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 the matter of magnifying Christ by living Him (1:19-21). In verse 20 Paul said, “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.” In Paul’s bodily sufferings, Christ was magnified, that is, shown or declared great (shown to be without limitation), exalted, and extolled. His sufferings afforded him opportunity to express Christ in His unlimited greatness. Only Christ would he have magnified in him, not the law or circumcision. Philippians is concerned with the experience of Christ. To magnify Christ under any circumstances is to experience Him with the topmost enjoyment.
In verse 20 a number of expressions are related to Paul’s statement that Christ would be magnified in him: “with all boldness,” “as always,” “even now,” “in my body,” “whether through life or through death.” Paul does not simply say “with boldness,” but says “with all boldness.” Then he specifically points out that Christ would be magnified in his body. He said this because his body was in chains. At least during the night, if not all the time, Paul was chained to a guard. Nevertheless, even though his body was in chains, Christ would be magnified in his body. Moreover, Christ would be magnified whether through life or through death. This indicates that no matter what the circumstances were, Paul expected Christ to be magnified in him.
Now we must consider what it means to magnify Christ. The word magnify means to make something large to our sight. Perhaps you are wondering how Christ can be magnified since He is already universally great. According to Ephesians 3, the dimensions of Christ—the breadth, length, height, and depth—are immeasurable. They are the dimensions of the universe. Although Christ is vast, extensive, and immeasurable, in the eyes of the praetorium, the imperial guard of Caesar, Christ was virtually nonexistent. In their eyes, there was not such a person as Jesus Christ. However, Paul magnified Christ; he made Him great before the eyes of others, especially before the eyes of those who guarded him in prison. As a result, some eventually turned to Christ. Evidence of this is found in 4:22, where Paul speaks of the saints of Caesar’s household. Through Paul’s magnification of Christ, even some in Caesar’s household were saved.
At the time of Paul’s imprisonment, the Jews were despised by the Romans. The Romans were the conquerors, and the Jews were the conquered ones. Among these conquered ones there was a man named Jesus. Although He is great and most wonderful, in the eyes of the Romans He was nothing. But as Paul was held captive in a Roman prison, he magnified Christ, making Him to appear great in the eyes of his captors.
In our daily living we also should magnify Christ, making Him great in the eyes of others. Where you work or go to school people may look down on Christ. They may ridicule Him and take His name in vain, in violation of the third commandment. Therefore, you need to let others see Christ not in a small way, but in the way of enlargement, of magnification.
We should also magnify Him at home. The parents of some of the young people may not believe in Christ, but rather may despise Him. Hence, these young people must bear the responsibility to enlarge Christ before their parents. Instead of simply preaching to their parents about Christ, they need to magnify Him. We need not simply the life within, but also the living without. Through the proper living Christ will appear to be great in the eyes of others. Young people, let your parents see Christ’s greatness in you.
We can magnify Christ even in situations where we have little or no liberty to speak about Him. Although teachers may not be able to preach the gospel to their students, they can magnify Christ in the classroom. They can cause Christ to appear great in the eyes of their students. I do not believe that when Paul was in prison, he was free to do much preaching of Christ. On the contrary, he was very limited and under strict control. However, even in such circumstances, Christ was magnified in his body. With all boldness Paul sought to magnify Him always.
Paul says that Christ would be magnified in him whether through life or through death. No matter what faced him—the opportunity to go on living or martyrdom— Paul expected to magnify Christ. In his living Paul magnified Christ. This is to magnify Him through life. As he was expecting to be martyred, he also magnified Him. This is to magnify Christ through death. Thus, whether through life or death, Christ was magnified in Paul’s imprisoned and chained body. Obviously this is not mere doctrine; it is the genuine experience of Christ.
In verse 19 Paul mentions the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. If we allow the bountiful supply of the Spirit to work in us, our daily living will be changed. We shall be burdened to magnify Christ always and with all boldness. Through our magnifying of Christ, others will see His greatness and His unlimitedness. To magnify Christ in such a way surely is to live Him.
At the time Paul wrote the book of Philippians, he was an elderly person. No doubt, the guards expected him to be exhausted by his imprisonment. But far from being exhausted, Paul was full of joy and rejoicing in the Lord. I am confident that he was shining forth Christ and expressing Him. Such an expression was a declaration of the unlimited greatness of Christ and a declaration that Christ is inexhaustible.
Our love is eventually exhausted, but Christ as love is inexhaustible. Likewise, our natural patience is limited, but Christ as our patience is without limit. We all have the capacity to be patient, but only to a certain extent. Then we become provoked and angry. For example, a brother may exercise patience with his wife. Eventually, however, this patience reaches its limit, and he becomes angry with her. Although our natural patience is so limited, Christ as patience is inexhaustible and immeasurable.
Even though Paul must have been mistreated in prison, he could be happy and display to the guards the unlimited greatness of Christ. In particular, Paul displayed Christ’s inexhaustible patience. Christ certainly was magnified in Paul’s physical body. Day by day, Paul was happy in the Lord. His happiness did not diminish as time went by. In his happiness he could show forth the immeasurable Christ he experienced and enjoyed. By this way Paul expressed, exhibited, exalted, and extolled Christ. I do not believe that Paul was offended by the jailers or that he offended them. Rather, he was a living witness of Christ, testifying of His ability, power, patience, love, and wisdom, all without measure. The guards may have considered Paul to be strange or peculiar, viewing him as possessing something which they did not have. What they sensed in Paul was Christ magnified. While he was in prison, Paul expressed the greatness of Christ in an enlarged way. He magnified Christ with all boldness both through life and through death. By magnifying Christ in this way, Paul could overcome any situation.
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