§36. 2 Corinthians.
The Second Epistle does not admit of sections so defined as in the First, being less ecclesiastical and dogmatic. It is restorative rather than corrective, and overflows with the sense of God's compassion and encouragement in the midst of tribulation and sufferings. The address here, "to the church of God that is in Corinth," adds (not "with all that in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both theirs and ours," but quite appropriately) "with all the saints that are in all Achaia." It is less external and more intimate: not thanks for gifts and power, but blessing for delivering grace.
The apostle's heart was full. He had drunk deeply of Christ's sufferings; but now his encouragement also abounded through Christ; and both, he assures them, were for their encouragement and salvation. If they had passed through sufferings, he would have them know what had been his in Asia, "when excessively pressed beyond power, so as to despair even of living." Having the sentence of death within to trust in the God of resurrection, he yet confides, counting now on their prayers for thanksgiving also. And as conscience had begun its good work in them, he can speak of his own, and explain, as he did not in the First Epistle, why he had not gone to Corinth. Their state forbade it, not his levity, nor aught of fickleness, as some said. This leads on to a wondrous assertion of God's immutable word of grace in His Son, and the no less power of our establishment and enjoyment by the Holy Spirit, with which he ends chap. 1, assuring them now of his love in desiring to see them at Corinth only with joy.
Little did the Corinthians conceive his grief and earnest desire for joy from them (2 Cor. 2). Not only had he and they grieved, but sufficient to the one who had caused it by his evil was "this punishment" by the many. They should show grace now, lest he should be swallowed up with grief, and their obedience too in confirming love as they had in judging. In blessed grace and ungrudging maintenance of the church's place the apostle says, "To whom ye forgive anything, I also; for what I also have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, [it was] for your sakes in Christ's person, that no advantage be gained over us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his devices." What a contrast with either the assumption or the indifference of worldly religion! What a defeat he anticipates of Satan's aim! This again gives occasion for their learning how his heart yearned over them right through. At Troas, though a door was opened in the Lord and he came for the gospel, he had no rest for his spirit at not finding Titus, but went on to Macedonia where he met him, and got good tidings of Corinth. Was this a loss? "Thanks be to God who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ and manifesteth through us the savour of his knowledge in every place." The apostle identifies himself with the gospel, a sweet savour to God in the saved and in the perishing. And who is competent for these things? He was not as the many, trading with the word of God; he gave it as purely as he received it from God.
2 Cor. 3 contrasts the law with the gospel, and in particular exposes the mixture of the two, the favourite device of those who misread Christ. For did he begin to commend himself? Did he need letters of commendation to them or from them? They were his letter, written on his heart, manifested that they were Christ's letter. What grace for the apostle so to write of them! What an honour for them so to hear! His competency was from God Who made us competent as new covenant ministers, not of letter but of spirit; for letter kills, but spirit quickens. Then, in a parenthesis which includes from verse 7 to the end of verse 16, he sets out the law graven on stones, as a ministry of death and condemnation, introduced with glory but annulled; whilst the ministry of the Spirit and of righteousness is the surpassing glory, and the abiding in glory. The Lord is the spirit of what in the letter only kills; but where His Spirit is, there is liberty. Law was a veiled system like Moses' face; whereas in the gospel "we all with unveiled face looking on the glory of the Lord are being transformed according to the same image from glory unto glory as by the Lord the Spirit."
Therefore having this ministry, and being shown mercy, we faint not. Grace banished fear and dishonesty, and gave by manifestation of the truth to commend oneself to every conscience of man in the sight of God. So, 2 Cor. 4 begins. All is out in the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Man is lost, man under law most guilty and blinded by the god of this age; God in the glory of His grace has the believer face to face without a veil. Self is not our object, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your bondmen for Jesus' sake. But we have this treasure yet in earthen vessels, that the surpassingness of the power may be of God and not out of us; in everything afflicted, but not straitened, always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body. Such is the principle; then comes the fact: "For we that live are ever delivered unto death on account of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifested in our mortal flesh." This life works in others: we believe, and therefore speak, knowing Him Who raised up the Lord Jesus and will raise and present us with those we serve for His sake. Far from our fainting, the inward man is renewed day-by-day. Our momentary light affliction works for us a surpassingly eternal weight of glory, looking as we do at, not the seen, but the unseen and eternal things.
In 2 Cor. 5 we have the power of life in Christ tested not only by death but by judgment. The Christian is shown more than conqueror thereby, as, if dead, rising like Christ, and if living, mortality swallowed up of life (vers. 1-4). Nor does Christ's judgment-seat abate the constant confidence; for our manifestation before Him will only prove the perfectness of His redemption, though there may be loss also. The glory begun abides. Then the love of Christ constrains, besides the sense of the terror of the Lord for such as meet judgment in their nakedness, so that we persuade men to receive the gospel. The judgment of charity is, that "One died for all: therefore all died;" and He died for all "that the living [which is only by faith in Him] should live no longer to themselves but to him who died and was raised." Even Christ after the flesh is known no more, but dead, risen, and glorified. So if one be in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things are passed, behold, they are become new; and all things are of the God Who reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation. This he explains to the end, characterised by God in this way and now based on Christ's work.
2 Cor. 6 describes this ministry of God's grace; not only in its source and distinctive properties and glorious end, but in its irreproachable character and its deep exercises through all circumstances. Assuredly the Corinthians were not straitened in Paul, as he could now freely tell them; it was in their own affections. But true largeness of heart goes with thorough separateness from all evil. The exhortation follows against any incongruous yoke with unbelievers. What has a Christian to do with helping to draw the world's car? Righteousness, light, and Christ forbid such a part. What agreement too has God's temple with idols? The saints are a living God's temple, more deeply than the O.T. expressed; wherefore the call to come out of their midst and be separate and touch no unclean thing was the more imperative. How they knew themselves received, God's Fatherhood, and their own sonship, the gospel had already proved. "Having then these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every pollution of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God's fear" (2 Cor. 7:1) is the real close of the chapter.
