Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE NATURE OF JOY IN THE LORD. It is to make him the object of our joy:
1. For what he is in himself, the God of love and light and blessing.
2. For what he is to us:
(1) our Preserver (Psalm 46:1, 2);
(2) our Redeemer (Hebrews 2:18; Psalm 27:1);
(3) our God (Hebrews 8:10).
The world rejoices in creation and sees no joy in God, but the believer finds the joy of the Lord to be his strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
II. THE DUTY OF REJOICING IN THE LORD.
1. It is a commanded duty.
2. Christ prays for it. (John 17:13.)
3. The Holy Spirit works it in us. (John 16:7; Galatians 5:22.)
4. It is necessary to the fullness of our Christian experience.
(1) As lessening our love of the world and of sinful pleasures (Psalm 4:7; Psalm 84:10).
(2) As making us more active in the Lord's service (Deuteronomy 28:47; Nehemiah 8:10).
(3) As supporting us under the weight of troubles (1 Peter 1:7, 8).
III. HOW WE OUGHT TO REJOICE IN THE LORD.
1. We ought to live above the world. (2 Corinthians 4:18.)
2. We ought to avoid everything inconsistent with this joy.
(1) Gross sins (2 Corinthians 1:12).
(2) Unbelieving thoughts.
3. We ought to cherish a constant trust in the Lord. (Hebrews 13:6; Isaiah 55:7; Isaiah 49:13, 14. See hints on Philippians 4:1.) - T.C.
citizenship of heaven. This third chapter is a magnificent parenthesis, in which the spiritual life is laid bare from its inception to its glorious close. In the verses now before us we have false and true Judaism contrasted.
I. CONSIDER THE JEWS FALSELY SO CALLED. (Ver. 2.) The custom of the Jews, in their pride, was to regard themselves as children at God's table and all others as only dogs" below it (Matthew 15:26). Paul reverses the figure, and has no hesitation in saying that the ritualists of his day, that is, the Jews who were preaching salvation by ceremonies, were only the "dogs" below the table, while believers in Jesus were the children at the feast. Moreover, as the dogs in the East are often captious scavengers, the Jews be here calls dogs were to be avoided by the Philippian converts just as one would avoid dangerous dogs. That he is not too severe in this judgment he shows by asserting that they have been "evil-workers." what had the history of the Judaizers been but that of "marplots"? They had done evil instead of good all through the infant Churches, turning the young converts away from the simplicity that was in Christ. Not only so, but the circumcision which they practiced and sought to enforce was only "concision" (κατατομή), i.e. mere mutilation. For once a man assigns a false value to a bloody rite like circumcision, and fancies he can contribute to his salvation by subjecting himself to the knife, he is merely mutilating the body and not benefiting the soul. These are not "the people of God," therefore, they are "Jews" only in name, who go about substituting ceremony-keeping for the faith as it is in Christ.
II. CONSIDER WHO ARE THE TRUE JEWS. (Ver. 3.) Paul states very succinctly the characteristics of the true people of God. Those are truly circumcised (περιτομή) who have been so circumcised in heart as to worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Let us take these up in the reverse order.
1. The true people of God have given up confidence in the flesh. They have seen that no incision in the flesh can render them acceptable to the Supreme; that no physical breeding can secure a prize in the great day of judgment; that nothing that they are or can be or do can win acceptance before God. Self has ceased to be the ground of confidence.
2. The true people of God rejoice in Christ Jesus - rejoice in him as their Lord. (Vers. 1, 3.) Self having ceased to be a ground of confidence or source of joy, Jesus has became the true Source. Pardon and acceptance are seen to be secured in him, and in his fellowship there is an unfailing fountain of delights. Out of the invisible comes a joy unspeakable and full of glory. We rejoice in him as all our Salvation and all our Desire.
3. The true people of God worship the Father in Spirit. This differentiates them from the formalists, whose delight and hope are in ceremonies. The Father, as an infinite spirit, can, we come to see, be approached acceptably only by our spirits. The bodily genuflexions, which go to make up the formalities, cannot be accounted worship. Unless the spirit moves reverentially within, all the formality is vain. The spirit, moreover, as we have just seen, realizes that it cannot be accepted by the Supreme on account of any supposed personal merit, but solely on account of the merit of the Lord Jesus. The worship which pleases the Father is the joyful worship which has its source in his Son. The outcome of felt obligation unto Jesus, it becomes fragrant in the nostrils of the Most High. Thus the spiritual Jews are made manifest. They gather spiritually minded around the feet of the great Father and adore him. - R.M.E.
Contemplated close of the Epistle. "Finally my brethren, rejoice in the Lord." It would seem that, at this point, the apostle contemplated bringing the Epistle to a close. He intimates that, in addition to what he has alread
I. THE BEING TO REJOICE IN. "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord." "The Lord" means undoubtedly Jesus Christ, the Savior of all men. But why rejoice in him?
1. Because of his-peerless excellence. He is the morally beautiful. Every moral virtue is united, harmonized, and coruscates in his character. Nothing inspires the heart with higher and purer joy than beauty. Admiration is happiness of a high type. The admiration of art is a joy, the admiration of nature a greater joy, the admiration of moral excellence is the highest joy of all. "Rejoice in the Lord."
2. Because of his riled relationship. He is our dearest Friend, cur elder Brother, our all-merciful, and almighty Redeemer. Well might we rejoice in such a relationship. "My Beloved is mine, and I am his."
3. Because of his benevolent enterprise. What philanthropic heart does not rejoice in the enterprise of any man to mitigate the woes and increase the happiness of his species? But what an enterprise is the enterprise of Christ! It is to break every fetter, unlock every prison door, dispel every cloud of ignorance and sorrow; it is to tread all human evils in the dust, hush all sorrows, wipe away all tears from off all faces. Well might the apostle enjoin the Philippians to "rejoice in the Lord." Sad that such an injunction should be required, for it might well have been supposed that all who knew the Lord would "rejoice" in him. This is a command, as truly a command as the command to believe, repent, not to steal, not to murder; and to break this command is as great a sin as to break any command in the Decalogue. To be happy in the Lord - and there is happiness nowhere else - is a moral obligation.
II. THE MEN TO AVOID. "To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous [irksome], but for you it is safe." What things does the apostle mean? Manifestly the warning which follows, "Beware of dogs, beware of evil-workers." The apostle here characterizes a class of men as "dogs." In Revelation 22:15 this class - there also called dogs - are described as excluded from the kingdom of heaven. Christ to the Syro-phoenician woman spoke of the Gentiles as dogs (Matthew 15:26). He did this, however, in accordance with the usage of his countrymen. Elsewhere the heavenly Teacher speaks of some men as "swine. The temperaments, disposition, and characters of men are widely different. All flesh is not the same flesh." The men against whom the apostle warns the Philippians here were:
1. Men of a canine spirit. Ill-tempered men, snarling at all who differed from them. Who does not know men of the dog spirit? The querulous tone, the curl of scorn on the lip, the sardonic grin, reveal their canine nature.
2. Men of a canine spirit, who were in connection with the Church. "Beware of evil-workers, beware of the concision." They were Judaizing teachers, who endeavored to turn away men from the simplicity of the gospel by promoting Jewish rites and ceremonies, and thus they were evil-doers. Show me the man whose religion is sensuous, ritualistic, and technical, and you will show me the man who in all probability displays this canine spirit. A more ill-natured class of men I have never known than members of Calvinistic, Antinomian, and Ritualistic Churches; and they reveal more of the dog than of the angel. Now, Paul says avoid such, do not argue with them, do not "cast pearls before swine," do not put yourself in their power, stand aloof from them, heed neither their bark nor their grin.
III. THE WORSHIP TO IMITATE. "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." The worship here is marked by three things.
1. By spirituality. "Worship God in the Spirit."
2. By joyousness. "Rejoice in Christ Jesus." There is no worship without happiness; true worship is happiness.
3. By Divine confidence. "Have no confidence in the flesh." - D.T.
I. ITS NECESSITY. In ordinary life there must be much of sameness. The same duties, occupations, interests, events, occur from day to day. The same temptations have to be met by the same spiritual weapons. This is very clearly scan when our duties are concerned with the training and teaching of others. The same faults must be rebuked, the same advice given, the same disappointments experienced.
II. ITS TEDIOUSNESS. Many feel this keenly and long for a greater variety and a life full of excitement and change.
III. ITS SAFETY.
1. For ourselves. Excitement ends in revulsion and exhaustion. Sameness builds up a regulated life. Our characters are formed by the repetition of ideas rather than by experiencing a succession of startling events.
2. For others. In dealing with them it is most important that we should be always the same. There is need of justice, self-control, an even temper, and an absence of caprice and partiality.
IV. ITS DIVINE CHARACTER. God is ever the same and works by his own divinely arranged laws. Our moods and our circumstances change, but our Lord is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Where would be our confidence if he were to change? Blessed to have an unchanging Friend and an unchanging home, where there is rest amidst all the changes of our external lives, - V.W.H.
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE JUDAIST ERRORISTS.
1. They were "dogs in the Jewish sense, that is, impure and antichristian enemies of the truth. It would be a surprise for Jews to be descried by the epithet they themselves always applied so scornfully to Gentiles.
2. They were evil-workers." There was no want of religious activity among them, but it had a selfish and evil root. The apostle elsewhere speaks of "false apostles, deceitful workers" (2 Corinthians 11:13). The Pharisees "compassed sea and land to make one proselyte" (Matthew 23:15). But their zeal was essentially evil.
3. They were "the concision - the mutilation - who rejoiced in a mere manual, outward mutilation of the flesh, forgetful of the significance of the true circumcision.
II. FUNDAMENTAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN SUCH ERRORISTS AND THE TRUE CIRCUMCISION. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." There are three characteristic points involved in the circumcision of heart which belongs to all true believers, whether Jews or Gentiles.
1. Their worship is essentially spiritual. They "worship by the Spirit of God." It was not a worship by mere external rites, as if all its merit consisted in rigid ritualistic conformities, but the true worship of God, which is only possible through the influence of his Holy Spirit (John 4:23; Romans 8:26), who "helps our infirmities" of supplication. It is the characteristic of saints that they "pray in the Holy Ghost' (Jude 1:20).
2. Their entire dependence is in Christ Jesus. "Who glory in Christ Jesus." This is the essential distinction of the Christian. "Let him that glorieth glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31). He does not glory in rites or ordinances, but in a personal Redeemer, who saves him from his sins.
3. They have no confidence in mere external privileges. "And have no confidence in the flesh." The primary allusion here may be to circumcision, but the clause points to the merely outward and earthly in religious form. The Judaists gloried in the flesh. "Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also" (2 Corinthians 11:18; Galatians 6:13, 14). - T.C.
I. USELESSNESS OF OUTWARD FORMS WHEN THEIR SPIRIT HAS PASSED OUT or THEM. The Judaizing party clung to their circumcision as if it were their title to acceptance with God. St. Paul shows that, since the substance, of which circumcision was the shadow, has been bestowed upon men, to insist upon the outward form was to forfeit the reality of which it was the forecast. The truly circumcised were such as, with or without the form, worshipped God in spirit and in truth. All forms have a tendency to lose their informing spirit and to become empty husks. If this takes place through the lukewarmness of those who use them, the true remedy is to seek to breathe in them once again the spirit which is their life. If that which was formerly their life now finds truer expression in newer forms, it may be a sign that the old has accomplished its purpose and should now cease to be.
II. OBSOLETE FORMS MAY BE HARMFUL AS WELL AS USELESS. They become so as soon as they are regarded as essential, apart from the inner spirit which makes them live. They then become loss instead of gain, and actual hindrances to the promotion of that which they were designed to promote.
