Short Essays on the Letter to the Philippians

October 30, 2012

Paul’s letter to the brothers at Philippi offers a glimpse beneath the thick skin of the apostle. When reading his other letters one comes away marveling at not only his mind but his strength of faith and character. In the face of incredible adversity Paul stood as a staunch defender of the faith. He is the model of the Ephesian’s man of armor who always stands, and who, when done standing, stands again. At the time of this writing Paul was in prison and hurting from the effects of it upon his body and spirit. In this letter we glimpse a Paul who admits to feeling the pain of his own suffering but who is not weakened; we see his strength in his words of encouragement to the believers about how even his own pain is bringing the light of the gospel to the household of his oppressor. Paul also shows us his amazing ability to rejoice. He emphasizes this word and his own thanksgiving for the cause of Christ and for the fruits that have been grown from it. He thanks the Philippians over and over again for their help in his time of trouble and he rejoices with them over their own display of heart and faith and love. In this letter we also see into the business of the young church as Paul writes to explain the itinerary of two of its travelling ministers and encourage unity among two sisters. We see that Paul often acted as overseer as well as teacher over a body that was growing increasingly diverse. And lastly, in this letter Paul refers to the peace of God that comes when one is steadfast in love to Him. This acknowledgement of the suffering of the Philippians and their only true help in their time of trouble is a great help to us as well. We too live in a crooked and twisted generation and we too need to keep our eyes on the only One who can bring lasting peace to our troubled hearts.

Philippians: Chapter 1
Philippians 1: 1-2 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Servant: Paul uses this term to describe his brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a metaphor for our relationship to our Lord. Just as a slave is subject to his master, just as a bond-servant is bound to obey the one he is indebted to, so must we consider ourselves as bound, if not by chains of steel, then with chains of the spirit to the One who has purchased our very souls from certain destruction. Paul uses a term that we would never wish to put upon ourselves to purposely remind the believers of their complete and total indebtedness to the King. Later in his letter Paul exhorts his readers to be as humble in heart as Christ our Lord was in His. Paul suggests that the relationship Jesus chose, on our behalf, is one of slave to the desires of His Father in the salvation of mankind. The term slave is not one of doom and hopelessness, but one that is transformed by the miracle of our salvation into a term of honor. It is the only term suitable for the believer. No more can we hold ourselves as better than any other man upon the earth. No more does our position or our experience gain us a pedestal above men. If we wish to be true, if we wish to be honest we must call ourselves Slave. It has occurred to me that this term is applied to us by the Lord but it must also be applied willingly to oneself by the believer in Him. We must choose the life of bond-servant to our King. We must acknowledge the debt that we owe and willingly pledge ourselves to God’s service, not as repayment of the debt, but in gratitude for it. This term is used almost in an opposite fashion by Jesus as it has been used by men. Men have always been slaves in resistance and with resentment. We, however, are slaves willingly and with gratitude.

Philippians 1: 3-11 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Paul uses the phrase ‘you all’ four times in this passage. He uses the word translated ‘all’ even more often. His concern for these people is all-inclusive. His prayer is for every single one of them- for all of the believers in Philippi. This opening prayer of thanksgiving is dripping with kindness and love from the apostle to this church. His heart is practically pouring out love toward these believers. And what’s more, he appears to be sincere! What would it be like to love in this manner? to hold in your heart a yearning for the best of God’s love for everybody in your church? I carry this yearning for my wife and children to a great extent but it rarely manifests outward to others in my body of believers. How can we cultivate this type of expression of heartfelt affection? Probably in the same way we do anything that is in opposition to our sinfully inclined hearts, by simply stepping out in obedience and doing that which our Lord has commanded us to do. Jesus gave us two great commands that He taught summed up the entire will of God in Law. He taught us to Love God first and foremost, and then to Love others. Doing the first can only be achieved by doing the second for Jesus also taught us that if we are to truly love Him we will be found doing that which He has commanded us to do- which is to love our neighbors as ourselves. So the two great commands can really be summed up even further by simply loving others. This love is not a feeling. Paul was not simply feeling great affection for these believers but he was actively doing that which they needed done for them. He was praying for their walk with God, he was sending them helpful ministers

to teach them further, and he was giving them instruction on how to behave in every situation. These people occupied the mind of Paul and he was devoted to helping them in any way that he could. That is what we can try to do- it may be the easiest to do within the walls of the family but it must be extended outward to include our physical neighbors and then our neighbors in the rest of our communities and the world. To the extent we are able to cultivate this within ourselves may be the fruit of the extent to which we have loved our Lord and our God.

Philippians 1: 3-4 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. Paul is thankful for the partnership of the Philippians with him in the gospel. As we saw in chapter 16 of the book of Acts Philippi was the first recorded city to begin a church. These believers were the first church plant outside of Jerusalem. They were the first fruits of the work of Paul and as such must have held a very special place in his heart. According to Acts they had seen him through his imprisonment with Silas in Philippi and they had helped consequently when he was in need in Thessalonica, when no one else had done so (4:16). The gospel that they partake in could be the very fact of their salvation through the Lord Jesus; it could mean the good news in the traditional sense of the word that they are no longer doomed to destruction but are now partakers in the Light of the World. It could also be used here to mean that they have shared with Paul in the preaching of this good news to the whole of ‘Europe.’ Paul’s primary objective was to spread this ‘gospel’ to the entire gentile world. His continued journeys back and forth across the continent were to spread the news of Jesus to as many people as possible and to see that the churches grew mature and flourished wherever they had been planted. The Philippians were early stakeholders in Paul’s ministry and he thanks them again and again for their faithfulness to him and to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1: 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. The work of salvation is an excellent beginning for any man but as good as that gift is it is only a beginning. The work of completion in the life of a believer must still be accomplished. God begins the work in man, be that man a child when first saved, and therefore relatively unstained by the snares and pits of the world, or be that man grown and covered in the mire and filth of life in the world of men. The gift takes the holiness of Jesus Christ and imparts it to the life of a sinful man and covers that man from the punishment due him for his sinfulness. The man is now clean forever and again in the eyes of his loving Father but his heart is still capable of inclining toward evil. The gift of Jesus is that His death paid for us the price due our EVERY sin, even the ones yet to be committed. The death of Jesus was enormous in scope; the death of God covered all of it, for all of mankind, past, present and future. Those of us who receive the benefit of that gift receive our share of His payment applied to our account and we are free of our debt. We willingly become His bondservants, knowing that we have been given a gift that can never be repaid and that we now belong to a family that is larger than we could possibly imagine. Our continuing inclination toward evil and our ability to be deceived by the world and the flesh and the devil are still works that need to be finished before we can truly live as God intends his creation to live. Paul writes that he is sure that that work will be completed in the lives of every believer when the day of Jesus Christ arrives. This day, I can only hazard a guess, will be the day when this world is wrapped up like an old blanket and thrown away. On that day a new creation will be revealed and our hearts will truly be prepared for it. On that day we will begin the new era of the life of man, living in true harmony with the will and the love of God.

Hebrews 1:10-12 And “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” It might be good to think about how we might prepare for that day by trying our best to love God and others, thereby completing ourselves as much as possible before that day comes. It rests with God’s power to grant us the strength to overcome our own sinfulness but it rests with us to act out the demands of love. Love is a verb and it requires us to step out in faith with action.

Philippians 1: 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. Paul is making a case for his love of the brethren in Philippi. It seems unnecessary for him to have to do so because it is obvious for many reasons why he loves them. They were his first church. They helped him when no one else would. They were the fruit of his evangelism and prayer. He was led to them by the Holy Spirit. But Paul offers an additional reason, perhaps the most important one, for his love, that they are partakers of grace with him. The word ‘grace’ is used in several different ways in Scripture. The attitude of one who has received favor can be called one of grace if that person is thankful and of a friendly disposition. The act of bestowing favor upon another is also considered grace. In this passage Paul seems to be referring to the benefit that they together have received from God in their walking together as believers through his imprisonment and his work spreading the gospel, even in the face of opposition. They share a fellowship of grace, a partnership which has developed in their shared work and hard times. It may go without saying but it seems that we often think of grace as simply the blessing upon us at salvation. It is the tremendous gift of an eternity with God when what we naturally deserved was an eternity apart from Him. This most certainly is grace but grace appears to be so much more. Grace is the forever gift of life and it is the daily gift of opportunity to work for God and to stand strong in the face of difficulty. Here is our elder in the church suffering at the hands of enemies of the gospel at one moment and then suffering in a prison the next. The Philippians were found to be loyal to Paul and stood with him in these difficulties. They shared in his work and in his pain and came alongside with their support. Through this fellowship these believers shared the grace of God in the strength He gave and they learned grace, the thankfulness that comes with struggle and victory.

Philippians 1: 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. [The gospel that Paul mentions originates from Jesus Christ. Paul is so enamored with his savior that he cannot stop mentioning the name of Christ; seven times in these first 11 verses alone (and that’s not even counting the times he mentions God)!] As I said above the gospel is salvation; it is the good news (literally) that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, Jesus, that whoever believed in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). This means of course, if you read John further, that those who do not believe are doomed to destruction. The world is already condemned to be destroyed and it is only because of Jesus Christ that anyone is saved from that. Think about that for a moment and try to get yourself in such a frame of mind as Paul so obviously had. Try to conjure up the kind of fierce devotion that would make you willing to undergo any amount of persecution and suffering in order to see the name of your Lord believed in. Paul’s mission must not have been merely to see others saved, although that is the gospel as well; Paul was intent on seeing His savior magnified upon the earth! Oh to have such devotion- to not cringe from it when I see it; to love the

Lord as Paul and these early believers did- to defend and confirm the gospel with all my heart and soul and strength. Amen?

