Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. HIS ENDEARING ADDRESS. "My brethren beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast, beloved." The accumulation of epithets marks the intense affection and delight of the apostle in converts so worthy of his concern for their good. The twofold repetition of the term "beloved" in a single sentence marks love as the dominant feeling; the other terms indicate either his anxiety to see them, the joy which their Christian kindliness carried to his heart, or the triumph of Divine grace in their conversion which redounded so signally to his own final victory.
II. THE ABIDING ATTITUDE OF ALL TRUE BELIEVERS. "So stand fast in the Lord." It implies:
1. That they are exposed to influences calculated to mar the integrity of their walk. There is a threefold hostility always at work against a believer - the world, the flesh, and the devil (Ephesians 6:12), tending to shake heart or mind. Probably the apostle thought of the spiritual risks that threatened from the side of Judaistic zealotry.
2. The true spring of Christian steadfastness is in the Lord, as the element of the spiritual life. We are said to stand in faith (2 Corinthians 1:24) and to stand in grace (Romans 5:2), but these phrases only represent the methods in which the believer finds his weakness linked with the omnipotence of Divine grace. The counsel of the apostle is needful in every age. The caprice of opinion was never more marked than in our time. There is a lifting of anchors that bodes no good, with a drifting any whither, but usually toward intellectual darkness. Therefore believers must, in the imbroglio of strange beliefs, "stand fast in the Lord." - T.C.
I. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP CALLS FOR UNITY AND COOPERATION IN THE WORK OF THE LORD. (Vers. 1-3.) Nothing is so productive of unity as our assurance that we are citizens of the same heaven. Why should compatriots fall out in this distant land? Should we not bury our differences and march forward shoulder to shoulder? Euodias and Syntyche must be of the same mind in the Lord. The workers male and female at Philippi are cordially to co-operate. They ought to be a united band. As heaven overarches us all and unifies the population of the globe, so should the thought of our celestial citizenship make all one. For in heaven there shall be no divisions and vexations. The brotherhood shall never there be broken. For unbroken brotherhood, therefore, we should long and labor here.
II. CHRISTIAN CITIZENSHIP CALLS FOR JOY IN THE LORD AT ALL TIMES. (Ver. 4.) The art of enjoying life is what Christianity alone can teach us. Man's effort at first was to rejoice apart from God; to eat and enjoy the fruit, no matter what charges God had given. And this idea still haunts mankind. Prodigals and legalists imagine that they can enjoy life most away from the heavenly Father (Luke 15:11-32). But we learn a different lesson in the gospel. We learn that the Father's house is full of "music and dancing;" in other words, heaven is the home of joy - joy, too, that is everlasting. And we realize that in the Lord alone the sources of true and lasting joy are to be found. When we look to him and confide in him, then we come as citizens of heaven to rejoice in him at all times. In seasons of sorrow as well as in seasons of mirth there may be an undertone of celestial joy. Man is called to joy, not to trouble. The art is in going straight to Jesus the infinite Fountain, and in avoiding the broken cisterns that line our way.
III. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP BESPEAKS MODERATION. (Ver. 5.) It ill befits a citizen of heaven to be ostentatious and venturesome to the utmost brink of Christian liberty. Display is not the outcome or issue of a consciousness of our citizenship above. Especially when we live with the abiding persuasion of the Lord's speedy advent, all want of moderation seems out of place. In proportion as we rejoice in the Lord shall we be distinguished by moderation in our life and carriage. If God gives abundance, it is that we may manifest the spirit of moderation and never be the least intoxicated by success. Ostentation must be left to the world.
IV. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP CALLS FOR A LIFE WITHOUT CAREFULNESS. (Vers. 6, 7.) Just as in heaven the saintly souls keep nothing back from God and so live an unclouded life before him, so ought celestial citizens to live the open life with God here and be correspondingly free from care. And here it may be observed that an old divine has quaintly put our duty as expressed in these verses thus, that we should "be careful for nothing; be prayerful for everything; be thankful for anything." The result of such confidence is peace. "God's peace which passeth all understanding shall keep our hearts and minds," or, as the Revised Version has it, "shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." Freed from anxious care, why should we not be peaceful?
V. CELESTIAL CITIZENSHIP CALLS UPON US TO LOOK OUT FOR AND THINK UPON THE TRUE, THE HONOURABLE, THE JUST, THE PURE, THE LOVELY, THE GRACIOUS, THE MANLY, AND THE PRAISEFUL. (Ver. 8.) Now, it is truly wonderful how a joyful Christian spirit will discover upon his path, be it ever so lowly, such food for thought as is sketched for us here. It has been said with great beauty, "If we do but open our hearts at a single point, the spiritual water and blood will find an entrance, will purge our egotism and complete the sacrifice. In this confidence, 'as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,' we shall go freely on our appointed way, knowing that it may become to us a discipline of God, and that there is no way so beaten but that things true and honest, and just and lovely, may be found in it." The joyful, heaven-centred soul discerns food for meditation where others cannot find it, and moves upward upon a path of increasing light towards "the perfect day."
VI. THE GOD OF PEACE GRANTS FELLOWSHIP TO SUCH CITIZENS. (Ver. 9.) If we honestly enter upon the joyful, peaceful life of heavenly citizenship, the felt presence of God as the God of peace shall be always with us. Over the peace he has made in our once tempest-tossed hearts he will rejoice with singing, and in his love and fellowship we shall be enabled to rest. The King of the celestial country can keep his citizens company all the time they are here on earth; they are at home with God all their happy days; he takes their burdens from them and soothes them in sorrow and makes them somewhat worthy of their heavenly hopes. With such well-filled minds and hearts may we journey onward towards the fatherland above! - R.M.E.
I. STEADFASTNESS. "Wherefore, my brethren beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my beloved." As in the first chapter our performing our duties as citizens is followed by the exhortation to stand fast, so here our possession of the privileges of heavenly citizens is more formally made the ground of the same exhortation. We are to stand fast so as has been pointed out, i.e. as heavenly citizens. There might be a standing fast against becoming heavenly citizens. And even as heavenly citizens they were to stand fast in the Lord, i.e. within the limits and to the extent prescribed by Christ, and in the strength offered by Christ. But the duty of steadfastness is almost lost sight of in the wealth of epithets of endearment with which it is surrounded. The Philippians were his brethren beloved; he cherished the warmest feelings toward them. They were his longed for; he had in absence a great desire to see them. They were his joy; he had a great delight in their Christian excellences. They were his crown, or wreath of victory round the diadem; they were evidence that he had not run in vain. And, having stated the duty with all brevity, he falls back on the first epithet, as if he had difficulty in breaking away from affectionate expression. Let them not, then, grieve such love by neglecting to stand fast.
II. THE RECONCILIATION OF EUODIA AND SYNTYCHE.
1. Direct appeal "I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord." It is a strange destiny by which the names of these women have been handed down from generation to generation in God's Book, in connection with a difference which existed between them. It is well that our differences are soon forgotten, as even our names will be after we are gone. And yet the record is kept of our differences, as of our names, in God's book of remembrance. It would be a surprise to these women to be thus referred to by name in the apostle's letter, read before the assembled congregation. And so it will be a surprise to us to hear many things in connection with our names read out before the assembled universe. The apostle appeals to each separately, as being both to blame, though not necessarily equally to blame. Their own conscience would tell them how much they were each to blame; and so our conscience, appealed to at the last day, will tell us how much we are each to blame. It would be humbling to these women to have public notice taken of their difference; and so we ought to be humbled now on account of our differences, that we may not be humbled by publicity hereafter. The difference between these women arose from their not being in the Lord in the matter concerned, i.e. not following Christ's leading, not cherishing Christ's spirit. And so it is when we are not true to Christ that differences arise between us. The way in which these women were to be of one mind was by returning to the leading and influence of Christ; and there is no other way in which a reconciliation can be satisfactorily effected.
2. Assistance of the apostle's yokefellow at Philippi solicited. "I beseech thee also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life." The true yokefellow not being named, we are to understand the one to whom it properly belonged to grant assistance in the work of reconciliation, viz. the minister of the Church at Philippi. Had Paul been present he would have undertaken the work; but, in his absence, it fell to him who was set over the Church and over these women in the Lord, and who was of like spirit with him, to undertake it. The ground on which the apostle was so anxious to have the reconciliation effected was that they were deserving women. And it was satisfactory that, when their names were to go down to all ages in connection with a difference, there was also something to be added which was to their credit. They had labored in the gospel, and in honorable company. That is the testimony that is borne regarding them. The influence of women seems to have been a feature of the Macedonian Churches. At tnessalonica it is said, "Of the chief women not a few." At Beroea, "Many of them believed: also of the Greek women of honorable rank not a few." And in connection with the start of the Philippian Church, it is said, "We spake to the women that were gathered together." "The extant Macedonian inscriptions," says Lightfoot, "seem to assign to the sex a higher social influence than is common among the civilized nations of antiquity. In not a few instances a metronymic takes the place of the usual, patronymic; and in other cases a prominence is given to women which can hardly be accidental. But whether I am right or not in the conjecture that the work of the gospel was in this respect aided by the social condition of Macedonia, the active zeal of the women in this country is a remarkable fact, without a parallel in the apostle's history elsewhere, and only to be compared with their prominence at an early date in the personal ministry of our Lord." We can think of Euodia and Syntyche as of the number of those who assembled at the riverside, It may have been in connection with their work that they differed. The Greek word translated "labored" suggests that, while they strove with each other in a way that was not to their honor, they at the same time strove, as in the games, in the sphere of the gospel. Of the honorable company in which they thus nobly strove, the first was Paul. The next is Clement, whose identity with Clement of Rome is very doubtful. Of the others, the names are not given, but the honorable thing is said regarding them that they, as well as Clement, were Paul's fellow-workers, and that their names are in the book of life. Not known now to men, they are known to God, written among the living in Jerusalem. Their names are in the register of the covenant people kept in the heavenly Jerusalem, and will yet be read out before the assembled universe as among those who have title to all covenant privileges.
III. THE DUTY OF REJOICING. "Rejoice in the Lord alway: again I will say, Rejoice." The apostle takes up the parting address which was broken off at Philippians 2:1, strengthened here by the addition of "alway," and repeated with emphasis in a form which points to the maximum of deliberation, "Again I will say, Rejoice." All wish to rejoice, but mistakes are made even by Christians as to the object. According to the teaching here, we are to rejoice in the Lord. Or, as Christ says, bringing us back to the pure fount of joy, "Howbeit in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." We are not to rejoice in ourselves, or in any of God's creatures, as though they were the first cause, the primal source of joy. Nay, we are not even to rejoice primarily in works which God may do by us. When one is eminently successful in conversion-work, we say, perhaps not without a feeling of envy, "What a joy must fill that man's soul!" If we were the instrument of converting sinners like him, we think we could rejoice too. But it is to be noted that the most successful laborer in the vineyard is not before the humblest Christian in the deepest source of his joy. What we have all alike to rejoice in is this, that our names are written in heaven; in other words, that we ourselves are the children or people of God, that we have God as our Portion, that he regards us individually with judicial favor and fatherly love. There is thus a very humble, self-excluding element in our joy. The ground of rejoicing in the Lord, for us who were born in sin, is the atoning work of Christ. To atone for sin entailed great sorrow on our Substitute. From eternity having joys most exalted in himself, he endured pains which, considering their cause, were infernal The pains of hell got hold upon him. Think of Gethsemane; think of Calvary. But he never veered a hairbreadth from the purpose of our salvation. He set his face like a flint, and so the work was done, and done for ever. And now, in Christ, God stands in a gracious relation to his people. He has entirely altered their relation to him, from being objects of his regard to being objects of his complacent regard. Double reason, then, have we for rejoicing in God. "O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me." Ours, then, should be a deep and a perennial joy. Even under depreciation of earthly comfort, there should be more gladness in our heart than men of the world have in the time that their corn and their wine and their oil abound. God, in Christ, is more to us than corn, or wine, or oil; ay, more than the dearest earthly friend, and One who will never fail us; and therefore we may alway rejoice.
IV. DUTY OF FORBEARANCE.
1. Stated. "Let your forbearance be known unto all men." Forbearance is reasonableness (to which the derivation points) on its gentle side. It is the opposite of rigorism. It is "considerateness for others, not urging one's own rights to the uttermost, but waiving a part, and thereby rectifying the injustice of justice. The archetype of this grace is God, who presses not the strictness of his Law against us, as we deserve, though having exacted fullest payment for us from our Divine Surety." It was a grace especially to be "known" unto their persecutors. It was a grace to be "known" unto the worst offenders. As inseparable from them, it was to be "known" unto all men; i.e. in all their dealings with men.
2. Enforced. "The Lord is at hand." Rigorism "would be taking into our own hands prematurely the prerogative of judging, which belongs to the Lord alone; and so provoking God to judge us by the strict letter of the Law." Let us think kindly of men, even of the worst of men, as those who are still under trial, and who, by our forbearance, may be won over to the Lord's side. And, as judgment lingereth not, let us fully embrace the opportunity.
V. MEANS TO BE USED AGAINST ANXIETY.
1. The evil to be avoided. "In nothing be anxious." "Nothing" has the emphasis. To not one thing is our anxiety to extend. Anxiety is harassing care, very different from the providential care of God. We cannot help having cares in the world - cares about getting a livelihood, cares about health, cares about higher matters, cares about those who are near and dear to us, and cares, beyond our immediate circle, for men generally and for the Church. But, though we cannot help having cares in this world, we are not to be harassed by cares, as though we had to bear them ourselves.
2. Means to be used against the evil. "But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Over against the "nothing" of anxiety is the "everything" by prayer. Every part of our life is to be connected with prayer. There is nothing too small to be connected with prayer. Specially on every occasion of care are we to pray. And, while we pray generally, we are to make our prayer turn upon our special need. We are to supplicate to be relieved from care, or to be strengthened under care. And while we thus supplicate for relief or strengthening, we are to be thankful for our freedom from other cares, for the number of our mercies, for the special mercy that is mingled with our care. In our supplication we are to have special petitions which we are to make known unto God. For though known unto God are all our wants, yet it is good for the work of communion, for the exercise of faith and of other graces, that we should make our wants known in the proper quarter. If we have cares, what more natural than that we should go with them to him from whom they have come as their First Cause? That must be more satisfactory than going to an intermediate cause or burdening ourselves with them. We can feel assured of his thoroughly understanding our case, of his power to help as having inexhaustible resources at his command, and of his being invested, not with a mere earthly greatness such as might repulse us, but with a greatness which is fitted to be a home and a shelter to us. He will not cover himself with clouds, so that our prayer shall not pass through. He will not turn away our prayer nor his mercy from us.
