JohnSWilson3 Blog

“to the glory and praise of God.”
April 10, 2010, 2:16 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

In Philippians chapter 1 Paul has expressed his wonderful affection and love for these Christians and makes the point that our love for one another is really “the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Our love for one another shows forth the glory of God! That’s the whole point! That’s the big picture! God wants Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ to fill every corner of this earth, to show the glory of God! “The fruit of righteousness” that springs naturally from our abounding or growing in love for Jesus through one another. God wants growth, the growth of Jesus life to shine through our lives.

This leads Paul to describe how that looks with him. For God to express this love through Paul God has brought Paul into prison. Sometimes for us, it may be some other trial or stressful event. How will we let Jesus express Himself in these instances? Will we rely on the natural thing to do and fight back or become defensive or go into denial or some other thing that anyone else would do? Or will we let Jesus’ life take over? Will His grace and truth, His fruit of righteousness shine forth? I know I’m still learning to let Jesus be in control in those moments. My flesh wants to take over. I realize it when it happens, a word not spoken rightly and so on. I have to ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness – it is what wells up in me in those moments. Only Jesus can do that. Perhaps if Christians, those who truly follow Jesus as Lord learned to accept their weaknesses, learned to rely on Jesus more seeking Him in prayer, and forgave or sought forgiveness perhaps we could let Jesus shine a little more brightly in our lives.

For Paul, suffering was part and parcel of the Christian experience. To the Corinthian Christians he told them how he had struggled with difficulties but realized those struggles were meant to keep him from becoming conceited. Paul learned that God is not after our being comfortable but after His glory being expressed, being displayed to all. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” that’s what Jesus told Paul. So Paul said “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. as a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” Paul let Jesus have His way in his life completely. Wow! “The fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” is to bring “glory and praise” to God! That fruit is love. As Paul had written to the churches in Galatia some time ago “the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Reaping a harvest is advancing the gospel, the fellowship of God with man! God’s glory expressed!

Paul’s proclamation of the message of salvation, that “through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses” always seemed to meet with adversity. As he would share with the Roman Christians: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.'” Jesus desires to be Lord of everyone, that brings Him glory! But we want to be our own masters and the masters of others. But Jesus’ life, eternal life, is given to all who believe on Him! He frees us from this selfishness, which is sin as well as the law, through which we make every attempt to justify ourselves, or make us seem good enough. We are a people of habit. We don’t like change. We want our lives to count for us. But Jesus wants to give us a life of change, a life that is emptied of self, that is focused completely on Him, His glory, and love for one another. Every day He seems to bring something to me/us to show forth His glory! Advancing the gospel, the good news of Jesus is advancing Jesus’ lordship over all! That will put us out of standing, that will put Paul in prison.

But Paul always sees the good in things, Paul sees something Jesus is bringing about, no matter how terrible they may seem! “What has really happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” Paul told the church of the Thessalonians that we are to “encourage each other,” and from his own time of living with them they encouraged, comforted, and urged them “to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” The “gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” As a result of Paul letting Jesus be Lord over all of his life and proclaiming that same good news to others no matter the cost, the other brothers and sisters were also “encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” This is not Bible bashing as I’ve heard it. It is living God’s word, letting Jesus live His life of lordship through us, and is done or expressed in both by what we say and what we do. When God’s life is so expressed in our lives does anything else really matter? Can we completely put ourselves into God’s hands and let Him determine the outcome? Can we decide to let Jesus be Lord and love unconditionally? Can we let Jesus be Lord of our gathering together and let Him lead our gatherings however He desires? Isn’t the gospel, the good news, about fellowship with Jesus, who is Lord over all?

How Jesus desires to be expressed, His glory displayed, to find a place in every corner of this earth to have a people who make Him Lord over all, no matter the consequences. To Paul I think he would stay away from the word “consequences” as this gives a negative connotation, because to Paul the results of following Jesus as Lord were actually benefits! Because Jesus’ glory, the advancement of His glory was all that mattered!

