Saturday, September 17, 2011

Study Through Philippians - Week 2


The Study of Paul's Letter to the Philippians (week 2)Click here for audio

Paul's letter to the Philippians is certainly a practical letter written to a group of fellow believers that he deeply loved and was concerned about. In spite of its practical purpose and nature there are tremendous teachings in this letter that apply to all believers of all times. Among the great things we learn and to which we are exhorted in this letter are to be filled with joy, live in unity within the body of Christ, be content and satisfied, and to stand firm in the true faith in the face of persecution. In this letter Paul clearly explains the key to attaining these virtues of joy, unity, contentment and suffering well. Because it is more practical in nature than perhaps Romans for instance, we will have to look a little more carefully to understand what Paul wants us to see as the key to these virtues but the effort will be well worth it!

  1. 1:12-30- For to me to live is Christ...! (week 3)
    1. Review from first week – Q&A
      1. What did you take away from Php 1:1-11?
      2. What did you take away from John Piper's sermon? What passage did he preach on and what passage did he refer to as the background understanding for the passage he preached on?
    2. The things which happened to Paul worked out for the furtherance of the Gospel.
      1. What things is Paul referring to? Vs 14 makes it clear he is referring to his chains – his imprisonment that we discussed the first week. At the point he wrote Philippians he had already been in custody for for at least 3 years perhaps for as long as 5.
      2. In what way had his imprisonment worked out for the furtherance of the Gospel?
        1. Vs 13 – the palace guard and “all the rest” knew he was in prison because of Christ.
          • Christ was being made known more widely
          • And Christ was being exalted as supremely valuable. Only because Paul so highly values Christ is he willing to be endure imprisonment for Him.
        2. Vs 14 references the encouragement of the brethren. Paul's suffering, more specifically his suffering well (because suffering “poorly” would have the opposite effect of encouragement), was building the confidence and boldness of the other Christians in Rome (presumably) so they were preaching the gospel more effectively.
          • But why would Paul's suffering imprisonment strengthen the others? Because anytime a believer endures sacrifice and suffering for Jesus he/she is proclaiming their absolute confidence in the reality of Jesus and the supreme value of Jesus. This inspires others. But more than that, our suffering and sacrifice provides opportunity for the amazing miracles of God to sustain us in Jesus providing signs of His reality and value to those who are watching.
        3. Also, Vs 15-17 reveal that some of those “watching” Paul's ordeal were not sincere. Some were of course and they were emboldened to proclaim the glories of Christ more effectively because of Paul's example. But others were not sincere and they were inspired to preach Christ thinking that doing so would cause more pain to Paul.
          • Because of envy and strife (attitudes toward Paul and perhaps Paul's followers) they thought they would preach while Paul was confined and get new believers who would be their followers and build a larger following than Paul...OR that preaching Christ more vigorously would cause the authorities to be more determined to keep Paul confined and perhaps execute him.
          • But others, who were emboldened to preach, did so out of love. I take this reference in vs 17 to mean that they realize Paul's role and they desire to be his sincere partner in the ministry as do the Philippians.
    3. Paul's underlying attitude and worldview comes out and reveals explicitly the secret to his joy, contentment, true unity, and suffering well (18-21).
      1. What is the result of these things (that some preach out of envy and strife while other preach out of love and sincerity) – that Christ is preached/exalted and this is Paul's greatest desire!
        1. His joy is not tied to his circumstances but tied to Christ so when Christ is exalted he gets joy!
        2. Paul expresses confidence that he will be delivered – one way or the other – by being released OR by death. Paul is most concerned that he be bold and suffer well not that he gets free. But he does seem to expect release...although his primary concern is that he exalt/magnify Christ through his physical existence – by living or dying.
        3. In vs 21 Paul explicitly articulates the very essence of his inner being, the very heart and soul of who he now is after Christ claimed his life - “to me to live is Christ and to die is gain”...because to die is more of Christ (vs 23)!
        4. This reveals the “secret” to the victorious living that Paul describes and exhorts for the Philippians – the kind of living that is joyful, contented, full of unity and harmony, and endures suffering with hope and victory.
          • The secret is that if Jesus Christ is our true treasure then whatever we need to do to get more of Him, closer to Him, to exalt Him, is so very worth it! If we are deprived of earthly comforts and pleasures but gain more of Jesus then what joy! If we don't get the things that other people have but we're able to be more focused on Christ what contentment! If we we are wronged by someone in the Church or we don't get what we want in budget planning session but through that we can draw closer to Christ by being wronged or letting someone else get what they want, what glorious unity! And if we can have a deeper and sweeter fellowship with Jesus when we suffer for Him oh what beneficial suffering it is!
          • When we understand this and surrender our lives to this the enemy can only serve to give us more of the Treasure we long for!
    4. As much as Paul longs for Christ he feels confident that he will be allowed to remain on earth a while longer for the benefit of the Philippians (22-26)
      1. The fruit of his labor in vs 22 is specifically the kind of fruit of his ministry that benefits the Philippians (24,25).
      2. What fruit of Paul's labor would result in the Philippians' “progress and joy of faith” (vs25)?
        1. Certainly I think just his physical presence which would be an encouragement to them (vs 26). It is so important, especially in the crucible of suffering and persecution to encourage one another through our coming together. Christ ministers to us physically in the presence of His people in the Body of Christ.
        2. Another aspect of Paul's labor we can be confident he is referring to that is needful for the Philippians is his teaching and pastoral ministry to protect the Philippians from false teachers (1:28 & 3:2).
