20 July 2009

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (1:29-2:2)

Don’t you just love these chapter and verse divisions? If someone asks, “Where does it say that in the Bible?” We can just say, “Well, in Romans 3:11 it says…” We can just flip-turn-pick it out. But that’s not how these were written. Paul and James and Peter didn’t sit down with their scribes and say, “Ok, let’s start chapter 2 of this letter.” If you were to guess, when were chapters and verses added? Actually, books of the Bible were divided into chapters in the year 1227. Then in 1551 a man named Robert Stephanus divided the NT into chapters and verse. But the first Bible to be completely divided into chapters and verses was Stephanus’ version of the Latin Vulgate in 1555; the Geneva Bible in 1560 was the first English Bible to have chapter/verse NT. The reason I tell you all of this is, sometimes these divisions get in the way. When one of these writers was just flowing. The Holy Spirit was carrying them along in this just wonderful train of thought. There are some parts of Paul’s letters where the whole chapter is one long sentence. And we kinda lose the flow.

This is one of those places. To really get a grasp of what Paul is talking about—well, what’s the first word of chapter 2? Therefore. And the question you must always ask yourself is, “What is the ‘Therefore’—there for?” It refers back to what was written immediately before. So we would have to start with chapter 1 verse 29For it has been granted to you… Which refers to the previous sentence, verse 27, Only let your conduct be worthy… OK, so that goes back to the sentence before that, and so on and so on. So we would have to go back to almost the very beginning of this letter to see where this train of thought begins. But we’re not going to do that. We’re going to start with chapter 1, verse 29, and use that as a springboard into chapter 2. In this letter, Paul is encouraging these believers to continue in their faithful conduct, in their striving together for the gospel, and to not be afraid when people mock them and ridicule them, and even throw them in prison for the sake of the gospel. Philippians 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, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. In the very earliest days of the church, in the first year or so, the Roman government really didn’t have a problem with Christians. In fact, there was actually a vote in the Roman senate to officially recognize Christ as a god.

But eventually, Nero reached the throne, and basically declared war on Christians, imprisoning them and torturing and killing them. And it was under Nero that Paul and Peter were put to death. In fact a fellow by the name of Tertullian wrote, “Examine your records. There you will find that Nero was the first that persecuted this doctrine, particularly then when after subduing all the east, he exercised his cruelty against all at Rome. We glory in having such a man the leader in our punishment. For whoever knows him can understand that nothing was condemned by Nero unless it was something of great excellence.” So even though Festus and Felix and all these other Roman magistrates who examined Paul had found no fault in him, by the time he got to Nero he had been counted worthy by God to die for the name of Christ and I think in Philippians 1:29-30 it almost seems as though he has had some foreshadowing that he knows he’s going to die at Rome. And he tells these Philippian believers that it has been granted on behalf of Christ to suffer for His sake. And what did Jesus tell us in the last of His beatitudes? Matthew 5:11-12“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Philippians 1:29-2:2--Because it has been granted to you to suffer for Christ, therefore, if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, [being] of one mind. Let’s break down verse 1 for a minute. Paul lists 4 things in this verse that should be a hallmark of any church: consolation in Christ; comfort of love; fellowship of the Spirit; affection and mercy. Let’s take these one at a time.

First, Consolation in Christ. This is almost a no-brainer, but it’s not. Is it easy to follow Christ? Can it be frustrating at times? You see this stuff we’re wrapped in? What’s it called? Flesh. Does our flesh like to take orders? Romans 8:7-8 (NASB)the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God—WHY?—it does not subject itself to the law of God—WHY?—it is not even able to do so. Our flesh does not want to be bossed around. If anybody has kids, do we have to teach kids to be disobedient? That’s just children being who they are. And this flesh certainly does not want to be uncomfortable. Kid disobeys, knows he has punishment coming—do they ‘fess up and say, “Yep, dad, I did it!” NO! Because they know they're gonna get a whoopin’. And once we come to know Christ as Lord, our flesh doesn’t change a whole lot. Our mind, our spirit, our will—yes, they are being molded and conformed to the mind of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, and the will of the Father. But does our flesh stop wanting what it wants?

And it’s hard, day after day, to wake up and go out into the world, and be bombarded with sounds and images and all the filth that this world throws at us. And once in a while, this little voice comes sneaking up saying, “Hey, wouldn’t it be easier to just give up? It’s not worth it!” And it’s so easy to console ourselves with the things of this world. But our consolation is in Christ. We know that if we persevere until the end; if we keep on keepin’ on; if we remain faithful to the end, as we read in James 1:12Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. That is our consolation in Christ.

Then there is the Comfort of Love. Shouldn’t love be comfortable? There’s an old song from back in the ‘70’s called “Love Hurts.” There was another one called “Love Stinks.” And in fact I can—unfortunately—recall many songs that sing about how rotten love really is. But that’s because we stupid humans have no idea what love really is. We think of love as this mushy-squishy feeling we get, this mishmash of emotion and feelings and all this other stuff, and if that other person stops making us feel all mushy-squishy, then we just move on. But that’s human love. We’re talking about God’s love—the love we as Christians are to have for one another. The Greek word is άγαπή (agape). One source defines it as “The love of God toward Christ; the love of Christ toward men.” Did God the Father love His Son? John 3:35“The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” Did Christ love us enough to give His life for us? John 15:13“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.” Should we have that kind of love for each other? John 15:17“These things I command you, that you love one another.” Love should be comfortable. If love isn't comfortable, then it may not be love. It may be φιλέω (phileo), but it sure doesn’t sound like άγαπή.

