The Christian life: its effect upon the world.
I. How THIS EFFECT MAY BE OBSCURED . By murmurings ( i.e. active rebellions against the will of God) and disputings ( i.e. efforts of the intellect to persuade ourselves that God's voice is not speaking to us).
II. HOW IT IS MANIFESTED . Where God's will is accepted, it will render our lives blameless towards him and harmless towards our fellow-men. Thus are we manifested as the sons of God, being partakers of his life.
III. WHAT IT CONSISTS IN .
1 . Shining as lights. The faithful are the illuminated, shining, not in their own light, but in the presence of the Light of the world within them. He so fills them with himself that their whole body becomes full of light.
2 . Holding forth the Word of life. The light is the life of men. They who are possessors of the light must impart it. One light may be kindled from another without diminution of its illuminating power. It is the Word of God, i.e. the revelation of God, the Word of life (cf. 1 John 1:1 ), which is "a lantern unto our feet, and a light unto our path."—V.W.H.
Holding forth the word of life . Holding out to others. Meyer translates "possessing," and others, as Bengel, "holding fast. This clause should be taken with the first clause of Philippians 2:15 , "That ye may be blameless," etc., he the words, "among whom," etc.. he being parenthetical. That I may rejoice in the day of Christ ; literally, for matter of boasting to me against the day of Christ. He boasts or glories in their salvation. "The day of Christ," says Bishop Lightfoot, "is a phrase peculiar to this Epistle, more commonly it is ' the day of the Lord.'" That I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain; translate, did not. The verbs me aorist. He looks back upon his finished course (comp. Galatians 2:2 ).
The salvation of the Philippians the apostle's joy.
I. THEIR OBEDIENCE MUST BE THE READY OBEDIENCE OF LOVE . Christ died for them, God worketh within them. They have the great gift of reconciliation with God through the precious blood of Christ; they have the indwelling presence of God the Holy Ghost. Therefore:
1 . It is their duty to be cheerful , to render to God a loving service. A Christian who knows that the Son of God loved him and gave himself for him, has no right to be gloomy and melancholy. There must be no murmurings. The Christian life is a pilgrimage, like the journey of the Israelites from the house of bondage to the promised land, but we must not resemble the Israelites in their constant murmurings against God. Do all things, each duty as it comes, without murmuring. Have a steadfast faith in God as your Father, "who maketh all things work together for good to them that love him;" and in the trustful spirit of a loving faith learn to say, "Thy will be done." Neither should there be doubtings in the Christian life. The intellect, as well as the will, must submit itself. Our knowledge is imperfect, our mental reach is limited; we can see only a very little way into the mysteries of the Divine government; we know in part. We must be content with that partial knowledge; we must not venture to question the love, the goodness, the wisdom of God. When harassing doubts arise, we must go, like Asaph the psalmist, into the house of God; then we shall understand as much as we need to know of God's dealings with mankind. These things are hidden from the wise and prudent, but they are revealed unto babes.
2 . Cheerful obedience leads to growth in holiness. If they obey God in all things gladly and lovingly, they will become blameless; others will find no ground of censure in them; their own inner lives will be pure and sincere, without mixture of evil or selfish motive. Simplicity of character is essential. he for God seeth the heart. Thus they will be children of God indeed, like those little children of whom is the kingdom of heaven; a contrast to the crooked and perverse generation among whom they live.
3 . They must set a good example. They are lights in the world—others watch them; they attract by their lives the attention of the surrounding Gentiles; they must hold out to others the Word of life. They must exhibit its influence in their lives, in their conversation. They must preach by word and by example, for Christianity is essentially a missionary religion.
II. SUCH CONDUCT WILL FILL THE APOSTLE WITH JOY .
1 . It will prove that his labor was not in vain. He glories, not in his own successes or popularity, but in the faith, the love, the obedience of his converts. Such glorying does not fade away; it endures unto the day of Christ. Then, when the apostle presents the Philippian Christians to the Lord, what holy glorying will be his as he looks upon the fruit of his labors!
