WALK WITH WISDOM (2)

BRIEF INTRO:

In our previous study, we looked at positive, godly influences that a believer needs to have in their life. People like this live in “a manner worthy of our Lord,” indifferent to the circumstances of the day. Such people stand out in our congregations, and it is such people Paul urges us to look for and follow their example.

In this study, we will be looking at the opposite of godly influences, enemies of the cross!

18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even as I weep, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their [a]appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who have their minds on earthly things. 20 For our [b]citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;21 who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with [c]His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, [d]whom I long to see, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

FOCUS ONE:

Unworthy examples (18-19)

Some people live their lives as “enemies of the cross.” The Apostle is weeping as he writes those words. Brothers and sisters, does such rebellion in the lives of those around you cause you to cry? Does it cause you a-n-y distress of soul? Paul is not speaking of believers who stumbled into sin or who may be facing tough challenges in life and are dealing with doubts, depression, or things like that which they will inevitably work through. No, he is speaking about non-Christians.

These non-believers can be found inside a church, just as well as outside it. These were people who were adding works to their faith for salvation (2,3). Christ isn’t enough, they say, so they are constantly pursuing some form of fleshly merit to gain righteousness. Another group Paul may have been speaking about would be the “antinomians.” These were people who were a law unto themselves. They confessed Christ with their lips but denied Him with their lives. They practiced loose living; they were religious but denied the cross, loved the world, and lived for their flesh.

These are examples we are to turn away from, even call them out!

Such lives patterned after the flesh, living for this world and then adding religion to it, are lives that are destined to destruction (v.19). 

                       But, it is not likely that all these people Paul is speaking about are out-and-out pagans. 

One commentator says: “In all probability they were “professing” Christians, but whose lives were so profligate (recklessly extravagant, wasteful and amoral), that it was clear to Paul that they had never been regenerated, probably not even members of the Philippians church. Think about it. This entire letter would have been much different if “many” such people were in that church. These were people in the Christian community as a whole and therefore posed a danger to every church.”

But dear Christian, we have been changed, have we not? We have been transformed by the renewing of our minds and therefore ought to have nothing to do with the ways of this world. To do so is nothing short of compromise!

Our God has graciously saved us from this perverse generation (Acts 2:40). We now have the mind of Christ, so we can think, act and behave like Him (1 John 2:6). God has given us a new spiritual and moral capability, which continues and matures throughout our lives- as we obey His will, His word, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

We are eagerly awaiting our savior to return for us. This expectancy should spur us on to a higher and holier manner of conduct as we await His return. 

This is the goal, the prize that we are to be running the race for, as we will see in our next point!

FOCUS TWO:

The goal and prize (20-21)

 Dear Christian, our citizenship is in Heaven. 

  As citizens of heaven, longing to see our king, King Jesus, we are eagerly waiting for Him to return for us, because as Paul wrote the Corinthians, “he shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7-8). This is what Paul meant when he wrote back at the beginning of this letter that, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6). This is our goal; Christ is our prize! “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Hebrews 9:28).

“In these early days of the church the doctrine of the last things had three great points of focus,” Boice comments: “The return of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the body and the final judgement. Of the three the most significant was Jesus Christ’s return, This was the blessed hope of the Christians; it was for this they prayed. With this thought they comforted one another in the face of sorrow, persecutions death and martyrdom. We can imagine that as they lay in prison, suffering and tormented, often near death, they looked for His coming and thought that perhaps- – – in an instant – – – -and without warning – – – -Jesus would appear and call them home.” 

“As they entered the arena to face lions or looked up to the face of their Executioner, many would have thought with joy in their hearts, “perhaps this is the moment in which Jesus will return; even now, before the beasts can spring or the ax can fall, I shall be caught up to meet him.” 

But this is not the only place in our Bible that teaches us of this blessed doctrine of our Lord’s return. The return of Jesus is mentioned in every NT book except Galatians and the much shorter books of 2nd and 3rd John and Philemon. 

Peter called it “our living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). Paul called it our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). John wrote, “look, He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him” (Rev. 1:7).

Such truth ought to impact our lives in profound ways and be manifest in the ways we relate to the world around us and the things and people in this world. Christian, are you honestly expecting the Lord’s return? Is that evident in the way you are living?

“If you are motivated by prejudice against others, black, white, rich, poor or whatever, than the return of the Lord has not made a proper impression on you. If you are contemplating some sin, perhaps a dishonest act in business, sex outside of your marriage, cheating on a test or tax return, or whatever, then the return of the Lord has not made a proper impression on you.” 

John wrote, “dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, Just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

Perhaps you are reading these words, and you are not “eagerly” awaiting the return of Jesus Christ. You think that you are a pretty good person. After all, you haven’t killed anybody, YET! You give money to charity, attend church sometimes, and are better than many people around you. So, you may be thinking, why do I need a savior? Why do I need this, Jesus?

