Friday, January 15, 2010

Philippians 1-3 (From Previous Blog)

Phil. 1
This beloved book begins with a greeting from Paul. In this greeting we see that the assembly at Philippi is well organized with a 1) body of believers, 2) Overseers an 3) Deacons. Everyone has a place and everyone knows their place. The structure of the assembly is very important, and the fact that everyone respects the leadership is crucial. This initially stands in contrast to the first known converts in Philipi according to Acts 16. Namely, Lydia and the Philippian Jailer. However, upon further review, we see that these two characters may have actually pointed to strength in the assembly.

Lydia attended the Women's prayer group by the river. She was spiritual and Paul deemed her to be faithful. She was a businesswoman (a seller of purple fabric), so it may be assumed that she had a good sense of leadership and how to run things. Further, she was able to lead spiritually, as she led her entire family to a saving knowledge of Christ. It is a controversial thing to mention a woman as a leader, but that need not be. A simple study of Priests and Prophets will put this issue in proper perspective. Both were ordained by God. However, Priests were to be only men, and were to function only in the Temple. Prophets (or Judges) could be both man and woman, and were useful vessels for God in other settings. Hence, Lydia was a leader in the Church at Philippi, though not necessarily a vocal leader in the assembly.

Likewise, in the case of the Philippian Jailer, he lead his entire family to the foot of the cross and they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. This shows that the strong assembly begins with a strong home. Then a strong home simply flows out into the assembly and, in turn, the Church. The Roman Soldier was also very well trained in the concepts of heirarchy and the virtue of good leadership. Hence, was both willing and able to lead and to be submissive.
Perhaps the assembly needs more leaders in submission. Remember that submission is never synonymous with supression. When submitting, one must clearly pronounce what they believe, but humbly respect the authority of the person God has placed over them. And so we should let the Deacons and Elders know how we feel concerning a situation, and reassure them that we will honor their decision.
Paul continues by explaining to the Philippians how he is greatly encouraged by them. Everyone needs encouragement in the Lord. He lays out 1) the joy of being with godly people, 2) the unification believers with in the gospel, 3) the promise that God is fashioning us, and 4) the affection that Christ teaches us to use on one another. He expounds on these points through the example of his emprisonment, which God used for the furthering of the gospel message.

Paul, in verse 15, tackles the issue of those who preach the gospel with selfish ambitions. He, in short, argues against the censorship of such persons. Obviously, he is not promoting the practice of any strife within the assembly of God's people. What he is arguing against is the silencing of solid gospel messages based solely on the assumption of the preacher's intent. He would prefer that the preacher be sincere in his message. But as long as the preacher presents an accurate message to lost souls. What good would quieting the speaker do? God controls the effectiveness of His Word, not the man. Many times a preacher may give an eloquent, fruitful message and become a believer many years later. If being a Christian is not even a criteria for fruitfulness, why would correct motives?
What Paul's argument boils down to is confidence in Christ to work all things out according to His plan. Christ is the center of Paul's joy. Christ is why he advises not to silence any preaching of the Gospel on any gray-area grounds. Paul also touches on the 1) efficacy of prayer, 2) reinforces te faithfullness of Christ, 3) the attainability of joy in a life devoted to Christ, and 4) a glimpse into the blessings God has in store for the believer once they depart this life.
Phil. 2
"Therefore," Paul begins this chapter, "if there be any encouragement in Christ." He says so because in the previous chapter he expressed what great discomfort he has gone through in Christ's service. Paul is able to find all of his encouragement in Christ. Consider that this is the apostle who was in jail (in Philippi no less) with Silas, and found a way to express his joy in Christ by singing hymns unto the Lord (Acts 16). The IF in this passage can also be read as SINCE.

Note the operative words in the first verse: encouragement, consolation, fellowship, compassion. Each of these has one things in common, listen to how these words work in real life. X encourages Y. X consoles Y. X & Y fellowship with each other. X has compassion on Y. The commonality is community. We need one another to make it through this life. Paul goes on to explain this dynamic through the chapter.