3. Blessed results of using the means. "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." This is the peace of God, i.e. of which God is the source and origin. It is not the peace of unfallen beings, but the peace of those who have been sinners and are now reconciled, the sweet sense of sin forgiven, the blessed feeling that the condemnation which was resting upon us is now removed. More than that, it is, in its essence, a holy tranquillity, that comes from resting in God, such a tranquillity as fills the mind in God. It is a peace which passeth all understanding, which has a mysterious, unspeakable sweetness about it, so that he who has once felt what it is would never like to lose it. This peace is to guard our hearts and our thoughts, is to be stationed as a strong guard, so that no disturbing influence shall pass through to the center of our being or into the workings of our mind. So effectually is anxiety to be excluded. Our wisdom, then, is to seek repose by prayer. "If your mind be overcharged or overwhelmed with trouble and anxiety, go into the presence of God. Spread your case before him. Though he knows the desires of your heart, yet he has declared he will be sought after; he will be inquired of to do it for you. Go, therefore, into the presence of that God who will at once tranquillize your spirit, give you what you wish or make you more happy without it, and who will be your everlasting Consolation, if you trust in him. He will breathe peace into your soul, and command tranquillity in the midst of the greatest storms." - R.F.
genuine Churchism. Churchism, of course, implies a Church or Churches, i.e. community or communities of men. Here in England we have what is called the Church, which its ministers seemed delighted to call "our Church." Here also we have Churches which sectarian leaders somewhat arrogantly call "our Churches. Such Churches are too frequently assemblages of men characterized often by ignorance, exclusiveness, and intolerance. Now, neither in our Church" nor "our Churches" do we always find genuine Churchism. But the text suggests certain things essential to genuine Churchism. It suggests -
I. How the members should be esteemed by their TRUE PASTOR. They should have the deep tender love and strongest and devoutest wishes of the pastor. "Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved." What an accumulation of strong epithets of affection are here! "Longed for;" yearned after. "My joy;" that is, the source of my joy; his chief interest was in them. "And crown;" by this is meant that he gloried in them, he prided himself in them. Then follows his ardent desires for their highest good. That they should "stand fast in the Lord," that they should be "of the same mind in the Lord," that they should help one another, etc. An affection of this kind implies the existence of two things.
1. The existence in the pastor of a loving nature. There are men who claim to be pastors of conventional Churches, not always blest with the most amiable natures; they are irascible, splenetic, etc., belonging to the generation elsewhere called the "children of wrath" - that is, their nature is more or less malign. You have only to hear the querulous tones of their voice and the ideas they express in their discourses to feel this. Their ideas are more like yelping curs scratching the earth than singing birds soaring into sunshine. They irritate their audience.
2. The existence of a lovable character in their disciples. The audience must have a loving nature; for if the pastor, however lovable himself, is amongst people of a morally unlovable character, how can he feel affectionately towards them? Genuine Churchism, then, implies a spiritually loving pastor and a morally lovable charge.
II. How the members should act in relation to THEMSELVES. Three things are indicated here.
1. Moral firmness. "Stand fast in the Lord." Moral firmness implies not only deeply rooted convictions, but a strongly settled love. Moral firmness is as opposed to obstinacy as to vacillation. It is a state of mind settled in its chief faiths and loves; it is "rooted and grounded in the faith." Where there is not moral firmness in the members of Churches there is no genuine Churchism. Genuine Churchism implies moral manhood of the highest type.
2. Spiritual unity. "I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord." These names in all likelihood represent women. Paul had many women belonging to his charge, and who co-operated with him in his work. in the long list of greetings to the Church at Rome (Romans 16.) we have the names Priscilla, Phoebe, Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, etc. It is not improbable that the two women mentioned here, Euodias and Syntyche, had fallen out, as is not very uncommon with the sex. The apostle's request is that they should be reunited, that they should be harmonious in sentiment, affection, and aim. Unity is essential to genuine Churchism; all must be one.
3. Religious happiness. "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice." Be happy in your religion. Happiness is an essential element in genuine religion. "I am come that ye might have life [happiness], and that ye might have it more abundantly." Christly men are filled with all "joy and peace in believing." Happiness is not only a privilege of the disciples of Christ, but a duty. It would seem that it is as wrong for the disciple of Christ to be unhappy as for him to break any of the ten commandments; for the command to rejoice is founded on the same authority as "Thou shalt not steal." A community that is sad and gloomy is destitute of genuine Churchism.
III. How the members should act in relation to EACH OTHER.
1. They should exercise mutual helpfulness. "I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also." Who the "true yokefellow" was, whether Luke, or Lydia, or Epaphroditus, no one knows. It matters not. It was some one who was well known to be a co-worker with Paul, and he asks, on behalf of the women who labored with him and others, for co-operation. Genuine Churchism implies mutual co-operation: "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ."
2. They should exercise social forbearance. "Let your moderation [forbearance] be known unto all men." In most social circles there is much to try men's patience one with another. All are more or less imperfect; hence the need of forbearance, magnanimous self-control. Pray ever for our enemies; do good to them that spitefully use us.
IV. How the members are connected with THE EMPIRE OF CHRIST. "Whose names are in the book of life." (For the "book of life," see Daniel 12:1; Revelation 2:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 21:27.) From that book the name may be blotted out now (Revelation 2:5; Exodus 32:33) till the end fixes it for ever. There is a peculiar beauty in the allusion here. The apostle does not mention his fellow-laborers by name; but it matters not - the names are written before God, in the book of life. If they continue in his service those names shall shine out hereafter when the great names of the earth fade into nothingness. The names of all the citizens in a city have a registration; so metaphorically the names of all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem are duly enrolled. God registers the names in this book. He omits none who are entitled to it, makes no mistake in the record. The "hook of life." Ah, what names are there! How illustrious, how multitudinous, how increasing! Genuine Churchism implies the registration of names in this "book."
V. How the members should act in relation to the GREAT GOD. "Be careful for nothing [in nothing be anxious]; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."
1. All-confiding. "Be careful for nothing." "Take no anxious thought for the morrow." Unbounded confidence in the paternal government that is over all.
2. Ever prayerful "In everything by prayer." Prayer is not words, it is a life; not a service, it is a spirit. "Pray without ceasing." An abiding, practical realization of dependence on God is prayer, and this should be constant as life - the very breath of the soul.
3. Always thankful. "With thanksgiving." Being the recipients of mercies, unmerited, priceless, and ever increasing every minute, the spirit of thanksgiving should throb with every beating pulse. Conclusion: Brothers, have you genuine Churchism? Talk not to me about your Churches. You must have genuine Churchism in order to be identified with the "Church of the Firstborn written in heaven." - D.T.
I. THE DUTY.
1. It is important. Christian faithfulness does not consist in a few occasional heroic acts done in the excitement of temporary enthusiasm. It is a constant faithful living; it is holding the citadel throughout life against the assaults of temptation. Though great deeds have been done and a considerable time well spent, all is vain if we give up at the last and make shipwreck at the end of the voyage.
2. It is difficult. It is easier to be the faithful martyr of a day than the faithful servant of a lifetime. To stand fast when we are weary, to hold on through a long cheerless night of adversity, to have patience with the fretting of small trials, and to endure to the end, are the hard tasks.
II. THE CONDITION. We are to "stand fast in the Lord." Steadfastness in our own condition, opinion, and habit, is stagnation. We may be in a state when anything but steadfastness is necessary, when to be upset is to be saved. There are men who need to be made to doubt. Christ was a most unsettling preacher, and true Christian teaching must aim at disturbing those who are holding on in a wrong way. Let us not confound a right steadfastness with obstinate self-will. The first essential is that we are "in the Lord," and the one steadfastness commended is abiding in him.
III. THE METHOD. "Wherefore... so stand fast," etc. These words carry us back to the preceding thoughts. There we have a description of the Christian's heavenly citizenship, and his hope of the second advent of Christ. A persistent hope is a security for steadfastness, an anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19). Just in proportion as we live in heaven, with thoughts, affections, motives, and efforts centred in Christ and his kingdom, shall we be able to hold out on earth firmly against the storms of trouble and temptation.
IV. THE MOTIVE. The motive which inspires St. Paul to urge the duty of steadfastness upon the Philippians is his personal affection for them. The expression of this must have been felt by them as a strong incentive to a true response. The apostle seems to have regarded his Macedonian converts at Philippi and Thessalonica as the choicest of his friends. They were his brethren, beloved, longed for in absence, still a source of joy to the imprisoned apostle as he thought of them, and regarded as a crown of victory and proof of the glorious success of his labors for the day of the Lord. We can wish nothing better for those we love than their Christian fidelity. Ministers have a strong hold upon their people when they can urge personal affection and joyous recognition of good done as a motive for further progress. The love and honor of those who have labored and suffered for the Church are great motives to inspire faithful steadfastness in all Christians. - W.F.A.
I. WOMEN HELD A LEADING PLACE IN THE CHRISTIAN SOCIETY OF PHILIPPI.
1. It was to women that the apostle first preached the gospel in that Roman town. (Acts 16.) They were the first converts to Christianity in Europe.
2. It was women who first gave hospitable reception to the apostle in a town which never ceased to show him substantial kindness.
3. It was probably owing to the prominence of Christian women at Philippi that the apostle became such a debtor to the most liberal of all the Churches. Their sympathetic natures would initiate and sustain projects of Christian generosity.
II. THE TWO WOMEN HERE ADDRESSED WERE EVIDENTLY INFLUENTIAL MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH.
1. They were ladies of rank, who disiplayed an active zeal for the cause of Christ. Their names appear in the ancient inscriptions. The women of Macedonia held a high social place in that age. These good women helped the apostle in Christian labors, "Inasmuch as they labored with me in the gospel." As women were not allowed to preach (1 Timothy 2:12), it is evident that their service was of a more private kind, either in instructing, the young or, more probably, in instructing female converts who were not accessible to members of the other sex. The order of deaconesses evidently arose out of some necessity of this sort.
2. They had differences of a sort calculated to mar their influence and to shake the faith of converts. The differences were less probably in the way of religious opinion than of methods of religious work. Perhaps a difference of temperament may have put them out of sympathy with each other, and a spirit of rivalry may have led to unseemly dissensions the Church.
3. There is an urgency in the apostolic appeal which displays an anxiety on their account. He says, "I exhort Euodias, and I exhort Syntyche," as if he regarded them both as equally open to censure. He thus addresses his appeal to each individually. He counsels them to find in the Lord the true center of their unity. Let them think as the Lord thinks, do as the Lord does, and submit to his supreme guidance in the sphere of their Christian labors.
4. He appeals to his true yokefellow - whoever he or she may have been - to use his influence to effect a reconciliation between the two ladies. "Yea, I ask thee to assist them, inasmuch us they labored with me in the gospel." There is no more important, though delicate, service than to promote a better understanding between two Christian people whose paths have disagreeably crossed each other.
5. The importance of the case is roundest from the leading place that the apostle assigns to the two ladies, besides "Clement and other my fellow-workers, whoso names are written in the book of life." They held a distinguished place beside these laborers. If Clement was the well-known author of the Epistle to the Corinthians, they are distinguished by association with his venerable name. If the apostle's other fellow-workers are unnamed, they are named in the book of life. This suggestive phrase implies that
(1) salvation is an individual thing, for individual names have their record on high;
(2) that their salvation is an event already fore-ordained; and
(3) therefore absolutely certain. - T.C.
Acts 16:13-18). This fact may account somewhat for its orthodoxy, its fervent devotion, and its special temptation to want of unity. This particular dissension is regarded by St. Paul to be of sufficient importance to demand a notice in this Epistle, and to call for his personal interposition.
1. The only method of healing dissension. Persons alienated from one another must be brought to be of one mind in the Lord. No reconciliation is abiding except it be in him who is the Peace-maker.
2. To heal dissension is a work worthy of the highest ministry of the Church. St. Paul calls to his aid their chief pastor, Clement, who was afterwards Bishop of Rome, and others whose names are in the book of life. No error in the Church is worse than the error of uncharitableness and envy.
3. To remove such dissensions is truly to help (ver. 3) those who are the victims of them. Note that even they who labored with St. Paul were not free from human infirmities. They who could stand by him in his work now need all his entreaties and endeavors to bring them into reconciliation. A warning to all Church workers. - V.W.H.
I. BELIEVERS OUGHT TO REJOICE.
1. Because it is a commanded duty. "Rejoice in the Lord."
2. Because, if commanded, it is provided by the Holy Spirit, for it is part of the Spirit's fruit. (Galatians 5:22.)
3. Because joy is characteristic of the Christian. The early Christians "ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart" (Acts 2:46). This joy is not inconsistent with sorrow. The apostle himself was "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." (2 Corinthians 6:10). "Rejoice with trembling."
II. THE NATURE OF THIS JOY. "In the Lord." The world rejoices in the creature, but the believer rejoices in the Creator of all things.
1. Because the Lord is.
2. Because he is the Portion of his people.
3. Because of all the manifestations of his power, wisdom, and grace.
4. Because the believer hopes for the glory to (Romans 5:2.)
III. THE BELIEVER IS TO CHERISH AN ABIDING JOY. "Rejoice in the Lord at all times." In dark days as well as bright days. A permanent habit of joy is reasonable, when we consider
(1) that there is no change in the Lord, the Source of our joy;
(2) that our relationship to him is unchangeable.
IV. MARK THE EMPHATIC REPETITION OF THE COMMAND. "And again I will say, Rejoice." This attests its importance.
1. Joy is the spring of energy. "A weary heart tires in a mile." A cheerful Christian is usually a very active one. "The joy of the Lord is his strength."
2. It kills the taste for sinful pleasures. It excludes the heart everything it cannot harmonize with itself.
3. It enables the believer to confront persecution. The early Christians" took joyfully the spoiling of their goods."
4. It enhances the charm and influence of Christian life. - T.C.
I. THE POSSIBILITY OF IT. The command to rejoice always appears to be one which it is impossible that we should obey. This impossibility vanishes when we remember that we are to rejoice "in the Lord." Note the frequency of this expression in this Epistle. St. Paul profoundly realizes that the Christian soul is living in a sphere not recognizable by the outward senses, but which is ever present to the eye of faith. If we are living in the Lord we can always rejoice, because in him all things work together for good, and even our sorrows he turns into joy.
II. THE METHOD OF IT. By letting our forbearance be known unto all men. He who is living in the Lord is always rejoicing, not with the joy which triumphs over the sorrows of others, but with the self-restrained joy which recognizes that, being yet in travail, we must yet have sorrow mingled with our joy. This sense of self-restraint is the truest preventive of dissension and dispute.
III. THE REASON FOR IT. "The Lord is at hand." He is ever ready to appear visibly in our midst, and for this appearing we are constantly to watch. How can we be doing so unless we are rejoicing in him, and rejoicing in him with gentle forbearance towards our fellow-Christians? He is, indeed, always at hand, even if he yet appear not in visible form; for where two or three are gathered together in his Name he is in the midst of them. Is not this a reason for joy and for forbearance? - V.W.H.
