COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:11, NKJV)
There is only one acceptable frame of reference when speaking in the behalf of God: the Lord Jesus Christ, and the redemption that is in Him. If the world and the things that are in it become the primary context of our speaking, it at once becomes unprofitable to the hearers. If you were to remove Jesus and salvation from the writings of Paul, there would be nothing left. He never wrote with the world and its circumstance as his main consideration. The health and financial conditions of his readers were never what compelled his writing. He knew if a person gained the whole world, yet lost his own soul, nothing whatsoever had been gained.
FILLED WITH THE FRUITS
“Being filled with the fruits of righteousness . . . ” (KJV). The Kingdom of God is characterized by ABUNDANCE! Nothing about it is sparse, and frugality in spiritual things is never urged or commended. Those who want alittle Jesus, or will settle for a small portion of grace, will not realize their desire. Salvation in all of its aspects is bounteous and generous. Sin had taken much from us, and consequently salvation brings plenty to us.
God is “abundant in goodness and truth” (Ex 34:6), and is to be so known by us. Abundance characterizes His grace (Rom 5:17), faith and love (1 Tim 1:14), and mercy (1 Pet 1:3). The life Jesus came to bring is “more abundantly” (John 10:10). God is represented as able to do “exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think” (Eph 3:20). In salvation, He has poured out His Holy Spirit upon us “abundantly” (Tit 3:5-6). Jesus said the faithful person will receive “more abundance” (Matt 13:12). That is the nature of the Kingdom of God, and we do well to endeavor to clearly see it.
Paul prays for the Philippians in strict accord with the nature of the Kingdom. He does not ask the Lord to help them simply survive. His request involves more than them not being deceived by the Tempter (as with Corinth, 2 Cor 11:3). All of that is involved–but there is more! He seeks for them to be“filled with the fruits of righteousness.” And what are these “fruits”? Elsewhere the Scriptures speak of the “fruit (singular) of righteousness” (Heb 12:11; James 3:18). Both the singular and plural form of the word describe the same thing. Using the singular, it would be like saying the fruit of a tree, orthe fruit of the vine–a plurality of inherent in the word.
“Fruits of righteousness” refers to sanctification–the outgrowth of spiritual life. When God imputes His own righteousness to us (Rom 4:6-22), it is designed to have an effect within us. Just as sin, when we were without Christ, expressed itself through our members, so does righteousness. As it is written, “for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” (Rom 6:19). This is the abundant life to which Jesus referred, when the Divine nature expresses itself through us. This is done with our consent, and in accordance with our desires.
To be “filled with the fruits of righteousness” equates to “always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58). It is the condition described in Colossians 3:17. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” The persons so filled do not live for themselves, but for the Lord. In a very real sense, they confess with Paul, “Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
There is no room in such an individual for worldly ambition. The capacity is there, to be sure, but the “filled” person will not allow that ability to sit upon the throne of his heart.
It is possible for the believer to be “filled with the fruits of righteousness”–to be so dominated by faith that “to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). God is able to work within us in a manner greater than we think (Eph 3:20). Being filled with the fruits of righteousness is when He DOES!
WHICH ARE BY CHRIST JESUS
“ . . .which are by Jesus Christ . . . ” (KJV). While bringing forth fruit involves considerable effort by us, that effort is not the CAUSE of being“filled with the fruits of righteousness.” In a very real sense, much of our effort is spent in casting down inhibiting influences, and ridding ourselves of competitive interests (2 Cor 10:4-5). The “fruits” themselves are “by Christ Jesus.” He is the One Who causes them to spring forth. This is the circumstance described in the words, “Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
Jesus spoke of this productive indwelling when He said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). It is nothing less than the life of the “Vine” producing fruit in the “branches” that abide in It (John 15:4). As the Mediator of the New Covenant, Jesus not only remits our sins and gives us a new nature, He works the will of God within us.
Herein is a marvelous thing. We have a heavenly treasure in an earthly vessel. On the exterior, we have a weak and condemned frame, but within everlasting life resides. This is described in the words, “And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Rom 8:10, NASB). The KJV refers to the “Spirit” (Holy Spirit), while other versions use “spirit” (human spirit). There is no contradiction here, because the Holy Spirit and the human spirit are joined together in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 6:17). Both refer to the same blessed reality.
