Life-Study of Philippians, Chapter 32

PAUL’S GRACE AND OURS

Let us now consider the meaning of the words my grace. If we consider this expression in the context of the entire book of Philippians, we shall see that the grace which was Paul’s grace was nothing less than the Triune God whom Paul enjoyed and experienced and of whom Paul was a partaker. Thus, Paul’s grace was not God in an objective way; it was God subjectively and experientially, the Triune God processed to be his portion. Paul truly enjoyed and experienced the processed Triune God. He was rich in his experience of the Father, Son, and Spirit. This processed Triune God was Paul’s grace.

We are familiar with the hymn “Amazing Grace.” Although this is a good hymn, it does not speak of the Triune God as our portion for our enjoyment. When this hymn was written, the experiential knowledge of God among the Lord’s people had not come to this point. Even as recent as fifty years ago, Christians did not have the understanding of grace as the Triune God experienced and enjoyed by us. But standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, we have come to know that grace is far more than merely unmerited favor. Grace is the Triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit—processed for our experience and enjoyment.

Today our Triune God is no longer the unprocessed God, or the “raw” God. Rather, He has been processed through incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Those with a background in systematic theology may be troubled by the expressions “processed God” and “raw God.” They may argue that in the Bible we cannot find such terms. Although these terms are not used, the facts are there. In like manner, we cannot find the terms “Trinity” and “Triune God” in the Bible. However, there is no doubt that the Bible reveals the fact that God is triune. Likewise, we cannot deny that the incarnation was a process. Furthermore, the crucifixion, which led to resurrection, and the resurrection, which led to ascension, were also steps in God’s process. God has passed through a process not only to redeem us, but also to make it possible for us to enjoy Him as grace. Today the One we enjoy as our grace is the Triune God who has passed through incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. As such a One, He is ready for us to take and enjoy.

John 1:17 says that the law was given through Moses, but grace came through Jesus Christ. When this grace becomes ours in our experience, we then enjoy the Triune God, and we can speak of my grace, our grace. Our grace is the very Triune God enjoyed by us.

Recently my wife and I were praying, thanking the Lord for all the enjoyment of Himself that He has given us. How good the Lord has been to us! We can testify that we have experienced Him and enjoyed Him very much. Because we have partaken of Him, He has truly become grace to us. This grace is now our grace.

In your experience do you not also have your grace? Perhaps you have experienced the Triune God as your grace in the church life and in your daily life. A brother may testify that even in helping to arrange the chairs in the meeting hall he experiences God as his grace. Also, a married sister may testify that in her life at home with her husband and children she experiences the Lord as her grace. It is very good to experience the Lord in this way and testify of it. But these situations can hardly be compared to what Paul faced in prison.

THE DEFENSE AND CONFIRMATION OF THE GOSPEL

Paul experienced God both in his imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. In 1:7 Paul speaks of “the defense and confirmation of the gospel”; he does not here mention the preaching of the gospel. To preach the gospel is not unusual, but to defend the gospel and confirm it are extraordinary things. Paul defended the gospel, on the negative side, from perverting and distorting heresies, such as Judaism, dealt with in Galatians, and Gnosticism, dealt with in Colossians. Paul confirmed the gospel, on the positive side, with all the revelations of God’s mysteries concerning Christ and the church as unveiled in Paul’s Epistles. During Paul’s time, the gospel had been perverted and distorted by Judaism and Greek philosophy. Because he defended the gospel, he was persecuted. Neither the Judaizers nor the Greek philosophers were happy with him. In addition, Paul confirmed the gospel. He made the goal of the gospel clear to people in a positive way.

The goal of the gospel is Christ and the church. Paul preached message after message telling people about God’s economy. He taught that Christ is the mystery of God and that the church is the mystery of Christ. In this way, he confirmed the gospel by making the positive goal of the gospel clear to all who received it.

Today there is also the urgent need for the defense and confirmation of the gospel. Not many Christians are willing to speak concerning the church. As a result, even though they may preach the gospel, many do not know the goal of the gospel. Their goal in preaching the gospel is simply to save sinners, to win souls. Hence, there is the need for us to confirm the gospel by telling others of the goal of the gospel. If we do this, however, we shall meet opposition. Both the defense of the gospel and the confirmation of the gospel are difficult tasks and heavy burdens.

EXPERIENTIAL GRACE

Because of the defense and confirmation of the gospel, Paul was persecuted, arrested, and imprisoned. The responsibility given to him to defend and confirm the gospel required a divine supply. It could not be carried out by ordinary means. Paul needed the divine strengthening and energizing. This divine strength and energy is the Triune God Himself. As Paul was defending the gospel and confirming it, God was with him to supply him. Furthermore, Paul was suffering persecution, mockery, and ridicule. No ordinary human being can bear such treatment without a special divine supply. But in the midst of imprisonment, Paul could enjoy God and experience Him. Eventually, this processed Triune God experienced by Paul became his grace. The Philippian believers were very blessed to partake of Paul’s grace. This means that they partook of Paul’s God, the very God he experienced.

