting obstacles in their way. Especially in view of the day of Christ does it become us to see that we are clear from the blood of all men. (2) Outward results. "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." Righteousness is the holy habit already presupposed. He refers to it now in connection with its fruits. These Philippians had already exhibited good fruits in what they had done for the furtherance of the gospel. He wished to see the idea of fruitfulness fully realized. Let them be like trees laden with golden fruit, that fruit produced through the inflowing of the virtue of Christ-like sap into the tree, and tending to the glory of God and its due recognition. - R.F.
(2) How God can be said to begin the good work in us.
(a) It is to be traced to the Father's love. Take one who has experienced something of The "good work" in his heart - what is its history? If it is traced back and back, its beginnings are to be found in the motions of the Father's love. It goes further back than even the Divine counsels. For it was the love behind, essentially belonging to him as Father, that made him think of and decree our salvation.
(b) It is to be traced to the work of the Son. This is not going so far back as the Father's counsels; it is rather the carrying out of these counsels. The work of Christ outside of us is the reason why the good work can go forward in us. The Son of God, coming into our nature and grappling with all the difficulties of our position, obtained for us redemptive virtue. That is the decisive fact to which the good work in us is to be traced back, just as the healing of men's bodies of old was to be traced back to the miraculous virtue that was in Christ.
(c) It is to be traced to the operations of the Spirit. This is God coming into closest contact with us. Left to ourselves the redemptive work of Christ would have been a dead work. But it was followed up by the Spirit of Christ coming into our heart, producing in us the desire for salvation, holding up before us saving merit, saving truth. And the good work in us is to be traced back to his gracious working.
"And every virtue we possess, (3) Our ground of confidence in God that he will perfect the good work in us. The work is emphatically God's. "The transformation of apostate man (a) We confide in the infinitude of the Father's love. If we had only our own interest in our salvation to look to, we might be afraid of it dying out. But sooner will light die out of the sun than love die out of the heart of God. And we have that inextinguishable love to rely upon to complete our salvation for us. (b) We confide in the infinitude of the Savior's merit. If we had only our own worthiness to think of, we might often enough hide our head in the dust. But fuller than the sea is of water is Christ of merit. And infinitely beyond our need does his merit extend. And to his far-reaching merit can we look for the completion of our salvation. (c) We confide in the infinitude of the Spirit's power. If we had only ourselves to look to, we might well despair, considering the elements of weakness, of fickleness, that are in our hearts. But more penetrating, subduing than fire is the working of the Spirit. And when we are ready to stand aghast at the evil we discover in our hearts, let us look away to the might of the Spirit that can infinitely more than conquer it all. (4) Our ground of confidence in God especially as having begun the good work. (a) He is bound by his wisdom. When he began the good work he must have had a distinct end in view. And he must have known all the difficulties in the way beforehand, especially the badness of our hearts. In the knowledge of all difficulties he must have seen his way to the desired end all clear. To begin to build without knowing how to finish is foolishness, with which only man is chargeable. There are no half-finished worlds in God's universe. (b) He is bound by his faithfulness. There is the Old Testament promise, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." Such a word as this is encouraging: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." And the very fact that he has begun a good work in us, apart from any word of promise, may be taken as a pledge that he will see to it being completed. Observe the nexus of our experience. It is when we have experienced something of the good work in us that we can assure ourselves in God that he will complete it. We have, therefore, in the first place, to satisfy ourselves about the reality of our experience. Are there the signs of a good work begun in our hearts? Is there the seeking after God for the blessing? Is there the endeavor to do the Divine will? If we cannot satisfy ourselves, we are not beyond hope while we can say - Love of God, so pure and changeless; (5) The time toward which we look for the completion of the work. He says not "day of our death;" for, though it is practically that to each of us, yet that signifies nothing as to the completion of the work. But he says "day of Jesus Christ," because the work is to be completed in connection with the saving power of Christ upon us; and not only so, but, more definitely, in connection with the full manifestation of the saving power of Christ upon us. For, as is said in Colossians, "When Christ who is our Life shall be manifested ['as he is not now manifested]. he then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory." 2. Its justification. (1) Love resting on participation. "Even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers with me of grace." It was right for him to cherish a confident hope regarding one and all of them, because he felt the warmest love toward them. He uses a strong expression - he had them in his heart. "Open my heart," says R. Browning, "and you will see graven on it, 'Italy.'" So on the opened heart of the apostle to this hour in heaven may be seen graven on it, among other names, "Philippi." Grace operated in them as it did in him. In his bonds they helped him by their sympathy with him. In his exertions for the gospel they also helped him. When he stood up in defense of the gospel, before heathen magistrates and unbelieving Jews, he was emboldened by the thought of their unwavering confidence in him. And when he was engaged in confirmation of the gospel by his teaching among those who came under his influence, he was indebted to them for what he could point to in them of the power of the gospel, and especially for their spontaneously contributing to his support. They were thus in a remarkable manner partners with him in grace. And as he hoped for himself, so as confidently did he hope for them, that there would be a completion of the good work begun. (2) Love going out in longing. "For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus." Love longs for its object. He could call God to witness that he longed eagerly after one and all of them. This was not merely a longing to be present with them, but a longing after communion with them in the Spirit in their increasing approximation to Christ. For he longed after them in sympathy with Christ. He notes a wonderful identity; it was as though Christ were yearning in him. Christ, in Paul, had a yearning after the Philippian community, though it was not conspicuous for its numbers, and had only been ten years in existence. Does he not yearn yet after Christian societies, however humble, and through Christian hearts? III. PETITION. 1. For increase of love, associated with knowledge and discernment. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment." He has already given them credit for love in its manifestations. He here assumes that their love abounded. Still, he wished higher things for them in love. Especially did he wish to see it associated with knowledge and discernment. The former points more to fullness of contents; the Latter more to quickness of perception. The former is used generally; the latter distributively - all discernment, i.e. every act of the spiritual sense, or its application to every occasion. We need not wonder that love, in order to be perfected, needs to be brought under the influence of truth. Love is regulated by truth. In proportion to its force it is apt to be erratic. We need sometimes to drag it at the heels of duty. We need to keep it from being placed on unworthy objects. We need to keep it from seeking worthy objects in unworthy ways. Christ needed to rebuke Peter's love to him, which mistakenly forbade him to die. Love is nourished by truth. With imperfect knowledge our love must be starved. We need to have the field of truth ever opened up before us, that love may be fed. We must see beauty in Christ in order that we may desire him. The apostle then prayed for the Philippians, that they might have an enlarged knowledge and a finer perception, in order that their hearts might be more warmly affected, especially toward him who is the altogether Lovely. 2. Aim in the elements associated with love. "That ye may approve the things that are excellent." Some translate, "That ye may prove the things that differ." But the apostle is a point beyond that. The object of enlarged knowledge and a fine spiritual sense is that love may be combined with the approbation of excellent things, or things that stand out amongst the good. necessary to a rounded character? Is it not necessary in a world And is that not like this, if love would have its virgin purity and due warmth, that we should have a keen eye to detect the spurious, the base, that we should set aside for our highest approbation the things that tower up among the good? 3. Ultimate design. (1) Inward state "That ye may be sincere and void of offense unto the day of Christ." "Sincere," in its derivation points to honey without any admixture of wax. So are we to have heavenly excellence without any admixture of earthliness. Unmixed in our motives (which is a condition of excellence), we shall not be chargeable with giving others offense, or putting obstacles in their way. Especially in view of the day of Christ does it become us to see that we are clear from the blood of all men. (2) Outward results. "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." Righteousness is the holy habit already presupposed. He refers to it now in connection with its fruits. These Philippians had already exhibited good fruits in what they had done for the furtherance of the gospel. He wished to see the idea of fruitfulness fully realized. Let them be like trees laden with golden fruit, that fruit produced through the inflowing of the virtue of Christ-like sap into the tree, and tending to the glory of God and its due recognition. - R.F.
(3) Our ground of confidence in God that he will perfect the good work in us. The work is emphatically God's.
"The transformation of apostate man (a) We confide in the infinitude of the Father's love. If we had only our own interest in our salvation to look to, we might be afraid of it dying out. But sooner will light die out of the sun than love die out of the heart of God. And we have that inextinguishable love to rely upon to complete our salvation for us. (b) We confide in the infinitude of the Savior's merit. If we had only our own worthiness to think of, we might often enough hide our head in the dust. But fuller than the sea is of water is Christ of merit. And infinitely beyond our need does his merit extend. And to his far-reaching merit can we look for the completion of our salvation. (c) We confide in the infinitude of the Spirit's power. If we had only ourselves to look to, we might well despair, considering the elements of weakness, of fickleness, that are in our hearts. But more penetrating, subduing than fire is the working of the Spirit. And when we are ready to stand aghast at the evil we discover in our hearts, let us look away to the might of the Spirit that can infinitely more than conquer it all. (4) Our ground of confidence in God especially as having begun the good work. (a) He is bound by his wisdom. When he began the good work he must have had a distinct end in view. And he must have known all the difficulties in the way beforehand, especially the badness of our hearts. In the knowledge of all difficulties he must have seen his way to the desired end all clear. To begin to build without knowing how to finish is foolishness, with which only man is chargeable. There are no half-finished worlds in God's universe. (b) He is bound by his faithfulness. There is the Old Testament promise, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." Such a word as this is encouraging: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." And the very fact that he has begun a good work in us, apart from any word of promise, may be taken as a pledge that he will see to it being completed. Observe the nexus of our experience. It is when we have experienced something of the good work in us that we can assure ourselves in God that he will complete it. We have, therefore, in the first place, to satisfy ourselves about the reality of our experience. Are there the signs of a good work begun in our hearts? Is there the seeking after God for the blessing? Is there the endeavor to do the Divine will? If we cannot satisfy ourselves, we are not beyond hope while we can say - Love of God, so pure and changeless; (5) The time toward which we look for the completion of the work. He says not "day of our death;" for, though it is practically that to each of us, yet that signifies nothing as to the completion of the work. But he says "day of Jesus Christ," because the work is to be completed in connection with the saving power of Christ upon us; and not only so, but, more definitely, in connection with the full manifestation of the saving power of Christ upon us. For, as is said in Colossians, "When Christ who is our Life shall be manifested ['as he is not now manifested]. he then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory." 2. Its justification. (1) Love resting on participation. "Even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers with me of grace." It was right for him to cherish a confident hope regarding one and all of them, because he felt the warmest love toward them. He uses a strong expression - he had them in his heart. "Open my heart," says R. Browning, "and you will see graven on it, 'Italy.'" So on the opened heart of the apostle to this hour in heaven may be seen graven on it, among other names, "Philippi." Grace operated in them as it did in him. In his bonds they helped him by their sympathy with him. In his exertions for the gospel they also helped him. When he stood up in defense of the gospel, before heathen magistrates and unbelieving Jews, he was emboldened by the thought of their unwavering confidence in him. And when he was engaged in confirmation of the gospel by his teaching among those who came under his influence, he was indebted to them for what he could point to in them of the power of the gospel, and especially for their spontaneously contributing to his support. They were thus in a remarkable manner partners with him in grace. And as he hoped for himself, so as confidently did he hope for them, that there would be a completion of the good work begun. (2) Love going out in longing. "For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus." Love longs for its object. He could call God to witness that he longed eagerly after one and all of them. This was not merely a longing to be present with them, but a longing after communion with them in the Spirit in their increasing approximation to Christ. For he longed after them in sympathy with Christ. He notes a wonderful identity; it was as though Christ were yearning in him. Christ, in Paul, had a yearning after the Philippian community, though it was not conspicuous for its numbers, and had only been ten years in existence. Does he not yearn yet after Christian societies, however humble, and through Christian hearts? III. PETITION. 1. For increase of love, associated with knowledge and discernment. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment." He has already given them credit for love in its manifestations. He here assumes that their love abounded. Still, he wished higher things for them in love. Especially did he wish to see it associated with knowledge and discernment. The former points more to fullness of contents; the Latter more to quickness of perception. The former is used generally; the latter distributively - all discernment, i.e. every act of the spiritual sense, or its application to every occasion. We need not wonder that love, in order to be perfected, needs to be brought under the influence of truth. Love is regulated by truth. In proportion to its force it is apt to be erratic. We need sometimes to drag it at the heels of duty. We need to keep it from being placed on unworthy objects. We need to keep it from seeking worthy objects in unworthy ways. Christ needed to rebuke Peter's love to him, which mistakenly forbade him to die. Love is nourished by truth. With imperfect knowledge our love must be starved. We need to have the field of truth ever opened up before us, that love may be fed. We must see beauty in Christ in order that we may desire him. The apostle then prayed for the Philippians, that they might have an enlarged knowledge and a finer perception, in order that their hearts might be more warmly affected, especially toward him who is the altogether Lovely. 2. Aim in the elements associated with love. "That ye may approve the things that are excellent." Some translate, "That ye may prove the things that differ." But the apostle is a point beyond that. The object of enlarged knowledge and a fine spiritual sense is that love may be combined with the approbation of excellent things, or things that stand out amongst the good. necessary to a rounded character? Is it not necessary in a world And is that not like this, if love would have its virgin purity and due warmth, that we should have a keen eye to detect the spurious, the base, that we should set aside for our highest approbation the things that tower up among the good? 3. Ultimate design. (1) Inward state "That ye may be sincere and void of offense unto the day of Christ." "Sincere," in its derivation points to honey without any admixture of wax. So are we to have heavenly excellence without any admixture of earthliness. Unmixed in our motives (which is a condition of excellence), we shall not be chargeable with giving others offense, or putting obstacles in their way. Especially in view of the day of Christ does it become us to see that we are clear from the blood of all men. (2) Outward results. "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." Righteousness is the holy habit already presupposed. He refers to it now in connection with its fruits. These Philippians had already exhibited good fruits in what they had done for the furtherance of the gospel. He wished to see the idea of fruitfulness fully realized. Let them be like trees laden with golden fruit, that fruit produced through the inflowing of the virtue of Christ-like sap into the tree, and tending to the glory of God and its due recognition. - R.F.
(4) Our ground of confidence in God especially as having begun the good work.
2. Its justification. III. PETITION. 3. Ultimate design.
2. Its justification.
3. Ultimate design.
1. A minister's hearty recognition of the moral worth of his people. "I thank my God upon every remembrance." This implies on the writer's part a very high appreciation of the spiritual excellence of those to whom he wrote. The recognition of worth in others is the indication of a generous nature, an incumbent obligation, and in truth is a rare virtue. So selfish is human nature that the majority of mankind not only ignore the virtues of others, but eagerly mark and magnify their imperfections. It is said that Enoch had this testimony, that "he pleased God," and we, like our Maker, should readily bear testimony to worth wherever it appears.
2. A minister's lively vigilance over the interests of his people. "Upon every remembrance," and "in every prayer," "for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now." He watched over them, not with the eye of curiosity or censorship, anxious to discover and expose their defects, but with the eye of tender love, yearning, as it were, for the sight of moral beauty, and heartily thankful whenever it appeared. There are two things connected with Paul's gratitude as here disclosed, very remarkable and worthy of imitation.
I. It was gratitude to men EXPRESSED IN PRAYER TO ALMIGHTY GOD. It is common to express our gratitude for services to others by florid utterances or kindly offices, but somewhat rare to give it voice in prayer to Almighty God. "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy" or, as it would be better rendered, "I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you at all times in every prayer of mine for you all." Mark:
1. The fervor of the prayer. What intense earnestness breathes through this utterance! the man's soul seems aglow with devout, philanthropic zeal.
2. The universality of the prayer. "For you all." A similar expression Paul uses in relation to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:2): "We give thanks to God always for you all." There is not one of you for whom we - that is, Paul and Timotheus - do not give thanks. Now, what better way is there to show gratitude to men than by interceding for them all with the common Father? There is no way more practicable. We may be too poor or too weak to return their favors, but none are too poor or weak to pray. There is no way more effective. If the all-merciful Father confer on them his favor they will have more than worlds can bestow.
