Archive for March, 2015

Notes on Philippians – 1:22-23

If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.

Paul continues his explanation of how he is processing his current situation. He is in jail and he is unsure of the outcome, but he knows that in life or death it will be for the glory of Christ. Paul is confident that if the Lord spares his life, he will do so that he may continue to use Paul in ministry. Paul understands his life is one of service to his King and Savior. He was appointed as an apostle to the Gentiles. If he continues to live in the flesh, his work and the fruit thereof will continue. God will not deliver him through life merely for his earthly comfort, but for further service to King Jesus.

Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed bewtween the two.

Paul is not here implying that life or death is somehow his choice. Rather he is wrestling with what he wants. Why is this a hard decision? Isn’t continuing to live the obvious choice? Not for one such as Paul who so loves and prizes Christ. Paul knows this life is not lived for fleshly enjoyment, but for Christ, and death is a departure to be with Christ. The choice for Paul is continuing field service for the advancement of the gospel of his King, or going to his King and resting in his presence.

My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 

Here is the struggle of the issue. Eternal rest in the presence of the King is actually far better than the best we can come up with in this life. Paul, we will find out later, has seen life from both sides. He has lived in riches and in poverty. Paul is quite aware of the truth of this world taught by the preacher in Ecclesiastes:

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclisiastes 1:2-3 & 12:13-14).

Paul understands what the Sons of Korah sang in their Psalm,

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God…

For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness (Psalm 84:1-2, 10).

Paul has seen the realities of life from every angle and knows that life on earth is for service to the King in a fallen world and life with Christ in heaven is far better.

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Notes on Philippians – 1:18b-21

Yes, and I will rejoice,

Paul has just written of his gospel based joy. Now he gives more perspective on his view of life in Christ that is under-girding his joy.

for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,

Here is a bold reminder of the effectiveness of prayer and the real ministry of the Spirit. Paul’s confidence is inspired by two realities: 1) the Philippians prayers and 2) the help of the Holy Spirit, here called the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Paul is confident that the Lord will hear the prayers of the Philippians on his behalf and will answer them. Paul is confident that the Holy Spirit will help him. Paul is confident that he will be delivered. We would do well to hear this reminder of the effectiveness of prayer and the real ministry of the Spirit in the lives of the saints.

as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed,

Paul is also confident in the truth of God’s Word. Paul knows that God will keep him and strengthen him and see him through. Paul is “sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [him] from the love of God in Christ Jesus [his] Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Paul will not bear the shame of walking for a little while and then turning back. Paul will not bear the shame of betraying his Savior. How is Paul so sure of this? Because prayer is effective and the ministry of the Spirit is real.

but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body,

What does it mean for Paul to not be ashamed? It means Christ being honored in his body. Paul does not have a rosy picture of life in Christ. He is quite aware that it will take “full courage.” Jesus has never promised people easy lives if they follow him faithfully, that is a theological invention self-interested Christians that seems to blossom to its fullest in cultures that are accepting of Christianity. The Christian life takes courage. Honoring Christ takes courage. Paul is confident that he will have this courage because prayer is effective and the ministry of the Spirit is real.

whether by life or by death.

Paul does not have a view of deliverance that is synonymous with a good life in this world. Paul’s understanding of deliverance includes his death. Deliverance is not a good life. Deliverance is rest in Christ. Our death in this world brings the ultimate rest in Jesus Christ. What a tragedy it is that we so often view a Christian’s death as a non-answer or a negative answer to our prayers for their deliverance. Perhaps this is because our prayer is actually for our own comfort to come about in way we approve. We hold life in this broken world in too high regard when we cannot fathom death as deliverance. Paul gives some feet to this thought when he says,

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

If Paul lives he lives for Christ. We are all pious enough to accept this tenet. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We should live lives in service to the King. You would be hard pressed to find a professing Christian who won’t acknowledge these various statements as true. Paul’s second maxim however, causes us to trip over ourselves. “To die is gain.” Sure we will go along with it, after all it is in the Bible and we have to. But our acceptance of this reality is betrayed by our inability to see death as deliverance. Here we see why Paul can say such a seemingly outlandish things as “this will turn our for my deliverance” while seeing death as one way that could happen. In the coming verses Paul will remind us that death means departure to be with Christ. This is why he can see death as deliverance. Deliverance is rest in Christ. Death brings our departure to be with Christ in eternal rest.

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Notes on Philippians – 1:15-18a

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.

In the last verses Paul was rejoicing, though he was in prison, over the advancement of the gospel. His imprisonment had caused some to be “much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:14). It would be easy to assume all of these bold preachers were friendly to Paul, especially since he calls them “brothers” in v14; however, we find that there were two groups of people preaching the gospel boldly.

