Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Apostle Paul the Pastor 9/22/2013
Dear Friend,

Today we consider a letter that was written by the Apostle Paul to the church of Philippi, a church that he had been involved in from its beginning. Acts 16 gives an account of Paul's missionary journey to that area as a result of the call of the Holy Spirit to go minister in that area. As they gathered at the riverside on the Sabbath for prayer, they spoke to some women there and as a result of their sharing, the Lord opened the heart of a business woman named Lydia. Later as they journeyed, Paul cast out an evil spirit of a young girl, the after effects which caused Paul and Silas to be imprisoned. While in prison, Paul and Silas as prayed and sang praises unto God in the hearing of the prisoners, an earthquake occurred which initiated events through which the jailer asked the all important question: "What must I do to be saved?" He was told, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house."

After leaving the congregation, he had returned at least once (Acts 20:1-6) and then was imprisoned in Rome, at least 700 miles from Philippi. The congregation and Paul had a very close relationship. This understandable by anyone who has been involved with anything from its beginning and so when a congregational member Epaphroditus visited Paul in prison to bring him encouragement and humanitarian needs, in the course of their fellowship hearing of the state of the congregation, Paul sent a letter back with his beloved friend which was to be read to the congregation.

Before getting into the text, I wish to jump back to the book of Acts to bring forth a significant point which we need to be reminded of in the ministry of Apostle Paul. Please note that to the plea for help was interpreted by Paul as the call to preach the gospel unto them.

Acts 16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

ESV Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

He introduces himself and Timothy as servants of Christ and addresses the letter to the saints in Christ Jesus along with the leaders who are at Philippi. He is referring to those who have received the grace of God through Christ and are a member of the invisible body of Jesus Christ, with Jesus being the head. He goes on to give the Apostolic greeting which is often used at the beginning of these types of letters, saying both grace and peace. Some have the thought that the reason he spoke both grace and peace is the term grace meant more for the Gentile believer while peace had more meaning to the former Jew who was now a believer in Christ.

I have included a writing which describes the word grace with the hope that we will get the huge significance as to why the Apostle begins his letters with the word grace. For if we have not received the grace of God in and through Christ Jesus, the rest of the letter will not be of much help for us. Please read on....

Romans 5: 6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

"Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.

Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. And from our vantage point, it always gives to the wrong person. We see this over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus is always giving to the wrong people—prostitutes, tax collectors, half-breeds. The most extravagant sinners of Jesus’s day receive his most compassionate welcome. Grace is a divine vulgarity that stands caution on its head. It refuses to play it safe and lay it up. Grace is recklessly generous, uncomfortably promiscuous. It doesn’t use sticks, carrots, or time cards. It doesn’t keep score. As Robert Capon puts it, “Grace works without requiring anything on our part. It’s not expensive. It’s not even cheap. It’s free.” It refuses to be controlled by our innate sense of fairness, reciprocity, and evenhandedness. It defies logic. It has nothing to do with earning, merit, or deservedness. It is opposed to what is owed. It doesn’t expect a return on investments. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver.

It is one-way love. (Written by Paul Zahl)

Paul now begins to address his readers in person...

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 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

He speaks of his memory of them even though he does not know many of them, making mention of how he prays for them with joy because of their shared work in the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Apparently upon conversion the congregation had been very mission minded and had been spreading the gospel of Christ. Concern for the souls of others is the fruit of the Spirit that begins to dwell in the hearts of believers after coming to Christ.

6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

He then gives them encouragement that Christ who called them by the gospel would never leave them or forsake them, but that He would be faithful to the end of their journey of faith, until the day that He returns. He then speaks somewhat openly of the intimacy that they share, not because of any outward characteristics, but because they are joined together through the grace of God which they have all received. Just because they are separated in a physical sense does not mean that they are not still in communion with one another, or that they have stopped working together, for the bonds of the grace of God are not earthly bonds, but heavenly and spiritual bonds. IIn addition, Since the love which abides in the heart of all believers as the result of receiving the gospel cares about their neighbor, Paul used his imprisonment as an opportunity to defend and confirm the gospel by sharing it with his captors.

He then with all sincerety pours out his heart, the heart of Christ for them, saying that his affection for them is not some earthly love, but it is the love of Christ. It is the same Greek word that Jesus used to express his longing for his disciples just before His crucifixion. It is the seat of our tenderest affections which have been enlightened and made alive by the Holy Spirit, so that we love one another as Christ has loved us.

