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Philippians

HOW TO BE A JOYFUL AND UNITED CHURCH

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
PHILIPPIANS

 

GREETINGS (1:1-2)

A JOYFUL OUTLOOK ON OTHER CHRISTIANS (1:3-11)

A JOYFUL OUTLOOK ON TRIALS (1:12-30)

THE ATTITUDE THAT ENABLES US TO BE JOYFUL AND UNIFIED (2:1-18)

TWO MEN WHO DEMONSTRATED THIS ATTITUDE (2:19-30)

AN OUTLOOK ON SUCCESS THAT ENABLES US TO BE JOYFUL (3:1-21)

JOYFUL RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER CHRISTIANS DESCRIBED (4:1-5)

HOW TO DEAL WITH A GREAT ENEMY OF JOY – THE UPTIGHTNESS THAT COMES WITH ANXIETY (4:6-9)

PAUL'S JOYFUL OUTLOOK TOWARD WORLDLY NEEDS (4:10-20)

FINAL GREETINGS (4:21-23)

 

Introductory Information About the Book of Philippians

The author:  In the first verse it states that Paul wrote this letter:  "Paul and Timothy servants of Christ Jesus."  A number of early church leaders after the time of the Apostles state that it was written by Paul.  It was written by Paul while he in prison at Rome. See 1:7, 13-14  Because the book of Philippians speaks of people making travels back forth from Rome to Philippi while Paul was in prison, this letter was written after Paul had been in prison for some time. See 2:25-26, 4:18   It was not written by both Paul and Timothy, for in the letter Paul immediately says the following:  "I thank my God every time I remember you." (1:3)

The recipients:  In the beginning of Philippians it also states that the letter was addressed to the church at Philippi:  "To all the saints at Philippi together with the overseers and deacons."  The church in the city of Philippi was the first that was begun by Paul in Europe. See Acts 16:9-14  It is in modern-day Macedonia, just north of Greece.  The church in Philippi was poor but very generous. See II Corinthians 8:1-5, 9:1-5; Philippians 4:15-16  It was named Philippi after Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great.

The theme:  The words "joy," "rejoice," and "glad" are used 17 times in the NIV translation of Philippians: 1:4, 18(2), 25, 26, 2:2, 2:17(2), 18(2), 28, 29, 3:1, 4:1, 4(2), 10.  How can we experience God's joy even in the midst of heart-breaking trials?  Certainly, the book of Philippians answers that question.  Paul had been imprisoned unjustly as a result of faithfully serving Jesus Christ for nearly 30 years; yet the letter to the Philippians is a letter expressing his joy.  What can we learn, then, from this book about how we can experience this joy, even if we also are in the midst of a dark time of trial?  The book is also about how a church can go from disunity to unity.  Every chapter has something in it about unity. See 1:15-18, 27-29, 2:1-8, 3:2-3, 18,  4:2-3

 

THE MESSAGE OF PHILIPPIANS

GREETINGS (1:1-2)
"Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Thought Question:  Why do you think that Paul addresses these words "To all the saints" at Philippi, rather than just addressing it to the "overseers" or elders of the church?

 

 

We will focus on a number of key words in these verses.  The first word is "servants."  Paul and Timothy were "servants of Christ Jesus."  The Greek word translated "servants" is douloi, and "refers to one whose will is swallowed up by the will of another." "Taken from Word Studies in The Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1975 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  The people of that time who were "servants" or slaves lived their lives for the will of their master.  Different from Paul and Timothy, their role as slaves was forced on them.  Paul and Timothy had chosen to give their lives to doing the will "of Christ Jesus."

The second word is "saints."  The "saints" were the ordinary Christians in Philippi.  The Roman Catholic Church sets certain Christians apart as saints because they in some way or ways appear to be superior Christians.  They, then, become saints because of something significant about them.  But, in the Bible, "saints" are all Christians who have been set apart by God's grace for His holy purposes.  The church in New Testament times with the worst problems was the church at Corinth.  Paul, nevertheless, refers to them all as "saints":  "To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:" (1 Corinthians 1:2)

The third and fourth words are "overseers and deacons."  "Overseers" translates the Greek word episcopos, from which we get our word for the church denomination, "Episcopalian."  "It is the translation of a Greek word used in secular pursuits of an overseer in any capacity, for instance, the official in charge of the repairing of a temple or an officer in an army." "Taken from Word Studies in The Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1975 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  Church leaders are given three names that are used interchangeably with each other: overseer (or bishop), elder, and pastor (or shepherd).  "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." (1 Peter 5:1-3)

"deacons"  This word is not actually an English word.  The Greek word diaconois refers to someone who serves.  Doulos referred to a servant as being a servant to his master; diaconos refers to the actual activity of serving.  "It represents a servant not in relation to his master, but in activity." "Taken from Word Studies in The Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1975 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  In our churches, we use the word "deacon" for an officer in our churches, but a more accurate title would be "servants."  "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea." (Romans 16:1)  The Greek word for "servant" in Romans 16:1 is a form of diaconos.  A plural form of this same Greek word diaconos is translated as "deacons" here in Philippians 1:1.

Notice that Paul directs this letter to the entire church.  This is one argument that is used for believing that a church should have a congregational government where the entire church is responsible that the church operates under the leadership of the Lord and where the whole church is responsible for the quality of Christian life that is present in the church which they are part of. 

The fifth word is "grace."  Without God's "grace," we would get what we justly deserve for all that we have done wrong and continue to do wrong.  Because Jesus took our penalty on the cross, we get "grace" and not justice; we get His favor instead of His judgment.  It is "grace" that makes forgiveness possible, that makes a new life possible, and that makes heaven possible.  "Grace . . . to you."

The sixth work is "peace."  "Peace" is a removal of that which divides us from God and other Christians.  "The word 'peace' in classical Greek means 'to bind together.'" "Taken from Word Studies in The Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1975 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

A JOYFUL OUTLOOK ON OTHER CHRISTIANS (1:3-11)

1. A joyful focus on their unlimited potential (1:3-6)
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 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."

Thought Question:  In what ways would what Paul states here be an encouragement to you if you were a member of the church at Philippi?

 

 

Paul is always joyful as he remembers them and as he prays for them.  Why?  Is it because they are such great people?  No, it is because he remembers how God started a work in them and He is confident that God is going to complete that work.

Sometimes, we can become discouraged as we hear of some well-known Christian falling into sin or drifting away from the church.  We can get down when some new false teaching gains popularity in the church at large.  Yet, in spite of the problems, God's church continues to grow even in countries that persecute and imprison Christians.  Why?  It is because it is God that started His church and it is He who will continue to grow His Church.  It is also God who enabled us to become Christians and it is He who will complete the work that He started in us.  Paul found great joy in this truth.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones observes that Paul did not say one word about how he started the church at Philippi.  Why?  He undoubtedly remembered that it was God who supernaturally directed him to Philippi through a vision. See Acts 16:6-10  He also undoubtedly remembered that it was God who opened the heart of Lydia, the first convert at Philippi, and began the church at Philippi. See Acts 16:14  He also undoubtedly remembered that it was God who rescued Silas and him from jail in Philippi and brought about the conversion of the jailor. See Acts 16:16-40  And the God who began the work in them would also complete it.  Paul found great joy in this hope.

"until the day of Christ Jesus."  What is "the day of Christ Jesus"?  It is the "day" Jesus will return. See II Thessalonians 1:9-10; Titus 2:1:13; Matthew 25:31-46  At that time, we will become like Him!  "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)  "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." (Philippians 3:20-21)  We can rejoice in this hope!

Paul found joy in remembering how God had started His work in them and he found joy in believing that God also would complete this work in them.  We find still other reasons why they brought him great joy.  He rejoiced in how they had partnered with him in the gospel ministry.  There is one example found in Acts 16:14-15:  "One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who 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 16:14-15)  Lydia immediately partnered with Paul in his ministry by allowing him to use her home as a ministry center.  We will learn later how generous they were in giving to his ministry. See 4:10-20

"In all my prayers for all of you,"  From many examples in the New Testament, we learn that Paul recognized that constant prayer was one part of the role that he played in the spiritual growth of his spiritual children.  Why did he not just have confidence that God would complete His work?  Why did he also pray continually?  We do not understand why our prayers are so essential, but if Paul prayed continually for those in the church, we also should pray continually. See Ephesians 1:16, 3:      14-19; Colossians 1:9-14

How can we experience the same joy that Paul experienced while he was in prison?  We may find ourselves in circumstances that also are not joyous.  But, like Paul, we can also find much to be joyous about.  No matter how difficult our circumstances may be, we can be certain of two truths:  First of all, the work that God started in our lives, He will continue until it is gloriously completed on "the day of Christ Jesus."  Secondly, the work that God has started in those in our local church, our family, and the lives of our friends will continue until it is completed on "the day of Christ Jesus."  Whatever the difficulties are that we are presently experiencing, we can rejoice in the work that God is doing in our lives and in the lives of those we love and are praying for.  We can find joy in this truth and reality.

2. A joyful focus on those you love (1:7-8)
"It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus."

One way the enemy can seek to conquer and destroy us is to isolate us.  Paul, when he was writing this letter, was in jail.  Did he feel isolated?  No, these verses show that he continued to have these Philippian Christians on his heart.  He knew from talking to Epaphroditus and from receiving the financial help from them that he was on their hearts also.  Here are some verses in Philippians that demonstrate that he did not feel alone:  "since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have." (Philippians 1:30)  "But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs." (Philippians 2:25)  "I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it." (Philippians 4:10)  "Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles." (Philippians 4:14)

He longed "for all" of them "with the affection of Christ Jesus."  They continued to share "God's grace" with him and they shared his "gospel" ministry with him, even though he was "in chains."  He was not isolated and alone, for in his heart he and they were still together.

How does this type of heart oneness bring joy to us when we are going through a difficult trial?  Sometimes, we can feel alone, but then we receive an encouraging phone call from out of town from a close Christian friend (which I did today).  Then, there is the joy of a warm and heartfelt oneness with a Christian mate and/or another family member.  These bonds of Christian love are essential to giving us joy in our tough times.

Thought Question #1:  What strong Christian relationships are bringing you joy right now?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How are these relationships aiding you in your ministry?

 

 

3. A joyful prayer of confident hope (1:9-11)
"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 until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."

Thought Question #1:  In Philippians 4:8 Paul instructs Christians to focus on "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy"; how is Paul's prayer in these verses like this type of thinking?  Please give specific examples.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How do you believe "love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight"?

 

 

There are some who see love as a feeling and others who see love as only an act of the will.  Like many issues in Christianity, it is not "either/or" but "both."  Love is both an emotion of affection and an act of the will.  We learn in these verses that it is also a result of proper thinking.

How can love increase "in knowledge and depth of insight"?  Though the Philippian church was a very loving community and showed it by their genuine concern for others, they could still grow in their love for others.  Though you and I may genuinely love others, we also can love others more than we do.  In I Corinthians 13 there is a description of true love.  This description of love ends as follows:  "It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away." (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)  That is a description of true love, but is it a description of our love.  Jesus, while he was being mocked and scorned and while His bloodied body was hanging on the cross, cried out:  "“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”" (Luke 23:34)  Stephen while he was being stoned to death by Jewish religious leaders, cried out:  "“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep." (Acts 7:60)  That is true love!  Can we love those who hate and despise us like those who hated and despised Jesus and Stephen?  How can we love in this way?  We need our love to "abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight."

How can our love "abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight"?  This verse may be a key verse in Philippians, for the rest of the book appears to give some of that "knowledge and depth of insight."  Let us look, first of all, though, in another book for an answer to this question.  In James 1:4-8, James exhorts his Jewish readers who are going through great trials to wholeheartedly ask God for wisdom so they can better handle their trials joyfully.  "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds."  Then, later in the book of James, he gives them wisdom on how they should look at their trials.  Paul follows the same type of pattern in Philippians.  He gives them wisdom on how he personally is handling his own trial of being in prison without becoming bitter and unloving. See 1:12, 15-18,21, 2:3-11 for some examples of some of the wisdom that Paul provides for them.  Paul gives them his example of his love (1:15-18); a summary of Jesus' love (2:5-8); Epaphroditus' example of love (2:25-30); and Timothy's example of love (2:19-24).  Throughout this short book, Paul gives them greater insight into what true love looks like and explains how we can grow in this love.

How will greater "knowledge and depth of insight" enable us to love others more like God loves us?  Our love grows in "knowledge and depth of insight" as we learn more about how much God loves us and more about how loving He is.  As we grow in understanding of how loved we are, then our love for others will grow.  "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)  We will learn more about God's Spirit within us and about how He enables us to love.  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness . . ." (Galatians 5:22)

Do you desire that your love grow in "knowledge and depth of insight"?  If we receive this growth in understanding love, we will grow in the following ways:  We will gain in understanding of what is and what is not the loving way to handle the sins of others.  In Galatians, Paul gives us this insight on that:  "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load." (Galatians 6:1-5)  We will grow in our understanding of the sacrificial nature of true love:  "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:5-8)  We will grow in understanding and character so that we can persevere in loving those who are difficult to love.  "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Matthew 5:43-47)

"so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,"  How can we confidently say and do that which truly comes from a heart of love?  "How often we saints mean to be loving to others, and say the wrong words and do the wrong thing.  We lack that delicate sensibility, that ability to express ourselves correctly, that gentle, wise, discriminating touch which would convey the love we have in our hearts to lives of others." "Taken from Word Studies in The Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1975 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

Paul's prayer is that these Philippian Christians would grow in being able to discern what is the way of love from what is not the way of love, so that they would  "be pure and blameless until the day of Christ."  He desires that these Christians would grow in their ability to do what is "best," "pure," and "blameless."

"until the day of Christ,"  Paul's desire is that they would not only do that which is "best," "pure," and "blameless," at the time that he is writing to them, but that they would persevere until the time that Christ returns.  We know now that, for them, it was until they died, for Jesus has not yet returned.  What Paul hoped for them, should also be what we desire for ourselves today; that we would grow in genuine love and persevere in it until our death or until Christ returns. See I John 3:1-3

"filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."  If we do grow in our love for others, it can only come from Jesus Christ, and He is the only One, then, who deserves the glory. For, we are totally incapable of loving others in a pure and genuine way.  "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

How can growth in love also bring us joy?  No matter how difficult our trial may be, we can still rejoice in it if our love for others is growing more genuine, pure, and persevering as a result of the trial.  That was Paul's prayer for the Philippian Christians, and it is God's goal for us.  If this is true in our lives, we can look forward with great joy to the time we will stand before Him, for He is now approving of what we are doing and is pleased with our heart's motive for doing it.

A JOYFUL OUTLOOK ON TRIALS (1:12-30)
1. God uses our trials to accomplish His good. (1:12-18) (God used Paul's imprisonment to reach Paul's Roman guards and to motivate other Christians to preach the gospel more boldly.)

a. God used Paul's imprisonment to reach Paul's Roman guards. (1:12-13)
How can we be joyful when we are experiencing injustice and suffering?  Paul had been imprisoned for a period of years by the time he wrote this letter.  What was his crime?  He believed that Jesus Christ was the promised Jewish Messiah and he would not stop seeking to persuade people that if they believed in Him they would receive eternal life.  What a horrible crime!  "For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain." (Acts 28:20)  See Acts 28:17; Ephesians 3:1, 6:20; Philemon 9  How can we be joyful in the midst of injustice and suffering?  Paul gives us one way in these verses: we can see how God is using the trial for good!

"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ."

Thought Question:  Are you going through a difficult trial in your life right now?  How can Paul's attitude that is expressed in these two verses help you in how you look at your trial?

 

 

At the end of this letter, Paul makes the following statement of fact:  "All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household." (Philippians 4:22)  It sounds like Paul's unjust imprisonment had opened up a door to the gospel that would not have taken place if Paul had not been in prison.  As Roman soldiers guarded him one after another; they were guarding the fearless and passionate gospel-sharing apostle to the Gentiles.  For two years, Paul was able to be a witness for the gospel to the elite in Caesar's household.  "When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him." (Acts 28:16)  "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 28:30-31)  Because Paul tells us that he was in chains; his effective evangelism of the elite Roman guard has been called "a chain reaction."  It sounds like the gospel message of Jesus Christ became the hottest subject of conversation in Caesar's household and members of that household were putting their faith in the One who had shown that He was superior to Caesar by rising from the dead.  What was meant for evil ended up being used by God for good. 

It was good that Paul was able to see that God was using his trial for good. We also can choose to take the perspective that Paul took here.  We also can look at a trial that we are going through and seek to find how God is using that trial to accomplish something which is good.  Are you going through some type of injustice right now?  Can you see any way that God is using what you are going through for some good?  Joseph of the Old Testament was put on a caravan heading for Egypt.  As a result, Joseph became the number two man behind the Pharaoh in all of Egypt. See Genesis 37:12-36, 41:41-43  His brothers "intended to harm me [Joseph], but God intended it for good." (Genesis 50:20)

b. God used Paul's imprisonment to encourage other Christians to share the gospel "courageously and fearlessly." (1:14)
"Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly."

Thought Question:  How can the way you are handling a trial in your life encourage others in their Christian lives?

 

 

Because Paul was willing to boldly share the gospel even though it led to his imprisonment, many Christians were also emboldened to share the gospel "fearlessly."  If he was willing to boldly proclaim the truth even if it led to his imprisonment, shouldn't they be willing to do the same?  And they did!

c. God even used Paul's enemies in the church to further the preaching of the gospel message (1:15-18)
"It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 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. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice . . . "

Thought Question:  How does the way Paul looked at those in Rome who were using his imprisonment in a selfish way help you in how you look at others?

 

 

Paul acknowledges here that the responses to his imprisonment by his fellow Christians had not all been good.  In fact, some of his fellow Christians actually saw themselves as benefiting from his imprisonment.  They saw it as an opportunity for them to gain ground on him and become more successful than him in evangelism while he was tied down in prison.  "Which is the most successful church in town?" can become the driving force with some pastors and with some church members.  This was the attitude of some Christians that Paul encountered.  They were focused on being more successful than him.  His imprisonment, in their mind, provided them that opportunity.

Paul "was accustomed to being hit by his opposition, but when his teammates started hitting him on the blind side, that was rough.  He got hurt and hurt badly.  If there was time when he needed their love and prayer support, it was then.  But instead of love, there was hate, and instead of desire to share his load, there was intent to add to it." "Bound for Joy by Stuart Briscoe.  Copyright 1975 by Regal Books."  Paul's enemies had what we call today a "hidden agenda" or "ulterior motives."  Outwardly, they appeared to be concerned about God's work, but inside their only goals were selfish, prideful, and aimed at making a good impression before men.

But instead of being embittered by their selfish motives and heartlessness, he is able to rejoice that even though they were preaching Christ with "selfish ambition"" (false motives)," nevertheless "Christ is being preached."  How unselfish he was.  If someone's primary goal for succeeding is to make us look bad, could we be glad that God's work, nevertheless, is getting done?

