THE chapter opens with a call to "Rejoice in the Lord." Trying circumstances have no power over the Christian so joying. Of this, the Apostle, at the time he wrote, is an example:----lying in a Roman dungeon, not knowing the moment he might be brought forth to die (chapters i. 20, and ii. 17); nowhere else do we find so jubilant a tone as in this Epistle. Each chapter opens, goes on, and finishes, either with the fulness of his own joy, or inciting to theirs.
"Still as plunged in deeper depths,
A louder song he raised."
Happy circumstances may fill the soul with gladness for a time, but there is only one unfailing source of joy. There is a joy in salvation when the weary sinner lays himself down at the feet of Jesus, and drinks in the sweet words, "thy sins are forgiven" (Luke vii. 48). The first throb of the new life is the unutterable joy resulting from knowing himself the object of that perfect love, which has cast out all his fear (1 John iv. 18). The saved one now begins to learn the exceeding riches of grace, and the will of the Lord who so loved him. Every fresh revelation and new truth, as it fills his heart and enlightens his understanding, becomes a fresh source of joy. But the secret of an abiding, hallowed joy, is to know Him. He who possesses this knowledge, will become a partaker of Christ's joy, and his own joy will be full (John xv. 11).
When as sinners, we repented and turned to God, He had joy over us (Luke xv. 10). There is a day soon coming when we shall be presented "faultless before the presence of His glory." This to us will be "exceeding joy," and our God will be a sharer therein (Jude 24). It is well for us to forget sometimes that God was pleased to use men in writing His precious Word, and so forgetting, I hear, as in the sanctuary, that God has "no greater joy than to hear that His children walk in Truth" (3 John 4). So to walk, brings me into "manifold temptations" (1 Peter i. 6); but, for the trying time, there is the "manifold grace of God" (1 Peter iv. 10), and enduring the trial by faith in Christ, we can then "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter i. 8).
The exhortation "Rejoice in the Lord" is a fitting opening to this most searching chapter, which among other things, tells of the apostle's absorbing desire for conformity to Christ. It is not here a doctrine, but Christ Himself, who is the object of his aspirations, and to whom He would lead his well-beloved Philippians.
"Christ is all" (Col. iii. 11). Paul had already said, "For me to live is Christ" (i. 21), and he added further on, that the power for such a life was to be found in Christ alone; "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (iv. 13).
At first sight, the expression in verse 10, "That I may know Him," seems strange. One might say:----"What does he mean; not know Christ? Is not this the one who years before boasted to the Galatians that Christ "loved him and gave Himself for him!" (see Galatians ii. 20).
There are redeemed ones who rest satisfied with knowing their sins are forgiven, and that some day they will be in Heaven. Not so the Apostle; there was a present attainment in the knowledge of Christ, of which he had learned somewhat, and which but whetted his desire for more. Desire grows by what it feeds on. Nothing could distract Paul's attention from "the mark." He was well pleased to suffer the loss of earthly things for a fuller enjoyment of fellowship with Christ. The things that once he pursued lost all charm when compared with the incomparably better things to be found in Christ.
To look at the sun, when he is unobscured by clouds, blinds the beholder to all surrounding objects. In like manner to behold "The glory of the only begotten One," is to become blind to the things of time and sense, in so far as they would hinder the believer "reaching forth unto those things which are before." The Apostle had been literally blinded by the bright light on the Damascus road, but in a higher sense, he had been, and continued to be blinded to earth's attractions. by what he had seen of the risen Christ. Our Master hath "yet many things to say unto us"; and He hath given the Spirit who takes of the things of Christ and shews them unto us; whatsoever He shall hear that shall He speak" (John xvi. 13, 14). In the sanctuary, the Spirit hears the "thoughts which are altogether precious," and it is His blessed work to reveal these, yea, even "the deep things. of God" to us (1 Peter i. 8).
This is to know Christ as the Apostle longingly desired. Clear insight into the "treasures, new and old," the unveilings of His face, the mysteries of His grace, the triumphs to be won in His strength, the freedom from carking cares, because having "found Him" who bears them all; assured guidance, having learned by practice to trust Him, and daily proving that His precious blood cleanseth from all sin.
A commentary on this chapter might be found in the oft-quoted words, "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Heb. xii. 1). How to run, and the reward to be gained, he has told us in verses 9, 10, and 11 of this third chapter.
The heavy weight which drags us down from our excellency, is "confidence in the flesh." To beware of this, he warns them (verse 3), an oft-repeated warning, and surely safe teaching (verse 1), and as he would not preach what he did not practice, we are told (verses 4-8) of the things of the flesh, in which, if there was to be any place for the flesh, he might have had confidence. But all is joyfully given up, and counted but dung and dross, as hindrances "to the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord." He gained by the loss, as Moses gained when he gave up Pharaoh's court, and Paul would have the Philippians enjoy with him this truer gain. It is well to remember we can only preach with power to others, what we are enjoying and practicing ourselves. This is one humbling reason why so much of the ministry of the Word falls lifeless on the hearers.
Verses 12 to 14 tell that the end is not yet, the goal is still before us; these words are the sufficient answer to all vain and empty boasting. Much Paul had learned; there was more to follow; many things he knew; there were depths yet unfathomed; "forgetting those things which are behind." He remembered Christ and His love; this made every step onward a pleasure, and renewed the strength to "follow after," until the longed for moment arrived (verses 20, 21), when he would be clothed upon and fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body.
Paper written upon with sympathetic ink, cannot be read until near the flame; when this is done, the character appears, the message becomes plain. So with the Word of God; it is only as we are in fellowship with Christ, seeking conformity to Him, that we are "keeping ourselves in the love of God." This is the flame which brings out the written testimony.
It is not only a Saviour who died for me, and who is coming to take me home. But one to be "won," and "found," and "known," as my Shepherd, my Friend, my ever-present precious Christ of God.
From: "Feed My Sheep"