J. N. Darby.
In the Epistle to the Ephesians, and even in that to the Colossians, we see our place with Christ; but in Philippians the believer is seen passing through the world - as a Christian walking in it. There is no doctrine in the epistle; the believer is seen pressing toward the mark. And another thing: he looks at this course as run in the power of the Spirit of God: this is what characterises the Christian, that he is entirely running the race in that power. So there is no sin in this epistle - not the word sin even - and no conflict, in the proper sense of the word. Not that he has attained, but he is never doing anything but one thing - running in the power of the Spirit of God towards the goal. He had not attained, but he was doing nothing but running to attain. He was raised above all in himself, and in the world - entirely above all circumstances.
It is the epistle of experience, but according to the power of the Spirit of God. We learn this lesson, that though we fail, yet there is the possibility of running on in the power of the Spirit of God. Not that flesh is changed, or the thought of having attained admissible (there is no perfection down here); but the possibility of always acting consistently with the calling to get to Christ in glory. There is no looking for points of progress in the world; it sets him above every kind of circumstance, or contradiction, or difficulty, for he sees the path of the Christian entirely above them all.
To have a path shews that man had got out of God's place where He had set him. The moment we have a way it shews that we are not at home. It is blessed to have a way in the wilderness (of course, Christ is the way). Adam wanted no way; he would have stayed in the garden in quietness if he had obeyed God. But we have set out from Egypt, and we are not in Canaan; we go towards the goal. Numbers of things come out on the way, but all we have got to do is to run. We get a great deal more of Christ at every step; like a lamp at the end of a passage, we get more and more of it as we go on; we have not got the lamp yet, though we get more of the light of it every step we take. But there is entire deliverance from self as governing us, and a motive above circumstances, so that, though not insensible to them, they exert no influence over us.
180 "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all, making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel, from the first day until now." The Philippians had taken a zealous part in the gospel, and had shewn a loving spirit. How constant the intercession of the apostle was for them! Every time he prayed he was making mention of them. Mark how he carries the church of God on his heart; and it was the same way with individuals. He was thinking of all the good in them, and thanking God for it. See the kind of interest he had for the saints; he was always thinking of them. Even to the Corinthians he says, "I thank my God always on your behalf."
What Christ thinks of we should think of. If Christ is my life, and by the Spirit the spring of my thoughts, I shall have His thoughts in everything, for there is that which is right according to Christ. I have to be in the midst of circumstances as Christ would be, and that is Christian life. It is never necessary we should do anything wrong - never necessary we should act in the flesh; though it is there, why am I to think by it? I shall not, if I am full of Christ, for it is He who suggests the thoughts to me.
If I get into Christ's mind and thoughts, I shall not bear to see evil in saints; I want them like Christ. He is doing the work now in the heart of the saints - "that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" - and I must be going along with Him in the same Spirit; and I must be all right myself, or I cannot do that. Christ gives Himself first for His people, and then He sets about to cleanse them, and make them what He would have them; and that should be our heart's desire to do in intercession.
There is plenty of power for this, though we are dreadfully low. He can suit His grace now just as in the brightest days of the apostle. There was much more to delight in when David was hunted as a partridge on the mountains, than in all the glory of Solomon for then there was the power of faith. It is with all saints that we are to "apprehend"; Eph. 3:18. We shorten our own blessing if we do not take them [the saints] all in. There is competency with Christ; and if I go on with Him, I must have peace about them.
Praying for saints gives a person the power of seeing all the good in them. We see this in the epistles, with one exception, that to the Galatians, where the apostle does not speak of what he could commend, but goes straight into all the evil, for they were turning away from the foundation. If we prayed more for the saints we should have more joy in them, and more courage about them. It is always wrong to lose courage about the saints, though it is possible it might come to be like Jeremiah: "Pray no more for this people." The Lord is always there, and love cannot fail; so we can reckon on it with joy, and comfort, and courage. Even when Paul had said to the Galatians, "I am afraid of you," he adds, soon looking to Christ, "I have confidence in you through the Lord." He had the saints under Christ's eye for a blessing. How much are we looking with Christ's heart at all the saints, with comfort and courage that there is grace enough for them? "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ"; and, as he says further on, "that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke."
181 "Both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace." We are little aware how real the unity of the Spirit is: we have greatly lost the reality of it, though it is owned as a truth. It is a unity by a living power which is in every saint, so that the thing must be: "if one member suffer," not all ought to, but all do, "suffer with it." The body may be in such a mortified state as to have little feeling left; but, supposing there were a work of the Spirit in India, do you think it would not revive the saints here? So those people who were praying for Paul, when God strengthened him, praise returned to God from them all. The working of the Spirit of God tells in blessing on all who hear. But when he had to say, "All have forsaken me" (they had not forsaken Christ, but they had no courage to go into danger), Paul went on alone. It is plain if I have a pain in my body all my nerves are hurt by it; I cannot read or work so well. There may be a deadening of the spiritual nerves so that there is very little feeling, but it cannot be destroyed.
At verse 8 we get into the tone of the epistle. The apostle was no forgetful person; he remembers every little trait of kindness done to him, and he prays that they might have all kinds of knowledge and spiritual judgment, so that they might do things just fit to be done - that they might know in what one thing differs from another - that they might be connoisseurs in the Christian path; not only not fall into sin, but have the knowledge of just the right thing to do in the circumstances; for the standard is the satisfying the heart of Christ, not "Where is the harm?" The apostle desires that they might discern things now as they will be when brought into the light in that day of Christ. It is as if he said, I want you to think of the Lord Jesus, and know what will please the heart of Christ. There is the delight of pleasing Christ, and the delighting in the thing that pleases Him as well, by the active energy of the Spirit of God.
182 Then see how he rises above all the trials of his four years of imprisonment, two at Caesarea and two at Rome. "I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel." He might have reasoned: If I had not gone up to Jerusalem, and there listened to these Jews persuading me to things, I might still be at liberty preaching the gospel. He does not do thus; and let me say, beloved friends, there is nothing more foolish than to be looking at second causes. Perhaps we may not have been wise, but the man who lives above things here knows that every one of them works together for good. All would turn to his salvation, he says, "through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." And we see here that there is the increased activity and energy of the Spirit of God - "the supply," as the apostle speaks; so that, though we cannot look to Him to come (as He has come), we can and ought to be looking for the "supply," and His ministering grace through the word.
"Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death." We see here that perfection in the flesh is all nonsense, for Paul was looking to be like Christ in glory. The heart is always upright when it says, "For me to live is Christ." He had no object but Christ, and he walked day by day by that - Christ as source, Christ as object, Christ as character; all the way through, Christ was his life, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that the rage of man and Satan had no power over him. Self was practically gone. When he looked at himself he did not know what to choose-whether to go and rest with Christ, or to remain and serve Him. To be with Him was better, but then he could no longer labour for Him. Thus self was gone as a motive, and he counts on Christ for the church, and the moment he sees "it is necessary for you that I remain," he says, "I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith." He decides his own trial before Nero. When thinking of himself he did not know which to choose, but when he thinks of those dear to Christ needing his presence he says, "I know I shall abide."
183 The Lord grant, beloved brethren, that He should be our only object, and that we should not let ourselves be distracted from it, so that we may say, "This one thing I do." The Lord give us grace to be the true epistles of Christ till He come. What a bright and blessed witness the church of God would then be!
If we have less fighting and fears than Paul, it is because we have less energy.
