COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me” (Phil 1:29-30)
The truth of salvation by grace permeates everything written by the Apostle of the Gentiles. Even in his most personal remarks, Paul finds a place to reaffirm the nature of our participation in reconciliation. While men are prone to zealously guard doctrines that support their particular persuasions, the Apostle is careful to give glory to God in all matters. By so doing, he removes the glory from man, and encourages thanksgiving and praise. Proper responses to life are the result of accurate spiritual perception. Each of us can contribute to the stability of our brethren by encouraging spiritual insight.
FOR CHRIST’S SAKE
“For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake . . . ” (NASB). Everything related to salvation is associated with the Lord Jesus Christ. Remove Him from the picture, and there is no salvation, either doctrinally or experientially. For example, God has forgiven us: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Eph 4:32). Other versions read “God in Christ . . . ” The idea is that were it not for Christ, God would not have forgiven us. He, and He alone, removed our sins, and He alone has the merit.
The word “sake” means by reason of, or on account of. For “Christ’s sake,” therefore, means on account of, or because of, Him. It is important that we see the implications of this declaration. First, this puts the salvation of God, in all of its fulness, within our grasp. While God does behold our persons and our progress, He is motivated by His Son. He has not only exalted Jesus, but deals favorable with men because of Him.
This is precisely why the Kingdom of God is Christ-centered. Anything that pushes Jesus to the periphery moves us beyond the blessing of God.Neither faith nor the fellowship of Christ’s suffering will ever be realized while Jesus remains in the background of men’s thinking. I cannot overemphasize the enormous penalty that is paid when men choose to emphasize an institution, movement, or humanly-devised doctrine.
Just as God Himself is motivated by the Lord Jesus, so those who are blessed in Him are constrained by a consideration of Christ. The Apostles preached, placing themselves in the background, because of Jesus. “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake” (2 Cor 4:5). They subjected themselves to great dangers, in order that the life of Jesus might be made known through them. “For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor 4:11). Jesus is the reason for the grace of God toward men. He is also the reason for all valid Kingdom labors.
In the last analysis, Jesus Christ is the only man God honors. Everything hinges on Him! God will NOT confer a blessing independently of Him. Our faith and our suffering are both determined by Christ–both by His relation to God, and our relation to Him. Few texts of Scripture affirm this any stronger than the fifth chapter of Romans. The “grace of God” and the “gift by grace”are because of Jesus (Rom 5:15). The “free gift” results in the “justification”of sinners, is because of Jesus (Rom 5:16). The “reign in life” by the saints is because of Jesus (Rom 5:17). We are “made righteous” because of Jesus (Rom 5:19). It is through Christ, and Christ alone, that grace reigns to“eternal life” (Rom 5:21). God has received and blessed us because of Christ, and Him alone. We are to view both our faith and our suffering for Him asevidence God has received us, and is preparing us for glory.
Cursed, therefore, be any and every approach to God that minimizes the Lord Jesus Christ. When other things are allowed to upstage Jesus, we move beyond the domain of blessing, and into the realm of cursing
BELIEVING IS A GIFT
“For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake . . . to believe in Him . . .” (KJV). Our intellect is involved in believing, but it is not the whole of the matter. Often faith is portrayed as the result of weighing evidence, then accepting the affirmation confirmed by the evidence. It is particularly fashionable in academic circles to view believing in this manner.
Our will is also involved in believing, but neither is it the whole of the matter. Wanting to believe does not make it so. We see this in the expression of a man confronted with the possibilities of faith. “I believe help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Even then, “help” is given “for Christ’s sake,” or “in the behalf of Christ” (KJV).
CALLED TO BELIEVE. The fact that we have been “given to believe”confirms this is God’s objective for us. This is the means through which the righteousness of God is conferred upon us (Rom 1:17; 3:22; 4:5,13; Phil 3:9). It is also what makes us pleasing to the Lord (Heb 11:5-6). Faith, or believing the record God has given us His Son (1 John 5:10-11), is the sole means of appropriating Divine benefits. Our level of attainment in the Kingdom of God is primarily measured by our faith.
