Monday, July 31, 2017

Philippians 2:13

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13, ESV)
Why do we work out our salvation? Why would we take that salvation that God has freely bestowed on us and work it out into the rest of our lives? Why would we work it into our homes, our families, our work places, our friends, our churches, and our neighborhoods? Why? It is because (for) God is working in us on two levels: the will and the work.

For many, the thought of God's sovereignty in our lives seems to be a dis-motivation toward effort. In the scriptures, this is never true. Anytime a biblical author discusses God's sovereign hand in our daily lives, it is a motivation to even higher effort. This can be noticed in evangelistic efforts: Paul the Apostle, after a discouraging time in ministry, was motivated by the Lord to continue his efforts because the Lord told him that, "... I have many in this city who are my people." (Acts 18:5-11)

If you look at God's sovereign hand at work in your will and in your work, and it doesn't encourage you, then you must be looking at it wrong. It ought to be, the way it was for those Biblical characters, an understanding that you will be given the exact success that God has foreordained for you.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Philippians 2:12

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, (Philippians 2:12, ESV)
Paul is encouraging them. He is drawing attention to their previous obedience: He has seen their obedience first hand. He has experienced their loving care, as they, in obedience to God, had provided for Paul's needs, on more than one occasion.

So, what he says next is not because of a lack of obedience, but it is an encouragement to "keep on." Very much how one would see a runner, near the end of their race, a runner who had been running and was showing no signs of stopping... one might still encourage them as they were passing by, "Keep at it! Keep going! Don't stop!" Or how a coach might actually say, "Pick up the pace!" These words do not discount the previous effort, but acknowledge that effort and encourage it to continue.

And what is his encouragement? It is to "... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling..." It's yours! You have been saved! Live like it. Have that salvation that is in you, work it's way out into the world around you.

The "your" is plural in the Greek. This means that Paul has a church-wide "working out" in mind. He is seeing this church in Phillipi bringing their salvation into their work place, into their homes, into their social circles. Your salvation ought to be impacting your friends and your enemies.

One final thought, this verse, along with the next verse, are in my opinion, one of the most important passages in the scriptures, related to our understanding of man's responsibility and God's sovereignty. As we will see in the next passage, the motivation to work out our salvation comes from the sovereignty of God at work in that salvation.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Philippians 2:11

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:11, ESV)
As the knees bow... the tongues will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Let's not forget the context of this verse though. The Apostle is encouraging us to be humbly obedient. He has told us to put others ahead of ourselves and too look to their needs, not just our own. He tells us to do this the way Jesus did... to have his mind... his thought process. And then after he describes the great lengths Jesus went to in order to be obedient to the Father, he tells us this: Christ was and will be glorified.


To help us to think beyond as well. To think past this life. Yes, Jesus suffered the cross and the humiliation. Yes he endured as a man, but he also knew the end result. God would be glorified and he would be lifted up.

If you are looking for motivation or encouragement to continue, then consider the end and your final state.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Philippians 2:10

so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (Philippians 2:10, ESV)
This truly amazing humble obedience of Jesus... The result? He is given a name. A name that is above every other name... and according to this verse, having a name that is above every other name will result in every knee reaching toward the ground. In the end, we will all bend the knee. In the end, all creatures, in heaven and on earth and under the earth... the living and the dead... the physical and the spiritual... we will all bend the knee, because this name is not only given, but because of the humble, loving obedience of Jesus Christ, it has now been earned!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Philippians 2:9

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,(Philippians 2:9, ESV)
"Therefore..." What is it "there for?"

According to the previous verse, Jesus has done the ultimate in an act of humble obedience. Now, Paul tells us that his obedience is has resulted in God's recognition of him. He has been highly exalted. On him a name has been bestowed that is above every name. Not meaning that he has a different name, but simply referring to the fact that his name is now a name that is above every other.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Philippians 2:8

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8, ESV)
How far was Jesus willing to humble himself? Was it far enough, just to be a man? Was it low enough to bear the frailty of humanity? How far did his Father call him to go?