I desire first to say a little word on the closing verses of chapter 1: "In nothing terrified by your adversaries, which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." It is not merely that he wants to guard them against this, but he assures them that conflict is the natural state of the Christian - "Having the same conflict which ye saw in me." Here it was positive trial that they were in; but the whole of the Christian life is one of conflict with Satan; not that we need to be always thinking of it, if we have on the whole armour of God; but if we are not in the consciousness of Christ's victory, we are in danger of being terrified; and though we know little of this conflict, yet in a small degree we do. When Satan is resisted, Christ is then in the conflict, and we know that Christ has bound him, and he has been completely overcome; so it is "resist the devil, and he will flee from you." If we are walking with Christ, the apparent power is much greater with Satan and the world than with us; but it is all nothing; it is all a mistake to be terrified by it. What does it matter if the cities are walled up to heaven, if they tumble down, and you walk in over them?
You see, beloved friends, it is not a question of the difficulties, as we see in the case of Peter walking on the sea. He walked on the water to go to Jesus; but when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid. But if the water had been calm as a mill-pond, he could not have walked on it; you never heard of a man able to walk on water of any kind. It was all a mistake in what he was looking at. What we want to remember is that Christ has bound Satan; so now He can spoil his goods. He allows Satan to cast some into prison to be tried, but Satan gains nothing by that; when he meets a person walking with Christ, he has no power against him at all. We may have suffering, but this is what God has "given"; as we see in Moses, "esteeming" - he does not say reproach, but - "the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt." So that rough seas or smooth seas are all the same; we sink if Christ is not with us there, and we walk on them if He is.
184 To turn to chapter 2. It is astonishing the grace which associates us with Christ; we are called to have the same mind as Christ. Here we get the lowliness of the Christian life, as in the next chapter we have the energy of the Christian life. Here it is in following the pattern of Christ, a lowliness shewn in esteem of others, and in perfect consideration for others, and in gracious gentleness of demeanour in connection with the things of every-day life. Thus he tells them he would keep Timotheus, and send him to them as soon as he should know how it would go with him - reckoning on their true interest in all that regarded him; but he would not keep Epaphroditus, but send him, for he had been ill, and the Philippians had heard it, and were full of anxiety about him; as a child might say, My mother will be in a terrible way when she hears I am so ill. So Paul would send him that they might see him. In little things this considerateness is seen in Paul, this thorough thoughtfulness for others. Even the world can see it is lovely; their very selfishness delights in it.
The Philippians had shewn these things he speaks of in their thoughtfulness for Paul, yet they were not quite united in Christ. But he does not like to come with a rebuke in the midst of all their love for him. He says, I see how you care for me, but if you want to make me thoroughly happy, be of one mind, "fulfil ye my joy." It is in the most delicate way that he rebukes them - a gentle hint; but they needed the exhortation.
Then he goes on to shew the principles on which it is founded. "In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." It is a kind of impossibility if you look at it in one way; for if you are better than I, it is evident I cannot be better than you. But when the heart is thoroughly lowly, walking with Christ, and delighting in Christ, he thinks himself a poor creature with nothing but the grace of Christ to think of, and never sees anything but defects in himself; all the grace he sees in Christ; and, seeing this grace, even if he is using it, he feels what a poor instrument he is, the flesh hindering and spoiling the vessel, and not letting the light shine out.
185 But when he looks at his brother, he sees all the grace Christ has poured into him. What the Christian sees is Christ in his brother, and all the good qualities in him. Paul could say even to the Corinthians, who were going on shockingly, "I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ." He begins by recognising all the good. Love took hold of all the good it could, and thus he got their hearts to listen to the rebukes. I detect the grace in my brother, and I do not see the evil at work in his heart; but I do see it in my own. When Moses came down from the mount, he wist not that his face shone. What made it shine was not looking at his own face - of course we know he could not do that - but looking at the glory; and it shines forth from us in the measure in which we look simply and purely at it. I see in my brother all the gentleness, graciousness, courage, faithfulness; and in myself all the defects. As I said, of course, if you are better than I, I cannot be better than you; but it is a question of the spirit in which the Christian walks; vain-glory is gone; and it cannot be otherwise if the heart is on Christ. It is not giving me a false estimate of myself; but when I look at the grace, it is Christ. Of course I must look at myself sometimes, and judge myself; but the best thing is not to have to look at myself at all. "Look not every man on his own things."
Then he turns to the principle on which this is founded: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." Here we get the path of Christ from the glory of the Godhead to the cross; He never did anything but go down - the exact opposite of the first Adam. "Being in the form of God, he thought it not robbery to be equal with God"; not only He bore everything patiently; that is true; but another side of the truth - "He made himself of no reputation." He laid aside the form of Godhead, and was found as a man; and, being a man, He took upon Him the form of a servant. True, even coming in the form of a man, there was soon seen, in word and work and spirit and way, all moral glory shining out; but He, having laid glory aside, was always going down in lowliness till there was no lower place. "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
186 There is the double step in His descent. The first was laying aside the form of God; the second, that, being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient. There is nothing so humble as obedience, for then we have no will at all. He was not only obedient, but obedient unto death (self given up altogether, not only the will); and not only to death, but the death of the cross - the gibbet, as it would be in our day; then for slaves and malefactors only. From the form of God right down to death, obedience and humiliation all the way, the opposite in everything of the first Adam, who was not in the form of God, but set up to be as gods, and was disobedient unto death; the exact opposite to Christ in the spirit and character of his ways.
And as God says, "He that exalteth himself shall be abased," Adam was humbled because he exalted himself. Christ waited till God exalted Him; He humbled Himself, wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him. God sets Him as Man over all the works of His hands. Hence we read, "There is one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ." This is not a question of His nature, but of the place in which He is set. God has put all things under His feet as Man. All things were created by Him, and for Him, but He will have it all as Man, and thus it is He takes joint-heirs. He is heir of all things as Man, and has all believers as joint-heirs with Him. In Colossians 1 we get Him as Creator, as Son of God, as Son of Man, and as Redeemer (the fourth telling us His title - Redeemer - that which has given Him a right over everything). All things are to be reconciled by Him; I do not say justified, because the things had not sinned; but they were all defiled; and, having reconciled all things, He takes us as joint-heirs. Just as Eve was not one of the different animals that Adam gave names to, neither was she lord as Adam, nor was she that over which he was lord; but she was a help-meet or companion with him over the things. And it is under the fourth title, though all remain united in His Person, that He brings in creation unto undefiled blessedness. It never can fail, and we know the redemption already: "you hath he reconciled"; the redemption is accomplished, though the results are not yet produced, as it is said, "that we might be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures."
187 Then he tells us that the same mind is to be in us as was in Christ. He had "a body prepared," or "ears dug," as it is in Psalm 40:6. He had taken the place of a servant as man. He comes, the fulness of the Godhead, in this body, and exhibits perfect obedience in it; and God has exalted Him to His right hand. He has gone before. We are not there yet; we are left to walk like Him here. It is a blessed thing to see the place He has taken: His path coming always down, and that to be the mind in us. So God says, "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth" too; that is, infernal things will have to own His title in glory. In that character, that He is exalted, they will have to bow to Him.
The first Adam did not become head of a race till he had sinned; and Christ did not become Head of a new race till He had accomplished redemption, and was Head of righteousness. As man entered Paradise, so He entered the world; each began a race. Sin complete, and the race ended on the one hand; and righteousness complete, and the race begun on the other.
When we talk of coming down, we mean the getting rid of pride in us. It is just the thing the Christian learns, and just the thing the flesh dislikes. Moses killed the Egyptian through the remains of court pride. Satan says, I cannot allow this; you must take the place out and out, or you cannot have it. The world's weapons will not do to fight God's battles with; Moses runs away, and is forty years keeping sheep instead of fighting. Then when God sends him, he cannot go; the extreme of one side and the extreme of the other. Our part in detail is always to wait till God puts us up higher, like the man who took the low place, to whom it was said, "Go up higher." If we are content with the low place, we shall miss ten thousand rebuffs we should otherwise have.
