Posts Tagged 'Philippians'

Panic Podcast: 7 Things God Expects From Christians, Part 5

Good morning, everybody. I’m excited. I’m Canadian, so its hard to tell, but excited I am. It’s Monday and I just love Mondays!  We’ll be looking mostly at Philippines 2 this morning, so open your Bibles up and, to quote the great Jackie Gleason, “Awaaaay we go!”

 

Exceeding Abundantly Above, Part 5

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We serve a God who loves us. He loves us so much that He did this:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16, 17 TNIV)

God gave us Jesus to save us. But God’s giving didn’t begin or end with Jesus. God has always been giving to people. To the lost, He gives ample opportunities to get saved. To believers, God gives so much more. He meets all of our needs, both temporal and eternal. So far, we’ve looked at some of the things God has provided us with in abundance:

• In Romans 5:20 and Philippians 4:7 we learned that God has supplied abundant grace that has resulted in abundant peace between us and Him and between us and the world around us.
• Isaiah 55:7 told us that there is abundant pardon available from God. No matter who comes to God for forgiveness of sins, God is able to do just that in abundance.
• Only Jesus satisfies the needs of every human heart, according to Psalm 36:8.
• And thanks to the abundant life Jesus talked about John 10:10, believers can be living today lives full of heavenly power and blessings.

No matter what it is you need, God is able to provide more than what you are asking for. He’s not a cheapskate when it comes to blessings! The world, on the other hand, is also generous, except in reverse. While God gives good things in abundance, the world gives the opposite. For example, there’s plenty of strife in the world. There’s conflict everywhere. And there’s misery. For most of us, our lives feel like what Louis Armstrong sung about:

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows my sorrow
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory hallelujah!
Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down
Oh, yes, Lord
Sometimes I’m almost to the ground
Oh, yes, Lord
Although you see me going ‘long so
Oh, yes, Lord
I have my trials here below
Oh, yes, Lord
If you get there before I do
Oh, yes, Lord
Tell all-a my friends I’m coming to Heaven!
Oh, yes, Lord

Talk about depressing! Oh, yes, Lord. The thing is this: That’s not how God wants you to live, and He has made it possible for you live in a state of abundant joy for your whole life, regardless of your circumstances.

That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:26 KJV)

That’s what Paul wrote, and he meant it. But just what did he mean? Let’s take a closer look at this “exceeding abundantly above” provision.

The church at Philippi

Paul’s letter to the Philippians has been called the “Letter of Excellent Things,” mainly for it’s excellent content, which is so positive and uplifting. Some twenty times, Paul used terms like, “rejoice,” “thanksgiving,” “be content,” and “praise,” none of which are dependent on outward circumstances. In fact, Paul wrote this upbeat, cheerful letter from prison, uncertain of his own future!

The city of Philippi was named after Philip, father of Alexander. The great battle between Brutus and Octavian was fought here and shortly after that, the mighty Roman Empire was born in 42 BC. It was a long-time military outpost, with an obvious and strong military presence. The citizens of Philippi were all Roman citizens and therefore enjoyed all the rights and privileges that came along with that citizenship.

Speaking of citizenship, the ethnic makeup of Philippi was diverse indeed. Greeks, Romans, and Asians all lived in relative peace, and each of their religions and philosophies were respected. In fact, Philippi was a city steeped in superstition and mythology. Given the city’s strategic location and their propensity toward all things supernatural, it’s understandable why Paul wanted to start a church there, which he did on his second missionary journey, around 52 AD.

The Jewish presence in and around Philippi was practically nil; not enough even to support a synagogue. That meant Paul had to change his church-planting routine, and instead of spending time in the Jewish community, he did the next best thing: He went to a prayer meeting, held down by the lake.

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. (Acts 16:13 – 15 TNIV)

Lydia was convert number one. After her, a slave girl converted to Christianity, which got Paul and Silas thrown into prison. You know the story. Our two intrepid church planters started singing hymns and praising God and they were set free from their imprisonment by a supernatural earthquake. The head of prison, who saw the power of God, became convert number three, as well as members of his family.