II. It was gratitude to men on ACCOUNT OF CONTRIBUTION'S TO THE COMMON GOOD. "For your fellowship in the gospel," or towards the gospel. Dr. Samuel Davidson renders it, "For your fellowship in respect of the gospel." What is meant is, I presume, for your fellow-working or your working with us in the fellowship of the gospel. Some suppose that the special reference is here to the contribution that they made towards his temporal needs as referred to in Philippians 4:15, "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only." But if he refers to this specially, the high probability is that he also refers to their co-operation with him in the general service of the gospel. The apostle felt that, whatever services they rendered him, they were rendered, not for his own sake, but for the sake of the grand cause in which they were mutually interested. As a private disciple it mattered little or nothing to him whether he fared well or ill, died of starvation or martyrdom; but inasmuch as he was entrusted with the gospel he felt the continuation of his existence of some moment to the common good. "Nevertheless," he says, "to abide in the flesh is more needful for you; and having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith" (vers. 24, 25). His gratitude, then, was not on account of any favor they had shown to him as an individual saint, for personal comforts, but to him as a public man laboring for the common good. What a lofty gratitude is this: so unselfish, so sublimely generous! When will the time come when men shall be thankful to each other, not merely for personal benefits, but for the services they rendered to the general weal? Every man who helps on the cause of truth, Christly virtue, and human happiness in the world, whether he belongs to our nation, our Church, or not, deserves our gratitude. In truth, the best way for us to serve ourselves as individuals is to serve the race by diffusing that system of moral and remedial truth which alone can crush the demon ills and create the Divine beatitudes of the race. Never can we be sufficiently thankful to Heaven for the mere existence of good men in this world of ours. They are the "salt of the earth," counteracting that corruption in which all impenitent souls find their hell. They are the ozone in the moral atmosphere of life. They are the highest revelation of God on this earth and the highest exemplification of duty. Like stars, they reveal the infinite above us, and throw light upon our path below. - D.T.
1. The outward circumstances of St. Paul's life, at the time of his writing this Epistle, were singularly joyless. A prisoner in Rome, awaiting his trial, deprived of the power of freely preaching the gospel when and where he would, compelled to be in the society of his Roman guard night and day.
2. Notwithstanding these untoward conditions he is inwardly full of joy. The key-note of the Epistle is rejoice.
3. The joy which fills him is not merely a selfish joy at his own acceptance with God; it is a sympathetic joy which rejoices in the growth of God's kingdom. This is the joy of the angels. This is the joy of Jesus himself. This is the joy which he promises to bestow upon his disciples, (John 15:11; John 17:13). This is the joy of the Lord into which they who have used well the talents entrusted to them are to enter. This joy is not mere selfish exultation in our own rescue from the pains of hell, but a sense of bliss at the victory which God has won, and a joy at being permitted to minister more entirely to his glory.
1. We can possess this joy here and hereafter if we are filled with the unselfish desire that others should be blessed and that God should be glorified in them. We deprive ourselves of it if we are guilty of envy at the spiritual progress which they are making, and at the evident tokens of God's grace working in them.
2. We can contribute to this joy. By our own steadfastness in the faith we add to the treasury of joy which is the possession of the whole Church. We give joy to the angels. We are able to increase the joy even of our Lord, who, seeing of the travail of his soul, is satisfied. - V.W.H.
I. THE SUBJECT OF HIS CONFIDENCE. "A good work," regarded:
1. In itself. It is the work of grace or salvation in the human soul.
2. In its development. It has a beginning and an ending. It is God, not man, who begins it; and he who begins it ends it. It is thus a good work,
(1) because it is God's through all its stages;
(2) because it brings good to man, being the restoration of the Divine image in his heart;
(3) because it brings glory to God.
II. THE GROUNDS OF HIS CONFIDENCE. Not in the power of priesthood or sacrament, but in the character and resources of the Worker. He who begins will end it, for he has fixed a day for its completeness - "the very day of Christ." Not the day of death, but the day of Christ, because man does not exist in his completely glorified condition till he stands in the redemption of both body and soul. The grounds of a believer's perseverance are not, therefore, to be found in his own watchfulness or his own strength, but
(1) in the purposes and promises of God,
(2) in the mediation of Christ,
(3) in the constant indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
III. HOW THIS CONFIDENCE OPERATED IN THE APOSTLE. It did not prevent him from praying for his converts or exhorting them to the use of means for their continuance in grace. It suggests
(1) that we ought to be careful not to abuse assurance; and
(2) that we ought to interest ourselves deeply in each other's spiritual welfare. - T.C.
I. In this the greatest apostle HAD THE STRONGEST CONFIDENCE. "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it." The apostle seems to have had confidence:
1. In its character. It is "a good work." Genuine religion is in every sense a good thing.
(1) Good in its essence - supreme love to the supremely good.
(2) Good in its influence. In its influence on self, elevating the soul to the image and the friendship of God. Good in its influence on society, ameliorating the woes of the race by enlightening the ignorant, healing the afflicted, enfranchising the enthralled. Whatever of goodness is found in Christendom unknown in heathen lands to-day must be ascribed to this "good work."
2. In its internality. "In you." Some would read, "amongst you," supposing the reference to be to the influence of Christianity on Philippi and its neighborhood; but there is no authority for this. It is "in you." Christianity is a good thing outside of us, yet unless it enters into our natures, permeates, inspires, dominates, etc., he it is of no service - no more service than the noontide sun is to the man whose eyes are scaled in darkness.
3. In its divinity. "He which hath begun a good work." He, undoubtedly the all-loving Father. Every good in the universe begins with the good One. The first good thoughts, sympathy, volitions, aims, principles of action in the human soul, originate with him, from whence comes every "good and perfect gift." Personal Christianity in a man is a Divine thing; it is the eternal Logos made flesh.
4. In its perpetuity. "Will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." "The day of Jesus Christ." "So also in Philippians 1:10; Philippians 2:16; and in 1 Corinthians 1:18, 'the day of our Lord Jesus Christ;' in all other Epistles, 'the day of our Lord' (as in 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2), or still more commonly both in Gospel and Epistles, 'that day.' As is usual in the Epistles, the day of the Lord is spoken of as if it were near at hand. St. Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 declines to pronounce that it is near, yet does not say that it is far away, and only teaches that there is much to be done even in the development of and-Christian power before it does come. It is, of course, clear that, in respect of the confidence here expressed, it makes no difference whether it be near or far away. The reality of the judgment as final and complete is the one point important, the times and seasons matter not to us" (Dr. Barry). Whatever period is here pointed to, it must not be supposed as conveying the idea that this "good work" terminates at that period, "until the day." It does not say that then it will become extinct. The idea it suggests rather to me is that, having existed up to that period under most inauspicious circumstances, struggling with awful difficulties, after that, when all that is unfavourable is removed, it will go on for ever. The doctrine of final perseverance, as it has been called, has engaged immense discussion, often foolish, sometimes acrimonious, seldom useful. It should not be looked upon as a doctrine, but rather regarded as a duty, and as a law of spiritual life.
II. With this the greatest apostle FELT THE INTENSEST SYMPATHY. "Even as it is meet [right] for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace;" or rather as in the margin, "partakers with me of grace." His sympathy with them is shown by the fact that:
1. They occupied his thoughts. "Even as it is meet;" diakion, that is just, or right, to have this prayerful confidence. According to a law of mind, we must always think of those with whom we have the deepest sympathy. The chief object of love is ever the chief subject of thought.
2. They filled his heart. "I have you in my heart." And the reason he assigns is because of their hearty identification with him in his ministry. "Inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace." What a blessed thing it is for a man to have himself in the heart of a true-hearted, truly generous one!
3. They inspired his Christliness. "For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ." The word "bowels" should be translated ."heart" - "I long after you all in the heart of Christ Jesus" (Dr. Samuel Davidson). In another place the apostle says, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." Perhaps what the apostle means here is - All that I have in me of the ideas, spirit, and aim of Christ are excited to a yearning for your good when! think of you. It is a characteristic of a genuine disciple that he is under the inspiration and control of the same great moral passion as his Master; viz. disinterested, self-sacrificing, all-conquering love. "All real spiritual love is but a portion of Christ's love which yearns for all to be united to him" (Dean Alford). - D.T.
I. ST. PAUL'S CONFIDENCE THAT THESE PHILIPPIANS WOULD PERSEVERE UNTO THE END.
II. THE GROUNDS ON WHICH BE RESTS THIS CONFIDENCE.
1. That it is God's work. If we know that God is working in us we can trust him to complete his work.
2. God's work demands man's he's co-operation. St. Paul recognizes in the zeal which these Philippians displayed in the furtherance of the gospel (ver. 5) the best evidence of their co-operation with God, and therefore the best guarantee of their perseverance.
III. WHAT THIS ZEAL IS NOT. It is not the same as anxiety for the victory of a party, of a particular set of views, or of our own personal influence. It is not a devotion to the merely external aspects of religion.
IV. WHAT THIS ZEAL IS. It is joy at the progress or God's kiugdom in human souls by whatever methods that progress may have been brought about. It is readiness to bear witness for Christ and to work for him.
V. THIS ZEAL FOR THE FURTHERANCE OF THE GOSPEL IS:
1. Apostolic (Acts 11:23).
2. It is angelic (Luke 2:13, 14).
3. It is Divine.
VI. THIS WITNESS-REARING IS IN ITSELF AN ELEMENT OF STRENGTH; and therefore of perseverance (Romans 10:10).
VII. If you lack perseverance, remember its secret, which is that it is to be found a GENUINE CO-OPERATION IN GOD'S WORK for mankind. - V.W.H.
I. CHRISTIANS HAVE A GOOD WORK GOING ON WITHIN THEM.
1. Christianity is first of all internal. What is in us is the matter of chief importance.
2. A work is going on in the heart of the Christian, creating, developing, training, pruning, purging, building up.
3. This work is good. It is good for the soul to be brought from death to life, and for others that sympathy may be shown them and active good done as was the case with the Philippians in their relations to St. Paul.
II. THE WORK IS AS YET ONLY IN THE BEGINNING. A perfect Christian is the result of years of training. The new birth produces a babe in Christ. Much spiritual nourishment and education are required to develop the full-grown man.
III. THE WORK IS BEGUN BY GOD.
1. It begins in a new creation. God only can create. So great a change as is required in turning from a life of selfish sin to a life self-sacrificing holiness can only be effected by a Divine influence. That influence is put forth so that the greatest sinner may become the greatest saint.
2. Though the work is conditioned by our faith, still that is "not of ourselves, it is the gift of God."
IV. THE FACT THAT GOD HAS BEGUN THE GOOD WORK IS A GROUND FOR THINKING THAT HE WILL COMPLETE IT.
1. The character of God implies this. He is not fickle that he should change, nor weak that he should fail.
2. The nature of the work implies this. The first step is the hardest. Every stage in the Christian progress is a prophecy of future stages. The force of habit which was before set against the good work becomes increasingly engaged in supporting it.
V. THE OBJECT OF COMPLETING THE GOOD WORK IS THAT IT MAY BE READY FOR the DAY OF CHRIST.
1. That day is a day of trial. In the first age it came with the destruction of Jerusalem and consequent troubles. We need to be strengthened in the time of calm that we may stand firm in the storm.
2. Glorious victory follows the trouble of the day of Christ. Christians should be ready to share in that triumph.
VI. THE GOOD WORK WILL ONLY BE BEGUN, CONTINUED, AND ENDED IN GOD WHEN WE CO-OPERATE. That is not stated here. But it is stated elsewhere (e.g. Philippians 2:12). St. Paul is "persuaded" of success with the work in the Philippians partly on account of what he knows of their disposition and behavior. We must exercise faith and obedience in the strength of God and for the reception of God's work in us. - W.F.A.
I. LOVE INSPIRES CONFIDENCE. "I have you in my heart." Therefore, he says, it is right for him to cherish this confidence respecting them. It is the nature of love to have this confident hope, for it "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things' (1 Corinthians 13:7). The intensity of his love enhanced his confidence. The apostle's love was peculiarly tender. "For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ." The appeal to God marks the sincerity of his love. But its true origin, its pattern, its fervency, are only to be found in the bowels of Christ. The heart of the apostle throbs in unison with the heart of Christ.
II. ANOTHER GROUND OF CONFIDENCE WAS THEIR SYMPATHETIC FELLOWSHIP WITH HIM IN SUFFERING AND IN SERVICE.
1. They identified themselves with him "in his bonds by ministering once and again to his necessities and cheering him by their sympathies. They remembered him as an ambassador in bonds," as we are all bound to "remember them that are in bonds as bound with them" (Hebrews 13:2). They did it, too, at a time when Roman sympathy seems to have been sorely wanting. It is strange that.. he with a Church in the capital of the world, he should have been dependent upon the charity of the far distant Philippians.
2. They identified themselves heartily both with his defense of the gospel either before heathen magistrates or Jewish opponents, and with his positive establishment of the truth. There is a negative and a positive side in the great teaching office of the Church. - T.C.
I. COMMUNION IN SUFFERING. "In my bonds." These Philippians had to endure hardship in the cause of the gospel. Every Christian has to endure such hardships, either external or internal. Such conflicts are necessary links which unite us to the family of God. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth."
II. COMMUNION IN MINISTRY. "In the defense and confirmation of the gospel." The little which we can do, each in our own restricted sphere, for the furtherance of God's kingdom, partakes of the character of the work of even a St. Paul, and brings us into communion with him.
III. COMMUNION IN SYMPATHY. "I have you in my heart." However humble may be the work which we can do for God, or the sufferings which we can endure for him, if they are done or borne according to the ability which he has given us, they bring us into sympathy with all who in every age have sought to do like work and to endure like sufferings.
IV. COMMUNION IN GRACE. "Ye all are partakers of my grace." As all the faithful are blessed with faithful Abraham (Galatians 2:9), even although their faith is but a faint shadow of his, so all workers and sufferers in God's service share in the blessing which has been bestowed upon apostles and martyrs.
V. COMMUNION IN CHARITY. St. Paul speaks as if the fact that "all" were partakers of his grace depended upon his being able to speak thus of them "all." The want of unity among Christians deprives them of the full benefits of the communion of saints (Matthew 18:20; Acts 2:1; Acts 4:32). - V.W.H.
I. THE INCREASE OF LOVE THE MAIN THING IN RELIGION.
1. The language implies the existence of this love as well as its imperfection. It had been manifest in many ways; but there were social rivalries and jealousies and disputes at Philippi. Therefore the apostle prays that their love may abound more and more.
2. absolutely that he speaks of, the grand principle, the motive power of Christian life. Matthew Henry says it is the law of Christ's kingdom, the lesson of his school, the livery of his family.
(1) It is Divine in its origin, for "love is of God;"
(2) it is the principle of the Divine indwelling, for "he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him;"
(3) it is the spring of all holy obedience, for it is "the fulfilling of the Law;"
(4) it is "the bond of perfectness;
(5) it has no metes or bounds like law, for we are to love with all our powers. The gospel lays the believer under a weightier line of obligation than the Law; for we are not to do this or that particular duty prescribed by the Law, but to do all that we can do through the constraining force of the love of God.
3. It is love fed by knowledge and guided by judgment; for it is to abound "in perfect knowledge and universal discernment."
(1) Knowledge here is the thorough grasp of theoretical and practical truth.
(a) This is needed to feed love. We cannot love an unknown person; we cannot love an unknown gospel; we cannot love one another except so far as we know one another. The more we know of our blessed Redeemer the more shall we love him. Love is not a blind attachment.
(b) It is needed to regulate love. Love without knowledge may lead a Christian into mistakes, irregularities, improprieties, like a foolishly fond father who spoils his child. Love may waste itself on worthless or frivolous objects, or it may attempt impracticable projects by unwarrantable means; but if knowledge be the guide, these mistakes will be prevented.
(2) The love is in "all discernment." This is more than knowledge. It is more even than the application of knowledge. It is that discriminating power, which enables a man to appreciate the true nature of things presented to him in the sphere of religious realities.
II. THE ENDS ACCOMPLISHED BY A LOVE THUS REGULATED.
1. Christian capacity to discern excellent things. "That you may be able to prove things that are excellent." Love, rightly guided, penetrates through all disguises of error. It is, in fact, a mighty preservative against error. The Christian is able "to prove all things, and hold fast that which is good." He does not lose sight of the true proportions and relations of truth. But the spiritual capacity of believers is found to differ like the natural capacities of men. Some are very deficient in the power of spiritual discernment, yet this may be mainly due to the weakness of love. Those who are strong maintain the tranquillity of their own mind, and will be a stay to the timid and the weak. Cecil says, "A sound heart is the best casuist."