“I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
March 28, 2010, 2:04 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

Paul constantly had these brothers and sisters in Christ at Philippi on his mind and prayed for them as the Lord brought them to remembrance. When Paul remembers them, just like you and I, he would remember stories and experiences they had together. Those stories, the sharing of each others lives together, are important in bonding us together into that “fellowship in the gospel” that Paul was reminded of, and with joy!

It has been perhaps a few years since he last saw these Christians, but I have a hunch that Paul traveled back and forth from one area to the next and all of those times may not have been included in the Acts. Given my hunch I think it safe to say that Paul would often go to Philippi either leaving from or returning to Macedonia as he did at the tail end of his third church planting mission. He enjoyed his time with this community of believers!

Paul perhaps remembers the time he and his companions first journeyed into Macedonia, today’s northern Greece, sailing from Troas, in today’s Turkey. He probably could remember the time where he and his companions talked to each other of Christ while they walked along the river, praying to the Lord, talking to the Lord, speaking of the Lord, singing songs to the Lord. How I wished that could be my experience one day with others! Paul then met up with others who were at the river. So they decided to sit down and “began to speak to the women who had gathered there.” It just so happened that they met “Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshipper of God.” She had a hunger for God, she was seeking God, and when Paul and his companions showed up, God showed up! Paul and his companions expressed Jesus through love for one another, how they spoke to one another, how they humbled themselves to one another, how they spoke of Christ to one another, and how they sang songs to Christ. And Paul spoke of the good news of Jesus! And “the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” What stories Paul had with these Philippian Christians!

Paul writes how “it is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart.” Can we as followers of Jesus, who have His life in us feel the same towards our other brothers and sisters in Christ? If someone visited our meetings or gatherings together in familial places, times meant for non-religious face to face sharing of Jesus’ life together, what would their confidence of our expression of Jesus living through us, be like? Paul had them in his heart! Brothers and sisters this cannot happen without spending much time together! It takes much grace from God to spend that much time with our other brothers and sisters in Christ. When we get to know each other well, like a marriage, there will be disagreements, dislikes, and this will be quite irritating and frustrating if it were not for God’s grace! “For whether I am in chains defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” Paul is part of this community of believers. Wherever Paul went, wherever there was a body of believers, he considered himself a part of that community. Wherever we go, wherever there are a group of followers of Jesus, we are part of that community of brothers and sisters of Christ. Christ is not divided!

Brothers and sisters we need to get to know one another! We need to be able to tell ourselves stories, or testimonies, of how we long for each other with the affection of Christ Jesus! This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, much time, getting to know each other, our families, our likes and dislikes, and what we are finding out about the Lord Jesus. It is not just an affection for one another, because we know each other really well, while that is a part of it, it is “the affection of Christ Jesus.” There is a love that comes up from deep inside of us, from Jesus Himself, that wants to shower us with His affections, His grace and mercy, His wonderful love. It is a sacrificial love, a love based in humility! It is a love found in every believer that can come only from the Lord, and it is a love that is dependent upon our inner life with the Spirit of Jesus. How I need to get to know Jesus more in my inner man!

Paul now describes his prayer “with joy because of your fellowship in the gospel.” “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 pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Myself I think that that sentence ought to end with an exclamation point! Praise God! Paul said almost the same prayer for the Christians in Thessalonica, and course his love for these Christians was right up their with those from Philippi: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” and “Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.” Love is learned, love progresses, love abounds in the lives of followers of Jesus who focus on Him as Lord and nothing else and the results are strengthened spiritual lives, a strengthened life with Jesus and His body.

How do we get to know someone really well, whether spouse or child or friend? We get to know them, we spend time with them. I like Josh McDowell’s quote from his excellent book The Father Connection: Children spell love T.I.M.E. We really do not know how to love someone until we spend time with them. That’s Paul’s prayer: continue to spend more time with each other, get to know each other really well, in so doing you get to know the things they like, the things they are learning about the Lord and in so doing they get to know me, you in the same way. Fellowship is fellowship when it is a mutual sharing of our lives together. Fellowship is never one sided, it is always seeking the best for one another. This helps live out lives that are authentic and real, there is no mask on in our relationships, it is all out in the open. When this happens then pure and blameless or sincerity and living unoffending lives between each other become the norm.