III. SEEK TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN MEANS AND END. This is necessary, not only in the cultivation of spiritual life, but in the promotion of any purpose. Not unfrequently means are so multiplied that the end is obscured rather than forwarded. See that the means used are actually means to the desired end and are not tacitly usurping its place. Even the means of grace may cease to be means of grace. - V.W.H.
Matthew 15:22, et seq.). The unclean feeding of these animals - the scavengers of Eastern cities - was supposed to be analogous to the Gentile freedom in eating all kinds of meats. St. Paul turns the tables, and calls the Judaizers who feed upon carnal ordinances dogs in comparison with Christians who live on the higher spiritual food.
I. CONTEMPTUOUS LANGUAGE MAY BE OCCASIONALLY PERMITTED IN CONTROVERSY. It is a most dangerous weapon. Rarely is it called for. Only they who have great kindness of heart can use it safely, and these people are the most loth to employ it at all. Still, even Christ called Herod a fox and spoke of casting pearls before swine. Contempt should only be for the baseness of a character, never for the human soul in which that baseness dwells. But there are some habits and thoughts which we should heartily despise, and which can be best condemned by contempt.
II. OPPROBRIOUS EPITHETS ARE APT TO REVERT ON THE HEAD OF THOSE WHO COIN THEM Jews who regard the Gentiles as dogs merit the same name when they cling to lower thinking and living than is consistent with Christianity. In despising others we may be preparing the way for contempt to fall on ourselves.
III. LACK OF SPIRITUALITY IS THE ROOT OF UNCLEANNESS. The Judaizers are dogs because they cling to carnal ordinances. The unspiritual is carnal, and the carnal in its unrestrained exercise is the unclean. Therefore the remedy for impurity of thought and action is not the observance of rigorous ritual, but the cultivation of a spiritual tone of mind.
IV. AS CHRISTIANS WE ARE REQUIRED TO SHUN THE FIRST APPROACH TO WHAT IS UNHOLY. The carnal ordinance must be avoided because it is the first step towards the carnal sin. We ought not to ask how far we can go safely in the direction of evil, but rather to strive to keep as far as possible away from it. Even the company of those who are unholy must be shunned. We are not only not to behave like the dogs; we are to beware of the dogs. - W.F.A.
I. HE REPUDIATES SACRAMENTAL EFFICACY. "Circumcised the eighth day." He was thus distinguished alike from the proselyte, who was circumcised on his conversion, and from the Ishmaelite, who was circumcised in his thirteenth year. He was a pure Jew.
II. HE REPUDIATES THE RELIGIOUS IMPORT OF AN HONOURED PARENTAGE.
1. "Of the stock of Israel. For he was no proselyte, but directly descended from Israel.
2. He was a member of the illustrious tribe of Benjamin," which gave the first king to Israel, and had a foremost place among its armies. He did not, therefore, belong to any mere renegade tribe.
3. He was "a Hebrew of the Hebrews. Not only of pure blood, but untinged by Hellenistic tendencies.
III. HE REPUDIATES RELIGIOUS AUTHORITY. As touching the Law, a Pharisee;" a member of the strictest and most authoritative sect of the Jews.
IV. HE REPUDIATES INTENSE EARNESTNESS, "As touching zeal, persecuting the Church."
V. HE REPUDIATES THE WORTH OF CEREMONIAL BLAMELESSNESS. "As touching the righteousness which is in the Law, showing myself blameless;" that is, the righteousness of formal precept as contrasted with the righteousness which is by faith (ver. 9). All these characteristics and prerogatives, which "were gains to me," because I set them down to my credit religiously, my conversion changed into loss "for Christ's sake," because their repudiation was necessary "that I might gain Christ." - T.C.
I. No MATTER HOW WELL BORN OR BRED A MAN MAY BE, IT CONSTITUTES NOT HIS MERIT, BUT HIS OBLIGATION. Paul was a thorough-bred Jew, and fancied this fact should save him. But whatever good we receive through inheritance is not our merit; it simply increases our obligation. It is a confusion of thought, therefore, to suppose that the Supreme will save any man because of the accident of his birth or his breeding. We shall be called to account for these advantages, and they should minister to humility and fear rather than to pride.
II. EXERTIONS TO SECURE A REPUTATION, INSTEAD OF TO GLORIFY GOD, INCREASE OUR SELFISHNESS INSTEAD OF ESTABLISHING ANY CLAIM TO SALVATION. Paul's zeal was undoubted in persecuting the Christians. He was the first persecutor of his time; so that, in addition to his pride of birth and breeding, he could plume himself upon a religious reputation without a parallel among his people. He thought that no one had such a claim upon the tribal God, the God of the Jews, as he. If self-righteousness could be established by mortal man, Paul believed he had accomplished it. He forgot that the establishment of reputations is a selfish motive at the best, and can have nothing but condemnation from a holy God. In analyzing our motives, consequently, we must be most careful. Unless we are on our guard, we shall find ourselves living the selfish life, manufacturing reputations rather than strictly regarding usefulness and God's glory.
III. BOTH OUR PEDIGREE AND OUR ZEAL ARE LOSSES TO US IF THEY DETAIN US FROM CHRIST. Paul had spent long years in thinking how well-bred and reputable a Jew he was. Occupied with self, he had never turned his eyes to the radiant Christ, who alone is worthy of such constant contemplation. His fancied merits had thus kept him for years from the profitable study of the person and character of Christ. As soon as, on the way to Damascus, he became acquainted with Christ, the loss of the self-righteous years pressed itself painfully upon him. He wondered that he had so long neglected such a Savior. He saw in him a subject worthy of eternal study, and he regretted that he had been so tardy in entering upon it. We are surely taught here that anything which shuts out Christ from us, it matters not what it may be, is a distinct loss to us. He is the only object worth absorbing our attention. When other objects - self in any of its forms - eclipse him, we are losers and not gainers by the distraction. Things good in themselves even, such as birth and breeding and activity, prove serious losses to us if they withdraw our souls from the contemplation of the Savior. - R.M.E.
I. THE COST WHICH THE APOSTLE PAID FOR HIS CHRISTIANITY. Metaphorically he sold a property that he at one time valued beyond, all price, and that his countrymen regarded as the wealthiest inheritance. Here he gives a summary of the distinguished privileges which belonged to him.
1. He refers to his Church status. "Circumcised the eighth day." Therefore not a proselyte, but a Jew. By this rite he became a member of the great Jewish commonwealth, or, as some call it, the Jewish Church.
2. He refers to his illustrious ancestry. "Of the stock of Israel." A true scion of the royal race. "Of the tribe of Benjamin." The tribe from whence came many of their distinguished monarchs, and the tribe to whom belonged the holy city.
3. He refers to his religious persuasion. "An Hebrew of the Hebrews." Elsewhere he says, "I truly am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the Law of the fathers, and was zealous before God" (Acts 22:3, 4). A thorough Hebrew. Paul had something to boast of here. In his veins ran the blood which had quivered amid Egyptian plagues and rushed to the hearts of those that heard the voice of Sinai's trumpet.
4. He refers to his zealous devotedness. "Concerning zeal, persecuting the Church." He carried out his religious convictions with such zeal that he persecuted all who differed from him. Which is the worse - enthusiasm in a bad cause or lazy profession in a good one?
5. He refers to his ceremonial righteousness. "Touching the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless." All the commandments he kept "from his youth up." Such were the privileges that Paul enjoyed, and to him, as well as to his countrymen, they were beyond all price.
II. THE VALUE WHICH THE APOSTLE ATTACHED TO HIS CHRISTIANITY. He gave up Judaism with its gorgeous ritual and mighty memories and matchless histories, and does this for Christianity. Does he regret the loss, deplore the costly sacrifice? No. "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." When he practically accepted the religion of Jesus, all that he once gloried in became contemptible. "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus." Christianity is the science of sciences. Three remarks will illustrate the incalculable value of this science.
1. It accords with all true sciences.
2. It encourages all true sciences.
3. It transcends all true sciences.
Chrysostom says, "When the sun doth appear it is loss to sit by a candle." - D.T.
I. RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGES MAY BECOME RELIGIOUS HINDRANCES. In their origin and primary purpose, of course, they could not be so, or they would never be privileges. But changing circumstances and abuse of them may make them of more harm than good. A pure Jewish birth, Pharisaism, and the Law were once all good. But in St. Paul's day and in relation to Christianity they became positively injurious. So now a man's position and education in religion may be converted into a hindrance to his real Christian life.
1. We may be satisfied with these privileges and so not care to go on to the higher blessings. The self-complacent Pharisee does not ask for and therefore misses the grace which the penitent publican seeks and therefore finds. The religious possessions of the former result in his poverty, the poverty of the latter in his wealth.
2. We may be prejudiced by the nature of these privileges or by our experience of them. An imperfect religion is in itself better than no religion, but it becomes worse when it prejudices us against a higher faith.
II. THE GREATEST RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGES ARE OF NO USE WITHOUT CHRIST. St. Paul courts them as "but dung." To be born of Christian parents, to be educated in Christian truths, to be associated in Christian fellowship, and to be zealous in Christian work, - all these things will count as nothing for our soul's profit if we do not know, trust, love, and follow Christ. It is true that they who have not an opportunity of knowing Christ may be benefited by other religious aids. But when Christ is accessible a higher standard is set before us, and to live in the beggarly elements is worse than foolish - it is fatal.
III. WE MAY HAVE TO MAKE GREAT SACRIFICES IN ORDER TO RECEIVE CHRIST. We may have to give up worldly position, pleasant social connections, etc. We shall have to renounce all our Pharisaic righteousness. That structure which we have been building with so much care and admiring so devoutly must be razed to the ground. Let us count the cost.
IV. TO GAIN CHRIST IS SO PROFITABLE THAT THE LOSS OF ALL THINGS ELSE COUNTS AS NOTHING IN COMPARISON. It is not simply that the scale dips. It is that the weight on the other side is not felt; nay, that the value of the things given up is converted into its opposite, because they hindered the reception of Christ. In the great equation, all earthly things that stayed us from seeking Christ are lumped together and a minus sign affixed to the whole. If we have truly won Christ at the greatest cost we are conscious of no sacrifice. It is all infinite gain. - W.F.A.
I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST.
1. It implies a knowledge of the way of salt, afloat, the Word of God being our guide. (Romans 10:17.) Eternal life hinges upon it. "This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). It is by this knowledge we are justified. "By his knowledge shall my righteous Servant justify many" (Isaiah 53:11).
2. It implies an experimental acquaintance with him. It is he himself who gives us the knowledge of himself. "He hath given us an understanding that we may know him who is true" (1 John 5:20). We thus realize Christ in pardoning mercy, in subduing grace, in abiding peace.
II. THE EXCELLENCY OF THIS KNOWLEDGE. This may be set forth either positively by the nature and effects of the knowledge in question, or by contrasting it with all the things the apostle classes among "loss."
(1) The experience of all God's people attests its excellence.
(2) The Word of God proclaims its excellence (Jeremiah 9:24).
(3) It is through this knowledge we become partakers of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:3).
(4) It is by it we are enabled to escape the corruptions of the world (2 Peter 2:20).
2. By contrast with all things classed as loss. "I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." He had already included in this class all the distinguishing privileges and prerogatives of his Jewish descent, as well as three points in his personal character which, as a Jew, he had made the subject of boasting. But he now expands the language so as to include all things whatsoever, conceivable or inconceivable, as lying under the category of loss. Everything was valueless under the sun when weighed against the knowledge of Christ.
III. THE APOSTLE'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS POSSESSING CHRIST. "Christ Jesus my Lord." This is the happy language of assurance.
