Following the Upward Call through Philippians

Chapter 1
(Philippians 1:1-2) - Opening Comments
(Philippians 1:3-6) - Paul's Plans
(Philippians 1:7) - Appreciation of the Philippians
(Philippians 1:8-9) - God Is My Witness
(Philippians 1:9-10) - Approving the Excellent
(Philippians 1:11) - Glory and Praise
(Philippians 1:12-14) - Greater Progress of the Gospel
(Philippians 1:15-17) - Proclaiming Christ
(Philippians 1:18-20) - Paul's Positive Perspective
(Philippians 1:20-21) - Christ Shall Be Exalted
(Philippians 1:22-25) - Hard Pressed
(Philippians 1:25-26) - Paul's Anticipated Visit
(Philippians 1:27) - Worthy Conduct
(Philippians 1:28-30) - No Reason for Alarm

Chapter 2
(Philippians 2:1-2) - If There Is Any
(Philippians 2:2) - Make My Joy Complete
(Philippians 2:3-5) - Attitude from Within
(Philippians 2:5-8) - Christ's Attitude
(Philippians 2:9-12) - Christ's Reward
(Philippians 2:12-13) - Your Salvation
(Philippians 2:12-13) - Willing and Working
(Philippians 2:14-15) - Lights in the World
(Philippians 2:16-18) - Holding Fast the Word of Life
(Philippians 2:19-24) - Sending Timothy
(Philippians 2:25-27) - About Epaphroditus
(Philippians 2:28-30) - More on Epaphroditus

Chapter 3
(Philippians 3:1-2) - Some Safeguards
(Philippians 3:3) - The True Circumcision
(Philippians 3:4-8) - Paul's Pedigree
(Philippians 3:8-9) - Found in Christ
(Philippians 3:9) - Righteousness Through Faith
(Philippians 3:10-11) - What to Know
(Philippians 3:12) - Not There Yet
(Philippians 3:13-14) - Focused!!
(Philippians 3:15-17) - As Many as Are Perfect
(Philippians 3:18-19) - Enemies of the Cross
(Philippians 3:20-21) - Body of Glory

Chapter 4
(Philippians 4:1-3) - Stand Firm in the Lord
(Philippians 4:4-5) - Joy and Forbearance
(Philippians 4:6-7) - Peace Beyond Comprehension
(Philippians 4:8) - Your Mental Environment
(Philippians 4:8) - Contemplating Some Positives
(Philippians 4:9) - Contemplating Some More Positives
(Philippians 4:10-13) - The Secret of Trusting
(Philippians 4:14-17) - Proper Profit
(Philippians 4:18-19) - God's Ability To Supply
(Philippians 4:20-23) - Closing Comments

Opening Comments

Romans 1:20 - The letter to the congregation at Philippi is one of the most encouraging sections of the Bible. The saints in Philippi were, amazingly, behaving as saints are supposed to behave; the moral, relational, and doctrinal problems were minimal. The city itself was more of a Roman military town than others in the times of the New Testament writings. It was originally named after Alexander the Greatís father, Philip of Macedon. It was also near the site of the comparatively recent battles for the control of the Roman Empire between Octavian (who won, and eventually changed his name to Augustus Caesar), Marc Antony, and the assassins of Julius Caesar ó Brutus and Cassius. When the apostle Paul arrived, there was no synagogue of the Jews in the city, so he had to begin with what contacts developed; first there was Lydia, a Gentile seller of purple fabrics from Thyratira across the narrows over in Asia, then the Philippian jailer. Very soon Paul had to leave town, entrusting the new congregation to the capable and beloved physician who had just joined them, Luke. And what a magnificent job he did! The congregation was solid doctrinally, it was fully established organizationally, it was functioning evangelistically, and it was contributing to the forward movement of the gospel financially. Established in 51 AD, the church in Philippi was commended in this letter in 62 AD, and still commended in 96 AD by Jesus Himself. This is a legacy worth imitating!

The 27 books of the New Testament writings were carefully selected by the Holy Spirit for preservation and distribution to the modern saints. While other letters bring out some of the great doctrinal truths and practical dealings with sin and righteousness, the letter to the church at Philippi is powerful and positive, providing enlightenment and encouragement to Godís people today!

Paul's Plans

The memories would have flooded through the apostle Paulís mind. Forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go preach in Ephesus and the surrounding area, and pushed by circumstances to the extremities of the peninsula at Troas, he received a vision of a man from Macedonia saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us" (Acts 16:9). Drawing from this vision the conclusion that God had called them Macedonia to preach the gospel, Paul and his traveling companions crossed over to Europe and started the work at Philippi. The apostle remembered the first meetings along the river: first the immersions of Lydia and her household, and then preaching and teaching day after day in the open air, trying to gain traction at the same time as an evil spirit working through a slave girl worked to block the progress of the gospel. He recalled the casting out of the evil spirit, and the chaos that ensued as the slave girlís owners were successful in getting Paul and Silas thrown into prison. He could still experience the memories of the earthquake that occurred while the two preachers were fastened in stocks, and that miracle that none of the suddenly freed prisoners escaped. Paul could picture meeting with the jailer, and the immersions of his household; he in his mind could see the consternation of the magistrates as they personally had to apologize to Paul and Silas who were Roman citizens. Visions of the last views of the city flitted across the pages of his mind as he recalled how they were asked to leave town, to move thence to Thessalonica, leaving the infant congregation in the hands of Dr. Luke.

The congregation at Philippi stood for more than 50 years as a shining example of what a local church should be. May we emulate and imitate their example, that the gospel of Christ might go forward with power "until the day of Christ Jesus."

Appreciation of the Philippians

Paul wrote the epistle to the Philippian brethren while in prison (presumably in Rome). In jail he had ample opportunity to reflect on his interaction with the congregations he had started and worked with, and his memories of the church at Philippi were happy ones. "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you," he had stated. And he was willing to pray for the brethren in Philippi, saying that he was "always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you." "I am confident," he said, "that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." What a great group of Christians these were, and the apostle was confident that they would be perfected in Christ through the power of God. Conscious as he was that the return of Jesus was in a sense imminent, he knew that Godís power would work in these brethren until they either passed from earth or Jesus would come again.

Paul had accepted the Philippian Christians into his heart, stating it in these terms: "You are in my heart." He loved those men and women!

