JohnSWilson3 Blog

“And the God of peace will be with you.”
May 23, 2010, 1:36 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

As a church planter, Paul’s main role was to preach the gospel and those who believed the message formed a gathering of followers of Jesus, then he proclaimed the riches of Jesus Christ helping to build a solid foundation for the new organic church. Paul constantly lived and modeled the life of Christ in him towards those who formed the church. He wanted to make sure that the body of Christ lived by His life from the Holy Spirit that lived within them. Here in his letter to the Philippians Paul has this thought in mind and packages between them his key things for this body of Christ before he concludes his letter.

He begins by saying “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” And Paul concludes these things with “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

God desires a place of rest, a place of peace within every group of people around this earth. As Frank Viola says in his excellent booklet (Bethany: The Lord’s Desire for His Church, page 12) “Bethany was the only place on this earth where Jesus Christ was completely and gladly received. It was the only place on earth where He felt at home. This is the outstanding feature of Bethany. And it is the first mark of the church that God is after.”

Paul’s desire was to see Jesus glorified! He desired that Jesus glory be displayed through the people who called on the name of the Lord. That manifestation of grace and truth, only found in Jesus Christ, only occurs when we live by His life, when He is in complete control, when He is Lord of all in us and our gatherings. Paul’s point of asking the believers to follow his example, to “live according to the pattern” that he gave them was not about having rules and regulations in the church, it was about Christ’s rule in the hearts of His people. Paul made a point to proclaim Christ’s forgiveness, His mercy, His grace, His freedom from sin and death because of His great love for us, what He did for us on that cross, being raised from the dead, and ascending to heaven, bringing down His Holy Spirit to live in every believer, giving us His life to live by. This message was in the heart of God before He ever created this world!

For Paul, to live in the body of Christ was about living “by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” because of being crucified with Christ, the old man is now no longer alive as a result, and that Christ was living in him. That’s how we need to think as well. That’s what we are to believe by faith. That is what we experience in the body of Christ as we gather! All of Paul’s letters have this same theme throughout.

Here in Philippians Paul contrasts life in Christ with the awful fact that “as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” The cross means everything to us as a follower of Jesus. The cross is where Jesus paid it all with His blood and life so that we could be cleansed from sin and have His life. It is what we share now as His body in order to know Christ better. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead.” To the Corinthian Christians he made a point to state: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Of course made it clear that “Jesus Christ and him crucified” was the one thing that he resolved to know about. It would seem that would be true for God’s family as well.

How do we follow this example, how do we live according to the pattern that Paul gave? Paul has already been describing some of them already in his letter. In our conduct towards one another and towards others is it “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”? Are we focused on self or the interests of others? Are we standing firm “in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel,” in making Christ Lord of our lives and of our gatherings? Paul contrasts this with those who “live as enemies of the cross of Christ” whose “destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” If Christ is not Lord then that means we have set up idols, we have made ourselves lord or god of ourselves. Paul reminds them that our thinking, our attitude is to be different. We are a new creation and now live by His life. The old is gone! We were bought at a price therefore we no longer belong to ourselves but to Christ as he mentioned to the Corinthians. Our citizenship is no longer of this world. It “is in heaven”! And enthusiastically Paul proclaims that as a result “we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

With this in mid he encourages them and tells them “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” At this point Paul is reminded of something he had been informed about at Philippi. He found out that Eudia and Syntche are a disagreement about something, so much so that it has affected the body of Christ in Philippi. Paul knows that when there is disagreement, even between two persons in the body of Christ, that will disrupt the fellowship’s love for one another, and thereby disrupt their fellowship with Christ. Disagreement that is not resolved does not enable the body to “stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.” Extending forgiveness to others is something that we must learn to follow in the body of Christ. If we are living by His life then the Spirit will cause us to become uncomfortable and be without peace if there is broken fellowship with another. To live by Christ’s life is to follow the promptings of the Spirit and restore fellowship. This is something that must be dealt with.

What makes this even harder for Paul and worth his mentioning it even more so is that these women had “contended at (his) side in the cause of the gospel.” Perhaps they were some of his assistant church planters or had helped in hosting the church in their homes. He “pleads” with them “to agree with each other.” Because we are the body of Christ “if one part suffers, every part suffers” it is the responsibility of the body to help resolve the matter. Paul asks the body, which he describes as “loyal yokefellow” to help them in resolving their disagreement. I can only guess that Paul uses these words to make a point about the importance of our relationships in the church, that we are loyal towards one another and to Christ, because we are yoked together in Christ. We cannot have unresolved issues in the body, therefore the body must be involved in helping resolve it, if two Christians cannot resolve it themselves. Perhaps Paul is thinking of Matthew 18:15-19. How important unity in the body is.

Maybe this is another reason why in the beginning of his letter he mentioned “to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi with overseers and servants.” Those who were more mature, those who were to be helping the body of Christ live by His lordship, perhaps had not gotten involved in resolving the conflict like they should have and perhaps Paul made a special emphasis to mention these functions early in the letter to highlight the importance that everyone should be functioning in the church, including, even more so, those who were considered more mature in the body.

Paul then encourages the church, perhaps this is meant to help the sisters resolve their differences. How can we resolve our differences: being gentle towards one another, not being anxious about things, bringing matters to the Lord, thinking better of others. Expressing Jesus Christ should look like this, if we are not then we living by the flesh:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Let us “live in accordance with the Spirit” having our “minds set on what the Spirit desires…the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” Let the body of Christ be a place where Jesus finds a place of rest, where He is Lord of all, our minds and our relationships.

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