The Christian's Present: "In Christ"
Notice how Paul begins his letter. "To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi." Those who once were "without Christ," are now viewed as being "in Christ." They had been taken out of their original standing before God as "in Adam;" and had been brought, by the grace of God, into an entirely new standing in His sight, that of being "in Christ."
Reduced to its last analysis, the Bible is simply the story of two men, Adam and Christ; and all humanity is viewed by God as being either "in Adam," or "in Christ." We read: "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Cor. 15:22). The Bible is also a book of two genealogies. In Gen. 5:1 we read these words: "This is the book of the generations of Adam." The New Testament opens with this statement: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ" (Matt. 1:1) . In I Cor. 15:47 we are told that: "The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second Man is the Lord from heaven." In fact, in this same chapter, both Adam and Christ are referred to by the same name, "Adam;" for we read: "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam (Christ) was made a quickening (or life-giving) spirit" (I Cor. 15:45).
Let us get this picture clearly in our minds, for it will save us from much confusion of thought. Here are two men: Adam and Christ; or "the first man and the second Man;" or, "the first Adam and the last Adam." All humanity is classified by God according to its relation to either of these men. By nature, or through physical birth, each of us came into this world identified with Adam. We were made partakers of the sinful nature he acquired through his sin in the garden of Eden, and this nature was transmitted to us as his descendants. Adam, as the federal head of the human race, not only sinned for himself, but for all the human race whom he represented. When he fell, the whole human race that was to descend from him, fell and was thus ruined. This is what is meant by the expression: "Ruin by the Fall." In Romans 5:12 it is put thus: "As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Thus the principle of sin, or a sinful nature, has been communicated to every human being as a result of Adam's transgression. This explains the universality of death. If there was no sinful nature in man, no one would die.
Perhaps someone may be inclined to question the fairness of God in thus constituting all humanity sinners, because of the original sinful act of Adam, hundreds of years before. Let us now look at the other side of the picture, and see how wonderfully God has balanced the score. Nineteen hundred years ago, another Man came into this world, conceived of the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin. No taint of sin was in Him, for we are assured: He "had no sin," "knew no sin," and "did no sin." (I John 3:5, II Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 2:22). This glorious Being was "God manifest in the flesh." (I Tim. 3:16). The eternal Son of God, equal and eternal with the Father and the Spirit, clothed Himself with humanity and became Man. He did this in order, as Son of God and Son of Man, to put away, by the sacrifice of Himself, all that which Adam, the first man had brought in through his sin. Therefore we read: "As by the offence of one, (Adam) judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One, (Christ) the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (Romans 5:18). Thus, Christ, by the substitutionary sacrifice of Himself, has provided the means whereby every lost and ruined sinner of Adam's race may be saved, justified and accepted before God. In other words, what we lost through the sin of Adam, is more than regained through the sacrificial work of Christ.
Now let us glance at the contrast between these two representative men, Adam and Christ. Let us draw a vertical line, and place on one side of it the words, "Through Adam came;" and on the other side, "Through Christ came." We will notice seven points of contrast. There are more, but these will suffice for our purpose.
Through Adam Came
1. Sin. By his deliberate act of disobedience to God, sin came into the world and, through it, all humanity was plunged into ruin. Rom. 5:12.
2. Guilt. Through this act of transgression he incurred guilt, or culpability, for his crime. Man is morally responsible to God for all the wrong doing he commits. The Scripture declares that the whole world is "guilty before God." Rom. 3:19.
3. Distance. Sin separated man from God. A great gulf now exists between the sinner in his sins and his Creator. Man by nature is described as being "far off" from God. (Isa. 59:1-2; 57:19).
4. Enmity. Sin has made man an enemy of God, for he possesses a nature called "the flesh," which is diametrically opposed to God, His word, and salvation. (Rom. 8:7-8; 5:6-10).
5. Curse. Sin has brought a curse upon the earth, and all creation is affected by this pronouncement of God's displeasure, for He declared: "Cursed is the ground for thy sake." (Gen. 3:17-18).
6. Sorrow. God has linked sin and sorrow together. Think of all the grief, tears and heartbreak that has come into the world through sin. (Gen. 3:17).
7. Death. Physical death, the separation of the spirit from the body; spiritual death, the separation of a person from the life of God; and eternal death, the eternal fixation of that state, is the result of sin. (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:1; 4:18).
Through Christ Came
1. Salvation. By His "obedience unto death, even the death of the cross," He put sin away by the sacrifice of Himself. (Phil. 2:8; Heb. 9:27).
2. Justification from that guilt, for He assumed the liability of our guilt and then met, by the sacrifice of Himself, all the judgment of God against it. Each soul trusting Him is said to be "justified" or "declared righteous" by God. (Rom. 4:24-25).
3. Nearness. Through His work on the cross we, who were "far off, are made nigh by the blood (or death) of Christ." (Eph. 2:13; I Pet. 3:18). The great gulf that separated man from God was bridged at Calvary, that we might be brought near to God.
