Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Ground of Paul's Joy and Confidence--Philippians 1:7

“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”
What do you aspire to in this life? When you come to the end of your life, what do you hope to have accomplished? What do you want your tombstone to say?

In Hebrews 11:33-38 we read of those in the “Hall of Faith”. They “conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became might in war, put foreign armies to flight…some were tortured…others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy-wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

As we look at Philippians 1:7 we see that Paul is in prison as he is writing to the Philippians. Yet we see that the Philippians remained with Paul—they showed evidence that they truly were partners with Paul, thereby displaying that they truly are partakers of the grace of God. Peter O’Brien sums it up well, “God in his grace had prompted the Philippians to alleviate Paul in his imprisonment, so that they were not shamed or intimidated by the bonds of their apostolic founder; they were prompted to cooperate with him in defending and propagating the gospel as well as to suffer for its sake.”

How would the Philippians have answered the above questions? Their aspiration in life was the same as Paul’s, “that Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death”. Their hopes, dreams, goals, everything was tied up in this great calling—to advance the gospel of God’s glory. They probably did not care what their tombstone said; only that Christ might be honored. And we see this reflected in their refusing to forsake Paul in the midst of prison, they even went so far as to put themselves in a place where suffering is not only likely but inevitable.
They were not concerned with putting themselves in a place for personal blessings, they were not concerned with ensuring their own personal comfort—they were concerned with spreading the glory of God, despite the costs. And this is why Paul has confidence. This is why Paul has joy. This is why Paul is thankful to God for them. The work of God is evident in their lives, as Hendriksen says, it is the “operation of God’s grace which enables one to work in the interest of the gospel, to suffer for it, and to assist those who proclaim and defend it”.

Ask yourself:
  • Is the grace of God evident in my life?
  • Am I willing to suffer for the cause of Christ?
  • Do I assist those who proclaim and defend the gospel?
  • Do I proclaim and defend the gospel myself?
  • Do my dreams and aspirations more accurately reflect “Christians” of American culture or Christians of the biblical times?
[1] O’Brien, P.T., NIGTC Epistle of Philippians. p70
[2] Hendriksen, William. NTC Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. p.56

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