The apostle is expressing a deep, heart-felt desire for the saints at Philippi for their spiritual progress. Thus, his confidence is a conviction deep in his soul, knowing that God is at work amongst his children, 1. 6. There are two aspects to this desire. First, ‘what is taught’, and second, ‘what is received or heard’.
Faith is that which is built upon the word of God and therein is faith not only established but also built upon. The word of God, read and taught, are two main starting points in the building up of the believer and this brings me to the question as to how much I give myself to reading and being allowed to be taught with the help of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, it is essential that those who teach, are themselves established in the word of God and free from error. Additionally, as a child of God I must be teachable, as Peter emphasizes, ‘desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby’, 1 Pet. 2. 2, meaning that I should have an appetite for the word of God, and that I will, with the help of the Holy Spirit, seek to be a doer of the word, and not a hearer only, ‘deceiving your own selves’, Jas. 1. 22. This does not mean that we should accept everything that a speaker might seek to teach, but we should verify his teaching to ensure it is in accord with the word of God. This was the practice of the early church, ‘These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so’, Acts 17. 11.
Sadly, many believers have not applied themselves to this essential point and many are lacking in truth, insomuch that they are much like the saints at Corinth, of whom Paul had to say, ‘And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?’1 Cor. 3. 1-4.
Equally, there are those whom God has raised up to teach, and those who are being raised for that purpose, who themselves are thus exhorted in 2 Timothy chapter 2 verse 15, ‘Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth’.
Coupled with this, is the vital purpose of edifying, exhorting and encouraging the saints in their faith.
Interestingly, the apostle uses the same word as he thinks of his own circumstances and the gospel, in spite of him being in prison, ‘But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel’, Phil. 1. 12. Here, he considers the progress of the gospel, as others have taken up the baton, and rejoices in the fact. He also gives encouragement to Timothy, that he would ‘give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine . . . that thy profiting may appear to all’,
1 Tim. 4. 13-15.
This Epistle is characteristically a letter of joy. ‘Joy’ is mentioned six times, ‘rejoice’, ten times and ‘rejoicing’, once. Primarily, it is appreciation of the Lord, and then of others. This is evident in chapter 2 where the apostle presents the Lord as the supreme example, followed by Timothy and Epaphroditus. Noticeable at the commencement of this chapter is the statement, ‘Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same [kind of] love, being of one accord, of one mind’, v. 2. The challenge presented is, do I have that same delight and joy for all my brethren and sisters in the Lord, or do I hold some animosity against them? How lovely when I see those who are close to me, and when I think of family or friends; how much more should it be towards those who are of the spiritual family. The coming of Titus and the progress of the saints at Corinth caused great rejoicing to the Apostle Paul, 2 Cor. 7. 6, 7.1 In the context of Philippians chapter 1 verse 26, there is not only the joy the saints in Philippi would have when Paul arrived at the assembly, more than that, it was the joy they would have to see their prayers answered.
What a day it was when the Lord, after His resurrection, appeared to His disciples and we read those lovely words, ‘Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord’, John 20. 20. How humbling it is to consider the words, ‘who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God’, Heb. 12. 2. Think again of the words He spoke to His own ere He went to the cross, ‘If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you’, John 15. 10-12.
I trust that every believer is waiting for that day when our blessed redeemer will appear in the clouds to catch us away to glory. What rejoicing there will be when we see Him as He is!
The word ‘conversation’ means ‘manner of life’, from which we derive the idea of ‘conduct’ from the Greek word politeues the referring to living as a citizen. Therefore, we see that ‘conduct’ is linked with the principle of ‘citizenship’, meaning that for those who belong to a king or lord, their conduct must be in line with his edict.
There are a few examples in scripture which are of help to us in this matter.
The first thing we realize is that though we live in this world, our state and standing is in heaven. This is what the Apostle Paul is referring to when he speaks of those who know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, as being ‘no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God’, Eph. 2. 19. Our blessed Lord Himself comforted His disciples with this assurance, ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you’, John 14. 2. This is further underlined in Hebrews where the apostle speaks of the heroes of faith that ‘now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city’, Heb. 11. 16.
Paul himself spoke of his own conduct as he stood before the council and said, ‘Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day’, Acts 23. 1. Therefore, we are exhorted, ‘as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation’, 1 Pet. 1. 15.
Underlining this in our Epistle, the apostle reminds saints of their responsibility, especially since our blessed Lord is coming soon, ‘For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ’, Phil. 3. 20.