I. WE ARE ENCOURAGED TO REJOICE. Christianity grows out of a gospel. It was heralded by angel-songs of gladness. The funeral dirge is not the suitable expression of our worship. Hosanna shouts and hallelujahs more become its glad character. We are encouraged to rejoice on many grounds.
1. For our own sakes. If there is no virtue in melancholy, it is foolish to refuse the gladness offered by God.
2. For the sake of our work. Joy is invigorating. "The joy of the Lord is your strength." Needless melancholy is sinful when it paralyzes our energies.
3. For the sake of others. Our joy will be sunshine to others if it be a true, generous, Christian gladness. Our gloom will make others miserable. Moreover, by manifesting Christian toy we invite others to share in the benefits of the gospel.
4. For Christ's sake. It pleases him and honors him.
II. OUR JOY SHOULD SPRING FROM CHRIST. We are to "rejoice in the Lord." Other innocent joys are permitted and consecrated by Christ; for was he not a helpful Guest at the marriage feast? and did he not scandalize some gloomy hypocrites by taking a very different course from his ascetic forerunner? Indeed, many earthly joys are safe to the Christian which are perilous to others, because the Christian enters them with Divine safeguards. "All things are yours" is said to Christians, partly because "to the pure all things are pure." But a peculiarly Christian joy is derived directly from Christ.
1. The joy of his love, receiving and returning it. Love is the source of the greatest joy.
2. The joy of his service, delighting to do his will.
3. The joy of his blessing. The heavenly citizenship and its inheritance are ours in Christ.
III. OUR JOY IN CHRIST SHOULD BE CONTINUOUS. The difficulty is to rejoice alway. It requires much faith and nearness to Christ. It is only possible to those who live in the unseen and eternal. But if, believing in our heavenly citizenship, we set our affections above, with our heart anal our treasure in heaven, and with the heaven of Christ's presence in our soul here, there will spring up a joy in the midst of earthly trouble. It is remarkable that this Epistle to the Philippians, written under the most adverse earthly circumstances, by the worn and aged apostle in prison, is the fullest of gladness. The secret is the richness of the inner life of St. Paul, as this was made bright by his close fellowship with Christ. - W.F.A.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS VIRTUE.
1. It is the opposite of contention and aggrandizement, rigour and severity.
2. It is the spirit that enables a man to bear injuries with patience and not to demand all that is rightly his due, for the sake of peace. The apostle corrected the litigios spirit of the Corinthians by asking them, "Why do ye not rather take wrong?" (1 Corinthians 6:7.)
II. THE ADVANTAGES OF THIS VIRTUE.
1. It contributes greatly to the comfort life and the peace of society. There is always a tendency to friction in the relations of life where the spirit of forbearance does not govern them.
2. It contributes to the usefullness of Christian people and promotes the glory of God. This true spirit of Christ will give a man great influence with his fellows and will redound to the credit of the gospel.
III. THE REASON TO ENFORCE THIS DUTY. "The Lord is at hand." Let us bear with others, seeing the time is near when we may expect the Lord to hear with us. All our rivalries and disputes ought to disappear in the light of the judgment morning. - T.C.
I. THE WISE COUNSEL OF THE APOSTLE.
1. This does not mean that we are not to be anxious about duty. We ought to have a deep concern for every interest of God's kingdom. A certain measure of anxious thought is necessary to the efficient performance of every duty of life.
2. It means that we are not to be anxious about the results of our work or consequences generally.
(1) Because God holds these in his own hands;
(2) because our anxiety will not ward off the anticipated evil;
(3) because the evil may turn out for good.
3. Over-anxiety is sinful.
(1) It is the disregard of a Divine command.
(2) it distrusts God's power and wisdom;
(3) it doubts the reality of the promises
(4) it deters from duty;
(5) it spoils the temper and comfort of
II. THE REMEDY FOR OVER-ANXIETY. "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
1. The range of prayer. "In everything." This counsel is often neglected, for men carry their great misfortunes or their great anxieties to God, but keep their trivial vexations to themselves. A good man has paraphrased this passage thus: "Be careful for nothing; be prayerful for everything; be thankful for anything."
2. The variety of prayer. The word "prayer" here points to the frame of mind, the word "supplication" to the actual asking of blessing, the requests point to the various parts of the supplication, while the thanksgiving marks the subjective condition of acceptance.
3. The effects of prayer.
(1) It tends to place everything in God's hand, with a feeling that he will do all things well. The burden is cast upon the Lord.
(2) It leads the praying man to look for answers to prayer in the events of Divine providence.
(3) It increases devout inquisitiveness to know the Divine will as recorded in the Word.
III. THE RESULT. "And the peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." This beautiful text is often the subject of independent treatment, but we have no right to separate what God has joined together; and accordingly it is only when we are careful for nothing and prayerful in everything that we may exact to enter into Divine peace.
1. The nature of the peace of God. It is deep inward repose of spiritual life, and is called "the peace of God" because he communicates and sustains it, as the result of our reconciliation with him.
(1) It springs out of our justification. (Romans 5:1.)
(2) It arises in the soul as part of our spiritual-mindedness. "For to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:6)
(3) It is the abiding experience of the saints so long as they are practically consistent in their walk. "Great peace have they that love thy Law" (Psalm 119:165). "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee" (Isaiah 26:3).
(4) It is almost inexplicable. "It passeth all understanding."
(a) It passeth the understanding of wicked or worldly men; for their experience lies in a very different sphere.
(b) It surpasses the understanding of godly men; for light often breaks in upon their darkness, in a way quite mysterious. Who can understand the peace of the dying? Does it not pass all understanding?
2. The effects of this peace. "It shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." This does not signify that the peace shall keep possession, but rather, as the word signifies, garrison or stand sentry before the heart or mind, so as to prevent the intrusion of disturbing or disquieting thoughts. It is Christ himself who plants the garrison there.
(1) In case of intellectual doubts, the peace will either prevent their arising at all or repel them when they arise.
(2) In the case of the bitter remembrance of my past sins, this peace carries me back to the reconciliation effected by Christ on the cross.
(3) In, case of anxieties, fears, and earthly solicitudes, the peace of God carries a believer back to the point of his deliverances; and he says, "Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice."
(4) It is a strong guard against sin. The religiously peaceful are the morally strong. Duty is pleasant, obedience is sweet, because the spiritual mind is in harmony with God's mind. Sin is rejected because it threatens to undermine the peace.
3. The abiding source of this peace. "In Christ Jesus."
(1) He is our Peace. (Ephesians 2:14.) Not in the mere sense of being our Peace-maker, as if he had retired after he had made it, but he is the continuous Source of our peace.
(2) He gives peace as his legacy to the Church. (John 14:27.) He imparts that central calm that is at the heart of the endless agitations that shake our merely earthly life. - T.C.
I. WHAT IT IS. God's own peace; that which he himself possesses. It is the peace which our Lord had and which he promised to his disciples: "My peace I give unto you." It is, therefore, no mere superficial freedom from external troubles, but a deep-seated harmony with God the Source of all peace. Thus it transcends human understanding and human expression.
II. WHAT PREVENTS OUR POSSESSING IT? Over-anxiety and worry. These are a kind of practical atheism, since they prevent us from leaving all things to him who is supreme over all circumstances.
III. HOW TO OBTAIN IT. By prayer, which rests upon him for all things; by cation, which brings our own special causes for anxiety into his presence; by thanksgiving, which recognizes that his will must be full of blessing. By thus turning our cares into prayers we throw them upon him who gives us in return his peace.
IV. WHAT IT DOES FOR US. It keeps our hearts and minds, preserving them from undue anxiety, and making them realize the strength of the peace which Christ bestows. How do these words come home with sublime force at the end of our Communion Service! Having received him who is our Peace (Ephesians 2:14), we have entered into and taken possession of the Face of God which passeth all understanding. - V.W.H.
I. THE DISEASE. We must, of course, be careful for many things, in the sense of taking thought about them or taking pains in working on them. Christianity does not favor indolent improvidence; for it teaches, "If a man will not work neither let him eat." Nor does it encourage reckless carelessness; for it everywhere instils a thoughtful, conscientious sense of responsibility. What it does discourage is anxiety.
1. This is painful. How painful most of us know only too well. The wear and fret of care sometimes make the advice to rejoice alway read like a mockery.
2. This is injurious. Men rarely die of hard work, but often of vexing anxiety. It is not toil, but trouble, that turns the hair grey before its time.
3. This hinders spiritual energy. The "cares of this world" choke the good seed as much as its pleasures and riches. When absorbed in worldly anxiety, men have no energy, heart, nor time for spiritual concerns. In the petty cares of a day they drown the grand claims of eternity.
II. HUMAN REMEDIES.
1. Reason. Care is foolish and useless.
"Care is no cure, but rather corrosive, "But human bodies are sic fools, 2. Phitosophic complacency in the best of all possible worlds. We cannot think that "whatever is is best." Philosophers may say so in their calm seclusion; toilers and sufferers will never believe it in the rough experience of real life (Christianity does not require this optimism, or it would not encourage prayer for changes). 3. Stoical indifferences. Here and there this may be possible; but it is not natural, and it is only got with the loss of much human tenderness. 4. Cyclical carelessness. This may come with despair. It is not the cure of anxiety, but its fatal victory over a ruined life. III. THE DIVINE CURE. Christ taught us to conquer earthly anxiety in two ways, by trusting in our heavenly Father (Matthew 6:32), and by transferring our care to more worthy objects, by which means it becomes itself transformed into a noble concern for the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). St. Paul follows on the same lines. 1. Prayer is the remedy for care. we are distinctly invited to bring our anxieties to God. We are to be anxious about nothing, by making supplication about everything. Thus, as the area of prayer advances, that of care recedes. The conventional limitation of prayer is the secret of much unconquered anxiety. 2. Thanksgiving perfects the remedy. This is a ground of encouragement in prayer for future help and a direct relief from pressing anxiety. Care has a bad memory. Grateful recollections of the past will greatly allay anxieties about the future. - W.F.A.
"But human bodies are sic fools, 2. Phitosophic complacency in the best of all possible worlds. We cannot think that "whatever is is best." Philosophers may say so in their calm seclusion; toilers and sufferers will never believe it in the rough experience of real life (Christianity does not require this optimism, or it would not encourage prayer for changes). 3. Stoical indifferences. Here and there this may be possible; but it is not natural, and it is only got with the loss of much human tenderness. 4. Cyclical carelessness. This may come with despair. It is not the cure of anxiety, but its fatal victory over a ruined life. III. THE DIVINE CURE. Christ taught us to conquer earthly anxiety in two ways, by trusting in our heavenly Father (Matthew 6:32), and by transferring our care to more worthy objects, by which means it becomes itself transformed into a noble concern for the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). St. Paul follows on the same lines. 1. Prayer is the remedy for care. we are distinctly invited to bring our anxieties to God. We are to be anxious about nothing, by making supplication about everything. Thus, as the area of prayer advances, that of care recedes. The conventional limitation of prayer is the secret of much unconquered anxiety. 2. Thanksgiving perfects the remedy. This is a ground of encouragement in prayer for future help and a direct relief from pressing anxiety. Care has a bad memory. Grateful recollections of the past will greatly allay anxieties about the future. - W.F.A.
2. Phitosophic complacency in the best of all possible worlds. We cannot think that "whatever is is best." Philosophers may say so in their calm seclusion; toilers and sufferers will never believe it in the rough experience of real life (Christianity does not require this optimism, or it would not encourage prayer for changes).
3. Stoical indifferences. Here and there this may be possible; but it is not natural, and it is only got with the loss of much human tenderness.
4. Cyclical carelessness. This may come with despair. It is not the cure of anxiety, but its fatal victory over a ruined life.
III. THE DIVINE CURE. Christ taught us to conquer earthly anxiety in two ways, by trusting in our heavenly Father (Matthew 6:32), and by transferring our care to more worthy objects, by which means it becomes itself transformed into a noble concern for the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). St. Paul follows on the same lines.
1. Prayer is the remedy for care. we are distinctly invited to bring our anxieties to God. We are to be anxious about nothing, by making supplication about everything. Thus, as the area of prayer advances, that of care recedes. The conventional limitation of prayer is the secret of much unconquered anxiety.
2. Thanksgiving perfects the remedy. This is a ground of encouragement in prayer for future help and a direct relief from pressing anxiety. Care has a bad memory. Grateful recollections of the past will greatly allay anxieties about the future. - W.F.A.
I. ITS NATURE IS OF DIFFICULT INTERPRETATION. "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding." "That is, which surpasses all that men had conceived or imagined. The expression is one that denotes that the peace imparted is of the highest possible kind. The Apostle Paul frequently used terms which had somewhat of a hyperbolical cast, and the language here is that which one would use who designed to speak of that which was of the highest order." Elsewhere Paul says, concerning the love of Christ, "it surpasseth knowledge;" that is, the knowledge of the understanding. You cannot put it into propositions.
1. Who can interpret peace as it exists in the mind of God? We may have negative conceptions of it, exclude from it that which cannot possibly belong to it and which is opposite to its nature. It is not stagnation. Not the peace of the lake that has no ripple. He is essentially active. It is not insensibility. Not the quiescence of the rock which feels not the greatest violence of storms. He is feeling, the infinite Sensorium of the universe. But what is it? It transcends all intellectual understanding. We cannot measure the measureless, we cannot fathom the fathomless.
2. Who can interpret Divine peace as it exists in the mind of the Christly? The peace of God comes from God; it is the gift of Christ. "My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." In truth the highest states of mind, such as love, joy, peace, cannot be explained. These are matters of consciousness, not logic. You can no more put the divinest and deepest emotions of the heart into a proposition than you could put the ocean into a nutshell. They are things that "cannot be uttered."
II. ITS EXISTENCE IN MAN IS A TRANSCENDENT GOOD. "Shall keep [guard] your hearts and minds [your thoughts] through [in] Christ Jesus." It keeps the heart and mind, it garrisons the soul from every distressing element. what are the disturbing elements of the soul? The three chief may be mentioned.
1. There is fear. Foreboding fears are agitating elements. Under the influence of fear all the powers of the soul often tremble and shake like the leaves of a forest in a storm. But "perfect love casteth out fear," and peace is the fruit of love.
2. There is remorse. Sense of guilt fills the soul with those feelings of self-loathing and self-denunciation which lash Auto fury. But in the case of Christly men this sense of guilt is gone. Being made right, or justified, "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
3. There are conflicting tendencies. In every soul there are instinctive tendencies towards. God and the true. In every unregenerate soul there are tendencies towards the devil and the false. These are ever in battle on the arena of un-Christly minds. Hence the wicked are like the troubled sea. He who is Christly is delivered from this conflict. The corrupt tendencies are exorcised, and all the corrupt passions and forces of the soul are brought into one grand channel, and will flow on translucently and harmoniously with ever-increasing volume to the great ocean - God.
