philippians

Philippians 4

Today, read Philippians 4.

When we read Philippians 1, last Thursday, I described to you the giving track record of the church in Philippi. Thanking the Philippians for their financial support was one of the key reasons that Paul wrote this letter. We saw that in verse 10 when we read, “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me.” Later in verse 14 Paul wrote, “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles” then he went on to describe different times that this church had sent him money:

  • “when I set out from Macedonia” (v. 15b)
  • “when I was in Thessalonica... more than once” (v. 16)
  • “now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent” (v. 18c).

The result of this most recent gift was that Paul was “amply supplied” (v. 18b). Their giving allowed him to rent a house in Rome for two years (Acts 28:30a) while he awaited trial there. Although he was under house arrest, Acts 28:30b-31 records that Paul “...welcomed all who came to see him [and that h]e proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” Although Paul used this money to pay for his personal needs, having his personal needs taken care of allowed him to serve the Lord. So Paul could tell the Philippian church here in chapter 4:18b that their gifts were, “...a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.”

Years ago we brought in someone to do ministry here at Calvary and one of our members at the time asked me if he was being paid. I answered truthfully that, yes, of course he was being paid. The member in question suggested (not subtly) that his work was not really ministry since he was being paid. I’m not often dumbfounded, but I was then. ”I get paid by the church,” I finally managed to tell her. She had no problem with that, but an outsider was somehow not a legitimate servant of God because he was paid for his work. There are plenty of scriptural passages that refute her, including one from my message Sunday, Luke 10:7, “Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages” (emphasis added). Yet even though God’s servants consume what is paid to them or even prosper from it, that does not detract from the fact that their work is done for the Lord. Paul saw the gifts that the Philippians sent him as timely provisions for his needs--yes--but also as acts of worship to God. Remember those words in verse 18: “They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.”

Do you believe that? Do you believe that giving to God’s church, God’s servants, God’s work, and even the poor, are actually gifts to God himself? Do you believe what verse 19 said, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus”?

If you believe these things, are you giving faithfully to the Lord’s work?

Philippians 3

Today’s reading is Philippians 3.

In many of the places where Paul founded churches, he faced immediate opposition and follow-up opposition. Immediate opposition refers to the persecutions he faced from locals--sometimes Jewish, sometimes Gentile--who were opposed to the growing gospel message. We read about these frequently in the book of Acts. Although there was much opposition, God saved his chosen ones and a new church was founded.

“Follow-up opposition,” as I referred to it in the previous paragraph has to do with the infiltration of false teachers in the churches that were established. It is in Paul’s letters, not the book of Acts, where we learn about this type of opposition. There were different types of false teachers--for instance, the church at Ephesus faced a different kind of threat from false teachers than the church at Colossae faced. But one type of false teaching that these new churches faced was from a group that has been called “the Judaizers.” This was a group of Jewish people who would come to these Gentile churches. They would tell the new Gentile converts to Christ that the men had to be circumcised (ouch!) and all of them needed to start obeying the Law of Moses. Here in Philippians 2:2, Paul warned the Philippian church about this group when he said, “Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision....” The point of these words was to tell the believers that there was nothing deficient about their relationship to God. Christ fulfilled the Law so there was no need to be obedient to it any longer. We saw this in the remainder of verse 3 when we read, “it is we... who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.” The phrase, “boast in Christ Jesus” is a short-hand way of speaking about how Christ has kept the law for us. Theologians call this “the active obedience of Christ” and, like his death (which they call his “passive obedience”) it is credited (imputed) to us at the time of our salvation. God wants his people to know that everything that was necessary for them to be right with God was fully accomplished in Christ. There is no act of positive obedience you must do to be declared right before God nor is there any personal sacrifice you must make to be declared right before God.

In verses 4-6 Paul described his personal religious credentials. More (v. 4b) than any Judaizer who might come to Philippi, Paul was religiously qualified under Judaism to obtain “righteousness based on the law” (v. 6b). But in verses 7-11, Paul described how being justified by faith in Christ was so much better than the (theoretical) righteousness a law abiding Jew might think he has. He wrote in verse 9 that he wanted to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” Because of this salvation by faith, he pursued knowing Christ and living for him (vv. 10-14) as all mature believers should (v. 15).

