Forgetting What Lies Behind – Philippians 3-4

Chapter 3 of Paul’s letter to the Christians at Philippi contains only 21 verses, but it is some of Paul’s finest writing. Paul really “gets it,” when it comes to the gospel, and he tells us what it is all about for us right here. He starts out comparing Christians to those of the circumcision party that suppose their status under the old law makes them chosen (having confidence in the flesh). He makes the point that if such things mattered, he has more reason than those of that party to be confident.

Philippi theater.

Philippi theater.

Paul then lists his credentials as a Jew, and as a Pharisee. Though a persecutor of the church, he had been in a position that was respected and honored. But all of that he says he counted as loss for knowing the Lord Jesus Christ:

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

He has not attained perfection, he knows. And he has not done anything on his own.

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

Paul knew, and he was trying to make them see, that this world is not our home. We must set our minds apart from those who wish to be of this world — those who make themselves enemies of the cross:

Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

He closes the letter in chapter 4, sending encouragement and prayers with two of the best passages for advice for Christians of all time. The first, in verses 4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And the second in verse 8:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Philippians and Hebrews

Phil. 3, Phil. 4, Heb. 1, Heb. 2, Heb. 3

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

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Have This in Mind – Phillipians 1-2

Paul begins his letter to the Christians at Philippi without the statements that defend his apostleship, seen in some of the other epistles, which leads us to believe that no such controversy existed there at that time. It is another epistle written from prison; and one in which he offers encouragement for the saints there. It was the first church that he established in Europe, and where he converted the Philippian jailor. He assures them of his well-being, and in verse 12 states that his imprisonment has actually served to advance the gospel.

Philippi Basilica A.

Philippi Basilica A.

He wants them to know that he will come to see them if possible, but that whether or not he does, he wants to hear that they “are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.” He tells them that they are privileged that for the sake of Christ they believe in him — and that they will suffer for His sake, just as Paul has.

He continues that theme in chapter two. Not only will Christians suffer for Jesus, but they are supposed to put others ahead of themselves, doing nothing from selfish ambition, but looking toward the interests of others. That is hard to do sometimes, and Paul knew it. So he gave them the following words to encourage and embolden us, knowing the reward that Jesus claimed for us:

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.

If Jesus could selflessly do all that for us, we can endure anything comes our way in life until we receive our reward.

 /Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Ephesians and Philippians

Eph. 4, Eph. 5, Eph. 6, Phil. 1, Phil. 2

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Philippians 4 – Whatever is Honorable

In this last chapter of the epistle, Paul’s affection for the people of Philippi comes through clearly, calling them his “joy and my crown” in verse one. His first congregation in Europe was still strong and he was certainly proud of them, and the great hope of salvation for them surely brought him joy in his confinement. Appealing to them to “stand firm thus in the Lord,” he uses no less than four terms of endearment. Although not naming the nature of the disagreement, he addresses two women, Euodia and Syntyche, by name asking them to mend their differences. He had evidently done much work in Philippi aided by them, as well as someone named Clement. 

On Paul's Second Missionary Journey, Paul and Silas were imprisoned at Philippi. But when God freed them with an earthquake, the Philippian jailer tried to kill himself (Acts 16:16-40).

On Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, Paul and Silas were imprisoned at Philippi. But when God freed them with an earthquake, the Philippian jailer tried to kill himself (Acts 16:16-40).

The rest of this chapter contains so much wisdom and so many familiar verses that they hardly need comment at all, yet they certainly cannot be ignored here. Beginning with the words that make up the totality of a familiar hymn, he tells them to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” The intentional repetition is significant, as the words to follow are intended to encourage them to live their lives in a joyous manner that demonstrates to the world what righteous living does for those who live it – as well as how it reflects to others around them (us).

First, there is the peace that the righteous can have in their relationship with the Lord:

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And he extends that further with the righteous living that will inspire and capture the hearts of wayward souls:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul closes the letter by thanking them for their concern, for their support, and for the gifts they sent with Epaphroditus. Seeking to put their minds at ease about him, Paul then gives the following inspiring words that we all would do well be able to honestly use to describe our own attitudes in the face of adversity:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.
In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret
of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

That last line, most often taken out of context, is not meant to imply that we can always be on top of the world no matter what. Rather, it lets us know that with the Lord’s help, we can get through the times when life may not be going so well.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Philippians 3 – The Prize of the Upward Call

This chapter of the epistle begins with Paul telling the brethren to “rejoice in the Lord,” continuing his encouragement. Then he begins his typical “beware” admonition. This time, however, he speaks of “dogs” and evildoers, and then a clever mention of “mutilators of the flesh.” All three of these refer to the same group of people – Judaizers.  This is a faction of the Christian movement who, despite what Paul and the other apostles have made clear, were still teaching others that circumcision was still necessary – in particular, to force such teaching on Gentiles. This was causing problems in the church in many places, and Paul wanted to make sure the brethren at Philippi were vigilant to “nip it in the bud.”

