Study On The Book Of Philippians
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Philippians 2:17-24 Partners for Christ

Every now and then people object to living the normal Christian life on the grounds that what is required of a Christian is impossible. When you begin to study the Bible and realize that God wants you to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and you get a glimpse of His love, His compassion, His wisdom, His understanding, His holiness and all of His other perfections, you are apt to say, “Well, that’s impossible. I can’t do it. I guess I’ll just have to be content to live as I am.” That is wrong! It’s true that in this life you will never be completely like Christ and that much of your sanctification will consist in realizing how much unlike Him you still are. But you are to become like Him. The Bible teaches that although God’s standards are high, and thus seem impossible, God provides supernatural resources to meet them. God helps the Christian to put the highest of these principles into practice.
 
At this point someone is bound to object. “That might be all right in theory, but it’s pretty hard to do in practice. How can a Christian meet such standards?” Paul replies that although it is hard, it’s not impossible. To prove that it’s possible not only in theory, but also in practice, Paul presents three human examples: Paul himself, an apostle; Timothy, a young minister; and Epaphroditus, a layman. In the remainder of chapter 2 Paul uses these persons to show that the things he has been writing about are possible for the one who will surrender his or her life to God. We are going to look at the first two examples in this study.
 
The first example Paul uses is himself, although he does so only briefly. In fact, he uses only one verse (v. 17) to describe his own attitude and conduct as opposed to six verses for Timothy and Epaphroditus. To understand verse 17 we need to realize that Paul is using a potent image. The verb that is translated “poured out” is a technical word for a certain part of a pagan sacrificial offering. Following this sacrifice the ancient worshiper would make an additional offering called a libation. He would take a cup of wine and pour it on the altar, thus pouring it upon the sacrifice that was already burning. Because the altar was hot, the libation would immediately disappear in a puff of steam. Paul was placing hjis own achievements, even martyrdom, at a very low point on the scale of Christian service. He was holding up the faith and achievements of his converts for admiration. This is an example of the humility and obedience to Jesus Christ that Paul was writing about. Paul’s frame of mind was not something that came about in an instant of course. His humility was the product of a long relationship with God. If we would emulate Paul in his self-effacement, we must be prepared to start at the beginning. We must learn small lessons in humility before there can be large ones.
 
The second of Paul’s examples is Timothy, the young man whom Paul had often taken with him on his various missionary journeys. Paul speaks quite eloquently of him in verses 19-22. These verses say four things about Timothy. First, that Paul had “no one else like him.” Paul has been writing about the attitude of mind that thinks humbly of itself and much of others, and he has mentioned himself as an example. Now there is Timothy also, for Paul had found that he too was self-effacing in his conduct. Second, Paul says that Timothy was concerned for others. He cared for the naturally. In fact, he served them with the disposition of a true shepherd who was faithful in the care and protection of his flock. The third thing Paul praises Timothy for is his concern for Jesus Christ. Timothy put Jesus Christ first. In this he stood head and shoulders above those who were around him. The final thing Timothy is praised for is that he had learned to work with others (v. 22). How often we want to be independent! We want to serve God, but the work must be our work, and it must be run according to our conception of things. A real mark of Christian maturity is the ability to work with others cooperatively under the banner and for the cause of Jesus Christ.
 
Verse 22 also says much about Paul and his ability to work with others as it does about Timothy. Paul had referred to Timothy’s service as the service of a son with his father. But this is not the expression one would normally expect back then, or today either, for that matter. Paul puts the small word “with,” in the verse and thereby indicates that the service of himself and Timothy was a joint service in the Lord. This is the real answer to the problems of what some call the generation gap. We talk as if the generation gap were something new. But anyone who knows history well knows that it is not. There could have been jealousies, misunderstandings, diversities of purpose, rebellion, or tyranny. Instead of this, Paul and Timothy served together as partners in the spread of the gospel, each taking his standard and instructions from the Lord.
 
If you are a member of the younger generation, do you see the calling to which God has called you? It is not to rebellion against your parents or against the older generation in general. It is to work with them in mutual service to the Lord. You will be able to do this as you learn to serve Christ’s interests and not merely your own. This verse peaks also to the older generation. You have the duty of raising your children. You are to lead them to become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. You are to encourage them to follow Jesus, to learn the truth of the gospel, to emulate Christ’s character. You have a role of supervision. But you must never forget that you actually serve them as bond-slaves of Jesus Christ. Whatever standards you set for them and whatever patterns of obedience you seek to instill in them must also become real for you and be part of your service. You must remember that the ultimate loyalty of your children in not to you but to the Lord Jesus Christ.  If you recognize your children’s devotion to the Lord and know the freedom of serving Him, then you will be able to work with them to proclaim the gospel of salvation. In this you encourage each other, and you shine as ever brighter examples of what the Christian life can be.
 
Philippians 2:17-24 Reflection Questions:
Have you completely surrendered your life to God or are you still holding on to certain parts?
Do you show such humility as Paul did as you meet with other Christians?
How are with working the younger or older generation? In working together, are taking your standard and instructions from the Lord?
 

Philippians 2:14-16 What Are Your Goals?

