I thank my God on every remembrance of you,…
1. Whom he thanked. "I thank my God." As it was in connection with their matters that he thanked God, he might have said, "I thank your God." As he made common cause with them, he might have said, "I thank our God." As he felt personally indebted to God on their account, what he says is, "I thank my God."
2. Upon what he proceeded in thanksgiving. "Upon all my remembrance of you." This was a gracious word with which, as a wise overseer, to bespeak a hearing from them. It was the highest praise he could have bestowed upon them. His relations with them had been of the happiest nature. Not a shadow had passed over their intercourse. There was nothing in their past history as a Church that he recalled with regretfulness. His whole recollection of them made him thank his God.
3. How he thanked God. "Always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy." His interest in them carried him to the throne of grace. It was his habit to pray for them, as for all the Churches he had founded. He had a means of reaching them through heaven. And whenever he prayed on their behalf (and this was a care which came upon him daily) the remembrance of them called forth his thanksgivings, which gave a tone of joy to his prayers. What was uniformly in his prayers could not but come out in his Epistle. And so it has been remarked by Bengel, "The sum of the Epistle is, 'I rejoice; rejoice ye."
4. For what particularly he thanked God. "For your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now." They were partners with him for a holy end. That end was to further the gospel. They could not accomplish this cud in the same way that Paul did. But they could contribute for his support; and, thus relieving him from the necessity of working with his own hands, they put him in a better position for furthering the gospel They also helped by the prayers they offered up to God on his behalf. They especially helped in what they evinced in their lives of the power of the gospel. That was putting a powerful argument into the mouth of the apostle. In trying to persuade others he could point to what the gospel had done for them. All that help in the gospel they had rendered him from the first day they had heard until then. He had continually been held up by them in the proclamation of the gospel.
II. CONFIDENT HOPE.
1. To what directed. "That he which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ." The good work immediately referred to was co-operation with the apostle in furthering the gospel. But the language is general, and may be referred to the work of grace as a whole.
(1) How the work can be said to be good.
(a) It is a work wrought in us. "In you," says the apostle. There is a work to be wrought on external nature. We are to subdue the earth, according to the primeval command; we are to turn it to good uses. But that is really accidental, relative to the work that is to be wrought in us. What is essential is that we, the workers, the subduers of the earth, should be in our normal state. And there can be no doubt that is what will be looked into when we have done with earth and all its works. What with all our working have we wrought in ourselves?
(b) It is a work which consists in giving forms of goodness to our nature. A man of cultivated taste can make the bare ground assume forms of beauty. He can turn it into a garden - the surface taken advantage of, the soil highly cultivated, flowers and trees disposed of with reference to season, color, size - all so arranged as to be pleasing to the eye. So our nature has to be made to assume Divine forms. It has to be charactered by God - its peculiarities preserved, its powers cultivated, all so ordered under his plastic hand as to be a garden in which he can take delight.
(c) It is a work which consists in the emancipation of our nature from evil forms. This earth of ours in its natural state needs much subduing by the iron, directed by the mind of man. Our nature is to be compared to a piece of ground in its natural wildness, which is ill to subdue to usefulness and loveliness. It needs much subduing by the grace of God, that it may be delivered from the evil that is in it, while brought forth into all goodness. Our minds need to be delivered from vanity, and brought into captivity to Christ. Our memories need to be delivered from treacherousness, and made reliable and ready in the service of Christ. Our affections need to be weaned from the world, and set Christ. Our consciences need to be delivered from searedness, and endued with tenderness. Our wills, especially, need to be delivered from weakness, and endued with power. It is throughout a work of liberation, emancipation, the transforming of the waste so that -
"Flowers of grace in freshness start,
Where once the weeds of error grew."
(2) How God can be said to begin the good work in us.
(a) It is to be traced to the Father's love. Take one who has experienced something of The "good work" in his heart - what is its history? If it is traced back and back, its beginnings are to be found in the motions of the Father's love. It goes further back than even the Divine counsels. For it was the love behind, essentially belonging to him as Father, that made him think of and decree our salvation.
(b) It is to be traced to the work of the Son. This is not going so far back as the Father's counsels; it is rather the carrying out of these counsels. The work of Christ outside of us is the reason why the good work can go forward in us. The Son of God, coming into our nature and grappling with all the difficulties of our position, obtained for us redemptive virtue. That is the decisive fact to which the good work in us is to be traced back, just as the healing of men's bodies of old was to be traced back to the miraculous virtue that was in Christ.
(c) It is to be traced to the operations of the Spirit. This is God coming into closest contact with us. Left to ourselves the redemptive work of Christ would have been a dead work. But it was followed up by the Spirit of Christ coming into our heart, producing in us the desire for salvation, holding up before us saving merit, saving truth. And the good work in us is to be traced back to his gracious working.
"And every virtue we possess,
And every victory won,
And every thought of holiness,
Are his alone."
(3) Our ground of confidence in God that he will perfect the good work in us. The work is emphatically God's.
"The transformation of apostate man
From fool to wise, from earthly to Divine,
Is work for him that made him."
(a) We confide in the infinitude of the Father's love. If we had only our own interest in our salvation to look to, we might be afraid of it dying out. But sooner will light die out of the sun than love die out of the heart of God. And we have that inextinguishable love to rely upon to complete our salvation for us.
(b) We confide in the infinitude of the Savior's merit. If we had only our own worthiness to think of, we might often enough hide our head in the dust. But fuller than the sea is of water is Christ of merit. And infinitely beyond our need does his merit extend. And to his far-reaching merit can we look for the completion of our salvation.
