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1. Thanksgiving and Prayer

1Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus that are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you, 4always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy, 5for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now; 6being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ: 7even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as, both in my bonds and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers with me of grace. 8For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus. 9And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; 10so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ; 11being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. 12Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel; 13so that my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest; 14and that most of the brethren in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear. 15Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16the one do it of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel; 17but the other proclaim Christ of faction, not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds. 18What then? only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. 19For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation, through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20according to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing shall I be put to shame, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death. 21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22But if to live in the flesh, --if this shall bring fruit from my work, then what I shall choose I know not. 23But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better: 24yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake. 25And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide, yea, and abide with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith; 26that your glorying may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my presence with you again. 27Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ: that, whether I come and see you and be absent, I may hear of your state, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel; 28and in nothing affrighted by the adversaries: which is for them an evident token of perdition, but of your salvation, and that from God; 29because to you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer in his behalf: 30having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

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The Apostle's Generous Exultation. (a. d. 62.)

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.   22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.   23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:   24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.   25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;   26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.

We have here an account of the life and death of blessed Paul: his life was Christ, and his death was gain. Observe, 1. It is the undoubted character of every good Christian that to him to live is Christ. The glory of Christ ought to be the end of our life, the grace of Christ the principle of our life, and the word of Christ the rule of it. The Christian life is derived from Christ, and directed to him. He is the principle, rule, and end of it. 2. All those to whom to live is Christ to them to die will be gain: it is great gain, a present gain, everlasting gain. Death is a great loss to a carnal worldly man; for he loses all his comforts and all his hopes: but to a good Christian it is gain, for it is the end of all his weakness and misery and the perfection of his comforts and accomplishment of his hopes; it delivers him from all the evils of life, and brings him to the possession of the chief good. Or, To me to die is gain; that is, "to the gospel as well as to myself, which will receive a further confirmation by the seal of my blood, as it had before by the labours of my life." So Christ would be magnified by his death, v. 20. Some read the whole expression thus: To me, living and dying, Christ is gain; that is, "I desire no more, neither while I live nor when I die, but to win Christ and be found in him." It might be thought, if death were gain to him, he would be weary of life, and impatient for death. No, says he,

I. If I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour (v. 22), that is, Christ is. He reckoned his labour well bestowed, if he could be instrumental to advance the honour and interest of the kingdom of Christ in the world. It is the fruit of my labourkarpos ergouoperæ pretium. It is worth while for a good Christian and a good minister to live in the world as long as he can glorify God and do good to his church. Yet what I shall choose I wot not; for I am in a strait betwixt two. It was a blessed strait which Paul was in, not between two evil things, but between two good things. David was in a strait by three judgments—sword, famine, and pestilence: Paul was in a strait between two blessings—living to Christ, and being with him. Here we have him reasoning with himself upon the matter.

1. His inclination was for death. See the power of faith and of divine grace; it can reconcile the mind to death, and make us willing to die, though death is the destruction of our present nature and the greatest natural evil. We have naturally an aversion to death, but he had an inclination to it (v. 23); Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, Observe, (1.) It is being with Christ which makes a departure desirable to a good man. It is not simply dying, or putting off the body, it is not of itself and for its own sake a desirable thing; but it may be necessarily connected with something else which may make it truly so. If I cannot be with Christ without departing, I shall reckon it desirable on that account to depart. (2.) As soon as ever the soul departs, it is immediately with Christ. This day shalt thou be with me in paradise, Luke xxiii. 43. Absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Cor. v. 8), without any interval between. Which is far better, pollo gar mallon kreissonvery much exceeding, or vastly preferable. Those who know the value of Christ and heaven will readily acknowledge it far better to be in heaven than to be in this world, to be with Christ than to be with any creature; for in this world we are compassed about with sin, born to trouble, born again to it; but, if we come to be with Christ, farewell sin and temptation, farewell sorrow and death, for ever.

2. His judgment was rather to live awhile longer in this world, for the service of the church (v. 24): Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. It is needful for the church to have ministers; and faithful ministers can ill be spared when the harvest is plenteous and the labourers are few. Observe, Those who have most reason to desire to depart should be willing to continue in the world as long as God has any work for them to do. Paul's strait was not between living in this world and living in heaven; between these two there is no comparison: but his strait was between serving Christ in this world and enjoying him in another. Still it was Christ that his heart was upon: though, to advance the interest of Christ and his church, he chose rather to tarry here, where he met with oppositions and difficulties, and to deny himself for awhile the satisfaction of his reward.

II. And, having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith, v. 25. Observe here, 1. What a great confidence Paul had in the divine Providence, that it would order all for the best to him. "Having this confidence that it will be needful for you that I should abide in the flesh, I know that I shall abide." 2. Whatsoever is best for the church, we may be sure God will do. If we know what is needful for building up the body of Christ, we may certainly know what will be; for he will take care of its interests, and do what is best, all things considered, in every condition it is in. 3. Observe what ministers are continued for: For our furtherance and joy of faith, our further advancement in holiness and comfort. 4. What promotes our faith and joy of faith is very much for our furtherance in the way to heaven. The more faith the more joy, and the more faith and joy the more we are furthered in our Christian course. 5. There is need of a settled ministry, not only for the conviction and conversion of sinners, but for the edification of saints, and their furtherance in spiritual attainments.

III. That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me, by my coming to you again, v. 26. They rejoiced in the hope of seeing him, and enjoying his further labours among them. Observe, 1. The continuance of ministers with the church ought to be the rejoicing of all who wish well to the church, and to its interests. 2. All our joys should terminate in Christ. Our joy in good ministers should be our joy in Christ Jesus for them; for they are but the friends of the bridegroom, and are to be received in his name, and for his sake.




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