4. Reconciliation. Through "the blood of His cross" Christ has made peace, and thus made possible the reconciliation of each believing sinner to God. (Col. 1:20-22; II Cor. 5:18-19).
5. Blessing. Through His work on the cross, Christ, "being made a curse for us," has made it possible for each believer to be "blessed with all the spiritual blessings," in Him. (Eph. 1:3; Gal. 3:13).
6. Joy. Through the forgiveness of his sins, the believer is enabled to "joy in God through the Lord Jesus Christ," and to be filled "with joy and peace through believing." (Rom. 5:11; 15:13).
7. Life. Through Christ's death, the eternal life He came to bring, has been made available for every sinner who will own his lost and guilty state, trust in His finished work, and receive Him by faith as his own personal Savior. (John 3:16; 5:24; 10:10; 27-30; Rom. 6:23).
Now that we have seen the great contrast between being "in Adam" and "in Christ;" let us see how a person may be taken out of his natural standing before God as "in Adam," and brought into a new standing described as being "in Christ." Let us discover how these people, to whom Paul is writing, came to be taken out of Adam and placed in Christ.
First, the Gospel was preached unto them by Paul. We are told that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). Upon their ears fell the glad news of the Gospel, which brought to them "glad tidings of good things." They heard that though they were by nature and practice sinners, lost, guilty, and condemned; yet, God loved them, and had proved His love in giving His beloved Son to die for them. Paul left them in no doubt as to "the way of salvation" (Acts 16:17). He described, in glowing words, the Person and work of the Son of God. He ever kept before them what Christ had accomplished for them on the cross: how He had willingly borne their sins, endured all the judgment of a holy God against their guilt and, by His death, completed all the work necessary for the salvation of every soul who would trust in Him. He spoke of the resurrection of Christ as God's seal of approval on all His Son had said and done; and that forgiveness of sins, peace with God, eternal life, and salvation from sin's power could become the immediate possession of all who would repent and believe the Gospel, trust Christ as their Savior, and own Him as the Lord of their lives.
Second, They believed the Gospel and were saved. We are told that Lydia "attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." Not only so, but the Lord "opened her heart" to the glorious message, as a flower opens to the morning sun. Humbly, as penitent sinners, these Philippians believed the gospel, received Christ, and gladly owned Him as their Lord and Savior. In response to the jailor's question: "What must I do to be saved?" Paul had answered: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Thus they complied with the condition of the Gospel—faith in Christ, and had been saved by the grace of God.
Third, They were regenerated. Upon their belief in the Gospel and acceptance of Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit of God had indwelt them, and thus sealed them as the possession of Christ (Eph. 1:13). He also imparted to them a new and Divine nature, in the power of which they could henceforth live lives to the glory of Christ. Furthermore, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, these Philippians were taken out of Adam, as to their standing before God; and were now seen by God as identified with another Person, Christ. This is the new birth, apart from which no one can see or enter the kingdom of God (John 3). As they had been identified with "Adam" by reason of their physical birth; they had now become identified with "Christ" by spiritual birth. The new birth is simply the impartation, by God, of spiritual life to that person who believes on Christ: "He that hath the Son, hath life" (I John 5:12).
Perhaps it will help to make this matter more clear if we think of two families: the Adam family, and the Christ family. We got into the Adam family by being born naturally; we get into the Christ family by being born spiritually. Now let each reader ask himself seriously the question: to which family do I belong? Remember, if you have never been born again, you belong to the Adam family. You may be very sincere in your beliefs, moral in your life, and religiously inclined; but this does not constitute you a Christian. Not until you have been taken out of the Adam family can you think, say or do one thing to please God. See Rom. 8:8, 9.
If you are in any doubt as to your standing before God, give yourself no rest or peace until you know, on the authority of God's word, that you are no longer "in Adam," lost, guilty and condemned; but "in Christ," saved, justified and accepted before God. Right where you are, take the lost and guilty sinner's place, and believe Christ bore your sins, took your place and died for you. Then thank Him for what He did on the cross on your behalf, and trust Him now as your own personal Savior, and own Him henceforth as the supreme Lord and Master of your life. That moment you will cease to be "in Adam," and, for all eternity, will be viewed by God as being "in Christ."
"Soon as my all I ventured
On the atoning blood;
The Holy Spirit entered,
And I was born of God."
The Christian's Pattern: "Live Christ"
Mark carefully Paul's words: "According to my earnest expectation and my hope: that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:20,21). In these burning words Paul, by the Spirit, makes clear that the pattern for his life, and for each Christian's life on earth, is Christ Himself. Christianity has well been defined as: "the outliving of the inliving Christ." Only as the Lord Jesus is allowed to live His life through us, shall our lives amount to anything for Him. In Galatians 2:20 Paul says: "I have been crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of (or by believing on) the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Christ is not only the believer's Savior, but He is also his Example. We are urged to "follow His steps," (I Pet. 1:21) and to "walk even as He walked" (I John 2:6). Paul could write to the Corinthian believers and say: "Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ" (I Cor. 11:1). The Divine standard for the Christian's life is indeed a high one, for we are constantly to be "looking off unto Him," "considering Him," "learning of Him," and "following Him" (Heb. 12:2; 3:1, Matt. 11:29; John 21:19).
