Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Paul's Praise of the Church: A Praise for Past Provision

"Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity." 
(Philippians 4:15-16)

Paul is referring to the events of his second missionary journey described in Acts 17:1-9. At the point to which Paul is referring, churches had been established in the regions of Syria and Cilcia; however, for reasons not given, the only church to consider Paul's financial need was that of Philippi. Also, the church's charity was not a singular event. Numerous times they sent relief to Paul by the hands of messengers.

The Philippian church could have resented the fact that other churches were not sharing in the responsibility. They could have been angered by older churches in the faith that were not meeting an obvious need; but instead, the Philippians saw the need and met it. Neither bitterness nor self-pity kept them from doing right regardless of the failure of others. When others are not stepping up to meet an obvious need, it may be easy to think "why should I take on all this burden?" Seeing fellow believers fail during a time when they should be taking on responsibility can make a man angry; however, God never cursed a man for having a heart of charity. He never rebuked an individual for stepping in when He has provided the grace to do so. People fail. Sometimes the reasons are obvious and sometimes they are not; but one thing is for certain, God knows the reasons for everything, and He is able to sort out and to judge the works of all men (Ecclesiastes 12:14). The believer need only keep his eyes on the Lord and obey the call to service as God gives grace and opportunity.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Paul's Praise of the Church: A Praise for Current Concern (Part IV)

"Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction." (Philippians 4:14)

Even though Paul could have been content in Christ had nothing been sent to him, he found the Philippian church's charity refreshingly Christ-like. He was appreciative of the fact that they were willing to share in his hardships for the sake of God's work.

Even though a man can be at peace in God when others do not come through, the joy and benefit is much greater when believers remember and encourage one another. Both parties are helped and Christ is honored. A believer should never take lightly the potential joy that can be brought to another through a simple act of Christian charity.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Paul's Praise of the Church: A Praise for Current Concern (Part III)

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13)

Here, the secret of being consistently content is revealed. If a Christian is trying to practice consistent contentment in his own strength, he will fail every time. As with everything in the Christian life, satisfaction with God's path is made possible only by means of Jesus Christ.

Throughout the New Testament, Christ is consistently identified as the one by which spiritual victory is possible. Jesus said, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me (John 15:4)." If a man who professes to be a Christian cannot seem to get the victory over sin and discontentment, it may be that he has not truly come to Christ in faith. Similarly, the true believer who seems to consistently fail in being content may not be walking close with Christ. In the possession-focused world in which a believer lives, getting one's attention on the wrong things is easy to do. Putting aside the Bible, prayer and the attendance of a God-fearing church in exchange for worldly ambitions and entertainments will certainly drive a Christian away from Jesus. If such is the case, that believer will not find the same contentment and liberty that Paul found.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Paul's Praise of the Church: A Praise for Current Concern (Part II)

"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." (Philippians 4:11-12)

Paul was not focused on the physical gift sent by the church. Had they sent nothing, Paul would have been at peace in Christ. He had learned to be content regardless of life's circumstances. This is a wonderful place to be. Most believers find it easy to have a right attitude in the easy places, but a man's true walk with God is tested when he is put into a place of hardship. Paul had learned the secret of being content in Christ regardless of how things went.

When a believer learns to be content with God's path for his life, he is less likely to become bitter toward those who do not live up to his expectations. He is less likely to undergo continuous anger and disappointment. Complete faith in God's leading had liberated Paul from worry, anger, bitterness, frustration and discontentment. He was a free man.

The text says that Paul had learned the secret of walking with God whether he had much or little. An abundance of life's needs can be just as dangerous as a lack of life's needs. When he is full, a man is more easily tempted to become independent of God. The Holy Spirit wants each believer to remain dependent upon the Lord whether He chooses to give much or little. When a man can be content at either end of this spectrum, what remains to rob him of his peace?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Paul's Praise of the Church: A Praise for Current Concern

"But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity." (Philippians 4:10)

The Holy Spirit now takes time to demonstrate, through the example of the Philippian church, how Christian charity should be prevalent in the local, called-out assembly. The compassion and concern of the Philippian believers is something which has forever been recorded so that God's people in every age might follow this same example of Christ-like charity.