Some people today think they have learned the Christian life from a book while sitting on the sidelines. But the real Christian life is learned by getting in the water, in this case the world. We are not to be of this world, but we are to be in this world. We are to live for Jesus Christ in the midst of a wicked and ungodly generation. This is what Paul’s great desire for the saints at Philippi, and it’s God’s desire for us. We are not to retreat from the world, but we are to live for God in the world. We are to do so even though the world is crooked and perverse.
 
How can we live for Christ in this world? First we must recognize that the world is crooked and perverse. All too often Christians look at this world as we might look at the sky on the afternoon of a June day and say, “The world is not so dark. It’s lovely.” Strip away the halo of the atmosphere of Christianity and its influence, and the blackness God said is there remains. Christians must constantly be aware of the darkness and must determine to be a contrast to it. The world has its goals: pleasure, success, sex, money, esteem. But these are not to be the goals of Christians..
 
First of all, we are to be submissive to God. The token of our submission is to be an attitude that does things without complaining or arguing. We must get out of the habit of arguing or complaining when God asks us to do things. God says, “I want you to do this,” and we are silent because a dialogue is going on inside us. We are saying, “Does God really mean that I have to do it just like that, or can I do it some other way?” Or are we saying, “Does God mean that I have to do it now? Maybe I can do it tomorrow or next year.” This is what Paul means by arguing.
 
The second thing that Paul says is to be characteristic of Christians is that they are to be blameless and pure in the sight of other people. The word translated “pure” means without mixture. It was used when talking about pure gold, pure copper, or any other metal that did not have impurities. In the same sense our lives are to be without mixture before others. We are to be aboveboard in our business dealings. We are not to say one thing and do another. We are not to hold part of the truth back or misrepresent the truth. We are also to be blameless. Just as the inward arguing has an outward expression in complaining that is bad, so this good inward characteristic of being our pure has an outward expression in being blameless. There is to be nothing that gives occasion for scandal. 
 
Finally, Paul says that we are to be blameless before God, for we are to live “without fault” as His children. The word used here for “without fault” is also used in Ephesians 1:4, where it is translated “blameless.” It refers there, as in here in Philippians, to a Christian’s relationship to God. It means that our lives will be lived in the sight of God in such a way that they will be open before Him. There will be no barriers between ourselves and God. If we live this, we shall be able to pray as David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See it there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
 
This is a process that will go on throughout life. It is not going to be easy. Perhaps you are saying, “Not easy? It’s going to be impossible!” Well no, it’s not impossible. Our God is the God of the impossible, and He does things for us and in us that we cannot do for ourselves. The Bible tells us how this will happen (Gal. 2:20, Rom. 8:3-4, Rom. 12:2, Phil. 2:12-13). What do these verses mean? They mean that a person is incapable of living out the kind of life that God requires of him, but that God is capable of living out that life in a person who yields to His Spirit.
 
It’s a matter of spiritual life. God comes to a person who is spiritually unborn. He begins to penetrate his heart with the divine sperm of His Word so that life is conceived and the cell begins to grow. There is a period of incubation before the first cry that announces the arrival of new life, and this is followed by an even longer period of education, guidance, and nurturing in the home. At last the child goes forth to live in a way that honors his Father. And he goes forth, not as a computer that only gives back what is fed into it, but as an individual who thinks and decides and responds, and yet thinks and responds as Jesus Christ responds.
 
That is what God wants you to do. You are to submit to His Spirit, allowing Him to make you a light in the darkness of this world. You are to be blameless and pure both before others and before God. You are to hold forth the word of life to others. Those who have assisted in your spiritual birth and maturing should be able to say, as Paul did of the Philippians, “I…boast…that I did not run or labor for nothing.”
 
Philippians 2:14-16 Reflection Questions:
What have you been arguing with God about? What is He asking you to do but you don’t want to do it?
How are you doing in being pure and blameless? What will you do to improve this characteristic?
Are you living an open life before God so that you can pray the verse in Psalm 139:23-24?
Are you allowing God to make you a light in the darkness of this world? Are you submitting to His Spirit?
 

Philippians 2:12-13 Work Out Your Salvation

I don’t know who it was who first thought that being spiritual means withdrawing from the world, but the idea certainly entered the Christian church at an early period and has had detrimental effects ever since. In the early days of the church a Syrian monk named Simon Stylites sat on top of a pillar fifty feet high to avoid contact with the world. The Egyptian hermit Anthony lived most of his life in the desert, and there were others like him. These men were thought to be spiritual primarily because of their withdrawal. The Bible does not support this view of spirituality! No Christian must ever say that spending time alone with God is unnecessary, especially time spent in prayer. Yet the Bible never allows us to think that meditation has achieved its purpose for us unless it results in practical application. Truth leads to action, and there is no value to a mountaintop experience unless it helps us to live in the valleys.
 
Philippians 2:12 is a problem for Christians who neglect the context and assume, as a result, that the verse supports the idea of a “self-help” salvation. But the verse does not teach that. On the contrary, it teaches that because you are already saved, because God has already entered into your life in the person of the Holy Spirit, because you, therefore, have His power at work within you – because of these things you are now to strive to express this salvation in your conduct. This should be evident for a couple of reasons. First, it’s the clear meaning of the sentence itself. It says “work out your salvation (not, work toward or for or at your salvation). And no one can work his salvation out unless God had already worked it in.
 