The Scripture makes perfectly clear that Christ is to be the believer's Example in every department of life. We are to love one another as He loved us (John 13:34). We are to humble ourselves even as He did. (Phil. 2:5-7). Our lives are to be characterized by self denial, as was His. (Rom. 15:1-3). Our ministry for others must be self-sacrificial, even as His ministry cost Him his life. (I John 3:14-16). We must be prepared to suffer wrongfully at the hands of the world, as also did our Savior. (I Pet. 2:20-21). We must be ready to serve our brethren in humility of heart, even as He served His disciples. (John 13: 12-16). We have been sent into the world by our Lord and Master, even as He was sent into the world by His Father. (John 17:18).
Now let us look at the Scripture we quoted at the beginning of this chapter three in the Believer's Biography, i. e., Phil. 1:20, 21. Three things stand out prominently:
1. His Determination
His "earnest expectation and hope" was that he should never be ashamed of Christ, or bring shame to the cause of Christ. Matthew Henry once said: "I reckon him a Christian indeed that is neither ashamed of the Gospel, nor a shame to the Gospel." Paul's life of loyalty to his Lord has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement to the people of God throughout the years that have followed. Well may we bow our knees and thank God for His faithful servant, Paul, who allowed nothing to hinder him in fully following the One who met and saved him by His grace. To live the Christian life as we should, will require every bit of our God-given determination; and we must resolve that, by the grace of God, Christ shall have first place in our affections, and become the supreme Object of our existence.
This will involve the rejection of the world, for "the offence of the cross is not ceased." It will mean loss of popularity, entail persecution, and bring upon us the ignominy and reproach of sinful men; but it is well worth what it costs. Pay day is coming! In that day we shall be more than amply compensated for all we have suffered for His name's sake. Let us therefore, with Paul, nail our colors to the mast, and let all know, "Whose we are, and Whom we serve" (Acts 27:23).
2. His Desire.
It was that "Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death." His supreme ambition was to be a magnifying glass, through which worldings should see Christ in all His attractiveness, power and sufficiency; and thus be led to desire Him also as their own Savior and Lord.
Artists use two kinds of glasses in their work. When examining an old master, they use a magnifying glass to better appreciate the detail of the picture, the technique of the artist and the perfection of his brush work. When they wish to see the picture as a whole, they use a diminishing glass, which condenses the picture into a very small compass.
Christians are either magnifying or diminishing glasses, through which the world sees Christ. It depends entirely on each believer as to what kind of Christ the world will see through him. In the life of a devoted Christian the world will see an enlarged and magnified Christ, who has completely revolutionized his life by His mighty saving power; who satisfies him day by day by His presence with him, and His joy in him, and who is able to keep him going on for Him in spite of all the opposition arrayed against him.
In the life of a carnal, or worldly minded Christian, the world will see a minimized Christ; One who is not able to keep him from sin, or even to satisfy him with His presence, for he has to go to the world for his pleasures. Thus the name of Christ is dishonored by the compromising believer, and the world is consequently given a false estimation of the virtue and value of the Son of God. It would be a good exercise for the soul if each Christian reader would ask himself seriously: "What impression of Christ am I conveying, by my life, in my home, school, play, workship, office, or assembly? Is Christ being magnified or minimized in my body? May it be ours to have Paul's consuming desire to live a Christ-magnifying life!
3. His Delight.
"For to me to live is Christ." The words: "to me," are emphatic. He is giving his own personal testimony. This is a tremendous statement, and reveals the secret of Paul's greatness. The supreme Object and Ambition of his life was Christ, and he lived for nothing else, and for no One else. Christ was his life, or the sole explanation of his existence. He estimated the value, or otherwise, of everything in life by its relation to Christ. All that did not contribute to the glory of Christ he rejected; and all that brought glory to the Son of God he used to the utmost of his ability.
The story is told of a young man who, when he arrived as a freshman at a university, took out of his bag a label with the letter "V" on it, and this he stuck on the door of his room. When his fellow students got to know him better they inquired what the "V" stood for, but all he would reply was: "You'll find out soon enough." Finally his senior year arrived, and he graduated at the head of his class. Then they discovered that the "V" stood for "Valedictorian." Each time that young man came to his room, and was tempted to waste his time in idleness, that "V" challenged him, and spurred him on to further conscientious study until, at last, the ambition of his life was realized.
On the door of Paul's heart there was a "C"; and had you asked him what it meant, he would have replied promptly, yet humbly: "It stands for Christ, the supreme purpose of my life on earth."