Philippians 1: 12-14 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. As I said earlier, Paul’s situation was not pleasant for him and yet he still found the good that could come from it and took the opportunity that was before him. Because of his chains Paul saw the gospel advance into areas that otherwise may have remained un-evangelized for a very long time. The very fact that it was known ‘throughout’ that the prisoner named Paul was being held due to his strong belief in Jesus Christ is enough reason, in Paul’s mind, for his suffering. But in addition to that Paul also saw the effect that his own boldness to continue preaching, even after being locked up for doing that very thing, was having on the younger believers in the surrounding areas. They too were becoming bolder and gaining confidence from his example. It always gives a lift to one’s own faith when one sees the gospel preached with courage and conviction. The world is filled with motivational speakers whose purpose is to encourage and drive people toward whatever belief or system they happen to be selling. With Paul’s example we have the ultimate case of motivation for the ultimate cause being Jesus Christ and salvation through Him. What we need more of in our time are people who boldly proclaim the name of Jesus Christ with courage and conviction and without apology. We are very apprehensive to share our faith or to even declare it because the devil has won a great victory in placing a barrier between faith and society. The spiritual has been relegated to the confines of the church and is grossly out of place in the secular world. The very fact that we speak in terms of the secular and the sacred is evidence of this grand failure on the part of the Christian church to overcome the devil in this battle. What would it take to transform us back into the kind of believers that would forsake everything in order to see the name of Jesus Christ lifted high? 2 Timothy 2:8-Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! The NASB translates that last part as “the word of God is not imprisoned.” Another aspect of what Paul is saying here is that nothing prevented the word of God from going forth. Paul was chained as a criminal; he was denied a speedy trial as we now so carefully afford our prisoners, he had no assurance of the outcome or if there even would be one save his own death in chains. As a result of this situation Paul battled the desire to leave the body and to go to Jesus in heaven. He must have battled despair and loneliness and depression at times. He might have struggled with his own anger. Because of his human failings and the harsh conditions of his captivity it would make sense to consider that his impact as an evangelist would be limited. But here in 2 Timothy and in our passage in Philippians Paul declares the opposite. He says that the gospel has reached those around him, that it has emboldened the believers in the churches, and that it has in no way been imprisoned or bound. The Word of God is active and once it goes out it will return fruitful. Isaiah 55:10-11 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Philippians 1:15-18 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yet another example of Paul making sweet, sweet lemonade out of bitter, bitter lemons. This passage seems a little odd to me because at first I couldn’t really figure how the gospel of Jesus Christ could be preached in any way except in love. How can the story of the love of God be perverted to serve such a purpose as Paul describes? It would seem that at the time of his captivity there were those in the church who did not love Paul as deeply as Paul loved them. That Paul had enemies would seem obvious, given that he was a converted Pharisee and was preaching the very heresy that he once led the persecution of. But the enemies Paul writes of here come from those who should have been on his side and in his camp. As I said, this confused me at first until I started to think of the situations that my church has gone through and how even in the best of places with the best of people that wicked little sin of pride can grow into a powerful force for evil. Given the right circumstances and the wrong priorities set by those in ‘leadership’ pride can make believers do all kind of foolishly wicked things in the name of Jesus Christ. Thinking about it a little more and you start to remember how atrocities like slavery have been defended as biblically mandated, how the repression of women has been seen as the rightful order of things, and how something as wicked as the Holocaust could be marginalized as due punishment for the people that crucified the Lord. Pride in place and pride in spirit can lead men to all kinds of sinful conclusions; and so it would seem in Paul’s case where there were certain men who sought to rid themselves of the oversight of Paul by adding to his burdens while in prison. 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? Another example of a similar though possibly not as grievous sin. Here the believers were arguing amongst themselves, much in the way the disciples had, about who was baptized by the greater man. They were apparently taking pride in the form of their baptism rather than in the Man in whose name they were being baptized. They were letting the trivialities of the sinful heart become major stumbling blocks in the fellowship. We do the same kind of thing today when we argue about the mode of baptism, the type and frequency of the celebration of the Lord’s Table, the accepted forms of worship, the proper amount of attention to pay to the Old Testament laws, the doctrines of justification and sanctification, and the list could go on and on. Since that very first split between the Temple and Christian worship the Church of Jesus Christ has been fractured time and time again. Due to what I mistakenly called a wicked little sin earlier Pride has time and again been allowed to destroy more of the church than Love has been able to build. Here in the 1 Corinthians passage as well as in our Philippians passage the only remedy is to fix one’s eyes firmly upon the cross of Christ. It is not to man that we should look for accolades or ultimate standing before God, it is not for position that we should be working when we open God’s word to study or to preach. It is only to Jesus that we must continue to look in order to receive the grace that He so freely offers, in order that we might pass that grace on to others, and in order that we might ever continue to grow as believers and to work our salvation and sanctification to completion. Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

From Matthew Henry: “Now this would be a stumbling-block and discouragement to some, that there were those who envied Paul’s reputation in the churches, and the interest he had among the Christians, and endeavoured to supplant and undermine him. They were secretly pleased when he was laid up in prison, that they might have the better opportunity to steal away the people’s affections; and they laid themselves out the more in preaching, that they might gain to themselves the reputation they envied him” And in verse 18 we read the words of a true Christian. He does not lash out at his enemies but acknowledges their evil intentions and then reminds his readers that their wicked endeavors will ultimately serve the same purpose as his own. As long as Christ is being preached, which has been shown to be Paul’s primary objective, than there is really nothing to complain about. I’ve considered this during the period when my own church was undergoing an internal struggle of sorts. I noticed that while many members left the fellowship, myself included, and for good reasons no doubt, there were others who were coming to the church as brand new attendees. I thought, ‘How can this be?’ Surely this church was going to fail due to their arrogance of leadership, their refusal to listen to words of advice from within the body. I thought that after all of the leaders themselves finally left the church then I would see the church fail. The pastor was left with a remnant of what used to be a vibrant community but still the church did not fail, it is there to this day. And it attracted a community of Nepalese believers who were moving into the neighborhood and it now houses a Nepalese church, within the larger one, which welcomes immigrants and shares the good news of Christ. So what happened here? I discovered, and was humbled by my discovery, that the Church of Christ is not ever going to fail. It cannot be stopped. It may be hindered and its truest form may never be realized because its members continually fall into the trap that Paul just wrote about (pride), but it will not fail. My church failed in its service to its own members. It failed to rise above personal desire and serve the cause of Christ. Nevertheless it continued to preach the word, if with less than pure motive, and it survives, and the Word of God goes out and is fruitful. We sometimes get hung up on the here and now and focus our energies on what are largely temporal concerns. It is an easy trap to fall into but it really only serves one purpose and that is to limit the effect of the gospel. Instead we must always endeavor to take a long view of the Church and of Jesus and keep our temporal struggles, no matter how severe, in their proper places. In this way we will be more like Paul and less like his enemies.

Philippians 1:18-26 Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. With his focus solely on Jesus, Paul acknowledges his struggle and tells his readers his desire. He tells them that he wants very badly to go and be with the Lord, and we cannot help but imagine that his suffering in captivity has reached a critical level. Paul feels as if he were going to die and very bluntly states that he would prefer death because it means that he would finally get to be with the Lord. But again, Paul gives us an example to follow in suffering which is to focus on the work that the Lord has given us to do, namely loving our neighbors, and we must resolve to do that very thing, no matter the obstacles that get in the way. Even in the face of death this man has shown us that it is possible to be like Christ in this regard; like the One who faced torture and ridicule and was ultimately destroyed at the hands of those He

loved dearly, without saying a word in His own defense, but only asking His Father to forgive an ignorant people. Paul chooses to remain with his ‘children’ because he knows that they need him. We too must remain in order to complete the task that we have been given. We each have someone that can use our help. Find that someone, do that work, live another day, and rejoice with Paul that when your time is truly come, Jesus will take you home to live in peace forever.

Philippians 1:19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance Paul acknowledges prayer in this verse as a component of his own deliverance. He is trusting partly in the prayers of the believers in Philippi to bring about the completion of his ordeal. Prayer is that grand mystery of the faith. It begs the questions, ‘Why does an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God need the prayers of His people in order to bring about His will upon the earth? Does God actually allow His will to be thwarted when His people do not pray?’ I am not sure where to go to find the answers to these questions except to my own experience and to scripture. My own experience tells me that I can feel when others pray for me; that I know in the midst of a troubling time or immediately after that I have been remembered before God. My experience tells me that when I myself pray for others I often can see the working of God in those others seemingly in answer to my prayer. Scripture tells me that men have prayed since the beginning of the bible’s recorded history. Scripture tells me that prayer needs an intermediary, that Moses acted as that intermediary in the wilderness and that Jesus acts as ours in the present. Scripture tells me that the Holy Spirit can hear the words of my own heart and will deliver them to God in words that I can never express. And Jesus told us that whatever we desire we can bring to the Lord in prayer. So I can say that I know what prayer is and that it is a real transaction between our mortal world and God’s immortal and everlasting heaven. But to answer the questions offered above? One obvious answer is that an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God does not need anything, that much is clear. He does not need for us to pray to Him because He is sufficient for Himself and lacking nothing. He existed before everything that is made had been made and He existed in perfect harmony with Himself. He needs nothing, lacks nothing, and requires nothing from anything that He has made. But He does have desires. God desires for a creation that responds to him in love and out of a willing heart and mind. God does desire for His children to love Him and to seek Him out to honor and glorify Him. God does desire a relationship with us. Because of this, and because of the physical nature of God, prayer is the vehicle that God devised for that communion. Instead of asking why God needs the prayers of His children we might instead ask, ‘Why does God allow the prayers of His children?’ Our God is so holy that when He first instituted His covenant with the children of Israel He set up very carefully defined conditions surrounding His presence among them. The tabernacle, and later the temple, had layers of protection for the people from the holiness of God and strict regulations concerning which people and at what times could even enter into the innermost areas to serve the Lord. So why would a holy God, One so far above us in nature that we are inconsequential to His very being, allow us to pray to Him, as if we had anything to offer Him, or any way of gaining His favor? The answer, simply enough, is that He desires it! He actually wants to live with us in communion with Him. He is such an embodiment of love that it had to spread, and so he made a people that would further embody His love. He loves us enough to suffer our existence, even at its worst, and He loves us enough to redeem that existence, even at the cost of His very own Son. His love is why we are allowed to pray. Prayer is a sign of our relationship with God. It builds that relationship and it is the vehicle through which we become aligned and attuned to God’s will. Like talking to your father and learning about the world and about things too complex to understand yourself prayer is the means through which we gain insight into God’s kingdom and His will for us.

God’s ways are so far above our own that we often fail in our attempts to understand them. We apply linear thinking in our discovery of His word and in our travel through our lives. We assume simple cause and effect relationships between our actions and perceived results. We see events unfold and we look to the past to understand why they occurred in the manner they did. But we fail sometimes to take into account God’s plan as it must truly exist, as different from the linear as a simple circle is from a sphere. God’s plan for our salvation, for the larger goal of creating a loving body of believers, must be anything but linear. He must have figured into His equation every variable that could ever possibly occur and still worked the equation so that his desired outcome is guaranteed. That is why, as scripture states, the word of God will always come back bearing fruit. It is inevitable, regardless of how we fall off the path He has so laboriously placed us on; His ultimate plan for us will be completed.