By this time, Paul was nearing the end of his ministry. A Roman guard was constantly at his side and many physical aspects of his life likely seemed very uncertain; and in the throws of his Roman bondage the Philippians' expression of concern shines through via their messenger, Epaphroditus. Although many years had past and much of Paul's contact with outside believers had ceased, the Philippian church had not forgotten him. This brought, as the text says, great joy to his heart. Once again, their concern had manifested itself and would have earlier had the opportunity been presented. They were not unappreciative of all the labor and prayer which Paul had exercised on their behalf. They were grateful for those who had helped them, and they demonstrated their gratitude by coming through for Paul in a time of need. True gratitude is always active.

It is good to remember people in a long-term sense and to be grateful for the efforts which have been expended by others. Getting focused on one's own problems and immediate environment is very easy, and this often leads to forgetfulness. Believers are very capable of passing over the trials and needs of those who may be far removed. Instead of falling into this trap, God's church needs to consider absent brothers and sisters who undoubtedly have various needs both physical and spiritual. Who is not in constant need of encouragement? Who does not need to be reminded that he or she has not been forgotten? During a dark time in Paul's life, the light of the Philippians' charitable concern shown through the clouds and this cheered the heart of Paul who was a man with like passions and weaknesses. Every church should follow this example. Every believer should show gratitude toward those who have labored in his behalf.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Paul's Exhortations to the Church: An Exhortation of Synopsis (Part VI)

Do Right

"Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." (Philippians 4:9)

Paul taught the Philippian church biblical doctrine, and he lived it before them. Verbally teaching doctrine is not enough; it must be lived as well. Countless teachers of the Scriptures are content to tell people what they need to do while failing to show them what they need to do. This should never be the case. A Christian should not be guilty of "Do as I say and not as I do." If he is, he needs to repent and make it right with those he has offended. Leadership takes place primarily through example.

After being taught and shown the way of truth, the Philippian church is commanded to practice what has been received. Mental assent is not enough. Obedience must follow; otherwise, the learning is in vain. Asking people to perform what they have acknowledged as truth is not asking too much. People are masters of acknowledging what is right while failing to do it; however, the man who "looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed (James 1:25)."

The presence of divine peace in the soul will be the fruit of obedience. Many believers do not have peace because they are not practicing what they have "learned and received." The man who knows what is right but fails to perform it is worse off than the man who is ignorant of truth. Disobedience always results in the absence of peace. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked (Isaiah 57:21)."

Friday, September 18, 2015

Paul's Exhortations to the Church: An Exhortation of Synopsis (Part V)

Think on Profitable Things

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." (Philippians 4:8)

Some of the hottest battles take place on the battlefield of the mind. God wants His servants to have pure and profitable thoughts. But how will a believer consistently identify thoughts which are, or are not, pleasing to God? This verse provides every Christian with a gauge by which he may judge the value of his thought-life; and if he finds himself thinking on something that does not fulfill the principles of this verse, he is to allow the Spirit to put that thought down.

The Christian must first think upon things that are based upon the truth of Scripture. Being preoccupied with man's philosophies and religions is vanity, but meditation on biblical truth is always profitable. Many so-called institutions of religious learning mandate the study of things that undermine the Bible's authority rather than support it. This type of curriculum does not encourage obedience to this verse. Many professing Christians are reading religious materials which are filled with man's philosophies and contradict Scriptural truth. Such things fail in encouraging the believer to think upon things that are true. Most believers need to put down their religious books and pick up the Bible. The believer must not harbor any thought, either learned or invented, which is untrue.

The word honest is the same Greek word translated grave concerning the qualifications of church leadership mentioned in I Timothy 3:8, 11 and Titus 2:2. This word may also be translated worthy of respect, serious, dignified or above reproach. Being occupied with serious thoughts is not wrong. In many religious circles, if a man is not a "Christian clown," he is labeled as a self-righteous stick-in-the-mud. Many believers are self-righteous; however, being humbly concerned with things that are sober and above reproach is not wrong.

