COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:2, KJV)
Apostolic salutations tell us much about several things. In them, we see the thrust of the Kingdom of Jesus. We also see the nature of life in Christ, and the key elements required to maintain it. Additionally, the heart of the Apostle himself is exposed, revealing the nature of the Apostolic office, and how it had affected his person. The salutation before us is a common one in the Apostolic writings. However, we must not allow its familiarity to cause us to pass it by. Just as common food is essential and good for the nourishment of the body, so common salutations and other expressions are food for the soul, bringing us much needed nourishment. These wonderful greetings encourage a spiritual perspective of both the people of God and the truth of God. They reveal the willing involvement of the Godhead with the saints, and encourage us to fervently seek that involvement.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU
“Grace be unto you . . . ” The grace of God is such a marvelous resource it cannot be overemphasized. Grace never encourages wrong, never glosses reality, and never leaves the child of God deficient. Grace is always from the Lord, always profitable, and always strengthening. The fact that grace is consistently pronounced upon the people of God confirms its indispensability. Not only is it necessary for the forgiveness of sin and the circumcision of “the body of the sins of the flesh” (Col 2:11-12; Rom 6:6), it is also essential for living to the Lord (Rom 6:11).
Because of doctrinal corruption concerning grace, many have chosen to neglect it, virtually hiding it from the people, as though the knowledge of the grace of God would encourage sin. Those with legalistic tendencies, or inclinations to justification by law, are particularly fearful of any emphasis on the grace of God. Jude warned of false “ungodly men” who were known for“turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4). The flaw, however, was not caused by grace, but by “ungodly men.” Failing to declare“the true grace of God” (1 Pet 5:12) only encourages the harbingers of heresy to purvey their corrupt teaching among men. Error can only be neutralized by truth, never by silence or neglect.
“Grace” is more than a doctrine, or a mere word to be bantered about in the arena of theological controversy. It speaks of a Divine trait, or quality. Preeminently, it opens to us the very heart of God–His favor, approval, sanction, and blessing. This is not a mere Divine medication, given to remove the infection of sin. It is a sphere of Divine influence wherein spiritual graces flourish and heavenly fellowship is realized.
The antithesis of the grace of God is the wrath of God. Apart from Jesus Christ, the “wrath of God” remained upon us (John 3:36). We were, in fact, “children of wrath, even as others” (Eph 2:3). Whatever one may think about the Lord’s view of humanity, He is “angry with the wicked every day”(Psa 7:11). We must ever be mindful of the fact, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).
However, the grace of God is like the sun shining in its full strength upon the reconciled ones. God is inclined to the redeemed, loves them, and prefers them. He has written them upon the palms of His hands, unwilling to forget them (Isa 49;16). The words of Haggai are fulfilled in those who taste of the grace of God. “I will . . . make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you, says the LORD of hosts” (Hag 2:23, NKJV).
Grace is the domain in which we “stand” (Rom 5:2). It is the experience of the smile of God, and His personal delight in us. It all comes through Christ Jesus, yet it does come to us. All of this means there is no need to live a life that provokes the Lord–not if His grace can be to us! This wonderful salutation means grace is available. It means God is disposed to give it. It means the saints can experience it!
By addressing the saints in this manner, the Spirit raises their consciousness concerning grace. He calls their minds up higher, where Divine fellowship and approval are more than a theological position.
PEACE BE UNTO YOU
“Grace be unto you, and peace . . . ” What a needful possession peace is! An agitated soul is a weak one, and a person in turmoil is a person in jeopardy. “Peace” is an exceeding large word. It involves satisfaction, calmness, composure, and quietness. Above these, it entails harmony with God, unity with His purpose, and repose in His will.
“Peace” is not the product of human effort. It comes from the Lord. Like the land of Canaan was to the Jews, we cannot enter into peace until the Lord gives it to us. But He IS inclined to give it, as our text affirms. Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Peace, then, results from the imparting of the“Divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). It is the personal experience of a Divine perspective. When experienced, we will not allow our hearts to be troubled or dominated by fear. Only a casual reflection on these words will confirm our desperate need of “peace.”
Again, the fact that “peace” is sent to us confirms our need of the same. No one is beyond the need of “peace,” regardless of life’s circumstances. Peace is not only for troublesome times, it is for all times. It can sit upon the throne of our lives, exercising a beneficent reign over us. As it is written,“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Col 3:15).
