Sunday June 27th
You know those people who come knocking on your door telling you that you need to get "saved" or you're gonna "burn"?What do they call those people?Oh yeah, that’s right, they’re called firefighters.
So… as we begin our study of the book of Philippians, be prepared to learn a lot about being “saved” from getting burned!
Let’s look at the first six verses of chapter one:
Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Verse one tells us that this letter is coming from both Paul and Timothy.
He refers to the two of them as “bond-servants” of Jesus, which is essentially another word for slaves.
Paul says that he always gives thanks to God in behalf of these Philippian believers “in view of your participation in the gospel”. The word “gospel”, means “good news”, and it occurs nine times in the book of Philippians. And what is the good news? It’s the wonderful truth that we can be saved by grace through faith in Jesus!
Look at verse 6 again:
“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
The completion of God’s work in our lives depends upon God preserving us by His grace, just like He saved us by His grace. I didn’t start the work of salvation in my life, God did! And I can’t complete the work of God in my life, only He can!
My main goal is to learn to cooperate with the work that God is trying to accomplish in my life rather than getting in the way of it!
Paul is trying to encourage these Philippian believers that God WILL accomplish what He has set out to do in their lives, even if their circumstances at the moment don’t look very good. And Paul then uses his own circumstances to drive this point home:
7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
The Philippians have been with Paul in his heart all throughout his imprisonment and his trial.
Paul tells the Philippians not only that he prays for them, but also what he prays for.
He prays for love, knowledge, discernment, and sincerity, so that they will stay “blameless” until the day that Jesus returns. In verse 11 he reminds them that “the fruit of righteousness,” which is their new righteous way of living, is being accomplished “through Jesus Christ”, meaning through the work of His Spirit.
Paul continues then to show them what this has looked like in his own situation:
12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.
Who would have ever thought that getting arrested could be a way to advance the gospel? Because of Paul’s imprisonment, the gospel has been spread to his prison guards and to their households!
We know this because as Paul finishes up this letter in 4:22 he says,
“All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”
Paul’s imprisonment can’t stop the gospel from being spread, because nothing can stop the gospel from being spread!
Then in verse 15-18 he expresses this strange idea:
15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,
He says that even some of his rivals, people who are hoping to take his place, are at least still preaching about Jesus. They may be preaching about Christ so that they can feel important.
They may even be taking advantage of Paul’s imprisonment and suffering to win followers for themselves!
But Paul simply says, “What do I care? As long as the gospel is being preached, I will rejoice, because this was never about me anyway, it’s always been about Jesus!”
In verses 19-26 Paul expresses the hope that he will be released from prison and will be able to visit the Philippian church again, but he also reminds them that he is fine with however it all turns out:
19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;
24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
Paul expects to be released from prison at some point because he knows he’s innocent, but he can’t be certain. Either way, he says, he will be fine. Paul’s life is not based on whether he will be set free or not. In fact, Paul’s life isn’t even based on whether he will live or not. His only goal is to see Jesus Christ magnified. Whatever else happens is of secondary importance.
At this point in Paul’s life, he feels torn between two possibilities. On the one hand he wants to go on to be with Jesus in heaven, but on the other hand a part of him wants to remain on the earth for the sake of the people that he knows and loves, particularly within the Philippian church.
Ultimately, he knows that the outcome of his future is in God’s hands either way.
In the last four verses of this opening chapter, Paul switches gears.
He turns his attention from his own situation and how he is handling his trials to the Philippians themselves and how they are dealing with their own challenges:
27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
Paul’s appeal is for unity among these believers. He is pleading with them that they would stand firm together and not break apart under the pressure of different kinds of opposition that they were facing.
To Paul, this means both proclaiming the gospel, and also living lives that are worthy of being called followers of Jesus.
This means not only being worthy of saying “I am saved by His grace”, but also being worthy of saying “I am blessed to be allowed to suffer for the sake of the gospel”
Maybe we could actually think of that ability, that willingness, as a kind of measure that reflects the level of spiritual maturity that we have attained so far in our Christian walk.
In other words, the lowest level of spiritual maturity, where everyone starts out as a new believer, is focused on what Jesus has done for me – the suffering that He has FREED me from.
And that’s really a wonderful awakening, knowing that Jesus has paid the price for my sins and removed the consequences of my sinful choices.
It’s not a bad thing to live at that level of relationship with Jesus.
But what Paul is calling the Philippian church towards is a higher and a deeper level of relationship, one that is characterized by a willingness to voluntarily share in the suffering that Jesus took upon Himself for the sake of a sinful world.
We’re going to see Paul refer to this in his own life in chapter 3, verse 10, where he says that he wants to
“know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings”.
Do you want to know Jesus in that way?
Do you want to continue living at a level where your connection to Jesus is solely on what He has done for you, and what He can provide for you?
That’s perfectly fine, Paul says, but there’s so much more if you’re willing to say, “Jesus, if you need me to suffer for the sake of your Kingdom, if things might get harder for me in order to accomplish your will here on earth as it is in heaven, then I am available to be used in that way.”
Paul was ultimately calling the Philippian church to reach for that higher and deeper level of commitment to Jesus.
I found this incredible, almost unbelievable example of someone who had entered into that level of deep relationship with God. And it was actually a child, of all people. Let me read it to you from the source that I found:
One of the most powerful prayers in the midst of suffering was uncovered from the ruins of the Ravensbruck concentration camp. This was a concentration camp built by the Nazis for women. Over 90,000 women and children died in the Ravensbruck camp. Corrie Ten Boom, who wrote The Hiding Place, was imprisoned there at one point.
This prayer was found in the clothing of a dead child:
O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.
I don’t even know how to comment on that prayer.
All I can say is that maybe there is a higher, deeper place that we can be operating from when it comes to responding to people who have hurt us.
And it doesn’t involve holding grudges. And it doesn’t involve seeking revenge. And it doesn’t involve judging or condemning them.
It involves forgiveness. It means truly loving our enemies and praying for those who have persecuted and abused us.
It means sharing in the suffering that Jesus experienced, and in doing so becoming more like Him.
That was Paul’s heart-felt prayer for the Philippian church.
It is my heart-felt prayer for all of us.