How can a Christian enjoy it when another Christian fails?  How can Christians seek to compete with other Christians over who is the greatest? See Mark 9:33-34  But this type of thing did not only occur in Jesus' and Paul's time, it continues to happen today.  Some of the most well-known Christians are also some of the most vilified Christians.  And this does not just occur on the national scene, it can happen within a local church.  There can be jealousy and envy when another Christian is praised by others more than we receive praise.  It is an ugly thing, but it sadly still occurs today.

How was Paul able to maintain a sweet spirit when his fellow Christians rejoiced that he was going through a painful time?  They rejoiced that his imprisonment gave them a golden opportunity to advance their prestige in the church above his prestige.  Again, Paul believed that God could even use for good their twisted motives for sharing the gospel; for even though they were doing it for the wrong reasons, the gospel was being shared.  Their motives were wrong, but the gospel was nevertheless being shared. 

Today, churches may be working hard because they are trying to outshine the other churches in town.  Nevertheless, the message is getting out.  What Paul was able to do was to accept that in this fallen world the church is often far from what it ought to be.  And even the church with all of its faults is still having an impact for good on people's lives and on our society.  We cannot rejoice in evil; but if we look hard enough and look through the eyes of God, we can see how God is using even that which is evil to further His goals.  And we can rejoice in that.

Here is a modern-day example.  In communist countries, Christians have been horribly persecuted.  How can anyone rejoice about that?  But, as a result of the persecution, Christianity did not die, but there were developed Christians of a deeper level of commitment.  We cannot rejoice in painful experiences, but we can rejoice in how God still uses them for the progress of the gospel ministry.

2. His attitude that even death is not defeat, but a glorious victory (1:19-26)

a. For through your prayers and the help of the Holy Spirit, God will be glorified in the end. (1:19-20)
"for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death."

Thought Question:  What can you learn about the faith life from Paul's words in these verses?

 

 

What does Paul trust that he will be delivered from or saved from?  We can think that Paul should be able to go through pretty much anything and still believe "that in all things God works for the good." (Romans 8:28)  We who are Christians know of Romans 8:28 and that God causes all that happens in our lives to have good results, but while we are in the midst of a painful and difficult trial, it is still a struggle for us to believe it.   For, all we can see is the trial.  The trial involves the world we can see and God is not visible to us.  It is difficult to believe that the invisible God is working with His loving hands, turning our trial ultimately into something good. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11)  Paul, here, trusts that through their "prayers" and the help of God's Spirit that his imprisonment would not result in the end of his effective ministry. See II Corinthians 1:10-11; II Thessalonians 3:2; Romans 15:30-32

Four letters written during Paul's imprisonment are now part of the New Testament: Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon.  His prison ministry is still being effective and is continuing to be effective each time someone reads one or more these four books.  We also know that his ministry continued during his imprisonment in Rome as he ministered to all who visited him from Rome and from other parts of the world.  Furthermore, we know that he was delivered from prison and his ministry continued on.  He once more traveled from region to region and from church to church.  Also, it was the success of his ministry that had led to his imprisonment. Therefore, though he was in prison at the time, there was no legitimate reason for anyone to be "ashamed" of him or for him to be "ashamed."

"I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed,"  Paul trusted even in the midst of his trial and imprisonment that God would turn it into triumph. "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." (2 Corinthians 2:14)  Because we do not today see his imprisonment as a setback for Paul but instead we see it as a triumph, we can see that his confidence in God was well-based.  We can follow his example and trust in God's love, sovereignty, and faithfulness even in the midst of our trials as he did.  May we receive the confidence in God during our trials so that we, like Paul, will handle our trials in such a way that we also will glorify Christ in the midst of them as Paul did.

"but will have sufficient courage"  Paul's enemies "may have gambled that he would fail to be bold and courageous in the face of the possibility of death." "Taken from A Profile of Christian Maturity by Gene Getz.  Copyright 1976 by Zondervan Publishing House."  Paul desired their prayers so that he would not cower in his difficult circumstances, but would continue to be courageous.

"whether by life or by death."  Paul desired that His life would glorify Jesus Christ no matter what might happen in the future to him; whether he died or lived on.  Through the years, some of the most famous and respected Christians are those who died because of their faith--men like Justin Martyr, Polycarp, John Hus, William Tyndale, and many more.  Paul was ready, at the time of the writing of the book of Philippians, to die as these future martyrs would one day die.  As it turns out, he was released from this imprisonment, but tradition teaches that he did die as a Christian martyr during the reign of Nero.  He died bringing glory to God in his death. 

b. Though death will bring greater joy, I will continue in the joy of my ministry to you. (1:21-26)
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me."

Thought Question #1:  Paul faced his death and believed that dying and being "with Christ" would be "better by far."  Why do you believe he felt that way?  Do you feel that way?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you believe Paul means by "for me to live is Christ"?

 

 

The Philippian Christians were concerned that Paul was deeply distraught because of his imprisonment and the possibility of receiving the death sentence.  Paul quickly assures him that he has a different perspective on his circumstances than they might think.  He is not deeply fearful that he might die; instead, he says that he sees death as "gain."

Death and heaven are subjects in a number of Paul's writings:   "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell." (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)  Paul had already experienced heaven.  It is not surprising, then, that he saw heaven as "gain."  A few years ago I read Randy Alcorn's book Heaven.  At one point I told my wife I was so excited about heaven that I was ready to go there.  She said, "Hold it!" 

Here is another teaching on heaven from Paul's writing: "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:52-57)  Though there may be pain previous to death, God has removed the pain of judgment for our sins, so death will be like falling asleep and waking up in God's presence.  "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope." (1 Thessalonians 4:13)  If we truly believe what the Bible teaches about the death of those who "fall asleep" in Christ, we will, with Paul, see death as "gain."

For Paul, he truly saw death as "gain."  You may share my experience and have been with aged Christians who are eager to die and to be with the Lord.  Contrary to the Philippian Christians' concerns, Paul did not dread the possibility that he might die; he welcomed that possibility.  When he wrote II Timothy, he actually did face the certainty that he was about to die.  This is what he wrote at that time:  "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

"For to me, to live is Christ"  For some of us who lived long years without Christ, we know exactly what Paul is speaking about here.  We use the words "living it up" to describe having a full and enjoyable time.  But when we were outside of Christ we were not at any time "living it up."  Instead, we were "deathing it up."  For without Jesus Christ in our life, there was no life.  Life to the full is life that is filled with His life.  "When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:4)  "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)  Paul and we found true life when we found Christ!

As Paul considers the two possibilities of life with Christ and death that leads to being in the immediate presence of Christ, being in the presence of Christ was more desirable for him.  But, he does not stop there.  He continues on in his thinking.  "If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,"  Paul had considered both possibilities: dying and staying alive.  He had pondered the results of doing both of them.  As a result, dying would be "better by far" for him; but staying alive would be better for them.  It would mean "fruitful labor"; it would be "necessary" for them and it would lead to their "progress and joy in the faith."

Did Paul really have a choice whether he would live or die?  Was not his life in the hands of his Roman captors?  He clearly had made his choice on what he wanted to happen.  He wanted to continue on in his ministry for he believed that his work on earth had not yet been completed.  In his pondering over what he wanted to happen, he may have received insight from God that He desired him to continue on in his ministry.  Therefore, he concluded that he would not die.  And that is what did happen.  His ministry continued.  He was released from prison.  I Timothy, II Timothy, and Titus were written during his post-prison ministry and describe travels not recorded in the book of Acts.

"so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me."  Years ago, not too long after I met Shirley my wife of 39 years, I was visiting with her at her parents' home.  At that time, I concluded that I loved her and wanted to be with her the rest of my life to encourage her in the Lord and to be with her so that she would never have to face life alone.  I wanted to be a source of joy in her life.  I believe that is similar to Paul's feelings toward these Philippian Christians.  He wanted to do all that he could in his ministry to them to bring joy to those he so greatly loved.

3. They also should follow his pattern and also be courageous and bring glory to God as they stood strong together in Christian unity. (1:27-30)
Paul's goal in writing this letter is to communicate to the Philippian Christians that he was still the triumphant apostle that he had been when they had first met him.  He and Silas were triumphant when they had been imprisoned unjustly in Philippi.  They had been jailed there as a result of commanding a demonic spirit to come out of a lady. See Acts 16:16-24  Yet while they were in prison, they prayed and sang Christian hymns.  Then, God used an earthquake to open the prison doors.  This was followed by the jailor becoming a Christian.  The Philippians saw this type of triumph over bad circumstances in Paul's ministry.  But, now Paul had been in prison for many months.  Paul wanted them to know that God was still enabling him to be triumphant even in his present circumstances and that he was not discouraged, but joyful.  Paul also wanted them to have this type of joyful triumph.  He wanted this triumph to also include a joyful oneness among them.  He wanted them "to stand firm in one spirit."

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves 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 one spirit, contending as one man 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. 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."

Thought Question:  What do you learn from these verses about how we Christians are to "conduct" ourselves?

 

 

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."  "The word he would normally use for to conduct oneself in the ordinary affairs of life is peripatein, which literally means to walk about; here he uses politeusthai, which means to be a citizen." "Taken from The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  We get our word "political" from this Greek word.  "The expression could be variously translated:  'Behave as citizens.'  'Live as citizens.'  'Perform your duties as citizens.'  It is in the middle voice, which voice is defined as follows:  When a verb is in the middle voice, the subject acts upon itself.  For instance, the 'the man is prodding his own conscience.'  Here, the Philippian saints are exhorted to act upon themselves in recognizing their duties with respect to their heavenly citizenship, and holding themselves to them.  It is a stronger exhortation than merely that of commanding someone to do something.  In the latter kind of exhortation, the person obeys the one who exhorts.  But in the form in which Paul gives the exhortation, the person exhorted is to recognize his position as a citizen of a heavenly kingdom, and while obeying the exhortation as a matter of obligation to God, yet at the same time realize his responsibility to obey it because of the privileged position he occupies, and literally exhort or charge himself to do the same.  One could translate therefore:  'Only see to it that you recognize your responsibility as a citizen and put yourself to the absolute necessity of performing the duties devolving upon you in that position.'" "Taken from Word Studies in The Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1975 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company." "citizenship" in Philippians 3:20 is a form of this same word.

Paul and Silas had been imprisoned because they were charged with the crime, in a city where its people prided themselves in being thoroughly Roman, with "advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice." (Acts 16:21)  The Philippian Christians were familiar with the importance of conduct appropriate to citizens of Rome. See Acts 16:12  Here, Paul urges them to conduct themselves in a way that is appropriate for those who have become members of Christ's kingdom through believing the gospel message. See Ephesians 4:1

"Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel"  The Greek word that is translated "contending" is sunathlountesSun means "with"; and athlountes is the word from which we get our word "athletics" or "athlete."  For an athletic team to win against a team opposing them, they must do what Paul encourages these Philippian Christians to do: they must "stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man."  A winning athletic team plays like one man with one united mind.  A team that plays like this can defeat a team of superior players who are divided and are bickering with each other.

"stand firm" See Ephesians 6:10-17 and I Corinthians 16:13  How, then, does this apply to today's church?  What Paul exhorted them to do is often the very opposite of what we find today in the church as a whole.  The world looks at the church and sees that the church is divided into many different denominations.  There also can be divisions within churches.  The way our enemy can defeat us is by dividing us.  He has been real effective at this over the years.  We are most effective in God's mission for us when we are standing "firm in one spirit contending as one man for the faith of the gospel."  A united army of Christ is obviously much more effective than a divided army.  A Christian army that fights the good fight is more effective than one man fighting the battle alone, for we need each other to be most effective.  We need to fight together "as one man."

What is necessary, then, for us to fight our common enemy standing "firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel"?  The answer is given in the first part of verse 27: "conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."  "A manner worthy" can also be translated, "do that which is appropriate" for someone who has been saved by "the gospel of Christ."  We have been saved by the love, mercy, and grace of God.  How, then, should we treat our fellow Christians?  We should treat them with love, mercy, and grace.  As God was selflessly forgiving toward us, we should be selflessly forgiving toward each other.  It requires humility for us to receive God's grace.  We should also be humble in the way we treat others, remembering that we needed to humble ourself and they needed to humble themselves to receive the gospel.  Becoming a Christian is not something that we accomplished.  Becoming a Christian is not something that we at all accomplished; instead, it is something that we humbly received after we recognized our hopeless state without it.  "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:4-5) See also Ephesians 2:8-9 and 4:1-3

"Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence,"  Paul appears to be concerned here about a very human weakness.  We can act one way when the pastor or the church is watching and another way when they are not watching.  Paul wanted them to act the same way whether or not he was there with him.  The obvious application to us is that we should act the same way whether or not someone is watching us, for one Person is always watching us. See Ephesians 6:5-8

"without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you."  Imagine a middle linebacker on a football team who is frightened that he will get hurt. When the big running back comes down the middle of the field right at him, he will try to tackle him in a way so that it will not hurt him.  He hopes to grab one of his legs from the side rather than tackling him nose-to-nose.  Would he be the type of middle linebacker that the coach wants?  We can do the same type of thing in the Christian ministry.  We can avoid asking the difficult questions and avoid saying the truths that we think that others do not want to hear.  We, then, are like the timid linebacker.  We are playing it safe.  What Paul wanted is fearless Christians; what God wants today are fearless Christians.

What can enable us not to be "frightened in any way by those who oppose" us?  Certainly, we are fearless to the degree that we have grown to trust God even in difficult situations.  Listen to the difference between how the 10 of the 12 spies and how Joshua and Caleb looked at the fearful task of conquering the Land God had promised to them:  "At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land. They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account: 'We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.' Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, 'We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.' But the men who had gone up with him said, 'We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.' And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, 'The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.' . . . Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, 'The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.'" (Numbers 13:25-33, 14:5-9) 

If we put our faith in what we can do by ourselves, we will be "frightened . . . by those who oppose" us.  If we put our faith in Almighty God, we will not be "frightened." "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. . . . I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:6-7, 13)

"This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God."  How would their unified and fearless stance be a "sign"?  Like the Roman Caesar's "thumbs up" that allowed the defeated gladiator to live on was a "sign" that in the mind of Caesar the gladiator had fought well and could live on, so God gives us Christians who fight well on His side a "thumbs up" "sign."  The "sign" that God is on our side means that ultimately our enemy will be destroyed and that we will be saved.  In short, our side is going to win and Satan's side is going to lose!  "Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you." (2 Thessalonians 1:2-10)

"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."  When we encounter trials and troubles as a result of our faith, it is a "sign" that we are in God's army and that the opposition to Him is opposing us.  That is a good "sign."  Then, we can see that "it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him."  We can see that like Paul and the Philippian Christians, we share in God's battle against evil and are suffering as a result.  It is a "sign" that not only shows that we have truly believed in Christ, but we now are also suffering for the cause of Christ.  You, then, have joined all those you admire who have also suffered for Christ. See Colossians 1:24 

"since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have."  "There is a tale of a veteran French soldier who came in a desperate situation upon a young recruit trembling with fear.  'Come, son,' said the veteran and you and I will do something fine for France.'" "Taken from The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  Paul said the same to these Philippian Christians and to us:  "Come join me in our common 'struggle' for the cause of Christ.  Though we will suffer, it is the one cause that is most worth suffering for! The word "struggle" is agona, a word from which we get our word "agony."

THE ATTITUDE THAT ENABLES US TO BE JOYFUL AND UNIFIED (2:1-18)

1. God's love for us makes it possible for us to be joyful and unified. (2:1)
"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,"

Thought Question #1:  What "encouragement" do you have "from being united with Christ"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What "comfort" have you received from God's "love"?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What "fellowship" do you have with God's Spirit?

 

 

Thought Question #4:  What "tenderness" and "compassion" have come to you from your relationship with God?

 

 

Although this verse begins a new chapter in our Bibles, in the original letter, of course, there were no chapter breaks.  In 1:27-30, Paul exhorts the Philippian Christians to "stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel."  In this first verse of chapter two, he provides them with what should motivate them to do this.

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,"  A problem in the church in Philippi was that there was some disunity. "There is a sense in which that is the danger of every healthy church.  It is when people are really in earnest and their beliefs really matter to them, that they are apt to get up against each other.  The greater the enthusiasm, the greater the danger that they may collide!  Paul wishes to safeguard his friends." "Taken from The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  The church at Philippi was a good church in many ways, yet there was disunity in it.  "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord." (Philippians 4:2)

What can motivate us toward being at one with our fellow Christians?  First of all, says Paul, our unity with Christ should encourage us to be united with our fellow Christians.  God has reconciled all Christians to Himself.  We are all united with Him.  Is this an encouragement to us that we are united to Christ in this way?  The answer to Paul's rhetorical question is, "Yes!"  Then, this unity with Christ should motivate us to desire that we also be in unity with our fellow Christians.  "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:10-11) See also II Corinthians 5:18-20

"if any comfort from his love,"  Have you ever been comforted by God's love toward you?  Paul's implied answer from the type of Greek conditional clause that he uses is, "Yes!"  If God has so comforted and helped us in our times of need, then you and I should seek to be comforters to our fellow Christians rather than being those who are a source of pain to them.

"if any fellowship with the Spirit,"  "Fellowship" translates the Greek word koinonia.  It "speaks of a common interest and mutual and actual participation in the things of God." "Taken from Word Studies in The Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1975 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  If we have this type of koinonia/fellowship with God, should we not also seek to have it with others who also share this koinonia/fellowship with God?

"if any tenderness and compassion,"  The Philippian Christians had already shown their "tenderness and compassion" toward Paul by sending Epaphroditus to him with a financial gift.  They were tender toward him; they needed to show "tenderness and compassion" toward each other so that there would be no disunity in their local church.

If we respond appropriately to all that God has done for us and in us, we will seek not to do anything that will destroy the unity that exists between us and our fellow Christians.  These Philippian Christians apparently needed this type of encouragement from Paul so that they would not drift into disunity.  Today, we also need this encouragement so that we also will do all that we can do to be united with our fellow Christians.

2. What the attitude will accomplish: humility, selflessness, and joy (2:2-4)
"then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 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."

Thought Question #1:  What do these verses tell us about what kind of spirit is necessary for a church to be united in "one spirit'?

 

 

Thought Question #2: What do you need to do, if anything, so that you will have this type of spirit?

 

 

"then make my joy complete"  What would make Paul's "joy complete"?  What will make your "joy complete"?  Humans are often enmeshed in conflict and turmoil of all types.  It happens in national and local politics.  It happens in families.  And it also happens, sadly, in churches.  What will bring "complete joy" for the father whose family is divided and in turmoil?  It is when the family ends their differences with each other and comes together in humility, forgiveness, and love.  We all love a movie with a happy ending like this.  But what happens in the movies often does not happen in the real world.  It should happen, though, among Christians for the reasons that Paul just gave us in verse one; because of what God has done for each Christian, we should desire to be at one with our fellow Christian.  Let us now look at what needs to happen so that we will have "the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."

