ENCOURAGEMENT, CONSOLATION, AND FELLOWSHIP IN CHRIST
Philippians 2:1 says, “If there is therefore any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of spirit, if any tenderheartedness and compassions.” Philippians 1 shows us that Paul was one with Christ. Philippians 2 shows us that the believers are also one with Christ. In chapter two Paul began by saying “in Christ.” This tells us that all the encouragement, consolation, and fellowship are in Christ. Paul was not speaking about the things outside of Christ. Therefore, Christians must live and walk in Christ. In the phrase if any fellowship of spirit, spirit refers not to the Holy Spirit but to the regenerated human spirit. In the phrase if any tenderheartedness and compassions, the Greek word for tenderheartedness is literally bowels, the same word for inward parts in 1:8, signifying the tender, inward affections. Therefore, it is appropriately translated as tenderheartedness.
BEING FOUND IN CHRIST
Philippians 3 shows us that Paul considered the knowledge of Christ as an excellency; on account of Christ he counted all things, including even the righteousness which was out of the law, to be loss that he might gain Christ. Formerly, Paul had been zealous for the law to the extent that he persecuted the Christians, but he turned from the law of Moses to Christ. Therefore, when others saw him, they found him to be a man in Christ. He no longer had the righteousness which was out of the law, but he had the righteousness which was through faith in Christ. This righteousness is the righteousness of God, not the righteousness of Paul. Paul could have this righteousness because the resurrected Christ who lived in him caused him to experience the power of the resurrection of Christ.
EXPRESSING GOD IN HUMAN VIRTUES
Philippians 4:8-9 lists six precious virtues: truthfulness, dignity, righteousness, purity, loveliness, and being well spoken of. In addition, there are virtue and praise as the summing up of the six items, which include all the good qualities found in the Chinese ethical teachings.
Truthfulness does not mean to be truthful in matter of fact, without falsehood. Instead, it means to be genuine and trustworthy in conduct, not to play politics, but to be sincere and honest. The term dignity is rich in meaning; it refers to being venerable without putting on airs. A person whose conduct is weighty and dignified will invite respect. Righteousness means being right, correct, proper, unbiased, and fair. Purity refers to being single in intention, motive, and action, without any mixture. Then, anything that is true, dignified, right, or pure is lovely (agreeable) and well spoken of. Finally, Paul summed up these six items with this word: “If there is any virtue and if any praise.” In Greek the word for virtue means “excellence.” It refers to the state of ethical energy exhibited in vigorous action. Such excellent exhibition will naturally elicit praise from people. These eight items are grouped in pairs. “What things are true” and “what things are dignified” form a group; “what things are righteous” and “what things are pure” form another group; “what things are lovely” and “what things are well spoken of” form still another group; and “any virtue” and “any praise” form the last group. These are moral virtues in the Bible. These were the things which people saw and heard in Paul. Paul testified that if we live out such a life, the God of peace will be with us.
MAN AS GOD’S VESSEL TO EXPRESS HIM
The Bible tells us that man is a special creation of God, different from the trees and flowers and from the oxen and sheep. Man is God’s unique creation in the universe. Man is unique in that he was created to be a vessel of God. God created man with the purpose of entering into man that He and man might be mingled as one. He wants to be the life in man that man might live Him out. The life of God within man is just God Himself, and the living out of God is the expression of the life within. In other words, God wants man to live Him out. This is the most mysterious truth in the Bible. Unfortunately, not only do the unbelievers not understand this, but even many Christians do not know this truth. Nevertheless, this is the central revelation in the Bible.
Man was created to be God’s vessel to contain God and to express God. God wanted to enter into man to be his life, and man was to express God in his living. For this reason, God created man in His image. We mentioned earlier that God is light, love, holiness, and righteousness. Light, love, holiness, and righteousness comprise the aforementioned virtues: truthfulness, dignity, righteousness, purity, loveliness, and being well spoken of. Moreover, God has His thoughts, emotions, and will; He is also purposeful. God’s image refers to all these attributes and virtues, and it is according to such an image that God created man. Although man often commits sins and does evil due to the fall, there is still a desire in him to attain to a higher plane, a desire to be honorable, kind, holy, and righteous.
The Ten Commandments which God decreed through Moses are a portrait of the nature of God. The first commandment is to have no other gods. The second commandment is to not make graven images nor to worship and serve idols. The third commandment is to not take the name of Jehovah God in vain, that is, to not use His name in vain in things other than God Himself. The fourth commandment is to remember the Sabbath day. The Sabbath denotes that man becomes one with God to enjoy all that He has accomplished. To keep the Sabbath is to acknowledge and enjoy what God has accomplished for man. In six days God created the heavens, the earth, and all the things therein, and lastly He created man. Then on the seventh day He rested from His work. Therefore, immediately after man was created, he began to enjoy the rest established by God; that is, he began to enjoy all of God’s creation. These are the first four commandments of the Ten Commandments. God’s desire is that man be one with Him. Besides God, man should have no other gods. He should not make any graven images, and he should not bow down or serve idols. He should not take the name of God in vain, that is, not vainly use the name of God in things other than God. Moreover, man should remember the Sabbath and be one with God to enjoy all that God has accomplished for man. This is on God’s side.
The last six of the Ten Commandments, which are on man’s side, include the following: honor your parents, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not testify with false testimony against your neighbors, and do not covet. The last commandment touches our inner heart most deeply. Some people may be able to fulfill the first nine commandments, but the last one is the most difficult to fulfill. In Philippians 3:6 Paul said that he was blameless according to the righteousness of the law. However, in Romans 7 he confessed that he was not able to overcome covetousness (v. 8). Paul showed us that ultimately man is unable to fulfill the law. Moreover, he showed us that even if he had the ability to fulfill the first nine commandments, he would give it all up because the righteousness of the law had replaced Christ. Anyone who seeks after the righteousness of the law and rejects Christ, who is the reality of the law, is just like one who cares only for the glove and rejects the hand, so that eventually the glove replaces the hand. The righteousness of the law must not replace Christ.
(The Subjective Experience of the Indwelling Christ, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)