2 . He is ready for such an end to lay down his life , and that with joy. He will rejoice to shed his blood as a drink offering to accompany the sacrifice offered by his converts. That sacrifice is their faith; faith is trustfulness, entire dependence upon God, self-surrender. The sacrifice of faith is the sacrifice of self; the spiritual sacrifice which the children of God, as a royal priesthood, are bound to offer. "We offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee." Thus, and thus only, can we work out our own salvation. Such devotion in the Philippians will fill St. Paul with holy joy, though it cost him his life-blood. He rejoices himself at the prospect, he bids them rejoice with him.
LESSONS . Learn:
1 . To be cheerful always, never to murmur.
2 . To be simple, sincere, truthful, single-minded.
3 . To set a good example to others.
4 . To rejoice in the salvation of souls.
The importance of a contented and peaceful habit of soul.
"Do all things without murmurings and disputings."
I. THE CHARACTER AND INFLUENCE OF AN UNMURMURING AND PEACEFUL SPIRIT .
1 . Murmur ing is here meant against God. It may arise
2 . The disputings here meant point to those dissensions which war the peace of the Church. We ought to avoid disputings, because
II. THE OBJECT AND AIM OF SUCH A SPIRIT . "That ye may be blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the Word of life." They were to be examples to the world of high Christian living.
1 . Their lives were to be marked by a purity , a loftiness , a consistency , which would disarm the censure of the world. They were, as children of God, to present no spots upon which the eye of a critical generation might rest with a scorn for goodness.
2 . Their lives were to be marked , not by a mere absence of fault , but by a conspicuous exhibition of all those positive graces that are identified with the full Tower of the Word of life.
III. THE ULTIMATE BEARING OF SUCH A SPIRIT UPON THE GLORYING OF THE APOSTLE . "That I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ, that I did not run in vain, neither labor in vain."
1 . It is possible even , for an apostle to lose his labor. It may be in vain to the people who refuse his message, but not to himself ( Isaiah 49:4 ).
2 . The ministry is a work of great toil and strain.
3 . The conversion of souls will enhance the joys of heaven to the faithful minister.— T.C.
Inspired to be blameless sons.
Having seen the great responsibility of personal inspiration, as brought out in the previous verses, we have next to notice what the inspiration contemplates. It is, in fact, to produce such a sense of sonship in all hearts as will ensure unity of spirit, blamelessness of life, and consequent usefulness in the world. Paul wished the Philippian Christians to be of use to their heathen neighbors; unless they were so, he would regard himself as having run in vain; he consequently is in great anxiety that they should walk worthily, which will be his greatest joy. Here we may note—
I. THE POSITION OF CHRISTIANS . ( Philippians 2:15 .) The Philippians were "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation," and so shall Christians be to the end of this dispensation. We may expect to be surrounded by the crooked and the perverse. It may not be a very comfortable position to occupy, but it is a very important and ought to be a very useful one. It is, in fact, to furnish opportunities for promoting the faith that this arrangement obtains. We often think that it would be happier to be translated at once where "the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest;" but it would, not be better for us. Our best position is to have opportunities of benefiting others.
II. GOD INSPIRES US TO BE UNCOMPLAINING AND BLAMELESS SONS . (Verses 14, 15.) This is the way he would have us to work out our own salvation. We are to "do all things without murmurings and disputiugs." We are not to be complaining like Israel in the wilderness, nor at war among ourselves. We are besides to be the blameless and harmless sons of God. The pure life we lead is to be such as to forbid rebuke from a perverse world. In this way we shall be "lights," for through us the light of truth, the light of "the Word of life," shall be held forth before those who are in darkness, that they too may he redeemed. It is an inspiration, consequently, for service, an inspiration towards usefulness, which God gives. It carries the individual clear of selfish considerations and makes him useful among men. It is the inspiration of public spirit.
III. PAUL EXPECTS TO REJOICE IN THE DAY OF CHRIST THAT HE HAS NOT RUN IN VAIN BECAUSE OF THE USEFULNESS OF HIS PHILIPPIAN CONVERTS . (Verse 16.) The present life, in Paul's regard, is to be joyfully reviewed in the day of Christ, that is, the day of judgment. The thought and memory of the usefulness of the Philippians wilt constitute an intense delight to his great soul. He will in such a case assure himself that he has not run in vain. It must have been a great incentive to them to think that their consistent life would be a joy to the glorified apostle. And would it not be well for Christians to carry this thought with them? They are adding by their blameless and consistent lives to the joy of the heavenly world, adding a thrill to the hearts of angels and of the redeemed from among men and to the heart of the Lord himself.
