Paul

The Work of God 3

After commending Timothy to the Christians in Philippi, the apostle Paul then writes at length about another faithful work and friend - Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus also provides an example of kingdom-life in the Messiah. Paul writes the following about him: 

"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 the Messiah, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me" (Philippians 2:25-30). 

Later in this letter, we discover that Epaphroditus had brought a gift of money and some news from the Philippian congregation to the apostle Paul. Paul explains, 

"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" (Philippians 4:18). 

Clearly, Epaphroditus' return to Philippi was greatly delayed, and the Philippians began to be concerned as to what might have happened to him. Regardless of what they may have begun to conclude about him, Paul wants to make it quite clear that sickness was the reason for his delay. It was not just that he go sick with something like the common cold, but he was so sick that he almost died. However, God compassionately kept him from death, so that the apostle would not have even more coals of pain heaped upon his heart. God's mercy and grace shine brightly in this passage!

Please note that even Paul's anxiety was not like some kill switch (v. 28), but it was something he had to work at in his own life (compare Philippians 4:6-7). It is also interesting that Paul starts by setting forth all of  the roles/characteristics of Epaphroditus, a man they all knew well. May we all follow his example in being willing to risk our lives for our fellow-workers and for the sake of the Messiah!

For His infinite worth,

Gantt 

The Work of God 2

Individuals who begin thinking and acting like the Messiah stand in stark contrast to the world in which they live. Following Jesus of Nazareth means thinking, talking, and behaving in ways that are quite different and often rare in any culture.

In the Philippian letter, Paul gives a poetic summary of the King's work on earth and ascension to the throne of glory (Philippians 2:5-11). He also sets forth some key application points regarding what it truly means to think and live like the Messiah Himself (Philippians 2:1-4). Possessing the mind of the Messiah will always lead to joining in the work of God (Philippians 2:12-18).

Paul then writes a lengthy section about two specific people: Timothy and Epaphroditus. At first glance, one might think that these two commendations are somewhat of a sidestep from the surrounding theological teaching, but a closer look shows that these words are quite connected to the theological content in the context. Timothy and Epaphroditus are both provided by the apostle as models for the Messianic lifestyle. 

Paul writes the following concerning Timothy:

"I hope in the Master 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 been a slave alongside me in the good news. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Master that shortly I myself will come also" (Philippians 2:19-24).

In these verses, Paul strongly commends Timothy, his spiritual child, to the church in Philippi. He is hoping to send Timothy to them so that he may learn further of their status and well-being (v. 19). His hope of sending Timothy is rooted in the Messiah and in His power/love.

But he tells them that he is waiting to see the outcome of his trial - whether he is released from prison, executed, etc (v. 23). It seems that Paul knows Timothy is eager to know what is going to happen to Paul and this way Timothy can bring the news of Paul's condition to the Philippians. Paul is confident that he will be released (at least for a time), and therefore, that he will soon follow Timothy in coming to them.

But notice that Paul singles out Timothy as someone who actually cares about the Philippian Christians (v. 20). Caring about the Philippians is made synonymous with being concerned about the matters of Jesus and His reign (v. 21). Seeking the interests of others (especially other children of God) is a fundamental part of seeking the interest of King Jesus (cf. Philippians 2:1-4). Timothy, like the apostle Paul, realized that the only thing that really matters is the Messiah and the good news about Him - that everything else is secondary to the King and His work (see also Philippians 3:4-11; and Matthew 6:24-34). What is the most important concern in our lives?    

Timothy had adequately demonstrated or proved his value to Paul and others in the past 9v. 22). Sons working with their father was very common in the ancient world - sons would usually become apprentices to their fathers. Such is the touching way Paul describes Timothy - regardless of the consequences, he was willing to loyally obey (as a slave of God) God right beside his father in the faith. Is that the way we see ourselves as a part of the body of Jesus? That we are all working as fellow-slaves together for the glory of God and the edification of God's people? May we all work together to that end! 

For His infinite worth,

Gantt 

Are You Engaged? 2 (Philippians 1:27-30).