This verse answers, for us, the extent of the humble obedience of Jesus Christ. Don't be confused by the way this is phrased. For our ears, "... to the point of death..." sounds like he came all the way up to that, but didn't cross over. That is not what this statement means. He was willing to go to death... even a humbling, humiliating death... a death on a cross. Like a common criminal, he was crucified.

No matter how much humility it might seem like it takes to be obedient to these commands of loving others and caring for others, it will never come to reach the extent of Christ's humble obedience.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Philippians 2:7

but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:7, ESV)
Being born...

The God of the Universe... the same person of the Trinity who spoke galaxies into existence, who formed man of the dust of the ground (John 1:3) ... the same one who met with Abraham (John 8:56) ... This same Jesus... was born!

What an example of humility!

Paul is telling us to put others before ourselves, to treat others as more significant (Philippians 2:3), to look to others' needs (Philippians 2:4), and he knows that this is difficult. So, he gives us an ultimate example, the example of Christ. Jesus was the very form of God and equality with God was not something that He would have to reach for, yet He can take on the form of a servant.... and be born. This is why my favorite "Nativity Story" is the one found in John's Gospel. It is wrapped up in the words, "... the Word became flesh..." (John 1:14)

The word that is translated "emptied" comes from a Greek word meaning, empty handed, destitute. In other words, He didn't bring anything with Him. He takes the form, the external appearance, of a servant... He did't come, choosing to be born in the house of a king... but of a lowly carpenter. And he is in the same physical form as any other man. The Creator  will now know the hunger, thirst, fatigue, and pain of any other man. He will also know the temptations of any other man. He truly is Immanuel -- God with Us! (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23)

When you are called upon by the Spirit of God to humble yourself and look to others, remember that there is one who has done this already for you.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Philippians 2:6

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, (Philippians 2:6, ESV)
This is a continuation of the sentence in the previous verse, which ended with having the mind of Christ. Therefore, this verse is speaking about Jesus. This may seem to be phrased in an odd way, but what it means is that Jesus truly has the nature of God.  Equality with God is not something that Jesus would have to reach out for. It is His. He was God... He is God... He will always be God.

This verse is important for how it is setting up the next verse and beginning an illustration of humility that we are to follow. This is the example of humility that we will need if we are going to be obedient to the previous few verses of chapter two.

I feel the need to say, "Stay tuned for tomorrow's passage!"

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Philippians 2:5

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 2:5, ESV)
The word that is translated as "mind" comes form the word for the diaphragm or the midriff. If you think about this from the perspective of this time period and from a consideration of your own body, then you will understand this word. You might say, "Have your center be this way..."

Thayer's Greek dictionary defines this word this way, " have understanding, be wise feel, to think direct one's mind to a thing, to seek, to strive for."  It is easy to understand that the translators chose to use the word "mind," while other translators have used the word "attitude."  Thayer's goes on to add this to its definition, " be of the same mind i.e. agreed together, cherish the same views, be harmonious."

The point here is that a church ought to be, each looking out for each other. Bearing one another's burdens, loving one another, caring for one another, forgiving one another, and comforting one another. The key to having this mind or attitude is that it is our in Christ Jesus. We will look to Him and see this demonstrated to perfection.

In D.A. Carson's commentary on Philippians, he uses the following quote to exemplify the difficulty of putting others before oneself:

"It takes more grace than I can tell, to play the second fiddle well."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Philippians 2:4

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4, ESV)
The word translated "interests" is not in the original text. This could be read, "...look not only to yourself, but also to others." You can see that, even as we read this in English, the word "interests" is implied, but could also be substituted with words like "needs" or "wants".

What is important, is that this verse continues the previous thought of humility. This is a practical way to think of humble living. It isn't a complete abnegation of oneself. Everyone is naturally in tune with their own interests, needs, and wants because we live within ourselves. The way to humble living is to take yourself, out of yourself, and look through others' eyes.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Philippians 2:3

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3, ESV)
Wow.  Now Paul is getting practical. Now he has taken this teaching from the clouds to the ground... the nitty-gritty.

