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Book chapters «The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians»
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  • Philippi was the chief city in the province of Macedonia of the ancient Roman Empire (Acts 16:12). Through Paul's first ministry journey to Europe (Acts 16:10-12), the first church in Europe was raised up in that city.

  • Here it is not "the saints...and the overseers and deacons"; rather, it is "the saints...with the overseers and deacons." This is highly significant in that it indicates that in the local church the saints, the overseers, and the deacons are not three groups. The church has only one group, composed of all the saints (including the overseers and deacons), who are the components of a local church. This indicates further that in any locality there should be just one church with one group of people, comprising all the saints in that locality.

  • Overseers are the elders in a local church (Acts 20:17, 28). Elder denotes the person, and overseer the function. An overseer is an elder in function. Here overseers are mentioned instead of elders, indicating that the elders were fulfilling their responsibility.

  • The Greek word means serving ones. The deacons are the serving ones in a local church and are under the direction of the overseers (1 Tim. 3:8). This verse, showing that a local church is composed of the saints, with overseers to take the lead and deacons to serve, indicates that the church in Philippi was in good order.

  • Fellowship here means participation, communication. See note Rom. 15:261. The saints in Philippi had fellowship unto the gospel, participating in the furtherance of the gospel through the apostle Paul's ministry. This participation included their financial contributions to the apostle (Phil. 4:10, 15-16), which issued in the furtherance of the gospel. This kind of fellowship, which kept them from being individualistic and diversely minded, implies that they were one with the apostle Paul and with one another. This gave them the ground for their experience and enjoyment of Christ, which is the main point of this book. The Christ-experiencing and -enjoying life is a life in the furtherance of the gospel, a gospel-preaching life, not individualistic but corporate. Hence, there is the fellowship unto the furtherance of the gospel. The more fellowship we have in the furtherance of the gospel, the more Christ we experience and enjoy. This kills our self, ambition, preference, and choice.

  • Concerning the gospel, in this book Paul used several significant terms: fellowship unto ...the gospel, the defense and confirmation of the gospel (v. 7), the advancement of the gospel (v. 12), and the faith of the gospel (v. 27). Paul's preaching of Christ as the gospel included fellowship, defense, confirmation, advancement, and the faith. In contrast, the Judaistic believers preached Christ out of rivalry, factiousness, selfish ambition, envy, and strife, and did not cause the gospel to advance.

  • On the negative side, the defense of the gospel is for the resisting of perverting and distorting heresies, such as Judaism, dealt with in Galatians, and Gnosticism, dealt with in Colossians. On the positive side, the confirmation of the gospel is for the announcing of the revelations of God's mysteries concerning Christ and the church as unveiled in the apostle's Epistles. In preaching such a gospel according to God's economy, Paul renounced religion, law, culture, ordinances, customs, habits, and every kind of "ism" — everything that was apart from God's economy. Because Paul preached such a gospel, he was regarded as a troublemaker, a pest (Acts 24:5).

  • Fellow partakers of grace are those who share and enjoy the processed Triune God as grace. The apostle was such in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, and the saints in Philippi were fellow partakers with him in this grace.

  • Or, of my grace. Paul's grace was the grace that he enjoyed and that surpassed his sufferings in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. This grace was not God objectively; it was the Triune God processed to be his portion subjectively and experientially.

  • Lit., bowels; signifying inward affection, then, tender mercy and sympathy. In longing after the saints, the apostle was one with Christ even in the bowels, the tender inward parts, of Christ. This indicates that for Paul to enjoy Christ meant that he was one with Christ's inward parts, in which he enjoyed Christ as the supply of grace.

  • The Philippian believers had much love. Yet their love needed to abound, to overflow more and more, not foolishly but in full knowledge, not in ignorance but in all discernment, that they might approve by testing the things that differ and are more excellent. This should include the discerning of the differing preachings of the gospel in vv. 15-18 and of the different kinds of people in Phil. 3:2-3.

  • Sensitive perception, moral tact. Paul's desire was that the Philippians, some of whom had been distracted from God's economy by the preaching of the Judaistic believers, would not love the Judaistic believers foolishly but would love them soberly with love that abounded in full knowledge and sensitive perception.

  • The Greek word means judged by sunlight. I.e., tested as genuine; hence, pure, sincere.

  • Or, unoffending; not stumbling others.

  • The fruit of righteousness is the living product of the believers' living a proper life by the element of righteousness, with a righteous standing before God and man. Such a life could be lived not by the believers' natural man for their boast but through Jesus Christ as the believers' life, experienced by them to the glory and praise of God.

  • Advancement made by the pioneers who cut the way before an army to further its march. Paul's sufferings made such an advancement for the gospel.

  • I.e., for Christ's sake.

  • The imperial guard of Caesar.

  • Those Christians who were opposing Paul and his ministry (2 Cor. 10:7; 11:22-23). Even at the apostle's time there were some who preached the gospel out of envy of Paul and in strife with him.

  • Factiousness, partisanship.

  • Those who had fellowship with Paul and participated with him in the preaching of the gospel.

  • Self-seeking, rivalry, faction.

  • Lit., pressure. Those who announced Christ out of selfish ambition endeavored to make Paul's bonds press him more heavily by depreciating him and his ministry while he was outwardly laid aside from his preaching. Paul's affliction in bonds was due not to his preaching of the gospel but to his defense of the gospel. The Judaizers mixed the gospel with the law and circumcision. Paul defended it. This caused the riot which put him into bonds (Acts 21:27-36).

  • The apostle's heart was so broadened by grace that he even rejoiced in his opposers' preaching of Christ in pretense. What an upright spirit this is! This was the outworking of the life, nature, and mind of Christ, who lived in the apostle. His experience of Christ was an enjoyment. Such a life rejoices no matter what the circumstances may be.