Christians who hold a public position of authority or ministry in the church must be especially careful to be occupied with things that are respectable and above reproach since numerous people are affected by their examples. The preacher who more closely resembles a jester than an expositor is one who has failed to think on things that are honest.

The word just is the same word often translated righteous. If a thought is not in keeping with the righteous character of Jesus Christ, that thought should be purged. The believer is clothed with the righteous character of his Savior; therefore, no unrighteous thought has any place in his mind.

The word pure has to do with that which is both ceremonially and ethically pure. The world's idea of entertainment is quite often in violation of this passage. A believer cannot enjoy modern television, concerts, dances, etc., and be in obedience to the command of maintaining pure thoughts. Purity has become a forbidden word to many because it draws a line between that which is acceptable and that which is not. God's saint is a priest in Christ, and just as the priests of the Old Testament, he has the responsibility of showing others what is, and what is not, morally pure (Ezekiel 44:23).

The word lovely means pleasing, agreeable or amiable. The Christian should not be preoccupied with thoughts of violence and wickedness. The world is a hateful and violent place; and if not careful, the believer can find his thought-life reflecting the things he hears, sees, experiences and watches every day. A lovely thought-life does not fear exposure.

Good report means commendable. The Christian's thoughts should be commendable. Others should be able to mimic a Christian's thoughts. Many people believe that their thoughts are their own; however, one's thoughts and meditations affect one's actions. Because of this, many people's thoughts become public. In light of this, if actions are consistently commendable, very likely, the thoughts that produced the actions are commendable.

Lest anything be missed in the list, the Holy Spirit ends by saying, "...If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." The principles of this passage will aid every Christian in staying away from things which seem wrong yet are not spoken of directly in Scripture. Making right choices in every area of one's life is possible by adhering to the timeless principles of this verse.

Bad thoughts will come into every believer's mind. Every one is human. In light of this reality, the Christian's responsibility is to take wrong thoughts to God immediately and allow Him to deal with such things. A failure to do so will lead to a ruined life. A man is what he thinks about.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Paul's Exhortations to the Church: An Exhortation of Synopsis (Part IV)

Do Not Be Anxious

"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

The verb be careful means to be anxious or unduly concerned. Most people are anxious when sitting in the waiting room of a doctor's office. A man feels anxious when he has just been laid off from work and he is not sure how he will support his family. Being anxious is not good, especially in relation to the Christian life. A persistent feeling of anxiousness is the result of failing to lean upon God.

Rather than suffer with the anxiety of trouble and uncertainty, the text demands that the Christian bring all of his petitions and concerns to God through prayer; however, this is not to be done apart from an attitude of thanksgiving. Even when troubles abound, the believer is to season every request with gratitude. No matter how bad things may seem, God is always worthy of a "Thank You." Choosing gratitude over complaining and self-pity can make any situation seem brighter. A mindset of entitlement and ingratitude always leads downhill.

What will be the result of gratefully trusting in God? Indescribable peace. Passeth means to surpass or excel. God's peace is far better than anything man could offer. Man's help is temporary. His deliverance has bounds, and it always comes with a price. Human strength fails. Individual intelligence and ability are fragile and limited; but God's help is unmatchable. His power is unparalleled, and trust in him never comes with negative consequences. The type of peace brought on by the presence of God's Spirit is something which most people would like to have but something for which they are not willing to pay the price. God's peace and self-will are not compatible. Spiritual peace and human passion cannot harmonize, because "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would (Galatians 5:17)." People often want peace but they also want their sin. Believers are capable of this same failure. Many Christians are confused as to why they have little peace, yet they do not recognize the lack of holiness in their lives; and if they do see it, they are unwilling to part with it.

