As a review, we should remember the filial nature of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul was simply talking to his friends. Although there is a structure to it, there is no apologia (remember, statement made in defense) for his theology. However, the letter itself is a study in Christology proper, and this reveals itself clearly as one reads it.
1: Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
►The chapter starts with our favourite word! And what do we need to do when we see the word therefore? We need to see what it’s there for! The context of this is set by what comes immediately before, because it is a word that draws conclusions. What came before? A paragraph that deals with our behaviour in the world. It tells us that we must behave in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Interestingly, Paul does not enumerate that worthy behaviour as he does in other letters. Assuming his familiarity with Philippi as a church Paul himself planted, and that he himself pastored for a time, we can conclude that he didn’t think he had to, because they all knew the worthy behaviours recorded elsewhere (like the letter to the Ephesians for example), and were busy and engaged in doing them – this was a simple reminder to them to stay on course. So what is he reminding them of?
►If there is any encouragement [paraklesis, a calling to one’s aid; notably, the Holy Spirit is named the Paraklete, the One that comes alongside to aid by Jesus Himself] in Christ, if there is any consolation [paramuthion, encouragement; exhortation] of love [agape], if there is any fellowship [koinonea] of the Spirit [pneumatos, breath], if there is any affection [splagchnon, emotions] or compassion [oiktermos, compassion, pity]…
2: make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
►Paul pleads with the Philippians to make his own joy [chara, delight] complete [pleroo, to fill up to the full mark] by being of the same [autos, same] mind [phrenos, understanding or thought], maintaining the same love [autov agapeon], united in spirit [sumpsuchos, of the same mind], intent [phroneo, to have understanding or to have thought] on one purpose [again, phroneo, understanding or thought]. Paul is telliing the Philippians that what will make him filled with delight is if they will all move in a united love in a united direction with a united understanding of purpose.
►Sometimes in a gathering of God’s holy ones (saints), there can be disagreement on which direction to go on a given issue. I’m not talking about theological orthodoxy here, that is set by Scripture and is not really negotiable, although some of it can be read in a number of ways, giving rise to the denominational divisions we see in Protestantism today. Remember, we are in Ottawa, so I will be making Ottawa geographical references. I’m talking about the kind of discussion that goes like, “I think we should do outreach to the homeless in the Market area downtown.” An opponent may say through their own burdening, “no, I think we should reach out to the elderly in the Medex nursing home on Baseline.” What Paul is implying is wrong is to fight about it. Both speakers have a burden to reach out. Okay, let them BOTH reach out. Isn’t that better than a my way or the highway mentality? If it’s a question of resources, it’s no different. You have to understand this as more than a pithy phrase – God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s supply. This Ministry is an example of that. It isn’t free to run, there are people that donate the bandwidth, the space at the church, the web space at BereanNation.com, the folks that host BereanNation.com and pay the annual fee for the domain name, I could be here a while if I tried to list everyone and everything they have donated. Because of the good will of the donors, God has seen fit to bring this ministry to you, right now, either via the livestream, or via the notes that are posted to BereanNation.com. God’s Word goes forth to those that God wants to hear it – and make no mistake, if you have tuned in to this at some time, it is no accident. God is telling us here through Paul’s letter to the Philippians that we need to be pulling in the same direction, with an attitude of love, doing it all in worship to Him. And sometimes, things can get in the way of that. Paul talks about it here.
3: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
►Paul tells us that we should not do anything from selfishness [eritheia, factious, contentious, filled with strife based on self-centredness] or empty conceit [kendoxia, vainglory; a high opinion of one’s own abilities, position, or stock-in-trade]. Wow, I’ve been in church council meetings like that. They aren’t fun. People’s personal sense of pride gets involved, somebody calls them on it, and then insults get traded back and forth for a few minutes (if we’re lucky – they often go on for years after that). That isn’t how we need to be behaving. Rather, Paul says, we need to have this characteristic known as humility [tapeinophrosunē, modesty, lowliness of mind, having a deep sense of one’s own moral littleness]. We need, he says, to think of everyone else as more important than ourselves. Selah, as the Psalmist says – pause and calmly think about that for a moment.
►Do you mean to tell me that I am supposed to think about Mr. So-and-so’s feelings after the jerk he has been to the sound guy, the piano player, her husband the guitar player, the bass player, and even the pastor, not to mention the ushers, the church council members, and pretty much anyone who say him publicly berate the pastor in the parking lot after church one Sunday? No, I don’t mean to tell you that. God does, and I’m telling you from personal experience that you had better listen.
