Life-Study of Philippiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider four very important terms used by Paul in Philippians: grace, salvation, the Spirit, and Christ. In 1:7 Paul tells the Philippians, “Both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel you are all partakers of my grace” (lit.). Notice that here Paul speaks of “my grace.” Then in verse 19 he goes on to say, “For I know that for me this shall turn out to salvation through your petition and the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” In this verse Paul speaks of salvation and of the Spirit. Then in verses 20 and 21 he says, “Even now Christ shall be magnified in my body...For to me to live is Christ.”
In these verses grace, salvation, the Spirit, and Christ are not defined in a doctrinal way. Rather, they are related to experience. When Paul says “my grace,” he is referring to grace in his experience. Likewise, when he tells us that for him this will turn out to salvation, he is not speaking of a mere objective salvation, a doctrinal salvation, but of a very experiential salvation. Furthermore, when he mentions the Spirit, he is surely speaking of the Spirit in his experience. Certainly his word about magnifying Christ and living Him is very subjective and experiential. In verses 20 and 21 we do not have an objective Christ, but the subjective Christ in Paul’s living.
Unfortunately, many Christians have the habit of taking things for granted in their reading of the Bible. Familiar with such terms as grace, salvation, the Spirit, and Christ, they may assume that they understand them. However, if they are asked to explain these things, they may have difficulty. For example, what does Paul mean by “my grace”? Furthermore, what does Paul mean by “my salvation” (KJV)? When Paul wrote this Epistle, he had been saved for many years and had even become an apostle. Why then does he indicate that he still needs salvation? Since we are already saved, why do we still need to be saved? What did Paul mean by saying that all that was happening to him, persecution, imprisonment, and even the dissenting preaching out of rivalry, would turn out for him to salvation? What kind of salvation is he talking about?
It would not at all be accurate to try to answer this question by asserting that salvation is not complete. Rather, we need to point out that, according to the Bible, there is more than one kind of salvation. God’s salvation rescues us from His condemnation. As sinners, we were condemned by the righteous God according to His righteous law. Thus, we were in need of salvation. Praise the Lord that we have been saved from God’s condemnation by the redemption of Christ! Furthermore, as sinners, we were under the usurping hand of Satan and under the power of death, destined for hell. Therefore, we needed a salvation that could save us from hell. However, in addition to being saved from God’s condemnation and from hell, we also need other kinds of salvation. For example, we need to be saved from our temper. Young and old alike need to be delivered from a bad temper. Furthermore, husbands and wives need to experience salvation in their married life. The wives need a certain kind of salvation, and the husbands need another kind of salvation, for both face different situations and problems. By these examples we can see that there is more than one kind of salvation presented in the Bible. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he needed a certain kind of salvation.
The kind of salvation we need depends on our situation. If we are under God’s judgment, we need a salvation that rescues us from this. If we are under Satan’s hand, we need a salvation appropriate to that situation. Likewise, if we are troubled by our temper or face difficulties in our married life, we need still further kinds of salvation. Because Paul was a prisoner, he needed a salvation that applied to his situation in prison. Paul, a Jew, was not a prisoner in an ordinary jail; he was a prisoner of Caesar’s royal guard, the praetorium. Paul’s case was extraordinary. He had not committed any crime. His imprisonment was due to the fact that he preached Christ. Because he preached Christ, Paul was arrested and eventually imprisoned. At least part of the time each day, he was chained to a guard. No doubt, Paul suffered there in prison. He must have been despised and treated with contempt. To be sure, he needed a specific kind of salvation. By this I do not mean that what he needed was release from prison. No, he needed to experience salvation there in prison.
He says in verse 20, “According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be put to shame, but with all boldness, as always, even now Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether through life or through death.” Here we see that Paul’s expectation was that he would not be put to shame. Suppose Paul wept over his situation. Would not that have been a shame? His weeping would have indicated that he was defeated, that he had lost his faith, confidence, and trust in the Lord. Or suppose that Paul became angry with the jailer and argued with him. This also would have been a shame. However, if Paul could rejoice no matter how he was treated, that would be a glory. In order to maintain such a victorious standing as an apostle of Christ, Paul needed a particular kind of salvation.
In verse 20 we see two aspects of the salvation needed by Paul. The first aspect was that Paul would not be put to shame in anything; the second, that Christ would be magnified in Paul’s body. Paul expected that his situation would turn out to his salvation so that in nothing he would be put to shame, but that Christ would be magnified in his body. Here Paul seems to be saying, “I need salvation so that I shall not be put to shame by suffering or persecution. Instead, Christ my Lord will be magnified in my body.”
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