THE BOOK OF PHILIPPIANS
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Paul covers several topics in his letter to the believers in Philippi. One of the most striking is his declaration that he counted everything as garbage that he might win Christ. He set attaining to the resurrection from the dead as the mark toward which he was pressing continually.
Table of Contents
THE BOOK OF PHILIPPIANS
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: (Philippians 1:1)
When reading the Epistles of the New Testament we must keep in mind that these letters are addressed to the saints, the holy ones. They are not written to the unsaved. The reason I am stressing this is that many of the Epistles contain strong exhortations and warnings concerning sin. Since we have a warped message today, which claims once we accept Christ we can forget about sin, we are apt to assign these warnings to non-Christians or to Jews. Thus we make the Word of God of no effect.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:2)
Notice that the word “grace” means God’s Presence and blessing through Jesus Christ. The term “grace,” as it is used in the New Testament, means more than “forgiveness.”
I thank my God every time I remember you. (Philippians 1:3)
The Apostle Paul was concerned about each individual to whom He ministered. I think this is important today, at least in America, because of the emphasis on great numbers of people. I believe when we stress numbers to this extent we lose sight of the individual believer, and thus of the Lord Jesus. “Where two or three…”
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy Because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, (Philippians 1:4,5)
Paul was probably the greatest of the Apostles, if we were to measure greatness by the worldwide effect of his ministry. Yet he did not perceive himself as a king over God’s people but as a partner in sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom.
God is not looking for exalted people but for those who exalt the Lord Jesus Christ.
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
We may notice two facts in the above verse. First, salvation is a progressive work which begins when we first receive Christ, and continues to completion. Christ is the Author and the Finisher of our salvation.
We are placing too much emphasis today on the initial acceptance of Christ. We count the number of those who “get saved.” This is misleading and weakening. We are not stressing sufficiently that receiving Christ is only the beginning of a life of discipleship; and that if the life of discipleship is not maintained diligently, what was begun will wither and die.
I realize there are some who will object strenuously to the idea that someone can start in Christ and then wither and die. But the parable of the sower, and of the Vine, as well as some passages of the New Testament, reveal clearly that the Lord “saves people out of Egypt” and afterward destroys those who do not continue in faith.
It is like a contract. Christ is one Signer. He will carry the work of salvation in us through to completion. We are the other signer. Our task is to look to Jesus every day, deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him wherever He leads us.
In any contract, if one signer does not carry out his obligations, the other signer is released from his contractual obligations. It is as simple as that.
People like to say that Christ will finish the work of salvation in them. They do not always add the proviso that part of the work of salvation is up to them to accomplish.
Second, there is only one Day of Christ Jesus. We have divided that one Day into two events: a “rapture” and then the coming of the Lord. This is absolutely unscriptural and confusing. When Paul, in this epistle, speaks of the Day of Christ, he is referring to the Day of the Lord, the one coming of the Lord.
The sooner the Christian churches abandon the unscriptural “rapture” teaching the quicker we will see the need to prepare for the coming of Him whose eyes are like blazing fire.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. (Philippians 1:7)
Again we see that Paul was interested in the individual believers. At the end of some of his epistles he lists the names of different saints. I am of the opinion that in these cases Paul listed just about everyone in that church.
We have a problem with this in America. I think we are filling our churches with people who never have really met Christ, just so we can point to a large number of communicants. If we start telling the people what it means to be a disciple of Christ the numbers might be reduced. Then we would be able to concentrate on individual Christians.
Paul reaches out to the people so they may feel as though they are one with him in God’s grace and in the Gospel.
Paul at this time was in prison in Rome.
God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:8)
I don’t believe the Christian churches should ever be a business, which seems to be a trend in America. It is true that the pastor is a chief executive officer, in that he is required to conduct the assembly in manner acceptable to the state and federal governments. He must see to it that money is handled properly, and that the church adheres to the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of the local church or denomination.
But this is the least part of his role. The pastor is the one who should lead the church so it becomes a closely knit family, with every child and adult being an important part of the assembly. There should be a family love present. Satan will attempt mightily to sow discord, and it is the responsibility of the pastor and elders to pray and do all in their power to prevent roots of bitterness from springing up.
The fact that Paul longed for all the believers in Philippi suggests to me that there were not a huge number of Christians there. He was writing to all the saints and the overseers and deacons. Perhaps there were several small groups of believers.
It is interesting to me that Turkey and Greece, places where Paul devoted time and attention, are not Gospel centers today. How could Paul have known how his letters would affect people in Europe and the Americas, and other places. This is a lesson to us that we must be absolutely faithful in what God gives us to do, because we do not know how God intends to use our efforts.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, (Philippians 1:9,10)
That each of us may increase in knowledge and depth of insight. That each of us may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the Day of Christ.
This tells me that Paul’s standard of what it means to be a Christian differs from ours. How many times have we exhorted the saints to increase in knowledge and depth of insight? How many times have we encouraged the saints to discern what is best, to be pure and blameless until the Day of Christ?
Isn’t it true that we are placing too much emphasis on the beginning acts of salvation, giving the impression that after someone has “accepted Christ” there is no further significant act of redemption? His or her job then is to go out and tell others about the “free trip to Heaven.”
Even in the Pentecostal movement, where we add the baptism with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues to the basic act of salvation, we do not then point out to the believers that they have just started on the program of salvation.
How many times do we speak of being pure and blameless? Do we not rather stress that once we accept Christ we are perfectly righteous and there is nothing we can add to this righteousness?
It absolutely is true that there is nothing we can add to the righteousness of Jesus Christ that has been ascribed to us, because justification by faith does not exist in degrees. Either we are justified through Christ in God’s sight or we are not.
But being pure and blameless, which is referring to holy, righteous behavior, does exist in degrees. There are levels of holiness; levels of purity; levels of closeness to God. We cannot be more justified today than we were yesterday, but we certainly can be closer to God than we were yesterday. We can be holier today than we were yesterday, because holiness is not ascribed to us. Holiness is wrought in us as we keep coming out from the ways of the world, cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Often in America the preaching is limited to justification, to receiving by faith the blood atonement made on the cross. But much if not most of the New Testament is about sanctification, about holiness, about living in a righteous manner, not about imputed righteousness.
It is time now to return to the letters written by the Apostle Paul until we discover the main theme of his writings. When we do we will find that we are not teaching and preaching what Christ revealed to us through Paul.
Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:11)
There is imputed (ascribed) righteousness, and then there is the fruit of righteousness.
Imputed righteousness is given to us when we first draw on the Bank of Heaven. Christ kept the Law of Moses perfectly, which earned for Him righteousness, and eternal life. But Christ did not spend what He had earned. Rather, He suffered as though He had broken the Law. Therefore there is an account in the Bank of Heaven, earned by the Lord Jesus Christ, that we can draw on by faith.
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)
The fruit of righteousness is not ascribed righteousness. The fruit of righteousness is borne as Christ is formed in us. The forming of Christ in us is equivalent to the writing of the eternal law of God on our mind and on our heart. This is the new covenant.
If any person is abiding in Christ a new creation of righteous behavior is coming forth.
What is righteous behavior? Righteous behavior is described in the Sermon on the Mount.
- It is being poor in spirit rather than proud and arrogant.
- It is mourning over the immorality in the world.
- It is being meek rather than pushing and shoving to get what we want.
- It is hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
- It is being merciful.
- It is being a peacemaker.
- It is persisting in godly behavior when we are persecuted
- It is rejoicing when people insult us and falsely speak evil of us.
- It is abiding in Christ so we “taste” of Christ.
- It is doing good deeds.
- It is surpassing the Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses in acts of honesty and generosity.
- It is showing kindness to other people.
- It is permitting ourselves to be defrauded, as the Lord leads.
- It is keeping ourselves morally pure.
- It is not using God’s name insincerely.
- It is loving our enemies.
- It is not making a show when we perform charitable deeds.
- It is storing up treasures in Heaven rather than on the earth.
- It is serving God rather than money.
- It is seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness rather than placing our material needs as our highest priority.
- It is not judging other people.
- It is not giving what is sacred to people who will not value our gift.
- It is praying to God constantly for all our needs and desires, knowing that God will answer.
- It is walking the narrow way that leads to eternal life.
- It is guarding ourselves against false prophets who obviously are not serving Christ, who are not living righteous lives.
The Kingdom of God requires the actual doing of the will of Christ, rather than just calling Him “Lord! Lord!”
Unless we behave in the above manner we are not worthy of the Kingdom of God. Those who break these laws of Christ, which really are an elaboration of the moral aspects of the Law of Moses, and teach people to break them, shall be called least in the Kingdom. Those who keep them and teach others to keep them shall be called great in the Kingdom.
Today we present imputed righteousness as though it is the most important form of righteousness—in fact, as though it is the only form of righteousness. “We are not worthy, only He is worthy,” we moan, ignoring the several times in the New Testament where we are exhorted to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Kingdom.
How could there be greatest and least in the Kingdom if we are all on the same level through grace? There are so many passages we must ignore, or assign to people other than Christians, when we overemphasize the role of imputed righteousness.
We are almost totally in error, and the Christian churches are filled with spiritual babies. In fact, many of the members are not even spiritual babies. They have been brought into the churches by methods other than the drawing of the Holy Spirit.
