Study On The Book Of Philippians

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Philippians 3:13-14 Striving for the Living Christ


In Philippians 3:13-14 Paul writes about his goals, setting himself as an example. Paul was not complacent, and we shouldn’t be either. Instead of smugness Paul knew a sanctified ambition, and he threw himself eagerly into the race that God had set before him. Paul says that he had learned to press ahead in three ways. First, he forgets those things that are behind. Second, he looks forward to those things that are ahead. Third, he presses on toward the mark of the prize of God’s calling. In Paul’s mind there was a sanctified forgetting, a sanctified looking ahead, and a sanctified striving for that to which God had called him.

In the first place, Paul says that he forgets those things that are behind. What are they? It’s the kind of forgetting that occurs when we cease to let things that are in the past overshadow the present, that lets the past be past, both the good and the bad, and that constantly looks forward to the work that God still has for us. This does not mean, of course, that we are not to be thankful for past blessings. But if your Christian testimony is entirely taken up with what God did for you thirty or forty years ago, or if you are constantly talking about the good old days when God’s blessing on your life seemed great, then you are looking to the past. You can never do that and move forward. Someone described old age as the point in life when a person ceases to look forward and always looks backward. If that is accurate, then there are certainly a lot of old Christians – and I don’t mean in terms of their years. They are living in the past, and Paul warns against it. Past blessing are fine. We have received them from God’s hands, and we should be thankful for them. We rejoice in everything that He has done in our lives. But now we must let those things lie in the past and move forward. There can be no progress without this proper forgetting.

The second thing that Paul claims to have done is to have fixed his gaze on the many things that God would yet be doing. Paul’s sense of the Lord’s leading was always linked to his awareness of open doors. Paul expected the Lord to open doors, and when He did, Paul went through them instantly. Through those doors Paul was constantly striving toward those things that were ahead. We should awake in the morning to say, “Lord, here is a new day that you have given me. I know that there are new things to be done and new lessons to be learned. Help me to use this day as well as I possibly can – to raise my children properly, to do well at my job, to help my neighbor.” And when we go to bed that night we can pray, “Lord, I have not done anything today as well as I should have, and I missed many of your blessings. But thank you for being with me. Help me now to place today’s experiences behind and rest well so that I may serve you better tomorrow.” God will do it, for He is anxious to lead us onward in our experience and our service for Him.

There is a third point to Paul’s statement in these verses. The life of Paul wishes to live involves not only a forgetting of the past and looking forward to the things that lie ahead. It also involves a striving for these things. This involves perseverance, discipline, and concentration. If we are really to engage in that great struggle for God’s best that Paul is speaking about, we must also be prepared for vigorous spiritual conflict; for our striving is not only against ourselves or our circumstances but against the spiritual forces of this world that seek to hinder us. Paul calls them principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world. If you want an easy time as a Christian, all you have to do is to get far away from Jesus Christ – move away to the periphery of the battle. Satan isn’t going to bother you much out there because that is where he wants you. However, if you draw close to the Lord, as Paul wished to do, and join with him in the battle, then you will find it necessary to use God’s weapons for the conflict. All too often Christians arm themselves with the weapons of the world (wisdom, self-confidence, financial security, success, and popularity) instead of God’s Armor (truth, righteousness, and the gospel, faith, salvation, and the Word of God, see Ephesians 6).

We engage in the battles of the Christian life that result from our striving for the victories that God sets before us, we can take confidence in the fact that the victory of Jesus Christ has already guaranteed the outcome. By His death and resurrection Jesus Christ decisively defeated Satan and the forces of darkness, and we now advance under His banner to enforce His conquest. We are to wear His weapons. As we go we are to echo Paul’s challenge in Philippians 3:13-14.

Philippians 3:13-14 Reflection Questions:

Have you lost your vision for God’s future blessing on your life?

Have you ceased to work hard in His service?

Do you concentrate on the Christian life, or is your mind filled with the things of this world?

Do you fix your mind on the things God has for you, or do the temporary, passing and insignificant things of this world crowd out the lasting, eternal things?

Philippians 3:12 Following the Living Christ

by Larry Ferrell | March 30, 2018
Our study of Philippians has already brought us to two verses that were an expression of Paul’s great and lifelong desire to know Jesus Christ (3:10). Paul lived this desire. But as he wrote these words Paul must have realized that there would be some among the readers at Philippi, as there are today also, who would dismiss them as something that no Christian could possibly be expected to accomplish. They would admit that the ideal was a good one, but they would call it totally unpractical. Paul does not allow this kind of thinking to continue. He immediately adds that although even he has not realized the goal in its entirety, he is still trying; and we must understand him to imply that his readers should be trying also (Phil. 3:12). Paul’s confession is not only a statement of the demands of Christian discipleship; it is also an announcement of the principles by which this calling should be realized.

