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What is the Meaning of Holding Forth the Word of Life?

The subject of the book of Philippians is the experience of Christ subsequent to our initial salvation. So a proper understanding of the phrase “holding forth the word of life,” as mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:16, must be related to our experience of Christ. The experience of Christ unfolds in progressive stages as the divine life grows and manifests itself in our life. Ultimately, the issue of the experience of Christ is to hold forth the word of life.

“Holding forth” means to apply, present, or offer, whereas “the word of life” refers to Christ Himself (1 John 1:1) with His living word. So “to hold forth the word of life” means that the believers as children of God present the living Christ to those around them. The word of life is different from the doctrine of dead letters. In John 5:39-40 the Lord condemned the persecuting Jews because they searched the Scriptures but were unwilling to come to Him that they might have life. As a result, they were deadened by the killing letters of doctrine (2 Cor. 3:6a). In contrast, when the Scriptures and Christ go together, they are God’s living breath (2 Tim. 3:16), even words of life, enlivening all those who receive them (John 6:63). When we are filled with these “words of life” by prayerfully reading the Scriptures, we are supplied to present Christ to those around us.

The word of life is different from the doctrine of dead letters.

How do we experience holding forth the word of life? This requires that we see the relationship between four crucial matters mentioned in Philippians 2:1-16: Christ as the pattern of our Christian life (vv. 5-11); working out our own salvation through obedience (v. 12); God operating in us both the willing and the working for His good pleasure (v. 13); and holding forth the word of life (v. 16). Christ, the self-emptying and self-humbling One who was exalted and glorified by God, is the pattern for our Christian life. His earthly life is not merely an objective pattern, but through Christ as the indwelling Spirit (1:19; Rom. 8:9, 11), this pattern becomes wonderfully subjective to us. In this way, Christ Himself as our pattern also becomes our daily salvation (Phil. 2:12). Thus, we work out our own salvation by living out Christ. This salvation is by God operating in us (v. 13) the willing (inwardly) and the working (outwardly) to save us in a practical way. Eventually, as we cooperate with God who is operating within us, we live out Christ, presenting Christ to others as the word of life. The Christ we experience as the pattern becomes our salvation through God operating in us. Then in our living of Christ, we present Christ to others, holding forth the word of life.

This was Peter’s experience in Acts 5:20 when the angel told him, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life” [emphasis added]. Peter’s living out the divine life was so prevailing that even the angel observed it and pointed it out to him. In this way, Peter was holding forth the word of life. Therefore, “holding forth the word of life” is equivalent to living Christ (Phil. 1:21), expressing Christ, and working out our own salvation (2:13). It is an issue of the experience of Christ.

For further reading on this subject, please see Life-study of Philippians, messages 10, 35, 36, 39, 43, and 44.

From Issue No. 30, October 2000

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