(c) We confide in the infinitude of the Spirit's power. If we had only ourselves to look to, we might well despair, considering the elements of weakness, of fickleness, that are in our hearts. But more penetrating, subduing than fire is the working of the Spirit. And when we are ready to stand aghast at the evil we discover in our hearts, let us look away to the might of the Spirit that can infinitely more than conquer it all.
(4) Our ground of confidence in God especially as having begun the good work.
(a) He is bound by his wisdom. When he began the good work he must have had a distinct end in view. And he must have known all the difficulties in the way beforehand, especially the badness of our hearts. In the knowledge of all difficulties he must have seen his way to the desired end all clear. To begin to build without knowing how to finish is foolishness, with which only man is chargeable. There are no half-finished worlds in God's universe.
(b) He is bound by his faithfulness. There is the Old Testament promise, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." Such a word as this is encouraging: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." And the very fact that he has begun a good work in us, apart from any word of promise, may be taken as a pledge that he will see to it being completed. Observe the nexus of our experience. It is when we have experienced something of the good work in us that we can assure ourselves in God that he will complete it. We have, therefore, in the first place, to satisfy ourselves about the reality of our experience. Are there the signs of a good work begun in our hearts? Is there the seeking after God for the blessing? Is there the endeavor to do the Divine will? If we cannot satisfy ourselves, we are not beyond hope while we can say -
Love of God, so pure and changeless;
Blood of Christ, so rich and free;
Grace of God, so strong and boundless,
Magnify them all in me -
(5) The time toward which we look for the completion of the work. He says not "day of our death;" for, though it is practically that to each of us, yet that signifies nothing as to the completion of the work. But he says "day of Jesus Christ," because the work is to be completed in connection with the saving power of Christ upon us; and not only so, but, more definitely, in connection with the full manifestation of the saving power of Christ upon us. For, as is said in Colossians, "When Christ who is our Life shall be manifested ['as he is not now manifested]. he then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory."
2. Its justification.
(1) Love resting on participation. "Even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers with me of grace." It was right for him to cherish a confident hope regarding one and all of them, because he felt the warmest love toward them. He uses a strong expression - he had them in his heart. "Open my heart," says R. Browning, "and you will see graven on it, 'Italy.'" So on the opened heart of the apostle to this hour in heaven may be seen graven on it, among other names, "Philippi." Grace operated in them as it did in him. In his bonds they helped him by their sympathy with him. In his exertions for the gospel they also helped him. When he stood up in defense of the gospel, before heathen magistrates and unbelieving Jews, he was emboldened by the thought of their unwavering confidence in him. And when he was engaged in confirmation of the gospel by his teaching among those who came under his influence, he was indebted to them for what he could point to in them of the power of the gospel, and especially for their spontaneously contributing to his support. They were thus in a remarkable manner partners with him in grace. And as he hoped for himself, so as confidently did he hope for them, that there would be a completion of the good work begun.
(2) Love going out in longing. "For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus." Love longs for its object. He could call God to witness that he longed eagerly after one and all of them. This was not merely a longing to be present with them, but a longing after communion with them in the Spirit in their increasing approximation to Christ. For he longed after them in sympathy with Christ. He notes a wonderful identity; it was as though Christ were yearning in him. Christ, in Paul, had a yearning after the Philippian community, though it was not conspicuous for its numbers, and had only been ten years in existence. Does he not yearn yet after Christian societies, however humble, and through Christian hearts?
1. For increase of love, associated with knowledge and discernment. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment." He has already given them credit for love in its manifestations. He here assumes that their love abounded. Still, he wished higher things for them in love. Especially did he wish to see it associated with knowledge and discernment. The former points more to fullness of contents; the Latter more to quickness of perception. The former is used generally; the latter distributively - all discernment, i.e. every act of the spiritual sense, or its application to every occasion. We need not wonder that love, in order to be perfected, needs to be brought under the influence of truth. Love is regulated by truth. In proportion to its force it is apt to be erratic. We need sometimes to drag it at the heels of duty. We need to keep it from being placed on unworthy objects. We need to keep it from seeking worthy objects in unworthy ways. Christ needed to rebuke Peter's love to him, which mistakenly forbade him to die. Love is nourished by truth. With imperfect knowledge our love must be starved. We need to have the field of truth ever opened up before us, that love may be fed. We must see beauty in Christ in order that we may desire him. The apostle then prayed for the Philippians, that they might have an enlarged knowledge and a finer perception, in order that their hearts might be more warmly affected, especially toward him who is the altogether Lovely.
2. Aim in the elements associated with love. "That ye may approve the things that are excellent." Some translate, "That ye may prove the things that differ." But the apostle is a point beyond that. The object of enlarged knowledge and a fine spiritual sense is that love may be combined with the approbation of excellent things, or things that stand out amongst the good. necessary to a rounded character? Is it not necessary in a world And is that not like this, if love would have its virgin purity and due warmth, that we should have a keen eye to detect the spurious, the base, that we should set aside for our highest approbation the things that tower up among the good?
3. Ultimate design.
(1) Inward state "That ye may be sincere and void of offense unto the day of Christ." "Sincere," in its derivation points to honey without any admixture of wax. So are we to have heavenly excellence without any admixture of earthliness. Unmixed in our motives (which is a condition of excellence), we shall not be chargeable with giving others offense, or putting obstacles in their way. Especially in view of the day of Christ does it become us to see that we are clear from the blood of all men.
(2) Outward results. "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." Righteousness is the holy habit already presupposed. He refers to it now in connection with its fruits. These Philippians had already exhibited good fruits in what they had done for the furtherance of the gospel. He wished to see the idea of fruitfulness fully realized. Let them be like trees laden with golden fruit, that fruit produced through the inflowing of the virtue of Christ-like sap into the tree, and tending to the glory of God and its due recognition. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,