III. IT CAN ONLY BE REACHED BY THE PRACTICE OF GOODNESS. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest [honorable], whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report." Whatever minute definition we may give of these terms, they all stand for the elements of moral goodness; and to these elements we are bidden to give a practical regard. "If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." The practice of the morality of Christ is the ladder by which alone we can climb through all that is dark and tumultuous in the atmosphere of the soul into the pure heavens of peace. It is the "doer" of the Word that is blessed, not the hearer. There are some, alas! who recommend other means to this glorious end, but they are utterly worthless. Some recommend ritualistic observances and sacerdotal services. Some recommend faith in an event that transpired on Calvary eighteen centuries ago. They say you have only to believe on this and peace will come at once. A philosophic absurdity and a monstrous delusion! Some recommend a mechanical religiousness. They say, "Go to church regularly, join in the liturgy, listen to sermons, partake of the communion, and all will be right." Ah me! The peace which such things give is like that peace in nature which cradles the thunder-storm. I tell you peace is only reached by the practice of that morality proclaimed in that grand sermon on the mount and embodied in the life of its matchless Preacher, and this requires faith in him.
Though my means may be small and name quite obscure, The things most imposing are things for the proud; The "things that are true" are the things that will last,
The things most imposing are things for the proud; The "things that are true" are the things that will last,
The "things that are true" are the things that will last,
I. GOD ANSWERS THE PRAYER OF ANXIETY WITH A GIFT OF PEACE, The promise of peace follows close upon the exhortation to convert our anxieties into prayers. The result of such conduct is not the immediate removal of the source of care: the old trouble may still be with us, and the dreaded danger may not yet be averted; but we have an inward peace and acquiescence in the assurance that all must be well in our Father's hands. Thus the prayer is answered, though not exactly as we expected.
1. This peace is given by God. It is not the product of our own reasonings, nor of altered circumstances, but of Divine grace.
2. It is directly dependent on communion with God; for it is not so much a blessing bestowed in response to prayer as the natural consequence of approaching God in prayer. As we turn from the fretting cares of life to talk with God, we enter a new serene atmosphere above the tumults of earth, and the peace of it steals into our souls.
3. It is a peace like that of God himself. Given by God, growing out of communion with God, it has the character of God. It is a solid, deep, pure, true, lasting peace, quite different from any peace the world can give (John 14:27).
II. THIS PEACE IS BETTER THAN ANY INTELLECTUAL SATISFACTION. We are impatient for an explanation of the mysteries of providence. We would know why God has dealt with us so differently from what we had expected. We would have the veil of the future uplifted that our anxious hearts might be set at rest. But it is not possible. We are left to grope among many dark secrets while we learn to walk by faith. Nevertheless, if we have not the understanding, the peace is better. If we cannot know all, we can live trustfully with an inward quiet. Better a calm in midnight darkness than a storm in the glare of noon. For our training it is well not to know many things that God has mercifully hidden from our imperfect comprehension. If we can trust God in the darkness and be at peace in our own souls, we have the highest blessing.
III. THIS DIVINE PEACE PREVENTS OUR MINDS FROM WANDERING FROM CHRIST. It is represented as a sentinel on the watch, guarding our hearts and thoughts, and keeping them in Christ. The cares of this world tempt us from Christ with vexing doubts and distracting claims. In peace of heart our thoughts return to him. No understanding of providence and its mysteries would thus settle the Soul on the true foundation of its rest. That would not guard our hearts and thoughts because it is not the ideas of our minds but the spirit of our lives, the tone and temper and character of them, that dissuades our affections and thoughts from wandering from Christ. This, therefore, is the great commendation of the Divine peace which is given in response to the prayer of anxiety, It does not remove the trouble that causes the anxiety, but it prevents that trouble from driving us from Christ, and so secures to us the supreme blessedness of abiding in him. - W.F.A.
I. SUBJECTS OF CHRISTIAN CONTEMPLATION. There is a certain order in the series here exhibited.
1. Things that concern us absolutely. "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are venerable."
(1) Things true. That is, true as opposed to false; for lying is, according to the apostle, a breach of the social contract (Ephesians 4:25). True as opposed to insincerity; true in speech, true in conduct. Things true stand at the head of the series, because the truth is the ground of all God's commands, and the ground of our obedience. The love of truth is the intellectual part of piety. It raises the moral temper and tone of the world. As it is by the truth we are sanctified, it is natural that things true should be the subject of constant Christian thought.
(2) Things venerable. A man is very much what he thinks; therefore make venerable themes the subjects of your deepest thought. Grave things strengthen and deepen Christian character and intensify Christian feeling. Character formed on such a basis will be dignified. "Acceptable to God and approved of men" (Romans 14:18).
2. Things that concern us relatively. "Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure."
(1) Things just or righteous. Justice maintains right relations between man and man, holds the balance fairly between conflicting interests, co-ordinates the rights of each with all. Love of justice is the moral part of piety, as the love of truth is the intellectual part of it. Justice is peculiar in this respect, that there are no degrees of it, as there are degrees of goodness or generosity; for a man less than just is unjust. A man, again, may do a hundred kindly acts, but if he fail in one act of justice the blemish is fatal to character. There is, therefore, great need that Christian people should be just in all their acts. Religion does not exempt them from the laws which bind men of the world.
(2) Things pure. Not merely chastity, but purity in the widest sense. There must be pure thinking, pure reading, pure action. "Blessed are the pure in heart." Let the mind dwell on pure themes.
3. Things that suggest moral approbation from the outside. "Whatsoever things are lovely... of good report." The four things already mentioned describe their character in themselves. These two mark the impression made upon the world.
(1) Things lovely. They suggest the kindly graces of character. There is such a thing as being dignified, majestic, and venerable, but not lovely. A Christian ought not to be morose, unkind, or faultfinding. Nothing tends to injure the cause of religion more than an unlovely temper, an eye severe and unkind, a brow hard and stern. Yet the apostle gives only the fifth place to "things lovely," as if to indicate that personal kindness or good nature is not to supply the room of justice or purity.
(2) Things of good report. Things such as all men agree in commending - courtesy, urbanity, justice, temperance; purity, truth, respect to parents. Men of the world will not withhold their praise from men distinguished by these virtues. Christians ought to remember the words, "Let not your good be evil spoken of." They are to "walk in wisdom toward them that are without."
4. Things to be included in a larger category. "If there be any virtue, if there be any praise." This clause is thrown in as an after-thought, to cover possible omissions, for the subjects of Christian contemplation are endless.
(1) Virtue. The apostle never uses this old heathen term except in this place, but he seems to say that Christian people are not to neglect the study of that which is best in heathen conception,
(2) Praise. He had open despised the praise of men, but he concedes here that some consideration ought to be given even to what is worthy of praise among men.
II. THE DUTY AND ADVANTAGE OF CONTEMPLATING THESE THINGS. "Think on these things." I. The mind takes the stamp of what it thinks on. There is an assimilating process by which the graces or virtues we have specified are stamped deeply upon Christian character. It is with these graces as it is with Christ himself. He is the glass "in which we behold the glory of God, and so are changed into the same image from glory to glory."
2. There are blessed effects ,won the world. A life exemplifying the graces of holy living is the most likely to arrest the careless and the wicked. The living epistles of Christ are made to be known and read of all men. - T.C.
Conclusion announced. "Finally, brethren." This is his second attempt to conclude. In the usual form he intimates that all he has to say, in addition to what he has already said, he is now to state shortly. In other Epistles Paul gives a considerable place to ordinary morality, including the relative duties. He does not deem it necessary (there being no urgency) to write at length to the Philippians upon this subject. He only puts it into his conclusion, where brevity is a necessity. And there is not that plain mode of expression which is found elsewhere: ' Let him that stole steal no more." But, as for advanced or skilled Christians, there is a certain transcendental mode of expression, with an added reference to apostolic interpretation.
I. CATEGORIES OF MORALITY FOR THOUGHT. The summarizing under "virtue and praise" points to morality, as does also their being presented for practice in the ninth verse. They are emphatically separated as categories by the repetition of "whatsoever things," while the summary is made emphatic by the repetition of the words, "if there be any." They seem to be arranged in pairs, according to the following division.
1. Things in themselves.
2. Things in relation to law.
3. Things in relation to the estimation in which they are held.
It will be most suitable to our homilectic purpose to name them separately. "Whatsoever things are true." There are things that are true in themselves - that would have been true if there had never been a Bible, that would have been true if there had never been the placing of man under law. There is an eternal standard by which things are to be judged. There are immutable principles which lie at the foundation of morality. The things that are necessarily true subsist in God, and as subsisting in God he is immutable - a rock on which we can absolutely depend. The things that are true are also to be in ourselves. That certainly means that we are to speak the truth. For veracity belongs to the eternal order of things, while a lie, however glossed over, is an infringement of that order. But our whole life is to be founded in truth. If it is to be founded in the work of Christ, yet is it in the work of Christ, as wrought out in accordance with eternal principles, and in that work as giving, relatively to us, added sanction and lustre to those principles, as what must regulate our life. We are, therefore, under all temptation to have to do with falsehood, to hold close by the true as that alone which can give stability to our life. "Whatsoever things are honorable." There are things which are honorable in themselves. They are more than venerable from antiquity. They are to be honored from their essential and eternal worth. As subsisting in God, they are the ground of his being infinitely to be honored. The things that are honor-able are also to be in ourselves. That certainly means that we are to be honest, as the word used to be in the translation. For there is disgrace necessarily attaching to a dishonest action. But more than that, it means that our whole life is to be based on what can be thoroughly respected - on what can bear looking into as in its nature and bearings honorable; on what is to be honored, whether men honor it or not; on what we cannot respect ourselves if we do not honor. If we, amid all temptation to act basely, keep our mind open to the honorable, then we shall have a dignity, gravity, taken from that to which we look and with which we converse. "Whatsoever things are just." This brings in relation to law. The things that are just are in God in the position in which he is placed as Lawgiver and Administrator. He absolutely fills up what belongs to him in the position; he acts according to the eternally true and honourable, i.e. according to his own eternal excellence as moral Governor. He is just in placing us under law, in the nature which he has given us, in what he exacts of us, and in all his dealing with us as under law. He never can do wrong to any of his creatures. Though clouds and darkness are round about him, yet judgment and justice are the habitation of his throne. And the things that are just are to be in us, as placed under law to God. We are to fill up the measure of duty that belongs to us in the position. Obedience, compliance with the Divine will in all matters, is what we owe to God. Justice requires that, as dependent creatures, we should humbly acknowledge and worship him. We are to do the duty of every relation in which we stand to our fellow-men. We are to be in subjection to the higher powers, and not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience sake. We are to honor all men, whatever their condition, because of the dignity of their nature. And far be it from us that we should do any of our fellow-men the injustice of defrauding them or of treating them uncharitably. We are to be characterized by universal, deep-reaching conscientiousness. "Whatsoever things are pure." There is not only justice, but purity in relation to law. The things that are pure are absolutely in God. He is so pure that even the stars are not pure in his sight. He rules in the interests of purity. He holds up before us a high conception of purity in his Statute-book. "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times;" "The commandment of the Lord is pure." He looks upon purity wherever it is with complacency, and it has a place with him; but he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and evil shall not dwell with him. The things that are pure are also to be in ourselves. We are to be pure in the narrower sense. We are to be chaste in our thoughts, in our words, in our actions. More than that, we are to have chastity as a preservative and a defense to our whole nature. We are to be kept within the Law, by our great sensitiveness and strong attraction to snow-white purity, to heavenliness, and by our repelling the slightest suggestion of impurity, by our shrinking from the slightest touch of worldliness. We are to have God's own love for that which makes and keeps us pure, and his own abhorrence and loathing of sin as that which defiles. "Whatsoever things are lovely." This brings in relation to the estimation in which things are held. For the Greek word seems to point to things which are worthy of love. There are, indeed, things which are lovely according to the eternal standard of taste. As subsisting in God they are the ground of his being infinitely to be loved. We read of the beauty of the Lord our God. He is beautiful in his whole character, but especially in his love in Christ. God is love; and herein is love. In this he as it were surpasses himself. He magnifies his Word above all his Name. He is beautiful as he comes forward and does not spare his own Son, but delivers him up for us all. He is beautiful in his forbearance towards sinners and his exercising towards them the prerogative of pardon. His beauty is manifested in him who, standing upon our earth, said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will. draw all men unto myself." And the things which are lovely are to be in us. It is true of virtue as a whole that it is lovely. Cicero says, there is nothing more lovely than virtue, nothing which more allures to loving." But the things that are lovely are especially those that rise to a high standard. We must not be merely righteous; but we must be good. Even Lot is called righteous in Scripture; but there was one that towered high above him, having the things that are lovely. How beautiful to see Abraham exercising the grace of hospitality! How beautiful to see his generous treatment of Lot, his not standing on his rights with him, his forgiving his selfishness, his heaping on his head coals of kindness! How beautiful especially to see him going so far in his self-denial toward God as not to withhold from him his son, his only son! Did he not have the qualities of a noble, royal nature? "Whatsoever things are of good report." This is distinctly estimation. There are things which sound well in the ear. Of even God in connection with the redemption from Egypt it is said that he had gotten himself a name. It sounded well in the cars of the Israelites, and of the uncovenanted nations too. And so God has gotten him a name in connection with the great redemption from sin. It can be said of the name of Redeemer that it sounds well. And we are to have the things of good report in us too. Virtue, says an ancient philosopher, is the concurring voice of the good. The things that are well reported of are especially those that rise above the common standard - that show disinterestedness and devotion. If a thing is lovely in itself, it is an additional advantage that it is well spoken of, especially among the good. "If there be any virtue." This, showing a change of form, but still universality, seems to summarize the preceding, with the sole exception of the last. The derivation of "virtue" points to manliness or valor. But it is to be taken as inclusive of every form of moral excellence. We are to have the excellence that comes from the true, from the honorable, from the just, from the pure, from the lovely. But, lest that should not cover the whole ground of excellence, he adds, "If there be any virtue." "And if there be any praise? We are not to understand anything that is praiseworthy, but the actual bestowment of praise. It covers the things that are of good report; but points rather to the distinct embodiment of moral judgment regarding things in eulogy, such as Paul's praise of love in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, and our Lord's praise of humility and other virtues in the beatitudes. "Think on these things." We come to the things which have been mentioned partly by intuition, but we must dwell upon them and converse with them, if we would have a clear apprehension of them and have skill in detecting their counterfeits. The thought of the psalmist is that the use of the understanding is necessary to the right keeping of God's Law. If we allow the intellect to slumber, do not examine into circumstances and carefully investigate the moral character of what we are doing, we may go far enough astray from the true, and honorable, and just, and pure. It is by constantly judging our conduct by these things that they come to have the shaping of our life. "To cover human life with beauty, to carve it into nobleness, requires thought as truly as to cover canvas with lovely forms or to make the hard and unwilling marble assume a shape of majesty and grace. Is there any nobler use of the intellect of man than this, to serve the conscience and the heart with faithful loyalty, to master the moral laws by which life should be ruled, and the motives which may assist the vacillating will in keeping them? Among common men, what restless, incessant thought there is about how they may extend their trade and increase their profits, come to live in a larger house and keep a better table, and how little thought about the eternal law of righteousness and their obligation to keep and honor it! Do Christian men believe that he who gave them their intellect meant them to think incessantly of the price of iron, the rate of wages, the condition of the money market, the furniture of their houses, the fruit in their gardens - never or only sluggishly about his own awful majesty, his glorious perfection, his ideas of what human life ought to be?