"being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."  What Paul states here should be the purpose of every church leader?  Ephesians gives two types of church unity.  First of all, every Christian is already one with every other Christian:  "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:1-6)  We are to do all that we can to "keep" or to preserve the unity that we already have.

The second type of unity is the unity that we are to grow into:  "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-13)  A mature church is a unified church.  We have this unity (1) when we share the same perspective on life--we are "like-minded"; (2) when we share the same love for God and for each other--we have "the same love"; and (3) when we have the same ultimate goals--we are "one in spirit and purpose." See John 17:20-21

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,"  It is part of being human to think first of number one.  "What do people think of me?"  What am I getting out of this?  How do I compare to others?  Am I getting prestige and praise?  What these questions are motivated by is "selfish ambition" and "vain conceit"?  "Selfish ambition" is the same Greek word that is used in 1:17:  "The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains."  It is these types of attitudes that have created bigotry toward people of a different race than us.  But, it can also create factions in the church over doctrinal issues and even over small and less important issues.  It is one thing, for example, to be concerned about important doctrinal disagreements and quite another to have disagreements that are caused primarily by a factious and prideful spirit.  When this type of prideful spirit is absent, the concern over doctrinal issues takes on a completely different spirit.  Instead of a haughty self-righteousness, there is a genuine concern for the doctrine's effect on people and on the church.  At times, we find that some doctrinal differences need not be a major cause of division.  For example the Pentecostal and the non-Pentecostal can find that there is so much more that they have in common than what divides them, they can have sweet fellowship with each other.

So what needs to go is the "selfish ambition" and the "vain conceit."  How do we remove this type of spirit from ourselves?  Paul immediately gives us the answer in his next words: "but in humility consider others better than yourselves."  This attitude is the complete opposite of "selfish ambition" and "vain conceit."  "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." (Romans 12:3)

How can we "in humility consider others better than" ourselves?  Does this mean that we should pretend that others are more skilled in some way than we are, when in actuality we are more skilled than they are?  This obviously is not what Paul meant here?  What, then, did he mean?  "It does mean that everybody should be more interested in promoting others, encouraging others and caring for others than for himself.  It means that we should relate to others that we are considerably more 'others-centered' than 'self-centered.'" "Bound for Joy by Stuart Briscoe.  Copyright 1975 by Regal Books."

Our normal focus is on ourselves alone.  As we will see in verses 5-8 of this chapter, if Jesus only thought of Himself, we would be forever lost.  But, He thought of us and served us even to the point of dying for us.  Paul, here, calls every Christian to follow this selfless pattern.  We should consider their needs as more important than our needs.  What Paul is saying here occurred to me as a new Christian.  I realized that God had wonderfully forgiven me and had promised to be my Good Shepherd. See Psalm 23; John 10:1-18  Now, I needed to reach out to others.  I saw myself as taken care of by God; I needed to reach out to others so that they might also know of God's love for them. 

"Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."  As what has been called "the Golden Rule" says: "Love you neighbor as yourself." (Romans 12:9)  We will always need to be concerned about our needs--such as our need for food.  But we are to love others in the same way that we already love ourselves.  If we are honest, we will admit that loving ourselves comes quite easy, but loving others is not easy at all.  We marvel at how insensitive others are to our needs; yet, we are just as insensitive to their needs.  Some years ago, in helping a couple that was struggling in their marriage, my wife Shirley and I and some other couples benefited from the materials from a ministry called "Reconciling God's Way."  Though, I do not know that everyone who participated benefited as much as Shirley and I did, there was a part of what we did that I found very helpful.  Each person was asked to make a discipline of focusing on our spouse and his or her needs.  The discipline helped me to better see Shirley's side of things.  It was a humbling process, for it helped me to see how insensitive I had been to her side of things.  I am sure that God has not finished His work on me in being sensitive to her side of things, but I believe I am more sensitive about this than I once was.

Recently, I heard that there has been a study showing that "empathy" is the primary factor that determines whether or not a marriage lasts or does not last.  "Empathy" is another way of saying what Paul states here.  Do we genuinely see the other person's side of things?  Do we even want to see their side?  In a marriage, when we do not see or empathize with what our mate is going through, we will become easily irritated and hold on to grudges.  When we understand our mate's side of an issue, we are softened and are able to more quickly resolve issues between us.  Marriages where "empathy" grows between husband and wife are marriages that grow into oneness.  Churches where "empathy" grows are churches that grow in oneness.  "Empathy" is another way of saying: "Love others as you love yourselves."  It is also another way of saying:  "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."  It is also another way of saying: "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12:15)

Ray Stedman makes the following good suggestions on how we can focus on the interests of others.  He first of all urges against a harsh and critical attitude toward others.  This type of attitude is the very opposite of the attitude taught in these verses by Paul.  "Do you ever catch yourselves picking someone apart flaw-by-flaw?  Perhaps you salve your conscience by interjecting the phrase, 'Now don't misunderstand me.  I think the world of him, but…' and off we go again.  What's happened?  Well, we're irritated, and unconsciously seeking some justification for not seeing this person again or breaking off relationships, by pointing out all the terrible faults in him that make it necessary.  The trouble with this philosophy is that we treat it as though there were no alternatives left to us.  You know how this works, don't you?" "RayStedman.org"

Here is the alternative that he offers:  "Have you looked at it from his point of view?  Have you tried to put yourself in his place and sympathized with the pressures he may be undergoing?  Paul says if there is any reality in these things, then act on that basis--not with the harsh, caustic, critical, negative attitudes that tears someone apart, but stop that attitude which is one of Satan's best weapons for dividing Christians." "Ray Stedman.org"

We should work at getting into the other person's shoes.  This will help us to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

3. The attitude is the same attitude as Christ's attitude. (2:5-8)

a. He had a total willingness to let go of anything that he possessed for our sake. (2:5-7)
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe Paul meant by "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you believe Jesus emptied Himself of when He became a man?

 

 

This passage, beginning in these verses and continuing through verse eleven, as Ray Stedman observes, is "the Mt. Everest among mountain peaks of revelation concerning the person of Christ." "RayStedman.org"  These verses are a synopsis, from eternity to eternity, of the Son of God's remarkable humility on our behalf and His glorification by the Father.  Its purpose within the book of Philippians is to provide us with an example of the type of "attitude" that we need to have so that there will be unity in the church and so that we in church will "stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel." (1:27)

 "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:"  The word translated "attitude" is a verb in the present tense.  Paul is saying that this way of thinking should continually be in you.

Ray Stedman explains the importance to us as Christians that we have the same "attitude" or way of thinking as "Christ Jesus."  "When people are quarrelling, the path to peace is to seek humility, rather than assess arguments and weigh one against another, because when we do that we run into relative values which are so subjective it's impossible to come to a conclusion.  The way to settle an argument is to seek humility in each party.  The question that comes to mind is, how do we do this?  When tempers are hot, passions are aroused, and patience is strained, how can you get people to calm down and start thinking about a humble attitude?  How do you quell the rising of pride in a human heart?  How do you stop the urge to defend yourself, and the stubborn insistence of what we call our 'rights'?" This struggle sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Then, later, he gives the solution:  "Christians can achieve peace--not merely a truce or cold war, or an agreed settlement, but peace which is a mutual sense of wrong-doing.  Mutual-did you get that word?  Each person acknowledging they have contributed to it, and burying the past in forgiveness.  The result is a deeper sense of acceptance than ever before.  When we come to this point the quarrel actually helps unity rather than destroy it.  It will result in deeper understanding and love than before." "RayStedman.org"

Humility will lead to both parties acknowledging where they were wrong.  In C. S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, someone in heaven says these words:  "'That's what we all find when we reach this country [heaven].  We've all been wrong!  That's the great joke.  There's no need to go on pretending one was right!  After that we begin living." What he is saying is that when we get to heaven, we will learn that all our thoughts and actions here on earth were faulty and perverted to some degree by our sinful perspectives.  Humility will help us to begin to see that truth right now.

"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,"  The most important question that mankind needs to seek after an answer for is the following:  "Who is Jesus Christ?"  If He was just a good man, than He would not be of much importance to us personally; but if He is God, then He is of the utmost importance to us.  This verse says that He is equal with God and "in very nature God."  This statement that Jesus is God is repeated a number of places in the Bible:  "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. . . .For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, . . . For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form," (Colossians 1:15-16, 19, 2:9)  " In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs." (Hebrews 1:1-4)  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-3, 14)

"being in very nature God" translates the Greek word morphe.  Barclay gives this excellent explanation of the meaning of this word:  "there are two Greek words for form ["in very nature"], morphe and schema.  They must both be translated form, because there is no other English equivalent, but they do not mean the same thing.  Morphe is the essential form which never alters; schema is the outward form which changes from time to time and from circumstance to circumstance.  For in time, the morphe of any human being is humanity and this never changes; but his schema is continually changing.  A baby, a child, a boy, a youth, a man of middle age, an old man always have the morphe of humanity, but the outward schema changes all the time." "Taken from The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,"  There are two ways these words can be taken. It could be saying that "equality with God" was so above Jesus that it was too high for Him to grasp it or attain it.  That interpretation would contradict the words preceding these words in Philippians. It also contradicts the verses I quoted that clearly state that Jesus is God.  Paul starts out this section of verses by saying that Jesus was "in very nature God."  So, He began as God.  The second way "grasped" can be taken is that Jesus was willing to let go of what He already "grasped"; He was willing to let go in some way of His equality with God.

"And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." (John 17:5)  What Jesus did was give up His rights to every expression of his full glory as God when He became a man and fulfilled God's eternal plan of salvation for mankind.   He humbled Himself in this way for our sake.  How does this attitude of Jesus help us in seeking humility and unity with our fellow Christians?  If He was willing to so give up His rights as being God in every way at great cost to Himself, should we not be willing to give up our desire to always be right?  Jesus gave up His exalted status as God to be a lowly human like us; should we not be willing to stop wanting to be exalted as faultless in other people's minds?  Should we not be willing to humbly accept as fact that in a dispute with others that it is not the others that are always at fault?  We also are at fault.  A song from a musical says about children:  "Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way?"  This song poked fun at how we who are parents can forget that we were very flawed as children just like the children of today are flawed.  Just like the parents in this song, we are able to see others' flaws much more clearly than we can see our own flaws.  If we have the attitude of Jesus, we will be willing to humble ourselves and see our flaws even more clearly than we see the flaws of others.

"but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."  The English words in the NIV Bible, "made himself nothing" translate the Greek word: ekenosen.  It is a word that can also be translated "emptied."  What did Jesus empty Himself of?  It was not a subtraction of Deity, but an addition of humanity with its limitations.  When He took on humanity, it required that He humbly chose to not use some expressions of His attributes as God while He was a man.  "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Ryrie gives this explanation of the doctrine of kenosis--how Jesus emptied Himself:  "What is included in a proper statement of the true doctrine of the kenosis? The concept involves the veiling of Christ’s preincarnate glory (Jn 17:5), the condescension of taking on Himself the likeness of sinful flesh (Ro 8:3), and the voluntary nonuse of some of His attributes of deity during the time of His earthly life (Mt 24:36). His humanity was not a glorified humanity and was thus subject to temptation, weakness, pain, and sorrow. Choosing not to use His divine attributes is quite different from saying that He gave them up. Nonuse does not mean subtraction." Ryrie, C. C. (1995, c1972). A survey of Bible doctrine. Chicago: Moody Press. 

Millard Erickson uses this illustration to explain what Jesus did:  "The world's fastest sprinter is entered in a three-legged race, where he must run with one of his legs tied to a leg of a partner.  Although his physical capacity is not diminished, the condition under which he exercises it are severely circumscribed.  Even if his partner is the world's second fastest sprinter, their time will be much slower then if they competed separately." "Introducing Christian Doctrine by Millard Erickson.  Copyright 1992 by Baker Book House."  So, Jesus tied legs with God's purpose of redemption of man which required that He give up the full expression of His deity for a time and then be restored to His full glory at a later time.  This loving plan was agreed upon within the Trinity before the beginning of time: "the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world." (Revelation 13:8) See also John 5:19-30

What does this say to us about the type of attitude that we need to have so that we will be unified with other Christians?  He was willing to lay aside His exalted position and do that which would best accomplish God's purpose.  We also need to be willing to lay aside our pride and do that which will best accomplish God's purposes; do that which will ultimately bring glory to God and not to ourselves.

b. He obeyed God, no matter where it might lead. (2:8)
(even if it lead to His horrible death)
"And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:8)

"in appearance as a man," is the Greek word: schemati.  Remember Barclay's explanation of the difference between morphe and schemaMorphe being the essential form that never changes and schema the outward form which changes from time to time.  Jesus in morphe is both God and forever a humble servant.  This is who He is by nature.  When He became a man, He put on the schema of man.  As a man, he fulfilled God's plan of redemption for us that necessitated that He obey the Father's plan that He die a horrible death in our place. He became a mortal man for it was needed that a man like us take our place in paying the penalty for the sins of man.  As we learn in the verses that follow this verse, He did not stay in the body of a mortal man.  His death is the final chapter in Jesus emptying Himself for us.  None of us have emptied ourself and humbled ourself as He emptied and humbled Himself for us.  "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." (Hebrews 12:2-4)

"In many ways this passage is one of the greatest reaches of theological thought in the New Testament, but its aim was to persuade the Philippians to live a life in which disunity, discord and personal ambition had no place.  So, then, Paul says of Jesus that he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of a cross.  The great characteristics of Jesus's life were humility, obedience, and self-renunciation.  He did not desire to dominate men but only to serve them; he did not desire his own way but only God's way; he did not desire to exalt himself but only to renounce all his glory for the sake of men. . . . If humility, obedience and self-renunciation were the supreme characteristics of the life of Jesus, they must also be the hall-marks of the Christian." "Taken from The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

As Ray Stedman emphasized, the way to seek unity is to seek humility.  Then, unity replaces disunity as Christians grow in genuine humility when they seek to have the same attitude that is always in Christ Jesus!

4. The reward (2:9-11) (God will reward our obedience as he rewarded Christ's obedience.)
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

 

 

Thought Question:  What can we learn from Jesus' pattern and God's response about what God will honor in our life?

 

 

Here we see that God honors humility.  Pride was what led to the rebellion of Satan. "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil." (1 Timothy 3:6)  "You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit." (Isaiah 14:13-15)

Satan's pride was the opposite of Jesus' humility!  Satan's pride resulted in his being "brought down to the grave"--the very opposite of Jesus' humility resulting in Him being exalted to "the highest place."  Who do we want to be like-proud like Satan or humble like Jesus?

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,"  Through the years there are certain names that nearly everyone in our country knows: names like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Jackie Robinson, and Martin Luther King, for example.  They are those who overcame great obstacles to do what was right.  As a result, they now have a name that to us represents their great valor.  They took on what was wrong and at a great cost to themselves, won a victory for what is right.  But no one fought a greater fight, paid a greater cost, and won a greater victory than the God-man Jesus Christ.  As a result, the Father honors His name above all names.  "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20)  "I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward." (Mark 9:41)  "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father." (John 14:13)  "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)  "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13)  "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:17)  "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13)

"that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  At that future climactic time, some will voluntarily give glory to Jesus and some will bow their knee to Him involuntarily because they do not have a choice.  They will bow their knee to Him in heaven:  "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.  In a loud voice they sang: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!' Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!'" (Revelation 5:11-13)  "who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him." (1 Peter 3:22)  They will bow their knee to Him on earth:  "For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living." (Romans 14:9)  And they will bow their knee to Him "under the earth": even those who have rebelled against him will one day bow their knee to Him as Lord.

"If there will be a day that I have to acknowledge Christ as Lord, I want to start practicing it now.  And if there's going to be a day when every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord, I want to practice now.  And I don't want to get away with as little as possible down here on earth; I want to be, now, what I'm going to be then.  I want to start training for what I'm going to be then." "Bound for Joy by Stuart Briscoe.  Copyright 1975 by Regal Books."

"and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,"  "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)  We become Christians when we confess now that He is Lord and rightfully put ourselves under His Lordship.  We go from rebelling unbelief and the darkness of heart that comes from it to acknowledging that He is Lord.

"to the glory of God the Father."  Because of Christ's sacrificial humiliation for our sake and His glorification by the Father, Jesus' ultimate aim is accomplished: we see the glory of the Father.  The most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16: "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."  Through Jesus the Son's death for us, men and women like you and me see God's love and are drawn to Him.  Then, with eyes opened, we begin to worship God in our churches each Sunday and throughout the week.  We worship Him for His "amazing grace," His faithfulness, for choosing us, for being good, and for many more reasons.  Ultimately, we will glorify Him fully in Heaven:  "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!' The four living creatures said, 'Amen,' and the elders fell down and worshiped." (Revelation 5:13-14)  "When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all." (1 Corinthians 15:28)

5. Therefore, work at obeying God in this way (2:12-13) (with all your
hearts and for the rest of your life).
"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 according to his good purpose."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what is our part and what is God's part in the Christian life?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you believe the "Therefore," in these verses refers to?

 

 

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes the emptiness of life "under the sun."  Then, near the end of this book, he gives the solution that he has discovered that removes the emptiness and gives meaning to his life:  "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)  The longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119.  In this Psalm, the author of this Psalm describes his love for God's law:  "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. . . .Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them." (Psalm 119:97-100, 129)  If we see obeying God as Solomon and the author of Psalm 119 did, we will see obeying God as the way to life.  Paul explains how we are to obey God and why we are able to obey God.

a. How we are to obey God (2:12)
"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,"

What does the "Therefore" in this verse refer to?  He appears to be referring, in this case, to the teachings he has just given them about having a humble attitude.  Pride is such a part of the human race that it is not easily rooted out.  "No matter how dear you are to God, if pride is harbored in your spirit, He will whip it out of you.  They that go up in their own estimation must come down again by his discipline." "Charles Spurgeon"  "Pride is the first sin that ever entered into the universe, and the last sin that is rooted out.  Pride is the worst.  It is the most secret of all sins.  There is no other matter in which the heart is more deceitful and unsearchable.  Alas, how much pride the best have in their hearts!  Pride is God's most stubborn enemy!  There is no sin so much like the devil as pride.  It is a secret and subtle sin, and appears in a great many shapes which are undetected." "Taken from 'Spiritual Pride' by Jonathan Edwards."  "Therefore, . . . work out your salvation with fear and trembling"!

The "therefore" can also refer all the way back to 1:6 and 1:27:  "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." (Philippians 1:6)  "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves 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 one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27)  In this case, he would then be referring to living "in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ," which of course would also include walking in humility.