Now there comes a passage which often troubles people, but needlessly, as we shall see. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." The mistake people make is putting God's working and our working in contrast. It is not so. The contrast is between Paul and themselves. In losing Paul they had not lost God, who was working. He says, Do it, now that I am absent, for yourselves. Paul had been doing it for them. He had met the wiles of Satan for them in apostolic blessing; his spirit of wisdom had told them what to do. Now he says, My absence does not alter the present power of grace; God works in you Himself. "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." They were now to meet the enemy without Paul in the front to lead them on. Never mind, he says: "work out your own salvation." I go always down, Himself working in me.
188 Chapter 2 is the pattern of Christ's lowly walk, the Lord coming down, and always so to the end; chapter 3 is the power and energy of life with Christ, and glory its object. The effect is to produce exactly the character of Christ: "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 is exactly the description of Christ Himself. Take every member of that sentence, and you will see it is Christ. He was all that, and that is just what you are to be. How completely self is put down, God graciously working in us; and the effect is exactly what Christ was - constant selfhumiliation - and so blameless and harmless, the Son of God without rebuke, the expression of divine grace when there was no will or human exaltation, but the contrary. We see the perfect beauty and blessedness of it. It is not the energy, as in the next chapter; it is the character of the obedience. Wherever the path of obedience led He went. Having taken the form of a servant, His perfection was to obey.
Look what the effect was produced on a creature doing his own will as Adam. What an awful spectacle for angels - the ruin and destruction of God's glory in the world! But, when we had destroyed God's glory, Christ comes, and God is a debtor to man for His glory - not to us, I need not say - just as He had been a debtor to man for His dishonour; for by the cross God was glorified in His very nature. Christ comes, and we see what sin was - deliberate enmity against God's goodness, but all that God is was glorified; His majesty maintained, and all His truth comes out; His righteousness against sin; His perfect love. But the putting away of our sins was a small part of the glory of the cross; it is the foundation of eternal glory and blessedness.
189 Not only does Christ take the form of a servant, but He will never give it up. As never the place of man will be given up, so He will never give up its true place before God. He took upon Him the form of a man, and served His time on earth, as we have in the figure of the Hebrew servant in Exodus 21, and could have gone out free as man - could have had twelve legions of angels to deliver Him. But He did not. The ear of the servant was bored with an awl to the door when he would not go out free, because he loved his master, his wife, and his children, and he became a servant for ever. And that is what Christ is. In John 13, when the blessed Lord was going to glory, we should have said, there is an end of service. It is not so. He gets up from where He was sitting among them as a companion, He gets up and washes their feet; and that is what He is doing now. He says, I cannot stay with you here, but I will not give you up; you must now have part with Me where I am going. If I do not make you clean enough for heaven, you cannot have part with Me there. So this He does by keeping our feet clean. In Luke 12 we learn that He still continues the service in glory - "He shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." There we get His service in glory. It is His glory in love, though in the form of service. Not only heaven's table for us, but Christ Himself ministering it to us. He never gives up the service. Selfishness likes to be served, but love likes to serve; so Christ never gives up the service, for He never gives up the love. It is His love expressed in ministering that makes everything doubly blessed to us.
When I am brought to God in the spirit of my mind, I can go down like Christ.
Working out your own salvation with fear and trembling is not justification, and our place with God. Salvation in Philippians is always the final result in glory. What was the effect of redemption on Israel? Not to put them in Canaan, but to make them enter on a road through the wilderness. And where were they to get food? and were there not enemies in the way, too? I am to make good my way, maintaining God's name and character, and the devil is trying to hinder me; this is why there is fear and trembling. An Israelite in the wilderness never doubted as to whether he were in Egypt or not. If I find a doubting Christian, he does not yet know that he is redeemed. An Israelite might not gather manna, and would have nothing to eat that day; but he had no thought of being in Egypt. It was only eleven days' journey from Egypt to Canaan, as we get in Deuteronomy 1; but they were forty years journeying before they got to the plains of Moab, except the year they were at Sinai, for they had no courage or faith to take hold.
190 And so Satan seeks to hinder now. You will not get to your homes to-night without the devil trying to take away the blessing you may have got here. The devil will try to get up pride in you, and thus not let you shew out the character of Christ. If you knew that you were charged to carry this character of Christ through the world, and that Satan was trying to hinder you, you would count it a very serious thing. So Peter says, "If ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear." Satan is trying to dirty your feet, or to get you to dishonour Christ in the most awful way. I am in conflict with Satan, the world, and self, but I am in perfect peace with God. It is totally false to confound the working out our salvation with our relationship with God. This is all settled, and my confidence in God enables me to go on working.
Beloved brethren, how far are we doing this? Redemption is complete. How far are our souls making nothing of ourselves, and looking to manifest what Christ was here? It flows out naturally if I am full of Christ. I am not saying I must do this or that like Christ, though that sometimes too; but "he that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."
You will find the spirit of this graciousness and considerateness running all through the chapter in its details; it all comes out most beautifully.
I would make one remark more: that it is exceedingly blessed to see all this going on when the church was already sinking away into ruin. "All seek their own," he says in this very epistle, and that already. How little we realise its real state when we speak of the primitive church! There it is, all seeking their own; and it was a great deal worse after. I refer to it as a matter of comfort, for he exhorts them to this path in spite of the condition around; as it was when Elijah went up to heaven without dying, at the very time when he could find none but himself who had not bowed the knee to Baal, though God knew where to find them. There were brighter things, too, in David than there ever were in Solomon, who goes to Gibeon (where the ark was not), to sacrifice (2 Chron. 1), not to teach to sing before the ark on Sion "His mercy endureth for ever," 1 Chron. 16. Solomon had never a heart which God could string to play such tunes about Christ as He did in David.
191 We are told never to be discouraged; to rejoice in all good. If we find that all seek their own, we must only be the more like Christ ourselves. It is a comfort that the Head cannot fail though the members do; you cannot put me in a place in which Christ is not sufficient in full power and grace. All we want is to find ourselves lowly at His feet, He the counsellor of our hearts. If we are with God in light we know our own nothingness; and if all seek their own, His grace and blessedness come out the more.
The Lord give us to look to Him as our life and strength.
We saw the apostle in the last chapter bringing our hearts in contact with the Lord Jesus, giving up His divine glory on high, taking the form of a servant, and going down; and then as Man highly exalted. That is exactly what we are to do; we are to have the same mind.
He had closed then, in the last chapter, the state and condition of soul we are to be in, and he now looks before - onward to the glory. The things before will keep the soul from being hindered - Christ set before the soul so as to take complete possession of it. It is not the character of graciousness in the life here, and considerateness for others, as in the last chapter, which looked at Christ emptying Himself of glory and humbling Himself; but the energy of divine life which presses forward to the goal. Sometimes we see a want of energy where there is loveliness of character; or a great deal of energy, on the other hand, when there is a want of softness and considerateness for others. But in the things of God you must get the whole that any part may be right. Satan imitates part, but you never get the whole in what he imitates. When you get both - when Christ is everything, it delivers from selfishness, and shews itself in seeking the good of others; but it will not give way when giving up Christ is in question (I do not mean giving Him up as to the soul's salvation, but in our path here). So the apostle Peter says, "add to brotherly kindness charity," for if God is not brought in, we have no power to walk according to Him in graciousness. Christ has gone up and is everything to us; He is before us as an object, and we cannot give Him up to please the flesh; but we can look for power to press on.