Today there are groups who call themselves Christians but emphasize the need to obey the Law. Some of these people are Jewish; others (like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Catholics) are simply legalistic. Many people find a feeling of spirituality by performing rituals and rites or by obedience to some Old Testament dietary command. But the books of the New Testament--and this chapter is an excellent example--teach clearly that Christ has done everything you ever need to be right with God. Obedience to him is a matter of loving service, not a matter of earning his favor. So don’t ever let anyone tell you that you need faith in Jesus plus something else--some ritual or obedience to some command. Christ is all we need and in him is hidden all the riches of wisdom and knowledge. Our goal as believers, then, is “to know him” (v. 10). That’s what the Christian life is all about.

Philippians 2

Today’s reading is Philippians 2.

What makes believers in Christ distinct from the world around us? We have different beliefs about the past and the future, for one. We have different morals that cause us to make different choices and respond differently when we sin. We spend our time and our money differently. We certainly have a different understanding of who God is and what he’s done for us in Christ. These are all important differences, but maybe they don’t distinguish us from the rest of the world as much as we’d like to think that they do.

Here in Philippians 2, Paul invited the believers and us to consider the immense humility and sacrifice of Christ to save us. He urged us to follow Christ’s example by “looking to the interests of others” (v. 4). But when he wanted to teach us how to stand out from the unredeemed people around us, he commanded us: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing” (v. 14). Living this way “in a warped and crooked generation” would cause us to “shine among them like stars in the sky.” (v. 15).

Let’s face it--people complain a lot. We complain about the weather, about relatives and friends, about bosses, about what’s required of us in our jobs, about how little we’re paid and how much we pay in taxes. We complain about having to fix our cars or stuff that breaks at home, about traffic jams and long lines at the grocery stores. People argue a lot, too. Look at your Facebook feed; you probably don’t even have to scroll more than once or twice (or at all) before you see two or more people arguing about politics or sports or something else.

Complaining and arguing are symptoms of discontentment. [After I wrote that last sentence, I complained to my dog about how he just came in but wanted to go back out again.] When we complain to someone about their behavior, we’re showing our discontentment with them. Complaining like that is about trying to change them, to control them into acting differently or becoming different in some way. It is an expression of our discontentment with them or at least their behavior is some way. But, if they do change that behavior, then we move on and find something else about them that makes us discontent. Complaining about the weather or the traffic, or something else is an expression of discontentment with our circumstances.

Arguing is about being discontent with what we’re getting or not getting. If I argue with a clerk in a store about the price of an item, it is because I am unhappy about the price. If I argue with a co-worker that I’m doing too much of the work on a project that we’re both assigned to do, that’s an expression of discontentment. Arguing comes from having a different point of view in some instances—like sports or politics but it often results from a feeling of injustice.

Jesus was treated with extreme injustice. He had no sin but was made a sin offering for us. It was quite inconvenient (to say that least) to give up the worship of heaven for the scorn of humanity. If anyone had the right to complain or argue about the glory he wasn’t getting (or the mistreatment he was getting), it was Jesus. But Jesus never complained about anything nor did he ever argue with anyone about anything but truth.

There are many differences between believers and unbelievers but verses 14-15 tell us that the most obvious difference to an unbeliever between us and them is our contentment. As we saw yesterday, Paul was content to live and minister for Christ or die and be with Christ. He was content to remain in prison and give the gospel to the guards or be released to witnesses to another city about Christ. Instead of complaining or arguing, we should find something to give thanks for. The traffic that frustrates me so much is no fun, but I’m thankful that a car can take me long distances much faster than I could walk them. If you want to shine brightly like the North Star on a pitch black night, learn to speak words of thanks and contentment instead of complaining and arguing. This is a very specific, daily way we can show the difference Christ and faith in him has made in our lives.