But this “knowledge and depth of insight” must never be focused so much on our natural selves. It must be based on Christ in us! We are in fellowship because of being “in the gospel” – the Lord Jesus Christ! We are not just to spend time together and then later we’re done, our spending time together must continue “until the day of Christ”! Wow! How we in America are so shallow in our relationships that this doesn’t even compute in our minds. I’m not sure I can even fathom this myself. We are so “discombobulated” as I heard the term from Frank Viola at a conference one time! We fish for friendships, and when we have one, we’re fishing for another (like on facebook or some other electronic medium…LOL). We are not connected in face to face relationships, they are pseudo relationships, as Ralph Neighbour Jr. would say, that can never grow “in knowledge and depth of insight.” Lord help me to have a few brothers and sisters in Christ whom we can get to know each other and families really well so that truly our “love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that (we) may be able to discern what is best and may be pure (sincere) and blameless (unoffending) until the day of Christ”!

Paul doesn’t stop there! He goes on and says “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God”! Brothers and sisters, Jesus is right! When we love each other as He loved us, then the world will know that we are His disciples! When we love each other as He loved us it will be like putting a candle on a hill at night, everyone will be able to see it! God desires to find a home among every tribe and peoples! God desires to see humanity born again, children of God, who love Him affectionately! When we so get to know one another “with the affection of Christ Jesus” God does something to and in us. We become “filled” with His fruit! Jesus Christ who lives in us want’s to be fully expressed through us. Some of us, me included have some of his light shining through us, but He wants to find a full expression of Himself through His body! The more we get to know one another, and truly love each deeply from the heart, He will fill us with His fruit that will blossom more in and through our lives. When this continues to happen then God is glorified because He is seeing more of His Son coming through us! Others will be born from the seed of that fruit! Jesus wants to be expressed in order to bring “glory and praise” to God! Amen!

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
March 15, 2010, 4:08 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

I have been reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians now for some time, thinking about what God is trying to speak to me from this letter. I have to say there have been tons! This letter really is quite unique!

From the beginning Paul has a wonderful outlook on a life that is totally committed to the Lordship of Christ. This Lordship of Christ has brought him to prison, and even in prison Paul sees only good coming from it. Perhaps there is a sense that God is preparing Paul, here in Ephesus, for the dark days of when Paul will be in a Roman prison in Caesarea for over two years and then in the prison of Rome itself for a couple more years. God can do much spiritual good in our lives, when to the natural mind those days should be the most hopeless. But that is the thing about the spiritual life, it is contrary to this world’s thinking. Paul’s attitude was joy in the midst of suffering. I can only reflect on how my attitude can get when I am annoyed, aggravated or frustrated about something or someone. It pales in comparison to thinking of being in a dark, inhospitable prison. How would I take being in prison and suffering for Christ? I guess one’s spiritual life in Christ really doesn’t shine until we face such opposition. Will I choke in my natural self or will I let Christ live His life through me to His glory?

Thankfully Paul had Timothy whom Paul considered “as a son” who had served with Paul “in the work of the gospel.” Timothy was a unique gift of Christ to Paul, Paul had “no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest” in the welfare of others, especially of those Christians in Philippi. Much of Timothy’s initial equipping of being a church planter was with the church in Philippi. Timothy, from living the shared life with those in Asia Minor, and with Paul and his companions, helped this church to live by Christ’s life, through the Spirit. This only happens when there is a deep love for one another.

Paul at this time was possibly having Timothy write this letter for him to this church. Interestingly, Paul describes both himself and Timothy as “servants of Christ Jesus.” Timothy is an equal in the eyes of Paul. Paul is not the head of his companions or of any church, but a servant, in fact the word means ‘slave” in the “Greek Interlinear” (1). We are all “Christ’s slave” because we were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, perhaps the year or two before he wrote this letter. If we really know Christ, really know Him, truly know what He did for us by coming to this earth and dieing on that cross, maybe we might think differently about ourselves, that we are His and not our own. Lord help me to remember this!

