Summary: Paul's culture and ours are simular. Likemindeness that Christ provides gives a church the ability to make a difference. It comes down to a spiritual inventory.
A matter of the heart – Taking Inventory -
This week we are looking at another portion of Philippians. The overall theme of this book is an expression of what Paul believes that Christians should be no matter what a person’s or nations physical situation. We know from the letter that he is in Rome and chained to a praetorian guard. He is restricted from the mission that he thought he would be on, preaching Christ in the capitol of the roman empire. He opens the letter by telling the church in Philippi how grateful he is to God for their prayers and support. Oddly he does not complain about his situation.
He has also noticed something pretty amazing. It seems that believers in Rome have found encouragement from his imprisonment. It appears to be some kind of unnatural response. Perhaps some kind of supernatural courage that has the local believers risking prison themselves.
I suggested that Paul’s hardship and limitations did not allow him to witness to his problems, his response and the response of other believers was to live as witnessed to eternal life and future promises.
So even thought he was limited – he was still joyful because it had encouraged other people to respond. Paul does warn of and hint at problems that the Philippians were also facing. His main encouragement was not to be like him…but to be like Christ. That after all was his goal.
So far in the letter he is stressed joy and gratefulness and being almost a choice. Perhaps even a supernatural gift that he had noticed. The theme the I notice is that his ability to see the good and t keep a right attitude is a matter of the heart. It is how he and we are encouraged to respond… what we demonstrate to other people… a faith in the message…
He suggests that how we face trouble is actually a visible testimony to the faith that we have.
-- The attraction of this letter for me comes from the similar situation that the culture he is in seems to match how our nation and even community are headed. Many Gods
(views) with politically correct requirements that will be backed up with force or for us litigation.
Paul sez… a different reaction to life’s problems and opportunities….unity with Christ like mindedness speaks of humility and selflessness… A church cannot be unified it the members think of themselves first. Christ became nothing…for the benefit of mankind.
Earlier in the letter Paul has been joyful because of Christ being preached in Rome. He was well aware that not every messenger had the right motives but he was glad that they had the right message.
In our reading this morning Paul offers a warning, “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.”
That seems like a pretty graphic set of descriptions. Being a dog lover myself I am initially not turned off by the description of “those dogs.” I have heard people describe some friend or enemy as “that sly old dog” and mean it as a kind of complement.
In Paul’s usage he definitely is not giving a complement. The word dog is probably closer to mangy stray scavenger with a wild pack dog – vicious overtone. The same word was often used to describe the gentiles so it is an indication by Paul that these false teachers in their attempts to keep the law are also ritually unclean and hold no standing in Jewish or Christians settings.
The general belief is that Paul was warning against Judaizers. This is a group of Christian believers that believed that it was necessary for believers to live under the Torah Law. They believe that Christianity is s sect of Judaism and therefore only Jews or those that are willing to convert to Judaism can qualify.
At first there was not much of a problem because the church was all Jewish. As gentiles were invited into the church there was a problem. These new converts did not have the heritage, the back ground, or any training about what God expected.
Judaizers were traveling preachers that went around following in Paul’s footsteps insisting that a person had to become a Jew first. Keep the law and, submit to circumcision in order to be included in the kingdom of God.
They were sure that all the existing rules has to be in place for people to qualify for salvation.
Paul tells his readers that it is the Christian believers that are the circumcision. That we have the gift of the spirit of God and have no confidence in the flesh… either in what we do to the physical body or what we do to keep the Law.
Then he jumps to what sounds pretty odd to me, he sort of makes a claim related to his personal credentials. HE says, “ though I myself have reasons for such confidence.