Someone once suggested that it would be a good thing if every Christian were to write out on a slip of paper the words: "For to me to live is," and follow this with a dotted line and a question mark at the end, so: "For to me to live is.................?" Now take this paper and, all alone with God, fill in the dotted line truthfully, honestly and sincerely. What would we put in that dotted line? It would represent what we are really living for.
What is the supreme desire, and the dominating ambition of our life? Perhaps some would have to put: "Pleasure" on that line. Others might have to write: "Success." Still others would have to pen: "Self-gratification." Perhaps some would put the word: "Popularity." Some might have to write: "Business," "Art," "Sport," "Education ," "Money," "Health," etc.; but all such words would simply spell "failure" for the Christian. The apostle Paul would have dipped his pen in ink and written, boldly and reverently: "Christ."
Let us search our own hearts and challenge ourselves with this question, and rest not until we too can write "Christ" on the dotted line, and really mean it. Life will then take on a different aspect as the Lord Jesus becomes the dominating Factor of our lives. The old couplet is true:
"Live for self, you live in vain;
Live for Christ, you live again!"
May it be ours to pattern our lives after the Example set before us in the word of God, and seek, both by our determination, desire and delight, to make Christ supreme; so that "in all things He shall have the preeminence" in every department of our lives!
The Christian's Passion: "Know Christ"
This is found in Philippians 3:10-11, where Paul makes the great declaration: "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of (from among) the dead." Paul's passion was a three fold one:
1. To have an ever growing appreciation of the Person of Christ;
"That I may know Him." Did not the apostle already know Him? Yes, indeed. He had been brought into living, vital union with Him many years before. He had been introduced to the Son of God on the Damascus highway, and this initial knowledge of Christ as his Savior and Lord had changed his life completely. From a proud, blaspheming, vindictive and self-righteous Pharisee, he had been transformed into a humble, devout, gracious, and Christ-exalting disciple of the Lord Jesus. But Paul did not stop here. This introduction to Christ but served the purpose of whetting his appetite for a fuller and more intimate knowledge of this glorious Person, who had become to him "the altogether Lovely, and the Chiefest of ten thousand."
There is something better than being saved, and this is an ever increasing knowledge of the One who has saved us. Conversion is not the end of the Christian life, but only the beginning. Conversion is simply a turning with a view to walking with the One who turned us to Himself. Regeneration is the impartation of spiritual life, with a view to the living of that life to the glory of the One who made it possible.
Salvation is a very inclusive term. It takes in the whole of the believer's life from the beginning to the end. It is one thing to be introduced to a person, and an entirely different thing to go on to know this person intimately. There is a wide difference between acquaintanceship and friendship, yet both begin with an introduction. It is a common thing to hear a married couple tell how they first met each other at the home of a mutual friend. Neither of them realized, at this time, to what this would ultimately lead. They both decided to know each other better, so there were frequent meetings; letters passed between them; they took walks together, and did quite a little talking together. The result was that one day each took the other as a partner for life. They convenanted to "give each other the unfailing evidence of affection," and to "study, as time passes, to make the place each holds in each other's heart, broader and deeper and, forsaking all others, to cleave to each other as long as life shall last, or death doth them part."
The only way to really and intimately know a person, after one has been introduced to him, is to commune with that person, walk with him, hold sweet counsel with him, and live with him. The more this is done, the greater and more intimate will be our knowledge of him.
Now apply this to the Lord Jesus. Surely, having been introduced to Him, we can testify: "We love Him, because He first loved us" (I John 4:19). The supreme passion of our lives should now be to know Him more intimately, and thus come to an ever increasing appreciation of all the virtue and value of this glorious Person. This is obtained by our reading, study and meditation of Him in the Scriptures that reveal Him; in communion with Him by prayer, praise, supplication and worship; in walking with Him day by day; in seeking to adjust our lives by His example; in prompt obedience to His known will; and in submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who delights to take of the things of Christ and apply them to our hearts.
This, then, is what is implied by the words of Paul: "That I may know Him." The more we are occupied with Him, the more we shall appreciate and love Him; and the more we love Him, the more we shall desire to live lives pleasing to Him. Frances Ridley Havergal expressed this supreme passion of the Christian's life very beautifully when she wrote:
"Lord Jesus, make Thyself to me
A living bright Reality;
More present to faith's vision keen,
Than any earthy object seen;
More dear, more intimately nigh
Than 'een the closest earthly tie."
The next passion of Paul's life was for2. A present experience of the resurrection power of Christ in his life.
"That I may know ... the power of His resurrection." The supreme exhibition of the power of God in the Old Testament was His dividing of the waters of the Red Sea. The supreme demonstration of the power of God in the New Testament is the resurrection of His Son from the dead. In Ephesians 1:18-20 Paul wrote: "That ye may know what is 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, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies. It was this "exceeding greatness of His power" which Paul desired above all else.