  • The same Greek word as in Phil. 2:12. The salvation here is the working out of the salvation in 2:12; it means to be sustained and strengthened to live and magnify Christ (see note Phil. 2:124a). This requires the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

  • This is the supply of the Body of Christ, the church. Imprisonment did not isolate Paul from the Body of Christ or cut him off from the supply of the Body.

  • The Greek word refers to the supplying of all the needs of the chorus by the choragus, the leader of the chorus. The bountiful supply of the all-inclusive Spirit enabled Paul to live and magnify Christ in his sufferings for Him.

  • The revelation in the Bible concerning God, Christ, and the Spirit is progressive. The Spirit is mentioned first as the Spirit of God, in relation to creation (Gen. 1:2). Then, He is mentioned as the Spirit of Jehovah, in the context of God's relationship with man (Judg. 3:10; 1 Sam. 10:6); as the Holy Spirit, in relation to the conception and birth of Christ (Luke 1:35; Matt. 1:20); as the Spirit of Jesus, in relation to the Lord's human living (Acts 16:7); as the Spirit of Christ, in relation to the Lord's resurrection (Rom. 8:9); and here as the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

    The Spirit of Jesus Christ is "the Spirit" mentioned in John 7:39. This is not merely the Spirit of God before the Lord's incarnation but the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit with divinity, after the Lord's resurrection, compounded with the Lord's incarnation (humanity), human living under the cross, crucifixion, and resurrection. The holy anointing ointment in Exo. 30:23-25, a compound of olive oil and four kinds of spices, is a full type of this compound Spirit of God, who is now the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Here it is not the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7) or the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9) but the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus is related mainly to the Lord's humanity and human living; the Spirit of Christ is related mainly to the Lord's resurrection. To experience the Lord's humanity, as illustrated in Phil. 2:5-8, we need the Spirit of Jesus. To experience the power of the Lord's resurrection, as mentioned in Phil. 3:10, we need the Spirit of Christ. In his suffering the apostle experienced both the Lord's suffering in His humanity and the Lord's resurrection. Hence, the Spirit to him was the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the compound, all-inclusive, life-giving Spirit of the Triune God. Such a Spirit has, and even is, the bountiful supply for a person like the apostle, who was experiencing and enjoying Christ in His human living and resurrection. Eventually, this compound Spirit of Jesus Christ becomes the seven Spirits of God, who are the seven lamps of fire before God's throne to carry out His administration on earth for the accomplishing of His economy concerning the church, and who are the seven eyes of the Lamb for the transfusing of all that He is into the church (Rev. 1:4; 4:5; 5:6).

  • In the apostle's suffering in his body, Christ was magnified, i.e., shown or declared to be great (without limitation), exalted, and extolled. The apostle's sufferings afforded him opportunity to express Christ in His unlimited greatness. The apostle would have only Christ magnified in him, not the law or circumcision. This book is concerned with the experience of Christ. To magnify Christ under any circumstances is to experience Him with the topmost enjoyment.

  • Paul's life was to live Christ. To him to live was Christ, not the law or circumcision. He would not live the law but would live Christ, not be found in the law but be found in Christ (Phil. 3:9). Christ was not only his life but also his living. He lived Christ because Christ lived in him (Gal. 2:20). He was one with Christ in both life and living. He and Christ had one life and one living. They lived together as one person. Christ lived within Paul as Paul's life, and Paul lived Christ without as Christ's living. The normal experience of Christ is to live Him, and to live Him is to magnify Him always, regardless of the circumstances.

  • Gain here refers to being with Christ in a higher degree. But in fulfilling God's eternal purpose, being with Christ cannot compare with living Christ for His Body's sake. Hence, Paul chose to live Christ.

  • To be with Christ is a matter of degree, not place. Paul desired to be with Christ in a higher degree, although he was already with Him constantly. Through his physical death he would be with Christ to a fuller extent than he enjoyed in this earthly life.

  • The apostle's consideration was not selfish but was for the saints' sake. He was absolutely occupied by the Lord and the church.

  • Progress refers to the growth in life, and joy, to the enjoyment of Christ.

  • The faith here refers to what the saints believe in (Jude 1:3; 2 Tim. 4:7).

  • The Greek word means boasting, glorying, and rejoicing.

  • We need not only to stand firm in one spirit in order to experience Christ but also to strive together with one soul along with the faith of the gospel. To be of one soul for the gospel work is more difficult than to be in one spirit for the experience of Christ (see Phil. 2:20). To be of one soul requires that, after having been regenerated in our spirit, we go further and be transformed in our soul, especially in our mind, which is the main and leading part of our soul.

  • Like athletes.

  • The faith here is personified. The believers should strive together with one soul along with the personified faith (cf. note 2 Tim. 1:83e).

  • Destruction of all that they are and do.

  • Salvation of all that you are and do. See note Phil. 1:191a and note Phil. 2:124a.

  • This implies that the believer has an organic union with Christ through believing into Him. To believe into Christ is to have our being merged into His that we two may be one organically.

  • To suffer on behalf of Christ, after receiving Him and being made one with Him through believing, is to participate in, to have the fellowship of, His sufferings (Phil. 3:10) that we may experience and enjoy Him in His sufferings. This is to live Him and magnify Him in a situation in which He is rejected and opposed.

  • Paul was a pattern set up by God's grace for His New Testament economy (1 Tim. 1:14-16). The New Testament believers should experience and enjoy Christ by living and magnifying Him as Paul did in his sufferings for Christ, that they may be fellow partakers with Paul of grace.

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