IV. HIS PRESENT AND ABIDING SENSE OF THE EXCELLENCY OF THIS KNOWLEDGE. He spoke before in the past tense, "I counted these things loss for Christ." He now gives us his present judgment respecting the whole momentous concern, "I do count them but loss and dung." - T.C.
I. CHRIST THE PRESENT GAIN AND THE PRESENT SHELTER OF THE SINNER. The subject is presented under two aspects.
1. Christ the present Gain of the sinner. "That I may gain Christ." Consider:
(1) The person to be gained. "Christ." The Lord of heaven and earth, who has all treasures of happiness in his keeping, who is the supreme object of angelic worship and saintly adoration. It is the Lord, not man, even the highest man on earth, whose favor can prosper or save us.
(2) How is Christ to be gained?
(a) Not by tears;
(b) nor by confession to a priest;
(c) not by good works;
(d) nor even by our "suffering the loss of all things."
We gain Christ simply in the act of our believing; but, in accepting the righteousness of God in him by faith, we throw overboard all our righteousness and all our unrighteousness, just as the shipwrecked sailor, to save his life and his ship, throws his precious cargo into the sea.
(3) The peculiar characteristics of this gain.
(a) A man may gain much in this life and yet lose it again. This cannot be the case of the sinner who gains Christ.
(b) A man may gain much and be disappointed after all. The world is full of such disillusionments. But the sinner who gains Christ obtains bliss without end.
(c) If a sinner does not gain Christ he loses his immortal soul. Christ is the one star of hope in the sky of heaven.
2. Christ the present Shelter of the sinner. "And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith."
(1) The apostle repudiates all dependence on his own personal righteousness, even upon that righteousness which is of the Law, touching which he considered himself "blameless" from the Pharisaic standpoint.
(a) It is in keeping with his doctrine everywhere (Romans 2:20; Galatians 2:16.
(b) Human experience confirms the statement of the prophet that "all our righteous-nesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).
(c) Salvation is everywhere in Scripture represented, not as of debt, but as of flee grace (Romans 4:4, 5).
(2) His entire dependence is on another's righteousness, which is described in two forms.
(a) "That which is through the faith of Christ;" that is, a righteousness which becomes ours through our believing in Christ, faith being in this case merely the receptive organ or instrumental cause.
(b) "The righteousness of God by faith;" that is, the righteousness which God provides for man's salvation as received by faith. The whole phaseology is thoroughly Pauline (see homiletical hints on Galatians 2:16).
II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST AS CONNECTED WITH THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS. "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." The saving knowledge of Christ must take in the fact of his resurrection as well as the fact of his death, because his resurrection was but the seal and crown of his redeeming sacrifice. Therefore the believer's aspiration is always to know Christ in the power of his resurrection.
1. "The power of his resurrection.
(1) There is a polemic aspect of this power; for he is declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:3, 4).
(2) Where is an apologetic aspect of it, as attesting his Divine mission (1 Corinthians 15:15).
(3) There is a dogmatic aspect of it, as indicating the acceptance of his sacrifice, and as it is the pledge of our justification (Romans 4:24, 25).
(4) There is an ethical aspect of it, presented by its relation to our pursuit of holiness.
(a) It is the resurrection-power of Christ which gives the new life. "Because I live ye shall live also" (John 14:19).
(b) It is by virtue of the resurrection that the Holy Ghost comes to abide in the Church, as a Spirit of truth, grace, and consolation.
(c) It is By the same power we are enabled to subdue sin (Ephesians 1:19, 20; Romans 6.; Galatians 2:20).
(d) It is the same power which inspires here (1 Peter 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15.; Colossians 1:5).
(5) It has a prophetic aspect; for it is the pledge of our future resurrection (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14).
2. "The fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. We are to share in the sufferings he suffered, and to drink of the cup which he drank, not in relation merely to the suffering of persecution, but all suffering that arises out of our conflict with sin. We can thus understand such passages as 2 Corinthians 1:5; 1 Peter 4:13; Romans 6:5; Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:11, 12.
III. THE ULTIMATE OBJECT CONTEMPLATED BY THE APOSTLE. If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from the dead."
1. What he desired in, the future.
(1) Not a part in the general resurrection.
(2) Not spiritual resurrection, for that was already past.
(3) But a part in the resurrection of the just (Luke 20:35; Acts 4:2; 1 Peter 1:3). It is the resurrection of life.
2. Why he desired it.
(1) It would be final escape from evil.
(2) It would be the occasion of his final and blessed recognition by his Savior-Judge.
(3) It would be a pledge of his eternal happiness in heaven.
3. What his desire implies.
(1) A high appreciation of the value of this resurrection from the dead.
(2) A sense of its difficulty, as regarded from the human side.
(3) The persuasion of it may be attained in various degrees. There is a touch of hypothetic humility in his language.
(4) A disposition to submit to all providential arrangements that lead to it. - T.C.
I. ACCEPTANCE IN HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Ver. 9.) We have seen how self-righteousness died within Paul. The sight of Christ on the way to Damascus cured him of all his self-satisfaction. Henceforth his religious reputation seemed but "filthy rags," utterly insufficient to clothe his spirit before the all-searching King. But instead of self-righteousness, he found provided by Christ a perfect righteousness, whose protection before God he could rejoice in. The idea of merit being transferred and imputed, though ridiculed by some superficial thinkers, is an everyday experience in life. The whole department of personal influence for the benefit of another is an illustration of it. We all benefit by the character and influence of others. We are glorified by their merits. The person from whom we want the favor knows the value and honor of our friend, and he considers us favourably because of him. In the very same way, then, God the Father regards sinners with favor because of the merit and righteousness of his Son, in whom poor sinners are asked to trust. Christ's glory is sufficient to encircle with radiance all the world.
II. ACQUAINTANCESHIP. (Ver. 10.) The difference between "knowing a person" and "knowing about a person" must never be forgotten. We may know a great deal about a person whose acquaintanceship we never acquire. We may in the same way know a great deal about Christ; we may be erudite theologians; and yet if we do not "know him" as our incomparable acquaintance, our Savior, our best Friend, all will be vain. Paul got acquainted with Christ on the way to Damascus, and that acquaintanceship he cultivated ever after by prayer, meditation, co-operation in Christ's work, and every means in his power. It is the essence of religion and of eternal life. "This is life eternal, to know [i.e. to be acquainted with] thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Let no man be content with anything short of this acquaintanceship with Jesus.
III. THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION. (Ver. 10.) This is a present experience. Our hearts are dead in trespasses, and sins, as Christ's body lay dead in Joseph's tomb. But the Spirit who quickened his dead body by a similar act quickens our dead souls, so that we experience in our spirits the power of our Lord's resurrection. Paul had passed through this experience. He had entered into "newness of life." He had risen out of the corruption of sin and spiritual death into the power of a new and spiritual life. The thrill of resurrection is first felt in this life. The dead soul hears the voice of the Son of God and starts into new life (John 5:25). Well may we say of this resurrection, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in this first resurrection; on such the second death can have no power."
IV. FELLOWSHIP IN SUFFERING. (Ver. 10.) It seems strange that Paul should reckon pain among the advantages obtained from Christ. But we must remember that as Christ's sufferings were vicarious, so the sufferings he sends upon his servants are so far vicarious also as to be for the good of others. Of coarse, in atonement we can have no fellowship with Christ. He was alone therein. But outside the atoning quality of Christ's suffering there is an element in which we can all share. Paul had serious suffering, but as he felt it was to make him a better workman, and so for the good of others, he was content to share it with his Lord. And here we must observe that sympathy is the closest fellowship between souls. What is sympathy? It is fellowship in suffering, It is in distress, in fiery trial, that hearts come nearest to one another. The Hebrew children never knew such fellowship in Babylon before as the Son of God gave them in the fiery furnace. It is here that the reason of our fiery trials lies. They are to bring us nearer the heart of Jesus. His sympathy is cheaply purchased by any pain. Paul's suffering life lay closer than other lives to the heart of Christ. How this should reconcile believers to trial! We may well "count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations" (James 1:2).
V. CONFORMITY TO CHRIST'S DEATH. (Ver. 10.) To be reconciled to death is a great experience. It was this which Jesus experienced on the cross. The amazement of Gethsemane and its sinless shrinking from the experience of death gave place to radiant welcome as the last hour came. "Father, into thine hands I commend my spirit," was the utterance of a Son fully satisfied with the Father's will in the matter of his death. Now, this brave spirit is within our reach. We, too, may look without blanching into the eye of the king of terrors. The sufferings and discipline of life are meant to bring us to this sweet conformity.
VI. RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD. (Ver. 11.) This is the crowning experience which Jesus is to give to Paul and all the faithful departed. The attainment of the resurrection is the climax of a spiritual process. We have risen spiritually into newness of life; we have been advancing steadily in the knowledge of Christ's mind and heart, and largely through life's trials; and physical resurrection will be the top-stone of the great experience. The notion is broached that resurrection is an immediate experience at death, so that we practically bid our bodies good-bye for evermore when we depart. This doctrine of Hymenens and Philetus, however, will not stand investigation. we must believe in a bodily resurrection at the last day. Then shall our full spiritual experience be reached and Christ's last great gift be ours. - R.M.E.
I. As A PRIZE. "That I may win Christ." What is it to win Christ? It is something more than to become acquainted with his biography, something more than to understand the doctrines he taught or the theory of his life and mission. To gain him is to gain his moral spirit. His moral spirit is himself - that which marked him off from all other men that have lived - that is the Christ. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
II. AS A REST. "Found in him." For the soul to be found in Christ is to be found in his character. We are all living in the characters of others. The unregenerate world lives in the fallen character of Adam. The regenerate world lives in Christ, in the character of Christ. Resting in his character as the branch rests in the trunk of the tree, deriving from it its life, its form, its hue, its fruit. Oh to live in his character, in his spotless purity, in his immeasurable love, in his matchless excellence! Those who do so will not have their "own righteousness, which is of the Law," etc., but his moral rectitude.
III. AS A THEME. "That I may know him." The knowledge here does not mean intellectual knowledge, but heart-knowledge, experimental knowledge.
1. Know him by experience personally. Before you can know a person you must have the spirit that animates him. Love alone can interpret love, etc.
2. Know by experience the power of his resurrection. All the spiritual significance and benefits of his resurrection from the dead.
3. Know by experience his sufferings. "Have fellowship with his sufferings." There are three kinds of suffering:
(1) those in which Christ could have no fellowship;
(2) those which he experienced, and in which men could have no fellowship; and
(3) those in which men are bound to have fellowship with Christ. We are commanded to be partakers of some of his sufferings.
(1) We should have fellowship with the intense regret which he felt on account of the existence of moral evil. The fact of evil sat as a mountain of agony on the heart of Christ. Sin was a horrible thing to him, the "abominable thing "which he hated.
(2) We should have fellowship with the sorrowful sympathies which he had for the sufferings of men. His tears over Jerusalem, etc.
(3) We should have fellowship with those sufferings which he endured on account of the dishonor sin does to the infinite Father.
IV. AS A MODEL. "Conformable unto his death." What does this mean? To die in the manner which he died on the cross? No. But to live and die in the mood he did, which was self-sacrifice. He died, not for himself, but for others. "He gave himself a ransom for many." Self-sacrificing love is the essence of personal Christianity, and nothing else. - D.T.
I. WHAT IT IS. To know him is to know God, and to know God is eternal life. It is not knowledge about him, but knowledge of him, that we need. We must know him as we know a person.
II. HOW WE MUST SEEK THIS. All things that hinder us from obtaining this knowledge must be surrendered. Even such things as we have hitherto made a boast of must go if they are preventing us from knowing him. Our reputation for consistency, our hitherto unsuspected character, our most cherished occupations or friends, - all these are "loss" in comparison with the knowledge of him which is to be found in obedience to him.
