TO LIVE IS CHRIST
Partnership In The Gospel
Paul opens this letter to the Philippians by including Timothy in the salutation. Timothy was with Paul on his initial visit to Philippi (Acts 16), and he is very much like a son to Paul. Paul refers to both he and Timothy as slaves of Christ Jesus. This statement was not false humility or empty words, Paul considered this a great privilege and will later show that it is the same position taken by Jesus himself. The epistle is to God's holy people, the saints who are made holy in Christ Jesus and are in Philippi. Paul also addresses the plurality of leaders in the church that serve with the church and not over the church. Paul's greeting is a condensed synopsis of his theology namely that grace is the saving work of God that brings peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The letter moves into words from a heart that loves and appreciates the church at Philippi. Paul is thankful and filled with joy because of their partnership in the gospel. Paul is not shy in expressing his certitude that the same God who began the good work is the same God who will bring it to completion. He speaks tenderly of the way he feels about the people. They are constantly in his thoughts while he is imprisoned. Paul calls on God to witness to the yearning of his heart empowered by the love of Christ Jesus, and he prays for the Philippians to abound more in their love. The love that Paul speaks of is not some fatalistic out of control emotional experience; it is to be practiced with knowledge and discernment so the believers can distinguish his ways, grow in holiness and be filled with the fruit of righteousness.
Served To Advance The Gospel
Paul is in a difficult season of his life. He was arrested in Jerusalem on a false charge, taken into custody, and held at Caesarea for two years. During this time various governors tried to get a bribe to release him. Finally, Paul claimed his right as a Roman citizen to have his case heard by Caesar in Rome. Paul’s appeal was granted, but the journey to Rome proved a disaster. He experienced shipwreck on the island of Malta, and when he arrived in Rome, Paul was placed under house arrest (Acts 27 and 28). This servant has every reason to be frustrated and angry, but he assures his friends that what has happened to him served to advance the gospel. The palace guards have learned why he is in prison and the gospel has been shared without fear. The apostle identifies preachers who preach from envy and rivalry as well as those who preach from good will. Paul delineates between these two groups, but he is clear that they have the same message. No matter the motivation of these other preachers, Paul rejoices that Christ is proclaimed.
I Am Hard Pressed
Paul rejoices knowing that regardless of the outcome, he wins. Paul walks through his reasoning process explaining his past and present situation weighed against his future. The joy of Paul’s life was grounded in his Christ-centered life. He states, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Dying was gain because it meant to be with Christ, the better by far. Yet it was the Lord’s will for Paul to remain in this life because it was more helpful for the Philippians’ progress and joy in the faith. Paul calls the Philippians to join him in contending for the faith of the gospel. The gospel is the good news of what God has done through the saving work of Jesus Christ. It is the message of the holy God providing in Christ the righteousness that sinners must have in order to stand in his presence. It is the message of God propitiating his wrath against sinners by pouring out that wrath upon our substitute the Lord Jesus Christ. It is good news because there is bad news and it is exclusive news because Jesus is the only way to the Father. Soldiers and athletes need to be united with one mind as they work to achieve the objective. The conflict would come, but standing in one Spirit, with one mind, jointly contending for the faith of the gospel, they would not only see the power of the gospel.
Things To Consider:
- Why is it important to understand our identity as servants?
- What can be learned about church governance from this passage?
- How should we pray for other believers?
- Why must we remember that salvation is God's work?
- Why assurances are given to the believer in this passage?
- How does love abound more and more?
- How should a Christian think of suffering?
- Do people still preach Christ with impure motives?
- How is the fear of death removed by Christ?
- Is your manner of life worthy of the gospel of Christ? Why or why not?
- How does a Christian strive?
- Why is unity important?
- Are you engaged in the conflict? Why or why not?