        3. Finally, in addition to his physical presence which would be an encouragement in the face of suffering and persecution also his pastoral ministry of exhortation and rebuke to help the Philippians stay unified and stand fast in the faith. An especially important aspect of pastoral ministry is to exercise the discipline of God's work among the flock of God. Paul was doing just that by exhorting his congregation at Philippi to be unified with one mind and spirit throughout the letter. This letter is an example of this – mild rebuke, exhortation, encouragement, and guidance from the authority of God's word.
      3. As much as he wants to remain on earth to pastor the Philippians for the joy and progress of their faith he is truly torn (vs 23)– for him to be with Christ is far better!
        1. “Yet what I shall choose I cannot tell” (vs 22) - what does this mean - “what I shall choose”. It could be just another way of saying, “what will happen I cannot tell” but it could also reflect that, as a Roman citizen, Paul had some influence over the situation. After all, he had appealed to Rome in the first place and Agrippa had noted that Paul could have been set free had he not made the appeal (Ac 26:32). Of course Paul knows that God is in control and will determine the ultimate outcome, but perhaps Paul also knew that he was longing to be with Christ and was at the end of his ministry. Perhaps, he would not fight as hard as he could for release or exercise every option he had...he wanted to go home! But, he also felt a strong obligation to the Philippians to be an instrument for their progress in the faith.
      4. It is also important to note in this section how important joy is – (25-26).
        1. Paul said his remaining is needful for them. What is needful? Their progress in the faith (25b) – I take to mean growing and maturing in their faith and relationship with Christ – but also their JOY in the faith (25b).
          • This says that joy in the faith is needful. It is important and required for the Christian!
        2. He also says. “that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ...” For them to rejoice abundantly in Christ for Paul's ministry is important and needful. I take this to mean that a Christ centered, Christ exalting joy for Paul's ministry which is focused on preaching Christ so that Jesus is exalted, is absolutely a priority for the Philippians. It is critical that persecution, suffering, enemies NOT steal our joy.
        3. How critical joy is! Why would Paul put such importance on Joy for the Christian life?
          • Because if Christ is our Treasure then joy is the only fitting attitude for the Christian.
          • Joy in Christ while in the midst of suffering and persecution that takes or threatens to take everything we have in this life away, or in the midst of abundance that threatens to diminish Christ in this life, is the only fitting attitude because it shows and reveals that we truly do treasure Christ above all else.
    5. But suffering and persecution does threaten to steal our joy and contentment, destroy our unity, and shake our faith, all of which would not only hurt us but also reflect poorly on Christ as our Treasure (vs 27-31).
      1. So Paul exhorts them to have the kind of behavior that is worthy of the gospel of Christ – fitting for those claiming that Jesus Christ is their greatest Treasure.
      2. Specifically, Paul wants to hear that they are standing fast in their faith but in unity with each other – unified in spirit and in their thinking as they strive together for the faith. Striving for the faith in this context most likely means against their adversaries (vs 28) that are probably a combination of those who are causing them to suffer for believing in Christ AND those who are trying to distort the gospel of Christ (3:2).
      3. The main point Paul is making is that they are to remain unified not letting the persecution tear them apart by causing them to turn on one another or abandon one another out of fear.
      4. Note that Paul says that by not being terrified by their adversaries it serves to prove to the adversaries they are headed to perdition but the Philippians are destined for salvation.
        1. How is fearlessness proof of their perdition (damnation) and the Christians' salvation?
          • It demonstrates to them (your adversaries) that Christ to you is more valuable than your earlthy goods or physical safety. That gives credibility to your message (the gospel) and creates a compelling argument for the reality of what you are proclaiming and therefore that they are wrong! So they find themselves wondering, questioning, “why are they fearless in the face of our threats? Could it be they have the truth”?
          • And for the Christian the converse is true – the fearlessness demonstrates the reality of Christ in them, the hope of glory (Col 1:27)! Anytime we face suffering and stand firm, stay unified in the face of persecution, or overcome temptation it is evidence of the Holy Spirit's work in you because our salvation is all of God not of us.
      5. BECAUSE (For) it has been granted...(vs 29). The reason that fearlessness in the face of suffering is a sign of our salvation, is because suffering is part of what has been given to us.
        1. SO Paul is saying here that because of/based on Christ's work (on behalf of Christ) it has been gifted to us to believe in Him. This supports what Paul says in vs 28 that salvation is from God. SO by His grace we are given faith to believe in Christ which of course is a critical component of salvation (Eph 2:8-9).
        2. But not only is faith a gift. The shocking (to us at least) part of what Paul says is that suffering for Christ is also a gift! What a perspective! Our salvation is NOT a gift from God to take us into heaven trouble free. In fact, the opposite is true. (Mat 5:10-16)
          • Our salvation is accompanied by trouble, suffering, persecution. This allows us to demonstrate the Treasure that Christ has become to us because of salvation. It allows us to be salt and light.
          • All who desire to live a godly life in Christ will be persecuted (2Ti 3:12) – as we encounter resistance, persecution and suffering for the Name it serves to demonstrate the authenticity of our faith which encourages us and strengthens us to endure to the end (Mat 5:12)
          • It also develops our character as we suffer. We learn to trust in Christ and His provision, it tears us away from the alluring lies of the world, it helps us to learn courage and gives us the opportunity to love our enemies.
      6. But it is good to know we are not going it alone – vs 30. Paul reminds them that they are experiencing the same conflict that he too is experiencing. How important the body of Christ is to encourage us as we suffer together!

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