Summary: Paul’s letter to the Philippians has some good ’fatherly advice’ for all of us and our churches, too
Sermon: Fatherly Advice...
Scripture: Philippians - Various
Today, our Scripture is from Philippians. This book in the Bible doesn’t seem to get as much attention as Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. But it holds for us some very valuable teachings from Paul, as he was writing this letter to the church at Philippi. This Christian church at Philippi became one of Paul’s closest and dearest Christian communities.
So, as I was preparing the sermon for this morning, I became interested in the times and the city of Philippi, as it does have quite a history. So, I thought I would share a little of what I read.
The city of Philippi sits close to the Aegean Sea in the southern region of Macedonia. At one time it was known for the gold mining that was in the area. After 400 BC, Phillip II of Macedon seized the mines, fortified the city and named it for himself. Phillipi, along with the rest of Macedonia, soon came under Roman rule in the pursuing decades.
Because of the wealth that came from this city and the advantages of its location, Philippi became a very important metropolis and eventually the leading city in that district of Macedonia.
After the ministry of our Lord, Jesus Christ and then after the conversion of Saul, who then became the Apostle Paul, we see through Paul’s letters, written to these small emerging communities of faith the struggles that each of these churches were dealing with...the obstacles of keeping true to the teachings of Jesus...and the problems of becoming a body of believer’s and staying faithful to those teachings.
From its birth, the church in Philippi had two strikes against it. Its first recorded converts were an Asiatic Jewish merchant, named Lydia, a Greek slave girl employed as a sideshow fortune-teller, and a gruff Roman jailer. Yet more than a decade after the beginning of this church, Paul, when writing to them could hardly find words warm enough to express his pride and affection.
Three dedicated believers, who after hearing the Truth, and accepting the Truth, became separated out from the surrounding community...a community that was worldly...a community that was pagan and filled with the same evil characteristics that we can still see today in our world. These three born-again believers stayed true to all that Paul taught them about the Way of our Lord and then reached out to bring others to believe, too.
You see, some of the churches of Jesus Christ of that time had fallen far short of the ideals that Paul had entrusted to them...so far short that they seemed to have forgotten what the Church of Jesus Christ was supposed to look like and act like. Problems existed from the very beginning. Paul’s letters to Galatia, Corinth and Colosse seem to flame with indignation over the defects of these churches.
Occasionally, however, a church came along that worked, and against all odds. The church at Philippi was one of these rare congregations. They had endeared themselves to Paul and Paul in Philippians 1: 3 said, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Paul loved this church because they did not fail him or his expectations for Christ’s church.
Paul even turned down money gifts from other churches, out of fear that his enemies might twist the facts and accuse him of being a crook. But Paul trusted the Philippians. At least four separate times they sacrificed to meet his needs. And they also sent Epaphroditus on an arduous journey to care for Paul when he was in prison. This disciple journeyed from Philippi to where Paul was imprisoned in Rome...that would be a journey of some 700 miles. That would be like traveling from this church to St Louis, MO. In those times it would take several weeks to complete a trip like this. The church at Philippi was a Loving and Caring Community of Faith! When others failed, these friends didn’t.
And so, as we read the book of Philippians, we see the warm appreciation that Paul extends to them and we understand his love for this one church that really understood what it meant to be part of the Body of Christ in this world.
Nevertheless, Paul couldn’t resist in this letter, the opportunity to give some fatherly advice...sort of a fireside-chat, if you would. And this is where I believe today we can again learn from the Word of God.
It continually amazes me every time I sit and read the Bible, how much it speaks to these, our modern times...how in the deep riches of what was written thousands of years ago, that it still pertains to our lives this very day.
And so, as I read Paul’s little fireside-chat to his dear friends, I realize that he is not only speaking to that small community of faith in Philippi in 61 AD...but he is also talking to me and he is also talking to you...all of us that are professed believers...he is giving us some fatherly advice that we should take to heart.