First, Paul acknowledges that he was called by Christ Jesus. It’s very important to recognize that all discipleship begins with God’s call or, as Paul says, with being taken hold of by Christ Jesus. God’s call must be foremost, for nothing can take place spiritually in a person’s life until this happens. Actually it involves the creation of spiritual life. The call to discipleship must begin with the power of God to make a spiritually dead person alive, for only then are the standards of that calling significant. This is what the new birth means. Before conversion God says that a person is dead in his trespasses and sins. The person is alive physically and intellectually, but he is not alive spiritually. Thus, he cannot respond to spiritual stimuli. While he is in this state the Word of God is a hidden book to him, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is nonsense. Then God touches his life. God’s touch brings life out of death, the life of the spirit, and the person then believes in Jesus Christ and begins to understand the Bible. This is what it means to be taken hold of by God. If you are only pretending, then you must begin where the others have begun. You must begin by acknowledging God’s call to you in Christ Jesus and your need for Him, and you must commit yourself to Him.

The second step in becoming an effective disciple of Jesus Christ is to be aware of the purpose for which He has called you. Paul says, “I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12). What is that thing for which the apostle Paul and we as Christians have been taken hold of? The answer is spelled out in Romans 8:28-29. What was God’s purpose in saving you? His purpose was that you might be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, God saved you to make you as holy, pure, gracious, and loving as Jesus. At this point I can almost hear someone saying, “Well, if that’s the case, I’ll just wait for God to do it. I’ll enjoy that holiness in heaven.” But this is not the way Paul means it. Paul had a great sense of the present demands of discipleship. Everything he mentions in this chapter has to do with the Christian’s present conduct. It is the attainment of a kind of life so filled with Christ that those who do not know him will regard it as the life of eternity. Paul is saying that he wishes to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ now. This should be your desire also. If it’s not, it will become your desire more and more as you begin to realize that this was God’s greatest purpose in calling you to faith in the Lord Jesus.

The first two of these points now lead to a very practical conclusion, for Paul writes that because God has called him and because he has done so for a purpose, he himself must determine to follow after Jesus. This means that God’s calling always puts an obligation on His children. This is personal. Discipleship is always personal. Discipleship can never be conditioned upon God’s plans for some other Christian. Christ’s call is always the personal one to “Follow me.” It’s also true that discipleship is costly. In fact, it costs a person his all. There are always Christians who think that they can be Christ’s disciples piecemeal. They think that they can follow him and inch at a time after first assuring themselves that there is no danger and that following him also conforms to their own plans for themselves and their future. But this is not discipleship at all. Discipleship means abandoning your sin, your past, your own conception of yourself and your plans for your own future, even at times your friends or your family, if that is God’s will for you, and following Jesus. You may be saying. “But isn’t that hard? To give up the things I treasure?” Well, it is true that it is hard sometimes. But it is also true that there is a far greater sense in which we really never give anything up in the service of our Lord. We give things up, but Christ gives us more. And even the things we surrender are so arranged by God that they work for our spiritual well-being.

Perhaps there is something that God has been asking you to lay aside in order that you might be a more effective witness for him. I don’t know what that is. The thing that is a hindrance for one disciple is often entirely different for another. But whatever it is, you know it. At this point in your life, for you it is the touchstone of your discipleship. Will you cast it aside to follow Jesus? If you do, you will grow in your Christian discipleship, and God will bring great blessing into your life and through you also into the lives of others.

Philippians 3:12 Reflection Questions:
Do you see the demands of Christian discipleship unpractical? Have you ever felt that way?
Are you one of God’s children? Has He picked you up and made you His? Or are you just pretending Christianity?
Where are you at in your journey to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ?

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Philippians 3:10-11 Knowing the Living Christ

by Larry Ferrell | March 23, 2018
There are many things that distinguish Christianity from other world religions, but one of the most significant distinctions is this: Christians believe that Jesus rose again from the dead after having been crucified and that he lives today to be known by those who trust Him. The Jesus who was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, who lived, who died, and who rose again, still lives. Consequently, to know Him personally, intimately, and experientially is the first and greatest goal of the believer’s life. This was Paul’s goal also, and Philippians 3:10-11 is a great expression of it. Paul has spoken of his initial faith in Christ. He now speaks of the goal of Christian living. Paul wanted to know Jesus. As he writes about his desire, the nature of that knowledge is plain.

In the first place, the knowledge Paul sought was experiential. We must see this aspect of his statement clearly, for without this understanding of Paul’s desire the verses themselves are meaningless. Paul wanted to know Jesus in the truest biblical sense – personally and experientially. And he wanted this to affect his day-by-day living. Consequently, having been saved wholly and solely by Christ, Paul wants to enter into the deepest possible union with Him. There is only one inexhaustible person, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. People disappoint us, but Jesus never will. It is entirely satisfying to know him.

Paul’s desire did not stop merely with the knowledge of Christ. He also wished to know his power. Here Paul speaks of experience. He states that, in addition to knowing about the resurrection, he also wants to experience its power. Paul knew that this power could overcome sin and death and that it was far more potent than Rome’s armies. The power of Jesus Christ is a great reality. Paul wanted to experience the resurrection power of Jesus Christ over sin daily as he strived to live a holy life before God.