III. WHAT IT WILL DO FOR US.
1. It will win Christ as Friend, Advocate, Redeemer, King. He will be on our side, however coldly earthly friends may regard us.
2. Thus winning him we shall be fouled in him. When the tempter conies to allure us he will not dare approach, for he will find us in him. When the accuser stands up at the last day to charge us with our many sins his words will fall powerless, for we shall he found in him who is our Defence.
IV. WHAT IT WILL BESTOW UPON US. Righteousness; not the merely external righteousness which may be secured by the punctual observance of legal duties, but the righteousness which is of God. This righteousness of his is incarnate in Christ, and is imparted by him to all who are in union with him through faith. This is complete righteousness, for it is the perfect righteousness which Christ himself has and is. - V.W.H.
I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS PERSON. This is the initiatory step. We must first recognize him to be our own God and Savior, and One who is to be altogether longed for. Nathanael thus knew him (John 1:49), and St. Peter (Matthew 16:16).
II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION. This is a step beyond the simple knowledge of his person. It can be found only in our own spiritual experience when we recognize his power in the victory which he wins in us over the power of sin. St. Peter did not learn the power of Christ's resurrection until he had received the Holy Ghost.
III. THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS. When we have experienced the power of his resurrection we begin to find that his sufferings are ours and ours are his. We begin to feel something of that keenest of all his sufferings, the misery of the presence and the power of sin. At the same time, we find that, by a certain law of reciprocity, our own sufferings are no longer exclusively our own, but that he is bearing them with us and for us,
IV. BY THESE STAGES WE ARE MADE CONFORMABLE TO HIS DEATH. His death was an entire death unto sin; by our thus dwelling in him and he in us we also die unto sin.
V. THUS DYING UNTO SIN WE ATTAIN TO THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD; i.e. not merely to the extension of life after physical death, but to the complete resurrection, which is the entire victory over every form of death, natural or spiritual. - V.W.H.
I. THE CHRISTIAN IS CALLED INTO FELLOWSHIP OF HIS LORD'S SUFFERINGS.
1. He is called into fellowship with Christ. This is further implied by the clause, "becoming conformed unto his death." It is St. Paul's conception of the heart and essence of the Christian life. He constantly describes the process of our union with Christ as involving our repetition of Christ's experience of life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. The Christian life is an "Imitatio Christi."
2. The Christian is called to suffer with Christ. His life is not all suffering. Much Divine gladness shines across the path of his pilgrimage. But while new joys come with the gospel, new sorrows unfelt before also accompany it. Christ's joy is in his people (John 15:11). So also is his sorrow. The Christian has his Tabor and his Olivet; he has, too, his Gethsemane and his Calvary (Romans 6:5; 2 Corinthians 4:10).
3. The necessary experience of the Christian life involves a fellowship in the sufferings of Christ. The sufferings are not accidental.
(1) Externally, they are caused as Christ's were caused. "A servant is not above his lord. If they persecuted me they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). St. Paul suffered from Jewish jealousy, as Christ did before. More generally the hatred of darkness to light which raged against the great Light of the world besets and attacks all the children of light.
(2) Internally, we have to fight all evil, and the mortal conflict is painful.
(3) Sympathetically, our union with Christ leads us to sorrow with him in his sorrow.
II. THE FELLOWSHIP OF CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS IS ONE OF THE GREATEST CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGES. We might naturally take it to be quite otherwise. We might think it a thing to be submitted to simply as part of the necessary cost of entering the kingdom of heaven. But St. Paul reckons it as part of the gain in comparison with which all conceivable earthly advantages are but as refuse. How can this be? Surely we cannot embrace and love pain for its own sake.
1. Fellowship with Christ's sufferings is a great honor. It is something to be counted worthy to suffer with him. We honor our noblest heroes by selecting them for the most arduous tasks.
2. This fellowship preserves us from many evils. Sorrow is a spiritual antiseptic. It kills the germs of corruption that breed freely in luxury. To be admitted into the sacred temple of the sorrows of Christ, to be touched with the solemn awe of his agony, and to feel in ourselves some faint throbs of this sublime passion, all this is to be called above the earthly scenes of folly and sin and to receive a baptism of purification.
3. This fellowship leads us to participation in Christ's glory. The story does not end with the suffering. It looks tragic; but. it is no tragedy; for it issues in glad hallelujahs. But as even Christ was perfected through suffering, so much more must his disciples tread the via dolorosa in order to reach their triumph. It is they who suffer with him who will also be glorified together with him. - W.F.A.
I. HIS CONFESSION OF IMPERFECTION. "Not as though I had already attained or have been made perfect;" and again," I count not myself to have apprehended."
1. This argues a high estimate of a Christian's duty. There is no inconsistency in the consciousness of hidden imperfection and the thought of a lofty ideal. We must ever keep Christ himself before us as the only ideal to be copied and followed after through life.
2. It argues a humble estimate of himself. It is a remarkable confession from such a man. He had done and suffered much for Christ, yet he says, "I have not been made perfect." Such an experience ought to rebuke the lofty pretensions of perfectionists of every class.
3. Yet this humble estimate of himself, as well as his aspiration for higher holiness, is sure evidence that he had made some progress. A writer says, "That which is best in you is your appreciation of what is better in others."
II. HIS METHOD OF CHRISTIAN PROGRESS. This is expressed in two separate and significant sentences.
1. "I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I also was apprehended by Christ Jesus."
(1) This language evidently points to the scene on the road to Damascus, when the Lord "apprehended" him and changed the whole gent of his life. Conversion is, indeed, an apprehension, a laying hold upon a heart trader the sway of worldliness and sin, and bringing it under the sway of all-conquering grace. Nothing but the arresting hand of the Lord can stop any of us on our downward course, or break the dominion of the world over us, or destroy the power of sin in the heart.
(2) This language implies that the loving hand of the Savior is never lifted off any heart thus arrested tilt all that is implied in the gracious contact has been accomplished. There are two apprehensions. The believer has only, in the one case, to receive the gift of God, but, in the other case, the salvation which has become ours through that act is to be wrought out in a continuous, faithful reception of all that is involved in it.
2. "This one thing I do, forgetting the things that are past, and reaching forth to the things that are before, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
(1) There is here the oblivion of the past, not that we are to forget past errors or sins, or are not to repent of past mistakes which must always be subject of penitential thought, but we are not to allow a rueful temper to kill out heart, and hope. We are to regard the past. as so much really gained or accomplished that is to exercise no dragging or injurious effect upon our forward progress.
(2) There is here the concentration of all energies. "This one thing I do." A dispersion of energies is fatal to success in any work. The great heroes of the Church and of the world have been men of one idea, and concentrated all thought and effort in carrying it out. So the apostle had but one idea always before him, and made everything in providence and nature and grace contributory to the great work of his Christian sanctification.
(3) Untiring activity. "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
(a) The mark is perfect holiness.
(b) The prize is perfect blessedness.
(c) All his activity in this Divine race is sustained by the thought that he stands in the "high calling" of God and is supported by the grace of Christ Jesus.
It is a high calling, high as heaven, and seemingly inaccessible to men of such passions and infirmities as ours, but. then it is the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. This is our hope and our consolation. - T.C.
I. THE MEMORY OF PAST SINS AND FAILURES MAY ONLY REPRODUCE THEM, 12, 13.) Memory is a precious gift; without it progress would be impossible. It is memory which enables us to carry on the advantages of past ages to the coming time. But the misery is that we burden memory with thoughts and feelings which cannot help, but hinder our future development. It is these thoughts and feelings which we must learn to forget. We content ourselves with mentioning here two.
1. Sins. Brooding over sin is a very unhealthy process. It is not the self-examination God recommends. It only reproduces and increases sin. Repentance is a grace which sorrows over sins as offenses against God which must not be repeated. We must not allow repentance, therefore, to be turned into repining. But can we safely forget past sins? Yes; if we come to the blood of Jesus and get washed therein, we may with safety forget our past sins, so far as the remembrance of them would detain us from a better record in time to come.
2. Failures. These, too, may be remembered so as to quench all hope of improvement. We may regulate our hope by the probabilities of the past, like calculations based upon statistics. But there is one factor in the spiritual life, the Spirit of God, who can put all past experience to shame and silence. Hence we are encouraged not to regulate our hope by the failures of the past, but by Lethean grace to face the future as if we had a successful record behind us. To translate a paragraph from a modern French author: "Feeble natures live in griefs instead of changing them into the apophthegms of experience. They saturate themselves with them and use them to retrace their steps daily into past misfortunes. To forget is the grand secret of strong and creative natures - to forget as Nature does, who never regards herself as passe, but recommences every hour the mysteries of her indefatigable births (enfantements)."
II. THE MEMORY OF PAST SUCCESSES AND ATTAINMENTS MAY DETAIN US FROM MORE SPLENDID TRIUMPHS. (Vers. 12-14.) The temptation is to make the past the standard and so to cut down the possibilities of the present and the future. But, as it has been well said, "It would be better to forget our whole life, sins and all, than to look back with a sense of satisfaction." Contentment with the past is fatal to all progress. Christianity never meant us to dote upon a golden age behind us, but to expect a golden age to come. Hence we must forget past attainments and successes and forge ahead. It is the looking back that endangers the climber who is passing upwards. His one hope of reaching the summit is by forgetting the things behind him and "grinding" on.
III. BY THIS POWER OF FORGETFULNESS WE SECURE PROPER CONCENTRATION OF CHRISTIAN PURPOSE. (Ver. 13.) For it is essential to enthusiasm to have our nature unified into a single glorious purpose. Hence Paul could say, "This one thing I do." He would not allow the past to distract him from proper concentration. One purpose of perfection dominated his whole life and conduct. Hence his draughts of the Lethean river fitted him for the sublime and single purpose of attaining the ideal of Christ. The soul who refuses to be distracted by the past, and sets himself steadily to fulfill the mission God has given him, will find in his concentration the secret of power.
IV. WHEN CHURCH MEMBERS FOLLOW UP THIS PRINCIPLE OF FORGETTING THE PAST, THEY COME TO SEE EYE TO EYE IN THE END. (Vers. 15, 16.) Paul advises the Philippians to be "thus minded," that is, to unite in forgetting the past, and if in other things they do not see eye to eye as yet, they will come to unity at last. It is a most important principle to follow. When individuals fall out, we advise them to "let bygones be bygones," and begin again. This is exactly Paul's idea. There seems to have been some dissension in Philippi, as ver. 2 of next chapter shows. Here is Paul's recommendation: "Forget the things behind." It is upon the past our squabbles are built. Take away the memory and then we can begin afresh. It would thus seem that the city of God could ill spare this river of forgetfulness. Indeed, it is only in the city of God that it flows in crystal purity and can be drunk without danger. There are muddy streams which ingenuity provides, intoxicants which rob mankind through the senses of their memory; but the waking-time comes, and the furies are afoot once more. In the Lethe of God, on the contrary, we may drink and forget a painful, imperfect past, so far as this would keep us from a nobler future. "God," says Vinet, "in the ineffable power of his Spirit, makes us date from where he pleases. He separates us from that which was ourselves. He creates a new man, to which the old one is a stranger. For him there is no crime that cannot be blotted out, nor any restitution impossible; for him there is no time flown on without recall, no destruction, nor any manner of death. The past can swallow nothing up." Let us, then, judiciously cultivate this forgetfulness, and make the past the subordinate thing Christian progress requires it to be. - R.M.E.