God Is My Witness

Real Christian love is decision-based, not feeling-based. When Jesus looked at the earth with its lost masses and twisted generations, He wanted to torch it off. "I have come to cast fire upon the earth," He animadverted, "and how I wish it were already kindled" (Luke 12:49). But He was not going to do that just yet because He knew there were lost souls who could be saved. His decision-based agape love dictated that He die for those who had sinned and alienated themselves from the Father. "God demonstrates His love toward us," Paul stated, "in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). But apostle used even more pointed language to describe our abject condition: "While we were enemies," he noted, "we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son" (Romans 5:10). That is LOVE!

The love, appreciation, and concern that Paul has for the brethren in Philippi flows out of every word he is penning in this epistle. That love, appreciation, and concern is buttressed by his earnest prayers on their behalf. He was "always offering prayer" for them, expressing it in terms of "my every prayer for you all." "God is my witness," is his powerful statement, "I long for you," and "this I pray." His love, appreciation, and concern are worthy of imitation!

Approving the Excellent

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. What if that mind is pulled into the realm of darkness and destruction? What if that mind is enticed into the negative and nonproductive? The appeal that God makes to man across the darkened chasm created by manís sin is to his mind; the continued pleadings of the scripture to the saints are reasoned presentations to their minds. Satan likewise works on the minds of men and of believers. "And even if our gospel is veiled," wrote Paul to the Corinthian brethren, "it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (II Corinthians 4:3,4). The battle is for the mind, because it is through the mind that the heart of man is changed.

Christians are thus being exhorted to approve the things that are excellent; that frame of mind will result in the saintís being sincere and blameless until the day of Jesusí return!!

Glory and Praise

When an individual is immersed into Christ Jesus, he is clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26,27). It follows, then, that he is thus clothed also with the righteousness of Christ. This is the imputed righteousness that some scholars speak of in talking about those who have been redeemed. "But now apart from the Law," said the apostle Paul to the Roman congregation, "the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God" which comes through the system of thought called "the faith of Christ" (Romans 3:21,22). The sinner has no righteousness of his own which would recommend him for an eternity of fellowship with God; hence God has to provide it through Christ. Godís goal, however, is not that the former sinner remain in the same abject condition in which he was called through the gospel. "What benefit," asked Paul of the saints at Rome, "were you then deriving of the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death" (Romans 6:21). The follower of Christ is to follow Christ ó upward, and out of a life of sin and into a life of practicing righteousness.

The musicians playing their trumpets, minstrels strumming their stringed instruments, the Levites singing Godís praises ó all from the Old Testament ó are not necessarily what glorifies God. What is really for His praise and glory is when the saints exhibit the fruit of righteousness, which is a much deeper character issue than simply being able to belt out a tune.

Greater Progress of the Gospel

It takes a special set of programming for the proclaimer of the gospel not to lose heart. Most of the seed that is sown falls on hard ground and never gets a start, and a high percentage of that which takes root is either rapidly blasted away by the events of the day or choked out by the challenges of life. "And the seed [sown] in the good soil," said Jesus, "these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance" (Luke 8:15). These words need to be run carefully through the mind; the only type of people who are going to be good seed are those who have an honest and good heart, who can hold the word fast or tightly through all kinds of challenges and difficulties, and who can do their part to keep spreading the word and to keep on and to keep on and to keep on. There are, said Jesus, tares in the midst of the wheat, and bad fish as well as good fish in the net. The apostle Paul noted that even God would send a deluding influence through the church to separate the truth-seekers from the others, "in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness" (II Thessalonians 2:12). Most people are heedless of the call, and among those who hear the call of the gospel, "many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). So it takes a special set of programming for the proclaimer of the gospel not to lose heart. And the apostle Paul was perhaps the supreme example of one who had done his part to maintain a positive perspective in the midst of such massive and eternal losses.

Paulís positive perspective and his personal trust in the Lord greatly impacted the brethren. Instead of being all upset and saying, "Did you hear what the Romans did to Paul? Heís unjustly in prison; we just donít have the freedom to preach like we used to," they actually took courage and stepped up the distribution of the word of God. May we go and do likewise!!

Proclaiming Christ

"A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water," said the wise Solomon, "but a man of understanding draws it out" (Proverbs 20:5). Men have their motives, some good and some not so good. But skilled purveyors of the word, like the apostle Paul, have the understanding necessary to see what is truly going on, to be able to draw out of the hearts of men what their plans are. The apostle was excited in knowing that his imprisonment had actually furthered the cause of the gospel. Some of the brethren, he noted, were able to increase their trust in the Lord and to speak the word of God with "far more courage" than they had prior to his imprisonment. Some of the brethrenís motives were good, and some were Ö not so good.

The brethren who loved Paul knew of his intellectual capability, his background in the Law of Moses, and his being inspired by the Holy Spirit. They therefore were desirous of seeing the cause for which Paul was imprisoned go forward, and go forward for the glory of God!

Paul's Positive Perspective

The apostle was straining forward with every ounce of his being. If modern saints were to stop and consider what type of attitude and toughness it took for Paul ó after being tormented and tortured time and time again after preaching in the synagogues ó to go into another synagogue and preach! He then adds, in his comments to the brethren in Corinth: "Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches" (II Corinthians 11:28). His whole being was tied up in his commitment to Christ, his care for each individual saint, and for the hope of each congregation. For brethren to be "trashing" Paul and to be preaching their message out of envy and strife rather than having pure motives would have been hard for him to handle emotionally. But the Spirit of Christ pervaded everything the apostle dealt with, and his dealing with such petty brethren stands as a great example of positive perspective for saints today.

Paulís positive attitude was a direct result of his confidence in where he stood with God. In spite of the challenges he faced as a prisoner, and the poor performance of some of the brethren, he was able to rejoice that Christ was proclaimed. Modern saints need to learn from this, and recognize that it is of supreme importance that it is Christ who is proclaimed to the world!

Christ Shall Be Exalted

The apostles of Jesus Christ were the ones who, through special revelation from the Spirit, exposed the entire plan of God to the view of man. The people of the Old Testament did not know, even the prophets who wrote the Old Testament. As the apostle Peter noted, "The prophets made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow." They did not know, so they were asking. "It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven" (I Peter 1:10-12). So it was that the apostles exposed the plan of God to the view of man. That plan was to exalt Christ, as Paul stated it in the Ephesian epistle, "the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth" (Ephesians 1:10).

The challenge, then, is for each who makes a claim to godliness to exalt Christ. The proper mental habits must be developed, so that each action, each attitude, each thought, and each word bring glory to King Jesus. It is axiomatic that how a person lives, thatís how a person dies. "Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death."

