We all enjoy good news and there is no better news than the Good News of Jesus Christ. As you read and study God’s word always remember His love and care for you!
In school we all learn the basics of letter writing. There are different styles and rules for writing formal letters and more personal letters. Several of the interesting archaeological discoveries of the last century or so have included a trove of different types of letters from the Roman and Jewish world of the New Testament. One of the lessons we learn is that the NT letters are not just pseudo-religious literature but deeply personal letters that resulted from a real and personal connection shared between our Savior, the human authors, and the saints in every congregation.
Paul begins this letter as befits that connection and the real sense of love that is shared by those in Christ. From Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, along with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:1-2).
As children of God we are called to see and think the best about our brothers and sisters. No matter what struggles and even many times failures we have as God’s family, we are God’s chosen, holy ones. While hard to live up to on our own, the reality is that we accomplish this role, not because of our own greatness, but because of God’s wonderful grace and the same shared grace of our family in Christ.
Paul and Timothy in their first real work together had established the congregation at Philippi. Together they still work and encourage, not as bosses, but as servants of the Savior. They write uniquely to a congregation that continues to be led by elders (episkopos meaning overseer, bishop, guardian) and deacons (diakonos meaning servant, minister).
But notice, too, that the leadership is named second to all the saints. In Christ’s church the real “boss” is always God and every member is most important as a part of God’s family.
The address is tied into the uniquely Christian blessing of grace and peace. Only when we see the importance of working together will we ever appreciate God’s plan for His family, the church. Every single complaint and whine about me, me, me is always going to be wrong. Just as other NT writings demand both that leaders be honored and be servants to all, so, too are we only right with God when we put Christ and His church first and ourselves last.
I thank my God every time I remember you. Always in every prayer of mine for all of you I pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all share with me in the grace of God. (Philippians 1:3-7)
Thanksgiving, just like prayer, Bible reading and study and other things, is a way of life for God’s people. If we are not grateful people, then we are really not Christ’s family. A real Christian always has the joy of Christ, no matter how difficult the challenges. When we fail to see the good, the blessings, the joy then we need the eye exam for, in Christ, we are missing the whole picture.
For God is my witness that I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may determine what is essential, and so be pure and without blame on the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:8-11)
When we possess the joy of Christ we pray for our brothers and sisters. Yes, no one gets to heaven on the works of someone else. But it’s important for us to also remember that no one gets to heaven by themselves, either. We must bless each other, or we fail to bless God. Interestingly, Paul ties all this into purity. When we are a blessing to the church, God’s family, then we are filled with Jesus and honoring God. Paul is not belaboring the point; he’s showing just how vital it is to us all!
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has turned out to advance the gospel even more, so that it has become known throughout the entire palace guard, and by everyone else, that my imprisonment is for Christ, and that most of the brothers, having gained confidence in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare more than ever to speak the word of God without fear. To be sure, some are proclaiming Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of goodwill. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of a sense of hostility, not sincerely, intending to increase my distress while I am in prison. (Philippians 1:12-17)
We are sometimes amazed by people that seem to see the good in everything. But when we begin to appreciate how great our God really is, we begin to understand that He really can bring His good from all things for His people. Over the centuries God has shown that He can even use people that imagine they are harming God’s cause and people to bring His blessings. There are no events, no people, no power that can ever stop our God. So often for us that is hard to remember, but it is always true!
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice. For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. It is my earnest expectation and hope that I will in no way be put to shame, but that with complete boldness, now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
If I am to go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; yet I do not know which I would prefer. I am hard pressed between the two, in that I have the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is much better by far, yet for your sake it is better that I remain in the flesh. So, convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that when I come again to you, your boasting in Christ Jesus might abound because of me. (Philippians 1:18-26)
Not only is there joy and blessings no matter whatever happens to us on this earth, but Christians absolutely cannot lose with Christ! Literally, the worst that could ever happen to us on this earth is for us to leave and go home to be with God. That’s actually what we are here for, our greatest purpose is to be with God. Until that time we are blessed with family that blesses us and we can be a blessing too, but we can never lose that joy and fullness in Christ!
Wait, a minute, are you saying we can never be lost? Honestly? Well, God says that the only way His people can lose… is to be quitters. Paul puts it like this:
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or remain away, I may hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way frightened by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you — and that from God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him, since you are experiencing the same conflict which you saw me in, and now hear that I still face. (Philippians 1:27-30)
For a Roman soldier, like many of those in Philippi, there was nothing worse than fear. The solution to fear in combat is training. Training until the discipline is so deeply ingrained in each soldier that they will stand side by side in the worst heat of battle. Only when they do so, is victory assured. Fear is the enemy of victory. Faith, side by side with fellow faithful soldiers, defeats fear!
There is no easy way out. There is no reward for nothing. But in Christ, with Christ’s family we face the greatest challenges Satan and the world have to offer… and we will always emerge as victors!
—Lester P. Bagley