The second reason why this verse refers to the outward conduct of those who have been saved is that there is a clear parallel between Philippians 2:12-15 and Deuteronomy 32:3-5. The parallel shows that Paul was thinking of Deuteronomy as he wrote to the Philippians. Paul was about to be taken out of this world himself, as Moses was. He did not know whether he would be killed immediately or whether he would be delivered for a short time, but he knew that this would probably be his last charge to his beloved friends at Philippi. But God has delivered the Philippians, and now, because of this deliverance, they were to work out the salvation that God had so miraculously given. They were to strive for the realization of God’s love, peace, holiness, goodness, and justice in their lives.
 
We have seen that we are to work out our salvation that God has worked in, but to see the whole picture one more thought must be added: Even as we work out our salvation we are to know that it is actually God’s Holy Spirit in us who does the working. Paul writes, “Therefore…work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (v. 12). But no sooner has he said this than he immediately adds, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (v. 13). It is actually God who does the working. God’s working begins with our wills, for the verse says that God works in us first to will and then to act out His good purpose. Willing always comes before doing.
 
We will never understand the doctrine of God’s working to form a person’s will until we realize that apart from the work of God in his or her heart through Jesus Christ a person does not have free will where spiritual realities are concerned. I know that someone will want to reply, “What! Do you mean to tell me that I cannot do anything I want to?” The answer is, “yes, you cannot.” You have free will to decide whether you will go to work or pretend you are sick. You can order turkey over roast beef at a restaurant. But you cannot exercise your free will in anything that involves your physical, intellectual, or spiritual capabilities. By your own free will you cannot decide that you are going to have a 50 percent higher I.Q. than you do or that you will have, or run the 100 dash in four seconds. You do not have free will in anything intellectual or physical.
 
 More significantly, you do not have free will spiritually. You cannot choose God. Adam and Eve had free will to obey or to disobey God’s command regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When they disobeyed they fell away from God. They lost the free will to choose God. Since Adam and Eve, all people are born with the same inability to choose Him. Some are complacent; some are angry. Some are silent and philosophical. Some are resigned; some are anxious. But all are unable to come to God. No one does come to God until God reaches down by grace into the mud pit of human sin and impotence and lifts him up and places him again on the banks of the pit and says, “This is the way; walk in it.” This is what God does in salvation.
 
We must face this truth. Even if every generation of mankind and every city and village on earth had a John the Baptist to point to Jesus Christ to call us to Him, or if God rearranged the stars of heaven to spell out, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved,” no one would come or believe. If God sent His angels with the sound of a celestial trumpet to call us to repentance no one would repent. If you have come to God, it is only because God has first entered your life by His Holy Spirit to quicken your will, to open your eyes to His truth, and to draw you irresistibly to Himself. It is only after this that you are able to choose the path that He sets before you.
 
If you have seen this truth, you are ready to see that the same God who works in you to will also works through that will to do according to His good purpose. Ephesians 2:8-10 speaks twice of our works, the things that we do. One kind of work is condemned because it comes out of ourselves and is contaminated by sin. The other kind of work is encouraged because it comes from God as He works within the Christian. The verses say, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works [that is, of human working], so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works [that is, the result of God’s working], which God prepared in advance for us to do.” These verses are really Paul’s own commentary upon Philippians 2:12-13, for they tell us that although God can never be satisfied with any good that comes out of human beings, He is satisfied and pleased with the good that is done by Christians through the power of Jesus Christ within them. Through that power the tyranny of sin is broken, the possibility of choosing for God is restored, and a new life of communion with God and holiness is set before the Christian. The power of Christ within is a wonderful reality for Christians, for through it we may act according to God’s good purpose. We do not boast of ourselves or of human attainments. But we do boast in God! In Him we have all things and are enabled to work out our salvation.

Philippians 2:12-13 Reflection Questions:
Are you working out your salvation in your daily conduct by showing God’s love, peace, holiness, goodness, and justice in your lives?
Have you ever felt the power of God within enabling you to do what God desires?
What is God asking you to do? 
 

Philippians 2:9-11 The Name Above All Names (Part Two)

Let’s review what we have learned up to this point that has happened to the Lord Jesus Christ in our study of Philippians 2:5-11. Jesus Christ was in the form of God. He laid aside His glory to take a form of a man. He died once for man’s salvation. He rose again. He ascended into heaven. He has been given the name that is above every name. Jesus Christ is Lord. All this happened, and God has provided us with evidence that these things are so. Still we refuse to admit what God has demonstrated. We refuse to acknowledge the facts, preferring our own fantasies to God’s truth. We do this, not from a worthy motive but because it makes us more comfortable with sin. Against this sinful attitude our text rings out like a thunderclap from heaven (Phil. 2:9-11). According to these verses, the day is coming when human arrogance will be ended. Every mouth will be stopped (Rom. 3:19), and everyone will admit that truth is truth, even though they may hate God for it.
 
