Module 11: Christian Experience Part 1
Module Guide: Philippians - Christ the Secret of Joy
This pre-read guide is taken from the public domain source "The Analysed Bible in 3 Volumes" by G. Campbell Morgan.
Philippi was the first city in Europe in which Paul preached. His letter to the Philippians differs from other of his writings in that it seems to have no definite scheme of teaching. It is, however, of the utmost value as a revelation of Christian experience. The word sin is not mentioned. The flesh is only referred to that it may be ignored. There are no direct reproofs, the nearest approach to one being the exhortation to Euodia and Syntyche. It is largely personal, a letter of the heart, written by one who loves, to those whom he loves, and Avho love him. Its atmosphere is that of joy, and this is the more remarkable seeing that it was written from prison.
Some of the sublimest things concerning Christ and the Christian life are written here. Recognizing the difficulty of analysis, and remembering that the ultimate value of the letter is its revelation of the triumph of Christian experience in joy over all adverse circumstances, it may be divided thus; Introduction (1:1-1:2); Experience (1:3-1:26); Exposition (1:27-4:1); Exhortation (4:2-4:20); Conclusion (4:21-4:23).
Paul's association of Timothy with himself in these introductions is an act of gracious identification with his beloved son in the faith. In this letter, for the first time, officers of the church are named in the introduction - "bishops and deacons." These, according to the New Testament ideal, are the two orders of the servants of the Church; first, the bishops, or overseers, who are entrusted with the spiritual responsibility; secondly, the deacons, who are to serve tables, or attend to the business details. It is worthy of notice that these are not named first, seeing that they are only of importance in the measure in which they serve the interests of all the saints.
In writing to his children at Philippi the apostle first poured forth his own experience of joy, and in doing so revealed the joy of experience, and the joy of expectation.
His memory of them filled his heart with thankfulness, and the activity of such joy was that of prayer on their behalf. His ultimate desire for them was that they might approve the things that are excellent, in order that they might be sincere, and void of offence unto the day of Christ.
The apostle then turned to the subject of his experience in prison, using the phrase "my bonds" three times in quick succession. Thus we see the circumstances under which he wrote. He declared that these things "have fallen out rather unto the progress of the Gospel." It had become known that he was a prisoner because of his relation to Christ, and this had been his opportunity to testify for his Lord; and his brethren had become confident as the result. He rejoiced moreover in the fact that Christ was preached, even though some were doing it of faction. All this is a radiant revelation of the triumph of Christian experience over all circumstances.
Out of the midst of such circumstances he looked on, and expressed his confidence that "Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death." From the purely personal aspect, death would be very far better. On the other hand, to abide would be to have new opportunity of service. The triumph is on the side of that service rather than on that of selfish interest, even of the highest kind. He was confident that he would abide.
Thus his whole experience was that of joyful triumph over the most trying and difficult circumstances, because of his relation to Christ.
His interest in, and care for his children at Philippi now expressed itself in an exposition of that very experience which he had described, and he taught them what is the manner of the life worthy of the Gospel, what is the mind of Christ which will produce such manner of life, and finally described the attitudes which would enable them to rejoice in the Lord.
The manner of life worthy of the Gospel is that of maintaining unity, manifesting courage, and sharing in suffering. As in his own case the apostle measured all the circumstances of the hour by the effect they produced on the great work of the progress of the Gospel, so he tested the manner of life of these children of his love by the measure in which it ministered to the same great result.
In order to such manner of life the great necessity is the mind of Christ. This he first urged upon them, and then in a stupendous and stately passage unfolded the nature of that mind. Its master principle is that of love, first as the motive of self-emptying; and secondly, as the reason of Divine exalting. The examination of this passage should be undertaken in lonely and reverent contemplation. Turning back to Paul's first word iu this section, "If there is therefore any comfort in Christ," and considering it in the light of this unveiling, its value is discovered. The statement introduced by the word "if" is seen to be of that superlative nature which admits of no contradiction. The manner of life which is worthy of the Gospel must be impulsed by the mind that was in Christ. The apostle therefore passed immediately to his next injunction, an examination of which reveals the value of the mind of Christ. There is to be the working out into visibility of that salvation which God wills and works within. The result of this will be, that in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation they will be seen as lights in the world. Thus the whole section on the mind of Christ is seen to be intimately connected with the one that deals with the manner of life worthy of the Gospel. The life, love-impulsed in obedience to the indwelling of Christ, and love-controlled in submission to the Divine inworking by the Spirit, is in itself a light dissipating darkness. He declared in conclusion that if these ideals be fulfilled, there will be cause for glorying in the day of Christ, and therefore such as minister the Word may joy and rejoice, even though poured out as a drink-offering.
Immediately following is a passage in which he spoke of his hope of sending Timothy, and his determination to send Epaphroditus, in which the point of value is that of the principle of the apostle's selection of these messengers. Timothy is not among the number of those who seek their own. Epaphroditus he spoke of as "your messenger, and a minister to my need." He was to be sent back to help them, the apostle having noticed how he longed after them, and was troubled concerning them, because they had heard that he was sick.
Having appealed to the Philippian Christians to fulfil his joy, the apostle now urged them to rejoice. The ultimate attitude of life worthy of the Gospel in the impulse of the mind of Christ is that of rejoicing. Having definitely stated the duty, the apostle proceeded first to warn them of the peril that threatens joy, that of conformity to the material ceremonies from which they had escaped, and ultimately laid upon them their responsibility.
