COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9, KJV)
Our text will show us the wonderful correlation between receiving the truth and our daily lives. While religious men can spend a great deal of time ordering their views, and constructing neatly packaged theologies, we are here told to live in harmony with the truth. This is done by allowing the truth to dwell in us. This occurs when we concentrate on the truth, refusing to be distracted from it. There is no place in the Kingdom of God for living in contradiction of the truth. Because we are regularly subjected to influences that suggest otherwise, we must be continually apprized of this fact. As soon as the truth of the Gospel is not given the dominant place in our hearts, the benefits of that Gospel are also forfeited. It is staggering to consider how successful Satan has been in convincing religious people that this is not the case. However, the truth of God and the peace of God cannot be possessed unless the God of truth and peace is resident within.
THINGS LEARNED AND RECEIVED
“The things you have learned and received . . . ” (NASB). In Christ, there is a whole world of new realities. Everything has not only become “new” (2 Cor 5:17), we have come into a realm of additional realities. In this single book, the word “THINGS” is mentioned at least 28 times in our English Bibles. This is actually a very general word. It does not have reference to a particular reality, but to the whole of what is being addressed. Thus, in this book, the Spirit refers to “excellent” things, “things in heaven,” “things in earth,” and “things under the earth” (1:10; 2:10).
There are also “the things which are Jesus’ Christ’s” and “earthly things” (2:21; 3:19).
In each of these instances, reference is made to a whole category of realities. There is a realm in which EVERYTHING is “excellent.” They are“excellent” because of the domain in which they are found. The “things” from one realm cannot be transferred to another: they are adapted for a specific domain and cannot be mixed with another. Thus “the things which are Jesus’ Christ’s” cannot be mingled with “earthly things.”This is why Paul counted “all things” from the cursed realm “loss” that he might “win Christ” (3:8). He knew you cannot handle heavenly things while embracing this world.
When Paul refers to “those things” the people had “learned” and“received” from him, he was emphasizing the thrust and substance of his message. He consistently spoke of matters from a heavenly perspective, never becoming fascinated with the affairs of “this present evil world.” He did not speak about the government or social issues of Philippi. He provided no diagnosis of the political environment, or the imminence of national conflicts. Instead, he invariably spoke of heavenly realities. He trafficked in subjects that found their relevance in Jesus Christ and His great redemption.
When you heard or read the Apostle Paul, you “learned” of things“pertaining to life and godliness.” He was never diverted from that emphasis. Everything was viewed from the standpoint of “the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim 2:10). You “learned” about God, Christ, justification, glorification, and the ministry of God and Christ to the redeemed. You “learned” about the transitory nature of this world, and the necessity of refusing it dominance. These were “the things” that became clear through his writing and preaching. Any of his letters will confirm this.
It is one thing to “learn,” it is another to “receive.” To “receive”something is to embrace it–to shape our lives around it, and adjust our thinking to it. Receiving is no mere formality–not just subscribing to a creed. When the truth is “received” it becomes effective in the individual. For example, those who “receive” Christ Jesus are given “power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12). In the Kingdom of God, receiving equals blessing.
Learning about and receiving heavenly realities involves an upward look and a forward stance. When we learn and receive, we embrace a whole new order of things–heavenly goods. Our hearts and minds move out of the defiled realm into a new domain. The Philippians were being oriented for heaven because they accepted what God had sent them through the Apostle Paul. Their minds were being cultured to think the thoughts of God, and they themselves were being brought into participation with the reign of Jesus.
THINGS HEARD AND SEEN
“ . . . and heard and seen in me . . . ” (NASB). There is a very wonderful truth seen here. Remember, we are speaking of “the things” that belong to another sphere. They are heavenly realities that are eternal, and can only be appropriated in Christ Jesus and by faith. They are both real and accessible.
Now we see that these “things” were both heard and seen in a mortal man! Thus, the realm of heaven was made known through one of its citizens. This is nothing less than “the life of Jesus” being made known “in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor 4:11). That life was not only revealed in the experience of and response to suffering, but in the words and deportment of the Apostle. There was only one way to account for the manner in which he spoke, and the custom in which he lived–“the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (2:21). His education did not make him what he was. Nor, indeed, were his Jewish culture and personal discipline responsible for his distinction among men.
