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But, I would have you know brethren, that the circumstances in which I am have turned out rather to the furtherance of the glad tidings.
Now a word as to Philippians. Paul is writing to the saints at Philippi from prison an ambassador bound with a chain. He, as we all know, had moved in service amongst the saints in the fullest way, more than any other servant or apostle of his day. Now he is in prison, the bondman of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, he may have reflected in prison over the Spirit’s voice to him when moving up to Jerusalem, also the known feelings of the brethren as to it. But the Scripture read is full of the greatest encouragement that, even in these restricted circumstances Paul says, “But, I would have you know brethren, that the circumstances in which I am have turned out rather to the furtherance of the glad tidings.” Again in 2 Timothy 2: 9 he says, ”in which I suffer even unto bonds as an evil-doer but the word of God is not bound.” Therefore, we are to recognize with Paul that no external limitation can hamper or hinder the development and prosperity of the work of God.
At the end of the book of the Acts it is stated that Paul remained two whole years in Rome “in his own hired lodging, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, with all freedom unhinderedly.” We may feel very concerned that those who may be specially used of the Lord are not now able to move about as heretofore, but any movement on our side to interfere with the limitations the Lord is permitting may have very serious consequences.
(Arthur House, Auckland, N.Z., 1941 “Words of Grace and Comfort” Suggested by an American subscriber)
Golden Nugget Number 295
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There are two ways in which we may look at the Christian. One is according to the counsels and thoughts of God (Hebrews – in respect to the grace Christ obtains for us as Priest on high)
The other as walking in this world (Philippians – down here, and the energy and power of the Spirit of God working in him). Philippians is the book of experience, the Christian on earth.
We have to pass through the world, and there are difficulties in our path. As we walk in the power of God’s Spirit, we rise above these difficulties.
In Philippians, we have a person entirely above it all the troubles; one who can ‘rejoice in the Lord always’ (ch 4:4). Paul had been four years in prison at that time, which must have been very trying, as he could not engage in his missionary service. He could have reproached himself for going up to Jerusalem, but he remained positive saying, ‘I can rejoice in the Lord always’ (see Phil 4:4).
We know Paul’s early career. He used to have an earthly righteousness, and he boasted in it. He said, ‘touching the righteousness which was in the law, blameless’ (ch 3:6). But the Lord met him, and he discovered that all that had been gain to him had brought him into open enmity with God. All that Saul of Tarsus could clothe himself with outwardly, was utterly smashed, and he was left to dwell in darkness three days. During this, he discovered in his own soul what this terrible revelation meant.
Seeing Christ in glory resulted in his setting aside and putting away all that was of man. Whereas the first thing we need as sinners is ‘redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins’ (Eph 1:7), with Saul of Tarsus it was different. His own righteousness had kept him away from God, and that had to be put away. The upright, honest, law-keeping Pharisee had been full of enmity against God. Now he learned the end of the first man, not just as a doctrine, but practically. The best man in the world (best as man goes) was the chief of sinners. Now he knew what redemption through the blood meant.
The law had required righteousness from man for God, but, nobody had attained it. So it does not say, ‘not having my own sins’, but ‘not having mine own righteousness’ (see ch 3:9). Paul saw that God would not accept him clothed in the human Adamic robe of his own righteousness..
He needed Christ who appeared to him on the way to Damascus and said, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth’ (Acts 9:5).’ He saw the Man in the glory – the rejected carpenter’s son. Paul was totally and entirely condemned. But he soon learned that Christ had taken the place of everything, and that everything he had counted gain was finished. He came to that ‘There is … now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1). The whole standing of the first man was judged in his soul; and another Man, Christ in glory, would now be for him.
When Paul was writing to the Philippians many years later, it was still a present reality to him – ‘I… do count them but dung’ (Phil 3:8). Right from his conversion, Paul was a man whose whole course and career were marked by one object before him. That object was Christ.
Having judged all that he was naturally, Paul was brought him face to face with all kinds of difficulties. An example of this was his death sentence. He was going to be tried for his life; but he had done with the old ‘Paul’. He no longer trusted in himself, but in God: in effect he says, ‘The God I know, has raised Christ from the dead, so I am not afraid of death or of anything that might come on the road; I can glory in it all.’
Have we had a revelation of Christ? Are we following Him? Is He our only object? As we follow, we are called to suffer in a small way for Christ’s sake. But as we go through the world of sin and sorrow that crucified Christ, we also learn what it is to suffer with Him. It may be a difficult road, and we might get distracted, but we get refreshment as we go: it is the road that He travelled.
A term used by some Christians is ‘higher life’. But in reality they are following the world. The Christian has no calling to anything down in this world. His calling is to a risen, glorified Christ – this is the only Christ. Christ down here is a pattern for our walk, but we cannot attain Christ down here. Attempting it only lowers the standard of holiness: instead of being ‘higher Christian life’, it is lower life. It is the hope of being like Him in glory in glorified bodies, that makes us purify ourselves even as He is pure (See 1 John 3:3). I may get to heaven now in spirit, and be happy there with Him, but I never attain to or win Him, until I am with Him in the glory. Then I shall have won Christ.
In these days, when people are giving up Christianity everywhere, it is well to know what Christianity is. Christianity is perfect peace, perfect reconciliation with God, perfected for ever before Him. Then as regards my path in this world, it is having our eye on Christ Himself in glory, with all our energy in following Him. In every step we take, we get to knowing Him better, and we become more like Him.
Of course, when it says, ‘as many as be perfect’ (ch 3:15), it does not mean being being perfect like Christ was, when He was down here. But in walking with Him up there, we become like Him down here. That is what is meant by being a perfect, or fully grown, Christian. He knows that all his debts have been paid, and in running the race, he says, ‘I have seen the excellency of Christ Jesus, my Lord, and it has set aside everything here. I have done with it all; I belong to another place, and no longer own this old man’.