Let me share this illustration with you from Ray Comfort because it is very telling:

“What if I were to offer you a handful of $1 000 bills or a glass of water, which would you choose? The $1,000 bills, of course—anyone in his right mind would. But, what if you were crawling through a desert, dying of thirst, and you were offered a glass of water or a handful of $1,000 bills, which would you take? The water, of course—anyone in his right mind would. We call that “circumstantial priorities.” Your priorities change according to your circumstances.

Friend, If there were a way to find forgiveness of sin and life everlasting, would you want to know about it? The answer is “yes,” of course it is—anyone in his right mind would. The Bible speaks of riches beyond our wildest dreams—the riches of “everlasting life”—and they are offered in the form of cool, clear water: “Let Him that is thirsty come, and whoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).” 

Right now, you may not be interested in the offer, but if you reject it, on judgment day, your circumstances will radically change, then it will be too late.”

So, please, turn to Christ Jesus; he is the wellspring of living water!

Can you see the importance of this doctrine? One commentator has said that: “the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a bit like a clothesline that supports the clean wash. If the line falls, the doctrines of the faith fall. Where the resurrection stands, everything else stands with it” (Boice Com. Pg. 221).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves all the essential teachings of Christianity. 

1. It proves the deity of our Lord (Romans 1:4)

2. It proves our justification before God (Romans 4:25)

3. It proves that the believer in Christ can have a supernatural victory over sin in this life (Hebrews 7:25; Jude 24).

And dear Christian, it is also the un-shakeable evidence for our resurrection!! Because He lives, we too shall live! That is the testimony of Jesus Himself (John 14:19)!

This is why Paul says what he does in this scripture in our text. The truth is, there is an encouragement to press on despite the many obstacles in our way:

1. Jesus is living

2. Because He lives, we shall live

3. And take note: because He was transformed, we shall be transformed! (21)

Jesus is going to transform this body, your body, “in its humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.” (21)

This should encourage those folks to press on and comfort them and anyone who has lost loved ones that were believers.  Death is a scary thing. Attached to the thoughts of it are thoughts of wasting away in sickness, the terror of a sudden accident, its connection to our sinfulness.

But friends, in none of those horrific thoughts, in none of those circumstances, does death have the final word, Amen? That is not the end of the story for those who are in Christ! 

Here and in many other places in our bibles, we are taught that we will meet again in the presence of our savior, Jesus Christ. We will meet in transformed bodies— and sin, sickness, sorrow, and the like will all fade away— and be no more in light of the renewing, holy work of Christ on our behalf.

Jesus said: “I am the way the truth and the life, nobody comes to the Father, but through me.” (John 14:6)

What an encouragement for these believers in Philippi. What a powerful exhortation to “press on to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” (Phil. 3:14)

So, because of these things, Paul says: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, whom I long to see, my joy and my crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” (4:1)

We have a glorious savior, the aid of the Holy Spirit to grant us spiritual victory in this life and ultimately the one to come. And, we have a fantastic future with Christ! 

So let us walk with wisdom. Wisdom from the word of God, as we pursue the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

WALK BY THE SPIRIT

Extended reading: Galatians 5:16-25

Devotional: Verse 16

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”

In life, whenever we want to accomplish something, we have to first attempt whatever it is, and second, be diligent in our effort at it. Think of when you were a child, and you wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle. It didn’t just happen, did it? No, you had to get on it and learn how to balance yourself. Your mother and father helped you by holding onto the bicycle until you yelled, “ok, let me go.” 

By not giving up and persevering through the many falls and the bruises that came with them, you eventually learned how to ride that bike! All analogies break down at some point, and this one is no exception.

In our text, Paul explains how our flesh (old man), and its desires, are set against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. There is a war going on within us, and we often lose many of the battles because we do not grasp and exercise this great truth. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Walk by the Spirit, and the flesh loses! We’re all in, right? 

The problem is, though, just like learning to ride a bicycle, we need help. We can’t do it alone. Paul tells us to “walk by the Spirit,” or keep in step with, live by, or be occupied with the Spirit. In other words, the ONLY way to defeat the flesh and its wicked desires are by being so preoccupied with the Holy Spirit that there is no time for us to give sway to those temptations that want only to destroy us.

For us to “walk in the Spirit,” we have to first be “led” by the Spirit (Romans 8:13-14). This means that we are sensitive to His will for us and are actively cooperating with Him to fulfill it in our lives. It means that we are “putting to death,” or adamantly fighting against anything in our hearts that is at odds with the Spirit’s will for us.

The difference between the two, walking in the flesh, or walking in the Spirit, is as different as night and day. If we walk in the Spirit, we are led by Him, walking in obedience to Him, encouraged and strengthened by Him, and will enjoy unimaginable blessings. And, WE WILL NOT carry out those things that bring us guilt and shame before Him. Suppose we walk in the flesh, satisfying its evil desires. In that case, we grieve the Holy Spirit within us, are working against His good and perfect will for us, and have to face the guilt and consequences of yet another unnecessary defeat by our arch enemy.