In 2 Cor. 7:2-16 the apostle concludes what had been interrupted by the marvellous exposition of the Spirit's ministration of the gospel, the matter of grief which grace had turned into blessing. He enlarges on what chapter 2 only touched, and lets them know what his letter cost him, when he knew its effect on them. It was grief according to God working out repentance to salvation unregrettable. Love is of God, and creates happiness rising above self, sorrow, sin, and Satan. The grief of the world works out death. The teaching is highly valuable, not only in a moral way but in the light of God cast on the assembly's clearance of itself from the evil which it is bound to judge in the last resort. "In every thing ye proved yourselves to be pure in the matter." Thus it is not by any means enough, if we desire God's will, that the offender be truly penitent, but that also the saints, having to do with a grievous case, should humble themselves and in grace bear the shame as if it were their own. How awful the state of such as rebel against the Lord in refusing its judgment, and in shameless sympathy that tends to harden and destroy the guilty one! No wonder that party spirit is so odious to the Spirit of God, and so destructive of true unity.
The way was now clear for the apostle happily to treat fully of that collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem, which he had briefly introduced in the last chapter of his First Epistle. Now that grace was doing its work, he can speak of the grace bestowed on the Macedonian assemblies in their own deep poverty and trial. And beyond hope it was; for they gave themselves first "to the Lord, and to us by God's will." Taking nothing himself from the rich Corinthians, Paul was the more earnest for others; not as commanding, but, through the zeal of others, proving also the genuineness of their love. As they abounded in much, let them abound in this grace too. What a motive and pattern is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! He simply gave in this his mind — he would not say more. It was expedient, or profitable, for those who purposed a year ago, to perform. A willing mind was the great thing without burdening any. Titus too was jealous for them; and Paul sent with him the brother whose praise was in the gospel through all the assemblies and chosen by them as "our fellow-traveller with this grace." For the apostle was careful to provide things honest not only before the Lord but also before men. Hence he sent a second unnamed brother (22) of oft proved diligence, but now much more diligent "through his [not, I think, Paul's] great confidence as to you." They were to show the proof therefore (2 Cor. 8).
Yet another chapter (2 Cor. 9) is devoted to the theme. He knew their ready mind, of which he boasted to the Macedonians, that Achaia (of which Roman province Corinth was the metropolis) was prepared a year ago; and he would not that "we, not to say, ye," should be put to shame. Nor does he fail, in awakening their souls to the joy of grace practically, to remind them that God loves a cheerful giver, and would have us abound to every good work, with thanksgiving to God as the result. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift, the spring of all grace by us.
In the later chapters (2 Cor. 10-13) he vindicates his authority, entreating them by the meekness and gentleness of Christ; let others boast of natural appearance or of fleshly arms. His arms were powerful according to God for overthrowing strongholds, and leading captive every thought unto the obedience of Christ. He was ready to avenge all disobedience when their return to it was fulfilled. If boasting somewhat more abundantly of what the Lord gave him, he would not be put to shame. As strong by letters when absent, so he would be present in deed. He had not gone beyond the measure God had apportioned, but hoped, their faith increasing, to be enlarged among them, and yet more to evangelise beyond them, instead of boasting in another's rule as to things ready. He that boasts, let him boast in the Lord; for not he that commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends (2 Cor. 10).
Jealous over the beloved Corinthians, whom he had espoused (he says in 2 Cor. 11) as a chaste virgin to Christ, he fears lest their thoughts should be corrupted from simplicity as to Christ. In the most touching way he asks if he committed sin in abasing himself that they might be exalted, and in every thing kept himself from being burdensome to them, though Macedonian brethren supplied his wants. God knew whether it was lack of loving them; but so he did to cut off occasion from some wishing it, against whom he thunders as deceitful workers. To speak of his own devotion, labours, and sufferings, he counts to speak as a fool; but we are indebted to that unworthy occasion for details of the deepest interest. They had compelled him in their folly. Was there any heroism in being let down in a basket through a window by the wall?
In 2 Cor. 12 he glories in what "a man in Christ" he knows (without saying who, for flesh had no part in it) experienced when caught up to the third heaven. Otherwise he gloried, not in any thing man loves to attach to his name, but "in his infirmities." He knew not even whether it was in the body or out of the body; so completely was it apart from all living associations or nature, before God in the glory of His Paradise. Yet was it as a check to this unequalled distinction (of the deepest moment to all subsequent life and service), lest he should be exalted by the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that there was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him. Nay more, he tells us that he prayed the Lord thrice for its removal, but had the answer, "My grace sufficeth thee, for power is perfected in weakness." It is dependence in faith, the true and signal secret of all Christianity in practice. "Behold, this third time I am ready to come to you." He had been at Corinth once and long. Only their state, and his desire to come when they were restored, hindered him when ready to come a second time. This is the true force of coming a "third time." How painful to such a heart to rebut the imputation of craft, when they could not deny his personal unselfishness! or of their supposing he was excusing himself to them! All was really in love for their edifying; but he feared lest perhaps on coming he should find them not as he wished, and be found by them such as they did not wish.
2 Cor. 13 closes this part and the entire Epistle with an overwhelming appeal, not only spoilt by false punctuation in the Authorised and Revised Versions, but making way for wrong doctrine at issue with the gospel. "Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me (who is not weak toward you but is powerful among you,* for he was crucified of weakness, yet he liveth of God's power; for we too are weak in him, but we shall live with him by God's power toward you), try yourselves whether ye be in the faith, prove yourselves. Or recognise ye not as to yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? unless indeed ye be reprobate" (3-5). As this alternative was the last thought which could occur to the carnal vanity which questioned Paul's apostleship, the application turns on their own standing in the faith. As surely as they were in it, he was an apostle to them. If Christ were not in them, they were reprobates and not entitled to speak on such a question. Where was their vapouring now? But his prayer was that they might do nothing evil, and his joy to be weak if they were powerful, praying also for their perfecting, and writing thus when absent that when present he might spare severity. He adds a farewell message of suited tenderness and care, with a commendation which speaks to the hearts of all believers ever since. Who, accepting it from God, has not profited?