At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household. (Acts 16:33, 34 TNIV)

And so the now-famous Philippian church was born. A fascinating aside was the makeup of the congregation. Lydia was a pure capitalist – a somewhat wealthy business woman who was Asiatic. The one-time slave girl was Greek, and she represented the lower, working classes. The jailer was a Roman and he represented the middle class. Truly, this church exemplified the power of the Gospel to attract and to save anybody:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26 – 28 TNIV)

Persecuted and poor

We know that while the church at Philippi was spiritually solid, they were a persecuted lot, largely on account of their association with Paul:

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me…without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:7; 28 – 30 TNIV)

Not only were the Philippian Christians persecuted, but they were poor. And yet, they were one of the most generous churches Paul had ever encountered in his journeys:

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own… (2 Corinthians 8:1 – 3 TNIV)

Notice what Paul wrote, because it’s surprising. The Philippians’ JOY had combined with their POVERTY to make them GENEROUS. That’s the exact opposite to way the world operates. It says you can’t be joyful if you’re poor. It says poor people can’t be generous. No wonder the world is miserable! It runs contrary to the way the Kingdom of God runs in every way. Jesus gave us the Kingdom precedence in Matthew:

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16 TNIV)

Everything in the Kingdom is upside down compared to everything in the world! Really, though, in the Kingdom, everything is right-side-up; it’s the world that’s messed up.

Paul’s state

Paul wrote this positive, upbeat, and cheerful letter from prison.

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. (Philippians 1:12 TNIV)

There’s that whole upside-down-way of looking at things again. You’d think that being thrown into prison would stop your evangelistic efforts. But, no! The exact opposite happened – being imprisoned helped to spread the Gospel even more! Dr Luke, Paul’s personal physician, friend, and traveling companion, tells us what Paul was going through at the time he wrote this letter.

When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28:16; 30, 31 TNIV)

He was stuck at home, unable to leave, yet that didn’t stop him from sharing the Gospel. Funny, isn’t it? Sometimes the least contrary thing stops us from leaving the house and even just coming to church, never mind actually doing something of value for God! A headache…a tickle in the throat…a phone call…all those things keep us from the Lord, yet here was Paul, imprisoned in his own rented house, finding a work-around for his imprisonment! What a guy!

For their part, the Philippians were concerned for Paul and wanted to see him released but Paul had learned to be content and to do the best for His Lord in whatever circumstances he found himself. In fact, Paul was willing to die for Christ and he didn’t view that as a bad thing!

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21 TNIV)

The man’s whole life was wrapped up in Christ, in witnessing for Christ, in fellowship with Christ, and the goal of Paul’s life had become making his life a channel through which others may come to know Christ as Savior. Now, not everybody has that goal in life. For the businessman, a happy life may be wealth. For the slave, hard work and suffering. For the philosopher, more knowledge. For the soldier, victory and fame. For the ruler, a kingdom.  But for Paul, as it should be for all believers sold out to Jesus Christ, death should be seen as gain. To die would mean ultimate freedom – freedom from whatever it is that binds you from living a full and fulfilling life. It would mean deliverance from yourself – your pain and suffering. Far from an evil thing, because of the Cross, death has been turned into a way for believers to experience the new life of freedom and abundance that comes from being completely like Christ.

Yet he was willing to stay and work for the Lord, and that gets us to our fifth “exceeding abundantly above” provision, that of joy. Paul was convinced that he would be released from his prison (he was) and that he would see his friends again (he did):

That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:26 KJV)

The “abundant rejoicing” would be occasioned by Paul’s freedom. The greatest source of joy for the Philippians would be the answer to their prayer! Is it yours? Do you rejoice and experience abundant joy when your prayers are answered? Or do you barely notice? Here’s the problem. You and I frequently pray with a worldly mind. That is, we pray for things to happen the way we think is best. That may not be bad or sinister, by the way, but it may be worldly. Remember, the Kingdom of God doesn’t operate like that. In God’s economy things appear to be upside down to us, but really they’re right-side up. So sometimes, while it may appear that your prayer is either going unanswered or it is answered in a way differently than you prayed, God is answering it the right way: The way of the Kingdom. So you should rejoice no matter what. Later on in this letter, Paul got to the point:

Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 TLB)

The Message, a quirky version of the Bible if ever there was one, translates this verse slightly differently:

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! (Philippians 4:4 MSG)

Revel in God, no matter what. Determine to be full of joy regardless of how you feel. An amazing thing happens when you start rejoicing when you’d rather not: you will feel happy. The Philippians were full of joy when the world said they shouldn’t have been. Paul was joyful when the world thought he should have been miserable. How do you feel?

