16Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
Today’s devotional is brought to you by John Calvin, from his commentary on Philippians.
16 Holding forth the word of life The reason why they ought to be luminaries [see verse 15] is, that they carry the word of life, by which they are enlightened, that they may give light also to others. Now he alludes to lamps, in which wicks are placed that they may burn, and he makes us resemble the lamps; while he compares the word of God to the wick, from which the light comes. If you prefer another figure — we are candlesticks: the doctrine of the gospel is the candle, which, being placed in us, diffuses light on all sides. Now he intimates, that we do injustice to the word of God, if it does not shine forth in us in respect of purity of life. This is the import of Christ’s saying,
No man lighteth a candle,
and putteth it under a bushel, etc. (Matthew 5:15.)
We are said, however, to carry the word of life in such a way as to be, in the mean time, carried by it, inasmuch as we are founded upon it. The manner, however, of carrying it, of which Paul speaks, is, that God has intrusted his doctrine with us on condition, not that we should keep the light of it under restraint, as it were, and inactive, but that we should hold it forth to others. The sum is this: that all that are enlightened with heavenly doctrine carry about with them a light, which detects and discovers their crimes, if they do not walk in holiness and chastity; but that this light has been kindled up, not merely that they may themselves be guided in the right way, but that they may also shew it to others.
That I may have glory. That he may encourage them the more, he declares that it will turn out to his glory, if he has not labored among them in vain. Not as if those who labored faithfully, but unsuccessfully, lost their pains, and had no reward of their labor. As, however, success in our ministry is a singular blessing from God, let us not feel surprised, if God, among his other gifts, makes this the crowning one. Hence, as Paul’s Apostleship is now rendered illustrious by so many Churches, gained over to Christ through his instrumentality, so there can be no question that such trophies will have a place in Christ’s kingdom, as we will find him saying a little afterwards, You are my crown. (Philippians 4:1.) Nor can it be doubted, that the greater the exploits, the triumph will be the more splendid.
Should any one inquire how it is that Paul now glories in his labors, while he elsewhere forbids us to glory in any but in the Lord, (1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17,) the answer is easy: that, when we have prostrated ourselves, and all that we have before God, and have placed in Christ all our ground of glorying, it is, at the same time, allowable for us to glory through Christ in God’s benefits, as we have seen in the First Epistle to the Corinthians. The expression, at the day of the Lord, is intended to stimulate the Philippians to perseverance, while the tribunal of Christ is set before their view, from which the reward of faith is to be expected.