The Book of Philippians - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.
To you it hath been granted ... to suffer.
This is Paul's great singing letter. It was at Philippi that he had sung in prison at midnight, in the company of Silas. Now he was again in prison, this time in Rome, and writing to "the saints in Christ Jesus that are at Philippi." This letter thrills to the tireless music of a psalm. It is a glorious revelation of how life in fellowship with Christ triumphs over all adverse circumstances. The triumph, moreover, is not that of stoical indifference. It is rather that of a recognition of the fact that all apparently adverse conditions are made allies of the soul and ministers of victory, under the dominion of the Lord. "The things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the Gospel" exclaimed the Apostle. His very bonds opened the door of opportunity throughout the Praetorian guard. It was this sense of the power of life in Christ which inspired the particular words which arrest us. In them, suffering on the behalf of Christ is referred to as an honour conferred, rather than a burden to be endured. It is something granted to the saint, as a privilege, the very granting of which is a favour, a gift of grace. To this conception all will agree who have ever really known what it is actually to suffer on behalf of Christ. They are not callous; the suffering is very real, very acute; but it brings a sense of joy and gladness which finds no equal in human experience.
Lights in the world, holding forth the word of life.
Philippians 2:15, 16
That is a very beautiful figure of the mission in the world of those who are "blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish." The marginal reading substitutes the word "luminaries" for "lights." I do not think this helps us much, save as we remember that the word "luminaries" refers to the heavenly bodies, and mainly to the sun and moon. The idea is not that of the lampstand, but of the light itself. The Greek word only occurs twice in the New Testament, here and in Rev. 21:11, where, speaking of the holy city, the seer declared: "Her light was like unto a stone most precious." There the reference was not to the light the city diffused, save in a secondary sense. It was to the light she received, which is directly after described in the words: "The lamp thereof is the Lamb, and the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof" (verses 23, 24). What then, the Lamb is to be; in final glory, to the City of God, the children of God are to the world today. This function of shedding true light upon the darkness of the world will be fulfilled as the "Word of life" is held forth. To live by the Word, is to shine in such wise that those who are in darkness may have guidance and help. The conception fills us with a sense of our weakness, and that the more, when we ponder the conditions already quoted, viz. that we are to be "blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish." Yet, thank God, these words follow the glorious declaration that it is ours to "work out with fear and trembling" what God works within of His good pleasure.
I counted ... and I count.
Philippians 3:7, 8
These words occur in the page of auto-biography in which Paul employed his own experience as an argument in appealing to his spiritual children in Philippi. They refer to a mental and spiritual activity. The two exercises were separated by at least thirty years. The first took place when Christ broke through upon him in all the radiant glory and revolutionizing power of His risen life. The second took place as he wrote, in prison, and amid all the difficulties and trials created by his Apostolic ministry. Between the time when he counted his gain loss and abandoned everything, and this hour, what experiences he had passed through! Nothing had occurred which in any way altered his first reckoning and decision; and so, to the "I counted" of the first revelation, he added the "I count" of the present experience. And this should ever be so. We are never more in peril than when we are trusting to a past experience. Yet how often it is done! We remember the day when the light broke upon us. It was a very real thing. It changed all our outlook. It compelled us to reconsideration of all the facts of life. We obeyed. We turned our backs upon all sorts of gains, counting them as merely worthless things. We yielded to the call and glory of the life in Christ. It was all excellent. But what about the present? Is the old attitude maintained? Are the activities of today those of the first days? Or have we gone back to the abandoned things? Do we allow ourselves to seek again the lower things? It is only as we can express the decision of the past in terms of the present, the "I counted," as "I count," that there is any real value in the past.
The peace of God, which passeth all understanding.
There are three great phrases in which peace and God are brought together. They are "Peace from God," "Peace with God," and "Peace of God." They are all the result of a truth enshrined in another, "the God of peace." The first, Paul constantly employed in the introduction to his letters. It reminds us that our peace comes to us a gift from God. The second describes the relationship into which we are brought with God, through Christ Jesus. The third refers to the peace which is the experience of God Himself, because of what He is in Himself, the God of peace. At once it admits us to a realm which this particular passage indicates. The peace of God is beyond "all mind"; that is, beyond our power of thinking. That means two things: first, that the peace of God is so wonderful that we are not able fully to apprehend it; but second, it means that the peace of God, being the result of the wisdom and might of God, is far more wonderful than any cleverness of our own. That is the main value of the whole declaration of which this phrase is a part. It is that peace which will guard, as with a garrison of defence, our hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus. If we by our own cleverness attempt to guard our hearts and thoughts, we shall fail. The forces opposed are too strong for us. They will break through upon us. They can never do so, as we are guarded in "the peace of God."