*Any person of intelligence ought to see the impossibility of the sentence ending here, as in the version of 1611. An answer to the "since" or "seeing that" is required, in order to make any tolerable sense. As this is not furnished by the close of ver. 3, nor by ver. 4, we have it really supplied by ver. 5. And this answer is not only simple and satisfactory but full of gracious force and a serious rebuke to their ungrateful and thoughtless vanity. The version of 1881 yields evidence that the Revisers perceived the lameness of the sense afforded by the A.V., but of their own total failure to seize the true connection. For they hang vers 3 and 4 on to ver. 2, though there is no trace of a link with what goes before to warrant it. Ver. 2 appropriately follows ver. 1, as both do 2 Cor. 12:19-21. But 2 Cor. 13:3 opens a fresh and distinct appeal to the hearts of those who ventured to question his apostleship. "Seeing that ye seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me, … try your own selves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Or know ye not as to your own selves that Jesus Christ is in you? unless indeed ye be reprobate." The R.V. is purposely cited to show how excellent is the sense, when the erroneous punctuation is corrected, and the true connection is allowed. Otherwise the appeal is robbed of power, and a spurious meaning is suggested, to the injury of souls ever open to man's mistake rather than God's truth.
§ 37. GALATIANS.
Who can doubt the special aim of the Holy Spirit in this characteristic letter? It is not, like that to the Roman saints, a systematic establishment of God's righteousness in the gospel, on the plain and full proof of man's universal failure. Here we have the vindication of Paul's apostolate and of the gospel of grace against the Judaisers. It is a standing witness, on the one hand, how quickly the professing Christian is apt to surrender even the foundations of his blessedness to legalism; and on the other, of the Holy Spirit's care to raise the divine standard against the enemy, and rally men of faith around it. For God has here given us His own refutation of that early encroachment, so ruinous to the enjoyment of His grace, of Christ's work, and of the believer's standing and power. The Epistle is characterised by unusual severity of warning from first to last, and a total absence of those individual salutations in brotherly kindness which abound wherever it was possible. Not even the loose levity of the Corinthians troubled the apostle's spirit so profoundly, as the fall of the Galatians from grace.
Gal. 1 opens with Paul, "apostle not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised him out of the dead, and all the brethren with me." The legal party objected that he was not of the twelve, nor yet ordained by them in due succession. The apostle confronts this with the fact, that the Lord Jesus and God the Father expressly called him to the apostleship in an immediate way and with resurrection's associations; and that all the brethren with him joined in his words now. Even his wonted form of general salutation has the stamp of the truth the Galatians were imperilling. "Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory unto the ages of ages." In vers. 6-10 he bursts like lightning on their central error. "I wonder that ye so quickly change from him that called you in Christ's grace unto a different gospel, which is not another: only there are some that trouble you and desire to pervert the gospel of Christ." Such as preached aught else, were it himself or an angel or any, he anathematises. It were but pleasing men, which would make him not to be Christ's bondman as he was.
Next, he asserts direct revelation for the gospel he preached, affirmed already for his apostolic authority. It had shone on him, when devoted to the law and a persecutor of the church of God. But His grace revealed His Son in him, that he might preach Him among the Gentiles. The essential design was that he should not take counsel with flesh and blood, not even with the apostles before him. So he went elsewhere, and even when he did go up to Jerusalem, it was but for a short visit to Cephas, and seeing only James the Lord's brother, as he solemnly averred. Afterwards he went to Syria, and Cilicia; so that he was only known in Judea by the report, to God's glory by him, that the persecuting Saul now preached the faith he once ravaged.
In Gal. 2 the apostle furnishes fresh light in this connection on his memorable visit with Barnabas to Jerusalem, when he took Titus with him. Assuredly it was to receive neither authority nor truth. He went up by revelation, which is nowhere else intimated, but characterises his special place. Nor was it apostles who laid before him the gospel, but he before the chiefs privately what he preached among the Gentiles. Could any say he was running or had run in vain? Nor was it entertained to circumcise Titus, whatever bondage false brethren might desire to impose. Add to the gospel, and its truth continues no more. It was seen by the reputed pillars that He, who energised Peter for the apostleship of the uncircumcision, energised Paul also for the Gentiles. God's order for both and grace given to Paul being recognised, James and Cephas and John gave Paul and Barnabas right hands of fellowship, only with due remembrance of the poor, in which Paul was zealous too.
But from ver. 11 he goes farther, and recounts his open resistance of Peter at Antioch because he was condemned. What a rock for the church, if Christ had really resigned His place to His servant! Away with a pretension so blasphemous, ignorance so deplorable. Christ alone was and is the Rock. Peter shilly-shallied when certain came from James; "and the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation." How solemnly instructive for the Galatians, for all other Christians, for ourselves also! "They did not walk uprightly according to the truth of the gospel" is the unsparing censure of the apostle. What a withering rebuke of their own folly in listening to the adversaries of him and the gospel! His argument is unanswerable, and stands in abiding record. "If thou being a Jew livest Gentilely and not Jewishly, how forcest thou the Gentiles to judaise?"
It was grievous inconsistency in Peter, who on a most critical occasion proved himself not only feeble as a reed, but false to the Lord's charge in Acts 10 and his own faith, afraid of those he ought to have fed and guided aright. It was flinching from the common standing of justification by faith, and not by law-works even for born Jews. But the worst of all remained; for he had left law for grace in Christ to justify him, and, in turning his back on this now, he not only made himself a transgressor, but in effect Christ a minister of sin! Paul on the contrary for the Christian says, Through law I died to the law, for all was met in Christ crucified. The sinner was in Him condemned, that he should go free, the flesh only and utterly dealt with by God for him who believes; and himself living, no longer the old I, but a new life, Christ living in him: a life in faith of the Son of God "Who loved me and gave Himself up for me." Adding law makes void the grace of God; for if righteousness be through law, Christ in this case died gratuitously.
As chap. 2 ends with the great truth of Christ living in the Christian by faith in the Son of God, in contrast with the law, so Gal. 3 shows that the reception of the Spirit was not by works of law but by report of faith. How senseless then to perfect in flesh, with which law deals, what they began in Spirit! Thence he turns in ver. 6 to Abraham who believed and had not the law but the promise, "In thee all the nations shall be blessed," but solely by faith. For as many persons as are by works of law are under the curse; for which Deuteronomy 27 is cited. There, when the two mountains were taken by six tribes on each for blessing and curse, only Ebal had the curses, and not a word of the blessings on Gerizim! Granted that in fact the blessings were pronounced on the appointed mountain; in effect, as God knew, it must fail; and hence the silence of that inspired book. On the principle of law there is no blessing but curse for sinful man. "The just shall live by faith," as Habakkuk 2:4 testifies when all was ruin; where in vain law held out life to him that shall have done its demands. But Christ has redeemed from out of the curse by having become a curse, as elsewhere Deuteronomy attests (21); that the blessing might come unhindered, the promise of the Spirit through faith (1-13).