The idea is that Jesus lives within us. He can do so because we have been made righteous in Him. That righteousness, however, is made productive by Him. He exhibits the Divine life through our thoughts, words, and deeds, thereby producing “the fruits of righteousness.” This involves more than simply doing what is correct, or approved by God. It involves participation with Christ in His great work–the work He is currently doing.
Take, for example, the matter of Christ’s intercession. He “ever liveth to make intercession” for those being saved (Heb 7:25). In our text, Paul joins in that ordained work, interceding for the Philippians, praying they will be“filled with the fruits of righteousness.” Jesus also declared He is “the Good Shepherd,” giving His life for the sheep, knowing, leading, and feeding them (John 10:11-14). In the book of Philippians, we see Paul joining in the work– doing the same thing. He is not emulating, or copying Christ. It is Christ producing “the fruits of righteousness” in him. The benefit of Paul’s life to others involved his own commitment and discipline–but it was “by Christ Jesus.” He did not preach and teach as a scholar, but as one joined to Jesus.
Paul knows this experience was not uniquely his. He prays the Philippians may enter into the same glorious fellowship. Christ is in them, and Paul desired a full measure of fruit to be produced in them as well. This would mean they would enter into the work of the Lord with great zeal and expectation. If they were “filled with the fruits of righteousness,” other competitive involvements would be pushed into a subordinate position. As a consequence, Christ would work in them mightily, producing fruit that would both satisfy them, benefit others, and glorify God.
UNTO THE PRAISE AND GLORY OF GOD
“ . . . unto the glory and praise of God” (KJV). Here we come to the very heart of salvation–the purpose for it all. The redemption that is in Christ Jesus involves the rescue of fallen humanity, but that is not its primary objective.“The praise and glory of God” is fundamental in every aspect of His “eternal purpose.” This is never placed into the background, allowing human needs or interests to drive the Kingdom agenda. It is evident from the general condition of Christendom that this is not common knowledge.
For example, God has given us to the Son, in order that He might bring us to glory (John 6:39; 17:24; Heb 2:10,13). Jesus, praise the Lord, has received us. When apprehended, the outcome of this reception brings spiritual perspective. “Christ also received us to the glory of God” (Rom 15:7). The NIV reads, “Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Were it not for God and His glory, Jesus would not have received or accepted us! It is God who sent, sustained, raised, exalted, and enthroned the Son. And it is God that will ultimately receive the glory, i.e., “that God may be all in all”(1 Cor 15:28). Jesus is God’s Lamb, Christ, and King (John 1:29; Acts 4:26; Psa 2:6). Everything our Savior has done and is doing is for God’s glory.
As Jesus lives within us, He will not depart from His declared agenda.While in the world he confessed, “the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19). In everything He did, He was driven by the will of God. He delivered us from this present evil world “according to the will of God and our Father” (Gal 1:4). When we see the accomplishments of Jesus from the heavenly perspective, we understand the will of God, and glory in His wisdom.
In the end, God will receive glory for the greatness of His salvation. He planned it and He wrought it through Christ. His wisdom is being made known “now” to heavenly powers “through the church” (Eph 3:9-10). As Jesus works in us to produce “the fruits of righteousness,” God Himself is receiving praise and glory from these heavenly hosts. Praise and glory are also redounding to Him from those who benefit spiritually from such productivity (2 Cor 4:15). Such praise and glory are produced when it is apparent that God, through Christ, has worked in us “that which is well pleasing in His sight”(Heb 13:21). Those perceiving this are drawn closer to Christ through the“fruits” they have witnessed.
Remember, Paul has prayed the Philippians will be “filled with the fruits of righteousness.” He is jealous for the glory of God--like Jesus was when He cleansed the temple. He does not come to bring honor to the governor, or to exalt some ecclesiastical figure. He desires for the Lord to be known, and for His knowledge to fill the earth, as well as heaven. He also knows salvation is calculated to cause this to happen. When a great painter produces a masterpiece, the glory does not go to the painting, but to the one who painted it. So it is with salvation. When the “fruits of righteousness” are found in people, the glory does not go to those in whom they are found, but to the One who has produced them “by Christ Jesus.”