Phil 3.1-21: Knowing Christ

08/22/2010

3.1 Further, my brothers and sisters, 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. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

Notes:
Paul again tells his congregation of Philippi to “rejoice” because rejoicing works as a perfect antidote to suffering, offering stability for the believer. Next, Paul feels compelled to give a warning. It seems that a group of presumably itinerant Jewish-Christian preachers is causing trouble for the Community of Philippi, insisting that the Philippians adhere to the Jewish rite of circumcision (hence, “mutilators of the flesh”). The members of this group likely view themselves as superior to the Christians at Philippi because of their Jewish lineage and observance of all things Jewish. In their eyes, the Philippians (read gentiles) were second rate Christians.

“Dogs and evil doers” (3.2) were terms reserved for gentiles, but Paul calls the Jewish-Christian group by these names, making it clear to the Jewish band of brothers have it all wrong—it is they who are the disobedient ones. By insisting that the Philippians observe their religious rituals, they encourage the Philippians to place their value and confidence in things other than Christ. For this reason it is they who stand outside of God’s grace—they are the dogs and evil doers.

Of all people, those of Jewish decent should know that the circumcision that God looks for is the circumcision of the heart, one performed by His Spirit: see Deut 10.16; 30.6; Jer 4.4; 9.25-26; Rom 2.28-29. This Scriptural background helps explain verse 3 where Paul, identifying himself his brothers and sisters of Philippi, states, “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit. . . .” The believers of Philippi belong to the new Israel, God’s new chosen people—righteousness comes through faith.

Paul presses further, offering his own impeccable resume:

If others think they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 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; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

His religious accolades are so impressive that he may be considered, “a Jew of Jews.” By placing his accomplishments next to his opponents he undoubtedly seeks to put them in their place. But ridiculing them is not his only intent; rather, Paul seeks to show how his relationship with Christ has shed new light on his formerly held values:

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in [a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

From a Jewish perspective, Paul had every reason to brag. He came from the right places, was associated with the right people, and worshipped and followed God like no other man. But his newfound faith in Christ radically changed his perspective: everything he formerly deemed important, he now considers worthless, rubbish, crap—it all amounts to nothing. This is because Paul no longer finds his identity in his accomplishments; instead, he finds his identity in Christ (3.8-9). He knows that his right standing before God is based wholly on the unmerited grace of Christ, demonstrated on the cross and granted by faith. Paul’s entire goal now is to know Christ (3.10). This is what matters to him.

“Knowing Christ” has long since been a favorite expression of the church, but what does it mean? There are countless sermons and entire books devoted to the topic, but I’m not going to regurgitate that information here. I just hope to express what Paul meant based on the context at hand. So, how does Paul come to “know” someone like Jesus? After all, it’s not as if he can just invite Jesus over to supper or to play cards in order to get to know him better like you might, for example, with a new acquaintance, friend, etc. So how does Paul go about “knowing Christ”?

For Paul, knowing Christ entails an intentional commitment to walking in His shoes. It means embracing all that Christ was and is about, including His life of servitude and suffering, even death on a cross. It means living and entering into the life of Christ. Following Christ in this manner is the only way one may truly come to “know” Christ.

But note that Christ’s suffering is not all Paul hopes to gain in knowledge of Jesus. Knowing Christ also entails experiencing the resurrection: “yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (3.10-11; see also 3.21 below). Thus, knowing Christ means living and experiencing the entire life of Christ—conformity to death and conformity to life.

This is all evidenced by Paul’s repetition of language and ideas from the famous hymn in 2.5-11. Note G. Walter Hansen’s observations:

Paul draws striking parallels between his transformation (3:5-11, 21) and Christ’s incarnation-crucifixion-exaltation (2:5-11) to reveal how his personal experience conforms to the narrative of Christ. (1) When Paul considers the privileges of his previous, superior position to be a loss (3:7, 8), he is like Christ, who did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage (2:6). (2) Paul gives up everything valuable so that he will be found in Christ (3:8-9), just as Christ made himself nothing so that he would be found in appearance as a human being (2:8). (3) Paul’s desire to be conformed to Christ in his death (3:10) reflects Christ’s decision to take the form of a servant and become obedient unto death (2:7-8). (4) Paul’s longing to know Christ Jesus his Lord (3:8) anticipates the day when all will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord (2:11). (5) Paul’s reenactment of the narrative of Christ also includes his expectation that he will know the power of his resurrection, attain to the resurrection from the dead (3:10), and ultimately be transformed by Christ so that his lowly body will be like his Christ’s glorious body (3:21).