MATURING IN THE FAITH, Part 2

Imitating Christ

Philippians 1:29—2:18

Thomas A Kempis in his book, The Imitation of Christ, said this:

Whoever wishes to understand fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.

If A Kempis is correct, that could explain why there is so much ignorance of God’s Word in the church today; too many Christians are busy running here, there, and everywhere—like chickens with their heads cut off—cultivating their own lives based on their own desires rather than cultivating the life of Christ in them. This is the idea put forth by Paul in Philippians 1:27—

Only one thing concerns me: Be sure that you live in a way that brings honor to the Good News of Christ. Then whether I come and visit you or am away from you, I will hear that you are standing strong with one purpose, that you work together as one for the faith of the Good News… (New Century Version)

This was a major concern of the apostle’s: that his Philippians friends should honor God in how they conduct the day-to-day affairs of their private, public, and communal lives.

But how would the Philippians—or Christians today—know how to live like that? With the hundreds of choices Christians face every day, how do we know which ones honor the Lord? In this section of Paul’s letter, he gives his advice on this part of maturing in the faith. A mature Christian imitates Christ.

1. Unity with Christ, 1:19—2:4

As we have learned, the Philippians were not lukewarm believers; no, this congregation was already deeply spiritual. This congregation was living in holiness, miles away from worldliness and carnality. In spite of this, Paul teaches them how to go even deeper into Christ’s fathomless grace.

a. Suffer like Christ, 1:29—30

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Suffering for Christ is not exactly something that excites most Christians! It is natural to avoid suffering of any kind at all costs, but when we avoid suffering for Christ, we miss out on something profound. The word “granted,” echaristhe, is formed on the stem of the noun charis, which means “grace” or “favor.” So Paul is conveying a deep, spiritual truth here. Even as faith in Christ is a gift of God, so also is suffering for the sake of Christ. We should stress, Paul is discussing suffering for Christ, not other kinds of suffering.

Suffering for Christ is one of several means God employs in achieving His gracious purposes for both His own Son and in all believers.

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. (Hebrews 2:10)

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6—7)

But what does “suffering for Christ” look like? In Paul’s case (and his primary example here), it looks a lot like his imprisonment! He was in prison, not because he broke any laws, but because he had been obedient to a Higher Law: he preached the Gospel. Because some people didn’t like the Gospel, the messenger was thrown into jail.

b. Pursue unity, 2:1—4

Without a doubt, the church at Philippi was populated by an already excellent congregation, full of excellent Christ-like qualities. However, no church is ever “ideal” all the time. While the witness of the Philippian church to the community outside was good, there appears to have been trouble simmering inside the church. Was there some kind of jealousy among the members? Were some members taking advantage of other members? Was there grumbling and backbiting? We don’t know because Paul doesn’t give us details, but there was a problem and his remedy was simple and direct.

…in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (2:3b, 4)

The meaning of verses 1 and 2 needs to be understood because it’s another profound idea from Paul. God gives strength to those who serve Him, God’s love for Christians serves as an incentive, Christians are full of the Holy Spirit, and Christians have love and compassion for each other. These four points serve as a basis for what he says in verses 3 and 4. Because Christians have all these things operating in their lives (or they should!), then it should be easy to live humbly and to put the needs of others ahead of their own.

This is a mark of Christian maturity; this is what unity looks like. Unity does not look like a bunch of people in total agreement about everything all the time. Unity is avoiding things like rivalry and pettiness, and embracing things like cooperation. It’s not that Paul thinks members of a congregation should think less of themselves, it’s that they should think more of others.

2. Dethrone self, 2:5—11

This is arguably the most majestic and profound Christological passages in the Bible. These verses could only have been written by a person carried along by the Holy Spirit, so deep are they. They are difficult to study because as we do so, we feel more like praising and worshiping Jesus that analyzing words!

Paul’s essential message here is identical with what he wrote to the Corinthians:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

In spite of how theologically profound these verses are, if we remember why Paul wrote them, we will find them easier to grasp. Something was threatening the unity of the Philippian church. Over against the attitudes of some who were, perhaps acting selfishly, Paul sets the attitude of Christ as the ultimate example of humble obedience.

a. The mind of Christ, verses 5—8

In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had… (verse 5)

This represents Paul’s exhortation. The Greek could be translated literally: “Keep thinking this among you, which (attitude) was also in Christ Jesus.” While Christians can in no way duplicate the exact ministry Jesus had on Earth, we can certainly have the same attitude.

