Turn in your Bibles if you will to the book of Philippians. Last week was our final message in a series on the gospel of Jesus Christ, what it is and what it does. I pray that God did much in your hearts to deepen your understanding of the truth contained in the scripture we read there.
Today we will beginning a study of the book of Philippians. I like to study books together rather than jump around all the time to different topics. This way, you don’t always hear what I feel like I want to preach about, we are all bound by the text to address the things that the writers of scripture address. Sometimes it will be necessary and advantageous to preach through a topic, or a series on a specific topic, but what I want to do is primarily preach through entire books of the Bible. Most of the books were written to be read, and or understood as a whole work, not to be sectioned up and divided into pieces, so that is how I want to address them with you.
So, little background on the book of Philippians. Philippians is a letter written to the church in Phillipi. You can read about the founding of this church in Acts 16. It was started after Paul had a vision of God to preach the gospel in Macedonia, of which Philippi was the foremost city of that part of Macedonia. When he and his friends got to town they came across a women’s prayer meeting. They sat down and spoke to the women gathered there and one woman named Lydia came to believe in Christ and was baptized. Lydia was a single business woman, and big time supporter of Paul’s work and the church there. At around the same time there was a demon possessed slave girl following them around for several days shouting that they were servants of the living God who proclaim the way of salvation. After annoying them enough, they finally cast the demon out of her, which cost her owner a lot of money off of fortune telling. Then they ended up getting thrown in jail, and then the doors busted open, and the jailer was going to kill himself , but they stopped him, and he believed and he and his house was converted. SO you have this church in Philippi started by Lydia, a Jailer, maybe a formerly demon possessed girl. Not exactly the core group you expect on a church plant, but it grew, and thrived. it seems that there are no major doctrinal errors in this church like there were in the Galatian church or the Corinthian church. There were a few strained relationships, but no major heresies. For this reason, this letter is considered Paul’s most affectionate and joy filled letters.
This letter was penned by the apostle Paul with his friend and disciple, Timothy. Paul mentions several times that he is in prison, which could be couple of different times during his ministry. He was imprisoned in Philippi when he founded the church as I mentioned, although that is not when he wrote this letter. He wrote this letter later in his ministry when he was imprisoned in Rome around 62 AD. In this his imprisonment, Paul was under house arrest, able to stay in his own home, so it wasn’t a dank dark place, like we might think. At the same time however, it was a reality that he lived with that the emperor could have him killed at any point. He was chained together night and day to a Roman soldier that was there to watch him. He was allowed to have visitors, but he was still a man in chains with an unsure future. So, imagine yourself in his position for a moment. In prison, chained to some Roman soldier, not allowed to go out of your house, and not knowing what day would be your last. what kinds of things would you be writing in his situation?
Lets see how he opens this letter to this church he loves and helped found, as he is chained to a Roman soldier, awaiting his possible death.
What we see in these 11 verses of this book is the typical greeting of a letter. Now it is easy to gloss over this, but before we move on, I do want to point out an important aspect of the greeting of a letter. It is in the greeting of the letter that we are able to see who all of the contents, directives, and truths it contains are directed to. This is a critical aspect of the context of the letter. they are applied to a specific person, or group of people. So now you say, why are we studying this letter then cause I don’t see my name at the heading of it? Well here is the distinction I want us to see. Who is the letter addressed to? Saints, right? If we are going to understand this letter in its fullness, we need to see that this opening is like the “recipient” line on a check, this letter contains a wealth of truth, but it doesn’t matter unless the check is written to you. So, if you are a saint, a Christian, a believer in Christ, you can bank on the truth contained here.