Between this warning against the peril, and declaration of responsibility, we have his great autobiographical paragraph. This paragraph shows how he had lived in the midst of the things against which he warned them; and how, when apprehended of Christ, he turned from them to the attitude which he laid upon them as responsibilities. Thus the old story of his own experience becomes an illustration of how they might fulfil his injunction to rejoice. His past life was a remarkable one, in that it realized the possibilities of the old economy at their highest and best; but the vision of Christ was such that not by gradual elimination, or slow and tedious process, but immediately, he had counted all the things in which he had trusted as valueless. Turning to the positive side, he described the determination and devotion of his whole life to the one supreme object of apprehending that for which Christ had apprehended him.
Then follows his statement of the responsibility of those who are to fulfil the injunction to rejoice in the Lord. They are to walk by the same rule, that is, make progress, according to the principles already learned. He described the true attitude of the Christian, and in the midst of his description in a parenthesis for the sake of contrast, referred to those who were walking in such a way as to cause him sorrow. The true walk has as its motive the consciousness of heavenly citizenship, and its direction is toward the goal of life, which is the completion of salvation at the advent of the Lord. Therefore they were to stand fast in the Lord.
The last division of the letter is occupied with exhortation, and is in harmony with all that has preceded it. The apostle first gave an illustration of the necessity for exhortation, and then showed the treatment of all such cases, finally revealing his perfect confidence in his children at Philippi.
The illustration is that afforded by the case of Euodia and Syntyche. Evidently there had been some difference between them, which was to be healed; and moreover, in all probability on account of this difference, they had been somewhat neglected by others in the fellowship. This neglect was to cease.
Whereas that which follows has a far wider application than the case of Euodia and Syntyche, that wider application is most clearly seen if we consider the teaching first, as it would touch this particular case. Differences are to be dealt with by rejoicing, forbearing, praying, the result being that the peace of God will guard the heart and the thought. The peace of God is His quietness, His certainty based upon His infinite knowledge and unlimited power. All possibility of neglecting certain of the saints because of their failure is for evermore corrected, as the things of glory and of beauty, which the apostle lists, are thought upon. These things, moreover, they were to do, and the result would be that the God of peace would be with them.
Drawing to the conclusion of his letter, the apostle expressed thankfulness for the loving thought manifest in the saints of Philippi in their having ministered to his need. This expression called forth words which afford a revelation of the deepest experience of his life. He is able to be content in any circumstances through Christ. And yet again he expressed his gratification at their care of him, in order that he might tell them the deepest reason of his thankfulness. It was not that he had been enriched, but that their giving meant "fruit that increaseth to your account." His confidence for them was finally based upon the Divine provision for them, which he expressed in the great and gracious words "My God shall fulfil every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." The doxology is a fitting expression of the experience of the Christian as it has been revealed throughout the epistle. This prisoner of the Lord Jesus, recognizing his relationship to God, ascribed to Him the glory, and is thus seen to be superior to all the limitation of life which characterized his position. That ascription of glory, moreover, is "unto the ages of the ages," and thus the man who, as this letter reveals in its commencement, was living so much a day at a time that he did not know whether life or death awaited him on the morrow, was superior to all care on that account, because in Christ he stood in confident relation to the vast and unmeasured ages.
The final words are those of personal and tender salutation, followed by pronouncement of the single and inclusive benediction of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
INTRODUCTION - Philippians 1:1-1:2
1. The Writers - Phil. 1:1a
2. The Readers - Phil. 1:1b
3. The Salutation - Phil. 1:2
Part A: EXPERIENCE - Philippians 1:3-1:26
A.1. The Joy of Memory - Phil. 1:3-1:11
- Its Consciousness - 1:3-1:7
- Its Activity - 1:8-1:11
A.2. The Joy of Experience - Phil. 1:12-1:18
- The Value of Bonds - 1:12-1:14
- The Preaching of Christ - 1:15-1:18
A.3. The Joy of Expectation - Phil. 1:19-1:26
- Christ shall be magnified - 1:19-1:24
- I shall abide - 1:25-1:26
Part B: EXPOSITION - Philippians 1:27-4:1
B.1. Manner of Life worthy of the Gospel - Phil. 1:27-1:30
- Stand fast in One - 1:27
- Nothing affrighted - 1:28
- To suffer with Christ - 1:29-1:30
B.2. The Mind of Christ - Phil. 2:1-2:18
- Its Activity - 2:1-2:4
- Its Nature - 2:5-2:11
- Its Value - 2:12-2:18
(Parenthesis. Timothy and Epaphroditus) - 2:19-2:30
B.3. Joy in the Lord - Phil. 3:1-4:1
- The Peril - 3:2-3:3
- The Illustration - 3:4-3:14
- The Responsibility - 3:1 and 3:15-4:1
Part C: EXHORTATION - Philippians 4:2-4:20
C.1. An Illustration. Euodia and Syntyche - Phil. 4:2-4:3
- A Difference. To be healed - 4:2
- Neglect. To cease - 4:3
C.2. The Treatment - Phil. 4:4-4:9
- For Differences - 4:4-4:7
- For Neglect - 4:8-4:9
C.3. The Confidence - Phil. 4:10-4:20
- The Revival - 4:10-4:14
- The Beginning - 4:15-4:18
- The Future - 4:19-4:20
CONCLUSION - Philippians 4:21-4:23
1. The Salutation of Saints - Phil. 4:21-4:22
2. The Benediction - Phil. 4:23
Note: To the best of our knowledge we are of the understanding that the above material, being published in 1907 and freely available elsewhere on the internet in various formats, is in the public domain.