THE VIRTUES IN THE BOOK OF PHILIPPIANS BEING LOVE, LIGHT, HOLINESS, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS
Philippians 4:8-9 mentions a total of eight virtues. The first six items include the things that are true, the things that are dignified, the things that are righteous, the things that are pure, the things that are lovely, and the things that are well spoken of. The last two items include any virtue and any praise, which are a summary of the first six items. Actually, these six items are just love, light, holiness, and righteousness. That which is lovely is love; that which is righteous is righteousness; that which is pure and well spoken of—that which is honest and upright—is light; that which is true and dignified is holiness. If you carefully analyze these six items, you can categorize them under four big items: love, light, holiness, and righteousness. According to the entire book of Philippians, the things that are true, dignified, pure, righteous, lovely, and well spoken of are the living out of God through us as love, light, holiness, and righteousness. These four items are not only virtuous but also good; hence, they are excellent. The Greek word for virtue denotes a lovely condition manifested through struggle and endeavor. Several times in the Chinese Union Version this word is rendered “moral act,” implying something powerful and manifesting brightness. This is not the conventional ethics taught by the ancient Chinese sages. Rather, this is God being life in us and expressing what He is—love, light, holiness, and righteousness—according to the image by which He created us.
We were empty vessels created in God’s image. Although we had love, light, holiness, and righteousness in our humanity, they were empty because there was no real content. However, after we are saved, Christ fills us as our reality, and He is lived out of us. Thus, the love, light, holiness, and righteousness that we live out are no longer empty virtues; rather, they are virtues that have been enriched by God. This means that God has enriched and magnified the virtues, which include love, light, holiness, and righteousness, in our humanity with His divinity. This is the lovely state that results from the struggling and striving of the divine power within us. This condition is what the Scriptures refer to as virtue.
EXPERIENCING THE TRIUNE GOD IN THE BOOK OF PHILIPPIANS
In such a short book as the Epistle to the Philippians we can also see the revelation of the Triune God. First, we see “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (1:19). Today the Holy Spirit is not only the Spirit of God but also the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Second, we see “the power of His [Christ’s] resurrection” (3:10a). Christ, the second among the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit—is now the resurrected Christ with the power of resurrection. Third, we see the “God of peace” (4:9) operating within us to give us peace. This God who gives us peace is not outside of us but is inside of us. God can only be in us after the resurrection of Christ. The God who is in us is the Father. Therefore, in the book of Philippians we clearly see that first there is the Father, second there is the Son, and third there is the Spirit. The Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ; the Son is the resurrected Christ; and the Father is the God in resurrection as our peace operating, restricting, and guarding within us. This is the Triune God for our experience and enjoyment.
The title of the Divine Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—was not clearly disclosed before the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Although the revelation concerning the Triune God has been implied in many places both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, it still requires human inference. For example, Genesis 1:1 says, “God created the heavens and the earth”; the Hebrew word here for God is plural. Then verse 26 says, “And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” The God in verse 1 becomes “Us” in verse 26. Hence, by inference, we conclude that God is triune. We still cannot see this clearly in the plain text of the Old Testament. However, when the Lord Jesus resurrected from the dead, He told the disciples, “Go therefore and disciple all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). The process of the Trinity was completed after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. At that point in time, the Father became the Father in resurrection, the Son became the Son in resurrection, and the Spirit became the Spirit in resurrection. In other words, God is triune, but it was not until after the Lord Jesus resurrected that the Triune God was consummated in the Spirit. After the Lord Jesus resurrected, the Spirit became the life-giving Spirit, the Son became the resurrected Christ, and the Father became the God who indwells man.
We have said that the book of Philippians is a book on the experience of Christ; it speaks about living out Christ in our daily life. Living out Christ in our daily life means that God in Christ enters into us to be our life and reality and that He is expressed through our humanity in our human love, light, holiness, and righteousness. Therefore, this book speaks about how Christ in us becomes our life and how we are empowered to live out Christ. To summarize all that we have covered previously, we can see that the Spirit of Jesus Christ is here, the resurrected Christ is here, and the God in resurrection is here. The Triune God is in us. All three of Them—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—are in us. Yet They are not three Gods but one God. The one God becomes triune so that we can experience Him. This is truly a great mystery. It is a mystery that cannot be explained adequately with human words. This wonderful Triune God lives in us to be our life and life supply.
(The Subjective Experience of the Indwelling Christ, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)