4: do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
►Using our “hypothetical” example of Mr. So-and-so, it is clear that he has some issues that clearly need to be dealt with, but WE are NOT the ones that are supposed to mete our justice with the right fist of fellowship, as they say – as much as we might like to at times. God says that vengeance is His, and we should leave the justice to Him. According to Paul, we are to put this fellow’s interests ahead of ours. He clearly has some concerns that drive his behaviour. Should we not calmly address those, hopefully to everyone’s satisfaction if he is correct in his thinking? And when he is not correct in his thinking, we should be silent and then go on with our day. Most pack animals understand that instinctively. If you don’t believe me, watch a pack of dogs or herd of cattle. When one of them acts up, the others make a patent point of publicly ignoring him. He very quickly gets the message most of the time. And if he does not, and his behaviour becomes injurious to others in the group, the alphas of the pack will discipline him.
►Friends, take that example and apply it to Church discipline. If someone is being publicly disorderly as I have described in our midst, what should be done? Well, the regular members of the congregation should ignore what happened. The offended one should speak with the offender when things have calmed down. If the offender hears, problem solved, right? If he does not, then the offended one should meet with offender again, this time with the pastor or an elder or two. If the offender listens, again, problem solved. If he does not, then the church should be told and the offender should be removed from the rolls of membership and told so. And yet, this never happens in denominational churches that I have seen, including mine when an incident very much like this one happened in our parking lot after worship one Sunday. Why is that? Because it is difficult to deal with, personally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is easier to “christianize” it by remaining silent and “suffering for Christ.” But this does nothing to remedy the situation, and it is NOT putting anyone’s interests but the offender’s first. He wins. And more than that, he can get worse. A LOT worse.
5: Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
►Attitude [phreneo, mind, understanding or thought]. Note that yourselves is plural, so Paul means the church.
6: who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
► Remember that Paul is speaking of Jesus. It says here that He existed [huparcho, a form of the word arche, from the beginning, or from the origin, combined with the prefix of hup or hyp, meaning to be at hand; at hand at the time of the beginning]. When God created Everything, He was already there, and he was already on hand in the form of God – it says so right here. So if God is eternal, then Christ Jesus is also eternal.
►He did not regard or suppose that equality [isos, equal, of the same number or size; we get our geometric word isosceles triangle from this] with God [Theo] a thing to be grasped [margin, asserted]. Wait – What? God Himself did not consider or suppose that His “Godness” was something he needed to assert or hang onto, or hold over others? How can that be? [I know, I know….God is not like us.]
7: but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
|►Instead, this Jesus emptied Himself, that is He laid aside His privileges according to the marginal translation, and took the form of a bond-servant [doulos, bond-slave] became a man [anthropos] Himself. Why? Well, if you’ve taken in the Bible Study here before, you’ll know that He became like us so that WE could be like HIM!|
8: Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
►He was found in the shape of a man, literally. He appeared to be one of us, but He was so much more. And yet, he made Himself low. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the Will of and Word of God – to the point it cost Him His own life – even by crucifixion, the most painful form of criminal execution ever devised! Why? Why would He do that? Well, because He was putting the concerns of everyone else ahead of His own. He was becoming God’s Passover Lamb. John the Baptist called Him the Lamb of God. This is what he meant by that name.
► He was found in the shape of a man shows something else. It shows that He was a man, but that He was also God at the same time. He set aside His privilege as God the Son and lived as one of us, not relying on His divinity. He was human while He was here, even though his “Godness” kind of bled through the shape. Yet He used His power to choose to choose to redeem us, those who had rejected God and were under that original curse. The theological term for this kind of fusion of God and man into one being is called “hypostatic union” if you want the $50 word for it.
►There is apparently a reward for this kind of obedience for this God-become-man.
9: For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
►Here is where Paul begins to describe it. God bestowed [charizomai, showed favor by, made a gift of] the name that is above every other name upon this Christ Jesus. This has implications.
10: so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
►At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow. This is what is called “an act of contrition.” To show that He is greater than us, we will do this. As Christians, we should do this willingly. Not everyone at present in any of those mentioned locales will do so. Remember, Ephesians 6 tells us that we battle against dark and evil forces located in heavenly places. Doing so now is a choice. However, there will come a time where it will be too late to choose this yielding to Christ. If one were to wait until then, they may find themselves upon broken knee, forced into the contrition they sought to avoid.