Then in a deep unfolding the notion of annexing law to promise is excluded. For the promises were addressed to Abraham, and to his seed, 430 years before the law, and hence cannot be annulled by it. The promise was in grace. Law was added for the sake of transgressions till the Seed came to Whom was made the promise, which has no mediator like the law with Moses between God and man. There are two parties in law, one of them sinful; there is but one in promise, God, and therefore all is sure in the end. They are not against each other, as they must be if joined: each serves its proper aim. There is no righteousness by law; but the promise by faith of Jesus Christ is given to believers. Law was but a servile child-guide; but we are all, Gentiles as well as Jews, God's sons by faith in Christ Jesus; and Him it is, not law, we put on in baptism, in Whom there can be no distinction in the flesh; and if of Christ, we are Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise (14-29).
In Gal. 4 the apostle points out the immense change wrought for the saints through Christ's work and the sending of the Spirit. Previously the heir, a child or infant, did not differ from a slave under the elements of the world; but now he was redeemed by the Son and became a son. And so were the Gentile believers sons, with the Spirit in their hearts crying, Abba, Father. Such is the true relationship of the Christian (1-7). For Gentile saints, after being known of God, to turn to the weak and beggarly elements (i.e., of the law) was really a return to their idolatry in principle. "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you lest I bestowed upon you labour in vain. Be as I [am], for I [am] as ye, brethren, I beseech you: ye have not injured me at all" (8-12). He was freed from law by Christ's death. They as Gentiles had nothing to do with law. They indicted no wrong in saying so of Paul. Compare Romans 7:6 and Galatians 2:19. How the new delusion had alienated them from him! Had he become their enemy by telling them the truth? Their zeal should not be only in his presence (13-18). They needed that he should travail again in birth to have Christ formed in them (19).
''Tell me ye that desire to be under law, do ye not hear the law?" Then he speaks of Abraham's two sons: one by a bondwoman, the other by a free woman, one born after the flesh, as the other by promise, allegorising the two covenants, and answering respectively to Jerusalem in bondage, and to free Jerusalem which is above, our mother, entitled to rejoice after desolation. We then, as Isaac, are children of promise, and persecuted by him born after the flesh as of old. "Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free" (21-31). How convincingly the tables were turned on these retrogradists from grace to the law!
The beautiful use, which the apostle drew according to divine design from the story of Sarah and Isaac on the one hand, and on the other of Hagar and Ishmael, leads into the teaching of Gal. 5, the freedom with which Christ freed us. So, therefore, is the Christian to stand, and not be entangled again in a yoke of bondage — the enemy's effort. To receive circumcision was to become debtor to do the whole law and to fall from grace: Christ would profit nothing in that case. We, believers, are justified by faith; and by the Spirit on the same principle of faith we await, not righteousness but its hope, even the glory into which Christ is gone. For in Him neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails aught, but faith working through love; as of God it ever does. Who stopped them when running well, that they should not obey the truth? The persuasion was not of Him that called them. It was a corruption tainting the lump as a whole. For his part, his confidence as to them was in the Lord, that they would have no other mind; and their troubler whosoever he be shall bear the judgment (or, guilt). "And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why am I yet persecuted? Then is done away the offence of the cross." For Judaism was ever the sleepless foe. Indignantly he adds, "I would that those who unsettle you would even cut themselves off" (vers. 1-12).
"For ye" he says emphatically, "were called for liberty" — on that condition. "Only [use] not liberty for occasion to the flesh, but through love serve one another" — the gist of the whole law. Were they fulfilling it in biting and devouring one another? To walk in the Spirit (which grace gave, not law) is to fulfil in no way flesh's lust. No doubt the flesh opposes, but so does the Spirit, that we may not do the things which we would: a scripture perverted in the A. V. But if led by the Spirit, they are not under law: grace is the spring. "Now manifest are the works of the flesh, which are fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, angers, contentions, divisions, sects, envyings, [?murders,] drinkings, revels, and such like; of the which I forewarn you, as I forewarned you, that they who do such things shall not inherit God's kingdom." Could they not recognise these sad traits of late? Law acting on flesh provoked them. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, self-control: against such things is no law." Did they really know this fruit familiarly? "And they that are of Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and its lusts. If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also direct our steps. Let us not become vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another." What can approach these burning words which close the chapter? The Spirit is the power of good, not the law, moral any more than ceremonial. Law's power is to slay sinners.
The next chap. (Gal. 6) follows it up. Even if a man be overtaken in some fault, does the remedy lie in the law? In nothing but grace. "Ye that are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted." The general rule is to bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfil the law of the Christ, if they desired a law. The flesh boasts, and only deceives itself while burdening others. Faith proves its own work without claiming that of another. Each shall bear his own burden. Meanwhile there is ample room for love, as for the learner in the word toward the teacher in all good things (ver. 6). God holds to His order: whatever a man sows, this shall he also reap, — corruption from the flesh, from the Spirit life eternal. Let us not be fainthearted then in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not. So then as we have opportunity (season), let us work good toward all, and specially toward the household of faith.
The conclusion is touching. "Ye see in how great letters I write to you with my hand." He habitually employed an amanuensis, as was usual in those days. To the Galatians he would write himself; and so in large uncouth letters he wrote the entire Epistle. (Contrast with the aorist here the present in 2 Thess. 3:17). Once more he thunders against those who would revive flesh and restore law and circumcision to the denial of the cross of Christ. Only would he glory in that cross which put shame on the world; and he accepted its shame with Christ. In Him is new creation. This is the rule for our steps; and peace be on such and mercy, and upon those of Israel who are really God's. Let none trouble him henceforth: he bore in his body the marks of suffering for Christ, whose grace, he prays, to be with their spirit. It is controversial throughout, yet with the deepest feelings of love underneath.
§ 38. EPHESIANS.
