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Philippians Review: Part I (1:1-11)

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:

 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,

 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,

 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.

 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

 

 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,

 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;

 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

 

 

Introduction

Our text this morning picks back up with our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. However, to help us get back into the follow of the text and to bring forward those major points that we will need as we move forward, I want is to spend this week and next reviewing the ground that we have already covered.

 

Notice then the setting of Paul’s letter: remember, Philippi was a leading Roman city in the region of Macedonia. It was primarily a pagan city. In other words there were not a lot of Jews living there. Not only that, on Paul’s first visit to the city, it had proven itself openly hostile to the Gospel. Importance: at once we gain some insight into the situation that the Philippian believers are facing. Simply put, the trouble they are facing is pagan and hostile. On the other hand, remember Paul is not in Philippi as he writes. Instead, Paul is writing to the Philippians from a Roman prison (probably in Ephesus) with a death sentence hanging over his head. Important: even though Philippians is called the Epistle of Joy, it is a joy that occurs within the context of very real and very hostile situations. Therefore, the joy we find throughout Paul’s letter is not a blind optimism or a feel good theology. Instead, it is a rugged and deeply rooted joy that fortifies the believer to face (not seek escape from) the harsh realities of life.

 

Next, notice where we are in the Epistle: verses 3-11 serve as the introductory section of the letter. That is, Paul uses this opening section of the letter to introduce the major themes and ideas that he intends to develop throughout the remainder of the letter. Notice then Paul’s focus: Paul begins this introductory section by laying the theological foundations of a living and heathy faith. That is, Paul shows us those things that are essential to a healthy Christian walk. Notice then the essentials of a healthy walk that Paul gives us:

 

·      First, a living and healthy faith is an active faith. That is, it actively pursues the Gospel in self and others

1:3 I thank my God in every remembrance of you, 4 always, in my every prayer for all of you, offering the prayer with joy, 5 because of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

Notice at once, at the heart of Paul’s thanksgiving and joy and at the heart of the Philippian’s spiritual health is this notion of living and active faith. Simply put, the Philippians have not merely given a casual consent to the Gospel. Instead, they actively pursue the grace, hope, and healing of the Gospel both in their own lives as well as in the lives of others. In turn, they also support and are engaged in Paul’s missionary work as an extension of their own work. Importance: this triad of participation is the mark of a full and healthy faith. Think about it: you cannot tell others about life changing grace, if grace is not actively changing your life. Therefore, a healthy faith is actively engaged in the Gospel every day. In turn, you cannot actively engage the Gospel for long and remain indifferent to others. Instead, a healthy faith is a sharing faith. Finally, living faith cannot reach its full health/potential if it is indifferent to the ministry and work of others. As such, a healthy faith takes ownership in a Kingdom that is more than local/private. Bottom line: verse 5 reminds me that first and foremost a living and healthy faith is an active faith.

 

·      Next, Paul tells us that an active faith is the result of God’s ongoing and active grace at work in the life of the believer. In other words, the reason that a living and healthy faith is an active faith is precisely because God’s grace is active. Listen.

1:6 I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Notice at once, verse 6 establishes the grounds for Paul’s thankfulness. How? The new life that God gives in verse 6 (the good work that God began) is the cause/basis of the new living that we saw in verse 5 (the Philippian’s active faith). In other words, Paul is thankful for the Philippians faithfulness because it is a visible sign/result of God’s ongoing faithfulness and grace at work in their lives. Not only that, notice that verse 6 provides the theological grounds/basis for the entire Epistle. How? God’s ongoing faithfulness and grace are the basis for every detail of the new life. As such, verse 6 is at the heart of Paul’s letter to the Philippians because it is the heart of every aspect of the Christian walk.

 

·      Next notice, if verses 3-8 establish the theological foundations of a healthy faith, then verses 9-11 show us how we are to respond. Listen.

Philippians 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound even more and more with real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you can approve the things that are excellent, in order that you may be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;

Notice at once, verse 9 tells me how I am to respond to the salvation and living faith that God has given me. How? Simply put: Paul prays that the Philippians may abound more and more in their love for Christ and the things of Christ. Importance: at once, verse 9 reminds me that the Christian walk is not motivated by guilt, fear, or wrath. Instead, it is motivated by a growing love for God and all that God loves. Why? It is from God’s love that every detail and every aspect of a healthy Christian walk proceeds. [This does not mean we don’t ever feel guilt or shame. Instead, what it means is that guilt and shame should drive us back to the security and healing of God’s great love.]  

 

Next notice how Paul wants the Philippians’ love to grow: Paul wants Philippians’ love to grow with or according to real knowledge. In other words, for Paul biblical love is not open-ended. It is not a matter of opinion, convenience, or popular consent. Instead, biblical love is always based on, defined by, and practiced according to God’s Word. That is, I am to love God as He is (not as I would prefer him to be). In turn, I am to love what God loves and I am to love the way God loves. Simply put, my love is always to be based on the real knowledge of God’s love as God has revealed it in His Word. Notice the result: biblical love (love based on God’s Word) is a love that makes God known (both to myself and to others).

         

Next, notice the second way Paul wants the Philippians’ love to grow: Paul wants the Philippians’ love to grow with all discernment. That is, for Paul biblical love requires a faith that because of practice and because of a consistent faithfulness to follow God’s Word has the ability to discern/understand a situation in light of God’s Word. Notice the reason: Paul wants you to be able to faithfully navigate everyday life. Why? By basing your living on a love for God and God’s Word, you will chart a course through the circumstances you face that will leave you spotless and blameless. However, please note: Paul is not talking about being a goodie two shoes. Instead, what Paul has in mind is far more profound. What Paul means is that as you follow God, you will walk in a way that avoids bringing hurt to yourself and others. At the same time, you will promote what pleases God and brings healing to self and others.

 

Bottom line: notice then who you are in Christ: Notice the picture of a living and healthy faith that Paul provides. Paul says a living and healthy faith is:

·      An active faith (it pursues the Gospel in self and others)

·      The result of God’s active grace.

·      Is motivated by a love for Christ and all that Christ loves

·      Is always according to God’s Word

·      Learns to faithfully navigate daily life

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