GRACE BIBLE CHURCH Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary. The Tree of Life for week ending 04/22/01. Philippians 4:1. Therefore, my beloved brethren [members of the Royal family of God] whom I desire to see or be with, my source of happiness and [“stephanos”] wreath of glory... Our study of this verse has now brought us to this command: “So stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” The Philippians are already “supergrace” believers, and Paul is continuing to lead them and encourage them to follow him, as he advances further and further from the majority of believers, and becomes more and more dedicated and devoted to the plan of God for his life. He is an example of many of the martyrs of the early church who were willing to lose their lives for that which they believed. In effect, Paul is saying, “Continue to follow me, even though I may not look like a success in the world’s eyes.” At this time, he is in chains in a Roman prison. What is success? Does it depend on what the world says or on what God says? Isa 55:8-9. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” True success is advancing in the preordained plan that God has masterfully designed for our lives. As we advance, we will have that hope, rather that confidence, that the world can never understand. This understanding is what gave Job hope, the understanding that ultimately, someday, he would be resurrected. Job 14:14. “If a man dies, will he live again? [And the answer was of course “yes!”] All the days of my struggle I will wait, until my change comes.” The apostle Peter had the same hope even after betraying the Lord three times. He understood the power behind our Lord’s resurrection and that ultimately someday he would be resurrected. Joh 5:28-29. “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” Dan 12:2. “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” Paul has continued and persevered with the predesigned plan of God and has become more and more separated from the majority of born-again Christians. In Paul’s day, just as in our day, most believers had quit on Bible doctrine and the plan of God, and had come up with all sorts of excuses for not continuing with the devotion and dedication that Paul had. Paul is on his way to the next objective; he has cracked the maturity barrier, regrouped in supergrace, and he is now crossing the “no man’s land” to the next objective, ultra-supergrace. And he is telling the Philippians, the most faithful of all the churches of that time, “follow me.” Phi 4:1. Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I desire to see or be with, my source of happiness and wreath of glory, so stand firm. The verb “stand firm” is “stekete,” which means to stand firm, be stabilized, persevere, and persist; it is applied to a military organization under fire and under pressure. Paul uses this same verb in Rom 14:4 and also in 1Co 16:13, for standing firm and persevering with doctrine: “Be on the alert, stand firm in doctrine, act like men, be strong.” It is used in Gal 5:1 for standing firm in grace and rejecting legalism: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Phi 4:1 is a command given to believers who have been consistent in living the adult spiritual life and have reached the supergrace status, and who now need to find stability in that status, before they can move on once again and to take the next objective, ultra-supergrace. The Philippian believers have reached supergrace in the past and have continued in that mature status into the present. The command to “stand fast” or “be stabilized” introduces the principle that no believer can remain the same; either you are advancing or retreating, but you never stand still in one spot. Everything depends upon your day-by-day attitude toward Bible doctrine, i.e., perception, metabolization, and application of Bible doctrine. Once we change our mind about Bible doctrine, we begin the retreat into reversionism. Phi 4:1. ...my beloved brethren whom I desire to see or be with, my source of happiness and wreath of glory, so stand firm in the Lord... “In the Lord” is the prepositional phrase “en” plus the locative of the noun “Kurios,” which is “Kurio.” The definite article (“the”) is omitted here, calling attention to the perfect quality of the Lord Jesus Christ. The emphasis here is on positional sanctification (our perfect, unchangeable position in Christ), and it indicates the necessity of seizing and holding experiential sanctification (spiritual growth in time) until overtaken by ultimate sanctification (resurrection). This may seem very technical, but what Paul is saying is this: At the point of salvation, we enter the first phase of sanctification, which enters us into union with Christ forever. We never lose this category of sanctification, called positional sanctification. We could also call it salvation sanctification because it occurs at salvation and never changes; you can never improve your position in Christ. It is perfect from the moment of salvation and forever, in time as well as in eternity. Paul is telling the Philippians, “You started out with positional sanctification, cracked that maturity barrier, and are now in supergrace.” Supergrace is the status of experiential sanctification, which is the balance of residency between the filling of the Holy Spirit and maximum doctrine in the soul. The believer must stand firm in his experiential sanctification until overtaken by ultimate sanctification, which is the believer’s life in eternity with a resurrection body. To “stand firm in the Lord” means to advance, stabilize, and move out for the next objective, which is ultra-supergrace. After giving this exhortation, Paul then adds the salutation once more, “my beloved.” The entire verse in our corrected translation reads: Philippians 4:1. “Therefore, my beloved brethren [members of the Royal family of God] whom I desire to see or be with, my source of happiness and wreath of glory, so stand firm [be advancing and not retreating] in the Lord, my beloved.” A Review of Principles from Philippians 4:1 1. This is a command to advance to ultra-supergrace and to not retreat