"my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence"  Some pastors have realized that their success is not so much what happens while they are pastoring a church, but what happens after they are gone.  If the church that they pastor has become dependent on them, it will fall apart after they have gone.  But, if what they have taught has truly spread to their congregation and is part also of their lives, the church will continue on and even grow stronger after they leave.  Paul hopes that they will continue to obey his teaching even though he is in prison and unable to be with them.

"continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,"  When we hear the word "salvation," we can think of becoming a Christian through faith in the gospel message.  But, that happens only once and it happens at the time when we first believe and are born again.  Here, Paul speaks of an ongoing process.  There are three salvations mentioned in the Bible: 1) salvation from the penalty of sin or justification; 2) salvation from the power of sin or sanctification; and 3) salvation from the presence of sin or glorification.  Here, Paul is speaking of number 2: salvation from the power of sin or sanctification.  It can also be referred to by the term "spiritual growth."

"work out"  There is a teaching that tells you that God changes you when you "let go and let God."  I read books that taught this view on sanctification when I was a young Christian.  But, I learned later that if you go verse by verse in the Bible, that it does not teach this passive type of sanctification and spiritual growth.  We have a role in the salvation process and here we learn that we are to "work" at it.  Otherwise, we will not grow.  Pride will continue to be part of our lives unless we work at rooting it out and work at seeking to replace it with humility.

"work out"  This verb is in the present tense and is a command to continually "work out [our] salvation.  Christian growth is our choice.  "work out," according to Vine, "signifies to work out, achieve, effect by toil." "Taken from Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W.E. Vine.  Copyright 1940 by Fleming H. Revell Company."  It is a work that works toward accomplishing something.  In this case, it is our salvation from the power of sin.  As we will see in the next verse, it can only be accomplished because God is the senior partner in accomplishing it and He is the only reason it is possible. See II Peter 1:3-11 and Colossians 1:29 

God has chosen to allow us to retain our freedom to choose to grow or to not grow as Christians.  We retain our individuality.  What we become or do not become is left to our choice.  If we grow as Christians, it is because we chose to grow.  If we do not grow as Christians, for example in the area of pride, it is because we choose not to humble ourselves.  It is true that God nevertheless is involved in the process by disciplining us, revealing His truths to us, using other Christians to correct us, and by empowering us; but we are clearly meant to be part of the process.

"with fear and trembling,"  In Proverbs, Solomon teaches us:  "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." (Proverbs 1:7)  "fear and trembling" is the opposite of pride.  When Isaiah was taken into the presence of God, it took away his pride immediately:  "'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'" (Isaiah 6:5)  We are always in the presence of God and yet we dare to say and do that which we would not do if we could see God's glory at all times.  We may see others as having "unclean lips," but we do not usually see ourselves as having "unclean lips."  Our lack of true humility prevents us from growing truly closer to God; for, we can only grow closer to God as we also grow in true "fear and trembling" as we draw nearer to His awesome holiness.

b. Why we are able to obey God (2:13)
"for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."

In Ephesians 2:8-9, we learn that we cannot boast about our salvation:  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."  Then, in 2:10, we learn that we also cannot boast or be proud about the growth that takes place in our lives:  "For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  As Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: "The salvation that we work out ultimately is His works." "Taken from The Life of Joy and Peace by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1989 by Baker Books."  "It means that every good desire, every Christian thought and aspiration which I have is something which has been produced in me by God. . . . When you have a desire to pray, it is God who energizes it in your will." "RayStedman.org" 

"to will and to act according to his good purpose."  God gives you both the desire to do what is good and also empowers you to be able to do it.  So who, then, should get the glory when you do it?  Obviously, we should not develop a smug sense of satisfaction and pride in what a good person we are becoming if all the good comes from God and all that can come from us alone is so much putrid self-righteousness.  "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)

The Greek word that is translated "act" is the word from which we get our English words "energy" or "energize."  If we are able to do something good, it is because it is God that "energizes" us to do it.

In these two verses, 2:12-13, we have a profound mystery.  We are to do it, but after we do it, it is God who did it, and He alone deserves the credit and the glory.  We are not to seek to figure it out, but we are to wholeheartedly pursue His purposes, realizing that if we in any way accomplish His purposes, it is He who did it in us and through us.  Realizing this truth leads us to humility.

6. Evidence of success: you will be totally different than the world (2:14-18) (joy will replace grumbling and complaining)
"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what is the cause of "complaining or arguing"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these verses, how can we go from "complaining or arguing" to a joyful life?

 

 

"Do everything without complaining or arguing,"  What Paul was concerned about is described in Acts 6:1 where the same Greek word is also translated "complaining."  "In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food."  "Complaining" is the human and common response to anything that is unpleasant and does not meet one's expectations.  Paul had good reason to send a letter to the Philippians complaining about his mistreatment by the Jews in sending him to jail and against the Romans for mistreating him while he was in jail.  Instead, we have in this book of Philippians a book about his joy and a book that teaches us how to be joyful.  It is all in how we look at life.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)  James was writing to poor Jewish Christians who were being treated unfairly by the rich people they were working for:  "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near." (James 5:1-8)  What does James urge them to do?  "Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." (James 5:9-11)

We remember that one of the problems of the nation of Israel when they were in the wilderness with Moses was that they grumbled.  "They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, 'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!'" (Numbers 21:4-5)  Even Moses grumbled to God about the people:  "Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the Lord, 'Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.'" (Numbers 11:10-15)

When troubles come into our lives in many forms, we also are prone to grumble and argue among ourselves.  When we read of the Israelites and their grumbling, we are often critical of them thinking that we would not have been like them.  But, we know the end of the story.  We see how God took them into the Promised Land and how He took care of them.  But, in our circumstances, we do not know the end of the story, and how God will take care of us, so we, like the Israelites, can complain and argue among ourselves.  And we do!

Why do we complain and argue?  We tend to equate God's love with good circumstances and not with bad circumstances.  When trials come, we can start doubting that God loves us.  How could this trial be happening to me if God loves me?  We can also begin to doubt that God is in control.  We can feel that people are in control and not God.  Or we feel that blind chance is in control of our life.  So, in this state of helplessness and lack of faith, "complaining" and "arguing" come quite easily to us.

How can we not respond in a very human way by "complaining" and "arguing"?  Paul, himself, provides the example throughout this book.  He saw God's hand in his trial: "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill." (Philippians 1:12-15)   He had learned to be "content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Philippians 4:12)

Trials need to become times for us when we grow in our faith in God's love and sovereign control of all circumstances; rather than times when we doubt His love and sovereignty.  We really need to believe in Romans 8:28:  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)  Paul did trust God in this way.  If we can trust God in this way also, we will be able to rejoice in faith and not complain even while we are in the middle of our trial.

"so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation,"  What happens when a Christian grumbles about his or her circumstances just like the non-Christian does?  The non-Christian then looks at us as being really no different than they are.  As Ray Stedman said, they look at us and think: "I like certain sports and entertainment, and certain kinds of music and you like religion--that is all." "RayStedman.org"  We, then in their eyes, are no different from them.  But if we do not allow our bad circumstances to turn us into grumblers and complainers, they see us as having pure and joyful hearts.  They see that our faith in God is real.  They have a hard time not thinking that our trust in God is real.

"in a crooked and depraved generation,  in which you shine like stars in the universe"  There are deep caverns where no light at all can enter; when a flashlight is turned on inside of them, that light stands out in total contrast to the previous complete darkness of the cavern.  So, do the stars stand out in the black sky at night.  In the same way, we who are Christians can also stand out if we show by our actions that we are that different from the people in the world around us who do not know God in a personal way.  "Crooked and depraved generation" describes the people who do not know God.  Here are two descriptions from the Bible of people controlled by selfishness and pride.  "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." (Ephesians 4:17-19)  "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." (James 3:16)  That is what we see all around us: selfishness and pride leading to "every evil practice."   For us to reach our world, it is necessary for us to be as completely different from those in our world as light is from darkness.  And one dramatic way we can be different is to show our faith in a loving God by responding to the type of circumstances that usually results in grumbling and complaining with joy, love, and trust.  Then, our pure walk with God will shine out in the midst of an otherwise dark world.

"as you hold out the word of life"  "The words 'holding forth' ["hold out"] are a translation of a Greek word used in secular documents of offering wine to a guest.  It means to hold forth so as to offer." "Taken from Word Studies in The Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1975 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company." We "hold out the word of life" when we demonstrate that God is alive by responding to trials with trust in His love and care for us.  Those who see us can see that God has brought us life, and they can be drawn to that life through us.  The Bible is not a dead book, but a living book.  We can show our world how practical, relevant, and alive it is by the way that God uses it to help us even in difficult times.  "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3)

"in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing."  What is the goal of our ministry to others and in the local church?  Paul expresses here what that motivation should be.  We should minister not for the praise of men now, but we should be seeking that we will find great joy on "the day of Christ."  "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?" (1 Thessalonians 2:19)  Our true success in life will be determined on that day!  Paul realized that and revealed to these Philippian Christians what would bring him the greatest joy and that is when he learns on Christ's return "that he did not run or labor for nothing."  Listen to what brought the apostle John the greatest joy:  "It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 John 3-4)  This is also what will bring you and me the greatest joy, if we learn on "the day of Christ" that our labors were not in vain and we hear the words from the glorified Jesus Christ:  "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:21)

"But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me."  At a later time, Paul would be in prison for the last time, once more in Rome.  Listen to his words at that time:  "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:6-8)  Here is Hendriksen's explanation of "drink offering" in his commentary on II Timothy:  "According to the law (Numbers 15:1-10), when a lamb was sacrificed, the drink offering consisting of one-fourth of hin of wine (1 hin = slightly more than a gallon); when the offering was a ram, the prescribed libation was one-third of hin; and for a bull it was one-half of a hin.  Since the wine was gradually poured out, and was the final act of the ceremony, it pictured mostadequately the gradual ebbing away of Paul's life, the fact that he was presenting this life to God as an offering, and the idea that he viewed his entire career of faith as a 'living sacrifice' (Rom. 12:1; cf 15:16), he looked upon the present stage of his career as being the final sacrificial act." See Philippians 2:17 "Taken from New Testament Commentary I – II Timothy by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1957 by Baker Books."  We are also to willingly offer our life as a sacrifice to God.  Paul did that and was doing it.  We are to follow his example in our day.

 "So you too should be glad and rejoice with me."  Paul is saying that his present imprisonment is a part of his sacrificial service.  He believed that the love and concern that the Philippian Christians have shown for him and "their faith" was evidence that he had not labored "for nothing."  So, he is not downhearted in his present circumstances, but rejoicing.  They also "should be glad and rejoice with him"!

TWO MEN WHO DEMONSTRATED THIS ATTITUDE OF HUMILITY AND SERVICE (2:19-30)

1. Timothy (2:19-24) (the only man among the Christians in Rome who was
willing to sacrifice his own interests for the sake of the Philippian Christians)
"I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon."

Thought Question #1:  What do you see in Paul's description of Timothy that describes the type of Christian you aspire to be?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Who do you know that is like Timothy?

 

 

"I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon,"  This was not the first time that Paul sent Timothy to a church as his representative. See I Corinthians 4:16-17; I Thessalonians 3:1-3  Part of his purpose in sending Timothy to these Philippian Christians is that he expected that they would respond well to this letter of joy, and he wanted to be encouraged when he heard that good news from Timothy: "that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you." 

"I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ."  As a young Christian student at San Jose State College, I attended the church that Ray Stedman pastored.  I learned shortly after becoming a Christian about II Timothy 2:2:  "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." (2 Timothy 2:2)  I was told that an important principle found in the Bible is that we are to look for those who are receptive to being discipled.  We are to look for F.A.T. people- those who are Faithful, Available, and Teachable.  I learned that disciples are those who put Christ's purposes first in their lives. See John 8:31-32; Luke 9:57-62  Paul had found a true disciple in Timothy.  He was not focused on his own interests, but on "those of Jesus Christ."  Also, he was genuinely concerned about the people in a church that was far away from him.

"I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare."  In 2:14, Paul says: "Do everything without complaining or arguing."  Is he contradicting himself here.  It sounds like he is complaining about the people in the church there.  Was the great apostle complaining?  What we have here is Paul simply stating what was true then and has been true throughout the years.  It was a grievous truth and it certainly did grieve him.  Throughout the years there are Christians who put God's goals first in their lives and are willing to pay whatever price is necessary to accomplish His goals, and there, sadly, are other Christians who focus primarily on their own interests.  Many a pastor has been disappointed as he has discovered that few in the church put God's goals above their own person goals for their lives.  Paul's words here help those pastors and Christian servants know that they are not alone.  Even Paul felt this type of disappointment.  A man named Demas disappointed Paul right at the end of his life.  "for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. . . ." (2 Timothy 4:10a) See also II Timothy 4:16

"But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel."  On three different occasions that we know of, the Philippian Christians had seen the servant's heart of Timothy and they had witnessed how he shared Paul's heart for them and for the gospel ministry. See Acts 16:1-15, 19:22, 20:3-6  During these times with them, he had "proven himself" to them.  He had shown them his service alongside Paul matched Paul's service of God.

Also, he served alongside Paul "as a son with his father."  Recently, I saw Franklin Graham being interviewed on a news show.  It was as if his father Billy Graham were being interviewed.  That is the way it would be when Timothy came to them; it would be just like having Paul come to them.

"I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon."  In spite of Paul's imprisonment and though his fate appeared to be up to the Romans and to Caesar, he remains upbeat, positive, and hopeful.  He looked beyond the small picture to the big picture.  He believed that God would somehow allow him to continue his personal ministry to these beloved Philippian Christians.  And that is what actually took place.  I Timothy was written after his imprisonment in Rome.  I Timothy states that he visited Macedonia where Philippi was located.  "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer."

2. Epaphroditus (2:25-30) (he was willing to risk losing his life for the work of
Christ)
"But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me."

Thought Question #1:  What do you see in Paul's description of Epaphroditus that describes what a church leader should be like?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you learn about when you discover that God did not use Paul to immediately heal Epaphroditus?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Who do you know who is like Epaphroditus?

 

 

These verses and 4:18 are the only verses in the Bible that mention Epaphroditus.  What do we learn about him from these words?  We learn immediately that the apostle Paul had a high opinion of him: "my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier."  Epaphroditus was certainly a leader in the church at Philippi.  How did he lead them?  Like Paul and all true Christian leaders: he was a hard-working servant of Jesus Christ.  Paul started this letter in this way: "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus." 

Epaphroditus was also seen as Paul's "brother."  All of us in the true church are brothers and sisters in God's family.  We were all born-again of God's Spirit into a common spiritual and eternal family.

He was Paul's "fellow worker."  They had toiled together in God's work.  Effective leaders in the church work harder than anyone else.  They lead by example:  "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Peter 5:1-4)  "To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." (Colossians 1:29)  Paul, in his role as a leader in the church toiled in God's work; Epaphroditus, in his role as a leader, also toiled along with Paul in God's work.

He was Paul's "fellow soldier."  Together, Paul and Epaphroditus "fought the good fight." (II Timothy 4:7)  We are in a war with a powerful and evil foe.  Paul had been fighting this war shoulder to shoulder with Epaphroditus.

Who do you know that you can say of him or of her what Paul said of Epaphroditus?  These individuals are each your "brother" or sister, they each are a "fellow worker" with you, and they each are a "fellow soldier" with you.  Can anyone say that of you?  The church through the years has continued to be vibrant due to these types of Christians.

"who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs."  Not only did Paul think highly of Epaphroditus, but so did the Philippian Christians, for he was the one they chose to be their "messenger" to Paul.  It was a long and difficult journey from Philippi to Rome.  What type of person would they trust both to persevere and make it to Rome?  What type of person would they trust with the money?  Their choice was "Epaphroditus." The Greek word translated "messenger" is the word from which we get the word "apostle."

The Greek word translated "take care" is the word from which we get our word "liturgy."  It "is used of the ritualistic service of the Levitical priests." "Taken from Word Studies in The Greek New Testament.  Copyright 1975 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company." See Romans 15:16

"For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow."  Self-pity is a very human malady.  A good friend of mine who recently died at the age of 100 years old told me years ago that self-pity is something that we strangely enjoy doing.  Epaphroditus could have "strangely enjoyed" hearing that the Philippian Christians had heard that he had gotten sick in the pursuit of the task they had sent him on.  "Poor Epaphroditus, how he has suffered."  But, instead, he was "distressed because [they] heard he was ill."  He felt bad that his sickness had caused them concern.  What a selfless man he was; he was more concerned about the pain his sickness caused them than about the pain his sickness caused hihimself.

"For he longs for all of you"  Although Epaphroditus loved Paul and had faithfully completed the task that his church at Philippi had given to him, he now longed to be back home with them.  We will see in the following verses that Paul now wants Epaphroditus to return to them, but he does not want Epaphroditus or the church in Philippi to feel that Epaphroditus has failed in any way to complete the task they gave to him because he was returning to them.

"Indeed he was ill, and almost died."  We may think that Paul the miracle-working apostle would not have been concerned that Epaphroditus might die.  Could not he have simply healed all who had faith?  The pattern in the New Testament is not that Paul and the apostles healed all who were sick, but that God miraculously healed some according to His sovereign purposes and plan.  In God's providence, sickness is a part of life.  He sometimes suspends His providence and spectacularly heals someone, but normally sickness takes a more natural course, as it did here with Epaphroditus. See II Timothy 4:20

"But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow."  If Epaphroditus had died, Paul would have felt that his death was caused by the weakness caused by his arduous trip from Philippi to Rome for his sake.  Paul was spared "sorrow upon sorrow"--feeling that he would have been the cause of the death of this loved servant of Christ from Philippi.

"Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety."  Paul is "eager" to send Epaphroditus back to them.  The Philippian Christians had thought Epaphroditus was going to die and so they would rejoice to see him healthy and joyful.  Epaphroditus was eager to see them also.  So, for Paul, it distressed him to keep him from returning to them.  Paul's concern and "anxiety" about keeping him from them would be over when Epaphroditus returned to them.

"Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me."  Years ago, I attended a Christian conference at the then Campus Crusade for Christ headquarters at Arrow Head Springs, California.  The main speaker was Richard Wurmbrand.  He spent 13 years in a communist Romanian prison as a result of his stand for Christ.  He is a man honored by the worldwide church and by me because he risked his life and served Christ at great cost to himself.  He was a man like this Epaphroditus who also risked his life in serving Christ.  How did Epaphroditus risk his life?  It may have been that the trip was so difficult that it nearly cost him his life.  It may also be true that at this point in Paul's imprisonment that anyone who visited him in prison may have risked ending up in prison right next to him--possibly also dying with him.  We do not know the specifics, but we do know that he risked his life.  The term "risking his life" is a gambling term for making risks in gambling.