When the Holy Spirit dwells within a person, a spiritual resurrection, or quickening takes place. The Scriptures affirm this in these words. “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom 8:11NKJV). Thus, heavenly realities that become the object of our attention (as in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18), are actually tasted, or experienced, by the believer. The extent of this participation is referred to in the sixth chapter of Hebrews. The regenerative life is thus explained: “who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Verses 4-5). This involves a transformation by which we are made more and more like Christ–i.e., conformed to His image. As it is written, “And all of us . . . are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18, NASB).
What Paul is saying in our text is this: my participation in the heavenly life has affected the way I speak and live. He did not speak of earthly things because they were not the focus of his attention. He spoke of “heavenly things” (John 3:12; Heb 8:5; 9:23), because they WERE the objects of his concentration. He was not merely spouting a sectarian creed, or mimicking something he had learned in the rabbinical schools. His heart had been captivated by the things that were “true,” “honest,” “just,” “pure,” “lovely,”and of “good report.” This was seen in what he said and how he lived.
Those who speak for Christ “adorn the doctrine” with their conduct (Tit 2:10). I do not speak of mere morality, although that is involved. This is a manner of life in which the whole reason for living is Christ. He is the solitary focus of the individual, and receiving what He administers the sole quest of life. Truth is to be SEEN in the individual as well as heard from him! That means heavenly life can be lived out before the eyes of our peers. Jesus, who was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), is the fulness of this truth. There was never a conflict between His life and His message, or His manner and His words. Through Him, heavenly things were both heard and seen.
PRACTICE AND PEACE
“ . . . practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you”(NASB). It is not enough to hear the truth, or even to see it lived out before our very eyes. The truth of God obtains power in us when it is DONE. Just as surely as some “DO NOT the truth” (1 John 1:6), those who know the LordDO it! I fear that we are living in a time when philosophy and theological position have been elevated above faith. There is far too much talk about what men believe, and far too little emphasis on the truth working in us (1 Thess 2:13). Paul does not admonish the Philippians to codify what he has taught, neatly outlining it and developing an official creed for their fellowship. Rather, he admonishes them to “DO,” or “practice these things.”
The spirit now associates the peace of God with DOING the truth: the revelation of the life of Christ in our lives. Prior to this, the peace of God is promised to keep our hearts and minds if we will but make our requests known to the Lord with thanksgiving. Now the matter is taken even further. The Spirit will not allow us to think of God’s peace only in association with trouble and personal needs. To be effective, the peace of God must find a permanent residence in our hearts. Like all Divine gifts, what is granted is to be retained at all cost. Throughout Scripture, the necessity of maintaining what God has given to us is emphasized. This includes Christ Himself, the Holy Spirit, faith, hope, etc. Although men have done their best to distort this vein of teaching, it remains a powerful emphasis of the Spirit.
Notice that the peace of God remaining with us depends upon us DOING what we have learned, received, heard, and seen. Let it be clear in your mind, peace will not remain in the one whose life contradicts heaven and salvation. If there is no basic harmony between the individual and the truth of the Gospel, there will be no experience of Divine peace.
But let us get more to the heart of the text. It is not peace itself that will remain with us, but the “GOD of peace!” Before, the Spirit spoke of “the peace of God.” Now He speaks of “the God of peace.” This description of God is used five times in Scripture (Rom 15:33; 16:20; Phil 4:9; 1 Thess 5:23; Heb 13:20). We are thus taught to associate this peace with its Source rather than its effects. This peace will not be found where God is not present, and it will not be lacking where He resides.
While the peace of God is given to us, keeps our hearts and minds, and rules over adversity, it is not the real point. The real need is to have God Himself “with us.” If we will separate ourselves from defiling influences, and heartily embrace the things He gives to us, God promises, “I will dwell in them and walk among them . . . I will be a Father to you” (2 Cor 6:16-18).
The Apostle was not ashamed or hesitant to speak in this manner, and neither should we be vacillating in so speaking. When the truth of the Gospel is brought into the heart, preferred above all other things, and lived out, the presence of God will be realized. In the awareness of this marvelous dwelling,“we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Heb 13:6). Then let us heed the words of our text, taking hold on the truth we have learned, received, heard, and seen. God has told us what He will do for us, when we will do this for Him.