Don't let anything that you do... from the time you wake up, until the time you go to bed... be from selfish ambition or conceit.  Selfish ambition -- Thayer's Greek dictionary describes this as "electioneering or intriguing for office." It goes on to say that "This word is found before NT times only in Aristotle where it denotes a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means." In this context, that is why it is translated as "selfish ambition." It is the actions or attitudes that want to promote oneself in the eyes of others. Conceit is similar -- it is the same attitude, regardless of action. It is to think of oneself at the top.

Instead of this, we ought to do the opposite. Christians, seeking to be counter-cultural, ought to come to situations in humility. We are to actually consider... to literally think of... others as being truly more significant than ourselves. (Compare to Matthew 20:25-28)

We need an example of this... a demonstration of this... Let us look to Jesus, as Paul will do shortly.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Philippians 2:2

complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:2, ESV)
This verse is overflowing with community themes:  same mind, same love, full accord, one mind, and all for a joy that is completed together.

  • "same mind" is the same understanding. 
  • "same love" is the same unconditional care for each other. 
  • "full accord" could also be translated ... same soul or same spirit.
  • "one mind" is of one understanding. 
So Paul says that these things will "complete my joy" or "fill up my joy". There is truly something to be said for a group that is like-minded. When you are in a crowd of people, all there for the same good purposes, there is something naturally invigorating about it. So much more so, when the Spirit of God is also included. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Philippians 2:1

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, (Philippians 2:1, ESV)
If... Then...

This is the format of a conditional statement. It's function is very basic, and just what common sense will tell you. If the first thing happens, then the second thing will happen. If the first thing is true, then the second thing will be true. If A, then B...

In this particular case, Paul has just been telling these Christians to live a life worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27). He has told them to do this, primarily through their brave, unified stance together (Philippians 1:27-28). This verse starts with "So..." which could also be translated as "Therefore..." It means that this thought follows from the previous thought. In other words, because we are to live a life worthy of the Gospel, in a unified, brave stance together, this next statement naturally follows.

In verse 1, we have the "if" portion of this statement. In verse 2 will will see the logical connection, but for today, simply ask yourselves as Christians if you do have any of these things:

Do you have any encouragement in Christ? Have you ever been encouraged by Christ himself? Have you seen his Cross and his life and been lifted up?

Do you have any comfort from love? Has the love of Christ ever been any comfort to you? Have you ever considered all that he has done for you and felt or experienced comfort?

Have you participated in the Spirit? Not necessarily a feeling of participation, though that is not excluded, but have you ever found yourself doing or acting in such a way that you knew that this isn't really you? had to have been the Spirit of God in you.

With each of these, have you ever experienced encouragement, comfort, and participation in the Spirit, through someone else? Has another member of the body of Christ ever shown you these things?

Have you ever, simply because you have faith in Jesus, experienced affection and sympathy?

In the next verse we will see what follows, but for today, simply ask yourself if you have these things. Instead of reading this verse as, "So if..." read it as "So since..." (Which is an alternate translation of the word that is translated "if".)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Philippians 1:30

engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:30, ESV)
This completes the sentence from verse 29 and it also completes chapter 1 of Philippians.

The conflict is not a physical fight with opponents, "... for we wrestle not against flesh and blood..." (Ephesians 6:12) Paul in engaged in a conflict against the Spiritual Powers of this world. He is fighting to continue spreading the gospel. The powers that be are aligned against him to stop the spread of the truth. Paul is tying up this section by going full circle. He began, thankful for their united effort to spread the Gospel. Now he is encouraging them to keep that battle going. Paul and these Philippian Christians are in it together.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Philippians 1:29

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, (Philippians 1:29, ESV)
"It has been granted to you..."

Hmm... It is a privileged gift to believe in Christ. What an honor! What a joy! To not only know the name of the savior of the world, but have His reality revealed to us in such a way that we have put all of our confidence in the work of Jesus Christ. But this is not the only gift that has been granted to us -- we have also been granted the opportunity to suffer for the sake of the name!