Now we understand the meaning of the expression “my grace.” This denotes the very God experienced, enjoyed, and partaken of by Paul. It is not objective grace; it is subjective, experiential grace. Such grace is very different from something defined simply as unmerited favor. As we have pointed out again and again, it is actually a living, divine Person, the Triune God, processed to become grace to us.

REJOICING IN THE LORD

The grace experienced by Paul became his salvation. Whatever Paul enjoyed of the Triune God became his salvation. Paul must certainly have been a patriotic Jew, one who loved his nation and intensely disliked Roman imperialism. Because of his preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, he became a prisoner under the control of the Roman imperialists. Actually, it was Paul’s countrymen who had handed him over to the Romans. No doubt, as Paul was suffering persecution in prison, he was thinking about his work. Prior to his imprisonment, his work had been marvelous and powerful. It was spreading even in Europe. But now his work had ceased. Certain ones among his contemporaries, out of rivalry with him, were glad that Paul was in prison and restricted from carrying out his work. If in the midst of such circumstances Paul wept, he would have been defeated and put to shame. However, we know from the book of Philippians that, instead of weeping, Paul rejoiced in the Lord. In this short book Paul speaks again and again of rejoicing. This indicates that when he was there in prison, he was rejoicing in the Lord. The guards did not hear him weeping; they could hear him rejoicing. In this, Paul experienced and enjoyed the Triune God as grace, and this grace became his salvation. Whatever happened to him turned out for his salvation.

When Paul was used of the Lord to bring those in Philippi to Christ, he was no doubt full of rejoicing. However, if Paul could rejoice only in that kind of environment but not in prison, he would not have been a true overcomer. Paul rejoiced not only when the work in Philippi was flourishing, but he also rejoiced in prison when his work for the Lord was restricted. In this we see real victory. This victory is the salvation which was Paul’s salvation. Furthermore, as we have indicated, Paul’s salvation was his grace, God Himself as his enjoyment. Therefore, Paul’s grace was his salvation, and his salvation was the Triune God sustaining him in a most difficult environment. Such a salvation is not objective; it is very subjective and experiential. This is the reason that in the book of Philippians Paul does not speak of God in a theological way, nor in an objective doctrinal way, but in a direct, subjective, personal, experiential way. Paul could say, “My grace is nothing less than my God. God is my grace, and the Lord is my subjective, experiential salvation.”

EXPERIENCING THE SPIRIT

The Triune God could become Paul’s experiential salvation because God today is the Spirit. For this reason, in the context of speaking of salvation, Paul also mentions the Spirit.

If the Triune God is to be our experience and enjoyment, He must be the Spirit. The Spirit in 1:19 is actually the very Triune God. John 7:39 says, “The Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” In verse 37 the Lord Jesus had stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink.” He also said that those who believed in Him would have rivers of living water flowing out of their innermost being (v. 38). According to verse 39, “This He said concerning the Spirit.” The reason the Spirit was not yet was that Jesus was not yet glorified; that is, He had not yet been fully processed. But since the Lord Jesus has now been glorified, fully processed, the Spirit is here for us to enjoy. This Spirit is the very Triune God who has passed through a divine process to become available to us as our bountiful supply.

We can experience the Spirit simply by calling “O Lord Jesus.” We testify from our experience that when we call on the name of the Lord Jesus, we drink of the Spirit. As we sense freshness within when we breathe deeply in the open air in the morning, we also have an inner sense of freshness when we receive the Spirit by calling on the Lord Jesus.

Receiving the Spirit by calling on the Lord is not the practice of mysticism. No, it is a marvelous spiritual reality, so sweet, refreshing, and enjoyable. We would not have this experience by calling on the name of such persons as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Plato, or Confucius. But what a difference we sense when we say, “Lord Jesus, I love You!” This is not superstition or a mere psychological phenomenon; it is the exercise of our regenerated spirit to enjoy the Lord.

Praise the Lord that He is now in our spirit! Because our God is so subjective to us, He is with us wherever we may be. Simply by calling on Him we receive Him, enjoy Him, and experience Him. By calling on the Lord’s name or by praying over even a few words in the Bible, we enjoy the Spirit with His bountiful supply. The Spirit is the One who actually becomes our salvation. We have pointed out that our salvation is our grace and that our grace is our enjoyment of God.

ENJOYING THE SPIRIT AND MAGNIFYING CHRIST

When we enjoy the Spirit and partake of Him, Christ comes forth and is magnified. On the one hand, we enjoy the Spirit; on the other hand, Christ is the One who is magnified. This is true both according to the Bible and according to our experience. When we call “Lord Jesus,” we inwardly enjoy the Spirit. But as a result of the enjoyment of the Spirit, Christ is magnified. He becomes our expression.