192 He then gives the starting-point in rejoicing in the Lord. "Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice." The effect of the ending of self is that I rejoice. Nothing separates from the love, we know; but there is danger when we are in the enjoyment of present blessing; we are apt to rest in the blessing, and not feel dependent on the Blesser. David said, "I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled." When his mountain was gone, he found he had been trusting in his mountain, and not in the Lord. When he says, "The Lord is my Shepherd," there was no being moved, for he was resting in the Lord Himself. If the heart is emptied of self, it does rest in the Lord; but the heart is so treacherous that a person experiencing great joy as a Christian often gets a fall after it, because of having got away from the place of dependence. He is restored again, we know, as in that Psalm: "He restoreth my soul."
Here Paul was just going to be tried for his life. He had been in prison four years (two of them chained to heathen soldiers), and he says he knew how to be full and to be hungry, how to abound and to suffer need. Pains and sorrows, and joys and comforts - he had gone through all; and he was not discouraged as a man might be who was obliged to be with brutal uncultivated men, and in constant suffering chained to a soldier, and four years in prison. And that was not all; he might have said, I am in prison and cannot do the Lord's work. No, he is with the Lord, and he says, all will "turn to my salvation." Even when Christ was preached of contention, he could say, "I herein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." When we are weaned from everything, we are cast on the Lord, and able to rejoice in the Lord, and that is when He leads us.
193 But what an object, what an energy-producing object, there was in the Lord before him! He looks at everything beyond the wilderness - he a traveller across it, and on the way, always rejoicing in the Lord. Whether he was preaching in public, or quietly in his lodging receiving those who came in, he was rejoicing. It is a great setting aside of self to be always rejoicing in the Lord. He had hoped to go on into Spain after being somewhat filled with the saints' company; but there was now no more about Spain, or being filled with their company either, yet he was still rejoicing. You can never get inside the defences of the one whose joy is in the Lord. "Nay, in all these things," he says, "we are more than conquerors." All these things are creatures - "angels, principalities, and powers"; but He dwells in us; He is near the heart, and that is the great secret. We get Christ between us and the troubles, we understand how unbelief hinders, but this is the secret that makes everything work for good. The love of God is reckoned upon; His love is shed abroad in the heart. The great starting-point is, "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord."
We see, too, the simplicity of looking to Christ. The religion of descent, of ordinances, and of works - the moment I get these three, morally speaking, I get a Jew. It was all works, ordinances, and descent. I could boast of all this just the same if Christ had not come. But where does it all end? "Beware of dogs." "Dogs" is a name for a perfectly shameless thing.
I must get the conscience with God, and Christ from God, or I have got nothing. A Jew could bow his head like a bulrush and do all that without his soul being with God, and therefore God puts perfect contempt upon it all. He says, "My son, give me thy heart." "The cattle upon a thousand hills" are Mine. "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee." It is no use your bringing offerings: I want you, not your offerings. Cain had much more trouble in tilling the ground than Abel had about the lamb; but Cain's conscience had never been with God, nor seen the ruin that had come in; we see the hardness of his heart as to sin, and his ignorance as to the holiness of God. He brings what was the sign of the curse - what he had got by the sweat of his face. Abel brought a lamb, and was accepted. If we have got the real knowledge of the work of atonement and acceptance in Him, we are like Abel. The testimony as to righteousness refers to the person of Abel. What it was founded on was his offering, which was a type of Christ. God cannot refuse me when I present Christ to Him; He accepts me according to the pass I bring. I cannot think of going through a process to make my soul up in some way. In coming to God I must come in God's way, which is Christ and nothing else; and with my own conscience, not with ordinances, which are all outward things.
194 It is remarkable the way in which he treats the subject in this chapter. It is not the conscience with sin on it, but the worthlessness of all ordinances; so he calls it the "concision." Have your hearts circumcised - that is the true ordinance. "We are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit"; even as Jeremiah says, "Circumcise your hearts." It must be the flesh totally put down. The flesh has a religion as well as lusts; but the flesh must have a religion that will not kill the flesh. Satisfying the flesh in mortifying the body - a voluntary humility, not sparing the body - that is easy work; but it is not easy work to be done with the flesh.
Suppose I could say, "A Hebrew of the Hebrews," "touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless," perfectly religious - who would be accredited by that? Paul; not God or Christ. It is not worth a farthing, this righteousness. It is giving me a good place. It is "I" all the while, not Christ. And it is in this that it is detected - the moment it accredits the flesh. It may be costly and painful, it may be things by which I punish myself, but it is utterly worthless. I have seen a person irritated to the last degree when told it was not worth anything.
It is striking, the way in which Paul takes it up. It is not as sin, but as something perfectly worthless - legal righteousness, and the true religion as man can see it. "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and after the strictest sect he lived a Pharisee; that was gain to him. Then he says, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." There was no question of sin; when he speaks of righteousness, it is not as meeting sins, but as contrasted with righteousness according to the law. We can always detect it; all it does is to accredit self - that is the mischief and the evil; for who would have filthy rags (that is what our righteousnesses are called) when he could have Christ for his righteousness? He had such a perception of the excellency of what Christ is in God's sight - what God delights in - that he says, I am not going to keep this wretched righteousness, or add it to that which is of God. The deceitful lusts are bad enough, but this religious flesh is worse. It was not real righteousness; it was self puffed up, not self judged; it was self eked out, and painted over. Now he wants to get rid of self, and have Christ instead of it.
195 That is the place, and now he unfolds it. Remark, it is not when I was converted I counted all things loss. We find, when a person is converted, Christ is everything; the world is a vain show - vanity, nothing. It has passed from the mind, and things unseen fill the heart. But afterwards as the man goes on with his duties and intercourse with his friends, though Christ is still precious, he does not continue to count all things loss; often it is only that he counted. But Paul says, "I do count," not did. It is a great thing to be able to say it. Christ should hold always such a place as He did when salvation was first revealed to our hearts.
Allow me to add a thing which comes into my mind. Of course if a man has not Christ at the bottom, he is no Christian at all; but I mean even where Christ is in a man, and you may find him walking blamelessly, yet, if you speak to him of Christ, there is not an echo in his heart, though his life goes on smoothly. Christ at the bottom, and a fair Christian walk at the top, and, between these two, a hundred and fifty things that Christ has nothing to do with at all. His life is practically passed without Christ. This will not do. It is the terrible levity of the heart that goes on without Christ, until it becomes the highway of whatever the world pours into it.
He now tells us what is the power for this. He wants to win Christ, and it looks like a terrible sacrifice to give up everything for this. But it is just like a baby with a plaything. Try to take the plaything from it, it will hold it the faster; put a prettier before it, and it will let the other drop. He counted everything loss and dung; the things were gone. I shall have temptations, I know; but nine-tenths of the temptations that beset and hinder would not exist if Christ had His place. Things would not tempt and beset us, as gold, and silver, and pretty things, if "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus" had its place in the heart; that kind of conflict would be gone. We should then know the snares of Satan, and suffer for others; it would not be the struggle to keep my own head above water, but to keep others from being drowned.
196 Christ having got this place, other things have lost their value. The eye is single, and the whole body is full of light. He had suffered the loss of all things; but he says, "I do count them but dung." He was looking at Christ as such a blessed object that everything was given up for Him. And he kept this place for Him, so that he goes on to win Christ. He had not got Christ yet, but Christ had got hold of him; and he was running the race to get there, and looking at the end of the journey. No matter what the road is; it may be rough, but I am looking to the end.
There are these two things here; first, that I may win Christ; and second, that I may not have my own righteousness. A man with a threadbare coat, if he gets a right good one, is ashamed of the old one. Paul would not thank you for the kind of righteousness he had before. I cannot have my own and God's; I would not have my own if I could. This is blessedly brought out in 1 Corinthians 1: "Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." What we are in life as of God, Christ is of God towards me.
He then goes to the next thing, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection."
