Philippians has been on my heart for many long years, and, at various times, I have jotted down notes as certain passages were pressed upon my attention. One lengthy article, that on "The Kenosis," or emptying of Christ, has already been published. In the last few years particularly, the need of a fuller exposition has made itself felt. Even noble and devoted men, full of zeal for God and His Word, seemed to have hardly an inkling of its message. The gracious revival of Pauline teaching seems to be suffering a reaction, and to be taking false and fantastic forms because this epistle is not studied as a whole.
“The Slaves’ Exhortation” (Philippians 1:1-2—4:21-23)
The Philippian Epistle comes to us from two slaves, not from an apostle. It is an exhortation, designed to affect our feet, rather than a revelation for the enlightening of our minds. Paul and Timothy do not present the truth as to our position in Christ, but the path to be pursued by the Philippians, after they know their place in Him. It consists principally of four "living expressions" of the evangel, which are set forth for us to follow. Christ, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Paul—these are the patterns who give us a clue to the conduct which becomes us today—Christ and Paul in particular.
“The Philippians’ Contribution” (Philippians 1:3-11—4:14-20)
Among the most precious privileges which come to us with the reception of God's unspeakable gift, is that of giving, of participating in the service of heralding the evangel by supporting the efforts made to spread the knowledge of God. In this, the Philippians as a whole are our example, for they seem to have excelled all others in their contributions to the evangel from the beginning to the very end of Paul's career. Therefore a whole section is set aside for this subject both at the commencement and at the conclusion of the epistle. Let us seek to enter the delightful atmosphere which pervades it and lifts it heaven high above the plane on which this matter is usually found in the churches of today.
“Paul’s Affairs” (Philippians 1:12-30—4:10-13)
The affairs of Paul, the slave of Christ Jesus, at the crisis which introduced the present administration of God's transcendent grace, are of extraordinary interest and importance to those who wish to walk in accord with the will of God. As the framework of Philippians shows, he discusses his affairs twice, in two balancing sections, one near the beginning, and the other at the end of the epistle. First, he brings up his bonds in Christ (1:12- 18). Corresponding to this he speaks of his strength in Christ (4:13). In the early part of the epistle he dilates on his indifference to death (1:19-26). In the latter, he declares his complacency in want. Besides this, in each section, he touches on the experience of the Philippians, their suffering with Paul (1:27), and their care of him (4:10).
“The Example of Christ” (Philippians 2:1-18)
Practice is more powerful than precept. Deeds may do more than declarations in directing our lives. In Ephesians, we have already been told how we should walk. In Philippians, we are given examples of such conduct in the careers of others. We are pointed to the kenosis of Christ, the forfeits of Paul, the solicitude of Timothy, and the suffering of Epaphroditus. These are the special characters in Holy Writ who are presented for our emulation within the boundaries of this present secret administration. Hence they should be frequent and foremost in our exhortations. They should be the leading characters in Christendom.
“The Human Will” (Philippians 2:13)
God is operating in us to will as well as to work for the sake of His delight (Phil.2:13). This brief allusion to the human will throws a flood of light into a very dark and dismal doctrine which has so vitiated the theology of Christendom that it has practically robbed God of His Deity and the Saints of a God worthy of the name. It is generally taken for granted that the Bible teaches that man, being made in the image of God, is absolutely sovereign in the realm of his will. Just as God can will, without being influenced by aught about Him, so we can create a decision out of the blue, without the least reference to what we are, or to the world about us.
“The Service of Timothy” (Philippians 2:19-24)
As Paul is bound, and cannot visit the Philippians himself, he sends Epaphroditus and contemplates sending Timothy. In these two characters, we have two "living expressions" of the evangel for this economy. They set forth the highest ideal in service and suffering. In Timothy, we see the model slave. His very name is eloquent, for it means Honor-God. He is one of the few of whom it could be said that he did not seek his own, but others' good. In many ways, he seems to be a typical character for the present, combining, in his own person, both Circumcision and Uncircumcision, and the weakness of the flesh with the power of the spirit.
“Epaphroditus’ Sufferings” (Philippians 2:25-30)
Suffering is the supreme service. It comes nearest to the sacrifice which our Saviour made for us. The service of the strong is acceptable to God, yet the work of the weak is far more welcome. It is a deeper display of sacrificial love and demands much more affection to suffer than to serve. It is when both are combined that we see the highest response to God's grace. And both are found in the four examples set before us. Christ was the supreme Sufferer. Paul had his splinter in the flesh and his persecutions. Timothy had his frequent infirmities and the evils from without. Epaphroditus, the apostle of the Philippians, was especially signalized by his suffering, which took him very near to death (2:25-30).
“The Imitation of Paul” (Philippians 3:1-4:9)
The keynote of true service is rung out once again: "Rejoice in the Lord!" Not in ourselves, in the flesh, or the terrestrial at this time, but in Him, in spirit, among the celestials. To be safe, we should keep this ever before us. Paul apologized for repeating this so often, but it is sorely needed, for it is seldom heeded. Indeed, few realize the precise force of the simple terms used. It is a very different matter to rejoice in Christ in regard to our salvation and glory, and to rejoice in the Lord in relation to our service for His sake. This chapter deals with service, not salvation. It is saved saints who are enemies of the cross (not of Christ), whose consummation is destruction (so far as their service is concerned). This is no chapter for unbelievers, but for saints in their character as slaves, who rejoice in their master, or Lord.
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