Philippi forum

Philippi forum

Paul tells them that “we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.”  What he means is that the faithful Christians are the new children of Abraham. Referring to these Judaizers as “dogs” is intentionally ironic, as Gentiles were often so called by Jews in times past. It is in verse 4 that he refers to their unjustified pride, noting that if anyone has reason for “being confident in the flesh,” he himself does. He then recounts all of the things that he had always placed a high value on in his life. He was a Jew, circumcised on the eighth day according to the law of Moses. He was from the tribe of Benjamin, had been a Pharisee, and righteous and blameless under the law – a respected Hebrew among Hebrews.

Noting that he had lost all of those things he had valued, he now counts them as rubbish that he may know Christ, become like Him in His death, and attain the resurrection of the dead. It is with this in mind that he urges them to stand fast in the face of their enemies and trials, and press on to that goal.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Philippians 2 – Have This In Mind

In this chapter, we learn that the church at Philippi had sent one of their members, Epaphroditus, to minister to Paul’s needs while he was in prison ( verses 25-30). But Epaphroditus became gravely ill (with what, we do not know) and had not returned to them. Furthermore, it has been long enough that word had gotten back to the brethren at Philippi of their brother’s illness. So Paul is sending him back (probably with this letter).

Philippi forum

Philippi forum

He also lets them know that he plans to send Timothy to see them. They would be familiar with Timothy, as he was with Paul and Silas when they first arrived in Philippi a decade or so before. We know from Philippians 1:1 that Timothy assisted Paul in writing this letter – likely acting as Paul’s “secretary.”

In the first chapter of this letter, Paul wrote to them about some brethren who (in light of his imprisonment) were preaching the gospel out of envy, rivalry, and selfish ambition. Now he urges the Philippian brethren to do nothing from selfish ambition, but to “count others more significant than yourselves.” It is in this context that he then wrote what is in verses 5-8 – a passage familiar to many of us:

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

Philippi Basilica A

Philippi Basilica A

So what did Paul mean when he told them to “have this in mind…?” The same thing that Jesus meant when he gave his disciples an important lesson before the Passover Feast in John 13:1-17. Washing their feet, he told them that, as servants and as messengers of the one who sent them, they are not “greater” than He. They must learn to serve others as he has done.

Jesus gave up everything to come here as a man to die for a purpose. We must keep that in mind in our daily lives, living life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ – knowing that our purpose is to serve others, edifying our brethren, and bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to those outside the gospel.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Paul’s Letter to Philippi – Chapter 1

Hard to believe a year has just about come and gone since we started reading Wisdom Literature. But now that the the year is drawing to a close, it is time to make some final decisions on the reading schedule for 2014 – to be announced soon. While we wait, we thought a preview of part of what we will be doing on Sundays in 2014 would be a good idea. So we will start here with an overview of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

There is little descent among scholars as to whether Paul is the author of the Philippian letter. His location when writing it is another story. We know from Paul himself that he was in prison at the time (Philippians 1:13). Some say it was in Caesarea, some say Ephesus, and some say it was in Rome. The latter seems clearly the case because of the mention of Caesar’s household in Philippians 4:22, among other things. The time was likely about A.D 62.

Philippi sat on the Egnatian Way, the main transportation route in Macedonia, an extension of the Appian Way, which joined the eastern empire with Italy.

Philippi sat on the Egnatian Way, the main transportation route in Macedonia, an extension of the Appian Way, which joined the eastern empire with Italy.

The city of Philippi was founded in eastern Macedonia by Philip II in 356 B.C. It was brought under Roman rule in 168 B.C. and re-founded in 42 B.C., when Mark Anthony and Octavian (later titled “Augustus”) defeated the forces of the assassins of Julius Caesar, Cassius, and Brutus in a series of military battles – including the famous Battle of Philippi. As a Roman colony, the city enjoyed full benefits of such, including not having to pay tribute to the emperor.

Archaeologists have unearthed much of what existed there during the time of Paul’s visit during his second missionary journey (about 50 A.D.), including the Greek theater, Basilicas, and many Latin inscriptions testifying to the Roman influence.  Philippi was one of the first (if not THE first) of the churches that Paul founded in Europe, so it would no doubt hold a special place in his heart. This fact is clearly voiced in Philippians 1:3-11.

If one had to sum up the letter’s purpose in one word, perhaps “encouragement” would be the proper choice. And chapter one certainly exemplifies that. Indeed, the entire letter offers such encouragement, and is free from the sort of rebukes that Paul had for some of the other churches he wrote to, such as the one at Corinth. No doubt they had their own problems, but it seemed to be a strong church.

Philippi theater

Philippi theater

It is Paul’s words in chapter one, written from prison yet expressing his love for them, his contentment, and his hope for the future in Christ that demonstrate his appreciation for the memories he has of them and for their support during his imprisonment. This latter would mean a great deal, as imprisonment carried with it a stigma even though his cause was righteous. In Philippians 1:12-14, he tells them how he had made it clear “throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest”  that his imprisonment is for Christ.

Paul expresses courage and certainty that death would only mean getting closer to the Lord, yet he realizes the work that is needed to be done here by him, as well as by them – and that is to proclaim Christ to the world. He tells them honestly that they will see suffering for Christ’s sake.

Perhaps the most important message for us from this chapter of the letter comes from verse 27, in which he urges them to “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” This message must never get lost on us as we go about our busy lives. The souls of others may depend on it.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.