If we are to enter the Kingdom of God our righteous behavior must surpass that of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses. Surpassing those people is not terribly difficult, because, according to the New Testament, they were envious, covetous, and murderers of Christ.
If we are to enter the Kingdom of God we must live according to the laws of the Kingdom laid down in the Sermon on the Mount.
Now, how do we do this? How do we become perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect? How do we gain the strength to not resist evil? How do we learn to rejoice when our good is spoken of as evil?
We pray without ceasing, bringing every detail of our life to the Lord. When we do this, Christ feeds us with His own body and blood.
We confess our sins when the Holy Spirit points them out to us. Then we look to the Lord as we renounce these behaviors and turn away from them.
We gather with fervent Christians as often as possible.
We present our body a living sacrifice to God, counting that we have died with Christ on the cross and have been raised with Him to the right hand of God in Heaven.
We seek the ministries and gifts of the Spirit, looking for increased ways in which we can serve the Lord and build up the Body of Christ.
We meditate in the Scriptures, Old and New Testament, continually. We listen carefully to see if the Holy Spirit is reproving us concerning a passage we have read. If He is, we confess the area of concern and pray that God will put His fire on it until we have been purged from all filthiness of the flesh and Spirit.
We deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus every day.
We remain patiently in difficult circumstances until God brings deliverance to us. We endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ.
Sometimes we can just stop sinning by making up our mind to do so. For example, we can stop using profanity. We can stop defiling our body with tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. If we are addicted, we can pray and the Lord will deliver us.
We can stop lying, stealing, gossiping and criticizing our fellow believers. But first we will have to find in the New Testament that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.
We are to give of our material wealth, remembering the needy as the Lord directs. The Lord will give us a generous spirit if we pray.
The demands of the new covenant are as I have presented above. Marriage to the Lamb of God is a total commitment. The grace given to us under the new covenant is correspondingly great. God never asks anything of us unless He has made provision for its accomplishment.
We are to be filled with the fruit of righteousness that is produced as we continue to abide in Christ each day. When people see us behaving in such a godly manner they will give glory and praise to God.
The errors that have accumulated in Christian teaching have eclipsed the message of the Kingdom of God, turning it into a belief system designed to bring untransformed people to Heaven, to the spirit paradise. We have been deceived. We are not teaching or doing what Jesus commanded. Yet, the Great Commission is that we make disciples, teaching them to obey the commands of Christ.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19,20)
We are not doing this. We are not making disciples and teaching them to obey the commandments of Christ that I have listed above. We are preaching a false gospel, and we have the moral wreckage in the churches to show for it. We are building churches rather than building people. Hopefully during the present generation there will be a complete reformation of Christian thinking. We are living in a delusion.
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. (Philippians 1:12)
This isn’t the way we ordinarily think, is it? Although he was in prison at the time, not knowing what a day would bring forth, his only concern was the Gospel. May God grant to us this attitude concerning every circumstance in our life.
As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. (Philippians 1:13,14)
This is always the way. When Satan believes he has hindered the work of the Gospel, God uses it for good. Everyone in the palace became aware of the Gospel of Christ, for which Paul was in prison. Also, some of the other Christians were inspired by Paul’s example of dedication and courage.
When we are doing God’s will, even the events of our life that appear to be tragic somehow result in the furtherance of God’s work in the earth.
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. (Philippians 1:15-17)
Some of the believers were preaching Christ because of their love toward Paul.
Other people, whether believers or not, were preaching Christ for the purpose of causing problems for Paul—perhaps with the idea of antagonizing the authorities, or to show they were superior to Paul, or for some other detestable reason.
Selfish ambition! Perhaps they thought they could gain an advantage for themselves if Paul were to be put to death.
You might think “Christians” would never do such a thing. Well, the leaders of the Jews were religious people and they murdered Christ!
I have been a Christian for many years. I have noticed that churches sometimes are a breeding ground for evil spirits and ambitious people. I do not know why religion produces such satanic behavior, unless it is because Satan himself is religious and joins the church.
There is considerable political activity among those who aspire to high rank in the church hierarchy. There is much cynicism among the leadership of which the average churchgoer is unaware. There are many who are prominent in Christendom whom the Lord does not know. They are wicked people.
God does not want His sheep to become involved in the shameful, cynical manipulations that take place in the denominational hierarchies. We are to walk with our Lord, looking to Him for everything. In God’s time, every person shall be revealed. Then the righteous will shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, while those who sought preeminence in the politics of the organizations, filled with selfish ambition, will discover they have no part with the Lord’s true saints.
They have taken advantage of the innocence and goodwill of the Lord’s sheep. The Day is coming when all of their motives and deeds will be uncovered for everyone to see.
But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, (Philippians 1:18)
If Paul were subject to his sinful nature, he never would have been able to rejoice when people were preaching Christ in order to bring trouble on him. Perversion such as this is difficult to overcome. The injustice of it all!
During our lifetime we will be subject to perversion and injustice. We have to pray much and be walking in the Spirit of God if we are to be able to set aside bitterness and rejoice in Christ.
Sometimes we are exposed to so much injustice that we find it quite difficult to forgive the one harming us, or who has harmed us in the past. Then we are to go to prayer until the Lord Jesus Christ gives us of His body and blood to the extent we can forgive. As soon as our heart is clear, we can rejoice in the Lord. After this it is best if we can avoid being harmed by this individual again.
Paul had the Virtue of Christ to this degree, and was able to ignore the malice of the evildoers and rejoice that Christ was being preached. What a testimony to the power of Christ’s Virtue!
For I know through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. (Philippians 1:19)
Here is the evidence of Paul’s spiritual maturity. No matter what circumstances Paul found himself in, he knew the end would be liberty and joy. We must grow to the place where we trust that whatever happens to us is going to result in liberty and joy. God always is leading His obedient servants to a higher, more joyous place in Himself. There is nothing Satan can do about this except unwittingly contribute to God’s purposes.
Just think! How many people do you suppose have been helped by this letter to the believers in Philippi? Each of them is part of Paul’s inheritance, including you and me. Paul had reason to trust God, didn’t he? So do we!
I eagerly expect and hope I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:20)
Paul’s declaration in the above verse is the ultimate in consecration. May the Lord help each one of us to adopt this point of view.
Paul was in danger of being brought before Caesar and sentenced to death. He was hoping he would have the courage to conduct himself in a manner that would bring glory to Jesus Christ.
Probably many or most of those who read my words will never experience martyrdom, so we do not know what this would be like. But I hope each one of us will bring glory to Christ no matter what happens to us.
When we think of Caesar, sitting in his luxury, surround by every imaginable comfort and pleasure, and then compare the chains in which Paul was being kept, we are amazed at the extreme differences in their situations.
But what about today? Where is Caesar? What situation is he in now? Where is Paul? What situation is Paul in now?
Let us not be counted among those who live only for the present but be aware where our behavior is going to take us eventually. This is wisdom. I would not want to be in Caesar’s circumstances now. Would you? Paul’s suffering was for a moment. Caesar has been suffering from then until now.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
Paul has given us the perfect attitude for a Christian to have. If we live it is to glorify Jesus Christ. If we die, we escape the pains and dreads of life. So we cannot lose either way. May God grant to each one of us the peace and joy that come when we know Christ is part of us in our life and in our death. In this sense we never actually die.
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. (Philippians 1:22)
Those of us who are older appreciate how much we learn each day. Each day brings us closer to the mark of change into the image of Christ and entrance into the center of God’s Person and will.
Each day we gain in the knowledge of the Lord. Therefore we have that much more to give to the Lord’s sheep. It is a dilemma, isn’t it? We want to go home to be with the Lord, and yet we desire to keep on contributing to the believers.
We know the Lord will decide when our work has been completed and we can come to Him with the perfect joy that we have finished the work He gave us to do.
Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; But it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Philippians 1:22-24)
Just think of the love, joy, and peace of being with Christ? It reminds me of when I was a boy, how I would look forward to Christmas morning. Yet there are such needs in the earth!
I am concerned because I believe our Christian doctrine is not scriptural, except for the basics of initial belief in Christ. There is so much more for us, and I don’t want to go to be with Christ until I am convinced I have written down all the understanding that I think God has given to me.
Convinced of this, I know I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. (Philippians 1:25,26)
The above is quite a demonstration of Paul’s faith and courage, considering the miserable circumstances he was in at the time. Paul was willing to put up with his sufferings so their joy would overflow. Such an attitude is an example of Christ-likeness.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27)
Since Paul was waiting for his trial before Caesar, perhaps he meant whatever happened to him. He was anxious that they would not be moved by his martyrdom. They were to continue letting the light of good works shine through their behavior.
There is no fearful whining here, only a concern for the believers in Philippi. God grant us such courage and constancy.
Without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. (Philippians 1:28)
This reminds us of Nehemiah, who refused to be intimidated by his enemies.
The fact that the believers in Christ would not become frightened by those who were persecuting them would be a sign to their enemies that those who opposed the Christians would be destroyed, but the Christians would be delivered from all harm by the Lord God.
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you And give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power On the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (II Thessalonians 1:6-10)
We Christians are considered to be sheep for the slaughter, according to Paul. We are to be meek, as is the Lord Jesus. But when our obedience is complete, then God will avenge us.
Christians who have been treated unjustly are not permitted to avenge themselves. If they will refrain from taking matters into their own hands, and pray for those who treat them shamefully. God will avenge them. Justice shall be served!