The third thing that Paul says he wished to know of Jesus Christ was “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.” This does not mean that Paul wished to suffer for human sin, for only Jesus Christ could do that. He alone suffered innocently and therefore for others. Paul wished to join in Christ’s suffering in a different sense. He wished to stand with Christ in such and invisible union that when the abuses and persecution that Christ suffered also fell on him, as he knew they would, he could receive them as Jesus did. He wanted to react like Jesus, for he knew that abuse received like this would actually draw him closer to his Lord. Such sufferings will always come to the Christian. Paul speaks of Christ’s obedience in death and holds it up as a pattern for all Christian conduct. He argues that Jesus was so careful to obey his Father that he laid aside his outward mantle of glory and took to himself human form and nature, enduring all the sufferings of this world, and that he even died as a man in obedience to his Father’s will. The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings is won at a price of such radical and total obedience.

In the last phrase of this great expression of Paul’s goals Paul tells why he desires to know Christ so completely and to be like him in his death. It is that he might “attain to the resurrection from the dead.” We must not understand this to mean that Paul was afraid for his eternal security. Paul knows that God will bring him safely to heaven (see Rom. 8:38-39; Phil 1:6). Paul is not thinking in these terms; he is thinking about something else. Actually, he is saying that he wishes to be so much like Christ in the way he lived that people would think of him as a resurrected person even now, even before his death. Or to put it another way, “As I walk your streets, as I walk into you homes, as I walk into your stores, as I walk into your offices, as I mingle among the sons of men, I want to be so living for Christ, so outstanding for him that you can see that I am a living one among the dead ones.” This is God’s greatest purpose in saving you.

Philippians 3:10-11 Reflection Questions:
Do you have the desire to know Jesus intimately, to awake with Him in the morning and to live each day with Him and in His presence?
In what ways do you experience the resurrection power of Jesus Christ daily?
Are you careful to obey God completely, even at the expense of open persecution and real suffering?
Is it your desire to be so living for Christ that you will appear as a resurrected person among those who are spiritually dead?

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Philippians 3:9 Your Goodness or God’s?

by Larry Ferrell | March 16, 2018
Philippians 3:9 is a summary of the Book of Romans, for it deals with the heart of salvation in one verse. The principles involved are these: First, there are two kinds of righteousness – the righteousness that comes from man and the righteousness that comes from God. Second, God cannot be satisfied with any righteousness that comes from human beings. Third, God is satisfied with His own righteousness, which He offers freely to all who believe in Jesus Christ. For those who do believe, this is the objective basis of salvation.

It’s not easy to describe the righteousness of God because it is an aspect of His character, and sin limits our knowledge of Him. Yet we know that the righteousness of God is related to the holiness of God and both are seen in the law of the Old Testament and in the ethical teachings of Jesus Christ. The law is NOT God’s righteousness; but it is an expression of it, just as a coin is an expression of the die in the mint that produced it. It’s important to emphasize that the righteousness of God that is seen in the law and in Jesus Christ is different from human righteousness. Human beings would like to think that they can attain God’s standard of righteousness merely by adding to their own, but since the two kinds of righteousness are different in nature, this is impossible. God teaches that there are two kinds of righteousness – His righteousness and human righteousness – and that the accumulation of human righteousness, no matter how diligent, will never take a person to heaven. It’s like trying to buy groceries with Monopoly money; it’s a different kind of currency than what is used in the real world. It’s the same spiritually. There are people who think they are collecting assets before God when they are only collecting human righteousness. God tells them that they must leave the play currency to deal in His goodness. Our goodness has no value in heaven. Most people will not believe that. Therefore, much of the Bible is given over to showing why human goodness will never please God. The Book of Romans is the primary example. The opening chapters of this book probe to the depths of human sin, exposing our spiritual illness and indicating why human remedies will not heal the soul.

God is looking at you heart and mine. What does He see? Does He see deeds, even religious deeds that are not backed up by the divine life within? Or does He see His own righteousness, imputed to you and beginning to work its way out into your conduct? You cannot fool God with human righteousness. If you are trusting this, He must say to you as He says to all, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12). You must turn from your goodness to God’s.

God’s verdict upon the human race includes all people – the hedonist, the moralist, the most religious person, and you, whatever you may be. It is one that declares all human righteousness unable to satisfy the righteous standards of God. You are included in that judgment, but you may not be able to feel that the things God is saying about you are true. Are you sensitive to God’s verdict? Do you feel the truth of His statements? If not, there is a spiritual disorder in your life and God must begin to operate on it before you will come to Him. Perhaps He is doing that now! You may be feeling the most acute spiritual pain because of it, but you must know that your new sensitivity is the first step in your spiritual recovery. Your recovery will take place completely as you come to God to receive a righteousness that comes from God Himself and is entirely untainted by sin. That righteousness comes by faith in Jesus Christ. You must come to God through Him.

Philippians 3:9 Reflection Questions:
Will you accept God’s verdict upon your goodness and turn to Him for the righteousness He gives you by grace?
How is God working on your spiritual illness?
In what way are trying to please God with human goodness?

