James Nisbet Commentary - Philippians 1:17 - 1:17

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James Nisbet Commentary - Philippians 1:17 - 1:17

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:


‘Set for the defence of the Gospel.’


What is the Gospel for the defence of which the Apostle declared himself to be set? It cannot be comprehended in its fulness, but there are aspects of it to which we may call attention. The Gospel tells us—

I. Of a manifested God, through the Incarnation, in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, of the Eternal Word, Who was in the beginning with God and was God.

II. Of a completed atonement through the obedience unto death of that Incarnate Word in the room of sinful men.

III. Of a free salvation purchased by Christ’s merit, and offered to all repenting and believing sinners without money and without price.

IV. Of a vanquished grave by the resurrection of Christ from the dead, bringing life and immortality to light.

V. Of an opened heaven by the ascension of that risen Christ within the veil as the Forerunner of His people.

It is strange that the Gospel, as thus defined, should excite against itself the opposition and hatred of the very individuals it was intended to bless. Yet such has ever been its fortune, and never perhaps has there been an age when the Gospel was more virulently assailed than it is to-day, or more urgently demanded that those who know its power should stand forth in its defence.



Without attempting an exhaustive discussion of the popular objections commonly advanced against the Gospel, which would need a treatise rather than a sermon, we call attention to what the Gospel does for man.

I. It satisfies his heart.—What the human heart needs to give it inward repose is a God to worship, love, and obey; not such a god as materialistic science speaks of. Christianity meets this demand by setting before the human heart, as the supreme object of its worship, love, and obedience, One Whom it declares to be the Image of the invisible God; One Who came forth from the Father; One Who said, and still says, of Himself, ‘He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; I and My Father are One.’

II. It satisfies his conscience.—A religion which shall satisfy human nature must be able to deal with and satisfy this part of it; at least, human nature itself appears to think so. If it does not, what, it may be asked, is the meaning of that strange phenomenon of altar-building and sacrifice-offering which makes itself visible whensoever and wheresoever man comes? Yet,

Not all the blood of beasts

On Jewish altars slain

Could give the guilty conscience peace.

What, however, man could not do for himself the Gospel proposes to do, can do, and does. It meets and answers the demand of man’s conscience in a manner at once righteous and efficacious, pointing the guilt-burdened sinner to an altar erected and a sacrifice provided by God Himself; to the suffering Servant of Jehovah, upon Whom God laid the iniquity of us all; to the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.

III. It satisfies his intellect.—We know that one of the charges levelled against the Gospel is that it does not satisfy the intellect. But this is, too often, the fault of the ‘intellect’ rather than the Gospel. One wonders if men like Saul of Tarsus, and Augustine of Hippo, Origen and Athanasius of Alexandria, and Tertullian of Carthage; like Luther and Calvin and Knox; like Owen and Howe and Boston and Rutherford; like Bacon and Milton; like Newton and Chalmers; like Brewster and Faraday, not to mention others—one wonders if these men must be set down as poor pigmies in mental stature beside the magnificent intellectual Goliaths of to-day. We need to remember that our Lord said, ‘If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.’ An intellect in rebellion against God will never be satisfied.