Just as the resurrection of Christ caused Him to stand out from amongst the physically dead; so Paul wished to stand out distinct from all those who were spiritually dead; and only this super-abundant power was sufficient to enable him to live such a life in a world that was characterized by death. Perhaps this is what Paul had in mind when he says in verse 10: "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from amongst the dead." The word "resurrection" is a translation of the word "anastasis," which means to stand up, or out. Paul's passion was to stand out, as one who was spiritually alive, in the midst of those who were spiritually dead. (Eph. 2:1).
Let us try to illustrate what we mean. Let us suppose we are shown a room in which there are a hundred bodies lying on the floor. A guide tells us that fifty of these bodies are dead, while the others are merely sound asleep. He now asks us to distinguish between the living and the dead. From the door we look carefully and decide that the body second from the left is dead; but the guide smiles and says: "No, he looks dead, but he isn't; he is simply sunk into a very deep sleep." We choose another saying: "That person is surely asleep;" but again we are mistaken, for the guide assures us that that particular body is dead. Finally, as we realize how closely a sleeping person resembles a corpse, we give up the task, and ask the guide to show us which are the living and which are the dead. Accordingly, the guide cups his hands around his lips and, in a stentorian voice, shouts: "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from among the dead!" Immediately the sleeping ones awaken, stretch their limbs and rise from amongst the corpses; thus proving that they had life. Thus they "stand out" from amongst the dead.
Now let us apply our illustration. A sleeping Christian, (i. e. one who is asleep to his privileges and responsibilities) and a spiritually dead sinner very closely approximate each other. In fact, the worldling may be pardoned, and even a spiritual Christian, for mistaking such a sleeping and carnal Christian for a sinner, dead in his trespasses and sins! His eyes are apparently shut to the beauties and glories of Christ; he seems unconscious of his surroundings and his spiritual condition, and his life is inactive for the Lord.
Does not this graphically depict hundreds of professing Christians today? They could be truthfully termed, "sound Christians," for they are sound asleep to both their privileges and duties! In fact, such believers become stumbling blocks in the way of those who are spiritually dead. The unsaved, as they look at the careless and worldly lives of such, argue: "If he is a Christian, then I don't want to become one. If he is a sample of the new birth, then I want nothing of it!" God's message to such is found in Eph. 5: 14. With strident tones the word comes: "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light!" As the sleeping Christian is thus awakened to a sense of his condition and need, and comes to a realization of his obligations; he will rise to his feet, henceforth -to "stand out" from amongst the spiritually dead ones. This "standing out from amongst the dead," can only be realized by the believer as he lays hold on the power that God has provided for such a separated life. This power has been placed at his disposal; but each Christian must appropriate it for himself. Paul's passion must be his: "That I may know ... the power of His resurrection." This power is in Christ and, as we abide in Him, He will communicate to us, by the Spirit, the ability to live the resurrection life in a world that is characterized by death.
3. A consuming desire for all that which is involved by fellowship with Christ:
"That I may know ... the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." Paul realized that his immense privileges brought correspondingly tremendous responsibilities. To enjoy the former without discharging the latter never entered his mind. He was determined that as Christ was the measure of his acceptance before God; He should also be the measure of his rejection before men. As Christ had been despised and rejected by man; so he, too, would be prepared to share that despising and rejection of men which whole-hearted living for Christ would inevitably bring.
This is what is meant by our Savior's words: "And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:27). Again Christ said: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24). To bear the cross is simply to share the rejection of Christ. The Christian's path is no bed of roses, no "flowery bed of ease." "The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you:" (John 15:20). It is possible for the Christian to avoid the cross, but only at the cost of great loss to himself. Paul's passion was to share, or have fellowship in the sufferings of Christ. As he neared the end of the journey, he added: "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:12).
All the world gave to Christ was a stable for his birth and a cross on which to die. His own nation refused Him, and the Gentiles combined with the Jews to crucify Him. The death of Christ has fully exposed man's rebellious character and the complete corruption of his sinful nature, which is at enmity to God. The Christian now finds himself in a world diametrically opposed to God, Christ and spirituality. As he seeks to live for Christ, he will inevitably be called upon to share his Lord's rejection. In so doing, he will find himself in goodly company. "The noble army of martyrs," who have been "faithful unto death," and of whom "the world was not worthy," will serve to encourage him by their example, and thus nerve his endeavor to live for his Master. See Hebrews 11.
The suffering must proceed the glory; the bitter must go before the sweet. Let us lift up our heads and sing with Paul: "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!" (Rom. 8:18).
The Christian's Purpose: "For Christ"
Paul leaves us in no doubt as to what he believed was his Lord's purpose in leaving him on earth. He tells us, in this epistle, he was here "for Christ." That is, not only to live for Him, but also to serve Him in whatever capacity he could, and to the utmost of his ability. He realized that he had been called upon to act as one of Christ's representatives in the greatest business in the world, the "Father's business." We hear him saying: "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may win Christ" (Phil. 3:7-8).
