Lectures on Philippians: Introduction

Philippians 1
(1) Paul and Timothy, bondmen of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus that are at Philippi with bishops and deacons. (2) Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ.
(3) I thank my God upon my whole remembrance of you, (4) always in my every supplication for you all making the supplication with joy (5) for your fellowship with the gospel from the first day until now, (6) being confident of this very thing, that he who began in you a good work will complete [it] until [the] day of Jesus Christ; (7) even as it is righteous for me to think this of you all, because ye have me in your heart; and both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye are all fellow-partakers of my grace. (8) For God is my witness, how I long after you all in [the] bowels of Jesus Christ. (9) And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in full knowledge and all intelligence, (10) that ye may approve the things that are excellent,* that ye may be pure and without offense against [the] day of Christ, (11) being filled with the fruit of righteousness that [is] by Jesus Christ unto God's praise and glory.
(12) But I wish you to know, brethren, that my affairs have turned out rather for furtherance of the gospel, (13) so that my bonds have been manifest in Christ in the whole of the pretorium and to all the rest; (14) and that the most of the brethren in [the] Lord, being confident by my bonds, more abundantly dare to speak the word fearlessly. (15) Some, indeed, also for envy and strife, but some also for goodwill, preach the Christ: (16) these, indeed, out of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel; (17) but these out of contention announce the Christ, not purely, thinking to stir up tribulation for my bonds. (18) What then? Notwithstanding,
*Or, "prove the things that differ."
every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is announced, and in this I rejoice, yea, and I will rejoice; (19) for I know that this will turn to me for salvation through your supplication and [the] supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, (20) according to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed; but in all boldness, as always now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. (21) For to me to live [is] Christ, and to die gain; (22) but if to live in flesh, this to me [is] worth while; and what I shall choose I know not. (23) But I am perplexed by the two, having the desire for departing and being with Christ, for it is very far better; (24) but remaining in the flesh is more necessary on your account; (25) and having this confidence, I know that I shall remain and abide with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; (26) that your boast may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my presence again with you. (27) Only conduct yourselves worthily of the gospel of Christ; that, whether coming and seeing you or absent, I may hear of your concerns, that ye stand in one spirit, with one soul striving together with the faith of the gospel; (28) and not frightened in anything by the adversaries, which is to them a showing forth of destruction, but to you of salvation, and this from God; because to you has been given on behalf of Christ, not only the believing on him, but also the suffering for him;
having the same conflict as ye saw in me and now hear of in me.
Let us seek, with the blessing of God, to develop a little the special features of this epistle on which we now enter. For the better understanding of what comes before us, we may also compare its character with that of others. Some of its features may be gathered from the very first verse. The Apostle introduces himself in the simplest possible manner: "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons; grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ." Elsewhere, even if he presents himself as a servant, he does not fail also to add his apostolic title, or some other distinction by which God had separated him from the rest of his brethren. But here it is not so. He is led of the Holy Ghost to present himself upon the broadest ground to the children of God in Philippi; on this he could fully associate Timotheus with himself. Thus we may gather from the very start of the epistle that we are not to look for the wonderful unfoldings of Christian and Church truth, such as we have in Romans, Corinthians, or Ephesians, where the apostleship of Paul is most carefully stated.
"Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle" (Rom. 1). He was not an apostle by birth, but by the call of God. He adds further, that they were saints by the very same divine call whereby he was an apostle—"called to be saints," both through the sovereign grace of God. There was nothing in either that could have been an inherent claim upon God. There was deadly sin in both; but the grace of God that had called them to be saints, had called him to be not a saint only, but an apostle. As such, he addresses them in the full consciousness of the place that Christ had given him and them, unfolding the truth from the very first foundations on which the gospel rests, the grace of God, and the ruin of man. Hence in that epistle you have something that more approaches to a doctrinal treatise than in any other portion of the New Testament. God took care that no apostle ever visited Rome, till there were many saints already there, and then He wrote by the Apostle Paul. The proud imperial city cannot boast of an apostolic foundation; yet, spite of that, man has put in the claim and pressed it with fire and sword. Paul, however, wrote in the fullness of his own apostleship and brings out the truth of God to them most carefully, so that the very ignorance of the Roman saints was the occasion for the Holy Ghost to give us the most elaborate statement of Christian truth which the Word of God contains. By Christian truth, I mean the individual instruction which the soul wants in order to the consciousness of its solid standing before God and the duties which flow from it. There the Apostle writes expressly as an apostle. It could not be understood as a human composition. There must be the authority of God, claimed by the Apostle; and while he strengthens them in their position of saints, by the very same he makes room for that development of Christian truth, for which the epistle is remarkable.
