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

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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

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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 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
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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
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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
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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.  

 

Acts 16 – The Philippian Jailer Converted

After arriving again at Lystra, Paul wanted a disciple there named Timothy to come with him.  Some wonder why Paul chose to circumcise Timothy, but clearly states in Galatians 2:3 that Titus was not circumcised.   The answer is that Timothy, before becoming a Christian, was raised by a Jewish mother (though his father was Greek).  So, as verse 3 says, it was because of the Jews in those places.  Having an uncircumcised Jew with him could pose a distraction by having some focus on that fact rather than the important teaching of Jesus Christ.

Paul and Silas set out on a second missionary journey to visit the cities Paul had preached in earlier. This time they set out by land rather than sea, traveling the Roman road through Cilicia and the Cilician Gatesa gorge through the Taurus Mountains, then northwest toward Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium. The Spirit told them not to go into Asia, so they turned northward toward Bithynia. Again the Spirit said no, so they turned west through Mysia to the harbor city of Troas.

As they went along, the brethren at various places were encouraged by the relating of the events of the Jerusalem Conference.  In verse 6, as they passed through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, it says that they had been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.  This is not a reference to the continent of Asia, but to a Roman province in what was called Asia Minor – Ephesus being the capital.  For whatever reason, the people there were not ready to receive the word yet.  The same was true of Bithynia in verse 7, as they went through Mysia to Troas.  Then Paul had a vision of a man telling him to come to Macedonia to help them.

In verse 10, Luke speaks for the first time in the first person plural – “we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them”  – from which we can conclude that Luke had been preaching the gospel for a while already, as he includes himself with Paul, Silas and Timothy.  So they set sail to Philippi, a leading city in Macedonia.  There was no synagogue there, so on the Sabbath they found women gathered for prayer by the river.  One was “Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods.”  These goods would have been made from an expensive dye made from the murex shell.  Note that Luke says that God opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul said, and she was baptized.

Traditional site of Paul’s prison at Philippi

After Paul drove the demon from the slave girl in verses 16-18, her owners drug Paul and Silas before the magistrates with false accusations.  In verses 20-22, they were beaten with rods and put in jail.  Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns while the other prisoners listened until an earthquake shook the prison, opening the doors and freeing the bonds.  The jailer, readied to kill himself as he supposed they had escaped.  But Paul stopped him, and he and his family were all baptized. The magistrates sent the police the next day, telling the jailer to let them go, but Paul declared his Roman citizenship, and practically demanded an apology  – which he ended up getting, as the magistrates were then afraid.   They were asked to leave the city, though, so they visited and encouraged Lydia and the brothers before leaving.

Side note: This article at Ferrell’s Travel Blog has a unique photo and a bit of information about Philippi.

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

/Bob’s boy
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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.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.