Paul kept a clear distinction between loss and gain; and everything that came into his life was classified by him according to this twofold division. The test he applied to all things was in the form of two questions: "Does this thing contribute to a greater appreciation of Christ? Does it glorify Him?" If it did, it was gain; if it did not, it was loss. Thus Paul weighed all things in the balances of the sanctuary, in the light of eternity, and with a view to the Lord's glory. Let us think of two things in regard to our being "for Christ" in this world: the privilege, and the cost. First,
The Privilege of being "for Christ."
What an unspeakable honor has been conferred upon us by the Lord of glory, in allowing us to act as His representatives in this world! We are the servants of none other than the One who is described as being: "Over all, God blessed for ever," and the "Only Potentate, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords: Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; Whom no man hath seen nor can see; to Whom be honor and power everlasting!" It is the majesty of the Master that gives honor to the servant.
The Queen of Sheba realized this on her visit to Solomon. After meeting and communing with him, she exclaimed rapturously: "The half was not told me! Thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard! Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom!" (I Kings 10:7-8). Truly, the servant of the Lord but shines by the reflected glory of the One he serves. It was said of certain of Solomon's servants, that "they dwelt with the King for his work" (I Chron. 4:23).
To be "for Christ" means, first, that
(1) We are witnesses for Him. Just before His ascension to the right hand of the throne of the majesty on high, our Lord said to His disciples: "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me" (Acts 1:8). Since then every believer in Christ, from the moment of his conversion, becomes a witness for his Lord. A witness is one who tells what he knows, and testifies to what he has seen and heard. It has been well said that; "Christ has not retained many of His people as lawyers; but He has subpoenaed them all as witnesses!"
In a world characterized by darkness, we witness that Christ is "the Light of the world," and that "in Him is life, and the life is the light of men" (John 8:12; 1:4). In a world that is at enmity with God; we witness that "Christ is our peace," and that peace with God has been made possible to all, and is actual in our experience through the work of our Lord and Master, (Eph. 2:14; Col. 2:20). In a world that "lies in the arms of the wicked one;" we witness to the mighty power of the conquering Christ, who annulled Satan's power, and delivers all from his dominion who will trust in Him, (I John 5:19; Heb. 2:14-15; Col. 2:12-13). In a world that is pleasure-mad, and marked by self-expression; we witness to a Savior who has communicated to us His joy, and enables us, by His indwelling Spirit, to express Him through our lives, (John 15:11; Gal. 2:20). Thus, both by lips and life, we are supremely honored by being witnesses for Him. But more:
(2) We are "ambassadors for Him" (II Cor. 5:20). An ambassador is one who represents his country in a foreign land, and he is counted one of the most honored of men. Men will gladly give up extremely lucrative positions in private life in order to become the representatives of their country. Many have been known to beggar themselves financially to fill this privileged position. What shall be said of the Christian, who is an ambassador on behalf of a King who shall live and reign forever, and whose Kingdom that shall never pass away?
The story is told of a Christian missionary who was approached by the government of his country and asked to accept the position of a consul in the foreign field in which he worked. He declined the offer, and gave as his explanation that he did not feel justified in leaving an ambassadorship to become a mere consul!
"Ambassadors of Christ are we,
Proclaiming life and liberty,
Through Christ, our Lord,
Whose precious blood,
Our peace with God has fully made!
Now glorified at God's right hand,
We now proclaim by His command:
And Christ receive!
Then, by His grace, thou shalt be saved!'"
Let us note, secondly,
The Cost of being "for Christ."
In the epistle to the Philippians, three things are suggested as to what is involved in taking a stand for Christ.
(1) It means service. This is illustrated in the case of Epaphroditus who, "for the work of Christ, was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me" (2:30). This dear servant of Christ had been sent by the assembly in Phillippi in order to carry their gift of money to Paul who was in prison at Rome. This journey had involved considerable hardship on Epaphroditus, and he had been very seriously ill. He was now recovered, and ready to return to his home. Our service for Christ is worth to us just what it costs us in the way of self-denying and sacrificial giving of our time, energy and money. Epaphroditus' service had almost cost him his life.What has our service for the Lord meant to us in the way of blood, sweat and tears?
Christ's service for us cost Him all he had. What has our service for Christ cost us? Surely nothing less than a life of loyal service for Him should be our response because of all He has done for us. No better Master could ever be found than He; and no better service could ever occupy our attention than the Lord's work.
(2) It means suffering. Paul wrote: "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (1:20). Paul himself was an example of this truth; for this letter was penned from a Roman dungeon where he was "a prisoner of Jesus Christ." In fact, we are told that the Lord Himself declared on the occasion of Paul's conversion: "I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My name's sake" (Acts 9:16).Suffering has been the portion of God's people from time immemorial. How true is the old saying: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." The Lord Jesus Himself forewarned His disciples that their path would be one of suffering and loss: "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).