2. Sincerity. "That ye may be sincere." Love, rightly guided, brings out the deep reality of Christian character, and presents it in a holy simplicity without stratagem, diplomacy, or manoeuvre. A sincere man has all the strength that springs from an undivided heart: his love is without dissimulation; his sincerity is a godly sincerity, which realizes the impossibility of uniting the interests and pleasures and pursuits of the present world with those of true religion.
3. The absence of offense. "And void of offense." It seems hard to be so in a world to which the gospel itself is an offense. Yet, though we are not to compromise the principles of the gospel, we are to live peaceably with all men, to take wrong rather than give offense, to have a good report from them that are without, to be "blameless and harmless as the sons of God." The duration of this temper of sincerity and inoffensiveness is "against the day of Christ " - the day of final account before the Judge, as if to imply the undeviating consistency of a life thus divinely ordered.
4. Positive fruitfulness in Christian life. "Being filled with the fruit of righteousness, which is by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." There is more needed than mere harmlessness: there must be a positive development of Christian life.
(1) The fruit of righteousness. The righteousness is not of nature, but of grace; it is not of the Law, but of faith; and is essentially fruitful. Therefore those who possess it are "trees of righteousness," and the quality of the tree is known by its fruit. The whole system of redemption has for its end to make men "fruitful of good works."
(2) This fruit is by Jesus Christ, because it is bound up with the life of Christ. "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in me" (John 15:4).
(3) The end to which all is directed - "to the glory and praise of God." The glory is the manifestation of God's grace, the praise is the recognition by men of God's attributes.
(4) It is implied that believers are to be "filled" with the fruit of righteousness. Not a branch here and there, but all our branches are to be loaded with fruit. Thus there will be the more glory and praise to God. - T.C.
augrmentation of Christly love ensures the improvement of the whole man. It secures -
I. THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE INTELLECT. It promotes:
1. Knowledge. "And this I pray, that your love may abound... in knowledge (epignosei)." The knowledge here must be regarded as spiritual knowledge - the knowledge of God in Christ. "Here St. Paul singles out the kind of love - the enthusiasm of love to God and man, which he knew that the Philippians had - and prays that it may overflow from the emotional to the intellectual element of their nature, and become, as we constantly see that it does become, in simple and loving characters, a means of spiritual insight in knowledge and all 'judgment,' or rather, all perception." Love is the inspiration of all true knowledge. As we love an object, the more stimulus has the intellect to inquire into everything concerning it or him. The more love for God abounds, the more earnest will the intellect be in "inquiring in his temple "and the universe.
2. Perception. "And in all judgment (aisthesei)." This means, perhaps, discernment or insight. There is evidently a distinction between mere intelligence and intuition. I may know all the facts of a man's life, and vet not possess that insight into his inner springs of action necessary to understand him. There are great technical theologians, who lack the spiritual eye to peer into the underlying, eternal, principles of truth. It is love that opens and quickens this eye of "judgment," or spiritual discrimination.
3. Shrewdness. "That ye may approve things that are excellent;" margin, "that ye may try things that differ." Shrewdness is that faculty of the mind which enables a man almost without the use of the critical power to see the reality under all the forms with which it is invested. There are many intelligent men - men, too, of intuition, who are not shrewd, not quick and accurate in the discernment of the worth of things. Now, love to God promotes this intellectual shrewdness of soul, the shrewdness that guards it from all imposture. This is an age in which men talk much of intellectual improvement, and numerous mechanical methods are proposed. But here is the infallible one. Let men's love to God abound more and more, and all the wheels of intellect will be set ageing.
II. THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE CONSCIENCE. Here the language of the text implies that this love improves the conscience.
1. By giving it a sympathy with the true only. "Things that are excellent." The original constitution of conscience was to do this evermore. It does this in heaven; it once, perhaps, did this on earth; but now, alas! throughout the greater portion of the race in all lands, its sympathies are not with "the things that are excellent." So awfully has it been corrupted that it yields its concurrence to idolatry, cruelty, priestcrafts, frauds, and falsehoods of endless kinds. When true love to God acts upon it, nothing but "the things that are excellent" will do for it; it rejects, spurns, and damns all others.
2. By making it thoroughly sincere. "That ye may be sincere (eillkrineis)." This word is only used here and in 2 Peter 1:8; and the corresponding substantive, "sincerity," in 1 Corinthians 5:8; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 2:17. It signifies purity tested and found clear of all base mixtures, a genuine, incorruptible conscience - a conscience that leads a man to sacrifice all he has, even life itself, rather than swerve an iota from the right and the true. Love to God promotes such a conscience. It did so with the apostles, with all the holy martyrs, and with the Divine Man himself.
3. By securing it from blameableness. "Without offense." In the Acts we read of a "conscience void of offense towards God and man." It is essential that such a conscience should rule the entire man, and that itself should be ruled by the will of the great God. According to the law of mind, the object we love most becomes our moral monarch: when God becomes the paramount object of our affection, he becomes the Ruler of our conscience. This state of conscience is to be "till the day of Christ." It does not mean that it will end afterwards, but that after that it is sure to be perpetuated.
III. THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE LIFE. "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness," etc. Paul's language in Romans 6:22 may be taken as a commentary on this expression: "Being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." Observe:
1. That a righteous life comes to us through Christ. "The fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ." Men are only made morally right by faith in Christ. Philosophically there is no other way of doing so. Christ came into the world to make man morally right, or, to use Old Testament language, to establish rectitude or judgment on the earth.
2. That a righteous life redounds to the glory of God. "Unto the glory and praise of God." It is the highest manifestation of God - it is God "manifested in the flesh." "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." But the "fruits of righteousness," or a righteous life, are ensured only by the abounding and the overflowing of love to God in the soul. All must be love. Love is not only the inspiration of God, the root of the universe, but the fountain of all virtue and happiness. Let love, then, abound. - D.T.
I. THE ELEMENT WHICH IS PECULIAR TO IT AND WHICH BETOKENS ITS PRESENCE - LOVE. "We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren" (1 John 2:14). "Love is the fulfilling of the Law."
II. ITS MANIFESTATION. If this love is the genuine fruit of God's Spirit within us, it will lead us to the knowledge of him and to the discernment of that which is pleasing in his sight. Being of God, it reveals God, so that new experiences of him are being constantly vouchsafed to the soul that possesses it. Being thus taught of God, the soul turns naturally to the things that are excellent;. he as the bee turns naturally to the honey-bearing flowers. Thus in the difficult task of deciding which to choose of two apparent but opposing duties, the soul indwelt by God is guided by a Divine instinct.
III. ITS RESULT. The preservation of the whole man from the power of evil, so that both in his inner being and in his external conduct he is blameless and brings forth the fruit which is natural to a condition of righteousness.
IV. THE SOURCE OF ITS POWER - CHRIST. The righteousness thus worked in us is not the righteousness of self-improvement, or of self-discipline, or of adherence to a law, but the righteousness which is imparted to us by the indwelling Christ.
V. ITS ULTIMATE AIM - THE GLORY OF GOD. (Ver. 11.) - V.W.H.
aisthesis) which is produced by an increase of love in order that they may discern the greater worth of those good things which differ from other good things in being more excellent. The high endowment would not be necessary for the discrimination of the coarser contrasts of good and evil, light and darkness, etc. It is plain, therefore, that different shades of goodness, gradations of worthiness, successive ranks of spiritual merit, are what the apostle desires us to be able to appreciate.
I. GOOD THINGS STAND IN DIFFERENT RANKS OF EXCELLENCY, In nature some things are better than others, being more beautiful, or more delicately organized, or capable of serving higher ends. When God created the world he saw that everything was good; yet the dog is superior to the worm, and man to the dog. In spiritual things differences exist even among things wholly good in themselves.
1. In the being of God. If we may dare to compare mysteries so high and sacred as the attributes of God, we may see how they range themselves in rank and order - all glorious, yet mounting one above another to the supernal height of glory. To the Mohammedan, God is chiefly known as Almighty; the Alexandrian Jew thought most of his wisdom; the prophets of the Old Testament upheld his awful righteousness; Christians see him chiefly as One whose name is Love. Now, omnipotence is good, and supreme wisdom is better, and the moral excellence of righteousness is better still; but love is best of all.
2. In the blessings of the gospel. Christ healed sick bodies, and some poor folk were content with that blessing; but he also healed sick souls, and this was a higher blessing. The gospel delivers us from the doom of guilt; but it also saves the soul from its own internal corruption, which is a greater good. It offers peace and comfort; but it also inspires patience in suffering and faithfulness in toil, and these are better things.
3. In our own religious aims. To be saved is good; to glorify God is better. It is well to seek the purest blessings for ourselves; it is better to deny ourselves in love to God and man, etc.
4. In prayer. Good earthly gifts may be sought; spiritual graces are more desirable. But the highest prayer will be for reconciliation with the will of God.
5. In the Bible. It is foolish to read the Bible straight through indis-criminatingly. All of it is not of equal value. We should discover and use most the best parts.
6. In literature, society, and innocent human affairs.
7. In the use of our time, money, etc. We may be doing no harm; but are we making the best possible use of these things?
II. THE SUPERIOR EXCELLENCE OF THE BETTER THINGS CAN ONLY BE DISCERNED BY THAT FINER SPIRITUAL SENSE WHICH COMES WITH AN INCREASE OF LOVE. It is not that they are artificially hidden. Christianity knows of no esoteric doctrines jealously guarded from the uninitiated. It is that we have not the faculty to discern them.
1. Though we may see at once the general characteristic differences, we need spiritual insight for the application of them to particular cases.
2. Though we may know the difference of value intellectually, we cannot at first realize it in feeling and life. If while a man knows that Beethoven's sonatas are infinitely superior to street songs, he still prefers the latter, to him, practically, these are the better. He must have higher musical gifts or training to appreciate the good music. In like manner we need spiritual training for the discerning of the best spiritual things. This training is not intellectual. It is the growth of love. For love is the eye of the soul. Love of God will help us to understand him. Love of Christ will explain to us the true worth of the gospel. Love of men will help us to appreciate the best pursuits in life. Love of heavenly things will enable us to seek the best of them. - W.F.A.
I. HIS SUFFERINGS FOR CHRIST HAD BECOME KNOWN TO THE SOLDIERS OF THE PRAETORIAN GUARD AND TO OTHERS. "My bonds have become manifest in Christ throughout the Praetorian Guard, and to all the rest." This was important for two reasons.
1. Because thee soldiers were connected with "Caesar's household. We may well suppose that the saints in that household referred to afterwards (Philippians 4:22) owed their conversion to the apostle's ministry.
2. Because Christianity would thus be brought under the eye of the world. These soldiers were part of an army which then covered the world with its conquests.
3. But the special importance lay in the fact that he was recognized as a prisoner, not for that, or murder, or ill-doing, but for his profession of the gospel.
II. HIS SUFFERINGS FOR CHRIST HAD THE EFFECT OF INSPIRING MINISTERS WITH GREATER COURAGE IN PREACHING THE GOSPEL. And the greater part of the brethren, having in the Lord confidence in my bonds, are more abundantly bold to preach the gospel without fear." This implies:
1. That the ministry was then a dangerous servia, for it exposed preachers to violence and death.
2. That the example of triumphant faith and joyful endurance cannot be without its effect. The courage of the apostle, a fearfully critical time, breathed new strength into "the brethren." - T.C.
I. AS A NOTABLE PRISONER, PAUL WAS DRAWING THE ATTENTION OF MANY TO THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST FOR WHICH HE SUFFERED. (Vers. 12, 13.) Persecution only draws attention to the objects of it. The Praetorian Guards at the palace and many other individuals had their attention turned to the cause for which Paul suffered, through his presence as the prisoner in Rome. In no way could the world better advertise the Christian cause. In fact, persecution emphasizes any cause. It drives it of necessity into prominence. On the other hand, the gospel shows its Divine wisdom by its tolerance. For while the gospel has an intolerant side in brooking no possible rival, it has its tolerant side in refusing to use force and in charitably claiming those not against it as for it. Now, in this abstinence from all persecution, there is in the Christian policy the subtlest wisdom. It is a refusal to make rival systems famous. It is a judicious allowance of them to die a natural death, instead of resuscitating them by emphatic opposition.
II. PAUL'S IMPRISONMENT LED TO INCREASED PREACHING OF CHRIST. (Vers. 14-18.) This happened in two directions: those who sympathized with Paul were led to show a bolder front and fearlessly to preach Christ; those who envied him and tried to checkmate him hailed his imprisonment as their opportunity, and preached Christ in hope of vexing him. It seems at first a strange notion of the gospel being faithfully preached from such a motive. But we must remember that men may be orthodox as a matter of policy and for party purposes, when they have no heart in the substance of their orthodoxy at all. The Judaizers, therefore, who troubled Paul so much seem to have taken an orthodox "fit" when he got imprisoned, thinking thereby to get the more hold over his converts. But Paul rejoices at the preaching of Christ, even though some of the preaching is from party motives. He knows how important a knowledge of that dear Name is, and how the great Spirit can acknowledge an enemy as an instrument just as well as a friend. Let the knowledge of Christ be propagated by all means. Even when his enemies undertake the work, let us rejoice in it, for souls are better to hear truth even from the lips of the poorest partisans than not to hear it at all.
III. PAUL'S SANCTIFICATION THROUGH THE PROCESS WAS ASSURED. (Ver. 19.) Paul's salvation, like ours, is a continuous process, manifesting its reality in increasing sanctification. Now, his imprisonment and its blessed results were being sanctified to him through the intercessions of his friends at Philippi and through the unfailing supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The blessed Spirit can make seeming adversities to be glorious sanctifications for his people. Paul was made by imprisonment more spiritual, more earnest, more faithful to his Master. The prison was the path upwards to heaven.
IV. HIS CONFIDENT AND CHRIST-GLORIFYING BEARING UNTO THE END. (Ver. 20.) Paul did not yet know the issue of his trial. But whether he went to the block or regained liberty, Christ would be magnified by the courageous bearing of his servant. So that he saw the glory of the Master shining clear as a star above and through his bondage. What became of Paul was nothing to him; but what the world would think of Christ was all in all. When the Lord was magnified, all was indeed well Paul's poor "body" had now no other business in the world than to be an instrument for the magnifying of the Master. Let it be crushed or regain liberty, it would in patience or by persevering work promote the glory of him who had bought it and the spirit it enshrined with his blood. The nobility and magnanimity of the apostle in this passage are worthy of all imitation and praise. Such a spirit deserves to succeed in the subjugation of the world for Christ. - R.M.E.
I. PROGRESS OF THE GOSPEL IN ROME.
1. Generally. "Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel." It might have been expected that his imprisonment, which is principally referred to, would have fallen out to the hindrance of the gospel. But Paul would have his Philippian brethren know, for their comfort and confirmation, that, though to some extent it had been a disadvantage, yet to a greater extent it had been an advantage· It was with it as with the early persecutions as a whole. They were intended by the Church's enemies to be for its destruction; but Divine wisdom overruled them for its increase. The scattering of the disciples brought about the fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel, "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." The imprisonment of the ark was the fall of Dagon. The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church.
2. In two particulars.
(1) Increased publicity. "So that my bends became manifest in Christ throughout the whole Praetorian Guard, and to all the rest." It was by a singular combination of circumstances that this was brought about. His adversaries would have liked to have wreaked their vengeance upon him in Palestine. But, asserting his rights as a Roman citizen in appealing to Caesar, he was delivered out of their hands. Taken to Rome, which he may have had in view in his appeal - for he had a desire to see Rome - his trial there was long delayed. And while he was awaiting his trial, he was not subjected to the worst form of imprisonment - confined in a dungeon with his feet fast in the stocks, as had been the ease with him in Philippi. Nor was he subjected to the mildest form - allowed to go about, on getting a friend to answer for his appearance. But he was subjected to an intermediate form, which was known as military imprisonment. He was under the charge of the prefect of the Praetorians, or commander of the imperial regiments, who allowed him to dwell in his own hired house, with complete freedom of access to him, but appointed him to be chained day and night to a Praetorian soldier, who was responsible for his safe keeping. One Praetorian relieving another, the apostle would soon be brought into contact with many of their number, who would speak of him to their companions, so that it would become literally true that his bonds were manifest throughout the whole Praetorian Guard. And not only were they manifest, but they were manifest in Christ, i.e. as endured in the service of Christ, who thus became known to the soldiers, in the way set forth by Paul in his teaching, as the Son of God who died for the salvation of all men, and rose from the dead to sit at the right hand of God, and to be the future Judge of all men. And not only were his bonds manifest in Christ throughout the whole Praetorian Guard, but it is added, indefinitely, "and to all the rest." That is to say, through Praetorians and others, many were induced to pay a visit to Paul, and to hear from him an exposition of gospel doctrine, according to the concluding words of the Acts of the Apostles, "And he abode two whole years in his own hired dwelling, and received all that went in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness, none forbidding him." Thus, while Paul's enemies got his mouth stopped in Judaea, they unwittingly became the occasion of his mouth being opened in the city that commanded the world.
