Pauline

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 

The Mind of the Messiah 2

We looked a few weeks ago at how Paul describes the work of the Messiah to the Philippian Christians with a type of poem. He encourages them (and us) to possess the mind or attitude of the Messiah as we interact with one another and with non-Christians. To have the mind of our Master requires a major overhaul of our thinking pattern(s), and it is far from a comfortable endeavor to engage oneself in. Are we willing to make that transformation on our own hearts and lives?

Paul kindly exhorts,

“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 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 Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by 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.” (Philippians 2:1-8).  

Now consider the rest of this amazing passage of Sacred Scripture:

“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, Messiah, is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Why did Paul begin with a “therefore”? He is saying that this exalted position and exalted name is because of what is set forth in the previous lines of the passage. The incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is the perfect manifestation of the true and living God. Only God could have done what Jesus did upon this Earth. Therefore, He is to be honored in a way that is far beyond any other...

For the Jew, the “name” Yahweh would have been the highest name one could imagine, and yet Paul says that Jesus' name is the highest one. The words of Paul here remind us of something we read in the Old Covenant Writings: “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance” (Isaiah 45:23b). Paul makes it clear that Jesus does not negate monotheism in the slightest, nor is He somehow an extra component to be fitted onto the already established idea of Deity. Jesus was and is the ultimate expression of who God is...and He is completely Divine Himself. But Jesus gave up His “rights” and died for His own rebellious creatures (compare Philippians 2:1-4). Our culture is often obsessed with rights and entitlements, and yet the Master of Heaven and Earth teaches us to be truly great...by serving others. If we want to be like God/our Creator (godly), then we need to look at Jesus and pattern our mindset and lifestyle accordingly. Oh, and if we will empty ourselves and humble ourselves, then God will exalt us in the proper/coming time. This is a poem about the greatness of the Messiah, and about the future for those who possess His mind.

For His infinite worth,

Gantt 

The Mind of the Messiah

How is your thinking? What kind of mindset or attitude do you possess? Where is the source of your philosophy of life and for life? Do you need to refocus or even completely reorient your thinking pattern in this life? Let us consider together...

As we approach the heart of Paul's letter to the Philippians, we notice the following about developing and maintaining unity as Christians:

“So if our shared life in the Messiah brings you any comfort; if love still has the power to make you cheerful; if we really do have a partnership in the Spirit; if your hearts are at all moved with affection and sympathy— then make my joy complete! Bring your thinking into line with one another. Here’s how to do it. Hold on to the same love; bring your innermost lives into harmony; fix your minds on the same object. Never act out of selfish ambition or vanity; instead, regard everybody else as your superior. Look after each other’s best interests, not just your own” (Philippians 2:1-4).

After this strong exhortation to unity in King Jesus on the basis of the blessings that are possible in Him, Paul then reminds them to possess the mind or attitude of the Messiah Himself. He provides them the perfect pattern for an attitude toward God and humanity that will lead to holiness before God and unity with one another. Both the holiness and the unity of Christianity is found in and focused upon these foundational truths concerning the Messiah and His redemptive work. If we want to be godly, and if we want peace with others, then we had better look at and to Jesus. A proper relationship with Jesus is based upon whether we are willing to walk in His footsteps (see 1 John 2:1-6). Paul writes,

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in King Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be exploited, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a slave, 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 King Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

The verses above can be viewed as a type of poem, and one can easily pick out three or possibly four stanzas in these short lines from the apostle Paul. I suggest that the Holy Spirit's entire point in this larger section of Holy Writing is centered in this poem or summary of Jesus' work. If we miss this...well, then we really miss everything. Have we missed it? Do we truly see it today?

Philippians 2:5-11 is the story about Jesus, the Servant of Israel as set forth by the prophet Isaiah (read chapters 40-66). He leaves Heaven to come to lowly Earth - He arrives - not sitting on a throne of political power, but as a humble slave. Many men are brought low by others, but this God-Man chooses to humble Himself. This poem is also the story of humanity, for it is about the new Adam who will restore all things(see Psalm 8; Hebrews 2; 1 Corinthians 15; and Romans 5). Ultimately, it is the story of Deity – Jesus revealed the true and living God to us (John 1:14-18).    

 

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

A "Building Prayer": Philippians 1:9-11

"And this is what I’m praying: that your love may overflow still more and more, in knowledge and in all astute wisdom. Then you will be able to tell the difference between good and evil, and be sincere and faultless on the day of the Messiah, filled to overflowing with the fruit of right living, fruit that comes through King Jesus to God’s glory and praise" (Philippians 1:9-11, The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation by N.T. Wright).

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may 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" (Philippians 1:9-11, English Standard Version).

Have you ever considered the "building" flow of Paul's prayer* for the Philippian holy ones in 1:9-11? It begins with an overflowing love, a deep love that is channeled through knowledge and profound insights gleaned from learning/living God's reign. Is your love overflowing and flowing through the rivers of a knowledge of God's Book and principles gleaned therein? How much will your love grow in 2016?

But notice the "building" or leading phrase, "so that you may be able" or "Then you will be able to" (v. 10a). Our immense love for Deity and for one another provides us with the ability or skill to discern between right and wrong, to determine the best decisions to make in our daily lives (v. 10b). The popular philosophical expression, "Just always do the loving thing" may actually ring true, if we are using the Divine definition of "love." It has been noted that this prayer is about practical love, discerning love, righteous love, and glorifying love. 

So then, this educated love enables us to live lives that are pure and upright before our Master (v. 10c). The result of this channeled love and discernment is that we produce the fruit of proper behavior in this present world (age) of sin and foolishness (v. 11a). Are you standing today in purity and holiness before the One who holds your breath in His hands (see Daniel 5:23;Job 12:10; Acts 17:28)? If not, why not? 

Of course, all of this only occurs because of Jesus, His birth, His life, His blood, His resurrection, and His ascension to the throne (v. 11b). Without the anointed One (Messiah), none of the above is even possible – Christianity is "inanity" (ianity) without the "Christ." However, all of this is working toward and for one chief goal or purpose: the glory of Deity (v. 11c;). God's glory is a grand purpose indeed (see Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). Will you choose to glorify Him daily in the coming year? 

Summary thought: Philippians 1:9-11 is a Pauline prayer for loving and holy growth in Jesus that glorifies Deity. Let us give ourselves to this end in 2016! 

For His infinite worth,

Gantt

 

*By the way, you can find a similar type of flow in some of Paul's other prayers for congregations. Look at Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-21; and Colossians 1:9-14, and note the use of phrases like "so as to" and "that you may."