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, (Philippians 1:29)
Notice that to suffer for Christ is a gift: “It has been granted to you.” Why is suffering for Christ a gift? It is because those who have suffered for Christ will govern with Him. They will receive a place of honor in the Kingdom.
Since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:30)
We who are leaders do well to let the believers know that we have the same problems, the same struggles, the same fears and dreads, the same worries and pains that they have. None of us is exempt. In fact, we are not able to minister to others until we have experienced their distresses and concerns.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is able to make intercession for us before God’s Throne, because having lived here, He knows what we endure while striving to serve God during our lifetime on the earth.
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. (Philippians 2:1,2)
The comfort and encouragement we have as a result of being united with Christ ought to spill over to our fellow believers. We should be a source of unity and edification. Gossip, slander, criticism, strife, taking sides, are all too common in our churches. It appears Satan is anxious to penetrate every Christian church and enter those who are filled with self-will. Satan works to promote criticism and division, to nourish roots of bitterness.
Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who refuse to yield to Satan and instead seek the welfare of their fellow believers. They shall be called sons of God.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
How are we to attain to such as lofty goal as the above? Such an attitude is contrary to our sinful nature.
- By coming to the Throne of Grace for help.
- By confessing our ambition and conceit and asking the Lord to fill us with the Character of the Lord Jesus.
- By praying without ceasing.
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
Perhaps the surest sign of maturity in any person, Christian or not, is concern about the interests of others rather than our own interests. There are people, including Christians, who are middle-aged or older who are far more involved with their own welfare than with the needs of others.
I am not certain why there are young people who perceive the needs of those around them, and grandfathers and grandmothers who live in their own little world. It must have to do with the way we are brought up.
In any case, the mature Christian is a person who is very aware of the needs and problems of other people and spends time and effort on their behalf, praying constantly that others might be healed and grow stronger in the Lord.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, But made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)
In this way, love is made complete among us so we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. (I John 4:17)
We are to be like Jesus while we are in this world.
In our day it appears many verses of the Bible are being unsealed, we might say. We understand God plans on doing a great work in all those who are willing to move on from the basics of salvation. We are to be coheirs with Christ of the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth. The victorious saints shall inherit all things.
Because of the increase in the number gifts and ministries in evidence among God’s people, and because of our understanding of the heights to which God intends to take those who will follow Christ, we are going to have to remember that salvation is of the Lord and we are little more than intelligent dust.
Paul was careful to keep himself on a level with his fellow believers.
The Lord Himself did not consider His equality with God was something to be grasped; something to be vaunted. Rather, He washed His disciples’ feet.
We have a problem in our day. There are ministers of the Gospel who bring attention to themselves rather than to the Lord. The believers are more than willing to worship a gifted person. But God will not tolerate this. There must be none among us who is considered “greater” than the rest.
We should honor the elders who labor among us. But this is different from worshiping gifted speakers. The elders themselves, if they are godly, will not permit people to elevate them. To God be the glory!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, (Philippians 3:9)
This is God’s way. If we humble ourselves, God exalts us. If we exalt ourselves, God will bring us down.
Christ left the ivory palaces and was willing to be abased. Now He sits on the highest throne of all, governing the entire universe. We have been called to sit with Him on His throne. But this is not an occasion for self-exaltation. We must be willing to take the lowliest place. God will exalt us in His time and His way.
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10,11)
It appears there are many thrones and many lords in the heavens. There are angels of incredible magnificence and majesty. But there is a throne that is above all other thrones, and on that supreme throne sits a Man with nail prints in His hands. We are there in Him and with Him, provided we are abiding in Him.
The Old Testament seems to imply that the kings of the earth sit on thrones in the nether world.
The grave below is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you—all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones—all those who were kings over the nations. (Isaiah 14:9)
At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth. Jesus Christ is Lord of all.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (Philippians 2:12)
One part of salvation is our justification by faith. This does not have to be worked out. Christ accomplished this for us. All we have to do is receive it by faith.
Another part of our salvation is that of change into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. This has to be worked out each day, as the Holy Spirit guides and enables us to turn aside from the sinful nature and embrace the Virtue of Christ.
Another part of our salvation is that of entrance into untroubled rest in the Father through Christ. This has to be worked out as we patiently remain in unpleasant circumstances and thus learn obedience to God.
Paul says we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling. This makes me know our preaching and teaching today are not in line with the Scriptures. Most of us do not present the terror of the Lord. We speak of God’s boundless love but not of His boundless wrath. I do not know why we do this, unless we are trying to be popular.
The very thought of the Judgment Seat of Christ should cause anyone to fear and tremble. You may not believe this, but there are preachers today who are announcing that once we “accept Christ” we never will hear anything negative at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Obviously if a person believes this he or she is not going to tremble with fear.
The truth is, most American Christians have good reason to tremble at the thought of the Judgment Seat of Christ. Why is this? Because at the Judgment Seat of Christ, each one of us is going to receive the good we have done and the bad we have done. Grace does not intervene at this point. This is a reaping of what we have sown.
If we have been faithful, then we are going to receive faithfulness. If we have been morally pure, then we are going to receive moral purity. If we have been treacherous, then we are going to receive treachery. If we have engaged in moral filth, then this is what we are going to receive. The words of the New Testament cannot be altered in any manner.
The only way by which we can escape receiving bad characteristics is by repenting now, turning away from that which is bad and embracing that which is good. It is not too late if we are alive now on the earth.
But after death comes the judgment.
If the watchman sounds the alarm, which I am attempting to do, the people will be saved from the enemy. If the watchman does not sound the alarm, the people will be slain and their blood will be required at the watchman’s hands.
We American Christians need to be awakened today. We have been lulled to sleep by the traditional preaching, which is a mixture of Gnosticism and humanism. We have been told of God’s love. We have not been reminded God is a consuming fire.
Hopefully God in the near future will intervene in American Christianity and warn us concerning the Judgment Seat of Christ. If He does, we then will work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)
Salvation is of the Lord! I am not certain any of us comprehend fully the extent to which Divine election and intervention operate.
As people accustomed to democratic thinking, we are not comfortable with the idea that God is a potter, so to speak, and fashions His pots according to His own fancy. We have a sense of fairness that says, “God rewards us according to our own works. We all have an equal opportunity to be great in the Kingdom.”
And do you know, this is true. God is not holding anyone back. If we observe and teach the laws of the Kingdom of God, we will be esteemed highly in the Kingdom.
So it is not a case of passivity. God is not holding anyone back nor is He causing anyone to sin. We sin when we are drawn away by our own lusts. As far as a place of honor in the Kingdom is concerned, it is up to us to press into the Lord Jesus Christ. If we are too busy to press into Christ, or are unconcerned, whose fault is that?
The above is true and scriptural. We are going to reap what we sow.
Yet, there are enough scriptural passages, such as the above verse, that make us realize it is God who is working in us to will and to act according to His good purposes.
God brings to Christ whom He will. Christ chooses whom He will. God has ordained that specific people will sit on either side of Christ in His Kingdom. Those whom God foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. These are Bible concepts. We can’t discard them because of our democratic philosophy.
When you think of it, since God is the One who creates people, He can decide what He wants each person to be. That point cannot be argued.
Aren’t people saying today that mothers have a right to murder their children before they are born? If mothers are free to deprive a human being of life, why should we think it strange that God can form people according to His own will?
So it is absolutely true that we can choose to press into Christ. God will not stop us. And even in the case of those who have been predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ, they have to labor to make their calling and election certain.
No one is forced to do anything or prevented from seeking the Lord.
But I have a hunch that when God shows us the whole picture, we will see that salvation is of the Lord. God did what He desired among the inhabitants of the earth. Yet no one will be able to say in the Day of Judgment that he wanted to do what was right and God prevented him from doing so.
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:14,15)
Is our generation crooked and depraved? It certainly is?
Are God’s children without fault, being blameless and pure? No, in many instances.
Why not? Because they have been taught they are without fault, blameless and pure, by imputation. Any effort they made toward faultlessness, blamelessness, or purity, would be legalism; works; Pharisaism.
It cannot be said the Christian churches of our day shine like stars in the universe. Imputed faultlessness, blamelessness, or purity, do not shine. They cannot be seen. These are legal states.
For there to be a shining, there has to be actual faultlessness, actual blamelessness, actual purity.
In order to illustrate the strength of the bias operating in Christian thinking we may note the following translation of the sixty-second chapter of the Book of Isaiah. This is from a popular Evangelical edition, and the illogic of the translation can be seen at a glance.
“For Zion’s sake will I [Isaiah] not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest until her imputed righteousness and vindication go forth as brightness, and her salvation radiates as does a burning torch. And the nations shall see your righteousness and vindication—your rightness and justice [not your own, but His ascribed to you]—and all kings shall behold your salvation and glory and you shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.”
How can imputed righteousness and vindication go forth as brightness?
How can the nations see your righteousness, vindication, rightness and justice?
I do not profess to be a Hebrew scholar. But I do not believe there is a suggestion in the Hebrew language that supports translating the word for “righteousness” as imputed righteousness; or that the Hebrew terms indicate the “rightness” and “justice” mentioned here are not an actual, visible rightness and justice but ascribed, or imputed, rightness and justice. Someone may wish to correct me on this, but I do not believe the actual Hebrew language supports this translation.