(2) Increased courage in his companions. "And that most of the brethren in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear." The sphere of Paul's personal activity was very large, considering that he was a prisoner. It was circumscribed in so far as he was not free to go from place to place throughout the city. His companions made up for this by being feet for him to places where he could not go. They fulfilled for him the word, "How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things!" This was true of most of the brethren in the Lord. He excepts a few who, from their general character, were entitled to be called brethren in the Lord, but who had apparently yielded to the influence of fear. Of the most of those to whom he could hold out the hand of brotherhood, he could say, to their honor, that they got confidence through his bonds. The natural effect of these bonds was to terrify them, as showing them what they might meet in the service of Christ. But Divine grace made them to act contrary to their nature, and to be rather the means of imparting courage. There is an accumulation of language pointing to imparted courage. They were "more abundantly bold to speak the word of God," i.e. than if Paul had not been in bonds. When their leader was bound they felt that more devolved upon them. They were "more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear. They were raised above thinking of their own safety; they thought only of the word of God being, in all suitable places and in all suitable forms, proclaimed. Thus, directly and indirectly, was the apostle's imprisonment, against the intentions of his enemies, a powerful instrument in the hand of God in advancing Christianity in Rome.
3. More detailed statement in connection with the second particular. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one do it of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel: but the other proclaim Christ of faction, not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds." The first-mentioned class here is not to be identified with the minority of the verse just considered. For they could not be characterized as brethren in the Lord, and then as insincere. But the general class of those who spoke the word being suggested, we are told of some of them that they were actuated with unfriendly feelings towards Paul, and of others of them that they were actuated with friendly feelings. It showed the strength of the gospel movement in Rome, that it drew into it even those who were not friendly to Paul. Their first feeling was that of envy. Who would have thought of Paul becoming an object of envy in his bonds? Yet so it was, to the praise of an all-wise God, he conducted a movement in Rome from his very prison, personally and by his agents, with so much success that some were drawn into the movement from very envy toward him. Their further feeling was that of mischief. As Satan, envious of our first parents, desired to destroy their bliss by introducing sin, so they, filled with envy because of the good movement carried on by Paul, desired to destroy it by introducing division. To this badness of motive they did not add badness of doctrine. If they were Judaists at heart, they did not put forward Judaism in their teaching. That would have been to have defeated their ends, in view of the strong Christian character of the movement. No, they were more cunning. They were false prophets, inwardly ravening wolves, but they knew to appear in sheep's clothing. They preached Christ, as the others preached Christ. They were Pauline in their doctrine; but it was to gain influence, in order to use it for the subverting of Paul. The other class mentioned here is to be identified with the majority previously mentioned. They were his brethren in the Lord, and they were brotherly toward him. Their feeling was that of good will. And, loving Paul and sympathizing with him in his strivings, they preached Christ. Taking the two classes in an inverted order, of the latter he now says that they preached Christ of love. As love is the great moving cause in God, so it was in them as under his influence. Love worked in them, along with the knowledge of the position for which Paul was destined. He was set for the defense of the gospel. He was appointed to make a stand against worldly powers, to bear the brunt of their opposition to Christ. It was a perilous position, requiring extraordinary courage, and its perilousness was not yet past; but they were willing to subserve him in it, in cheering his heart by the preaching of Christ. Turning now to the first class, he declares that their feeling was a spirit of faction, such as rules only in unregenerate hearts. They did not preach Christ sincerely, i.e. from love for him, or desire to extend the knowledge of his Name. But what moved them to preach Christ, or rather - for another word is now used with a slight change in meaning - to make Christ fully known, was the thought (not knowledge, as in the previous clause, and the apostle seems to indicate that it was nothing more than a thought) that it would never be realized - the thought of raising up affliction for him in his bonds, apparently by undermining his influence and forming an antagonistic party.
4. Feelings of the apostle in view of what has been stated.
(1) So far as Christ was concerned. "What then? only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." Had the persons last referred to put forward Judaism, then he would have been bound to have opposed to it the true gospel. But as they concealed their real purpose, viz. to counterwork Paul under the cloak of proclaiming Christ, he was not disposed to join issue with them. Nay, in the fact that, however bad their motive, the knowledge of Christ was by them extended, he found cause for rejoicing. And in the extended knowledge of Christ, however brought about, he was determined to rejoice. Let all false and true alike go on proclaiming Christ; it would rejoice his heart.
(2) As far as he was personally concerned.
(a) Assurance that it would result in good to him. "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation, through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." The apostle seems to have in view the whole state of matters described. His imprisonment is in the background, and in the foreground this on which he has been dwelling, that there were around him in his imprisonment many who preached Christ from friendly feelings toward him, but some also who made the preaching of Christ only a cloak for designs against him. He knew - his tone is that of certainty - that this would turn differently from what it was in part intended to do, to his highest good. But they must give him their prayers. He needed them in the critical position in which he was placed. Yes, God, who knew all the movements that affected him, and could counterwork all the designs of his enemies, must extend his help. He must especially, through their prayers for this, supply the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Then would he be able to act, even as Christ acted, so that all that happened to him would turn - though that might not be its nature - to his good.
(b) Hopefulness as to his accomplishing his destiny. "According to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing shall I be put to shame, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death." God had wrought for him in the past, and so he was not without hope for the future. Nay, he had an earnest expectation and hope. His eye, taken off everything else, was strained toward this, that in nothing he should be put to shame, in not exhibiting the proper spirit or carrying out his proper destiny. The proper spirit for his circumstances was boldness. God had always enabled him to be bold in the past; he would not allow him to be faint-hearted now, when he was looking forward to his trial. And his proper destiny, as he conceived it, was this, that Christ should be magnified in his body, whether that body should be preserved alive for the future service of the Master, or whether it should be given up in martyrdom. Thus through one instrumentality viz. Paul's imprisonment, it was true, that God wrought various ends. Let us, even when we do not see what he is doing, trust in him as all-wise. "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." The forces of evil may seem to hold the Church in imprisonment; but let us trust that from the imprisoned Church, made, to feel the cruel hand of worldliness and scepticism, there shall go forth a wider, more glorious proclamation of Christ, as alone meeting the wants of men. And let us trust, too, that the Church shall come forth purified, saved, and more hopeful against the forces of evil. And if we feel individually as in a prison-house, from evil without or within, let us look to the all-wise God to make our prison-house the means of Christ being better known, and of our souls being blessed with more of the elements of salvation, and with more hopefulness of accomplishing our destiny to the glory of Christ.
II. HE CALMLY CONTEMPLATES THE QUESTION OF LIFE OR DEATH.
1. He feels If, at the advantage to himself is in dying.
(1) He has made Christ the end of his life. "For to me to live is Christ."
(a) What it is to make Christ the end of our life. It is to make everything a means toward the advancement of the glory of Christ. This is the aspect in which it is regarded in the context, and to which the connecting word refers us. It was the ambition of the apostle that Christ should be magnified in his body by life or by death. We are to seek nearer ends, such as self-preservation, proficiency in our earthly calling, but not as ends in themselves. There is only one absolute end, and that is Christ. Everything is to be set aside as useless, impertinent, which cannot be directed to Christ. Even a life devoted to science, to philanthropy, must be rejected as unworthy, unless it is humbly lived for Christ. All our efforts, as all our prayers, must be in his Name, all the fruits of our life we must lay at his feet. We have to plan our lives differently; for that is dependent on our natural capacities and on our circumstances; but there is to be this unity in them all, that they are to be planned so that they shall bring the largest revenue of glory to Christ. Let us, then, have our end clearly in view, and let us pursue it intelligently, and with all the simplicity and abandonment with which men of the world sometimes pursue their ends.
(b) Why Christ is the end of our life. It was Christ who was the reason for our being originally brought into existence. And as we came from his hand (for by him, as well as for him, were all things made) we were rich in opportunity. By sin, however, our existence became so heavily weighted, that, left to ourselves, it would have been better if we had not been born. We owe it to Christ that, by coming into our nature and dying for us, he has made our life worth living. He has redeemed it from the disability of sin, and has made it rich in the opportunity of everlasting glory. And on account of what he has done for us, he is entitled to be the end of our life.
(c) How Christ is fitted to be the end of our life. (α) He fills the imagination. In him we have One to live for, who combines in his character every excellence, and in the superlative degree, who leaves every other immeasurably behind, who towers high above the highest flight of the strongest imagination. And while the story of his life is more wonderful than is to be found in romance, it has all the charm of reality. (β) He appeals to the heart. Love is the great argument by which he makes his appeal to us. He goes down to the lowest depths for us, and then, coming up, he beseeches us by his tears and agonies. In life's trials, from his own experience of them, he encourages us and beckons us on: "In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (γ) He calls forth the energies. Worldly objects call forth the energies of men. "Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise (that last infirmity of noble minds) to scorn delights and live laborious days." To have a loved one to labor for has been the spur to many a man's energies, which otherwise would have flagged. It is the glory of Christ that, though he is viewless, he calls forth our energies purely, equally, in the highest degree, with the greatest pleasureableness. Paul tells us that Christ was the end of his life. When he was thirty years of age, he suddenly discovered that he had been entirely mistaken in the end of his life, and that he had lived all these years to no purpose. Then, in a miraculous manner, the claims of Christ asserted their power over him, and from that point the crucified One became the magnet of his course. To him to live was Christ. Grasping the plan of his life, he made everything subservient to the magnifying of the Savior, in the making of him known. It was Christ who ever came into the study of his imagination. It was Christ whose Name was branded into his heart. It was his unseen Savior who drew forth from him a power of work beyond what has ever been witnessed.
(2) Having made Christ the end of life, the advantage to himself is in dying. "And to die is gain." To die involves great loss. It involves the loss of all gratification through the senses, the loss of all earthly possessions, the loss of all earthly friends. When the apostle, then, says that to die is gain, he must mean that what is gained by death more than counterbalances the loss. The result, when everything is computed, is not loss; it is gain. He does not. tell us how much gain it is; but he uses the word with a certain absoluteness. It is not a mere slight excess of gain over loss; but it is gain without mention of limitation. It is gain such as swallows up the sense of loss. This is conditional on our having made Christ our end. If we have made any worldly object our final end, then to die is loss, and with a certain absoluteness of meaning. It is total earthly loss without any gain that can be set against it in the next world. It is what Christ calls the loss of the soul. It is the loss of the great end and joy of existence. But if we have made Christ the end of our life, then to die is to have succeeded in life. It is to have been climbing the mountain and to have gained the summit. It is to have been contending in the arena and to have gained the prize. It is to have been living for Christ and to have come to Christ as our supreme Reward.
2. The consideration of advantage to others by his continuing in life makes him undecided. "But if to live in the flesh, - if this is the fruit of my work, then what I shall choose I wet not. But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better." He has shown a leaning to the alternative of dying. But had the other alternative, viz. living in the flesh, no hold upon him? How did it stand related to his work, i.e. the work given him on earth to do? Had he yet accomplished all the good to others that was intended by his labors? Let it be supposed that his living in the flesh was the condition of carrying out his life-task in its fruitfulness to others, then he felt at a loss which alternative to choose. He was in a strait betwixt the two. He felt the obligation of finishing his life-work with all the good that might result from it to others. But he felt, on the other hand, a desire to depart and be with Christ, which was very far better. Let the form of the desire be noted. He had a desire to depart. The reference is to breaking up a camp. Our body is the earthly tabernacle in which we live. We have a natural aversion to break up our earthly encampment. We become attached to our dwelling and its surroundings, even by long use. The apostle had triumphed over this, so as even to desire to break up his earthly encampment. Severe or long-continued sickness may bring on the desire for death. "As a servant," says Job, "earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work: so am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me. When I lie down, I say, When shall i arise, and the night be gone? and I am hall of tossings to and fro until the dawning of the day." Old age may make us feel that we are becoming unfitted for life. "I am this day fourscore years old: ... can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women?" Or our uncongenial surroundings may make us sigh for a change. "Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!" What had principally influence with the apostle was the attraction of the life beyond. The earthly breaking up, or what he elsewhere calls his absence from the body, would be his presence with the Lord. He felt drawn to the Lord, with whom he had vital union and communion, and to the invisible world over which he presided, and to the people who were there happy with him. He felt that to have face-to-face and affectionate intercourse with him, to have a new comprehension of his mind and a new reception of his Spirit, was better than being here. It was far better. Nay, he uses a triple comparative, and his language, deliberately chosen, is, that it is "very far better." It is to have Christ in his incomparable worth and glory disclosed to us and enjoyed by us as he cannot be here.
3. The consideration of advantage especially to the Philipians by his continuing in life ultimately prevails with him. "Yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide, yea, and abide with you all." While he had a strong tending toward the Lord, it was not an impatient, precipitate tending. He was not mutinous against the Divine disposal of him. There was wisdom in his state of mind. He saw clearly that it was for his own advantage to depart. But he saw, at the same time, that it was more needful, for such as the Philippians, that he should abide in the flesh. And when it came to be a question between personal bliss and work to be done by him, there could be no doubt on what side his decision would be given. He had enough of the spirit of the Master, like him, to forego heavenly bliss for earthly work. He was not one to decline present duty, and to grasp at the prize without having run the prescribed race. While he was even desirous to embrace the gain of dying; he could not refuse the obedience of life. Out of the confidence that he had work to do rose the knowledge that he would abide with the Philippians, and still abide with them. The decisiveness with which he thus speaks of abiding shows that he contemplated a successful termination to his trial. He would abide after the great crisis was past. We are not to understand him speaking with prophetic certainty. He knew that the Ephesians would see his face no more when he parted with them at Miletus; he knew that he would abide for the sake of the Philippians. There is reason to think that he was mistaken in the first case, and that he was right in the second case. In both cases he simply proceeded on his own reasonings. In the former case it was anticipated evil at Jerusalem which weighed with him. In the latter case it was the consideration of work to be done especially among the Philippians. Twofold object contemplated in his continuance.
(1) On his part. "For your progress and joy in the faith."
(a) Progress in the faith. He had rendered them assistance in the past. He had introduced them into the faith of the gospel. He had, by visits to them and agents sent to them, helped them forward in the faith. He here intimates to them that it would be his object, when released from imprisonment, of which he was confident, to pay them a visit, and to present Christ so that their faith would become more enlightened, more lively, more steadfast.
(b) Joy in the faith. This is the blessed result of believing. "The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing." If we believe that God goes out toward us in infinite love, that in Christ he is favorable to us as sinners, dud has laid up for us everlasting happiness, then there is, in what we believe, foundation for a joy which should be ecstatic.
(2) On their part. "That your glorying may abound in Christ Jesus in me through nay presence with you again." He wanted for them increased matter of glorying, within Christ as its sphere and therefore of a holy nature, in him as its seat, and by his presence with them again. It would be an abundant cause for glorying to see him after his release from imprisonment, after they had prayed for his release, and in expectation of the benefit to be derived from a visit in such circumstances.
III. HE EXHORTS THEM TO PERFORM THEIR DUTIES AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS.
1. Generally. "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ." The leading word in the original means, "perform your duties as citizens," and the further thought is that we are to perform our duties in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ which has made us members of so great a commonwealth. And it need not be wondered at that the apostle should adopt the form of expression, writing from the Roman metropolis to a city which was invested with the Roman franchise. The citizens of Philippi could appreciate the force of an appeal founded upon their possession of the political franchise. It was this ground which they took up against Paul and Silas: "These men set forth customs which it is not lawful for us to receive or to observe, being Romans." The apostle here proceeds upon their being members of a greater commonwealth than the Roman. It was a commonwealth presided over by a greater than Caesar, even the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a commonwealth where members were admitted to greater privileges than Rome could bestow, viz. sonship with right of access to God, right of Divine protection, right of Divine direction, right of Divine strengthening, and right of dwelling with God at last. Let them perform their duties as citizens, then, in a manner worthy of the gospel which had admitted them to so great privileges.
