18 September 2009

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (2:14-2:23)

We talked last time about how each of us has a role in the church. For some it’s teaching, for some it’s preaching, for others it is simply raising their children to worship the Lord. And whatever role we play, we don’t want to do it grudgingly. Some people, it takes a couple years before they finally figure out where they are supposed to be. And until we do, we need to not just say, “Well, I'm just doing this for the time being,” but we should do whatever it is we are doing to the best of our abilities. So, Philippians 2:14-23Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.

Apparently, humbling themselves and being another’s servant was a problem for these Philippian believers. There is an underlying theme throughout this letter about being like-minded, about envy and strife, about selfish ambition, about not disputing, about not putting ourselves ahead of others. Here he is saying, “Let the world do all that stuff. You are light in this dark world. Act like it!” And we’re going to see these griping, sniping, grumblers compared with a selfless student of the apostle.

Verses 15-16. Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. This last part is looking back at verse 12, when Paul tells them that even though he’s not going to be there, to keep doing the work that God has called them to, since it is God who is actually doing the work through them. One day, we who are saved will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ. 1st Corinthians 3:11-15--For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. This will take place when all things come to an end, and the books are settled. This is the day of Christ that Paul is talking about. When we are rewarded for the things we have done in obedience to Christ’s commands. Whether it’s teaching or preaching or witnessing or simply showing someone the love of Christ—whatever we do that brings glory to God and to His Christ will be gold silver and precious stones and that work will survive, and the person will be rewarded.

Now, it may not seem as though all of our efforts are successful, in this life, in the sense of what we think is success. There will be some that we will witness to that will turn away. Will we still be rewarded for that? Yes. Our obedience will be rewarded. And we will see, on that day, those who stayed true to the faith. But when we ask about those people that we worked with, taught, discipled, etc. and we find out that they slid back into their old life—I got a feeling that if were possible, we’d probably die all over again. And that is something Paul does not want to happen.

Now let me point something out here. I mentioned a few moments ago that our obedience will be rewarded regardless of whether we think we were successful or not. So why do you think Paul would say that he does not want to have run in vain or labored in vain? It almost sounds like he’s saying “I hope I'm not wasting my time here.” Or is that what he’s saying? No, it’s not what he’s saying. It’s not as if their backsliding will cause him to say, “Well, gee, I didn’t get anything out of that.” What he’s really saying is, “Look at all that Christ did for you! He has saved you! Don’t lose your rewards over petty bickering!” We are called to teach and disciple and share the gospel. We run and labor as Paul says here. But, are we going to die some day? Is there a chance that in ten years time after we’re gone that someone else may take over and run it into the ground? But we don’t look at it like that. Because if we do, then we get to thinking that we are the ones in control, and not God. Because, back in chapter 1 verse 6, Paul tells them that he is confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. In other words, if God started it, God will finish it.

Contrast this with poor old Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2. He’s mourning over all the years he spent building and toiling, and finally when he gets old and grey he realizes that one day he’s gonna die and none of it will mean anything. Ecclesiastes 2:18-21Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity. Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun. For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his heritage to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. Now, if a man will be so concerned about earthly labors, how much more should we seek God’s protection for those that we disciple in the things of God? That temple that took so many years to build? Gone. The temple that was in Jerusalem when Jesus walked. It took 46 years to finish. The Romans burned it in a day. But we will exist forever. And that was Paul’s concern. He didn’t spend his time building buildings. He spent his years building the body of Christ. We wasn’t so concerned about temporary things—his number one focus was glorifying the eternal God and bringing these people into God’s kingdom.

Now, there are men who dearly love the Lord Jesus and seek nothing more than to teach His truth. But there’s gonna come a day when we can't do this any more. And there may be someone who comes in after us who comes preaching prosperity, leading people away from the truth. Paul had seen that in Galatia. He wrote the book of Galatians about 9 years prior to this. He saw the damage people did who came in behind and adding to the gospel. And he did not want that to happen here. Hold fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

Verses 17-18. Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. This is one of those places where knowing the culture of the city of Philippi helps us understand what Paul is saying. First, instead of if I am being poured out… it should say “since.” Since I am being poured out as a drink offering… Next, he was being poured out as a drink offering—or, simply, “offered,” KJV, and that doesn’t really give the full effect of the word. Either way, the verb is passive. Someone is pouring him out. Who is doing that? God. I am being poured out as a drink offering is translated from one Greek word (σπένδομαι [spendomai]). Basically, to say this, he took the noun “libation” and made it a verb. Since I have been libationed

Now what is a “libation?” There are two ways of interpreting this. Some people think that Paul is referring to the Jewish OT sacrifices where, every day the priests would bring a lamb in the morning and a lamb at night and with one they would offer a “drink offering.” Exodus 29:38-41. But I would have to agree with the majority of scholars, who say that Paul is more likely referring to the rituals performed in the Roman culture, and the offerings they made to their “gods.” Now, let me offer this disclaimer: If this is the case, Paul is NOT giving approval to pagan religions. On at least two other occasions, he does use them to make a point. In Acts 17:19-31, Paul is standing in the temple of the Greek god Mars (Ares), and he tells the philosophers, “Men of Athens…you have an altar that says, ‘To the Unknown God.’ Therefore, Him whom you worship without knowing, Him I declare to you.” He’s using their false religion to point them to the truth. Then in 1st Corinthians 15:29, a verse that is absolutely vital to the Mormon religion, Paul says, what shall they do who are baptized for the dead if the dead do not rise? He is NOT telling us to get baptized for the dead. What he’s saying is that even the false religions believe in some kind of “afterlife.” In fact, Ecclesiastes 3:11—[God] has also set eternity in [our] heart.