11: and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
►Likewise, it is a choice at the moment to make confession that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. If one were to wait until it was too late to make this choice, one may find themselves spitting it with the hiss of hatred and pain through clenched or broken teeth. There is a great gospel in those verses and that realization.
12: So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;
►And now, after the gospel, after the great Christology study, we get this encouragement. Paul tells the Philippians to obey just like they did when he was there with them. Then he says something very interesting, and theologically challenging. He says, “Work out your soteria [salvation] with fear and trembling.” This verse is where Arminians turn to say, “See? You’re saved by works!” Are they right? Let’s consider that for a minute.
►First thing we need to know is that with respect to soteria, there is more than one part to it. In his first letter to the Thessalonian believers, Paul defines a human being. He says in 1 Thess. 5:23 that he was praying for our spirit, our soul, and our body to be preserved complete and blameless when the Lord Jesus returns. We can learn from the passage that we are spirit, soul, and body, and that God intends to save all of it.
►Second, we must understand that we are saved in three parts. When our Spirit is saved, it is saved by grace through faith, not by our own works (Paul in Ephesians 2:8, 9). This is theologically called justification. It is the cancelling of our sin-debt before God by Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. We are justified by His grace, according to Romans 10, when we believe in our heart that Jesus died to pay that debt we had before God and when our mouth finally agrees to the truth of God’s finished work of victory, demonstrated by Jesus’ resurrection. I have heard some theologians give this the name salvation-justification. Here is where our spirit is saved from the wrath of God, which will be poured out on all those who will not obey the Gospel.
►Then our soul needs to be transformed (Romans 12:2) to be more like Jesus. This is the process, which comes by trials, tribulations, and suffering, by which the soul of the justified one is made holy or sanctified. Theologians have termed this as salvation-sanctification. This can only happen to a believer that has obeyed the gospel and is now following Jesus as His disciples did. There is still some debate that could be had here about whether we are involved in our own sanctification or not, but Paul seems to think so, and so do I. Pain and trouble are nothing if not opportunities to practice our Christian character.
►For the sake of being complete, the third part is salvation of the body, glorification. This is best seen on the mount of transfiguration where Peter, James, and John saw Jesus glorified. [My opinion is that Jesus appeared as we must have in Eden before the fall, though I am not dogmatic on that point.]
►Third, we must understand the context of the statement Paul is making. Who has Paul written this letter to? To BELIEVERS at the church at Philippi. How can one be saved after one is already saved? Are they getting saved over and over again? No. They have moved past justification, the salvation and making alive of our spirits, onto the saving of our souls, our sanctification. This is white requires our obedience and faithfulness of worship. Remember that worship is our response to God? How were we to work out our sanctification? With fear and trembling (our response to God). Fear and trembling that we might not get it right. This is possible if we try to do this in our old nature of the flesh. For those of you that have been with us since our first studies in Galatians, you should be beginning to see a familiar pattern through Paul’s letters.
13: for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
►Rather, we should put on the new man by yielding our thoughts and actions to God first, and let God work out that soteria in you. And this verse has great news – it is God at work in you, literally, both the willing of and the doing of His good pleasure. And if it is God at work in you, then you are most blessed!
14: Do all things without grumbling or disputing;
►Grumbling = muttering, murmuring, complaining; disputing = arguing, debating, reasoning, spiteful speech
15: so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,
►Why? So that you will become [marginal rendering] blameless and innocent [akeraios, unmixed, pure], children [teknon] of God, above reproach [amoma, unblemished] in the midst of a crooked [skolios] and perverse [diastrepho, distorted, misrepresented] generation [genea, race], among who you appear as [literally] stars in the cosmos.
16: holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.
►Again why? Because as believers, we are holding fast and holding forth [marginal] the word [logos, the Divine expression] of life [zoe, of the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God, and through him both to the hypostatic “logos” and to Christ in whom the “logos” put on human nature]. Why? So that in the day of Christ [we talked about the meaning of that being when Jesus comes for you personally, as opposed to opening an eschatological debate], Paul gets to brag a little – because his work will not have been empty and without purpose.
17: But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.