II. THESE CATEGORIES OF MORALITY ALSO FOR PRACTICE WITH THE HELP OF APOSTOLIC INTERPRETATION.
1. Interpretation of his teaching. "The things which ye both learned and received." The only difference between these verbs seems to be that in the former we are pointed more to the activity of the taught, in the latter more to the activity of the teacher. The fact that Paul holds up these high categories before the Philippians shows that they were in an advanced state. At the same time, it was not long since they had come out of heathenism. And the apostle refers them to such simple rules as he had laid down for their conduct, of which there are examples in other Epistles.
2. Interpretation of his example. "And heard and saw in me." They heard when he was absent and saw when he was present. It is well when both teaching and life go together. It was a great advantage to the Philippians that, when the rules of their life were completely changed for them, these were not only presented in their particularity, but were exemplified in their teacher of whom they heard, or, what was better, whom they saw among them. Thus could they be led on from the state of childhood to the state of maturity, in which they could be thought of as conversing with the high categories of morality. "These things do." Calvin properly remarks, "Meditation precedes, practice follows." Once we have carefully thought of our conduct in the light of the great categories, there is the carrying our thought into practice. If we have thought well beforehand, we have a great advantage; but it will never be but difficult, considering the treachery of our hearts, the strength of our temptations, to bring our daily practice up to our thought. It is difficult enough to do the things that are true, that are honorable, that are just, that are pure; how much more to do the things that are lovely, that are of good report!
III. PROMISE ATTACHED TO PRACTICE FOLLOWING ON THOUGHT OF THE CATEGORIES, "And the God of peace shall be with you." There is a recurrence with a difference of form to the thought of Ver. 7. There peace was to guard those who prayed. Here the God of peace is to be with those who practice the moralities. He has peace in his own mind, in his own balanced perfections; and he has peace in what he thinks of us. And, as we strive to carry out his holy purposes, he stands by us to banish our fears, to soothe our minds. "Great peace have they who love thy Law; and nothing shall offend them." Let us bring the six great categories into our life, and we shall assuredly have the peace which God himself has in their absolute possession. - R.F.
I. THE NEED OF MEDITATION. This is. universal. All persons meditate on that which is to them of absorbing interest. By meditation the stock of our ideas is increased and a mental atmosphere is formed in which we live and move. Every great work and every great life has been produced by much meditation.
II. THE BEST SUBJECTS FOR MEDITATION. "Whatsover things are true," etc. We need not limit these to the subject-matter of the Christian revelation, although undoubtedly each of these forms of goodness will find its highest expression in that. But since all good things are of God, we may find him reflected in every act of virtue, in every prompting of love, in every aspiration after a higher life, in whatever way these may be manifested. The terms selected include all that is noble towards God, all that is purifying to ourselves, and all that commends itself to the better instincts of men. Meditating on such an exhaustive catalogue of high ideas, how can we become anything else than filled with all that is true and Divine?
III. TRUE MEDITATION WELL PRODUCE ACTION. If it does not do this it enervates the will and dissipates the motive forces of the character. A truth acted upon provides us with an unanswerable evidence that it is a truth. It becomes worked into our nature and forms part of ourselves.
IV. TRUE ACTION IS LEARNED FROM EXAMPLE RATHER THAN FROM PRECEPT. "That which ye have. . . seen in me, do." Action is in life and not in theory. Note how the same truth is to be found in the Beatitudes. They begin with a description of abstract blessedness, such as is to be found in poverty of spirit; they end by translating this idea of blessedness into a living reality in the ease of the disciples who were being taught. "Blessed are they" turns into "Blessed are ye," and their blessedness is to be found in such an active life of righteousness as is to involve persecution for Christ's sake.
V. THE REWARD OF TRUE ACTION PROCEEDING OUT OF PROFOUND MEDITATION. "The God of peace shall be with you." The peace of God is the reward of prayer and trustfulness; this is an inward gift bringing God into the soul. But true action secures the presence of the God of peace, externally defending and guiding, as well as internally teaching and blessing. - V.W.H.
I. OUR MINDS SHOULD BE OCCUPIED WITH THE CONTEMPLATION OF GOOD THINGS.
1. It is not enough that our deeds are pure, our thoughts must be pure also,
(1) because the inner life is the true life, and
(2) because our ideas will ultimately color our actions.
2. Good thoughts spring from the study of good things. We cannot touch pitch and remain undefiled. But the consideration of worthy characters and actions will insensibly fill our minds with a kindred spirit. This fact. should govern our choice of literature, friends, scenes, and occupations. It is particularly important to study objective goodness outside ourselves. This is a cure for dreamy subjectivity, for self-conceit, and for narrow notions.
II. THE GOOD CHARACTERISTICS OF MEN OF THE WORLD SHOULD BE GENEROUSLY ADMITTED. It is remarkable than the list of good things here drawn out by St. Paul consists chiefly of pagan virtues. He appears to be calling upon Christians to consider the goodness that is to be found outside the pale of the Church. I. These good characteristics exist. The world is not wholly depraved. It was not even so in the dark days of the Roman empire. One who had a keen sympathy with goodness was able then to detect the genuine indications of light amidst the gloom. The life of Care and the writings of Seneca, for example, contain much that commands our profound admiration. "There is a soul of goodness in things evil."
2. These good characteristics should be ungrudgingly recognized
(1) in justice to men;
(2) for the glory of God, who is the Source of all goodness in the world as well as in the Church, pagan as well as Christian;
(3) for our own sakes. A narrow censorious spirit is most unchristian. A follower of the innocent Christ should be a lover of all things good.
III. CHRISTIANS MAY GREATLY PROFIT BY THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE GOODNESS OF MEN OF THE WORLD. It might be thought that, if this is a lower form of goodness, it would be useless to study it. But:
1. The consideration of it will widen our syrmpa-thies. It will help us better to appreciate and love our brother man. Approaching them through their good points, we shall the better influence them (e.g. see Acts 17:22). Compare Clement and Origen in their recognition of what was good in paganism, with Tertullian and his denunciation of heathen religion and philosophy as diabolical, and with Arnobius and his railing against human nature itself. Surely the Alexandrian apologists were wisest as well as most charitable.
2. The contemplation of these good things will reveal virtues not sufficiently studied by Christians. The Church has not the monoply of the virtues. If she excels in the higher graces men who do not own her name may sometimes shame her with their excellence in other respects. Christians may learn much from Plato and Epictetus and from Goethe and Carlyle.
IV. DETAILS OF GOODNESS MAY BE USEFULLY CONSIDERED. St. Paul makes a list of good things. He was in the habit of drawing out such lists. We must begin with the inward spirit of holiness in love to God and man, but we must develop our character by attention to details.
1. This excites our attention. Our imagination flags at generalities. Objective details please it best.
2. This prevents our goodness from evaporating in value sentiment.
3. This gives breadth and variety to our character. Good things are numerous and of varied types. We must beware of a narrow morality. "Whatsoever things are good," etc., are worthy of study, in order that every possible attainment of character may be reached in every possible direction. - W.F.A.
I. THE APOSTLE'S PRECEPTS. "Learned and received." The reference is to his oral teaching, which included all the principles out of which these graces or virtues take their origin and growth.
II. THE APOSTLE'S EXAMPLE. As set before them in what they heard of him when absent, and in what they saw of him when he was present. They witnessed his laborious usefulness, his patient submission to persecution, his spirituality and care for his own spiritual life, and, above all, his splendid decision of character.
III. THE EFFECT OF FOLLOWING THESE PRECEPTS AND THIS EXAMPLE. "The God of peace shall be with you." The way of peace lies along the pathway of obedience. The blessing of the Lord is upon them who love him and keep his commandments. - T.C.
acknowledges the generous contributions he had received from them through the hands of Epaphroditus. The text directs attention to the transmission of the knowledge of Christ. Observe -
I. This knowledge of Christ is to be transmitted FROM MAN TO MAN. "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received," etc. It is suggested that the transmission of this knowledge includes two things.
1. Teaching on the part of the minister. Paul had received the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:12), and received it as a message, received it to communicate. This he did - did to the Philippians as well as to others. He did it in two ways.
(1) By words. "And heard." After his commission Paul used all his oratoric force for this purpose. He spoke to men rationally, devoutly, intelligently, earnestly, and with invincible persistence. The story of Christ is to be handed down from man to man by human lips. The pen can no more do the work of the tongue in this respect than the moon can do the work of the sun. Under the influence of the former the landscape will wither and the rivers will freeze.
(2) By example. "And seen in me. Paul embodied the gospel. His life confirmed the doctrine that his lips declared. In him, as in his Master, the word became flesh." Here, then, is the Divine way of transmitting from generation to generation the story of Christ. Men have tried other ways and have signally failed; hence the wretched moral condition of the world to-day. This way is, to a great extent, practically ignored.
2. Learning on the part of the hearer. "Ye have both learned, and received, and heard." A man may tell the story of Christ with the utmost accuracy and fullness. The spirit of the story he may breathe in his life and embody in his conduct, but it is only vitally transmitted so far as it is learnt by the auditors. We live in an age when people, through a vitiated moral taste, theological prejudices. and sectarian proclivities, turn away their ear from the true teachers of their time. They resort to places where they can be tickled, not taught, flattered, not corrected.
II. This knowledge of Christ is to be transmitted IN ORDER TO BE PRACTISED. "Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do. A gospel sermon should never be regarded as a lecture on philosophy, literature, or art - a mere subject for speculative thought or a subject of discussion. The gospel is a law, it comes from the highest authority and with a binding force. What is said is to be done, not merely approved, criticised, thought on, or sighed about, but done. The ideas communicated are to be translated into actions, and such actions will ever be Christly in spirit and tendency. But into what actions are the conventional sermons of England translated? Turn to the columns of our daily journals and read of the mercantile swindlings, the courtly depravities, idlenesses, and sports, the political intrigues, senatorial slanderings and quarrellings, the barbaric executions, the bloody wars, and other nameless iniquities sanctioned and enacted by the hearers of what are called gospel sermons. Ah me! What boots preaching?
III. The practice of this knowledge of Christ ENSURES THE SUBLIMEST GOOD. The God of peace shall be with you." In ver. 7 we read of having the "peace of God," here of having the "God of peace." To have his peace is something glorious; but to have himself is something transcendently greater. "The God of peace." Elsewhere he is called the "God of salvation," the "God of consolation," the "God of hope," etc.; but this title seems to transcend all others.
1. He is at peace with himself. A moral intelligence to possess peace must be absolutely free from the following things - malice, remorse, forebodings. The mightiest revolutions through all the millenniums and the hostilities of all the hells of the universe awake no ripple upon the boundless sea of his ever-flowing love.
2. He is at peace with the universe. He has no unkind feeling to any sentient being; he contends with no one; he is at peace with all. He contend, forsooth! Does the immovable rock contend with the waves that break at its feet? Does the sun contend with the fleeting clouds? Now, they who translate the gospel into their life shall have the "God of peace" ever with them - with them as the sunny heavens are with the earth. - D.T.
I. THE APOSTLE'S JOY IN THEIR LIBERALITY. "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that at length ye retired your interest in me; in which, indeed, ye did interest yourselves, but ye had no opportunity."
1. There never was a man who more keenly appreciated Christian kindness than the apostle. Self-reliant and jealously independent as he was, his happiness was greatly increased by the thoughtful generosity of his converts. It was in no degree diminished by the fact that his friends had no opportunity of helping him, perhaps because he was far beyond their reach in the sweep of his missionary journeys.
2. Their kindness inspired him with a holy joy. Not because it was in answer to prayer for timely help, but because it typified the true grace of God in his converts. Their liberality was an evidence at once of their personal interest in him and of their Christian standing in the Lord.
II. THE APOSTLE'S CONTENTED SPIRIT. "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, I know also how to abound. In everything and in all circumstances I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."
1. What a checkered experience was that of the apostle! He had experience of want and of fullness in his wanderings as an apostle. He was no stranger to hunger.
2. What a happy spirit for such a life! He was content with such things as he had. The poet says -
"Art thou poor? III. THE TRUE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT. "I can do all things in him that infuses strength into me." This language implies that there is a Divine spring of help in all conditions. 1. Consider the extent of a Christian's ability. (1) He is able to undergo every trial. (2) To brave every sort of suffering. (3) To overcome every variety of temptation. (4) To perform every duty. 2. Consider the source of the Christian's strength. "In him." By virtue of our vital union with Christ we have access to the true Source of strength. Christ infuses strength into us: (1) By his teaching. (2) By his examinee of holy patience and forbearance. (3) By the moral influence of his death as a reed sacrifice for sin. (4) By the abundant bestowed of his Holy Spirit. Thus the believer becomes "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." IV. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE APOSTLE'S STATEMENT. (1) It was at once a declaration of experiences and (2) an expression of gratitude. - T.C.
III. THE TRUE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT. "I can do all things in him that infuses strength into me." This language implies that there is a Divine spring of help in all conditions.
1. Consider the extent of a Christian's ability.
(1) He is able to undergo every trial.
(2) To brave every sort of suffering.
(3) To overcome every variety of temptation.
(4) To perform every duty.
2. Consider the source of the Christian's strength. "In him." By virtue of our vital union with Christ we have access to the true Source of strength. Christ infuses strength into us:
(1) By his teaching.
(2) By his examinee of holy patience and forbearance.
(3) By the moral influence of his death as a reed sacrifice for sin.
(4) By the abundant bestowed of his Holy Spirit.
Thus the believer becomes "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might."
IV. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE APOSTLE'S STATEMENT.
(1) It was at once a declaration of experiences and
(2) an expression of gratitude. - T.C.
I. CONTENTMENT IS AN ART. (Ver. 11.) It must be "learned." We cannot acquire it at a bound. We must serve our apprenticeship to it as to any other art. It is not a science to be theoretically mastered, but an art to be practically obtained. We must go to the "school of art," we must set ourselves earnestly as scholars to learn the lesson, and we must "keep our hands in" by constant practice.
II. THE CONTENTED SPIRIT MAKES LITTLE OF ITS WANTS. (Vers. 11-13.) Paul had not sent any word to Philippi about his needs. He had become so superior to circumstances that abasement and abundance made no difference to him. Faith in Christ made him independent. It is the humble spirit which trusts the omnipotent Savior which proves to be really the independent spirit. It is humility and independence which always go together. When we control our desires, minimize our wants, we can reach independence more really than by acquiring vast estate. The rich are often discontented. Their desires outstrip all acquisition, and they are discontented in spite of their abundance.