Here is where my analogy breaks down. Once you learn how to ride your bicycle, you no longer need your mother and father to help you. You will go through life riding your bike without their help. It is quite the opposite, however, in the Christian walk of faith. WE ALWAYS need the help of the Holy Spirit. He is divine, and we are not. He sanctifies, empowers, and indwells each person He graciously saves! So, let us walk by the Spirit. It’s the only way to defeat our old nature.

KNOWING CHRIST

                                                   

 Philippians 3:10-12

 Brief Intro: 

As I mentioned in my last post, we would have to come back, camp out, if you will, a bit longer in verses 10-12, because there is so much Paul is expressing that, on its face, honestly, it just doesn’t make much sense, at least not concerning what we know about Paul’s life and conversion.

Those statements about “knowing Him,” “fellowshipping in His sufferings,” “conforming to His death,” etc., what’s that all about? We tend to glide past statements like this a-s-s-u-m-i-n-g we get it. We presuppose meanings to such things that may or may not be correct. We all do this at times, don’t we?

So, initially for myself, and now hopefully for your edification, I started digging to see what I have been missing by assuming too much in my own cursory reading of this Epistle.

So my aim in this post is simply this: to shed light on these statements of Paul and hopefully give you a much more precise and more applicable understanding of Paul’s heart, which he lays out to these believers in Philippi in these verses.

FOCUS ONE:

1.   To Know Christ 

What does this mean? If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have learned what you know about Jesus mostly from Paul. He wrote about His death, burial and resurrection. He explained the meaning of the gospel and revealed to us this “mystery” called the church. He “knows” and understands these things better than anybody else. So what does he mean when He says that he wants to know Christ?

Paul says in verse 10, those very words, “I want to know Christ.” This statement seems to assume his thought back in verse 8: there is an “Infinite value in knowing Christ.” Compared to everything in his life, his history, as he expressed in verses 5-6, to know Christ more personally, more intimately, here-now is to Paul of greater worth than anything else the blessings and honor of this world have to offer.

He is not just seeking a greater cognitive knowledge of facts about Jesus, things learned from books or mentors; no, what Paul was seeking was an intimate relationship with his savior born out of the daily experience of walking with Him!

Through the joys and sorrows, the ups and downs, the good and the bad; through the trials and tribulations or the blessings and comforts; whether being persecuted for the faith or experiencing the heights of spiritual success in serving Christ, Paul knew that in these things he would learn more about Christ. He knew that walking through life’s twists and turns in humble obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ would be the catalyst for such an abiding relationship.

The word “know” in verse 10 has varied meanings in our English language, just as it does in other languages and just as it does in our bible. For example, it can mean “to have learned something by serious study.” Or to know something by experience. It can refer to intimate knowledge between two persons, and even deep personal intimacy and contact between two people like, such as with Adam and Eve as in Genesis 4:1. But as Dr. Boice comments, “but because this is what knowledge between persons is—deep, intimate union, Paul having been saved wholly and solely by Christ, wants to enter into the deepest possible union with Him.” Dear reader, that union is to be forged within the fires of our own human experience.

Much of our western Christianity has a mindset far from what we are reading here. Much of our Christianity is influenced by our parents, culture, and church, or the various churches we have attended over the past many years. 

What do I mean by that? I mean that some Christian’s Christianity is based more on family influence, beliefs, and example than on God’s word. The greater impact in their lives has been the various churches they attended and their particular ecclesiastical structure. But even more predominant than those two things is the influence and affect our culture plays in our individual and corporate walk of faith!

So, as we look at Paul’s words, I want you to think about how much of YOUR Christianity is BIBLICAL Christianity and how much of it comes from our culture and family backgrounds?

Ask yourself these questions as you think through this:

A. Is your love for God more an “emotion,” than it is a commitment?

B. In light of the incredible love God manifests to you at Calvary, are you extending similar love, mercy, and justice to those around you?

  1. We believe that Jesus died on the cross as an atonement for our sin, an act of incredible love. Our only appropriate response to our merciful savior is to submit to Him as Lord in all things. Are you submissive?

We can know Him personally and intimately. Jesus is not someone far removed from us. Our bibles tell us that He is near to us, with us, acquainted with all our ways. Don’t you desire to know Him more personally?

Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg! For most of us, the reality of being able to know Christ more personally and intimately in our daily lives is sobering and challenging enough. But Paul doesn’t stop here. Paul also wants to know His power.

FOCUS TWO:

2.   To experience His mighty power

Paul says: “I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection.”

He is not only speaking of the divine power that raised Christ from the dead but of the power of the resurrected Christ now operating in his life. That power enables believers to “live a new life (Romans 6:4).” Because they have been raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 2,5,6)

Ephesians 2:5,6: “Even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead, (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved). For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 3:1 “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”

Paul says that he wants to experience that power in his redeemed body, that “new creation” body that 2 Corinthians 5:17 speaks about. As Paul sets his sights on the realities of heaven, as he walks in this promise of “newness of life,” he wishes to experience that power more personally, more experientially in his limited time on earth.  But how? How did he wish to experience it? 

