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CHAPTER III. 20. 21. IV. 1—3.
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I entreat thee also, true yoke-fellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of
FROM that description of the earthly-minded teachers of his day, which the Apostle had just drawn for the benefit of the Philippian believers, he now turns to the contrasted character of the real disciples of Christ. The religion of the Lord Jesus, as exemplified in the spiritual affections and lives of its true subjects, is, in itself, lovely to behold; but it must be admitted, that, when illustrated by comparison with the sordid views, the sensual desires, and the utterly grovelling attachments, of
unconverted men, it shines forth with still brighter radiance to our eyes. How forcibly, therefore, does St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians, exhibit those graces which he terms "the fruit of the Spirit," by placing them at the side of those evil passions which he calls "the works of the flesh !"* How elevated appears the Christian's pursuit after "righteousness," as the supreme object of his heart's desires, when, in the First Epistle to Timothy, it is spoken of immediately after that "love of money," which is the base appetite of the worldling, and his absorbing aim from childhood to the grave! It is for this same reason, that the portrait of a true believer, contained in the commencement of the portion now to be considered, comes before us with additional beauty: because it follows a representation of covetousness, of unchanged affections, of service to the creature, and not to "the Creator, who is blessed for ever."‡
* Gal. v. 19-23.
In distinction from those whom he had been describing, and whose hearts the Holy Spirit had never purified from the love of the world, the Apostle thus defines the character of the renewed servant of Christ. "For our conversation is in heaven." The word which is here rendered "conversation," signifies properly, citizenship, and the feelings and views connected with it. St. Paul, therefore, intends to say, that he, and all those who were partakers of the "like precious faith," were no longer denizens of earth, but of that higher state which is above; and that, in conformity with privileges and hopes so exalted, their minds rose above this transitory scene, and were fixed upon the glories of the world to come. Let me invite your attention to the solemn and interesting state
+ Rom. i. 25,
I. Tim. vi. 10. 11.
ment, contained in these words of inspiration. Whosoever, in the present congregation, has been led by divine"[grace to receive Christ within him, as "the hope of glory," is now, through the merits of the Saviour's atonement, exalted to the dignity and happiness of being a member of the heavenly world. He is no longer a person belonging to the earth merely; but is already, by anticipation, one of the inhabitants of that blessed region, where the spirits of the just made perfect rejoice in their Redeemer's presence. It is in regard to this connexion of the Christian with those happy spirits above, that St. Paul elsewhere describes him as being a "fellowcitizen with the saints, and of the household of God :"* and, on another occasion, he represents him as having "come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant."† Thus united in holy fellowship with that abode of the redeemed, the effect upon the heart and life of the believer is such as might reasonably be expected to appear. He moves through the present scene, as one whose vision is lifted to another that is beyond it; there he lives; and, amidst the sundry and manifold. temptations of the world, steadfastly "seeks those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God." If you cast your eyes, my brethren, over the pages of Scripture, you will find that this heavenly mind has always characterized, in a visible manner, the true servants of the Lord. Enoch, while all else were immersed in sublunary concerns, walked in communion with God, and with that better world where he resides. Abraham "sojourned in the land
* Eph. ii. 19.
Heb. xii. 22. 24.
+ Col. iii. I. § Gen. v. 24.
of promise, as in a strange country: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."* David, amidst the illusions of life, kept his views fixed upon that presence where there "is fulness of joy," and that right hand where "there are pleasures for evermore." In such a habit of mind, if you are the renewed disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, you likewise will ever be found. Citizens of an eternal country, thither your thoughts will continually ascend; you will be like pilgrims, who, though compelled to pass through the road of this lower world, are thinking, all the time, of their home; you will shew plainly, by your whole course of conduct, that your spirit is, "Here have we no continuing city, but we see one to come."‡
Having thus contrasted with the character of worldly men. that of the spiritual children of God, St. Paul proceeds, in the next place, to state one reason, in particular, for which the heavenly world possesses such interest in the Christian's eye. It is thus expressed. "From whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself." He here affirms, therefore, as you perceive, that the Christian pilgrim cannot but have his affections fixed upon that other, and better country, because the thought of it is connected with the expectation of Him, who, at the last day, shall raise our dust from the grave, and fit it for the everlasting enjoyments of his heavenly kingdom. Let us examine the words before us more minutely. St. Paul places in contrast two different objects. The one of these is "our vile body,”
* Heb. xi. 9. 10.
† Ps. xvi. 11.
+ Heb. xiii. 14.
or, as it might be more literally expressed, the body of our humiliation that is, a body degraded from its original condition by the entrance of sin into the world; liable to diseases and decay; and destined at last to die, descend into the earth, and become the prey of corruption. The other is the "glorious body" of the Lord Jesus Christ; that, namely, in which he now sits, as Mediator of the church, at the right hand of the throne of God. The lowly and corruptible body of the believer, thus strikingly compared with that of his risen and glorified Master, the Apostle tells us shall be "changed:" by which he intends to say, not that the servants of Christ shall, at the resurrection, appear with a different form and resemblance from that which they before possessed; but that, according to the proper signification of the word, they shall be fashioned anew; and, having qualities and properties imparted to them, in virtue of which they shall be incorruptible and immortal, shall thus be conformed to the likeness of their divine Head. Now all this wonderful operation, whereby the decayed tenement of flesh is raised from the ground, restored to communion with the spirit by which it was once inhabited, and made forever incapable of "diseases and decline," seems, to the finite conceptions of man, something beyond the bounds of credibility. We are here directed, therefore, to the Author of so mighty an act; and informed that it is "according to the working," or, the efficacious energy, whereby Christ Jesus "is able even to subdue all things unto himself:" in other words, that same omnipotence of his, through which he shall reduce every opposing enemy to subjection, shall quicken the slumbering dead; and thus gain the last triumphant victory over the power of the grave.