Letting go of self-will and taking everything to God in faithful thanksgiving is one of the greatest gifts which God has given; yet, none of this would be possible were it not for the atoning work of Jesus Christ. The Son of Man is the agent through which this peace in God is possible. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27)."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Paul's Exhortations to the Church: An Exhortation of Synopsis (Part III)

Rejoice in Christ

"Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand." (Philippians 4:4-5)

The value of joy in Christ cannot be underestimated. Choosing to rejoice in God's goodness can transform darkness into light. It can bring hope to the crushed soul. David said, "While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being (Psalm 146:2)." This must be the believer's resolve if he is to remain faithful to the end. A life without God has no reason to rejoice, but a life lived by faith in Christ has every reason to rejoice.

The Greek word behind moderation means gentleness, kindness or yieldedness. God intends for His people to have a gentle and yielded spirit. Such a spirit is not possible unless Jesus alone is permitted to sit upon the throne of the believer's heart. A spirit that is contentious and angry indicates that the Holy Spirit is not being given the place of authority in the soul.

When a man will not yield to God's plan for his life, he cannot have peace. He cannot display the gentleness which is so characteristic of Jesus Christ. Fighting God for the rule in one's life is the most fruitless and frustrating battle of all. A Christian must be yielded. God's ways are always the best ways. The Lord is near. Instead of wasting his life in fruitless struggles against God's authority, the believer should give everything over to God. When others see the gentleness that comes from such a decision, they will be impacted for good.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Paul's Exhortations to the Church: An Exhortation of Synopsis (Part II)

Be Likeminded

"I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life." (Philippians 4:2-3)

Euodias means fragrant, and Syntyche means with fate. They are feminine names. Apparently, these two ladies had been at odds with one another. One can only assume that their contentions were public knowledge; otherwise, Paul would not have called them out publicly.

The Holy Spirit considers dissension to be a serious matter. Disagreement between brethren is certain to occur; however, disagreements can, and should, be handled biblically. Bitterness, antagonism and avoidance are not biblical methods of dealing with offense in the church. Any mature believer knows that Satan will use such things to tear down the body (II Corinthians 2:11).

Many liberals have accused the Lord's word and the Lord's servants of putting down women and forbidding them a place in Christian service. This passage reveals the foolishness of such a view. Christian ladies are not permitted to rule over the men; however, the value of their appropriate place in the ranks has never been challenged by the Spirit-filled believer. Paul had many female helpers who used their money, time and talents to spread the gospel and meet the needs of fellow saints; and Paul never spoke disrespectfully of ladies.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Paul's Exhortations to the Church: An Exhortation of Synopsis

Stand Fast

"Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved." (Philippians 4:1)

The next nine verses furnish a summary of all the exhortations which have been presented up to this point. In keeping with the main theme of the book, the Holy Spirit once again encourages believers to "stand fast in the Lord." Paul called the Philippian church dearly beloved and longed for or desired. Genuine Christians are in the same fight. They should serve the same Master and have the same goal of biblical obedience. They are all precious to God. These things should foster a camaraderie much like that which is often witnessed in the military. Through the charity of Christ's Spirit, Paul was able to hold these people dear and to desire their fellowship. Expressing shallow and insincere affection for one another is often easy to do in a church service; however, the bond of the church should be deeper than that.

Paul also called the Philippian church his joy and crown. These believers were a result of his labor in spreading the gospel. They were a testimony of his obedience to Christ; therefore, he delighted in them, because they were the fruit of a life spent in honor to Jesus Christ. The crown mentioned is that which the Lord will award to the faithful saint at the end of his earthly life (Revelation 3:11). Paul was not boasting in the number of people he had led to the Lord; he was rejoicing in God's goodness as witnessed through the salvation of souls.

Not every believer will have the privilege of leading numerous souls to Jesus. God has placed individual believers in different types of ministries throughout a world of diverse cultures; however, every believer can find joy and a crown in a life that is lived in obedience to Jesus Christ.

