Notes of address by J. A. Trench at Hawick, Sept., 1891.
In Philippians we find the normal experience of the Christian, the true fruit of the power of the Spirit. That is not presented as doctrine or theory nor as apostolic nor ministerial but as the ordinary Christian's life. The Epistle is not described as from an Apostle but from servants of Jesus Christ. Its chief characteristic is joy and that in the circumstances of daily life with Christ and heavenly glory as the goal. Paul's circumstances were very trying! Stopped in the midst of successful service, committed to prison from which he would only go free through a martyr's death; the visible results of his work largely gone to pieces, yet his heart was full of joy which he wished to communicate to others. "Finally my brethren rejoice in the Lord," who was the spring of his joy which did not depend upon the circumstances. Earlier he wrote "to me to live is Christ," as the all absorbing object! In the dark days of Nehemiah was the enunciation of the principle "the joy of the Lord is your strength." The returned remnant had started brightly, but their early energy had declined. In the present last days the principles of ruin have developed greatly, and the remnant although having a higher calling manifest worse failure. The apostle dealt with various hindrances to this joy being realised in order that we may know the resource which will cause us to triumph over every hindrance.
In Philippians 3 he calls the Judaisers "the concision" indicating partial cutting off compared with the real circumcision which was complete cutting off from the world. The first hindrance is religious flesh, in which he had no confidence. When like Saul of Tarsus we gain a high position we are apt to be proud of it. The apostle described his credentials yet these were combined with enmity to Christ. But when the latter revealed Himself in the light above the brightness of the sun, how he was exposed! His gains became loss for Christ. He reckoned all his commendations to be simply refuse, to be dropped so that he might apprehend Christ. The Christian's place involves the renunciation of self! Divine righteousness eclipses the best righteousness of man. "That I may know Him" is an increasing matter! The longing desire of the soul was to know Christ. We begin with resting in Him as a Saviour, at peace with God, but continuing growth in the soul depends upon having Christ as the object! The power of His resurrection is the attractive power of the place where He has associated us with Him. Thus we shall know more of His path of rejection and test the fellowship of His sufferings, which Is only to be known here. (David's mighty men were more intimate with him when he was a fugitive than when he was in the glory of his kingdom). The result is we are conformed to Christ's death. But the Apostle had his eye on the end of the path, viz., the resurrection from among the dead. That might be attained through a martyr's death, but he does not think of that. Such realisation entails complete deliverance from the world with its things which so often hinder the soul. The highest place in the world would offer no inducement to one who is pressing on to be conformed to the image of Christ. When the first rays of divine light showed us to ourselves and Him to us He laid hold of us to be like Him in glory. He had one consuming object on which his mind was concentrated. Energy of faith is required to pursue, not being occupied with past incidents of progress but always reaching forward and pressing towards the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus. Now that normal Christian experience is not presented merely that it may be admired in Paul! Another tendency is curbed in Philippians 3:15. We are to seek out what we have reached in common with others, keeping rank and considering others. In Philippians 3:20, the Spirit sums up the Christian position. Our conversation or citizenship is in heaven, that should come before every other interest in life. All that forms the Christian life moralIy is in heaven now. We have been brought into a new circle of interests, from whence we look for the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. How blessed to be found by the Lord at any moment that He comes pressing on in the power of the object to bear his image in the glory! Well may the apostle exhort "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil. 4:4). To most of us care is the greatest hindrance but He says be careful for nothing. That lifts us above our circumstances! It is God who says to you "Be careful for nothing but in everything (from the little trifle to the great concern) by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God," i.e. , the Christian's normal confidence is in God. The result is that the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep our hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus, i.e., conditional on our trusting God, with what brings care. We may say that is beyond our understanding. Indeed the verse says so! We have only to confide in Him as to any element which would develop care and we shall prove the blessedness of that peace which defies description. May we realise increasingly the value of these things until we enter the scene where there will be nothing to hinder our enjoyment of heavenly things in His presence.