The first group is preaching from an ill motive, “envy and rivalry.” Paul seems to be dividing the brothers into two groups. Perhaps there was group who didn’t like Paul and his ministry, so they were stepping in when they saw a good opportunity (more later on what that opportunity was). Or this could be a group who were distinct from the “brothers”, that is, they were non-Christians who saw an opportunity to strike a blow on this growing movement. Either way, the were ill motivated in their preaching.

The second group Paul mentions in this verse are the friendlies. They are preaching out of good will, that is a genuine desire to see the gospel advance. These are certainly some of the “brothers” of v14.

The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.

These brothers saw things as Paul did, with an eye towards the larger goal of advancing the gospel. Even if they could not offer an immediate explanation, they understood that Paul’s imprisonment was somehow part of God’s plan for the advance and defense of the gospel. They understood that to love Paul was to love the gospel, because Jesus Christ and the good news concerning him was Paul’s first love. So out of a love for Paul and and a love for the gospel, which they shared with Paul, they preached more boldly.

The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.

The ill motivated preachers of the gospel saw Paul as a rival. It is unclear whether this rivalry was the type that sadly exists between jealous preachers or the type that existed between the Paul and Judaizers. Understanding the type of rivalry is not particularly important for understanding the situation. Paul’s point is that they were insincere despite their apparently orthodox gospel. Why think they were preaching an orthodox gospel?

Notice that Paul says they are proclaiming Christ. Paul was not one to dork around with the gospel. He famously wrote to the Galatians.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one your received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9).

Paul was neither unclear about the gospel nor shy about challenging someone who distorts the gospel. We must understand that if Paul is satisfied with the content of their proclamation of Christ, then we are quite safe assuming it was a sound gospel.

Here we see the opportunity the rivals saw and were ready to take advantage of. It seems that in order to increase the difficulty of Paul’s time in prison, where he found himself for his own preaching, the rivals were seeking to make as big of a deal as possible of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Recall, the greater the distance that existed between Judaism, an approved religion of the Roman empire, and Christianity, the greater the difficulty for Christians. If the gospel continued to grow as a cultural force distinct from Judaism, the situation of this leader of the church who was being held in prison would certainly decline. This was the ill motive of those who preached Christ from envy and rivalry. This was the opportunity they were taking advantage of.

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

The ill motivated preachers were preaching in pretense. They were pretending to be about the gospel when in fact they were not. Perhaps this tips the scale on the debate as  to whether these spiteful preachers were jealous pastors or unbelievers. No matter says Paul, so long as the gospel is proclaimed. Paul’s joy was not found in his comfort, reputation, or even life in this world. Paul’s joy was in Christ and him proclaimed.

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Notes on Philippians – 1:12-14

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,

What exactly has happened to Paul? He has been put in prison for his faith. We see this in v13 where Paul writes, “my imprisonment is for Christ.” Apparently, as would be expected with those to whom one is close, there was some anxiety over Paul’s imprisonment on the part of the Philippians. Paul writes to encourage the Philippians.

Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians is not of the “Hey, it’s going to be okay. This will all work out for me in the end” category of encouragement. He is very clear later in the letter that he is quite unsure what the future holds. His hope is certainly that he will remain and be able to continue to serve his brothers, but he is unsure what will happen. Paul’s encouragement is along gospel lines. His point is, gospel advancement is worth my imprisonment. Don’t grieve my imprisonment, rejoice that the gospel has been advanced.

Paul then gives two examples of how the gospel has advanced due to his imprisonment.

so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

The first way Paul mentions the gospel advancing is by his story being spread around. To be sure this is neither the “all publicity is good publicity” nor the “by any means necessary” line of thinking. Paul’s line of thinking is driven by a recognition of and resting in God’s providential rule and care. We are not called to pursue persecution for the cause of Christ, but we are called to rest in God’s sovereign grace in the face of persecution for our faith in Christ. By resting, or being content as Paul terms it in chapter 4, Paul is able to recognize that God’s plan of advancing the gospel has not been thwarted but upheld even through his imprisonment.