In 2:20-21, Paul says of Timothy, "I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.  For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ."  We have looked at two men who did not look out for their "own interests," but were concerned for the "interests" "of Jesus Christ"; two men who took a "genuine interest" in others "welfare."  May they be our example.  May we be willing to make sacrifices like they did for the needs of others and for the cause of Jesus Christ.

AN OUTLOOK ON SUCCESS THAT ENABLES US TO BE JOYFUL (3:1-21)

1. Reject worldly success (3:1-3) (the Jewish version of religious success was fleshly and not spiritual)
"Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—"

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that Paul is so strong in his language about these false teachers? (Should we follow his pattern and also be strong in our language toward other Christians?)

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe that Paul contrasts those he calls "dogs" with those "who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh"?

 

 

"Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you."  Christians through the years have experienced every type of horror and trial.  Many have been imprisoned and tortured.  Others have lived through their child's death.  Many have experienced unjust treatment at the hands of others.  Still others have suffered from some type of debilitating illness.  And the list goes on and on.  How should a Christian respond to all of this?  Paul gives the answer here:  "Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!"  At the end of the list of heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 are those who continued to trust God even though He did not miraculously intervene in their lives:  ". . . Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised." (Hebrews 11:35-39)  Then, in Hebrews 12, we are exhorted to persevere, recognizing that even our painful times are producing God's character in us if we can rejoice "in the Lord" while we are going through these trials.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes the following observation about Paul's command to "rejoice in the Lord."  "It is not a description of the state in which we find ourselves so much as something which we are exhorted to do.  The tendency is always to think of joy as some subjective state or condition, and, of course, ultimately it is, and yet the very fact that Paul commands us or calls us to rejoice is proof positive that it is not something which we experience in a purely passive or subjective manner.  We are not to sit down, trusting and hoping that we shall suddenly begin to rejoice.  No, we have to do something in order that we may rejoice and it is something that we are capable of doing."

Lloyd-Jones, then, goes on to answer his own question:  "How, then, is it to be done?  Well, first of all, our rejoicing is always something that results from a realisation of our position in Christ.  My joy is the product, almost the by-product, of my concentration upon my relationship to God in Jesus Christ. "Taken from The Life of Joy and Peace by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1989 by Baker Books."  "'I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.'" (John 16:33)  So, we can rejoice in the fact that our trials are producing Christian character in us. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)

"and it is a safeguard for you."  Rejoicing in the Lord protects us from caving in when trials come down on us.  We either "rejoice in the Lord" or the burdens of the trials will crush us.  Rejoicing in the Lord is really our way of showing that we are trusting in the Lord and trusting in His love for us.  "Nehemiah said, 'Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'" (Nehemiah 8:10)

"There is a certain indestructibility in Christian joy, and it is so, because Christian joy is in the Lord.  Its basis is that the Christian lives forever in the presence of Jesus Christ.  He can lose all things, and he can lose all people, but he can never lose Christ.  And, therefore, even in circumstances where joy seems to be impossible and there seems to be nothing but pain and discomfort, Christian joy remains, because not all the threats and terrors and discomforts of life can separate the Christian from the love of God in Christ Jesus his Lord." (Romans 8:35-39)  "Taken from The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Thought Question:  How can you "rejoice in the Lord" right now, though something is very difficult for you to deal with?

 

 

"Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh."  Paul immediately warns them about what is a threat to them rejoicing in the Lord; it is focusing not on "the Lord," but focusing on those who emphasize external religious legalism.  As a new Christian, I came immediately in contact with a very alive and joyous church led by Ray Stedman and Dave Roper.  But, the ministry of that church and the local Campus Crusade for Christ group led me into a number of other churches that were very religious and dead.  The difference between the two very different types of churches was to me, as a new Christian, quite striking.  Paul warned these Philippian Christians about the difference between genuine Christianity and a religion of works.  The latter, Paul says, "do evil."  Part of that evil was their requirement that Christians be circumcised to be acceptable to God.   Paul says here that this practice did not help them attain to a relationship with God, but it only accomplished a mutilation of the flesh.

How can calling a group of people "dogs, those men who do evil" be a Christian attitude?  Paul is following the pattern of Jesus when He called the religious and legalistic Pharisees, "you hypocrites!" (Matthew 23:13)  When Paul called them, "dogs," he was not referring to our sweet pet dog; rather, he was referring to the wild dogs that were scavengers and despised in their culture.  It was more like the attitude we have toward coyotes.  Why was Paul so upset with them and why did he see them as "dogs"?  It was because they had not a message of grace but a message of works.  Their message put a religious burden on people's shoulders; it did not lead people to God's salvation but it led to them feeling hopelessly condemned by God.

The "dogs" were legalists who demanded that people obey the Jewish letter of the law.  They did not understand that God's Old Testament system of law was meant to drive people to the grace that comes through the blood of Jesus Christ.   The many sacrifices, the Day of Atonement, the blood of the Passover lamb were all meant to point them to Christ.  But, instead, they put religious burdens on people and provided no way for the burdens to be removed.  "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." (Matthew 23:4)  Today, we would say that their goal was to micromanage peoples' lives according to the rules established by these self-appointed religious rulers.  Paul saw them as "dogs."  Those who are like them today should also be looked upon in this way.

"They were tirelessly seeking to convert young believers to their views to bring them back under the bondage of legalistic restrictions." "RayStedman.org"  They were a serious threat to the early church.  He calls them "dogs" because he wanted to get their attention that they were a very serious threat to them! 

"those mutilators of the flesh."  Paul is speaking of circumcision.  Circumcision was instituted by God with Abraham as a sign that the nation of Israel were God's people. See Genesis 17:1-4  Circumcision was a sign that ultimately pointed to the New Covenant, a cutting away of our flesh by God's Spirit to open up a spiritual relationship with God.  To be right with God, it did not require something to be done to the flesh, but something to change in the heart.  Ezekiel predicted it in Ezekiel 36:26-27 and in Deuteronomy 30:6: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezekiel 36:26-27)  "The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live." (Deuteronomy 30:6) See also Leviticus 26:20-21, 41; Deuteronomy 10:16

"A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2:28-29)  Paul describes the threat to the church of that time, by a group who are now called Judaizers, in Galatians 5 and Acts 15:  "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. . . . As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" (Galatians 5:4, 12)  "Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.'" (Acts 15:1) See also Galatians 4:1-12, 6:12-15 and Acts 15.

"For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—"
Paul is contrasting a false and graceless religious legalism with a true relationship with God.  We should want these verses to fully describe us.  For it is we who are the circumcision,"  The true Jew is one who is not only circumcised in the flesh, he must also be circumcised in his heart. Again, we look at Romans 2: "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2:28-29)  "God did not recognize the validity of the act of circumcision even in the Old Testament unless it reflected on inward reality." "Taken from A Profile of Christian Maturity by Gene Getz.  Copyright 1976 by Zondervan Publishing House."

"we who worship by the Spirit of God,"  Before I became a Christian, God was no more than a vague concept to me.  When I became a Christian, God became my Father:  "because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children." (Romans 8:14-16)  God's Spirit began to reveal who God is as I read the Bible and as I listened to Bible teachers.  My worship of God also was led by God's Spirit.  As a young person I attended church but singing hymns was very dead to me because a relationship with God had not yet been brought to life in me by the Holy Spirit.  Now for over 40 years, I have experienced the worship of God led by God's Spirit in me.  My experience is also the experience of every true believer.

Jesus explained to the woman at the well that worship is not about buildings and locations; it is about "spirit and truth." (John 4:24)  Nor is it about rites, traditions, and forms of music; it is about being led by God's Spirit into God's presence and worshiping the One whom God's Spirit has made real to us.  The building, the music, and the rest provide tools to help us in our Spirit-led worship of God.

"who glory in Christ Jesus,"  Years ago, I heard that two men from U. S. had traveled to England.  While there, they heard two well-known preachers of that time.  After they heard the first man, they said: "What a great preacher!"  After they heard the second man who was Charles Spurgeon, they said: "What a great God!"  We want to be those who do not glory in ourselves or in other people; but we want to be those who glory in the only One who deserves to be glorified-God's Son Jesus Christ.  "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14) 

"The continuous pressure of our age is to get us to glory in something else; in our denomination, for instance, in our ritual, our proper way of doing our ministry, our orthodoxy, and in our fidelity to the truth.  If we glory in something that is distinctly ours and gives us some mark of privileged status over others, this is a desperate thrust at the very vitality of the spirit of worship.  We are to glory in Christ Jesus; that is all." "Stedman.org"

"and who put no confidence in the flesh—"  If we put confidence in ourself, and we perceive that we are the one who has attained to our success, who then gets the glory?  We did it, so we get the credit.  But, this is the very opposite of authentic Christianity.  Christianity is dependence on God through Jesus Christ.  If we put our total dependence on Him, then He alone deserves the credit for anything that is accomplished.  This was Paul's pattern; for he "put no confidence in the flesh."

2. Paul considered this type of success to be "rubbish" compared to the true success that comes from knowing Christ. (3:4-9)

a. The "rubbish" (3:4-8a)
"though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish,"

Thought Question #1:  Why is worldly success today also "rubbish"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why is "knowing Christ" the greatest success?

 

 

"though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless."  Paul immediately makes it clear that he was very familiar with a flesh-based "confidence."  For by the Jewish standard of success, he had risen to the very top place in Jewish society.  He, as a baby, had been "circumcised on the eighth day" according to God's command in Genesis 17:12:  "For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring." See also Genesis 21:4; Leviticus 12:3; Luke 2:21

"of the people of Israel"  Paul was not only a descendant of Abraham, but he was a descendant of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel; he was an Israelite. See Genesis 32:28  "of the tribe of Benjamin"  "Benjamin" was a child of Rachel, Jacob's or Israel's favorite wife. See Genesis 35:17-18  It was only the tribe of "Benjamin" who sided with Judah when the nation divided; they became the only two tribes of the twelve tribes of Israel who worshiped at Jerusalem. See I Kings 12:21  For this and other reasons, the tribe of "Benjamin" had a high place among the tribes of Israel. See Ezra 4:1-2; Esther 2:5

"Hebrew of Hebrews"  Paul not only was an Israelite, he was an Israelite who had not been so influenced by the Greek world that he abandoned his Hebrew ancestry.  He still maintained the Hebrew customs and the Hebrew language. See Galatians 1:14  "in regard to the law, a Pharisee"  "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today." (Acts 22:3)  "Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, 'My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.'" (Acts 23:6) See also Acts 26:5  The Pharisees were elite Jewish men who dedicated their lives to both describing how one obeyed God's law and who sought to fully obey the law.  Their name means "Separated Ones."  Paul had been one of these elite "Separated Ones." 

"as for zeal, persecuting the church," "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison," (Acts 22:3-4)  "Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them." (Acts 26:11) See Galatians 1:3  Paul was not a man who did anything half way.  He was an all-the-way Pharisee who tried to rid the world of the Jewish religion's greatest enemy-Christianity; that is, until he became a Christian himself. 

"as for legalistic righteousness, faultless"  The Pharisees had interpreted the law in such a way that it became possible for the Pharisees to obey it fully.  Paul was one who was able to obey the Pharisaic law perfectly.

Of course, as Paul himself made it clear, no one can obey the Mosaic law given by God.  "What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one;' . . .Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:9-10, 19-20)

In the eyes of the Jews, Paul was at the very top of their society.  He was at the top of his society as a Supreme Court justice, senator, or university president is at the top of our society.  How did he feel when he wrote this letter about this great position of success that had been his?  "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish,"  Many a famous Christian of the past has tried to do what Paul tried at first to do: they have tried to get in a right relationship with God through their own zeal.  One group in London formed the Holy Club.  This name was given to them by those who were critical of them.  Among those in the group were John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield.  They were seeking in their own religious zeal to accomplish something great for God.  Each of the three that were mentioned later realized that for them to really accomplish something for God they needed to first be born again by His Spirit.  They needed God's powerful enabling before they could make a difference.  And with God's powerful enabling, He used them in one of the greatest revivals in England and the United States.  They and Paul learned that their efforts in their flesh had been nothing but "rubbish." 

The word translated "rubbish" can either be translated as that "which is thrown to the dogs; or in medical language it means excrement (dung, as the Authorized Version translates it)." "Taken from The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

So, Paul discovered that man's highest achievements in seeking to earn a right relationship with God are of no more value than manure.  But he also discovered "the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."  Like in the parable of the pearl of great price and the parable or the hidden treasure in Matthew 24:44-46, he chose to give up his pursuit of seeking religious greatness and pursued only what had the very greatest value--that was "knowing Christ Jesus."

Today, we can believe that religious zeal is the path to personal greatness.  But, from God's perspective, ". . . all our righteous acts are like filthy rags . . ." (Isaiah 64:6)  Instead, we are to seek after that which is freely given to us by God.  How we are to pursue God in this way is explained by Paul in the coming verses.  What brought about this great change in Paul?  His pride was changed to humility.  It began on a road to Damascus.  "“On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ”‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied." (Acts 26:12-15)  Then, Paul spent a number of years in preparation before he went into ministry. See Galatians 1:17-2:1; Acts 11:25-26  During all of this time, Paul went from being the proud Pharisee to becoming the humble apostle.  He went from being esteemed by the Jewish society to being considered as the prime enemy of the Jewish society.  He did it because of the "surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus."

b. True success (3:8b-9)
We see in this book of Philippians and in this chapter in Philippians that we who are Christians have a completely different view of what success is than those in the world.  Paul had achieved through his Jewish lineage the height of success within the Jewish community; but when he came to know Christ, he realized that all that he had achieved was valueless to him.  In fact, it was worse than valueless, for it became something that he despised.  So, we who are Christians have a value system that is completely the opposite from that of the world.  We cannot value what the world values and value what God values at the same time. Listen to what Jesus had to say about this: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Matthew 6:24)  As we look at these verses and verses after these, we will see what we are to value.

"that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith."

We have attained to true success when God sees us as being right with Him. True success does not come from being esteemed by the crowds, but by being esteemed by God.  Paul, at the time that he wrote this letter, was no longer at the top of Jewish society.  In fact, he was in prison because the Jewish people despised him and put him in jail. See Acts 21:27-36  Nevertheless, Paul was a truly successful man, for he was right with God; and that was all that mattered to Paul.  How had he become right with God?  He had the "righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." 

Jesus Christ gained for us a right standing with God.  He perfectly obeyed God's law as our representative and then He took the penalty in our place for all the ways that we have broken God's law.  "For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:19)  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Paul had made the ultimate effort to earn being right with God.  It had earned him a high status with men, but had not earned him anything with God.  He continued to be a condemned man in God's court.  "Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, . . . because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16)  He had found that righteousness before God came to him when he simply put His faith in what Jesus had done for Him on the cross.  He discovered, as so many have, that it is not through religious efforts that we get right with God, but that it is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Our part is to receive this gift by faith.  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

3. For this reason, Paul chose to dedicate his life to seeking the true success that comes from knowing God better and better (3:10-14)

a. His life goal (3:10-11)
"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."

Thought Question #1:  What is meant by "knowing Christ"? (Is it knowing a lot about Christ?  Is it having a mystical relationship with Him?)

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What would result from Paul getting to know Jesus better?  What will result from our getting to know Jesus better?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Why did Paul want to share in Christ's "sufferings"?

 

 

As Ray Stedman observes, there is a difference between knowing about someone and knowing that individual personally and intimately.  His point is that there is a great difference between gaining knowledge about Christ and actually knowing him in a deeply personal and intimate way.  Paul, here, describes his desire to know Christ more intimately. 

It is important to realize that Paul had been a believer nearly 30 years when he wrote these words.  Yet, he still was not satisfied that he knew Jesus fully enough for him to stop his pursuit of knowing Him better.  What would result from Paul getting to know Jesus better?  What will result from our getting to know Jesus better?  As was experienced so many years ago by Paul, we also will experience more of His "power," more of His path of suffering, and more of His passion.

We will experience more of His "power"--"the power of his resurrection."  What kind of "power" is "the power of his resurrection"?  Ray Stedman gives this helpful description:  "What is the uniqueness of resurrection power?  As you read the gospel accounts I think it is clear that resurrection power is the kind that works when all hope otherwise is gone.  Wasn't that true at the grave of Jesus Christ?  All the hopes of the disciples had collapsed.  The sun was blotted out of the sky.  There was nothing left to them, and with hopeless dreary abandon they went back to the old routine of life--everything related to Jesus was now gone.  And then the resurrection!  And out of that despair and death, out of that hopelessness there came the shining light of the resurrection.  That changed everything, transformed the whole picture, and moved them out of despair into the very heights of exultation.  That is resurrection power." "Stedman, Discovery Publishing" 

Do you know the darkness at the end of your human struggle?  Life has worn you down.  You feel worn down.  Your troubles and concerns are many.  People have disappointed and mistreated you.  You know how a Christian is to respond to all of this, but you do not have the ability not to worry and you do not have the ability not to be bitter about it all.  And you do not have the power to have peace, joy, love, and a gentle spirit.  You are a complete failure as a Christian.  What does God want to come next for you and for me?  "Resurrection power"!  He wants to replace our powerlessness with his "power."  He wants us to become fully dependent on Him to produce His peace, His joy, His love, His patience, and His gentleness in us.  We need His power to be like Him in the midst of a world that is exactly like the world that Jesus and Paul faced.  We need His power to face the same enemy that they faced; so that we also can be victorious.  Nothing short of His power will make all of this possible.

We need to experience more of His path of "suffering"--"the fellowship of sharing in his suffering."  At this point, we say, "I would like to experience more of Christ's power, but I do not know if I want to experience more of Christ's suffering."  It is true, though, that if we follow the path that Jesus did, that we will also experience the suffering that Jesus experienced.  "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin." (1 Peter 4:1)  Part of the path that He walked was His obedience in resisting the temptation to sin.  If we follow His path, we also will suffer as we also resist the temptation to sin. 

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name." (1 Peter 4:12-16)  "'You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.  If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me." (John 15:16-21)  "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," (2 Timothy 3:12)  Just as the world hated Him and His message, so they hate we who are followers of Him, and they hate our message.  This is also part of "the fellowship of sharing in his suffering."  If we choose to experience His power and choose to be like Him, we can also expect to experience the road of "suffering" that He experienced.

"becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."  Jesus expressed through His willingness to be "obedient to death--even death on a cross" (2:8), His complete willingness to do the will of the Father at great cost to Himself.  Paul desired that he would become more willing to become like Jesus in this way.  And as a result of His becoming like Jesus in a death to his personal goals, he would experience the resurrected life empowered by God's Spirit.  "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me [the thorn in the flesh]. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

Paul is not saying that he needed to do this so that it would lead to his resurrection from the dead after he died.  Then, his eternal salvation would have still been in doubt.  That would have contradicted the confidence he had shown that his death would be gain for him:  "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far . . . " (Philippians 1:21-23)

So, what he was talking about here was his desire to die to the part of him that prevented him from experiencing the resurrection life of Christ.  He needed to die before Jesus fully lived in him.  As Jesus chose the path of the cross and experienced the resurrection, so Paul wanted to share in Jesus' path to the cross that he might experience resurrection life.