2. Their performance of their duties as Christian citizens to be independent of his presence with them. "That, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear of your state." This brings out the force of the foregoing "only." Their performance of their duties was not to be dependent on his presence with them. He proceeds upon the supposition of his being re]cased. When released, it would be his endeavor to come and see them. But it was possible that Providence might direct his steps elsewhere. And even though he came and saw them, it could only be for a time. He could not, in justice to others, be always with them. But whether he came and saw them, or was absent, he would hear (by attraction to latter) of their state, whether they were performing their duties as Christian citizens or not.
3. He specifies two duties which devolved upon them as citizens in connection with military service.
(1) Unbroken unity. "That ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel." As enfranchised citizens it would devolve upon them to fight. The object for which they would have to fight was the faith of the gospel. An attempt would be made to make them believe a lie. They were to present an unbroken front to the enemy. They were to stand fast, striving for the faith of the gospel. In one spirit they were to stand fast. The spirit is the reason, conscience, that which governs in our nature. A common principle, the will of Christ as their Commander, was to regulate them. With one soul they were to strive. The soul is that which is governed in our nature. Under common regulation there was to be concordant thought, feeling, action, as in an army engaged in warfare.
(2) Undaunted-ness. "And in nothing affrighted by the adversaries." Attempts would be made to intimidate them. All forms of pressure would be brought to bear upon them, to make them give up the faith of the gospel. Their very life would be placed in danger. But in nothing were they to be affrighted, turned aside in fright from what they believed. Twofold consideration.
(a) Their undauntedness a Divine token. "Which is for them an evident token of perdition, but of your salvation, and that from God." It was a Divine token with a double meaning. It was a token of perdition to the adversaries. It was a proof that they were in the wrong, seeing that, by all their threatenings and tortures, they could not make the Christians blench. And it was a token of salvation, of final victory, to the Christians. It was a proof to them that they were in the right, and would be shown to be in the right, seeing that their faith raised them above the influence of fear.
(b) Called to a high destiny which they shared with Paul. "Because to you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer in his behalf: having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me." To all who deserve the name of Christians it is given to witness for Christ by their faith. To some it is given to witness for Christ by their sufferings. Of this number was Paul, who had earned the name of confessor when at Philippi, and was bearing the same name at Rome. He was in painful conflict with the powers of the world. And the same conflict these Philippian Christians endured. Let them rejoice in their high destiny, that thereby they were enrolled in the noble army of confessors and martyrs. - R.F.
I. A GRAND PRINCIPLE IN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD. What is the principle? The overruling of evil for good. Nothing would seem a greater evil in the early dawn of Christianity than the imprisonment of St. Paul. There, banished from his own country, bound in bonds, imprisoned by the Praetorian Guard, chained day and night to some Roman soldier, utterly unable to go beyond the limited scene of his imprisonment, or to address - as he had often done - vast multitudes. There he was for two long years. During that period it would seem as if the sun of Christianity had gone down to rise no more, leaving the world to go back into Jewish and Gentile darkness, intolerance, and superstition. But here the apostle says it was not so. It helped, not hindered, the onward march of gospel truth. He indicates here how it tended in this direction.
1. By extending its knowledge in the imperial city. "So that my bonds in Christ ['margin, 'for Christ'] are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places." Or, as Dr. Samuel Davidson renders it, "So that my bonds became manifest in all the Praetorian Guard, and in all the rest." All the Praetorian regiments, who, of course, were the most numerous and influential men in the imperial city - the city which conquered the world - would, of course, guard the apostle by turns, and to each and all who were in special connection with him at the time he, of course, would not only reveal his own morally noble and soul-commanding character, but earnestly expound that grand system of world-wide philanthropy for which he was in bonds. In this way the gospel would spread in Rome from soldier to soldier, and from the soldiers to the civilians. Perhaps there could have been no way more effective of spreading the gospel than this.
2. By encouraging the work of propagation. "Many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear." "There is," says Dr. Barry, "a twofold sense here, corresponding to the twofold division of preachers made below. Those who preached Christ 'of contention' trusted in St. Paul's captivity as giving them scope; those who preached of 'good will' found in it a striking example of evil overruled for good, and so gained from it fresh encouragement." The expression, "many of the brethren," of course implies not all, and those who did not were Judaizing Christians and were affected with enmity towards Paul, and would preach in their own spirit and in their own way; whilst the others, "the many," would by the noble conduct of Paul as a prisoner, and by the constantly extending circulation of the gospel through the Prtetorian regiments take encouragement and catch inspiration. Here, then, is an example of the principle of evil being overruled for good. "A strange chemistry of providence this," says Matthew Henry, in his quaint way, "to extract so great a good as the enlargement of the gospel out of so great an evil as the confinement of the apostle." Three remarks may be offered in relation to this principle.
(1) That the known character of God authorizes the inference that this would be the principle on which he would proceed in the moral management of the universe. It is scarcely possible to entertain the belief that a Being of infinite holiness, possessing a wisdom that nothing can baffle, and a power that nothing can resist, would allow evil to run riot for ever in his empire, and make no effort to subordinate it to the advancement of spiritual excellence and happiness. Shall error triumph over truth, wrong over right, the devil over God? Incredible. Antecedently I am bound to conclude that a time will come when the sun of goodness shall scatter from the heavens every cloud of evil, however widespread and dense.
(2) That the Bible supplies abundant statements to support this belief. We read that the little stone - that is, goodness - shall not only shatter the colossal image - that is, evil - but shall itself grow till it becomes a mountain to fill the whole earth. We read of the knowledge of God covering the earth as the waters cover the channels of the great deep. We read of the "restitution of all things." We read of the "kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ;" and of things being put into subjection to Christ; of "all things working together for good to them that love God," etc.
(3) That the history of the world is a grand exemplification of this principle. The introduction of sin into the world is a tremendous evil; but how much good has come out of it! What glorious manifestations it has occasioned of God! what moral heroes it has been the means of creating amongst men! The crucifixion of Christ was evil in the most gigantic form; but to what good has the infinitely good One turned it! "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." I rejoice to believe in this principle of good overruling evil; it inspires in me the hope that the time will come when every human intellect shall be freed from error, every human conscience from guilt, every human heart from pain, when all the groans of the human creation shall be hushed in eternal silence, and the flames of all hells extinguished for ever.
II. A SPLENDID EXAMPLE FOR THE IMITATION OF PREACHERS. "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will," etc. Observe:
1. The apostle speaks of two classes in his day. One preached from a factious, or a party, spirit. They preached from "envy and strife." This shows beyond question that the Judaizing party - the bitter antagonists of Paul - were at work in Rome, preaching in their way the gospel; preaching it, not from pure love to Christ and souls, but to gratify their own factious spirit and to serve their own little sect. A sectarian preaching of the gospel has, alas! ever been common; it is rampant to-day in England - men preaching for sects rather than for souls. The other class of preachers in Rome were those who preached of "good will" and "of love." These had in them that love of Christ which constrained them to proclaim the gospel. They had no factious spirit; they were neither of the party of Cephas nor of Paul, but of Christ only; they knew "nothing amongst men save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Oh that we had more of such preachers in this age! John Wesley, in modern times, was one of the splendid examples of this class of preachers; he broke himself off from all sects, and would, I have no doubt, have recoiled with pain at the idea of a sect ever being formed bearing his name.
2. The apostle's sublime magnanimity in relation to all preachers. "What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." He overlooks the motives that prompt men to proclaim Christ in his exultation in the fact that Christ was preached. The motives belong to God, and he will deal with them; the message is for humanity, and its proclamation by every tongue would render service. Should we not enter into this spirit? If the gospel is preached, whether by Papists or Protestants, Ritualists or Evangelicals, Churchmen or Dissenters, what matters to us so long as it is preached? So long as the clarion sends its blast to warn those who have never before heard of the approaching danger, what matters it whose lungs supply the breath? Let us try to catch the magnanimous spirit of Paul, and to imitate his splendid example in this respect.
"I saw one man, armed simply with God's Word, Till, even as showers of fertilizing rain
Till, even as showers of fertilizing rain
I. ON THE UNCONVERTED. To such it is an evidence of the truth, No witness is more effective than the consistent faithfulness of a professing Christian. Such witnesses for Christ by bravely resisting all inducements to abandon him, and of Christ by manifesting his strength in human weakness. Thus it witnesses to him. It is by such witness that Christ is now to be manifested to the heathen. The Church is the Epiphany star. We cannot now appeal to the evidence of miracles, but we can show the moral miracle of a sinner saved. So long as the Church possesses the Spirit of Christ, so long can we speak the invitation of Philip, "Come and see."
II. ON OUR FELLOW-CHRISTIANS. It encourages them to join us in our confession and thus strengthens their grasp of the power of Christ.
III. the IMPORTANCE OF OPENLY ACKNOWLEDGING OUR ALLEGIANCE TO CHRIST, such the world will be convinced that he is a living power and not merely a name upon our lips. By such they who are young in faith will be emboldened to declare themselves more positively on his side, and will thus receive more of him. - V.W.H.
I. THE WORK OF ST. PAUL WAS RENDERED MORE EFFECTIVE BY THE VERY PERSECUTIONS HE SUFFERED.
1. The area of his influence was extended. He had long wished to preach the gospel in Rome (e.g. Romans 1:8-15). Persecution sent him there, The particular circumstances of his residence in Rome further gave him an opportunity of reaching classes of people who would have been almost inaccessible to him if he had gone there as a free visitor. Living among Praetorian soldiers, if not in the Praetorian camp itself, St. Paul was able to preach Christ to the cream of the Roman army. The prisoner became a missionary to his guard, and was successful in winning converts among those stern soldiers.
2. The force of his influence was intensified. He always preached Christ by his life, but never more eloquently than when in bonds for the sake of his great Master. The sight of the brave old man awaiting trial on a capital charge, not only possessing his soul in patience, but rejoicing in tribulation, and earnestly preaching the gospel beneath the very shadow of Nero's palace, was enough to strike the attention of the most thoughtless.
II. OTHER CHRISTIANS WERE INSPIRED WITH GREATER CONFIDENCE AND ENERGY BY THE SIGHT OF THE PERSECUTED APOSTLE. They were made confident through his bonds.
1. The example of St. Paul inspired them. Courage rouses courage. Noble self-devotion calls forth responsive echoes in the hearts of others. We feel ashamed of standing idle while our brother is toiling in the midst of danger and suffering.
2. The success of St. Paul encouraged them. Half-heartedness in missionary efforts comes of unbelief in the real utility of them. When we see the fruitfulness of these efforts we are urged to extend them.
3. The independent action of St. Paul excited the jealousy of some. In Rome, which was a stronghold of Judaic Christianity, the great apostle of the Gentiles preached his more liberal gospel. This greatly disturbed some of the prevailing school. But, unlike their brothers in Corinth, they did not directly oppose the work of St. Paul. They rather proclaimed their own version of the gospel more zealously. In so doing they, being true followers of Christ as well as the apostle they suspected, preached Christ. Thus sectarian rivalry may be overruled for the extension of the gospel. - W.F.A.
I. THE DIFFERENT SPIRIT OF THE TWO CLASSES OF PREACHERS. "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will." The one class were actuated by a genuine good will to Christ and his apostle. The other class were actuated by envy and discord. They envied the popularity of the apostle among the Gentile Churches, and showed a disagreeably quarrelsome temper. They were evidently Judaists who could little brook the overthrow of the Mosaic institute and Jewish commonwealth which seemed to be involved in the triumph of the apostle's gospel. Yet they preached Christ.
II. THE MOTIVES OF THE TWO CLASSES. "The one do it of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel; but the other proclaim Christ of faction, not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds." Notice:
1. The pure motive of one class - love - which ought to be the spring of all gospel action. Love to Christ, love to the truth, love to the souls of men, ought to be the abiding motive of all preachers. These brethren had special regard for the apostle on account of his destined place in the evangelization of the world.
2. The impure motive of the other class - a base partisanship designed to make the apostle's bonds more galling. There are allusions to this fierce party spirit among the Judaists in most of the apostle's writings, aggravated as it often was by intense bitterness to the apostle.
3. Yet both classes preached Christ. The language of the apostle is applied to both classes. It is sad to think of men preaching Christ from bad motives, especially where Erich motives may imply a tinge of doctrinal imperfection in the method of preaching him. Yet the Lord accepts the services of weak, imperfect, sinful men in his vineyard.
III. THE JOY OF THE APOSTLE AT THIS WIDESPREAD ACTIVITY OF THE TWO CLASSES.
1. It might appear more natural for him to denounce these Judaists with words of sharp rebuke. Perhaps his own enforced inactivity as a preacher may have led him to rejoice in the Christian labors of men who knew Christ "only after the flesh."
2. His joy shows a large and forgiving nature. "What then? only that in every way, whether with masked design or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." The conduct of the apostle teaches us:
(1) That the preaching of Christ is higher truth than the secondary questions of polity and worship which often cause dissension among Christians.
(2) That Christians ought to rejoice in the successes of other Christians who follow different methods of doctrine or polity.
(3) That it is right to condemn the base motives or unworthy insincerities that sometimes mingle with good work.
(4) That we ought to show special consideration to those who preach Christ of good will, and eschew all sorts of by-ends and manoeuvres. - T.C.
I. WHAT IT IS. Like nearly all human errors, it has its origin in a good trait in our nature which has become corrupted by the introduction of evil motives. It springs from the desire men have to act in common. The Christian development of this desire is the communion of saints. The ideal of redeemed mankind is that it is the body of Christ, which is not a fortuitous concourse of atoms, but a living organism, each part necessary to the whole. Faction corrupts this grand idea and breaks up men into fragments, each of which is indwelt, not by the Spirit of Christ, but by the spirit of envy.
II. WHAT IT MAY BECOME. A corrupter of religion; using the subject-matter of the gospel, not as a means for building up souls into Christ, but of magnifying self.
III. HOW IT MAY BE DEALT WITH. St. Paul is ever hopeful of human nature. He sees even in its degradation elements of better things. Just as men's well-meant actions never do all the good they anticipate, so their evil deeds do not do all the harm they appear calculated to do. The mixture of human motives and the insufficiency of human powers have their blessings as well as their curse.
IV. HOW TO BE FREE FROM THIS SPIRIT OF FACTION. St. Paul evidently was free from it. He longs (Ver. 20) not that Christ should magnify him, or that he should magnify Christ, but that Christ should be magnified in him; i.e. that Christ should use him as he wills, exalting him or humiliating him, making him serviceable or discarding him, just as it may prove most to his glory. - V.W.H.
comprehend is the larger heart of a better nature. St. Paul completely triumphed over this miserable attempt at raising up afflictions for him in his bonds. Instead of being irritated at the injury done to himself, he utterly forgot that injury in his joy that a flesh impetus was given to the preaching of Christ. What a noble example for all Christians!
I. THE PREACHING OF CHRIST IS THE MOST IMPORTANT WORK OF the CHURCH. There were truths dear to the heart of St. Paul which the Judaizing party denied, and it was part of the life-work of the apostle to vindicate these truths. But he clearly saw that they were subsidiary to the great, common Christian gospel. Therefore he would rather see the gospel preached by men who were at the same time resisting those truths, than that the secondary truths should triumph but missionary work be less zealously promoted. We are all in danger of losing theological perspective. We are inclined to magnify our own special views to the neglect of the truth that is common to all Christendom. To make Christ known - not to preach this or that doctrine about Christ, but to reveal Christ himself in his beautiful life, death, and resurrection - this is to preach the gospel, and all else is of minor importance.
II. CHRIST MAY BE PREACHED IN A GREAT VARIETY OF WAYS. The more illiberal Christians set forth the gospel in a very different way from St. Paul's method. Yet he had insight to see that the essential truth was proclaimed by them.
1. Because men do not pronounce our "shibboleth," let us not refuse to recognize that they preach our Christ, the one Christ.
2. Moreover, note that, as a rule, the grounds on which Christians agree are far more important than those on which they differ.