The first thing was winning Christ; the second, knowing Christ. There is the victory over the whole power of evil - death, and everything else. I want to know Him - His perfect love and life; to have Him as the object before the soul-occupying the soul, and mind, and heart, and so grow up into Him; and to know the power of His resurrection, for then the whole power of Satan was set aside. He had spoken of the righteousness as that which he sought in Christ, not in himself and the law; and now he wanted to know the power of the life expressed in the resurrection of Christ. When he has known Christ as a Person, and victory over death, he can take up the service of love as Christ did, and can know "the fellowship of his sufferings." How different from fearing, and dreading, and creeping on as the apostles did when told of His death, in Mark 10! "They were amazed, and as they followed, they were afraid," instead of rejoicing because death was before them. But, if I know the power of resurrection, death is behind me, all its power is broken. So, when He rose, He said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth"; "Preach the gospel to every creature"; "Be not afraid of them that kill the body," He had said before: they killed His body.
197 When I have got the power of resurrection I can serve in love. Paul was looking death in the face, and not speaking lightly. Satan says, You want to follow Christ? Yes. There is death in your way. Very well; I shall be all the more like Christ for going through it.
"The fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." It should be rather "the resurrection from among the dead." Paul so came into this, that he uses words Christ Himself might use: "I endure all things for the elect's sake." It was all of grace - a totally new place - all pretension to righteousness gone, and what I am as man too, and Christ substituted as righteousness for me. And then Himself - to know Him. That is where progress goes on to; the affections are now engaged. When I see suffering before me, I get the power of His resurrection, and then the privilege of the fellowship of His sufferings. Paul had a large share of this; we have a little. He says, "If by any means I might attain"; that is, Cost what it will, if death is on the road, all right: I shall arrive at what He did - resurrection from among the dead. Resurrection here in Philippians 3:11, is a special word in the Greek, and never even found but here in the New Testament. When we look at the resurrection from the dead, we find it to be a matter of all possible importance. Christ was the first-fruits, not of the wicked dead, of course. What was Christ's resurrection? God raised him from the dead, because His delight was in Him, because of His perfect righteousness and glorifying Him. And it is the same with us. Resurrection is the expression of God's satisfaction in those raised; it is His seal on Christ's work. Christ was the Son He delighted in, and now it is the same with us because of Christ. In Him it was His own perfectness; with us it is because of Him. In power He comes in to take His own out, while the rest are left behind.
198 "From among," etc. - in that lies the whole force of the expression. So at the transfiguration He charged them not to speak of it "till the Son of man were risen from the dead"; they questioned among themselves "what the rising from the dead should mean." What astonished them? It was "the rising from among the dead." It was this very thing. God intervened in power, and raised Him up, and set Him at His own right hand; and when the time is come, He will raise His saints too. It is an immense act of divine power, for divine righteousness is there. In 1 Corinthians 15 there is no reference but to saints; it is not a general resurrection, for the wicked are not raised in glory. I do not know anything that has done more harm to the church than the notion of a general resurrection. If all are raised together, the question of righteousness is not settled; but it is, "if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." The whole character, and nature, and meaning, and purpose of this resurrection is entirely distinct. "From among" is the expression of divine delight in the person raised, and we are all raised because of it; else there would be no sense in the expression "attained."
He says, "if by any means" - if it cost me my life - it is all nothing. "That I may win Christ" is the first thing. But, in winning Him at the close of the race, it is also as a present thing "that I may know him." It has been asked whether this refers to the present effect, or to the future glory? I say it is present effect by future glory.
"I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling." The high calling is the calling above. We see the immediate connection of the object with the present effect. He wanted to be like Christ now, not only when he should be dead in his grave and his spirit in paradise. If he were to die, he would be then like Him; but that was not what he was looking for, namely, to be conformed to the image of the Son of God in glory. This he would be of course, but this I never shall be till Christ come and raise the dead; this I wait for. I am conscious of never attaining, but I wait for it, and every day I am more like Him, suffering in the power of the love in which He served the Father; and there is a continual growing likeness to Christ inwardly from looking at Him in the glory. The only thing I care for is to be like Him in glory, and with Him.
199 The whole of Paul's life was founded on that, and completely formed by that. The Son of God was forming his soul day by day, and he was always running towards Him, and never doing anything else. It was not merely as an apostle that he entered into the fellowship of His sufferings, and conformity to His death, but every Christian ought to be doing the same. A person may say he has forgiveness of sins, but I say, What is governing your heart now? Is your eye resting on Christ in glory? Is the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus so before your soul as to govern everything else, and make you count everything loss that is in the way? Is that where you are? Has this excellent knowledge put out all other things? not only an outwardly blameless walk, and able to say you love Christ; but has the thought of Christ in glory put out all other things? If it were so, you would not be governed by everyday nothings.
If a labouring man has a family, he does not forget the affections of his children because of his work. On the contrary, when his labour is done, his tools are thrown down, and he returns home with all the more joy because he has been absent from it. His labour did not hinder or enfeeble the affections of his heart.
To be in our daily occupations as to Christ, we have also to watch against another danger; when there are not other objects, there are distractions. We must watch the distractions as well as the objects, and have habits of jealousness of heart for Christ, else there is immediate weakness. And then when we go into God's presence, instead of rejoicing in the Lord, conscience has to be talked to. It is sad indeed when the walk in the world has been such, that, on going back to Christ, we find He had not been thought of in it.
Could you say, as Paul to Agrippa, Would to God you were (not almost, but) altogether such as I am? Are you happy enough to say that? Can you say, I am so rejoicing in Christ, and see such excellency in the knowledge of Him, that I would to God you were like me? What we have to look for in hearts is, not I have counted, but "I do count." Do your hearts count, as a present thing, all things loss? Two things we have to watch against, having another object, and, what is even more subtle, distractions.
200 The Lord give us to have our eyes so anointed with eye-salve, so to see Him, as to detach our hearts from other things; to have no other object than Himself before them. Perhaps we shall have the cross to take up; but mark, then it is not merely suffering, nor always exactly for Him either, but it is always with Him. The Lord give us (for we have to pass through a place where people do not care about Christ) to have the eye thus fixed on Him, having Him as a sanctuary, as the power and energy which carries us through. The Lord give us - and it is in His heart to give us - to say, "This one thing I do." The Lord give us truth of heart, and diligence of heart too.
Philippians 3:15-21; 4:1-7.
We were seeing, beloved brethren, the way in which Christ being before the eye gives earnestness of purpose in running towards the glory. Christ had laid hold on Paul for it, and he wanted to lay hold on Christ in glory. We were seeing too that this epistle looks at the Christian as travelling across the wilderness with everything at the end, but remember this, that, all through, the power of Christ's resurrection being in him, he had already the power in life, and wanted it in glory; and the practical effect was to make him run as a person who had only the glory in view. One single object - winning Him - and being raised up himself into the glory.
That is what we are predestinated to - "to be conformed to the image of his Son"; not looking forward to being like Him when our bodies are in the grave and we in Paradise. True, "when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is"; "but our conversation" is now "in heaven"; our citizenship, though I do not much like the word. It means all our living relationships; as we say, He is an Englishman; that is what distinguishes him. What distinguishes us is, we are of heaven. So he says, "this one thing I do," running towards the place; it has determined my whole life; "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling." The high calling means the calling above. We can have no notion of perfection but as in that glory.
The moment I have seen Christ come down, obedient to death for me, there is nothing too great to expect as the answer to it, for all is the fruit of the travail of His soul.