into reversionism. The “no man’s land” leading to ultra-supergrace contains many dangers that could cause a believer to fall and slip back into reversionism. This is what happens when the believer becomes apathetic, indifferent, uninterested, impassive, unconcerned, detached, dispassionate, etc., concerning the plan of God. The church of Jesus Christ in our country today has experienced great instability. From the leadership on down it tends to be an unstable church; even its leaders do not seem to be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. This is a hostile world; there is a hostile flesh and a hostile devil, and if we are grace-oriented believers, we will be in conflict with all of them. The scriptures warn us that we must be watchful. As we have noted many times, we are to “be aware” and to “be alert,” because the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. The world (the cosmic system) with all of its allurements always endeavors to entice the believer. We are continually under assault. In our personal lives there will be times of persecution and severe trial. In fact, subtle persecution in our society sometimes is more difficult to overcome than that which is overt or even violent. Obvious persecution can be seen throughout the world, where being a Christian can cost one his life or his freedom. However, there is also a very subtle persecution that can come from the world, to the degree that we as believers may want the world’s acceptance, and somehow we become afraid to make our Christianity an issue. Subtly we compromise because we are caught between being different and being a part of the world. 2. Paul’s reason for saying, “stand firm in the Lord, my beloved,” is that he does not want to see a division hit the church at Philippi. It is true that the Philippians had a special love toward Paul. It is also true that they alone had supported him financially, as we shall see later in chapter 4, in the midst of his need. He had a love for them that more than likely surpassed all others, a bond that was unique and had been cultivated mutually through the years. However, that does not mean that the Philippian church was in all respects everything it ought to be, or that there was no instability to be found there. In fact, after studying the book of Philippians as far as we have already, we have noted some hints that there was a degree of selfishness in the church, which Paul dealt with in Phi 2:3-5. There were some who had harbored self-interest and had stumbled and fallen from their spiritual stability. They were giving in to conceit and pride, and becoming more concerned with the things of their own life than the lives of others. They were not thinking with the mind of Christ. We also know that there was some conflict in the church of major proportions that will be dealt with in verses 2-3 of this chapter. Two women, who apparently may have been able to lead factions that could have split the church, had an intense disagreement and others were no doubt party to the quarrel. Two women who couldn’t agree may not seem like a major problem. However, the fact is that these were two prominent women in the church, and the situation was significant enough for Paul to identify the women by name in Phi 4:2. 3. The command to “stand firm in the Lord, my beloved” is a command to advance beyond supergrace to ultra-supergrace. 4. There is a “no man’s land” between supergrace and ultra-supergrace, which includes certain “occupational hazards” and special hindrances to the spiritual advance that the supergrace believer must overcome. 2Ti 3:10-12. But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me! And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 5. One of these occupational hazards can be a personality conflict with members of the congregation, which can occur even when one has reached supergrace and is still advancing, Phi 4:2-3! 6. The believer cannot advance from supergrace to ultra-supergrace and at the same time become involved in pettiness or personality conflicts in the local church, at home, or anywhere else. Pettiness is a hazard that can overtake a believer, even one who may not have had a previous weakness in this area, when he enters the “no man’s land” between supergrace and ultra-supergrace. This results from a hypersensitivity and a predilection for certain mental attitude sins, starting with arrogance, and continuing with its counterparts, jealousy, bitterness, vindictiveness, and implacability. 7. Two women in the Philippian congregation have cracked the maturity barrier and attained supergrace. They had both continued with doctrine, but a difference arose between them, and they turned on each other. This is what makes pettiness so ugly; this is a personality conflict, and no one’s personality should be the issue. The only issue is Bible doctrine. Once a believer cracks the maturity barrier and enters supergrace, it becomes more difficult to keep priorities straight. One can develop a hypersensitivity for certain types of personalities and become antagonistic. Hypersensitivity plus a few mental attitude sins will make anyone antagonistic. Instead of holding and standing firm, as Paul has instructed, these people can easily peel off from God’s plan and crash. The only way to deal with a personality conflict is to return to one’s seriousness with Bible doctrine, rebound from the sins involved, and move on, and then stay as far away from the other person as possible. The worst thing one can do as an advancing believer is to get caught up in a personality conflict with anyone else. Life is too short to waste time with these trivial conflicts. You can not get involved in a personality conflict with someone else without being shot down from your spiritual life, and falling into reversionism; it can happen very quickly. These two women had reached supergrace, and moved on to “no man’s land,” yet they still allowed this disagreement to neutralize their spiritual walk. A “mere” personality conflict developed to the point that the Apostle Paul mentioned them by name in his epistle to head off a division in the greatest church in the ancient world.