Philippians - Christ our Life
J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
The Philippian letter breathes the atmosphere of heaven, and as we view our Lord Jesus under different titles (telling us of His grace in birth, His greatness even in death, the glory that is now His, and the government of the universe committed into His hands in a future day) we gladly say with Paul, "For to me to live is Christ", 1.21.
Here we bow in worship as we ponder our Lord as : co-equal with God —His eternal nature in the form of God, 2. 6; the humble Servant, 2. 7; the perfect man, 2. 7; the exalted Son of man, 2. 9; the glorious Potentate, 2. 11 ; the acknowledged Lord, 3. 8; the winsome Captor, 3. 12; the expected Saviour, 3. 20; the Guardian of the heart, 4. 8; the Channel of all goodness, yea, the bountiful Giver, 4. 19, 23; and the absolute Monarch, 2. 11 ; 3. 21b.
The Giver of Life. As Paul unfolds to us, and longs to share with us, his glowing experience of the Christian life, he reminds us of our position—"in Christ", 1.1.
"In Christ" means security, sufficiency and satisfaction; this is our spiritual location. Joy permeates the life of the soul thus blessed. We are satisfied "saints" and should be holy in character and in aspiration; we should be committed Christians. Study the things "in Christ" and "in the Lord" in this Epistle. What an impregnable position we are in, a veritable fortress— in Christ. It means we have a righteousness untarnished, 3. 9. This righteousness is divine in its origin, associated with Christ, preached in the Gospel, bestowed in grace and on the condition of faith in the Lord Jesus. In Him we have a peace undisturbed, peace mounting guard, 4. 7, keeping the mind calm and the heart steady when we are assailed.
"In Christ" we have an acceptance that cannot be questioned, Eph. 1. 6. "In the beloved" we are graced, highly favoured, suited to the Father. This happy position began at conversion and will be completed in that day of glory and joy, Phil. 1. 6b. This work cannot be frustrated and He will not fail, nor will He rest till He brings us to glory.
We have an unbroken relationship, namely, that of "children of God", 2. 15; what honour and dignity has been conferred upon us, John 1. 12. As children, our behaviour should be "blameless"—no blame attached to our Christian lives; "harmless"—no injury to others; "without rebuke"— from God.
"In Christ" we have life unending— names "in the book of life", 4. 3b. We are citizens of a heavenly city, a colony of heaven down here, with all our needs met by the Lord of life and glory.
The Guide of our Life. The One
who is the source of our life in chapter 1, becomes the standard pattern and guide of our life. He calls to us, Be ye followers of Me; Come ye after Me.
Life in Christ is salvation; life from Christ is satisfaction; life for Christ is service and surrender and life like Christ is sanctification.
Paul loved others with the sympathy, warmth and affection of His Lord, Phil. 1.8. He can call God as witness to his love for, and to his yearnings over, the saints. They held an abiding place in his affections.
Love to the Lord is expressed in service, obedience, and sacrifice. The Lord is looking for fruit in our lives, and love leads to character and fruitfulness, 1.9-11. Paul wants heart and head to grow together, with a righteous life, cultivated in the soil of divine grace, bearing fruit on every branch, showing fertility, variety, vitality, and glorifying God. Unswerving devotion to the will of God is an evidence of the enthroned Lord having His rightful place in our hearts, 1. 20, 21. Paul lived by Christ: therefore he determined to live for Christ. He was everything to Paul in life and all he desired after death.
Is a surrendered life possible today? Can I be sustained daily in the pathway? Yes, divine supply is available, rich, free and adequate, 1. 19. This brings purpose into the life, 1. 20: Christ "magnified". It leads to blessing for others, 1. 25, 26, inspires godly deportment, 1. 27, and united service brings victory, 1. 28. Let us follow our Conqueror; He will subdue every foe, 3. 21.
The standard He raises is high. His life was marked by dependence—"the form of a servant"; consecration, humility and obedience—even to death. Self-denial and self-sacrifice are the hall-marks of the Christian life, and Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus displayed these features among the saints. Trace the eightfold contrast between Adam in Genesis 3 and the Lord in Philippians 2. 5-9a.
The Governor of our Life. Only when the ark of the covenant occupied its true place in the camp of Israel was the nation victorious. As we hand over the reins to our Lord, giving Him complete control, so shall we know power and blessing daily.
In our Personal Life there must be surrender, 1. 21 ; 3. 8. Paul forfeited all for the priceless privilege of knowing Christ as his Lord, and there is no other pathway to success in the Christian life. What sacrifices men make to reach the heights of their profession—scholastic honours and distinctions in the world, and we follow them readily. Yet in this the greatest of all services, with enrichment now and His approval in that day, we hesitate and sometimes refuse to surrender ourselves to Him.
Our Thought Life will be marked by purity when He takes possession, 4. 8-9 ; 2 Cor. 10. 5. A clean mind leads to a clean life. Like our Lord may we ever think on the lovely and excellent things in life. The saint who has learned the blessed secret of the pure in heart finds thinking his holiest and happiest occupation. These things in verse 8 are not given for our admiration only, but also for our emulation.