He then goes on the say how grateful he is for them. He thanks God every time he remembers them. He looks back on his time in their presence with fondness and affection. He remembers the humble beginning and is grateful for the fellowship they have shared from the first days in Lydia’s house and in the Jail there, until now, as an established church in a prominent colony of Rome. He share how he prays for them and that he loves them with the affection of Jesus. You might think that he is reveling in the glory of a church that he planted right? maybe basking in the glow of his achievements a little. Does it sound like maybe he is trying to take his mind off his present situation by thinking about the people in a far off place that he has impacted? it might, if not for this one verse. Look with me at verse 6. As he looks back on all that has happened in Philippi, where is his confidence, where is his hope, what does he trust in for the future of this church? He says he is confident “of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you, will complete it until the Day of Jesus Christ.”
I want to take the rest of our time together and unpack this statement that Paul makes, and see how we can sit in house arrest, unsure of our future, and say to those around us, I am confident in this, He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it. It is important to note that while this verse may be written on coffee mugs and seem sentimental to us at times, this was not a throw away trite phrase. This was coming from a man in chains. He was unable to do what he wanted to do, he could not preach to these churches, he could not visit these people, he was done most likely. When he says he has confidence, he is not saying it from a mountaintop, he is saying it from the depths, he has confidence not in the things he sees, or in the cushiness of his living situation, it is in God!
So lets look at three truths that undergird this statement and enable him to have such great confidence, so that we might stand with paul and see the same truths, no matter what our circumstance.
God begins the work.
You will notice that in Paul’s remembrance of the beginning work in Pilippi, though he was certainly doing a lot of work on the ground, he knows that it was Gods work all along. Just look at how it happened and it is clear, Paul didn’t have a master plan for the conversion of the Philippians. “ OK guys, heres what were going to do, were gonna go to this women’s prayer meeting, then were gonna cast out a demon girl so we can ruin some businesses and get thrown in jail, then were really gonna wow them when we break out, but none of the prisoners escape…” I have helped plant a couple churches, and I don’t think those elements were in any of the plans that were made to begin them. but they were certainly in God’s plan to begin the church in Philippi. now let me draw this one important application for us from this truth. You are not the primary agent in the change or the growth of this or any church!…
God Completes the work.
has anyone in here ever had this experience: you got saved, and you were amazed at what God did in your life. He forgave your sins, and placed them on the Lamb who was slain. he redeemed you from wrath through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You embrace this truth and you are amazed at it. But then all of the sudden you fall in some way, or an old sin pattern, or habit comes back, and you feel like, “well God saved me, i had better not screw this up.” this passage is a reminder to you that God Saved you, and he will finish the work in you.
Now lets look at the work he is going to finish. Look with me at verse 9, this is the work that he is confident God will complete. That their Love may abound in Knowledge and discernment, that you may approve of what is excellent, that you may be sincere without offense, and you will be filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Christ Jesus.
SO essentially what he is saying is that God is conforming you into the likeness of Jesus, and bringing you into a closer walk with him, and note the fruits of Righteousness are By Christ Jesus. How are we made righteous? By Justification through Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection, in our place, and for our sins. Even then, he is the active agent. SO, why does he do this beginning and finishing?
To Display His glory:
Folks this is all over the Bible, and we have to see this. God is all about bringing glory to himself in this world. He is all about making his name known to this world. He made this earth to display his glory, he made you to display his glory, and he saves you to display his glory. Why? because he needs the boost to his Ego? does he have low self esteem? No, because he is the only one who can save our wicked and lost souls, and he is fervently revealing that to this world through broken and shattered lives redeemed and made righteous through the sacrifice of His son Jesus.
So what does this mean for you today? what are you struggling with that you are afraid will overtake you? Is there a secret sin, or desire that you fear will end you? I am sure we all at times have had those fears. Ill be honest, As I look at the landscape of pastors and men in the ministry, the landscape is strewn with men who have made shipwreck their faith, and have failed and faltered in their lives. I would be lying if I told you it didn’t scare me. At times it is really frightening. But you know what gives me peace? that He who began a good work in me, will be faithful to complete it until the Day of Jesus Christ. That on the day of His return, when he comes to claim his own, the righteous judge of all men will look at me and see the righteousness of Christ given to me, and say, well done.
So what about you?