Charles Simeon Commentary - Philippians 1:20 - 1:20

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Philippians 1:20 - 1:20

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:



Php_1:20. Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

WHILST the great mass of mankind, like a ship driven with fierce winds and tossed upon tempestuous waves, are uncertain what may be the event of their trials, the true Christian is like a ship at anchor: he beholds the storm, but defies its power: he knows that every effort, either of men or devils, to destroy him, shall issue in his own welfare, and in their confusion. St. Paul was in prison at Rome, uncertain whether he should be set at liberty or put to death. He had adversaries also amongst the professed followers of Christ, who laboured to increase his affliction, by weakening his influence in the Church, and drawing away his converts to their own party. But he knew, that the more his afflictions abounded, the more were the prayers of God’s people offered up on his behalf, and the more would a supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ be poured out upon him. He was therefore satisfied, that, however matters might terminate with respect to temporal deliverance, they would issue in his final “salvation;” and that he should be so strengthened from above, as never to “be ashamed” of his profession, but rather that, as in past times, so to the latest hour of his existence, “Christ should be magnified in his body, whether it were by life or by death.”

This expression is very singular, and deserves more than ordinary attention. We propose therefore to consider.

I.       In what sense Christ may be magnified in our body—

We may easily conceive that Christ should be served, or honoured by us; but how can he be magnified? Can we add any thing to his essential dignity? No; he is “God over all, blessed for evermore.” Can we add to his mediatorial honours? No; we cannot augment his kingly power, or give virtue to his priestly sacrifice, or enlarge his influence as the great Prophet of the Church. Can we add to the glory that he possesses in heaven? No; the angels and glorified saints are already glorifying him, day and night, with all their faculties and all their powers. Surely then (it may be said) this is a proud, if not a blasphemous expression. No; we must not so hastily condemn an inspired Apostle. You ask then, How can we magnify Christ? We answer, that he may be magnified by us both in word and deed: “O magnify the Lord with me,” says the Psalmist, “and let us exalt his name together.” This shews what may be done by our voices: and as to our actions, we may be said to magnify him, when in our conduct we set forth,

1.       The purity of his law—

[It is not only in “bearing one another’s burthens,” but in obeying all the precepts of the Gospel, that we are to “fulfil the law of Christ.” Now the extent of this law is not in any degree imagined by the world at large: they have no idea of the motives, the principles, the conduct which the Christian code inculcates. But when a child of God is enabled to act up to his profession, he shews to all around him the beauty of holiness: he commends to them the law which he obeys: he constrains them to see and acknowledge its transcendent excellence: and in advancing thus the honour of the law, he honours also the Lawgiver: “In adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour,” he adorns and magnifies the Saviour himself.]

2.       The perfection of his character—

[The Christian follows the steps of his Divine Master, and endeavours to “walk as he walked.” Now if his path be luminous, what must that of the Lord Jesus have been? The most eminent of our fallen race was no more in comparison of him, than a twinkling star (I should rather say, a glow-worm) in comparison of the meridian sun. If therefore the effulgence of a poor and sinful creature like ourselves be such as to attract the admiration of all that behold it, much more must the splendour of Emmanuel’s holiness exceed in glory; insomuch that the attainments of Paul himself have no glory by reason of his glory that excelleth.]

3.       The blessedness of his service—

[If we see a person grudging every labour that be performs, we naturally conclude that his task is irksome, and that the master whom he serves is not (in his esteem at least) worthy of any high regard. But if we behold a person straining every nerve, and exerting himself day and night in the most arduous services, and, after all, complaining only that he cannot perform one half of what he wishes to do for his master, we conclude, of course, that he loves both his work, and his master too. When therefore we behold an exemplary and laborious Christian devoting all his powers to the service of his God, and all the while taking shame to himself as an unprofitable servant, we are constrained to say, that (in his eyes at least) his Lord is worthy of all honour, and the work in which he is engaged is perfect freedom. The devotedness of the servant is a high and public commendation of his Lord.]

