Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
THE SELF-HUMBLED BUT GOD-EXALTED CHRIST. Philippians 2:5-11
I. His Humiliation. The pre-incarnate position and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ is frequently referred to in the Scriptures. "He was in the form of God, and thought it not dishonoring to claim equality with God" (v. 6). "In the beginning was the word... and the Word was God" (John 1:1). He is before all things (Colossians 1:17). It was He who "laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of His hands" (Hebrews 1:10). This is He who was "the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). This is He who—
1. Made Himself of No Reputation (v. 7). Think of the reputation He had in the Heavens, before the world was, and how much He stripped Himself off when He appeared among men to be despised and rejected. "A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief."
2. Took Upon Him the Form of a Servant. He who was the Creator of the ends of the earth, whom angels delighted to serve and adore, who was in the form of God, takes the form of a servant, that He might bring blessing to a rebel world (Luke 22:27).
3. Was Made in the Likeness of Men. He Himself took part of the same flesh and blood, for it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren (Hebrews 2:14-17). "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give" (Matthew 20:28). He who was the "express image of the invisible God" takes upon Him the likeness of a sinful humanity.
4. Became Obedient unto Death (v. 8). Obedient! but not to the clamoring of a proud, sin-blinded race, but to the will of His Father. "I delight to do Your will, O my God" (John 6:38). Nothing on earth or in Hell could turn Him aside from His great and gracious purpose. "He set His face like a flint."
5. Became obedient Even unto the Death of the Cross (v. 8). From our natural standpoint it is simply appalling to think of the Eternal and Beloved Son of God submitting to be nailed to a Cross by those whom He lovingly sought to save. The utter unworthiness and guilt of men could never make itself more hideous before the eye of Heaven. But yet the infinite grace of God is hereby revealed. He was giving "Himself a ransom for us all." The Just One was willingly suffering for the unjust, that He might bring us to God (Galatians 3:13).
II. His Exaltation. "Wherefore God has highly exalted Him" (v. 9). Because of His voluntary humility and suffering, in the fulfilling of His Father's purpose, He has highly exalted Him as the Son of Man, as the Eternal Son of God. He could not be exalted above His pre-natal position, "as One with the Father" (John 14:9). There was given unto Him—
1. A Pre-eminent Name. "A Name which is above every name" (v. 9). The Name which is forever above every name is "Jehovah." Now the Man, Christ Jesus, who became a "Man of Sorrows," has been lifted up above every name that is named. He who was crowned with the thorns of shame for us is now crowned with glory and honor (Hebrews 2:9) as our Representative.
2. Universal Authority. At the Name of Jesus every being in Heaven and on earth, and in the under world shall yet bow (v. 10) "All power is given unto Him in Heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18). He who now bears the eternal stigma of the Cross upon His hands and feet, will "subdue all things unto Himself," not only in this world, but also in that which is to come (Ephesians 1:20, 21).
3. Universal Worship. "Every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father" (v. 11). It was God the Father who sent His Son to seek and save the lost, and He shall be honored and satisfied when a whole redeemed world shall confess Jesus as Lord. For He shall be Lord both of the dead and the living (Romans 14:9). Now we see Jesus, who tasted death for every man, crowned with glory and honor. "Your is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen." "He who humbles himself shall be exalted."
HOLY ASPIRATIONS. Philippians 3:7-14
When Paul met the Lord on his way to Damascus (Acts 9) his whole being was revolutionized. His eyes being opened, he discovered that in Him he had found a limitless store of spiritual wealth, for which he counted everything else as worthless (v. 7). We have here some of the experiences which his holy ambition aimed at. May our own hearts also be stirred up to seek them.
I. That I may Win Christ (v. 8). Christ had already won him (Acts 9). But the apostle realized that although he was now in the land of promise, there was still much land to be possessed. He evidently wished to find Him as a daily prize. He was determined not to know anything among them but Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2).
II. That I might Know Him (v. 10). There are, of course, many degrees in knowledge. All Christians know Him whom to know is life eternal. But the Christ some saintly men and women know is a much greater Christ than many have ever experienced. It is the same Jesus, but they have a much deeper and more intimate knowledge of His character and capabilities. It will take all eternity to know Him as He really is. We are to "grow in grace," but also "in the knowledge of Hint."
III. That I may be Found in Him (v. 9). It is an abiding victory for all those whose faith and works are found in Him. If He abides in us we shall be found in Him (John 15:4), and at last, when the time of our departure is at hand, it will be a joy to us, an honor to Christ, and glory to God, when He finds us enveloped in the worthiness of His own Son. To be found in Him will be to find us blameless and complete (Romans 8:1).
IV. That I Might Know the Power of His Resurrection (v. 10). There is no doubt as to the fact of Christ's resurrection. He had seen Him, and had such exultant faith in Him, that he longed for the power that raised Jesus from the dead, that the risen life of Jesus might be manifested in his mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:10). If we have been crucified with Christ, then are we raised together with Him. The power of His resurrection is the power of His life-giving Spirit. The vitality of the Gospel has its source in His resurrection.