"In light of both of the preceding and following contexts, these words give expression to Paul's intense longing and striving to be raised completely above sin and selfishness, so that he can be a most effective agent for the salvation of men to the glory of God." "Taken from New Testament Commentary – II
Timothy
by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1957 by Baker Books."

"and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."  "Not an expression of doubt, but of humility (Vincent), a modest hope (Lightfoot)." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1931 by Broadman Press."

b. His struggle to reach that goal (3:12-14)
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Thought Question #1:  Does "forgetting what is behind" mean that it is wrong to look at the past and how it has affected us?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do we learn about what our Christian life should be like from these verses?

 

 

"Not that I have already obtained all this,  or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it."  Paul is careful in what he says, for he does not want his readers to get the wrong idea.  Though he is an apostle and though he has been a Christian for nearly 30 years, he has not yet attained to the goals that he described in 3:10: knowing Christ completely, fully experiencing His resurrection power, and entirely sharing in His path of suffering. See I John 3:2  Or, in other words, he is in the race, but he has not yet completed the race.

The Greek word for "perfect" is a verb from the Greek noun: teleios which means to reach a state of completion.  For example, Paul had not yet experienced the complete "resurrection from the dead" that he spoke of in the previous verse; he had not arrived at complete selflessness and experienced complete Christ likeness.  He, though, is still striving toward it.

Paul is cautioning against an attitude that Christians can easily feel: "I have arrived."  It can be based on a theological teaching such as the view that we can suddenly reach a state of "entire sanctification."  Or it can be based on a prideful perspective.  We can begin to feel complacent as we consider our faithfulness in years of service.  But certainly none of us can say that we have excelled in the Christian life beyond Paul.  And, here, he makes it clear that he had not arrived.  He still needed to press on to attain what was available to him in Christ.

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  Some have asked the question: "Why does God leave His children on earth once their sins are forgiven?  Is it God's only goal for us that we be forgiven and go to heaven?  Some may add to this our job to share the gospel to others.  But the Bible does not stop there.  God has given us the ability to be like Him so we will represent Him well while we are on this earth.  Paul realized this and was constantly pressing toward this goal.  The following verses speak of God's goal for you and me:  "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." (Titus 2:11-14)  "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." (2 Peter 1:3-7)

It is clear from this verse and the verses I quoted that growth does not come from a passive "let go and let God" approach to the Christian life.  We are not just to stop striving and just trust Him to do it all.  This is not what Paul himself did.  He wholeheartedly and continuously worked at growing in Christ likeness.  "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 according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13)

"What is the character of the Christian life?  According to the Apostle it is a striving, a struggle, an effort, an endeavor ever onwards and upwards in the direction of that goal in the distance." "Taken from The Life of Joy and Peace by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1989 by Baker Books."

"I press on to take hold"  It is the picture of someone running in a race who is wholeheartedly pressing forward and straining toward the victory tape.  This is Paul's description of what his Christian life was like.  He was always wholeheartedly pursuing after a greater experience of Christ's life that was within him.  Was this just to be the pursuit of someone who is an apostle?  Clearly he desired that they follow him and also pursue this life of Christ that was also in them:   "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:9) 

"to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."  Why, again, did Christ take hold of us?  So that we in turn would take hold of all that He now gives us.  If we inherited a million dollars, it would now be up to us to actually take that money and spend it.  If we did not take it out of the bank and spend it, it would just stay there in the bank and be useless to us.  In the same way, God has given us a new supernatural life.  It is up to us to now lay "hold" of that life and seek wholeheartedly to live it to the full.

"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it."  Again, he wants them to realize that even after all these years, he had not attained to all a Christian can experience.  Even he had a long way to go.  After saying this very thought in verse 12, he repeats it in verse 13.  It is clear that he both does not want them to think that he has arrived, nor does he want them to think that they have arrived.  We also have not arrived and need to still pursue after all that we can become in the Christian life.

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,"  Does Paul mean that it is always bad to focus at all on our past?  In Ephesians 4:31, Paul said the following:  "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice."  To follow Paul's instructions in this verse, we need to look at the past to see if we have been holding on to grudges from what has happened to us in past.  Does Paul mean in this verse in Philippians that we are not to look backwards about anything, but just to move on?  Is he saying to forget about the past painful experiences that still affect us today and move on without dealing with them at all?  If that is not what he means when he says "forgetting what is behind," what then does he mean?  He means that we must not rest upon our past experiences, we must not be forever looking back upon them in a self-satisfied way in order to pride and preen ourselves upon them." "Taken from The Life of Joy and Peace by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1989 by Baker Books."  We are not to rest upon our laurels--rest upon the successes of the past.  Some characteristically live primarily in the past--talking of their conversion or of events years ago.  We need to forget the past and pursue today all that we can become in Christ.

"Forgetting what is behind: can also refer to past failures.  Someone has coined the phrase: "Failure the backdoor to success."  Erwin Lutzer even wrote a book with this title.  What we could not do in the past does not mean that we cannot with God's help do it in the future.  "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us . . ." (Ephesians 3:20) 

Also, we can have trouble believing that God can forgive our past failures and conclude that there is no hope for us in the future.  Peter probably felt that there was no future for him after he, as Jesus predicted, denied Jesus 3 times.  But, that was not the end for Peter; in actuality it was really the beginning, for after his failure he was more powerfully used by God.

"Forgetting what is behind" can also mean for Paul "forgetting" the old manmade religion that he had once been involved in.  Instead, in a completely new way he is seeking after getting to know Jesus Christ better rather than seeking after success in the Pharisaical system he had once been part of. See Genesis 19:26; Luke 9:62

 "and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize"  During Olympic years, we became aware of the years of sacrifice that star athletes make to attain to what is needed for a championship performance.  What do they strain and work for? All their work is directed at obtaining a small piece of gold that indicates that they are the best athlete in the world at their event.  What is the prize that we Christians strain after and work for? 

"to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  Paul was seeking a different type of "prize" than he sought after in his earlier life.   The prize he once sought after was prestige among men.  After he became a Christian, he sought after a heavenly "prize."  He wants to do that which will be honored in heaven.

What does this look like?  How do we strain after a heavenly reward and after a heavenly goal?  Each of us is to strain with all our heart after knowing Christ.  What will that look like?  It means that we will make it our highest priority to understand God's word with the enabling of God's Spirit, and we will wholeheartedly seek with God's strength to apply it to our lives.  It means we will seek out teachers who can help us in this pursuit.  It means that we will be willing to humble ourselves and accept where we are falling short.  It means that we will rejoice in trials.  It means that we will pay whatever cost we need to pay to become all that Christ desires us to be.

4. We also need to set our minds on heavenly things. (3:15-21)

a. We need to seek after God's view of life. (3:15-17)
"All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you."

Thought Question #1:  Who do you know that is an example to you of what Paul describes here--one who is not only learning the truth but is also seeking wholeheartedly to apply that truth to his or her life?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Here he speaks of a group of people who are "mature," but in the previous verses he said that he is not yet "perfect"; what is the difference between "mature" and "perfect"?

 

 

In verse 12, he says he is not "perfect."  Here, he speaks of those who are "mature."  Both Greek words come from the same Greek word, teleios.  How can he say that he had not perfectly reached God's goal for him and now, a few short verses later, say that he is one of the "mature."  Wuest gives the following answer:  "The answer is found in the fact that in verse twelve Paul is speaking of a finished process and absolute spiritual maturity beyond which there is no room for improvement, whereas in verse fifteen he is speaking of relative spiritual maturity where there is room for development and growth." "Taken from Word Studies in The Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1975 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

The NIV translates the first use of the word as "perfect" and the second word referring to "relative spiritual maturity" as "mature."  Though he uses basically the same word, we can tell the meaning that Paul intended by the context in which he uses it. See Hebrews 5:11-14

What Paul is doing here is separating worldly thinking from mature Christian thinking.  He first identifies all that he has been saying from verse seven on as the way "mature" Christians will think of worldly success.  They see worldly success as valueless, and they see true success as knowing Christ.  These "mature" Christians also acknowledge that that in this life they will never reach this goal completely, but they will nevertheless always continue to strain toward this goal their entire lives.  Does this description of maturity describe you and me?

Paul says that if you do not yet have this way of thinking, God will "make it clear to you."  But, in the meantime, we are to "live up to what we have already attained."  In other words, live according to what God has already revealed to you.

In Ephesians four, Paul says something similar to what he says here:
"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming." (Ephesians 4:11-14)  As a church grows into maturity, it will become likeminded and it will see Jesus and the world in a similar way.

It may be that Paul learned from Epaphroditus that some at the church in Philippi thought that he had already become "perfect."  Verse fifteen would then be saying to them that the truly "mature" will see that they have not yet arrived; they, instead, are those who are "straining" forward so that they can experience a closer relationship with Christ.  Euodia and Syntyche may have become divided from each other because one or both felt that they had arrived at perfection. See Philippians 4:2-3  But, if they are truly maturing in their relationship with Christ, they will be growing in humility and oneness.  It is obvious how this applies to us in the church today.  Are we growing in humility and oneness or do we feel that we have arrived?

"Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you."  The type of thinking Paul has described needs to be lived out as a pattern of life.  Paul exhorts them to live as they had seen him live, and he exhorts them to find others who are following his example and also follow their example.

There are two significant errors that I have noticed in Christianity that verses 15-17 bring out.  1) Some Christians ridicule the importance of Scripture-based thinking.  They say that what is important is what you do.  The danger this creates is that it can eventually lead to a type of Christianity that begins to lack a firm foundation on God's truth.  Jude said the following about the importance of not losing our Scriptural foundation--what we put our faith in.  "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 3-4)  Most of the New Testament letters were written as a response to some form of error in teaching that had become a threat to the church.

2) Some Christians have gone in the opposite direction and turned the church into an academic setting where truth is taught as if it is only to be learned as knowledge.  Seminaries have been referred to as "cemeteries" for this very reason.  The main emphasis in these institutions can be aimed almost entirely at filling their students' heads with knowledge.  It is more knowledge than their students can ever apply to their lives.  It is understandable why they do this--so that their graduates will be fully informed about all aspects of Christianity.  But, this is not to be the pattern in our churches--more knowledge than we ever can apply.

Neither emphasis without the other is a Biblical emphasis.  Both emphases end up as bowling's gutter balls; they just are on opposite sides of the alley.  Paul emphasized both truth and living out that truth in one's life.  The truly "mature" will follow Paul's pattern and be truth seekers who also seek to wholeheartedly live out that truth in their lives.

Who do you know that is not just learning but is also wholeheartedly seeking to live that truth out in their lives?  Through the years, those who have been example to me of the real life of a Christian were two of the pastors of the church I attended as a young Christian---Ray Stedman and Dave Roper---plus a group of younger Christians who took me under their wings at that time.  I have been grateful through the years for their example to me.  Who is this type of example for you?

b. Reject the worldly type of thinking and those who do it. (3:18-19)
"For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things."

Thought Question #1:  What do we learn about the lost from Paul's description given here?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do we learn about Paul's attitude toward the lost from these verses? (Do we share his attitude?)

 

 

"For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears,"  We learn much about Paul and his ministry from these few words.  First of all, he saw value in repetitive teaching and warnings.  False teachers do this also.  Other groups, such as Communism, Nazism, and Islam, teach their followers their form of doctrine over and over again until their teaching becomes their students' way of looking at life.  We Christians also need to teach God's truth over and over again to our children and to our fellow Christians.  Children today are taught the lies of the world by television, movies, in school, and from friends.  We need to use every opportunity to counteract the world's influence with teachings in the home, vacation Bible school, Awana, Christian camps and by any other means we can find.  There is the same need to teach our adults as there is the need to teach our children.

"with tears,"  Someone said that Charles Spurgeon was qualified to teach on hell because he could not do it without tears.  Too often we who are Christians look on those who are lost and without Christ with cold dispassion.  Some years ago, I read the book: Whatever Happened to Hell by John Blanchard.  While reading that book, I become more conscious of the horrible fate of those who reject God.  So often, though, we think and talk of the lost and their hardened attitude with disgust and not with tears, as Paul does here.

"many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things."  There are five ways he describes those whose thinking is worldly rather than heaven-directed:  1) They "live as enemies of the cross of Christ."  The cross is either what draws us to God or what repulses us.  "but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles," (1 Corinthians 1:23) The difference is whether or not we are humbled by it or hardened by it in pride.  The proud reject and hate the teaching that the Son of God became a man and died for our sins.  The humble are grateful to God for His love and grace toward us demonstrated on the cross.  We see this complete contrast between humility and pride in the contrast between the Pharisee and the tax-collector in Luke 18:9-14:  "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”  But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.'"  Those who sing heartily "The Old Rugged Cross" see God's love in that cross; those who despise the cross are "enemies of the cross of Christ."

2) "Their destiny is destruction,"  So often we look at those who look upon Christians and Christianity with contempt as the winners; for they often are people who have risen to a high place of power and influence in our society.  They are movie stars, senators, Supreme Court justices, university professors, successful writers, and others who have reached high positions within our society; so at the present time it looks like being an enemy of God is working for them.  But, that is not how God looks at them.  "The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken." (Psalm 37:12-15)  "and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power . . . " (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)

Some say Paul is speaking here in Philippians of annihilation--"destruction" is annihilation.  Blanchard gives this answer to their challenge to the teaching that hell is a place of eternal judgment. See Matthew25:41,44; Revelation 14:10-11, 20:10  ". . . apollumi [the word translated 'destruction' here] can have a number of very different meanings.  When Jesus was growing in popularity, the Pharisees had an urgent meeting to discuss 'how they might destroy him (Matthew 12:14, NASB); but it would be ridiculous to suggest that they had annihilation in mind.  The word apollumi is used over twenty times in the sense of 'to die' or 'to be killed'.  Sometimes a related word is more naturally translated 'lost'.  Jesus said that he came into the world 'to seek and to save what was lost' (Luke 19:10; but if 'lost' means extinct, surely his coming was utterly pointless."  "Taken from Whatever Happened to Hell by John Blanchard.  Copyright 1993 by Evangelical Press."

3) "their god is their stomach,"  Eating disorders and obesity are a great problem in our society.  Instead of seeking peace and joy from a relationship with God, we can seek fulfillment and pleasure from food.  As a result, we become addicted to food.  We can find our joy in a gallon of ice cream or a trip to a fast food restaurant.  Our advertisers take full advantage of this tendency in us toward gluttony by appealing to our sensual desires in their advertisements.  In our pursuit of receiving pleasure from food, we do not realize that we can become a slave to king stomach.  We all know how easy it is for this to happen--our desires end up controlling us rather than us controlling our desires.  One fruit of the Spirit is self control. See Galatians 5:23 and II Timothy 1:7

4) "their glory is their shame."  In Isaiah 5:20, Isaiah gives the following now well-known judgment on Israel: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil."  In our society, the current rage is over vampires and werewolves.  A recent college event was a debate between a porn star and a Christian who had been addicted to pornography.  Many came to applaud the porn star.  What our society is glorifying in is bringing shame to our country.  Throughout our society we have everything upside down; we celebrate the wicked and sinful and despise what is good and wholesome.  What was true in the world of Paul's time is also true in our time.

5) "Their mind is on earthly things."  "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires;" (Romans 8:5a)  "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world." (1 John 2:15-16)  "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." (Ephesians 2:3)  The mind of the world is focused on what this world has to offer sensually, financially, and prestige wise; and is blind to things of God.  We are to be completely different from all of this.

c. Our citizenship is not in this world, but in heaven. (3:20-21)
"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, in what ways is our hope different from those who do not know Christ?

 

 

When we read these verses, we can read a slightly different meaning into them from what Paul actually meant and not realize it.  Paul does not say here that "our citizenship' will someday be in heaven, he says "our citizenship is [right now] in heaven."  Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 2:6-7:  "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him [right now] in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:6-7)  We have been born again into God's heavenly family.  We are citizens right now of God's kingdom. See also John 14:1-4, Colossians 3:1-3; Hebrews 12:22-24

The people of Philippi prided themselves in being citizens of Rome.  "The great characteristic of these colonies was that, wherever they were, they remained fragments of Rome.  Roman dress was worn; Roman magistrates governed; the Latin tongue was spoken; Roman justice was administered; Roman morals were observed.  Even in the ends of the earth they remained unshakably Roman." "Taken from The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  The parallel is obvious; now they were to be "unshakably" heavenly.

What does this mean to us today?  A Christian song has the following words that answer this question:  "This world is not my home; I'm just a passing through."  Because we are part of another country, a heavenly one; we are to live not in the way the world lives, but we are to live as citizens of God's holy rule.

"And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ," 
"Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed." (1 Corinthians 1:7)  "When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:4)  We are clearly not fully experiencing yet this heavenly kingdom, but we are eagerly anticipating that day when the King of that kingdom will appear and then we will fully experience what it is like in God's heavenly kingdom.

"who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."  In I Corinthians 15, Paul explains that for our bodies to function in a spiritual and heavenly realm, we need spiritual bodies.  "But someone may ask, 'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?' How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. . . . And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'" (1 Corinthians 15:35-44, 49-54) See also I Corinthians 15:27

Here in these verses in Philippians 3, we are told that it will be Jesus who "will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."  At that time our new glorious bodies will perfectly express the new heavenly life that is now within us.  At that time, we in our new bodies will fully experience our heavenly "citizenship."  It will happen when Jesus returns.  How should this sure hope that we have affect our present life?  "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure." (1 John 3:2-3)

What can we eagerly anticipate that is most certainly in our future?  Jesus started the work when He died for us.  He continues the work as He empowers us to experience His resurrection life.  And one wonderful day He will complete the work as He, who has been given all authority and power by the Father, will "transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."  What will that be like?  Paul said "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)  On that day, we will say with one voice that following Christ and sharing in His suffering was worth it!

JOYFUL RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER CHRISTIANS DESCRIBED (4:1-5)
1. Seek to agree with each other in the Lord. (4:1-3)
"Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life."

Thought Question#1:  Why did Paul see the Philippian Christians as his "joy and crown"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do we learn here about how we can avoid church splits?

 

 

"Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown,"  What attitude should we have toward those we minister to?  Certainly, Paul's attitude expressed in this verse is a model of the type of attitude we should have.  Throughout these words we see the warmth of Paul's relationship toward those he ministered to.  "Therefore, my brothers,"  He saw these Philippian Christians as his family.  Our church family members are our brothers and sisters.  Paul loved them as one loves a close family member.
"you whom I love and long for,"  Though they were many miles away, his love for them had not slowly burned out like an ember from a fire slowly burns out once it has become separated from the fire.  We know that Paul continued to pray for them though he was separated from them. See Philippians 1:9-11; Ephesians 1:15-18; Colossians 1:9-12
"my joy and crown,"  "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy." (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)  Paul's love for those he ministered to had led to him giving his all for them.  He had ministered and continued to pray for them.  If they continued in the faith, continued to grow, and reached out to others; they would be his reward when they and he stood before Jesus.  They were and would be his great joy.