3. Observe also that, though the spirit and motive of the preacher are important, the truth of the gospel is of more importance; so that, though this be proclaimed with an unworthy motive (as here in very spite to St. Paul), yet, being proclaimed, it may reach the hearts of men and do its own work.
III. DIVISIONS AMONG CHRISTIANS MAY LEAD TO ThE MORE ZEALOUS PREACHING OF CHRIST. We naturally deplore these divisions. They are very injurious to Christian charity. They generate sectarian bitterness of spirit and narrowness of thought. They lead to much waste of effort in controversy and to a scandal in the eyes of the world. On the other hand, they undoubtedly excite greater zeal in propagating the gospel. The sects provoke one another to good works. The motive may not be the highest; still, the result is that the gospel is preached more energetically and with more variety, so as to reach different classes of mind. And often the emulation is not unworthy. Each party is honestly desirous not to be found wanting, and is stimulated by the example of the rest. Competition, which greatly encourages efficiency in study and in business, is not without its influence in religion. Competitive Christianity may be, indeed, a low form of religion, but it is much better than lifeless Christianity.
IV. THE TRUE SERVANT OF CHRIST WILL VALUE THE PREACHING OF CHRIST MORE THAN THE EXTENSION OF HIS OWN VIEWS AND INFLUENCE. It is exceedingly difficult really to rejoice at efforts which weaken our own particular cause while they promote the great cause of Christ. But this is because we think more of ourselves than of Christ. Greater devotion to Christ will issue in larger charity to rivals and enemies. When we can say, "To me to live is Christ," we shall be able to experience the grand feeling of St. Paul in rising above the provocation of jealous opposition to himself with the joy of witnessing a more earnest preaching of Christ. - W.F.A.
I. CONSIDER THE APOSTLE'S CONCERN FOR HIS OWN SALVATION. He does not refer here to his release from captivity, but to the salvation of his soul.
1. Salvation has several significations in Scripture. It sometimes means conversion, sometimes sanctification, sometimes glorification, - that is, some one or other of three different parts of it; or it signifies all three together. In the first sense it is a past act and complete; in the second, it is a present experience and progressive; in the third, a blessed expectation. The apostle does not use the word here in the first, but in the second and third senses.
2. We are not to suppose that he had any doubt concerning his salvation, but merely that he sought that spiritual growth and that enlargement of spiritual labors that would determine the degree of his blessedness hereafter.
II. HIS SALVATION WAS TO BE PROMOTED BY SANCTIFIED TRIALS. He refers here evidently to the perplexities and troubles by which ungentle and unloving brethren had tried "to raise up affliction to his bonds."
1. Affliction has no naturally sanctifying tendency. It embitters, it hardens, it deadens the soul.
2. It is affliction sanctified by a loving Father that deepens and purifies spiritual experience. (Hebrews 12:7-11.) There are two means suggested towards this end.
(1) Intercessory prayer. "This shall turn out to my salvation through your prayer;" for even a great apostle was dependent upon the intercession of the humble disciples of Philippi.
(2) The supply of the Spirit. "And the abundant supply of the Spirit of Christ." This supply, as the answer to their prayers, would minister to him joy, peace, holiness, strength, patience, and zeal. It is the Spirit proceeding from Christ, sent by Christ, who, taking the things of Christ, shows them unto us, and so establishes our safety.
III. THIS SALVATION IS IDENTIFIED WITH HIS SUCCESSFUL PROMOTION OF THE GOSPEL. "According to my earnest desire and hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but as always, so now also with all boldness, Christ shall be magnified in my body whether by life or by death."
2. It would ensure the glorification of Christ in his body, by his labors if he lived, by his edifying patience and peace if he died.
IV. HIS CONVICTION OF THIS PACT. "I know that this will turn out to my salvation." He knew it:
1. From his knowledge of the discipline of the covenant.
2. From his knowledge of God's promises.
3. From his own past experiences of God's dealings with himself. - T.C.
1. To magnify Christ. "Christ shall be magnified in my body," etc.
2. To render all the circumstances of life subservient to that end.
3. To have supplies of the Spirit of Christ. I proceed, in a somewhat modified form, to give some of the beautiful thoughts of that distinguished preacher.
I. The supreme purpose of life is to MAGNIFY CHRIST. "Christ shall be magnified." Every living man is either an injury or a blessing to creation - every bad man is an injury, every good man is a blessing. Goodness is at once the cause, the evidence, and the measure of moral usefulness. But how is this usefulness achieved? By magnifying Christ. But how are you to magnify Christ? Not by making him greater than he is. This would be impossible. His "name is above every name." He is Lord of all; "Of him, and to him, and through him, are all things." All heaven feels that he is the greatest; there he is seen as he is; is supremely worshipped and adored. Hell, too, feels his greatness: "The everlasting destruction with which the lost are punished, comes from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power." It is to be done:
1. By giving him the pre-eminence in your own soul. Putting him on the throne of your being, and crowning him Lord of all, having all the activities and faculties ruled by him as the moral Monarch of the soul.
2. By promoting his sovereignty over others. Seeking to establish his kingdom, the kingdom of peace and truth and righteousness over all contemporaries. Sad, terribly sad, it is that many who profess to magnify him degrade him. They degrade him by flippant and irreverent repetitions of his holy Name, by misrepresenting his work. They speak of him as a poor Victim on the cross rather than as a triumphant Victor - One who, in his sufferings, is to be pitied rather than applauded. They speak of him as a Purchaser of Divine love for man rather than as its grand Messenger and omnipotent proof. They represent him as One who seems to be in deep need of man's humble services; and in their hymns they call upon their hearers to "Stand up and fight for Jesus," as if Jesus were in difficulties and wanted their help to relieve him. They seem to trade in his holy Name. The crafty priest employs him in order to gain power over the people, mercenary preachers and authors in order to get gain. These magnify themselves under the pretense of magnifying Christ. "The false teachers to whom the apostle refers in this chapter were guilty of this, as are not a few in the nineteenth century. For instance, they who take up Christianity with a view to amass wealth, to gain honor, or to subserve political designs. This is very wicked. It is to betray Christianity with the kiss of treachery, in order to deliver it up to the fury of its foes. It is to purchase earthly toys with the blood of souls. It is to drink damnation from consecrated vessels."
II. In order to magnify Christ, THE WHOLE OF OUR LIFE SHOULD BE CONSECRATED TO THAT PURPOSE. Observe:
1. The circumstance of life here indicated. "In my body, whether it be by life or by death."
(1) Life must be consecrated to the work. All its energies should be directed to it; all its faculties should be employed in its interest; all the circumstances, in fact, should be subordinated to its advancement. "For me to live is Christ," says Paul "I long," said Bernard, "to be as a flame of fire, continually glowing for the service of the Church, preaching and building it up to my latest hour." Paul here specifies affliction. "I know that this" - that is, his imprisonment - "shall turn to my salvation." "Time spent in affliction is not lost. To a man who stands on the margin of eternity the world appears in its proper light. How worthless its smiles! How absurd its fashions! How trifling its all! Never does the better country appear so inviting as when we linger on its borders, expecting every hour to plant our feet on its happy soil. The odours wafted from its shore refresh us before we land."
(2) Death should subserve this spiritual usefulness. "Whether by life or by death." So die - die with such calmness, resignation, holy serenity, as to commend Christ to the spectators of the event.
2. The intense desire that it should be so is here indicated. "According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body." This was his "earnest expectation " - an expression which implies an intense and painful longing, not only expectation, but hope. There may be expectation where there is not hope. Hope implies desire for an object as well as a probability of obtaining it. "That in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always," etc. This was his grand purpose, and he would not have that purpose frustrated so as to be ashamed, but would, with wonted boldness and courage, struggle on to its ultimate triumph.
III. In order to consecrate the whole of our life to that purpose we require THE INTERCESSION OF THE GOOD, AND A SUPPLY OF THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST JESUS.
1. The intercession of the good. "Through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." This overruling of all enmity to his safety he hopes for, through the intercession of the Philippian Church (comp. Philemon 1:23) and the fresh supply of grace which, through such intercession, may be given to him. For the word "supply" in this sense, see Ephesians 4:15; and comp. Galatians 2:5; Corinthians 2:19. "Through your prayer." By an instinct of our nature involuntarily we breathe intercessions to heaven on behalf of those in whom we are most vitally interested. This is natural; this is right. Whether intercessions of any kind secure direct answers or not, the assurance of them is always most encouraging to their object. If I know that a good man is earnestly interceding for me in my mission, I have an assurance that he will use every effort to contribute to my success. Hence Paul always felt encouraged by the prayers of the good.
2. The supply of the Spirit. "Of the application of this name to the Holy Ghost we have instances in Romans 8:9; 2 Corinthians 2:17; Galatians 4:6; 1 Peter 1:11. Of these the first is the most notable, since in two clauses of the same sentence we have first the Spirit of God and then the Spirit of Christ. But the name has always some speciality of emphasis. Thus the whole conception of the passage is of Christ: 'For me to live is of Christ;' hence the use of this special and comparatively rare name of the Holy Ghost" (Dr. Barry). These two things Paul felt would enable him to consecrate his whole life to the life of Christ - "the intercessions of the good," and the "supply of the Spirit of Christ." - D.T.
I. HIS NATURAL LIFE FINDS ITS SUPREME OBJECT IN CHRIST. The apostle does not here assert that Christ is his spiritual life, for the reference is strictly limited to his "life in the flesh." That life is supremely devoted to Christ.
1. In all its thoughts. There never was a man whose intellectual life was so wrapped up in his Savior; his plans, his anxieties, his hopes, centred in him; every thought was brought into subjection to him; therefore his thoughts were not vain, or selfish, or earthly.
2. In all its deeds. The apostle abounded in labors more than the other apostles. Yet Christ was the object of such holy activity. His ceaseless, exhausting works of love found their spring in the love of Christ as they marked his supreme devotion. Thus Christ was his life. It ought so to be with us all. "For whether we live, we live unto the Lord."
II. HIS DEATH WOULD BE GAIN. "To die is gain."
1. This assertion seems hard to reconcile with human feeling. Death always involves loss of some sort. To the saint it involves the loss of many pure enjoyments of life, of happy domestic ties, of the means and opportunities of working for Christ; while to the sinner it is utter, irreparable loss.
2. The assertion is not that of a mere pessimist, who asks, "Is life worth living?" nor of a worn-out roue, who has outlived the very sensation of enjoyment; nor of a holy man wearied out with exhausting labors and anxious to get quit of trials and persecutions. There is nothing in the apostle's writings to justify the conclusion that he was sour, or morose, or cynical, or merely attached to the scene of human existence at the point of duty; for he possessed hearty human sympathies and entered with spirit into all the schemes of true Christian life.
3. His assertion marks the true connection that exists between death and the believer's gain. Death is pure gain; for it puts an end to all the losses which so largely shake human comfort in this life, to all the evils of sin, and to all temptations to sin; and it puts the believer in possession of his full inheritance with the perfection of grace, the blessed vision of God, the society of the just made perfect. It is gain:
(1) Immediate; for "absence from the body" is "presence with the Lord."
(2) Incalculable; for "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, what God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
(3) Everlasting; for God himself is the eternal Portion of his people. - T.C.
I. PAUL'S SELF-ABANDONMENT TO CHRIST. (Ver. 21.) He surrendered himself in a spirit of entire consecration to Jesus, that he might do as he pleased with him. As in the parallel passage, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20), Paul's life was one of inspiration. Christ's Spirit entered into him and took possession of it, and moulded it according to his own gracious purposes. Of course, Paul's life was not a perfect realization of this inspiration, but it was an approximate realization. "Τὸ ζῇν signifies here," says Rilliet, in loco, "the life par excellence - the life alone worthy of this name, in opposition to τὸ ζῇν ἐν σαρκί - this life; it is Christ, Ὁ Ξριστὸς ἡ ζωὴ ἡμῶν (Colossians 2:4). But the Christian, so long as he is here below, so long as he lives in the flesh, possesses Christ only incompletely, and has, consequently, only an imperfect life (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:6 - 8)." Yet there is nothing that helps this approximation more than to face honestly the ideal that our lives ought to be lives abandoned to Christ and inspired by his Holy Spirit.
II. PAUL'S GAIN AFTER DEATH (Ver. 21.) For it is the aorist which is here used, τὸ ἀποθανεῖν and so the apostle's meaning manifestly is, to use Alford's words, that "the state after death, not the act of dying," is the gain. Death in itself is no gain, but it leads to gain beyond it. The imperfect conditions of the present state being removed, the inspiration will have freer play, and all the gain which it necessarily entails. We can only feebly image the glorious condition beyond death; but to escape sin and be filled with the Spirit of Christ must be gain incalculable.
III. PAUL'S PAUSE UPON THE BRINK. (Ver. 22.) He now speaks about the probability of his abiding some time longer in the flesh, and he shows that, if the fruit of his work depended upon this continuance in life, he dare not complainingly, desire to be released. He consequently pauses and leaves the issue in the higher hands of God. So that, as one writer sententiously puts it, he was "willing to wait, but ready to go." Bengel's remark is also most beautiful: "Alius ex opore fructum quaerit; Paulus ipsum opus pro fructu habet." Let it be ours not to seek our reward out of our work, but always in it!
IV. PAUL'S EQUILIBRIUM. (Ver. 28.) The two desires which were so nicely balanced were - to depart and he with Christ which is very far better, and to abide in the flesh. The one would be a personal experience altogether blissful; the other would be a patience still fruitful in the welfare of others. Between the two he maintains a holy equilibrium. In either alternative he can be happy with his Lord.
V. PAUL'S ASSURANCE OF MORE WORK IN THE PRESENT WORLD. (Vers. 24-26.) Paul did not hesitate to affirm that his life was a valuable one to the Philippian Church. There was no false modesty about the man. Moreover, his work for them would be with a view to their progress and joy in believing. Especially would this be promoted if he were allowed to visit the Macedonian Church again. If, then, this be the first Epistle of the captivity, as Lightfoot seems to think, the present assurance of Paul would correspond to these premonitions about recovery, which the Lord's servants often have in times of sickness. Is there not often an impression that a sick person will recover because of his own confident assurance of it? And when this is allied to such a holy and wholesome desire for the fulfillment of the Lord's work among men as Paul here manifests, it becomes intensely beautiful. We thus see that the life here and the life hereafter only tally when they are consecrated to Christ. It can consequently be left to the all-wise Lord whether meanwhile he would have our service there or here. Those who by his grace are willing to serve him with their whole hearts have nothing to fear, but everything to hope for, in the unending future with all its opportunities. - R.M.E.
ideal life blooming into a happy death. Here is -
I. AN IDEAL LIFE. "For to me to live is Christ." An utterance this terse and pithy, carrying the divinest idea of life. The meaning may be thus expressed: living, I shall live Christ. I shall live as he lived, with the same master purpose and inspiration. In relation to this life two remarks may be made.
1. It is sadly rare. Indeed, it is rare to live at all; living and existing are widely different conditions of being. All who breathe, sleep, eat, drink, follow out their animal instincts, exist; but none but those who have some dominant purpose that fires their passions and concentrates their faculties, live. To live means earnestness in some pursuit or other; the pursuit may be political, martial, mercantile, literary, artistic, or religious, and all who are earnest in their quest may be said to live. But this kind of life is rare. Millions exist on this earth for seventy years, and do not in this sense live one day; whereas those who have lived earnestly have become grey and old in a single night. The martyr, the night previous to his execution, lives years in a few hours. The thoughtless thousands who bowed to the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, existed; the three Hebrew youths lived an age the night before they were thrown into the fiery furnace. Saul of Tarsus lived the three days and three nights after he was divinely smitten with the conviction of sin, while he lay still and sightless. Indeed, to be earnest in anything is to live. If you take a census of those who exist on the earth, you have only to count the numbers that breathe, and they are legion; but if you take the census of those who live, you must count the souls that are really in earnest, and they are in a terrible minority. But whilst it is rare for men to live at all, it is far rarer for men to live to Christ, to live the ideal life, the life in which all bodily impulses are governed by the intellect, and all the intellectual faculties governed by the conscience, and all the powers of the conscience ruled by the will of God. To live as Christ lived is to become incarnations of him. This was the life that Paul determined to live, and with this deter-ruination he brought all the rivulets issuing from the heart-ocean of his being into the majestic stream of a Christly philanthropy and devotion. Alas! again, how rare this life! If the masses of men who are really in earnest, and who therefore live, were to express their belief. he they would say, "For us to live is wealth, power, science;" - no more. Christ is no more to them than any of the gods of Olympus.