IT HAS BEEN GRANTED. Although we have often referred to the gift of faith, I never tire of its consideration. It is ever true that we have “believed through grace” (Acts 18:27). In a poignant expression of the source of our salvation, Scripture affirms, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Some linguists, unduly influenced by their preconceived theology, insist that the phrase “it is the gift of God” has no reference to “faith,” but to the salvation which faith appropriates. Our text, however, confirms faith, or believing, to be part of that great salvation. Whether in its beginning or in its ending, we have“obtained like precious faith” (2 Pet 1:1). Too, when it is said God “purified their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8), the whole of the action is attributed to God Himself. God has “allotted to each a measure of faith” (Rom 12:3, NASB).
KEEP THE FAITH. The fact that is has been “given” to us to believe sheds a great deal of light on keeping the faith. This is, in fact, a mark of the saints of God (Rev 14:12; 2 Tim 4:7). What the Lord has given to us is to be maintained and increased. When it was “given to us to believe,” we did not receive faith in full bloom, but in the bud. That faith, because it came from the Lord, can increase through Him. The disciples sensed this while Jesus was among them. Remember their request? “Increase our faith” (Lk 17:5). Paul commended the Thessalonians for the surpassing growth of their faith (2 Thess 1:3). That growth was evidence of Divine activity.
Jesus is truly “the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Heb 12:2). It might interest you to know that the word used in this text (faith--πίστεως) is used 94 times from Acts through 1 Peter. In every single instance, it is used of“faith” as ordinarily represented–“the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Such faith was authored, or originated, in us by the Lord Jesus. Faith is a gracious gift vouchsafed to us for Jesus sake, in order that we might lay hold on eternal life.
THE GIFT OF SUFFERING
“ . . . For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake . . . to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (NASB). Suffering is not pleasant, but it is sanctified in Christ Jesus. Here the Spirit brings us to consider the ultimate reason for our suffering – it is a gracious gift from God, for Jesus’ sake. The suffering of reference is “for His sake.” Such suffering does result from righteousness, but it is also evidence that the Kingdom of God already belongs to us (Matt 5:10). This is the perspective of our text.
The gift of suffering is NOT an end of itself, but the means to an end. The objective is to “reign” with Christ. The means to that end is suffering with Christ (2 Tim 2:12). Because this world is “evil” (Gal 1:4), and those belonging to its order “alienated from the life of God” (Eph 4:18; Col 1:21), there are consequences to being identified with Christ Jesus. Well did Jesus say, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
If God has “granted” us to suffer for Christ’s sake, that suffering cannot alienate us from Him. This is involved in the Spirit’s affirmation, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom 8:35-37). Rather than such adversities being viewed as curses, or evidences of Divine withdrawal, they are to be seen as gifts–preludes to glorification.
The gift of suffering for Jesus’ sake is a means of qualifying us for glory. As it is written, “your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer” (2 Thess 1:4-5). The “righteous judgment of God” is to be seen in the suffering itself, as well as those through whom it came. In it, saints are “counted worthy of the Kingdom” and their persecutors made worthy of tribulation God will heap on them (2 Thess 1:6).
It is no wonder the Apostles, after being beaten “departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). In their sufferings they saw a confirmation of Divine acceptance and future reward. Their rejection by the enemies of God verified their reconciliation to Him.
Suffering is granted in direct proportion to the reward reserved for us in heaven. Remember, our role in the Kingdom is appointed; i.e., God places the members in the body where it has pleased Him (John 15:16; 1 Cor 12:18,28). Take Paul as an example. The Lord placed him in a high position, therefore great suffering was also allotted to him (Acts 9:16). In suffering for Jesus’ sake, “the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet 4:14), a most remarkable circumstance. That Spirit is “given” to us, and is what causes the suffering to occur. Once seen, this circumstance produces great confidence.
In view of this, let us speak more of the glory than the suffering. Let us behold in our sufferings for Christ evidence of the future glory. The Giver of the suffering will not allow them to overcome us as we walk by faith.