The translator could have used the word “developed” instead of “imputed.” He could have said “His created in you” in place of “His ascribed in you.” Then he would have been speaking of the new righteous creation that results from the work of Christ in us.
To impute or ascribe a virtue to a person is to say the virtue is true of him whether it is or not. We say that when we place our faith in Christ, God imputes righteousness to us. This means we may not be behaving righteously, but God says we are righteous nevertheless. Needless to say, other people cannot see with their eyes this kind of righteousness. This is not the light that is supposed to shine from us.
Notice the expression “your rightness and justice [not your own, but His ascribed to you]”
We are not right in our behavior. We are not just in our behavior. But Christ’s rightness and justice are ascribed to us. Can we lie, murder, and steal, and then say to people Christ’s rightness and justice have been ascribed to us?
How can kings behold our salvation when we are lying, murdering, and stealing? If we say we really are truthful, peaceful, and honest by imputation, will the kings accept this? Will they not say we are deceived?
How is it that a translator, who without doubt is devout and totally sincere, as well as being intellectually capable enough to translate the entire Scriptures, not perceive what he is suggesting by altering the root meaning of the passage is illogical?
Not only is such thinking illogical, but I believe it is responsible for the moral wreckage that exists in the Christian churches.
Do the Muslims regard Christians as people of moral purity?
Are the rulers of countries like China and Japan convinced that Christians are people of absolute integrity and moral purity? Or are they not rather somewhat cynical because of the behavior of Christian people?
How about in the United States. How does the populace regard Christian people? Are Christians noted for being blameless and pure?
We should be. But we put on our bumpers stickers that state “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.” What are we saying? We are saying we are not new creatures except by imputation. We are stating the Kingdom of God is a house of cards, not the doing of God’s will in the earth. We are announcing that we are no different from anyone else in our behavior, so do not expect godliness from us. God has said we are perfect in Christ, so don’t anyone dare say otherwise.
If there has been a greater deception in the history of the world, than is true of current Christian teaching concerning righteousness, I am not aware of it.
Our nation is heading toward Divine judgment because of the immoral conduct of its citizens—Christians and non-Christians alike. We have failed to bear a true witness of God, His Person, His ways, His will, and His eternal purpose in Christ. Instead we have substituted an unscriptural definition of “grace,” and an unscriptural “rapture” that will remove God’s pets from the scene of conflict so they won’t be inconvenienced The rest of mankind can experience any kind of torment under Antichrist and the Great Tribulation as far as we are concerned.
If we are to shine like stars in the universe, we had better have more righteousness than that which merely is ascribed to us!
As you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. (Philippians 2:16)
What is the Word of Life? Is it not that Jesus Christ came to forgive our sins, and then to transform us through His Presence until we are filled with the Life of God?
If we, as so many are doing, tell people that believing in Christ is a free trip to Heaven, are we holding out the Word of Life? Are we not rather holding out the unscriptural traditions of our religion?
If they do not deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus each day, how then will they attain to eternal life? In fact, we are not telling people the truth. We are not holding out the Word of Life but the dead doctrines of our religion.
But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:17,18)
Paul is picturing the sacrifice and service coming from the faith of the believers in Philippi as an offering to God, with Paul being the accompanying drink offering. Paul was willing to suffer and die in order that Christ might be pleased and the believers benefited. In fact, Paul was rejoicing over his opportunity to serve God and the believers and wanted them to be glad and rejoice with him.
Perhaps most of us American believers are not as yet to this level of spiritual maturity.
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. (Philippians 2:19)
Paul took a personal interest in the people in each of the churches.
We who are older are supposed to entrust to younger men (and women on occasion) that which God has given to us. Timothy appears to be Paul’s main disciple. Timothy was a person whom Paul trusted implicitly, being assured of his faithfulness.
I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 2:20,21)
Isn’t it the truth? As soon as a Christian meets the criteria of his particular group his attention is turned toward his interests in the world. There do not seem to be many who have a heart to press forward. They forget that the staves were never removed from the Ark of the Covenant, signifying that God is always moving forward and wants us to move forward with Him.
This reminds us of the Jews who had made the long trip from Babylon in order to restore the Temple, and then forgot what they were doing.
“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.” (Haggai 1:9)
Timothy kept his mind on the interests of Jesus Christ.
But you know Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. (Philippians 2:22)
What peace it must have given the Apostle Paul to realize there was someone who would faithfully carry forward his work after he died!
I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon. (Philippians 2:23,24)
Paul was facing a trial before Caesar, as I have mentioned previously. No doubt he had to pray constantly to keep fear from taking hold of him. But he does not burden the believers with his problems. He maintains a cheerful confidence that he will be released and can return to be with the saints in Philippi.
Apparently Paul was released, probably in A.D. 63, and then was arrested again in A.D. 67 and put to death at the hands of Nero.
But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. (Philippians 2:25)
We do not know much about Epaphroditus except that he was a faithful helper of the Gospel work. Epaphroditus represents those millions of unknown believers who have put their shoulder to the work. But God knows each one of them and they have their treasures in Heaven.
For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. (Philippians 2:26,27)
There was a revival of Divine healing during the twentieth century. My wife and I were present during two of William Branham’s meetings and one of Kathryn Kuhlman’s. Also, we both have experienced Divine healing.
But notice Paul’s attitude toward the illness of Epaphroditus. Today we would make quite a point of this, saying “if we just have faith Epaphroditus will be healed”; or, worse than this, “if Epaphroditus just had faith he would be healed.” A sick person does not need to be told that he does not have faith!
Paul does not seem to regard the illness of Epaphroditus as something that must be dealt with because it is not supposed to happen. Paul apparently treats this sickness as one more tribulation to be endured.
We always ought to pray for healing to take place. We should anoint the sick with oil and pray over them, as the Bible commands. We should lay hands on the sick. We should pray for the gifts of healing. We should take nothing for granted but do all the Bible commands. The Bible tells us we were healed by the wounds of Christ; and our healing includes body, soul, and spirit.
There is a verse in the Old Testament that tells us an important fact about Divine healing.
He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.” (Exodus 15:26)
Divine healing may be thought of in two ways. The first is that it is a sign of God’s Presence. As the Lord Jesus and His Apostles ministered, miraculous healing occurred as a sign. The miracle of healing made people know the word that was being preached was from God.
The second way is that Divine healing occurs in our life as we follow Christ closely. I have had two special healings in my life. A long-standing nearsightedness was instantly corrected, and arthritis in my right knee was instantly healed. In neither case was special prayer made. I did not pray for my eyes, because I wore bifocal glasses that corrected the vision. When the Lord healed my knee, I was getting ready to go to the hospital.
Incidentally, neither taking medicine nor going to the doctor will prevent the Lord from healing you. The Lord is not against doctors or medicine.
My wife, Audrey, had a congenital thyroid problem. She was prayed for by an evangelist. The next time she took her medicine she had a reaction. So she went to the doctor, who pronounced her healed. The three healings I have mentioned took place many years ago, and they are still in effect.
In the passage from Exodus (above), the Lord told us He would heal us if:
- We listen carefully to His voice.
- We do what is right in His eyes.
- We pay attention to His commands.
- We keep all His decrees.
In other words, we are in health and prosper as our soul prospers. When we please the Lord He heals us.
Until we are healed, it is wise to thank the Lord each day for the blessings we have received, and then to remind Him we still are sick.
Sometimes the Lord uses sickness in our lives to draw us close to Himself.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. (Psalms 119:67)
Or to keep us weak so His strength prevails. Christ did this in the case of Paul. But we never are to take this for granted. Paul prayed three times that He might be delivered. Finally the Lord spoke to Him.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so Christ’s power may rest on me. (II Corinthians 12:8,9)
Se we are not to make a fetish out of Divine healing. But we are to remember that healing is available for every believer in God’s time and God’s way.
Paul stated in the Book of Galatians that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything. What counts is the new creation.
We need to apply this principle to every aspect of the Christian religion. God’s goal is people who have been made in His moral image. All that we say and do in our religious activity is for the purpose of bringing forth people who practice righteousness, who are holy in thought and deed, and who obey God fervently.
Divine healing is not an end in itself. Sometimes people are wonderfully healed, but then return to the world and live in moral filth. So our goal is not to heal everyone. Our goal is to follow the Holy Spirit as He makes us a new creation and helps us lead others to become a new creation of righteous living.
Yes, Epaphroditus is ill. This is a fact of life. We seek God on his behalf, hoping God will cause us to rejoice by raising him up. But the work of the Kingdom proceeds. Let us take this attitude toward Divine healing, knowing that physical healing has been paid for by the wounds of Christ.
Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. (Philippians 2:28)
So Epaphroditus was healed.
“I may have less anxiety.” I suppose we would picture the “great Apostle Paul” as never having anxiety. Anxiety is true of us mortals.
All of us are much the same. Whether we are great in the Kingdom of God or least in the Kingdom of God, or even not a believer, we all suffer many of the same things.
I think sometimes Evangelists oversell the Gospel. They tend to give the idea that once we place our faith in Christ, our problems as well as the devil will vanish.
The truth is, Christians have the same problems as everyone else. The difference is, the Christian can go to God with confidence and receive peace and a solution to the problem. The Christian, if he is wise, will use problems as a motivation to draw closer to the Lord in prayer.
But the unsaved person has no such help. He is on his own to sink or to swim
Paul would be relieved when the Philippian believers saw Epaphroditus in good health.
Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, Because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me. (Philippians 2:29,30)
I wonder if Epaphroditus placed himself in danger by seeking to help Paul while Paul was in prison. In any event, this man’s ministry, at least at this point, was assisting Paul’s ministry. He was worthy of honor.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. (Philippians 3:1)
Can you imagine Paul, in prison, waiting to be brought before Caesar, exhorting the believers to rejoice in the Lord?
Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. (Philippians 3:2)
Some of the Jewish teachers were insisting that the Christians be circumcised, and perhaps keep other parts of the Law of Moses (although circumcision originated with Abraham).
You probably know of some Christian sect that emphasizes repeatedly one act or belief, such as not working on Saturday; or that there is one God in three forms and people must be baptized again just in Jesus’ name. Such single emphasis is not healthy. It reminds us of the Pharisees who haggled over tithing herbs but neglected judgment, mercy, and faith.
The proponents of the unscriptural pre-tribulation “rapture” are like this at times. They emphasize the “rapture” out of all proportion to any mention of it in the New Testament.
It is well that we emphasize being changed into the image of Christ and entering untroubled rest in the center of God’s Person and will. If we do this, keeping our eyes on the Lord, I believe some of the lesser ideas will more or less take care of themselves.
God is not as interested in our doctrine as we might think. God is concerned with our love for Him, and our behavior.
Circumcision is of little importance compared with godly behavior.
Imagine Paul, raised as a Pharisee, coming around to the viewpoint that circumcision was nothing more than a mutilation of the flesh!
For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—Though I myself have reasons for such confidence. (Philippians 3:3)
Even the Law pointed out that the important circumcision was the circumcision of the heart.
Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. (Deuteronomy 10:16)
True circumcision is that of worshiping by the Spirit of God, glorying in Christ Jesus, and having no confidence in the circumcision of the flesh.
If anyone had earned confidence in the flesh it was Paul, because he had been as diligent in keeping the Law of Moses as he was now, after being converted, in preaching Christ.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; As for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. (Philippians 3:4-6)
When you consider the background of the Apostle Paul, it is amazing that he could come out so vehemently against the Law of Moses. Such a reversal was not due, I believe, to any philosophical decision. Paul did not compare the value of the Law and the value of the Gospel of Christ, and then decide the Gospel was superior. Rather, Paul was assaulted from Heaven—blinded in fact—commanded to be an apostle, before he had had a chance to believe in Christ.
When Paul says that God will turn again to the Jews in the last days and take away their sins, the conversion may take place with the same arbitrary exercise of God’s power as was true of Paul on the way to Damascus.
We may think God cannot reach down and save whomever He wishes, but He can. This presents a real problem for us, doesn’t it? If God can save whomever He wishes, why doesn’t He? It is as I said previously. God is God.
We Americans have a difficult time letting God be God, because of our democratic background. We would attempt to vote God out of office. We would get a lawyer and sue God if He did something that seemed unjust to us. It might have been easier for us to accept God’s sovereign behavior if we were raised under a king who had absolute authority.
Why did God choose Paul? Why did God take Paul into Arabia and teach him the truths found in his epistles? No other writer comes close to Paul in describing the way the new covenant operates, the transition from the Law of Moses to grace, the Body of Christ, the Wife of the Lamb, the destruction of the sinful nature, the need to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
God took Paul and taught him. Then God enabled Paul to preach to the Gentiles. After that, God set Paul down in the midst of the Jews with the predictable result.
All of this with one Orthodox Jew.
Did you ever notice that advances in the Kingdom of God do not come out of committees but out of one man? We like to get people together and plan some enterprise. Perhaps that is the best way at times. But think of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Paul. They might have been uncomfortable sitting on a committee.
God takes a man and makes him a witness of God. Then God works in that man to will and to do God’s pleasure. After that, God takes the man to Himself. And so we see Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration.
God can take anyone and do what He wishes with that individual. Salvation is of the Lord! So there is no room for boasting, is there?
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. (Philippians 3:7)
God predestined, intervened, and Paul responded with all his might. He had come to the level of understanding that viewed the whole world as loss, compared with the value of Christ. Such is a true perception of relative value, and we come to it if we persevere long enough.
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8)
One of the most remarkable statements in the entire Bible. Everything! Everything! Everything! All other relationships! All circumstances! All things are expendable if we wish to gain Christ! How long do we have to live before we come to this conclusion?
I have said many times that one of the errors in Christian thinking is that of viewing “being saved” as a one-time experience, a decision we make at one point in our life. Such is not the case. Salvation begins when we place our faith in Christ and then pursue the rugged pathway that leads finally to salvation and eternal life.
Salvation is not a ticket to Heaven. Salvation is the program of recreating a human being until he or she is in the image of God.
Here was the Apostle Paul, after missionary journeys of unparalleled fruitfulness, seeking to gain Christ.
What are you going to do with this? Are you going to avoid contemplating the significance of Paul’s statement? It tells us that our whole life is to be one of laying hold on Christ. Apparently today’s teaching is missing the mark.
What does it mean to “gain Christ”? It means to become part of Christ. It means to be able to say, “I have been crucified with Christ, and now it is Christ who is living and not I.” It is total identification with Christ. It is living by His body and blood as He lives by the Father.
It may be true that when we first encounter Christ He is a teacher, robed in white, wearing sandals, who is telling us how to be saved; how to please God.
After we have served Christ for fifty years, if we actually have followed Him as a disciple instead of sitting passively in church, Christ has become the entire universe. He holds the galaxies in His hands. He controls the ant on the ground as well as the stars in their orbits.
This supreme Man has to be gained!
Let us not think we have gained Christ when we first acknowledge that He is our rightful Lord and has presented His blood to God as a sin offering.
Let us not think we have gained Christ when we are able to express our burdens and our worship in other tongues.
Let us not think we have gained Christ when we have had a fruitful ministry of some sort.
Let us not think we have begun to gain Christ until we can say in truth, “All else is garbage!”
And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Philippians 3:9)
One could read the above verse and say, “I believe in Christ and so I am saved by faith. Nothing else is needed. I do not have to behave righteously. Christ has done it all for me.”
Did you notice that Paul is comparing faith in Christ with the Law of Moses, not with our efforts to be decent? What Paul means by “the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” must be understood from the surrounding passages.
Paul is saying he no longer claims the righteousness that came to him because of his life as a Law-keeping Pharisee, as he mentioned a few verses earlier. Rather by the expression “the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith,” Paul is referring to laying all else aside that he might gain Christ. Quite a different interpretation, isn’t it?
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)
The Apostle Paul was striving to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
What do we do with this statement? It does not fit current preaching, as far as I know. At least I never heard anyone refer to it.
If Paul, with his attitude, had not as yet attained to the resurrection from the dead, what about the rest of us?
The Lord Jesus Christ stated that all who are in the graves would hear His voice and come forth. Why then was the Apostle Paul striving to attain to something that is going to take place whether or not he seeks to know Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings?
It cannot be that Christ and Paul are speaking of the same event.
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice And come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)
And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:11)
We might venture that Paul was striving to escape the resurrection to condemnation and participate in the resurrection to life.
But there is a problem here. If Paul, in this chapter, is presenting the behavior that will qualify us for the resurrection to eternal life, then very few people will rise to live, as Jesus said. There isn’t one Christian in a thousand that counts everything as garbage in order to win Christ. And what about those who never have heard of Christ?
Billions of people would then be resurrected to condemnation. Maybe five thousand would be raised to life.
This doesn’t seem right to me. Does it to you?
As I read the Book of Revelation I notice there are two resurrections separated by a thousand years. Also there are two appearances of the Bride separated by a thousand years.
I have come to the conclusion that the first resurrection (as well as the first appearance of the Bride of the Lamb) is for the believers who, like the Apostle Paul, have laid aside all else that they may gain Christ.
The second resurrection is the general resurrection from the dead. I think it is this second resurrection that Jesus was referring to when He spoke of rising to live or rising to be condemned.
This makes perfect sense to me. No books are opened at the first resurrection. The first resurrection is for the blessed and holy royal priesthood.
Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
It is taught commonly that the first resurrection is for all the saved and the second resurrection is for the lost. This position does not fit the Scripture.
Would we claim everyone who announces his or her faith in Jesus qualifies as a blessed and holy royal priest? Jesus said only a remnant of the believers in Smyrna would walk with Him in the white robes of the priesthood. Are all the other believers lost?
I don’t think so. Will everyone except those who have made a profession of faith in Christ be thrown into the Lake of Fire and tormented forever? I don’t think so.
When describing the second resurrection, the Book of Revelation states that all people will be judged according to their works. This is the great mass of mankind, because those who are raised in the first resurrection obviously are an elite remnant. Then it states that only those whose names are not found in the Book of Life will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
If we regard the first resurrection as being for victorious saints, then Paul’s statement in Philippians makes perfect sense. He was reaching toward the ranks of God’s stars.
Also, what Jesus said about some rising to live and some to be condemned fits the description of the second resurrection.
To read that all are judged according to their works (at the second resurrection), and that those whose names are not found in the Book of Life will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, and to conclude from this that everyone at the second resurrection is thrown into the Lake of Fire, reveals that the reader is applying a previously conceived model so the text will mean what he wants it to mean. He is not letting the Scripture speak its own truth.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
If you read for the first time the above passage, would you conclude that everyone was thrown into the Lake of Fire? Yet that is what is preached! If such were the case, it should read “And everyone was thrown into the Lake of Fire.”
