Chapter 26: I Have Not Run in Vain

Philippians 2:16‑18  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 8
“Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service, of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause do ye also joy, and rejoice with me.”
“ ... holding out (the) Word of-Life; unto a boast for-me in Christ’s day, that not in vain Iran, neither in vain I-toiled. But even if I-am-being poured-out (as a drink offering) upon the sacrifice and ministry of-your faith, I-rejoice, and rejoice in-common-with you all. But in-like-manner also do-ye-rejoice, and rejoice-in-common-with me.”
We have seen in verses 14 to 16, seven steps for the Christian through this dark world: but as we pondered these steps we were overwhelmed with the reality of the fact that none has ever trodden them truly, except our own beloved Lord and Master. Yet, as Mr. Kelly beautifully puts it: “Let us not forget how the apostle’s picture of the saint resembles the Master.” And thus Paul exhorts the Philippian saints to tread these steps, “so as to be a boast for me in Christ’s day, that not in vain I ran, neither in vain I toiled.” And let us remember that such is the only sanctioned path for all saints. Let us not excuse ourselves with the thought that our path in these last difficult days is harder than the path the saints of old had to tread. Some of them were “saints.... of Caesar’s household” (ch. 4:22).
“Though vice, flagrant and unblushing,
Nero’s palace boldly trod,
In that vile court’s baleful precincts
There were some who walked with God.”
And to walk with God is the secret of treading the pathway marked out in Philippians 2:14-1614Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. (Philippians 2:14‑16). It is not the special right of some advanced souls only to walk that pathway. It is what every Christian desires. In chapter 1:10, the Apostle prayed that “Ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ”: just as though it was possible for them to walk that path of faith “till the day of Christ” (ch. 1:10) without a single false step. We marvel at the thought, but Paul’s marvel, perhaps, would have been that we should count it wonderful.
Often and often Paul’s thoughts were looking forward to the day of Christ:
“He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (ch. 1:6).
And what is this “day” of which the Apostle so often speaks? This “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:88Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:8))? or, “day of the Lord Jesus” (2 Cor. 1:1414As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus. (2 Corinthians 1:14))? or, “day of Christ”? In 2 Peter 1:1919We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (2 Peter 1:19) it is just called “the day”: “until the day dawn” (2 Peter 1:1919We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (2 Peter 1:19)). In 1 Cor. 4:33But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. (1 Corinthians 4:3) we read of “man’s day.” (See the margin). We speak of “Caesar’s day” or, “Napoleon’s day”; and we all understand by this that it means the day when Caesar or Napoleon held sway, and exercised his will. So is it now: it is “man’s day,” when man is permitted to act according to his own will. But the time is coming when the Lord Jesus Christ will have His day: when He will come again and take all His own to be with Himself forever, as we read in 1 Thess. 43For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: (1 Thessalonians 4:3). That is the beginning of the day of our Lord Jesus Christ: but it will include the judgment seat of Christ, of which we read in 2 Cor. 5:1010For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10), and other Scriptures: and I think this is the time that the Apostle refers to in our verse in Philippians 210That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; (Philippians 2:10). When he sees his beloved brethren from Philippi receive their reward for their faithful walk down here, it will be a boast to Paul, that not in vain he ran, and not in vain he toiled. And, beloved fellow laborer, you and I have that same bright hope: nor do I mean by that word “fellow laborer” any special class of persons. A child who seeks to lead a school-mate to the Savior; the Sunday School teacher who seeks to win the class to Him; the workman who points his companion to Christ: and, perhaps the sweetest of all, the parents who win their own child: these all are “laborers” for Christ: these all may look forward to that same boast the apostle had: if these dear souls continue in the path marked out.
In 2 Thess. 2:22That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. (2 Thessalonians 2:2) we read of “the day of Christ”. If you will look at the New Translation, or any good modern translation, you will see this should be “the day of the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:22For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2)): for it speaks of a different time, and “the day of the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:22For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2)) is very different from “the day of Christ” (vs. 16). That is the day when Christ will take His place as Judge, and this poor wicked world must be judged before Him. We often read of it in the Old Testament, as well as the New: and a terrible time it will be. It “is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” (Joel 2:1111And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? (Joel 2:11)).