Hard Pressed

The whole world lies in the power of the evil one. But, praise God, Christians have been taken out of the domain of darkness and have been transferred into the kingdom of light. Jesus stated it this way: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life" (John 5:24). In the book of Revelation, saints are described as "those who dwell in heaven" as contrasted to "who dwell on earth" (Revelation 13:6,8). These truths are communicated so that brethren will understand that that their deaths really occurred in their immersions and that they really are eternally alive in Christ. "Through death," then, Christ rendered "powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and [delivered] those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives" (Hebrews 2:14,15). The dedicated Christian, as was the apostle Paul, has no fear of physical death.

Twice the apostle had said, "I know" in connection with his deliverance from prison and his continuing to preach the gospel. That he was Ďhard-pressed" to make that decision indicates how glorious and awesome even Paradise is. Modern disciples of Christ can take courage from the information Paul gives in this letter. As those also "who have been called by His grace," they can know that for them, "To live is Christ, and to die is gain." If they pass from this life, they are big winners; if they continue on, it is for fruitful labor!

Paul's Anticipated Visit

The apostle Paul truly loved the brethren with whom he worked. "Love," said he in another place, "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (I Corinthians 13:7). Love never falls down in doing its job; it keeps working when all else has been shunted aside. Love powered our Lord Jesus Christ through the events leading up to and including the cross. This love which comes from God, said the apostle, "has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5). Thus Paul could go through all the tribulations and vicissitudes connected with teaching and preaching the gospel to the lost and edifying the saints because he was empowered with this love. He loved the people in the congregation at Philippi as he was in the process of starting it, and he did not quit loving them just because he moved on to another location.

Their confidence would abound in the apostleís coming to them. Major strings were going to have to be pulled by God to get Paul out of prison in Rome, and then to orchestrate his eventual coming to Philippi. Paul loved these brethren, and, furthermore, most of them loved him! Properly understood, all real joy is found in deepening relationships with other people, especially between Christians. For these brethren to have a reunion this side of glory would be the fulfillment of the abundance in Christ Jesus which Paul indicated would happen at some future point. This, of course, would result in much anticipation of the apostleís eventual visit.

Worthy Conduct

The National Football League recently suspended indefinitely a player who beat up his fiancť in an elevator, probably because the footage of the event was widely distributed. One of the points in the issue, although the event was politically charged due to other agendas on the American cultural landscape, was that the player represented both his team and the National Football League in his personal conduct, and because that conduct was detrimental to the League, they were suspending him. The Christian likewise needs to recognize that he represents his local congregation as well as the name of Christ. The Lord Jesus is therefore justified in setting forth His expectations for the members of His team because ultimately it is His name on the line.

Teamwork within the local body of Christ is absolutely essential in the forward progress of the gospel. God did not intend for the Christian to be a stand alone unit, except when beginning a new work, enduring persecution, or facing the final phases of passage from this earth. The gospel rides on the combined prayers of the saints and their working together. Thus the apostle appeals, "conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."

No Reason for Alarm

The angels, clearly created beings, were around before the foundation of the world. But evil was found in the covering cherub, who would be known as Satan, and rebellion occurred in heaven itself as some of the angels joined with the prince of darkness. "Angels who did not keep their own domain but abandoned their proper abode," commented Jude, brother of James, elder of the church in Jerusalem, "He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day" (Jude 1:6). This rebellion then spread to earth as the devil coerced mankind to join with him and the demons as enemies of God. The great adversary, then, opposed Jesus when He set foot on this planet, and continues to foment opposition against the Lordís church and against the gospel.

The saint should not be surprised nor alarmed at opposition and persecution. "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you," said Jesus (John 15:19). When those things come for the sake of the gospel, the brother or sister in Christ just needs to remember that they are a sign of destruction at the hand of God for the opponents, and a sign of the ultimate salvation of the saint.

If There Is Any

Jesus had commented that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Hence His earnest prayer west of the Kidron was that those in the upcoming church would all be one, even as He and the Father were one, that the world would believe that the Father had sent Him. The devil, the author of confusion, has as his goal the destruction of any such unity through strife, through enmities and hatreds, through the little perversities of the fleshly mind which destroy the proper mindset of the brethren, and which disrupt the momentum the saints had gained in working together. Therefore the apostle Paul had really exhorted the brethren in Philippi "with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." As he works into the next section of the epistle, he continues on that theme, again encouraging the brethren to "make my joy complete by being of the same mind" (Philippians 2:2). But this he prefaces with a series of propositions as to why they should make his joy complete.

The Holy Spirit and the apostle Paul are excellent communicators. Here a series of powerful and weighty propositions have been stacked on top of one another, and then used to drive the point home that the brethren are to make Paulís joy complete.

Make My Joy Complete

Overall, the apostle Paul was pleased with the congregation at Philippi. They responded well to the foundation the apostle and Dr. Luke had laid down, and were moving forward with the gospel with right attitudes and sound doctrine. What an amazing group of Christians these were! But Paul does not want them to slack off or back away from what they had been doing, but really to excel still more, as he phrased it to the Thessalonian brethren (I Thessalonians 4:1,10). Hence, his serious and earnest request comes, with the tone set by a series of weighty "ifs," "make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose" (Philippians 2:2).

Teamwork in the body of Christ is critical in pleasing Christ and accomplishing his purpose. The concepts of unity of spirit, mind, and action are themes that run throughout the gospel accounts, the book of Acts, the epistles, and Revelation. The saint would do well to remember the words of the Lord Jesus: "He who is not with Me is against Me; and He who does not gather with Me scatters" (Matthew 12:30)!!

Attitude from Within

Anyone who has ever worked with people knows the importance of proper and positive attitudes. James, elder in the Lordís church in Jerusalem, knew the necessity of the correct focus in his writing to the church at large. "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist," he commented, knowingly, "there is disorder and every evil thing" (James 3:16). The great adversary, Satan, loves to do his part in creating this disorder because it hinders the body of Christ from getting the job done ó the job of seeking and saving the lost. Christ, on the other hand, the great Architect and Builder of the true temple of God, is very interested in harmony and teamwork. The apostle Paul, authorized spokesman for Christ, and with the full authority of this apostleship, was doing his part in this epistle to the Philippian brethren to bring about the proper teamwork and edifying attitudes.

