COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.” (Phil 2:14-16, NKJV)
The apostle thought of both living and dying within the context of salvation. He had been liberated from the dreadful curse of considering things according to appearance. Whether things were going well or not, he looked at the things that are not seen, thereby obtaining strength and hope. Now we see the faith of an Apostle joining with and complementing the faith of those who had received his Gospel. This kind of harmony cannot be realized in the flesh. There is but “one faith,” and it brings not only people of diversity together, but joins and sanctifies the extremes of human circumstance.
OFFERED AS A SACRIFICE
“Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering . . . ” (NKJV). The KJV reads, “if I be offered . . . ” The word means “to pour out as a libation, or drink offering,” and is so translated in most versions.
The reference is to the “drink offerings” of old time. Jacob was the first to present such an offering (Gen 35:14). After God had “talked” with Jacob, confirming the Abrahamic covenant with him, Jacob set up a stone pillar in memory of the event. He then poured oil upon it as a “drink offering.”
“Drink offerings” were also prescribed under the Law, differing in measures according to the type of animal that was sacrificed (Num 15:5,7,9). A drink offering referred to the pouring out of wine, offered with various sacrifices (see Num 15:1-12; 28:7,8,24). They accompanied another sacrifice, sanctifying it before the Lord.
Here Paul reveals how much of the spirit of Christ was within him. He has already declared the condescension of our Savior in laying Divinity aside to come into the world and die. The Savior “emptied Himself,” pouring Himself out, so to speak. Now Paul speaks of his own impending death in the same manner–a pouring out of himself.
From the standpoint of appearance, Paul’s incarceration seemed to be something forced upon him. And, indeed, from a lower point of view, that was the case. He was “bound” and in chains (2 Tim 2:9). From a higher point of view, however, he was pouring himself out. He submitted to the confinement rather than deny the Lord–he poured himself out. He chose to suffer with Christ rather than enjoy freedom at the expense of his faith–he poured himself out.
His was a voluntary sacrifice, not one accomplished by coercion. He had, in fact, presented his body as a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God”(Rom 12:1). Like Moses, he CHOSE to suffer affliction with the people of God (Heb 11:25).
Notice, this is something He is in the process of doing: “If I am beingpoured out . . . ” His heart was in the matter. He was in fellowship with Christ (1 Cor 1:9) as he passed through the experience of suffering. He refused to view his circumstances from a fleshly point of view. Rather, he saw them as an extension of his service to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The relevance of this to all believers should be apparent. We too will pass through experiences that are less than comfortable. Often, our faith will be the very occasion of our suffering, provoking wicked people to inflict sorrow upon us. How should we react when these things occur? We must view such suffering as “for righteousness sake” (Matt 5:10), and for Christ’s sake (Matt 5:11). It is an occasion when we are summoned to deny ourselves, “take up”our cross and follow Jesus (Matt 16:24).
Our reaction to these times of sorrow can be our drink offering–our libation poured out unto the Lord. It is the forfeiture of personal advantages and comfort of life in order to remain in fellowship with Christ Jesus. Such sacrifices are pleasing to the Lord, and will not go unrewarded. May each of us be given grace to view our circumstances in association with our Lord.
A SACRIFICE UPON A SACRIFICE
“ . . . on the sacrifice and service of your faith . . . ” (NKJV). Paul’s suffering is like an accompanying drink offering–a sacrifice offered in association with another sacrifice. He refers to the “Sacrifice and service” of the Philippian’s faith. The RSV says “the sacrificial offering of your faith.” The reference is to the work of the priests of old, who were continually offering up sacrifices to God. While those ancient sacrifices have been obviated by the death of “the Lamb of God,” the work of sacrifice goes on.
Sacrifices under the Law were offered in response to a command. In Christ, faith is the driving force behind sacrifice and offering. The “sacrifice and service of your faith” refers to presentation of ones entire person to God–something motivated by faith. The persuasion that God is, and that He is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6) proves to be the superior motivation for godliness.
This is a sacrifice that is total–like a “whole burnt offering” (Psa 51:19). In most remarkable words, Paul elsewhere refers to “the offering up of the Gentiles” being “acceptable” to God through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:16). In this text, the same sanctification is viewed from the standpoint of the individual’s involvement–“faith.”