The consideration of peace governing our hearts is challenging. It does not rule us ruthlessly, but mercifully. Peace is a considerate ruler, calming troubled waters, bringing spiritual strength, and opening the door of hope. It is a ruler that prevails over all intrusions. But we must “LET” is rule in our hearts! “Peace” will not reign if we refuse to allow it to do so.
In Christ Jesus, we have been “called” into a state of “peace.” This is not peace in the world, for there we “will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Rather, this is kingdom soil–but another view of the heavenly places. “Peace” is the ambience in which spiritual growth and fruitfulness take place. As it is written, “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18). When we are at peace with God, and know it, evil is neutralized and righteousness is maximized. A settled soul clears the eyes, sensitizes the heart, and opens the ears.
The Gospel is a “gospel of peace” (Rom 10:15). The kingdom of God is“in peace” (Rom 14:17). Jesus came and “preached peace” to we who were“afar off” (Eph 2:17). God is declared to be “the God of peace” (1 Thess 5:23). What is more, “peace” can be multiplied to us (1 Pet 1:2). It can come to us in increased measures.
How appropriate, therefore, that this letter includes “peace to you” in its salutation! It is a letter written within the framework of reconciliation to God and deliverance from the power of darkness. It has the covering of hope upon it, and pulsates with the freshness of newborn life. “Peace” is what we need, and “peace” is what we can have! Let every child of God be mindful of this, and seek to be a conveyor or such a benefit among the people of God.
FROM THE FATHER AND JESUS CHRIST
“Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace and peace are not supplied, housed or distributed by a religious organization. They are Divine resources, given and maintained by Deity! Those propagating an academic Gospel, with no life or hope, know nothing of either grace or peace. They promote a Platonic relationship, based solely upon human reason, and saturated with religious theory. But such a view will not sustain the soul. There must be contact with the Living God and the Lord Jesus Christ, else we will perish. Thus grace and peace are said to come to us “from God OUR Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Fourteen times, grace and peace are said to come from the Father and the Son (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:2; 1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; Tit 1:4; Phile 3; 2 John 1:3). They do not come from a book, but from the Persons of the Father and the Son. They are personally dispensed, not absorbed through mental disciplines.
Twenty-one times we read of “the grace of God” (Lk 2:40; Acts 11:23; 13:43; 14:26; 15;40; 20:24; Rom 5:15; 1 Cor 1:4; 3:10; 15:10; 2 Cor 1:12; 6:1; 8:1; Gal 2:21; Eph 3:2,7; Col 1:6; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9; 12;15). Once we read of “the grace of Christ” (Gal 1:6), twice of “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15;11; 2 Cor 13:14), and ten times of “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 16:20,24; 1 Cor 16:23; 2 Cor 8:9; Gal 6:18; Phil 4:23; 1 Thess 5:28; 2 Thess 3:18; Phile 25; Rev 22:21).
We learn from this that both the Father and the Son are favorably disposed toward us. It is not that God is angry with us, and Jesus is warding off His anger by intercession (a commonly held view). We have really been“reconciled to God” (Rom 5:10), and are really “in Christ” (Rom 8:1). Were this not the case, neither God nor Jesus would give us “grace and peace.”
The fact that “grace and peace” come from God the Father confirms He is satisfied with the atoning death of Christ, and pleased that we have received the reconciliation (Rom 5:11). He is “not ashamed” to be called our God, because we have renounced earthly priorities to embrace His great salvation (Heb 11:16). If it was said of Israel, “The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph 3:17), how much more will be said of those in Christ Jesus, to whom God promises an “abundance of grace” (Rom 5:17).
The fact that “grace and peace” come from the Lord Jesus Christ confirms He has “received us to the glory of God” (Rom 15:7). It comes through Him as the exclusive Representative of our race, for whom this grace is reserved. Those in Christ Jesus are, by that very circumstance, are qualified to receive this grace. The Lord confirmed this grace by becoming poor, that“we through His poverty might be made rich” (2 Cor 8:9). But it did not end there! Rather, that was the beginning. Now His grace can be “with your spirit” (Gal 6:18; Phile 25), within the most basic part of your person. Jesus will give it to you freely because you have “received” Him (John 1:12). You have every reason to be optimistic about your future!