This “attitude” is the “mind of Christ.” Moffat translates this brief exhortation: “Treat one another with the same spirit as you experience in Christ Jesus.” Implicit in this exhortation is the notion that it is impossible to love God without at the same time loving other members of the Body of Christ.

Remember why Paul gave the example of Christ to the Philippians: he wanted them to imitate Christ’s attitude. What was Christ’s attitude? Simply this: even though Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, is the revelation of God Himself, that is, God and Jesus Christ are of one substance, He did not “claim His rights” or “insist on maintaining His right” to be “equal with God.” What that means is that from all eternity, the Son has been equal with the Father. That equality is not based on nature but rather on relationship. And whether in Heaven or on Earth, the Son, even though equal with the Father in every way, never sought to aggressively usurp His will at the expense of the Father’s. He never sought to take the Father’s place.

There is a good example of this in John 5:17—18, where Jesus’ enemies accused Him of vocally proclaiming equality with God. This is something Jesus refused to do.

In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Jesus did not “make Himself equal with God” because He already was.  He never sought self-enrichment and He never displayed His equality with God in order to boost His stature among men. What a contrast between the first Adam and the Second Adam! The first Adam selfishly desired to be like God, but Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, unselfishly “looked to the interests of others.”

Mature Christians have seen that attitude in Christ and work at developing that same attitude in their own lives.

b. Exalt Christ, verses 9—11

Because Jesus lived in humble obedience to the Father, and because He put the needs of sinners ahead any need or want He may have had, He was and is exalted. And rightfully so.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place … (verse 9)

The word “therefore” (dio) is important. It means “in consequence.” So because Jesus was obedient, God exalted Him. This was something Jesus taught, and it was something He practiced:

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)

In other words, believers don’t need to “puff themselves up” or draw attention to their good works or their talents or whatever. If we simply and humbly live and work for the Lord, not drawing attention to ourselves or our efforts, in due course, God will reward us.

The loftiness of these incredible verses may be distilled into one sentence: It is the servant who has become the Lord. For the Philippians, the practical application was obvious, and it was something that Jesus Himself taught during His earthly ministry—

…and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of the others … (Matthew 20:27, GNT)

Imagine if every church member took Paul’s teaching here to heart, how many problems and schisms could be avoided. This is how mature believers act.

3. Partner with God, 2:12—18

These verses are Paul’s practical application of the deep spiritual truths he just wrote about. The word “therefore” in verse 12 links this passage to the preceding one like this:

  • Since Jesus Christ, by means of His complete, voluntary, unrestricted obedience left an example to follow;

  • Since the reward He received shows that there are amazing things in store for those who follow His example;

  • Since now, today, Jesus Christ is our mediator, imparting strength to all who trust Him and endeavor to live as He lived….therefore…..

….there are two things left to do:

  • Work out your own salvation. Salvation has many aspects, including a present one. Regeneration, the act by which a sinner is initiated into salvation, also comes with present obligations. God the Father accomplishes this regeneration for us, but then we are obliged to do something(s) for Him: work out our own salvation. We do NOT work FOR our salvation, we work IN our salvation. That part of the verse is something most of us understand. The sticking point are the words “your own.” We are not obligated to work out anybody else’s salvation, only our own.

  • With fear and trembling. This isn’t necessarily how we are to work out our own salvation, it’s the attitude we should assume. Philippians is a letter full of joy and optimism, not fear and trembling. Paul is in no way indicating that Christians should live fearful that God will “get them” if they mess up. Paul is referring to a “holy fear” of God that causes us to tremble at the thought of sin.

Knowing that God is the partner of each and every Christian, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, Paul proceeds to list a number of things Christians are expected to do in this present life. Christians are expected to live up to a standard set in the Word of God. If they do, then…

...you will shine among them like stars in the sky… (verse 15b)

Just as stars (phosteres) refer to heavenly bodies that “light the darkness,” so the light of the Christian illuminates the darkness of the moral and spiritual world. Christians ought to be “light-bearers,” like lighthouses on the seacoast.

You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. (Matthew 5:14)

This “lighting of the darkness” is possible only by this unique Divine-human partnership. God gives us the ability to live as He commands us to. Our good intentions can get us only so far. Intentions are not actions. Christians are called to action—action that is pleasing to God.