In the Corinthians he addresses them, not merely as saints, as individual Christians, but as an assembly; and there also he asserts his apostleship. Does not this serve to illustrate the truth that there is not a word inserted or omitted in Scripture, but what is full of instruction for our souls if we are willing to be instructed? To the Corinthians he does not add as in Romans, "a servant of Jesus Christ," but simply, "called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God." There he carefully puts Sosthenes upon his own proper ground, as a brother, while he distinguishes his own apostleship. The reason is obvious. The Corinthians were in a turbulent state, going so far as even to gainsay the apostleship of Paul. But God never lowers what He has given because men do not like it. It was a part, not more of God's grace to Paul, than of his humble obedience before God, to act and speak as an apostle; if he had not, he would have failed in his duty; he would not have done that which was essential for the glory of God and the good of the saints. Everything is in its proper place. So if the Corinthians were questioning what God had wrought in and by the Apostle Paul, and the place He had given him in His wisdom, the Apostle asserts it with dignity; or rather, the Holy Ghost represents him only as an apostle to them, speaks of others but not as apostles, and addresses the Corinthians as "the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours."
None but one who knew what God is to His saints, and how He holds to the power of His own grace, would have contemplated those at Corinth in such sort as this; none but a heart that understood God's love to His own, and, alas! to what lengths they may be drawn aside where the flesh gains advantage—none but one admirably, divinely acquainted with his own heart and with God—could ever have addressed them in the language with which that epistle opens. But it was God who was writing through His Apostle. And as the conduct of the Church on earth is the thesis of the epistle to the Corinthians, He shows us there the principle of putting away and of receiving again, the administration of the Lord's supper, and its moral meaning; the working of the various gifts in the Church, etc. All these things, as being the functions of the Church, are found in the epistles to the Corinthians. But even in the exercise of gifts, it is gifts in the assembly. Therefore, there is no reference to evangelizing in 1 Cor. 12 and 14, because the evangelist's gift does not, of course, find its exercise within the Church. He goes, properly speaking, outside the Church, in order to exercise that gift. You have prophets, teachers, etc. All these were gifts of a still higher order and regularly exercised in the assembly of God.
Here also we shall see how appropriately the preface falls in with the object of the Holy Ghost throughout: "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons; grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Now this is the only church where we have the "bishops and deacons" addressed as well as the saints. The reason may have been that it was, more or less, a transition state. We have three things in the Church of the New Testament. The first is—apostles, acting in the full power of their gift and office. Then, besides deacons, bishops or elders (for these two mean the same officials, only called by a different name), apostolically appointed to the charge which the Lord had given them; the bishops having to do with that which is internal, the deacons with that which is external, but both of them local offices, while the Apostle had his authority from the Lord everywhere. The Holy Ghost shows us thus the full regimen in the churches; that is to say, the apostles acting in their high place, who were called to establish the foundations of the Church practically, and to govern it upon a large scale throughout the whole breadth of the Church of God upon earth; and beside them, these local guides, the bishops and deacons.
Third. The Apostle was now separated from the church, and hence no longer able to watch over the saints personally. He writes accordingly to those who had no longer his apostolic care, not only where they had not, but, in this case, where they had bishops and deacons. Yet in the latest epistles, where the Apostle is filled with the sense of his speedy departure, there is not the slightest allusion to any provision for perpetuating these officers—not even when writing confidentially to one whom he had called on to ordain elders in Crete, nor to another invested with a charge at Ephesus.