In Acts 5, after the Apostles have testified to the Jewish Council about the great realities of Jesus Christ, they are commanded to never speak about this again, and they they are beaten and released. After this beating we read in verse 41:
Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. (Acts 5:41, ESV)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Philippians 1:28

and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. (Philippians 1:28, ESV)
The beginning of this verse is the end of the previous sentence. Paul begins telling them that living a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is in unity with other believers. This unity is not compromised in the face of opposition. The word for frightened means to be startled. Don't be taken off guard by the opposition.

Unified, un-startled Christians, by their very nature and existence, say something to everyone involved. To the opposition, it says, "You are condemned. You are headed to destruction." To the Christians it is reassurance. When they are united together and un-afraid of the consequences of being a Christian, it is a sign of genuine salvation.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Philippians 1:27

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, (Philippians 1:27, ESV)
"Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ..." could be more literally translated as, "Only live as citizens of the gospel of Christ..." Saying it the other way is a great translation, especially for us because we don't see citizenship in the same light as these Philippian Christians would have.

A little history... In the city of Phillipi, all of its citizens had been granted Roman Citizenship. This was a great privilege because not everyone was granted the rights of citizenship. Phillipi had earned this special privilege because it had once been a Roman outpost. The city itself had been modeled after Rome, with the style of architecture and such. It is said that if one were to visit Phillipi, they would have felt like they were in Rome. If my memory serves me correctly, it had even held an unofficial title of "Little Rome."

Because of this, the people of Phillipi would have held in high regard the concept of citizenship. They would have wanted to live and act in a way that is worthy of Roman Citizenship. This sentiment is what Paul is drawing on as he encourages them to live a life worthy, not of Roman Citizenship, but of Gospel Citizenship. Thinking of all that Christ has done to bring us the good news, live a life worthy of that!

What a profound statement this actually is.

And how does he initially commend them to live a life that is worthy of this particular citizenship?  It is all about unity. Whether Paul is present with them or apart from them and in a different location, they are to stand firm, side by side, for the sake of this same Gospel.

As we progress through the rest of chapter one and into chapter two, we will see this theme of unity creep into the remainder of the conversation. Just don't forget that the foundational thought is to live worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Philippians 1:26

so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:26, ESV)
Continuing the sentence from the previous verse, Paul finishes the thought by saying that the goal is that they will glory in Christ Jesus... that they will have abundant reasons to glory in Christ Jesus... when Paul comes to them again.

When you go to visit people, does your life make Jesus look great? Do people walk away from encounters with thinking that God must be glorious?

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Philippians 1:25

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, (Philippians 1:25, ESV)
The conclusion is final in Paul's mind: He will remain here, at least for a little bit longer. The great benefits of leaving and going to be with Christ will have to wait. Notice, at the end of this verse, two things that he is remaining and continuing for: their progress and joy in the faith.

Paul is remaining, not to simply have more time to fellowship, not simply having more time to accomplish the things he wants to accomplish before he dies, not simply to complete a bucket-list of activities... No. Paul is staying to benefit their faith in Jesus Christ. Paul is staying so that they will advance in the faith and that they will have joy in the faith.

Why do you stick around?

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Philippians 1:24

But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Philippians 1:24, ESV)
In this phrase, I believe that we are hearing Paul come to the conclusion that he may have known all along. He is seeing the benefits of being done with this world, of heading to those heavenly places to be with Christ, of finishing his course... He can see it... almost taste it.

At the same time he is recognizing that there is still need here. There is still need with the Philippian Christians. There is still teaching that must be done, evangelism that needs to happen, training for future generations, writing that needs to be accomplished.

Remaining in the flesh is truly more necessary, not only for those Philippian Christians but also for us. There are several of Paul's letters that were written after this imprisonment.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Philippians 1:23

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.(Philippians 1:23, ESV)
Can you feel Paul's tension?

What is truly marvelous is that Paul is teaching the Philippian Christians about the realities of life and death and service in the kingdom... but he isn't doing it from a lofty position at a Christian Institute or a Theological Seminary (though there isn't anything wrong with these things). He is doing it from a Roman Prison. He is living the lesson he is teaching.