Devotional # 121. 1/26/15. Philippians 1:1-14.
Introduction to Philippians: The book of Philippians was actually a letter from Paul and Timothy (as we’ll see in verse 1) to the church in Philippi. The city of Philippi was about 10 miles northwest of present day Kavalla, Greece. Do you remember when we studied over Acts 28:30-31 (Devotional # 73) when Paul was under “house-arrest”? He wrote this letter to his dear friends in Philippi at that time. This church was actually the first one in Europe, which Paul had planted 11 years earlier (Acts 16:11-40 – Devotional 56) (Source 1).
Intro for Today’s Reading: We’ll be discussing some important stuff in today’s reading. Not just why Paul was thankful but that he was thankful at all. If a man in prison can be happy, maybe we can learn from him! And we’ll actually see some things that relate back to last week’s Devotional.
vv. 1-2. As I mentioned above this letter was from “Paul and Timothy” who call themselves “bondservants”. We’ve talked about what that means but in case you forgot it was someone who had been a slave but when given the chance of being set free they realized that they had a better life under their current master so they decided to stay. In Paul and Timothy’s case, and in many of our cases, we realize that we’ll have a better life serving Jesus then being turned loose in the world. So the question for you is, are you recognized as a “saint in Christ Jesus”? What does it mean to be “in” Jesus? The best answer always comes from the Bible: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). So to be “in” Jesus is to walk with Him as the Holy Spirit leads. We just spent chapters 4-6 of Ephesians talking about how to “walk” with the Lord but if you need a refresher check out Ephesians 5:1-15 (Devotional 106-108).
vv. 3-4. Every time Paul thinks of the church in Philippi he thanks God for them and prays for them. What does he pray? He makes “requests” (v. 4) for them. What might the requests be? I believe it’s asking God to complete the good work He began in them (v. 6). How does Paul pray? He prays with “joy” (v. 4). Think about the person in your life who is always in a bad mood. Do you enjoy them? When you see them walking towards you are you excited to see them? Of course God always loves us and doesn’t dread when we approach Him. But He also wishes for us to be encouraged, He desires for a conversation that doesn’t revolve around you. Pray with joy because God is moving and His people have something to be happy about.
So what does this mean for you? You can apply it like I have: many times that I think of someone I pray for them. That’s the great thing about prayer, it can be quick and simple or long and complex. If you start being intentional it will become a habit. Something funny that my daughter said the night before will pop into my head so I pray for her. You’ll get a text from someone sharing the newest Grumpy Cat video and you’ll pray for that person (not because they’re watching Grumpy Cat!). You’ll walk past someone at work and pray for them. And what do you pray for them? That God will complete what He started in that person. Basically pray for God’s will to be done. How do you do it? Joyfully. The point is that you’re making a habit to pray for these people…I mean why not? You don’t have time? Really? You seriously need to work at your time management and prioritizing! We’re talking about 5 seconds where you think about someone other than yourself or what you’re doing. It’s a Christian’s no brainer!
vv. 5-8. After noting his “joy” (v. 4), Paul tells them what he is thankful for: their steadfastness (“fellowship…from the first day until now” – v. 5). Fellowship with other believers is important and we’ve discussed the reasons for that in past devotionals. But what stands out to me is how much it means to Paul that they’ve stuck with him for the last 11 years. It’s easy to be a Christian when you have no responsibility or accountability to other Christians. You can become a hermit and tell yourself it’s just you and God but most of the time God and the real world call people to be more than a self-consumed religious person. To be a Christian who has to deal with the problems of other believers will cost them. There will be difficulties and that’s what builds the body. Just leaving a church is usually not the answer. I love that Paul notes that the fellowship is in “the gospel”! What is the “gospel”? It’s the good news of Jesus dying for our sins. So this is what separates true Christian fellowship from a good poker game with buddies or sitting around gossiping at a Bridge game. It’s not enough to have friendships; it is the tried and true relationships with other Christians who have been there for you and you’ve been there for them through the hard times because you have Jesus unifying you.
And, as we talked about in vv. 3-4, this solid, committed kind of fellowship allows for God’s will to complete the “good work” that He has started (v. 6). This is how Paul is able to look at the church in Philippi as equal and sharing with him in bondage because of the call of Christ (v. 7).
vv. 9-11. A second prayer that is on Paul’s heart is mentioned. He desires to see the Christians continue to grow in love. This is something we all have to realize. We aren’t done learning how to love others until we’re dead (and even then I’m convinced we’ll use eternity to continue to learn how to love like Jesus). But is Paul talking about a “puppy love”? Does he pray for his sisters and brothers to love others like they love hotdogs? Does he hope that they can manage to love blindly? Does Paul say a non-discriminatory love will work? (If you’ve been a Christian for some time you’ve probably heard the term “sloppy agape.”) No, Paul says that this love is based on “knowledge” and “all discernment.” As Guzik notes, “Paul knew the danger of a undiscerning love. He rebuked the Corinthian church that seemed to glory in their “love” and “openness” which lacked any sense of knowledge and discernment (1 Corinthians 5:1-7)” (Source 1). Paul makes this note to be wise about “love” because Christians should only “approve the things that are excellent” (v. 10) by “being filled with the fruits of righteousness” (v. 11).
You see, if you buy into some of the current religious movements that say “love everything” and “everyone who wants to go to heaven will go” because God is a God of love and wouldn’t send someone to hell, or even make a hell.”, then you’re not Biblically sound. Logically, you have no foundation to stand on and you must approve of the pious priest as well as the Satan worshipper as well as the child molester. Since you say truth is relative and therefore can’t discriminate, then you are left sterile when it comes to the real world as well as the spiritual one. And that is why we are to “approve the things that are [Biblically] excellent” (v. 10). And Paul uses the word “sincere” (v. 10) again here. Remember last week when we talked about the importance of sincerely loving the Lord?
Lastly, we see that all of these things are ultimately “to the glory and praise of God.” Often we hear the questions of the universe like “why was I born?” and “what is the meaning of life?” I have learned from the Bible (and not to put it too simply) that the answer is: “to glorify God.” It’s interesting, how you react to that answer determines where you spend eternity.
vv. 12-14. Verse 12 reminds me of Romans 8:28 where it says “…all things work together for good to those who love God…” This is really interesting because these verses actually wrap up something we learned from Ephesians. Remember last week where Paul prayed for boldness and for being imprisoned? It’s cool because here we see that Paul setting the example of being bold about Jesus actually helped others to become bold about Jesus also.
Conclusion. I hope this weeks study was as eye-opening to you as it was to me. When we pray, love and serve in a manner worthy of the Lord then we like Paul will know “joy” and “approve the things that are excellent”!
Source 1: David Guzik, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Phl/Phl_1.cfm