It’s apparent that, for Paul, knowing Christ can only be had by living Christ.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

15 All of us, then, 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. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 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.

Just like Paul, we’re not there yet—we must press on toward the goal. Paul lays out two different paths: we may walk as Paul and his compatriots do (3.17), or we may walk as enemies of the cross (3.18). In other words, do we intentionally enter into the life of Christ, a life of servitude and suffering for the sake of others, or do we shy away from suffering? The latter is what it means to be an enemy of the cross—to fail to embrace the sacrificial life of Christ, unwilling to suffer with or on account of Him. Enemies of the cross, understandably, prefer the easier and more widely traveled road of self consideration, interest and gratification: “. . . their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame” (3.19). In the end, the two possible routes we may take are, ultimately, decisions to live either other centered or self-centered lives.

Let us not forget, however, that although the path of Christ is the harder and more difficult road to travel, it ultimately leads to glory. This is testified by the life of Christ, who after becoming obedient unto death was exalted by God to the highest place (2.8-9). So will it be for all in Christ: just as we participate in His suffering (1.29; 3.10), we will also experience the vindication that comes after—his exaltation and resurrection. Note that this is not simply an escape from our present bodily existence but rather a transformation, the same one that Jesus, our prototype, experienced: He will “bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (3.20-21; see also 3.10-11 above).

Application: Enter into the narrative of Christ. Live Christ and be encouraged.


U2 Magnificent

06/20/2010

The entire world listens to Bono praise God. Yet do they hear it?

U2 “Magnificent” from World Cup:

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See also “Amazing Grace”.
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If only these songs were longer…


Philippians 2.19-30: Recommendation of Two Christ-like Figures

06/13/2010

Thus far through chapter 2 we’ve seen Paul try to cultivate the servant and other-centered attitude of Christ in his readers.  Now, he presents two figures who model this perfectly.

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 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. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 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. 28 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. 29 Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me. (TNIV).

Timothy’s genuine concern for others (2.20-21) provides a tangible example of what Philippians 2.4-5 looks like fleshed out in the life of a believer (“not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus”).  Furthermore, Timothy’s humility, loyalty and faithful service to the gospel (2.22) exemplify Christ’s servant attitude (“he made himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant” Phil 2.7).  Timothy gets it.

Paul then tells his readers of his plans to send Timothy soon, as well as his intentions to pay them a personal visit (2.23-24)—just as soon as he figures out what’s going to happen with him (presumably concerning the outcome of his trial).

Epaphroditus, however, will be sent right away.  The Philippians had originally sent Epaphroditus to Paul in order to give him a gift and to take care of his needs while he was in prison (2.25, 4.18).  Yet somewhere along the way Epaphroditus became extremely ill, so ill that he nearly died.  This news apparently found its way back to the Philippian community.  Now, we can surmise that far apart in a world without email communication, Epaphroditus wishes to let the community know that he has recovered.[i] Paul, for this reason, is eager to send him.

Epaphroditus’ risked everything for the work of the gospel, including his own life (2.27, 30).  In this way, Epaphroditus exemplified the same attitude of Christ (2.5), who humbly submitted himself into obedient service unto death (2.7-8: “he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”).  Both Timothy and Epaphroditus serve as excellent Christlike examples.

Before closing, I want to highlight an application-al piece that we can take away from this passage.  Paul states that had God not spared Epaphroditus’ life, it would have caused him “sorrow upon sorrow.”  Paul’s emotions show us that it is perfectly appropriate to grieve the loss of a loved one.  Keep in mind that this was coming from the same guy who welcomed death as gain (1.21).  As Christians, we do not need to pretend that we’re indifferent (or that we’re happy!) when it comes to death or when things are difficult.  Sorrow is a completely, “God-given, Christ-like emotion.”[ii]

Application:

Just as Timothy and Epaphroditus serve as great Christlike examples for the Philippian community, we too can learn a lot from the lives of others.  Take a moment and reflect on the greats of faith in your life, those who consistently model Christ.  What is it that’s refreshing about them?  What qualities do they possess that inspire you?  Reflect on these qualities.  No, seriously reflect on them.  What is their relationship with God like?  How might you emulate him or her?  Again, we can learn a lot from those around us.  I believe God places such people in our lives for a reason.