If external circumstances dictated Jesusí attitude, He would have been far less than the Savior of mankind; it was for the joy set before Him that He endured the cross. Hence it is that the word of God repeatedly calls on Christians to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others, and to offer such sacrifice joyfully. "We know love by this," says the apostle John, "that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (I John 3:16).

Christ's Attitude

The great attributes of God and His accomplishments are generally so magnificent and on such a large scale that they are missed by the mind of man. They are missed because man in general refuses to have the God of the Bible receive the honor and thanksgiving due Him. "For since the creation of the world," said Paul to the brethren in Rome, "His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). But because they chose to be blind, God gave them over to the worship of the creature rather than the Creator. But He was not content that man should remain in that condition, so He sent Christ into the world, demonstrating to the "lost sheep" of this planet that He truly loves each one of them and desires eachís eternal redemption.

The goal of the apostle Paulís instruction here is to get the brethren to be imitators of Christ in attitude and in action. Although He is the highest of the high, He was willing to subject Himself to the lowest level of degradation in order to communicate to any observant and thoughtful people His love for them. There is no reason, therefore, for any saint to elevate himself to being some sort of "untouchable"; rather Christians are to meet the masses of humanity where those masses are, and exhibit of the love of Christ to them as well.

Christ's Reward

God recognizes the intensity of the spiritual battle. It was He, of course, who had to put up with the rebellious Satanís appearing before Him in the line with the rest of angels in the days of Job. It was He who had to watch the fall of Adam, and to be sorry that He made man on the earth in the days of the Flood. It was He who had to observe the decline of Israel into idolatry, and to steel Himself when the Babylonians came to destroy the temple in Jerusalem because of Judahís following after false gods. Ultimately He had to turn His back on His own Son in order for the Son to pay the price for the sins of mankind. He is aware of the intensity of the spiritual battle, and He is more than willing to reward those who stand firm with Him against the forces of darkness.

Just as Jesus has been highly exalted because of His sacrifice and earnest desire to please the Father, those who will imitate Christ in sacrificing themselves and desiring to please the Father will also be exalted. "He who overcomes," said the Lord Jesus Himself, "I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Revelation 3:21). It is worth it, as the apostle Paul exhorts the Philippian brethren, to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).

Your Salvation

Jesusí part in our salvation is so immense as to be incomprehensible. The price He paid on earth was great, but what He did to accomplish His resurrection and ascension was even greater. Without Jesusí power to save from His exalted position on the throne, His death on the cross would have been in vain. There is major significance, then, in His words uttered while He was still on earth: "No one has taken [My life] away from Me," said He, "but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again" (John 10:18). He died on the cross; He raised Himself from the dead; He ascended to glory; and He continues His powerful work from that lofty position at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

The intensity of the battle for the souls of men cannot be overemphasized. One way to measure that intensity is to consider that it cost God the death of His only begotten Son to effect the general rescue of mankind. The individual must also be active in his salvation; he must believe and obey the gospel. But just because the saint has been immersed into Christ does not mean the battle is over. He must continue to work out his salvation, while God works within!

Willing and Working

Sooner or later it is a battle of the wills. It is the will of God vs. the will of Satan. It is manís free will; which will he choose? For man, what seems to be a big choice or a big decision is actually the accumulation of all those little decisions that were made at each step along the way. Hence it is that the battle of the wills is going to be played out day by day in the mind of each person so long as he inhabits this earth. And where the will gets tested is when it comes time to do the work. Many a good intention and firm determination shipwreck on the coral reef of the individualís having to engage in the intense and extended labor necessary to bring about the desired goal. May God help the Christian!

What encouragement these words from the apostle Paul bring: "It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure!!"

Lights in the World

God anticipates that each Christian will be a living representative of His goodness and grace. While it is true that the world in general and each adult in particular has rebelled against Him, God still loves those made in His image and desires their reconciliation to Him. The message of reconciliation will not be thundered from on high, however, but will be tendered through His representatives whose feet tread this earth, as the apostle Paul stated: God "reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" (II Corinthians 5:18). The carriers of this message, then, must exhibit the care and concern of God for each lost person, and must radiate His attitudes to attract those lost people.

When the apostle Paul described the gospel of Christ to the Corinthian brethren, he noted that it included the fact that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was resurrected on the third day. But the apostle does not stop there; he also included the expression, "He appeared" (I Corinthians 15:5). That appearance was the key point in establishing the truthfulness of His resurrection. Christians, in a parallel manner, die and are buried with Christ in their immersions, and are resurrected to walk in newness of life. But their participation in the gospel does not end there either; as Christ appeared, so are saints to appear as lights in the world, the continuing key point in establishing the truthfulness of Jesusí resurrection!

Holding Fast the Word of Life

"Once saved, always saved," is not a Biblical doctrine. The fact that millions of spiritual descendants of John Calvin believe it does not make it true. The doctrine of so-called "eternal security" is based on a more foundational false teaching entitled total depravity. The idea is that God is so holy and man, by contrast, is so corrupt from birth that man cannot even understand one word of the scripture or make a decision that would lead him in the direction of Christ. Hence, in this system of thought, God decides who is to be saved without participation by the individual. Since the person could not make the decision to be saved in the first place, it follows that he cannot make a decision to be lost later. All this, of course, runs counter to the scriptures, which plainly teach that a person must make a decision to obey the gospel in the first place, and continue to make decisions that keep him focused on Christ and within the fold of the Great Shepherd.

Earthly life is filled with many discouragements and disappointments. Jesus Himself is prophetically described as "a man of sorrows" as He experienced the challenges of the Jewish peopleís rejecting Him and the worldís refusing to acknowledge Him. But the joy is there for those who seize it, and for those who have the opportunity as Paul did to see others seize it. Thatís why he held fast to the word of life, and encouraged others to do so too. The message is clear: hold on!

Sending Timothy

The apostle Paulís concern for the congregations and the individual saints rings loudly and clearly throughout his writings. He knew the value of each believerís soul, and he knew the necessity of strong local churches to help keep those saints headed in heavenís direction. Over the years, as his sphere of influence grew, he acquired a team of dedicated men who worked with him to spread the gospel and strengthen the congregations. These saints were willing to be directed to come and go, to some degree, at Paulís bidding, and thus were extremely valuable in the overall warfare against the forces of darkness and confusion. One such man was Timothy.

The number of lost people, who are headed for a Christless eternity in the fires of hell, is staggering. The fight to maintain those who have been delivered from the domain of darkness is almost mind-numbing. The picture therefore being painted by the apostle in this epistle is for brethren to move past self-serving interests, and work as a great team to accomplish Godís awesome purposes in helping people out of Satanís snare, and helping them onward to heaven.