If we accept what I have concluded, that the first resurrection is for the victorious saints; and then, after the thousand-year Kingdom Age, the rest of mankind will be raised and judged according to their works (“those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned,” as Jesus said), then we have given great force to Paul’s words in Philippians.
How have we given force to Paul’s words? By showing that not all who profess Christ will be raised from the dead and rise to meet Him in the air when He appears.
This position agrees with the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation. I don’t believe nearly enough attention is paid to these two chapters.
The second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation divide the Christian people into two groups. There are those who overcome. Then there are those who do not overcome.
The wording “he who overcomes” suggests a remnant. Also, our experience as Christians suggests the overcomers are a remnant. To overcome means to gain victory over sin so we are living an obedient life before God, carrying our cross after the Lord Jesus. How many Christian of your acquaintance are doing this?
Yet, the promises we associate with being a Christians, such as ruling with Christ; walking with Him in the white robes of the royal priesthood; are reserved for the victorious saints.
We are suggesting that it may indeed be true that only the victorious saints will be raised from the dead when the Lord appears. The remainder of the believers will have to wait until the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age before they regain their bodies.
By the way, this division of the Church into a militant remnant and the remainder of the elect fits several major types of the Old Testament, such as the reign of David over Judah, and eventually over all Israel.
Since I have written a good deal in other writings about these types, I will not go into them now, except to remind the reader that the account of Gideon may be one of the clearest of the Old Testament types of the great battle of the last days. In the case of Gideon’s conflict with the multitude of Midianites, victory was won by a handful of Israelites.
Can you see how this conclusion gives strength and urgency to Paul’s words? We are to live like Paul if we hope to be ready for Jesus when He comes.
We need to press forward until we know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, if we hope to attain to the resurrection which is out from among the rest of mankind.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)
So we see that Paul was pressing forward toward perfection—perfection meaning he was qualified to participate in the out-resurrection (Greek term found in Philippians 3:11).
Christ Jesus has laid hold on each of us for a place in His Kingdom. We are not to compare ourselves with anyone else, great or small. We are to grasp that for which we have been grasped. We have to present our physical body each day as a living sacrifice if we are to discover for which we have been grasped.
To attempt to press beyond our assigned role in the Kingdom is personal ambition. To come short of it is slothfulness, and God does not honor slothfulness. We can lose that which had been assigned to us, and it will be given to someone who has been more diligent!
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, (Philippians 3:13)
For those who desire to be raised from the dead when the Lord appears, the above is the only attitude and way of life that will accomplish the goal.
Paul did not consider that he had to this point attained to the first resurrection. Think of it! The standard is high, but we can reach it in Christ if we don’t faint. But it is going to require our total dedication and diligence.
We have to forget what is behind. All past accomplishments and experiences already are breeding worms, like yesterday’s manna. Nostalgia has no place among our emotions. We are as animals climbing out of a pit of rebellion and lust. Would we look back longingly on those days that were so full of pain and deception?
We are to push toward that which is ahead: perfect conformation to the death and resurrection of Christ; untroubled rest in God’s Person and will; an eternity of serving God in His Kingdom; eternal life at God’s right hand. What does our past have to do with this, except to have been a troubled steppingstone toward the place where we are now?
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
It is obvious, from Paul’s statement, that the program of redemption has an attainable goal.
I have heard Christians say that we never can attain to the commandments of Christ; that we are to keep doing the best we can, knowing we never will be completely victorious. This attitude is unscriptural and ensures defeat. It is a common excuse made by people who do not wish to make the effort necessary for total victory in Christ.
What runner in a race will exert every effort if he knows the finish line cannot be reached? What soldier will continue to fight with mighty determination if he knows defeat is certain?
Paul said he was pressing toward the goal, toward perfection, in order to win the prize God has held out before him.
It is perfectly possible to walk with Christ in victory over sin. We hear people say sinless perfection is impossible while we are in this world. This is because they do not understand God’s plan. God is concerned only about victory over sin right now. Can we gain victory over sin right now, this very minute? Or do we have to sin at this point?
Most of us would agree we can refrain from sinning this minute. This is all God requires. Today is the day of salvation. Five minutes from now we can refrain from sinning. Ten minutes from now we can refrain from sinning. The rest of our life can be measured off in ten-minute intervals.
It is Satan who insists we are bound to fall. God will give us grace every ten minutes so we can overcome sin. We just have to learn to live ten minutes at a time.
It not only is possible to conquer sin ten minutes at a time, it is absolutely necessary if we expect to receive the inheritance normally associated with being a Christian.
We have been lied to. We have been told it is impossible to live in victory in Christ while we are in the present world. It is not impossible. It is necessary. Those who do not choose to live in victory ten minutes at a time are facing a nightmarish future.
Life begins at the time of our physical death. That life can be glorious beyond comprehension if we will apply ourselves to the Lord today. Or, that life can be one of remorse, dread, pain, or much, much worse if we choose to live in worldliness, lust, and self-will. The choice is ours.
The prize is in front of us. The determined will gain it. The slothful will be repaid in kind for their laziness and indifference.
All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (Philippians 3:15,16)
We are to hold fast to what we already have attained. Then, we are to look toward maturity. Those who are mature are to emulate the Apostle Paul. We are to count everything in this world as rubbish that we may know Christ to a greater extent. We should be reaching toward the first resurrection from the dead. To attain to this resurrection there must be nothing in us over which the Lake of Fire has authority.
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. (Philippians 3:17)
Each saint who chooses to keep pressing forward in Christ inspires others to do the same. Such believers are towers of strength and encourage their fellow Christians to believe that victory in Christ is attainable.
But there are others who “weaken the hands of the men of war.” They are casual. Once they reach a level that satisfies them they return to their pursuit of the world. They look forward to the day when they can retire and have no responsibilities. They do not realize that this attitude is unacceptable to the Lord.
When we finish the work assigned to us we are permitted to return home to Christ. There never is a time on this earth, in this world, when we are to stop our single-minded, utterly fervent pursuit of Christ. If we do, we rapidly lose the touch of God on our life. We return to the filth of the flesh. By our example we cause others to lose their zeal also. The end of this is the rebuke and chastening of the Lord.
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. (Philippians 3:18)
I think this is an unusual expression—“the enemies of the cross.” We would expect Paul to say “the enemies of Christ.”
The cross is God’s wisdom. I notice in America that activists attack the cross. Whenever the cross is exhibited there is a cry about the “separation of church and state.”
It seems as though doctrine is not as much an issue as is true of the cross itself.
Why are the wicked terrified of the cross? Why is Satan terrified of the cross? It is because the cross ends all arguments. If we accept that the Son of God died on the cross for our sins, we have peace with God. But if we insist on going our own way without God, then the cross is an irritation.
“People live as enemies of the cross,” Paul exclaims. How does one live as an enemy of the cross? By refusing to admit that God is finished with the present world. That the world has come to an end in God’s mind. The cross is a reproach we don’t wish to face.
America is happy with Mickey Mouse leading the way, not with the cross.
Each year in California there is a Rose Bowl parade. Different groups prepare floats made of flowers and enter them in the parade, hoping to have their float judged to be the best.
You know what I wish? I wish each year a person bearing a rose-covered cross would be permitted to march as part of the parade. Here he comes, weighed down with the cross on his back.
What effect would this sight have on the onlookers? Would they be sobered? Would they cry out in anger? Would they fall to their knees? Would the American love of entertainment be placed into perspective against the cross? Would we be reminded of how far we have drifted from God? Would those lining the streets scream, “Take this away! Who dared to put an abomination like this in front of us? Who is trying to spoil our fun?”
The cross. We have been crucified to the world and the world to us. Satan cannot answer the cross. The world cannot answer the cross. Antichrist and the False Prophet cannot answer the cross.
Those who love the cross and what it stands for are looking for a new world of righteousness. Those who hate the cross are rejecting God’s answer to the plight of mankind. They want to live apart from God, and their desire shall be granted—for eternity.
The concept of the separation of church and state as it is applied today was not envisioned by the founders of our country. Rather it is an excuse to pursue life, liberty, and happiness without being troubled by God’s opinion. It is nothing more significant or elevated than rebellion against God’s Person and will.
It is no wonder those who want God removed from their lives hire lawyers to remove any cross that appears to be on public land. America is rejecting God. God is rejecting America, make no mistake about this!
Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. (Philippians 3:19)
I would say from the context that Paul is referring to believers. Is it possible for a believer’s destiny to be destruction? Yes.
Do some believers worship their stomach? Yes.
Do some believers glory in their shameful love of money; love of the things of the world? Yes they do.
Why? Because they have been taught they are saved by grace and do not have to live a holy life. Because they have been taught God loves them unconditionally and would never permit them to come to harm. Because they have been taught they will not reap what they are sowing, because of grace.
This is the state of the Christian churches in America, in many instances. The people are worldly. They yield to their lusts and passions, including sexual lust and anger. They are led about by their self-will while claiming to be Christians. We are in great need of a reformation of teaching, and sincere repentance.
It was true in Paul’s day. It is true in our day.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Philippians 3:20)
Perhaps this is one of the verses that gave rise to the myth that we are going to make our eternal home in Heaven.