Philippians 1:19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance My first question is whether this is the Holy Spirit that is being referred to or if it is a reference to the power of Jesus Christ; my guess is that it is the former. There are several occurrences in the New Testament of the words Spirit of Christ or Spirit of Jesus. In these instances the words Spirit, Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ are used interchangeably (Romans 8:9); the Spirit of the Son causes the believer to cry out Abba! (Galatians 4:6); and the Spirit of Christ caused the prophets of old to prophecy of things they had not yet seen (1 Peter 1:11). My understanding of the Trinity is that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct persons of the Godhead but yet are somehow mysteriously and fabulously one God. They each have their separate roles, roles which changed drastically in the creation and salvation of man. The Holy Spirit is the counselor and teacher in the ages living after the cross and we each carry Him in our own spirit where He guides us and teaches us when we are still enough to listen and abide. The Holy Spirit is and has been sent to man by both the Father and the Son throughout recorded scripture. In this last role the Spirit may be called the Spirit of Jesus if in these passages He has been sent by Jesus with these messages and these motivations. But how do we know for sure? From R.A. Torrey, “The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit” “The subordination of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son comes out also in the fact that He derives some of His names from the Father and from the Son. We read in Rom. 8:9, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Here we have two names of the Spirit, one derived from His relation to the Father, “the Spirit of God,” and the other derived from His relation to the Son, “the Spirit of Christ.”” From D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Great Doctrines of the Bible: Volume II” “The best way to approach the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is to start by noticing the names or the descriptive titles that are given to this blessed person. First of all, there are the many names that relate Him to the Father; let me enumerate some of them: the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2); the Spirit of the Lord (Luke 4:18); the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11). Then another is, the Spirit of the Lord God, which is in Isaiah 61:1. Our Lord speaks, in Matthew 10:20, of the Spirit of your Father, while Paul refers to the Spirit of the living God (2 Cor. 3:3). My Spirit, says God, in Genesis 6:3, and the psalmist asks, ‘Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?’ (Ps. 139:7). He is referred to as his Spirit—God’s Spirit—in Numbers 11:29; and Paul, in Romans 8:11, uses the phrase the Spirit of him [God the Father] that raised up Jesus from the dead. All these are descriptive titles referring to the Holy Spirit in terms of His relationship to the Father.

“In the second group are the titles that relate the Holy Spirit to the Son. First, ‘If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his’ (Rom. 8:9), which is a most important phrase. The word ‘Spirit’ here refers to the Holy Spirit.1 In Philippians 1:19, Paul speaks about the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and in Galatians 4:6 he says, ‘God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son’. Finally He is referred to as the Spirit of the Lord (Acts 5:9).” I’m sure that this is way off base but I have to admit that I wonder sometimes about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit- As I sit here thinking about this I could almost convince myself that we have it all wrong- that there is no Trinity but just the Father and the Son and their relationship. But then I start to remember scripture; and the most important thing to do when studying scripture is to do your best not to make it say what you want it to say, as if you had the answer that everyone else somehow missed. The verse that I just remembered was the one where Jesus teaches about the unforgiveable sin, the sin against the Spirit that must not occur. Jesus was very jealous for the holiness of the Spirit, as it was Him that gave Jesus strength in His time on the earth. Luke 12:10 “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” Paul was personally acquainted with the Spirit in some fashion that even we who are blessed to have Him indwell in us are not. I am of the mind that Paul must have interacted with the Spirit directly as it hints at in Acts 16: 6-7 where Luke says that they could not go where they had intended because the Spirit of Jesus ‘did not allow it.’ Also in Acts 20: 22-23 when Paul gives his farewell to the believers he speaks of the Spirit ‘testifying’ to him that certain imprisonments and chains await him. This is only intimation but in Paul’s case it seems pretty clear that he had more of a direct line to God than we do. Paul was one of the only ones to ever hear the voice of Jesus after His ascension. Paul spoke of being taken to the third heaven while in the body and seeing and hearing things that he wasn’t allowed to repeat. Yes, Paul had God’s ear and God had Paul’s undivided attention. We can only wish that God would speak to us in the same manner as he did to Paul and His chosen instruments; but if He were to speak to us in that manner would we be willing to assume the struggle that each of those men and women faced in order to serve our great and mighty God? Hebrews 11: 32-38 “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Philippians 1:20 “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” Here is one of the places in this letter where I think we see the heart of Paul more intimately. We can read into his words his acknowledgement that he is at times frightened that he will not stand up under the strain of his imprisonment. He desires to do the very thing that he so often encourages us to do in his letters but he knows that it is possible that he might fail. And we know that for him to fail would have been devastating because of his very deep and sincere love for Jesus. It is his one overarching wish that at each moment of his life and at the end of it too, the record would show that he had stayed the course, had remained upright and facing forward and that he had not done anything to detract from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 6:13 “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” It is the unique nature of our religion that we are equipped to do the right things; we have been given great power to draw from, but by nature we are so terribly sinful that when confronted by our own lusts and passions, in addition to the temptations delivered us by evil, we often fail to stand as strongly as we know we ought. At times it can even appear to us that it is impossible to stay on the right course, that somehow we are doomed to failure and our cause for Christ is hopeless. Romans 7: 15-20 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. Paul’s confession of his own sin is terribly encouraging to those of us who also struggle to remain doing those very things that we know we ought to do. Here is the great apostle writing that he too struggles to stay on course, for which he has been specially chosen, to lay out for the entire church to come. Here is the church planter that started the first churches! And he is the one admitting to this great struggle that the lowest of us can so identify with. But do not miss his point- it is not us that do these things any longer, for the us in us- if you catch my meaning- has been transformed. We are now sons of the Father and we carry His Spirit in our hearts. We are now empowered by the Lord to do that which Paul reminded us earlier in Philippians would one day be made perfect. It is the sin in us that still causes us to fail. It is sin that entangles us and although we are not guiltless in this we are no longer held accountable to it and in some respects we are powerless to change it. Change will come, one day. In that day the Lord will finish what He began so long ago in Eden and carried throughout history. We will be made new in His holy image and in that day we will no longer be troubled by this failure. We will be perfect and utterly holy. Amen? From Matthew Henry: “It is much for the glory of Christ that we should serve him boldly and not be ashamed of him, with freedom and liberty of mind, and without discouragement: That in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness Christ may be magnified. The boldness of Christians is the honour of Christ.” Henry references Paul’s statement in Romans 1:16 where he declares that he is not ashamed of the gospel because it represents the power of God in man. To shrink from that power in shame makes no sense although doing so out of fear during persecution makes sense and happens frequently. Henry is saying that Paul does not desire to ever be seen as ashamed of the gospel- everything Paul does is for the glory of Christ and the cause of the gospel. Even his death he desires to serve that end. From the Life Application Bible Commentary: “Paul hoped and expected to not be put to shame in any way. He was not worried about his own humiliation, but he prayed for courage to present the gospel. When standing trial, Paul wanted to speak God’s truth courageously and not be timid or ashamed.”

Philippians 1:21-26 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will

remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. An admission of a desire for the end of things. We hope for the return of Christ for many reasons but I would guess that primarily among those reasons is a desire to be free from the trouble and turmoil of our day to day existence. This is a selfish desire no doubt but it is one that Paul appears to admit to. Imagine being in Paul’s place, having spoken directly to the Lord, having seen heaven with your own eyes and heard the majestic sounds there, having felt the power of God course through you in healing and in vision and speech. Who wouldn’t want to go to be with the Lord more than one who had firsthand knowledge of how incredibly wonderful it would be? And yet even in this desire Paul shows incredible restraint and discipline. He knows that it would not be a better thing if God does not desire it for him. And so Paul concludes that to stay would be the better desire (he does desire that as well) because he knows that he will be able to serve his children that much longer and that through their watching him tolerate and excel in his struggle they themselves would grow in faith and courage. And one day Paul knows that he will see them again and then their joy and his own will be complete.

Philippians 1:21 “for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Paul was nothing without Christ. He had rid himself of every other notion except his service to the Lord. We are made new when we come to Jesus. We are rid of our old selves and we put on the new of Christ. The old is gone, the new has come. Paul is a great example of that truth lived to its fullest. To live is Christ- what a statement! What a transformation that would make in a life if it were lived to its fullest! Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” From Matthew Henry: “Some read the whole expression thus: To me, living and dying, Christ is gain; that is, “I desire no more, neither while I live nor when I die, but to win Christ and be found in him.””

Philippians 1:27-30 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. For Paul to be satisfied completely he must be assured that the Philippians will conduct themselves as Christians ought, more so that he is away from them and unable to instruct them directly or tend to their needs. He expects them to grow up and care for themselves in his absence. He is like the parent leaving the kids at home for a night. He tells them to be good, to not fight with their brothers and sisters, and to make him proud. He wants them to remain strong even when it gets dark outside and things get scary in the shadows. To leave my analogy, Paul tells them to face their struggles as he has, to stand up to their enemies and respond to every opportunity in the way that best serves the gospel. But what is it to be worthy of the Gospel? Ephesians 4:1-6 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just

as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Unity abounds in this passage- a life worthy of the gospel, to which we have been called to represent and proclaim, is a life that preserves the unity of the Spirit in the body of Christ. We are to get along with each other! We are to care for each other by being kind, gentle, patient, and above all humble. There is only one gospel; there is only one body of Christ; there is only one Jesus and one Father and one Holy Spirit- we represent that unity on the earth through our thoughts, our speech and our actions. Colossians 1:9-10 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Philippians 1:27-28 I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. Unity. This has been the identifying characteristic of the people of God. At least, that is God’s desire for His people. We are supposed to show the world our city on a hill (Matthew 5:14). Our light is supposed to shine upon the world and cause mankind to look to the source, God (Matthew 5:16). When we live in unity and do our works before men people will ask how it is we have the will and the power to do such things. Our answer can be a simple word, God. Our lives of morality and good works will cause men to glorify our God, who alone deserves that glory. 1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. Alas, too often we live our lives before other men as if we were no different than other men. The only difference they may see in our divisions compared to their own is that we call ours denominational. And that is the Church! Even more, men can often see that there really is no great difference between those who claim to be Christian and themselves, who do not. We live in the same places, we frequent the same sorts of entertainment, we use the same language, we work with the same ethic; we even argue and libel and complain with the same intensity. In the above passage from 1 Corinthians Paul was rebuking the Church for arguing over whose baptism was greater. They brought division into their church over the importance of the person who had baptized them into the name of Christ! Later, in the same letter, Paul redresses them for pushing and shoving before eating the Lord’s Supper. Imagine, coming together to remember that you, a sinner, one with no chance of redemption, was purchased by the blood of a holy God, and you are arguing over which man is important in your church and who gets the best seat and the food at the table. And this behavior was in the church two thousand years ago! What is it like today? Man is very much the same today. Our sins are no less and probably no greater. We are saved by the same blood, and we all begin our walk to heaven at the foot of the same cross. And unfortunately, our churches are still riddled with politicking and backstabbing in order that a few may control the purse or the glory that comes from doing good deeds. Then to make it worse, we take our behavior out into the streets where the nations gather and we display it before them so they can mock our religion and our God for being no different than their own. We enter the same courtrooms and are just as petty as everyone else. We marry our wives and then leave them with just as much frequency as the rest of the world. We father children and then leave them orphaned