Faith is the sanctifying element in all spiritual sacrifice. It is to our offering what salt was to the Old Covenant offerings–a necessary accompaniment (Lev 2:13). “Without faith, it is impossible to please” God (Heb 11:6). While that is generally acknowledged to be the truth, there appears to be an alarming absence of faith in much of what is offered to God. A lively awareness of God, Christ, and a great salvation is not as common as it could be in this day of salvation.
Here we behold the glorious unity of every aspect of salvation. The living of the Philippians and the dying of the Apostle are related to the same sacrifice. Their faith is exhibited in serving the Lord in life. His is revealed in serving the Lord in death. But both blend together, for they are devoted to the same Lord, and motivated by the same faith.
There are few things as divers as life and death. Ordinarily, they might be considered as wholly unrelated. But behold what a great thing has been achieved in Christ! Now the two have been brought together. Little wonder it is said that both “life” and “death” belong to us (1 Cor 3:22). Christ is truly“magnified” in both the life and death of the believer (Phil 1:20). How different, indeed, from “the fear of death” that dominated prior to Christ (Heb 2:15). Now living is an offering to God, and so is dying.
The Philippians were living for the same cause for which Paul was dying. Therefore, his life was being poured out upon their sacrificial life as a sanctifying drink offering. His dying brought a sweet savor to their living, even as the drink offerings of old brought a sweet aroma to the animal sacrifices (Num 15:7,10,24; 28:8).
Because the Gospel preached by Paul had been embraced by the Philippians, they would gain every advantage from his faith–whether by his life or death. God would favor the Philippians because of Paul.
AN OCCASION FOR REJOICING
“ . . . I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me” (NKJV). Remember, the Apostle is viewing his coming death. He sees it as a voluntary offering to God that joins with the faith of the Philippians. He now confesses that He is gladdened by such a consideration. When the circumstances of life seemingly turned against him, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation”(2 Cor 7:4). To the Colossians he wrote, “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church” (Col 1:24). His view of hardship was NOT that of one being oppressed, but of one in fellowship with the Savior. He correctly saw suffering for righteousness as some of Christ’s adversities left behind for us to experience. They would not be greater than we could bear, but would allow us to have a closer relationship with our Savior.
Now Paul comes to the matter of his own death, and rejoices in the contemplation of it. It will be his ultimate offering to the Lord. He knows death belongs to those in Christ (1 Cor 3:22), and that it cannot separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:38-39). He knows a crown of righteousness awaits him on the other side (2 Tim 4:8), and that his warfare is about to be completed. No wonder he rejoices.
But his rejoicing is not in isolation. He says “I am glad and rejoice WITH YOU ALL.” In the Philippians the Apostle has found kindred spirits with whom he can rejoice in the most personal of all experiences–his death. He could tell them about his anticipation, knowing they would understand. Those with whom such things can be shared are a rich treasure, indeed. The Philippians knew they had not only profited from Paul’s life, they would also be advantaged by his death. Perhaps they would share some of his life as the prophet Elisha did the mantel of Elijah following his translation (2 Kgs 2:9-14). I do not know the extent to which the sharing of grace received by others can be experienced. God did put “of the spirit” that was upon Moses on seventy men (Num 11:25). The spirit of Elijah did rest upon Elisha (2 Kgs 2:15). The “spirit and power of Elijah” was also found in John the Baptist (Lk 1:17). It is a subject worthy of your consideration.
Now Paul exhorts the Philippians to join him in joy. Not only will death be “gain” for Paul–and not only will his death be “gain” for them–their own death will be “gain” for them also (Phil 1:21). They, as well as he, have a“house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1). The Apostle’s works would “follow” him, and their’s would follow them (Rev 14:13). By looking beyond this world, the Philippians could join in the joy.
From one point of view, the death of the Apostle would be a serious loss. But that is not the only view. From another, it would pave the way for the future, proving the superiority of salvation under all circumstances. The power of the Gospel would not diminish, but rather be enhanced, by the death of the faithful soldier. No eternal advantage would be lost for those maintaining their faith. Here is a perspective that can be experienced in far larger measures than is common. It is on the part of wisdom to pursue it.