Of course our citizenship is in Heaven. This is where our Kingdom is at the present time. This is where our treasures are. This is where our deceased loved ones are. Most important of all, this is where God and Christ are.
Our Savior will come from Heaven. But there is no passage of the Bible whatever that states He is coming to take His Church to Heaven. Not one verse. Not one single verse.
The Kingdom of God is coming to the earth. God’s will shall be done in the earth in the smallest detail. This is the Gospel, the good news. There are many verses in the Old Testament and the New that speak of the Kingdom of God. But none of them state the Kingdom is destined to remain in Heaven.
When the Lord appears, those who have lived in victory over sin will be caught up to meet Him in the air. Then the Lord and His conquering saints will descend together to install the Kingdom of God on the earth. This is the true Gospel of the Kingdom.
The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all who dwell therein. There seem to be many today who are willing to turn God’s earth over to Satan and the Antichrist. God never would permit such a thing. Satan and Antichrist are aliens. They shall never, never, never inherit the earth.
Our citizenship is in Heaven in the present hour. But the earth is our final and eternal home: first the present earth for the thousand-year Kingdom Age, and then the new earth after this earth has fled from the face of Christ.
Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:21)
When Paul mentioned, in Philippians 3:11, that he was endeavoring to attain to the resurrection, he meant the inner resurrection in which the Holy Spirit has brought our sinful nature under subjection. One of the truths the Christian churches need to learn is that our outer resurrection depends on our inner resurrection. Our outer resurrection will conform to our inner resurrection. The body that will clothe our present body will reflect what has taken place in our inner person. Here is the perfect justice of God.
The more I think about the centrality of the resurrection in the Christian redemption, the more I realize how this teaching has been lost to us. We are hardly aware, most of us, that today we are fashioning our resurrection. The Apostle Paul understood this, and this is why he was laying all else aside that he might attain to the resurrection to eternal life.
Our adamic nature would very much prefer that he could remain as he is and be placed in a fantasy land where he will experience endless bliss. He rejects the idea that demands for a change in his personality will be placed upon him.
This is what is preached today. “Any moment now the Lord will call up to Heaven the lukewarm, casual American believers.” Don’t those who are preaching this unscriptural doctrine realize that such a “rapture” would bring self-willed, immature believers into Paradise? How long would Paradise be filled with love, joy, and peace if today’s believers were brought there in a “rapture”?
I’ll tell you what. The “raptured” believers would fill Paradise with the same amount of love, joy, and peace that they are experiencing in their churches on the earth. What passage of Scripture states that their flight through the air would change what they are in personality? What a fantasy is being pursued today in America!
The goal of our redemption is not a “rapture” but a resurrection. It is not a change in where we are but what we are. And what we will be when our body has been changed depends on the growth in Christ we are experiencing now.
For the believer who has lived in the sinful nature, the resurrection will bring corruption and destruction.
Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! (Philippians 4:1)
Paul is saying the believers in Philippi should stand firm in the Lord in the manner that he just described in Chapter Three.
Notice Paul’s expression of affection. This tells me that the home churches he started were not huge congregations. Huge congregations do not seem to have the personal touch that Paul is expressing. In fact, it appears to me that many large churches are more like businesses than they are like families.
A church ought to be a family. The pastor should know all the people, particularly the young people. It is a great joy to know the members of the congregation from the time they are born until they are adults. Obviously a pastor has to be in the same church for many years for such familiarity to occur.
The American pastor is the chief executive officer of a business, it is true. But this is the least significant of his roles. The important aspect of his role as pastor is to be a father, as it were, to the members. When a congregation grows to several hundred in attendance, it might be difficult to keep that same loving atmosphere.
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. (Philippians 4:2)
It appears believers in the first century were much the same as today. Paul’s acquaintance with the habits of two ladies tells me that he ministered to small church.
Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:3)
It is difficult for me to believe that the women who contended at Paul’s side in the cause of the Gospel said nothing during the assembling. So why Paul mentioned in other places that women are not allowed to speak or teach, I do not understand. I guess we have to be led of the Spirit in each case whenever this issue arises.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
The exhortation to rejoice is amazing, coming as it did from a man in prison. This tells us we are to make an effort to rejoice no matter how grim our situation. Anyone can rejoice in pleasant circumstances. But being able to rejoice when we are facing peril is a mark of maturity. To do so our treasures must be in Heaven, and we must view our physical death as gain.
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5).
Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit and is valued by the Lord. Satan is extremely harsh. The Lord Jesus is the Lamb of God, one of the gentlest of animals. The last two chapters of the Book of Revelation reveal that of all the characteristics of Jesus—the Lion, the Christ, the Word, the Lord—the Lamb is God’s preference.
The world would have us believe it is the aggressive, the cunning, the ones who are willing to run over other people, who succeed. But the Bible says the meek, the gentle will inherit the earth. Their strength is in the Lord, whom they trust implicitly for their welfare.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
There is such a thing as court manners. One time I had a fleeting glimpse of a palace in Heaven. I suppose it was God’s palace. Standing at the door as a sort of guard was a personage—whether human or angel I do not know. But the grandeur, the nobility of his countenance surpassed anyone else I have seen.
Then I felt like such a boor. I realized how unmannerly my prayers have been. I have rushed into God’s Presence, demanding this or that.
It absolutely is true that we are exhorted to come boldly to the Throne of Grace in order to receive the help we need to serve Jesus in this world. God accepts us just as a father would accept his child who rushes to him in complete confidence.
Perhaps when the child becomes an adult, and the father is a king, the son might realize that there is such a thing as court manners.
God always is glad to receive us. But as we come to realize the majesty of our King, we see how appropriate it us that we behave ourselves with suitable decorum.
We do not rush into God’s Presence like someone with no training and demand that our prayer be answered. We do not try to force God to fulfill His promises. We do not treat God as some sort of equation, supposing if we can insert the correct values the result will be what we desire.
Rather we come to God as to an august Personage, the greatest King of all. We tell God how thankful we are for His numerous blessings. Then in a courteous tone we remind God of the needs we have.
How often do we do this? We repeat our request several times a day, if need be, until we receive the answer. Sometimes years go by, but we still come before His Majesty courteously, expressing our thankfulness, and reminding Him of our petition.
God heard us the first time we prayed. But sometimes He must perform many operations on us before we are prepared to receive the answer. On some occasions God has to modify the answer so it will result in what we truly desire, not what we think we desire.
Therefore we are not anxious about anything. The truth is, we do not really know what we want, what will bring us love, joy, and peace. So we pray to the best of our knowledge, knowing that God will read our heart and grant us our truest desires.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
Paul here is referring to a supernatural peace. Every experienced Christian can remember times when he should have been in anguish. But there came on him or her a peace that ordinarily would not be present. This can come at the time of the death of a loved one. Perhaps Paul, although in dire straits in prison waiting for his trial, had such peace.
Most of us have fear or dread concerning some real or imagined danger. Yet as we grow in experience in Christ we come to realize that should the actual event take place, God will give us peace. God’s peace truly transcends our understanding. There seems to be no basis for it. Yet, there is a basis. It is that God is working, and what we fear so intensely will, when viewed in retrospect, turn out to be a blessing.
I don’t suppose unsaved people have such assurance. Imagine what it is like for the people who do not know the Lord, when disaster strikes! They experience unrelieved terror and sorrow. But God quickly comes to the Christian who is experiencing catastrophe and brings comfort, peace, and the assurance that God is working all things for good.
When we go through the fire we are not burned. When we pass through the waters we do not drown. God takes care of those who love and serve Him.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
There are few passages in the Bible more appropriate for the time in which we are living, and for the age of physical and moral horrors we are approaching.
Why is this? It is because the Lord does not want us to fret about danger, injustice, or moral depravity.
We have just passed through a historic fire in San Diego (October, 2003) Some of the news commentators are accusing various people and agencies of negligence, of not taking care of the citizens. Actually, 2,300 homes were burned.
When we see what preventive measures could have been taken and were not, and then think of the people who lost their homes and others who died attempting to escape the flames, we can become fretful and angry, joining with those who are blaming the officials for what took place.
We are not to do this. We are not to join with those who are raising the chorus of blame.
Today the President signed a bill outlawing late-term abortions. Immediately a federal judge issued an injunction so the law cannot be enforced. We are not to fret about this.
Homosexual talking dolls are appearing on the market. We are not to fret about this.
The social environment will become much worse than this, but we are not to fret.
Paul told us what we are to do. We are to think about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy.
This is difficult to do. Our adamic nature wants to curse the darkness. The Lord Jesus wants us to look up to Him, realizing He has ultimate control over all these events and attitudes.
We are living on God’s earth. God maintains control over everything that takes place, every creature that breathes. God is using the evil in the world to bring His will to pass. When we have faith in God we see that His Glory is everywhere.
We can choose to see God in the events of earth, or we can see Satan. To see God is to glorify Him and keep our peace and gentleness of spirit. To see Satan is to come down from our high place in God and glorify Satan. Gazing on Satan brings anger and confusion. No good come from it. Fretting leads us into sin.
We have to make a determined effort to avoid fretting and think about that which is pure and lovely. This is a way in which we show our faith in the goodness and power of God.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9)
Here is a goal for us to press toward—to be able to say to younger believers, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” This makes us review our behavior, doesn’t it? Are we living in such a way that we can exhort young Christians to put into practice what they have learned, or received, or heard, or seen in us?