[i] Hansen, Philippians, 204.

[ii] Hansen, Philippians, 206.


Phil 2.12-18: Work Out Your Salvation

05/23/2010

We’re still under the larger heading of “living worthily of the Gospel” (1.27).  In the previous section, we encountered the hymn of worship that beautifully displayed Christ’s Lordly example (2.6-11).  Now Paul encourages the beloved Philippians to live accordingly, as they have done in the past.

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, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” [a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 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. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me (TNIV).

Theological Excursus:

I used to have trouble with verse 12’s “work out your salvation,” for a couple of different reasons.  First, I thought that those who had professed faith in Christ were already “saved,” past tense.  This verse makes it sound as if salvation for the Philippians Christians had not yet been attained.  Second, “work out your salvation” seems to rub against the grain of the sacred doctrine of sola fide (by faith alone; Eph 2.8-9; Gal 2.16).  I thought salvation was wholly God’s work—what’s going on here?

I’ll respond to my points of confusion in order.  (1) If we look at the biblical account in its entirety, we’ll notice a fine balance between present and future justification/salvation.  On the one hand, God does indeed declare those who place their faith in Jesus “righteous” now, in the present (Rom 3:22-25).  On the other hand, there is definitely a future sense to the Christian hope, which looks forward to the day of Christ (So Phil 3.20-21; Rom 13.11-12; Gal 5.5; note the balance in Romans 8.23-25; similarly, 1 Peter 1.3-12).

(2) Scripture, of course, clearly teaches that we are saved by grace through faith (see above texts). And it also credits the church’s entire existence to God’s gracious election (Eph 1.4; 1 Thes 1.4; Rom 8.33).  At the same time, nowhere in Scripture are we told, “Here’s what God did for you, now continue on with what you were doing.”  Quite the opposite!  Paul, for example, consistently employs indicative statements that explain what God has accomplished for his people through Christ, and then follows such statements with imperatives that lay out the Christians’ responsibilities in light of their blessed position (e.g., Romans 6—you have died w/Christ, you are dead to sin—stop living in it; or Ephesians 2-3, you have been raised with Christ—put on the new, put off the old).

Scripture repeatedly stresses the importance of a continued responsibility for those in Christ.  Philippians 2.12 is no different.[i]

Commentary:

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”  The Christian life is not something that is to be done passively; nor are we left to go at it alone.  It requires cooperation with God.  I had a professor explain this by using the analogy of a car:  If you want to go to the grocery store, you don’t just sit in your car and hope it takes you there (a passive, “let God” faith).  Nor do you attempt to push the car (do by human effort).  No, the car has an engine (God).  Again, there’s cooperation, we have to turn the key and drive, yet we are fully reliant on His power: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”  Therefore, while working out our salvation is the imperative, the capacity comes from God.  He can empower us to do great things.  Work out your salvation, rely on His Spirit.[ii]

When the theology of salvation is discussed, there’s always the tendency to focus on how it applies to us individually.  But we need to be careful because salvation here, although personal, definitely has corporate implications.  In fact, Paul’s main concern is to foster other-centered attitudes in order to bring harmony to the community (Phil 2.2-4; 1.27). A strictly personal, individual application of the text misses the point.

Furthermore, “Fear and trembling” calls to mind passages from the Old Testament and the response of those in God’s presence (e.g., Exod 15.16; Isa 19.16; or Deut 2.25; 11.25).  Therefore, this verse might be better interpreted as, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for God is present among you, in your very midst.[iii] In other words, be mindful of God’s presence among you, and be sure you’re aiding rather than impeding His work in your community.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing… This language recalls Israel’s time in the wilderness.  Their grumbling and complaining brought them under divine judgment, and their status as God’s children was forfeited (Numbers 14; Exodus 17; Deut 32.5).  For this reason, Biblical authors often use Israel’s past mistakes as a warning to the present generation (1 Cor 10.10-11; throughout Hebrews).  By referring to those outside the Philippian community as a “warped and crooked generation,” Paul applies Israel’s disobedience and judgment to the outside world.

