TAPE REVIEW: Philippians
by Norman Grubb
Norman starts off his commentary on Paul’s letter to the Philippians by focusing on Paul’s experience with the ascended, intercessory life. Philippians is an epistle of joy and encouragement in the midst of adverse circumstances. On several occasions in this letter, Paul mentions his joy, which Norman says is a permanent condition. Paul urges the Philippians to rejoice in all their circumstances.
The discussion begins with an aside on Philippians 3:12-14 in which Norman elaborates on "pressing on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Norman says that this is the completion of the purposes of God through us for others. We already know we are perfect containers, vessels for God; Christ’s perfection is to bring others into perfection in Him.
At the heart of Norman’s discussion of Philippians is the three stages of maturity we go through as Christians. In the first stage, Paul describes putting aside all confidence in human effort: "Those things that were gain to me, those I counted as loss for Christ" (3:7). Prior to being converted, Paul was very self-righteous. All his lineage and attainments as a Jew, however, were in stark contrast to what he saw in Stephen when he was being stoned to death. Paul’s desire was to destroy Stephen. But God’s desire in Stephen was other-love–to save his enemies. Seeing this love provoked an intense reaction in Paul. Stephen didn’t want his enemies to go to hell–that got to Paul. Having seen the love of Christ through Stephen, he saw the devilishness of his own false perfection. Paul counted his puny human efforts as loss when compared to the gain of being accepted by God and received as a beloved son.
In the second stage of maturity, Paul describes moving on from being an accepted self to finding who he truly was–a Christ self–no longer merely experiencing Christ for him (as Savior), but Christ as him for others. And this experience involved suffering personal hurt, a dying to anything else but Christ living out His life as Paul: "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (3:8). But there was a cost involved; he was cast out by his own people, the Jews. Now Paul counted all things as loss, not just the loss of his self-righteousness. Paul surrendered all that he was and owned. Norman emphasizes that there is a cost to "suffer all things as loss" to come to know our union with Christ, to finally die to everything in life but me being Him and He being me.
Norman makes a distinction between this second stage of knowing Christ and the third stage, the intercessory life, in which all his interests and values in life have changed. Paul "counts them but dung that I may win Christ." And he states that to "win Christ" means to be poured out that others might know Him.
The paradox involved here is that we hate things from our past life, get rid of them–and sometimes get them back to be used for others. We may have misused money or relationships in our pre-Christian days and have to give the misuse up. Then we may get them back, but this time to be used for others. Norman says that the main theme behind all personal enjoyment is that by some means it might benefit others. That’s what union life is all about–being for others. It reminds me of the verse in Matthew Chapter 16, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it but whosoever loses his life for My sake shall find it." This was certainly Paul’s experience as outlined in this letter.
Paul, in the third stage of maturity, manifests Jesus Christ being poured out for others. In Philippians 2:7, Paul reminded the Philippians that Jesus made Himself of no reputation, emptied Himself, and was made in the likeness of men. Jesus took upon Himself a servant expression of God in which He identified with those whom He served. Norman refers to Jesus’ life as having a hidden basis of renunciation. We can see from this epistle that the same was true of Paul’s life. We learn to operate by this wholly new power–to move back from outer appearance to the faith level. Paul counts all things as loss for the sake of knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.
Norman finishes off this tape with some insights into intercession. He says it is a specific commission. It does involve bodily action by us; we are materially involved as well as spiritually. And there is a cost to us: death works in us so that life is produced in the one we are interceding for.
Although the book of Philippians is short (only four chapters), I found Norman’s treatment of it very challenging. I also gained new insights into Paul’s spiritual journey and personal circumstances.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 13 No 1
- Editor’s Note
- Moments with Meryl
- God’s Stormtroopers
- A Look at a Book
- A Christmas Letter
- Safety in the Crossfire!
- Food for Body, Soul & Spirit at the NY Conference
- To Think About…
- Questions & Answers
- The Mailbox
- The Contract
- The Self Can’t Be Improved
- Tape Talk
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- The Way of Release
- God’s Standards Have Not Changed: British Fall Conference
- Words to Live By
- One Lesson