Summary: Humans are vulnerable and weak. God is powerful and mighty. Can we trust that God will really take care of us, that we won’t get squished when His hand is upon on lives?
Sermon for CATM – September 14. 2008 - Philippians Series: “He Who Began a Good Work…” Philippians 1:1-11
Would you believe that this Scripture was written by a man who began his relationship with the church by being its enemy? Who once delighted over the murder of Christians. Who felt it was his duty to God to stamp out the Christian church. That is one reason why this book is so interesting, and so important.
Today we begin a journey through the book of Philippians. For those of you who intend to take the course “Theological Reflections on Philippians”, this is the first day of that course.
One of the reasons we’re doing this course in this fashion, this experimental way, is so that we can really spend a lot of time immersed in the Word of God together, and so that we perhaps be a little more mindful of what God is saying and doing among us, both individually and as a body.
Those taking the course will be submitting papers, as the course outline indicates. For those who are not taking the course, I encourage you to also spend these weeks reading and meditating upon the book of Philippians. It will be worth your while.
One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about this book in the New Testament, this epistle or letter is that there’s a warmth about it, an intimacy and friendship that’s deeply rooted in the faith that the Philippians shared, and their mutual commitment to the gospel, the same intensity of commitment that Paul the Apostle had.
Paul is, of course, the author of the book, and Timothy who he mentions in the first verse is his direct fellow labourer Timothy, like most of those who made up the Philippian church, was a gentile, or non-Jew.
Paul, on the other hand was as Jewish as they come. In the book of Acts Paul describes himself in this way: “"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel. I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today”.
Later in Philipians Paul says that he was“circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless”.
So Paul was steeped in Jewish thought and Jewish experience. And yet Paul, a Jew among Jews, was called by God to live and preach the gospel among people who were mostly not Jewish. He was called to minister to a people group and an ethnicity that was not his own.
He was called to share faith and to reason among people who were steeped not in Jewish thought, but, if anything, Greek thought.
So in terms of credibility and in terms of crossing cultures to serve God and get the message of the gospel across, Paul was always walking up hill.
So Paul begins…
Phil 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We can see that the letter is addressed to “all the Saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons”. Notice Paul doesn’t just send this to the leaders or pastors at the church.
Now I’m going to ask an awkward question, but I want you to try to answer it not according to modern understanding but rather a biblical understanding.
Who here is a saint? [All believers] Sometimes, still, people get the idea that God speaks only to and through leaders, that there is some kind of spiritual food chain, some form of privileged access to God that pastors have.
You may recall though how last week we talked about the priesthood of believers, how each of us, as followers of Jesus, is part of this priesthood and how we each share the same blessing and access to God. Everyone here who confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour is, biblically, a saint.
Now the first thing Paul says after addressing this letter to the saints is a blessing. “Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says this as a blessing to the church. What is grace? [Unmerited favour]. What is peace or shalom? [Nothing missing, Nothing broken, Complete well-being].
Now of course GRACE was more than a word or a greeting to Paul. GRACE sums up Paul’s life and it sums up the message of his life. I think of the old hymn: “Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all my sin”.