Friday, June 29, 2018

Reading Through Philippians #2 (2.19-4.23)

PhilippiansThis post concludes a quick read through of Paul’s letter to the Philippians accompanied by Philippians (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series) , by Gordon Fee. I enjoyed this commentary and plan on taking a closer look at it as I work through Philippians in the future. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Paul now moves into the more applicational part of the letter in 2.19-4.3. He begins with the examples of his co-workers Timothy and Epaphroditus to show the Philippians what a Christ-centered and Cross-focused life looks like. Timothy exemplifies a life based on the truth of the gospel lived out in a self-sacrificial way that considers the needs of others as more important than one's own. Epaphroditus shows that this lifestyle is willing to risk suffering and death to meet the spiritual and physical needs of others and to accomplish the mission of bringing the gospel to the world. Paul then moves to the bad example of the "circumcision party" who were more concerned about their own welfare and wanted to come to God based on their own accomplishments rather than through faith in Christ. Paul could have chosen that path, and lived that way before he met Christ, but now considered any past righteousness he has as "smelly street waste" and considered that only pursuit of relationship with Christ had any value. Though this led to suffering in the present, the eternal payoff was worth it. Knowing Christ, through the Spirit, is the only thing that produces God's righteousness, unity, and the joy and peace of God.

Joy does not mean the absence of sorrow but the capacity to rejoice in the midst of it...The God he serves is full of mercy, both in healing the sick and in sparing the heavy-laden from further sorrow. Note too that Paul simply would not understand the denial of grief that some express today when they rejoice over the death of a loved one. No, death is still an enemy—ours and God’s (1 Cor 15:25–26)—and grief is the normal response; but it is sorrow expressed in the context of hope (1 Thess 4:13). Philippians 2.19-30, 124

What Paul has in view is neither congregational worship nor internal “spiritual” service (personal piety) over against external rite, but two ways of existing: in the flesh, meaning life centered in the creature as over against God, and by the Spirit, as people of the future for whom all life in the present is now service and devotion to God. Philippians 3.1-4, 134

Christian life means to be finished with one’s religious past as having value before God or as a means of right relationship with God; it means to trust wholly in Christ as God’s means to righteousness. But such “righteousness” has as its ultimate aim the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord; and knowing Christ means to experience the power of his resurrection for present sharing in his sufferings, as those sufferings are in “conformity with his death.” Philippians 3.5-14, 151

Paul concludes with some final commands that sum up his example and the Christian life to which believers are called. Christians live a life of joy, despite suffering and persecution, because there is no greater source of meaning and peace now, and, just as Christ rose from the dead and rules, we will share in his kingdom and rule and experience completely the defeat of death, sin, and the evil powers that persecute God's people. Ultimately, the Christian life is not about our current situation or our abilities etc, but it is centered on knowing Christ. Thus, we can always be joyful because, whatever happens in our life, we will end up victorious in Him. It is all about Jesus; knowing and serving Him.

This passage reminds us that despite appearances often to the contrary, God is in control, that our salvation is not just for today but forever, that Christ is coming again, and that at his coming we inherit the final glory that belongs to Christ alone—and to those who are his. It means the final subjugation of all the “powers” to him as well, especially those responsible for the present affliction of God’s people. Philippians 3.15-4.3, 166

These concluding exhortations call us to embrace what is good wherever we find it, including the culture with which we are most intimately familiar, but to do so in a discriminating way, the key to which is the gospel Paul preached and lived—about a crucified Messiah, whose death on a cross served both to redeem us and to reveal the character of God into which we are continually being transformed. Philippians 4.4-9, 181

This passage points up the absolute Christ-centeredness of Paul’s whole life. He is a man in Christ. As such he takes what Christ brings. If it means “plenty,” he is a man in Christ, and that alone; if it means “want,” he is still a man in Christ, and he accepts deprivation as part of his understanding of discipleship. Philippians 4.10-23, 187

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