This is another mark of Christian maturity; living lives in Heaven’s direction. Holiness and purity of action, not just of intent, characterize the truly mature believer.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

MATURING IN THE FAITH, Part 1

Confident Living, Philippians 1:6—30

The letter to the Philippians was written by Paul while he was in prison in Rome. In spite of that, this letter is full of joy and optimism. The great preacher, G. Campbell Morgan, nicknamed this letter “a singing letter, a love letter.” Philippians is Paul’s most personal letter; a letter from an old man who was in a reflective mood, remembering with great fondness a body of believers who meant so much to him.

1. Confident of maturing, 1:6—11

a) Continuous good work, vs. 6, 7

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.

Verse 6 is such a meaningful verse to so many believers. The expression, “being confident” is causative, meaning that there was absolutely no doubt in Paul’s mind that God was in no way finished working in the Philippians. No matter what the circumstances were, good or bad, God was working in the lives of Paul’s friends to a positive end.

What was this “good work” Paul was referring to? It was grace; the transforming grace of God. As God had been working in them to transform them, the result was their own working for God’s good pleasure:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (2:12, 13)

Salvation is such an amazing thing. It really is the “new beginning” some people long for. In Christ, all the failures and guilt of your past are wiped away. Nothing in the world can compare to what Jesus Christ can do for a person when He works in them.

b) Abounding affection, vs. 8—11

Paul’s love for the Philippians was the same love Christ had for them. He loved them from his inner-most being because that was how Christ loved them. Paul was so united with Christ, that the indwelling Christ loved the Philippians through him.

Back in verse 4, we read this:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…

And here we have a glimpse of the content of those prayers. Paul’s prayers are always interesting to study because they shed light on his core beliefs; his theology.

 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (verses 9—11)

The word for “love” Paul used was not eros or philia, types of human love, but agape, a divine love. The phrase “your love,” then, really means “God’s love in you.” This hearkens back to the previous thought about Paul’s love for his friends being Christ’s love for them. Earlier in his career, Paul wrote the Roman church this famous verse:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another… (Romans 13:8)

Love is continuous, because it is always owing, always conscious of its debt. Christians are able to love one another solely because God loved us first. Christian love is meant to “abound more and more,” a good way of translating the Greek perisseue, a verb in the present tense, describing continuous growth and advancement.

However, while believers are to be generous in their loving of one another, they are to love while exercising discernment in that regard. Once again, a look at the Greek phrase is enlightening. The words used, epignosis (knowledge) suggests a thorough understanding of general moral principles, and aisthesei (discern) refers to the practical ability to apply general principles in everyday situations. In other words, we might say that Christians ought to love one another from the heart and from the head. We should never allow ourselves to be taken in or taken advantage by anybody, even a fellow believer.

Believers today, like the Philippians of Paul’s day, must always be growing and advancing in the faith. That growth, according to Paul’s theology, is demonstrated in the love we have for one another.

2. Confident of the Gospel, 1:12—18

Paul wasn’t just confident his friends would continue to grow and mature and that God would continue to work in them, he was also confident of the Gospel.

a) Bound and bold, vs. 12—14

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. (verse 12)

Stuck in prison with no clue when he would get out, somehow Paul could write verse 12. This man had something lacking in most believers today: perspective. Paul’s commitment to the Word of God was so complete, he couldn’t tell his friends how it was with him without mentioning how it was with the Gospel! In Acts, Dr Luke describes what was happening to Paul in Rome:

They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. (Acts 28:18)

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28:30, 31)

The use of the word “actually” or “rather” in the KJV, suggests that the Philippians may have been expecting bad news from Paul, so he was quick to quell any fear they may have about their friend’s state.

And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. (verse 14)

Notice that it was not “in spite of my chains” but “because of my chains.” This is more than just a man of God writing something to inspire somebody else, Paul is declaring that the successes he and his fellow workers in their evangelistic endeavors had experienced was actually due to his imprisonment. Another way to look at this verse is that the believers in Rome became bold in their proclamation of the Gospel because Paul was in prison. The word “proclaim” comes from the Greek lalein and denotes that the Romans were no longer silent; they were bolder than ever in spreading the Word.