In writing to the Ephesians the apostle takes his stand on ground wholly different from the Epistle to the Galatians. There he combats return to law in every shape, ceremonial or moral, and insists on grace in Christ crucified and risen, on promise before the law and accomplished only in Christ, so that blessing should flow even to Gentiles, and the promise of the Spirit be received by faith. But to the Ephesians he shows divine and eternal counsels.
The Christian is blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ (Eph. 1:3); and this by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was both man and Son of His love. The same God and Father chose us in Him before the world's foundation, far above earthly ways and beyond promise. He chose us that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love (4). If He would have us there, He could not but have us like Himself. But He was pleased to fore-ordain our relationship, even for adoption or sonship, through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (5) for the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (6). In Him (for we were evil) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of offences according to the riches of His grace (7), which He made to abound toward us (not like Adam for the earth) in all wisdom and intelligence (8). He also made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself (9) for administration of the fulness of the fit times: to head up the universe in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth; in Him in Whom we also were given inheritance, for if sons of God, we were heirs. We were thus fore-ordained according to the purpose of Him Who works all things according to the counsel of His own will, that we should be to the praise of His glory. "We" are the believing Jews that had pre-trusted in the Christ (12). In Him ye too (Gentile saints), having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, in Whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Who is earnest of our inheritance for the redemption of the possession, for praise of His glory (14). Jew and Gentile are alike thus blessed in the highest degree, far beyond the promises to the fathers.
So delicate and precious and rich is the apostle's preamble, that one does best to give it just as it is. The glory of His grace embraces the whole sweep of the purposed blessing; the riches of His grace, what more than meets all our need now; the praise of His glory, when we enter on the inheritance. But the choice of God and fore-ordaining go back into eternity before there was a universe to inherit with Christ. The summing or heading up in Him of the whole heavenly and earthly will be administered when the various seasons run out, and the inheritance, heavenly and earthly, will be displayed; and we, of all others, share Christ's glory over all, and have the earnest as well as seal already in the Holy Spirit given to us.
Then we have from verse 16 and at least to the end of Eph. 1 the apostle's prayer for them, founded on the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory (17), of Whom he desires the enlightenment of the eyes of their heart to know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power toward us that believe, according to the working of the might of His strength which He wrought in the Christ, when He raised Him out of the dead and seated Him at His right-hand in the heavenlies, far above the most exalted of creatures now and ever, and subjected all under His feet, and gave Him [to be] head over all things to the church which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all (23).
The prayer almost imperceptibly passes into the teaching of Eph. 2. To the hope of God's calling as in Eph. 1:3-6, with its accompaniments in verses 7, 8, and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (for He takes it in them as in the Christ) in verses 9-11, with the way Jews and Gentiles come in, and the Holy Spirit's relation to both blessings, he adds the wondrous power displayed in raising and exalting Christ. Now in Eph. 2:1-10 he shows it to be the same power that wrought in the Ephesian saints, and so in all Christians, quickened with the Christ, raised up together, and made sit down together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, that God might display in the coming ages the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Thus were and are they saved by grace through faith, His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God before prepared that we should walk in them. All were alike dead in offences and sins. God thus wrought to bring believers into this new estate of living association with Christ on high.
From verse 11 the apostle would have those once Gentiles remember their then far off condition, without one of Israel's privileges. Now they were made nigh by the blood of the Christ; and in the same nearness were the believing Jews. For Christ, our peace, not only took away all obstacles, but made both one, forming the two in Himself into one new man, one body. Though Jews had once been outwardly nigh, and Gentiles afar off, through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Strangers and foreigners the Gentile believers were no more, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of God's household, all alike being built on quite a new foundation — that of the apostles and prophets (of whom he speaks in Eph. 4:11), Jesus Christ Himself (not Peter) being the corner-stone. In Him all the building framed together increaseth unto a holy temple in the Lord; "in whom ye also," he says, "are builded together for God's habitation in the Spirit."
Thus we have the church viewed as Christ's body, and God's house, in which distinct respects Paul's Epistles often regard it. The article seems necessarily wanting in verse 21, though excellent old MSS. insert it; but according to correct usage, as the building is not complete, it could not be there. Yet this does not warrant "each several," as in the R. V. For though as the ordinary rule πᾶσα without the article requires "every," there are known exceptions, as "all Jerusalem" (Matt. 2:3), "all the house of Israel" (Acts 2:36), "all Israel" (Rom. 11:26). It is not a proper name that really accounts for this; a whole viewed in its parts excludes the article, yet means "all." The mistranslation is therefore not only superficial, but directly upsets the unity of the building on which the apostle here insists as everywhere else.
Eph. 1 revealed the counsels of God in Christ risen and seated on high, followed up by the apostle's prayer to the God of our Lord Jesus; and Eph. 2 showed us how grace has brought us in, not only as individuals but collectively, and the temporary setting aside of Israel, believing Jews and Gentiles alike to be Christ's body and God's habitation in the Spirit. Eph. 3 connects with the subject Paul's special administration of this mystery or secret.
Therefore are the Gentiles the objects of grace in a way wholly unheard of in other generations, as now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit — the same power which builds all the saints together for God's dwelling. It was by revelation made known that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which Paul was become minister according to the gift of His grace given him according to the working of His power. This of course could not be, nor be revealed, till the cross had closed the Jewish system and opened the door in Christ ascended for the Creator of all things to make known heavenly counsels and ways in Him to any and everybody that believed. Equally clear is it that when Christ comes for His own to be with Him in the Father's house, and subsequently appears to execute judgment on the Beast and his vassals, on the Antichrist and all other enemies, He will restore Israel specially and bless the Gentiles in general under His blissful reign over the universe, even Egypt and Assyria being conspicuous
Meanwhile the gospel where these distinctions are obliterated and unknown goes forth, and the unsearchable riches of the Christ announced, as Paul did pre-eminently and far beyond all prophecy. This was in order that now to the principalities and the authorities in the heavenlies might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God according to a purpose of the ages (or, eternal) which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, in Whom we have boldness and access in confidence through the faith in Him. The apostle would not have them discouraged at his tribulations for them: it was their glory, which roused the enemy (Eph. 3:1-13).