If we’re afraid to share a prayer request with a brother or a sister because we know that they may go telling someone and start a whole gossip chain—is there really love there? If we’re afraid that that brother or sister is gonna go telling everybody what we share with them—I understand why people give unspoken prayer requests. But should we? Should we be afraid to share our burdens with a brother? How does the apostle Paul describe love? 1st Corinthians 13:4-6 (ESV)Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. And if we were to add to God’s word, which I wouldn’t recommend, we could say love is comfortable. Consolation in Christ; Comfort in Love.

Then Fellowship of the Spirit. Fellowship = “Participation. The share which a person has in something.” Is there more than one Holy Spirit? Is not the same Holy Spirit given to all who believe? All believers have the same Spirit within us, and that same Spirit is building us up into one body—not one body over here, one body over there, but one whole body, covering the whole earth. And while we all partake of this same Holy Spirit, He gives different abilities to each member. We are all members of one Body. We are all separate and distinct from one another, we all have different functions—yet we are one. 1st Corinthians 12:7-11But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit…But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

That word “manifestation”—don’t let that confuse you. There are some who say that this “proves” that the Holy Spirit is just a “manifestation” of God—people like TD Jakes. Don’t believe them. I often use the following quote from Jim McClarty as my own: “I'm not a Greek scholar, but I know how to listen to people who are.” The word “manifest” does not mean the same thing as “make.” “Manifest” or “manifestation” comes from the Greek word that means “to bring forth into the light, cause to shine, shed light, to become evident.” What it means is, the fact that the Holy Spirit is within us is made apparent, is made evident, is shone forth, differently in each believer, but for the building up of all believers. Whether it’s by wisdom, by knowledge, or by one of the other gifts, it’s the same Spirit working in each one, giving us the privilege of participating in His work.

Some people don’t like the gift they were given by the Spirit. They have the gift of mercy; they want the spirit of prophecy. Tough luck. The Spirit gives to each according to what? As HE wills. Not as WE will. So, Consolation in Christ; Comfort of Love; Fellowship of the Spirit. Finally, Affection and Mercy.

Affection. The heart. The deep part of a person’s emotions. The place where compassion comes from. The part of a person that we use to relate to others in a kind and loving manner. Sometimes it is referred to as “bowels of mercy.” It doesn’t mean…you know.....bowels. In Matthew 15:18“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Proverbs 23:6-7 (NASB)Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; for as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you. Here, Paul is telling us to set our hearts on doing good for one another, loving one another, seeking the bext for one another.

Mercy. How much did God forgive us? Did He forgive juuuust a little bit? He forgave us of everything we have done to offend Him. And how high was the price tag for that forgiveness? It was pretty steep; about $3 BILLION DOLLARS. If someone else does us wrong, how much is that really worth? A nickel. Maybe. Should we forgive that person? Matthew 6:14-15“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” What did God show us when He forgave our sins? Mercy. And what does a person need to have in order to forgive another person? Mercy. 2nd Corinthians 1:3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. Colossians 3:12-13Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. If someone does you wrong—and I know how hard it is to let it go, because what are we talking about? Our flesh. Our pride. Somebody did something to me; I'm going to do something to them. Except we never just “get even.” We “get even—and then some.” That’s not the mark of a Christian. If a person smites you on one cheek, what do we do? Mercy.

So we take these things. Consolation in Christ—we say, “You know, following Christ isn’t easy. There are things that my flesh wants to do but my spirit says, 'NO' and there’s always this war going on inside me.” But we rest in the comfort that Christ is our reward, and as Paul would say in his second letter to Timothy, I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Comfort in Love—We love the brethren, they love us, we strive together no matter our differences and we proclaim the name of Christ, and we love Him, because He first loved us. Fellowship in the Spirit—we take the gift the Holy Spirit has given us, we use it to edify, strengthen the brethren and build up the body of Christ. 1st Peter 2:5you also…are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Affection and Mercy—we have compassion for one another, we are ready to help one another, and we continually seek good for others.

If there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy. A better way to say this would be “Cause my joy to abound and be completely full” or even “Fill up my joy as much as it can and make it complete!” It’s the word that is used when speaking about Christ fulfilling prophecies. When He fulfilled these prophecies, He made them complete, and nothing more had to be done for the prophecy to be realized. It’s the word Luke used in Acts 2:2 to describe how the Holy Spirit filled the upper room. And here, Paul is saying that if they have these 4 things—and notice, it was not a “to-do” list, it was a “to-be” list. These things were more inward than outward, because you can't express affection if you don’t have affection. You cannot show mercy unless you have mercy. You cannot exercise a gift from the Holy Spirit that you do not have. He’s saying, “If you have ANY of these things, I beg you, make my joy complete and make it overflow!”

And next week we will see how these Philippians were to use those inward traits to fill his heart with all gladness and joy. And how could they do that? By being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, [being] of one mind. These all kinda sound the same, but they're different. So we’ll get to that next week.

No comments: