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Words by The Way (The Philippians)

by E L Jorgenson

Elmer L. Jorgenson (1886-1968)

100 Years Ago

Reprinted from the Word and Work Dec. 1917

It has been remarked that the Philippian Church received more of praise and less of censure than any other church to which Paul wrote. In my judgment, it appears at its best as a missionary institution. Within the first twenty or thirty days of its existence this first of European churches established by an apostle had sent not less than twice to the support of Paul, a hundred miles away. From Philippi, it will be remembered, Paul went to Thessalonica, 102 miles distant and not over three days travel: Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica. Here Paul remained, so far as we can gather from the records, but three weeks; yet, we are told that while there the Philippian Church sent “once and again” unto his need. Within the first twenty- four days say, of their conversion therefore, Lydia, the jailor (with their households), perhaps the maid who had been healed —these few charter members of this church sent not less than twice for the work of missions. Nowadays, we seldom mention missions until a church is old and well established!

Nor was their liberality the matter of a moment’s enthusiasm. In his letter to the church the apostle makes the remarkable statement that from “the first day until now” the Philippians had fellowship for furtherance of the Gospel (Ph. 1:5). For a period-therefore of a dozen years or so, from the very beginning until our last view of it, that church was an active missionary organization. We must record, however, a period—the length of which is not stated—in which there were no contributions to Paul; but we must also record that this was not for lack of willingness but for lack of opportunity (Ph. 4:10). Not by stops and starts, by fits and spells, now and then, off and on, up and down, here and there; but regularly as they had opportunity they gave of their means—and of their men also, in the person of Ephaphroditus—for the Gospel’s sake.

Perhaps you will say that Philippi was a rich church, that it could give without sacrifice; but such was not the case. Even if Lydia was a woman of wealth—of which we cannot be sure— she cannot be counted as a permanent member of the Church at Philippi, being from Thyatira. And we are bound to number this church among those of Macedonia of whom the apostle says: “Their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality For according to their power, I bear witness,* yea and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord” (2 Cor. 8:2, 3) ; and whose liberality he explains by saying: “First they gave their own selves to the Lord.” These Christians gave time prayer, money; but back of all that and explaining it, they had given themselves. No giving can take the place of giving self. It is the best and highest that one can do. When self is given the silver follows. Philippi was simply what we would call a converted church. Following after one “who gave himself for our sins,” they kept nothing back, neither self not silver, neither men nor money.

What a center of blessing the church of God is! It is the salt of the earth; the light of the world—a city set on a hill; the pillar and ground of the truth. Viewed as an institution of temporal blessing alone, it stands unrivalled; and its temporal blessings are its least. When we consider that not one single solitary soul, of any race or country, has the faintest shadow of promise that God will save him in the world to come—except the true members of God’s Church, how that Church grows in our regard of it as a spiritual institution! In the ages to come, it will continue as the manifestation of God’s grace and kindness (Eph. 2:7) ; yea even ‘‘now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” the manifold wisdom of God is to be made known “through the church” (Eph. 3:9). Not through some humanly organized political, fraternal, social, charitable, or missionary society, but through God’s own welfare society— the Church. “Unto Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.”

I met a preacher once with whom I had almost nothing in common as to faith—as I learned in the course of conversation— except in matters of practice. He believed in the sufficiency of the church to spread the Word of God; in the reading, teaching, and preaching of it in the assembly, and in classes; in favor of hearty, spiritual, simple singing; he believed Christians should meet to break the bread upon the first day of the week; that they should give of free will; that they should pray in the assembly. I agreed with him thoroughly in these matters of congregational practice.

But beyond that, we had but little in common. On the Holy Spirit, on the Coming of Christ and the glories that shall follow, on the present care of God for his children, and many other matters of faith which do not directly affect action, conduct, practice, we disagreed. But we had good fellowship and co-operated splendidly in the work of God, just the same. Why not, since we were agreed on matters of practice ?

These doctrines do have an indirect influence upon conduct, and are very important. They affect the degree and quality of our activities; but they do not affect their kind and nature; on this account, differences of this sort should form no bar to fellowship.

  1. L. Jorgenson, December 1917



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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10