If you read these verses carefully, you will see at once that they are a prophecy. In fact, they are the New Testament equivalent of an Old Testament prophecy found in Psalm 110:1. That verse is quoted in the New Testament directly and indirectly at least twenty-seven times. It teaches that the One called David’s Lord, the Messiah, will one day reign over all things and that al His enemies shall be defeated. Philippians 2:9-11 is the New Testament equivalent of this prophecy. Yet, like most of the revelations given in the New Testament text, it tells of things that are not evident in the Old Testament. First, it tells that the acknowledgement of Christ’s rule will take the form of the verbalized confession “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Second, it tells that this confession will be made by all orders of intelligent beings – those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth. Finally, it tells that this confession will result in the ascription of glory to the Father.
 
The acknowledgement of Jesus Christ spoken of in these verses will take the form of the confession “Jesus Christ is Lord.” The title “Lord” has been already been considered in our previous study. It is a name for God (Adonai). Consequently, when it is applied to Jesus Christ it is an acknowledgement that He is God. Jesus himself said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” The confession also means that Jesus is the sovereign God. The word “Lord” has overtones of rule. Consequently, Jesus is the One who does what is right and who has the power to carry out His decisions. All this is true. Yet the use of the confession in these verses has a slightly different tone simply because it is set in the future when the exalted Christ will already have established His rule. The day that these verses speak of is coming, when the confession will stand as a glorious acknowledgement of what has already taken place. Jesus is Lord, but then there will be no more rivals to His throne.
 
The second important teaching in these verses is the fact that this confession is to be made by every order of intelligent being – by those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth. The first confession will be made by angels. We read about it in more detail in Revelation 4-5. Here we find that there are myriads of angels that join with the saints in voicing praise to God. We also read that this confession will be made by those on the earth: men and women. The Book of Revelation seems to imply that this will be an innumerable company of people. Verse 10 also says that there is to be a confession of the lordship of Jesus Christ by those who are under the earth. This means the demons plus those who have rejected the gospel and are now confined to Hades. We need to ask ourselves how we are going to make that confession, because every one of us will make it someday. You will either make it willingly as you acknowledge Him who is your Savior and Lord, or you will be forced to acknowledge it with bitterness moments before you are banished from God’s presence forever.
 
A final thought comes from verse 11. Here we read that the confession that will be made will result in glory to God the Father. This is not true of any honor given to humans. If you glorify human beings, you dishonor God. You do so if you exalt yourself or your merits as a means of salvation, or exalt human beings as mediators between yourself and God, as saints who win God’s favor for you, or exalt human wisdom as that which is ultimately able to solve the world’s problems, or place your hopes for the future in psychiatry, science, systems of world government, or whatever it may be. If you exalt the ability of mankind in any of those ways, you dishonor God, who declares that all of our works are tainted by sin and that we will never solve our own problems or the problems of others except by turning to Christ and depending upon His power to do it. The only way to honor God is to give honor to Jesus Christ.
 
Philippians 2:9-11 Reflection Questions:
Do you accept Jesus Christ as you Lord and Savor? If you have not already done so “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
Are you putting your hopes for the future in psychiatry, science, systems of world government, or whatever it may be, or is all your hopes in God?
 

Philippians 2:9-11 The Name Above All Names (Part one)

The statements of Philippians 2:5-11 cover many of the great doctrines that concern our Lord Jesus Christ. They have taken us from the high point of His glory as the eternal Son of God to the low point of His death on the cross. Paul now moves back up again toward his climax – Christ’s exaltation. It is symbolized in the name that is above every name: Lord, the equivalent of God’s own name, Jehovah.
 
A number of commentators have taught that this supreme name given by God is “Jesus.” But this is incorrect for several reasons. A.J. Motyer argues, “First, no name other than Yahweh [Jehovah] has a right to be called ‘the name above every name.’ Secondly, the movement of verses 9-11 does not stop at the phrase ‘gave the name…,’ but flows straight on to the universal confession that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord,’ which suggests that the significant thing is the ascription of ‘Lord’ in addition to the names already known. Thirdly, verse 10 is a pretty direct quotation of Isaiah 45:23, where Yahweh [Jehovah], having declared Himself to be the only God and the only Savior, vows that He will yet be the object of universal worship and adoration. It’s this divine honor that is now bestowed upon the Lord Jesus Christ.” The full impact of the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord will be seen only when we realize that the name of Lord is above not only all human names but also all of the unique names that have already been given to Jesus.
 
Why is the name “Lord” the name that is above every name? Why not any of the other titles? Or why not another name entirely? These questions have several answers, but the most important is that the title identifies the Lord Jesus Christ with God. The truth is easily seen in both the Greek and Hebrew usage of the word. The Greek word for Lord is kyrios, the word used by citizens of the Roman Empire to acknowledge the divinity of Caesar. This title was never used of the emperors until they were thought to be deified through a religious ceremony; therefore, it was used as a divine title. The same meaning is present when the word occurs in Hebrew, only more so. The Hebrew word is Adonai. It is a title somewhat like our “sir,” but it assumed an extraordinary importance in Hebrew speech because in practice it replaced the personal name of God, Jehovah. No Jew pronounced the word “Jehovah,” even when reading the Bible. Instead he said, “Adonai.”
 