But not only are Paul and Timothy slaves of Christ and equals towards one another they are also equals with His body. The same Holy Spirit that indwells them indwells us! We are “all saints,” we are all set apart from sin and have now a relationship “in Christ Jesus.” When God sees us He only sees the beautiful sinless wonderful life of Jesus flowing from within us! We are holy! I am reminded of Gene Edwards book titled “The Divine Romance”! But Paul also includes the statement “with the overseers and deacons” (or servants). Overseer refers to “looking after” according to Vine’s (2). I have a difficult time trying to make these words into an office of sorts in a church. There is no such word in the Bible related to the word office. Paul always described the body of Christ as having members with functions. And the Spirit can use anyone who is growing in His life to function however He desires. There are many conscientious persons in the body of Christ who look after one another, who passionately relate to one another in deep and loving ways. Perhaps a model of life God is using in His body to help the rest of the church see His life expressed, so that the body can see how His life is expressed to the benefit of the body. The same for the use of the word deacons or “servants,” we are all slaves of Christ and are called to be enslaved to one another in love, the actual rendering for “serve one another in love” that Paul told the Galatian Christians. Perhaps Paul has in mind those who serve in specific ways to the building up of the body, perhaps those with serving gifts of the Spirit. Also perhaps the overseers are those who look after and care for the church who speak in specific ways to the building up of the body, perhaps those with speaking gifts of the Spirit? But they are not the heads of the church, there is only one Head, Christ! I like Milt Rodriguez’s, in his book, The Community Life of God, his description of spiritual leadership, in that it is fluid in the body of Christ, Christ letting anyone at anytime the function to care for the body and serve the body in specific ways.

Additionally, perhaps Paul is upfront in his letter, more so than in his others (since this is the first time where he actually brings out specific functions in His letters to the body of Christ), using the functional words overseers and deacons to highlight certain individuals in this body of Christ “to remind the community of their place in Christ,”(3) e.g. he places them after “all the saints.” Maybe Paul is thinking about what happened in Corinth when divisions began to occur because certain members started taking charge, instead of letting Christ be the Head. Everyone in the body of Christ are equals, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” as Paul told the Galatians and then repeated to the Corinthians. Is it possible that as we grow in Christ that we may be tempted to act superior to our other brothers and sisters in Christ? May it never be so. Pride comes before the fall, may we remember this.

Paul opens his letter with the typical statement of “grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The community life of the body of Christ is a life of grace and peace which is not of ourselves but from God! Because we all received the Spirit upon our faith in Christ, making Him our Lord, we receive all of God in our lives, we receive the Triune God. With God, we have Father, Son, and Spirit who live in constant communion of grace and peace with one another as our model for living in constant communion of grace and peace with one another in the body of Christ! Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters is a reminder of our kind of life in Christ!

Paul is overwhelmed by his love for these followers of Jesus. He is reminded of them by God, in his own life with Christ, and thanks God for Him bringing them to his mind. “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Do I always pray with joy for other believers? Wow!

This partnership in the gospel refers to their “fellowship in the gospel.” The good news of Jesus Christ is first and foremost about fellowship with God Himself! Somehow partnership doesn’t seem to convey the connectedness with Christ as fellowship does. And that fellowship with God is through His Spirit to His body who are indwelt by His Spirit. It is the constant flow of fellowship this “matter of giving and receiving” of a life shared together. Instead of trying to get people converted by a rote prayer into a nominal salvation, which is probably not a real salvation, could we show them His life of devoted fellowship that involves sharing life together so that the desire for Christ is rooted in fellowship and love not out of duty? Because Paul saw that their relationship with Christ was rooted out of a desire and love for Jesus, Paul can give this church confirmation of their relationship with the living Lord! “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”! If you have Christ, if you have His wonderful life in you because you desired Him, you loved Him, and you made Jesus your Lord then you can be confident that your relationship with Him will be guided by Him, and He will bring you to a closer and deeper relationship with Himself even to the end of the age! Perhaps this is the practical meaning of the great commission described by Matthew in his gospel. That going and making disciples through baptizing and teaching, is really about this fellowship of Christ growing through His body towards one another and as a result Jesus Himself is confident when He says “I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” Because Jesus, God Himself, is confident about this matter, we to can be confident! Amen!

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 577.
(2) W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(3) Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary of the New Testament, 1995, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 69.