About Epaphroditus

Sometimes it is hard to understand what the Lord has planned and what specifics He has in motion. Because He is the ultimate great general, He clearly has a strategy [or prosecuting His warfare against the prince of darkness and his minions, as demonstrated throughout the inspired record. But His strategy has to be one which operates from before the foundation of the world until Christ returns and the world bums. Hence a Christian could be being used at any point in his earthly sojourn for the execution of a tactic which will not be carried out in his lifetime. Those early saints, for example, suffered greatly for the cause of the gospel so that it could be clear they had no earthly gain from believing that Jesus is the Christ; they instead went to their deaths as a demonstration to future generations that they really believed the testimony and the verifying signs of the first century that Jesus was risen from the dead. This is the stratagem the Lord has used to cut the legs from under the religion of Islam, which progressed only because it was of earthly value for new adherents to convert to that belief to avoid being decapitated. The All Wise used the first century church to accomplish victories that would be executed hundreds or even two thousand years following their passage to Paradise.

Epaphroditus' usefulness to Paul, his ability to be a "messenger and minister" to assist Paul in his work, and his sickness were all orchestrated by God for His purposes. One of those would be the communication to the 21" century church that the apostles such as Paul did not always heal all sickness among them. Rather, the miracles were accomplished in the presence of the unbelievers, that they might believe that Jesus is the Christ, as Paul explained to the church in Corinth: "My message...[was] in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (I Corinthians 2:4,5).

More on Epaphroditus

The spread of the gospel was of the highest importance among the saints of the first century. Hence it was that the congregation at Philippi was willing to send Epaphroditis to assist Paul in getting the gospel preached "in all creation under heaven." This man, a "fellow worker and fellow soldier," was eminently qualified to provide a high level of assistance to Paul, apparently capable of carrying a teaching and preaching load. But not all things work out as the mind of man plans; Epaphroditus fell sick and Paul was not in a position to heal him. Epaphroditus ended up longing to return to Philippi, and was "distressed" about the Philippian brethren hearing of his sickness and apparent failure to carry out what he was sent for.

The work of Christ - saving the lost and conserving the saved - is the only work which has eternal value. Everything else will be scraped into the dustbin of history, or burned with fire at Jesus' second coming. Epaphroditus and men like him (women, too!) are to be held in high regard for what they accomplish in sacrificing themselves for the spreading of the word of God. Sometimes they come close to death for the work, sometimes they are put to death, and sometimes they just pass away. But they are to be appreciated!

Some Safeguards

Most saints most of the time do not need to learn something new; they need to be reminded of what they already know. Hence it is that the Lord Himself, in working with mankind and with His special peoples, uses and has used memorials. Whether it was the rainbow, the mummy of Joseph, the Passover, or the Lord's Supper, the All Wise has set in motion these types of remembrances so that the lessons once learned will not be forgotten. Likewise, He has enjoined upon His disciples the memorization of scripture, which obviously involves much repetition, and the concomitant driving into the consciousness of the follower of Christ the teachings and exhortations of scripture. Therefore, also, teachers of the word will go back over the principles and practices of God's word again and again, saying the same things in different ways in hope that some of the doctrine will stick in the minds of some of the students some of the time.

The whole world really does lie in the power of the evil one, as the apostle John had noted. The apostle Paul, therefore, concerned about the eternities of the Philippian brethren, encouraged them to have great attitudes, and to be aware of the evils around them, that he might do his part to safeguard their souls.

The True Circumcision

Many still think "the Jews" are God's chosen people. They believe this in spite of the fact that not one modem "Jew" can prove his ancestry. They believe this in spite of the destruction of the temple nearly 2000 years ago, along with the destruction of the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the altar. They believe this in spite of the fact that God said that they were cast out, as was Hagar and her son Ishmael, that the Jews would not be competition to the church. They believe this in spite of the fact that Jesus repeatedly said that they would be destroyed, that the kingdom would be taken away from them and given "to a nation producing the fruit of it."

But what about the Jews of the first century AD? If they did not convert to Christianity but remained in their law and their customs, where did they stand with the almighty? And who are the true "chosen of God"?

The saints, then, serve God by the Spirit, glory in Christ Jesus, "and put no confidence in the flesh." The natural tendency of mankind, because Adam was formed out of the dust of the ground, is to be physically-minded and therefore totally miss the existence and true value of those things of the spiritual realm. Hence the Jew looked to his physical circumcision and ancestral heritage as the means by which he was acceptable to God. But the special people of the new covenant are a spiritual people, a people who know that they have been born again by the living and abiding word of God, and who walk by faith in that which has been revealed in the written word of God rather than by sight. They indeed are "the true circumcision."

Paul's Pedigree

Mankind in general, alienated from God and without hope in this world, look to physical things to enable themselves to have a false confidence. Some pride themselves on being descendants of those who crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower, or whose ancestry included the nobility of Europe. Some feel elevated because of their Lithuanian heritage, or that they are distant relatives of Genghis Khan, or their family was part of the Zulu consolidation, or that they are of the ancient Malay people. But what if that ancestry were of the special lineage brought into existence by God Himself -the people of Israel? Paul says that Christians are not putting any confidence in the flesh, however. If a person has been "born of God," what does it matter, what his physical heritage may have been?

The apostle Paul willingly laid aside his personal pedigree perks in order to pick up his cross and follow Jesus. That cross and that cause led him into persecution and suffering almost incomprehensible. "More than that," he comments, "I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8). The value of knowing Christ, and the concomitant becoming deeply involved in the lives of thousands who would obey the gospel became far greater than what he could have known as a stem Pharisee and judge on the high council. As a leading exponent of the gospel, and one for whom the love of God had been poured out in his heart, the apostle stands to this day as one who would be worthy of imitation. May we follow him, as he followed Christ!

Found in Christ

Some day soon, Jesus is going to come roaring back. And what will He find? "And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains," was the prophetic vision of the apostle John, "and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?" (Revelation 6:15-17). They will want to hide, but Jesus will find them! In view of the spiritual decline of mankind on planet earth as the end of the world approaches, Jesus issues a challenge, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find the faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). That is a question that those who claim the name of Christ had best be able answer in the affirmative if they still sojourn on the surface of this planet. What was it that the apostle Paul desired that Jesus find?