Another reason that the name “Lord” is the name above every name is that it indicates that Jesus Christ is sovereign. Jesus rules as God rules. Today He controls even the smallest things of life. One day He will subdue His enemies forever. The doctrine of sovereignty of God or the sovereignty of Jesus Christ has sometimes been called fatalism by enemies of the gospel, but it is not fatalism at all. A belief in fatalism or fate is found in the Moslem religion, where it is referred to as “kismet,” which means the impersonal force by which the universe is believed by Muslims to operate. They believe fate operates in ways that are totally insensitive to the needs or ends of individuals. This is not the Christian teaching. The Bible teaches that the God who controls all things is not an impersonal deity but a God who loves us and who orders the events of our lives to lead us into His perfect and desirable will. It is not meaningless or tragic when difficulties enter your life or when there are temptations. God knows about it and has even permitted it to come in order that He might accomplish something in you that will be for your good. In the moments when these things come you must turn to Him and seek His way. As you do, you can be certain that He is making you more and more into the person He would have you to be.
 
There is one other great truth contained in the title “Lord.” It also means that Jesus is coming again. In the second chapter of Hebrews the author says of Jesus that God has put “everything under His feet. In putting everything under Him, God left nothing that is not subject to Him” (Heb. 2:8). This is wonderful, but at this point a break occurs in the thought, and the author adds, “But now we see not yet all things put under Him.” Jesus is Lord. Jesus is sovereign. But if He is to be Lord completely, He must return to conquer evil and to establish His righteous will forever. Do you look for the Lord’s return? The early Christians looked for His coming, and it gave them strength even in their troubles, even in martyrdom. They had a prayer that expressed this hope. Is your prayer to see Him? To know Him? To see the affairs of the world brought to perfection and to judgment in His own time and in line with His will? It should be. It has always been the great hope and consolation of Christians.
 
Philippians 2:9-11 Reflection Questions:
What are some unique names that have been given to Jesus?
Is Jesus your God, your Lord and personal Savior?
Do you believe that God is personal (involved in every little thing)?
 

Philippians 2:5-8 The Mind of Christ

The story of the cross of Christ is told in each of the four Gospels; the meaning of the cross is the preoccupying theme of the epistles. But the present passage uniquely unfolds the cross as seen through the eyes of the Crucified, and allows us to enter into the mind of Christ. We tread, therefore, on very holy ground indeed. We do well to remember that this privilege is given to us not to satisfy our curiosity but to reform our lives.
 
If a friend does something which puzzles us, we might ask what it was that he “had in mind” in doing it. It is in this sense that Paul uses the word mind in verse 5. What was it that seemed important to Jesus? What principles did he cherish? What objectives? On what footing were his choices made? The revelation of the mind of Christ is presented here as the story of a great change. It begins with one who was in the form of God (v. 6), that is, one who possessed inwardly and displayed outwardly the very nature of God himself.
 
It’s plain that verse 6 is speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ before incarnation. What a change is expressed in verse 8 when He who was in the form of God became obedient unto death! Wesley put it justly when he wrote: “Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!” Mystery indeed, how it happened we don’t know; that it happened we can be assured. There is great stress on the fact that this change came about by voluntary decision and in this we begin to enter into the “mind of Christ”. Verse 7 says He emptied Himself, and verse 8 says He humbled Himself. In each case the reflective expression points to a personal decision and action.
 
The great change which we noted here was brought about in two stages. The parallel expressions emptied himself…humbled himself describe the central action in the two divisions of these verses. By the end of verse 7 Paul has traced the course of the Lord Jesus to the point of His birth in the likeness of men; he then takes this as a starting point (verse 8, found in human form) and follows the great downward course to the very point of death on the cross.
 
This Godward-manward act was undertaken by the will and consent of the Lord Jesus Himself. No-one else did it! This feature, so central to Philippians 2:6-8, must find its root in Isaiah 53, especially verses 7-9, where for the first time in the Old Testament we meet with a consenting sacrifice. All through the long years of animal sacrifice the Lord had driven home the lesson that in the divine purposes there could be a transference of sin and guilt from the head of the guilty to the head of the innocent. Whenever a sinner brought his animal to the altar and laid his hand on the beast’s head the lesson was plain: this stands in my place; this bears my sin. Yet the substitution was incomplete, for the central citadel of sin, the will, was left unrepresented in the uncomprehending, unconsenting animal. Isaiah foresaw that only a perfect Man could be the perfect substitute and that at the heart of this perfection lay a will delighting to do the will of God. This was the mind of Christ. He looked at Himself, at His Father and at us, and for obedience sake and for sinners’ sake He held nothing back.
 
Philippians 2:5-8 Reflection Questions:
How does it make you feel after studying these verses?
What are some ways you are obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ? 
 

Philippians 2:1-4 The Worthy Life

In the last four verses of the first chapter of Philippians and in the opening verses of chapter two, Paul speaks of a need for close relationships among believers. It’s a matter of unity, and there are two reasons why it’s necessary. The first is that it’s necessary in time of war. Christians are often besieged by the forces of this world, and they must draw together if they are to defend the gospel successfully and second, to advance the claims of Christ in the midst of their environment. It is what Paul means when he says that we are to “stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel” (1:27).
 