In our experience, grace, salvation, the Spirit, and Christ actually are one. Our grace is our salvation; our salvation is the Spirit; and the Spirit is the magnified Christ. We may also say that the magnified Christ is the indwelling Spirit, that the indwelling Spirit is our salvation, and that our salvation is our grace, the Triune God whom we enjoy and experience.

LIFE-STUDY OF PHILIPPIANS

MESSAGE THIRTY-THREE

THE BOUNTIFUL SUPPLY
OF THE SPIRIT OF JESUS CHRIST
FOR MAGNIFYING CHRIST

Scripture Reading: Phil. 1:19-20; Exo. 30:23-30

In the foregoing message we considered four important terms: grace, salvation, the Spirit, and Christ. In this message we shall go on to consider the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ for magnifying Christ.

As we have pointed out, many Christians have the habit, perhaps unconsciously, of taking things for granted in reading the Bible. Because they are familiar with the words they read, they take them for granted and assume that they understand them. Not many have developed the habit of inquiring concerning the meaning of different words, terms, and phrases. For example, when we come across the expression my grace, we should inquire of the Lord concerning its meaning. In like manner, in reading 1:19 we should ask why Paul speaks of the Spirit of Jesus Christ and not of the Holy Spirit nor of the Spirit of God. Why does Paul here speak of the bountiful supply of the Spirit? His use of the definite article here is emphatic. Christians often speak of the Holy Spirit or of the Spirit of God, but rarely of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. We should not take 1:19 for granted, but ask why Paul uses a particular term for the Spirit.

Furthermore, in reading verse 20 we should ask why Paul uses the word magnify. Why does he not say here, “Christ shall be expressed”? Why does he say magnified instead of manifested? We all need to build up the habit of asking such questions when we read the Word.

If we develop this habit, in our reading of 1:21 we shall ask why Paul says “to live is Christ.” Why does he not say to behave is Christ, or to walk is Christ? Why does he use the word live? Instead of taking things for granted, we need to ask questions such as these.

A DAILY SALVATION

Philippians 1:18-21 is one long sentence. In this sentence the crucial points are in verses 19 and 20, where Paul says that in nothing he would be put to shame, but that Christ would be magnified in his body. Paul knew that his situation would turn out to be for him a particular kind of salvation, a daily, personal, and instant salvation. Like Paul, we have received eternal salvation. But in addition to this salvation, we still need a daily salvation, a salvation we can experience moment by moment. For example, perhaps a minute ago a brother was very kind to his wife. But now he is just the opposite in the way he deals with her; we may even say that his behavior is devilish. From our experience we know that one moment we may be living the life of a true saint, and the next moment our behavior is like that of a devil. The reason for this is that we lose for a time this personal, daily salvation. However, we may quickly turn to the Lord and continue to experience His salvation moment by moment.

The salvation of which Paul speaks in 1:19 is not eternal salvation; it is not salvation from God’s judgment or from hell. On the contrary, it is a daily, continual salvation, a salvation that can be applied at every instant. Experiencing such a salvation, Paul expected that no matter what the circumstances, environment, or suffering may be, he would not be put to shame. Instead, Christ would be magnified in him.

Suppose in the meeting a brother prays in a very released way about living Christ and magnifying Him. However, if this brother, in the presence of guests invited for dinner, expresses unhappiness or anger toward his wife, he will be put to shame. Others will not see on his face the magnification of Christ. But suppose no matter what the situation is at home, the brother’s face is glowing with the Lord. That would be glorious, a true instance of Christ being magnified in the brother.

Whenever we fail to live Christ and magnify Him, we are put to shame. Paul’s expectation in Philippians 1 was that his circumstances would turn out for his salvation so that in nothing he would be put to shame, but that Christ would be magnified in him. This was Paul’s salvation.

Paul, a typical Jew, was imprisoned by the Roman imperialists. At least part of the time each day, he was chained to a guard. Furthermore, due to imprisonment, he was kept from his work for the Lord. No doubt, in that kind of environment it would be very difficult for anyone to have a shining face. It would be very easy to show sadness or discouragement through his facial expression. If Paul had shown such signs of sadness, he would have been put to shame. But he expected that he would not be put to shame in anything. Instead, the more he was mistreated, the more his face would shine with the Lord. Far from being put to shame, Paul would magnify Christ in his body. This was the salvation he expected to experience in prison.

A few times I have felt ashamed as a dinner guest in a brother’s home. Even at the table, the brother lost his temper toward his wife. When that happened, I felt ashamed. The brother was lacking in God’s instant salvation. Instead of salvation, there was shame.

In such a case there is definitely a shortage of Christ. However, the shortage is actually the lack of the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. If we have the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, we shall experience instant and constant salvation. Then we shall not be put to shame in anything, but we shall magnify Christ in all things.

To be put to shame is to be defeated. If Paul’s face expressed discouragement or sadness, that would have been a sign that he was defeated by the guards, persecution, mockery, and suffering. If that had been his condition, Paul would have been put to shame. But once again I wish to point out that Paul declared that his situation would turn out for him to salvation. In nothing he would be put to shame, but Christ would be magnified in him.

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