JohnSWilson3 Blog


“…for your progress and joy in the faith.”
April 11, 2010, 1:50 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

In the latter part of chapter 1 of Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi he describes in some detail his role in the advancement or progress (1) of the gospel. He had described how, as a result of being put into prison, “most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” Courage and fearlessness permeate the Christian life when Jesus life is being expressed. This doesn’t mean being brutal as this is contrary to a life of love or perhaps even physical courage but a spiritual humility and meekness which describes the character of God’s people when Jesus is Lord.

In ourselves we can be like Peter and deny Jesus by what we say and do towards ourselves and others. How important are Paul’s initial prayer “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure (sincere) and blameless (unoffending) until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God” (2). How important the body of Christ is to the building up of our lives under the lordship of Jesus Christ. When the body learns to live by the life of Christ, the body is able to live by His life in the moments when Christ’s life needs to shine the most. Then when stress and crisis come we can be courageous and fearless in what we say and do towards others, we can “speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”

I find it horrible to hear Paul write that “it is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.” How could another person who claims Christ as Lord desire harm or be offensive towards another brother or sister in Christ? May it never be! Only one who does not have Jesus as Lord could so such a thing. Someone who is egotistical and selfish, as Paul says. They have failed to realize that when we make Jesus Lord of our life, we are no longer our own. Paul spoke to the Christians in Galatia, his first letter that we have that he ever wrote on life as a Christian, and exclaimed that “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The Christian life is a crucified life! We no longer count ourselves as under sin and the law, we are free from sin and the law! We are free to let Jesus live His life through us! It is no longer about us, but about the Body. Even with this hindrance for Paul, he can still say “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” Paul rejoiced! Perhaps Paul could have rejoiced even more if these others preached Christ only out of goodwill instead of envy and rivalry. Could that be possible today? Isn’t that what we see many times on TV or radio. Which “preacher” or “evangelist” or “apostle” can outdo the other? Isn’t that selfish, isn’t that out of envy and rivalry? But as Paul says, “the important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.”

I think Paul could rejoice, because his thoughts now focus not on those who do not have Jesus as Lord but on God’s people who are living Jesus’ life together in an organic way under His headship. “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” Paul has hope! Paul sees the future, he is not content to mire away in the moment or what has past, especially related to those who seek evil against him. He knows that when brothers and sisters gather together with Christ as Head there is a spiritual power that manifests itself in a way that cannot be explained. The times together under Jesus in effective prayer in fellowship with the living God, God’s people receive nourishment. They are fed! Help is “given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” So Paul, knowing these followers of Jesus, and their life in Christ, knows that “what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” Could brothers and sisters, who gather together in an organic way under the Headship of Jesus Christ so live by Christ’s life?

Paul expects to be released by the prayers of the body of Christ under the headship of Jesus Christ! But Paul describes his own personal delimma. It is one that we as a brother or sister in Christ desires the most, that we would fully express Jesus life to those around us in a way that pleases Christ. “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Jesus can give us “sufficient courage” so that He would be “exalted in” our bodies whether in how we live our lives or how we die. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be sincere and unoffending until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Can this prayer be quoted any less! How the life of Christ in the body of Christ is important to the expression of Christ through the body!

Paul knows that living now means being able to live by Christ’s life to the greater expression of Jesus around the world, but he also knows that when we die, we gain, we are in the very presence of Christ! While we live here, we see a taste of Jesus through His body, but when we die physically, our spiritual selves, our true selves, will be in His presence. What an incredible thing, to live forever, in continual fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ where unspeakable joy is found! But Paul knows that he is part of God’s purpose while on this earth, and that is for the glory of Jesus Christ. Paul’s purpose is to help others know Jesus Christ, and form organic fellowships of brothers and sisters who have chosen to make Jesus Lord of all. “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” “It is more necessary for you” is Paul’s conclusion. Isn’t that our desire by the Spirit of Christ in us? That “it is more necessary for” the body that we fully participate in the life of Christ together, than to do something on our own? How often we have other things to do than spend time with other brothers and sisters in Christ. How can we find time to spend life together? What is the good things that we are doing that is taking away from the best things of life together, the best things of being “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God”?

“Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” Paul traveled often, spent some time with the brothers and sisters, enjoying Christ’s life together with them, then moved on. We need help from those organic church planters who have Jesus as Lord, who live by His life, and who desire to help the body make Jesus as Lord over all. A group of followers back then needed Paul’s guidance to help them. It is so even today. We need workers who know how to live by Christ’s life under His lordship, who have been through the seasons of organic church life to help others live by His Spirit. Lord bring your people those who have counted the cost to live by Your life, so that we might know how to live by your life together as a body! Then our “joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of” those organic church planters who have Jesus as Lord and live by His life.

(1) W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(2) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 577.

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