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Philippians - #3

Philippians - Message #3

This spring, we are taking a journey through the New Testament Book of Philippians. A letter written by Paul to Christians in the city of Philippi.

The journey began two weeks ago. In the message that day, we thought about a miracle that happened in the life of Paul. At one time, Paul was a very energetic, devoted, violent enemy of followers of Jesus, but one day, while on his way find and persecute Christians, he was confronted by Jesus. That was the start of a huge change in Paul. A change into a chosen instrument for Jesus. An instrument who became an energetic, devoted, loving minister for Jesus.

As a minister, Paul did a lot of traveling. One place he visited was the Greek city of Philippi. In that city, Paul converted some non-Christians into followers of Jesus. He began a Christian church in that city. It was to the Christians in that church - in that city - Paul wrote the letter or the Book of Philippians.

Over the past two Sundays, we have considered chapter 1 of Philippians. Quickly in review, here is some of what Paul included in chapter 1. 

In the first part of chapter 1, Paul identifies himself as a slave of Jesus, meaning he was determined to stay true to doing the Lord’s will. Paul wishes the Christians in Philippi the blessings of grace and peace. And he expresses his love for his fellow Christians in Philippi. Love displayed in him thanking God for them, him praying for them, him encouraging them.

In the second part of the chapter, Paul challenges the Christians to strive to be excellent, pure, blameless, and righteous, to live lives worthy of Jesus, including praying and having unity, agreement, and courage.

Today we will cover the first part of chapter 2 of the Book of Philippians. That after a quick reminder why we are thinking about Philippians, which is this. One of the main themes of the book is joy, which we need all the time, including during this time when the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Let’s start with verse 1 of Philippians 2. “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…” 

That, by the way, is a rhetorical statement. Paul is not asking if there is encouragement, love, affection, and sympathy. He is stating those things do exist. Here is a paraphrase I came across. “If the fact you are in Christ has any power to influence you, if love has any persuasive power to move you, if you really are sharing in the Holy Spirit, if you can feel compassion and pity…”

Remember the challenge in chapter 1 that the Philippian Christians live lives worthy of Jesus. That is what Paul refers to in verse  1 of chapter 2. Living worthy lives includes love, affection, sympathy, all available with the power of the Holy Spirit. Those things are for what we are to strive as Christians.

There are some benefits of that. Not only will such living please Jesus. Not only will such living be beneficial personally for those Christians. There are two more benefits. Verse 2. For Paul, the Philippian Christians living with love, affection, sympathy, and the Holy Spirit will complete his “joy,” and it will help that congregation as the members of it will be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord.”

In last week’s message, there was another reference to being of the same mind. As discussed, that is a challenge for unity.

As also mentioned last week, that is not a call to never express a different opinion about anything. It is, though, a call for agreement of purpose. That no matter what is done, the goal is to display God’s love, help people accept Jesus as Savior, and help Christians grow in their faith. There may have been different ideas about how to do those things in the Philippian congregation, but the Christians there were to agree on those goals. That is what Paul encourages them to do when he challenges them to be of the same mind and to be in full accord, which was easier for them to be as they loved one another. Family love, coming from the fact they knew that, as Christians, they had the same spiritual father, that being God.

Paul wants the Christians in Philippi to be spiritually unified. That will complete his joy, it will be pleasing to Jesus, it will be beneficial to the congregation. 

How was that to be accomplished? Paul addresses that in verses 3 and 4.

“Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Selfishness can be defined as making personal ambition the main goal. For some, the ambition is for prestige based on position or title. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a good position or a nice title, but that is not to be the goal of life. For others, the main goal can be the accumulation of financial resources. However it manifests itself, selfishness puts the emphasis on self rather than the good of others.

Conceit is also concentration on self, which can harm or destroy unity in a group, including a church body. I remember hearing the phrase, “It is amazing how much can get done if no one cares who gets the credit.” If you get credit or if I get credit for a great idea, fine, but the goal is to be helping the church body.

Do nothing from selfishness or conceit. Instead, be humble and count others better than yourself and look not only at your own interests, but also the interests of others.

As always, that should not be taken to the extreme. Paul does not tell the Philippian Christians to ignore their own, individual interests. He writes to look not only at your own interests. The word “only” indicates the Christians in Philippi could have their own interests. But those interests were not to be their only focus. The Christians there were also to consider the interests - and needs - of others.

There is an excellent example of that. The example is Jesus. Verses 5 through 8. Listen to what Paul writes about Him. “Though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, and being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”

While on earth in a physical way, Jesus was in the form of God. In the nature of God. That means the love, power, compassion, and understanding of God.

The form of God - the nature of Jesus - did not change when He came to earth. However, Jesus did not cling to that. He was not selfish or conceited about who He was. Instead, He emptied Himself. Not of His nature. That is impossible. He emptied Himself of self-importance, doing so to the extent of becoming a servant so He would be interested in other people. So He could serve other people.

In fact, Jesus was so humble He came in the likeness of men. In fact, He came, first, in the likeness of a baby. 

Think of it. Jesus, the creator of the universe, the one who holds the universe together, who has the nature of God deserves blessing and glory and honor and power forever. Yet He humbled Himself for the good of others, doing so even to death. Even to the death He experienced, which was death on a cross. A slow, painful way to die. A humiliating way to die.

Humility. If Jesus could have it and show it in His service to others, so, too, could the Christians in Philippi have it. That is what Paul teaches in Philippians 2.