"For this cause" (repeating the phrase which opens the chapter, and carrying out the parenthesis into a new prayer founded on its wondrous intimations) he bows his knees to the Father [of our Lord Jesus Christ, an addition favoured by many MSS., Vv., etc.] of Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. Here, however, it is not as in Eph. 1 that a spirit of wisdom and revelation might be given to the saints to know the hope of His calling and the glory of His inheritance and the greatness of His power in Christ risen and exalted. It is to be strengthened with power by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ might dwell in their hearts through faith, rooted and grounded in love, that they might be able to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height (he does not say of what, but evidently of the mystery), and to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge; that they might be filled unto all the fulness of God. This is not for spiritual intelligence of God's counsels and of what God had wrought in Christ to give them effect, but for present power of the Spirit in realising Christ dwelling in their hearts, and thus entering into fellowship with all the saints into the boundless glory, and His love deeper than the glory which will display it another day. Now to Him that is able to do far exceeding above all we ask and think, according to the power that worketh in us (and not only for us), to Him be the glory in the church in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen (vers. 14-21).
Paul, the prisoner in the Lord, beseeches the saints on the ground of all he has made known, to walk worthily of the calling wherewith they were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, using diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the joint bond of peace. This leads him fully to set forth unity: "one body and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all, and in you [or, us] all" (Eph. 4:1-6). The relationship determines the duty: what then must be ours, so blessed of God? It is easy to see that verse 4 sets out the vital, as verse 5 the professing, unity; while verse 6 is universal in its early clauses, yet the most intimate grace in the last. We are exhorted to be faithful in every case.
Next, the various workings in each for the blessing of all to Christ's glory are shown in verses 7-16. All is founded on Him ascended on high, as this depended on His descending into the lower parts of the earth, and also ascending to the highest, that He might fill all things. He it is Who gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, unto work of ministry, unto edifying of the body of Christ. What is the term of this? Until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at a fullgrown man, at the measure of stature of the fulness of Christ. For His gracious aim is that we be no longer babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of the teaching [that is] in the sleight of men for the spread of error; but, holding truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, Who is the head, the Christ; from Whom the whole body, fitted and compacted together by every joint of supply, according to the effectual working in measure of each one part, works for itself the increase of the body unto its own edifying in love.
It is not here, as in 1 Corinthians 12, the Holy Spirit testifying in this creation (and hence by tongues, healings, etc.) to God's glory in Christ, Who has defeated Satan before the universe. It is Christ in His love to His own, sending down from His heavenly seat the gifts of His grace to His body and to every several member. Thus here only we have the assurance that, while His members are on earth, His supplies of grace cannot fail. The foundation has been laid so well that it were folly to expect it relaid; but all that perpetuates and edifies, it were unbelief to doubt till He come. With this goes the promise of the other Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, to abide for ever in and with us (John 14), Who guides into all the truth. Hence the very babes in Christ are said (1 John 2:20) to have unction from the Holy One. No Christian need distrust.
Thereon the general exhortations proceed. They are warned against any allowance of their former walk as Gentiles, alienated from God's life in every way, inward and outward. Not so did they learn the Christ, if albeit they heard Him and were taught in Him according as truth is in Jesus. What is this? Their having put away as to their former behaviour the old man corrupt as to its lusts of deceit, and their being renewed in the spirit of their mind, and their having put on the new man which according to God was created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore putting away falsehood (this goes beyond lying) they were to speak truth, as being members one of another. They were not to allow continued anger. Instead of stealing they were to give, and to speak what was good for edifying, and not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God by Whom they were sealed for redemption's day. So all bitterness and heat, wrath, clamour, and abusive language, with all malice, must be put away from them; and they were to be kind one to another, compassionate, forgiving each other, even as God also showed them grace (vers. 17-32).
Grace toward faultiness, however, is not all. Eph. 5 opens with the more positive call to be imitators of God as children beloved, and walk in love; as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for an odour of sweet smell. It was perfection in Him — for us, but to God; and it is our express pattern of love. But the danger of uncleanness is as carefully urged as of violence just before; and this in the levity of speech as in lust. Thanksgiving is a great antidote; as is our sense that those who so indulge are incompatible with the kingdom of the Christ and God. Grace to believers in no way precludes God's wrath on the sons of disobedience. We, who were once darkness but now light in the Lord, should be far from such partnership, and walk as children of light, the fruit of which is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. The Spirit comes in, not in verse 9 but later in verse 18 as power, after love and light have been fully treated as the source, principle, and character of the walk for the new creation, proving what is agreeable to the Lord. Are any disposed to sleep? The Christian is therefore to awake and rise up from among the dead, and Christ shall shine upon him: an evident allusion to Israel's portion by-and-by. Hence the need of walking carefully as wise, buying up the fit time intelligent in the Lord's will, and filled with the Spirit in songs of praise of a Christian sort, certainly not with the world's dissolute excitement. Entitled as we are always and in all things to give thanks to Him Who is God and Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us not fail in doing thus, submitting ourselves to one another in Christ's fear (v. 1-21).
This leads to the application of the same principle in our relationships; where the subject one is regularly first exhorted in each pair, wives to husbands, children to parents, and slaves to masters (verses 22 — Eph. 6:9). The wife and husband give occasion to a grand unfolding of Christ's love for the church or assembly as the model. He "loved the church and gave himself up for it, that he might sanctify it, purifying it by the washing of the water in virtue of the word, that he himself might present to himself the church glorious, not having spot or wrinkle or any of such things; but that it might be holy and blameless." Christ thus loved the church before He gave Himself up for it; and not content with this infinite self-surrender to sanctify it, He purifies after a divine fashion, as He will consummate His love in the glorious issue. His love sees to it all, and He uses the word now, as He will personally at length present it to Himself according to His own perfectness. So is the husband to love his own wife, and the wife to fear the husband.
Children are not only to submit but to "obey" their parents in the Lord. If the law bade them pay honour, how much more the gospel? But fathers are not to irritate their children, but bring them up in the Lord's discipline and admonition. So were slaves to obey their masters according to flesh, but "as to Christ." What a privilege, and beyond all other emancipation! Masters were to do the same things, in the equity they expected, forbearing threat, and knowing they had a common Master in the heavens.