In Public Life there must be sincerity, Phil. 2.15. Character and conduct must agree, for men watch every movement and expect a high standard—"blameless", in all who profess the Name of Christ. In these verses there are echoes of the last chapter of Deuteronomy. Paul is thinking of himself as a Moses who has led these Philippians out of their captivity to the promised land of faith in Christ. The Israelites in the wilderness failed ; they began well but they looked back regretfully to the fleshpots of Egypt and turned aside from their goal, Deut. 31. 29; 32. 18. We are His children and are expected to shine out distinctly, Matt. 5. 16.
Our Assembly Life is marked by unity when we display the mind of Christ, 2. 1-5. When His authority is acknowledged and the grace and gentleness of His mind characterize each member, dissension thus disappears. "Work out" means co-operate with God in producing the fruits of the Christian life, 2. 12. This salvation is communal and not personal in this passage. It is not only what we do that matters, but also the way in which we do it. The power to solve our problems is divine, and the product will be freedom from murmurings and disputings, 2. 13-14.
Our Prayer Life. Under His control prayer will be characterized by simplicity, 4. 6. Time spent in waiting upon God will free us from corroding cares, and enable us to serve the Lord without distraction, Matt. 6. 25; Luke 12. 22. "Prayer" is our general approach to God; "supplication" the cry of personal need. We must unburden our soul in prayer with thanksgiving, and thus enjoy the assurance of God's guardian peace over heart and mind. If we have not God's peace in our hearts we cannot have His song on our lips.
The Glory of our Service. Life is expressed in service particularly in relation to the gospel. What a thrill passed through these saints as Paul mentions the "first day" of gospel fellowship, Phil. 1. 5. This fellowship involved mostly their very tangible expression of fellowship which had evoked this letter—their gift of money, 4. 18.
Why did Paul spend himself in this great work of evangelism? His vision of the Lord was the secret of his consistency. His Lord was all to him, and he gave his all in serving the Lord of glory, Acts 26.16-19; 27. 23. We need to recapture the spirit of the apostles who rejoiced in serving and suffering for their Lord, 5.41 ; 15. 26.
Paul saw the cause of the gospel prospering among the household soldiers at Rome, Phil. 1. 12, 13. What an absorbing theme is ours: "preach Christ", 1.15; co-equal with God, 2. 6; humble in life, 2. 7; reaching the needy, 3. 12b; His ignominious death, 2. 8; His supremacy on the throne of God, 2. 9; His soon coming again as Saviour and Conqueror, 3. 20, 21.
Paul was captivated by His Excellency as Lord, 3. 8; and he rejoiced in being poured out upon the sacrifice and service of others, 2. 17. Complete consecration marked the local brother sent from this church, and he was upset when he learned that they knew of his illness, 2. 25-30. The Lord give us grace to maintain fellowship one with another in this grand work of spreading the gospel, 1. 27. May we exert every power we possess as granted by the Spirit of the Lord, 1.19, in spreading His fame, His love, His matchless provision and His emancipating power as Redeemer and Lord. Our service should be free from envy and strife, 1.15. We should serve Him unitedly, 1. 27; courageously, 1. 28; 4. 3; humbly, 2. 3; continuously, 1.5; and with sincerity, 1.10.
The Goal of our Hearts. Paul lived his life in the light of the judgment seat of Christ, 1. 10; 2. 16. His eye was ever on the prize, and this inspired him to greater effort in the Christian race, 3. 14. Till that day our resources are grace, peace, prayer, thanksgiving and service to the Lord, 1. 2-5. Man has his day now and its salient features are selfishness, pride, arrogance, disobedience and godless-ness. The Lord Jesus is coming into His day of glory, power, honour, joy, abundance and liberty, and this stirs our hearts to worship and service now.
We anticipate that day, stretching our neck and standing on the tip-toe of expectation, for we long for the Saviour. He will complete His work, and give us bodies of glory, 3. 21.
The Christian life is one of happy memories, 1.3; joyful prayer, 1.4; united service, 1.5; radiant hope, 1. 6, 23; 3. 21; real affection, 1. 7-8; discriminating judgment, 1. 9, 10; choice fruit, 1.11; strange success, 1. 12; sincere preaching, 1.15; fresh supplies, 1. 19; sanctified ambitions, 1. 20, 21 ; selfless aims and consideration, 1. 24; 2. 4; and dignified conduct, 1. 27. For its development there are heavenly resources, 2. 1 ; its secret —the spirit of humble, self-forgetful, self-sacrificing service, 2. 3, 4, 8, 17; its incentive—the coming of the Lord, 3.14, 20. His immediate presence day-by-day, 4. 5, will make all the difference and enable us to rejoice, 4. 4; to pray, 4. 6; and to be gentle, 4. 5. It will save us from anxiety, 4. 6; keep the mind pure, 4. 8; the heart willing, 4. 9,18; the spirit contented, 1.11, and ensure that the church is generous towards missionary enterprise, 4. 15-16.
To the end of the journey we will give God glory, 4. 20, and the grace of the Lord will never fail, 4. 23. Amen.