2. It is manifestly imperative. It is urged on every man by the authority of reason, conscience, and the gospel.
II. AN IDEAL LIFE BLOOMING INTO A HAPPY DEATH. "To die is gain." To whom? To the man whose life is Christly. It is not gain to those who live to sensual enjoyments and worldly interests. No; by it they lose all that makes tolerable the existence. But to the Christly man it is "gain " on two accounts.
1. On account of what it takes away. Physical afflictions, secular anxieties, mental imperfections, moral depravities, spiritual temptations; in one word, all that pains the body, deludes the judgment, saddens the heart, and deadens the conscience.
2. On account of what it bestows. Perfection in his being, character, friendships, worship, enjoyments. Death is indeed then "gain." Shall the Christ-living man dread it? Shall the diseased man dread the hour in which he leaves his couch of suffering and weakness, and goes forth into the green fields of nature with vigorous limbs and buoyant health? Shall the exile dread the hour when the bark that bears him from the scenes of long banishment shall touch his native shores? Shall the prisoner under the sentence of death dread the hour, promised by the clemency of his sovereign, when his fetters shall be struck off, and his dungeon door be opened, and he shall go forth to family and friends again? Sooner may this be than a Christ-living man dread death.
CONCLUSION. How often preachers exhort their hearers to prepare for death, urging sometimes with marvellous animal vehemence most utilitarian considerations! Let them cease this work, and urge them to prepare to live Christ: right living ensures happy dying. The ideal life lived out will bloom and fructify into a blessed immortality. - D.T.
I. Two MOODS IN WHICH PEOPLE FEEL THAT TO DIE IS GAIN.
1. The wrong wood, but the more usual one. When it is an expression of weariness and a desire to escape from suffering, responsibility, labor, temptation. This desire is a selfish one, and may mean no more than that he who expresses it is living for himself.
2. The right mood. When "to live is Christ." This is the mood in which St. Paul speaks. Christ had so taken possession of him that he was no longer living a separated life, but Christ's life was being lived in him. This is a bard life, but a joyous one. They who experience it find that it includes his cross, his yoke, his peace, his joy.
II. How can it be gain TO DIE, IF TO LIVE IS CHRIST? To die cannot be more than Christ! But it can be more of Christ. To the Christian death is a closer union with Christ, and is to find a higher life in him. To Jesus' to die was gain, and in the Christian, in whom Christ lives, the experience of Jesus is reproduced. He finds in death, not more of Christ crucified, but more of Christ risen, which is the exaltation of Christ crucified. Note how the "Nunc Dimittis" breathes this same spirit. Spoken by one who had seen the salvation of God, and to whom, therefore, to live was Christ, he is ready to depart, knowing that he will thereby see more of Christ. Only when we can say, "To live is Christ," can we say, "To die is gain." Only when Christ is in our arms and in our hearts can we say, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." - V.W.H.
I. CHRIST GIVES THE PATTERN FOR THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Christianity is Christlikeness. Only they who have the Spirit of Christ are his. The one call of Christ is "Follow me." St. Paul carries this truth out very fully in his descriptions of the assimilation of the Christian to Christ through every stage - birth (in the new birth), humiliation, self-denial and service in life, death (to sin and the old life), resurrection (to the newer spiritual life), and ascension (the setting our affections on heavenly things). We must beware of mere servile imitation in following the footsteps of our Lord. We are to seek to have the mind that was in him. If our circumstances are different from these of the first disciples, we have to inquire, not simply what was done in Galilee in the first century, but what would Christ do in England in the nineteenth century?
II. CHRIST INSPIRES THE PURPOSE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The Christian is the servant of Christ. His object in life should not be to seek his own welfare, but to do Christ's work. It may be that he will suffer personal loss. That will not stand in his way if his spirit is right. For if Christ has died for us the least we can do is to live for him; and even though hardships ensue, we have to remember that we have only to be like Simon, bearing the cross, whilst Christ was nailed to it. So long, therefore, as our object is simply to secure the salvation of our own souls, to be sure of peace here and of heaven hereafter, we have not learnt the very alphabet of the Christian life. That life consists in denying ourselves and living for Christ.
III. CHRIST INSPIRES THE POWER NECESSARY FOR THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. To live as Christ lived! To deny ourselves and serve Christ! These are hard things, impossible simply as duties to be performed in our own strength. But the gospel of the cross is "the power of God." Morally, the influence of the love of Christ constraining us is great. Spiritually, the power of the indwelling Christ is the real secret of the Christian life. - W.F.A.
I. THE CHOICE OF LIFE. This had no relation to himself. It had exclusive relation to others.
1. His life would be more fruitful in labors for others. "But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor. That is, his life would be fruitful through his unceasing labors. "The life of a pious minister is far more profitable for his people than his death." The Church wants him, the world wants him, his family wants him. There was no leisure in the long career of the apostle. His life was brimful of labor to the last.
2. His life would be more advantageous to others than his death. "Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful on your account." On the shoulders of this apostle rested the care of all the Churches; he was in the front of battle all his life; the Christians everywhere looked to him for help and guidance; while there were still many dark spots of earth to which he might carry the glad tidings of salvation. The apostle was not one of those men who live too long alike for their reputation and their happiness; he had not outlived his power of work; he had shown no signs of failure, for he was still abundant in labors and in consolations and in the strength which inspires confidence.
II. THE CHOICE OF DEATH. "I am hemmed in on both sides, having a desire to depart, and be with Christ, which is very far better."
1. The desire of death is not sinful, but rather commendable, as a sign of faith and fearlessness. There is a longing for death on the part of the miserable, who are "weary of their life," and only anxious to escape from its evils. The longing sometimes deepens into the madness that leads to suicide. This longing is sinful, because it is selfish, and seems to argue a weak trust in the Divine hand which supports our life. But there is a longing without any selfish element, that springs out of the desire to escape from sin into a state of perfect holiness. Such a desire for death argues our belief in a future state, our faith in the Lord's mercy, our love to him, and our interest in his manifested glory.
2. Death involves our immediate translation into Christ's presence. "Having a desire to depart, and be with Christ." There is no ground for the supposition of a long sleep of the soul between death and the resurrection, however difficult it may be to conceive the conscious existence of a disembodied spirit. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." To be with Christ implies:
(1) That we shall see him as he is.
(2) That we shall enjoy him when we see him in the fullness of joy that is at his right hand.
(3) That we shall never be parted from him. It is the glory of the heavenly state that believers "shall be for ever with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
3. Presence with Christ is far better than anything life can give. It is better
(1) in respect of exemption from sin and sorrow;
(2) in respect of honor and dignity, for the saints shall reign with him;
(3) in respect of profit, for they are joint heirs with him;
(4) in respect of the perpetuity that is stamped upon all the realities of heaven. - T.C.
social love, which concerns itself with the good of others; and religious love, which concerns itself with the claims of God. Being constitutional, they are all good and designed to answer useful purposes in the full and perfect development of our nature. They, however, separately considered, are not of equal value. The second, social love, is greater than the first; the third, religious love, is greater than either - it underlies both, and is intended to be the inspiration and ruler of both. Society is greater than the individual, and God is infinitely greater than both. He is the all. Bishop Butler, if I recollect rightly, in one of his sermons on human nature, expounds the nature and relative importance of the two loves - the love of self and the love of society. These two are set forth in the text as working in the mind of the apostle.
I. Here is SELF-LOVE DESIRING EXIT from the world. "Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better." Observe two things.
1. Paul's idea of the nature of his death.
(1) He speaks of it as a departure; analusai, to loose anchor (2 Timothy 4:6). He seems to have regarded his mortal life as a vessel intended and fitted to plough the ocean and visit distant shores, fastened and confined to the port, and death as the unfastening of all that binds it down. A sublimely elevating idea of death is this.
(2) He speaks of it as being with Christ. "To be with Christ." This mortal life, he felt, kept him to some extent away from Christ, and that death would conduct him more immediately into his presence, and he expresses the highest delight. What greater joy can we imagine than to be with the object of our supreme affection? For this the heart is ever craving. Death, then, does not terminate existence, but gives it more freedom and a wider range; does not take us away from the Object we love most, but conducts us more consciously into his presence and fellowship.
2. Paul's idea of the advantage of his death. "Far better." Is not the noble bark better out on the boundless sea, with its sails unfurled, filled by the propitious breeze, and moving under the smiles of a sunny azure, than tied up in the dusky docks? Is it not better to gaze into the eye and listen to the living voice of the object of our chief affection than to be leagues away as a matter of consciousness? Hence Paul desired death; his self-love yearned for it. So far as he himself was concerned it would be in every way an advantage.
II. Here is SOCIAL LOVE URGING CONTINUANCE in the world. "Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." To promote the gospel amongst them, and to diffuse it amongst his contemporaries, was an object very dear to Paul's heart. But he felt that if he were not to remain in the flesh, but to depart into the great spirit-realm, his power in this direction would be at an end. And this I take to be:
1. A solemn fact. We can only serve our fellow-men while we are in the flesh. There is no proof that one of all the millions of departed saints has been able, by personal agency, to render any good whatever to any left on earth, however near and dear to his heart. All personal communications seem to cease at death.
2. A practical fact. This fact should influence every man to do the utmost he can to render spiritual service to his fellow-man during his life. When Paul departed, society lost the influence of his personal presence, and the personal presence of a good man is always most beneficent. And more, he lost his personal agency too - he delivered no more speeches, be wrote no mere letters, his voice was hushed, his pen was stilled for ever. Earth alone is the sphere in which we can serve our fellow-men. Pious parents can no more help their children when they are gone, pious pastors cease to serve their congregations when they have passed away. Hence any work we have to do must be done now and here. Here then, were the two principles, the love of self and the love of society, working in the mind of the apostle, one urging him to depart and the other to remain, so that he says, "What I shall choose I wet not." I am in suspense. "I am in a strait betwixt two," that is, between the aspirations of the two loves.
III. Here is SELF-LOVE OVERCOME BY SOCIAL, LOVE. "And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith." "I know." That is, it is my present feeling. The knowledge sprang from his desire, the wish was father to the thought. On the whole, his choice was to remain. In reaching this decision he felt assured of two things.
1. That he would have trying work. "But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor." "If I live, my life will be one continuous labor, productive of much fruit, keeping me back from my reward, but useful to you" (Lewin).
2. That he should render useful service. "And continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; that your rejoicing may be more abundant in Christ Jesus for me by my coming to you again." Most heartily did he desire such a joy in their faith, that they might abundantly rejoice in the continuation of his presence and work amongst them. Conclusion. Paul's experience here is sublime and exemplary. His love of self was submerged in his philanthropy, his love for his contemporaries. He sought not his own things, but the things of others. He said, "For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen, according to the flesh." It is the Christly spirit, the spirit of self-sacrificing love, and this alone is genuine Christianity. - D.T.
Gain for himself is not to be considered in comparison with fruit for his Master and for mankind.
I. THE END OF CREATED NATURE IS THE PRODUCTION, OF FRUIT. It is through fruit that the life of nature is prolonged, for the fruit is also the seed. The purpose of grace is that it should be fruitful. The Lord desired that his disciples should glorify God in bringing forth much fruit. It was in seeing his seed that he was to prolong his days. When the harvest of the world is ripe it will be reaped. When the number of the elect is complete the end will come.
II. FRUIT CAN ONLY BE PRODUCED BY THE SURRENDER OF LIFE. The corn of wheat must die if it would bring forth fruit. The vine must be purged. The exuberant natural growth of the plant must be checked if it is to be fruitful. The tree which bears leaves only is not merely useless, it is doomed to destruction, since it has no power of reproducing the life which has been bestowed upon it.
III. Our prayer should be, not that we may GAIN salvation for ourselves, but that we may bring forth FRUIT for our Master's service. - V.W.H.
I. THE PERSONAL DESIRE TO DEPART AND BE WITH CHRIST. This is no mere sentimental yearning for death, such as very young people sometimes dream about. St. Paul is an old man, and old men commonly cling to life. He is in bonds, however; he has fought a good fight; he feels the weariness of a life of extraordinary hardship and toil; soberly, earnestly, reverently, he longs to be with Christ.
1. St. Paul had a gram! faith in the future life. He was not; simply resigned, he longed for the great change. His was not Hamlet's wish -
"To die, - to sleep,- 2. The essential Christian blessedness is to be with Christ. We know exceedingly little about the future life. When we pass from rhetorical images to distinct facts, the chief, almost the only, thing we know is that Christians will be with Christ (John 14:3). "My knowledge of that life is small, - (1) Only they who have followed Christ on earth can dwell with Christ in heaven. (2) Only they who have loved Christ on earth can rejoice to depart and be with Christ in heaven. It is far better to depart, just because, and only because, Christ is far dearer than all earthly things; for where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. II. THE UNSELFISH WILLINGNESS TO REMAIN ON EARTH TO SERVE THE CHURCH. St. Paul was resigned to life. His conception of Christianity was unselfish service. Men sometimes ask - Why are not Christians taken straight to heaven out of the troubles and temptations of this world? One reason for remaining here is their own discipline. Another is the work they have to do. As Christ came into the world to bless mankind, Christians are retained in the world that they may be the salt of the earth. But they should remember that they are pilgrims and strangers; in the world, but not of it; serving the world, but looking for their greatest joy above it. Let every man ask him-self - Is it for the good of my fellow-men that I should be continued in life? How many useful lives are cut down! How many cumberers of the ground are spared by the long-suffering mercy of God, in the hope that they may yet bear fruit, though at the eleventh hour! - W.F.A.
2. The essential Christian blessedness is to be with Christ. We know exceedingly little about the future life. When we pass from rhetorical images to distinct facts, the chief, almost the only, thing we know is that Christians will be with Christ (John 14:3).
"My knowledge of that life is small, - (1) Only they who have followed Christ on earth can dwell with Christ in heaven. (2) Only they who have loved Christ on earth can rejoice to depart and be with Christ in heaven. It is far better to depart, just because, and only because, Christ is far dearer than all earthly things; for where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. II. THE UNSELFISH WILLINGNESS TO REMAIN ON EARTH TO SERVE THE CHURCH. St. Paul was resigned to life. His conception of Christianity was unselfish service. Men sometimes ask - Why are not Christians taken straight to heaven out of the troubles and temptations of this world? One reason for remaining here is their own discipline. Another is the work they have to do. As Christ came into the world to bless mankind, Christians are retained in the world that they may be the salt of the earth. But they should remember that they are pilgrims and strangers; in the world, but not of it; serving the world, but looking for their greatest joy above it. Let every man ask him-self - Is it for the good of my fellow-men that I should be continued in life? How many useful lives are cut down! How many cumberers of the ground are spared by the long-suffering mercy of God, in the hope that they may yet bear fruit, though at the eleventh hour! - W.F.A.
(1) Only they who have followed Christ on earth can dwell with Christ in heaven.
(2) Only they who have loved Christ on earth can rejoice to depart and be with Christ in heaven. It is far better to depart, just because, and only because, Christ is far dearer than all earthly things; for where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.
II. THE UNSELFISH WILLINGNESS TO REMAIN ON EARTH TO SERVE THE CHURCH. St. Paul was resigned to life. His conception of Christianity was unselfish service. Men sometimes ask - Why are not Christians taken straight to heaven out of the troubles and temptations of this world? One reason for remaining here is their own discipline. Another is the work they have to do. As Christ came into the world to bless mankind, Christians are retained in the world that they may be the salt of the earth. But they should remember that they are pilgrims and strangers; in the world, but not of it; serving the world, but looking for their greatest joy above it. Let every man ask him-self - Is it for the good of my fellow-men that I should be continued in life? How many useful lives are cut down! How many cumberers of the ground are spared by the long-suffering mercy of God, in the hope that they may yet bear fruit, though at the eleventh hour! - W.F.A.
I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS CONTINUANCE WITH HIS CONVERTS. "And being confidently persuaded of this [that his life would be for their spiritual advantage] I know that I shall abide, and abide with you all." His knowledge was not necessarily derived from special revelation or from mere presentiment, but represents his firm personal conviction that he would survive his present imprisonment. His assurance was eventually fulfilled, as we know by his labors during the remaining years of his life. He knew that his times were in God's hands, and that the same Lord who foretold the manner of Peter's end would fix the time of his own end. He could feel he was immortal till his work was done.
