The Epistle to the Philippians in Relation to Christian Conflict
W.A. Norris, Cardiff
Philippi means " War-like " or " Lover of horses," each of which meanings suggests the thought of conflict or warfare. The four chapters of the epistle bring before us, respectively, the conflict that is ours :—
Chap. 1 In Gospel Testimony—with human adversaries, behind whom are the powers of darkness (v. 28).
Chap. 2. In Assembly Life—with the flesh in its workings of pride and vain glory, bringing about disunity (vv. 1-4).
Chap. 3. In the World- by the minding of earthly things (vv. 18, 19).
Chap. 4. With Anxiety—as a result of the burdens and problems of life (vv. 5-7).
the answer to all is seen to be in our lord jesus christ and our relationships to him.
The Christian's Position in Christ. "Saints in Christ Jesus" (chap. 1. v. 1).
(1) The Christian's Position in Christ. "Saints in Christ Jesus" (chap. 1. v. 1). Christian position has its relation to Christian conflict, as the Epistle to the Ephesians shows. It is when we are in the good of our place in Christ Jesus, that we can go forward to victory in divine strength. Gilgal was the base for victory in Israel's Canaan experience, following the passage through Jordan. Cp. Rom. chap. 6.
(2) The Christian's Purpose—" For me to live is Christ" (chap. 1. v. 21).
This single purpose is vital in the Christian conflict, and where it governs, even life itself is little regarded, if only Christ's interests are furthered and His Name magnified—see verse 20. Cp. Rev. 12. 11, " They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." Where every believer has this single aim, then, as verse 27 enjoins, there is a manner of life worthy of the gospel of Christ, characterized by a standing fast; oneness of spirit; oneness of mind; and a striving together; in nothing terrified by adversaries. Bonds and adversity were Paul's lot, yet with overflowing joy he could write, " I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel." His one purpose in life was being realized, " Christ is preached " (v. 18).
(3) The Christian's Pattern is Christ. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus " (ch. 2. v. 5).
The answer to Pride and Disunity is the wonderful example of the Pattern Servant—the One " Who, being in the form of God " took that sevenfold stoop to " the death of the cross " having taken upon Himself " the. form of a Bondservant." " Mine ears hast Thou digged " Psa. 40. 6, R.V., margin. " Lo, I come to do Thy will, 0 God " Heb. 10. 9.
" When I survey the wondrous cross, On which the King of Glory died, My richest gain I count bat loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride."
In this same chapter " the mind of Christ " is seen exemplified, in its measure, in Paul (v. 17) ; Timothy (vv. 20-22) ; and Epaphroditus (v. 30) ; as they each " looked on the things of others " (v. 4) and sought the well-being of others before his own (v. 3).
The Christian's Portion. The answer to worldly-mindedness is the heart-enjoyment of our satisfying portion in Christ. In Jer. 2. 13 God says, " My people have committed two evils ; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." Does not the first of the " two evils " lead to the second ? The True Levite could say, " The Lord is the portion of Mine inheritance and of My cup ; Thou maintainest My lot." " The lines are fallen unto Me in pleasant places ; yea, I have a goodly heritage."
" What is all the world besides ? I'm called to share in God's own joy."
(5) The Christian's Power. " That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection " (ch. 3. v. 10).
Cp. Eph. 1. 19, 20. " The exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, etc."
Here is a power that lifts the heart above present things, and brings about present conformity to Christ. " If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead " (v. 11). Paul longed to be as far as possible what he knew he would be in the resurrection-morning. What sway has the world over the heart that desires, even now, to be perfectly like Christ ?
(6) The Christian's Prospect. " We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ " (ch. 3. vv. 20, 21).
The world must lose its grip as our heavenly citizenship becomes real, and when with outstretched neck we look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. Associated here with that blessed hope is the body of glory, fashioned by His almighty power.
(7) The Christian's Peace. " The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through (or " in ") Christ Jesus " (ch. 4. vv. 6, 7).
How can I have this peace of God amidst the cares and responsibilities of life ? It has been said, " When in a fix, read Philippians four and six." " In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Only as we cast our burden upon the Lord shall we be freed from anxiety. " Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee ; because he trusteth in Thee " Isa. 26. 3. " When we are trusting we are not anxious: when we are anxious we are not trusting." It is in the heart and mind, garrisoned in Christ Jesus by the peace of God, that the things that are lovely find a place, and the presence of the God of Peace is realized. ' Sweet reasonableness' is shown towards others in the consciousness that " The Lord is at hand "
Paul again exemplifies his teaching in that he had learned in life's changing circumstances to " be content " (v. II). So initiated, he could say " I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me " (v. 13), and to the loved saints who had so freely communicated with him, he gives that peace-giving assurance, " But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus " (v. 19). Blessed be His Name, He never fails a trusting heart. It is His delight to honour the very largest drafts that faith hands in at His exhaustless treasury.
" Why should I ever careful be Since such a God is mine ?"
" Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (v. 20).