In the opening verse of Philippians 2 Paul says that there are four solid legs for Christian unity: (1) because there is “encouragement,” (2) because there is a “comfort from His love,” (3) because there is a “fellowship with the Spirit,” and (4) because there is an experience of the “tenderness and compassion” of God. Because of these four things you and I are to “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (vv. 1-2). It is because we are members of God’s family, and has learned from Him, that we must live in peace and unity with one another. Let’s be honest at this point. We will always be tempted to divisiveness in ways that will injure our witness. But in such situations our natural reactions must constantly be overcome. There are constant pressures from sin within Christians. These will eventually destroy Christian unity and render our witness useless unless they are offset by the supernatural realities of Christian comfort, fellowship, love, mercy, and compassion. Have you found these things real in your relationship to God? Of course, you have, if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. In that case you are also to allow them to become realities in your relationship with other Christians.
 
Paul has been speaking to the Christians at Philippi about proper Christian conduct. He has told them that they are citizens of heaven and that they should be united in an aggressive proclamation of the gospel. He now applies these themes to the conduct of the individual believer. The principle that Paul is stating here is found throughout the New Testament. The unbeliever naturally puts himself first, others second, and God last. He thinks he merits the order. The Bible teaches that we should reverse the series: God is to be first; others must be second; we must come last (see Gal. 6:2; 1 Cor. 9:19, 22; Rom. 12:10). This is the heart of Christian conduct. Jesus gave Himself for others. Followers of Christ are also to give themselves for others. Jesus said that His own would feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, and make welcome the one who is lonely (Matt. 25:31-46), and He added, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”.
 
If you are to live for others, at least three things must happen. First, you must admit that in yourself you do not care for others and left to yourself, your choice will always be Satan’s choice rather than the choice of Jesus Christ. Your way will always be harmful to others. The second step is to humble oneself before God (see 1 Pet. 5:5-6). Maybe you will think that such a relationship is odd. You imagine that if you humble yourself before God, admitting His worth, you have every right to expect that others should be humbled before you. But it doesn’t work this way at all. To see God aright is to admit your total unworthiness. The final step involves a daily fellowship with Christ. He is the source of our life, and we must stay close to the source if we are to realize the self-giving life he advocates. Without Him we can do nothing. On the other hand, says Paul, “I can do everything through Him, who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).
 
Philippians 2:1-4 Reflection Questions:
Do you fail to show compassion to those who also confess Christ’s name, even though they might have offended you and disagreed with your interpretation of Scripture?
How does the matter of Christian unity stand with you? Are there divisions that ought not to exist? Are there hard feelings? Are there rationalizations for divisive, non-Christian conduct?
Can you live for others? At work or at home? With friends, enemies, or relatives? 
 

Philippians 1:27-30 The Steadfast Church

Paul’s confidence that he would be acquitted at his trial and set free (vv. 25-26) inevitably fell short of an absolute certainty. He apparently so judged the needs of the church that he was as near sure as anyone could be that he would again visit Philippi. Nevertheless, he must prepare the church for either eventuality. Strikingly, one set of instructions was enough: absent or present, he required that their life should be worthy of the gospel of Christ (v. 27). The requirement was both exclusive and absolute. Paul said, “This one thing and this only”; nothing else must distract or excuse them from this great objective. Christians are to live worthy of their spiritual possessions. If you are a Christian, you do not hold your possessions in Christ through any virtue of your own. What you have, you only have from Him who is the King of kings. But having it, you must live worthy of your calling. Old things are to be put away; all things are to be new. Being a citizen of heaven, you are to live by the laws of that citizenship.
 
At this point Paul turns to two practical expressions of proper Christian conduct, expressions that follow logically upon his reference to citizenship. How do you live as a citizen of heaven? First, Paul says that we are to “stand firm in one spirit,” and second, with one mind we are to “strive together” for the advancement of the gospel. The first distinguishing mark of Christian conduct is that we stand together. We are ‘to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Christians are not to divide along doctrinal or sociological lines. They are to be one. Unfortunately, evangelical churches are not known for “standing together.” In fact the opposite is true. This dishonors Christ. Moreover, it hinders the preaching of the gospel. In the place of these divisions Christians should know a unity that is visible and has practical results.
 
The second practical expression of true Christian conduct follows naturally from the first. If believers will conduct themselves in a manner that leads to Christian unity, then they will find that this also leads them to strive together to advance the Christian gospel. The result will be an aggressive Christianity. The Christians at Philippi knew what it meant to stand fast as Romans at the frontiers of the Roman world. They knew the obligation that was theirs to advance Roman rule in the face of barbarism. In the same way, Paul would have them united for an aggressive advancement of the faith. How we need to recover an aggressive faith today!
 
