Paul Names Names
There was something special about the church at Philippi, and Paul knew it firsthand. There was a great spirit there, a fragrance in the air. This has been a very positive letter compared to many of his epistles, but now as he begins to close he must correct something. He comes down on a couple of people and even names names...not because there was a huge problem in the church, but because there wasn't, and he wanted it to stay that way. We cannot be ignorant of the devil's devices, especially when God is at work, doing good things in our midst. That's when Satan strikes!
Overall, things were very good in the church, and there was a most pleasing aroma in the air. But now Paul pulls a couple of dead flies out of the ointment.
Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour...
Even a bottle of expensive perfume can be spoiled by something as small as a dead fly.
There was a disagreement between two of the women. Maybe it was just personal, between only the two of them. Maybe it was one of those silly Baptist things.
ill.--a country church was voting on getting a new chandelier. One guy stood up and said, It makes no sense to buy a chandelier. There's nobody here who can spell it. I guarantee you there's nobody who knows how to play it. Besides...I think we should use the money to buy some fancy lighting!
It may have been petty, but I don't think so. Since Paul is dealing with it publicly [in this letter which was to be read aloud] I believe it must have represented a larger schism in the church...perhaps people were taking sides and it was snowballing on them. Maybe they had gone to the next level - getting online and posting passive aggressive attacks about one another, publicly.
I am so blessed by this passage, because you can so clearly see Paul's shepherd's heart of love for the sheep, in the way he tenderly confronts them. It's good that they are confronted, and it's good that it is done with love. And it all culminates in v. 4 with joy, remembering that this is all about the Lord, and not about us.
1. Paul addresses the people.
v. 1 He speaks with a note of tenderness. He doesn't charge into it like a bull in a china shop. He's obviously not mad at anyone. He has compassion and tenderness.
"My brethren" - Paul never used this term loosely. We say 'brother' very often and quite freely. Much of our world uses the term, not meaning brother in Christ.
I bet Paul always remembered the first time somebody called him brother. In Acts 9 he was called brother. But his name wasn't Paul. It was Saul, and he had just gotten saved. The Lord told him to return to Damascus, and he entered a little room and prayed for three days. He was blind because God had stricken him with a temporary blindness. So he is praying in the dark for three days.
Meanwhile, the Lord speaks to another man in that area named Ananias. God sends him to talk to Saul. Ananias is very hesitant, understandingly, because everyone knows who Saul is...a persecutor of the church. But the Lord says, trust me, I have chosen Saul as my vessel.
Ananias obeys the Lord and goes to Saul, and do you remember his first two words he spoke to him? "Brother Saul."
It must have meant so much to Saul's heart to hear himself referred to as a brother. Just 24 hours ago, he would have imprisoned or beat Ananias for being a Christian, and now that Christian has his hand on his shoulder, calling him a brother in Christ! "I'm truly in the family!"
I love this fact that you and I can call one another a brother and sister in Christ. [You will notice, we say brother and sister 'round here - Family of God]
I like how Paul begins this final chapter: "My brethren..."
"dearly beloved and longed for"
What does beloved mean? It means you be loved!
Not only are they family, but they are beloved of God. And because they are dearly loved by the Father, they ought to love one another.
"my joy and crown"
He was so proud of the years of labor he had poured into them. He wasn't about to let the devil undo all the work he had done on them.
Now his tender beginning turns more firm...
"stand fast in the Lord"
This is the picture of a soldier who refused to budge when the onslaught of the enemy is approaching.