on Philippians 2 :16
Holding forth the word of life - An allusion, some think, to those towers which were built at the entrance of harbours, on which fires were kept during the night to direct ships into the port. Genuine Christians, by their holy lives and conversation, are the means of directing others, not only how to escape those dangers to which they are exposed on the tempestuous ocean of human life, but also of leading them into the haven of eternal safety and rest.
That I have not run in vain - This appears to be a part of the same metaphor; and alludes to the case of a weather-beaten mariner who has been long tossed on a tempestuous sea, in hazy weather and dark nights, who has been obliged to run on different tacks, and labor intensely to keep his ship from foundering, but is at last, by the assistance of the luminous fire on the top of the tower, directed safely into port. Live so to glorify God and do good to men, that it shall appear that I have not run and labored in vain for your salvation.
on Philippians 2 :16
Holding forth the word of life - That is, you are under obligation to hold forth the word of life. It is a duty incumbent on you as Christians to do it. The "word of life" means the gospel, called the "word of life" because it is the message that promises life; or perhaps this is a Hebraism, denoting the living, or life-giving word. The gospel stands thus in contrast with all human systems of religion - for they have no efficacy to save - and to the law which "killeth;" see the John 6:63, note, and 2 Corinthians 3:6, note. The duty here enjoined is that of making the gospel known to others, and of thus keeping up the knowledge of it in the world. This duty rests on Christians (compare Matthew 5:14, Matthew 5:16), and they cannot escape from the obligation. They are bound to do this, not only because God commands it, but:
(1) because they are called into the church that they may be witnesses for God, Isaiah 43:10.
(2) because they are kept on the earth for that purpose. If it were not for some such design, they would be removed to heaven at once on their conversion.
(3) because there are no others to do it. The frivolous ones will not warn the fools, nor will the proud warn the proud, nor the scoffer the scoffer. The thoughtless and the vain will not go and tell others that there is a God and a Saviour; nor will the wicked warn the wicked, and tell them that they are in the way to hell. There are none who will do this but Christians; and, if they neglect it, sinners will go unwarned and unalarmed down to death. This duty rests on every Christian.
The exhortation here is not made to the pastor, or to any officer of the church particularly; but to the mass of communicants. They are to shine as lights in the world; they are to hold forth the word of life. There is not one member of a church who is so obscure as to be exempt from the obligation; and there is not one who may not do something in this work. If we are asked how this may be done, we may reply:
(1) They are to do it by example. Everyone is to hold forth the living word in that way.
(2) by efforts to send the gospel to those who have it not. There is almost no one who cannot contribute something, though it may be but two mites, to accomplish this.
(3) by conversation. There is no Christian who has not some influence over the minds and hearts of others; and he is bound to use that influence in holding forth the word of life.
(4) by defending the divine origin of religion when attacked.
(5) by rebuking sin, and thus testifying to the value of holiness. The defense of the truth, under God, and the diffusion of a knowledge of the way of salvation, rests on those who are Christians. Paganism never originates a system which it would not be an advantage to the world to have destroyed as soon as it is conceived. Philosophy has never yet told of a way by which a sinner may be saved. The world at large devises no plan for the salvation of the soul. The most crude, ill-digested, and perverse systems of belief conceivable, prevail in the community called "the world." Every form of opinion has an advocate there; every monstrous vagary that the human mind ever conceived, finds friends and defenders there. The human mind has of itself no elastic energy to bring it from the ways of sin; it has no recuperative power to lead it back to God. The world at large is dependant on the church for any just views of God, and of the way of salvation; and every Christian is to do his part in making that salvation known.
That I may rejoice - This was one reason which the apostle urged, and which it was proper to urge, why they should let their light shine. He had been the instrument of their conversion, he had founded their church, he was their spiritual father, and had shown the deepest interest in their welfare; and he now entreats them, as a means of promoting his highest joy, to be faithful and holy. The exemplary piety and holy lives of the members of a church will be one of the sources of highest joy to a minister in the day of judgment; compare 3 John 1:4.
In the day of Christ - The day when Christ shall appear - the day of judgment. It is called the day of Christ, because he will be the glorious object which will be prominent on that day; it will be the day in which he will be honored as the judge of all the world.
That I have not run in vain - That is, that I have not lived in vain - life being compared with a race: see the notes at 1 Corinthians 9:26.
Neither laboured in vain - In preaching the gospel. Their holy lives would be the fullest proof that he was a faithful preacher.
on Philippians 2 :16