Paul’s confidence was not misplaced. It was firmly grounded in the Gospel. What motivated these Romans so? Certainly it wasn’t the hope of Paul’s release, because nobody knew when or even if Paul would ever be released. Their new-found courage and confidence in the Gospel came from Paul’s triumphant example in carrying on his work while under arrest. It was his courage and his confidence in the Gospel that made the difference in their lives.

b) Reason to rejoice, vs. 15—18

But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. (verse 18)

We don’t know what Paul’s stature was, whether he was a tall or a short man, but spiritually and he was a giant. While he was in prison, many genuine believers were now witnessing and evangelising, picking up the slack because Paul was unable to get around town. But at the same time, others had taken up the pulpit, preaching the same Gospel Paul was preaching, but for very different reasons. These people, not false teachers, were taking advantage of the fact that Paul was stuck in one place, out of the public’s view. They preached, not because they cared about saving souls, but to advance their own agendas, whatever they might have been. We aren’t told, but since human beings never really change, we suspect it had to do with money and power.

But Paul tells his friends that, really in the great cosmic scheme of things, it is the Gospel that changes lives, not the one preaching it. As long as the person preaching is preaching THE Gospel, who cares why they do it? We can almost hear Paul adding, “Let God sort it all out, not me.”

3. Confident about the future, 1:21—28

Paul had no idea what his future held, but, as the song says, he knew who held his future.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (verse 21)

a) Life or death, vs. 21—26

What exactly does this now-famous phrase really mean? Will L. Thompson’s words express Paul’s thoughts perfectly. Of course, his famous hymn is “Softly and Tenderly,” but the lesser-known “Jesus is All the World to Me” contains Paul’s thoughts:

Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all;
He is my strength from day to day, without Him I would fall.
When I am sad, to Him I go, no other one can cheer me so;
When I am sad, He makes me glad, He’s my Friend.

In the Greek, the opening words of verse 21 are emphatic; he is giving a personal testimony about how he truly feels. But he is also drawing a contrast between himself and those other preachers he referred to earlier, who preached the Gospel for all the wrong reasons. Paul, in contrast to them, was not self-centered, but Christ-centered. He was so in life and he would be so in death.

Everything Paul did, he did for the cause of Christ. And even death was considered by Paul to be “gain,” that is, something positive. It meant that, at last, he would be united with One he lived for.

Whether or not he ever regained his freedom was literally of no consequence to the apostle. He looked forward to seeing Christ in death, but at the same time, if by God’s grace he was let out of prison, he saw that as an more opportunity to continue doing what he had been doing: preaching the Gospel.

b) Heavenly citizenship, vs. 27—28

Whatever happens, as citizens of heaven live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together with one accord for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.

Ever optimistic, Paul wanted to encourage his readers to remain resolutely steadfast and faithful, unafraid of what the future may hold. If ever there was a message for the Church of Jesus Christ today, it is to “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together with one accord for the faith of the gospel without being frightened.” We see so much disunity in the Church these days. If the Church were to live and function as it ought, the world would listen to our message. But the part of this piece of advice that stands out to us is the phrase “without being frightened.” Why would Paul write that? Those who live lives consecrated to the Lord will always be objects of derision. The world loves to mock the principled Christian. Even other Christians poke fun at their fellows who take their faith seriously. Paul knows this all too well, and so he offers the advice: don’t be afraid of anybody who may oppose you.

The true believer really has nothing be afraid of in the world because he’s just passing through on his way to heaven. Chuck Swindoll once said that a Christian should pitch his tent with shallow pegs. The reality is, this world is NOT our home. How invested should we be in it?

Paul describes believers as “citizens of heaven.” That phrase is deeper than it seems. The word Paul used was politeuesthe, from which we get “citizen.” In its original meaning, it meant to live according to laws and regulations. Philippi was a Roman colony, and some of its citizens were from Rome, but all Philippians were entitled to all the privileges of Roman citizenship. Even though Philippi wasn’t IN the Roman Empire, it was a tiny piece of the Roman Empire on foreign soil. Probably most of the citizens of Philippi had never been to Rome, but they were subjects of Roman law. Moffatt’s translation of verse 27 is a little more revealing: “For we are a colony of heaven.” As Philippi was to Rome, so is earth to heaven.

In fact, while the Christian lives on the earth, his allegiance is to Heaven. Once we were citizens of Earth, but not any more, and so our loyalty is Heavenward. This change in loyalty necessarily means a change in lifestyle. Citizenship carries with it both privileges and responsibilities. Christians are called to live according to the values of their heavenly commonwealth, not of the culture around them.

When we live like that, we are demonstrating our maturity in Christ.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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