The disciple of Christ has been "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). "Little children," explained the apostle John, "let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous" (I John 3:7). By the word of God, and by the strength which the Spirit supplies, the saint - like Paul - can be found in Christ at His return, exhibiting the righteousness which comes from God.

Righteousness Through Faith

"The wrath of God," said Paul, "is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Romans 1:18). The great "faith" book, the great "imputed righteousness" book - the book of Romans - is all about those who have been called out of darkness being able to walk in the light. Paul opened the book of Romans talking about the apostles' purpose being "to bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles," and he closed with God's commands being made known to the "nations, leading to the obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5; 16:26). God's goal, through the gospel, has been to produce a special people who can and who will keep the commandments of God.

The underlying basis of Catholicism is that the individual is going to be a sinner on earth until he dies. The underlying basis of Protestantism is that the only righteousness a person will ever have is an "imputed righteousness" from Christ, and that his actual performance will always be sinful. The scripture, by contrast, teaches that "the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:4 NKJV). The disciple of Christ really can overcome the spiritual obstacles in his path, which is the general thrust of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." "Because as He is." wrote the aged John, "so also are we in this world" (I John 4:17). Jesus is righteous; let's be righteous!

What to Know

There is a lot of knowledge in the world, but most of it is irrelevant to eternity. Daniel, for example, had prophesied the coming of a time when "many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase" (Daniel 12:4). It is a good possibility that our own time is what was contemplated by the prophet, inasmuch as it is now possible to be almost anywhere in the world within a day or two, and as the digital revolution has caused a tremendous knowledge explosion. But most of that knowledge is as irrelevant as some starlet's hourly "tweets." The apostle Paul had counted everything that might have been gain to him as loss for one purpose: knowing Christ. He suffered the loss of all things for one purpose: knowing Christ. He even sought and found the righteousness of God found through "the faith of Christ" for one purpose: knowing Christ.

Paul's knowing Christ, knowing the power of His resurrection, and knowing the fellowship of His sufferings all pointed to one end, as he asseverates, "in order that T may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:11). May modem Christians be imitators of Paul, even as he was an imitator of Christ!

Not There Yet

The apostle Paul had already stated to the Philippian brethren that it would be better for him to die than to remain on earth. "Yet," he said, "to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake" (Philippians 1:24). Because the Lord was not done with him in the time of his testing on the earth, the apostle would have to go through more persecutions and sufferings, more malicious gossip and more death threats, and more personal growth. All this, he said, will mean "fruitful labor for me" (Philippians 1:22). Hence it was that he willingly marched forward into the persecution that comes with preaching the gospel, as he put it, "being conformed to His death." Jesus had said, "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it" (Mark 8:35). The apostle Paul still stands as a great example of someone who was willing to give up everything, ultimately including his earthly life, for the sake of Christ and His word.

God stripped the apostles of nearly every earthly thing, and implanted in them the desire for the resurrection of the dead, the one hope. "For I think," said Paul, "God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men" (I Corinthians 4:9). Hungry, thirsty, homeless, poorly clothed, persecuted and slandered, these men labored and changed the world. But in them, as Paul so clearly stated, was the drive to "press on." "I exhort you therefore," comes the challenge that rings down through the centuries, "be imitators of me" (I Corinthians 4:16). Because Dad says we're not there yet!


The English language proverb says, "Do one thing; do it well!" In a competitive market place, a business or a company has to be near the top in order to continue to provide great sales and service. To accomplish that, the leadership has to focus on the one thing that they do well, better than or competitive with other entities in their niche or realm. Many a business or corporation has gone under because they became slack and didn't focus, or because they became too scattered and lost their focus. Or, as has also been said, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." Such lessons should not be lost on the disciples of Christ.

What a person is reaching for is a much more powerful long-term motivator than what he is running from I For those who understand the picture and plan of God, the most powerful of all is the reach for the prize - the positive resurrection from the dead - of what the apostle terms "the upward call of God." On one side is the sucking maw of Satan's careening downward; on the other is that beckoning voice of the Lord Jesus appealing for all mankind to leave this world behind to come and fellowship with Him for all eternity. "Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice," affirmed the Lord Jesus. "My sheep hear My voice," He averred, "and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27,28). Keep listening, keep following! It is the upward call of God.

As Many as Are Perfect

It has been said that the sincerest form of admiration is imitation. The apostle Paul twice appealed to the Corinthian brethren on this basis: "In Christ Jesus," said he, "I became your father through the gospel," as contrasted to those who were simply follow-up tutors. "I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me" (I Corinthians 4:15, 16). "Be imitators of me," he appealed also, "just as I also am of Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1). The exhortations for imitation ultimately point to Christ, the apostle and high priest of our confession. "The one who says he abides in Him," adds the apostle John, "ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" (I John 2:6). "Christ suffered for you," was Peter's contribution to the discussion, "leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth" (I Peter 2:21, 22), And if the exhortations of the apostles Paul, John, and Peter were not enough, Jesus Himself had stated, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

"Brethren," is Paul's sincere way of identifying with and appealing to the saints at Philippi, "join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us" (Philippians 3:17), Paul was an imitator Christ who unashamedly encouraged others to follow his example - this is certainly a victor in Christ, not one who cried out as a Christian, "Wretched man that I am!" (Romans 7:24). And it wasn't just Paul; there were others who could be pointed out as those who exhibited the character of Christ, and whose lives were worthy patterns for developing saints. "As He is," were the words of John as he described the positive picture of Christ in glory, "so also are we in this world" (I John 4:18). Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of admiration. Let us admire the Jesus who is, and imitate His character!

Enemies of the Cross

Satan, the prince of darkness, has from the beginning done everything in his power to drag mankind down to his level. Using all the pull power of fleshly desires, the outcast angel works inside the skulls of people to draw them into sin. "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins," averred the apostle Paul, "in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:1 ,2). When the devil gets enough control of the minds of certain men, then he can use those people to influence others and confuse them with false doctrines. "But the Spirit explicitly says that in latter times some will fall away from the faith," explained the apostle, "paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron" (I Timothy 4:1, 2). The warnings are there!

Because these people want what they want - whether it be power, position, or money - they will attempt to destroy what stands in their way. Their "god" is their appetite. Because their minds are set "on earthly things," they cast aside true spiritual values easily, and ignore the omnipresence of God who is aware of any secret meetings or hidden agendas. Whatever glories they receive, whatever accolades are sent in their direction from fawning carnal admirers, are really black marks against their souls when measured by heaven's standards. Regardless, then, of whatever vicious attacks or threats these enemies of the cross make against those who are standard bearers for Christ, the saints are 10 be encouraged and to continue to "walk according to the pattern" set in motion by the apostle Paul. As for these other guys and gals, their "end is destruction"!'