201 The "earnest of his love" is nowhere in Scripture; it has been taken, I think, out of a hymn. The earnest of the glory we have; "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts." Paul felt the power of the glory on his spirit; and that is how we are to run, but all Christians do not know it. If a man is a Christian at all he must know the cross as that through which he is redeemed; but he may not know that he is going to be with Christ in glory. The "little children" know that their sins are forgiven. This is the common knowledge of all. And the children know the Father - have the Spirit of adoption. But the perfect in Christ, as they are here called, know the evil of their own hearts far better, and at the same time see the perfect love of God in giving Christ on the cross - love come down to the sinner in his sins. They see not only that they are forgiven, but that we are all done with as children of Adam. The little children have not that. They do not know that they are entirely set aside as to their Adam nature. The old nature is dead to faith, and "when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory"; and faith has got the place now, "Herein is love with us made perfect," "because as he is, so are we in this world." There is the man perfect.
He says, "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you." He may be at the beginning, and you farther on; if so, you ought only to shew him the more grace; however, Christ has laid hold on him, and forgiven him his sins, and he will yet know another thing, even that he has died with Christ - that not only sins are forgiven, but that sin is put away by faith - that he himself is put away - that self which troubled him a great deal more than his sins. They are to be likeminded, as those who know that they are associated with the last Adam. Even if this is not seen by all, they are yet to go thoroughly together; God will reveal it to the others.
He then turns to the contrast, and, in doing so, puts himself forward in a remarkable way as their example. There are those whose "conversation is in heaven," and there are those who "mind earthly things"; the end of the latter is destruction; they are contrary to Christianity. It is now not a question of not seeing clearly, but of having the mind on earthly things. That is not Christ in glory; I cannot mind earthly things and Christ too. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God." "All that is in the world is not of the Father." The children are of the Father. When I was first awakened, I was astonished to find so much about the world in God's word; but I soon saw, when I had to do with Christians, how it dragged them back, always soliciting their hearts.
202 He says those who mind earthly things are the enemies of the cross of Christ. What was the cross? It had judged all this. I find the Son of God - the spring, and root, and plant, for all glory to grow on. The cross was all He got in this world. And what is the world? The world would not have Christ on any terms; so I have done with it. "The world seeth me no more"; the Holy Ghost is not come to be seen; "whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him, but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." That is how we know the Holy Ghost.
Evil and good came to an issue at the cross. It was the turning-point; it was where the two met. And now the whole question is, Am I with the world that turned Christ out, or with Christ whom the world turned out? There is nothing like the cross. It is both the righteousness of God against sin, and the righteousness of God in pardoning sin. It is the end of the world of judgment, and the beginning of the world of life. It is the work that put away sin, and yet it is the greatest sin that ever was committed. The more we think of it, the more we see it is the turning-point of everything. So, if a person follows the world, he is an enemy of the cross of Christ. As Christians we have to look into it, how far this vain show puts a spider film over our hearts, so as to hinder us from seeing. If I take the glory of the world that crucified Christ, I am glorying in my shame. Where is a man at home? In his Father's house, not in the dreary desert he has to cross in going there.
The meekness of the path we saw in chapter 2; here we have the power and energy that delivers from the world that would hinder our being like Him.
"Who shall change our vile body" - the body of our humiliation, not vile morally. I have Adam's body now, I shall have Christ's then. All our living associations are where He is. As Saviour He will come and accomplish all in changing our body, and conforming it to His glorious body. The price has been paid, but the final deliverance of what has been paid for is not yet come. "He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God," but we have not yet got it. We are waiting till He come, to get it.
203 Ah! beloved brethren, if our hearts really felt that God is going to make us like Christ, if we practically believed that He is going to bring us as brethren to be with and like Christ - well, we should have altogether another thought about the world, we should be "perfect" then, pressing towards the mark.
If I die meanwhile, I am always confident. I do not want to die; I want mortality to be swallowed up of life; but if death come, it does not touch my confidence; "absent from the body, present with the Lord."
He first speaks of the hope; that is what I want. Then he looks at the two things that are man's portion: "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." As to death, it is gain to me, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. But what about the judgment? It is a solemn thing. It is "the terror of the Lord." I think of the poor things not converted, and I "persuade men." It makes him think not of himself but of other people, though he says, "we must all appear" - that is, be manifested - "before the judgment-seat of Christ." We persuade men, and are made manifest to God. The day of judgment had its effect on him; it made him feel now the effect of the presence of God, as he will do in the day of judgment. It keeps my conscience awake and alive; it is a sanctifying power, not a terrifying one. Divine power will take us; as Adam had Eve presented to him, Christ, being God, presents His Eve - His church - to Himself, as last Adam.
Persons have asked if this is present or future - "that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection." It is the present power of looking at it objectively. "He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." It is the present effect of having the eye fixed on Him and waiting for Him. Final redemption will come, and make good, as to the body, what is true now of the soul. He will make us like Him in the Father's house; and, what I feel is so blessed, He will have us there without even the need of a conscience. Here I must always have my conscience on the qui vive; if not, I am at once caught in a snare of Satan. There I shall not want it, where all around will be blessedness. We shall have the Holy Ghost then too, and His whole power spent in enabling us to enjoy the glory. Now "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us," but much of the power is spent in making the ship go.
204 As a matter of fact, a number of us have cares, and trials, and temptations. God has thought of all these; He has counted the very hairs of our heads, and given us something that takes us out of them all. He thinks of the weather for us even: "Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter." Nay, even a sparrow falls not to the ground without your Father. God thinks of everything, and gives us complete superiority over everything.
It is blessed to see that the apostle goes from the most exalted thoughts of the revelation of God to the commonest things a saint has to pass through. From things so exalted he turns to two women who were not getting on well together. So it is to-day. There is no forgetfulness in grace. It takes up to the third heaven, but goes down to the smallest things. Even when a runaway slave is in question, the delicacy with which Paul deals with it has been admired in all ages.
What was Christ's comfort on the cross? He could not tell the poor thief that he was going to paradise without telling him that He was going there too: "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." So Paul, when thinking of the women who laboured with him, says, "whose names are in the book of life." God being there, there were divine affections; we are put in the place of divine affections.
There is nothing I feel more in going out to visit, than the desire that Christ should be so there, that the thing should come out that would come out of Christ - not my own thoughts. We do not know half how blessed it is to have the mind of Christ; but the mind of Christ was to go down to the cross.
"Rejoice in the Lord alway." Who was a fit person to say that? The man who had been in the third heaven? No. The man a prisoner at Rome. That was rejoicing always; as we have in the Psalms, "I will bless the Lord at all times." When I get the Lord as the object of my heart, there is more of heaven in the prison than out of it. It is not the green pastures and waters of quietness that make him glad, "The Lord is my Shepherd," not the green pastures, though green pastures are very nice. And even if I wander from them, it is "He restoreth my soul." And if death is in the way, I am not afraid, for "Thou art with me." And though there are dreadful enemies, there is a table spread in their presence. Now he says, "My cup runneth over." He carries him through all the difficulties and trials of his own feebleness. Ah! he says, "surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
205 The man who trusted in the Lord, the more trouble he was in, the more he proved that all was right. Paul says, I know Him free, and I know Him in prison. He was sufficient when he was in want, and sufficient when he abounded. So he says, "Rejoice in the Lord alway."
What could they do with such a man? If they kill him, they only send him to heaven; if they let him live, he is all devoted to lead people to the Christ they would destroy.
It is more difficult to rejoice in the Lord in prosperity than in trials, for trials cast us on the Lord. There is more danger for us when there are no trials. But delight in the Lord delivers us altogether from the power of present things. We are not aware, until they are taken away, how much the most spiritual of us lean on props. I mean we lean on things around us. But if we are rejoicing in the Lord alway, that strength can never be taken away, nor can we lose the joy of it.