Then follows (vers. 10-20), after the call to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, the whole armour of God we are to put on. It is not the righteousness we become in Christ, but practical as against the enemy. The sword of the Spirit, being God's word, is our one offensive weapon. That panoply we need that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. "For our wrestling is not against blood and flesh, but against principalities, against authorities, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual [hosts] of wickedness in the heavenlies." We are contrasted with Israel arrayed against the Canaanites. Wherefore he bids us to take up the whole armour of God that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, as it is now till the Lord take His great power and reign. First, we are to be girt about our loins with truth, the inward movements thus braced before God; then, to put on the breast-plate of righteousness, the confidence of an irreproachably right course; next, the walk animated by the gospel's peaceful spirit; besides (or, in) all, we must take the unwavering faith in God, which is the shield to quench all the inflamed darts of the wicked one; and receive the helmet of salvation in the assurance of what God wrought for us.
But even God's word will not avail against the foe unless the Spirit guide us in wielding it. Thus all demands simple and constant dependence on God. Hence "praying at all seasons with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching "hereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, and for me," added the blessed apostle, "that utterance may be given me in the opening of my mouth with boldness to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am ambassador in a chain, that I may be bold in it as I ought to speak." In what a place of nearness to God stand the faithful — in common interest with Him, and hence with the greatest of apostles as with the weakest of saints, for Christ's glory! Hence as the apostle shared Christ's love to them all, so he was assured they in their love would delight to hear all particulars of him; he sent Tychicus therefore to comfort their hearts, as a joint and band in the body.
The salutation is in keeping: "Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace with all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruptness." Without the Father and the Lord, what is anything else? Without incorruptness, even the love, or rather what is called love, were vain.
§ 39. PHILIPPIANS.
No where is special aim more evident than in this Epistle. In saluting the Philippian saints the apostle associates Timothy with himself as "bondmen of Christ Jesus," and them "all," with overseers and deacons (Philippians 1:1-2). For the assembly there was not immature like that in Corinth; it possessed those local charges, for which experience was due, such as apostolic authority set over the saints in due time. But the absence of the apostle, a prisoner in Rome and object of their loving remembrance, gave occasion to much that is characteristic in it for the Christians, soon to lack that care altogether. No epistle breathes so distinctively of confidence in God and joy in all his remembrance of them; and this, not founded on the enriching powers of the Spirit as to the Corinthians, nor on the heavenly counsels of God as to the Ephesians, nor on the fulness of the Head as to the Colossians, nor yet on the broad and deep foundations of the gospel as to the Romans. This letter surveys and reciprocates what Christ is for every day's communion, conduct, worship, and service. It is therefore in reality, and in all forms, and in the highest sense, Christian experience from first to last. Their state warranted, as it called forth, the full opening of his heart to them.
In verses 3-11 he thanks his God because of their uninterrupted fellowship with the gospel, that He Who began a good work in them will complete it till Jesus Christ's day. It was right for him to think thus as to them all because they had him in their hearts. Both in his bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, were they not all partakers in his grace? For God was his witness how he longed after them all in the bowels of Christ Jesus. And he prayed that their love might abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment, unto their proving the things that are excellent, that they might be pure and without a stumble for Christ's day, being filled with fruit of righteousness that is through Jesus Christ unto God's glory and praise. He looked for the due result of Christ and His work in them, not merely that they should be kept from inconsistency and failure.
Then from verse 12 to the end of the chapter he speaks of his bonds and how God had thereon wrought in His good way, as man in his evil. He would have them know that his matters, sad as they looked, had come rather for furtherance of the gospel; so that his bonds became manifest in Christ in the whole praetorium and to all the rest. Nor was this all. For the most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord by his bonds, dared more abundantly to speak the word without fear. It was not without alloy. Some indeed also preached Christ for envy and strife, and some too for goodwill: these of love, knowing that he was set for the defence of the gospel; but those out of faction announced the Christ, not purely, thinking to arouse affliction for his bonds. But grace prevailed, and his heart had joy in Christ.
"What then? Notwithstanding [or, Only that], in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is announced, and in this I rejoice, yea and will rejoice. For I know that this will turn to me for salvation through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but in all boldness, as always, now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live [is] Christ, and to die gain; but if to live in flesh [is mine], this [is] to me worth while. And what I shall choose I know not. But I am pressed by the two, having a desire for departure and being with Christ, for [it is] very much better; but to remain in the flesh [is] more necessary for your sake. And having this confidence I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for furtherance and joy of faith, that your boasting may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my presence again with you" (vers. 18-26).
How clearly faith by grace made him, bondman though he was, master of the situation! His desire drew him away to Christ: the need of the saints detained him. God gave him, as it were, the decision for their sake. "Only behave worthily of the gospel of Christ, that, whether coming and seeing you or absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand in one spirit, with one soul striving together with the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by the adversaries; which is to them evidence of destruction but to you of salvation, and this from God; because to you was granted on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him but also to suffer for him, having the same conflict as ye saw in me and now hear of in me." Living the gospel, living worthily of it, was his earnest desire for them, yea, suffering for Christ.
Philippians 2. Zeal was not wanting in Philippi, yet does it not endanger unity, lowliness, and love? Where is the corrective but in Christ? "If then any comfort [be] in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye have the same mind, having the same love, joined in soul, thinking one thing, nothing in faction or vain-glory, but in lowliness of mind esteeming one another better than themselves, regarding not each his own things, but each those of others" (vers. 1-4). This brings in the image of Christ. "For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who subsisting in God's form did not count it an object for seizing to be on equality with God, but emptied himself, taking a bondman's form, having come in likeness of men; and, when found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him and granted him the name which is above every name, that in the name of Jesus should bow every knee of [beings] heavenly and earthly and infernal, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord to God the Father's glory" (vers. 5-11).
