Life-Study of Philippiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Immediately after speaking about forbearance, Paul goes on to say, “The Lord is near.” As I have indicated, I do not oppose the understanding that this refers to the nearness of the Lord’s coming. Nevertheless, according to experience, not according to doctrine, I would say that this word refers to the Lord’s presence with us today. It also strengthens Paul’s exhortation that we make our forbearance known to all men. Because the Lord is near, we have no excuse for not making known our forbearance. Often we fail to exercise forbearance because we forget that the Lord is near. We do not even remember that He is actually within us. When a brother’s wife serves him a cold drink instead of a hot one, will he care for the drink or for the Lord? If he cares about the drink instead of the Lord, then in his experience only the drink will be at hand, for the Lord will be far away. Because we do not realize that the Lord is near, we do not exercise forbearance. Instead, we are strict in dealing with others and make exacting demands of them without considering their situation. The more we realize the nearness of the Lord, the more satisfied we shall be and the more we shall be considerate of others and sweetly reasonable regarding their situation. If we realize that the Lord is near, we shall turn from the old creation to the new creation, to the out-resurrection, which is expressed as forbearance.
For Jesus, the Nazarene, to live a life full of forbearance required that He live a life in resurrection. Only a life in the out-resurrection can be a life of forbearance. Forbearance is actually the expression of a living which is in the out-resurrection, in the new creation instead of the old creation. To let our forbearance be known to all men is not simply to be kind or patient. Rather, it is to let others see a proper Christian living. This living is Christ as the out-resurrection expressed through forbearance.
We have emphasized the need of forbearance in the church life and in our family life. If we are forbearing, we shall be considerate in dealing with others. For example, suppose one sister wants to help another sister improve her way of serving in the church. The sister who wants to offer help needs to consider whether or not the sister she intends to help is able to receive correction. She should also consider whether in offering correction she herself is in the spirit or in the flesh.
Forbearance requires that we not speak to others in haste. On the contrary, we need to have much consideration before saying anything. We can damage brothers and sisters in the church and also members of our family by being too hasty in dealing with them.
I can testify that, as an elderly man, I now deal with my family in a way much different from the way I practiced forty years ago. Today I show much more forbearance than I did then. Previously I stood on my position as a husband and father and said whatever I felt was necessary. However, I learned that this practice was often harmful to others. Now before saying certain things to my wife, I consider her and her situation. I ask myself if she is able to bear what I intend to say and when is the right time to say it. I also consider how happy and comforted she is and how much she is able to receive what I desire to say to her. All this is involved in showing forbearance.
When the Lord Jesus walked with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, He displayed forbearance. When He asked them what they were talking about, one of them replied, “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?” (Luke 24:18). Even though He knew all things, the Lord asked them, “What things?” (v. 18). Then He patiently listened to them while they told Him what had happened. Later, at the appropriate time, the Lord made Himself known to them. He certainly was forbearing with those disciples.
If we show forbearance toward others, they will be nourished, healed, and helped to grow. We shall not cause them to stumble or hurt them in any way. However, because of our lack of forbearance, we have damaged others in the church and in our family life.
I wish to emphasize the fact that forbearance is not a matter of ethics. Forbearance is Christ. In chapters one, two, and three of Philippians, Paul has much to say concerning Christ. Then in 4:5 he speaks of forbearance, not of Christ. Actually, when he says, “Let your forbearance be known to all men,” he is saying, “Let Christ be manifested and magnified before all men.” After speaking about living Christ, magnifying Christ, taking Christ as the pattern, and pursuing Christ as the goal, Paul indicates that we need to live this Christ as our forbearance. We all need the Lord to be our forbearance. To live Him as forbearance is truly to live in the out-resurrection.
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