Paul write to friends at Philippi to reassure them that God-in-Christ is always at work for good.
Practical and Pastoral Observations on the Book of Philippians (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively before reading observations below):
Introduction: Philippians is a warm and personal thank-you letter from Paul in prison to friends in Philippi who became followers of Christ during Paul's second missionary journey (Acts 16). Paul writes, probably from Rome in 61AD, where he is preparing his legal defense against charges made against him in Acts 21:28.
God is Good: God brings ultimate good out of temporary evil.
We can therefore be confident in Him regardless of circumstance: Though often resisted and attacked, the victory of the Gospel is sure and those subject to attacks against it, even if those attacks take our lives, can be confident that God will complete His good purposes in us (v.6), in those around us (v.13) and ultimately in the restoration of a new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3:13).
Courage in the Advance of the Gospel: We can then seek of the Lord the courage to advance the Gospel, regardless of current consequence, as was Paul (vs. 21) and draw from this confidence in the Lord, joy (v.18) from above, in our circumstance. We may say with Paul v. 21: "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain" know v. 6: "I am confident that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion (to a complete and perfect end) in the day of Christ Jesus."
A Striking Ambivalence: Paul's ambivalence in v. 21-24 may be better understood remembering that Paul may well have known something of heaven's glory in the experiences of Acts 14:19 and 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. The expression "to depart" in v. 23 has a tinge of yearning as it means "to loose from all the confinements, pain and limitations of this life." The same term is used by Paul in 2 Tim. 4:6 anticipating the expansiveness of life with Christ to come.
My Prayer: Father, how little I've suffered or given up for the Gospel. How deeply I desire to remain confident and joyful in You when opposed for Your sake. Thank you that, whatever happens, You will complete Your good work in me through Christ. Thank you that You will do so whether I live or die in the process of following You. In Christ Jesus, Amen.
Kenosis: Jesus Christ, who was in nature and essence God, voluntarily chose not to use His deity to personal advantage (Matthew 3) but emptied (kenosis) Himself in the incarnation becoming a servant unto death for our advantage. Jesus did not surrender divinity but took on the limitations of humanity - completely God and fully man.
The attitude of Jesus in us: Looking to Jesus, I would regard others as more important than myself (v.3). This is not self-depreciation or neglect. It is however the foundation of authentic love, human service, Godly marriage and unity in community.
v.5: "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus" so v.15: "among a crooked and perverse generation ... you appear as lights in the world."
"Working Out" Kenosis: Some are concerned that "work" in verse 14 refers to earning our salvation. Not so, grace cannot be earned, only expressed. Therefore, out of the gift of God in Christ, so freely given and received, we "work out" (v. 14) [lit. "realize in practice" or bring out as a result"] the wonders of His grace and salvation in personal humility, love and service. The contrast of Christlikeness in the darkness and perversity of this fallen world in fact causes us, as we work out the salvation of His grace, to shine as "luminaries in the cosmos."
Salvation is God's gift, full and free!
"Work out your salvation" (v.14) means simply that out of God's grace in Christ, we joyfully exhibit the outcomes of salvation in love, humility, service ... shining as lights in the cosmos.Philippians 3
My Prayer: Lord, how deep and rich and profound are your ways! How much I want to be like You.
Lord, I would empty myself more deeply. Show me how to go further...
The Gift of God: God, in Christ, gives us
1.) personal knowledge of reality in intimate relationship with Christ (v.8),
2.) a righteousness from Him through faith in the cross (in place of the unachievable righteousness through law-keeping) (v.9),
3.) citizenship in heaven (v. 20),
4.) resurrection out from among the dead (v.11),
5.) transformation into a glorious body in conformity with His (v. 21).
Salvation is a process which begins in the heart and plan of God, is accomplished in the cross and resurrection, embraced and anticipated in faith in this life strengthening us for the journey, and consummated in our resurrection at Christ's return.
Eye on the Prize: The one, central, only prize we seek (v.14) is knowing (v.8), gaining (v.8), being found in (v.9) and wholly attaining (v.11) Christ. Nothing and no one else is worthy of compare with this goal of life and eternity. The focus of our journey is not complete (v. 12-13) until we see Christ returning from heaven to transform us with a glory like His own (v.20-21)
I will therefore compare and evaluate everything in life - the use of my time and resources, relationships and energies - by how it relates to advancing this goal for myself and others. If it does not move me or others towards this supreme goal, it is unworthy of the time, effort or investment. Christ alone is my goal and my mission, my calling, purpose and eternity.
v.14: "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." v.20: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savoir, the Lord Jesus Christ; v.21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself."
My Prayer: "Father, in all the distractions, opposition and challenges of life - both from the well-intentioned and the ill-intentioned - keep me centred and focused on the goal and prize and pursuit of Christ. Nothing and no one else is worthy, keep me from distraction or straying. My eyes are on You!
The Peace of Christ: God in Christ brings peace between individuals (v.1-3), within ourselves (v.4-9) and within difficult circumstances (v. 10-23).
Our Work and Responsibility: In this we are not passive. We have a role in each area of the Lord's work:
a) we help those who are in disharmony (v.3),
b) we pray (v. 6), think on the best (v. 8) and live out the Kingdom (v. 9), and
c) learn contentment in all circumstances, positive and adverse (v. 11-12)
Master and Servant: I will therefore master my mind as a tool, rather than be mastered by it as a pawn, memorizing and focusing on the things of v. 8..
v. 8: "Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable (worthy of respect), whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely (winsome), whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think on these things."
Right Thinking: Lack is not necessarily a sign of God's disfavour, nor plenty of God's approval. There are wealthy persons who are discontented, and poor who are at peace. Most important is too think rightly and set one's heart on right goals.
My Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are key to it all. You reconciled heaven and earth on the cross, you bring reconciliation between individuals and peoples, you reconcile us to our circumstances, you bring peace within in the midst of our battle with evil.