The emperor’s guards, and apparently a lot of others involved, had been introduced to Christ through hearing Paul’s story. While the first large scale persecution of Christians did not begin until AD 64 under Nero, there was already growing tension between faithful Romans, Jews, and Christians largely because the latter two refused to worship the Roman gods. While the Jews enjoyed some level of tolerance as a “religio licita”, approved religion, there was already tension under the reign of Claudius, which was from AD41-AD54. We read of the result of this tension in Acts 18:1-4, where we find that Claudius had commanded all Jews to leave Rome. Further, while Judaism was an approved religion, Christianity was not. As the distance and disagreements between Judaism and Christianity grew, Christianity was increasingly marginalized in the Roman Empire. Through Paul’s imprisonment, the gospel was advancing into the heart of a hostile territory. For Paul, this was reason to rejoice even though he was in prison.

And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Throughout history, the church has flourished in times of persecution. Tertullian is often quoted as saying, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.” Of course this is not a hard and fast rule, the apostle Peter stands as a glaring counter-example in his denying Jesus three times. Nonetheless, Christians throughout history have been emboldened in their faith by the suffering of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians that through his imprisonment, other Christians are being emboldened to preach the gospel. In a time when we often count suffering as a sure sign that we are doing something wrong, we need to hear Paul’s reminder that it was through the suffering of his Son, Jesus, that God brought redemption to his people, and it is often through the suffering of his people that the gospel of Jesus advances.

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Notes on Philippians – 1:9-11

And it is my prayer

Paul was always praying for the Philippians, these people whom God had used to encourage him, partner with him, and fill his heart with joy. Paul would bring his dear friends into the throne room of God, thank God for them and seek his blessing on their behalf. What was his prayer?

that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and discernment,

Paul wanted the Philippians to grow in love. This and other verses show us that Paul saw love as basic to the Christian experience. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Then after a bit of discussion he adds, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Also, in his pastoral letter to Timothy, Paul writes, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). Paul places a premium on love as a part normal and necessary part of the Christian life.

The love Paul has in mind in Philippians,, as well as the other two passages, is quite substantial. Paul writes to Timothy of a love that flows from “a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” He writes to the Corinthians of a love that among other things is defined by rejoicing with the truth. Here in Philippians Paul’s prayer is that love “may abound more and more, with knowledge and discernment.” Paul is not simply praying that the Philippians would be nice to each other and to him, but that they would be growing and increasingly grounded in the love of God – a love flowing from God (“We love because he first loved us” 1 John 4:19.), a love founded on the truth of God. Therefore it is a love abounding “with knowledge and discernment.”

Paul then gives a handful of motivations for his prayer of love.

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’s motivating desire in his prayer the Philippians love is their good and God’s  glory. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians was not primarily so that he could benefit from their growth in love but so they could and so God would be glorified.

As their love abounded in knowledge and discernment they would be able to approve what is excellent. Later in Philippians Paul writes,

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 (Philippians 4:8).

The love of God, for which Paul prays on behalf of the Philippians, is always connected with truth and excellence because its source is the God of all truth.

Notice the result of approving what is excellent. They are “pure and blameless” and “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.” That is, they are dying unto sin and living unto righteousness by growing in the love of God which is abounding “more and more, with knowledge and discernment.” In short, as we learn to love God with a love that has God as its source, we also learn to love the things of God. Again John makes a similar point when he writes,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love o God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him (1 John 4:7-9).

It should be no surprise that both Paul and John connect love and all that flows from love with Jesus Christ. First, Jesus is God and God is love and love is from God. Second, the way God loved the world was by sending his Son as the savior of the world.

Finally, Paul’s desire is that God would be glorified and praised through the Philippians growth in love. The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks,  ”What is the chief end of man?” and answers, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Our growth as Christians is not primarily about us  and the benefits that may come through a life of love, but God’s glory.

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Notes on Philippians – 1:7-8

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold in you my heart,

There is no requirement for Christians to be glum or stoic. Paul’s partnership with the Philippians fills him with joy, and Paul says this is a good thing. The Philippians have become very dear to Paul, so they are a source of joy.

for you are all partakers with me of grace,

The “partnership in the gospel” that Paul has with the Philippians is a commraderie of grace. They are united by something much stronger than what we are typically united by. By grace through faith, Paul and the Philippians are united together in Christ. Grace established their unity, and grace rules their partnership. Undertanding that I am established by the same grace as every other Christian throughout history is a humbling and joy producing realization. It is humbling because it means I don’t have a leg up on anyone. It is joy producing because it means I can’t undo it.

both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. 

The Pauline-Philippian partnership was not simply a good-time-Charlie reality. The Philippians had proved they were partakers of grace with Paul in times of suffering and in the trenches of ministry. They did not just tout their theological hero from afar, reveling in the victories and only knowing the difficulties they are allowed to see, as the internet allows us to do today. The Philippians were involved in Paul’s ministry. They cared for Paul in prison. As we saw in Acts 16, at least one of them was converted through Paul’s prison suffering. Their lives were intimately woven together by their being beneficiaries of the grace of God. The grace of Jesus Christ actively overcame all that could have legitimately divided them in this world.