Paul contrasts the Christian life with mere profession. Professors are ‘enemies of the cross of Christ’ (v.18). They carry the name of Christian, but go on with the world, not perceiving that Satan, its prince, is against Christ. The world is subject to Christ’s execution of judgment. It does not know HIm as Saviour.
As Christians, our conversation, or citizenship, commonwealth or relationships of life are in heaven (See ch. 3:20). Though we live, our relationships up there, because Christ is up there – He is our life. A Christian’s life is not here at all. Christ is there, and we await our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope, therefore, is not to die, for our Saviour to ‘ change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body’ (v. 23).
We are running the race towards the place where our standing is? Can we say with the apostle, ‘The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God’ (Gal 2:20)? We are in earthly Is circumstances, but are we living by them, or are we living to Him? Time presses on; His return is near. Each of us is to take up our cross and follow Him. May we have a conscious relationship with the One whom we love. We look for Him to come from heaven to change our vile bodies because they will not suit that place. May the Lord give us so to have our eyes set on Him in His love, and that we might know real deliverance from the power of sin and the world. The Lord fix our eyes on Him in steadiness and earnestness of heart, so that we may say with David, ‘My soul followeth hard after thee’ (Ps 63:8).
Summary by Sosthenes
 Note that it is not that Paul was smashed, as some have erroneously affirmed. It is what he could boast in according to flesh, and the whole system he relied upon.
 Paul says that he was going to be tried for his life, according to JND. That raises an interesting question as to what is meant, Was it:
As a sinner, in the race, he is guilty and death is the consequence.
As Paul, it would be the legal judgment for the murder of Stephen
As having to do with sin, and the man who sinned, he was passing the death sentence on himself.
I am so glad of news which you give me of Italy. I hope to be able to go there, but God alone knows if and when this will be possible. I very much feared having perhaps to go back to America; however I counted on God and He has put His good hand where the enemy had sought to put things in disarray; and had for a short time.
I propose to go to France, but I also have Germany in view where they complain a little about my prolonged absence. For the moment, I am occupied with the new edition of my New Testament. I am waited on to this end and that holds me back for now. Others can do the corrections at the press, but the verification of all my new notes and little corrections that I have had to do require my care. It could well be that next year, if God preserves my strength, I will go again to Canada and the United States.
Things are good in the West Indies, and they have been encouraged by our visit. I will return to my Italian. F writes to me in this language and I have no difficulty at all in understanding his letters, but to speak is something else. I bless God with all my heart for these meetings in Italy, which I know by repute by means of L F.
As to your journey, dear brother, often a brother who has something is less well-placed than he who has nothing. It is supposed that perhaps he has enough, while another has to be sent. I know of such cases. If I remember well, Mr E sent something that you returned him for a motive that I could perfectly appreciate. I hope that this will not happen a second time. There are very humbling cases of discipline in Switzerland, better this than covert sin, but it is sad, and it must humble those who are not there. However, God is always good and faithful and full of patience towards us, although we are such a poor expression of the life of Jesus. There are two principles of Christian life: that of the Philippians and that of the Ephesians, according to the point of view from which one views the Christian. [In Philippians] he goes through the wilderness, looking towards the glory and pursues it, or rather desires to gain Christ. [In Ephesians] he is seated in the heavenlies and must manifest the character of God as His dear children. What a position! This requires us to do as Paul has done, that one always bears about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. This is Christ, God manifested in flesh, who is the perfect expression of it. The first principle gives the grounds which deliver you from what is of this world and of the flesh; the second the communion with the sources of those ways of God in which we must walk, communion with God Himself. Truly, when one sees what the prize of our privileges is, we are small indeed, but while judging ourselves as we must, one must look to Jesus, not to oneself.
I hope that my letter will find your wife perfectly recovered. I will write a word when I get going.
My affectionate salutations to all the brethren
Yours very affectionately
Letter originally written in French, translated by Sosthenes, 2013
In Philippians, sin and the flesh are never mentioned, except to reject righteousness in the flesh. It is Christian experience, and a man is superior to everything in this world. Chapter 2 speaks especially of the gracious and obedient character of Christ’s descent, His being obedient to death. This is in contrast with the first man.
In chapter 3 we have the energy of divine life, looking to Christ glorified as its object.
In Philippians, sin and the flesh are never mentioned, except to reject righteousness in the flesh. We have Christian experience – superior to everything in this world. Chapter 2 speaks especially of the gracious and obedient character of Christ’s descent, His being obedient to death. This is in contrast with the first man.
In chapter 3 we have the energy of divine life, looking to Christ glorified as its object. In every respect Paul is superior to circumstances: his bonds only furthering the gospel. When Christ is preached of contention, he rejoices in it, and it will all turn to his salvation. Salvation, all through this epistle, is the attainment of the ultimate result in glory, and this is the force of the word “Saviour” in chapter 3:20. Life and death are both so blessed that self disappears, because he can have no wish, though in itself dying is far better. He decides his own trial for his life by the perception of what is for the good of the church. To him to live is Christ. Everything else is dross or dung compared with the excellency of the knowledge of Christ; Paul presses on to glory. Though for four years he was chained to a soldier, he knew what it was to rejoice always in the Lord, being careful for nothing (chap. 4).
God’s peace keeps his heart, so as to be instructed in all things, whether full or hungry, whether abounding or suffering want. He is able to do all things through Him who strengthens him. He counts on his God for a blessing upon the Philippians.
Originally by JND. Lightly edited by Sosthenes, September 2014