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Philippians 3:4-8 Profits and Loss

by Larry Ferrell | March 9, 2018
Here Paul says that he learned to count all human effort as loss that he might win Christ. To state these truths he uses the figure of a balance sheet, showing assets and liabilities. He says that he has learned to reckon all the assets he had earned before he knew Christ as liabilities and to enter into his new column of assets the name of Jesus Christ alone. We must realize that human righteousness is nothing when measured against the righteousness of God revealed in Jesus Christ and that God is right to insist upon His standards.

In the first place, human righteousness falls short of the standards set by God, and anything short of those standards is unrighteousness. Righteousness is one of those things like perfection that loses its meaning entirely if you divide it. Perfection is a whole. Righteousness is exactly the same. You are either entirely righteous by God’s definition or you are not righteous at all. Jesus Christ said in what is undoubtedly the most important single verse in the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect, therefore, even as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). That is the standard! All fall short of it, and falling short of it, they miss it all. There is a second reason why human righteousness is not adequate when measured against the goodness of God. Human goodness, even at best, is polluted by sin. We do good things, but all of our good deeds, even the best of them, are contaminated by sin. And because sin is there, sin can always break forth into death. That is why the noblest ideals and the most sublime ideologies of human beings lead away from God. God must pronounce a curse upon them in order that true righteousness might be established through the work of Jesus Christ.

In verses 4-8, Paul illustrates these principles from his own experience. Humanly speaking he had acquired all the assets that anyone could imagine. He was a Jew, and Jews had always had a special place in God’s dealings with the human race. But in terms of salvation Paul came to admit that these things had actually kept him from God. He writes, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:7-8). Paul lists seven achievements in these verses, those that were inherited and those that were earned. That is a real list of assets from a human point of view. But the day came when Paul saw what this was in the light of the righteous God. Probably the most important word in the entire third chapter is the word that begins verse seven: “but.” That “but” marks Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus when Paul first saw Jesus and learned what God’s righteousness was. He thought before this that he had attained righteousness by keeping the law. But when he saw Christ he knew that all his righteousness was as filthy rags.

That is the work of God in a human heart. Paul came to the point where he opened his ledger book. He looked at what he had accumulated by inheritance and by his efforts and reflected that these things actually kept him from Christ. He then took the entire list and placed it where it belonged – under the list of liabilities. He called it “loss,” and under assets he wrote, “Jesus Christ alone.”

Philippians 3:4-8 Reflection Questions:
Have you exchanged your assets for Christ? Or are you trusting in the kind of goodness that will never be accepted by God?
What are the inherited assets that Paul had? What were Paul’s earned assets?
Have you reached the point in your Christian walk were you count all your inherited and earned assets as loss and put “Jesus Christ alone” as your only true asset?

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Philippians 3:1-3 Better than Happiness

by Larry Ferrell | March 2, 2018
The third chapter of Philippians is probably the most beloved chapter of Paul’s letter. In it he sets forth many of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian life and unveils in stirring language his own desire to know and serve the Lord Jesus. It’s interesting however, that these doctrines are included not so much for their own sake but as a natural outgrowth of a challenge to the Christians at Philippi to be joyful. Philippians 3: 1-3 suggest that joy is founded to a very large degree on sound doctrine.

Remember, Jesus promised joy for those who followed Him: The angel who announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy”… (Luke 2:10-11). Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). In John 17 Jesus prayed to his Father, “that they may have the full measure of my joy within them” (v. 13). This joy is the birthright of all true believers. It was this joy that Paul wished to see in the little congregation at Philippi.

What is joy? Joy is a supernatural delight in God and God’s goodness. And it is very different from happiness. Happiness is our translation of the Latin word fortuna and it is closely related to chance. Thus, if things happen to work out in a way that we approve, we are happy. If they do not so happen, we are unhappy. Happiness is circumstantial, but joy is not. Joy is an inner quality of delight in God, and it is meant to spring up within the Christian in a way totally unrelated to the adversities or circumstantial blessings of this life. Unfortunately, it is impossible to speak of the supernatural qualities of Christian joy without saying at the same time that many Christians fail to experience this joy, or they lose it after the initial joy of their salvation. Circumstances get them down, and instead of the victory Christians should experience, they suffer depression. This should not be. Instead of depression there should be joy in the Lord that goes beyond our circumstances.

Perhaps you are saying, “I know that I should have it, and I would like to rejoice in the Lord always. But circumstances still get me down. How can this joy be sustained?” The answer is in God’s Word, and we must follow it as we would a doctor’s prescription. The remedy can be summed up in several principles. The first principle is that you must begin by becoming a Christian. It may seem obvious to say this, but it is my experience that at least two classes of people need to face this squarely. The first class is composed of those who are not Christians and know it but whom think that the fruit of Christianity can be grown without the life of Christ. The second class of persons is composed of those who are not Christians but who think they are, perhaps because they have been raised in a religious home or because they attend church. They think they are Christians, but they do not understand the heart of the gospel and have not actually committed their lives to Jesus.