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Paul loved the Philippians. He loved them with the love of Christ, a love that led to humiliation and sacrifice for the sake of others. Of course, we will never die a substitutionary death for anyone, but the sacrificial love of Christ is still a pattern for our love for others. Peter writes, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Such is the life of grace.

 

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Notes on Philippians – 1:7

It is right for me to feel this way about you all,

Paul is full of joy because of what God is doing in the lives of the Philippians. Occasionally, we forget that joy is the proper response for God working out his sovereign, gracious will in our lives and the lives of those around us.

because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace,

Paul has already said the Philippians were his partners in the gospel. The Philippians are precious to him. Paul loves them. They are all partakers of the grace of Jesus Christ. Often when we find it hard to have such love for other believers and are judgmental, it is because we have forgotten that we are all partakers of grace. This happens when we think too highly of ourselves. Thinking too highly of ourselves results in us either thinking we deserve grace and others don’t (which is a massive distortion of grace) or thinking we don’t need the same grace that others do (which is a massive distortion of our righteousness). All Christians are partakers of grace with one another. We are in this together.

both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel.

Paul’s joy did not come from his circumstances or ease of life. He was being poured out for the gospel constantly, working tirelessly and joyfully to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul’s joy didn’t come from an easy, laidback life. Paul’s joy came from being satisfied with Christ and fixed on the glory of God shown forth through the proclamation of his Word. Paul knew where joy was to be found. Occasionally, as we see here, Paul’s work landed him in prison. Even in prison Paul knew the joy and peace of Christ. Paul could know joy and peace in prison because despite his uncomfortable and difficult life circumstances, he still had Jesus Christ and, more importantly, he knew that Jesus Christ still had him. Earlier, in his letter to the Romans, Paul had written,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for goood, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul was not now going to sway from this truth and turn from his confidence in the gospel and love for the Philippians because he he was in prison. His life was hid with Christ in God. God was sovereign. He was a recipient of grace. Jesus wasn’t going to let him go. He was united to other believers by their mutual union with Christ. Paul’s joy and peace were anchored in these truths, not in his earthly life and circumstances.

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Notes on Philippians – 1:6

And I am sure of this,

Paul’s certainy of the truth and effectiveness of the God’s ongoing work in us is an encouragement to us. His certainty is also stated in Romans 1:16-17 where he writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Christians often struggle with doubt, while this is a normal part of the Christian experience in many way, we do not have to settle for doubt.

What exactly is Paul so sure of?

that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

First, who has begun this good work? While the antecedent is not explicitly defined, the context helps us understand that Paul has God in mind. For example, see verse 11 where Paul writes that “the fruit of righteousness comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Later in Philippians Paul writes, “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 salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (2:12-13).

What is the good work that God has begun and will complete in the Philippians? In verse 9 we see that Paul’s prayer for the Philippians is, “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.” The author of Hebrews writes, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). The work that God has begun is the perfecting of the saints. We often limit the work of God in our life to salvation, which we narrowly define as justification; however, justification of sinners is not the whole story.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism makes three important statements that are helpful in this discussion. First, WSC #33 asks, “What is justification?” The answers to this important question is, “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” Notice that justification is “an act of God’s free grace.” God acts; we are acted upon. Second, WSC #34 asks, “What is adoption?” giving the answer, “Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.” Again, God acts; we are acted upon. Finally, WSC #35 asks, “What is sanctification?” and answers, “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” While sanctification, in the sense that the Westminster Divines were using it here, is not a one time act but an ongoing work, it is still the work of God. Of course, the work of God is enabling us to increasingly put off sin and put on righteousness, but it is no less the work of God.

Paul is confident that God will finish what he has started. God will not leave his work unfinished, but the day of completion will be “the day of Jesus Christ” – the day of Christ’s glorious return, glory. Paul is writing the Philippians as saints, sinners who have been delcared righteous by God based on the finished work of Christ and are in process of being sanctified by God through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. We can be certain of two things: 1) if God has begun a work in us, he will complete that work; 2) if we are not yet in glory, the work is not yet complete. As we see our sin with ever increasing clarity, we need not fret that God has forgotten us or determined that we are too much work and moved on. God didn’t send his Son to die in vain; he will finish what he has started.