Boice again: “Above all, in the living of a godly life. Paul knew that a life lived with Jesus meant a life of holiness. But he also knew such a life was impossible if it depended upon his own natural powers. He had learned by experience his own inability to live as God intended; Paul longed for such a deliverance,{ as he expressed in Rom. 7:19, 22-24}, through Christ’s resurrection power.” 

The Greek word (Dunamis) used in verse 10 means power, especially inherent power. All the words derived from its stem (Duna) have the basic meaning of being able or capable. In other terms, Paul means having the ability to overcome resistance!

Since Christ died and rose again, overcoming the powers of death through the Holy Spirit, as Paul stated in Romans 8:11, he knew that same power, that same Holy Spirit, was able to help him overcome the resistance of the world, flesh, and the devil.

Dear Christian, Paul was sensitive to this power, are we? Are you? We should understand and believe that a life of holiness is impossible in our natural abilities. You and I desperately need this resurrection power to live a life where we can more wholly, more intimately experience a deeper relationship with our savior. 

Perhaps you are reading this, and these things that I have been talking about so far make no-sense-at-all-to-you, well, hold on because I have a few more things to say that you probably won’t understand either. This is because the things I am talking about are not “taught by human wisdom,” but taught by the Holy Spirit. A person who has not received God’s grace through His Son Jesus will see these things as foolishness and won’t be able to understand them because they are spiritual truths for His children, something that you presently are not!

But the good news is that even though you have sinned countless times against your creator, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and rightly deserve His condemnation—God in His love sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus, to take on human flesh and die in the place of sinners like yourself, like all of us. He accepted the sacrifice of His Son as full payment for your sins and evidenced that by raising Him from the dead. He now offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to everyone, including you dear friend, if you but turn to Jesus in repentant faith. You cannot earn something as wonderful as this. It is God’s free, unearned gift to those who genuinely trust in the finished work of Christ at Calvary.

The third thing Paul speaks of is “fellowship in His sufferings.”

FOCUS THREE:

3.   To suffer with Him, being conformed to His death

“I want to “know” Him, and the “power” of His resurrection and the “fellowship of His sufferings.”

Again, what does he mean, right? Paul does not mean that he wished to suffer for human sin as Christ did because only Jesus could do that to the Father’s pleasure and satisfaction. So, Paul is speaking in a different sense. 

Paul wished, as one commentator expressed better than I could: “to stand with Christ in such an individual union that when the abuses and persecutions that Christ suffered also fell on him, as he knew they would, he could receive them as Jesus did. He wanted to react like Jesus, because he knew that abuse received like Jesus would actually draw him closer to his Lord.” Receive rightly and react rightly!

Paul earlier expressed this back in 1:29: “for to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” In 1 peter 4:12-13, Peter said: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. But to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.”

Paul knew that to be a Christ-follower and to walk in a holy manner before this world and His redeemer meant that trial and tribulations, suffering in varying degrees, would come part and parcel with his new allegiance. He knew there was a right way and a wrong way to “run the race set before him,” and he accepted that fact humbly and wanted to receive and react appropriately to the sufferings that God would allow to fall on him, “for His names sake,” as we saw in 1:29. 

He knew that through such sufferings a deeper, more intimate relationship- or “knowing” of the Lord was possible, and he counted the cost and decided that the surpassing value of knowing Christ was worth it all! (3:8)

This fellowship of Christ’s suffering is won at a high price….the price of loyal, intentional obedience (vv. 13-14)!

Christian, are you like Paul desiring to receive and react humbly and obediently to our father in heaven no matter what He allows to come your way?

Or do you count hardship and suffering in your life as something strange and to be avoided at all costs?

Do you realize that there is a biblical way and a worldly way of thinking about sufferings? Which theology do you hold?

These statements of Paul explain why he desires to know Christ more personally and experience His power and fellowship in His suffering because he wants to “attain” or experience the resurrection from the dead.

FOCUS FOUR:

4.   To attain (experience) the resurrection from the dead

Talk about complex statements. If the others were a bit hard to comprehend, what about this one??? 

Does it mean that Paul was afraid of his eternal security? No, not at all. The man who wrote Romans 8:38-39 and Philippians 1:6 is not a man who fears that. Paul is obviously, speaking of something different.

Paul is not thinking in these terms; one commentator writes: “he is thinking about something else. Actually, he is saying that he wishes to be so much like Christ in the way he lived that people would think of him as a resurrected person EVEN now, even before physical death.”

Dr. Kuiper agrees and, in his thinking, has said: “The word resurrection literally means to ‘place,’ or ‘stand up.’ To the Greek mind, living people were standing up, and dead people were lying down. So, making a Greek pun, Paul says, “I want to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings that I may give the spiritually dead a preview to (eternal life in action) as I am standing up outstanding among those who are spiritually on their backs—spiritually dead.”

Brothers and sisters, is it our desire to be so living for Christ in this world that we would appear as a resurrected person living among the dead?