In Rev. 1:1010I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, (Revelation 1:10), we read: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” This refers to the first day of the week. This is a different expression in the Greek, to that translated “the day of the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:22For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2)). Perhaps more literally it might be rendered, “the Lordly day.” We have the same word in 1 Cor. 11:2020When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. (1 Corinthians 11:20), “the Lord’s supper.” These are the only places this word is used in the New Testament. When we realize that “Sunday,” means the day they worshipped the sun: just as Monday is the day they worshipped the moon; we Christians will do well to use instead the name which the Lord Himself has chosen for His day.
But let us go back to our verse. The Apostle’s thoughts were looking forward to Christ’s day, when He would have come for His own, to take them to be forever with Himself; when He would review their pathway down here, and to some He would say: “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:2323His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Matthew 25:23)). If the Lord thus commended the beloved Philippian saints it would be a boast for Paul: for he had been the instrument used of the Lord to win them. In chapter 4:1, Paul writes to them: “My brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown” (ch. 4:1).
In writing to the Thessalonian saints he speaks similarly: “What is our hope, or joy, or crown of boasting? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy.” The word for “coming” in this verse is parousia; a word that I suppose is impossible to translate. In a note to chapter 24, we tried to make clear the meaning of this word. It not only tells of the coming of a person to a place, but also of his presence in that place after he has arrived. “Christ’s day” tells us the same, but put in a different way.
In that coming day of review and rewards, the Philippian saints would be Paul’s boast “that not in vain I ran, neither in vain I toiled.” And at the same time the Thessalonian saints would be to him his hope, and joy, and “crown of boasting” (1 Thess. 2:1919For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? (1 Thessalonians 2:19)). And these dear Philippian saints: his “joy and crown.” And the Scripture says that “then shall every man have praise of God,” (1 Cor. 4:55Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)) so be of good cheer, dear Brother, dear Sister, you who have sought to serve the Lord down here, you will find that not in vain you ran, neither in vain you toiled.
The word ran tells us that Paul is looking at himself as a runner in the marathon foot race: (one of his favorite similes): and the commendation of the Philippian saints, told out that he ran not in vain: literally, “ran not to emptiness.” How many who run in a race return with empty hands, and uncrowned brow, no prize for them: they run unto emptiness: they run in vain.
“Neither in vain I toiled.” There are various words for “labor” in Greek: one gives prominence to the hardship: another to the painful effort. The word used here tells of the fatigue and the weariness: it is from the same root as the word “In weariness and painfulness” (2 Cor. 11:2727In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11:27)). I do not think the Apostle is casting a doubt on the fruit of his labors in this verse: for you recall he says elsewhere: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:5858Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)). We find just the same words here as in Philippians 2:1616Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. (Philippians 2:16). Let us ever remember that not unto emptiness we toil.
“Nay, if I am even being poured out as a drink-offering upon the sacrifice and ministry of your faith, I rejoice, and rejoice in common with you all. But do ye in like manner also rejoice, and rejoice in common with me.” (Phil. 2:17-1817Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. 18For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:17‑18)).
It has been said that the second chapter of Philippians gives us “examples of devotedness.” We have in this chapter already gazed with adoring wonder at our Savior as the pre-eminent example of devotedness, even to death, and that the death of the cross. Now we are to gaze on some of His followers, who have sought in some measure to walk in that pathway. The first example the Spirit of God brings before us is the Apostle himself. “Even if I am being poured out as a drink-offering.” It is not: “If I should be poured out,” but “if I am being poured out.” It is the very same tense as in 2 Tim. 4:66For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. (2 Timothy 4:6), but there is added the little word, “already”: and no “if”: “I am already being poured out” (2 Tim. 4:66For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. (2 Timothy 4:6)). Those words were penned not long before he laid down his life for his Lord.