III. THE CONTENTED SPIRIT MAKES MUCH OF ITS BOUNTIES. (Vers. 12-18) With the independence Paul manifests magnanimity. See how he speaks of the attention of the Philippians. He makes it out that they have been always sending to him - that every time they had an opportunity they were sending him their love-tokens. "Once and again" they had sent to his necessity. Now, it requires a big contented spirit to take the kindness of others cordially. Emerson says, "You cannot give anything to a magnanimous person. After you have served him he at once puts you in debt by his magnanimity. The service a man renders his friend is trivial and selfish compared with the service he. knows his friend stood in readiness to yield him, alike before he had begun to serve his friend and now also. Compared with that good-will I bear my friend, the benefit it is in my power to render him seems small. Besides, our action on each other, good as well as evil, is so incidental and at random that we can seldom hear the acknowledgments of any person who would thank us for a benefit without some shame and humiliation. We can rarely strike a direct stroke, but must be content with an oblique one; we seldom have the satisfaction of yielding a direct benefit which is directly received. But rectitude scatters favors on every side without knowing it, and receives with wonder the thanks of all people." In the same way, we find the magnanimous Paul making as much of the kindness of the Philippians as led them, we may be sure, to wonder at such mention being made of their gifts at all.
IV. THE CONTENTED SPIRIT LOOKS AT ALL IN A SPIRITUAL LIGHT. (Vers. 19-23.) Paul was glad of their gift, for it was spiritual "fruit." It was a benefit to them more than to him. Did they not realize that "it is better to give than to receive"? They had pleased God by their goodness to his servant. And he would supply all their need, according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. He would give them spiritual compensation. They would get a benefit in soul which was cheaply bought by what they had given. He then sums up the joy-inspiring Epistle with salutations, among others, from those saints in Caesar's household. This shows what success Paul's mission had enjoyed at the capital, how even the entourage of the emperor had felt the spell of the aged prisoner. Paul had shown that he could live a heavenly, joyful, contented life, in spite of his imprisonment and possible martyrdom. The hero made heroes of others. The guardsmen who were chained to him cleaved to him in love May such a celestial life be ours! - R.M.E.
I. THE REVIVED THOUGHT SHOWN IN THEIR CONTRIBUTION. "But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length ye have revived your thought for me; wherein ye did indeed take thought, but ye lacked opportunity." The occurrence was associated in his mind with joy. He verily thought that the Lord had put it into the hearts of the Philippians to scud that contribution to him. His joy rose to a great height. What made him rejoice so greatly was that then at length (an indefinite period, which went back at least to the coming of Epaphroditus) their thought for him was putting forth new shoots as trees do in spring. This was a revival which by no means reflected on their past. It had been winter with them, and, while winter lasts, no one expects nature to revive. But as soon as the proper season came round the fresh shoots appeared.
II. STATEMENT REGARDING CONTENTMENT.
1. Introduced. "Not that I speak in respect of want." He was not to be understood as thinking merely of want. He was in such a relation to a state of want that the mere escape from it could not make him jubilant.
2. His state generally. "For I have learned, in whatsoever state i am, therein to be content." To be content is, literal]y, to be self-sufficient, independent. He was thus content relatively to his being in one state or another. He had learned to be content. "These words signify how contentedness may be attained, or how it is produced; it is not an endowment innate to us; it doth not arrive by chance into us; it is not to be purchased by any price; it springeth not up of itself, nor ariseth from the quality of any state; but it is a product of discipline - 'I have learned.' It is an art which cannot be acquired without studious application of mind and industrious exercise; no art, indeed, requireth more hard study and pain toward the acquiry of it, there being so many obstacles in the way thereto; we have no great capacity, no towardly disposition to learn it; we must, in doing it, deny our carnal sense, we must settle our wild fancy and suppress fond conceits; we must bend our stiff and stubborn inclinations; we must repress and restrain wanton desires; we must allay and still tumultuous passions; we must cross our humor and curb our temper: which to do is a hard chapter to learn; much consideration, much practice, much contention and diligence are required thereto. Here it is an art which we may observe few do much study, and of the students thereof few are great proficients; so that 'Qui fit, Mecaenas?' Horace's question, 'How comes it to pass that nobody liveth content with the lot assigned by God?' wanted not sufficient ground. However, it is not like the quadrature of the circle, or the philosopher's stone, an art impossible to be learned, and which will baffle all study; there are examples which show it to be obtainable; there are rules and precepts by observing which we may arrive to it" (Barrow). The apostle for one had learned. The force of the language is, "I for my part, have learned." "With noble self-consciousness," is the remark of Meyer. He had been exceptionally placed for learning this lesson. There were few, if any, who could compare with him in the changes he had seen in providence, in the states through which he had been made to pass. And he had rightly improved his experiences. He had learned to be independent of his outward state, in looking to the sufficiency of his inward enjoyments in God's favor and love and the prospects of everlasting bliss. He had learned farther to be independent by looking to his outward state, whatsoever it was for the time being, as appointed him by God, as therefore better than he could choose for himself, as the best possible for him in view of his discipline and usefulness.
3. Contrasted states. "I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want." He condescends and dwells on particular states with variety of expression. As the result of his learning, he knew how to be abased, i.e. by any adverse state, and not merely by want. And he knew also how to abound, which is more specific, being the opposite of being in want. The knowing is next amplified, being made to extend to everything and all things (distributively and collectively). It is further amplified in being made to refer to acquired knowledge which is hidden from the uninitiated. He had learned the secret. The two states are now plainly described as a being filled and a being hungry, an abounding (in the means of subsistence) and a being in want (of the means of subsistence). We do not know so much about Paul being in the former state, but about the latter state there are affecting notices. "Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place" (1 Corinthians 4:11); "In hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness' (2 Corinthians 11:27). He knew how to maintain the right attitude to both states, and we are to understand the right attitude to be independence. He was so independent that he was "neither exalted by abundance nor crushed by want," as Pelagius properly remarks. There is a contentment (to use the narrower word) which extends even to a state of abundance. For in a state of abundance men are apt to make themselves poor by enlarging their desires. The apostle had "stayed affections," and that was the secret of his contentment in both states.
4. Source of support generally. "I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me." The apostle rises from the special to the general, and points triumphantly, but humbly, to what supported him, not only in want, but in every state. The Strengthener here is the same who is said to make us more than conquerors, viz. Christ.
(1) How Christ comes to have strength to give to his people. We are not to conceive of this strength as that belonging to him by original right as the Son of God. If we had not fallen from our original condition that would have been the source of strength to us, as it is to unfallen angels. The creature naturally finds strength in the Creator, and we should have found unfailing strength in him by whom God made the heavens and the earth, by whom also he made us. But Christ, as the Savior, had no blessing for his people until he had acquired it. All the strength that we need for our being raised out of sin into holiness had to be labored for, struggled for, bled for. The work for which Christ was set apart needed strength for its accomplishment. And this he was constantly augmenting until, at the last, in the depths of suffering, in conflict with all the powers of darkness, under the eclipse of the Divine countenance, he struggled out into perfect spiritual strength. He became strong, not by ease, but by "resisting unto blood, striving against sin." His own strength was not the result of his atoning work; it was rather that which accomplished it. But that he should give strength to his people, that follows on his atoning work, and does not go before it. We are taught to think of it as part of the reward which the Father gave him for finishing his appointed work. Raised to the right hand of God, he received gifts for men, even for the rebellious; and one of these gifts is strength to support us in the doing of God's will. He has acquired for us that strength in which he himself overcame. That, then, is the hard-won manner in which Christ has become the Source of strength. He has risen out of the great glorious work of redemption to be strength to his people. He is our Strength, because our Redeemer.
(2) What the nature of the strength is which Christ gives to his people. There is ascribed to the holy a kind of omniscience: "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things. That does not mean that we know all things in the sense in which God knows them, but that we know them so far as our duties are concerned, and are delivered from all that would obscure our vision. There is, in the same way, ascribed to us here a kind of omnipotence: I can do all things." That does not mean that we can
"Rift the hills or roll the waters, (3) How Christ strengthens his people. He does not do it miraculously, as though we should retire at night in an ordinary state of mind, and rise in the morning miraculously strengthened in spirit. The Spirit may come as he does at first, without seeking; but he who would sit still and wait for a miracle shall never be strengthened. Where the Spirit is, there will be a seeking spirit. We are to seek strength in prayer, according to the direction, "Seek, and ye shall find." We are to seek it in the Word. Such a word as this before us, appropriated by faith, is fitted to strengthen us for duty and trial. But we are also to seek it in connection with providences. Prepared beforehand, we are, in the actual doing or bearing, to have a habit of reliance upon Christ. That is the secret of strength in working and in suffering. We are only promised strength according to our day, and not beyond the present day, in order that we may have a habit of reliance upon Christ for each day's strength. At the same time, it should be true that we are ever, in holy habit, acquiring strength against the future. The way to be prepared for the future is to live well in the present. The way to be prepared for the more important duties of life is to do well the humble everyday duties. The way to be prepared for the great emergencies of life and especially for the last emergency is to bear well our lesser trials and annoyances. III. ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THEIR KINDNESS. 1. Kindness to him at Rome. "Howbeit ye did well, that ye had fellowship with my affliction." Having so carefully guarded himself, he feels that he must now guard against any appearance of slighting their kindness. Having already excluded the idea of mere pecuniary relief, in his acknowledgment he looks to the moral excellence which they had displayed in their contribution. They had done well in that they had shown sympathy with him, not in his poverty (for he does not admit the existence of that), but in his affliction, i.e. in the sufferings generally to which he was subjected for the gospel in Rome. They had fellowship with him in the gospel. Having fellowship with him in greater matters, they had also fellowship with him in lesser matters. Their heart was open to all that the Christian preacher, to whom they as well as others had been so much indebted, might need in his prison in Rome. And that was the aspect of the contribution which made it peculiarly acceptable to the afflicted apostle. 2. Early kindness. (1) When he was going forth from Macedonia. "And ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving, but ye only." He had dwelt upon his own independence; he must now dwell upon their kindness. They, the Philippians, whom he mentions affectionately by name, knew as well as he that their kindness had not been of late growth. It had dated from the beginning of the gospel. For "he places himself in their situation, dates from (so to speak) their Christian era." It had dated from the time when he was going forth from Macedonia. Then they alone of the Churches had fellowship with hint in the matter of giving and receiving. We are here supplied with a general name for finance, from the two sides of the ledger - credit and debit. In the Philippian ledger there was an account opened with Paul, in which there were only entries under the head of giving; nevertheless (to keep purely to finance, and not to complicate the thought by bringing in spiritual benefit received by the Philippians), it was categorically an account of giving and receiving. In our ledger (for business ideas ought to be carried into our whole income and expenditure) there should never be wanting a missionary account, an account opened with those who are in need of the gospel of Christ, or are our suffering fellow-Christians. (2) When he was still in Thessalonica. "For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my need." Before the going forth from Macedonia, while he was still laboring in Thessalonica (within the bounds of Macedonia), they had sent once and again unto his need. The exceptional character of this proceeding is to be explained, on the one hand by the intensity of their affection for the apostle, and on the other hand by his consciousness that he was so well understood by them that, without misinterpretation, he could accept of their gifts. IV. UNSELFISHNESS OF THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT. 1. He did not seek gifts. "Not that I seek for the gift: but I seek for the fruit that increaseth to your account." By enlarging on their liberality he might be thought to be coveting their gifts. To guard himself he would have them understand that he did not seek for the gift, i.e. gifts of that kind. But he sought for the fruit corresponding to the gifts. Every time that they gave they were sowing; and the fruit would grow up for them in the next world. Every time that they gave there was an entry made in their name and to their account in the ledger of God, increasing the amount which God, as Debtor, would yet make good to them. 2. He did not need their gifts. "But I have all things, and abound: I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." There is a climax. He had all things he needed; he had more than he needed; he was filled to abundance beyond what he needed. It was the contribution of the Philippians sent by Epaphro-ditus that had put him in this position. The contribution was pleasing to him; but what was he to be thought of in the matter? It was rather pleasing to God. Given to God in him, the servant, it was pleasing to God; nay, it was peculiarly pleasing. Every morning and evening incense was burned in the Jewish temple. Every morning and evening an animal was slain. That symbolized the offering and sacrifice of Christ. The apostle makes bold to say that the contribution of the Philippians, savouring so much of Christ, was "an odour of a sweet smells a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." Let us take encouragement from such an example. "But to do good and to communicate, forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." V. PROMISE. "And my God shall fulfill every, need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." He makes the promise, not in his own name, but in the name of his God. The Philippians had supplied Paul's need; Paul's God, in turn, would, for him, supply their need. He would supply the whole extent of their need, temporal and spiritual. He would do this according to his riches. A rich God, he would, with no stintedness, supply their need. The mark up to which he would supply it, and which would best manifest his wealth, would be their glorification. And all this, as he is always careful to note, was only to be realized within Christ as the ever-blessed sphere. Let us, then, fulfill the condition of the promise. In Old Testament form, condition and promise thus run: "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness." VI. Doxology, "Now unto our God and Father be the glory for ever and ever. Amen" The thought of the rich God glorifying his people, coincident with the close of the Epistle, calls forth an ascription of glory. It is an ascription of glory to him as our God and Father, the God of whom the brightest feature is his fatherhood, and to whom we are brought into the closest relation by adoption. The glory would be ascribed to him for the ages and ages that would roll on after his people were glorified. - R.F.
(3) How Christ strengthens his people. He does not do it miraculously, as though we should retire at night in an ordinary state of mind, and rise in the morning miraculously strengthened in spirit. The Spirit may come as he does at first, without seeking; but he who would sit still and wait for a miracle shall never be strengthened. Where the Spirit is, there will be a seeking spirit. We are to seek strength in prayer, according to the direction, "Seek, and ye shall find." We are to seek it in the Word. Such a word as this before us, appropriated by faith, is fitted to strengthen us for duty and trial. But we are also to seek it in connection with providences. Prepared beforehand, we are, in the actual doing or bearing, to have a habit of reliance upon Christ. That is the secret of strength in working and in suffering. We are only promised strength according to our day, and not beyond the present day, in order that we may have a habit of reliance upon Christ for each day's strength. At the same time, it should be true that we are ever, in holy habit, acquiring strength against the future. The way to be prepared for the future is to live well in the present. The way to be prepared for the more important duties of life is to do well the humble everyday duties. The way to be prepared for the great emergencies of life and especially for the last emergency is to bear well our lesser trials and annoyances.
III. ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THEIR KINDNESS.
1. Kindness to him at Rome. "Howbeit ye did well, that ye had fellowship with my affliction." Having so carefully guarded himself, he feels that he must now guard against any appearance of slighting their kindness. Having already excluded the idea of mere pecuniary relief, in his acknowledgment he looks to the moral excellence which they had displayed in their contribution. They had done well in that they had shown sympathy with him, not in his poverty (for he does not admit the existence of that), but in his affliction, i.e. in the sufferings generally to which he was subjected for the gospel in Rome. They had fellowship with him in the gospel. Having fellowship with him in greater matters, they had also fellowship with him in lesser matters. Their heart was open to all that the Christian preacher, to whom they as well as others had been so much indebted, might need in his prison in Rome. And that was the aspect of the contribution which made it peculiarly acceptable to the afflicted apostle.
2. Early kindness.
(1) When he was going forth from Macedonia. "And ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving, but ye only." He had dwelt upon his own independence; he must now dwell upon their kindness. They, the Philippians, whom he mentions affectionately by name, knew as well as he that their kindness had not been of late growth. It had dated from the beginning of the gospel. For "he places himself in their situation, dates from (so to speak) their Christian era." It had dated from the time when he was going forth from Macedonia. Then they alone of the Churches had fellowship with hint in the matter of giving and receiving. We are here supplied with a general name for finance, from the two sides of the ledger - credit and debit. In the Philippian ledger there was an account opened with Paul, in which there were only entries under the head of giving; nevertheless (to keep purely to finance, and not to complicate the thought by bringing in spiritual benefit received by the Philippians), it was categorically an account of giving and receiving. In our ledger (for business ideas ought to be carried into our whole income and expenditure) there should never be wanting a missionary account, an account opened with those who are in need of the gospel of Christ, or are our suffering fellow-Christians.
(2) When he was still in Thessalonica. "For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my need." Before the going forth from Macedonia, while he was still laboring in Thessalonica (within the bounds of Macedonia), they had sent once and again unto his need. The exceptional character of this proceeding is to be explained, on the one hand by the intensity of their affection for the apostle, and on the other hand by his consciousness that he was so well understood by them that, without misinterpretation, he could accept of their gifts.
IV. UNSELFISHNESS OF THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT.
1. He did not seek gifts. "Not that I seek for the gift: but I seek for the fruit that increaseth to your account." By enlarging on their liberality he might be thought to be coveting their gifts. To guard himself he would have them understand that he did not seek for the gift, i.e. gifts of that kind. But he sought for the fruit corresponding to the gifts. Every time that they gave they were sowing; and the fruit would grow up for them in the next world. Every time that they gave there was an entry made in their name and to their account in the ledger of God, increasing the amount which God, as Debtor, would yet make good to them.
2. He did not need their gifts. "But I have all things, and abound: I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." There is a climax. He had all things he needed; he had more than he needed; he was filled to abundance beyond what he needed. It was the contribution of the Philippians sent by Epaphro-ditus that had put him in this position. The contribution was pleasing to him; but what was he to be thought of in the matter? It was rather pleasing to God. Given to God in him, the servant, it was pleasing to God; nay, it was peculiarly pleasing. Every morning and evening incense was burned in the Jewish temple. Every morning and evening an animal was slain. That symbolized the offering and sacrifice of Christ. The apostle makes bold to say that the contribution of the Philippians, savouring so much of Christ, was "an odour of a sweet smells a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." Let us take encouragement from such an example. "But to do good and to communicate, forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
V. PROMISE. "And my God shall fulfill every, need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." He makes the promise, not in his own name, but in the name of his God. The Philippians had supplied Paul's need; Paul's God, in turn, would, for him, supply their need. He would supply the whole extent of their need, temporal and spiritual. He would do this according to his riches. A rich God, he would, with no stintedness, supply their need. The mark up to which he would supply it, and which would best manifest his wealth, would be their glorification. And all this, as he is always careful to note, was only to be realized within Christ as the ever-blessed sphere. Let us, then, fulfill the condition of the promise. In Old Testament form, condition and promise thus run: "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness."
VI. Doxology, "Now unto our God and Father be the glory for ever and ever. Amen" The thought of the rich God glorifying his people, coincident with the close of the Epistle, calls forth an ascription of glory. It is an ascription of glory to him as our God and Father, the God of whom the brightest feature is his fatherhood, and to whom we are brought into the closest relation by adoption. The glory would be ascribed to him for the ages and ages that would roll on after his people were glorified. - R.F.
man in certain model aspects.
I. Here is a man represented as an OBJECT OF CHRISTIAN BENEFICENCE, "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again."
1. He received their beneficence with religious gratitude. "I rejoiced in the Lord," etc. "There is," says Dr. Barry, "in these words an expression of some hitherto disappointed expectation, not wholly unlike the stronger expression of wounded feeling in 2 Timothy 4:9, 10, 16. At Caesarea St. Paul would have been necessarily cut off from the European Churches; at Rome, the metropolis of universal concourse, he may have expected some earlier communication. But fearing to wound the Philippians by even the semblance of reproof, in their case undeserved, he adds at once, 'in which ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.' Epaphroditus would seem to have arrived early, almost as soon as St. Paul's arrival at Rome gave them the opportunity which they previously lacked." The contributions which came from the Philippians to him he traced to the Lord. He saw the hand and felt the love of God in their gifts. There is not a man on earth who is not in some measure the object of human beneficence. We are all receiving from others, every day in our life, some kind of good - physical, intellectual, social, or spiritual. All this good we should devoutly ascribe to the Father of lights, from whom cometh "every good and perfect gift." Whether those of our fellow-men, who confer on us good, do it with their will or against their will, selfishly or disinterestedly, it matters not so far as our obligation to Heaven is concerned. From him all the good of all kinds and through all channels proceeds.
2. He received their beneficence with hearty appreciation. "Notwithstanding [howbeit] ye have well done, that ye did communicate [had fellowship] with my affliction." "Ye have well done." Your beneficence was dictated from a generous sympathy with my affliction, and it was timely withal. True beneficence is a blessed virtue. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." His appreciation seems to have been deepened by the fact that their beneficence preceded that of other Churches. "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church communicated [had fellowship] with me as concerning [in the matter of] giving and receiving, but ye only." The time referred to is the period of his leaving Macedonia and Athens for Corinth (Acts 17:14). They rendered him help, not only after he had left Macedonia, but before that time, when he had just passed from Philippi to Thessalonica. "At Thessalonica, as at Corinth - both very rich and luxurious communities - he refused maintenance and lived merely by the labor of his own hands (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:8). But it appears from this passage that even then he received, once and again (that is, occasionally, once or twice), some aid from Philippi to supply his need, that is (as in all right exercise of liberality), to supplement, and not to supersede his own resources." In this also he acts in a model way. There are those ingrates in society who receive help from others as a matter of course, attach little or no value to the good which they are constantly receiving. Ay, and moreover, there are those, too, who, instead of becoming bound to the benefactor as friends through gratitude for the favors, not unfrequently become enemies. Ah me! this worst of human vices is, perhaps, the most common. "As there are no laws against ingratitude," says Seneca, "so it is utterly impossible to contrive any that in all circumstances shall reach it. If it were actionable, there would not be courts enough in the whole world to try the causes in. There can be no setting a day for the requiting of benefits, as for the payment of money; nor any estimate upon the benefits themselves; but the whole matter rests in the conscience of both parties; and then there are so many degrees of it, that the same rule will never serve all."
3. He received their beneficence with entire unselfishness. "Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound [increaseth] to your account." He means to say, I do not "desire a gift" for my own sake as much as for yours. I value the gift as an expression and evidence of your faith in Christ. An old writer says, "It is not with any design to draw more from you, but to encourage you to such an exercise of beneficence as will meet with a glorious reward hereafter." True men always value a gift, not simply because of its intrinsic value, or even because it will serve their temporal interest, but because of the priceless sentiments of the heart, love, disinterestedness, and friendship, which it represents. We are all objects of beneficence. Let us act as Paul did in this character, accept all human favors with religious gratitude, with hearty appreciation, and with entire unselfishness.
II. Here is a man represented as a SUBJECT OF PROVIDENTIAL VICISSITUDES. "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith [therein] to be content." "Whatever state." How constantly changing are our states! Life is in truth a checkered scene. Every hour we pass from one condition or mood to another. We change in mind, body, and circumstances. We alternate between friendship and bereavement, prosperity and adversity, sunshine and storms. Now, the aspect in which Paul is seen in passing through these changes is that of contentment, and in this respect' he is a model to us all. His contentment does not mean insensibility, a kind of Stoicism; does not mean indifference to the condition of others, or a satisfied complacency either with his own moral condition or that of the world. It is a cordial acquiescence in the arrangements of Heaven. "Not my will, but thine, be done." This state of mind is not innate, it is attained. Paul "learnt" it. This is moral scholarship of the highest kind.
"Some murmur when their sky is clear And some with thankful love are filled, III. Here is a man represented as a GENUINE REFORMER. "I can do all things through Christ [in him] which strengtheneth me." Paul was a genuine reformer. The reformation he sought was not in corrupt legislation, in outward institutions - social, political, or ecclesiastical - in theological systems, or in external behavior. Such reformations are of little worth. He wrought. 1. In the realms of motive, the springs of action, to change the moral heart of the world. Every man on earth should act in this character and become a moral reformer. All should study and imitate Paul in this aspect. How did he act as a reformer? 2. In conscious dependence on Christ. "I can do all things through Christ." "All things" pertaining to this work as a reformer, not by my own talents, skill, or industry, not in my own strength, but in "Christ which strengtheneth me." Indeed, in Christ's strength what cannot a man do? He can work miracles as the apostles did, he can turn the moral world upside down, he can create men "anew in Christ Jesus," he can sound a trumpet whose blast shall penetrate the ears of slumbering souls and awake the teeming millions that are sleeping in the dust of worldliness and depravity. "Through Christ which strengtheneth me." Strengthens me by turning me away from things that are temporal to things that are spiritual, rooting my faith in eternal realities, filling and firing me with the love which he had for human souls and for the everlasting Father. Conclusion. Study well these model aspects of a man who, as an object of Christian beneficence, is always religiously grateful, heartily appreciative of the favors he receives, and entirely unselfish; as a subject of providential vicissitudes, magnanimously contented in every condition and mood of life; and, as a get, aide reformer, does his work, not in his own strength, but in the power of Christ. - D.T.
And some with thankful love are filled,
III. Here is a man represented as a GENUINE REFORMER. "I can do all things through Christ [in him] which strengtheneth me." Paul was a genuine reformer. The reformation he sought was not in corrupt legislation, in outward institutions - social, political, or ecclesiastical - in theological systems, or in external behavior. Such reformations are of little worth. He wrought.
1. In the realms of motive, the springs of action, to change the moral heart of the world. Every man on earth should act in this character and become a moral reformer. All should study and imitate Paul in this aspect. How did he act as a reformer?
2. In conscious dependence on Christ. "I can do all things through Christ." "All things" pertaining to this work as a reformer, not by my own talents, skill, or industry, not in my own strength, but in "Christ which strengtheneth me." Indeed, in Christ's strength what cannot a man do? He can work miracles as the apostles did, he can turn the moral world upside down, he can create men "anew in Christ Jesus," he can sound a trumpet whose blast shall penetrate the ears of slumbering souls and awake the teeming millions that are sleeping in the dust of worldliness and depravity. "Through Christ which strengtheneth me." Strengthens me by turning me away from things that are temporal to things that are spiritual, rooting my faith in eternal realities, filling and firing me with the love which he had for human souls and for the everlasting Father. Conclusion. Study well these model aspects of a man who, as an object of Christian beneficence, is always religiously grateful, heartily appreciative of the favors he receives, and entirely unselfish; as a subject of providential vicissitudes, magnanimously contented in every condition and mood of life; and, as a get, aide reformer, does his work, not in his own strength, but in the power of Christ. - D.T.
I. ST. PAUL'S DISCONTENT WITH HIMSELF. (See Philippians 2:12 -14.) It is his sense of need which aroused the desire for, and therefore secured the possession of, spiritual growth. To be contented with one's own spiritual state is to prevent the possibility of spiritual progress. All progress springs out of a sense of insufficiency. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
II. ST. PAUL'S CONTENT WITH HIS LOT. So far as worldly advantages are concerned it was not an enviable one. But he had received sufficient of his Master's Spirit to know that man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth. This contrast between Divine discontent and Divine content is paralleled by the "Thou shall not covet" of the Decalogue and the "Covet earnestly the best gifts" of St. Paul. - V.W.H.
I. CONTENTMENT IS A RARE AND PRECIOUS CHRISTIAN GRACE. It must be distinguished from spiritual self-satisfaction, which is sinful and fatal, and is concerned with our own inner condition, while true contentment has regard to our external circumstances. It must also be distinguished from the recklessness of folly and from the apathy of despair. It is a quiet restfulness in the midst of all kinds of changing events.
1. It is rare and difficult of attainment, because
(1) outside events are frequently untoward;
(2) our own hearts are unhealthily restless; and
(3) we live too much in dependence on this world and its fortunes.
2. Contentment is most desirable. For without it the most propitious circumstances can minister little pleasure, and with it the hardest privations can produce little distress. The important question in regard to our happiness is not - What things do we possess? but - What kind of thoughts and feelings do we experience?
3. Contentment is requisite in every condition of life. It is not only the virtue of the poor and the solace of the disappointed. Rich and prosperous people are too often also discontented people. It is harder for some to know how to abound than to know how to suffer want. Wealth brings the thirst for more wealth. Pleasure palls. Prosperity wearies. It is a grand attainment to be able to pass up and down the whole gamut of social change and to behave one's self with equanimity and contentment in every stage up from abasement to abundance and then down again from fullness to need.
II. THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT IS TO BE LEARNED FROM CHRIST. There is a secret. Some have not yet found it out. But it exists and it is well worth seeking. To be fully understood and enjoyed it must be learned as a long, difficult, painful lesson. St. Paul had learnt it, and his example should win fresh pupils to study the same great lesson.
1. Christ gives us strength to bear varying fortunes. St. Paul could speak of his contentment because he could also say, "I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me." If we know and feel nothing beyond this, there is a certain satisfaction to be got from the mere sense of new power given to bear that which before seemed to be unbearable.
2. Christ enables us to live in faith. Thus believing that even now all things are ordered wisely and kindly by our heavenly Father, that they are working together for good not yet seen, working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, we learn to bear the present mystery of trial in hope of the future revelation of blessedness.
3. Christ leads us to live in the spiritual. This is the real secret. External circumstances are constantly changing. At best they will not satisfy the soul's deep hunger. While we live in them we are necessarily often disappointed and discontented. In the inner world of spiritual things we must find our best experience, and when this opens up to the higher world of Divine and heavenly things we have a source of unfailing peace. Resting in God we shall be content in every variety of earthly affairs. - W.F.A.