Note verse 2, Paul's joy will be complete when the believers are of one mind. He then explains what being of one mind means, namely: 1) acting out on the same love, 2) communing with the same God and 3) focusing on the same goal. These are the steps, Paul says, to being of one mind in the assembly.
The product of following these steps is humility. By (1) loving one another, we are to humble ourselves in favor of our brethren. We are not to look out for our own interests only, but factor in the best interests of others in every decision we make. By (2) cultivating a close relationship with God, we humble ourselves in His presence and should submit ourselves to His service. If everyone in the assembly were to draw closer to God, we would naturally draw closer to one another. By (3) focusing on the same goals, we become united in purpose, and humble ourselves to achieve the ultimate prize. In fact, we have a holy mandate to reach the lost, baptize them, disciple them & Remember the Lord. When we focus on the main goals, we leave ourselves with more things held in common and less to argue about.

Paul brings up the example of our Lord Jesus Christ and demonstrates how He humbled Himself in His incarnation. He is the ultimate example for those who claim to be little images of Him. It is clear that Christ met these three criteria in His mission to earth. He came to earth in love, in unity with the Triune Godhead & focused on the goal of the redemption of mankind. All of this produced Humilty in the Lord Jesus.
Lest we begin to feel that this process is simple, Paul reminds us that the exercize of our Salvation is laborious. We need to work, because God is working in us. Therefore, we should not grumble because whatever occurs in our lives is orchestrated by God. Everything that happens is full of Divine purpose. While at the present time the refining process seems excrutiating, the end result will be worth the work--because the one working on us is the Perfect Artisan. He will not be mocked. He never makes a mistake. The final product will be both useful and asthetically pleasing to Him. You can rest assured about that.

Paul closes the chapter anticipating to send a living example to the Philippians in th person of Timothy. His intentions are identical to Pauls. Timothy displays love for the Saints, close communion with Christ and a clear vision of the goal of the Christian life. Epaphroditus, again, is a living example of the humility resulting in like-minded unity given the fact that he came close to giving the ultimate sacrifice of love: his life.

Phil. 3
Paul again encourages the believers to rejoice in the Lord. He would not urge them to rejoice if they already experienced joy in the Lord. Hence, he pleads for them to find their joy in God. A literal interpretation of agape (the word commonly translated as Godly love in the scriptures) is, "to fing joy in the pleasure of others." In other words, it is a conscious act of determination. Further, you are determined to be pleased only when joy is found in another--Paul suggests that we be pleased in God's joy. This opens interpretation of this passage up to a host of answers to the question: what brings joy to our Lord?

The first of which is worship. We, as believers, can worship God as He wants to be worshipped. We can please Him fully by giving Him the devotion He deserves in the manner He desires. These are two distinct points when discussing worship. 1) We worship Him because He deserves to be worshipped. He is Almighty God and demands worship. He is All-Loving, and request only your devotion. He has both inherited and earned our worship. 2) We worship Him in the manner that He desires. The manner is, namely, humility. That manner, by the way, has always been the same. He has always required humility in worship. However, as Paul so eloquently describes from his own experience, that which God had set up quickly became about the capacity of man and confidence in his own ability. This is not the spirit in which we are to worship. Only the spirit of humility truly pleases God and allows us to experience full joy.

A third theme in this chapter is that of purity. Pauls urges the Philippians to beware of dogs, evil workers and the false circumcision. He wants to make sure that we are not conforming to the world. He instructs us not to set our mind on earthly things because that is what those whose end is destruction do. (Naturally, he means for us to set our minds on things above.) He wants us to keep unspotted from the world. To remain pure. To be holy, as God is holy. In short, to immitate Christ. To make our goals the same as His goals. In the end, our humility and purity will be realized and traded in for glory--the glory of Christ Himself. It will happen on the day that Christ subjects all things to Himself.

In short, when His pride and joy are revealed complete.

His pride and joy = us.
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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