Life-Study of Philippiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 2:17 Paul says, “But if even I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and priestly service of your faith, I rejoice and rejoice together with you all.” In this verse Paul speaks of “the sacrifice and priestly service of your faith,” a phrase which is difficult for students of the Bible to understand. Here two matters are related to the believers’ faith: the sacrifice and the priestly service. Paul regards the believers’ faith as a sacrifice offered to God. The priestly service refers to the offering of sacrifices by a priest. In this verse Paul seems to be saying, “Philippians, I consider your faith as a sacrifice offered to God, and my offering of this sacrifice to Him is a priestly service.” In this message we shall consider the sacrifice of our faith. We shall not cover the matter of priestly service.
In the book of Philippians Paul uses certain extraordinary expressions such as “the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (1:19), “holding forth the word of life” (2:16), and “the sacrifice and priestly service of your faith.” If we would know the secret of experiencing Christ as revealed in this book, we need to understand these expressions.
What is the faith that can constitute a sacrifice offered to God? As believers, we all have some amount of faith. If we did not have faith, we could not be believers in Christ. Although we have faith, the question remains whether or not this faith can be regarded as a sacrifice offered to God in a joyful way by the apostles. Paul was a New Testament priest. He says in Romans 15:16, “That I should be a minister of Christ Jesus to the nations, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that the offering of the nations might be acceptable, having been sanctified in the Holy Spirit.” As a gospel priest, Paul offered his converts to God as a sacrifice. In Philippians 2:17 it is not the believers themselves which are the sacrifice; it is the faith of the believers which is considered a sacrifice. The thought in 2:17 is deeper than that in Romans 15:16. Do you think of your faith as a sacrifice which such a ministering one can offer to God?
According to verse 17, Paul was willing to be poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and priestly service of the believers’ faith. Paul realized that one day he would be martyred. As a martyr, he would be a drink offering poured out upon the sacrifice of their faith. In the Old Testament a drink offering was poured out on one of the basic offerings. Without a basic offering, there could not have been the drink offering. Paul regarded his death as a martyr as a drink offering. The basic offering upon which this drink offering was to be poured was the faith of the believers in Philippi. It is very important for us to understand what kind of faith can become the sacrifice on which the drink offering is poured. Thus, in this message we shall seek to understand the faith to which Paul refers in 2:17.
The faith in this verse is somewhat different from that mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. Ephesians 1:13 says, “In whom you also, hearing the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also believing, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of the promise.” As a result of hearing the word of the truth and of believing in Christ, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit. In this verse we have the word, faith, and the Spirit. By hearing the word and believing it, we receive the Spirit. The word, faith, and the Spirit are one.
The Word is the expression of God (John 1:1). God is the source of the Word. When we have the Word, we have God, for the Word is God’s expression.
According to the Gospel of John, the Word is both God and the Spirit. Furthermore, Christ is also God, the Spirit, and the Word. Christ is the Word, and the Word is God. Thus, there is a marvelous interrelationship between God, Christ, the Spirit, and the Word. The Word is God and also the Spirit. At the same time Christ is both God and the Spirit. On the one hand, Christ is the Word; on the other hand, the Word is Christ. Likewise, God is the Spirit and the Spirit is God. Here we see the Triune God embodied in the Word.
The Triune God is embodied in the Word, and the Word has come to us. The very Word which was with God and which is God became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1:1, 14). According to John 20, this Word who became flesh was worshipped as God. Thomas said concerning Him, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). The Word is not only our God, but also the coming of our God to us. Our God comes to us embodied in the Word. Furthermore, according to Ephesians 6:17, the Spirit is the Word. The wonderful Triune God is embodied in the Word, and the Word has come to us. When the Word comes, God, Christ, and the Spirit come. The Three of the Triune God come with the Word.
The first function of the Word is to infuse us with faith. I do not believe it is possible for someone to repeat a Bible verse ten times without being infused with faith. Suppose an atheist reads John 3:16 and repeats this verse again and again. Even this atheist would be infused with faith through the Word.
The faith infused into us through the Word is the function of the Spirit. Faith is both the issue of the Word and the function of the Spirit. When the Word comes to us and is contacted by us, we receive the Spirit. This means that when the Word reaches us and we touch it, the Word becomes the Spirit in our experience. Thus, the Word first comes to us and then it becomes the Spirit in us.
The Word becoming the Spirit in our experience can be illustrated by the lighting of a match. The head of a match is a ball made of phosphorus. When we strike a match in a proper way, the phosphorus bursts into flame. Is the flame different from the phosphorus? No, it is simply the explosion of the phosphorus. In like manner, the Spirit is the “explosion” of the Word. When we experience this explosion, we are “burned” by the “fire.” This burning is faith.
As a young Christian, I earnestly desired to have faith. I read a number of books about faith. However, none of these books told me what faith is in actuality. Only in recent years have I discovered through my experience what faith is. Faith comes out of the word that infuses us with the divine element. Hence, faith is the issue of the word and of the Spirit’s function. When we have the word with the Spirit, we spontaneously have faith. As we have pointed out, faith, the word, and the Spirit are one.
If you consider this definition of faith in the presence of the Lord, you will worship Him. You will see that whenever there is genuine faith in you, the word is implied and the Spirit is realized. Apart from the word and the Spirit, it is impossible for us to have faith.
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