Paul has been emphasizing the need for Christian conduct. A Christian must be like Christ. No sooner has he mentioned this, however, that a sequence comes to mind. This prompts him to talk about a side subject in verses 28-30. The sequence is this: Wherever Christians will live as they ought to live in this world, where they will live righteous lives and aggressively seek to spread the gospel, in that place there will be persecution. This is true for all Christians. If you bear a proper witness for Jesus Christ, as God intends you to do, there will be persecution for you. It will not always be physical persecution as it was in Paul’s day, but you will suffer persecution of some sort nevertheless. It will be the natural result of your confession.
 
Sometimes it will be ridicule by the crowd. Sometimes our conduct will lead to persecution in business. The greatest example of persecution suffered for the sake of righteousness is in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus came into the world as the Light of the world. But the world was in darkness. Where there is darkness, people do the works of darkness, and they do not want their deeds to be brought to light because their deeds are evil. When Jesus appeared, His life cut like a knife into the human conscience. People could get along with hypocrisy between one another, for humans are alike in their hypocrisy; but when Christ stood in their midst He exposed the hypocrisy, and they hated Him for it. People could get away with pride, dishonesty, sexual perversion, and legalism among themselves, but they could not do it in Christ’s presence. Consequently, those who rejected His standards eventually crucified Him.
 
Now I know that at this point you may be asking: Why does God allow persecution? What is its purpose? Paul gives two good reasons. One is that it is a token of salvation for the Christian. The other is that it is a token of destruction to the one who fails to believe. It’s not possible for a Christian to stand firm under persecution and for the world to dismiss it as nothing. It is evidence of a supernatural power. Consequently, it is a token of salvation to the Christian and of destruction to those who will not believe.
 
It may be that God will call you to bear a testimony like that of the prophets in the Old Testament. It may not be as dramatic as the prophets, but it may result in persecution. You may do it in a quiet way, and no one may ever hear your witness. No one will know of your courage. But God knows. And your witness will go down in the books of eternity as evidence that you were a Christian who lived as God called you to live and who bore the testimony God called you to bear. History will bear out that the things spoken by you were true, and your conduct will be vindicated. If you will see persecution in this light, then you will see it for what it really is a gift from the hand of God. Paul refers to persecution as a gift twice in the last two verses of this chapter, given by God as a token of His grace! How wonderful that persecution can be received in that way by Christians.
 
Philippians 1:27-30 Reflection Questions:
Do you believe that the church today is aggressive in advancement of the gospel? How might you help?
Have you experienced ridicule or prejudice for Christ’s sake?
Do you see persecution as a gift from God?
 

Philippians 1:19-26 The Christian’s Death Benefits

There is a great deal of disappointment in this life, and everyone has experienced it. Yet there is no disappointment with God. The verse in the Epistle to the Philippians to which we now come is a great expression of this truth. Paul had carried the gospel of Jesus Christ through much of the Roman empire and now he was imprisoned in Rome itself. From a human point of view, everything seemed to be going against him. But despite this, Paul remained confident that God’s purpose for his life would not be shaken (vv. 19-20).
 
Many Christians divide their lives into two compartments. One they label “sacred,” and the other they label “secular.” The sacred part of life consists of what they do on Sundays and when they are praying, witnessing, or reading their Bible during the other days of the week. The secular part of life involves nearly everything else. There is almost no connection between the two. Jesus Christ knew no division of His life, for everything He did pleased His heavenly Father. Jesus said, “I always do what pleases Him” (John 8:29). So it was with Paul. Paul knew that the child of God is called to live all of life under the eye of his heavenly Father and to do all things to His glory.
 
The second half of Philippians 1:21 moves from the subject of life in Christ to death in Him and teaches that there are great benefits in death for Christians (v. 23). How vividly those words express the triumphant outlook of Christians as they look toward eternity. Unfortunately, it is necessary to say that although death holds benefits for Christians, it certainly does not hold benefits for unbelievers. A Christian may experience much hell on earth – although in God’s grace it is always mingled with a taste of heaven. But beyond that is the bliss of heaven and unbroken fellowship with God. On the other hand, all that the unbeliever will know of heaven is the heaven he makes for himself on earth. After that his future is condemnation and suffering. Subconsciously the non-Christian knows this. Thus death looms large as a dreadful enemy.
 
Death for the Christian is never pictured in the Bible as a gain over the worst in this life. Instead it is portrayed as an improvement on the best. Certainly it is in this sense that Paul intends his words to the Philippians. We might imagine that Paul was suffering in prison and was anxious for a speedy release, even by the portal of death. But this is just the opposite of what Paul experienced. Paul’s life was full; he had been enriched by fellowship with Christ (v. 21). He was confident that Christ would be magnified in the way he led his life. He speaks of his earnest expectation and hope that “as always Christ will be exalted in my body (v. 20). He was filled with delight that his work at Philippi had prospered; he even saw evidence of the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ at Rome. These facts fulfilled his deepest desires. Consequently, the statements that surround his circumstances at Rome are optimistic. What are the benefits of death to those who trust in Jesus? There are at least these: freedom from evil of this world, conformity to the image of Christ, and fellowship with Jesus Christ forever.
 