Thoughts about Philippians
February 20, 2010, 7:31 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

I come now to a letter by Paul that he wrote to the Christians at Philippi. I generally agree with John Pollock on his narrative story of Paul titled “The Apostle: A Life of Paul” where the letter to the Philippians was written from Ephesus during Paul’s third church planting journey. In Ephesus Pollock believes Paul was arrested and put in prison during his two year stay as mentioned in Acts chapter 19. It is not without possibility.

While in Ephesus Paul wrote his second letter to the church in Corinth and described how he had ‘worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.” While Paul was mentioned as being arrested on a number of occasions in Acts, surely he had been arrested at other times as well that were not documented by Luke, as inferred from his letter to the church in Corinth. Additionally, I find that while reading Philippians Paul mentions how he hoped to send Timothy to the church soon “as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.” There is no mention of going to Spain as mentioned in his letter to the Roman Christians. And it seems that this imprisonment was for short duration, indicating that this arrest was neither the one in Caesarea or Rome.

I also believe this letter to the Philippians was written before Paul left to Corinth, where he wrote the letter to the Romans. J.B. Lightfoot (1) sees “so close parallels” between the two letters and “most nearly resembles” each other he believes they would certainly have been written “in chronological order” suggesting an earlier date of it’s writing, although Lightfoot contends it was almost certainly at the beginning of Paul’s first Roman imprisonment.

Paul describes himself as being “in chains for Christ” and how “the whole palace guard” knows this. At the end of the letter Paul sends the church greetings “especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” Most believe this to be the main reason why this letter must have been written during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment. Pollock (2) mentions that historically that wherever there was a large Roman presence there was a “proconsular palace” that included “the Praetorian Guard.” We see this also in Jerusalem and other places from the gospels and Acts. It was even thought, that because Paul was a Roman citizen, he could walk around the city although still chained to a Roman guard. Some have thought for these reasons Paul could have written the letter from Caesarea before he was taken to Rome. I do not take this as being plausible because of the short time Paul felt he was going to stay in prison in his letter to the church in Philippi. In Caesarea he knew that God was using the events to send him to Rome and had to patiently wait on God’s timing for those events to unfold. Paul also knew that Luke was doing his research into Jesus earthly life while in Judea and so realized that his time there was more than just for him but for God and what He was doing. Also Caesar’s household refers normally to any of the household slaves that worked in Roman palaces no matter the location. Because of this I believe Paul was in prison in Ephesus when he wrote this letter.

When Paul journeyed with his companions on his second church planting mission they “traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia.” They met Lydia and her household who became followers of Jesus Christ as a result of “the Lord” opening “her heart to Paul’s message.” Paul and his companions enjoyed fellowship with them in their home. Soon, after Paul and Silas imprisonment in Philippi, their jailer and his household believed “in the Lord Jesus” and were saved! God had formed a living expression of Jesus Christ in Philippi, a body of Christ, through these two households! Paul took Silas with him and left his other companions, we assume Luke and Timothy and perhaps others, to help them to learn to make Jesus as Head in their gatherings and to show them how to live according to the Spirit in each others lives and homes and to be living expressions of Christ to friends and co-workers. It is perhaps possible that towards the end of his second church planting journey that he wrote this letter, maybe from a prison in Corinth. The letter to the Philippians is also quiet about any appeals as the Corinthian letters and the comment in Romans about the collection of support for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. This mean that the letter might have been written some time after his letters to the Thessalonians and before the Corinthian and Roman letters. Of course because of not mentioning the collection could be because it was written early in his Roman imprisonment.

No matter when Paul wrote the letter, Philippi was the place Paul enjoyed the mutual giving and receiving of life with Christ and His people. Paul would always seem to go back and forth through Macedonia to enjoy the mutual love and fellowship in Christ Jesus as well as to send his assistant church planters to visit them and to encourage them. What a wonderful group of Christians whom Paul loved with such affection! May we be a body of believers whom others would long to be with “with the affection of Christ Jesus”!

(1) Lightfoot, J.B., St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, J.B. Lightfoot’s Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul, 4th Vol. Ed., Hendrickson Publishers, 1995, 42-44.
(2) Pollock, John, The Apostle: A Life of Paul, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1985, 193-202.