Conclusion:

With so much said and much to think upon, what’s our summarized takeaway from these scriptures? I believe it is this:

What Paul is expressing is biblical Christianity. Vile sinners are forgiven by grace, forsaking their own perceived righteousness and receiving Christ’s, now pursuing their savior. Laying aside what is behind and counting it all a loss to grasp hold of something more precious, something of greater value, and reaching forward to what lies ahead, “laying hold of Christ Jesus!”

Is this our Christianity or are we holding on to some other definition of Christianity that is not biblical, or perhaps comes from our culture, upbringing, or something else?

TASTE AND SEE

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EXTENDED READING: PSALM 34

DEVOTIONAL READING: VERSE 8

“O TASTE AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD; HOW BLESSED IS THE MAN WHO TAKES REFUGE IN HIM.”

As fall had begun, my mind took me back to a day when I was offered a slice of sweet potato pie rather than the pumpkin pie I loved and was accustomed to. I politely declined the kind offer but was quickly met with a forceful, “O, just taste it, and see how good it is.” With some reluctance, I tasted the pie. AND I LOVED IT! Since then, I have not stopped telling others about sweet potato pie.

This memory got me thinking about this verse and what it means to “taste” something. This psalm is a call by David to the whole assembly to praise the Lord for His goodness. For hearing him when he cried out to the Lord, deliverance from his fears, and for delivering the lowly from their troubles (v.6).

The Lord shows His goodness towards us as well, repeatedly, and that should compel us, as it did with David, to tell others about His goodness to those who trust in Him.

The word “taste” is used in two senses in the old and new testaments—the experience of the taste of food. And figuratively, the conscious experience of a different reality. This call is an invitation to turn to God and experience the benefits of a right relationship with Him.

I L-O-V-E sweet potato pie, and I encourage you to try it. BUT there is nothing that compares to having a right relationship with God through the atoning work of Christ on the cross. His “goodness” was made evident on the cross, where: “He should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9).

PRAYER: Just as David did, so do we. We praise you for your unending goodness to those who trust in you. Thank you for being faithful when we struggle, for meeting our needs over and over again, and for saving us from our sin. Those who look unto you will never be ashamed. Amen

FAITHFUL FRIENDS

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 Philippians 2:19-30

BRIEF INTRO:

So far in our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we saw how Paul’s appeal to these believers (the appeal to be likeminded, striving together for the faith of the Gospel, selfless, etc.) had left the realm of exhortation and example; which we saw the most outstanding example of all was Jesus Christ in verses 5-11 and entered into the practical realm. 

In verses 12-16, Paul expressed to those believers how having the same “attitude” as Jesus, how looking unto Him to imitate Him, would be beneficial in helping them to be unified as well as putting others before themselves. It would enable them to be humble and obedient, even in the tuff times, and bring glory to God.

And then we saw in those same scriptures that imitating Christ, thinking like Christ, not only benefits the body of Christ or the local church congregation, but it also has ramifications for our witness to those outside the church and to the world around us. A place in which we are to “appear as lights in the world (v. 15).”

Then we ended with Paul expressing how (vv. 17-18) such a life committed to Christ, even when coupled with suffering; he calls it, “the sacrifice and service of their faith,” is a cause for joy. A cause of rejoicing because such a life expended for others in obedient service to our Lord is a life lived with a proper, Christ-centered focus and will not be absent of rewards from the Lord when we meet Him face to face.

So, with that road already traveled, we move forward to read about two men very dear to Paul: Timothy and Epaphroditus.

19 But I hope, [a]in the Lord Jesus, to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven character, that he served with me in the furtherance of the Gospel like a child serving his father.23 Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me;24 and I trust in the Lord that I myself will also be coming shortly. 25 But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your [b]messenger and minister to my need, 26 because he was longing [c]for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27 For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. 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 you29 Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold people like him in high regard, 30 because he came close to death [d]for the work of Christ, risking his life to compensate [e]for your absence in your service to me.

FOCUS ONE:

As we read the epistles of Paul the Apostle, it is easy to see that he crossed paths with many different individuals. It would seem that some of these people were a great hindrance to his work for the Lord. In Philippians 1:16, “some brethren were preaching Christ from envy.” in 2 Timothy 2:17 – Hymenaeus and Philetus—”whose talk will spread like gangrene,” Paul said. In 1 Timothy 1:19-20, Hymenaeus (probably not the same person referred to in 2 Timothy), along with someone named Alexander, probably the coppersmith of 2 Timothy 4:14, “suffered shipwreck in regards to their faith and were delivered over to Satan so that they would be taught not to blaspheme.”

However, most of the people Paul met were a great blessing to his life and ministry. As one commentator observed: “Paul closes nearly every one of his letters with a personal note to some of these very special people. In the last chapter of the book of Romans, Paul mentions at least 35 people by name!”

Paul was a man who made friends as he traveled through life!

We are about to be introduced to two worthy men of God, fine examples of all that Paul has been teaching the Philippians in this second chapter.

We have been learning about “lowliness,” “self-less-ness” (Php 2:3), and about “being lights” (Philippians 2:15), and now we have in two of Paul’s partner’s magnificent examples of both. Timothy and Epaphroditus are here set before us as witnesses to the possibility of self-renounced and sacrificial living.