just as the unwashed do. We lie and steal and cheat, murder, abort, and slander just as often as the unsaved do. If this is the case, then how is God glorified? How does He look any different than the myriad of impotent wood and stone idols that people set up in their backyards as gods? How can our light shine if we snuff out the flame ourselves? How can our city on the hill be seen if we build it in the valley? God wants for us, in the body of Christ, to be unified as one people. He has broken down the barriers between all men and Himself, so that all men may come to Him without fear. He wants for us to remember from where we came and Who it was that worked that salvation. He then wants us to take that symbol of love into our fellowships and then into the world so that it can be seen for the beautiful and glorious thing that it is. We carry the gift of God’s love in our very spirits; we ought to act like it! Paul offers a reason for their disunity: fear. These believers were being harassed, just as Paul was, for their faith and display of faith in Jesus Christ. They were tempted to play down their faith in the community in order to lessen the persecution they received from those not willing to suffer their beliefs. This abuse may have come from the pagans or more likely it came from the Jews or judaizers within the church. Paul encourages the faithful to remain faithful; to stand together in one spirit and to resist these temptations and these evil men. Again, to stand publicly and show your faith like a light onto the world is to show the glory of God and His love. At worst, this will get you suffering from the persecutorial actions of God’s enemies. But from an eternal perspective this will be a beacon signaling to that very same world its own destruction for refusing the Word of the Lord. Our stance, from a unified Church, shows our salvation and the world’s ultimate destruction.

Philippians 1:29-30 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. There it is; proof from scripture that a life lived in faith to the Son of God will not be an easy one. We must expect to suffer for our faith. We must expect ridicule and persecution for claiming and daring to proclaim the name of Christ. Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. And, as odd as it sounds, when this happens we are to consider ourselves blessed, because God indeed blesses us for this. Actually, this reads more as if the persecution itself is a blessing, as if suffering is somehow a thing to make us happy upon the earth. Paul, in another letter, writes how he suffers gladly for the name of Christ; that the suffering he underwent was worth it, for the sake of Christ. Walking in the shoes of the Lord and being considered worthy to suffer in the same manner was an honorable thing to which he felt himself unworthy. Tradition holds that Peter took this sentiment so far that when they crucified him he requested to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as the Lord. All of this points to a condition of the heart that is utterly sold out to Christ. I can only make sense of this if I think of a man who lives for Christ and is willing to die for his love of Christ. That, I believe is what Paul is striving to convey here in these verses, that is what Jesus was striving to convey in the verses above, and that is what we are being asked to attain to now. It has been granted to us, given to us, to suffer for the sake of Jesus. The question is, will we accept that suffering by intentionally proclaiming Him through our lives and our actions or will we shirk that blessing as too hard? Who will win over us? our enemies or our Savior?

Philippians: Chapter 2
Philippians 2:1-11 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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. I love this passage! And I love the way that Paul sets up the argument. The man who just wrote that to live is Christ asks a series of rhetorical questions: Is there any encouragement in Christ? Do you get comfort from love? Do you enjoy fellowship in the Spirit and its attendant affection and sympathy with other believers? This is from the man who suffered gladly for the cause of Christ. He willingly went into the arena of persecution in order to see men saved and the name of Jesus lifted up. This is the man who at the time of this writing was sitting in prison and was unsure whether or not he was going to survive. This man suffered all of that willingly and, I think, considered it an honor to do so for the sake of the gospel. He knew the answer to each of those questions. He himself answered each with a resounding, Yes! Here we come to the rhetorical answer, so to speak, the logical response to those questions. Since all of that is true, since Paul’s life so clearly showed that only through the encouragement of Jesus; and the help of the Spirit; and the fellowship of the Church could he hold up under the pressures that he was constantly under; there is only one way to respond. And Paul lays that way out in the next verses. The rhetorical answer, which sinful man must have spelled out for him, is simply humility. A man who lives a life worthy of the gospel (1:27) is a man who knows that his strength and endurance come from God and what God has so graciously provided. A man who knows this must assume a position of humility, just as Christ did, and live as if others were more important than himself. That is the ‘rhetorical’ answer, the one that should not need to be said, but one that is repeated often throughout scripture. Man’s ears are sometimes not ready to hear! Romans 15:1-3 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 1 Corinthians 10:33- 11:1 Just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Rivalry or Conceit- in the NASB this is ‘selfishness or empty conceit.’ According to Strong’s the word translated rivalry seems to connote a seeking of office without regard for the method of attaining it. It is a willingness to use low means to gain one’s own desired end. The word translated ‘empty conceit’ connotes an empty pride- a pride without merit; vain glory.

This is a little more selfish than ‘ordinary’ selfishness because it requires one to seek one’s own benefit without consideration of the ethics involved. Children will often be selfish, refusing to share, grabbing the best piece first, but they do not ordinarily plot how to achieve that best piece or horde their belongings. A child that would do this would have to be watched very closely as they grew up! Adults on the other hand will often plan their next move in order to gain an objective. A person without Christ may do this as a matter of course and call it good business or simply the politics of life. But here in this passage Paul reminds the Christian that he is no longer allowed to act that way. There is a different standard now that we have been saved and it precludes this type of self-seeking. The believer is now expected to follow the example set for him by Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us that Jesus had no inkling of self-seeking in the work that He accomplished on the earth. He did not do the things that He did in order to better His own position or to exalt Himself in the eyes of men or even His own Father. Paul tells us that Jesus did not even have Himself in mind when He came. Jesus made himself nothing in order to serve the One who had sent Him. Jesus made Himself man, He gave up the deity He had known forever and entered time as a mortal man. Jesus placed all of His hope in His Father and willingly followed the course He had been asked to follow, trusting that his Father would save Him in the end. This is what we are being asked to do as well. The way of the world is to get yours as fast as you can so that others won’t get the benefits while you are left in the cold. The way of the world is to position yourself in such a way that you get the notice and can work your way to the top of whatever ladder you find yourself on and that sometimes it is necessary to step on people on the way up. What if Jesus had this type of thinking in mind when He came to the earth? What if our God was this way and only used us in order to achieve whatever end He desired to achieve? We can thank Him that that type of thinking is as far from His thinking as the east is from the west! We have a God who thinks of self-sacrifice as a means to His ends. We have a God who condescends to meet us where we are and promises better things for us and then makes sure that those things find their way to us. We have a God who wanted to tabernacle with us so badly that He gave His own Son to be the bridge that we can now cross to live with Him forever. We have a God who does not look to His own interests, as we so often do, but He looks to ours. Paul is telling us to have this same mind. We are to have this mind of Christ in our thinking and in our relationships with others. What a world it would be if everyone in it simply followed this one rule- to think of others before they thought of themselves. What would it be like if everyone else was thinking of your needs and desires and trying to meet them? I saw a girl in a store the other day while I was waiting in line. While I was standing in the line trying to exhibit Christian patience this girl, who was waiting in the same long line, first asked another customer if she could help organize the many purchases that she was juggling, then bagged the items that her mother had purchased in order to free up the cashier, put away two shopping carts that had been left, hung up some empty hangars on a rack, and then picked up all of her mom’s bags while her mother finished paying. As I was standing there watching her I was struck by how simple her actions were and how simply she busied herself. Not to make too much of this, but trying to illustrate the point, waiting in line was not a hassle for this girl, it was an opportunity. She busied herself helping others while I stood by feeling ‘patient’. Who was the selfless one? It certainly as not me for I was thinking primarily of my own desire to leave while this girl used her time to get a few more good deeds performed. What if we all were this way?

Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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. This is the ‘reward’ that Jesus received for His act of selflessness. By no means would I say that the reward was an enticement to Jesus to obedience to the Father. The reward was not positive reinforcement, a divine sticker, in order to bless Jesus for His work. That kind of thinking is from our perspective in the world. Consider that a truly selfless person

would not even consider that there would even be a consequence to their actions other than for the person they had loved upon. A truly selfless person acts out of love for another and works to fill needs that have been observed. Consider that Jesus did what his Father had asked simply because His Father had asked; and Jesus’ entire mission in life was to do that which His Father asked of him. Seeing then his own Son, doing everything that He had desired, God then bestowed upon Him the magnificence of His love. God blessed Jesus by removing the crown from His own head and placing it upon His Son and commanded all of creation, from the depths of the waters to the heights of the heavens, to praise and honor and give glory to Jesus, who was and is, and is yet to come. From selfless act to selfless act our triune God gives us plenty of examples to consider when we think about these verses.

Philippians 2: 10 At the name of Jesus every knee will bow Throughout history men have called on the name of God and have been saved (we can leave it to the big-head theologians to work out how salvation was accomplished before the time of Christ). At the same time, throughout the same history there have been men who have refused to call on the name of God, and sadly have not been saved. What is astonishing in this verse is that there will be a day when all men will bow the knee before this newly crowned king and victor of death. It has never been a question of choice after all, or even of free will- in the end the choice will have already been made; glory and honor will be given to the Son of God. The question is whether you will bow your knee in reverence to the King or in abject fear. That choice has to be made today.

Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. ‘Therefore, work out your salvation in fear and trembling-‘ I remember when it first occurred to me that salvation was not merely a one-time deal, that is, it is not something that happens to a person once and then is completed. In my experience my personal journey as a Christian has been anything but complete. I have rarely felt as if I was under control of myself or my surroundings. I have rarely felt that I was accomplishing all that I should be for the Lord. I have rarely felt as if I was as perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect, and at the time I wondered greatly why I could not do the things that Paul and Jesus so readily commanded me to do. Why could I not obey completely? Why could I not resist the devil more resolutely? Why was my battle with the flesh such a dismal failure more often than not? It finally occurred to me that my journey as a Christian began with my salvation but then continues on as I move from that beginning to my ultimate end. I began to look at my life as a series of battles waged on the field between holiness and sinfulness and that I would not always be the victor in those engagements. I began to see that God was not presiding over that field as my judge but as my King; and that when the battle went awry He would be back at the castle waiting to send His ministers to patch me up. I began to see that some of my battles were planned by my King simply to test my progress as a warrior and that sometimes I emerged from the din unscathed and victorious. On those days I saw that I had gained some ground for myself and that my salvation had been advanced. I am literally working out the salvation that has been won for me by Christ in my day to day battles against sin and my own proclivity to it. I am growing in my understanding of the Lord and His way and will for me. I am growing as I engage in my Christian life and try to obey as best I am able. As Paul says, I am working it out as God works within me toward His own good pleasure.

From Matthew Henry: “We are required to work out our salvation, katergazesthe. The word signifies working thoroughly at a thing, and taking true pains. Observe, we must be diligent in the use of all the means which conduce to our salvation. We must not only work at our salvation, by doing something now and then about it; but we must work out our salvation, by doing all that is to be done, and persevering therein to the end. Salvation is the great thing we should mind, and set our hearts upon; and we cannot attain salvation without the utmost care and diligence. He adds, ‘With fear and trembling,’ that is, with great care and circumspection: "Trembling for fear lest you miscarry and come short. Be careful to do every thing in religion in the best manner, and fear lest under all your advantages you should so much as seem to come short,’’ Heb. 4:1. Fear is a great guard and preservative from evil.”

Philippians 2:14-18 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. Matthew 5:13-16 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. The words of Paul echo the words of Jesus. Paul says in verse 12, ‘therefore.’ Therefore, because of all that I have written of the glory of Christ and His sacrifice on your behalf, do all of these things. Paul wraps up his instruction in this first half of his letter by reminding the believers of what Jesus expected His children to become. We are to be the lights that shine His gospel into the darkness of the world around us. Without that light how will men see the glory of the Lord? We are to work ourselves into our culture as a preservative for its salvation from its own wickedness. In addition to that we are to remain without blemish so that no one will be able to say that our God was not able to save us. We must not be contaminated by our world; we ourselves must be the agent of holy contamination. Paul felt this so strongly that he gave his entire life toward that end. His words here, ‘even if I am poured out,’ declare that he was willing to give it all for the sake of the gospel. He was holding nothing back. His only apprehension was that his work could possibly have been done in vain. And what might bring that about? Only the selfishness and disobedience of those he had worked so hard to save. How often do we take a look at our own disobedience and ask ourselves whether we are putting to shame those who have worked so hard to teach us a better way? Do we not owe something to those who have gone before us to show us the way? To a greater extent should we not be ashamed when we sin that we take for granted the sacrifice of God on our behalf? Wasn’t He strong enough to save us? Shouldn’t we make every effort then to make every ounce of that salvation bear fruit?

Philippians 2: 14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning The first part of this command tells us to do this so that we may be blameless and innocent as children of God. One of the things that is so amazing about Christianity, about Jesus Himself, is that we are children of God! Once we have

believed that Jesus has truly saved us and suffered the penalty for our sin we are called God’s children. Not children by a natural birth. Not children through the methods of man (John 1: 13) but children through the hand of God. That being said it is imperative that we realize that being God’s children brings with it a certain amount of duty. I am ashamed to say it but it is very easy for me to forego the duty and begin to live in my sin again. Paul is reminding us here that the true child of God wants to rise above that inclination. The world has that behavior down pat; it can complain and moan from now until the last person on earth tires of them! But we, we are called to something different. We are called children of God and we are called to act like it! Like Jesus before us, our great example, we must endeavor to endure whatever comes our way without opening our mouth in complaint (1 Peter 2:23,) or often times, even in our own defense. We must shine as lights in this dark world; and we shine brightest when our energies are spent on making it a brighter place, not in complaining about its darkness.

Philippians 2: 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. A drink offering was used in the Old Testament in conjunction with the sin offering. In the OT the drink offering might consist of oil, wine, or water, and could be offered along with the animal slain for the sin offering (Exodus 29:40). Here Paul speaks of his own blood that very well might have been spilled because of his very firm stand for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul wanted very much for that stand, and the work he performed in order to make it a strong one, to be ‘worth it.’ Paul wanted to have his life’s work amount to something- particularly he wanted the believers in the churches he had planted to stand just as strong as he had. He tells the believers at Philippi to try to be without blemish, so that their faith might be offered just as the perfect lamb was offered up to the Lord as a pleasing aroma. He wanted them to live as if the gospel flowed through their veins and guided their every move. He wanted his own blood to be able to top that perfect offering as the drink offerings of old had done. Paul was willing to add his own life as a sacrifice in order to see the church of Christ please the Lord. Again, we see the importance of living a life of worth before the Lord. A moment’s consideration of all the people that have gone before us to make our life in Christ possible and one cannot help but realize the duty we must shoulder. Be blameless, Paul commands. Shine as lights in a darkened world. Let all men see your good works so that the Father may be glorified, says Jesus (Matthew 5:16). This is our duty, how can we take it lightly?

Philippians 2: 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. In my interlinear Greek bible this verse says something like ‘rejoice, and rejoice with me.’ What is better when you are happy than to have others share in your happiness? (I probably use that phrase, ‘what is better’ too often- there are a lot of things better than sharing joy, aren’t there? There is the fact that even though I am a terribly messed up individual my God still loves me! To this I hold very dearly!) In this letter alone Paul tells the believers to rejoice eight times! This is obviously an important command- important to be reminded of, important to be engaged in, important to make a part of your Christian life. What is it to rejoice? Merriam-Webster’s defines ‘rejoice’ as the feeling of joy or great delight and ‘rejoicing’ as the expression of that joy. Paul rejoiced in the various hardships that he faced because he knew it would advance the gospel and save men, he knew the faithful would rejoice at seeing Epaphroditus alive and well, and then three times he tells us to rejoice in the

Lord. In everything it would seem the apostle found cause to feel joy and to express it to others. In like manner he tells us to do the same. It is so easy to forget what we have been given; even if we have been given little in terms of worldly gain we have been given much in heaven. I am accustomed to feeling joy when I receive good news, such as a loved one being well when I feared for their safety or health. I am familiar with feeling that sense of delight when I receive good news for myself or my family. I am used to being made to feel ‘happiness’ when someone remembers me with a gift or a good word. Paul however touches upon two areas that I am very much less comfortable with the idea of relating with joy. The first is when he expresses joy in his hardship. He was not only willing to be put in chains for Christ and to die if necessary but he claims in this letter to feel joy in doing so. In a similar circumstance I know that I would feel fear and apprehension. My stomach would be knotted up, I would panic, I would complain about the injustice of it. I know this because I have felt those things with the problems that I have faced and they were in no way life threatening! One thing I have noticed however is that in some things, I have learned to be able to hold back my fear in order to stand strong in my faith in God. What may have brought me low in the past is now easier to handle with a ‘happy’ face. This minor growth on my part shows me that what Paul is telling us here is truth. He did rejoice in his circumstances, a bitter as they were, because he had grown in his faith to the extent where that was possible. He was able to look beyond himself to the others that were to be affected by his suffering and to see the good that would result; and that good made him glad. The other area in which Paul rejoices and tells us to do likewise is ‘in the Lord.’ I imagine Paul reveling in the Lord Jesus as I might over a good meal. Paul seems to have thoroughly enjoyed being an apostle of Christ and his communion with Jesus. In this I wish I could say that I understand as well. I attribute Paul’s love of God and Christ to his incredible faith and the experiences that he had working it out on behalf of others. My faith is as nothing compared to this man’s. I believe and am saved but it still seems separate at times from my struggle through life. My faith in God is my only lifeline, to it I cling wholeheartedly and without reservation, but I do not as yet feel what I sense from Paul in his letters. I wonder if the believers in the churches wondered if they were lacking as well and held onto Paul as one who could show them the way. I look for such a one in my church and in my circles and am impressed at times with how easily some people speak of Jesus and declare their faith in Him. My purpose here is not to bemoan my feelings of inadequacy or to complain that I can’t seem to conjure up enough love for my Savior, my point here is to emphasize the greatness of Paul’s love for Jesus and the wonder that I feel when I encounter it in the world. I can only hope that my love will grow and that I will one day rejoice in my Lord with the fervor of His most blessed saints. On a side note- I also wonder to what extent our previous lives of sin impact our ability to grow in our faith and love. Are there some things that we simply will not be able to do because of who we once were and what we have once done? Like David who could not build the temple for God because of the blood on his hands, are some of us denied certain blessings for a time in order to keep our stain from contaminating the holiness of the Lord and His church?

Philippians 2:19-24 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. Philippians 2: 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

I wish that we knew who ‘they’ were, these others who sought their own interests to such an extent that Paul counted primarily on Timothy to carry his messages. Whoever they were they were not of the mind of Paul when he wrote in this letter (1:4) that one ought to think of others in addition to oneself; thinking less of self and more of others so that you would be able to emulate Jesus in His servitude to others. This is an important concept to grasp. Too easily are we led into selfish thinking, by our own sinful inclinations, but also from the habits of the world, that let us get away with serving self-first and others as is convenient. The gospel brought to us by the Suffering Servant runs contrary to this type of personal philosophy. The Way that Jesus brought to us, the Way that the Law pointed to, the Way of God in His very first thought behind creation is to love. God loves us because He is Love itself and we in turn ought to love so that we can become love ourselves. The interests Paul is concerned about here are those of Jesus Christ. In this instance Paul would like to send Timothy to Philippi in order to receive news of them. We know by this point that what he so longs to hear, his primary concern for the believers, is that they are living the gospel, that they are conducting themselves so as to be a light in the world instead of darkness, and that they are making themselves worthy of the greatness of the gift of life that they have received. Philippians 2: 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. Timothy has proven that worth that Paul has written about. Timothy has been Paul’s right hand man from early on in Paul’s ministry. Paul had taken Timothy on as a fellow worker and Timothy had endeared himself to Paul as a son. This mentor-disciple relationship when perfected can become as close as a father-son relationship. The closeness of the bond between two workers who work so well together that the lines between their respective positions gets blurred is evidence of the ‘rightness’ of the hearts of both men. The closest I came to this relationship was with an employer of mine. I was his assistant in the studio and before long we developed a wonderful relationship. What made this relationship different than other employer-employee relationships was the nature of our work environment and the shared focus of our work. We shared a common vision for the studio and the work produced within and that made it easier to forget the financial nature of our relationship and focus primarily on the outcome of it. Paul and Timothy shared this commonality of vision. They both wanted nothing more than to serve the Lord and spread His gospel. Because of this they each willingly took on their respective roles, Paul’s being the elder apostle and guiding hand, Timothy’s being that of disciple and willing worker. It is the natural outcome of such a relationship of shared values and focus that a closeness will develop between workers. Paul began to think of Timothy as more than a worker, but as family; and Timothy no doubt began to love and respect Paul as his father in the Lord. I in fact respected my boss as more than an employer, but as someone I willingly served in order to facilitate the vision he laid out in his work. I hope that he came to see me as more than his assistant, I believe that he did. I failed him in the end because he never came to know the Lord before he died. Remembering his death makes the contrast between my relationship with him and that of these two holy men very stark. Paul and Timothy were united on the earth and now share their eternity together. My boss and I shared a time here together for which I am thankful but it is a question whether he ever chose correctly before his time ran out. I hope that he did.