1. Contentment needs to be cultivated, not only when we possess little, but likewise when we possess much. It may be thought that to be contented with plenty is an easy task. But this is not so. It is often easier to know how to be abased than to know how to abound. We may be in greater danger when our prayers are answered than when the answer is withheld.
2. St. Paul, having learned many things, can teach us many things. Not only does he know theoretically how difficult it is to abound, but he knows it experimentally, and experimentally he has overcome the difficulty. He has been initiated in the experience of both need and abundance, and has known how to bear either tot with safety.
3. This he had been able to do, not through any Stoical superiority to the things of this life, nor yet through any force of natural character, but in the power in which his whole life was now being lived, the strength given by union with Jesus Christ. - V.W.H.
I. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN IS A STRONG SOUL. He is not simply pardoned the failures of past weakness; he is prepared to be more successful in future trials. For those trials he is not merely protected by Divine armor; he is also girded by Divine strength. God does not simply hide his child in the cleft of a rock while the storm passes; he also inspires him with might wherewith to face and brave and conquer the storm even out in the open. He who protects the feeble fledglings in their warm nest also braces the strong branches of the oak to wrestle with the gale. Moreover, if strength is possible to the Christian, weakness is culpable. No one can plead his feebleness as an excuse for falling when he might have been strong in the energy of God.
II. CHRIST IS THE SOURCE OF CHRISTIAN STRENGTH. We are made strong in Christ, not in ourselves. By himself the Christian is as weak as any one else. It is union with Christ that supplies Christ's strength made perfect in our weakness.
1. Christ strengthens with an inspiration of Divine energy. The language of the apostle points to a real supply of strength, not a mere sense of courage, etc. There is a positive outflow of God's might into a soul that is united to Christ.
2. Christ strengthens by his union with us. We must be in him and he in us. Then his life-power flows through us.
3. Christ strengthens though our faith. We are able to receive Christ's energy just in proportion as we trust him, as they who were cured by him had. blessings according to their faith. The energy is not in our faith, but in Christ. Still, faith is the channel of communication. Faith can move mountains, not by reason of its own inherent virtue, but because it invokes the omnipotence of God, as the engineer starts the train when he turns on the steam.
III. THERE ARE GREAT CLAIMS ON CHRISTIAN STRENGTH. It is not allowed to rust in idleness. St. Paul writes of "all things," as though there were many things to be done in the power of Christ.
1. Troubles, temptations, and changing circumstances of life must be borne with contentment. It is in regard to this requirement that the apostle more immediately records this assurance of sufficiency of strength.
2. Duties have to be fulfilled. Christ gives strength for work as well as strength for endurance. The Christian must not only stand firmly like a rock; he must put forth active power like a Samson. The calls for strength are many and various, flesh and heart fail before them; but "they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength," so that in Christ the heaviest burden may be borne and the hardest task accomplished and the weakest soul win the victory over the most powerful foe, with a strength which is practically omnipotent, because it is derived frown an almighty source. - W.F.A.
I. THEIR LIBERALITY WAS NOT MERE ALMSGIVING, BUT AN ACT OF CHRISTIAN SYMPATHY. "Ye did well in communicating with my affliction." They were ready to share the burden of his troubles. There were no converts nearer to the heart of the apostle or more closely identified with his deepest trials.
II. THE APOSTLE'S WILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT THEIR GIFTS WAS EXCEPTIONAL IN ITS CHARACTER. While he refused to receive gifts from the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:9) and from the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:8) because he would not compromise his independence in the case of Churches which were only too ready to question his motives, he conferred on the Philippians the exceptional privilege of ministering to his wants. Once when he left Macedonia, and twice when he was in Thessalonica, they sent, "to relieve his want."
III. THIS WILLINGNESS DID NOT IMPLY THAT HE COVETED THEIR GIFTS. "Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that aboundeth to your account." He does seek to stimulate their generosity, but rather to increase that recompense which every fresh proof of their love would be sure to enhance.
IV. HIS ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THEIR LATEST GIFTS BY EPAPHRODITUS. "I have all things and abound: I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God."
1. It was a thoughtful kindness to send him gifts while he was a prisoner at Rome. The Christians at Rome seem to have been lax in this duty. As he could not gain a living for himself in prison, he was the more dependent on outside generosity.
2. It was doubly pleasant to have the gifts from Philippi conveyed by one so faithful and so dear to the apostle as Epaphroditus.
3. The gifts in his eyes owed their chief value to their being acceptable in God's sight. - T.C.
I. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THOSE who GIVE AND THOSE WHO RECEIVE ALMS IS ONE OF COMMUNION. (Ver. 15.) It is a mistake to suppose that the benefit of almsgiving is all on the side of the recipients. They who possess, possess in order that they may show their brotherhood with those who possess not. To receive is just as much an act of brotherhood as to give. Never regard the bestowing of alms as an act of patronage, or the receiving of them as an act of homage.
II. THE BENEFIT OF ALMSGIVING TO THE ALMSGIVER. It is fruit (ver. 17), which abounds to his account. Fruit is the production of life.
III. ALMSGIVING IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. A sacrifice well-pleasing to him (ver. 18). He sees in every act of self-denial a reflection of the sacrifice of his dearly beloved Son in whom he is well pleased.
IV. ALMSGIVING A PART OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP. Worship is the offering of ourselves and our substance to God. We can only do this through receiving of his grace. We give him back in offerings what he gives us in bounty He returns our offerings multiplied with his blessing and full of his grace (ver. 19). There is a Divine circulation of grace as there is a natural circulation of the blood. So long as we are true to Jesus, who is the very heart of God, so long does he pour forth his grace into us the living members of his body. We return that grace to him in the shape of our poor prayers and deeds of service, and we are again quickened by him from the boundless riches of his grace. - V.W.H.
I. THE AUTHOR OF SUPPLY. "My God shall supply all your need."
1. The expressions, "my God," seems to say that what the apostle had found him to be in all his wants, his converts would be sure to find him, likewise. "My God,"
(1) because he is mine and I am his;
(2) because he has me wholly in charge and has all my interests committed to him.
2. The expression, implies, not merely God's ability and willingness to supply all over need, but his obligation to do so, in virtue of the covenant between, him and his people.
II. THE NEEDS OF THE CHRISTIAN.. "All your need."
1. This does not signify all that the Christian wants; only what he needs. In our waywardness and our childishness we ask for many things which are not really needful to us, but rather hurtful.
2. Our needs are many.
(1) In temporal things;
(2) in spiritual things.
We need faith and its increase, love and its enlargement, hope and its brighter kindling, grace in all its fullness and variety, perseverance in grace to the end.
III. THE RULE OR MEASURE OF SUPPLY. "According to his riches in glory." Not the riches of his glory, but according to his riches, which will find their full development in placing the Christian in glory. Thus there is an inexhaustible supply in God.
IV. THE MEDIUM OF SUPPLY. "In Christ Jesus." In virtue of our union with him we receive of his fullness, grace for grace. That union is the guarantee of a full supply for all our needs.
V. THE DOXOLOGY APPROPRIATE TO SUCH A THOUGHT. "Now to God even our Father be the glory for ever and ever. Amen." This anticipatory doxology is suggested by the pregnant thought of this passage. The glory is due to him who supplies our need. - T.C.
Proverbs 11:24). What we give to the work of Christ we shall receive back with far more than the worth of our offerings. I, WE ALL HAVE GREAT NEEDS THAT ONLY GOD CAN FULFIL. "Every need of yours." What a vast field this expression covers!
1. Earthly need. Few but are pressed by such need in some direction, and often to an extent that no human aid can satisfy. But we must observe that what God will supply is the need, not the desire; the two cover very different ground. God will not give what we wish, but what is requisite for us. Moreover, we cannot distinguish between the real need and our idea of what we need. It is the former only that God will supply.
2. Spiritual need. This is far larger and more important than all material wants. We need forgiveness, purification, strength, knowledge - great and glorious graces that no man can give.
II. GOD WILL FULFIL EVERY NEED OF HIS FAITHFUL SERVANTS.
1. He will fulfill the need. The fulfillment will not be as we expect it; perhaps because the need is not exactly what we imagine it to be. As God only knows the real wants of our lives, he only can rightly supply them. But not one true need will he ultimately leave unsatisfied. There is a royal abundance in the treasury of Divine grace and an unstinting generosity in the gifts from it.
2. This assurance is only for those who are faithful. St. Paul gives it to the Philippians after they have given abundant evidence of their devotion. It is not every one who can rightly be promised that his every need shall be fulfilled, nor to the unspiritual will the Divine supply of the soul's true needs seem to be such, as they will be blind to these wants and at the same time much con-corned with fancied needs of no real importance which God will certainly not supply.
III. THE SOURCE OF THE DIVINE SUPPLY IS IS CHRIST JESUS.
1. The riches with which to supply our poverty are found in Christ. His unsearchable riches (Ephesians 2:8) consist in the grace that he brings to us in his advent and the grace that he secures for us by his death and resurrection. As we receive the highest blessings for Christ's sake they may be regarded as riches that are stored up in Christ.
2. The method of supplying our need is through sharing in the glory of Christ. The riches are in glory. They are the fruits of the triumph of Christ. Fighting under our Captain's banner, we share his triumph, enter into the same glory with him, and so enjoy his wealth of blessings. - W.F.A.
I. CHRISTIANITY IS THE RELIGION OF GOOD WILL TO MAN. It wishes well to all men, but especially to those of the household of faith. The apostle asks the Philippians to salute each individual saint as if he were to be the recipient of a separate blessing: "Salute every saint in Christ Jesus." The blessings we wish for our friends are only to be enjoyed in Christ Jesus.
II. THE SALUTATIONS INDICATE THE SOLIDARITY OF THE CHURCH. The Church at Rome is closely bound to the Church at Philippi.
1. The salutation of the apostle's companions. "The brethren which are with me salute you." That is, as distinguished from the saints at Rome. The brethren included, at least, Timothy, Luke, Epaphroditus, Aristarchus, Tychicus, Epaphras, Mark, Demas, Onesimus.
2. The salutation of the saints, and especially those of Caesar's household. "All the saints salute you, but especially those of Caesar's household." The saints of the great city of Rome, so far from despising the saints of the colonial town of Philippi, acknowledge a common brotherhood in their kindly greeting. The thought of the saints in Caesar's household suggests many reflections as to the penetrative power of the gospel. It is a remarkable tribute to its power that there should be saints in the household of Nero Caesar. Mark:
(1) The place of these saints. "In Caesar's household." Whether they were members of the Praetorian Guard or retainers in the emperor's family, they were
(a) in the most important position in the world - at Rome, the seat of empire, with communications reaching to the ends of the earth;
(b) they were tolerated in their religion, during the brief interval when Rome, with a glorious impartiality, opened its gates to all the faiths of the world, but in two years' time, indifference turned to hatred, and hatred to persecution;
(c) they were in the most corrupt household in the world, in the last place where we should have expected to find saints.
(2) The character of their saintship.
(a) It was heroic saintship;
(b) it showed independence;
(c) it showed constancy.
The catacombs of Rome convey the record of this saintship in the original purity of gospel life. - T.C.
1. Paul. "Salute every saint in Christ Jesus." He salutes the Philippians individually. With a knowledge of many of them, he was interested in every one of them as contributing to the strength of the cause of Christ at Philippi. Besides this general salutation by letter, to be read before the assembled congregation, there would be special salutations, to be delivered privately by Epaphroditus.
2. Personal companions. "The brethren which are with me salute you." These companions are not mentioned by name. Timothy was the only available companion for Philippi. Some might be told off for other work. Others, although they showed selfishness, were not debarred from sending fraternal greetings.
3. Christians resident in Rome. "All the saints salute you." Although not acquainted with the Philippian Christians, they belonged to the same Christian brotherhood, were interested in the common cause, looked forward to the common home; and therefore they too sent their greetings.
4. Of Roman Christians one class singled out. "Especially they that are of Caesar's household." "Nero (the Caesar here referred to) Was a prince that as far surpassed others in infamy as Augustus did in royalty; a man who, if every soul beside himself in his household had been a saint, concentrated inhumanity and pollution enough in his person to have darkened all their virtue by the blackness of his unnatural crimes; a man that expended more ingenuity in contriving new modes of dishonoring humanity than most Christians have in serving it, and who earned the reputation of introducing into history as facts crimes so enormous and combinations of wickedness so revolting that but for him they would have been held too fabulous for the wildest fancy; a man that hunted up and down his vast domains to find some fresh species of murder, with exquisite and aggravated accompaniments to season it to his monstrous appetite, with the same eagerness that gluttons search out a fresh delicacy for a sated palate; a man that tried three different ways of butchering his own mother, and at last despatched her by a vulgar execution, in a petulant rage at being baffled so often; and who added the tyrant's caprice to the incendiary's, by undertaking at once to throw off the suspicion of his own agency in the diabolic conflagration of his capital, and to comfort his bloodthirsty temper by imputing the fire to the innocent Christians; who tortured his Christian subjects by unheard-of torments, dressing them in the skins of wild animals to provoke dogs to tear them to pieces, or wrapping their bodies in clothing smeared with pitch and then setting them on fire to light up the Roman night with their burning; a man, in short, that wrought so awful an impression of his attributes of superhuman atrocity on the minds of the believers that that a common rumor went abroad among them, after his horrible death, that he would return again alive to vex the world anew, and to be the antichrist of prophecy." In the household of Nero, including the highest functionaries and lowest menials, were found saints. Their saintliness shone out all the more against the neighboring blackness. And, with such blackness in their neighborhood, there were sure to be seen burning around them fires of persecution. To be saints, then, in Caesar's household required extraordinary courage and modesty, independence and constancy. "This saintliness is possible and is much wanted also wherever an adverse influence frowns on Christian purity or hinders Christian fidelity. For that bad influence may proceed from things not held in much suspicion - from a false social standard, from a set of surrounding associations hostile to holiness, from a dominant worldliness in a nation, or a city, or a college, or a literal household. Our Nero is self-love. The senses are the Caesars of all ages. The reigning temper of the world is the imperishable persecutor and tyrant of the faithful soul. And so in every home and street, seminary and dwelling, there are chances for the reappearing of saints in Caesar's household. Wherever a fearless man deems any bribe to do wrong an insult to his clean heart; wherever an incorruptible merchant refuses to conform to popular deceptions; wherever a righteous mechanic refuses to let down his performance to the standard of superficiality; wherever an honest statesman stands above his party the moment his party cast away their principles; wherever a self-commanding woman dares to be a rebel against extravagance and insincerity; wherever a disciple of Christ is not ashamed to own and praise that holy Lord, by whom only he has forgiveness, though unbelieving associates taunt and ridicule; - there we behold saints of Caesar's household."
II. BENEDICTION. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit." The blessing invoked is grace, or unmerited favor. It is invoked, as belonging to him who, from his saving work, has the right to dispense it to his people. It is invoked on their spirit; for from the spirit as the center must blessing go forth upon the whole nature. - R.F.