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 Paul’s secret of sufficiency in Christ. Paul had learned the secret of sufficiency, of satisfaction, of contentment. This secret is actually Christ Himself. In chapter one, Christ is the life for us to live; in chapter two, Christ is the pattern for us to follow; and in chapter three, Christ is the goal and the prize for us to pursue. Now in chapter four, Christ is the secret and also the power for us to enjoy. In doing many things we must first know the secret and also have the power, the strength, the energy, to accomplish those things.
In teaching people to do things, even insignificant things, we mainly teach them the secret. This is true, for example, in teaching someone the art of barbecuing meat. If a person does not learn the secret of barbecuing, he may ruin the meat. One side may be overdone, and the other side raw. Likewise, we may not know the secret of sufficiency in Christ found in Philippians 4. We may talk a great deal about the book of Philippians, but not know the secret of experiencing Christ. To change the figure of speech, because we do not have the key, we cannot open the door to the experience of Christ. I say again, in chapter four we have the secret and the power. On the one hand, Paul says, “I have learned the secret” (v. 12); on the other hand, he testifies, “I can do all things in Him who empowers me” (v. 13).
In verse 11 Paul says, “Not that I speak according to want, for I have learned in whatever circumstances I am to be content.” To what word should the phrase to be content be joined? This phrase should not be connected with I am, for the words I am are related to the expression in whatever circumstances. Rather, to be content should be connected to I have learned. Paul had learned to be content in all circumstances. He could say, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
In verse 12 Paul continues, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to hunger, both to abound and to be in want.” The words I have learned the secret are an interpretation of the Greek word which means “I have been initiated.” The metaphor is that of a person being initiated into a secret society with instruction in its rudimentary principles. Paul had not only learned a secret; he had been initiated and had learned certain basic principles.
Among the Greeks there were a number of secret societies. Anyone who was to become a member of such a society had to learn the rudimentary principles of that society. Others had to initiate him into the society by instructing him in its principles. By using this metaphor, Paul was saying that a church, which is rather mysterious, has certain basic principles. After Paul was converted to Christ, he was in a sense initiated into the church life. This means that he was instructed in the secret of how to enjoy Christ, how to take Christ as life, how to live Christ, how to magnify Christ, how to gain Christ, and also how to have the church life. These are the rudimentary principles of the church life.
Although the church, the Body of Christ, is somewhat mysterious, the church definitely is not a secret society. On the contrary, the church is a bright city set on a hill. Furthermore, the church is open to all who are willing to come. But because the church has a mysterious aspect, there is the need of a spiritual initiation in order to learn the principles of the church life.
The basic principles of the church life are altogether different from the basic principles of the world. We may know all the rudimentary principles of the world and yet not know anything of the church life. Thus, when we are saved and come into the church, the Body of Christ, we need to be initiated by learning certain basic principles. The secret of the Body is to take Christ as our life, to live Christ, to pursue Christ, to gain Christ, to magnify Christ, and to express Christ. These are the basic principles of the church, the Body of Christ. As one who had been initiated into the Body, Paul had learned the secret.
Many Christians today have not been initiated into the church life in such a way. Although they have been converted to Christ, baptized, and have joined a denomination, they have not been initiated into the Body of Christ. They have not learned how to take Christ as life, how to live Christ, how to take Christ as their pattern, and how to count all religious, cultural, and philosophical things as refuse in order to gain Christ. In contrast to Paul, they have not learned the secret of experiencing Christ. Paul had been initiated both into the proper Christian life and into the proper church life.
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