October 12, 2008

 

Philippians Introduction

I would like to go into one of the Old Testament Prophets, or maybe even Acts for a good history and doctrinal study, but I will stick with another of Paul's letters this time. Philippians is a good practical book.

Let me introduce Philippians and maybe give an outline of the first chapter.

Acts 16:11-40

Philippi was the chief city of the western part of Macedonia. Acts 16:11, 12. In Acts 16:9, Paul was called by a vision in the night to Macedonia. Answering the Macedonian Call, Paul started the church here in Philippi, which was the first place in Europe where the gospel was preached.

Philip, the son of Alexander the Great, had invaded this country, expelled Corys from his throne and proceeded to found a new city which he called after his own name, Philippi.

This city was surrounded by many springs and small rivers. There were many silver and gold mines in this region. It was a city of Macedonia, having a key location on a principal thoroughfare from Asia to Europe, which was the great leading road from the one continent to the other.

Here at Philippi was fought a great battle which decided the fate or the Roman Empire. Here Octavianus (Augustus Caesar) and Anthony defeated Brutas and Cassius. This gave the political party of the man who was to become Augustus Caesar the control of the Roman Empire.

Answering the "Macedonian Call" and was his custom, Paul went right to the capital of Macedonia, Philippi, where he stayed certain days. It was here that God opened the heart to salvation of a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, in Asia Minor. Paul and Silas stayed with her while in the area.

It was in Philippi that Paul cast out spirit of divination, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying. The margin of your Bible here says, of divination: or Python.

Python was one of the names of the Grecian god Apollo, so his common name was Pythian Apollo. His worship was almost universal in the Roman empire. He was supposed to be able to surely prophecy the future. It is clear that Paul considered the young woman demon possessed, and treated it accordingly.

Three important points here:

First: Praising God is not a sure sign of salvation. In this case, the demon praised God. Today – This fact throws a great cloud of doubt over the so called praise songs of our day. The "praise team" gets a spooky look on their faces, raise their hands, and "praise God." Such activity is not a sign of salvation. (I certainly not against raising hands to the Lord, for it is a Scriptural practice. However, "raising hands to the Lord" today has been equated with worshiping the Lord by those who live for self and the devil throughout the week.)

Second: much gain. There is big money and worldly acclaim to be made in serving the powers of darkness. Was not Christ offered great earthly reward if he would only worship Satan? Was that an empty offer, or was it real? It had to be real, or it would not have been a temptation. Of course, Christ broke that power of Satan when he rose from the dead.

Third: The turmoil in Philippi was not over the salvation and the baptism of Lydia. The turmoil was when the gospel started cutting into the income of wicked men. Today – There is no problem with preaching the gospel and baptizing believes.

* The conflict comes when the gospel starts costing the wicked powers in authority money.
* The problem is when the gospel produces social change, as it should.
* The problem is when the powers of this world feel threatened by the power of the gospel.

The result of Paul treating the young woman as demon possessed was not only a riot, but a beating and a night in jail for Paul and Silas. It was then that the well known story of the salvation of the Philippian Jailer takes place.

Paul and Silas preached the gospel here with great power, and undoubtedly had many converts. They soon left Philippi, but probably visited here again.

This letter to the Philippians was written from Rome while Paul was in prison (4:22). Evidently he had been a prisoner for some time, but expected to be released soon to visit the folks here again. The time of its witting is about 61 or 62 A.D., before the big conflict between Rome and the Jews, which started in 64

Probably because this was the first church in Europe and planted by Paul, he seems to have a very particular kindness for the church. Therefore, though Paul had the care of all the churches, he had a particular fatherly tender care of this one.

Paul looked upon these Christians as his children, and, having begotten them by the gospel, he was desirous to strengthen and nurse them up by the same gospel.

Note here: If God has seen fit to allow us to do any good for a person or family, we should see that as a God-given responsibility to do what we can to keep them in the Word and close to the Lord.

Moreover, pastors feel a special responsibility for those saved under their ministry. And Paul reminds the people of his responsibility for his "children" in the faith.

1 Corinthians 6:14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. 15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Paul's epistles deal both with the outward action and the inward attitudes of a person. It is easy to get so concerned about proper outward actions that we overlook the requirement that proper actions are to be from the heart. In fact, obedience and rebellion begin in the heart, for as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.

If he has a wicked, immoral, ungodly heart, he will be the same on the outside. If he has a submissive, godly heart, he will be the same on the outside.

I love the Old Testament. As we study the Old Testament law, it is easy to think that if our outward actions conform to it, we are OK.

We need a balance. Instruction in the law concerning our outward actions must be combined with instructions concerning the heart attitude. The New Testament deals much more with the inner attitudes than with the outer actions, although both must go hand in hand.