Luke 22:13 And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.
14 And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.
15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:

He then continues by praying for them, asking for an increase more and more of their knowledge and discernment in love, for he knows that the future unity of their congregation hangs on whether they are living in and growing in the love of Christ.....There is no way that this point can be overstated........

9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

The following commentary is from Kretzman's Popular Commentary.

His gratitude and loving sympathy now urges the apostle to express the feeling of his heart in a fervent prayer for the Philippians: And this I pray, that your love abound yet more and more in understanding and all intelligence. They were believers, they had given ample proof of the sound condition of their faith in good works, yet the perfection had not yet been gained that is the hope of all Christians. Therefore Paul adds intercession to prayer, pleading that through God’s gracious power their love toward Christ and the brethren should grow, be enlarged, be added to. As the beloved of the Lord they should show the growth which alone is consistent with their Christian profession; for love is the first, immediate fruit of faith. The believers should persist in love; as their, faith grows, so their love should grow.

Standing still in faith and love is an impossibility to a Christian. The chief consideration that controls this growth is understanding, for love grows with the understanding of the saving truth, of the Word of our redemption. As the understanding and knowledge of God and His gracious counsel of love toward salvation grows, love must keep pace with this growth, in fact, it must be the corollary of this understanding. At the same time, this is no mere understanding of the reason and mind, but of the entire and full intelligence, of the developed discernment which is shown in sound common sense and correct judgment in spiritual matters. It is a spiritual ability to discern the good and true, that which will stand before the criterion and standard of God's Word. It is the moral sensibility which enables the Christians to apply the proper tact to all situations and relations in the world.

The result of such understanding and sense is shown at all times: That you may test things that differ, that you may be pure and unblamable for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness which is through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. The Christians must gain practice more and more in distinguishing that which must be judged or discriminated, that they may learn to choose, almost instinctively, between good and bad, between true and false, between what pleases and what displeases God, between what is to be recommended to Christians and what is to be shunned, between that which serves the kingdom of God and that which is inimical to its interests. This judgment of Christians should be grounded and should grow: that is the prayer of the apostle, in which all Christians will join him.

The gift of trying the spirits, of distinguishing between true and false, is a very important blessing; to know in each individual instance what is right and wrong, and to fulfill the will of God in this knowledge, that is a wonderful gift of God's grace. Only in this manner will the purpose of God be realized, namely, that the Christians will be found pure and without offense for the day of Jesus Christ. The Christian's life should be so thoroughly above reproach and suspicion that he can let the light of full publicity fall upon him, as one that is tested by a sunbeam, and not be afraid to face his critics. The things of darkness cannot stand in the sight of the Word, which reveals all. Only the pure will stand in God's sight.

And without offense, blameless, the Christians should be; they should not stumble and fall, and they should not cause others to stumble and fall. They are always aware of the coming of the day of Jesus Christ, when everything will be revealed before the eye of the all-seeing Judge. The apostle has no reference to every-day weaknesses and foibles, but he insists that Christians should shun all the open mortal sins of the flesh. Especially such crimes as will make a Christian infamous also in the eyes of the world should not be found in a Christian community. The Christian will therefore prayerfully watch his every move and carefully weigh everything that is brought to his attention, to find which is the right course to pursue in each individual case.

It follows then, also, that Christians will always be filled with the fruit of righteousness. Love, growing in the manner indicated by the apostle, will know in every case what to do and what to leave undone, and this knowledge results in the fruit of good works. Faith and love are manifested in good works. The whole life of the believers should be filled up with good works. And yet, all the works may be entered under one single heading: fruit of faith. It is fruit of righteousness, fruit which consists in righteousness, righteousness of life, for a Christian to act and live justly toward God and his neighbor. Such fruit will result only in and through Jesus Christ. In reality, it is the power, the strength, of Jesus in the believers that works and brings forth the good deeds. And chiefly for this reason such bringing forth results to the honor and praise of God. Even in this life the Christians increase the glory and the praise of God by their life in accordance with His will.

Breifly stating a conclusion to the three verses, it is clear that the growth of our knowledge and discernment of the love of God will regulate our ability to arightly approve things that are excellent, to be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, and to be filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God.

I encourage you to continue a study in this letter to the Philippian church, which also applies to any Christian church today as far as that goes.Read through it, pray over it, listen to it over and over again on your electronic device, listen to teachers go through it verse by verse...... We have gone through the introduction to the book and the themes that have been put before us will be further expounded on as he goes through the letter. Perhaps I will continue the study in this format, but at this point I am not sure. May the Lord bless our studies, whether they be together or individually.

In His love,

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 22 Sep 2013 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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