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Notes on Philippians – 1:3-5

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always, in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,

Paul’s time with the Philippians, as recorded in Acts 16:11-40 was intense and fruitful. As we see throughout the letter, the Philippians have cared well for Paul throughout his ministry. God has used the Philippians in numerous ways in Paul’s life and ministry, and thinking about them drives Paul to thank God. Paul recognizes that God has used the Philippians for his purpose. Paul does not deny or denigrate either the primary agency of God in caring for him or the secondary agency of the Philippians. We are often tempted to choose between divine agency and human agency when processing various events in our lives. Paul’s prayer reminds us that divine and human agency are neither identical nor contradictory. Paul is grateful for both God working in his ministry and the Philippians working in his ministry. He does not have to choose between the two. God has supported and encouraged Paul through the regular ministry and care of the Philippians. It is not just through the miraculous that God’s providential care comes, but also – and usually – through the ordinary. So Paul’s remembrance of the Philippians causes his heart and prayers to swell with joy before God.

because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 

Healthy ministry is never a one man show. If anyone could go it alone, Paul could, but here we are reminded that Paul, who is responsible for thirteen of the New Testament books and numerous churches being planted, worked in partnership with others. Gospel ministry is a community event. The Philippians partnership in the gospel is the cause of his joyful thanksgiving. Our culture celebrates the lone ranger who stands on his vision and is propelled forward by an unwavering drive. Even in ministry we exalt and celebrate such characters, imagining them to be like Paul, even calling the apostles (with a little “a” so no one gets the wrong idea, of course). We don’t find such characters in Scripture. We find that Paul was no rogue, but was submissive to the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) and worked in partnership with an ever growing community of believers who were mutually committed not primarily to himself, but the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Notes on Philippians – 1:1-2

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

Paul was a late coming apostle. He was a devout Jew (Philippians 3:3-6), even killing Christians as an act of religious discipline, who at a later date was confronted by Jesus in a vision for his actions (Acts 9). Upon his conversion, he was sent to the gentiles to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Timothy was a faithful Christian whose mother was Jewish and father was Greek. Paul and Timothy met in Lystra and began traveling together (Acts 16:1-5), making their way to Philippi where they planted a church.

In most of his letters, Paul introduces himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus. Philippians is one of four letters lacking this introduction. In the letter to the Philippians, Paul introduces himself and Timothy as servants. We could construe some creative explanations for this (e.g. this signals the theme of the letter), but it is best to stick to what we know. In the four letters lacking the apostolic appellation, Timothy, who is not an apostle, is the co-author, but both are indeed servants of Christ Jesus.

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi,

Paul addresses his letter to the saints, that is the Christians, in Philippi. We often think of saints as those people who are super-holy, super-faithful Christians. This is not Paul’s meaning. A saint is one who has been sanctified, declared holy. All of those whom the Holy Spirit has united to Christ by grace through faith are saints. Sure, Christians grow in grace and faithfulness and holiness, but in Christ we have all been declared holy. Paul was not writing to the elite Christians to encourage them, he was writing both to those who are mature and those who are infants, both to those who are strong and those who are weak and struggling, for all who are in Christ Jesus are saints.

Philippi is located in what is now northeast Greece, just off the coast of the Aegean Sea. The church at Philippi was founded on Paul’s second missionary journey, with Timothy and Silas, as recorded in Acts 16:6-40. In this account, we read of Lydia’s conversion, the first convert recorded in the area, the baptism of her and her family following her belief, Paul and Silas (not sure where Timothy was) going to jail after an uproar was caused by Paul performing an exorcism after becoming annoyed by a demon possessed slave girl who was very profitable for her owners (also Paul and Silas were beaten before they were imprisoned), Paul and Silas ministering to the jailer who was converted, and the baptism of the jailer and his family. Lydia, the jailer, and their families were some of the saints to whom Paul was writing.

with the overseers and deacons:

Overseers are what we call elders (technically the Greek word used here is bishop, but the Greek words for bishop and elder are used interchangeably in the New Testament) and deacons are deacons. Very early in the history of the church we see the two-fold office, elder and deacon, as the leadership structure for the church. Paul would later write to Timothy to give qualifications for elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace from God is the message that servants of Christ Jesus bring to the people of God on his behalf. In Christ we have God’s favor (grace) and his eternal peace. Christians have grace and peace from God and Christ because the Father sent Jesus, his eternal Son, as Lord, the covenant faithful God, and as Christ, the Messiah – the anointed one,  God’s ultimate prophet, priest, and king. Jesus has proclaimed to us the will of God for salvation as Prophet, has secured for us God’s grace and peace as Priest by his sacrifice of himself for our sin, and has conquered for us all of the enemies of God and his people as King.

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