I. A CONSCIOUS DISSATISFACTION WITH THE PRESENT. By this I mean, not dissatisfaction with the events and circumstances of life - Divine providences - this would be foolish and impious, but with present moral attainments, for he says, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect." He was not satisfied with his present assimilation to Christ. He painfully felt the discrepancy. This dissatisfaction is ever the first step in soul-progress and the impelling motive afterwards. Indeed, dissatisfaction with present attainments is the spring of all advancement in everything in life. Dissatisfied with huts, men build houses; with the loose skin of beasts for their covering, they manufacture garments; with caligraphy, they invent the printing-press; with waggons, they construct steam-engines. He who feels satisfied with what he has, whether it be material, mental, or spiritual, will never seek to lay hold of something yet unattained.
II. A COMPARATIVE OBLIVIOUSNESS TO THE PAST. "Forgetting those things which are behind." The Olympic racer did not look behind him on the course, but on to the goal until he reached and grasped the pole. In soul-onwardness there must be a comparative obliviousness. We say comparative. Of course there must be and ought to be remembrances of past mercies to inspire our gratitude, of past sins to humble us before God. But attention to the past should be as nothing to that which we give to the future. Let the past go: it is irreparable and unavailing; the grand future must loom before us and absorb the soul. Look not behind you. Keep your eyes right onward upon the enchanting scenes that are spread out on the sunny heights.
III. A CONCENTRATED STRUGGLE FOR THE FUTURE. "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The prize of the Grecian racer was a garland of olive, or laurel, or pine, or apple. What is the moral prize? Moral perfection. To this all men are divinely called in Christ. In the true moral race men are to reach forth, not after happiness as an end, but after holiness; not after Paradise, but after perfection. This requires concentration. There must be no half-heartedness, no divided faculties; it must be the one thing; the whole soul must be set upon it. Concentration is essential to success in almost every department of life. Noah built his ark because he concentrated his being on the work. Abraham lived a pilgrim life because he set his heart on a city that had a foundation. Napoleon became nearly the master of Europe because he had set his heart on the infernal work. Demosthenes became one of the greatest orators of the world because oratory was the work on which he set his heart. So in all things. The attainment of holiness must be the "one thing" in life. Learning, literature, business, recreation, must be rendered subservient to this "one thing." - D.T.
1. The recognition that we are not yet conquerors, and that every effort on our part is necessary if we would secure the prize.
2. The knowledge that we are not running the race in our own strength, but that. we are seeking to seize upon a victory already designed for us. When we realize that Christ has grasped us we know that we are being upheld by him, and our confidence of final victory is no longer in ourselves, but in him.
3. The faith that we are freed from our past sins by the atoning power of Christ. If we cannot feel assured of this we are for ever worrying about the things which are behind instead of forgetting them, and are thus powerless to look forward to the things that are before. Look forwards and upwards, rather than backwards, if you would succeed in life's race.
4. Striving under such conditions we are more than conquerors through him who loves u s. - V.W.H.
I. WE MUST NOT CONSIDER ANY PRESENT ATTAINMENT SUFFICIENT, St, Paul was no novice when he wrote this Epistle. An old man, rich and ripe in many graces, far and away beyond the experience of most Christians, he still felt that he had not reached the great end of his efforts. How much less can inferior Christians allow themselves to be satisfied with what they have as yet acquired! The end is to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). We are not blamed if we have not yet reached that crown of goodness. But we are blamed if we are not pressing on to it and rest contented with anything short of it. Height above height rises before us. Let no inferior aim lull us to unfaithful indolence with its soothing prospects.
II. WE MUST LOOK FORWARD, NOT BACKWARD. Some men stand with their faces to the west, regretting the lost radiance of the setting sun. Others turn their gaze on the east, eager to catch the first streak of dawn. Surely the latter are the wiser. Our faces look forwards that we may see the path we are about to tread instead of looking only on the path already trodden.
1. We must forget past attainments. Otherwise they will be a snare, and out of the very fruit of good deeds may be distilled the poisonous narcotic that will prevent the repetition of them. Let the sweet fruit be cast away that the seed may be sown to produce future fruit.
2. We must forget past failures. It is foolish to dwell in idle regrets, for thus we neglect the duty of to-day in lamenting the neglect of yesterday's duty! It is positively wrong to clog our future efforts by carrying the burden of past sin. If God has forgiven our sin we should forget it.
3. We must forget past joys and sorrows - this only in a measure, of course. We are human, and there are wholesome uses of memory. But still the dreamy life of reflection is sadly hindering to progress. Greater joys open before us - even before the saddest, most desponding of us, if we are truly following Christ - than any that lie buried in the graves of the past. They who may hope for the joy of the resurrection reunion do foolishly to weep for ever at the tomb.
III. WE MUST STRETCH FORWARD TO THE THINGS WHICH ARE BEFORE. The picturesque figure represents the eager runner who stretches out his hand and bends his body towards the long-sought end of his endeavors. The eye must precede the foot. If our hearts are not already in heaven our souls cannot be travelling thither. Great effort is also necessary. The Christian must put forth all his energies. His life is a battle, a wrestling, a race.
IV. CHRIST IS THE END OF THE RACE.
1. He is the Goal. We are to strive to attain unto him. The Christian course is marked out by the footprints of. Christ. Every right step brings us nearer Christ, both in resemblance and in fellowship. Perfection is absolute Christ-likeness.
2. Christ is also the Prize. The end of the race is its own reward. And it is enough. To possess Christ is worth the loss of all earthly possessions (ver. 7). It is, however, in the end, to give us the inheritance of all things (1 Corinthians 2:22, 23). - W.F.A.
I. CONSIDER THE DUTY OF BELIEVERS TO WALK IN THE FULNESS OF PRESENT TRUTH. The saints, who are here described as perfect, including that very apostle who had just said he was not perfect, are to be regarded as perfect in the sense of adultness of understanding. They were not "babes in Christ;" they had put away childish things; they had assumed the apostle's position concerning the Law. But on this very ground they were to stand strongly consistent in all moral and spiritual development. They were to be like the apostle, forgetting the past and pressing onward to the mark for the heavenly prize.
II. BELIEVERS MAY NOT SEE EYE TO EYE, BUT ARE ENCOURAGED TO LOOK TO THE LORD FOR FULLER KNOWLEDGE. " And if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God will reveal even this to you." The principle is ever tree. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God? If a believer is rooted in the faith of Christ, the Lord will help him to see the truth respecting minor matters.
III. So FAR AS BELIEVERS AGREE, THEY OUGHT TO SHOW A VISIBLE CONFORMITY OF LIFE AND OPINION. "But let us walk according to that we have attained." Thus
(1) God is glorified;
(2) believers are maintained in a peaceful fellowship;
(3) the world is impressed and won by the exhibition of Christian unity. - T.C.
I. THAT MORAL PERFECTION IS ATTAINABLE IN THIS LIFE. "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect." What is the perfection? No being is absolutely perfect but God; fallibility belongs to all rational creatureship. The perfection consists in the ruling principle of action, and that is supreme sympathy with the supremely Good. This is a thing perfect in itself; it can be strengthened, but is incapable of any modification. The perfection is, therefore, that of the embryo of character. The acorn is perfect as an acorn, not as an oak; the babe is perfect as a babe, not as a man; the dawn is perfect as a dawn, not as a noon. There is incompletion in development, but completion in the rudimental clement. All Christians have this or they are not Christians.
II. THAT THE MORAL PERFECTION ATTAINABLE IN THIS LIFE IS ESSENTIALLY PROGRESSIVE. Hence Paul speaks of "pressing towards the mark," of" walking by the same rule." The germinal principle is essentially growable. All life struggles for advancement. The acorn struggles to rise into majestic forests, infants into men, the unfledged eagle to soar into the heavens and to bask itself in sunny azure. Life not only creates its own organization, but goes on strengthening and enlarging it. There is the blade, the ear, the full corn in the ear.
III. THAT PROGRESS IN MORAL PERFECTION IS AN URGENT OBLIGATION. "Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." Like all life, it has not only an instinct and a capacity for growth, but it has a moral obligation to grow. There is no obligation on plantal or irrational life to grow, but on moral life it presses with all the force of the Divine will. The progress is here indicated by four things.
1. By a walk. "Let us walk." Walking implies life, deliberation, and onwardness.
2. By a walk in loving union with others. "Let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." We are so constituted that social intercourse is essential to the quickening, the development, and the satisfying of our natures. The society that is required for this is the society who attend" the same rule, mind the same thing," one in supreme aim and purpose. Thus walking, the soul advances, gets not only new energy for the old faculties, but new faculties developed.
3. By following the best examples. All life has its archetypes or ideals. The growth of true moral life requires this; hence Paul says, "Be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample." He does not say, I am a perfect example. But, on the contrary, he says, elsewhere, "Be ye followers of me, even as I am a follower of Christ." Be followers of me so far as I follow Christ.
CONCLUSION. Perseverance in goodness, then, is not to be preached as a doctrine, but propounded as a law and urged as a duty. - D.T.
I. AS NOT FULLY ENLIGHTENED. He who is perfect, i.e. full grown in Christian experience, will realize that the progress described by St. Paul is the only true form of spiritual growth.
II. THEIR WANT OF ENLIGHTENMENT IS FROM WANT OF KNOWLEDGE AND NOT FROM AN EVIL CONSCIENCE. Such ignorance will not hinder them from receiving God's grace if they persevere in that to which their conscience guides them.
III. SUCH PERSEVERANCE WILL LEAD THEM INTO THE LIGHT. However deficient their knowledge may be, their faith is true and will not be left uninstructed. "If any man wills to do God's will, he shall know of the doctrine" (John 7:17). The woman who sought healing by touching the hem of Christ's garment is an example of uninstructed faith not without its reward. She is in error in imagining that his healing power proceeded from some magic effluence from his body rather than from his love. But it was an error of the head and not of the heart. She is right enough in her simple faith in him. By her faith she gains that which she sought; and more, even his blessing, "Go in peace!" - V.W.H.
I. DIVERSITY OF OPINION IS POSSIBLE AMONG GENUINE CHRISTIANS. St. Paul was writing to a Christian Church which he honored with rare commendation for its fidelity and spiritual attainments. Nevertheless, he admitted that some of his readers might not see truth as he saw it.
II. WE MUST NOT ATTEMPT TO FORCE OTHERS INTO AGREEMENT WITH OURSELVES. Every honest thinker must believe that his own view is correct, or he would abandon it. In fact, he only adopts it because he believes it to be true. Therefore he must wish others to agree with him. But he has no right to use violence, abuse, and recrimination. He should respect his brother's right to think. St. Paul was far superior to the Christians of Philippi. Yet he treated their possible difference of opinion with courtesy and gentleness.
III. IF WE ARE RIGHT IN THE COURSE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, DIFFERENCES OF OPINION ON SPECULATIVE POINTS WILL NOT BE FATAL. They are not unimportant. All truth is useful and all error injurious. Still, fidelity to Christ in practice is far more important than all else. And even men who are clogged and maimed by egregious errors - as we Protestants think Roman Catholic and Greek Christians must be - will reach the end safely if they are truly pressing forward to Christ.
IV. FIDELITY TO CHRIST WILL LEAD TO A REVELATION OF TRUTH ON THOSE POINTS WHERE WE ARE AS YET IN ERROR. It is not by controversy, much less by excommunication and brands of heresy, that error is eliminated from the Church. Nothing opens our eyes so clearly as faithful service. He will know the doctrine who keeps the commandment. - W.F.A.
I. THE DUTY OF FOLLOWING GOOD EXAMPLES.
1. We are commanded to do so. (1 Corinthians 11:1.)
2. The lives of many saints are expressly recorded for our imitation. (James 5:10, 11, 17; Philippians 4:9.)
3. the imitation is limited by several circumstances.
