Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Study Through Philippians - Week 1

The Study of Paul's Letter to the PhilippiansClick 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. 1:1-11- Background and Introduction (week 1)
    1. Paul and Timothy...bondservants (slaves) of Jesus Christ
      1. Identifies himself along with Timothy his companion and son in the faith (Ac 16:1)
      2. Bondservants/slaves of Christ. Paul's self-identification is as a slave to Christ – a willing, adoring slave but nevertheless compelled to follow and serve. But the compulsion is one of love – compelled by the love of Christ and compelled by love for Christ (1Cor 16:22, 2Cor 5:14)
      3. In Paul's mind the highest honor is not that he is an Apostle, leader, prophet etc – but a slave!
    2. To the saints in Philippi – the holy ones, set apart ones, - in Christ Jesus. It is in Christ alone that we are holy, set apart by God unto God as His special people for His special purpose.
      1. Also to the church leaders – Bishops or overseers (pastors/elders) and deacons.
      2. Philippi was a Roman colony so enjoyed special status and privileges and its citizens were proud of this fact.
      3. We learn about the founding of the church in Philippi by Paul in Acts 16:14-40. Paul probably made his first visit in AD 49-50 and wrote this letter to them in AD 61-62 shortly before his martyrdom.
    3. He prays for them with all joy because of his love for them and their fellowship in the gospel ministry from the beginning until now so their relationship has stayed strong through the years and, as we shall see, through much hardship and persecution
    4. Paul's confidence and hope (which fuels our prayer life) is based on God's sovereign work in the lives of the Philippian Christians and in all Christians (vs 6).
      1. This is one of the key teachings that we find along the way in this letter. It is not one of the primary purposes of the letter to teach the truth of God's sovereign work of grace in saving AND sustaining Christians but Paul uses this truth to encourage them.
      2. God save us by His sovereign grace. We don't work for it, earn it, deserve it, get better positioned for it. God begins the work AND finishes the work strictly by His unmerited grace so there can be NO boasting on our part (Rom 3:27).
      3. God will finish His work in us causing us to endure, persevere to the end – until Jesus takes us to Himself.
    5. Paul overflows with love and affection for the Philippians and reveals that he is in chains (vs 7). Most likely he is in Rome in prison as the book of Acts leaves off, teaching and preaching from house arrest as it were.
      1. The defense and confirmation of the gospel refers to his arrest instigated by the Jews over the fact that he was standing firm that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone...and equally available to Gentile and Jew alike (Ac 21-28).
      2. The Philippians have been a faithful partner with Paul in his mission and their mission – to live for Christ and spread the word about Him. He will elaborate more on this throughout the letter.
    6. One of his main prayer focus areas for the Philippians is that their love will abound with knowledge and discernment (vs 9). This is hugely instructive!
      1. So many Christians get sucked into dangerous movements and bad teachings because they mistakenly embrace the doctrines of love and grace without embracing with equal fervor the doctrines of truth and justice. Paul prays (and therefore exhorts) that the Philippians have their love fully undergirded by knowledge and discernment.
      2. Only by a strong commitment to reading and studying the word of God can we ensure that we know Christ who reveals that God is love (1Jn 4:8) AND claims for Himself that He is the Way and the Truth (Jn 14:6).
      3. The flow of our culture is that everyone's opinion is equally valid, truth is relative, the “politics” of a situation or topic is more important than the truth of it...but God's word clearly teaches that truth is non-negotiable and that as Christians we must be equally committed to truth AND love, grace AND justice. Only by God's word and His Holy Spirit can we achieve this.
    7. This is the ONLY way we will be able to approve, confirm, acknowledge and embrace the true and excellent things of God so that we will remain sincere and without offense until Christ returns to claim us.
      1. This is also the key to producing the fruit of righteousness. If he have truth without love we fail (1Cor 13), but if we have love without truth and discernment we fail to. We can be led into sin which compromises both love and truth.
      2. The fruit of righteousness can only come through/by Christ. In other words, it is because we are saints (set apart) in Him that we can do anything that pleases God. Christ covers us with His righteousness so we are righteous in God's sight but also God then works to produce His righteousness in us so we glorify Him.
      3. This is Paul's prayer for the Philippians whom he loved deeply. Let this be instructive to us as well. I think we spend too much time praying for physical healing, jobs, and various other types of earthly comforts on behalf of our loved ones. Rather let us spend more time praying that our loved ones will know Christ and grow in love for Christ and others and will produce the fruit of righteousness for the glory of God.

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