Body of Glory

"You are from below." said Jesus to some of the hostile Jewish hierarchy. "I am from above; you are of this world. I am not of this world" (John 8:23). Jesus clearly came from heaven, as revealed in some of the poignant comments recorded in the gospel according to John. Another example is in regard to the glorification of the Christ. Speaking of the rivers of living water referenced by Jesus, the scripture commented. "But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39). For that glorification Jesus prayed. using these words: "And now, glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory which I had with You before the world was" (John 17:5). The Lord had come from glory, and was returning to glory following His crucifixion and resurrection. He came from heaven to earth, and returned to heaven again. His goal: to lift men -those who would be willing to be redeemed from the morass into which mankind in general had fallen - up to the heights of heaven itself.

The apostle Paul has been making the general point all the way through this section about how much he personally desires the proper resurrection from the dead. As he discussed the enemies of the cross, he noted that their "end is destruction." Properly understood, that destructive end in the lake of fire, where the smoke of the torment goes up forever and ever, is overpowering and mind-numbing. At the exact opposite end of the spiritual spectrum is the resurrection of the righteous. "We know that," said the apostle John, "when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is" (I John 3:2). We eagerly await!

Stand Firm in the Lord

The Christian life is a life of struggle. Even champion Christians such as the apostle Paul had to "go, fight, win!" "I have fought the good fight," he commented as he knowingly approached his last days on earth, "I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (II Timothy 4:7). The pull of the world, the pressures from friends and enemies, the mounting discouragements, and the complications of health issues can all wage war against the faith of the saint, and in "losing heart" the Christian can lose it all. Hence the Holy Spirit, through His inspired authors, in various ways encourages the followers of Christ to be victors rather than victims, overcomers rather than overcome.

Once again, the scripture mentions "the book of life." For the individual to have his name entered in the book of life, he needs to "be born again," wherein he has moved out of death into life. In immersion into Christ, the saint now has the assurance that his arising "to walk in newness of life" has resulted in his being in fellowship with God and that his name is now recorded among the ranks of the spiritually living. But that name can be erased from the book of life (Revelation 3:5). It is incumbent that the believer continue to fight the good fight of faith. "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15). Get your name written there, and keep it written there!

Joy and Forbearance

God's analysis is that, overall, this world is not a happy place. Jesus, said the apostle Paul, "gave Himself that He might deliver us out of this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4). Even when the surface seems somewhat serene, underneath there is a lot of "twistedness," as was described by Jesus: "0 unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?" (Matthew 17:17). The situation down here is so far removed from what God's desire is that Jesus Himself would exclaim, "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!" (Luke 12:49). The Almighty God's long term goal, however, has been to use the gospel to pull a special people out of this world. "You are," said Peter to the early Christians, "a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (II Peter 2:9). Such a people, then, are to exhibit special qualities in order for that proclamation to be effective.

"The Lord is near!" The brethren need to keep constantly in mind the presence of the Lord. They need to be rejoicing continually because of the value of the spiritual blessings they already possess, and need to be forbearing in their demeanor, words, and actions toward other saints and the lost sheep of this world. Such joy and forbearance on the part of saints would really impact the world!

Peace Beyond Comprehension

People want inner peace. They often do not know how to get it, or are unwilling to yield to the principles which will provide it. But they want it. Hence it is that the purveyors of the world are able to supply all sorts of remedies, offering a temporary relief or fake hope. Whether it is the liquor business, the drug trade, or false religion, the providers are playing on their clientele's need for inner peace. The solutions proffered, of course, do not work; they simply pull people deeper into the quagmire of despair and confusion. The answer, by the All Wise' design, is for the denizens of this planet to turn God for help. Only He can provide inner peace, and only on His terms!

God's part is certain. So if there is any lack, it is coming from the Christian himself. There is a general tendency on the part of the flesh to want instant results, similar to popping some kind of pill and having peace immediately flood the soul. But it doesn't work that way. God's peace comes when the saint consistently engages in the type of prayer that praises and thanks God. If a brother or sister is inconsistent, or their prayers are not significantly filled with praise and thanksgiving, then the peace of God will not show up to guard their hearts and minds. And the anxiety which remains will not be God's fault. So pray consistently, and let the peace of God roll in!

Your Mental Environment

The mind is going to live someplace. Whether it lives in the depths of despair or whether it lives focused on the courts of glory depends on the cumulated decisions of the individual Christian.

The word of God emphasizes that all attitudes and actions of members of the human race are decision-based. Therefore the Judge of all mankind holds each person accountable for all those decisions. From the time of Adam and Eve onward, however, the natural tendency of people has been to duck that accountability and blame others or circumstances for their decisions and attitudes. The word of God, to correct that misunderstanding, brings an individual face to face with himself. Using the righteous principles of the law, the scripture speaks, "that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God" (Romans 3:19). No one gets to blame anyone else; everyone is held accountable for his own decisions. Thus the apostle Paul lets Christians know where to build the dwelling place for their minds.

Every holy one of God is responsible for creating the proper mental environment in which his mind dwells, as the apostle emphasized, "Let your mind dwell on these things." If a brother or sister lets his mind live in the midst of Hollywood hype or hip hop culture, then all the twistedness of those environments will be what drives his mind, even though he claims to be a Christian. If a Christian allows himself to hang out in the "gloom and doom room," then his attitude is going to stink, and he will not be an effective purveyor of the gospel, someone easy to live with, or a brother that others like to be around. The solution for so many mental battles the saint fights is simple: live in the positive mental environment specified by the Holy Spirit!

Contemplating Some Positives

The Holy Spirit, through His servant the apostle Paul, has elucidated certain positive principles. These principles, if implemented so as to form the Christian's mental and spiritual environment, enable him to be victorious in the midst of what others would call defeat, to be winners where it really counts - in the spiritual realm. "We are afflicted in every way," stated Paul, describing his and the other apostles' experiences, "but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (II Corinthians 4:8-10). How could the apostles and other first century Christians go through such trials and seeming defeats, but yet maintain such positive and true perspectives? The answer is that they created and kept the proper mental environment.

"Whatever..." is often a "downer" comment. But when it is coupler' with the true, the honorable, the right, and the pure, it is a powerful means of focusing thoughts and attitudes upward. The saint who can live in this mental environment will always have an upbeat day, praising God and encouraging others - like Paul, writing this letter of encouragement from jail to those outside prison!