Philippians 1

Today we start reading the book of Philippians by reading Philippians 1.

This is another of Paul’s prison letters (v. 7: “whether I am in chains...”), this one written to the church at Philippi. Paul founded this church during his second missionary journey (Acts 16:6-40). He also visited Philippi twice during his third missionary journey (note: Philippi is in Macedonia; Paul went there in Acts 20:1-2 and returned in Acts 20:6).

The Philippians were givers:

  • They supported Paul’s work by sending him money while he was in Corinth (Acts 18:1-5 and Philippians 4:16) so that he could stop making tents (Acts 18:3) and devote himself “exclusively to preaching” (Acts 18:5).
  • They also gave generously to the fund Paul collected for the Jewish believers in Jerusalem (2 Cor 8:1-5).
  • This letter, Philippians, was written to thank these believers for their long financial “partnership” (1:5, 4:15-16) and for a new gift they had sent to him while in prison in Rome (Phil 4:14, 18.

The tone of this letter is happy! Words like “joy” and “rejoice” show up again and again throughout. Although Paul was still in prison, he expected to be released soon (v. 19). Still, his joy came less from his anticipation of release and more from how the gospel was advancing among the men who were guarding him (vv. 12-13), how it was causing others to speak up for Christ in his absence (vv. 14-15). If his trial unexpectedly went badly, however, Paul could still rejoice because dying for Christ meant going to be with Christ (v. 23).

The source of Paul’s joy, then, was Christ. Christ was the one he was serving (v.1). Christ was one he was trusting to provide for him, whether through the giving of the Philippians or not. Jesus was using his imprisonment to advance the gospel (vv. 12-18). He was the one he would meet whenever his time on this earth was over (v. 23) and Christ was the one who would keep causing the Philippians faith to grow and mature (vv. 6, 27-30). Paul’s circumstances were not the cause of his joy or his discouragement because he had faith in his God, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Are you looking to the Lord for joy in your life at this time?

Leviticus 1, John 20, Proverbs 17, Philippians 4

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 1, John 20, Proverbs 17, Philippians 4. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Philippians 4.

Just a quick note before we get to Philippians 4: John 20:26b-28 contains one of the clearest expressions of the deity of Christ: “Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” If you’re ever talking with someone who has questions about whether Christ was God or something else, here’s an excellent passage to show them, right in the final chapter of John.

Now to Philippians 4: Given all the difficulties and stresses he faced during his ministry, it must have been incredibly encouraging to have the Philippians as his friends. While they had some interpersonal problems (cf. 2:3-4 with 4:2-3), they were loved deeply by the apostle and they returned that love, even sending Epaphroditus to help personally (2:25) as well as financial aid (4:10-18). There is so much joy in this letter that it is easy to forget that Paul was in prison when he wrote it (cf. 1:12, 17). This is the background out of which he wrote the chapter we read today. These are the circumstances he lived in when he wrote verses 6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Undoubtedly he was a man who had practiced these commands in his own life repeatedly; his command to the Philippians to deal with their fears this way rose out of his own experience as well as from the inspiration of the Spirit. In verses 8-9 he commands them to discipline their thoughts toward good and godly things instead of focusing on their problems, complaints or fears. While we have much less to fear than the martyrdom that ultimately took Paul’s life, his teaching reminds us that, no matter how little or much we fear, the Lord is waiting to hear our prayers and give us peace as we look to him.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page . And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Exodus 39, John 18, Proverbs 15, Philippians 2

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Exodus 39, John 18, Proverbs 15, Philippians 2. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Philippians 2.

After a great weekend of worship remembering the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection I invite you to reflect on the amazing humility of Christ. Even though he was entitled to all worship and obedience, he acted with a servant’s heart in order to purchase our redemption. How often do we act entitled when we really aren’t or refuse to give up anything to serve others? Yet one of the marks of Christlikeness is a desire to serve others instead of ourselves (vv. 3-4) without complaining or arguing (v.14). It also means, I might add, serving without resentment about being in the place of the servant. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.