Dear friend in Christ,
May the contentment that comes from knowing Jesus Christ be realized and rejoiced in this day and always through the revelation of the mercy and grace of God. Amen.
Last week we heard of the peace of God which comes to us as the result of God making peace with us through Jesus Christ and His redemptive work. We also heard of how through repentance and faith this peace becomes our personal possession and experience. Thus now living in this peace regardless of circumstances, we are able to live our lives in peace with God and with all others as much as is possible.
Today is the final message in Paul’s letter to the saints in the Philippian congregation, and it is also the final message which has been taken from this letter to our beloved congregation here in Kingston as well as to any Christian congregation. May we hear the Voice of our God as He speaks to us from His Word through the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. For it is through the hearing of faith into our hearts that we are strengthened in our relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and with one another.
Before we proceed with this message, I would wish to share a happening that occurred after last Sunday’s message which was experienced by one of the members of our congregation in relation to how God has made peace with humanity. This person told me that as she was hearing of how God has made peace with us through the preaching of the Word, she experienced a revelation of that which was being spoken in relation to peace.
As she was listening she was looking at the dove with a branch in its mouth which is behind the pulpit on the right side of our church, a indented figure that was put on our wall by a very talented man who uses plaster to create various biblical images on walls for churches. She said that she has looked at that creation for years, but all of a sudden the meaning of that dove with the branch in its mouth came alive with meaning in relation to peace. She knew the story of the aftermath of the flood and how Moses sent the dove out and after it returned the second time, it had a branch in its mouth.
But she wasn’t sure if the bible referred to it as an olive branch, but soon found it that it was an olive branch that was in the mouth of the dove. (Genesis 8:11) She stated that it was an overwhelming experience for her in relation to what it must have meant to Noah and his family, as they considered their future just having experienced the judgment of God on the earth. She also said that it was like the hand of God being extended to Noah and his family. We together rejoiced in this revelation that came from the One who has made peace with all humanity through the cross, which a foreshadowing was given to those in the Ark. That person was my dear wife who experienced this visitation from on high.
As we finish this letter, we recall the prayer that Paul prayed for his beloved people in the beginning of the letter that he wrote to the. He is praying for their love to increase more and more, that they would affirm and approve those things that are true, as they live in the benefits of the work of Jesus’s redemption. Not only in the receiving of it as well but also in the living out of it in their live. For they are being filled with the fruit of righteousness through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. All this, he writes, comes only through knowing Jesus Christ, by which God is praised and glorified in their lives.
Let’s back up a bit before placing his prayer for them/us, in order to get a sense of his love and care for his people…He speaks confidently of the end of their journey in order to encourage them, before praying for them as he does.
Philippians 1:4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;
6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Philippians 1:9 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.
We recall that Paul was translated from a persecutor of Christ by persecuting His followers to one who began to be persecuted for preaching that Christ had arisen from the dead and was alive and well. He became of preacher of the gospel, calling upon people to receive the peace that God had established between Him and humankind through Jesus. Paul did not care about himself at all, for he cared only that people would hear and receive the gospel and all its benefits, both in this time and forever in eternity. One of the verses in this letter really spells out of how Paul now viewed his mission in life. It was not lived for himself, but for Christ and His mission. Receive the gift of forgiveness and of empowerment to live for the sake of others.
Philippians 1:20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Now he winds up his letter…..
Paul has all he needs, and he has learned to live life independent of his circumstances, for life is not about earthly things, but about eternity.
Philippians 4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; (bloomed again) wherein ye were also careful, (cared, attitude) but ye lacked opportunity.
Paul rejoiced in the Lord for them, for His work in their hearts and lives, as he received a gift from them again, recognizing that they were “blooming again.” They had a mind to care for him, but they either did not have the means or it was not possible to them to get the gift to Paul.
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
He then seems to refer to the prayer that he had prayed for them in the beginning in chapter 1:9-11. He is not pointing to their gifts to him, whatever they might have been, he is pointing to the gift that they are giving him as he speaks of the fruit of the Spirit visibly being lived out in their lives.
14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate (had fellowship) with my affliction.
15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.
18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.
Lastly, he points them to the fountain from which all needs are filled, which is in the pattern of Matthew 6:33. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all others things that you have need of will be provided to you.
19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
21 Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you.
22 All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.
23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. <To the Philippians written from Rome, by Epaphroditus.>
One of Paul’s defining statements in this letter is: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. And we can safely conclude that what it meant for him to live is Christ would be consistent with our acronym J.o.y. which is Jesus, others, you. He lived by faith in peace of God, was content in all circumstances, accepting them as from God, as a result he looked as to how he could bring others to the same relationship and if we interpret the y as you referring to a specific person, it would fit. Paul tells us in another place of how he viewed his mission in life.
22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
How would you and I honestly complete this statement: For me to live is __________and to die is gain.
Could we put into that space For me to live is J.o.y. and to die is gain?
The essence of Paul’s prayer in chapter 1:9-11 is that we would show others who God is by passing on that which we have received: Love. He prays that this would be growing instead of static as he speaks of love abounding out of us towards others. That is the nature of love in that it is an emotion that is enacted through action, which works out of biblical faith grounded in scripture.
A number of years ago I was in Guatemala and while there I was asked to bring a message which I did, of course, and I used a question to set the focus of the message., “Where are we in the school of love?”
A few months later one of the people who had been there that day shared with me that as a result of the message, and of properly evaluating their status concerning that question, they realized that they had been living mostly for themselves, and they began to live in Christ’s love which then naturally flowed towards others.
May you be filled with the love of God which is in Christ Jesus to overflowing, for His love will never run dry as it is according to the riches of His grace in Christ. We have all we need in Him and He will provide us with all our necessary daily living. May His Spirit continue to show us the living Christ who is both in us and well as on His right hand, making intercession for us. And may we pour out this love wherever we have opportunity to do so………
Content and overflowing in Him,
Pastor Orval Wirkkala