Grace and Peace to you!
The Apostle Paul planted a church at Philippi. 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 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. While in prison a member of the Philippian congregation, a man name Epaphroditus came to visit Paul to bring him encouragement. Paul, having a heart for the people in the Philippian congregation, sent a letter back with his beloved friend which was to be read to the congregation. Last week we gave an overview of the letter, and today we will consider the first 11 verses of his letter to his beloved people whom he cared for deeply.
But first a little reintroduction to the Apostle Paul, who grew up in the Jewish religion, was converted to Christianity and became an amazing vessel for the Lord. (We will hear of his testimony in chapter 3) He grew in his knowledge of the love and the grace of God, which can be seen by recounting three statements that he made concerning how he recognized more and more of his need of God’s grace. Paul understood grace!!! Do we understand grace?
1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. Written 55 A.D.
Ephesians 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; Written 60 A.D.
1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Written 62 A.D.
Here is the beginning of his letter to his beloved people, a letter from which is oozing the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus. Oh, that our preaching and sharing would be from the same Spirit………
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.
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.
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.
The two Apostles lived in humility before God as they recognized that their calling to minister to the congregation was of privilege. They loved and served all the saints of the congregation, without any favoritism being showed, thanking God for them and praying for them with joy. He recognized and applauded their partnership/unity in the Gospel which they had been connected together in right up to the current time. He than gave additional encouragement by pointing out the the same Lord who had begun the work of grace in them would continue it until the day when faith becomes sight!! This was a stable congregation, for the power to keep and to preserve a congregation is God’s power.
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 with all sincerity and intimacy pours out his heart, which is 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 seat of our tenderest affections which have been stimulated and made alive by the Holy Spirit, so that we love one another as Christ has loved us.
He 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. In 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 defending and in so doing sharing it with his captors.
He then closes this first part of his letter with a prayer for them, that their love would continue to grow, like a flower going from a bud to a blossom to the fruit.
The Fruit of the Knowledge of God: Love
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.
He prays 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 giving love of Christ.....There is no way that this point can be overstated........
Briefly stating a conclusion to the three verses, it is clear that the growth of our knowledge and discernment of the love of God will determine and govern our ability to rightly 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.
"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)
This past week we had the joy of having VBS with the theme of Running the Race, and we hosted the Spoke Folk on Wednesday and Thursday. Thanks to all who joined together in this fellowship by offering their gifts which collectively worked to bless all, including those who served. It is truly a joy to be partaker of the continuing work of encouraging, affirming and inspiring.
Many were encouraged by teachings, the crafts, the games and the pizza and the video which was shown on Friday night. Some were inspired by the presentation done by Spoke Folk to the end that they might be one of the Spoke Folk of the future.
May the grace that pours itself out upon us and into us each and every day, so fill us with love and longing for the saving of all souls of all ages that we have the response of Isaiah. For when Isaiah experienced the grace of God towards him, and when the question came forth as to Whom will be the messenger, He replied, “Here I am, send me.”
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be upon us, now and forever, Amen.
God’s abundant grace upon you today,