Humility. What an important thing for Jesus to have. But listen to the reward He has because of it. A reward written about by Paul in verses 9 through 11. “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Jesus the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

God has highly exalted Jesus. That was proved when Jesus rose from the grave. It was proved again when Jesus returned to Heaven. It was proved yet again when, as it is worded in another of Paul’s letters, Jesus, in Heaven, is “sitting at the right hand of God.” Sitting denoting His work of salvation is complete. Being at the right hand of God is the place of honor.

The name of Jesus. In this context “name” refers not only to what He is called, but also His nature - His form - which includes His humility and love.

The name - the nature - of Jesus is above every other name. No one has such love and humility as Jesus. He is the ultimate.

The result? Every knee will bow to Him. 

I think I will throw this in. I remember reading in a commentary that Paul does not, in this passage, claim every person will accept Jesus into his or her heart and thereby be a Christian. 

Some may choose to never do that. However, there is no one, now or after death, who will not know who Jesus is and the salvation He offers to all. Some may continue to rebel. It is their free will to do so. But, Paul writes, everyone will one day recognize that Jesus is the Savior. One day, everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. For those who do not in life accept Jesus, it will be too late to do anything about such a confession. That is why you must now accept Jesus. Please do so if you have not. Otherwise, the regret will last for all eternity. But at some point even non-Christians will know who Jesus is.

Who is Jesus? It was just mentioned. The explanation is written by Paul. Jesus Christ is Lord.

Jesus is His given name. It also represents His nature. It means God is salvation.

Christ. That title means the anointed. The one set aside to be the Savior.

Lord. That word means the one in charge of everything about us. That is what Jesus is to be for those who are Christians. He is to control our thoughts, our actions, our love, our humility, our worship.

Is. Not used to be. Not will someday be, Jesus Christ is Lord, which glorifies God.

*       *       *       *       *

As we did the last two Sundays and as we will do each week we consider the Book of Philippians, we once again ask the question, “So what?” As in how can what we have thought about today be applied so that what Paul wrote is not just a nice history or literature lesson, but something that will live in us and affect us? You can of course come up with many other things, but let me suggest a few applications covering a few of the points made by Paul in today’s verses.

On the topic of unity, may it be our prayer that it continues in our congregation. Again, not to the point of never expressing a differing opinion, but may we always agree on the need to display God’s love, lead others to accept Jesus, and help Christians to grow in their faith.

Unity is always critical. That will continue to be true over the coming weeks as we consider the next generation of pastoral leadership here at Fellowship Church. May we, with love and affection for each other, pray for the Lord’s will to be known and done. May we pray for the one who will come. May we have unity so that when the new pastor is in place, we will continue to work together for the cause of Christ. As the Philippian congregation was to benefit from unity, so are we to benefit.

On the topic of knowing who Jesus is, may we continue to work together, encouraging each other to know Jesus is the source of salvation. That Jesus is Christ, who was set aside by God to be the Savior. That Jesus is Lord. As Lord, we must obey Him so everything we do and think and say will be according to His teachings.

To accomplish that, we need to consider two more verses in this message. Verses 12 and 13.

In much of chapter 1, Paul commends the Philippians Christians for their faith. He does the same in verse  12 of chapter 2, where he compliments them for how they obeyed his teachings when he had been with them earlier. He writes, “You always obeyed in my presence.” 

Paul then challenges the Christians in Philippi - and he challenges those of us who are Christians now - to continue obeying. Paul recognizes obedience in Philippi was more difficult while he is not with them. Hence the wording, “Obey much more in my absence.” He adds, “Let God work in you so you can please Him.”

Paul then writes an interesting phrase. Obedience is part of “working out your own salvation.”

Wait! Paul is not teaching that anyone is to save himself or herself. That we are to somehow pick and choose from the Bible or some other religions to develop our own sets of beliefs.

No! Salvation is in no other name than Jesus. Salvation comes from Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus is the only way to God. The only way to Heaven.

That is fact! So what does Paul mean? His teaching - his challenge - is this for the Philippian Christians and for us. To work out, in this context, means to work on our faith to bring it to completion. We are not to stop halfway. We are instead to keep studying and learning and praying and being humble, loving, and unified as we more and more acknowledge who Jesus is. Doing so “with fear and trembling” - not in terror or being afraid, but in awe and respect, knowing that without God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, we cannot be saved.

Let’s sing about Jesus. The title of the hymn is the proclamation written by Paul. Jesus Christ is the Lord. Not a Lord and not one of many, but the one and only Lord.

We sing of Him whose wondrous name

Fill all our hearts with song;

Our highest praise to Him we’ll raise

Throughout all ages long.

Jesus Christ is the Lord

To the glory of God the Father, 

Jesus Christ is the Lord,

Let every tongue proclaim.

Name above all names,

Every knee should bow before Him -

Savior, Lord, and King

Forever more the same.

Our Lord through all the coming years

A faithful guide will be,

Until the day of Heaven’s dawn

When we His glory see.

Jesus Christ is the Lord

To the glory of God the Father, 

Jesus Christ is the Lord,

Let every tongue proclaim.

Name above all names,

Every knee should bow before Him -

Savior, Lord, and King

Forever more the same.

Lord, thank You for who You are and all You have done, are doing, and will do for us. Thank You that You will help us be unified around You. Help us to be humble enough to be unified. All this for Your pleasure, for God’s glory, and for our good. Amen.

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