II. THE EFFECT OF HIS CONTINUED LABOURS. "For your furtherance and joy of faith." The life of a minister is intimately associated with the spiritual comfort of his flock.
1. The apostle would be the means of increasing their faith.
(1) By his imparting of new truth;
(2) by his skillful application of old truth to new circumstances;
(3) by deepening the dependence of his converts on that Lord whom the twelve apostles once unanimously addressed with the words, "Increase our faith" (Luke 17:5);
(4) by imparting spiritual gifts (Romans 1:11).
2. The apostle would contribute to the joy of their faith.
(1) This joy is essentially connected with faith as its source; for the God of hope fills us "with all joy and peace in believing" (Romans 15:13).
(2) Faith in its fullness inspires a deep joy in proportion to its thorough realization of Divine realities and blessings. "In whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable" (1 Peter 1:8).
(3) The apostle would thus promote their spiritual strength; for "the joy of the Lord" would become "their strength."
III. THE ULTIMATE DESIGN OF HIS CONTINUANCE. "That your matter for boasting [in the fact of your condition as Christians] may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my coming to you again."
1. The element of increase in Christian living and Christian privilege is in Christ Jesus; for it is in virtue of its connection with the head "that the body maketh increase of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:16).
2. The instrumental source of increase is "in me - through the apostle's continued labor.
3. It would be still more marked by his personal visits to his converts; for he would come to them in fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. - T.C.
I. THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST IS THE TRUE STANDARD OF CHRISTIAN PIETY AS WELL AS "THE POWER OF GOD TO SALVATION." It is so:
1. By virtue of the doctrines it reveals for our comfort.
2. By virtue of the precepts it inculcates for our guidance; for it embodies in itself that which is at once "the law of Christ," "the law of love," "the law of liberty."
3. By virtue of the privileges it confers to secure holy living.
4. By virtue of the prospects it holds out as "a recompense of reward.
II. CHRISTIAN LIFE MUST BE ORDERED ACCORDING TO THIS STANDARD, The original term suggests membership in a society, according to the idea of privilege which makes believers fellow-citizens of the saints." Our practice must accord with our profession. Like the gospel of Christ, we must be true and faithful, peaceful and loving, gracious and humble. Our walk must be consistently the same, whether our religious guides are present or absent.
III. THE CHRISTIAN WALK IS TO MANIFEST ITSELF IN A FIRM AND SOLID UNITY. "That ye stand fast in one spirit." There were divergences of action, if not of thought, manifest among the pious Philippians, which made it necessary to counsel them to a steadfast unity of position and effort. We cannot grow in grace unless we live in peace, and we cannot hold our ground against the rushing tides of worldliness and sin which threaten to overwhelm us unless we are strongly rooted in Christ and his gracious gospel. This stability of position will have a twofold effect.
1. It will enable us to fight in concert for the faith of the gospel. "With one soul striving in concert with the faith of the gospel." If there was to be striving at all, it must not be in a way of contention, but of united endeavor to promote and defend the cause of Christ. Unity immensely enhances the power of the truth. This language implies
(1) that there is "one faith;"
(2) that it is worth striving for, as it contains the message of mercy to man;
(3) that it is injurious to piety to undervalue truth;
(4) that the stability of Churches as well as individuals depends much upon unity of faith;
(5) that there may be a oneness of heart under intellectual differences.
2. It will make you superior to the fears of adversaries. "And in nothing terrified by your adversaries." There will be no wavering on your part, through the assaults of unbelieving Jews or Gentiles. There is a double argument or encouragement here presented: "seeing it [your fearlessness] is to them an evident token of destruction, but to you of salvation, and that of God."
(1) Their fearless maintenance of the truth, implying as it did the power of the gospel in their hearts, would be a proof to the adversaries that they merit destruction by rejecting it and by continuing steadfast in their wickedness. The sentiment is parallel with that in the Thessalonian Epistle, in which the suffering endured through the envy of the Jews was "a token or proof that God will inflict heavy punishment on the adversaries of the Christian faith' (2 Thessalonians 1:5).
(2) It was also a proof that the God who now sustained them would finally reward them. This implies
(a) that suffering Christians will certainly be saved,
(b) and that their salvation will be great as well as certain. - T.C.
ποιτεύεσθε) worthy of the gospel, and to the acceptance of those gifts which that citizenship implies.
I. THE PHILIPPIANS ARE TO BE FAITHFUL CITIZENS OF GOD'S KINGDOM. (Ver. 27.) Now, what is it which is prized in God's kingdom as of prime importance? It is "the faith of the gospel;" that is, the body of truth of which the gospel is the expression. It is not for territory nor for treasure God's faithful citizens fight, but for truth. Hence the spirit which befits the kingdom is unity in struggling for the truth as it is in Jesus. When the Philippians were able to keep this before them as the first anxiety and concern, then would they be acting in some measure worthy of their high calling. And after all, there is nothing worth fighting for but truth. Wars of aggrandizement are now discredited throughout the civilized world; and some pretext related to truth must now be set forth as the ground of war. If the citizens of this world and its kingdoms are brought to this, the citizens of the nobler kingdom should contend earnestly and only for the faith once delivered to the saints.
II. THEY ARE TO BE FEARLESS CITIZENS AS WELL. (Ver. 28.) In contending for truth we must expect opposition; but before our adversaries we are bound to be fearless. Courage is a grace peculiarly fitted for God's witnesses. His people can say surely "Greater is he that is for us than all they that be against us." And in this matter of Christian courage Paul and Silas had given the Philippians excellent example. Imprisoned on the occasion of their first visit, they had aroused the attention of the entire prison by singing praises at midnight as their feet were fast in the stocks. And in this more serious imprisonment of Paul out of which this Epistle came, he was illustrating that heroism which he looked for in the Philippians. It was the fearless and dauntless citizen of God's kingdom who was calling for fearlessness from his fellows.
III. THEIR FEARLESSNESS WOULD BE A TOKEN AT ONCE OF THEIR OWN SALVATION AND OF THEIR OPPONENTS' DOOM. (Ver. 28.) The courage and heroism of God's witnesses was a sign of coming victory and salvation. It was also a sign of defeat and doom to their adversaries. A triumphant spirit often carries the day against fearful odds. God seems to give his people assurance of victory, and then to make that assurance a most powerful element in the issue. The dauntless are carried through discouragement to triumph.
IV. BELIEVING AND SUFFERING ARE TWIN GIFTS OF GOD. (Ver. 29.) This arrangement brings the whole course of God's administration before us. He gives his people on Christ's behalf, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. It is sweet to think of faith being thus the gift of God. The suspicion which we cherish by nature gives place to the trust which comes through grace. And with trust there comes suffering. It is a most precious gift. In Miss Procter's 'Legends and Lyrics' we have an exquisite piece entitled "Treasures," where the following verse will help to elucidate this passage: -
"Suffering that I dreaded, V. THE SIMILARITY OF EXPERIENCE BETWEEN PAUL AND THE PHILIPPIANS. (Ver. 30.) For Paul's experience had embraced the twin gifts too. He had learned to believe on Christ and to suffer for him. There had nothing happened unto him, therefore, but that which is common to men; and he wishes the Philippians to appreciate this. Our temptation is to represent our trials as unparalleled. The truth is that they can be paralleled and exceeded by the experience in the next house or next street. Paul at Philippi and Paul at Rome presents the common inheritance of faith and trial which the people of God everywhere experience. Let us consequently take kindly to what God gives - he sends us trial and he sends us faith in such blessed proportions as to ensure a character in some way worthy of his kingdom. - R.M.E.
V. THE SIMILARITY OF EXPERIENCE BETWEEN PAUL AND THE PHILIPPIANS. (Ver. 30.) For Paul's experience had embraced the twin gifts too. He had learned to believe on Christ and to suffer for him. There had nothing happened unto him, therefore, but that which is common to men; and he wishes the Philippians to appreciate this. Our temptation is to represent our trials as unparalleled. The truth is that they can be paralleled and exceeded by the experience in the next house or next street. Paul at Philippi and Paul at Rome presents the common inheritance of faith and trial which the people of God everywhere experience. Let us consequently take kindly to what God gives - he sends us trial and he sends us faith in such blessed proportions as to ensure a character in some way worthy of his kingdom. - R.M.E.
I. CONSISTENCY OF CONDUCT. "Let your conversation (politeuesthe) be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." I take this to mean, fulfill your duties as citizens, worthy of the gospel of Christ. This is a most comprehensive view of the duty of those who profess to believe in the gospel; it means, act worthy of your profession, be consistent. You profess to believe in a God: act worthy of that profession, be reverent, be devout, be thankful. You profess to believe in Christ: walk worthy of a true disciple, be docile, be studious, be loyal. You profess to believe in future retribution: regulate your present conduct in accordance with that faith, subordinate the world to the soul, he and consecrate the soul to almighty love. In Philippians 3:20 Paul says, "Our conversation is in heaven;" that is, our citizenship is in heaven. The genuine disciple of Christ is now a citizen of heaven, he is ruled by the laws of heaven, he enjoys the rights of heaven. This being so, how super-worldly and morally stately should be our deportment here! The discrepancy between the creed of Christian men and their daily conduct is a terrible sin and a tremendous curse.
II. UNITY OF LIFE. "That whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." Here is:
1. Unity of heart. "In one spirit, with one mind [soul]." Unity of heart consisteth not in uniformity of opinions or beliefs, but in identity of supreme purpose and love. There is only one meeting and mingling place of souls, and that is in the object of paramount affection.
2. Unity of labor. what is the labor? "Striving together for the faith of the gospel," or more properly, "with the faith of the gospel."
(1) The united labor must be steadfast. "Stand fast." One fixed, irrevocable purpose; no vacillation, no distraction. Let the union of heart be so complete, and the souls so welded together, that the united purpose shall be immovably fixed.
(2) The united labor must be earliest. "Striving together." The metaphor is drawn from the games, and whether the games were those of wrestling or racing, they involved almost an agony of earnestness. In Christian work all labor without earnestness is morally worthless in its character, and useless if not pernicious in its results.
(3) The united labor must be with one instrument. "Striving together for [with] the faith of the gospel." There is no destroying evil, "putting away sin," and promoting true virtue and holiness only with the gospel, Philosophy, legislation, and literature have tried and failed. The gospel is the "power of God." Here is true unity - unity of heart, unity of labor, unity of instrument in the work.
III. FEARLESSNESS OF SOUL. "In nothing terrified by your adversaries." "Terrified." "The original word is strong - starting or flinching, like a scared animal. This fearlessness in the absence of all earthly means of protection or victory is a sign of a Divine strength made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 13:9) not a complete and infallible sign (for it has often accompanied mere fanatic delusion), but a sign real as far as it goes, having its right force in harmony with others. The effect which it had on the heathen themselves is shown even by the affected contempt with which the Stoics spoke of it as a kind of 'madness,' a morbid habit, a sheer obstinacy" (Dr. Barry). Two remarks are suggested concerning this Christian fearlessness.
1. It bodes good to its possessor, but evil to its adversaries. It is "an evident token of perdition" to the opponents of the gospel, but "salvation" to its genuine disciple. A man who has well-founded moral fearlessness of soul is safe amidst hostile hosts, and his very fearlessness will make hostile hosts fear and tremble.
2. It is well four, tied and often nobly developed. It is the gift of God, it is not an inherent Stoical self-sufficiency. It is given as a provision for the suffering condition to which Christians are subject. It is given to Christians, not only "to believe on Christ, but also to suffer for his sake." "In the world ye shall have tribulation," etc. How splendidly developed was this fearlessness of soul in Pant! "Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me." They saw his sufferings (Acts 16:24). "None of these things move me." Conclusion. Such was the course of life which this apostle in the prospect of death urged on the Philippians - consistency of conduct, unity of life, and fearlessness of soul; and all these are as binding on us and as necessary for our good as they were in the case of the Philippian Church. - D.T.
(1) motives for it.
I. Love for those who HAVE LABOURED FOR US IN THE GOSPEL. Many can feel this love who are not yet capable of rising to a sense of love towards God. This lower affection may lead to the higher love of which it is a reflection.
II. THE DISCOMFITURE OF THOSE WHO ARE HOSTILE TO THE GOSPEL. This need not be opposed to love. The gospel is set for the fail of many as well as for their rising again. It is good for the wicked to be brought low, for only in thus failing is there any hope of their being finally saved.
III. A PEELING OF PRIDE THAT WE ARE CONNECTED WITH THE GREAT ONES OF THE CHURCH. The communion of suffering is ever part of the communion of saints. St. Paul is not here appealing to the highest motives, but to motives which are common to our human nature, and which may properly be used on the side of faith. Everything which is truly human is from God and is to be enlisted in his service. - V.W.H.
I. THE DISPENSATION OF SUFFERING ASSIGNED TO THE SAINTS. Their sufferings fall not cut by chance. They are divinely ordered. They are even divinely given.
1. Their ability to endure these sufferings is the gift of Christ. "In the world ye shall have tribulation; in me ye shall have peace." "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
2. Their comforts in sufferings are the gift of Christ. Thus they are led to rejoice in tribulation, for he has sent his Comforter to dwell in their hearts.
3. The sufferings in question are profitable to themselves as well as honoring to the Lord. He doth not afflict willingly, but for our profit. Through our suffering we may glorify the Lord by encouraging and confirming the faith of others.
4. The sufferings will not be without, reward. "If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12). "Blessed are you when men persecute you... for great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:11, 12).
II. FAITH IN CHRIST MUST GO BEFORE SUFFERING FOR HIM, "Unto you it is given... to believe upon him."
1. Faith is God's gift, as it is the first effect of regeneration, which is God's work. Christ purchased for us, not merely salvation, but all the means thereunto. It is the Lord who opens our eyes, renews our wills, and persuades and enables us to accept Christ in the gospel.
2. It is by this faith we are enabled to suffer patiently. Without the shield of faith we could not resist the anger of persecutors. By faith we are made strong at the root like the seaweed that grows on the rock, no matter how much it may be lashed hither and thither by the ceaseless action of the waves.
III. ENCOURAGEMENT TO PATIENT PERSEVERANCE BY THE EXAMPLE OF THE APOSTLE. "Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me." There must be a right spirit as well as a good cause to suffer for.
1. The similarity between the sufferings of the apostle and those of his converts.
(1) It was in the same place - Philippi. (Acts 16:19.)
(2) It was, probably, from the same adversaries, Gentiles and Jews.
(3) It was a conflict in both cases trying to flesh and blood.
2. The sufferings of the ministers of Christ ought to encourage their people to like patience and firmness. - T.C.
I. CHRISTIANS MAY BE CALLED TO SUFFER IN BEHALF OF CHRIST. Let a man count the cost. To be a Christian is not only to believe on Christ. It may involve loss, pain, death.
1. We may suffer through our connection with Christ. Thus was it with the persecuted. Now, we may have to give up lucrative but un-Christlike occupations, and to meet with ridicule or opposition in our attempt to serve Christ faithfully.
2. We may suffer for the cause of Christ. We may serve him by our suffering. Faithful endurance is itself a grand witness to Christ. The martyr preaches Christ as truly as the missionary. Even the patient endurance of pain because it is Christ's will that we should bear it does honor to Christ. Many a helpless sufferer, who thinks his life a useless burden to others, teaches such high lessons by the spirit of faith and love with which he endures, that he serves Christ more effectually in his sick-chamber than others by the most vigorous activity in wide fields of enterprise.
II. IT IS A REAL BLESSING TO BE PERMITTED TO SUFFER IN BEHALF OF CHRIST. St. Paul regards the fact with joy.
1. It is proof of fidelity. Not being "affrighted by the adversaries," the presented have their faith confirmed in their trials.
2. It is means of serving Christ. It is an honor and a joy to serve Christ in any way, and most of all where the service is most effective.
3. It is a proof of peculiar distinction. The best soldiers are selected for the hardest service. The martyrs are the flower of the Christian army. It will lead to the greatest reward,
(1) because the most arduous task will justly receive the richest recompense; and
(2) because the peace and joy of heaven will be intensified by contrast with the pain and war of earth. Only the toiler can know the true sweetness of rest, and only the sufferer the deep blessedness of heaven. - W.F.A.