4.       The power of his grace—

[It is to this chiefly that the Apostle refers: and it is by a display of this that Christ is chiefly magnified. A river flowing with a rapid and majestic current to the sea, would defy the efforts of the whole world to turn it back again to its source; yet by the returning tide it is not only arrested in its course, but driven up again with equal rapidity towards the fountain-head. It is thus that a sinner, when rushing with the whole current of his affections towards this present world, is stopped in his career of sin, and turned back with an irresistible impulse towards high and heavenly things. Let men, yea, let all the angels in heaven, attempt to effect this change, and their united efforts would be in vain. Who then that witnesses this change, and beholds the believer’s victories over sin and Satan, and his progressive advancement in the ways of holiness, must not adore that power by which so great a miracle is wrought? In this Christ is indeed magnified: “the exceeding greatness of his power is made known;” and the sufficiency of his grace is incontrovertibly established.]

Let us now proceed to inquire,

II.      By what means Christ may be magnified in our body—

St. Paul knew not whether his present imprisonment would issue in life or death: but in either case he hoped and expected that Christ would be magnified in his body; that is, either by the renewed services of his body, or its protracted sufferings unto death. In order then to magnify Christ in our body, we must,

1.       Use our body as an instrument to fulfil his will—

[The Apostle was a fit pattern for us. Were his feet at liberty? he travelled from Judea round about into Illyricum, that he might carry to heathen nations the glad tidings of the Gospel. Were his hands at liberty? he worked by night, that he might be able to preach by day. Was his tongue at liberty? he preached Christ incessantly, and encouraged all to put their trust in him. It is thus that we also should act. We are not indeed called to execute like him the apostolic office, and, consequently, not to tread precisely in the Apostle’s steps: but we are called to walk in the same spirit, and to employ all the faculties of our body in the same manner. We should “yield all our members instruments of righteousness unto God.” We should consider our eyes, our ears, and all our powers, as consecrated to him, and to be used for him. And though our sphere may be very contracted, yet may every one of us find abundant scope for the exercise of piety and benevolence, if we will only put forth the powers that we have, and embrace the opportunities that are afforded us. Dorcas was limited in her means of doing good; yet were her exertions so great, that the whole Church at Joppa wept and deplored her loss: and we also may endear ourselves to multitudes, and greatly magnify the Lord, if in our respective places we improve the talents committed to our care.]

2.       Endure cheerfully whatever we may be called to suffer for his sake—

[There is a kind of suffering which we should account no suffering at all: we should “mortify our earthly members,” and “crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts,” and cut off the right hand, or pluck out the right eye, that is an occasion of offence to us. But there are other sufferings, which though we may deprecate, we must expect and submit to, saying, “Not my will, but thine be done.” Reproaches, persecutions, imprisonments, and death, are, more or less, the portion of all who follow Christ. Doubtless they are not pleasing to flesh and blood: yet, as they may be the means of displaying the power and grace of Christ, we may not only bear them, but even “take pleasure in them.” St. Paul cheerfully submitted to them in this view: “We bear about,” says he, “in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in our body [Note: 2Co_4:10-11.]:” and, to manifest the importance of that thought, he repeats it almost in the same words in the very next verse. Let us meet our trials in the same way; and then, as he has told us, His strength shall be perfected in our weakness, and His name be magnified in our obedience.]


1.       The self-indulging world—

[You seem to think your body made only that you might adorn, pamper, and gratify it. What resemblance then have you to the Apostle? Till you know the true use of the body, and employ it in its only legitimate exercises, you have no pretensions to the Christian character [Note: Dan_5:23 and 1Co_6:19-20.].]

2.       The inactive professor—

[St. Paul intimates that there is but one alternative; you will either “be ashamed,” or “magnify Christ with your body:” if by any considerations you are deterred from glorifying Christ, you so far renounce all your principles, professions, and expectations: but if you value Christ as you ought, you will live and die for him. Judge which is better for yourselves, and more suitable to your obligations to him.]

3.       The advancing Christian—

[What a noble ambition is yours [Note: 2Th_1:11-12.]! You are not contented to serve or enjoy Christ, but must also magnify him. Go on; and he will soon “make your vile body like unto his glorious body” in a better world: and whatever others may be, you shall “not be ashamed before him at his coming.”]