Sometimes churches having a majority of older members are noted for their deadness. This ought not to be. The older the congregation is the livelier it should be. Can you imagine what a church service would be like if it contained Job, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Daniel, Isaiah, and Ezekiel? Perhaps people would be able to see the chariots of the Cherubim of Glory on the roof of the building.
Why isn’t this the case? Because the older Christians are living in their fleshly ways to a great extent. They have attended church for fifty years and have not grown in the Lord.
By this time they should be prophets, heralding the coming of the Lord. The young people should be in awe because of the Presence of God the older people bring. Instead the older Christians are retired and spending their time traveling around to visit their relatives. They are nearly dead spiritually when they should be trees of life, oracles of the living God, an inspiration to the young.
I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:10,11)
I think Paul was more concerned over the blessing that would come to the Philippians if they helped support him, than he was about receiving money.
One of the greatest blemishes on the Christian churches in America is the emphasis put on collecting money. When the world hears us pleading for money they know we are not representing God. Would God plead for money?
Some of the so-called ministers of the Gospel are robbers of widows. Really, the believers are at fault because they put up with the evident covetousness of the ministry.
The idea is if you will give these wolves a hundred dollars, God will give you a thousand dollars. If you will give them a thousand dollars, they will prophesy over you and you will never get cancer. If you will buy an anointed handkerchief or necktie for a hundred dollars, your children will have no problems in school. And so on and on the scam goes.
Paul’s attitude here is perfect. There is not a hint of the typical money-grabbing schemes of the American ministry. “I have no need, but I am pleased with your loving concern,” Paul exclaims.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Philippians 4:12)
The secret of being content! Paul had learned the secret of being content in any and every situation!
All of us who have lived for any length of time have found out that contentment does not depend on our possessions or circumstances. Contentment comes from within, not from without.
There are American children whose bedroom looks like a toy store, and yet they are discontent and whining about being bored. They can receive five hundred dollars worth of presents on Christmas morning, and by Christmas afternoon be fighting with their brother or sister over one thing or another. Isn’t it true?
Then you can see a Mexican child, in one of the poorer areas, merrily playing with a stick and a rusty can. If she received one stuffed toy for her birthday she would be happy and excited.
We know this is true. We can see that contentment is not dependent on outward circumstances but on other factors.
The American child is bored and surfeited. The Mexican child is happy with her stuffed bear. She never had such a toy before. This will be her treasure for years to come.
Seeing that such is the case, that life does not consist of an abundance of things, we can cultivate contentment. We can think about treasures we have laid up in Heaven. We can remind ourselves of the promises of the Lord. The world is crucified to us and we to the world. For us to live is Christ and to die is gain. Our peace and joy come to us from Christ, not from our circumstances in the world.
When we have served God and man to the best of our ability, never have seized our pleasure at the expense of another person, having helped many people along the way, we can be content. We are just passing through this world. God is taking care of us now. When we die we will be at home with the Lord. All of our idols have been destroyed, and all we possess is on the altar of God. We have every reason to be content as we look to Jesus for what He would have us do at the present moment.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
When we are young we have an abundance of strength. As we grow older we become tired. We just have enough strength to do what is in front of us, and sometimes not enough strength for that.
This is when we realize it is the Lord who carries us.
Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:3,4)
When Paul received a thorn in his flesh he praised God, because now God’s strength would be revealed in him. It is a fact. As our strength is removed, we have to trust the Lord to help us carry out our responsibilities.
“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
Paul was beaten down constantly and brought into impossible situations. He despaired of his life. Yet Christ kept raising him up. Resurrection life proceeds from such crucifixion.
As dying, and behold we live. If we are to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection we must accept those things which prevent us from accomplishing God’s work in our own strength and ability
Paul’s life was filled with many kinds of suffering. Yet the fruit that has come from the Apostle Paul is indescribable. Think of the impact Paul’s writings have had on the people of the world. There are not many places where his word has not gone. Unless we are historians we probably are not acquainted with the role the Bible has played in world history.
Not all of us are appointed to bear as much fruit as Paul did. But neither have we been appointed to drink Paul’s cup of sorrows.
The higher our rank in the Kingdom the greater will be our suffering. This is because the power and Virtue must come from God, not from us. God can work through us only to the extent we are willing to bear our cross obediently and patiently.
Whoever would agree to be completely obedient to God will make things possible for God that otherwise would not be possible.
Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. (Philippians 4:14)
Paul is saying, “Christ will give me all necessary help. Yet it was good of you to send help to me while I am in prison for the Gospel’s sake.”
Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. (Philippians 4:15,16)
The Philippian believers were generous in their material support of the Apostle Paul. I have learned from experience that when we are generous, as the Lord directs, we always are repaid in full. We ought not to be generous for the sake of being repaid, it is enough that we are pleasing the Lord.
When we have trouble being generous, clinging to our money like a miser, the Lord will deliver us when we ask Him. It is not very pleasant being bound in a tight little knot concerning money. The Lord Jesus would have us free from this bondage. He was. He never had a problem with material needs. He is our example.
Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. (Philippians 4:17)
This is the right attitude for a minister of the Gospel to have. When we make our material needs known, it is not that we are seeking money for ourselves. Rather it is to give people an opportunity to receive the blessing of the Lord. God always will take care of those who preach the Gospel.
I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:18)
It isn’t often that we hear a preacher of today say he is amply supplied. The cry is “more! more! more!” This is because his request for money is not so the givers may be blessed but so the minister may be rich. It is time that God removed this covetous attitude from the American ministry so we can adopt the integrity of the Apostle Paul.
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
This verse is quoted frequently. Perhaps it is well to remember that Paul was speaking against the background of the Philippian believers having been generous with Paul. God would meet all their needs because they had abundantly met all Paul’s needs.
The Bible promises that whoever gathers much has nothing left over, and whoever gathers little has no lack. This is a spiritual principle that applies to those who are serving the Lord. We do not have to anxiously grasp material goods in order to survive. If we walk diligently before the Lord Jesus, all we need shall be given to us.
To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:20)
Paul breaks forth into this paean frequently.
It may be noticed that Paul in his letters differentiates between Jesus Christ and God the Father. Today’s Christian teaching is too close to the doctrine that Christ and the Father are two expressions of the same Person. This is not true. There is God the Father, who is Christ’s Father and our Father. Then there is God the Son, who is the Father’s Son and our Brother.
While this may seem to be nothing more than a play on words, now that we are moving toward the fullness of redemption the Father is becoming more real to us. Christ is revealing the Father to us, for this is what He came to do.
The Father is not our brother in any sense of the word. The Bride of the Lamb is not the bride of the Father. While the members of the Godhead are totally One in Essence they are not at all the same person. Two different wills are involved, as we see in Gethsemane.
It is proper to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name. It is proper to pray to Jesus. God has made Jesus our Christ and our Lord.
Jesus always worships and serves the Father. Now He is bringing us to an acquaintance with His Father and our Father. We are learning to obey God implicitly, for this is the nature of the Kingdom.
Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings. All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. (Philippians 4:21,22)
Again we see that the early churches were relatively small groups of saints who knew each other by name. We need to get back to this concept of the local assembly as a closely knit family.
We Americans love bigness. The bigger the church is, the better. From my point of view, this is a destructive value. How can five thousand people know one another by name and care for each other?
I realize a solution is being attempted by having “cell meetings” during the week. But I am not certain the cell groups are serving as a genuine church family. Perhaps they are, in some instances.
Sometimes the idea is to break up the church by planting smaller churches, which in turn plant other churches. The problem with this philosophy is that the accent is on numbers of people, not on the growth of individuals to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
I have listened to preachers scoff at church members who “grow fat sitting in the pews.” “Get out and bring others to Christ,” they are exhorted.
This is not the solution. The solution is a strong local body of believers, not too small and not too large, who are growing together as a family. The gifts and ministries of the Body of Christ are operating. The young people are adopting the values of the older, for there is no generation gap here. It is a loving family under the guidance of an experienced pastor and mature elders.
We have no quality control today, because numbers in attendance are not a true index of quality. The index of quality is the degree to which the members are walking in continual repentance before the Lord, free from unforgiveness, free from gossip, division, and hatred. Christ is maturing in the saints, and they are becoming able to discern between that which is good and that which is evil, and are increasing in the strength and willingness to utterly reject and renounce the evil and embrace what is good.
This is the basis for the measurement of success, the basis for quality control.
How can we tell when people are maturing in Christ? When you have been with them for a while you can tell. The Holy Spirit is revealed in their attitude and behavior, and the Life of God fills the assembling.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. (Philippians 4:23)
We see in the above verse that Divine “grace” is much more than an excuse for our sinful behavior. Grace is the Presence of God in Christ providing all we need to be conformed to the moral image of Christ, and to enter untroubled rest in the Person and Presence of the Father along with the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the letter to the believers in Philippi, the Apostle Paul has set forth the standard for Christian living. I believe we need to review what Paul has written in this epistle, and in his other letters to the churches. It appears to me there are changes that need to be made in our thinking and in our assemblings if the believers are to grow to maturity; and if they are to be able to stand and help the people around them during the age of physical and moral horrors that is approaching.
In many instances we are not bearing a true testimony of Christ to our nation and its leaders.
(“The Book of Philippians”, 3563-1)