Philippians

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 

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? 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