The second step is this: If you are to experience God’s joy, you must first know his righteousness and peace. This means that a life of holiness and trust are prerequisites. The order of these things is set forth in Romans 14:17. Many Christians do not know joy that could be theirs because their lives are not holy or they do not trust God for their future. Sin keeps us from God, who is the source of joy. Anxiety also works against joy. Instead of sin and anxiety in their lives, believers in Jesus Christ should experience a life of holiness and peace, and they should realize God’s peace as they submit all aspects of their future to Him.

The third step to a life of continuous, supernatural joy is to steep ourselves in the teachings of the Bible. When I first began to study what the Bible has to say about joy I was surprised to discover how many times joy is associated with a mature knowledge of God’s Word (see Ps. 19:8, Ps. 119:14, John 15:10-11). These verses teach that joy is to be found in knowledge of God’s character and commandments and that these are to be found in His Word. If you have not known much of this joy, the reason may be a neglect of a study of Scripture.

In this life neither you nor I will ever master all the great truths of Scripture. The Word of God is inexhaustible, like God himself, and if our joy depended on such mastery, we would never actually experience it. Instead, our joy depends on our relationship to God and our life with Him. However, if there is to be the joy in the Christian life that there ought to be, there must be a deep and growing experience of the basic truths upon which that life is founded. We must understand the nature of the atonement made for us by Christ. We must strive to know God better and to love Him. We must attempt to live obediently before Him as His children. There is a great deal of unrest in this world, and there will always be unrest for those who do not know Jesus. Apart from Him there is no true peace, no joy, and no real happiness. This should never be the case with a Christian. If you are a Christian, you should draw close to God, you must feed on Scripture, and God will “fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him” (Rom. 15:13).

Philippians 3:1-3 Reflection Questions:
Do you know this joy? Have you actually committed your life to Jesus Christ?
Have you submitted all aspects of your life to God?
What place does the Bible have in your life as a Christian? Are you feeding on Scripture daily?

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Philippians 2:25-30 The Man Whom God Honors

by Larry Ferrell | February 23, 2018
Of all the men Paul honors in his Epistle to the Philippians, it is the layman named Epaphroditus who gets the most attention. Here is a man who is almost unknown to us. Yet Paul selects him as deserving highest honor because of his self-effacing service to another Christian. Paul spells it out clearly in the first verse that mentions him (v. 25). Epaphroditus is said to have been four things. He was a brother, a fellow worker, a fellow soldier, and a messenger of the Philippian Christians who ministered in their absence to Paul’s needs. These things build toward the final statement. Together they are an important summary of what the Christian life should be.

In the first place, Paul calls his Christian friend a brother. This is striking simply because the ideal of brotherhood was such a new thing in Paul’s day. To be sure, some aspects of ancient life and culture bore a faint resemblance to Christian brotherhood; but these, even at their best, were exclusive. For the most part the ancient world was sharply divided between Greeks and Romans, Jews and Gentiles, aristocrats and plebeians, citizens and soldiers. There was nothing that genuinely united all branches of this greatly polarizes society. Into this world came the gospel of Jesus Christ and with it Christian brotherhood. Christians knew that they had all been under the curse of God because sin and now were brought into a new relationship to God through their relationship to Christ. Due to this new relationship to Christ; regardless of their place in society, the Christians simply overlooked their differences.

Second, Paul praises Epaphroditus for proving himself to be a fellow worker. This reminds me of the praise Jesus Christ had for the little church at Ephesus. This was a working church, and it was praised for it. In Revelation Jesus says to the church, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Rev. 2:3). Epaphroditus was this kind of worker. We need to reconstitute a working church in our day. We need to recapture a spirit of hard work in the social realm, for this is where the greatest action has taken place. We also need to work with renewed vigor in the area of evangelism. Perhaps you are saying that this is too much work for you. That may be true. But that is why we are to work with other Christians.

The third term that Paul uses to comment Epaphroditus is “fellow soldier.” Epaphroditus did not only work with Paul; he fought side by side with him also. Paul uses the words “fellow soldier” to say that the work they were doing was more like a battle than the normal labor of a citizen in peacetime. The Bible says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). This warfare requires the shoulder-to-shoulder, aggressive forward motion of all Christians. We are to work together in harmony against the spiritual powers arrayed against us.

The climactic phrase of Paul’s tribute to Epaphroditus tells us that he was a messenger of the church at Philippi and that he took care of Paul’s needs. Paul says in verse 30 that Epaphroditus nearly died in fulfilling this ministry. Epaphroditus was a man who, Paul says, was to be held in the highest honor. Yet he grew sick in the midst of the most unselfish Christian service. Moreover, he was sick for some time, at least for three months. If the case of Epaphroditus is to teach us anything, it must teach us that sickness is often a badge of honor for God’s children.

This was the high point of Paul’s praise for his friend Epaphroditus – praise for the kind of life that sacrifices its own interests for others. But we must not think that Paul is praising a type of life that he himself did not practice. Paul was in prison, and most of his friends had deserted him. Only Timothy and Epaphroditus were left. These men were in Rome to help Paul. Yet Paul writes that he is going to send Timothy back to the Philippians because he thinks it is necessary for their well-being. He is willing to give him up. He is sending Epaphroditus back also, even though he thinks most highly of him. What was Paul thinking about during the dark days before execution? About himself? About his future? Not at all! He was thinking about the needs of his fellow Christians.

