June 16, 2015.
Daily Reading: Philippians 1-2.
Background: This letter is a letter of Paul written to the church at Philippi, which was one of the earliest churches in Europe. Paul, along with Timothy and Silas, had visited Philippi on his second missionary journey after being called to the region in a vision at night, often referred to as the Macedonian call (see Acts 16). In the record we have of his trip to Philippi, there are specific instances of conversions, but it is not explicitly said that a church was established, though we can infer that those who were converted (such as Lydia and the Philippian Jailor) made up the early church in Philippi, and that it grew from there (Paul did spend a substantial amount of time in this area at this time). In the opening chapter, we can see that Paul had a very close relationship with the church at Philippi, and that they had been partnered with him from their first day, lending to the idea that the church was indeed established on Paul’s second missionary journey.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Opening and current situations: Paul opens in his typical fashion, identifying himself and who he is writing to, and then giving thanks to the Lord for the people that he is writing to. We can see here from the opening that Paul has a deep and genuine love for the saints in Philippi, having confidence in the through the Lord. It seems that Paul is writing this letter from prison, but wants to encourage the church through his imprisonment. He encourages them to abound more and more in love, and to grow in knowledge and discernment that they might know how to approve what is excellent. They are to be pure and holy, with the righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. Talking about his imprisonment, Paul is quick to say that his situation has actually strengthened many of the brethren, causing them to more boldly proclaim the word of God. It also seems that being in prison has provided an opportunity for Paul to show Christ to the imperial guards, which is likely how there were saints in Caesar’s household (see Philippians 4:22). Then Paul addresses an issue that might seem somewhat unique in nature, as there were some who were proclaiming Christ out of envy and rivalry, somehow trying to afflict Paul through the preaching of the gospel. Though they did it with the wrong motives, all Paul cared about really was that the gospel was being proclaimed. He would take the consequences of whatever they were trying to do gladly, so long as it gave opportunity for others to hear the gospel. This was the heart of Paul, pure and loving.
2. To live is Christ: Paul could say what he did just previously because of his attitude and philosophy that he had in life, which he states here: “for to me, to live is Christ…” Perhaps we hear the second half of that verse quoted with more emphasis, “and to die is gain.” Whereas this is an important part of the passage, perhaps what is more applicable to our lives is the first part. Paul’s whole life was about Christ. He didn’t pick and choose when he was a Christian. He didn’t only talk about Christ on Sunday mornings with a bunch of fellow believers. Paul life was Christ. That’s why it didn’t matter to him what happened, life or death, for everything he did was to bring glory to Christ and not to himself. Notice how he is torn between life and death. One one hand, if he lives, he will have more opportunity to spread the gospel and encourage and strengthen the churches that had been established. But on the other hand, if he were to depart from this life, he would be with the Lord. However, he was confident in the Lord that he would remain on earth, for his job was not finished. He then encourages the church to live in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ, that whether he is present or absent, he might hear of their steadfastness and rejoice in their testimony to the world.
1. The example of Christ’s humility: Here Paul tells the church at Philippi (and by extension, us as well) something that is easy to understand, but rather difficult to actually put into practice. Here we are given the charge to be humble minded towards one another, counting others as more significant than ourselves. Think about that for a moment, and let it sink in. This is a very difficult teaching for us. However, we are to do this because we are to follow the example of Christ, who was seated at the right hand of God, exalted above all of us, but chose to humble Himself to become a man, and not only live the life that we live, but to die a terrible death than most of us will not have to do. He was beyond what we can even think of as royalty, and decided to put that to the side for our sake, all while we were still in sin! That is the example of humility that we are supposed to follow, and with that in mind, there is really nothing, no situation, that we can think of that we should not show humility in our interactions with others. However, don’t skip over the last part of this section, as it reveals the majesty and glory of Christ. Because of His humility, God has exalted Him above all else that at His name every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (see Isaiah 45:23 and Romans 14:11).
2. A light to the world, and future interactions: With this humility in mind, Paul goes on to teach the church at Philippi to do all things without grumbling or disputing, for they were supposed to be lights in a dark world. They were the ones who were to give testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, and if they were to do so, they had to be blameless and innocent. Though we cannot guarantee that we will be sinless, the world can tell if we are trying, and they can see our light as we shine Jesus. Thus, we must keep our light burring bring, without the blemish of sin that could damage our testimony. Let us ever hold fast to the word of life. Paul then speaks to the church about who he is sending to them for mutual encouragement. He wants to send Timothy, a young man who was proving to be a pillar in the faith, genuine and sincere in his love for the saints at Philippi. He also was sending Epaphroditus, who had been sick to the point of death, nearly dying for the work of Christ, that they might be encouraged of his visit and see that he was better. Paul himself also hoped to be able to come see them in person soon.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Leviticus 1-3.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.