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Philippians 3:1

Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again to you is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

 

Introduction

Our text this morning begins the fifth major section of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

 

Now remember, Paul is writing to encourage the Philippians to stand firm in their faith, to stand together, and to stand for Christ.

 

However, Paul knows that our walk with Christ faces many dangers both from within and from without.

 

Therefore, in this fifth section of his letter, Paul turns to address two major deceptions/misrepresentations of the Christian faith that have plagued God’s people from Old Testament times right up to today.

 

If fact, to some degree each and every one of us has been adversely impacted by both of these deceptions.

 

Therefore, in our text this morning Paul turns to provide the tools that you will need to avoid both of these deceptions.

 

 

Verse 1 

Notice at once, Paul opens this fifth section of his letter by saying “Finally my brethren”. In fact, the word Paul uses here for finally might better be translated to read, “As for what remains”. Importance: by this point in the letter Paul has already addressed the hostilities that believers face from the world without (1:29-30). However, before he draws his letter to a close, Paul turns to address two misrepresentations of the Gospel that we face from within. Simply put Paul is going to address legalism and license (antinominalism). Now at first glance, legalism and license appear to be polar opposites (one is strict rule following while the other is do anything you want). However, in reality they are two sides of the very same coin. How? Both are man-centered in their focus. Notice then legalism takes your eyes off of God and places them on your own effort/performance. In the same way, license also takes your eyes off of God and places them on your own desires/wishes. Regardless, in both cases you are the focus. Not only that, in both cases these misrepresentations of the Gospel threaten to derail your walk by leading you away from God and into bondage/misery. At the same time, both inevitably falsify your witness by presenting a god and a gospel that are far less than what Scripture reveals.

 

Next, notice the surprise: notice how Paul begins this crucial last teaching section of his letter: instead, of giving us a dire warning, Paul tells us to “rejoice in the Lord”. Why? Paul begins by giving us the solution. That is, from the very start, Paul wants to make sure that you are facing the right direction and have the tools you will need to avoid these dangers. How is “rejoicing in the Lord” the answer to legalism and license. Notice Paul’s emphasis: when Paul tells his readers to rejoice in the Lord, Paul is not telling us to be happy or joyful in some undefined ambiguous manner. Instead, Paul’s emphasis begins with your focus. Not only that, it is from this focus that true joy proceeds and is grounded. Notice then, the phrase, “rejoice in the Lord” is more thoroughly translated, “rejoice because of the Lord” or “rejoice with respect to the Lord” FN#1. Notice then the focus that Paul is prescribing here:  Paul tells his readers to turn their eyes to Jesus. Not only that, by turning our eyes to Jesus Paul prompts us to take into account what Christ has done for us. That is, Paul prompts us to rejoice in the specific nature and manner of the salvation that Christ has accomplished for us. Notice then the salvation that Christ has given us: first, it is not by your own efforts or merits. Instead, it is by grace, the gift of God. Second, God has not merely saved you from hell. Instead, He has saved you into a real relationship with Himself, one that is defined by mutual love and your active participation.  

Notice the result: at once it is the assurance of God’s love in His Son Jesus; it is the assurance that salvation is God’s work (not my own); and it is the assurance of God’s ongoing presence and grace in my life; that is the source/basis/ content of my security, confidence, and joy.  Simply put, before doing anything else, Paul turns our eyes to Jesus and grounds our joy/faith/walk with God in the true nature of the salvation given to us in Jesus.

 

Next, notice Paul says that to write the same things again to you is no trouble. Importance: at once verse 1 alerts us to the fact that we have heard the theology behind this entire 5th section already in Paul’s letter. Think about it: over and again throughout this epistle Paul has turned our eyes to Jesus and the grace that He has accomplished for us (1:2, 1:6, 1:11, 2:5-11). Not only that, over and again Paul has demonstrated (both by his own example as well as by his instructions to us) the joy, security, and fortitude that our salvation is to provide (1:25; 2:18, 2:29-29) FN#2. In other words, Paul is taking the truths already discussed in this letter and is bringing them to bear on real issues that threaten to derail the believer’s walk FN#3.

 

Finally, notice the reason Paul draws us back to this essential joy and focus: Paul says that to focus on Christ and rejoice in the specific salvation He has given us is a safeguard for the believer. In other words, Paul’s instruction to “Rejoice in the Lord” is the corrective to both misrepresentations of the Gospel that we will encounter throughout the remainder of this 5th section. How? First, the grace and salvation that Christ has given us mean that security and joy replace the fear, guilt, and uncertainty of legalism (God loves us, has saved us, and delights in us). Second, the grace and salvation that Christ has given us mean that joy and delight in our relationship with God replace the neglect, indifference, and worldliness of license (we love God and want to please Him, be with Him, and share His delights/goodness)

 

 

Bottom line: for Paul it is this Christ-centered focus and the Christ-defined joy that is the very basis of the Christian walk. As such, for Paul the way I am to proceed through any situation I face is with my eyes on Christ and my heart/joy fixed on the true nature of the salvation He has given me.

 

 

Footnotes

1] Rejoice in the Lord- note the proposition “in” (ἐν in Greek) is best understood as a proposition of reference/respect with very close ties to a causal proposition. As such, we are not to understand it in some undefined, ambiguous manner. Instead, Paul is telling us to set our eyes on Jesus (thus our joy has specific reference to Christ). Not only that, by turning our eyes to Jesus, Paul tells us to take into account the specific nature and manner of the salvation that Christ has accomplished for us and to rejoice on that account (thus our joy is because of what Christ has done for us).

 

 

2] Notice the dilemma: Paul says to write the same things (plural) is no trouble. However, when we check he has only repeated one thing, “rejoice in the Lord”. In other words, for Paul the phrase “rejoice in the Lord” summarizes his entire message. How? Notice that we have already seen the twofold nature of this phrase. That is, we have seen both its focus (Jesus and the specific nature of the salvation He has provided) as well as its result (the joy and security that salvation brings). Notice then throughout this epistle these two aspects have been at the heart of Paul’s message. Importance: notice the footing Paul has provided. At once Paul reminds me that the singular deciding factor of my entire Christian life is the love and grace of God in Jesus Christ. Not only that, he also reminds me that the essential demeanor of my entire Christian walk in not the fear, guilt, or uncertainty of legalism; nor is it the neglect, indifference, and worldliness of license. Instead, it is joy in the security of my Father’s love, help, and healing. As such, it is these two factors (true focus and grounded joy) that are to chart my course through any situation I face.

 

3] Notice it is Paul’s love for Christ and his delight in the healing that the Gospel brings that makes his repeating these themes no trouble. Instead, it is (as it has been throughout this epistle) his greatest joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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