Philippians 2:25-30 Reflection Questions:
Do we have brotherhood and sisterhood in the church of Jesus Christ today?
Have you recently asked the Lord to enable you to become a fellow worker with other Christians?
Do you have challenges with your health that maybe you can work with still doing God’s work?
Are you willing to sacrifice your own interests for the concerns of other Christians?

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Philippians 2:17-24 Partners for Christ

by Larry Ferrell | February 16, 2018
Every now and then people object to living the normal Christian life on the grounds that what is required of a Christian is impossible. When you begin to study the Bible and realize that God wants you to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and you get a glimpse of His love, His compassion, His wisdom, His understanding, His holiness and all of His other perfections, you are apt to say, “Well, that’s impossible. I can’t do it. I guess I’ll just have to be content to live as I am.” That is wrong! It’s true that in this life you will never be completely like Christ and that much of your sanctification will consist in realizing how much unlike Him you still are. But you are to become like Him. The Bible teaches that although God’s standards are high, and thus seem impossible, God provides supernatural resources to meet them. God helps the Christian to put the highest of these principles into practice.

At this point someone is bound to object. “That might be all right in theory, but it’s pretty hard to do in practice. How can a Christian meet such standards?” Paul replies that although it is hard, it’s not impossible. To prove that it’s possible not only in theory, but also in practice, Paul presents three human examples: Paul himself, an apostle; Timothy, a young minister; and Epaphroditus, a layman. In the remainder of chapter 2 Paul uses these persons to show that the things he has been writing about are possible for the one who will surrender his or her life to God. We are going to look at the first two examples in this study.

The first example Paul uses is himself, although he does so only briefly. In fact, he uses only one verse (v. 17) to describe his own attitude and conduct as opposed to six verses for Timothy and Epaphroditus. To understand verse 17 we need to realize that Paul is using a potent image. The verb that is translated “poured out” is a technical word for a certain part of a pagan sacrificial offering. Following this sacrifice the ancient worshiper would make an additional offering called a libation. He would take a cup of wine and pour it on the altar, thus pouring it upon the sacrifice that was already burning. Because the altar was hot, the libation would immediately disappear in a puff of steam. Paul was placing hjis own achievements, even martyrdom, at a very low point on the scale of Christian service. He was holding up the faith and achievements of his converts for admiration. This is an example of the humility and obedience to Jesus Christ that Paul was writing about. Paul’s frame of mind was not something that came about in an instant of course. His humility was the product of a long relationship with God. If we would emulate Paul in his self-effacement, we must be prepared to start at the beginning. We must learn small lessons in humility before there can be large ones.

The second of Paul’s examples is Timothy, the young man whom Paul had often taken with him on his various missionary journeys. Paul speaks quite eloquently of him in verses 19-22. These verses say four things about Timothy. First, that Paul had “no one else like him.” Paul has been writing about the attitude of mind that thinks humbly of itself and much of others, and he has mentioned himself as an example. Now there is Timothy also, for Paul had found that he too was self-effacing in his conduct. Second, Paul says that Timothy was concerned for others. He cared for the naturally. In fact, he served them with the disposition of a true shepherd who was faithful in the care and protection of his flock. The third thing Paul praises Timothy for is his concern for Jesus Christ. Timothy put Jesus Christ first. In this he stood head and shoulders above those who were around him. The final thing Timothy is praised for is that he had learned to work with others (v. 22). How often we want to be independent! We want to serve God, but the work must be our work, and it must be run according to our conception of things. A real mark of Christian maturity is the ability to work with others cooperatively under the banner and for the cause of Jesus Christ.

Verse 22 also says much about Paul and his ability to work with others as it does about Timothy. Paul had referred to Timothy’s service as the service of a son with his father. But this is not the expression one would normally expect back then, or today either, for that matter. Paul puts the small word “with,” in the verse and thereby indicates that the service of himself and Timothy was a joint service in the Lord. This is the real answer to the problems of what some call the generation gap. We talk as if the generation gap were something new. But anyone who knows history well knows that it is not. There could have been jealousies, misunderstandings, diversities of purpose, rebellion, or tyranny. Instead of this, Paul and Timothy served together as partners in the spread of the gospel, each taking his standard and instructions from the Lord.

If you are a member of the younger generation, do you see the calling to which God has called you? It is not to rebellion against your parents or against the older generation in general. It is to work with them in mutual service to the Lord. You will be able to do this as you learn to serve Christ’s interests and not merely your own. This verse peaks also to the older generation. You have the duty of raising your children. You are to lead them to become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. You are to encourage them to follow Jesus, to learn the truth of the gospel, to emulate Christ’s character. You have a role of supervision. But you must never forget that you actually serve them as bond-slaves of Jesus Christ. Whatever standards you set for them and whatever patterns of obedience you seek to instill in them must also become real for you and be part of your service. You must remember that the ultimate loyalty of your children in not to you but to the Lord Jesus Christ. If you recognize your children’s devotion to the Lord and know the freedom of serving Him, then you will be able to work with them to proclaim the gospel of salvation. In this you encourage each other, and you shine as ever brighter examples of what the Christian life can be.