(1) By the example of Christ: "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1. Corinthians 11:1).
(2) We are not to imitate such actions of good men as are to be condemned, nor even all such as are not condemned (Genesis 19:8; Genesis 42:15, 16; Genesis 27:25 -27).
(3) The Word of God is to decide the rightness or the wrongness of the actions of good men.
II. THE USES OF SUCH IMITATION.
1. It stimulates to higher and better living. We are therefore to imitate good men in the graces for which they are most distinguished (Numbers 12:3; 1 Samuel 2:18; Job 1:21; Acts 5:41).
2. It is afresh recommendation of the gospel. (Matthew 5:16.)
3. It gives greater glory to God. (Romans 7:4.) - T.C.
citizens of the world and the citizens of heaven. We shall look at them in the order presented by the apostle.
I. THE CITIZENS OF THE WORLD. (Vers. 18, 19.) And here we have several things to notice.
1. The object of their adoration is the "belly-god. In heathenism the aim of life is for the most part to gratify the flesh. Appetite is master. The mind and heart are simply the slaves of appetite. Now, it is clear that, as a worshipper can never rise above the object of adoration, the man who worships appetite sinks into a mere quivering mass of appetite. Lust calls for satisfaction. Eating, drinking, and the gratification of the fleshly lusts become the sum total of life. The meaning of this devotion is the degradation of the man below the level of the beast.
2. Their glory is in their shame. That is to say, instead of being ashamed of their lustful courses, they actually glory in them. They parade their degradations. It is a terrible descent when men lose the sense of shame and brazen it out.
3. They mind earthly things. That is, they look no further for their rest. They settle down in this plague-stricken land. They allow their notions to be bounded by the horizon of the seen and the temporal. They take no broader view than this life affords them.
4. They are consequently enemies of Christ's cross, over which the holy are compelled to weep. For the cross is the great foe of worldly mindedness. It opposes the lusts of the flesh; it opposes the adoration of the appetites; it opposes self-indulgence in every sinful form; and consequently the citizens of this worm are its foes. But do we weep over these misguided men with the pathos of a Paul? Do we shed over them the tears of compassion, of zeal, of charity? We ought not to be content until the world's state evokes our tears.
II. THE CITIZENS OF HEAVEN. (Vers. 20, 21.) Paul declares here that our citizenship (πολίτευμα) is in heaven." Now, this idea suggests:
1. That we ought to feel as "strangers and pilgrims here. Just as citizens of a foreign country do not feel at home, so heavenly citizens cannot feel at home on earth. They will recognize a certain strangeness in their environment, and be evermore looking away from earth and things seen to their fatherland" (πατρίδα of Hebrews 11:14). But:
2. Our hope should center in the heavenly city. Earth cannot satisfy our longings; our hope flits away from earth to heaven. "We look for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." Heaven is regarded as our home, and we feel drawn as by a home-sickness towards the celestial world. We have "a desire to depart and he with Christ, which is far better."
3. We expect the advent of the Savior and the transformation of the body. The Lord Jesus has his home in heaven and is seated in the focus of power. His energy (ἐνέργεια) is such that he can subdue all things unto himself. And he is to appear for the special purpose of transforming our bodies of humiliation that they may be conformed "to the body of his glory" (Revised Version). His glorious body in the vigor of immortal youth is the type to which our changed bodies shall be conformed. Hence we hope for physical adaptation to an immortal career. And these gifts we expect from heaven and through the advent of our Savior. "Able-bodied citizens" we are yet to be. We are to lay down these tenements of clay and to be clothed with temples which will stand the wear and tear of an eternal existence. In these magnificent bodies we hope to serve God ceaselessly. As citizens of heaven, we shall need no respite from active service; there shall be no night and no repose in heaven; unwearying work shall prove life's lasting benediction. - R.M.E.
I. WHOM TO LOOK TO. "Brethren, be ye imitators together of me, and mark them which so walk even as ye have us for an ensample." There was no assumption in Paul putting himself before the Philippians for their imitation. He was simply proceeding on what belonged to the relation subsisting between them. It devolved on Timothy to be an example to believers in the various places where he labored in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity. So it devolved on Paul, as having the care of the Gentile Churches, to walk before them so that they might be directed in their walk. And, although he did not count himself perfect, yet he had earnestly endeavored to come up to this idea of his duty. He had carried his faithfulness to Christ to the extent of suffering imprisonment for him for a long period. In a brotherly manner, then, he asked them to imitate him. Let them hold to Christ under all circumstances. Let them not refuse the hardships to be endured in his service. Others were imitators of him and were proving themselves valiant for Christ and against persecution. Let them also be numbered among his imitators. He did not set himself exclusively forward for their imitation. He leaves the singular for the plural. "As ye have us for an example." He could join with himself other Christian teachers known to the Philippians. There was one type according to which they walked. Mark them among them who followed this type. "Mark the perfect man," says the psalmist. The New Testament form given to it by Paul is that we are to mark those who have, in their walk, the common Christian features.
II. WHOM TO TAKE WARNING FROM. There were others who walked differently. We are apparently to think of them as nominal Christians - owning the cross of Christ in their profession, disowning it in their practice.
1. Feelings with which the apostle calls attention to them. "For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping.' In this Paul echoes the words of the psalmist, "Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy Law." He echoes the words of the weeping prophet, "Hear ye, and give car; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and while ye look for light he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride: and mine eye shall weep sore and run down with tears." Chrysostom says here, "Paul weeps for those over whom other men laugh and are uproarious." It is an aggravating circumstance when men dishonor the Christian circle with which they are connected. But there is this, that Christ needed to weep over us when we were sinners, and still needs to weep over us for the sin which doth so easily beset us. And the more that others are in a state of sin, there is only the more need for our weeping over them and desiring their emancipation from their unhappy thraldom. Another circumstance which led to the tears of the apostle was their number. There were many who had disgraced their Christian profession. It was like a catastrophe involving the loss of many lives. But why did the apostle tell this to the Philippians? Why had he not been content with telling them once? Why had he continued telling them in his addresses when with them and in his messages when absent? Why, as he now thinks of it, with the pen in his hand or dictating to his amanuensis, do the tears begin to flow? It was because, being many, there was danger of this class appearing also in the Church of Philippi. Persistently, tearfully would he endeavor to stave off, to prevent, such a catastrophe.
2. Described generally.
(1) Character. "That they are the enemies of the cross of Christ." It is said of the heathen that they refused to have God in their knowledge. It is said of the Colossians in their heathen state that they were enemies in their mind in their evil works. It is in darker colors that the persons before us are painted. They are enemies of God, not in his unity or spirituality, but in the brightest exhibition of his moral excellence. The cross of Christ is a great fact, of which the great expression is this, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." The cross of Christ is God approaching men in greatest kindness - kindness displayed to his foes, kindness fitted to subdue the most hostile. It is the condemnation of the persons before us that, having had the cross of Christ presented to them so that they could not refuse to acknowledge the justice of its claims, they yet did not in reality yield to its claims, but opposed their will to the Divine benignity.
(2) End. "Whose end is perdition." It is an oppressive thought, that this should be the end of any who have been created for God's glory. But it is the inevitable consequence of opposing the cross of Christ. As the Foundation-stone of the Church, when not used as Foundation, is to become the Stone of vengeance, so the cross of Christ, when not used as the instrument of salvation, is to become the instrument of perdition. It is as though a beautiful work of art, on which much loving labor has been expended, were taken and broken into a thousand fragments. So is every one the object of perdition in his spiritual nature, lost to beauty and usefulness and happiness, who does not submit to the saving power of Christ.
3. Described more particularly.
(1) Indulgent of appetite. "Whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame." The apostle writes to the Roman Christians of those who served net our Lord Christ, but their own belly. They are described in more startling language here, as making a god of their belly. That is to say, the place belonging to God is usurped by the very lowest part of their nature: We are to eat and drink in order that we may do the great business of life; these make it the great business of life to eat and drink. Their supreme concern is, "What shall we eat, and what shall we drink?" To this object, as devotees, they consecrate their thoughts, their energies. As professed Christians, they should glory in the cross of Christ; their real antagonism to the cross comes out in their glorying in what is fitted to pamper appetite. It is glorying in their shame. It is unworthy of rational men, it is especially unworthy of men who profess to be Christians, that they should be taken up with their eating and drinking. It is taking the glory which belongs to them as made for God, as intended for a Christian immortality, and giving it to their animal nature. It is in gluttony, and also in drunkenness, stupefying themselves, obscuring their vision of God, unfitting themselves for his service. And those deserve to be covered with shame who so walk.
(2) Class to which they are referred. "Who mind earthly things." They belong to the earthly order of things; within it, their thoughts and interests are confined. One characteristic of the earthly is its perishableness. Such Epicureans as are here referred to make this even a reason for their indulgence of appetite, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. But what a skeleton does this introduce into their feasts! Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall bring to nought both it and them." Without being Epicureans and taken up with our eating and drinking, we may mind earthly things. If our minds do not rise above our earthly business, then we are living within the earthly order of things, that which is lower and which is doomed to perish.
"The cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces, III. THE CHRISTIAN COMMONWEALTH 1. Its seat. "For our citizenship is in heaven." More exactly it is the state in connection with which we have citizenship. We properly belong to a heavenly order of things. And this points to the possession of higher privileges. (1) Right of access to the sovereigns. This is very rarely taken advantage of under an earthly polity. We cannot weary our heavenly Sovereign by our frequent approaches to him, if only we are sincere. In Christ we have an established place before him. And our present mode of access to him by prayer will be turned into an eternal abiding with him. (2) Right of protection. If a British citizen is within the law in travelling or trading within the bounds of a foreign state, he may rely upon the British power for his protection. Earth is like a foreign state to Christians; we may rely upon Christ meantime defending us from all our enemies. And ultimately he will withdraw us from the presence of enemies, to dwell entirely under the shadow of the Almighty. (3) Right of education. It is right that a state should make provision for the education of all who are to be its citizens. The British state, to a certain extent, acts upon this principle. As Christian citizens, there is provision for our education, in the Bible and the ordinance of the ministry. And ultimately we shall be directly taught of God. (4) Right of maintenance. The new-made citizen of a town has the right of trading within its boundaries for the purpose of maintenance. As citizens standing in a right relation to our liege Lord, he undertakes our maintenance in this world. And ultimately he will call us to sit at his own table. 2. Obtaining the condition necessary for the full enjoyment of privileges. (1) He who obtains the condition. "From whence also we wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." The seat of the polity to which we belong being in the heavens, it is fitting that our aspiration should be heavenward. Our great Hope in that would is Christ, who has taken possession in our name. We wait for him to come, with his saving power, to us on earth, i.e. to bring us out of present disabilities, and to bring us into the full enjoyment of privileges. (2) The condition to be obtained. "Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his' glory." (a) Transformation from a psychical body to a spiritual body. Our present body is psychical - so it is called in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians - i.e. it answers to our lower or animal nature. It has a certain material grossness about it; and it is very much hemmed in by material surroundings. Christ at his resurrection exchanged the psychical body which he shared with us for a spiritual body - so it is named, i.e. it is a body answering to our higher or spiritual nature, as the present body answers to our lower or animal nature. As seen in him, it was a body to which matter was no barrier. He appeared in the midst of his disciples when the doors were shut. It was a body to which distance was completely conquered. With it, when the time came, he could, at once and of his own accord, go up into heaven, only lingering in view for the sake of those whom he left behind. And his spiritual body is to rule the form of ours. (b) Transformation from the state of the Fall to the state of redemption. Our present body is called the body of humiliation. It is so in the aspect we have already considered. It is especially so in that the Fall has left its mark upon it as well as upon the soul. It is a body that is subject to weakness and disease terminating in death and corruption. Humiliation reaches its depth when this body becomes the prey of worms. Christ, in the body of his flesh, was subjected to the humiliation of weakness and suffering. He was also subjected to the humiliation of death. And, in addition, he was subjected to the humiliation of burial. At his resurrection the body of his humiliation, which had not seen corruption, was exchanged for the body of his glory, of which we can form some conception from the description of him as he appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration, and also as he was seen by the prisoner of Patmos in heaven. It was a body which bore a certain relation to previous humiliation; for there were the marks of the wounds in his hands and in his side. We are to think of it as a body which has received immortal power and beauty. And that gloriously transformed body of Christ is to rule the form of ours. (3) Guarantee for the condition being obtained. "According to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself." Following upon his resurrection was his being invested with universal power. "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." The final adjustment will bear witness to his being able to subdue all things unto himself, i.e. unto his thought, his way of adjusting things. We may, therefore, feel assured, seeing that is his thought, that he will subdue the present material fallen body to the spiritual glorious type, which he has asserted in his own resurrection-body. This condition being obtained, we shall be admitted as Christian citizens to full privileges. - R.F.