V. That I may Know the Fellowship of His Sufferings (v. 10). With the sufferings of Christ as our atoning Substitute, we can have no fellowship. He was alone, and will be forever alone in that, but in suffering because of His holy, God-honoring devotion to His Father's will, He has left us an example, that we should follow His steps; for "if any man will live Godly he must suffer" (2 Timothy 3:12). We cannot know the fellowship of His sufferings unless we are possessed by the same Spirit and faithfully serving in the same cause. This fellowship demands a consecrated life, a life willing to be "made conformable unto His death."
VI. That I Might Attain unto the Resurrection from Among the Dead (v. 11). At the coming of our Lord the dead in Christ shall rise first (1 Corinthians 15:20). This is called "the first resurrection." "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection, for they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Rev. 20:5, 6). Doubtless this is the truth the apostle refers to here in being raised from among the dead. (The rest of the dead lived not until the Millennial reign had closed.) He desired to attain a place of honor and service in the coming Kingdom of his Lord; and certainly he will, for he "fought the fight and finished the course," he kept the faith and expected the crown (2 Timothy 4:7). "Seek those things which are above."
VII. That I may Apprehend that for which also I am Apprehended (v. 12). It was Jesus Christ who suddenly apprehended him, while on a persecuting expedition (Acts 9). He still yearns to know and to carry out to completion the whole purpose of His Lord in saving him. Many there are who are satisfied just because they are saved from the penalty of sin. They have no concern as to the work the Lord has saved them to do. Saul was very practical and reasonable, for as soon as he was converted he said: "Lord, what will You have me to do," and he made it his life's business to do that will. "To me to live is Christ" is the faithful Christian's motto.
VIII. That I might Gain the Prize of the High Galling of God in Christ Jesus (v. 14). The higher the calling the greater is the reward. To be "called of God," and that "in Christ Jesus," is the greatest honor Heaven can bestow upon a sinful man. What can the prize of this heavenly calling be? It must be perfectly consistent with the glory of the calling. That surely means a perfected character, not only in the world to come, but here and now, as the reward of true-hearted obedience (1 Peter 5:10). "Let us therefore as many as be perfect, be thus minded" (v. 15). For they shall know who follow on to know the Lord (Hosea 6:3).
THE BELIEVER'S POSITION, EXPECTATION, AND PREPARATION. Philippians 3:20, 21; 4:5, 6
I. Their Position. Their "citizenship is in Heaven" (v. 20). They have been born from above, and have their home in the City of God So they have "no continuing city" here, but they look for that city whose "Builder and Maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10). They know that in their Father's house there are many rooms, and that a place is prepared for them there (John 14:1, 2). Knowing that they are citizens of a better country, they love not the world nor the things of this world, but are loyal to Him who rules in the "Heavenly Jerusalem."
II. Their Expectation. The expectations of the believer are as great as the promises of God.
1. They expect that Christ will Come Again. "They eagerly look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 20). They believe that He will appear the second time without a sin-offering unto a perfected salvation (Hebrews 9:28). They are obedient to His Word in waiting for the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). Happy are they who hold this "Blessed Hope."
2. They expect a Transfigured Body. "Who shall change our mortal body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body" (v. 21). The Lord Jesus showed His disciples a pattern of this new body, when on the mount He was transfigured before them (Luke 9:29). So when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4). We are sons of God now, but "it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him" (1 John 3:2). For this corruptible body must be changed for the incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:53). Then shall "death be swallowed up in victory." "Believe you that I am able to do this?"
III. Their Preparation. The watchword of the early Christians seem to have been, "The Lord is at hand" (chap 4 5). In view of His appearing, they were exhorted to—
1. Be Careful for Nothing (v. 6). Let no harassing care trouble your mind with regard to the seemingly conflicting experiences of this life or the signs of the times. He who is Coming again would have us to cast all our care upon Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). He who bore our sins is the same Lord who carries our sorrows. Roll your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you (Psalm 55:22). "Be careful for nothing."
2. Be Prayerful in Everything. "In everything by prayer let your requests be made known unto God" (chapter 4:6). Nothing that troubles us is too trifling to bring to God. Those who have learned this holy practice know what it is to "pray without ceasing." The blessedness of it is unspeakable. In these closing days of this age, with the end of present conditions at hand, "Be you therefore sober and watch unto prayer" (1 Peter 4:7).
3. Be Thankful for Anything. "In everything... with thanksgiving" (chapter 4:6). For "all things work together for good to them that love God." "This is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you," that you should in everything give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It is easy to thank God when we receive the things we desire and that please us; but when disappointment comes, when our plans are thwarted or friends betray us, it may be easy to forget this: but it is then that we need the faith that God does all things well, that we may still say, "Thanks be to God."