Philippians 2:17-24 Reflection Questions:
Have you completely surrendered your life to God or are you still holding on to certain parts?
Do you show such humility as Paul did as you meet with other Christians?
How are with working the younger or older generation? In working together, are taking your standard and instructions from the Lord?

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Philippians 2:14-16 What Are Your Goals?

by Larry Ferrell | February 9, 2018
Some people today think they have learned the Christian life from a book while sitting on the sidelines. But the real Christian life is learned by getting in the water, in this case the world. We are not to be of this world, but we are to be in this world. We are to live for Jesus Christ in the midst of a wicked and ungodly generation. This is what Paul’s great desire for the saints at Philippi, and it’s God’s desire for us. We are not to retreat from the world, but we are to live for God in the world. We are to do so even though the world is crooked and perverse.

How can we live for Christ in this world? First we must recognize that the world is crooked and perverse. All too often Christians look at this world as we might look at the sky on the afternoon of a June day and say, “The world is not so dark. It’s lovely.” Strip away the halo of the atmosphere of Christianity and its influence, and the blackness God said is there remains. Christians must constantly be aware of the darkness and must determine to be a contrast to it. The world has its goals: pleasure, success, sex, money, esteem. But these are not to be the goals of Christians..

First of all, we are to be submissive to God. The token of our submission is to be an attitude that does things without complaining or arguing. We must get out of the habit of arguing or complaining when God asks us to do things. God says, “I want you to do this,” and we are silent because a dialogue is going on inside us. We are saying, “Does God really mean that I have to do it just like that, or can I do it some other way?” Or are we saying, “Does God mean that I have to do it now? Maybe I can do it tomorrow or next year.” This is what Paul means by arguing.

The second thing that Paul says is to be characteristic of Christians is that they are to be blameless and pure in the sight of other people. The word translated “pure” means without mixture. It was used when talking about pure gold, pure copper, or any other metal that did not have impurities. In the same sense our lives are to be without mixture before others. We are to be aboveboard in our business dealings. We are not to say one thing and do another. We are not to hold part of the truth back or misrepresent the truth. We are also to be blameless. Just as the inward arguing has an outward expression in complaining that is bad, so this good inward characteristic of being our pure has an outward expression in being blameless. There is to be nothing that gives occasion for scandal.

Finally, Paul says that we are to be blameless before God, for we are to live “without fault” as His children. The word used here for “without fault” is also used in Ephesians 1:4, where it is translated “blameless.” It refers there, as in here in Philippians, to a Christian’s relationship to God. It means that our lives will be lived in the sight of God in such a way that they will be open before Him. There will be no barriers between ourselves and God. If we live this, we shall be able to pray as David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See it there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).

This is a process that will go on throughout life. It is not going to be easy. Perhaps you are saying, “Not easy? It’s going to be impossible!” Well no, it’s not impossible. Our God is the God of the impossible, and He does things for us and in us that we cannot do for ourselves. The Bible tells us how this will happen (Gal. 2:20, Rom. 8:3-4, Rom. 12:2, Phil. 2:12-13). What do these verses mean? They mean that a person is incapable of living out the kind of life that God requires of him, but that God is capable of living out that life in a person who yields to His Spirit.

It’s a matter of spiritual life. God comes to a person who is spiritually unborn. He begins to penetrate his heart with the divine sperm of His Word so that life is conceived and the cell begins to grow. There is a period of incubation before the first cry that announces the arrival of new life, and this is followed by an even longer period of education, guidance, and nurturing in the home. At last the child goes forth to live in a way that honors his Father. And he goes forth, not as a computer that only gives back what is fed into it, but as an individual who thinks and decides and responds, and yet thinks and responds as Jesus Christ responds.

That is what God wants you to do. You are to submit to His Spirit, allowing Him to make you a light in the darkness of this world. You are to be blameless and pure both before others and before God. You are to hold forth the word of life to others. Those who have assisted in your spiritual birth and maturing should be able to say, as Paul did of the Philippians, “I…boast…that I did not run or labor for nothing.”

Philippians 2:14-16 Reflection Questions:
What have you been arguing with God about? What is He asking you to do but you don’t want to do it?
How are you doing in being pure and blameless? What will you do to improve this characteristic?
Are you living an open life before God so that you can pray the verse in Psalm 139:23-24?
Are you allowing God to make you a light in the darkness of this world? Are you submitting to His Spirit?