Our first witness, a “son in the faith,” He calls a kindred Spirit. That man is Timothy.

Did you take any notice as to how Paul begins and ends this section of his writing about Timothy?

He begins with “But I hope,” in vs. 19 and ends with “Therefore I hope,” in verse 23. I point this out because we need to understand Paul’s mindset at this time and his purpose in sending them his “son in the faith,” as he calls him in 2 Timothy 1:1.

Paul’s hope is not based on his intentions, inclinations, or even his wisdom. It is, however, intentionally grounded in the Lord! Paul says: “but I hope in the Lord.”

For Paul, what the Lord wants is what he wants. If sending Timothy to Philippi is according to the Lord’s will, great, so be it. And if it isn’t, great, so be it. Paul is wholly resigned to the sovereignty of God in the matter, and any matter, for -that matter! Paul understood and believed that God is the sole owner and ruler of all things, the sovereign one of Psalm 103:19 and Romans 11:36.

Dear Christian, do you understand and believe this? Whatever happens or doesn’t happen in your life, in the lives of others, and in this world does or does not happen because God wills it so!

  1. Are you ok with that?
  1. Are you resolved to live for Him anyway, even when you don’t get your way?
  2. Or, do you think you know better than the one true God who created everything?

So, who is Timothy anyway?

Timothy was originally from Lystra in modern-day Turkey. He grew up in a multicultural house with a Greek father and a Jewish-Christian mother and grandmother. His name means “one who honors God.” His exposure to Greek and Jewish traditions served him well as he helped Paul spread the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Paul had led Timothy to the Lord at a young age, and Timothy was instrumental in Paul’s ministry very early on. Timothy was with Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:5), was sent into Macedonia (Acts 19:22), was with Paul on the return trip from Jerusalem (Acts 20:4), and assisted Paul in the writing of Romans (Romans 16:21), 2 Corinthians (2 Cor 1:1), Philippians (Phil 1:1), Colossians (Col 1:1), 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon.

It has been said that Timothy was Paul’s “sole authorized representative” of the Gospel. For years Paul had relied on Timothy. Paul, at this time, was under house arrest in Rome. He eventually was released for about five years and inevitably is imprisoned again in the Mamertine prison. (2 Timothy) So, Paul “hopes” to send Timothy to Philippi.

 This first usage of the word “hope” tells us what Paul (wants to do). Why does Paul want to send this man to them? First of all, he says so that he can be encouraged (vs. 19). Paul strongly desires to know of their condition, are they unified? Are they growing? Are they serving the Lord? Paul is in prison and facing possible death, yet he is more concerned over the affairs of these folks than he is about his situation. 

Secondly, he wants to send Timothy because, in verse 20, he states, “I have no one else who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” literally in the original: “but absolutely not one,” or “not even one.” This is a strong statement regarding Paul’s sense of total agreement with Timothy, presumably more than anyone else. Even if this is only a general statement, it is still is an unfortunate commentary.

It appears that none of the Roman Christians are willing to serve in this way. It reminds me of Paul’s statements to Timothy shortly before he died:

“You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.”

Standing with Paul in Colossians 4:14 and Philemon, Demas is now said to be “in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.”

“At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.”

Paul says I have no one else of “kindred spirit.” That means in Greek, “one souled.”

One of our favorite movies in my household is called “Anne of Green Gables.” The main character is a small girl who, through tragic circumstances, finds herself living in a foster home. The foster parents turn out to be a massive blessing to Anne (that’s “Anne with an’ e’,” if you please), but she still faced difficulties as she grew up.

She made a statement once about the need to have a like-minded companion; it is a statement that caught my daughter’s attention. It was something like this:

“What I need is a really good friend–a bosom buddy. You know…a KINDRED SPIRIT with whom I can share my inmost soul.”

We all need such a friend, don’t you think? In this epistle today, we find that Paul regarded Timothy precisely in the way Anne longed for.

Note that being “like-souled” does not mean Paul and Timothy always agreed, but it does mean that being alongside each other was easy so that neither had to work hard at the relationship and things flowed smoothly between them.

Dear reader, do you find it easy to work alongside others for the cause of the Gospel, OR do you find relationships hard work?

If you say they are hard work, why is that?

1. Attitude (yours or others)

2. Unmet expectations 

3. Lack of effort

Timothy had proven himself over the years serving the Savior alongside Paul (22). He was a faithful, humble, sacrificial servant, and word of that got around. Paul says to them, “you know of his proven worth, how he served.”

Ultimately, this is what we are, servants of Christ. Paul has shown us in this chapter that we are to be acting unselfishly towards others, even when they are not. We are to be humble, even when others are not, looking out for others, even if we think no one is looking out for us. Ultimately, we are to be imitators of our Lord.

The second usage of the word hope, “Therefore, I hope,” reveals to us his reasoning for Timothy’s going. Notice he begins with the phrase, therefore. Therefore or because of the things just mentioned I hope to send him to you.