►Paul didn’t know what was going to happen. He did know that if he was convicted, he would be executed. He still rejoiced. I paraphrase what Paul said like this: Even if I am completely poured out to the exhaustion of all of own resources for the purpose of sacrifice for the service [litourgia, service in the sense of ministry; we get our word liturgy from here] of persuading you [pistis, a firm persuasion or opinion held] of how Jesus is really everything, I am filled with so much joy I can’t contain it, and want to share it with you all.
18: You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.
►And you do the same in return! You know, one of the ways that we can encourage each other is to tell each other the spiritual pursuits we are involved in, how the Lord is working where you are, and prayer requests about how we can pray for each other in ongoing works of God where we are. Share the joy.
19: But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.
►Paul had his representatives. He was hoping to send Timothy to get a real picture of how things were going for real in Philippi. It isn’t that Paul didn’t believe them, but there is only so much you can put into a letter, right? And Timothy, Paul’s companion also knew what to look for and what needed to be done to see spiritual increase.
20: For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.
►Paul tells us that Timothy was a kindred spirit, in fact his only one. Timothy was the only one that Paul knew for sure would have the same genuine concern for the welfare of others.
21: For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.
►This verse makes me wonder what it is I seek after. The dangers of Phariseeism are still as present now as they were in Israel in the days of Jesus. As a student pastor, I can tell you that this is a question I struggle with all the time. Am I doing this for Jesus? Or am I doing this to feel good about myself, and let the world know how smart and theological I am. I have settled the answer for myself, I will serve Christ until there is no more breath in me. How about you? What is it YOU seek after? As the Psalmist said, Selah.
22: But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.
►Paul could give good report about his friend Timothy. He called it proven worth [dokime, proof by trial and testing, kind of like courage under fire]. He only needed to reference it to those at Philippi. They likely knew also.
23: Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me;
►Paul did not know how things would go for him, and he was just waiting to find out. As a by the way, this is part of the reason most feel this letter was written during a first Roman captivity. Timothy was with Paul, waiting with him. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, Paul writes to Timothy, who is not with him, and some have left the faith, notably Demas. It is thought that Paul was actually set free and travelled around, and was detained again under Nero’s rule after Nero tried to burn Rome and blame this new movement called Christianity.
24: and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming shortly.
►Paul didn’t know, but at certain points, he did have positive contact with senators, and likely had a number of supporters, whether they agreed with him or not. You can bet that Philippi was a projected destination once he was set free…
25: But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need;
►The church at Philippi had sent a messenger to Paul with provision for his needs. This probably was some personal stuff, but likely this was financial supply for Paul. This is striking, because Paul didn’t often accept financial aid. Instead, he worked as a tentmaker to earn money and pay for his needs. Philippi was one of the places that he DID accept this kind of aid from, and I think it was because he knew them and that they had a desire to see the gospel spread out across the world like he did. That messenger’s name? Epaphroditus. Scripture says that he was a messenger [apostolos, apostle!] to Paul, and a minister [leiturgeos, servant in terms of ministry] from Philippi to Paul!
26: because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.
►Epaphroditus longed to see his brothers and sisters in Philippi, and he was troubled because they had heard about the sickness he had suffered.
27: For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.
►The sickness was serious enough that Paul tells us that Epaphroditus nearly died, but that God had had mercy on him, and also on Paul, because it would have been unimaginable sorrow for that to have happened.
28: Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.
►So Paul was sending him home to Philippi, because he knew this man was also a servant of Christ, and would also care for the saints there, lessening Paul’s concern for them, certainly.
29: Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard;
►People like this are precious. Why?
30: because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.
►Apparently, Epaphroditus was willing to give it all to the Lord, up to and including his own life for the work of Christ, to make sure the effort didn’t fall short. This is another moment where we have to ask ourselves those hard questions as Christians. Paul has held up Epaphroditus as an example of a servant of God for all to read about. Here is a man that was ready to count it all lost for Christ’s sake. How about us? What ae we willing to give up, live with, do without, in our service for Christ and His gospel? Many brothers and sisters over years are recorded as having paid the ultimate price for service to the Gospel. Many today know the threat of physical harm, financial censure, being made the butt of social jokes, and even death to tell people about the redemption they can now find in Christ. What about us? Can we rise to the occasion? Or is it too hard to get out of bed? What the world sees as “the church” is full of people that only come for the social aspects of the gathering. Someone has to make up for “what is deficient.” What about you?
And with that, we’ll close! Let’s pray.
Until next time, keep studying the scriptures daily, to see if it is so.