III. THE CHRISTIAN COMMONWEALTH
1. Its seat. "For our citizenship is in heaven." More exactly it is the state in connection with which we have citizenship. We properly belong to a heavenly order of things. And this points to the possession of higher privileges.
(1) Right of access to the sovereigns. This is very rarely taken advantage of under an earthly polity. We cannot weary our heavenly Sovereign by our frequent approaches to him, if only we are sincere. In Christ we have an established place before him. And our present mode of access to him by prayer will be turned into an eternal abiding with him.
(2) Right of protection. If a British citizen is within the law in travelling or trading within the bounds of a foreign state, he may rely upon the British power for his protection. Earth is like a foreign state to Christians; we may rely upon Christ meantime defending us from all our enemies. And ultimately he will withdraw us from the presence of enemies, to dwell entirely under the shadow of the Almighty.
(3) Right of education. It is right that a state should make provision for the education of all who are to be its citizens. The British state, to a certain extent, acts upon this principle. As Christian citizens, there is provision for our education, in the Bible and the ordinance of the ministry. And ultimately we shall be directly taught of God.
(4) Right of maintenance. The new-made citizen of a town has the right of trading within its boundaries for the purpose of maintenance. As citizens standing in a right relation to our liege Lord, he undertakes our maintenance in this world. And ultimately he will call us to sit at his own table.
2. Obtaining the condition necessary for the full enjoyment of privileges.
(1) He who obtains the condition. "From whence also we wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." The seat of the polity to which we belong being in the heavens, it is fitting that our aspiration should be heavenward. Our great Hope in that would is Christ, who has taken possession in our name. We wait for him to come, with his saving power, to us on earth, i.e. to bring us out of present disabilities, and to bring us into the full enjoyment of privileges.
(2) The condition to be obtained. "Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his' glory." (a) Transformation from a psychical body to a spiritual body. Our present body is psychical - so it is called in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians - i.e. it answers to our lower or animal nature. It has a certain material grossness about it; and it is very much hemmed in by material surroundings. Christ at his resurrection exchanged the psychical body which he shared with us for a spiritual body - so it is named, i.e. it is a body answering to our higher or spiritual nature, as the present body answers to our lower or animal nature. As seen in him, it was a body to which matter was no barrier. He appeared in the midst of his disciples when the doors were shut. It was a body to which distance was completely conquered. With it, when the time came, he could, at once and of his own accord, go up into heaven, only lingering in view for the sake of those whom he left behind. And his spiritual body is to rule the form of ours. (b) Transformation from the state of the Fall to the state of redemption. Our present body is called the body of humiliation. It is so in the aspect we have already considered. It is especially so in that the Fall has left its mark upon it as well as upon the soul. It is a body that is subject to weakness and disease terminating in death and corruption. Humiliation reaches its depth when this body becomes the prey of worms. Christ, in the body of his flesh, was subjected to the humiliation of weakness and suffering. He was also subjected to the humiliation of death. And, in addition, he was subjected to the humiliation of burial. At his resurrection the body of his humiliation, which had not seen corruption, was exchanged for the body of his glory, of which we can form some conception from the description of him as he appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration, and also as he was seen by the prisoner of Patmos in heaven. It was a body which bore a certain relation to previous humiliation; for there were the marks of the wounds in his hands and in his side. We are to think of it as a body which has received immortal power and beauty. And that gloriously transformed body of Christ is to rule the form of ours.
(3) Guarantee for the condition being obtained. "According to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself." Following upon his resurrection was his being invested with universal power. "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." The final adjustment will bear witness to his being able to subdue all things unto himself, i.e. unto his thought, his way of adjusting things. We may, therefore, feel assured, seeing that is his thought, that he will subdue the present material fallen body to the spiritual glorious type, which he has asserted in his own resurrection-body. This condition being obtained, we shall be admitted as Christian citizens to full privileges. - R.F.
I. WE ARE NATURALLY IMITATIVE. If we do not follow good examples we go after the bad. Absolute originality is almost impossible. Imitation is largely unconscious. But it is profitable for us to make use of this powerful instinct by turning it towards the best models.
II. HUMAN EXAMPLES MAY BE FOLLOWED WITH GREAT ADVANTAGE. Our highest model is God, for we are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. Christ is our great Example. Still, there is large room for the influence of other men. Several things give force to this influence.
1. Similarity of circumstances. We can select an example front among men who have similar duties and temptations to our own. Our fellow-men have all to fight the same battle with sin.
2. Personal knowledge. We can understand best the examples of those lives which pass before our own eyes.
3. Affection. This draws us to follow those we love.
4. Special characteristics. In particular circumstances certain men become the best examples. Hence one use of biography, knowledge of mankind, etc.
III. THE EXAMPLE OF ST. PAUL IS OF PECULIAR VALUE. This may be considered in regard to his whole life and character. Note three particulars suggested by the context.
1. His liberality of sentiment. This was a special point for the Philippians who were threatened by Judaizing narrowness.
2. His ceaseless efforts after spiritual progress. (Vers. 12-16.)
3. His spirituality. (Vers. 18-21.)
IV. EVERY TEACHER SHOULD ENDEAVOUR TO LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Example will affect teaching one way or another. If it is bad it will either lead people astray or, if they resist its influence, it will discredit the teacher and frustrate his work. Without posing for imitation, every leader and teacher of men should be careful to be worthy of it.
V. IMITATION, TO BE PROFITABLE, MUST BE DISCRIMINATING AND FREE.
(1) That good models may be chosen; and
(2) that these may be followed in their good points and not in their bad points, for there is no more fascinating snare than the temptation to copy only the weakness of great men.
2. Free. A servile copying may lead us into positive wrong-doing, since "circumstances alter cases," and at best it is devoid of moral principle. We must imitate the spirit of our examples, translating this into the terms of our own individual requirements. - W.F.A.
I. MANY PERSONS ARE FOUND IN THE COMMUNION OF THE CHURCH WHO ARE THE ENEMIES OF THE CROSS OF Christ. They were there even in apostolic days, in spite of gifts of discernment and the power of discipline. It is an altogether chimerical idea to think of a perfectly pure Church. There was no such Church in the days of Christ or the apostles. The persons here described appear to be of the same class as those referred to elsewhere as "they who serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly" (Romans 16:18); persons who caused "divisions and offenses," whose life was a practical denial of the principle that they who are Christ's "have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts" (Galatians 5:24).
II. MORAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THESE FORMALISTS AND THE DOOM THAT AWAITS THEM.
1. The real object of their worship. "Whose god is their belly." Like those referred to at Rome, they "served not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly" (Romans 16:18). They were sensual and self-indulgent, forgetting that "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking" (Romans 14:17).
2. The gross perversion of their moral judgments. "Whose glory is in their shame." They gloried, under the name of liberty, in what ought to have inspired feelings of shame, so as to bring upon them the retribution, "I will turn their glory into shame" (Hosea 4:7).
3. The earthly cast of their life. "Who mind earthly things."
(1) The apostle does not encourage the neglect of earthly things, much less cast any discredit on those natural feelings which link us to the realities of earthly life.
(2) But he censures the living for this present visible world to the neglect of the invisible kingdom by which we are surrounded. The earthly things may be pleasures, riches, honors, power, place. "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not" (Jeremiah 45:5). To mind them is
(a) to desire them (Colossians 2:2; Psalm 73:25);
(b) to admire them (Luke 21:5, 6);
(c) to labor after them (John 6:27; Matthew 6:33);
(d) to concentrate thought and interest upon them.
(3) Reasons for not minding earthly things.
(a) They are beneath the consideration of Christians;
(b) we have higher things to mind (Philippians 2:20);
(c) the minding of heaven and earth is an inconsistent service (Matthew 6:24);
(d) earthly things are essentially uncertain, unsatisfying, inconstant, and momentary (Ecclesiastes 1:8; Proverbs 23:5; Luke 12:20).
4. The doom of these formalists. "Whose end is destruction." Notwithstanding their high professions and their ecclesiastical privileges, their end is eternal death. There is but one cad of such a life: "The end of those things is death" (Romans 6:21); "Whose end is to be burned" (Hebrews 6:8); "Whose end shall be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:15).
III. THE EMOTION OF THE APOSTLE AT THE CONTEMPLATION OF SUCH A CLASS OF SINNERS. "I tell you even weeping." He wept at their wickedness as much as at the thought of their deserved doom.
IV. THE NECESSITY OF REPEATED WARNINGS AGAINST EVIL IN THE CHURCH. "Of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping." It was needful that the apostle should lift the voice of warning against a tendency as fatal in its ultimate results as the deadliest heresy. - T.C.
I. THAT THE CONDUCT OF MERE PROFESSORS OF CHRISTIANITY IS VERY BAD IN THE EYES OF GENUINE CHRISTIANS. To the eye of Paul, who was Christly in spirit, idea, and aim, the conduct of these men was revolting and lamentable. It appeared to him:
1. As and-Christian. "They are the enemies of the cross of Christ." Enemies not to the mere fact of the cross. To this, perhaps, they would have no hostility, but otherwise. But to the spirit of the cross, which was self-sacrificing love, they were practically opposed; they did not "take up the cross" and deny themselves. Theoretically they believed, in it, practically they denied it. For some reasons the greatest "enemies of the cross" are mere conventional Christians; they practically deny that which they profess theoretically to believe. All selfish, carnal, formalistic, ritualistic men are "enemies of the cross of Christ," and they are "many."
2. As ruinous. "Whose end is destruction." The conduct of the genuine Christian is restorative; that of the spurious or conventional, ruinous. Sin, the principle of death, is in it. "When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
3. As sensual. Their sensuality is here indicated:
(1) By a particular carnal indulgence. "Whose god is their belly." They ate and drank, not merely to allay the cravings of appetite and to sustain their frame, but in order to gratify their gastric tastes and sensibilities. The table to them was greater than science, literature, the universe; it was their "god."
(2) By a general habit of mind. "Who mind earthly things." No man should disparage "earthly things." The earth is the production, the revelation, and the minister of God, and to appreciate it as a school of instruction, a temple of worship, and a means of subsistence is what all should do. But to "mind earthly things," to live entirely in them and for them, this is the wrong; and conventional Christians as well as heathens and worldlings do this. They "set their affections on them," seek their glory from them, and look for their happiness in them. They are practical materialists, though theoretic spiritualists.