IV. PAUL 'S POSSIBLE MARTYRDOM WILL NOT DIMINISH BUT INCREASE THIS JOY . (Verses 17, 18.) Paul knew as a prisoner in Rome that his martyrdom was possible. He may not, indeed, have deemed it probable at this period, for if this Epistle be, as Bishop Lightfoot thinks, the first of the Epistles of the captivity, it is likely that he enjoyed a little season of release before his final apprehension and martyrdom. And Paul knew that the possibility of his death threw a shadow over the minds of his converts. In his beautiful consideration for them, therefore, he tells them that he can rejoice even should his martyrdom be as a drink offering upon their service and sacrifice of faith. He calls upon them to rejoice along with him in prospect even of possible martyrdom. It will not mar the joy, but will be owned of God in multiplying it. Paul is thus a sublime example, after Jesus his Lord, of consideration for others. He does not mourn over his lot as a possible martyr, and crave their sympathy; but for their sakes he rejoices over it and asks their congratulation. Grace turns the apparent evil into real good; and joy is promoted at Philippi as well as Rome by what the world thinks should only create sorrow. Paul is thus an inspired and blameless son himself, and a pattern to his people at Philippi. We have thus set before us the magnificent public spirit which the gospel fosters. It enables us to look away from our own things to the things of others, and it brings us to make even misfortune a tributary to spiritual joy. May we follow after' the things that make for peace and tend to the edification of others!—R.M.E.
I. PERSONAL WORK FOR THE PHILIPPIANS .
1 . How he exhorts them he with pleasure. "So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence." The exaltation of Christ, which is the subject of the three foregoing verses, is specially fitted to be an encouragement to the duty of humility. It is not this, however, that he now specifies, in descending from the sublime Example. He rather lays hold on that "obedience" which was the soul of the humiliation, and on the name" Savior" which marked the exaltation. And upon these he makes his exhortation to turn. For the first time he addresses them as his "beloved." It indicates his drawing closer to them. He has a complimentary word. to say to them. They had in the past obeyed, not him—for it is no mere personal request that he has to make—but the gospel of which a statement follows, and which is referred to as the Word of life. They had always obeyed, i.e. both when he was present and when he was absent. Into this form, then, he throws his exhortation. They were to make their future, as they had made their past. They were not to make their obedience to the gospel dependent on his presence with them. An obedience as in his presence would have meant negligence in his absence. Nay, they were to make his absence a stimulus to greater exertion. When they had not his help they were to feel the greater need of rousing themselves to action.
2 . The work of salvation.
3 . Encouragement . "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure."
II. DUTY OF THE PHILIPPIANS IN THE WORLD .
1 . The one thing to be avoided. "Do all things without murmurings and disputings, that ye may be blameless and harmless." The apostle has been enjoining on them their duty with reference to their personal salvation, He now contemplates them as placed in the midst of the world. It can be seen that he has in his mind ancient Israel. It is true that they were characteristically murmurers and doubters against God. But it does not appear that the Philippians were inclined to murmur and doubt under the Divine dealings. We are rather made to feel that they had not a little of the martyr spirit. The danger feared was the breaking of their unity through self-exaltation. We are, therefore, to think of murmurings and disputings among themselves. It pointed to a state of matters in their Church which would be very prejudicial to their spiritual life. This was the one thing to be avoided, in order that they should be blameless in the judgment of others, and sincere, as we should read, conscious to their own minds of good intention. It was being not very far from the mark. Other Churches may have excelled the Phililpians in reference to this particular; but of how few could it be said that there was one thing to be avoided by them in order that they should be blameless and right-minded! How many points would need to be enumerated in order that such language might be employed of some of our Churches now?
2 . Proper conception of their duty.
