July 8, 2018
General Remarks on Philippians
Three events are forever associated with the founding of the Church in Philippi. First, recorded in Acts 16:6-10 is Paul’s vision at Troas, in which the man from Macedonia calls him to “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” Second is the conversion of Lydia, the first convert on European soil (Acts 16:14 and 15). Third is Paul’s miraculous release from prison and the conversion of the Philippian Jailer in Acts 17:26-33. These events led to the founding of a Church in Philpppi, some time in the year 50 or 51 A.D.
The Biblical book of Philippians was written years later during Paul’s house arrest in Rome, which happened sometime between the years of 60-63 A.D, for Paul refers to his bonds in Christ being manifest in the palace (Phil 1:13). It is written to urge the Philippian Church to stand fast in the faith, no matter what happens to Paul, or even to them.
It is the nature of people to associate themselves together, and a word is often used to reflect the nature of their relationship to others in the group. A sorority or fraternity might speak of sisterhood or brotherhood. People who have shared important experiences, such as war, may see themselves as "a band of brothers." There is great meaning in this. Such words convey an intangible bond that unites them in a way that is so strong and enduring it is similar to the relationship and unity found in the closest and most loving families. They are bound by shared values, commitments, goals, respect, love, and experience. They are bound together by these things into something that is bigger and more important than all of them. Their relationship is something suggested by the title of J.R.R. Tolkien's book, The Fellowship of the Ring.
Philippians 1:5 speaks of "fellowship in the gospel." God is saying the Gospel of Christ is not merely an historical fact or theological doctrine. It is a bond that brings us into a deep and profound relationship to all other believers. It gives us shared meaning, shared goals, purpose, experience, values, respect, and love. It means we have a share in Christ. He is part of us. He dwells in us and we dwell in Him. It also means we are part of each other. We are in this together. What happens to one of us happens to all. We bear each other's burdens and sorrows and joys. We have the same Heavenly home. We strive to have the mind of Christ. We strive to love Him above all else, and to love one another as we love ourselves. But fellowship means also that we do not have these things of Christ in isolation. We have them in fellowship and communion with one another.
Philippians 1 brings us to one of the most important verses of the entire Bible. Reading it is not always comforting. It follows Paul's comments about suffering, and, even death in the service of Christ. In this passage he states the principle that guides his thoughts and his actions. The principle is given in verse 20, that "Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” Then follows the great verse which I have called one of the most important in all of Scripture; Philippians 1:21, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
Are you living for Christ? I do not ask if you call yourself a Christian or go to Church. I do not ask if you know the Bible and theology. I ask if it is your stated and deepest desire to live entirely for Christ, so much, that like Paul, you can say, "For me to live is Christ." If you cannot answer this question, "Yes!" then I ask another; why not? What holds you back? Is it attachment to your own comforts and pleasures? They will pass from your grasp one day, and what will you have then? It is fear of sacrifice? It is for good reason that following Christ is called taking up your cross; there are many sacrifices to make. It is very costly to walk the way of the cross. But, while the cross lasts for a life-time, Heaven is forever. Is it money? Is it possessions? Is it power? Is it fame? What keeps you from complete surrender to Christ? It will pass away, but He will endure forever.
I ask another question. If you cannot say, "For me to live is Christ," what are you doing about it? Are you playing the ostrich, ignoring the shortness of life and the coming day of reckoning? Are you simply convincing yourself to be content with half-hearted faith, convincing yourself you are good enough and close enough to God already, therefore you don't need to do anything more? Or are you applying yourself daily to the means of grace, and working diligently to replace sinful habits and attitudes with Godly ones? God will not be content with anything less than first place in your life. He must be first, above all position, power, and possessions, even above your own life. Do that, and for you to live is Christ. Fail to do it and for you to live is you.
"Mind," in verse 5, refers not to intelligence alone, but to the way intelligence is used. How remarkable the mind of Christ is. He is God, from eternity to eternity, yet He became a Man. He is Lord of all, yet He became the Servant of all. He is the Great Law Giver, yet He humbled Himself and lived by His own rules. He is the One in whom all faith rests, yet He lived by faith instead of by sight. He is perfect Righteousness, yet He became sin for us. He is the Lord of Life, yet He gave Himself up to death on the cross. He is the One to whom all things belong, yet He came to give all things to us. We can never possess the intelligence or power of Christ. We can never own the eternal being of God, be Lord of all, become the center of faith, or be perfect righteousness through our own power. These things belong to God alone. We can have the attitude of Christ. We can use our intelligence the way He used His. We can have humility. We can serve others as we serve God. We can live by faith. We can devote our lives to God. These things are within our grasp, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Are they things to which you aspire? Are they things to which you apply yourself day by day and hour by hour? "Let this mind be in you."
Paul, a prisoner in Rome as he writes to the Philippians, is more concerned about their needs than his own. He desires to send someone to them to help provide the pastoral care of the congregation. But who can he send? There are many self appointed "preachers" in Rome (Phil. 1:15). But of real ministers, called of God, ordained by the Church, gifted with a pastor's love for the flock, and possessing the knowledge and ability to preach the true Gospel, Paul says Rome has only one; Timothy. Pray that God will raise up faithful ministers for His people today. Pray that His people will recognise and treasure them.
"That it may please thee to illuminate all Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, with true knowledge and understanding of thy Word; and that both by their preaching and living they may set it forth accordingly;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord."
"That it may please thee to give to all thy people increase of grace to hear meekly thy Word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord."
~ The Litany
What will get us into Heaven? It is not our own righteousness. It is not our natural goodness or our good deeds. These are all useless when we stand before the absolute perfection of God. It is the righteousness of Christ alone that makes us fit to abide in the House of the Lord. Everything else is loss compared to this great prize (1-9).
Complacency in following Christ is foolishness. Satisfaction with our progress in grace is folly. Even Paul acknowledges the inadequacy of his own life. Far from satisfied with himself, he presses on toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ (14).
The need for fellowship and association with Godly people is stated in verses 17-19. We naturally emulate those with traits and tastes we admire. If we admire Godliness, we will seek Godly people and follow their example of faith and piety. If we admire worldliness, self-indulgence, and sin, we will find others who admire the same things. If their end is destruction, what will our end be if we imitate them? (9).
But our Lord Jesus Christ is able to subdue even our stubborn wills, and to change us into the likeness of His glorious body. This is our hope and goal.
It is every Christian's duty to work for peace in the Church (1-7). Paul exhorts Euodias and Syntyche to "be of one mind." He is asking them to stop fussing and quarrelling over issues that don't really matter. He also instructs the rest of the congregation to help. We are not allowed to be sources of strife among God's people. We are to be generous and forgive one another's faults. We are to be humble and quiet and to wage peace within the fellowship.
The Christian's thoughts are found in verses 8 and 9. How much temptation and sin we could avoid if our minds dwelt on these things continually. Even thinking about such things for short periods each day would have a remarkable effect on our attitudes and actions. This is why daily time in prayer and the Bible are so important.
All things through Christ? Many misunderstand Phil. 4:13 because they disassociate it from Phil. 4:12. 4:13 is about accomplishing God's will by being faithful in the circumstances He places us in. It is not about getting a promotion at work, but about doing your job well so God is honoured by it, whether you get the promotion or not.