"Let your moderation be known unto all men." Do you think people will think your conversation is in heaven if you are eager about things of earth? They will only think so if there is the testimony that the heart does not stick up for itself. "The Lord is at hand." All will be set right soon. If you pass on in meekness, and subduedness, and unresistingness, how it acts in keeping the heart and affections right; and the world can see when the mind and spirit is not set on it. So he says, let it be "known unto all men."
"Be careful for nothing." I have found that word so often a thorough comfort. Even if it be a great trial, still "be careful for nothing." Oh! you say, it is not my petty circumstances - it is a question of saints going wrong. Well, "be careful for nothing." It is not that you are careless, but you are trying to carry the burden, and so you are racking your heart with it. How often a burden possesses a person's mind, and when he tries in vain to cast it off, it comes back and worries him! But "be careful for nothing" is a command, and it is blessed to have such a command.
206 What shall I do then? Go to God. "In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." Then in the midst of all the care you can give thanks. And we see the exceeding grace of God in this. It is not that you are to wait till you find out if what you want is the will of God. No. "Let your requests be made known." Have you a burden on your heart? Now go with your request to God. He does not say that you will get it. Paul, when he prayed, had for answer, "My grace is sufficient for thee." But peace will keep your heart and mind - not you will keep this peace. Is He ever troubled by the little things that trouble us? Do they shake His throne? He thinks of us, we know, but He is not troubled; and the peace that is in God's heart is to keep ours. I go and carry it all to Him, and I find Him all quiet about it. It is all settled. He knows quite well what He is going to do. I have laid the burden on the throne that never shakes, with the perfect certainty that God takes an interest in me, and the peace He is in keeps my heart, and I can thank Him even before the trouble has passed. I can say, Thank God, He takes an interest in me. It is a blessed thing that I can have this peace, and thus go and make my request - perhaps a very foolish one - and, instead of brooding over trials, that I can be with God about them.
It is sweet to me to see that, while He carries us up to heaven, He comes down and occupies Himself with everything of ours here. While our affections are occupied with heavenly things, we can trust God for earthly things. He comes down to everything. As Paul says, "without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us." It was worth being cast down to get that kind of comfort. Is He a God afar off, and not a God nigh at hand? He does not give us to see before us, for then the heart would not be exercised; but, though we see not Him, He sees us, and comes down to give us all that kind of comfort in the trouble.
The first two verses I have read are the last of the exhortation in this epistle.
207 We have already seen the way in which, in entire superiority to all circumstances, the Christian is to go on. All through the epistle that character of the power of the Spirit of God is brought out. In verse 8 we get the effect of what we were speaking of last time: "Rejoice in the Lord alway"; "let your moderation be known unto all men"; "be careful for nothing; let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." The heart is set free, for the peace of God, which is immutable, keeps the heart and mind. There is nothing new or strange to God. He is always in peace, working all things after the counsel of His own will. It is thus that the heart is to be at rest, and then it is free to be occupied with what is lovely and blessed.
It is a great thing for the Christian to have the habit of living in what is good in this world, where we necessarily have to do with what is evil. We were evil ourselves once, and nothing else was in heart, thoughts, and mind; and there is still evil not only in the world but in our hearts, and we have to judge it where it is allowed. But it will not do to be always occupied with it. It defiles even when we judge it; just as when the man had to do with the ashes of the red heifer in Numbers 19; he was really doing a service in gathering them up, and laying them up without the camp, yet he was unclean until even, and the same as to him who applied them. It is soiling to our minds, even to be judging evil. There is in some hearts a tendency to be busy about evil, but it will not do to live in. Of course I am not now speaking of living in it actually, but of even in thought judging it.
It is a great thing to have the heart toned and tuned to take delight in the things God delights in. Even in the sense of judging evil as evil, it is not happy. I am to be living now as with God in heaven, and has God to be judging evil in heaven? We know He has not; and it is a great thing for our souls to be above with the Lord, not only doing the things that please Him, but being also in the state of mind in which He can delight. Take one day only and ask yourself, has your mind been living in the things that are lovely and of good report? It is that the apostle speaks of here. Is it the habit of your mind to be dwelling on what is good? Evil forces itself on us in these days, but it will not do to be dwelling on it. It weakens the mind; the mind gets no strength from thinking of it. It may awaken disgust where the mind is in a spiritual state, but even judging it, we are not doing it rightly unless the heart is dwelling on what is good. We might be bringing down fire from heaven, when Christ would merely go to another village.
208 He walked in the full power of communion in what was good in the midst of evil, though He had to do with it; He had to say, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees"; and we may have to do with it too, but it is never done rightly unless we are living in what is good. There would never be softness, and by this I do not mean softness towards evil - we have to judge that peremptorily - but there would be no gracious softness. Paul had to say, "I would they were even cut off which trouble you." There is no softness here: but still even this comes out in love. Supposing we have to judge evil, we have to do it in the power of the good that is in us. Here is the path in which our souls have to walk: "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." The Lord give us, beloved brethren, to remember them. God may have to judge, but He dwells in what is good.
We then get - and what a blessed thing it is for a man to be able to say it - "Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do." Mark here, that is the way of having the God of peace with us. When our cares are cast on God, he says, "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus"; but this is more. Paul stood in a special or peculiar place, filled by the Spirit of God, though the chief of sinners, as he says, yet "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus": "death worketh in us - life in you." It was a great deal to say. He had to have a thorn in the flesh to enable him to carry it out; it was not that his flesh was naturally any better than yours. He did not only say, I am dead, but he carried about the death in the flesh, so that it did not stir. He was a chosen vessel, we know, and it was through the grace and power of Christ that he did it. But he was doing it, and so, as we remarked in beginning, there is never sin mentioned in this epistle, because it is the proper experience of Christian life; doctrine is scarcely alluded to either. Paul speaks throughout in the consciousness of his experience.
209 If I look to walk after Christ, I must reckon myself dead. I never say I must die, because this would be to suppose the flesh there working; of course it is there, but I say it is dead. I quite understand a person passing through a state by which he learns what flesh is, and such processes are more or less long. But when brought thoroughly down to say, "In me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing," then God can say, Reckon yourself dead; do not let sin have dominion over you. The spring from which all power comes is that you have died. That is the fundamental truth as to deliverance. Deliverance comes when by the power of the Spirit of God we reckon ourselves dead. It is not so but to faith. Christ is there in power, and I reckon myself dead, and then I can deal in power.
"This is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." But is that all? No. For supposing life is there, and that the old nature is still alive, there is nothing but conflict between the two, and, unless I have the power of the Spirit of God, no settled freedom from sin; and supposing I have, still there is conflict. Only if I am dead really, my deliverance from the working of the flesh is fully realised. The apostle says, in the power and being of this life, I am dead; and when he comes to carry it out, it is "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." I have received Christ as righteousness before God, and as life in me; and I treat the old thing as dead. It is not only that I have life, but I have died, so it is not an even chance between the two, which shall have the upper hand. It is the way till I am brought to the discovery that there is no good in the flesh, and that I have died with Christ. Then I learn that not only I have done bad things, but that the tree itself is bad, and that Christ, who is our life, has died to sin, as well as for sins; and, when I reckon the old thing dead, I find liberty.
I do not say forgiveness, but deliverance. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free." Of course I may fail, and may be brought under the power of sin for a moment, but I am not a debtor to it any more. How has He condemned the flesh? In death. Then I am free - in the fact of life treating the old thing as dead. We are always to manifest this life of Jesus. Keeping in faith this dying of Christ, I have got the cross for the flesh. The apostle says, The death of Christ works in me, old Paul, and so nothing but the life of Christ flows out for you; and he says, Go you and do like me; "those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." He Himself will be then present with you.
210 What a wonderful thing it is, beloved brethren! The life of Christ given - the flesh reckoned dead - and we walking accordingly. Is God then going to keep Himself separate from you? No. "The God of peace shall be with you."