The imperative stand fast is encouraging the continuation of an action already in progress. "Keep on standing fast in the Lord." The believer should never give up on biblical obedience. The rewards of obedience are not far away.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Paul's Exhortations to the Church: An Exhortation to Awareness (Part V)

"Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself." (Philippians 3:21)

The relative pronoun who is referring back to Jesus Christ. The Greek word translated vile is the same word translated humiliation in Acts 8:33. A literal rendering of this passage would read who shall transform our body of humiliation that it may become similar in form to His body of glory. The saint's body of humiliation will someday be turned into a body of glory because Jesus Christ has been glorified. The false teacher lives to serve his vile body, and beyond that, he has nothing else; however, the saint lives to serve the Lord Jesus, and his sin-bent body will someday be changed into a sinless body such as that of the Lord Himself. John spoke of this same truth when he wrote, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (I John 3:2)." In light of these things, how foolish would it be for a believer to serve something which is destined to be completely altered?

The last part of the verse describes how such things will be made possible. The word working means operative power. It is the Greek word from which the English word energy is derived. The Lord is able to give His people a new body because He is vested with the operative power of God Almighty. This same operative power is seen in the Father's resurrection of the Son as described in Colossians 2:12. "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." The Christian is in Jesus Christ, and he has been fully clothed with the righteousness and life of the Son of God. Because of this, his righteous soul will someday be united with a righteous body thus making his salvation full and complete. God leaves nothing undone.

The last part of the verse declares the reality of Jesus' supremacy. Absolutely everything has been placed under subjection to Christ. Whether or not the God-hater realizes it, he has been defeated by God's Son; and someday, he will be forced to fully acknowledge Christ's authority. Even though "the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing (Psalm 2:1)," the Father will someday give the Son the heathen for an inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession (Psalm 2:8). The powers of darkness and the rebellious human race have already lost the battle; it is only a matter of time before this truth is practically realized. If Christ's power is sufficient to put all things under subjection, surely His power is sufficient to rescue His people from their sinful, frail bodies.

The Holy Spirit has given an admonition to beware. False teachers and false professors are not to be mimicked or tolerated, and their lifestyle is not to be desired. The believer is to observe and copy the behavior of those who obey the commands of Scripture, and someday soon, his body of humiliation will be transformed into a body of glory.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Paul's Exhortations to the Church: An Exhortation to Awareness (Part IV)

"For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:" (Philippians 3:20)

Returning to the main thought of verse seventeen, the Holy Spirit begins with a reminder concerning the believer's citizenship. Every Christian is part of a heavenly state. The word conversation means commonwealth or state. In ancient literature, the Greek word behind conversation was often used to represent a colony of foreigners. In stark contrast to the earthly citizenship of the false teacher, the saint is a member of a heavenly commonwealth which is ruled by none other than Jesus Christ Himself. The first part of verse twenty is emphatic. A literal rendering would read "...for our commonwealth in heaven it is existing." God wants His people to remember where their eternal investments lie. Becoming distracted with the here and now is a constant reality; therefore, the Holy Spirit is urging His people to remember the true location of their citizenship. The verb used for is describes a constant and continuous action. At any given point in time, regardless of failure, pleasure, trial or otherwise, the believer is continuously part of God's commonwealth. This reality supports the eternal security of the saint.

The verb look means to eagerly await. The same verb is used in Romans 8:19 to describe creation's desire for the return of Jesus Christ. Every Christian should eagerly await the return of his Lord. His expectations should not be characterized by passivity. They should be characterized by great expectation. The lost do not look forward to Christ's return and neither do believers whose focus is not on the things that please God.

Jesus' deity is exalted at the end of verse twenty. The very name of Jesus means Jehovah is salvation.

He is called the Savior. In Titus 3:4, God the Father is referred to as the Savior. Jesus is God; therefore, the title of Savior may freely be applied to both Persons of the Godhead.

Jesus is called Christ. This name means the Anointed One and it is akin to the Hebrew term Messiah which also means the Anointed One. Jesus is the anointed of the Father. The only One worthy of being called the Savior of mankind.

The Holy Spirit also ascribes the term Lord to Jesus' title. He is the Lord of all, the Lord JEHOVAH so often referred to throughout the Old Testament. Such terminology is highly offensive to the one who denies the deity of Christ, but to the one who acknowledges His deity and eagerly awaits His return, such titles are glorious.