Paul stated that Timothy was the genuine article, the real deal (20), That He seeks after the interests of Christ (21), That Timothy would genuinely care for them (20), And that he has proven such over the years (21).

So, Paul wants to send him, if the Lord wills it so, and these are his reasons why. Look back at that statement of Paul in verse 21. Paul says, “all” without exception were seeking after their interests. One commentator notes that he does NOT say they are not saved, but they are not as self-sacrificing as Timothy. Some will help only when gain for Christ is compatible with their own. So, few have a genuine dedication to Christ and unselfish devotion to his church.”

Dear Christian, do you possess a self-sacrificing spirit of service toward your church family? Is your dedication to Christ genuine or superficial?

Timothy modeled self-sacrificing love, selflessness, passion, and conviction, just like Paul, but more significant yet, just like Jesus, as Paul instructed the Philippians in verses 5-11. He was a faithful servant in the furtherance of the Gospel.

The Gospel is “good news,” and that is the truth that saved Paul, and it is the message Paul was given to share with the gentiles, and it is the message that Timothy believed and now for years has been communicating with others!

The Gospel is: We all sin and deserve God’s righteous judgment. No amount of good works can pay the penalty of our sins, which is eternal separation from God in Hell. So, God in love sent His only Son Jesus to take on human flesh and die in place of sinners. A substitute. He offers eternal life and forgiveness of all sins to everyone who, in repentant faith, trusts in Jesus’ death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). Salvation is not a reward for human works but is God’s gift to all who genuinely believe in the finished work of Christ.

FOCUS TWO:

Since it would be a little while before Timothy could be sent, Paul wants to send Epaphroditus in the meantime because he came from them to minister to Paul’s needs on their behalf. He was depressed, knowing that they were worried about him. Indeed, he almost died in this work for Christ, But God spared him, and so Paul wants to bring joy to the Philippians by sending him back.

Epaphroditus is our second witness to the possibility of a selfless and sacrificial life towards others.

We do not know much about this man except that he was a native Philippian, He was sent to Paul with gifts (4:18), and he was to remain with Paul and serve him on behalf of the church in Philippi. In this effort, he came close to death seeking to accomplish this “work of Christ,” on their behalf (30).

It appears that as we read about Epaphroditus in this letter, Paul felt strongly that an explanation as to why he was sending him back with this letter was necessary. Paul seems concerned that they may think poorly of this man and not receive him back unto themselves very well. So, Paul, with great wisdom and sensitivity, pens these encouraging words about his brother and fellow worker.

It was William Penn who, centuries ago, described the seven features of deep-hearted friendship in this way: “A true friend unbosoms (discloses thoughts or secrets freely) freely –

Advises Justly,

Assists readily,

Adventures boldly,

Takes all patiently,

Defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.”

As we are to see, Epaphroditus answers this drastic test without flinching. To Paul, he was a friend sticking closer than a brother. Like a friend in need, he was a friend indeed.

Let’s look at Paul’s description of this man:

a. Brother (25)- A fellow Christian—like-minded

b. Fellow worker- He labored with and alongside of Paul. In other words, he shouldered his portion of the load. He was not a loafer who let others carry his part. He got in there and went to work for the glory of the Lord. Verse 25 tells us that he was a “messenger” and a “minister.” The church at Philippi sent him with a gift for Paul. He was their messenger. But, perhaps, the greatest gift from Philippi was Epaphroditus himself. Why? Because, when he arrived in Rome, Paul had somebody willing to do his part.

Fellow soldier- When Paul calls this man a “fellow soldier,” he is talking about a man who is “an associate in the spiritual conflicts of the Christian life.” The term “fellow soldier” tells us that Epaphroditus fought alongside Paul and not against him! One writer noted: “They were partners in a common struggle. They were shoulder to shoulder fighting the flesh, the world and the devil. They were as one in the dangers they faced, the enemies they encountered and the goals they shared.”

Your messenger- Their “sent one.” The English word is Apostle. He was not an Apostle, but he was “sent” to minister to Paul on their behalf.

Minister to my need—He served Paul well. He took risks, almost died to fulfill his ministry to Paul on their behalf. From this description, you can see why Epaphroditus was so important to Paul’s ministry. But, because of sickness, Paul thought it was necessary to send him back and he was very eager to do so, before he even sent Timothy (28).

But why so quickly?

Paul writes that he wanted to send him back immediately. Epaphroditus was distressed that the church at Philippi had heard he was ill. Look with me at verses 26-28:

Paul decided to send Epaphroditus back to Philippi to ease their minds and to calm his nerves. Epaphroditus was in “distress,” which is no small thing. The word means “deep anguish, anxiety, or emotional turmoil.” To put this in perspective–Philippi was eight hundred miles from Rome and at least a three-month journey. Somehow the news had gotten back to Philippi that Epaphroditus was deathly ill, and he was worried that they thought he might have died. This was nearly the case. The word “ill” means “without strength,” and it is said that he probably came down with the Roman plague. The term “almost died” literally means that He was at death’s door. But God had mercy on him and healed him.