It is wonderful how often He is called "the God of peace," while He is never called the God of joy. Joy is an uneven thing. Joy gives us the thought of hearing good news, and sorrow may be there too. There is joy indeed in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, for that is good news there; but it is not God's nature like peace. It is an emotion of the heart. Man is a poor and weak creature. He hears good news, and he has joy; he hears sad news, and he has sorrow. It is the ups and downs of a creature-nature. But He is "the God of peace." It is a deeper thing. Look at the world and the human heart; do you ever see peace there? Joy we do see in the animal nature even; as in a beast let loose. And we may see a kind of joy in the world, but there is no peace; the heart of man is "like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest" - incessant harassment for amusement, and they call that joy. The world is a restless world, and if it cannot be restless in activity to get what it wants, it is restless because it cannot. We never find peace in this world except when God gives it.
If we are walking in the power of the life of Christ, the God of peace is with us. We have the consciousness of His presence. The heart is at rest; there is no craving after something we have not got. Even among Christians we see persons who have no peace because they are craving after what they have not got. That is not peace. But enjoying what is in Him, though surely craving to know Him better, is blessed rest of heart; - it is peace. It is a blessed thing to have such a sanctuary in this world - "the God of peace" with us.
We then see how Paul is superior to all circumstances. He had been in want, though in a kind of free prison, and his heart felt it. "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again." He says, "now at the last," as if they had been a little bit careless. But there is a gracious delicacy towards them; he at once withdraws what he had said, by adding, "but ye lacked opportunity." There is never insensibility in the Christian's superiority, else it is no superiority. In all circumstances the heart is free to act according to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and He was never insensible. We steel ourselves against circumstances; our poor selfish hearts like to get away from suffering. But He was always Himself in the circumstances. So, as has been said, there was no character in Christ. He was always Himself. Perfectly sensitive to all things, but never governed by them, always in them in the strength of His own grace. We never find Him unmoved. When He saw the crowd, He was "moved with compassion towards them"; and when He saw the bier which carried out the only son of the widow, He had pity on her; and at the grave of Lazarus "He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled" - a strong expression, it is, He troubled Himself inwardly. The power of death in the people around Him pressed on His spirit. No matter where He was, He was never insensible, but was Himself in grace for that He was sensible of. On the cross, He had the right word for the thief. Even when He had to say, "How long shall I be with you, and suffer you?" He immediately adds, "Bring thy son hither." He was perfectly sensitive, as we are not, with His grace always ready to be called out. What shews itself in Christ is what we should seek to be; that is, perfectly sensitive to all circumstances, but that they should meet Christ in us, so as to draw Him out.
211 We have seen how Paul corrects what he had said, "at the last your care of me hath flourished again," by adding, "ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity." We never find the Lord correcting Himself. Paul was a man of like passions as we are. At Troas he could not stop, though a great door was opened to him for preaching the gospel; he had no rest in his spirit because he did not find Titus. In Macedonia, too, his flesh had no rest. And he says of that epistle which gives us inspired directions for the assembly (we could not do without it), that he was not sorry he had written it, though he had been sorry; and yet he had been inspired to write it. His heart had sunk below the place he was in, when he thought all the Corinthians had turned against him. It is blessed in one sense to see that, though he was an apostle, he was so like us: but we would not see it in the blessed Lord. Perfect sensitiveness, but perfection in it, is what we see in Him; while we see the apostle was a man, though it is interesting to see him feeling in that way.
212 He then goes on to shew, that he was superior to all these circumstances. "Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Power has come in for us, beloved friends. People say, Oh! we can do all things through Christ, as a kind of absolute truth. I say, Can you? You cannot. Oh! you say, a person can; and this is perfectly true as an absolute statement, but it is not what the apostle meant. He meant that he could do all things; he had learned it. It was a real state for him, not an abstract proposition. "I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry." If full, He keeps me from being careless, and indifferent, and self-satisfied; if hungry, He keeps me from being cast down and dissatisfied. With him it was not a man can, but I have found Christ so sufficient in every circumstance that I am under the power of none. He had been beaten of rods: five times he had received of the Jews forty stripes, save one; he had been stoned, and he had gone through all sorts of things; but he had found Christ sufficient in them all.
And do not say, Ah! that was when he was a mature Christian; it was very well to say it at the end of his life. If he had not found Christ thus sufficient from the beginning right through to the end, he could not have said what he did at the end. It is that faith reckons on Christ from the starting point of Christian life. It is the principle I was referring to in Psalm 23. When the Psalmist had gone through everything, he says, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." Full or hungry I shall always find that He is enough. But to be able to experience this at the end it must be experienced by the way.
Do not say, Oh! he was an apostle! he was a wonderfully blessed man, far above the evil that is torturing me. No such thing! He had a thorn in the flesh while he was writing; and though that was not power, it put him into nothingness where the power could come in. The Lord would not take it away when Paul besought Him. "My grace is sufficient for thee," was His answer. It seemed a hindrance; but, when he preached, Christ's power was seen, not Paul's. I refer to it so that you should not say that he was free from the difficulties and snares of the flesh. God had put him in danger of being exalted above measure by taking him up to the third heaven, and He sent him a thorn to make nothing of him, and then His strength was made perfect in weakness. Divine strength cannot be where human strength is. If it had been human strength, Paul's converts would have been worth nothing; but God's converts were worth eternal life. It is a great thing that we should be made nothing of. If we do not know how to be nothing, God must make us nothing. A humble person does not need to be humbled.
213 Paul was dependent upon Christ - absolutely dependent on Christ - and we find the infallible faithfulness of Christ to him. But, I repeat, he could not have said it at the end, if he had not experienced it by the way. It is a blessed testimony. He is sufficient for us where we are; but He must bring us to the point of uprightness. The soul must be in the truth of its state before God. Till the conscience get into the place where I really am - till it get the consciousness of distance from God, and unfaithfulness to Him - it is not upright. But when it gets there, Now, says God, I have got you right; I can help you. Job said, "When the ear heard me, then it blessed me, and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me; because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help." I did this, I did that. That will not do, says God; that is all I, I, I. So He lets the devil loose upon him till Job curses the day in which he was born, but at last he says, "Now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself." That will do, says God; now I can bless you. And He did bless him.
God would have us not merely holding our heads above water, but going on in the strength of His grace.
"Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity." Love is never forgetful; it treasures up acts of service. And the apostle treasured up in memory the things, wherein he had been cared for. God delights in service done to His saints; even what is done to the world He delights in too.
214 "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Mark the intimacy there is in "my God." It is emphatic. It is saying, I know Him; I can answer for Him; I have come through all kinds of things, and I can answer for it that He never failed me. I know the way He acts even in the small things of everyday life.
It is a great thing to trust God daily and hourly; not thinking we can provide for ourselves, and secure ourselves against the power of evil, but to trust God thoroughly. And what is the measure of the supply? Nothing short of "his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." He must glorify Himself - even in the falling of a sparrow - for there is nothing great and nothing small with God. He thinks of what His love must glorify itself in.
"My God shall supply all your need." How could Paul tell that? He knew Him. Not that he had not been in a condition of want, but he had felt the preciousness of being met in it by God. Things may look very dark, but we have always found that, if He led us by the wilderness where there was no water, He brought water out of the stony rock for us there. He always exercises faith, but He always meets it. Their coats even did not grow old for forty years. This is a blessed result.
"My God shall supply all your need." He was counting on blessing for others. What a comfort! Instead of walking by sight, to be passing through this world in the blessed consciousness of what God is for oneself, and so able to count on Him for others. We find ourselves sometimes almost dreading to press a person into the path of faith; but we should not dread, but count on grace for them. Faith is always triumphant.
The Lord give us to count on Him always, and we shall then say, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."