Christ in the Bible Commentary

By A. B. Simpson



The Epistle to the Philippians is an inspired delineation of the Christian temper. While Ephesians describes the highest Christian life, Philippians portrays the sweetest Christian life. It deals not so much with the essential elements of holy character as the finer quality of these elements. The difference between that exquisite hairspring in a costly watch, more valuable than the same weight in gold, and the rough bar of pig iron, is wholly in the temper. They are both iron but the one is exquisitely refined, and the other is coarse and crude. The difference between that flashing diamond that blazes like a coal of celestial fire and the common lump of coal that you throw into your furnace, is merely a question of temper. They are both carbon, but the one is refined carbon polished and cut into flashing facets of light and beauty, while the other is common, rough coal. The difference between the ordinary tombstone that you can buy for a few dollars in the marble shop, and the classic bust by Michael Angelo worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, lies not in the material but in the finer touches of genius and art. It is all a matter of quality. The difference between the crab that falls from the apple tree by the roadside and the perfectly developed and exquisitely flavored pippin, is of the same character.

And these are all but feeble illustrations of the infinite difference in the religious character and the divine workmanship of the Holy Ghost in molding human hearts and lives. There are infinite degrees of progress in the refining and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and this epistle leads us out into the less ordinary lines of holy Character and spiritual culture. Let us not be surprised if we find many of these qualities lacking in us, because they are not ordinary qualities, but let us press on to their attainment and realization by the grace of Jesus Christ, as we learn in all its length and breadth and depth and height, to have in us "the same mind which was also in Christ Jesus."

It was peculiarly fitting that this exquisite epistle should have been written to the Church in Philippi. This was the first of the European churches planted by the early missionaries. This was the pioneer of that glorious chain of Christian congregations which form part of the ecclesiastical succession. Looking down through the coming ages, the Holy Ghost called the apostles to leave the continent of Asia and plant the Gospel in Europe which was to be the seat of the history of the coming centuries. And so we have a peculiar interest in this mother church of the European nations. It was always very true to Paul and out of these close and affectionate ties, as a sort of exquisite environment, there grew ideals and conceptions of truth and life which could not have been developed in colder or less tender associations. It is in the genial clime and the tropical atmosphere of love that we get our highest thoughts of God and godliness. And it was to the people who loved so tenderly that the greatest heart that ever throbbed since Christ's ascension brought out these tender messages of heavenly truth and love.