For those of us that feel sorrow from time to time, notice that one of Paul’s main reasons for sending Epaphroditus back was so that Paul would have “less sorrow” (27). Paul was not perfect and struggled at times, just as we do. That’s encouraging to read.

Paul, some believe, is very strategic in the closing verses of this section (29-30). “There were those in Philippi that would have accused Epaphroditus of failing to complete the mission. It appears that Paul wanted to leave little room for doubt – Epaphroditus was not a quitter.”

So, Paul, using the imperative here (Therefore receive him in the Lord), exhorts the church to welcome him with “great joy” and “honor.” They were to honor him and celebrate the work he accomplished while he was with Paul in Rome because he was faithful to the mission, and he nearly died, risking (30) his life for the sake of the Gospel.

By the way: The word for risking means to “hazard, to throw aside one’s life, or to gamble.” This word became a noun with the formation of a group of Christians in the third century. They called themselves the “parabolani,” the gamblers, after this verse of Scripture and in honor of Epaphroditus. It is said that whenever and wherever a plague hit, these gamblers would rush in to take care of the sick and bury the dead. They were willing to risk their lives to live out their faith.

The first phrase of verse 30 indicates that Epaphroditus’s sickness was the result of his labors for the Lord Jesus. “Ancient church tradition tells us that Epaphroditus was known for his work among the sick in Rome. It is said that he and others would try to help people that most others would not even dare go near. In other words, he put everything on the line for Jesus, in order to fulfill the Great Commission.” For this man, nothing in this life was more important than doing the will of the Lord. Even if doing what God required cost him everything!

Brothers and sisters, what is the most important thing in your life?

Family, entertainment, money, work, or self?

These past months have genuinely awakened me, reminded me, refreshed, and renewed my thinking on what is truly important in this life. As important as those things I mentioned may be in their proper perspective, none of them are as important as our relationship with Jesus Christ and doing what He requires even if it means that it will cost us everything.

Epaphroditus was a balanced believer. He was balanced in his walk, in his work, and his warfare! He was active in all these areas of the Christian life.

Where do you stand in these areas today?

We are in this thing together, and we should love one another and stand together. There is no place in the Christian family for one brother to attack another. There is no place in the Christian family for division and strife. The Bible makes it clear that we are duty-bound to love one another, Matt. 22:37-39; 1 John 3:11-18; 1 John 4:11-21.

Epaphroditus loved to fellowship, but he didn’t mind rolling up his sleeves and getting involved in the physical work of the Lord either. We need more believers with that same attitude today.

There is a great need in this day for people who are willing to take a stand against evil in the world. We need believers who are not afraid to put on the whole armor of Christ and go with Him into battle. The devil is trying to tear down and take away many of the blessings we have as believers. We need people who will take a stand for the Bible, the church, for holiness. We need some soldiers in this day!

Now, some of you reading this may not be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, cannot take a stand for such things. Let me remind you of the central truth of the Gospel one more time.

God has provided a way of salvation through the gift of His Son to the world. He (Jesus)suffered as a sacrifice for sin, as a substitute for sinners, such as we are, overcame death, and now offers a share in His triumph to all who will believe. The Gospel is good news because it is a gift of God, not something that must be earned by penance or by self-improvement or by trying to be good enough. (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8–11; II Cor 5:14–19; Tit 2:11–14).

Friend, your sins can be forgiven. You can become a soldier for Christ, His servant, His child!!

Dear Christian, “wouldn’t it be a blessing to have a team of people like Epaphroditus in our church? Men and women who knew no greater goal in life than to be obedient to the will of the Savior! Sadly, for many, service hinges on convenience! Even simple, easy things like going to church are too much for many people! Who among us has a heart like Epaphroditus? Who has a heart that beats in time with the Master’s heart? Who has a heart to see people saved and the work of God done in this world regardless of the personal cost?

Few, very few! But you and I can become that kind of believer if we desire to! God has plenty of work available to those who will give Him all they have and are and trust Him to use them for His glory!”

Christian, you may have, in your mind, thought that such a life is impossible. Good, honorable, but impossible. After all, you may have thought, “I am no Jesus.”

These two men clearly show us that we may not be Jesus, but we can, as mere sin fallen creatures redeemed by grace, imitate Him, and be successful in what He commands us to do.

IN THE FACE OF CHRIST

Photo by Francis Seura on Pexels.com

                                            

Are you longing for a friend?

Who’ll stick by you till the end,

Can there be one that will suffice?

Only look in the face of Christ.

Have you ever been betrayed?

Heart wide open and on display;

Believing love is merchandised,

Oh, please look in the face of Christ.

Are you burdened by your sins?

Can’t bear the guilt you feel within;

The debt you owe is a costly price,

Only look in the face of Christ.

There is one who cares for you,

Cleanses, pardons, and renews;

And His love can’t be jeopardized,

Oh, please look in the face of Christ.

The face of Christ, God’s only son

Prince of p-e-a-c-e, Emmanuel 

The one who pardons and relieves

Only look and you’ll believe

Only look and you’ll believe

Written by : Larry Stump Jr.