Rejoicing With Other People of Faith
[Philippians chapter 1, verses 1-18]
Today, having just completed our verse-by-verse study of Galatians, we will move on to the book of Philippians. Unlike Galatians, which was a healthy dose of tough love mixed with plenty of encouragement, Philippians is a book full of exhortation, thanksgiving and lavish praise. As we begin, we are made aware of the presence of Timothy, a protege’ and a deacon of the apostle Paul’s for which two of Paul’s letters are named after. Although not one of the original apostles, Timothy figures prominently in early church history. And so today we’ll be going over the first half of chapter one, beginning at the first verse.
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the Gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1, verses 1-11, NIV)
“Grace and peace to you…” Grace, which is unmerited or unearned favor from God and is only obtained when we give our lives to Christ, always precedes the Peace of Christ, which is literally a lifetime project for every believer, speaking from my own experience. The Peace of Christ is not something that is doled out by God like an allotment, but it is the end result of a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ on a personal level. We do not get His peace all at once, but it is learned by all believers a little at a time because our limited human minds would not be able to comprehend it if it were to be delivered to us all at once. It would overload our brains if we were to attempt such an undertaking on our own.
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Let’s stop and ask ourselves a fundamental question about this. Do the people we come into contact with on a regular basis thank God every time they think of you? If not, then we’re still not there yet in our walk with Christ. Family members, friends, co-workers, our bosses and company managers, those we worship with at church and strangers we meet everywhere, if we can get all of these individuals to thank God for us and the good things we do just once, that would be sufficient evidence of a life well lived. Remember what Jesus taught us – it’s in all four gospels – “whatsoever you do for the least of mine, that you do for me”. Make others your reason for living! Why lead a self-centered life, or why be egotistical? Nobody can please God when they act like that, they are pleasing only themselves. Remember another thing Jesus said about that: “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but they who humble themselves before God will be exalted”. (Luke 18: 14)
“He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.” He, of course, refers directly to Christ. “Carry it to completion” means how well you lived your life by honoring God, with the understanding that this is an ongoing process or a work in progress that lasts a lifetime. “Whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the Gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” I find this to be admirable about the apostle Paul. He maintained a good attitude even though he and Timothy were “in chains”, which is an old expression for being in jail. Never mind, Paul wrote, that I am locked up again for preaching the Gospel. Just keep on worshiping and praising God anyway. Keep your eyes on Christ, Paul was writing, not on me.
Paul’s prayer, “That your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ”, is my prayer for all of you as well. Being “pure and blameless until the day of Christ” is a clear reference to the Second Coming of Christ. Although we are citizens of the kingdom of God and by extension children of God, we are to maintain our status as such in anticipation of His return. This is job #1 for every Christian believer no matter who they are, where they live, how much money they have (or not), or who they know. If we devote as much of our time as we can and make it our first priority, many of the other smaller things in life will simply fall into place. With that in mind, let’s continue at verse twelve.
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel. As a result, it has become clear to the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the Gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (Phil. 1, verses 12-18, NIV)
“What has happened to me”, Paul wrote, “has really served to advance the Gospel.” Evidently the apostle Paul was imprisoned when he wrote this entire letter. Attempts to stifle the Gospel by the Roman government apparently had the exact opposite result of what was originally intended. “Because of my chains”, he wrote, “most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” The same thing has happened throughout the history of the greater church, the most notable example being the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Empire in 1989-1990. Once communism fell, it was followed by mass revival in Europe and Russia, and more recently in mainland China, all of which are currently works in progress for the Lord and the Church. In my opinion, this is a sure sign that we are living in the last days as described throughout the Bible, which says that all will be finished as far as the Lord is concerned “when the times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled”. That means us!
“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will.” The ferocious competition between rival churches for new membership – which is a code word for new donation sources in certain “prosperity gospel” churches, and which I have previously commented about at length – is as old as Christianity itself. Still other churches – I will decline to name any denominations here – preach and teach that their message is the only true gospel, implying that every other church out there is phony except for theirs. I view this as being tantamount to judging other people, which the Bible repeatedly warns us about. Judgment isn’t our job, it’s God’s and His alone. To sum this up in a single sentence, there are those who preach the Gospel and who attend church for all the wrong reasons. Those who do this and refuse to repent of this serious sin will fully deserve the condemnation they will receive. They will stand before God on judgment day expecting to be admitted to heaven for eternity, only to find themselves headed in the opposite direction, much to their horror. I pray every single day that I please not end up like these thoroughly deceived individuals, and that my name remain in the Lamb’s Book of Life (see Revelation chapter 20, verses 12-15). For anyone who is a believer – or who wants to become one – and who isn’t already doing as I do, today is the prefect day to start. Remember, we don’t have much time left, and I cannot overemphasize this fact. Start getting yourselves ready, because He is coming back very soon. And as we do, let us all rejoice together because of Jesus Christ and all he has done for us.