The speech in the church of Philippi will not contain bickering or complaining against one another, or against God.  They are to be different: “blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  No one, whether God or man, will be able to accuse them of wrong doing.  Their edifying speech, their service oriented and other-centered lifestyle, and spirit of unity will present a stark contrast to the outside world (2.15; 2.2-4; 1.27).  They will “shine like stars” as they live out the Gospel, thereby illuminating the way home for the lost world that surrounds them (Phil 2.15; cf. Matt 5.14; Dan 12.3).[iv]

Paul ends this section by encouraging his readers to rejoice on behalf of their labors for one another.  The more and more I study Scripture, the more I appreciate and recognize the importance of having the Christian grace of joy.

Application: Are we allowing God to continue to shape us, actively working to conform ourselves to the servant attitude of Christ?  Do we bicker and complain, or are we grateful?  Do we promote peace or create strain in our relationships when we speak?  How different are we from the world around us.  Is the way we conduct ourselves attractive to those around us?  So much so that it points others to Christ?

God, as those who consistently fall short, we are in desperate need of your help and grace.  Though we stand confident that, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1.6).  We trust your promises, we trust your grace.  Praise you, Jesus.  Amen.


[i] Perhaps the closest parallel to Philippians 2.12 comes from the Apostle Peter’s second letter to the church in Rome, “make every effort to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1.10).

[ii] Lecture notes from Dr. Klein’s, New Testament Theology class.

[iii] Greek “in you” can be translated as “among.”

[iv] Hansen, Philippians, 183.


Philippians 2.1-11: Imitating Christ’s Selfless Sacrifice

04/25/2010

In all my study of Scripture I’m convinced that it is the attitudes that we are taught to cultivate that have the most profound impact on our lives.  This is an excellent passage to reflect upon in that respect.

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had:

6 Who, being in very nature [a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature [b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a human being,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father (TNIV).

In this section Paul essentially tells the believers, if you have experienced Christ’s grace (2.1: union w/him; his love, participation in the Spirit, his tenderness & compassion) then take up the servant attitude of Christ—if x then y.  We have been given much; how will we respond?

As a community of believers we are to be like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind (2.2).  Let’s face it, we’re never going to agree on everything.  Nevertheless, we should be striving toward the same goal and share the same modus operandi.  What is this one thing that we’re to have in common?

Recall that this passage immediately follows Paul’s exhortation for the believers to “live worthily of the gospel… stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together with one accord for the faith of the gospel” (1.27).  In light of this and Paul’s concern for advancing the gospel in the opening chapter, we can surmise that proclaiming Christ and living under his lordship is the one thing.  Everything else should play second fiddle.  Believers are to be “gospel oriented.”[i]

Having a disposition that’s centered on Christ will help foster unity rather than division.   This is extremely vital for us as Christ followers.  Remember Jesus’ prayer in John 17?  “I pray… that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17.22-23, TNIV).  Too often we let the small stuff get in the way.  Or we let the small stuff become big stuff.  What characterizes your relationships with others?  Is it discord or peace?  The latter is the kind of life that proves worthy of the gospel and that which glorifies Christ.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition and vain conceit (2.3).  These vices typify the world’s value system.  Our whole lives we’re taught to seek after the American Dream; accordingly, we do whatever it takes to get ahead, to outdo one another, even if it means hurting or excluding others.

Our old self naturally gravitates toward this self-seeking lifestyle.  But this is the way of the world, not the way of Christ.  We who have experienced God’s grace in Christ have no business operating according to the world’s value system (Rom 6).  As we saw in Colossians, we have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Col 1.13).  We belong to a new order where Jesus is King.  And in his Kingdom things look radically different.  Jesus turned the world’s value system on its head.  Here, the “first will be last, and the last, first” (Mark 10.31).

How incredible would it be if we as parents, grandparents, educators, etc., taught our children of the next generation the importance of being last—teaching them about humility, about allowing others to be first?  I’m not talking about making our kids soft; I’m talking about teaching them how to have the servant attitude of Christ.