For the Philippians were in contrast with the Galatians (Gal. 4:18), and obeyed, not as in his presence only, but now much more in his absence. They are exhorted accordingly to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, now that they had not the apostle's care; for it is God that was working in them both the willing and the working for His good pleasure. What source of confidence so great, along with distrust of self! Murmurs and disputes were to be far from them, that they might be blameless and simple, God's children irreproachable in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom they appeared as lights in the world, holding forth life's word for a boast to the apostle against Christ's day that he ran not nor laboured in vain. Again he refers to death before him, but here as a libation poured on the sacrifice and ministration of their faith to his joy, and theirs also. Yet he hoped in the Lord to send Timothy to them, as he graciously felt for his refreshment by knowing how they got on; for only he shared Paul's care genuinely. Alas! even then all were seeking their own things, not those of Jesus Christ. They knew Timothy's service with Paul in the gospel work. Whatever the cost to himself, he would send one so dear to him and them, when he could report matters.
Meanwhile he sent Epaphroditus, his fellow-worker and fellow-soldier (what links of honour!), but their messenger and minister to his need (what communion!), not only as longing after them all, but distressed at their hearing of his sickness, So he was, adds the apostle, nigh to death; but God had mercy not on him only but on Paul also, that he might not have sorrow on sorrow. Yet him he had sent, that they seeing him might rejoice, and he himself be the less sorrowful. What unselfish love all round, the mind that was in Christ Jesus! Him therefore they were to receive in the Lord with all joy, and to hold such in honour; because for the work's sake (whether Christ the Lord, or God, were in question) he came nigh to death, risking his life to supply what lacked in their service toward Paul (vers. 12-30). Truly this is Christian experience.
Philippians 3 presents our Lord in a way quite different from that of chapter 2. It is not the uttermost humiliation in obedience of the Son's Person become man, emptying Himself and humbling Himself to the death of the cross: that service of love beyond compare, which creates, fashions, and maintains Christian devotedness in the saints. Here the central truth is Christ glorified, as the object set before the believer to detach him from every idol, to shine on the path with sure and heavenly light, to fill the heart with His own excellency, and to keep the glorious goal before him, whatever the trials of the way.
The apostle exhorts his brethren for the rest to rejoice in the Lord. He deserves and desires it; and well may we. Did any complain of sameness? To write so was not irksome to this wondrously endowed soul; for them it was safe. Yet he finds room with energetic contempt to denounce the Judaisers, as the dogs, the evil workers, and the concision, of whom they had to beware. He declares that the circumcision are we who worship by the Spirit of God, and boast in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh; though if any had such ground of confidence, the apostle had more. It is of fleshly religion he speaks here and throughout, not of fleshly licence (vers. 1-5).
Next, he states his own case. Was he not circumcised the eighth day, of Israel's race, of Benjamin's tribe, a Hebrew of Hebrews? as to law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to righteousness that is in or of law, found irreproachable? But the Christ he had seen in glory made him regard this gain as a loss. Nor was it a hasty estimate, but so he counted all things because of the excellence of the knowledge of Him, his Lord, for whom he suffered the loss of all things. He was still counting them dung, that he might win Christ and be found in Him, not having his own righteousness which is of law, but that which is by faith in Christ, the righteousness of God on condition of faith. The same Paul in Romans 9 would have the Jews know that, far from disparaging, he exalted the privileges of Israel beyond their estimate; here he shows that the Christian has in Christ far better things than Israel's hopes (vers. 5-9). And so he continues, "that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformed to His death, if by any means I might attain to the resurrection from out of (the) dead" (vers. 10, 11).
Nothing then satisfied him short of that portion. Flesh and earth are quite left behind. Therefore he adds, "Not that I already attained, or have been already perfected, but I pursue, if I may apprehend (or, get possession of) that for which also I was apprehended by Christ." We shall then be like Him and in the same glory. Yet he carefully tells his brethren that, as this was not true of him yet, "one thing" (he does); "forgetting the things behind [not past evils, but present progress], and stretching forth toward those before, I press unto the mark for the prize of the calling upward of God in Christ Jesus" (12-14). All the full-grown should have this mind; and, if in any thing they were otherwise minded, God would reveal this also to them; but whereto they were arrived, let them walk alike. How wholesome even for saints in good estate! Nor does the apostle hesitate to bid them imitate him and mark those that followed his example. Others alas! did very differently, enemies of Christ's cross, and earthly-minded, whose god is the belly, whose glory is in their shame. For our citizenship subsists in the heavens, whence also we await the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, who shall change the body of our humiliation and conform it to the body of His glory, according to the working of the power He has to subject even all things to Himself (vers. 15-21). Salvation here looks on to that final change.
Philippians 4 opens with strongly expressed affection, and the call to stand fast in the Lord. Two sisters he exhorts severally by name to the same mind in Him; and he beseeches his true yoke-fellow, Epaphroditus probably, to help those women in that they shared his own conflicts in the gospel, with Clement too and the rest of his fellow-workers whose names are in the book of life. How sad their lot whose names were not there! They did not love the Lord, whatever their labours (vers. 1-3).
The saints in general here again he calls on to rejoice in the Lord "always," and again would say, "Rejoice." How blessed from Paul the prisoner in Rome under Nero to saints at Philippi suffering in Christ's behalf! Yet he would have their gentleness known to all (in view of the Lord at hand), their anxiety in nothing, their requests to God in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving; and he assures them that the peace of God (and it is constant), which surpasses all understanding, should guard their hearts and their thoughts in Christ Jesus (vers. 4-7). For the rest, he urges brethren to think, not on the dark side but on whatsoever things are true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, if any virtue or any praise: what they both learned and received and heard and saw in him, let them do; and the God of peace, which is yet more than the peace of God, blessed though it be, should be with them. This indeed would be Christian experience — to live Christ (8, 9).
Then, as we easily see from verses 10 to 20, he speaks of his joy in the Lord at their renewed thought for him, though he spoke not of want, having learnt to be content in whatsoever state he was. For he knew both to abound and to be in want, and declares he can do all things through Him that empowers him. But he appreciated their fellowship with his affliction, which they only had shown him thus in the early days of the gospel: not that he sought the gift, but the fruit that increased to their account. He could say that he had all things and abounded, that he was filled, having received from Epaphroditus their things, which he does not hesitate to call "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." On their part or on his, it was to live Christ. "And my God," he adds, "shall fill up your every need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father [be] the glory unto the ages of the ages, Amen." Then he salutes "every saint" in Christ Jesus, as he unites withal that of the brethren who were with him, and indeed of all the saints there, specially those of Caesar's household; for so did Christ work in His own. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit" is the suited close.