Evidently, when this church heard of Paul's imprisonment, it sent some support to him with Epaphroditus (2:25). Epaphroditus fell sick while he was in Rome, and as soon as he recovered, Paul sends him back home with this letter we have before us.

This letter is the kindest of all of Paul's epistles. Paul was not yet sure of his fate, but death seemed very close at hand. The fires of Nero's persecution might have already started against the Christians.

Thus, this letter is more of a father giving loving instructions to his children, with death seeming just a short way off.

Unlike the other epistles (to Corinth, Galitia, etc.), there was no major sin which needed to be dealt with mentioned in this church. We can be sure that Paul would have mentioned it if there was. However, he does give some positive commands. Knowing Paul, the positive commands are given to counter some negative problems, such as 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

This letter contains the gratitude and affection of a spiritual father toward a much-loved flock, a father who was about to die.

There are some points worth mentioning in this opening summery.

1. If God has allowed us to come into contact with anyone for His name's sake, we should look for and study for ways to be an encouragement to them.

2. These were Paul's spiritual children. He considered it his responsibility to encourage them and to love them. He had begotten them on the gospel, and now he desires to both compliment them and encourage them in the gospel.

Who has God placed in our lives that he will hold us responsible for? Not responsible for their salvation, but responsible to encourage and do all we can with them for the gospel?

3. When he went to Philippi, he encountered some very difficult things, beatings, jail, stocks. Yet, even though he suffered greatly at the hands of those who hated Christ and the Gospel, he did not take it out on his friends.

He never allowed the mistreatment by the enemies of the cross to hinder his relationship with his friends, and the friends of the cross. He did nor take out his mistreatment on those around him. Nor did he allow this mistreatment to harden him.

4. In the beginning, the church was very small, only one person converted, Lydia, then the Jailer, then his household. Yet, Paul and Silas believed assuredly..that the Lord had called to go to Macedonia.

Three men went (that we know of), Paul, Silas who were thrown into jail together) and Timotheus. They had very few converts, a riot, a beating, a jailing and a polite invitation to leave town. Evidently, Paul and Silas went on to other cities (Thessalonica was their next stop) in Macedonia, leaving Timotheus behind in Philippi. The books of Timothy would be Paul's instruction to Timothy concerning his responsibility to the church.

By anyone's standards, their first stop here was a failure. Three evangelists and a couple of converts, a riot, then a request to leave town. Yet we see from this book, Philippians, that these few seeds which were planted grew into a very well developed and mature church. A loving, caring and giving church.

The lesson here for us is obvious. No matter how small the results may seem:

a. We should not be discouraged by small beginnings.

Zechariah 4:10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

b. Our responsibility is to be faithful with what the Lord has provided us.

c. What may appear to us and to others to be a failure, may, in God's plan, be the start of something great for Him.

d. Of all the churches that Paul started in Macedonia, this church alone supported him with their finances, 4:16-18.

Evidently, the church that appeared to be the biggest failure at the start, turned out to be the most successful, the most spiritual.

e. The result of their sharing of their temporal things, finances, with this man of God was to receive something which money could not buy — spiritual reward of converts, and a letter of praise and encouragement which found its way into the pages of eternity.

There are a great many folks who invest massive amounted of funds into building something to leave behind a good name for themselves, yet these Philippians, by being faithful in there giving to this man of God (and in their Christian duty), left for themselves the praises of God in God's word.

As we will see in Philippians 4:19, the promise Paul sent back to these faithful Saints in Christ Jesus, far outweighed any sacrifice which they might have made to support him. (We know that to do unto the least of these, my brethren is to do unto Him.)

Look who he sent the promise back with, Epaphroditus, the messenger who brought the support from the church.

I'm certain that they did not expect to receive back anything like they got, this wonderful letter of praise and encouragement. But as they gave of the temporal, they invested in the eternal. Long after Philippi has been covered over by dust, the names of these faithful Christians is written with a pen of iron in the stone which will be in existence for evermore. It is written tn heaven.

Their goal was not to be famous; rather, their goal was to be faithful doers of the word of God. As they were faithful doers of what they had been taught, God returned to them something money could not buy, His praise of, "well done, thou good and faithful servants of Jesus Christ, v.1.

5. One last point which is extremely important. Paul compliments them on their Christ likeness, yet all they had for doctrine, reproof and instruction in righteousness was THE OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES.

There was no New Testament yet. In fact, Paul is witting to them one of the letters which will latter become one of the books, but that isn't yet.

In other words, the standard for Christianity was found in the law as revealed to Moses. There is no way around Paul's words to Timothy, who was left behind at this church:

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture (Old Testament only at this time) is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

This letter to the Philippians proves that the gospel is not only contained in the Old Testament, but the godly actions required by the gospel of Christ are clearly established in the Old Testament.

What an encouragement this book should be for every child of God, to just be faithful in doing what we can do for Him, according to His word.

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