The Epistle to the Philippians

J. N. Darby.

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Philippians 1

In the Epistle to the Philippians there is not much doctrine, but Christian experience as it ought to be - in the power of the Spirit of God - as it was in fact in Paul's case. You never get the working of the flesh or the word sin in the Epistle, but the operation of the Spirit of God leading the saint to walk in the Spirit. All through it is the working of the Spirit in varied aspects of Christian life.

Philippians 1. The general character of Christian life in the presence of life and death.

Philippians 2. The likeness to Christ in graciousness of walk.

Philippians 3. The energy of Christian life that carries Paul through circumstances.

Philippians 4. The entire superiority to all circumstances. Paul had a thorn in the flesh at the very time; so it was not absence of flesh, but walking in the power of the Spirit.

Verse 1. Office was local, not so gift. Order is gone and it is a mercy it is, in one sense, because else I should have to recognize the clergy and all the corruption. Man always spoils at the outset what God sets up. All will be set up in Christ, the second Man, that failed in the first, in all its various forms and shapes.

213 Verse 6. Personal dependence on the Lord to carry on the work.

Verses 9-11. Paul was not content merely that the Philippians should do no wrong, but that they should have spiritual discernment as to the best thing to do, namely to glorify Christ. The fruit of righteousness is the expression of the life of Christ, not merely the natural consequences of the life but its manifestation. The day of Christ brings Christ more personally before us than the day of the Lord.

Verse 18. You find things that are done in the spirit of evil that you can rejoice in, though you cannot go with them (cf. Luke 9:49).

Verse 19. Nothing is looked at as accomplished in the Epistle. All our blessings in Christ are looked at as at the end. Paul looks at the Christian as running the race, therefore it is not doctrine. I have eternal life, but it is looked at as the end. Satan seems to have got the victory as to the Apostle, but he says "this shall turn to my salvation." I have got righteousness but it is not displayed except in glory. The consequence of Israel being delivered from Egypt was that it brought them into the wilderness. There I am dependent but have the comfort of God's faithfulness. I am held in infallible safety, but have to be held - kept by the power of God, but need to be kept, and would not come to a good end if I were not. I need grace every minute, though not more safe when in heaven. For the race you find the "ifs." He will perfect, but He needs to perfect and I to be perfected - a constant action on the part of God. So Israel in Deuteronomy 8. God was not uncertain what He was about, but putting them into and through all the exercises, and when they came to the end they found that God had been thinking of everything for them. They had not been thinking of it by the way, but it was all "to do thee good at thy latter end."

214 Verse 28. Satan in the darkness and opposition to the truth. We are apt to be cowed by the power of evil. Where there is boldness it is the ruin of the adversaries; they have got in collision with the power of God, not of poor man. It is a question between God and Satan. The instruments of Satan are cowed (cf. Joshua 2:9-24). The man four years in prison, chained to a soldier, encourages those who were not in prison. It is not when the trial is there that we suffer the most, where there is faith; but when we are expecting and looking at it: when in it we look out of it at God. If we do not lean on God the enemy can have his own way and run after us.

Philippians 2.

Chapters 2 and 3, present the two sides of Christian life. The graciousness that makes me thoughtful of others, and the energy that enables me to run on through the world without caring for it. In one Christ is presented as coming down and you are to come down like Him, in the other Christ is gone up and I am to go up after Him.

Verse 3. This is not possible if I look at the bare hard fact, but quite possible in Christ. I see the flesh in myself and Christ in my brother. Compare 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 with the rest of the Epistle: He begins to blame them for everything, but he sees all the good first, and rests in the good, and then blames them, without vexation, in love. It is a great test of nearness to Christ. It needs to live with Him and learn oneself there. The flesh mixes itself up with so much of our judgment of evil, and we get vexed with it. Self jostles against another man's self. Now if I think of what Christ thinks of that person all this is put down. Near Christ there is lowliness of heart and we see our own wretchedness and good-for-nothingness. "Things of others" are things which God has given.

215 Verses 6-9. The last Adam is presented in contrast with the first. Adam set up by robbery to be as God. He who was in the form of God humbled Himself down to death below the creature. Adam exalted himself and is abased. Christ humbled Himself and is exalted. Satan's temptation was, "If thou be the Son of God command." "No," he says, "I will not keep out of the place of service, I came to obey." He left the glory as to state not as to nature.

Verse 12, 13. "Your own salvation" is often quoted as if it was in contrast with God's, but it is in contrast with Paul. Paul worked for you, God works in you. The path of obedience is that in which salvation is wrought. God works in them the willing and the doing.

Verses 14-16. The effect is the life of Christ completely expressed. Every member of the sentence is just what Christ was in the world.

Verse 17. Paul looks at himself as the libation. They were the main thing, he only poured out on them - his death the accompaniment of the sacrifice. (cf. for the sacrifice Rom. 15:16). The great thing was that Christ should have His people; if Paul suffered for it, it was all right.

There is no hardness in the Christian or in Christ. When it is the service of God and faithfulness we must not regard father or mother. The Lord sent His mother away whenever she came to Him in His service. It is not the destruction of natural affection, but superiority of Christ - God coming in or else it is idolatry. If I get honey when I am fighting the Philistines it lightens the eyes. I get refreshment by the way, but I cannot put honey in the sacrifice. The moment it becomes an object it is not allowed.

216 Verse 29. "Receive him . . . in the Lord. It brings in Christ, into the kindly relationships. You do not get this in the Old Testament - divine life brought into the circumstances of human life.

Philippians 3

What is called holiness is generally righteousness. For acceptance righteousness is wanted, not holiness. Righteousness looks at meeting every claim of the relationships in which we are. Holiness is the activity of the nature in its own delights, or the abhorrence of evil. There is the new nature in us, but no nature can exist without an object. Our own righteousness and law go together, the righteousness of God and faith. The two parts of righteousness are, first Christ died to clear away my sins (Rom. 3-5); second, that in which God has His glory (Rom. 8). The position is never fully brought out until the first man is cleared away; then I find myself in the Second before God. In Corinthians the aspect of righteousness is higher than in Romans because more connected with the counsels of God. What Paul looks for, as an object, is what forms him now. If we were risen what would trouble be? He is looking for a condition in which he will have done with the whole thing. Instead of suffering being a terror to him, it was only making him more like Christ. You could not kill a dead man (2 Cor. 1:9). He would be nearer being raised from the dead when he was dead than when alive. Christ's resurrection had set aside the power of death. Verse 10 presents power along the road; verse 11, future resurrection. The power is not the object. It is present attainment by future resurrection - a thing already accomplished in Christ. It is resurrection from among the dead: there is no attainment at all in the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection from among the dead is the resurrection of those in whom God has the same delight as He has in Christ - it is the expression of it. That they without us should not be made perfect proves that the Old Testament saints are included in it (Heb. 11:40).

217 Two things Paul was running after, to be with Christ, and to be like Christ.

There are three classes in the chapter. First the perfect Christian who is not stopping short of being raised like Christ in glory. Second, real Christians but in the imperfect state of not having got hold of this. They rest in the work of Christ, they love Him, but have not got the power of the calling on high. Third, those who bear the name of Christ but are not His at all.

Philippians 4

The last chapter presents superiority to circumstances and the Lord proved sufficient.

Verse 6. The request might be foolish. The answer is not promised, but the peace that God is in to keep our hearts. Nothing disturbs the throne of God. Thus free my heart can be occupied with what suits God - the bright and blessed things of His own presence.