Monday, December 28, 2009

Philippians - Part 5

Chapter 2 in Philippians includes a poem or hymn that summarizes the key point in the whole book. (My paraphrase of verses 5-18)

“You should approach life the way Jesus did. He did not hang on to every good thing heaven offered and he, as God, rightly deserved. He gave all that up in order to take on all the pains and deprivations of human life. Not only that, but he took on the role of a servant to the rest of humanity and submitted to the Father’s plan, up to and including execution as if he were a criminal.

That’s why God rewarded him with the throne above all thrones and will cause everyone that ever lived to praise him.

So then, you should continue to strive to live this completely selfless way. The same God that provides you with the desire to do this also provides you with the strength to do it. Sacrifice yourself for the sake of others without grumbling about it or harping on your great sacrifice. That will make you blameless children of God that will shine like lights in the world. That will also cause me great joy because it means by desires and labors for you have been effective. And we can rejoice together that God is using our sacrificial lives to accomplish his purposes.”

Then Paul gives two examples of people who sacrificed themselves to serve God’s people and purposes. Paul describes Timothy and includes this phrase. “Others are busy with their own concerns, not those of Jesus Christ.” The clear meaning is that Timothy approaches life the way Jesus did; in selfless service of others. Paul ‘s second example of a selfless life is the man the Philippian church sent as their messenger to Paul, Epaphroditis. “He risked his life in order to serve me on your behalf.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Philippians - Part 4

As Paul continues to explain his current situation, he mentions that people were preaching more boldly because he was imprisoned. “Some are preaching from good motives. Others are preaching out of a striving for personal advancement and hoping that their preaching will add to the misery in my imprisonment.” Either way, Paul was happy because whatever their motives, they were preaching the good news of Jesus. Paul’s attitude is amazing, but I find it very intriguing to wonder why someone that knew the truth well enough to preach it, would preach with the hope of harming Paul?

My best guess is this. These preachers with selfish ambition were promoting doctrines Paul would oppose. I suspect that these people were teaching something closely akin to the health and prosperity teaching common on television these days. If they were promoting this false doctrine along with the gospel it would make Paul’s chains more painful because he clearly disagreed with the teaching: Even more so because if the teaching were true, it would disqualify Paul as a man of God. Paul’s faith had placed him into persecution, beatings, and imprisonment… even while he had been in Philippi. If Christ will provide health and wealth to those that obey him and have faith, then Paul was a spiritual failure.

This hypothesis would explain the strong emphasis in this section and throughout the epistle on the necessity, importance, and joy of suffering for Christ. It would also explain how the advocates were preaching with the motivation of making Paul’s suffering worse. It would pain Paul for the false doctrine to be promoted in his absence. But it would also pain Paul for the credibility of his testimony to be undermined.

Ponder the import of these excerpts from the first two chapters, if Paul was being undermined by the teaching that if he was right with Christ and had enough faith, that he would be prosperous and wealthy.

“You were partners with me in my imprisonment.”

“You have been given the priviledge to suffer for Christ, as you are encountering the same conflict you saw me face.”

“Instead of being motivated by self-serving goals or pride, you should each be humble and moved to treat others as more important than yourselves. You should be concerned about the welfare of others, not just yourselves. Your attitude should be that of a servant who sacrifices for others, like Jesus did.

“Timothy is a reliable example of someone who thinks of others not himself.”

“Epaphroditus risked his life to serve me on your behalf.”

The teaching out of “selfish ambition” is not identified. I’m just taking an educated guess as to what it was… but either way the clear teaching is that we should be servants of Christ and His people, living and working on His agenda, not our own.

“For me, to live is Christ.” Can we honestly say that?

Philippians – Part 3

After the introduction, Paul writes about his situation. He was in prison, basically waiting for the verdict whether he would live or be put to death. The most frequent observation is summarized in Paul’s statement. “If I am allowed to live, I will live for Christ. If I am put to death then I have a huge personal benefit.”

Since Paul lived his life completely on Christ’s agenda rather than his own, in one sense he lived like he was dead already. “For me to live is Christ.” He was not living for his own personal goals, agenda, or benefit.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Philippians - Part 2

In the first few verses, Paul introduces himself and gives a few quick thoughts about the church to which he is writing.

“I always pray with joy in my every prayer for all of you because of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.” (1:4,5)

What was their participation? They had sent a financial gift, but it was the first one they had been able to send for quite some time, so participation “from the first day until now” doesn’t seem to fit. Their participation was so great that Paul viewed them as partners.

“I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel all of you became partners in God's grace together with me.” (1:7)

So…. First discussion question… what form(s) did their participation and partnership take?

They prayed for him. (not stated, but assumed)
They loved and him. (1:16)
They suffered for Christ like he did. (1:29,30)
They served on Christ’s agenda, not their own, like he did. (2:4,12)