Are you engaged in your Christianity? Are you fully-committed and involved in your walk with the King of kings? Are you an active part of a local congregation of holy ones who work in the kingdom and worship the King together? Almost a month ago we considered the correspondence and the cooperation of our engagement in the life of a disciple of the Messiah. Let us continue to explore this question with the apostle Paul...

Courage....

After exhorting the Philippian Christians to stand “side by side” for the good news of Jesus, Paul writes the following:

“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 the Messiah 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” (Philippians 1:28-30).

To even count the number of times the word of our God tells us, “Do not be afraid”, is quite the undertaking. Paul first tells us in this section of the text to not be intimated by those who stand in opposition to us and our cause in the Messiah. He was writing then to people living in the midst of a pagan world, but our current world is ever becoming more and more like the world of First Century Christianity. Even the Western-religious world of roughly a century ago is ultimately dead and gone today. Living in a pagan world helps to make the distinction(s) between godly living and sinful living even clearer, and it actually increases the faith of the faithful. Ultimately, it should not scare us or cause us to be alarmed... 

But this outside aggression is just another reason why we must strive for close unity with our fellow slaves of King Jesus. The presence of our unity under the storm of persecution is a sign that we are heading to the time when God makes all things right,...and to the time when God brings about His final punishment upon the wicked of this world.

Have you ever looked at persecution that way? Paul informs us that it is a sign of our deliverance from sin and death. It is a reminder that we are following in the footsteps of our Master...for as they scornfully attacked and brutally murdered Him, so they also antagonize us for obeying Him.

Paul then goes so far as to say that suffering for being a child of God is something God grants to us...as if it is a kind of gift. When we suffer for being Christians, we are partaking in the suffering of Jesus. Our suffering due to our faithful Christianity is a testimony that we are unified with the Master of the universe (see Romans 8:17; Luke 9:26; and Philippians 3:10). Remember: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Jesus the Messiah will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Yes, our world is becoming increasingly hostile toward God and all uncompromising Christians, but let us not be ashamed or afraid, for our Savior reigns on high and we are suffering to and for His immense glory. Instead of caving and compromising to the demands of a godless society, may we all give attention to being “engaged in the same conflict” that we see in the life of the apostle to the Gentiles (Philippians 1:30). It is upon this context of unity in the face of persecution from a secular world that Paul writes,

“So if there is any encouragement in the Messiah, 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 selfish ambition 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 Jesus the Messiah...” (Philippians 2:1-5).

 

For His infinite worth,

Gantt

Are You Engaged? (Philippians 1:27-30)

Well, are you engaged in your Christianity? Are you actively engaged in living for the King of kings? Is your attention intentionally focused upon glorifying Deity, serving His people, and reaching the lost with His kingdom message?

Correspondence

After expressing his gratitude for the ancient Christians in Philippi (Philippians 1:1-11), the apostle Paul describes and explains some current and pressing issues in his life (Philippians 1:12-26). The apostle to the Gentiles then exhorts, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27a). What does Paul mean by living in a way that is worthy of the good news of the Messiah? Can you honestly say such about your life?

It seems that the apostle is encouraging us to behave in such a fashion that corresponds to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 6:1-23). We are to conduct ourselves as loyal subjects in the reign of Deity, to live in daily submission to the King. Now that the Messianic kingdom has arrived, let us all turn from sin and start believing in the good news of Jesus (see Mark 1:14-15). Paul says something very similar in his letter to the Ephesians: “As a prisoner for the Master, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1). It truly is a powerful and challenging thought...living worthy of the good news of the cross and of Christianity. Jesus died for us...are we willing to live for Him and to live like Him? 

The term Paul uses to refer to our conduct literally refers to living as a model citizen in a city (see Philippians 3:20). Philippi was a Roman colony, and the Philippians would have been quite familiar with the concept of citizenship and having certain obligations to live up to in being a part of a greater whole. We are to dedicate ourselves to living according to the law of life that is found within the Scriptures of the Messiah.

Cooperation

After telling the Philippians to live in a manner that corresponds to the good news, Paul then explains the purpose as he says, “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” (Philippians 1:27b). These next few lines focus in on the work of unity within the people of Jesus. A lifestyle that is appropriate in relation to the good news will automatically lead us to standing together and striving together for God's holy truth...even in pagan society.