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Philippians 2:12-13 Work Out Your Salvation

by Larry Ferrell | February 2, 2018
I don’t know who it was who first thought that being spiritual means withdrawing from the world, but the idea certainly entered the Christian church at an early period and has had detrimental effects ever since. In the early days of the church a Syrian monk named Simon Stylites sat on top of a pillar fifty feet high to avoid contact with the world. The Egyptian hermit Anthony lived most of his life in the desert, and there were others like him. These men were thought to be spiritual primarily because of their withdrawal. The Bible does not support this view of spirituality! No Christian must ever say that spending time alone with God is unnecessary, especially time spent in prayer. Yet the Bible never allows us to think that meditation has achieved its purpose for us unless it results in practical application. Truth leads to action, and there is no value to a mountaintop experience unless it helps us to live in the valleys.

Philippians 2:12 is a problem for Christians who neglect the context and assume, as a result, that the verse supports the idea of a “self-help” salvation. But the verse does not teach that. On the contrary, it teaches that because you are already saved, because God has already entered into your life in the person of the Holy Spirit, because you, therefore, have His power at work within you – because of these things you are now to strive to express this salvation in your conduct. This should be evident for a couple of reasons. First, it’s the clear meaning of the sentence itself. It says “work out your salvation (not, work toward or for or at your salvation). And no one can work his salvation out unless God had already worked it in.

The second reason why this verse refers to the outward conduct of those who have been saved is that there is a clear parallel between Philippians 2:12-15 and Deuteronomy 32:3-5. The parallel shows that Paul was thinking of Deuteronomy as he wrote to the Philippians. Paul was about to be taken out of this world himself, as Moses was. He did not know whether he would be killed immediately or whether he would be delivered for a short time, but he knew that this would probably be his last charge to his beloved friends at Philippi. But God has delivered the Philippians, and now, because of this deliverance, they were to work out the salvation that God had so miraculously given. They were to strive for the realization of God’s love, peace, holiness, goodness, and justice in their lives.

We have seen that we are to work out our salvation that God has worked in, but to see the whole picture one more thought must be added: Even as we work out our salvation we are to know that it is actually God’s Holy Spirit in us who does the working. Paul writes, “Therefore…work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (v. 12). But no sooner has he said this than he immediately adds, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (v. 13). It is actually God who does the working. God’s working begins with our wills, for the verse says that God works in us first to will and then to act out His good purpose. Willing always comes before doing.

We will never understand the doctrine of God’s working to form a person’s will until we realize that apart from the work of God in his or her heart through Jesus Christ a person does not have free will where spiritual realities are concerned. I know that someone will want to reply, “What! Do you mean to tell me that I cannot do anything I want to?” The answer is, “yes, you cannot.” You have free will to decide whether you will go to work or pretend you are sick. You can order turkey over roast beef at a restaurant. But you cannot exercise your free will in anything that involves your physical, intellectual, or spiritual capabilities. By your own free will you cannot decide that you are going to have a 50 percent higher I.Q. than you do or that you will have, or run the 100 dash in four seconds. You do not have free will in anything intellectual or physical.

More significantly, you do not have free will spiritually. You cannot choose God. Adam and Eve had free will to obey or to disobey God’s command regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When they disobeyed they fell away from God. They lost the free will to choose God. Since Adam and Eve, all people are born with the same inability to choose Him. Some are complacent; some are angry. Some are silent and philosophical. Some are resigned; some are anxious. But all are unable to come to God. No one does come to God until God reaches down by grace into the mud pit of human sin and impotence and lifts him up and places him again on the banks of the pit and says, “This is the way; walk in it.” This is what God does in salvation.

We must face this truth. Even if every generation of mankind and every city and village on earth had a John the Baptist to point to Jesus Christ to call us to Him, or if God rearranged the stars of heaven to spell out, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved,” no one would come or believe. If God sent His angels with the sound of a celestial trumpet to call us to repentance no one would repent. If you have come to God, it is only because God has first entered your life by His Holy Spirit to quicken your will, to open your eyes to His truth, and to draw you irresistibly to Himself. It is only after this that you are able to choose the path that He sets before you.

If you have seen this truth, you are ready to see that the same God who works in you to will also works through that will to do according to His good purpose. Ephesians 2:8-10 speaks twice of our works, the things that we do. One kind of work is condemned because it comes out of ourselves and is contaminated by sin. The other kind of work is encouraged because it comes from God as He works within the Christian. The verses say, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works [that is, of human working], so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works [that is, the result of God’s working], which God prepared in advance for us to do.” These verses are really Paul’s own commentary upon Philippians 2:12-13, for they tell us that although God can never be satisfied with any good that comes out of human beings, He is satisfied and pleased with the good that is done by Christians through the power of Jesus Christ within them. Through that power the tyranny of sin is broken, the possibility of choosing for God is restored, and a new life of communion with God and holiness is set before the Christian. The power of Christ within is a wonderful reality for Christians, for through it we may act according to God’s good purpose. We do not boast of ourselves or of human attainments. But we do boast in God! In Him we have all things and are enabled to work out our salvation.

Philippians 2:12-13 Reflection Questions:
Are you working out your salvation in your daily conduct by showing God’s love, peace, holiness, goodness, and justice in your lives?
Have you ever felt the power of God within enabling you to do what God desires?
What is God asking you to do?

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