So, if Paul is using the Roman pagan customs to give these people an illustration of his life relative to the Philippians’ service and sacrifice of faith, it’s not his way of giving a wink and a nod to the pagans. His point is this: their faith has led to sacrifice and service. And in these cultures, the “drink offering”—the “libation”—was simply the “icing on the cake” so to speak. The animal that was sacrificed was the main, vital element of these rituals. The libation, on the other hand, was pretty much anticlimactic. Kinda like after the climax of the movie, and the good guy wins—everything after that is pretty much, “Eh, whatever.” And that is what Paul is saying about himself right here. He’s saying, “Hey, if God wants to make me the smallest part of the greater work He’s working through you—then Hallelujah!”

The sacrifice and service of their faith—or to put it another way, the fact that their faith led them to sacrifice and service—that is the sacrifice God desires. Psalm 51:17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Those are the sacrifices God wants. He does not want dead animals—He wants you. Does all that make sense? Sometimes I have hard time explaining certain concepts. “I know what he’s saying!! I just don’t know how to say it myself!” OK.

Verses 19-21. But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. At this point in time, Paul is under house arrest. He is in the custody of the Roman government for the second time. He’s heard about the grumbling and bickering going on in the Philippian church. And if we go back to Philippians 1:15-18, we even find that there were some who were glad that Paul was in prison because they probably didn’t like his preaching style. He tended to be a little blunt. But he said, “Fine! As long as they are preaching truth—I'll take what I can get right about now!” But he would rather send someone he trusts, and who has been a faithful student. And there is only one who fits that bill and that is who?

Verse 22. I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly. You know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. This is one of four times Paul refers to Timothy as his son. Now, Timothy was not Paul’s biological son. Wasn’t even his stepson. He was what Paul referred to as his son in the faith. 1st Corinthians 4:17; 1st Timothy 1:2; 2nd Timothy 1:2. Let’s take a trip. Let’s go back a ways to the book of Acts. Acts 16:1-5. This was where we started a little better than a year ago. Anybody know what happens in Acts 16? This is the chapter that tells about the founding of the church in Philippi. But before Paul and Silas get to Philippi, they pick up a companion for the journey. Verse 1. Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy. Derbe and Lystra were cities in the region of Galatia (The same Galatia that received Paul’s letter to the Galatians). About as far as Knoxville is from Alcoa. Galatia was located in what is now central southern Turkey. This was an area with a large Jewish population. And there were many there who still, even after hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, and even after receiving the letter from the apostles that said that Gentile Christians did not need to be circumcised—in fact, Paul had this letter in his hand—even after receiving that letter they would not have anything to do with young Timothy.

Why? Because he was the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. Greeks did not have a lot to do with reading the Jewish Scriptures. His mother’s name was Eunice, his grandmother Lois. And they, more then likely, were the ones who taught him about the OT. But it was Paul who led him to faith in Jesus Christ, probably on his previous visit to this area, because in verse 2 it says that he was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. The brethren, of course, being the leaders of the local church there. So during the two years since Paul came through here the first time—he came through in about 48 AD the first time, and now we’re talking about 50 AD or so—and in those two years, Timothy has grown so rapidly and so faithfully, that in verse 3, Paul wanted to have him go on with him.

This was Paul’s prodigy. And the reason he has grown so quickly and so faithfully is because he has known the OT Scriptures all his life, as we read in 2nd Timothy 3:15, where Paul says that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures—which Scriptures would that be? He did not have the NT when he was growing up. And listen to what Paul says about those OT Scriptures, that they are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. So Paul takes this young man, and circumcised him Paul has, in his hands, a letter from the apostles James and John and Peter and himself—all apostles of Christ—saying that Gentile Christians don’t need to be circumcised in order to be saved. Yet he has Timothy circumcised.

hy? Because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. In order to have this young man be heard by these Jews. Paul knew this young man could be used greatly to bring these Jews to Christ and lead them out of their reliance on keeping the OT law. So Paul finally gives in and says, “Look, if that’s what it’s gonna take to hear this man—Timothy will ya do it?” Obviously, Timothy said, he would. That’s why, a little later on in Philippians, Paul says, Philippians 3:2Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! He had written to the Galatians some years earlier, in Galatians 5:12I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves. He’s calling these men who forced Timothy to be circumcised for no reason, “the mutilation.” And this is why he said in 1st Corinthians 9:20-22To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And ohhhh, the way people twist that verse.

So, after this, verses 4-5, And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily. Now, back to Philippians. It’s about 10-11 years after the first time Paul brought Timothy through Philippi. So, they’ve already met the man. They know what kind of man he is. And Timothy, by this time, has been Paul’s main ambassador to the various churches. And in fact, in the very first verse of this letter to the Philippians, it starts out, Paul and Timothy, slaves of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi… And in verse 22, he says, you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Referring to the first time Paul brought Timothy through the city. That even then Timothy had obviously acquitted himself quite well and had been a faithful “son in the faith.” And now, 10 years later, those people still remember. So he says, “I can't be there, but you remember Timothy. I'm sending him. He’s the only one I can trust.”

Then, verses 23-24. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly. If there was one thing I would like to learn from the life of the apostle Paul, it would be this: to not look at our present situation and say that all hope is lost. Here he is, chained to a Roman soldier, under the custody of the Roman government, and he says twice in this passage, verse 19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy and in verse 24, I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly. Shortly! He’s not saying, “Well, someday, in the faraway future, I might get a chance to see you.” Who is the One he is trusting in? Psalm 18:2-3YHVH is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon YHVH, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies. Psalm 20:7Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of YHVH our God.

Jesus Christ is Lord.
Amen.

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