Philippians 2:25-30 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

While Paul could not send Timothy due to his need for him in Rome, Paul was going to send them Epaphroditus, who apparently had come to Paul from Philippi. Epaphroditus had become ill or injured and nearly died as a result of or in connection to his work with Paul. Epaphroditus couldn’t bear the thought of the Philippian church worrying about him so he longed to return to his people to reassure them. The love expressed in these few verses humbles me. The Philippians worried for their brother, Paul worried for the Philippians, and Epaphroditus worried about his home church. Each side of this triangle was concerned about another side; they were living the very gospel that Paul proclaimed. Epaphroditus also gets an incredible commendation from Paul, as did Timothy. Here Epaphroditus is recommended for honor because of his servitude to the Lord. He was also the kind of man that Paul had too few of, the kind that was selfless and genuinely concerned for others above self. This man proved his selflessness by risking his own life to complete the mission that the Philippians and the Lord had set him to complete.

Philippians: Chapter 3
Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Again with the rejoicing! Paul unashamedly rejoices in the Lord and makes no apologies for his redundancy. How much more blessed might our lives be if we too could harness this joy and simply rejoice? Again, rejoice!

Philippians 3:2-11 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for 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; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Again we read a hint of the power struggle that Paul wrote of first in 1:15. There were those in the churches that used the gospel to gain position and prestige for themselves. They were preaching the name of the Lord out of envy and selfishness. Here Paul calls them ‘dogs’ and ‘evildoers,’ these men (women?) who puffed themselves up, regaled the church with their own righteousness and left the body of Christ in submission before their assumed holiness. In 2 Corinthians we read again of this sort of behavior. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul writes in defense of his own apostleship, claiming his own foolishness for even bothering to try and match his righteousness against these ‘others.’ Here in our passage Paul again makes a go at listing his own credentials of holiness in order to make the point that it is not obedience to the Law that is important but rather obedience to the Law of Love that is important. Paul, if any of the apostles, had reason to boast in his own works on behalf of God. As a Jew Paul was blameless, according to the sect of the Pharisee. As a Pharisee even his rounding up and imprisoning and stoning of the Christians

was considered holy zeal for God. Against that kind of a record what could these relative newcomers, these dogs, have that could come even close to measuring up? But as a Christian, Paul discarded his old resume and began to build a new one. As a Christian Paul would not go toe to toe with those who wished to subvert the gospel in favor of a hybrid church-temple sort of system. Jesus told us that it was impossible for the new to contain the old (Matthew 9:14-17) and the gospel that He ushered in, His kingdom of heaven on earth, had no place alongside a system of worship that was based on seeking atonement for one’s sin. The gospel is the anti-Law, in a manner of speaking. But Jesus didn’t come to disregard the Law but to fulfill it, and now that He has accomplished that there is no more cause to live under its authority. These men, often called Judaizers, wanted to make sure that the Law remained a part of the belief system of the church. As the gentile world began to worship the God of Israel these men wanted to make sure that they were ‘clean’ enough to do so. They advocated for circumcision primarily as a means of showing faith in God. This was strongly rejected by Paul as a return to the same system that was put in place not to save men but to show men their sinfulness. To adhere to the dictates of the Law would be tantamount to declaring the sacrifice of Jesus as null and void. No, Paul says, the sacrifice of Jesus is everything. The resurrection of Jesus is everything. To that we must adhere and rest our faith upon; that and nothing else. What is it about men that cause them to bring such division into such a simple system as the church? The gospel of grace is very straightforward, stating only that a man’s life is forfeit as a matter of course unless he turns to the only One who can save it and that is God. It states that a man’s salvation depends on that man’s recognition of his own sinfulness and damnation and the hope that lies only in the outstretched hand of God. This case is made throughout the New Testament and yet men throughout history have sought to add more to it until the gospel of grace becomes little different than the intricacies of the Law that it replaced. Look at the system of worship in the Catholic Church today. Its doctrines of salvation, Eucharist, baptism, the mother of God, confession and etc. have continually evolved until a large part of what you see in place in their church has little basis in the words of scripture. Look at the mainstream Protestant churches that originated out of a need to combat the excesses of Catholicism. These Protestant churches have begun themselves to look little different than their Catholic counterparts while at the same time continually embracing more and more of the perversion of the world in the name of Love! Paul, in 2 Corinthians, humbles himself before these kinds of men. He did not enter their towns seeking dominance but rather seeking the spread of the good news. Once he had established a church, a body of believers, he did not set up office and begin to dictate the terms of salvation. No, Paul began to teach them the way of love. He taught the believers how to share everything, how to pray together, how to give to others, and how to meet together in worship. He did not bring with him a list of rules that must be followed or the scrolls of the Law to be memorized. Paul brought a new Way to God and taught men to receive it in thanksgiving and to share it with others. It is only the sin of man that would allow a man to first be saved from his own sinfulness and then under the guise of holiness return again to the sin of pride and try to take power within the church. This is our besetting sin: Pride. It manifests in whatever form necessary to present self in the best possible light. Left unchecked it will deceive the believer into thinking that what he or she does is in the name of God and not oneself. We must call it for what it is when it presents itself in our churches. We must take the beam out of our own eye first in order to clearly see the mote that is within our churches. Resisting the devil in this attack, resisting ourselves in this attack requires clarity of sight that begins with each member of the body of Christ.

Philippians 3: 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—

Circumcision was the removal of the foreskin as a sign of allegiance to God. It marked a man as a son of God in Israel. It marked the proselyte as a member of the body of Israel. It was to be performed to all males on the eighth day after birth and was a prerequisite for temple worship and atonement. With the coming of the Messiah the Law was fulfilled. Fulfillment means that all of the requirements placed upon the community of the Jews in order to retain their temple worship and therefore the presence of God in their midst was no longer to be necessary. God’s primary purpose in creating Israel from Abraham was to make a people for Himself that He could dwell among and love as a Father loves His children. Due to the sinfulness of Man however, God could not easily dwell among His people. His own holiness was such that man could not bear His presence without being consumed. God gave to Moses a list of rules that was slowly embellished to include the first tabernacle in the wilderness and then the Temple in Jerusalem. It was a layered system of ordinances, both physical and spiritual, that created tiers of separation between the people and God. In the center of this system was the Holy of Holies, a place that the ark of the covenant rested and into which only one man could ever enter and that on only one day a year for the atonement of the entire people. Suffice it to say this system was not meant to last forever. It was imperfect in that it precluded the inclusion of all of the other peoples of the earth and it precluded any personal contact between God and man. It was this personal contact that was God’s ultimate desire and to that end He offered up the most amazing of sacrifices on our behalf. Within His own system of atonement God presented His Son Jesus, a perfect and holy substitute for the sin of man, to be killed for us. Once the sacrifice was effected mankind’s relationship with God changed forever. Once He raised His Son back to life our eternal relationship with Him was sealed. The death and resurrection of Jesus changed everything that had gone before. We are no longer bound by circumcision or any other of the 613 ordinances of the Law. With Jesus we have received all of the benefits of that old system and the promise of eternal life with Him in heaven. Our circumcision is now within our own hearts when we recognize the sin that lies within us and we choose to root it out, much as the knife removes the foreskin of a child, and replace it with determination to follow after our new King. Romans 2:29 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Philippians 3: 4 Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: This confidence in the flesh is reliance on the ‘works’ of the Law for at least a piece of one’s salvation. Under the Law salvation was dependent upon how well one could atone for each infraction of it. A person could be made unclean in such a variety of ways that I imagine it was very difficult to have solid hope of temporal peace with God let alone a future eternity. The word ‘works’ today hints at much the same kind of thing except without the seriousness of the Law to back it up. Nowadays men speak of works in relation to the good things that they do in the name of God. Works are our acts of charity, our attendance at church, our submission to authority, our doing of the very things that Jesus commanded us to do; that is, loving others. The church has fallen into the trap of depending on the good things we do in the name of God to save us from the bad things that we do. Paul told us to do the good things in response to the gift of grace received from Jesus. We are to work because it is right to do so, that others may be saved and that others may see the greatness of the Love of God. We don’t work for salvation itself because that was already given to us. And yet there is man’s pride again, puffing him up into thinking more of himself than of others and forgetting where it was that we all started on our journey to the Lord- at His feet under threat of damnation. As Paul says, our works, our confidence in the flesh to earn us favor from God, is foolishness. We must have no confidence in ourselves but only confidence in what He has promised to do for us. In response to that, in our flesh, we must go out and seek to spread His love and gift to others.

Philippians 3: 4-6 If anyone else thinks he has reason for 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; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. This has been called Paul’s ‘resume.’ It is his list of credentials as a follower of God and as a righteous Jew. In Jerusalem Paul was a rising star. He was a student of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and willing to put action toward the defense of his theology and doctrine. Paul writes in Galatians that he was advancing beyond his contemporaries in zeal for the “traditions of [his] fathers” (Galatians 1:14). And according to his birth there was nothing that would prevent him from acting on his zeal against the ‘best’ of men. He was a Jew by birth, he lived in Jerusalem and worshiped at the temple, his parentage made him a 100% certified Israelite. From Matthew Henry: “He was not a proselyte, but a native Israelite: of the stock of Israel. And he was of the tribe of Benjamin, in which tribe the temple stood, and which adhered to Judah when all the other tribes revolted. Benjamin was the father’s darling, and this was a favourite tribe. A Hebrew of the Hebrews, an Israelite on both sides, by father and mother, and from one generation to another; none of his ancestors had matched with Gentiles.” As to his doctrine it was as flawless as man could make it. Paul adhered to the “strictest” sect of the Jewish religion, the Pharisees. From scripture we get the idea that this sect attempted to follow every single commandment of God and observed every ritual to the letter. They tried to be the literal jot and tittle that Jesus declared would never pass away until heaven and earth were destroyed. They were the ones most often to cast a question at Jesus in an attempt to trip Him up and make Him blaspheme. From Harper’s Bible Dictionary: “The picture of the Pharisees derived only from the Gospels and formerly accepted as historical, that they were little more than legalists and hypocrites and were culpably blind to Jesus’ message, has largely been discredited as early Christian polemic against Jewish and rabbinic leadership.” That he was circumcised on the eighth day and declares himself blameless and righteous points to his own confidence in his former adherence to the Pharisee sect. Paul knew that he was doing everything in the correct way. He knew that he was following the Law perfectly. He measured his cumin (Matthew 23: 23) and weighed out his tithe. His tassels were the correct length (Matthew 23: 5), his prayers were both public and long (Matthew 23:14), his sacrifices were without blemish and his morality was untarnished. Paul took the word of the Lord seriously and literally and the life that he lived on behalf of that Law was impressive. In short, Paul once had everything. He was a respected member of the community. He held a position of honor in the temple courts. He personally felt that he was living the life that God had planned for him to live. So where is the rub? This man had it all, where is the negative? The negative is that for all of his zeal and for all of his righteousness he had missed the entire point of the Law! In Matthew 23 Jesus describes the Pharisees as hypocrites. They were seekers of self who cared very little for those that they were put in place to teach and to care for. They as a group had missed the point of the Law, which was to help them to see their own sin and their very great need for God’s salvation. They were supposed to have been humbled by the Law and to have worked together to build a community that reflected humility in its care and concern for each other. I get the impression from this passage and the others that Paul was not the kind of a man that Jesus warned against. I believe Paul when he says he was righteous. I believe that he was righteous, as far as he understood it. I think that if Paul were to have been in the crowds when the Pharisees had tried to trip Jesus up with their clever arguments that Paul would have walked away troubled, but not because Jesus had outwitted him but because Jesus’ words rang true. Paul’s integrity as a believer is what comes through most clearly in his writings. He was sincerely zealous for the holiness

of God. The sad part is that he was sincerely wrong about how that holiness ought to have been played out in his own life. This should be humbling for us. How often can we admit to feeling righteousness in our pursuit of God? If we can then we must ask the follow up question- are we righteous because of our adherence to the Law of Love or because of the legality of our doctrine?

Philippians 3: 7-9 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith Here is where Paul’s integrity shines through. Paul willingly discarded everything that he had and had accomplished. When he learned that his life as a Pharisee and zealot of the temple was not what God had intended he turned from it immediately and began a new course. We hear the pain of this turning and the shame that Paul felt when he recalled that life. He was still the man who had watched over the death of Stephen. In the body Paul was still the man who was sent out to round up the heretical Christian sect. We are who we once were, even when we wear the robes of the Son of God as Christians. This is the nature of being stuck in our linear timeline. Our actions always precede us and the shame of them lingers in our memories and do not leave us alone. Thank God for the forgiveness we feel at the same time or we might perish in our guilt. Paul counted up his misdeeds and weighed them on the scales of his new righteousness and found that all of their glitter and gold amounted to nothing. They actually added up to a deficit; he counted them as loss. All that he had done and been on behalf of God was worth less than if he had done nothing at all. In the spirit, however, Paul was a new creation. When Jesus spoke to Paul when he was on his way to Damascus Paul became new. He believed in the Messiah and understood at once what that meant for his doctrine. God was not who he thought He was. God loved all men. God wanted all men to be saved. All of Paul’s energy as a Pharisee was put into his new work as an apostle. God took the incredible sincerity and zeal of Saul and put it to work in Paul. This is great news for us who long to serve the Lord but have years of ‘rubbish’ cluttering our past as well. God can change the direction of our lives and while he won’t remove the rubbish He will use the energy that once created it. He will take talents that once worked for evil and use them for good. We must think of it as Paul did. The past is concerned primarily with self and therefore has to be tossed out. The present and the future can be concerned with God and others if we will accept His direction and leading. Which will we choose?

Philippians 3: 10-11 That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. From Matthew Henry: “Observe, His care to be found in Christ was in order to his attaining the resurrection of the dead. Paul himself did not hope to attain it through his own merit and righteousness, but through the merit and righteousness of Jesus Christ. "Let me be found in Christ, that I may attain the resurrection of the dead, be found a believer in him, and interested in him by faith,’’” Henry says that Paul wanted more than anything to feel the power of the work of Jesus Christ in his own life. To know the power of Christ’s resurrection, Henry says, is to feel the transforming power of God battling against the sinfulness at work in our members. Paul was all too conscious of his own past and his own shortcomings as

an apostle; he willingly forsook all that he once was and all that his sinful heart had hoped he would become in order to feel the strength of God at work in his life. Paul was ‘all in’ for Jesus. He wanted to know Christ, to feel Christ, and to become like Christ in his words, thoughts, and deeds. And then, when all was said and done, Paul longed for the day when he would finally be completed and rise to heaven, glorious and new, to live with his Christ forever. From Matthew Henry: “Observe, The apostle was as ambitious of being sanctified as he was of being justified. He was as desirous to know the power of Christ’s death and resurrection killing sin in him, and raising him up to newness of life, as he was to receive the benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection in his justification. “

Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Paul knows that he has not made it- yet. He has not ‘arrived.’ He longs for the knowledge that will come when either Christ returns or he is called home. He longs for his resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15:42-44) even though there will be suffering along the way as he works out the mission that Jesus had prepared for him. Paul knows that he is not yet perfected, that there is still his past in the midst of his life and there is still the consequences of all of his previous sin. He knows that even as apostle he is not perfect. He admits to as much in Romans 7:15 where he says that he longs to do good but does not always do so and that the bad that he does not want to do, that is what he sometimes does. This is a man that we can trust and look up to. He does not lord it over us as some do nor is he weighing us down with unnecessary burdens. No, Paul was on the same journey that we are on and he faced the same struggles that we face. We are not perfect, but neither was this apostle! So what is the prescription for our sin-sick souls? We are to press on as Paul did. We are to fix our eyes upon Jesus as the writer of Hebrews said (Heb 12:2), and move forward. We are to forget about the past and its ugliness and look to the future and its bright shining hope. We are to press on toward our goal, to make it our own, to win Christ in our lives. We are not there yet, and at the time of this writing Paul knew that he was not there; but we will be one day, if we persevere in our earnest striving to be more like our Savior. One day we will arrive- in heaven, at the doorstep between this life and the next, and Jesus will be waiting there for us with his arms open wide. I know that he hugged Paul and said, “Well done.” I really hope that is what He says to me.

Philippians 3:15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Which will we be for the rest of our lives- bottle fed or eaters of solid food? Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Co 3:2) that they were still fleshly, they were still acting as if they had no Savior. But they did have a Savior in Jesus, and so do we. We have claimed the name of Christ for our own and we have been called the children of God by God Himself so we must not act as children who selfishly cling to their old ways, refusing to give up their bottles when the time has come for real food. Paul calls for maturity among the believers. Paul calls them to think upon these things as he himself did. The mature believer must recognize his own sin, in the past as well as the sin that besets him in the present, and recognize that he is not yet where he ought to be. Paul calls us to a life of maturity marked by this recognition and the knowledge that we no longer live in that past or under the power of our sin but in the future where one day it will be

taken from us forever. Maturity is looking forward and placing hope in the One who will save us from ourselves. Maturity is holding on to what we do have, the gains that we have made, the knowledge that we possess, and the faith that is ever growing. We must hold on, persevere, until our final glory is revealed. Amen?

Philippians 3: 17-21 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3: 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. Jesus is our great example. He went through everything that we are going through. He lived this life. He experienced its turmoil and its temptation. Jesus knows our struggles and our pain because He lived them on our behalf. And He succeeded where we often fail. God has placed before us many others who might serve as examples if we can humble ourselves enough to look to them for guidance. Recognition of sin is the first step to becoming a believer but it is also the first step a believer takes in learning to overcome its effect on a life. We must look to the writers of scripture for our example of godly living and the means to succeed where in the past we have failed. We might also look to those in our churches who are worthy examples and we might try to be that example to those who are yet on the way. We are waiting for our eternity but we are not stopping our endeavor to be as clean as we can make ourselves before that day.

Philippians 3: 18-19 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. We do not want to be like these others- Paul is possibly referring again to the trouble makers that were disrupting the believers at Philippi (1:15, 3:2). Their end is as certain as ours once was unless they too turn and repent and begin again. These others live to feed their own flesh. The picture of a glutton is used to symbolize their intentions to fulfill self before all else. They want to be filled both physically and spiritually but they want it on terms that they themselves dictate. The unbeliever or the ‘fallen’ Christian is a danger to himself and to whatever body he aligns himself with. They will end in shame because they are focusing exclusively on their own satisfaction. But we, we have our hope in heaven. Paul writes that our citizenship is not of this world but is of heaven. Therefore, we do not conform ourselves to this world and its ways. We do not seek after our own pleasure but rather the pleasure of God and of our brothers and sisters. We have a larger goal for our energies for we focus on the kingdom of heaven above all else. Jesus said that when we do that, when we seek His kingdom first above all other things, than all those other things will in the end be ours as well (Matthew 6:33).

