Summary: Philippians - Manual of Joy The Foundation for Joy is The Work of God
Philippians - Manual of Joy
The Foundation for Joy is The Work of God
The church at Philippi was pioneered by Paul on his second missionary journey as recorded in Acts 16:1-40. There you read that Paul picked up Timothy then went to the region of Macedonia because of a vision he had at night. Paul’s first converts were women, one was a prominent and wealthy woman named Lydia. Her house became the base of ministry for Paul and Timothy. They encountered a demonized fortune teller who kept pestering them until they finally cast the demon out of her which brought them before the magistrates where they were stripped, and severely beaten with rods and were thrown in prison. While Paul and Timothy are worshiping the Lord in prison an earthquake causes the prison doors to open and they are freed. In the midst of all this commotion they take the opportunity to lead the jailer and then his family to the Lord.
Thesis: By using the terms salve, saints, grace and peace Paul is demonstrating to the Philippians that all of life is centered on, sustained, directed, and empowered by God.
Being a Slave of Christ Points to our Freedom in Christ (v. 1)
Paul identifies himself and Timothy as servants or slaves of Christ. The concept of slavery comes from the Greco Roman social structure where slaves were as common then as middle class America is today. Even though slaves were at the bottom of the social structure, most were educated and skilled individuals sold into slavery for one of three reasons: war, birth, or debt. Paul borrows the term from the culture because he sees his life in terms service to his Master. His life was not his own; it was bought with a price. But that is not the primary reason. He was bought with a price not primarily to serve God but to be freed from sin, Satan and death. The Work of Christ freed Paul to serve Christ because he was freed from bondage, slavery to sin, Satan, and death. And just as a slave was dependent upon their master for life and sustenance, Paul sees this in an even greater way with Christ as the source of spiritual life, and freedom from sin and Satan and death. Paul sees a deep dependence on Christ but not in the sense of a master who bought him to use him for his own gain but a master who, in compassion, released him from bondage. A Master who gives him life as a gift to steward for his purposes, who shows him the path to freedom from sin and selfishness to righteousness and serving others.
Being a Saint Points to Our Position and Status (v. 1)
Paul regularly describes all believers as saints, not just a select or elite group. The OT background for this terminology is Exodus 19:6. The focus is more on separation than sanctification although separation always leads to sanctification. The term has in view more one's position than purity. That is, God has chosen you, saved you, and set you apart for himself and to himself and sees you as forgiven, approved, affirmed with the banner over you is love. You are accepted and approved not because of what you have or have not done but because of what he has done for you on your behalf. As saints we work from a place of approval not toward or for approval. All religions are systems that work for God’s approval; Christianity is a relationship that works from approval. You can never work your way into God’s acceptance and approval because you are already accepted and approved. Say with me, I am accepted and approved by God because of what Christ has done for me on the cross.
Grace and Peace Points to his Favor on our Lives (v. 2)
Grace is God’s empowering presence in our lives to do that which we cannot do. Paul tells us that grace flows from the Father to us because of the work of Christ on the cross. Grace flows from God like water flows from a glacier (John 1:14-16). It may be the come from reading his word, being in his presence, in authentic relationships, getting prayer, as you worship, as you meditate, etc. As this letter is read Paul expects grace to wash over their minds and their hearts to bring about change in the way they see life, in power to overcome their struggles, and to refresh and renew them. Paul says that no matter how hard life is God’s grace is greater to empower us to overcome that difficulty.
God’s grace is what brings peace in our lives. Peace is the freedom from inner turmoil irrespective of the turmoil going on around us. It is being able to rest in still waters when there is a hurricane around us. It is the ability to sleep in a boat in the midst of a storm when everyone else is freaking out. Paul is describing a tangible experience of the mind and heart. The peace that, like grace, comes from our God and Father is a confident response in the truth that God is on control, that what he promised he will fulfill, and that he is always working for my good. It is that restful assurance and very real sensation that nothing can separate us from love of Christ.