(a) Paul had suffered physically, for he bore in his body the scars (or the stigmata) of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 5:17). The recital of his physical sufferings for "Christ's sake, and the gospel's," should make us bow our heads in shame that we have endured so little for our Lord. (II Cor. 11:18-12:11). One hundred and ninety-five times the Roman lash had descended upon his bare back, cutting his flesh to ribbons; but, in spite of these unparalleled sufferings, he went steadily on, with his eye on the ultimate goal: the approval of Christ, and the reward that should be his at "that day." It is only as we view our present suffering in the light of that future "glory which shall be revealed in us," that we shall be enabled to endure, and even rejoice in every circumstance of life. We must therefore be prepared to suffer physically, even as did Paul. (II Cor. 4:17-18; Rom 8:18).
(b) Paul had suffered mentally. Often Paul had to contend with false teachers who followed him, and sought to turn the young converts from the truth of God to a false gospel. These "wolves in sheep's clothing" sought to undermine his authority as an apostle of Christ, and to falsely accuse him to the brethren. As he wrote of his coming to Macedonia he says: "Our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears" (II Cor. 7:5). He refers to "the care of all the churches," which was his daily burden. We, too, must be prepared to suffer in this way if we really are to be true and faithful to the word of God. Unjust criticism, false accusation, and the imputation of wrong motives has ever been the lot of those who take the lead in the battle for the Lord.
(c) Paul suffered spiritually. As he saw the blindness and enmity of Israel he declared: "I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Gal. 4:19). He knew what spiritual travail was, and what it meant to wrestle ... against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in the heavenlies (Eph. 6: 12). To be for Christ is to be against the Devil and his tremendous forces; and the true Christian will soon stir up the opposition of the enemy, and suffering will be the inevitable outcome.
(3) It means sacrifice, or loss. To stand for Christ cost Paul all he had. He lost his Phariseeism, his reputation, his worldly goods and, ultimately, his life. About two years after he penned this letter to the Philippians, he was led out and, in the grey of dawn, was beheaded for his faith. Was Paul a loser, or gainer? He lost everything from an earthly standpoint, but what did he gain? He gained a good conscience; peace of heart; the approval of Christ; undying fame, and a glorious reward. No one pities the apostle Paul now, for he truly "belongs to the ages;" and millions will rise to thank God for him and his Christ-devoted life. May it be ours to have this chapter written into our lives, so that all shall know that the sole purpose of our life on earth is to live for, and to serve Christ; even though this service means to us suffering and sacrifice.
"Go labor on; tis not for nought,
Thy earthly loss is heav'nly gain:
Men heed thee, love thee, praise thee not,
The Master praises—what are men?"
The Christian's Power: "Through Christ"
Perhaps the question uppermost in the reader's mind is: "How ever did Paul manage to live such a Christ-magnifying life, in spite of all the opposition arrayed against him from the Devil, the world, and the flesh?" Paul answers this question very simply and satisfactorily by testifying: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Here, in a nutshell, is the secret of Paul's resources; the reservoir of his power was Christ, and from that inexhaustible supply came the all-sufficient grace, wisdom and power essential to his living the Christian life. In Christ "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;" for He declared: "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth," (Phil. 4:13; Col. 2:3; Matt. 28:18).
Two things naturally suggest themselves as we consider the Christian's power. Let us look at them for a little while. First,
Our utter insufficiency.
As Paul contemplated the tremendous opposition he must face in order to live for and serve the Lord Jesus he exclaimed: "Who is sufficient for these things?" Well might every Christian ask the same question. Notice how Paul answered his own query by saying: "But our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament" (II Cor. 2:16; 3:5, 6). Let us think of three things in this matter of our insufficiency.
(1) We can know nothing, apart from what God has been pleased to reveal. Shut the Bible, and what do we know of God; of Christ, of the Holy Spirit; of salvation; of the great fundamental doctrines of the faith; of guidance through life; of death and the hereafter? Nothing! We are shut up to the Divine revelation in the holy Scriptures for all spiritual knowledge; and this can only be apprehended by one who has been regenerated. (I Cor. 2:14-15). Man's unaided wisdom becomes folly when he attempts to become wise "above that which is written" (I Cor. 4:6). As believers, we are absolutely dependent upon the word of God for our guidance and, apart from this, we can know nothing.
(2) We can receive nothing, unless it is given to us by God. (John 3:27). All we possess is ours only because we have received it from the Lord. We can truthfully sing: "Nought have I gotten, but what I received; grace hath bestowed it since I have believed." The eternal life which is ours came as the "free gift of God" (Rom. 6:23). "Every good and perfect gift has come to us from above, from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). We have been enjoined to pray: "Give us, day by day, our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11). He has supplied "all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4: 19). Whatever the need may be that arises in the life of the child of God, there is an all-sufficient supply of grace to meet it; for we read: "He giveth more grace." Thus all we have, or ever hope to have, is ours, solely and wholly, by the gift of God's grace.