Contemplating Some More Positives

Many saints want positive attitudes and upbeat actions to emanate from them without creating the inward base for such attitudes and actions. Not going to happen! God has so constructed the physical shell of the Christian that the mind has to be changed by reprogramming. "Do not be conformed to this world," Paul enjoined the brethren in Rome, "but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). Unless the thought patterns of the mind are altered by systematic and intense redirection, the attitudes and the actions of the saint are going to be predictably very similar to those of the past. Since God is very interested in helping His children really change, His Holy Spirit has offered some very specific concepts upon which the saint is to focus His mind.

The apostle Paul was such a positive, attractive person. For those interested in eternal life, he and those like him were "a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved" (II Corinthians 2:15). "The things," says Paul, referring to his list of the true to the praiseworthy, "you have learned and received and heard and seen in me; practice these things, and the God of peace shall be with you" (Philippians 4:9).

The Secret of Trusting

The congregation at Philippi was one of the great congregations of the first century. Begun by Paul and his team on the second missionary journey, the congregation consisted almost entirely of converts from the Gentiles from the first. When Paul, Silas, and other members of the team moved on, the physician Luke stayed for about four years in Philippi to solidify and forward the work. It is a credit to the work Luke did that the assembly in Philippi was such a solid and generous congregation. The Holy Spirit, beginning with the vision that Paul received calling the preachers to Macedonia, clearly orchestrated the timing and placement of the congregation, and then used the Philippian brethren in a major way in assisting Paul in the continuing thrust of the gospel.

The most important factor in handling any situation, whether it be adversity or conviviality, is trust in the Lord. This trust cannot be artificial; it must be honest, and it must be based on what is stated in the word of God. Paul avers, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). For this to work, the individual must have been immersed into Christ. For this to work, he must have received the indwelling Spirit in obedience to the gospel, the Spirit who does the strengthening. For this to work, the follower of Christ must be truly working for the Lord rather for any selfish purpose. But if those things are in place, and the saint is really trusting in the Lord, this will work! This will work!!

Proper Profit

The jail cells of the first century were not nice Holiday Inn hotel rooms, with running water and television. They were low budget operations, prisoners not being deemed worthy of much in the way of allocation of tax monies. Often those incarcerated were dependent upon friends or relatives to supply them with food and drink; otherwise starvation or dehydration were just days away. The apostle Paul, then, is appropriately grateful for the aid which the Philippian brethren had sent to him to enable him to survive this latest stint in prison. But he also was making it clear that, in the midst of these trying circumstances, he knew that God was providing, and would provide. He had learned, as he put it, "the secret" of being filled and going hungry. In that context, for the benefit of the brethren in Philippi and all brethren to the end of the age, he wrote the words that have sustained millions: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

The Greek word for the financial sharing for the spreading of the gospel is koinonia. The general concept connected with koinonia is fellowship, or things held in common. Hence it is that the Lord's Supper comes under this heading, as well as Paul's desire to share in the fellowship of the Lord's sufferings. Properly understood, contributing financially for the sake of the gospel is part of the joyous fellowship saints have in common. "And do not neglect doing good and sharing," says the Holy Spirit, "for with such sacrifices God is pleased" (Hebrews 13:16).

God's Ability To Supply

When Jesus sent the twelve apostles two-by-two out on their first teaching foray, He told them not to take any extra materials with them. "He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belt" (Mark 6:8). His idea on this first training mission was that they should learn to trust Him to provide for their needs, even though there was no visible plan for their sustenance. They learned, and so did Paul. "I have learned," said he, "to be content in whatever circumstances I am." "I have learned," he again asseverated, "the secret of being filled and going hungry." All saints, likewise, should learn the same lesson, to know that God can and will provide in amazing ways for His children who are carrying out His mission.

Paul's needs met - The apostle Paul could have been in a very desperate situation in his imprisonment in Rome. But the Almighty worked through the brethren in Philippi and others to ensure that His bond-servant had his basic needs supplied while incarcerated. "But I have received everything in full," he writes in appreciation, "and have an I abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18). What was sent by the Philippians was not only a blessing to Paul, but it was - most importantly - a spiritual sacrifice that pleased God! How much more valuable are these types of offerings as contrasted to the smoke of burnt goat flesh ascending to Him who dwells on high.

Life on earth is a testing ground for the disciple of Christ. Can God supply what the Christian needs? Does the Christian have faith that God can supply all his needs? The answer to the first question is an obvious "Yes." But the answer to the second question is one that will be worked out in the earthly sojourn of the one making the claim to godliness. Will he compromise when faced with economic uncertainty, or will he continue to stand firm for the principles of the faith of Christ? Will he trust God, or will he sink to trusting himself?

But God is not only interested in providing for those who have true Biblical faith in Him. He is also very interested in finding those who, like the Philippians, have faith to give out of their limited resources for the support of men like the apostle Paul. They believe that God cannot only provide for them, but that He can use them as a conduit for the unlimited resources of the riches of glory. May the brethren of today develop such a faith, that the gospel of glory might go forward to the ends of the earth!

Closing Comments

It is amazing how God has communicated His message in the midst of the matrix of human history. The chronicles of the history of Israel intersect the chronicles of the ancient nations of the world. The spectacle of Jesus Christ, in the words of the apostle Paul, was not carried out in a comer; it was in the full sight of the Jewish and Roman worlds. The great doctrines concerning the Christ and His church are often revealed in the courtroom defenses of the apostles and other exponents of the gospel. And the encouragement, correction, redirection, and motivation of the early churches are accomplished by epistles to individuals and congregations. These letters are not fake or stilted; they have the ring of real epistles to real people, written with real concern and real love. The apostle Paul, for example, knew and loved the saints in Philippi, and they knew and loved him.

The elements which run through the letter to the Philippians, though unique, are still typical of the types of things which the apostle would bring to the surface. The use of the names of saints inside the congregation, and a discussion of strengths, weaknesses, and solutions to their problems, all shout that these are real people and that this is not a faked letter. What it also shows, along with the other epistles of the New Testament writings, is that these congregations represent the real spread of the gospel throughout the Roman world and beyond. In spite of their being persecuted, in many cases to the maximum, these common people believed in the resurrection of the Jesus Christ and were willing to go to their graves without denying God or compromising the doctrinal truths connected with Jesus' death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. These letters ring true, and confirm in a totally different way the truthfulness of the first century testimony.