Philippians as a mirror

I read again this morning, for first time in too long, the New Testament book of Philippians. In it I encounter many words alien to my thinking. “Confidence” and “Expectation” “I thank God” and “Rejoice” stand out like a giant mirror on my condition. I want to argue “But that’s just not my personality type Lord, I know people that do that easily, but you know that’s just not me!” Words like “Realism” and “Reticence” “Hopelessness” and “Morons” are more fitting to my disposition. Paul uses “Beware of dogs and mutilators” and “dung/dross/loss” in chapter three, but these are not descriptive of the book’s tone or message. Let me just randomly list what I encounter here in my reading:

Chapter One

Community

Confidence

Love

Suffering

The Gospel Spread through imprisonment

Proclamation in both selfishness and love

Eager Expectation

Boldness

Living and Dying in Christ

A gospel worthy life

Standing Firm

Worthy of Belief and Suffering.

Chapter Two

Encouragement, consolation, love, sharing in the Spirit, compassion, sympathy, love, one accord, one mind—the Mind of Christ in Kenosis: self emptying, with God in full equality, confidently left it for slavery, humility, obedience unto execution. So God highly exalted him, gave him the name, by which we all (in heaven, on earth, under earth) will confess LORD.

Continue obeying in fear and trembling. This is in God working willingness and action for his good pleasure.

Blameless, innocence, children without blemish, without murmuring and argument (which children are very good at), in a crooked and perverse time, shining like stars.

Because Paul’s readers hold fast, his race and labor are not in vain, boastful expectation before Christ, even while he gladly rejoices as a libation poured out over their faith as offering and sacrifice.

Enter Timothy, genuine, concerned, while others seek their own instead of Christ, he serves as a son to a father. Epaphroditus, brother, co-worker, fellow soldier, messenger, minister, longing for their fellowship, in severe nearly fatal illness, recipient of God’s mercy, risking his life. (What a family this church was! So invested in one another.)

Chapter 3

Rejoice in the Lord! Same not troublesome, but safe. Beware of dogs, evil workers, mutilators.

WE are the circumcision, the true worshipers, BOASTING in Christ but without confidence in the flesh—even with reason for confidence in the flesh. Paul then lists his reasons for confidence, his Vitae as it were,

Circumcision on the proper date
tribe of Benjamin, Hebrew of Hebrews, Pharisee, ZEAL unto killing and persecuting the church, law righteousness: blameless—all these gains: LOSS/Dung/Dross because of Christ.

He regards all as loss, he suffered the loss for Christ, regards them rubbish to gain Christ and in Him righteousness, not of the law but in faith in Christ, from God on faith. He wants more: to know Christ, his power, his resurrection, and to share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and somehow to attain the resurrection from the dead.

NOT already obtained or goal accomplished, press on to own, as Christ made it his own. Forget what lies behind, strain forward for what lies ahead. Press On to the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Let us mature ones be of the same mind, if you think differently God will reveal it to you. Only hold fast. (I love this confidence that God will reveal it in time. He doesn’t say “if you think differently I’ve got a whip waiting behind my back and YOU WILL agree!”)

Imitate me (What? Where does he get such confidence?) and observe those living accordingly. Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ, I tell you of their end, their belly god, their shame-glory, their earthly set minds.

OUR CITIZENSHIP is heaven, from where we EXPECT a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He WILL Transform

“the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.” (3:21 NRSV)

Chapter 4

Brothers and Sisters I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord like this, my beloved.

Then he gets to specific persons: Be of the same mind Eudia and Syntyche, help these women who’ve struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with. . . . whose names ARE in the book of life. . . .

Rejoice in the Lord, again, REJOICE! Gentleness, the Lord is NEAR. Don’t worry, pray and be thankful, request of God. God’s peace, which you can’t understand, WILL guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Think about the true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy things. KEEP ON doing what you learned, received, heard, saw in me, and God’s peace WILL be with you.

I rejoice in the Lord for your revived concern and the opportunity for you to show it. I’ve learned to be CONTENT with whatever I have, with little, with plenty, I have learned the secret. I can do all things through him who strengthens me, thanks for sharing.

You know that in the early days it was just you that shared with me in giving and receiving. . . . I now have more than enough and am fully satisfied. Through Epaphroditus I recieved your gift, a fragrant offering, acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. My God will fully satisfy all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. My friends greet you, all the saints greet you, especially those in the emperor’s household.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

________________________________________

Paul speaks in a way that assumes a freedom in relationship, between himself and his readers and within the church itself. All giving and receiving are an extension of God’s good gifts in Christ. Paul speaks with an easy authority and assurance that only an author close to the Subject can command. This is the beauty of this letter. I’m reminded that within the church the Trinity freely shares the benefits of the Kingdom and that together we share a way of living, a way of being, that extends far beyond any of our individual experiences. Paul knew that his suffering extended the gospel and so his own body was a sacrifice for the faith of his readers. Their gifts to him were a sacrifice.

I don’t exude the kind of confidence Paul demonstrates here. I often think of my faith less in terms of my place in the Body and more in terms of personal need. I often fear that my sin is too great, my life too faithless, even for the likes of Jesus Christ. This letter is a quick reminder of the true faith. I come from a charismatic background, wherein verses were often used from Philippians in a very self-serving, sentimental, “give me power quick” way. That’s not Paul’s way. Philippians is not a book about ignoring the bad and accentuating the positive. Its about belonging in Christ, following his way of emptying himself, trusting that we are never forgotten.

Another interesting point is the way Paul mentions the emperor’s household. Some involved in these Empire studies point out that the household of Christ, in which his Lordship reigns, stands in marked contrast to the household of Caesar, in which the emperor provides for every need. Paul’s Roman readers knew exactly how subversive this sort of talk was. Paul is in effect saying, in plenty or in want we rely on the household of Christ, the provision of Christ.

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