II. THAT THE CONDUCT OF MERE PROFESSORS OF CHRISTIANITY IS VERY HEART-DISTRESSING TO GENUINE CHRISTIANS. "Of whom I tell you even weeping." The sight of a genuine tear has an electric force; no eloquence so mighty. Such a tear streaming from the eye of a weak woman is powerful, from a strong man more powerful, from a man of transcendent greatness it is the most mighty moral force. Such a man was Paul, and a greater than Paul never lived; and here he is in tears. "Of whom I tell you even weeping." Such a man must have had a strong reason for such tears. Why did he weep?
1. Because the conduct of such mere conventional Christians was a mal-representation of Christ, the chief object of his love. Nominal Christians are the great slanderers and calumniators of the world's Redeemer. That man who ignores Christ is a saint compared to him who calumniates him. Such is the mere nominal Christian. All genuine Christians may well weep at the conduct of conventional Christians, who constitute the vast majority of our population, and are the reigning "principalities" in Church and state.
2. Because the conduct of such mere conventional Christians obstructs the progress of spiritual Christianity in the world. As obstructives to the flowing river of spiritual Christianity in the world, the Bradlaughs, as compared to the hireling preachers and the un-Christly members of Churches, are but as small pebbles to huge boulders. The waters roll comparatively smoothly over the former, but are chafed and blocked by the latter.
CONCLUSION. It is time, brothers, for us to estimate truly and to feel deeply the awful incongruity between the spirit of modern Churches and the spirit of Christianity. Talk about converting the world, the first thing to be done is to convert the Church!
I. THE HEAVENLY CITIZENSHIP.
1. Consider its source. It comes, not by birth or manumission, but by the ransom-price of Jesus Christ. It is in Christ we become "fellow-citizens of the saints and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19).
2. Consider the duties this citizenship involves. We are to obey its laws and watch over the interests of Christ's kingdom.
3. Consider its privileges. We receive protection, guidance, and comfort.
II. ITS BLESSED EXPECTATIONS. "From whence also we wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."
1. Believers are always looking for the second coming of the Lord to judgment. (Titus 2:13; Acts 24:15; Acts 26:6, 7; 1 Thessalonians 1:10.) It is the "blessed hope" of the saints (Titus 2:13).
2. There is the expectation of a transfiguration of our bodies by Christ's power. "Who shall fashion anew our vile body, that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself." This allusion to the glorious destiny of our bodies may have been due to the thought of the sensuality of the formalists just condemned.
(1) Consider the vileness of our bodies. Though fearfully and wonderfully made, and though temples of the Holy Ghost in case of all saints, our bodies are vile
(a) as to the materials of which they are composed we are mere dust and ashes;
(b) as to the diseases and infirmities that often darken the soul's life;
(c) as to sinful desires which find their principal seat or instigation in the body.
(2) Consider the transformation of our bodies. They are to be fashioned according to the likeness of Christ's glorious body. The change will be
(a) necessary, that the body may be a fitting dwelling-place for the glorified soul;
(b) amazing, for we cannot imagine its nature or extent;
(c) Divine, for it is to be conformed to Christ's glorious body.
(3) Consider the power which effects the change. "According to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself."
(a) It is not according to his power merely, but by its exercise, that the transformation will come.
(b) He who is able to subdue all things, even death itself (1 Corinthians 15:26), will subdue our bodies into their finally glorified condition. - T.C.
πολίτευμα which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, does not mean "speech" or "conduct," but "citizenship." The word "is" is emphatic, signifying "actually exists." If we are Christly our citizenship is not something to be, but is now. The passage, therefore, reveals to us glorious facts connected with the life of a Christly man.
I. HE IS A CITIZEN OF THE HIGHEST STATE. He is "in heaven" - heaven the glorious metropolis of God's spiritual empire. But how can this be? Is not heaven millions of leagues away, far beyond the reach or ken of men? Suppose it so, citizenship is not dependent on distance. Are not those at the antipodes citizens of the same commonwealth as ourselves? Two things make us citizens of a state.
1. That we be governed by its laws. What are the laws of heaven? The laws of love. In the New Testament these laws are sometimes called "the law of life," the "law of liberty," etc. Love is the supreme law of heaven, and every genuine Christian is governed by this law.
2. That we be invested with its rights. What are the rights which a good government secures to its citizens? Protection, liberty, freedom, facilities for advancement. Heaven secures all these to its citizens, wherever they are, on this planet or on any other. A Christly man enjoys perfect guardianship, glorious liberty, and facilities for everlasting progress.
II. HE IS A SUBJECT OF THE HIGHEST HOPES. Not only is a Christly man a citizen of heaven now, enjoying all its rights, but he is looking for, or waiting for, something glorious in the future.
1. The advent of a Savior. "From whence also we look for the Savior." Waiting for the return of him who is the supreme Object of his love. This attitude of mind implies four things.
(1) A belief that his Savior is somewhere in existence.
(2) A conviction that there is a period when he will appear.
(3) A consciousness of fitness to meet him.
(4) An assurance that his advent is desirable.
2. A glorious transformation. "Who shall change our vile body" - "body of humiliation." The body is not normally vile; not vile, either, in its organization or functions. As an organism it is exquisitely perfect - " fearfully and wonderfully made;" but in its abnormal state it is "vile" by reason of the diseases to which it is subject, the uses to which it is put, and the undue influence which its pampered appetites have obtained over the intellect, conscience, soul. But a glorious transformation awaits it.
(1) The model. "His glorious body." How glorious was his resurrection-body as he ascended to the heavens! How glorious will it appear as he comes on a great white throne to judge the world! The transformation to be wrought in this body is described in 1 Corinthians 15:42-54. Observe:
(2) The agency. "According to the working." That is, in virtue of the effectual working of his power to subject all things to himself. His power is not a dormant element, but an active force, a force working towards glorious results on behalf of his genuine disciples. - D.T.
John 16:33). These spheres are not of necessity opposed the one to the other, but they become so when the lower attempts to usurp the place which belongs to the higher.
I. THE DIFFICULTY OF REALIZING THIS HEAVENLY CITIZENSHIP. We are surrounded by the circumstances of our external lives, which press upon us very closely. We are now clothed with a "body of humiliation."
II. THE BLESSINGS WHICH PROCEED FROM REALIZING IT.
1. Faith in the power of our King; if we are his subjects he has a duty towards us which he will surely fulfill.
2. Love for the grace which he bestows.
3. Hope that he will come to free us from this divided service.
III. HE HAS HIMSELF SHARED IN THIS TWOFOLD LIFE. While on earth he was still "in heaven" (John 2:13).
IV. WE ARE TO SHARE IN HIS VICTORY OVER THE WORLD. The body of his humiliation has been changed into the body of his glory. We are to be changed in like manner, so that our outward condition as well as our inner life may partake of the heavenly citizenship. - V.W.H.
I. THE FACT. Christians are citizens of heaven.
1. They are under heavenly government. Other men are ruled by earthly influences - laws of the state, social customs, worldly expediency, etc. The true followers of Christ obey higher laws and serve an unseen King. It is their recognized aim to do God's will on earth as the angels do it in heaven. They confess supreme allegiance to a heavenly Lord.
2. They perform heavenly functions. To be a loyal citizen means to share in the common municipal life. This Christians undertake in their relations with the city above. Their conversation is to be in heaven. They are to set their affections on things above. Their chief concern is to do their work on earth so as best to promote the glory of heaven. Generally they are to shape their lives according to the celestial polity.
3. They enjoy heavenly privileges. Citizenship is a privilege. This was well understood in St. Paul's day, when some men prided themselves in being born Romans, while others were willing to pay a great price to obtain the rights of Roman citizenship (Acts 22:28). Englishmen now claim protection and immunity from foreign exactions in all parts of the world on account of their nationality. So Christians have the high privileges of Divine liberty, safety, and honor that accompany a heavenly citizenship.
II. THE INFLUENCE OF THIS FACT. If it be a truth that Christians are citizens of heaven, it must be a most important truth. Yet many men who consider themselves Christians live as though they had not the faintest conception of the significance of their heavenly relationship. Others have taken the opposite course; forsaking the joys and duties of earth, and treating the world as a sort of Siberia, they have lived like exiles waiting only for the time of their departure. Clearly this is not the use of the heavenly citizenship which the apostles would have advised.
1. It should lead to living worthily. It is a disgrace for an Englishman, on visiting a country of savages, to abandon the decencies of civilization and adopt the practices of the natives. Christians belong to a higher kingdom than anything earthly. They are, therefore, to see to it that they do not degrade their citizenship by following the evil customs of the world, but abstain from fleshly lusts as strangers and pilgrims (1 Peter 2:11). Living in the world, enjoying its innocent fruits, and doing their daily work, they are to keep themselves undefiled and to behave with the purity and charity that befit the fellow-citizens of angels.
2. This citizenship should prevent Christians from being disappointed at receiving adversity in, this world. They are to expect it. This is not their rest. Sojourners on earth, they are not to be surprised if they miss some of the treasures of those who have only earthly possessions.
3. This hot should inspire a constant hope. True Christians must live in the future. Their heavenly citizenship is the promise and pledge of the enjoyment of the inheritance of the saints in light. They are to look for "a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." Members of the higher kingdom, they should live in expectation of the glorious advent of their great King. - W.F.A.
I. OUR BODY IS A MARK OF OUR HUMILIATION. It is "the body of our humiliation," not "our vile body," as the Authorized Version has it. St. Paul did not share the Stoic contempt for the body; much less did he anticipate the Manichcan hatred of it which is the true parent of asceticism. But neither did he altogether admire the body in its present condition, as the disciples of our modern school of carnal aestheticism glory in doing. He regarded it as a great evidence of our humiliation. His words give little warrant for Origen's strange doctrine that pre-existing human souls, having sinned and fallen in a purely spiritual sphere, were imprisoned in bodies for their punishment and discipline, and that, if they profit by the purgatorial earthly life, they will be liberated from these bodies and restored to the spiritual world. Two simpler facts come nearer to the teaching of St. Paul.
1. We have outgrown our body. The body which is glorious in the animal becomes in many respects a hindrance and a source of shame to the man. The fact that the body, so fearfully and wonderfully made, is a mark of humiliation, proves that we have a higher nature and belong to nobler living.
2. We have degraded our body. By making that a master which should be a servant we show our own humiliation. By lowering the body itself to sinful ends we turn it into a visible proof of our degradation.
II. WE NEED A SUITABLE BODY. The body will not simply be cast aside as a worthless thing, like the old skin sloughed off by the serpent. It is a work of God who made all things well. It has great purposes to serve, for it is our medium of communication with the external world. A disembodied spirit is an insulated spirit. By means of the body we receive information from without, and we also execute our will on things outside us. The scholar must have eyes and ears as well as an attentive mind; and the workman must have muscular arms and deft fingers as well as good plans and aims. Probably we shall always need some sort of body, stone sort of medium through which to receive knowledge and accomplish actions.
III. CHRIST WILL FASHION OUR BODY ANEW. The gospel comes to man as a whole, body and soul; and it offers salvation to both parts of his nature. It begins the double process on earth. Christ healed the sick. Christianity cares for the bodily condition of men. The hospital is a most Christian institution. By ameliorating the sanitary condition of men we indirectly help even their moral and spiritual life. Hereafter a bodily renewal is to be accomplished. What it shall be we cannot tell. But the distinct teaching of the New Testament is that the resurrection will not revive the body as we now have it. We are to be "changed," to have a spiritual body; what is sown in corruption will be raised in incorruption. Christ's risen body is the type of this. We may be assured that all that is humiliating and provocative of evil will vanish, while greater sensitiveness and flexibility in ministering to the soul and responding to its ideas and volitions will be enjoyed. - W.F.A.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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