Lessons from the Book of Philippians
Greetings precious people, I do hope that you are doing well today and giving thanks to the Lord God Almighty. Beginning today, we are going to set out on a journey through one of my favorite New Testament Books, the Book of Philippians. This study will last a number of weeks and I trust you will be both blessed and challenged by it.
My reasons for choosing to do a study through a book such as Philippians are vast. One reason is to give you, the readers, the experience of going through a book of the Bible. Few churches and Bible teachers today find any value in teaching through the Bible, let alone a single Book of the Bible. Instead, most teach or preach topical sermons, which are not necessarily bad, but they do have their shortcomings if this is the only method of teaching.
The short comings of topical teaching is that often times the teacher or pastor will forego teaching on subjects that either he or she is not comfortable with. They may also choose to avoid subjects that may cause the hearers of the message to be uncomfortable. This often leads to the hearers of the messages to become malnurtured and lacking in understanding of the whole counsel of the Word of God.
When the Bible is taught expositorily (verse by verse) every topic would be covered, including those that may cause us to be uncomfortable. We will also receive a well balanced diet of the Word of God, which will enable us to grow in the Grace and Knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We will also gain a greater appreciation of how perfectly the Word of God fits together and that it is truly Godís handbook to life for mankind.
Before we begin our study, it is important to gain a little understanding about the background on the author and the setting of which this book was written. The Apostle Paul is the author of this wonderful book. You can read about his life in the Book of Acts. He is accredited with writing nearly half of the New Testament Books.
It is also important to realize the place from which Paul wrote this book and three others. He was in prison in Rome. This takes on great importance as you read through the Book of Philippines and realize one of its major themes is rejoicing in the Lord. One might find it difficult to find any reason to rejoice when you have been wrongly accused, beaten without cause, thrown into jail with the possibility of being executed at anytime. But Paul was able to, and if you continue with us over the next number of weeks you will find out how he did it and how you can do it too.
The Book of Philippians, like many of the New Testament Books is known as an Epistle. Epistle is another name for a letter. As you know, a letter generally follows a basic format. It usually begins with an introduction, with a greeting or thanksgiving section included. This is followed by a statement of purpose (the reason for which the letter is being written), this is usually short and concise, one or two verses. Then there is what is known as the body of the letter, this is an in-depth explanation of the purpose of the letter. This section will be the largest part of the letter. Finally, there will be what is known as the closing, which is usually quite brief.
With this in mind, letís begin our study of the Book of Philippians. Chapter one verses one through eleven is the introduction and thanksgiving section. "Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."
In realizing that the first eleven verses are "just" the introduction, many readers make the tragic mistake of thinking that it is surpurfalous, that it has little to no meaning for them. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not just any ordinary letter. If it were a letter that you or I wrote to one of our friends, it probably would be meaningless to anyone else that would read it. But it is not. Though the man Paul penned it, it was inspired (God breathed) by the Holy Spirit. We read in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." And in 2 Peter 1:20-21, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."
With this in mind, letís take a look at verse one. Paul not only identifies himself as the author, but he also identifies himself and Timothy as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. This has great signifigance, as we will see in a moment. Everyone is a servant of someone or something. As the song by Bob Dylan goes, "You gotta serve somebodyÖ Well it may be the Devil or it might be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody." Everyone is serving somebody or something. It might be a person such as a boss or customers, or it may be some selfish lustful desire from within such as money or sex.
Paul tells us that he and Timothy were servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. The term servant means "bond servant". This is a term that comes from the Old Testament, Exodus 21:1-6. If a fellow Hebrew became indebted to another Hebrew and could not pay his debt, he could enslave himself to the person for a period of six years in order to pay off his debt. At the end of the six years, his temporary master was obligated by Godís Law to set him free regardless of whether or not he had fully repaid the debt. Now if the indentured slave had come to love his new master and love his wife and children and did not want to be set free, instead willingly chose to give up his freedom and serve his master for the rest of his life, he could approach his master and tell him that he loved him and willingly surrender his freedom to serve him the rest of his life. If the master were in agreement with him, the master would take the bondservant before the judges so they could hear it from the mouth of the servant and the master. If all were in agreement, the master would take the servant to the nearest doorpost and take an awl, something like a sixteen penny nail, and drive it through the ear of the servant which marked him as a bond servant and he would serve his master the rest of his life.
The spiritual ramifications are enormous. Paul and Timothy, who had a great debt of sin, became free of the penalty of that sin when they repented of their sin and placed their faith in Jesus Christ. But because they loved their new Master, Jesus Christ, and wanted to serve Him the rest of their lives (which was the least that they could do in view of all that Jesus had done for them), relinquished their freedom and surrendered their lives to serve Jesus Christ the rest of their lives.
Their bodies would not be marked with a large hole in their ear; rather it would be marked by a life that was surrendered to the will of God. They would follow the example of their Lord Jesus Christ who said when He faced the most excruciating death imaginable, "Not My will, but Thy will be done."
Let me ask you dear one, are you a Christian? Have you been born again by the Spirit of God? If so, have you taken that freedom that you now have from the penalty of sin and surrendered your life to serve the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? If not, why havenít you? Listen to the words of Paul to the Christians in Rome. In Romans 12:1-2, "I beseech (beg) you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
If you havenít yet done this, do it now. It is the least that you can do in view of what Jesus has done for you. Next time we will continue our study in the Book of Philippians. Until then, may the Lord richly bless you beloved.
If you have any questions, comments, or prayer requests you can contact me at: Calvary Chapel of Alpine, P.O. Box 1528, Alpine, Ca. 91903 or call 619-445-2589, or e-mail email@example.com
Drew Macintyre is pastor of Calvary Chapel of Alpine