Paul's Practice

James Smith, 1860

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:3-5

The less we indulge SELF, the better. Selfishness is . . .
the bane of our happiness,
a bar to our usefulness, and
renders us unlovely to both God and others.

One of the most beautiful traits in the character of our Lord and Savior, was his unselfishness. He never seemed to please himself, or consult his own ease. He was everyone's servant, and everyone's friend. All who applied to him were received, all befitting requests were granted, and through his whole life, his own testimony was illustrated, "The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Next to the Savior, perhaps no one carried self-denial so far as the apostle Paul; let us look at his admirable words, "Just as I myself strive to please [to accommodate myself to the opinions, desires, and interests of others, adapting myself to] all men in everything I do, not aiming at or considering my own profit and advantage, but that of the many in order that they may be saved." 1 Corinthians 10:33 (Amplified bible)

PAUL'S SELF-DENIAL. "Not seeking my own profit." We are naturally selfish, and seek our own health, wealth, and gratification, as our grand end. Selfishness clings to us, and appears more or less in our whole conduct. But the gospel calls for self-denial, and bids us take up our cross, and follow our self-denying Master. The gospel requires dedication to God, that we may live to him and for him; and it directs us to seek the good of others, of all that are around us. What the gospel requires true grace produces; and it will struggle and fight with all our selfish principles until it prevails.

It did so in Paul, who suffered the loss of all things for Christ, and rejoiced in the sacrifice; who devoted his whole life to seek the good of others. He could say even of his bitterest enemies, who cried, "Away with him," and sought to take his life, "My heart's desire, and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved;" and this desire influenced his conduct, and regulated his whole life. What an admirable example! O for grace to copy it day by day!

PAUL'S BENEVOLENCE. "I seek the profit of many." He could say, "As poor, yet making many rich." "I seek to please in order to profit." Therefore he became all things, to all men. He accommodated himself to their prejudices and interests, when they did not run counter to the word of God. He never went to the extent of his own liberty but always asked, "Is this expedient?" He consulted the best interests of the greatest number, not sparing himself, or thinking much of his own labor. He sought to benefit and bless all he could, therefore he gave as a reason for his accommodating spirit, "that I may save the more." Lord, fill me with such benevolence, that I may not seek my own selfish interests but the welfare of others; and of as many others as possible!

PAUL'S DESIGN. "That they may be saved." If saved ourselves, we should seek to save others. In proportion as we realize the value of salvation, and enjoy it in our own souls shall we seek the salvation of others. Paul laid himself out to save all he could, as he testified when speaking of Jesus, "Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. Whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working, which works in me mightily."

What a noble, what a magnanimous spirit! O that every one of us possessed the same! If such a spirit, leading to such conduct, inspired all the members of Christ's church then what glorious results we should witness.

Does not Paul's self-denial reprove us? Have we not been far too selfish? May he not bring the same charge against us, which he did against the Philippians, "All seek their own interests and not the things which are Jesus Christ's." May he not well address us, as he did the Corinthians, "Let no man seek his own interests but every man another's welfare." Ought not this subject to produce sorrow, and lead to a new course? It ought, and if it works effectively in our minds, it will.

We have lived long enough for ourselves! It is time that we became interested in the souls of others, and began to live for others. Lord, rouse us up, and make us sorry for our past conduct, and give us grace to act differently in future.

Does not Paul's conduct account for his great success? Surely it does. Would not we be more happy and profitable to others if we were less selfish, and more thoroughly imbued with the self-denying spirit of Christ? Do we not live too much to ourselves? Do we not think too much of our own comfort, and pleasure, and ease? Can we look back on the past without grief on this account, or forward to the future without seeking grace to act differently?

If we really love immortal souls, and if we desire the prosperity of Christ's church shall we not seek grace to go and do as Paul did? We should follow him, as he followed Christ. Let us make him our model, and keep the whole of this fine passage frequently before our eyes. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God   even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved." 1 Corinthians 10:31-33

O how Christ-like! Admirable example! Lord, give us grace to copy it accurately, by keeping it always in view!