"that is how you should stand firm"  How do we "stand firm" in times of trouble?  "The answer is not to try to do something, but to get a firmer grip on the life of Jesus Christ, which is capable of doing it in us.  As we do that, we discover we have an adequacy that handles all obstacles." "Ray Stedman.org" 
"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)  "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 according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13)  "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." (Ephesians 6:10)  We are to "stand firm in the Lord."  Someone has said that our trials either come between us and God or they drive us to seek Him more.  We can "stand firm" only as we "stand firm in the Lord."

"I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life."  Can those who are Christian brothers and sisters become divided from each other?  Here, Paul names two women who "contended" at his "side in the cause of the gospel" and "whose names are in the book of life" who were divided from each other.  This is the type of disagreement that can lead to a church split.  It could have led to a split between those who sided with Euodia and who sided with Syntyche.  It could have divided the church into two church factions--the "us" group and the "them" group.

What insight do we gain from Paul here on how to avoid church splits?  His instruction to this church is to "to agree with each other in the Lord."  This may seem like a simplistic instruction, but it is actually quite profound.  An important starting point in resolving conflict is not to focus on how we disagree with someone, but to focus on what we agree with each other on.  When we have been offended and resentment sets in, all we can see is that person's faults.  When we attempt to find what we "agree" on, that is a move away from what divides us and toward what unites us.  Whatever our disagreements are with a fellow Christian, we have a vast amount more in agreement with them "in the cause of the gospel."

"along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life."  We do not know anything about "Clement," except what we learn here.  He was considered by Paul to be one of the "fellow workers."

"and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life."  We do not know their names, but because they put their trust in Jesus Christ and their "names are in the book of life," we will meet them and get to know them one day.  "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. . . . Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life." (Revelation 20:12-15, 21:27)

2. Rejoice in the Lord always (Rejoice that God's plans are being fulfilled even if our plans are not being fulfilled). (4:4)
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"

Thought Question: How can we "rejoice in the Lord'" when we are completely unable to rejoice in the circumstances we are going through?

 

 

Stuart Briscoe asks a pivotal question:  "How can you rejoice in the Lord when your circumstances are not conducive to joy and rejoicing?" "Bound for Joy by Stuart Briscoe.  Copyright 1975 by Regal Books."  While you are reading these words, you may be going through a trial that is very painful; a time that is the very opposite of a time that is joy-producing.  Are you supposed to say: "I must enjoy this pain"?  Obviously, that will not work.  Pain produces sorrow, not joy.  So, how can we "rejoice . . . always"?    We cannot "rejoice" that we are having a painful time of life, but we can "rejoice in the Lord."  So, the key question that needs to be answered is, "how can we 'rejoice in the Lord'" when we are completely unable to rejoice in the circumstances?

Let us begin to investigate some of the significant meanings of the words "in the Lord."  First of all, He is "Lord" of all.  As the song states, "Our God reigns."  He has allowed what has happened to us to happen for some eternal reason.  Listen to James' words of encouragement to the Jewish Christians of his time who were going through a very difficult time of persecution.  "Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." (James 5:7-11)  At this point it may not be evident how God is going to use your trial for good, but because He is "Lord," your trial will be used for some ultimate good.  We need to patiently persevere in the trial.

Next, "in the Lord" also means that we are "in the Lord."  Our sufferings are the same type of suffering He went through when He was on earth.  He understands what we are feeling and experiencing because He experienced it Himself.  Also, because of our suffering, we can now understand better what He was willing to go through for us.

Yet, another way of looking at "in the Lord" is that we are not going through this experience alone.  No, He is going through it with us.  He hurts when we hurt.  He is there to help us when our strength is gone.

Still another aspect of "in the Lord" is that we are in His love for us.  "'As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.'" (John 15:9-11)  You may find it difficult to understand how you can be going through this trial if Jesus loves you, but nothing can separate you from God's love.  "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39)  We can "rejoice in the Lord" because even in this trial we are loved by the One who loves us most and by the One whose love is most important to us.

So, the rejoicing Paul is talking about is a joy that comes because of our relationship with the Lord.  It is the real joy that comes from focusing on what it means to be "in the Lord."  It is a joy, therefore, that we can always have.  Joy can be defined as an unquenchable confidence in the goodness of God. 

"Rejoice in the Lord always."  Joy that comes from being "in the Lord" need never cease because God never changes.  His love, sovereignty, wisdom, and power always remain the same; so, we can "rejoice in the Lord always."

In the Psalms there is a pattern that becomes obvious once you see it.  What the psalmist focuses on determines how he feels about his life.  If he focuses on his enemies and the threat they are to him, he is terrified; but if he focuses on the Lord, he is calmed and becomes trusting.  If we focus on our trials, which is a very human trait, we will be overwhelmed; but if we focus on the Lord, we will be able to rejoice.  For, He is "always" greater than our trials.

3. Rejoicing in the Lord will enable us to be gentle with each other. (4:5)
"Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near."

Thought Question #1:  What does the "gentleness" look like that is to "be evident to all"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is meant by "the Lord is near"?

 

 

According to Hendriksen, there is not "a single word in the English language that fully expresses the meaning of the word that is translated 'gentleness.'"  He says that "one may substitute any of the following: forbearance, yieldedness, geniality, kindness, gentleness, sweet reasonableness, considerateness, charitableness, mildness, magnanimity, generosity.  All of these are combined in the adjective-noun that is used in the original."  He sums it up in this way: "the Christian is the man who reasons that it is far better to suffer than to inflict wrong (I Cor. 6:7)." "Taken from NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY I – II TIMOTHY by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1957 by Baker Books." 

"Gentleness" is a quality that enables one to be wronged and not to lash out in retaliation at those who did the wrong. See I Timothy 3:3, James 3:17; II Corinthians 10:1; Matthew 11:28-30; I Peter 2:18-23  The meaning of this word is expressed fully in Romans 12:17-21: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." 

"The Lord is near."  All of us have lived a short time on this earth compared to the length of time men have been on this earth.  Also, our time on this earth is very short when it is compared to eternity.  When we find ourselves suddenly in God's presence, we will realize how short our lives were.  In this big picture, the Lord's return is very near.  We should persevere with people during this short time we have here, for it will not be long before we will all be with the Lord.  Then, we will wish that we had persevered.  It may be difficult; it may even be very difficult.  "Paul does not minimize it--people may be very cruel and unkind, your position may be really grievousYou may be having to bear something terrible, people may be constantly nagging at you, day after day, night after night.  But whatever you have to suffer or endure in this life, the Lord is at hand and he is preparing an amazing reward for you.  When he comes, and when the reign of glory begins, you will be with him, and you will be sharing in his joy and all his glory." "Taken from The Life of Joy and Peace by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1989 by Baker Books."  So, Paul exhorts us: hang in there until then!

This is a struggle that I have had and you may have had as well.  Lloyd-Jones puts it this way:  "How difficult it is to differentiate between holy zeal or righteous indignation, and the mere expression of a harsh, criticial, judgmental spirit." "Taken from The Life of Joy and Peace by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1989 by Baker Books."  Are we fighting for the Lord or are we just fighting for our self?  In the book of Galatians, Paul strongly opposes the Judaizers who were seeking to seduce the Christians in that region into legalism and yet he exhorts them to be gentle with those who fall into sin. See Galatians 1:6-10, 5:12, and 6:1-5  Obviously, there is a time to be strong and there is a time to be gentle.  We must do much heart-searching before we choose to be strong. 

HOW TO DEAL WITH A GREAT ENEMY OF JOY – ANXIETY (4:6-9)

1. Take every concern to God and thank Him for taking it off your shoulders. (4:6)
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

Thought Question:  What are you worried about right now?  How can you apply this verse to what you are worried about?

 

 

We get anxious when we no longer feel that we have everything under control.  Because so much is out of our control, we can feel quite often that something in our life is out of control.  Though there is much in our life that is out of our control, there is nothing that is out of God's control.  The solution to worry and anxiety is given in these verses.  A simple way of putting these verses is as follows: we are not to worry about anything, but we are to pray about everything.  Since this is a command, if are anxious and do not take our worry to God, we are disobedient and sinning.  We must choose to pray about everything and worry about nothing.  We are to continually show that we have chosen to live a life of dependence on God.  Then, our life will not continually be worrisome and continually seem to be out of control; for we will trust that it is always under God's control. 

We can wonder: "What can I pray for and be confident that God will answer that prayer?"  Here we are given a promise by God that He will respond to us when we are anxious about anything.  How will He answer our prayers when we are anxious?  We cannot answer that question, but we can know that He will respond in such a way that we will no longer need to be worried about our concern any more.  "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)  A friend preached years ago that we are worried that things will not work out the way we want them to, but we need not ever worry that they will not turn out the way God wants them to. See Matthew 6:25-34

How do we pray about what worries us?  We have truly taken our worries to God and have fully given them to Him when we can thank Him that our worries are now in His hands.  We are then confident that He is going to undertake in His way for what worries us.

What does Paul mean by "prayer and petition""Prayer" speaks of entering God's presence and "petition" speaks of specifically asking God to help us with something that is worrying us.

In short, when we have any worry, we are to enter God's presence and ask Him to help us specifically with what is worrying us.  We are to give it to Him and then we are to trust Him to solve it for us.  Paul tells us here that God wants us to do this.  Then, we are to be thankful before anything changes because we believe that He is going to do something so that we no longer need to be anxious about it.  Our thankfulness before there is an answer to our prayers shows our belief that God has both heard our prayer and will bring a solution to what had worried us--that He will lovingly and satisfactorily respond to what concerns us.

Something that I have found helpful to do over the years is to write down a list of everything that is worrisome to me.  Sometimes it is a few concerns; sometimes it is a few big concerns; but most often it is a long list of small concerns.  Then, I go through each item and pray for it and finish it off by thanking God that it is now in His hands--He can deal with it as He sees fit.

Ray Stedman answers the question: "Is it all right to bring small things before the Lord?  Is he concerned about the small things in our lives?  The answer is: is there anything that looks big to God?  Everything is small to him, so take everything to him in prayer." "RayStedman.org"

2. Then you will be free from anxiety (4:7)
"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Thought Question #1:  How can your prayers about what worries you lead to "the peace of God"?

 

 

Thought Question #2: Why do you believe "the peace of God" "transcends all understanding"?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  How does God's "peace" "guard" our heart and mind"?

 

 

What verse six teaches is how to be peaceful when our circumstances are not peace producing, but are, in fact, anxiety producing.  So, the peace that God provides after we have cast our cares on Him is not humanly explainable.  Many are the times that we have known a Christian who is going through a very difficult time, and yet they has been very peaceful.  They and others have been in prayer and the result has been "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding."  Man's peace lasts only until the circumstances get beyond our control; God's peace continues beyond what is in man's control because our circumstances never get beyond God's control.

There is an illustration that I have used to attempt to explain this "peace of God, which transcends all understanding."  We have a mechanic that has taken our cars when they have needed some type of repair.  When he called and said our car was ready, I drove off with it once again functioning well.  So, when something goes wrong with one of our cars, I take it to him.  Upon leaving the car with him, I am peaceful about our car problem, even though it has not yet been fixed; for when I have taken cars to him in the past, our problem has always been solved.  In the same way I can take my problems to the Lord and be peaceful, for my problems our now in the Master's hands.  He has solved what worried me in the past and He will solve my present problems.  My mechanic handles problems I cannot handle, so God handles problems I cannot handle.  God is perfectly trustworthy, so I can peacefully leave my problems to Him for Him to solve.  And so can you!

"will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  When anxiety is seeking some way to get into our mind and to take it over, we need our mind guarded and protected from it.  Paul gives us the picture of peace walking around our mind like a guard, protecting it from being overwhelmed by worry and by doubt.

What can we pray about at any time?  We can always pray about that which is overwhelmingly worrisome to us.  We can take each worry to God and trust that though this worry is too much for us, it is not too much for Him.  Then, we will experience His peace that will act as the guard of our heart, enabling us to be peaceful even when our trials would normally crush us.  "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." (Isaiah 26:3)  "Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you." (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

3. Focus your mind on God's holy standards. (4:8)
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Thought Question:  How do you believe the type of thinking that Paul recommends to us in these verses can help us to be peaceful?

 

 

What does the type of thinking described in this verse have to do with helping us to solve the anxiety problem?  How does applying this verse to our life help us to "rejoice always" and to have "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding"?  The type of thinking described here is not accomplished by merely reading the right books so that we will have our mind filled with good knowledge.  It also is not an exhortation to be a positive thinker.  Rather, it directs us to make a concerted effort to see life from God's perspective so that we will be delivered from, as Alcoholics Anonymous frames it, the "stinking thinking" of fallen man.  Our normal human way of thinking is the opposite of every word that Paul uses here.

a. Go from a false view of reality to a true view of reality: "whatever is true."
There are many views of what is really "true" out there in our world.  Famous atheistic philosophers have devised their views of reality.  Each of us also has, over the years, devised our view of reality.  In it, we are the heroes and there are many villains.  The Bible, on the other hand, gives us what is actually true.  In this view of reality, there is only one hero.  It is God who in great love chose to make a great sacrifice so that He could be gracious to us.  We need to have our mind transformed by the truth found in the Bible until we see reality as it is, not as we want it to be.  "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2) See Ephesians 6:14

b. Go from a false view of achievement to a true view of achievement: "whatever is noble"
What do we consider as praiseworthy in our society?  Who are the true heroes?  Today's heroes are the rock star (idol), the professional athlete, the television celebrity, and such as these.  We show how much we value them by the huge salaries that they receive.  From God's perspective, who are the heroes?  "Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'" (Matthew 20:25-28)  "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27)

It is the selfless servant who is praiseworthy and "noble" in God's eyes.  We need to develop a thought pattern that determines to be "noble" what God determines to be "noble."  We need not to praise what the world idolizes, but we need to think highly of those who are selfless and sacrificial servants as Jesus Christ has been a selfless and sacrificial Servant to us. See Philippians 2:5-11

c. Go from a false view of justice to a true view of justice: "whatever is right."
Paul exposes our false view of justice in Romans two:  "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God 'will give to each person according to what he has done.'" (Romans 2:1-6)  We tend to see ourselves as blameless before God and only see the wrongs of others.  God's judgment is based on truth, not on our perverted view of right and wrong.  We need to be willing to see right and wrong in the light.  "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." (1 John 1:8-10)

d. Go from a false view of morality to a true view of morality; "whatever is pure."
Our world's view of morality appears to be moving steadily toward accepting and even elevating that which is impure.  "Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." (Ephesians 4:19)  "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them." (Ephesians 5:3-7)  Although there are many opportunities in our society for impurity, we are to pursue that which is "pure."  "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:22)  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)  "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8)  "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." (James 3:17)  "The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5)

e. Go from a false view of relationships to a true view of relationships: "Whatever is lovely."
"'Lovely' speaks of that which is adapted to excite love  and to endear him who does such things." "Taken from Word Studies in The Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1975 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  "Lovely" is the Greek word prosphile.  Most are familiar with the Greek word for love phileo.  It is that which encourages good relationships with others: 'pleasing, winsome.'" "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1931 by Broadman Press."  It is the opposite of a sour or bitter attitude toward another or others.  "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 4:31-5:2)  When our attitude toward others is "lovely," We are a "fragrant" aroma to God.

f. Go from a false view of social standards to a true view of social standards: "whatever is admirable." (that which produces a good reputation)
Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that when we are walking in the Spirit, there is no law against what we will do:  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."  Nevertheless, II Corinthians 6:8 tells us that it is possible to do that which produces a good reputation in God's church, but it will be looked down upon in the society of the world: "through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors;"  Even though the world may not value what God desires that we do, we are to seek to do that which is admirable in His eyes.

g. Go from a false view of what is "excellent and praiseworthy" to a true view of what is "excellent and praiseworthy."
"if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

We need as Christians to think in line with God's "excellent" and "praiseworthy" thoughts.  We all are going to think; so the question is not whether or not we are going to think, but it is what we are going to think about.  Paul states here that we have a responsibility to choose to continually elevate our thoughts above our normal low and selfish thoughts to the type of thinking that is appropriate for God's children.

So, how do we fulfill this responsibility to think in the way that God wants us to think?  It is easy to think these types of thoughts when we are in our time of devotions, at church, or attending a Bible study.  But we are also to seek to think these types of thoughts in our idle moments, in our conversations with others, and throughout the day.  It needs to become a daily and minute-by-minute conscious discipline.  It is also identical with being filled with the Spirit, which we are also to do on a minute-by-minute basis. See Ephesians 5:18-20; Colossians 3:13-17

4. Practice what you know to be right. (4:9)
"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."

Thought Question:  What do you believe is Paul's main point in this verse?

 

 

The type of thinking that we are to have is not just an intellectual or academic exercise; it is to lead to our way of life.  It is to be "put into practice."  That is what Paul did.  They saw that he lived out what he believed to be true--that which was "noble," "right," "pure," "lovely," "admirable," excellent," and "praiseworthy."  And he encouraged them to follow his example.  "Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." (Philippians 3:17)  "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1) 

What a high challenge his words become to us.  Can we say to our family and to our fellow Christians: "Look at me and then live as I live"?  We are challenged by Paul's words to bring our lives into agreement with what we profess and into agreement with what the Bible teaches.  We can see here why Paul and his followers had such an impact on their world.  May we have this type of impact on our world today. See Matthew 7:24-27

"And the God of peace will be with you."  Paul promises us if we live out what he has been teaching and living, that there will be a wonderful reward and result--"the God of peace will be with you."  Have you had a time when you were walking with God and enjoying this peaceful communion with Him and then you allowed something or someone to irritate you (like a driver that cut in front of you or began to tailgate you)?  At that moment, you lost your enjoyable communion with "the God of peace."  You, then, needed to confess your sinful response and once you made that confession, your communion with God was restored once more to a peaceful communion.  I am speaking from my own experience.  The wonderful reward and result of living out what we believe is that it results in an enjoyable and constant communion with God.  And that communion is with 'the God of peace."  It results in real life, abundant life, and eternal life.  "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3) In John 14-17, Jesus describes this type of fellowship with God.  John also describes it throughout I John.

PAUL'S JOYFUL OUTLOOK ON WORLDLY NEEDS (4:10-20)

1. Paul had learned how to be content in every situation. (4:10-12)
"I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Thought Question:  Have you learned to be content both when you are doing well financially and when you are struggling financially?  If the answer is yes, how did you learn that lesson?  If the answer is no, how do you believe you can learn that lesson?