The first great benefit of death for Christians is that death brings a permanent freedom from evil. The unsaved person may not desire this, preferring to wallow in his sin, but the Christian who has tasted the delight of God’s righteousness longs for purity that he will never have on earth. He longs to be free of sin, pain, care, and anxiety. And he knows that death brings freedom.
 
The second great benefit of death to believers is that they will be like Jesus. It’s not enough to say that death brings freedom from evil. It is true, but it is a negative thing. The Bible teaches that death brings a final perfection of the sanctification of the believer that has begun on earth. We shall be like Him. That means we shall be like Him in righteousness, for Paul speaks of the “crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8). We don’t know that righteousness now; we have only tasted is slightly. But the day is coming when we shall be what we should be. We also shall be like Him in knowledge. Now we see things imperfectly. We know in part, and our knowledge (even of spiritual things) is always mixed with error. In that day we shall know as God knows us, and all that has puzzled us in this life will become clear. We will also be like Christ in love. What a joy to be like Him in this. There is so much of self in everything we do, but Christ’s love was selfless and self-sacrificing. It was a love that reached to us when we were sinners and saved us for this life and for eternity. How wonderful that God’s love stooped low enough to reach us and that it will yet carry us beyond the highest star into His presence.
 
Death is always a separation, even for the Christian. For the unbeliever, death is the separation of the soul and the spirit from God. For the Christian, death is the separation of the soul and the spirit from the body. But there is one respect in which death is no separation at all for those who trust Jesus: there is no separation from Him. You and I can look forward to that union, but we must live for others now. It is true that death holds benefits for believers, but this was never intended to make Christians flee from duties of this life, as some has claimed. In a few brief words Paul acknowledges that if in God’s wisdom he remains in this life, then that is more needful for others (vv. 25-26). So it must be with us. We must lift our minds to contemplate the joys of heaven, but if we see them rightly we will turn back once more to those for whom our life in Christ and our witness to Him are needful.   
 
Philippians 1:19-26 Reflection Questions:
Do you divide your life into two compartments or do you do all things to the Father’s glory?
Do you remain confident of God’s purpose for your life when disappointments come?
How are you doing on living a selfless life? Are you fleeing from your Christian duty in this life?
 

Philippians 1:15-18 Christian Troublemakers

Every now and then we hear that someone wishes that today’s church was like it was back in the “good old days”. If we look closely at the New Testament we will find that they had the same problems we have today. Paul wrote about problems in the churches in Corinth and the churches in Galatia. There were also problems at Rome. Even though some of the members of the Praetorian Guard had been converted, and those who were already Christians were encouraged to bear witness for Christ, there was also a darker side to the situation. Paul writes that some Christians preached the gospel out of partisanship, hoping to make life more miserable for him (vv. 15, 17). Think of it! Some preached Christ to add affliction to Paul’s bonds. Such were the “good old days” in the Christian church at Rome.
 
If we are to get an idea of the full impact of Paul’s experiences in Rome, we need to remember that it was Christians who were trying to get Paul into trouble by their preaching. The verses we are studying tell us that these Christians preached Christ out of unworthy motives – jealousy, strife, and partisanship. This was deplorable. But what does Paul say? Strangely enough, he points to the fact that even in the midst of such conditions Jesus Christ was preached and the gospel was spread, and in that, he says, he rejoices. If we are honest, we must admit that all the envy, strife, and partisanship that was present in the church at Rome is present in our churches also.
 
What should our attitude be toward those who are responsible for it? It is easy to speak up against it. It is easy to dismiss all those who are unpleasant in their preaching of the gospel. But if Paul’s example is to count for anything, it must teach us to rejoice if Christ is proclaimed, even by those who do it out of less than worthy motives and who seem to dishonor the gospel in their methods. You should say, “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (Phil. 1:18).
 
Never in the history of the world have the opportunities been greater for the proclamation of the gospel. Yet never has the believing church been more irrelevant or more divided. Paul gives the solution to this situation in the next chapter. First, he says that we are to develop a low opinion of ourselves. This is often hard to do, but it should be easy. We are merely to see ourselves as God sees us, and this will happen as we study His Word. Second, we are to have a better opinion of others, especially those who are troublemakers. Paul says, “Consider others better than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). This will come about as God makes us sensitive to the work of His Holy Spirit within other believers. Third, Paul says that we are to posses the mind of Christ. He challenges the Philippians, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). We develop this mind through fellowship with Him as He works in us, gradually molding us into His own image.
 
I know that someone is going to object, “Oh, but that is hard. First you say that we are to rejoice when people preach the gospel, even if they do it in a nasty way and try to hurt other Christians. You say that we are to think highly of them for the sake of God’s work within them. Then you say that we are not to be like that ourselves. That is unreasonable. Are we to go against all that is most natural within us?” Yes, you are. That is God’s way, and God will give you strength to do it. You are to see His hand at work in the lives of other Christians, even those who are obnoxious to you, and you are to think highly of God’s work in them. Moreover, you are to work with them, as far as possible. For in this way the gospel is spread, believers are strengthened, and Jesus Christ is honored.
 
Philippians 1:15-18 Reflection Questions:
Why do you think there is strife in churches?
What can you do when you come across some of it?
Have you had some Christians come against you? If so, how did it make you feel?
 
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