Today we commence looking at the letter of Paul to the church of the Philippians, and as we read the first few verses we get an understanding of just how much Paul loved this church.
In my mind the letter to the Philippians is a letter of love, not as man loves, but the love of God. Paul does not identify problems in the church but this letter encourages and strengthens the church to lift them up to a greater love of God and of the brethren.
Paul is both proud and humbled by the church of the Philippians and has no hesitation expressing his love for them.
Addressing the letter
Paul opens his letter addressing it to the saints, bishops (or elders) and deacons of the church. It is not a letter to the leadership but to the whole church because he wants the whole church to know how he feels about their collective and individual walks with Christ.
He opens the letter as he does with most of his letters to the churches by reminding them of the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ that has been given to them. And we would do well to remember this today. The grace of God is not something to be taken for granted but is the most precious gift of all, because without God’s grace we would have no salvation.
Paul’s remembrance of the Philippians
As he moves on through the introduction, Paul recalls and remembers the church of the Philippians with joy
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3-5)
Paul is thankful and gives thanks to God for these people because their walk with Jesus Christ has been strong and unwavering and they have been a great support to Paul in his work.
We see how much he cares for these people in the words he uses and how just thinking about this church and in his prayers for them he feels joy. He is thankful for their partnership for they have been a great help to him in his ongoing work to spread the gospel, but even more so at the time he wrote this letter they were supporting him in other ways as Paul had been imprisoned for the sake of the gospel.
When we stop to consider the work of Paul, he spent some considerable time under imprisonment for the sake of the gospel. He was first arrested and imprisoned in Jerusalem, and then taken in under guard to Rome where the ship he was on was wrecked on the shores of Cyprus but there was no loss of life. And then he eventually was taken to Rome where he spent at least two years under constant guard.
And no doubt that was the Lord’s will for Paul. He spent a great deal of time in prison and so could not work in his trade as a tent-maker, which gave him the opportunity to preach the gospel while in prison, to speak and meet with the churches as he travelled and to spread the gospel among the Praetorian guard. It also gave him time to write these letters to the churches that we have today and which make up so much of the New Testament
And Paul understood these things. He understood that this was the will of God for him and that these imprisonments were not punishments but opportunities.
Adversities will come. Persecutions will come, for we are told as much in the Bible.
What is important is how we deal with the adversities. Do we let them weigh us down and make us miserable, or do we, like Paul, understand that these things are the will of God and He has a greater purpose in these things?
Paul was showing to the churches by example that he understood these things to be the will of God and he knew he was to follow a course that the Lord had put him on. He understood the power of the words:
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
When we understand this then we too can come to the place of peace and calm that Paul had found regardless of his circumstances. There is no doubt that his was not an easy life, especially when we read of his imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks and more. But in all of these things Paul put Christ first and foremost and above all things and so found peace.
As we read through this letter of love to the Philippians we see that Paul is trying to teach them these same things so that they can see beyond the temporal issues of this world and into the glory of the kingdom of God.
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