 

 

In spite of Paul's imprisonment, this book's theme is "joy."  Now, he says: "I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it."  We will see in these verses how Paul looked at his life.  He rejoices that they had reached out to him, but his joy and fulfillment did not go up and down with how he was treated by others and with his circumstances.  He was pleased that they showed their love for him, but we will see as we continue on that he was not dependent on their financial gifts for his happiness and contentment.

A main purpose of this letter is given in this verse: it is a "thank you" letter, for Epaphroditus had brought a gift of money to Paul.  It appears that it had been some time since Paul had last received help from them.  Nevertheless, Paul is very grateful for this expression of their love for him.

He had not at all been thinking: "I thought the Christians loved me, but where were they when I needed them?"  Paul's attitude was very much different than that.  We will see later that he was content before they gave to him, and then there was joy on top of his contentment because they reached out to him. 

Paul is very careful to tell them that, even though it had been some time since they helped him financially, he realized that their concern for him had never wavered.  The Philippian Christians may have felt guilty that they were letting Paul down by not regularly sending him financial help.  Paul puts their fears to rest quickly.  He assures them that he always knew that their concern for him remained strong.

What Paul does here is to show that he is more thoughtful of them than he is of himself.  He tries to see their side.  In our marriage there is a major area where we have grown.  I can look back and realize how many ways I was insensitive to Shirley's side of our relationship.  We have grown in our empathy for each other, and our marriage has grown stronger as result.  Hopefully, it will be an area where we will continue to grow.

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

"So here the Apostle, at one and the same time, shows his indebtedness to his friends, but still greater indebtedness to the Lord.  Paul was always jealous for the reputation of the Lord, and he was afraid that in thanking the Philippians for their gift he might somehow give the impression that the Lord was not sufficient for him, or that he had been depending upon the Philippians in an ultimate sense." "Taken from The Life of Joy and Peace by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1989 by Baker Books."

Paul did not want to leave the impression that his dependence was primarily on them.  Instead, he explains to them that he had "learned to be content whatever the circumstances."  The stoic philosophers used the word Paul uses here for "content" to describe a state of self-sufficiency.  "Paul uses one of the great words of pagan ethics (autarkes) which means entirely self-sufficientAutoarkeia, self-suficiency, was the highest aim of Stoic ethics, by it Stoics meant a state of mind in which a man was absolutely independent of all things and of all people. . . . They proposed to eliminate all desire.  The Stoics rightly believed contentment did not consist in possessing much, but in wanting little."   Barclay, though, as he continues shows that the Stoic version of contentment was not like the contentment that Paul described here:  "As T. R. Glover said, 'The Stoics made of the heart a desert, and called it peace.'"  "Taken from The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." 

Paul uses this word to describe not his self-sufficiency, but his Christ-sufficiency.  He had developed a trust in the sufficiency for Christ for any and all circumstances.  Through the ups and downs of his life, "whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want," Paul had learned by experience that Jesus Christ had enabled him to maintain a joyful, peaceful, and satisfied life.  "But godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6) 

"I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,"  Paul had learned through difficult times that if he looked to people or money that they would not always be there for him; but Jesus would never let him down.  This way of looking at his life continued on until his very last days and up to right before his death.  "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:16-18)

"I have learned the secret" comes "from a technical word in the initiatory rites of the pagan mystery religions, literally, 'I have been initiated." . .  ." "Taken from Word Studies in The Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1975 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  Paul, through the many ups and downs of his life, had been initiated into God's school of faith.  Graduation from this school comes when you have learned to fully trust Christ and no longer depend on how your life's circumstances are going.  Paul had graduated from that school.  The rest of us are still in school.

Is this not a form of fatalism-a resignation to fate?  Paul did not see himself as a twig in the mighty river of life helplessly carried along toward wherever the current might take him.  Instead, with God's help, he believed that he was triumphant in his circumstances.  "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." (2 Corinthians 2:14)  "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (Romans 8:35-37)  He did not see himself as a victim of fate, but with Christ he was always a victor in life.  He ended his life as a victor!  "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:8)

Also, what Paul describes here does not mean that he did not make choices in his circumstances.  He earned an income by working as a tentmaker. See Acts 18:1-3; I Corinthians 4:12; I Thessalonians 2:9; II Thessalonians 3:8 When he was jailed, he appealed as a Roman citizen to be tried as a Roman. See Acts 16:37, 22:22-29  He chose to leave Ephesus, though reluctantly, when there was riot that was started because of him. See Act 19:23-20:1  Paul did not fatalistically resign himself to whatever came his way, he made whatever decisions he believed would best accomplish God's goals for him.  In all circumstances, he trusted God and was strengthened by Christ.

When is it more difficult to be "content," when we are "living in plenty or in want"?  King Solomon and many others drifted away from God in times of "plenty."  We rich Americans can be like the church in Laodicea described in Revelation 3:14-22: we also can say "‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’" (Revelation 3:17a)  Poverty also has its trials:  "Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." (Proverbs 30:9)  The solution is not riches or poverty, but it is "contentment" in both times.  True contentment does not come from having all that we want to have, but from being "content" with whatever we have. 

2. The source of contentment--the strength of Christ (4:13)
"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

What does Paul mean by "everything"?  The context in which Paul uses this word gives us the meaning of "everything."  God or Jesus Christ will provide the strength for us to rejoice and to be peaceful no matter what life will bring our way.  We can confidently face any and every situation knowing that Christ will give us the strength to go through it triumphantly.  For the Christian, the One who dwells within us can strengthen us so that we can face everything with peace, joy, and love.  To experience this strength we need to deny self and follow Him so that we may experience the "power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings." (3:10)

James said these words in James 1:2-8:  "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."  The main issue for James was, "Do you want to develop God's character in you?"  It is only when our answer is yes, that we can be joyful even in the midst of the most difficult of trials.  Paul had learned to face trials with this attitude--that in each trial Christ would enable him to face it in such a way that he would be victoriously continuing to fulfill God's purpose for his life.

We have that very same strength within us.  We can either be completely crushed by our circumstances or we, with Paul and many other heroes of the faith, can in Christ's strength find that His grace is completely sufficient to enable us to continually and joyfully pursue after God's best for us.  "Most of us often say, 'I can't' because basically we just don't want to do something." "RayStedman.org"  We can if we want to, go through it all with Christ's strength.  "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."  Paul realized that that he did not face life alone and by himself.  He was able to do "everything" because he did not face his trials alone, and the One who was with him and enabled him to handle each situation was Almighty God!  The One who is with us is the very same One who was with Paul with all of His power.  We are very weak, but he is very strong!

In Joshua chapter one, Joshua is about to go forth to fight God's battle and seek to conquer the mighty inhabitants of Promised Land.  God gives him these instructions:   "'Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.'" (Joshua 1:6-9)  What are you and I facing as we look forward?  It probably is not anything as difficult as what Joshua faced, but we may know that it is more than we are able to handle in our own strength.  May we, as God urged Joshua to do, "Be strong and courageous"!

3. He was confident that their gifts to him would be repaid to them by God. (4:14-20)
"Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen."

Thought Question:  Using what Paul says before verse 9, can you apply verse 9 to your life: "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."?

 

 

"Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need."  Are we Christians to encourage, affirm, and express gratitude to each other?  Paul does that here.  He thanks them and affirms them because of their giving to him just after they became Christians and years before the time he was writing this letter.  Thessalonica was Paul's next place of ministry right after he left Philippi.  "After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left. When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "'This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,' he said." (Acts 16:40-17:3)  Somehow, the Philippian Christians kept track of Paul's ministry, became aware of his financial needs, and gave money to help him "again and again."  Their giving was amazing to Paul and he wanted them to know that he appreciated immensely what they had done for him and how their giving had helped him minister in places beyond Philippi.

We learn more about the type of givers these Philippian Christians in Macedonia were like in II Corinthians:  "And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most 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, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will." (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)  "I robbed other churches [beside the church at Corinth] by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so." (2 Corinthians 11:8-9)

We have many opportunities to be like these Philippian Christians of many years ago.  We also can financially help those who are ministering in places other than our own home town.  Today, missionaries are being supported by the giving of generous Christians in every corner of the world.  Take away that money and how great an impact that would have on the ministry of the gospel.  You need to be greatly commended for your giving to missionary causes.  The money that you are sacrificially giving is bearing eternal fruit in God's kingdom.

We see here that the giving of these Philippian Christians did not just minister to Paul financially, for they shared in Paul's "troubles."  Missionaries in foreign lands, pastors at home, and Christians that serve God in many ways do not find the ministry trouble-free.  Quite the opposite, they experience many troubles along the way.  These Philippians Christians ministered to him when he most needed it--right in the middle of his troubles.  We can be of help to missionaries in their "troubles" also.  We can express our appreciation to those who helped us in our troubles, and we can seek to be sensitive to those in the ministry who could use our encouragement.  Things have not changed at all today; the needs and opportunities are the same today.  We can also so identify with those in the ministry that we, like the Philippian Christians, "share in [their] troubles."

What does Paul mean by the "matter of giving and receiving"?  Paul is speaking of a bookkeeping term: there is both receiving from someone and giving to them in return.  They recognized how much they owed God and Paul his servant, and it was appropriate for them to give back.  That was Paul's own attitude toward the ministry.  He was greatly in debt to God and his ministry was one way that he could express his gratitude to the One who forgave his great sinfulness as a persecutor of Christians.  He gave himself fully to the One who had fully given to him.  "I am obligated [indebted] both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish." (Romans 1:14) See also I Corinthians 9:7-12a; Matthew 10:8; Luke 6:38

"Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account."  There are a number of verses in the Bible that state that when we give to the needs of others, that God will give to us.  Some television preachers have taken advantage of that and promised that God will give over and above what people give to their ministry.  But this can lead to selfish giving that is not actually giving at all--then we give to get back.  God does promise to give to those who give, but He will give to those who give selflessly out of heart of compassion and out of a desire to further God's work.

Here are some of the verses that promise that God will give to those who give out of a pure heart:  "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done." (Proverbs 19:17)  "'And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.'" (Matthew 10:42)  "'Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.'" (Luke 6:38) See also Proverbs 14:21; Matthew 5:7; I Timothy 6:17-19 

Not only is our giving rewarded by God, but the actual giving produces pleasure.  "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35)  "He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy." (Proverbs 14:21)

"I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God."  Furthermore, giving is "a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God."  "Cornelius stared at him in fear.  'What is it, Lord?' he asked. The angel answered, 'Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.'" (Acts 10:4)  "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25:40) See also Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:2  When we do that which is pure, sacrificial, and out of a heart of compassion, God is blessed by it as He watches us.  So much of what He sees is a selfish and putrid odor, but when someone cares for others and gives out of love, it is a pleasant aroma before God.  Do we not desire that our lives would be like that to Him? 

So, Paul is sincere in what he says "Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account."  Paul was more joyful that their giving was going to bless them than that he was joyful that he had received the gift.  I think that this would be seen as strange words if it was put in a "thank you" card today.  Nevertheless, it was genuinely how Paul looked at their giving.  It blessed him that they had such giving hearts and that their giving to him was going to lead to their being blessed by God.

"I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent."  When we give to others, we are not sure if our gift was that helpful to them.  But sometimes, we learn that our gift came at just the right time for them and fully met their need.  Paul wants the Philippian Christians to know that the amount of their gift was completely sufficient and he was fully pleased with their sacrificial gift to him.  He wanted them to know that when they dug deep in their pockets to give to him, it was fully appreciated by him and that it was enough.

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."  There is a wonderful promise given in this verse, but often the promise is taken out of context.  The verse begins with an "And."  This "and" connects it to the previous verses.  He has just expressed his appreciation for their genuine and sacrificial giving and has said that it was "credited to [their] account."  Then, he says that "God will meet all" their "needs."  Was Paul saying that God will meet the needs of all people "according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus"?  Was Paul even saying that God will meet all the needs of every Christian "according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus"?  No!  He was saying that because these Philippian Christians were so sacrificial in their giving to Paul--supporting him in his time of great need, he was confident that God would richly reward them "according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" by meeting all their needs.

Notice that Paul does not say that God would meet all their "wants," but that He would meet all their "needs."  Spending 2 ½ months on a short term missions' trip in Uganda helped me to see the difference between "needs" and "wants."  We in America have so much that we think are our "needs" that really are not our "needs" but are our "wants."   The Ugandans walked long distances to go to church.  They would like to have had a car, but the only cars in the grass field next to the church we attended while we were there were missionaries' cars.  When we returned to the U. S., we realized how much we have that we really do not need. 

While Paul wrote this letter, he was in prison.  Was God meeting all his "needs"?  Apparently, one of his "needs" was not to be free from prison.  In II Corinthians 1:3-7, Paul tells of God's help in another period of suffering.  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."  Paul, in this period of suffering, needed comfort and strength from God so that he could endure through his trials.  God had met that need.  At the end of his life in his last imprisonment, God once more met his need, so that he could endure.  "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:16-18)

Paul says "my God."  The God who would meet their needs is the God Paul knew intimately and had learned to trust.  From personal experience, Paul is confident that  the God he had depended on and knew so well was going to take care of these Philippian Christians just as he had taken care of him.

Paul promises these Philippian Christians that His God will meet all their needs not "out of His riches," but "according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."  A multimillionaire could give a contribution of $20 to some non-profit organization.  That would be a gift out of his riches, but not according to his riches.  A gift of $20,000 would be a gift according to his riches.  Paul promises that those who are generous and sacrificial in giving to others' needs will have their needs met "according" to God's riches.

What is meant by God meeting our needs "according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus"?  It means that when we choose to give our life and our finances for God's purposes, God and His riches will then be on our side as we pursue His goals.  We can never feel that any situation is too difficult for Almighty God.  God can intervene at any time or in any way to meet our needs along the way.  Since there is no limit to His resources, we need never feel that our situation is hopeless.

"To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen."  Paul is not overwhelmed by his circumstances because he has not been focused on his circumstances, but his focus has been on God.  He has been rejoicing in the Lord.  Now, he finishes the body of this letter with this doxology of praise.  Oh that this would be where we could end up each day, right in the middle of our trials.  "To our God" who will meet all our needs "according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus," "be glory for ever and ever. Amen."  Can we at this moment focus on the God who never changes, who loves us, and is ready to guide us and help us no matter what we are going through?  Can we right now do what we will do "forever and forever"?  Can we from the heart do what Paul does here: "to our God and Father be glory for ever and ever."

 

FINAL GREETINGS (4:21-23)
"Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings. All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen."

Thought Question:  How do you believe the Christians in "Caesar's household" became Christians?

 

 

"Greet all the saints"  "The saints" are not those who have attained such an elevated state of holiness that they are given the title Saint Jim or Saint Jill.  Rather, "saints" are all of us very fallible people that God has, through the blood of Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit, set apart to be his holy people; whose purpose is to represent Him here on earth and accomplish His purposes.  Paul greets all the people in the church at Philippi, people like you and me who have become God's holy people through what God has graciously done for us.

"The brothers who are with me send greetings."  Though Paul was not pleased with everybody in the church at Rome (See Philippians 1:15-18, 2:19-21), they were all his brothers and sisters in the Lord.  We also, at times, get disappointed with the actions of our brothers and sisters in the Lord, but they remain our Christian brothers and sisters.

"especially those who belong to Caesar’s household."  We can see here that the gospel had penetrated and regenerated people in every level of society in the Roman Empire.  "Caesar’s household" probably does not refer to Caesar's family, but to those who were part of Caesar's staff.  Just as God elevated believers like Joseph, Daniel, Esther, and Nehemiah into high positions in government, Christians of Paul's time also held high positions in the government of the Roman Empire.  And, so, Christians are in high positions in government in the United States.  As was mentioned earlier, it may have been due to Paul's imprisonment and his contact with Roman soldiers on a daily basis that many in "Caesar's household" were saved.

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen."  Here we have the highest desire that we can have for our fellow Christians, that "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ" would be with them.  We desire and always need God's grace.  If we get what we deserve at any time in our life, we will be in very big trouble.  So, if we desire God's grace toward ourself, we should also desire that God be gracious to others.  God had been amazingly gracious to Paul, how could he not desire that God would be gracious to them?  God has been very gracious to us, how can we not in the spirit of Paul desire that God will be gracious to others?

And so we conclude this letter to the Philippian Christians written by Paul so many years ago.  We learn from this letter how the imprisoned Paul could make joy, peace, and unity the theme of his message, rather than it being a letter full of grumbling and despair.  May we deeply meditate on his words so that joy, peace, and unity are also the theme of our lives.

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Other Digging For Gold Studies

The Battle For The Sunshine Psalms Vol I
The Battle For The Sunshine Psalms Vol II
How To Live A Full Life In An Empty World Ecclesiastes 1-6
How To Live A Full Life In An Empty World Ecclesiastes 6-12
God Is Ruler Of The Times Of The Gentiles Daniel 1-6
God Is Ruler Of The Times Of The Gentiles Daniel 7-12
When God Seems Far Away Habakkuk
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 1-7
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 8-14
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 15-22
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 23-28
The Good News About The Son Of Man Luke 1-6
The Good News About The Son Of Man Luke 7-12
The Good News About The Son Of Man Luke 13-18
The Word Became Flesh! John 1-6
The Word Became Flesh! John 7-12
The Word Became Flesh! John 13-17
The Word Became Flesh! John 18-21
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 1-4
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 5-8
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 9-11
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 12-16
The Battle For The Sunshine I Corinthians 1-6
The Battle For The Sunshine I Corinthians 7-11
The Battle For The Sunshine I Corinthians 12-16
Paul's Life And Ministry: Triumph Through Weakness II Corinthians 1-7
Paul's Life And Ministry: Triumph Through Weakness II Corinthians 8-13
Rediscovering The Joy Of The Gospel Galatians
Seeing The Church From God's Perspective - Seeing The Riches Of God's Grace! Ephesians 1-3
Seeing The Church From God's Perspective - Seeing The Riches Of God's Grace! Ephesians 4-6
How To Be A Joyful And United Church Philippians
Pursuing Our Fulness In Christ Colossians
A Message To New Christians I Thessalonians
A Second Message To New Christians - A Wider Focus On The Christian Life II Thessalonians
God's Plan For Order In The Church I Timothy
How To Finish Strong In The Lord II Timothy
Doing What Is Good Titus
How To Motivate Others To Do What God Wants Them To Do Philemon
We Should Always Move Forward In Our Faith Hebrews 1-9
We Should Always Move Forward In Our Faith Hebrews 10-13
From Double-Minded To Single-Minded Christianity James
How To Live In Tough Times With An Eternal Perspective I Peter
How To Have Wholesome Christian Thinking II Peter
The Glorious Circle That Is Eternal Life I John
How Our Joy Can Be Complete &
Two Good Examples And One Bad Example
II & III John
What To Do When The Church Gets Off-Track: Contending For The Faith! Jude
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 1-5
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 6-11
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 12-16
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 17-22