Philippians: Chapter 4
Philippians 4: 1-3 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these

women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Paul wraps up his letter with a few last reminders and exhortations. The first of which is a plea to two women in the church at Philippi to get along with each other. We do not know the particulars of their disagreement, perhaps it had something to do with the Judaizers or the ‘star’ preachers Paul wrote about. Perhaps it was something to do with the service of the church. Whatever it was it was enough of a problem for Paul to have received word of it while in prison. It was enough of a problem for him to take note of it in this letter to the Philippians. I guess that anytime a division arises in the church it is a serious problem. When we argue with each other and cannot resolve our differences we create a divide amongst the brethren in the body that takes our focus off of our service to God and each other and puts it on ourselves and our own desires. Paul “entreats” these women to agree with each other. This sounds like a heartfelt plea for unity. Paul also asks the rest of the church to help them come to agreement. It is not only the responsibility of the two in disagreement to work out their differences but it is the duty of the body itself to help with the healing. Paul encourages the women to agree and he encourages the body to help them come to agreement. And then Paul reminds them that they are all together part of something much bigger than any of them are individually. Paul reminds them that they are written into the Book of Life- that they now live forever. He refocuses their attention on the Lord and their future eternity with Him. That ought to be their true focus and anything that gets in the way of service and rejoicing over that should be done away with. Philippians 4: 3 whose names are in the book of life. In heaven there are books in which have been recorded the deeds of men. Revelation speaks of several books being opened at the ‘Great White Throne Judgment’ one of which is called the Book of Life. According to what is written about a person and whether or not your name is listed in the Book of Life will determine whether you will gain access to heaven or are thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20: 11-15). Jesus soberly reminded His followers that every word that they speak and have ever spoken would be answered for. He said that by every word spoken you will either be justified or condemned (Matthew 12: 36-37). In the Old Testament this book is mentioned several times as well. When Moses was dealing with the aftermath of the golden calf (Exodus 32) God promised him that whoever has sinned against Him will be blotted out of his book. These are very troubling passages. We like to think that we are not accountable for our sin. The unbeliever especially has no fear of this book or any other because He refuses to even believe that there is a God in Heaven to record such a Book. Believers on the other hand seem to have forgotten the nature of the God that we serve or we are so enamored with the idea that we have no accountability for our sin because of what Jesus did for us that we do not take it seriously anymore. But it is clear from Scripture, from the recorded Word of God, that we are accountable, even after we believe and confess the name of Jesus as our Lord. Every word, Jesus said, every word will be answered for. That means that every curse I have uttered- every foul word I let fly out of my mouth, every angry outburst, every sarcasm, every course joke, every obnoxious comment, every selfish commentary, every egotistical statement- has been recorded and will be presented to me on judgment day. I will be deeply ashamed when I stand before the Lord in that place and He shows me what I have done with the life that He has given me. He washed me of the filth of my previous life and made me new again. I re-entered that filth time and again and made myself dirty. What will He say to me? What will He do to me? We don’t like to think that maybe we are not ‘once saved, always saved.’ We do not want to entertain the idea that maybe we can be removed from the Lord’s book if we continue to walk in an unworthy manner before Him. Just

considering that ‘what if’ scares me. But I think it is a true consideration. We do well not to take the Lord’s grace for granted. In scripture I get the feeling that we are to be wary of how we live our lives. I get the idea that He means perfect when He tells us to be perfect. And I get the idea that God is serious about our holiness and expects us to be serious also. What would it take to make us serious? Lord, I know I have done wrong. I know that I am weak and often feel unable to right myself. I have no consistency and I am unable it seems to remain upright and holy. I cling to You and Your promises as my lifeline. You are my only hope of salvation and I long for the day when I am free of this cursed body and mind and I get to walk beside you in Your heaven. Please do not blot me out of Your books. Philippians 4: 2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Philippians 4:3 Together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, Add these to the names of people who served alongside Paul in his ministry. Add these to Epaphroditus and Timothy as the few throughout history who have the honor of being recorded in the Word of God- a book given to mankind by God Himself and which has been printed and reprinted, translated and retranslated, read and reread a kabillion times. That business such as this was included in scripture is telling. It gives us an insight into the nature of God that He would allow business to be conducted in the medium that He was using to convey His great plan of salvation to all of creation. God often used (and uses) the little guy in His works. He chooses the sinner, the fisherman, the farmer, and the shepherd to become the greatest in His kingdom. He chooses to write His words in a book that is compiled from the letters of a former persecutor to his fledgling churches. Doesn’t that make our God real? By that I mean, is He not more understandable that way? More relatable? More easily touched? I think so.

Philippians 4: 4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. A second reminder to his beloved church- remember to be reasonable and gentle with each other. This is a good reminder for all of us. We can too easily be abrasive in our relations with each other. We can forget the nature of our relationship with our brothers and sisters and allow pettiness and squabbles over relatively unimportant things color that relationship. Paul reminds us of our status as brothers and sisters. We are one in the Lord and He is near to us. Be gentle, Paul says, and bring every concern to the only One who can truly help. We have no real cause to worry or to be anxious, for God is with us and we cannot really change anything on our own anyway, right? Once we come to that conclusion it is an easy thing to see that our lives will be filled with a new peace. We will be more able to rest with each other and to allow God to work in each believer as He will work; this will bring us peace. From the Baker New Testament Commentary: “Peace is the smile of God reflected in the soul of the believer. It is the heart’s calm after Calvary’s storm. It is the firm conviction that he who spared not his own Son will surely also, along with him, freely give us all things (Rom. 8:32). “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee” (Isa. 26:3). In the present context it is the God-given reward resulting from joyful reflection on God’s bounties, magnanimity toward the neighbor, and trustful prayer to God.”

Philippians 4: 8-9 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Paul’s third reminder to his beloved church to be worthy of all that God had given them; another reminder to follow the example that he had left for them. He did not know how things would go for him, so in a sense every letter that he wrote might be the last they would receive from him. These two verses are beautiful in their simplicity and they seem to be a parting call to his children to be good, to behave with each other, and to keep the rooms of their hearts clean and tidy. Paul tells them, and us, to keep account of their thoughts here. We are to think on the holy things of the world, the things most closely related to God in heaven. We are to govern our minds to look only upon what is true, and right, and lovely. We are to focus our energies on praise and excellence. Which means, in converse, that we must turn away from things that are the opposite of these; we must turn from the false, and the ugly, and wrong. We must turn away from complaint and bitterness and a base existence. We have a choice every time we open our eyes to see either our Lord in the world or the devil and the fruit of man’s sin. If we choose to see the beautiful and to fill our hearts with light than we link ourselves to the God of Light and His great and abundant and sustaining peace. Matthew 6: 22-23 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Philippians 4: 10-13 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Paul thanks the believers for their concern for him and for their action on that concern in sending him their gift. We learn in 4:18 that Epaphroditus brought the gift from them to Paul and it was such that Paul felt well supplied. What is it to be content in any situation? What is the secret that Paul learned concerning hunger and plenty? The biggest obstacle to overcome when facing hunger would seem to be one’s own fear of the uncertainty of the future. That is, it would seem that way to me, one who has never faced hunger and therefore has never known that uncertainty. When writers like George MacDonald and Victor Hugo describe hunger they describe it as a burning in the belly, an insatiable craving for nourishment that is only abated when one gets a moment of sleep. It returns in full force upon waking and the satisfaction of that hunger becomes a person’s driving motivation during the day. When that hunger is pushed back a little by a bit of bread or perhaps even a solid meal the person is content for the moment. The worry of the next meal is in the future, they are supplied for now. Whether it be the fear of facing hunger for the first time or the painful burning of perpetual hunger the focus is the same; it is on self and the preservation of self. A hungry man seeks to save his own life and to put off the pain that accompanies such a slow death. The secret of overcoming this awesome natural inclination must be recognition of the overwhelmingly awesome power of God to give and to take away. Paul must have been so comfortable with God’s provision or lack thereof that he was placing his fate in the hands of the Lord in all things. The pain he felt in times of

hunger and want were seen as God’s will and therefore experienced gladly. If only we could attain to this kind of understanding and devotion; how it would change our lives! The biggest obstacle to overcome when experiencing plenty would seem to be complacency and ingratitude. It is all too easy to forget that all of your needs have been supplied from God and that it would be nothing at all for the sources of provision to dry up. We learn to complain when we are well supplied. We learn to judge the quality of our provision and to evaluate it as acceptable or less than acceptable. When we are well supplied we often begin to desire even better provision and we work to that end in order to satisfy the new craving that has sprung up in our minds. These are all false desires though and lead us only down a path toward ingratitude and selfishness. The secret of overcoming this must be an insistence on thanking the Lord for everything received and a constant, intentional recognition that we are well taken care of. We must always look to others that have so much less and accept that there is no reason for their lack of provision any more than our abundance of provision except it is the will of God. And we must always remember that we do not know the will of God completely and may find ourselves in that other position at any time. Thankfulness and our expression of it must mark us when we experience plenty.

Philippians 4: 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Underlying both of these conditions (hunger and plenty) and every situation in between is a constant seeking of the Lord for strength. Our greatest provision and the only sure thing that we have in this world is the love of Jesus and His promise to never forsake us. God will provide us with the strength we need to face whatever it is that He places in our path. We are never alone. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-11 9 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. From Matthew Henry: “I know both how to be abased and I know how to abound, v. 12. This is a special act of grace, to accommodate ourselves to every condition of life, and carry an equal temper of mind through all the varieties of our state. (1.) To accommodate ourselves to an afflicted condition-to know how to be abased, how to be hungry, how to suffer want, so as not to be overcome by the temptations of it, either to lose our comfort in God or distrust his providence, or to take any indirect course for our own supply. (2.) To a prosperous condition-to know how to abound, how to be full, so as not to be proud, or secure, or luxurious. And this is as hard a lesson as the other; for the temptations of fulness and prosperity are not less than those of affliction and want. But how must we learn it? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, v. 13. We have need of strength from Christ, to enable us to perform not only those duties which are purely Christian, but even those which are the fruit of moral virtue. We need his strength to teach us to be content in every condition. The apostle had seemed to boast of himself, and of his own strength: I know how to be abased (v. 12); but here he transfers all the praise to Christ. "What do I talk of knowing how to be abased, and how to abound? It is only through Christ who strengthens me that I can do it, not in my own strength.’’”

Philippians 4: 14-20 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus

the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen Paul’s language refers back to the offerings of the temple that would burn daily for the atonement of man’s sin. The smoke of those sacrifices rose to the heavens and their aroma pleased God. In the end though, the sacrifice was not what God wanted from man, the aroma was not God’s ultimate purpose. No, God’s pleasure and our truest sacrifice would be our loving and caring for each other. Paul tells the believers that their gift was both needed and gratefully accepted. They had done what no other church had done for him and their actions pleased the Lord. But it is not the gift that pleases God the most but that they acted on their love for Paul. They expressed in action their obedience to the Law of Love and that pleased the Lord greatly. Their expression of love is the ultimate sacrifice upon God’s altar. Hosea 6: 6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Philippians 4: 21-23 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Another reminder that Paul’s imprisonment is not in vain but will have lasting fruit: Paul sends greeting from the believers of Caesar’s household! Even in his imprisonment Paul is spreading the gospel and producing fruit for the kingdom. The Lord’s grace is really all that we have. The secret of life, if there is one, is to accept that grace- the gift of life in Christ- and to look always toward our future life with Him. Every thought and deed ought to have this ultimate destination in mind.

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