The Day of Christ
J. M. Davies, Canada
6. THE DAY OF CHRIST
Three times in the Epistle the apostle refers to this day. These, viewed in their context along with similar expressions in other Epistles, make it evident that it is not to be confused with the expression “the day of the Lord” found in the Old Testament and referred to five times in the New Testament. That day is to be a day of judgment, a day of darkness looked forward to with apprehension. Conversely, the day of Christ is a day to which the apostle looked forward with glad anticipation. In Philippians he uses it twice with reference to the saints and once in connection with himself.
1. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”, 1. 6. Their experience of conversion was not something which they had initiated. It was the beginning of a divine work, a good work and in keeping with the Lord’s parable; God would not lay the foundation and find Himself unable to bring the work to its completion. He would not enter upon a conflict with the hostile forces which had held them captive without taking into consideration all that would be involved in their final deliverance. Having begun the good work in them, He would carry it on to its completion at the rapture when they would be presented “before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy”. On that day our Lord will offer praise in the midst of His redeemed gathered around Him. As on the night of His betrayal He gave thanks, so in that day He will in priestly character offer praise and thanksgiving. He will say “Behold I and the children which God hath given me”, Heb. 2. 13. Of the eternal preservation and security of the believer the apostle was confident. He entertained no doubt whatever, and neither should any child of God harbour any doubt, as to the final issue. With confidence we may say “Blessed assurance, salvation is mine”. This is but the foretaste of glory divine. This verse not only breathes the atmosphere of calm assurance but shows also that the early Christians lived in the expectation of the imminent return of the Lord.
2. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more . . . that ye may approve things that are excellent, that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ”, 1. 9-10. These three petitions of the apostle are closely interwoven with the three cardinal graces, love, faith and hope. Their love was not to be based on ignorance but nurtured by spiritual perception and discernment. Their faith should be such as would enable them to try the things that differ and thereby approve that which was acceptable to the Lord. Their hope of the imminent return of the Lord was to affect their character and conduct. Inwardly they were to be sincere and outwardly they were to be without offence. The word translated “sincere” has three suggested derivations. Firstly, from a word meaning a troop, a company, suggestive of orderly separateness of rank, being distinct from the crowd around. In this the Christian is viewed as a soldier. Secondly, it is suggested that it is derived from a word for sunlight and would mean tested by sunlight, without hypocrisy. The Christian is seen as a saint in this. Then the word is derived sometimes from a verb meaning to roll round and round, to separate by sifting. In this the Christian is viewed as a sufferer.
Along with this sincerity, this transparency, this absence of guile, they were to advance without stumbling and were not to be a cause of stumbling to others. They were to live with the day of Christ in view, in the light of the judgment seat of Christ and all that this would mean. The day of Christ was to be the spur to true motives in all things governing their practical living whether personally, or in their relationships with others or before God.
3. “that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain”, 2. 16. Having exhorted and prayed for the Philippian saints individually, he now presses upon them that their conduct collectively as an assembly should be such as to bring him joy at the judgment seat of Christ. He wished them to set aside murmurings against others and also disputing for their own rights. As the children of God they were to be sincere and without blemish. A perusal of the apostle’s letters makes it evident that the day of Christ, the day when his service is going to be reviewed, was a tremendously powerful incentive in his life activating him in his devotion to the Lord and to the work committed to him. So it should be with all who seek to serve the Lord in the ministry of the Word and the Gospel. He does not speak of any reward that he is to receive in this context. He refers to the joy which he would experience at the judgment seat if their life and witness would be found to the glory of God.
The word used for “holding forth” is suggestive of offering food and drink to others. During the very hot months in South India, we have often witnessed Hindus at the railway stations with a bucket of water and a small metal container offering drinks to any thirsty passengers. They do it as a deed of merit. But the believer individually and the assembly collectively is to hold out the water of life and minister the bread of life to their fellow travellers to eternity. In thus blessing others we should glorify the Lord and in that day there will be great joy in His presence.