Life-Study of Philippiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 1:7-11 Paul uses a number of important terms. He speaks of “the defense of the gospel,” “the confirmation of the gospel,” “full knowledge,” “all discernment,” “proving by testing,” and “the fruit of righteousness.” In verse 8 he even refers to the “inward parts of Christ Jesus.” The key to understanding these verses and all the terms and expressions they contain is the experience of Christ. The experience of Christ is the master key which opens the door to the book of Philippians. It is proper to say that the defense of the gospel, the confirmation of the gospel, knowledge, discernment, proving by testing, purity, and the fruit of righteousness are all Christ Himself. Yes, even the defense of the gospel is Christ. If we do not have Christ, there is no way for us to defend the gospel. We can defend it only by Christ, not by eloquence. It is possible to preach the gospel and even to mention Christ quite often without having the reality of Christ in our speaking. In such a preaching of the gospel, there is no ministry of Christ to others. The way to defend the gospel is to minister Christ. Christ is also the genuine confirmation of the gospel, for He is the centrality, the focal point, of the gospel. Apart from Him, there is no confirmation of the gospel.
True knowledge and discernment are also Christ Himself. If we experience Christ day by day, we shall be filled with knowledge and discernment. We shall discern matters not by our natural cleverness, but by the Christ who lives within us. Our experience of Christ will make us wise and tactful. The indwelling Christ is our perceptive power. Although I was a true seeker after the Lord when I was young, I did not know that Christ could be my discernment, my tact, and my perception. But through the years I have come to see that He is the very ability by which I can see into the nature of things. The indwelling Christ is my perception.
In reading the book of Philippians, we need to remember that the experience of Christ is the subject and main emphasis of this book. The controlling factor enabling us to understand Philippians is the experience of Christ. Every aspect of the book is governed by this subject. This is the reason we say that the experience of Christ is the master key which opens the book of Philippians to us. If we apply this key to every verse and phrase in the book, we shall see that Paul’s concern here is nothing other than the experience of Christ. For example, in suffering for the gospel we may enjoy grace. To enjoy grace is to experience Christ. In Philippians 3 Paul speaks not of grace, but of the power of Christ’s resurrection. However, the power of resurrection in chapter three is the very grace in chapter one. Furthermore, to enter into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings is to suffer for the gospel. This indicates that even in suffering for the sake of the gospel, we need to experience Christ. Although Paul uses many different terms in this book, his subject is one—the experience of Christ. Therefore, if we wish to understand Philippians, we need to read it in light of the fact that its subject is the experience of Christ.
In this message we shall consider the different ways of preaching Christ. According to 1:15-17, some preach Christ out of envy and strife, announcing Him out of rivalry, whereas others preach Christ out of love, with a pure motive. In this matter, today’s situation is the same as that faced by Paul in the first century. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, there were different ways of preaching Christ. The same is true today.
In 1:15 Paul says, “Some indeed preach Christ even because of envy and strife.” The word some here refers to those Christians who were opposing Paul and his ministry (2 Cor. 10:7; 11:22-23). Even at Paul’s time there were some who preached the gospel from envy of Paul’s influence and in strife with him. As the Greek word rendered strife indicates, they preached Christ because of faction and partisanship. In 1:17 Paul goes on to say that these “announce Christ out of rivalry, not purely, thinking to raise up affliction in my bonds.” The Greek word for rivalry denotes “self-seeking, selfish ambition, faction.” In Greek the word affliction means “pressure.” Those who announced Christ out of rivalry endeavored to make Paul’s bonds press him more heavily by depreciating him and his ministry while he was laid aside outwardly from his preaching.
Paul’s affliction in bonds was not mainly due to his preaching of the gospel, but to his defense of the gospel. The Judaizers mixed the gospel with the law and circumcision, but Paul defended the gospel. This caused the riot which put him into bonds (Acts 21:27-36).
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