In humility, value others above ourselves, not looking to our own interests but to the interests of others (2.3-4). This doesn’t mean that we should have a total disregard for ourselves.  No, it’s certainly appropriate to want to better our lot in life, for ourselves and our families.  But when we allow ourselves to become so self-absorbed that we fail to take the needs of others into consideration, we’re again operating by the world’s value system.  Our personal ambitions cannot be the end all-be-all in life; in fact, they must take a back seat to the needs of others.

As believers in Christ, we are to be other-centered, like Jesus.  Meditate on his example in the poem or hymn of 2.6-11.  Think about the rights he gave up when he took the form of a human being.  Think about his willful obedience he displayed in submitting to the most painful and shameful death that one could imagine, all for those who didn’t deserve it.  Try to cultivate this attitude, every day.  Amen.


[i] Peter O’Brien, Philippians, 179.


Philippians 1.27-30: Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel

04/11/2010

After reporting on his bold witness and great success in promoting the gospel despite powerful opposition, Paul turns his attention to his readers.  How will they respond against their opposition?  What will their response say about their commitment to the gospel?

27 Whatever happens, as citizens of heaven live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, [a] striving together with one accord for the faith of the gospel 28 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. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Paul says that all of life should be lived according to the following edict: “One thing … live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (my translation).  This command serves as the headline and introduction for the ethical instructions that follows (2.1-18) and perhaps for the entire remainder of the letter. All of life is to be lived under the gospel of Christ.

I’m really enjoying G. Walter Hansen’s commentary.  He understands and articulates the big ideas so well.  I’m going to lift some of his words here:

Paul does not impose a long list of rules; he presents the person of Christ.  The good news of Christ, the story of Christ, is the rule for the community of believers.  That is why, at the center of this ethical section (1:27-2:18), Paul sets forth the narrative of Christ (2:6-11)… Jesus is the exalted Lord of all and that this Lord of all emptied himself, humbled himself, and was obedient unto death on a cross.  The gospel of Christ provides the motive and the pattern for all Christian behavior.[1]

Christianity is so radical and freeing—we are not given a list of do’s and don’ts but the person of Christ.  He is our law.  I’m really excited to look at his example in the following weeks.  May we grow more and more into his person.

For this community, living worthily of the gospel will specifically entail “that you stand firm in the one Spirit… without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” (1.27-28). The Philippians likely face similar persecution to what Paul experienced in Acts 16, as well as similar opposition to what he’s currently experiencing (1.30).  They can take encouragement from Paul’s success and courageous witness before the palace guards and Roman authorities (see previous posts).  They need not be frightened by the threat of persecution, imprisonment or any other harm that they might potentially face.

“… striving together with one accord for the faith of the gospel” (1.27). The Philippians (along with Paul and believers everywhere) are in the same struggle.  If they want to be victorious, they must form a united front.  Put negatively, internal division will not help their cause.  Believers must stand together, as one. 

English words have to be supplied in order to make sense of the Greek in verse 28.  One plausible translation lends this reading, “although to them this is a sign [of your] destruction, it is [really] a sign of your salvation—and that by God.”  To me, this makes more sense than the translation we find in most of our English Bibles (compare with TNIV above).[2] The misery and trouble the opposition inflicts upon the Philippian belivevers—perhaps with the support of the governing authorities—suggests to them that they have the upper hand.  But the oppressors are unable to perceive the true reality: The believers of Philippi will be vindicated by God.  Again and again we see that suffering for the believer is followed by vindication.  Just look at what happened with Jesus after suffering on the cross, which we celebrated last weekend.  We’ve already discussed how we have been given not just the grace of believing in Christ, but to suffer for him as well (1.29).  As we become more united with Christ we will know both his suffering and resurrection.  This is the Christian life.

Although we could make lots of applications from these verses, we’re going to hold off until the following weeks.  For now, live worthily of the gospel of Christ.  Stand together.  NDS


[1] Hansen, Philippians, 93-94.

[2] Ibid., 99-101.  This seems to be somewhat of a minority view, but I find it convincing.  Virtually all of the English Bible translations supply “of their” as the modifier of “destruction” (so the TNIV above, “that they will be destroyed”).  But why would the oppressors view the Philippians’ faith as a sign of their own destruction?


He is Risen!

04/04/2010

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,  but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”  Then they remembered his words (Luke 24:1-8 TNIV).

Jesus rose from the grave and conquered death.  We have a God who is worthy of our trust.  Praise you, Jesus.  He is Risen!


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