The law of Moses required that a certain amount of wine should in most cases accompany the sacrifices. See, for example, the morning and evening sacrifice, Ex. 29:40-4140And with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering. 41And the other lamb thou shalt offer at even, and shalt do thereto according to the meat offering of the morning, and according to the drink offering thereof, for a sweet savor, an offering made by fire unto the Lord. (Exodus 29:40‑41); the sacrifices at the Feasts of Jehovah: Lev. 23:13,1813And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savor: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. (Leviticus 23:13)
18And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savor unto the Lord. (Leviticus 23:18)
, etc. First, no doubt, this tells us of our Lord Jesus Christ: “He hath poured out His soul unto death” (Isa. 53:1212Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12)). But in our chapter in Philippians we find Paul using the figure of himself. We have seen him running, we have seen him toiling: now we see him laying down his life: pouring out his life, on the sacrifice.
And what was the sacrifice? It was “the sacrifice and ministry of your faith.” I suppose it included the Philippian saints themselves. Their “faith,” their confidence in their Lord, led them to present themselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which was their reasonable service. And the dear Apostle rejoices to be the drink-offering, being poured out on their sacrifice, and he beseeches them to rejoice in common with him. There is something extremely beautiful in the way Paul associates himself with them. The sacrifice and the drink-offering belonged together: they formed one offering. We have seen how the Philippians struggled with him for the faith of the gospel; and we will see it again, as we read further in our Epistle: and so here we find, whether in life, or in death, Paul and his beloved brethren and sisters in Philippi were one. And notice he uses that little word “all” once more: he would not leave one out, not even Euodias or Syntyche, even though they were having a quarrel. And so in the Philippian saints we see another example of devotedness.
But there is another lovely trait in this verse. The main part of the sacrifice was the offering itself. In the morning and evening sacrifice, the main part was the lamb. The drink-offering was added to it, but was not the important part of the sacrifice. Paul represents the Philippian saints as the sacrifice: he was merely the drink-offering poured on it. Like his Master, he made himself of no reputation: he let this mind be in him, which was also in Christ Jesus. May you and I beloved, learn the lesson.
And as they were linked together in one offering: now he would have them and himself linked together in one joy: the joy of suffering for Christ’s sake. You remember in chapter 1:29 we read, “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” The suffering was a gift, given to them: now in chapter 2, face to face with death, “being poured out,” (2 Tim. 4:66For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. (2 Timothy 4:6)) how does the Apostle face it? Four times, in three lines, do we find the word “Rejoice!” Nor would he rejoice alone: but it must be they in common with him, and he in common with them. It is the very same spirit of the “with you,” in 2 Cor. 4:1414Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. (2 Corinthians 4:14). Paul can enjoy nothing alone.
(Some have thought Paul here refers to pagan sacrifices, because Josephus says the wine was not poured on the Jewish sacrifices, but around them: but there is no ground for this thought. The Greek Old Testament in Num. 15:55And the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering shalt thou prepare with the burnt offering or sacrifice, for one lamb. (Numbers 15:5), uses exactly the same preposition, “upon,” for the drink-offering upon the burnt-offering, as the Spirit of God uses in Philippians 2:1717Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. (Philippians 2:17).)
(For Chapter 27)
All Seek Their Own
ALL SEEK THEIR OWN, and not the things
Of Jesus Christ!
What! All seek their own?
Their comfort, treasures; ease and pleasures;
But not HIS cross, HIS shame, HIS loss.
Do all seek their own?
All seek their own, and not the things
Of Jesus Christ!
Yes, All seek their own!
Their wealth, their fame; their joys, their home;
HIS sheep are gone—lost, far, alone;
While all seek their own.
All seek their own, and not the things
Of Jesus Christ!
Though Jesus Christ
Sought not His own:
Through boundless love, came from above
To seek the lost, His life the cost:
For Love alone seeks not its own:
Thy Love, Lord Jesus!