As Christians, we are to be caring for the needs of, sharing our possessions with, and bearing the burdens of our fellow-workers in the reign of Deity. Our mission should be to spread the good news of Jesus throughout the entire world as a family unit. In fact, the Philippians were participating with Paul in the work of the good news of King Jesus (see Philippians 1:5; 4:10-20).

Courage

“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 the Messiah 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” (Philippians 1:28-30).         

To be continued...

For His infinite worth, 

Gantt

The Master's Supper

Based upon the example of the early church/apostles, we are to partake of the Lord's Supper upon the first day of every week (see Acts 20:7 for more info). But what exactly are we doing when we join together in eating the unleavened bread and drinking the fruit of the vine?

I submit that the Master's Supper is a type of memorial service...someone most important and very dear to our hearts has died. It is a time when we gather as the people of the Messiah to remember Him and His death upon our behalf. Paul writes to the Christians of ancient Corinth:

"For I received from the Master what I also delivered to you, that the Master Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, 'This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me'" (1 Corinthians 11:23-25; see also Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; and Luke 22:14-23).

Paul tells these holy ones that he imparted to their hearts what he had received from the Lord about the night of His betrayal and arrest. Let us keep in mind that the Master willingly suffered and died for everyone. He had the authority to give up His life for us, and He chose to fulfill that very task. He explains,

"For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.This charge I have received from My Father” (John 10:17-18).

His retelling of Jesus' words on that night show us the focus of the partaking of the bread and the juice. Communion is to be a time of recollection, for we are to think back to the time of the cross, and to express our earnest appreciation for the King of glory who shed His precious blood for us. Without the blood of Jesus, the New Covenant of forgiveness and faithfulness would not be possible. May we always strive to keep our minds focused on Deity and the sacrifice of the cross as we partake with our fellow brothers and sisters in the Messiah. The Lord's Supper is not some kind of free time during the service to think about our lunch plans or to contemplate our schedule for the week. Do you think God is pleased when we are distracted and discontented during this time of worship to and remembrance of Him?

But partaking of the Lord's Supper is more than just a memorial service of recollection...in fact, it is quite unlike any other memorial service we have ever or will ever attend. For the One we are honoring and remembering in this service is no longer dead! Even during the institution of the Lord's Supper, Jesus made it clear that this upcoming crucifixion would not be the end for Him (see Matthew 26:29). Just as His suffering and death were not a surprise to Him, the resurrection was always a part of the plan (Matthew 16:21; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Consider the way Paul refers to him in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 as "the Master" and "the Master Jesus." Was He the Master (or Lord) when the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to pen those words? Yes. Is He still the reigning Lord and King today? Absolutely. The Father raised Him up from the grave and exalted Him to His right hand (Acts 2:32-33). Therefore, we can "know for certain that God has made Him both Master and King" (Acts 2:36). As we partake of the communion, let us never lose sight of the fact that Jesus is alive and well in Heaven. The cross of the Messiah ought to motivate us to lovingly and humbly obey the Master of heaven and earth.

Paul went on to observe, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Master's death until He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26). Our continual observance of communion is one key way we declare our Savior and His redemptive work to the world. The Master's Supper then is also a type of proclamation. How often do we truly perceive what we do each Sunday morning to be a message to each other and even to the world?

But Paul tells us that this proclamation is to be done until He comes again. Once again we are reminded of the fact that He not only died for us, but He was also resurrected to never die again (Revelation 1:18). He is not only alive, and not only reigning as the King of kings and Master of masters, but our Jesus will return to this world again so we can be with Him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; Hebrews 9:27-28). As we gather around the table to commemorate His death, we are proclaiming His death, His resurrection, and His coming to all!

In light of this recollection and proclamation, I suggest that the Lord's Supper should also be a a time of celebration. We know that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians), and it makes sense that we should express our gratitude during communion with an aspect of joy in our hearts to Him. The Master's Supper is certainly a time of soberness and sadness (as we dwell on His pain and death), but it can also be an occasion of cheerfulness as we reflect on the point of His death, the power of His resurrection, and the promise of His return.