III. INTERTWINING OF PAUL WITH THE PHILIPPIANS .
1 . Alternative of his being spared. "That I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ, that I did not run in vain neither labor in vain." What a beautiful intertwining of the apostle with his converts! He hoped yet to run for them, with his feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; he hoped yet to labor for them. Beyond that he sees the day of Christ, the day when his running and laboring, with all its attendant results, in them, would pass under the eye of the great Head of the Church. He hopes, then, to have his destiny so intertwined with theirs that they would be the occasion of his glorying, as in successful work for Christ. Whereas he intimates that it would be loss to him of a crown of rejoicing, if his running and laboring for them turned out to be ineffectual. What minister would not thus wish to be intertwined in loving service with his people?
2 . Alternative of his dying.
"Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world holding forth the Word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain." The Church is essentially as active society. An inactive Church is a solecism. Activity is not only the condition of its health, strength, and growth, but the condition of its very existence. Inactivity is death. The text leads us to look upon its activity in relation to various things.
I. IN RELATION TO THE SPIRIT WHICH SHOULD INSPIRE IT .
1 . The spirit should uncomplaining. "Do all things without murmurings ( γογγυσμῶν )." In Peter this word is translated "grudging." It represents a discontented soul. It is not uncommon, alas! to find men in the Church discontented—discontented with their fellow-members, their minister, their work. This gongusmos is a growl which is most painful and mischievous in Church operations.
2 . The spirit should be uncontentious. "Disputings." There is a strong tendency in some persons to enter into contention and raise a strife. The smallest points of difference are seized. This disputatious spirit has been rife in all ages. The theological controversies, sectarian battlings, the schismatic stripes of the Church, have been her disgrace and her bane.
3 . The spirit should be irreprehensible. "That ye may be blameless and harmless." The expression means faultless and sincere. Christians should exemplify such a spirit and maintain such a deportment as would guard them from the rebukes of the severest critics of life.
II. IN RELATION TO THE SPHERE OF ITS OPERATIONS . "A crooked and perverse nation." Though, perhaps, Paul especially refers in these words to the bigoted Jews and Gentiles, amongst whom the Philippians lived, they are not inapplicable to the unconverted world. The world, as distinguished from the Church, living outside and around it, is indeed wicked and perverse. The world is the sphere of the Church. And how corrupt in its maxims, in its aims, in its spirit, in its theories, practices, and institutions! The prince of darkness is its ruler. He worketh in the children of disobedience.
III. IN RELATION TO THE MISSION IT PROSECUTES . "Holding forth the Word of life." Observe:
1 . Its instrument. "The Word of life." The gospel is the Word of life. It reveals, generates, nourishes, and perfects Divine life in the soul.
2 . Its method. "Holding forth." The language is figurative. Hold this Word forth as a standard-bearer holds forth his banner to direct the march and animate his soldiers in the day of battle. Hold it forth as a light in the midst of surrounding darkness. Some think there is in the text an allusion to those towers which in ancient times were built at the entrance of harbours, and on which fires were kept burning to direct ships into port. It should be held forth as the lighthouse holds forth that flaming lamp that flashes its radiance on the dark sea to guide the mariner on his way. Hold it forth, not only trinally , but practically ; let it turn your whole being into a light that shall shine brightly as a star in the world's dark firmament.
IV. IN RELATION TO THE MINISTRY THAT STIMULATES IT . Christ has appointed a ministry in the Church. The design of that ministry is to stimulate and guide its activity. Paul had ministered to the Church at Philippi, and he uses the service he had rendered as an argument for their continued Christian activity. "That I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain." There is nothing selfish in this reason. But there is something very suggestive in Paul's words. They imply:
1 . That the Church may render fruitless the labors of its minister. This is a solemn truth, and one exemplified in the history of many congregations. An indolent, ignorant, worldly, inconsistent Church must ever render futile the services of the best of ministers. Even Paul dreaded it.
2 . That such an event is a calamity to be deprecated. Paul did so now. Deprecated, not on selfish grounds, for the true minister has his reward in his own holy efforts. But on account of those who augment their responsibility and increase their guilt by an abuse of the means of grace.
3 . That the results of the Christian ministry will be fully revealed on the day of judgment. This day is here called "the day of Christ." It is his day, because he will appear on that day; he will be the most prominent object on that day; he will rule the destinies of that day.—D.T.