In His Letter to the Philippians (continued)
The Letter of the Joy of Triumph
But as we read it, we find that it resolves itself into this. It is, perhaps more than any other letter in the New Testament, the letter of the joy of triumph. Joy runs right through this letter. The Apostle is full of joy to overflowing. He seems to be hardly able to contain himself. In the last chapter we were speaking of his superlatives in relation to the great calling of the Church in the gospel. Here the Apostle is finding it difficult to express himself as to his joy. I leave you to look at it. Look just at the first words, his introduction, and see. But it runs right through to the end. It has been called the letter of Paul's joy in Christ, but it is the joy of triumph, and triumph in a threefold direction. The triumph of Christ; triumph in Paul; and triumph in the Christians at Philippi. That really sums up the whole letter: the threefold triumph with its joy and exultant outflowing.
The Triumph of Christ
First of all, triumph in Christ and of Christ. It is in this letter that Paul gives us that matchless unveiling of he great cycle of redemption - the sublime course taken by the Lord Jesus in His redemptive work. We see Him, firstly, in the place of equality with God: equal with God, and all that that means - all that it means for God to be God. How great that is! - how full, how high, how majestic, how glorious! Paul here says that Jesus was there equal with God. And then, 'counting it not something to be held on to, to be grasped at, this equality with God, He emptied Himself. He emptied Himself of all that, let it go, laid it aside, gave it up. Just think of what He was going to have in exchange. These are thoughts almost impossible of grasping: God, in all His infinite fullness of and eternal fullness, allowing men of His own creation, even the meanest of them, to spit on Him, to mock and jeer at Him. He laid it aside; He emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a man, was found in fashion as a man; and not only that, but still lower in this cycle - the form of a bond-slave, a bond-slave man. A bond-slave is one who has no personal rights; he has no franchise, he has no title. He is not allowed to choose for himself, to go his own way, and much more. Paul says here that Jesus took the form of a bond-slave.
And then he goes on to say that "He humbled Himself, became obedient unto death"; and not a glorious death at that, not a death about which people speak in terms of praise and admiration. "Yes", says the Apostle, 'death on a Cross' - the most shameful, ignominious death, with all that that meant. You see, the Jewish world, the religious world, of that day, had it written in their Book that he that hangs upon a tree is cursed of God. Jesus was obedient to the point of being found in the place of one who is cursed of God. That is how they looked upon Him - as cursed of God. And as for the rest of the world, the Gentile world, their whole conception of that which should be worshiped was one who could never be defeated, one who could never be found in a situation which should cause him shame, one who could stand before the world as a success - that was their idea of a god. But here is this Man on the Cross. Is He a success? That is no sign of success. That is no indication of human strength. That is weakness. There is nothing honorable about that - it is disgraceful. That is humanity at its lowest.
And then the cycle is reversed, and the Apostle breaks in here, and says: "Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow" - sooner or later; either gladly to acknowledge Him Lord, or forcedly to do so; sooner or later, in the determinate counsels of Almighty God, it shall be; "and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father". What a cycle! What a circle! What a triumph! You cannot find triumph fuller or greater than that: and Paul calls that the gospel. It is the good news of Christ's tremendous triumph. He has triumphed in that circle, and all that is included in the triumph is the gospel. We cannot stay to dwell upon it, as to why He did it, or what He effected by it, what He has secured in it. All that is the gospel. But the fact is that in that Christ has accomplished a tremendous victory. In the whole circle of Heaven and earth, from the highest height to the lowest depth, He has triumphed. Paul finds unspeakable joy in contemplating that. That is what he calls the good tidings, the gospel - triumph in Christ.
(continued with # 27 - (Triumph In Paul's Own Spiritual History)