(3) We can do nothing apart from union and communion with the Lord Jesus. We have been made to realize how true are his words: "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15: 5). We began the Christian life by union with Him, and we cannot possibly live the Christian life apart from communion with Him. How pregnant with meaning are His words: "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself" (John 15:4). In these seven words the Savior indicates how utterly helpless we are when severed from Himself. Christian growth in Him is an impossibility, and service for Him is worthless, apart from fellowship with Him. How slow we are to learn this lesson! How reluctant we are to propose and carry a vote of no confidence in ourselves; and to yield all we are and have to Him, through Whom alone fruit can become possible!
Happy is the Christian who has learned these three lessons of his own utter insufficiency! It is through such that the Lord delights to manifest the "exceeding greatness of His power." He declares: "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Cor. 12:9). Our weakness simply provides Him with the opportunity of exhibiting His omnipotence through us. He shuts us up to Himself and, in so doing, meets every need of His blood-bought people. The difference between "nothing," and "all things," is Christ! "Nothing" in ourselves; "all things" in Him! Second:
His utmost sufficiency.
In Phil. 4:11 there is a word which is used only once in the New Testament. It is the word translated: "content." The Greek word is "autarkes," from which root is derived the English word "autocrat." Paul says, in effect: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be an autocrat." An autocrat is "the master of all he surveys," and whose "right there is none to dispute."
This word "autarkes" was used in the New Testament days to describe a city that had within itself all the elements necessary to withstand a siege. Behind impregnable walls, and defended by well trained soldiers, it had a perennial water supply and could cultivate its own fields. Thus it could laugh in the face of a besieging force; for its walls could not be broken into, its water could not be cut off, and its food supply could not be interfered with. Such a self-sufficient city was termed "autarkes." This is the word that Paul borrows to describe his own condition in Christ. He was "content," because he had, in Christ, all that was necessary to meet his every need, and make him master of every circumstance of life. It is a word of triumph, and not-resignation. Paul adopted no mere attitude of passivity when he spoke of being "content," as though he accepted the inevitable with folded hands and bowed head. It was not mere stoicism, or a spirit of fatalism; but a triumphant declaration, by which he announced he was more than conqueror through Him who loved him.
Paul was irrepressible. He simply refused to be kept down by his circumstances, and absolutely refused to identify himself with his surroundings. From the drab walls of a dark, draughty and damp cell in Rome he penned this epistle, whose very keyword is joy. He refused to call himself a prisoner of the Roman Empire; but delighted to refer to himself as "a prisoner of Jesus Christ." The old saying that: "Walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage," was true of him. The prison did not confine him, it simply sheltered him. Through its iron bars his letters, written by Divine inspiration, flew on golden wings to bring blessing and encouragement to the people of God throughout the world, from that time until now.
Paul was the master of his circumstances because he had been completely mastered by the Master of all circumstances! Someone said to a once drunken and dissolute sinner, but who had been gloriously saved: "I hear you now have the mastery of the Devil." He replied: "No, but I've got the Master of the Devil!" Paul well knew his many weaknesses, for he said: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves;" but he also knew the Source and the Sphere of his strength, and, abiding in Him, he could speak of himself as an "autocrat."
A lady was once asked: "How are you feeling today?" She replied: "The best that can be expected under the circumstances!" But Paul was never under, but was on top of his circumstances, and could testify: "Thanks be unto God which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of His knowledge by us in every place" (II Cor. 2:14). After his description of the hardships and sufferings he had endured, he concluded: "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (II Cor. 12:10). This is the language of a spiritual autocrat, of whom there are altogether too few.
A Christian businessman, who realized his need of this spiritual autocracy, used to pray every morning, just as he was about to put on his hat and leave for his office: "Lord, make me master of everything underneath this hat today!" Well may we follow his example and pray the same prayer; for it is when we lose control of that which is under our hats that we bring shame to the testimony of Christ. It is common to hear a person apologizing for his exhibition of bad temper by saying: "But it's all over in a minute!" Yes, but so is the atomic bomb! It is the damage it does during that one minute that counts! How often, in that one minute that we lose control of our tempers, damage is done that years cannot repair. We need the constant mastery of Christ if we would say with Paul: "I have learned ... to be an autocrat."
It is only as we daily seek to "abide in Christ;" to live in conscious and constant communion with Him; to walk in obedience to His word, and in simple dependence upon Him; that we can prove the complete sufficiency of His grace and power to meet every contingency that can arise on our pilgrim pathway. The Christian's power lies in an omnipotent Person, the strong and eternal Son of God. Without Him we are nothing, and can do nothing. Linked with Him we can say triumphantly: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me!"
From The Believer's Biography, or The Christians Past, Present and Future by Alfred P. Gibbs. Fort Dodge, Iowa: Walterick Printing Co., [n.d.]
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