About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Section - Chapter 2
are certain chapters in the Bible that are well known for a particular
theme such as 1 Corinthians 13 for love, John 17 for Jesus’ prayer,
and Hebrews 11 for faith, and Acts 2 for the birth of the church through
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Philippians
2 is well known for what Paul says about Jesus stepping down from heaven
to live as a human and to die as a criminal.
This chapter, especially the first part is Paul’s appeal to
become a servant of the Lord Jesus as Jesus Himself was a servant of His
Father while He was on earth
1 has four phrases that begin with the word "if."
They are; "If you have any encouragement from being united
with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with His
Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion…"
Paul uses these four "ifs" to encourage his readers to
do what he writes in verse 2. It
is much like the following statement.
"If you have the money, then buy the car."
Or, "If you love him, then marry him."
don’t believe Paul is questioning the Philippians salvation or
integrity by the use of the word "if."
He could have easily said, "because," that is to say
this. "Because you have
fellowship with the Spirit." By
using the word "if" he is making them think.
"If" would cause them to ask themselves if they indeed
possess these things in their lives. The
word "because" would make them think less because Paul would
be plainly acknowledging that they do possess these things.
The word "if" causes Paul's readers to reflect on what
he is saying in light of their present circumstances.
four "ifs" are for important Christian truths.
The first "if" tells us that as Christians we have a
great measure of encouragement because of our union with Jesus.
If Jesus really is who He says He is, and He is indeed that, we
should feel encouraged in times of discouragement.
We should feel encouraged in times of difficulty, as these
believers were in the midst of. It
does not mean we will not feel discouraged.
It means that when we do feel discouraged, Jesus is there to help
with His encouragement.
Greek word "parakliesis," meaning "to call to one's
side" is translated here in my NIV as "encouragement."
This Greek word is also translated as "comforter" or
"counselor" in the New Testament.
It is the word used in John 14:16 when Jesus said that the
comforter or counselor, meaning the Holy Spirit, will come into the
lives of the believers once He returns to His Father.
second "if" concerns being comforted with Jesus' love.
Love is comforting. When
experiencing love, we all feel comfort.
There are feelings associated with love, although we all know
that love is not a feeling. If
we experience Jesus’ love, we will experience His comfort in times of
discomfort, but it does not end at feelings only.
His comfort produces something within us that causes us to keep
Greek word "paramythion" is translated here as
"comfort." It is
made up of two words meaning, near or beside and to speak.
In short, this word suggests the progress made in one's life by
someone speaking into their lives from close by.
third "if" phrase concerns having fellowship with the Holy
Spirit. Jesus comes to live
within us, but to be accurate; it’s not really Jesus who lives in us
because He is now at the right hand of the Father.
It is the Spirit of Jesus as seen in the last chapter, the Holy
Spirit, that comes to us at initial salvation.
We, thus, commune and have fellowship with the Holy Spirit, which
in turn is with Jesus, which in turn is with the Father.
The book of John has numerous examples of Jesus saying such
things as, "If you see me you see the Father," or "If you
have fellowship with me, you have fellowship with the Father."
This is all about the mystery of the Trinity.
On the other hand, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ
two times in the NIV and the Spirit of Jesus two times in the NIV.
So, in another accurate sense of the word, Jesus does live in us,
but through His Spirit.
Greek word "koinonia" that I mentioned earlier is translated
as "fellowship" here. It
means "to hold in common."
Fellowship here would imply us and the Holy Spirit being united.
last "if" phrase concerns tenderness and compassion we receive
from being a disciple of Jesus.
This "if" has no words associating the tenderness and
compassion with either Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
Jesus in fact is compassionate and tender hearted.
One result of our union with Jesus through His Spirit is a good
measure of tenderness and compassion we have towards others.
If we have no such tenderness or compassion maybe we aren’t
really united with Jesus, or maybe we are very weak in our relationship
Greek word "spiagchnon" that is translated here as
"tenderness" literally means "bowels."
In the Greco/Roman world back then the bowels was the seat of the
emotions. It's like our word
"heart" today. We
would say, "I love you with all of my heart."
People back in that culture would say, "I love you with all
of my bowels."
Greek word "oiktirmos" is translated as "compassion"
here in verse 1. This word
means "to be moved with pity from deep within.
It is often used in conjunction with "spaigchnon" I
mentioned in the last sentence, as it is here in verse 1.
2 begins with; "then make my joy complete …"
Paul often sees himself as a father figure, as one who has great
love and concern for his children, and in this case, his children are
the Philippian believers. He
is simply saying that if the above things are real in their lives, then
they can make his joy complete by doing what he is teaching them.
can see how Paul feels about those Jesus had entrusted him with if you
study carefully his second letter to the Corinthians.
In that letter Paul shows his emotions and true feelings more so
than in any other letter he wrote. Paul
had strong feelings for his fellow believers, and when they were doing
well, he was overjoyed. On
the other hand, if they weren’t doing well Paul was deeply saddened
and even to the point of emotional pain or depression as seen in his
letter to both the Galatians and the Corinthians.
See Galatians 4:19 as an example.
what did these Philippians need to do to make Paul’s joy complete?
I might add at this point that when the following things are done
in the church, not only Paul has joy but Jesus Himself would be full of
Paul said, "make" my joy complete, the verb "make"
is an aorist verb, a one time action verb.
This means that Paul is saying, right now, decide once and for
all, make my joy complete.
first admonishment by Paul is for these people to be like minded.
Paul is not merely telling his readers to think alike, that is to
say, all agree on every issue. The
idea from the Greek is to mind, or attend to the same things.
This has a lot to do with vision and purpose.
Paul is saying that his joy would be complete if these people
would attend to the same things in a unity that only can come as a
result of them being joined to Jesus.
We cannot use this verse to suggest that we all need to believe
the same doctrines, no matter how nice that would be.
believe all Christians should agree on the basic issues of salvation and
Scripture. These are those
things that make salvation what it really is, such things as the Deity
of Christ, the cross, the resurrection and the ascension, repentance,
faith, and the reception of the Holy Spirit into one's life, among other
things. Issues such as
certain aspects of end time prophecy are secondary issues which we
should have ample grace for others who may not hold to our opinions.
These secondary issues should not separate us.
next thing these people should be doing is having the same love. Are
there different types of love? In
one sense of the word there is. We
often here people say that there is God’s love, human love, and erotic
love. Whatever the case we
can take the same thinking as above.
The same love means to attend to the things they need to do with
the love of Jesus being demonstrated to one another as they attend to
these things. They should
attend to the same things in the same loving way.
word "love" here in the Greek is "agape."
It means selfless love. Paul
is simply saying that these believers must put their brothers and
sisters in Jesus ahead of themselves.
one in spirit and purpose" is the next admonition Paul gives to his
readers. The word
"spirit" here does not refer to the Holy Spirit or any spirit
as a spiritual identity. It’s
used in a symbolic; maybe you could say a generic way and relates to the
word purpose. One spirit and
purpose means one direction. Paul
wants to see unity in purpose, unity in goals and direction. He
doesn’t want to see his readers all running around in different
directions competing with one another, as so often is the case in
today's Christian world.
continues his admonition in verse 3. He
said to "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vein conceit."
This might well be a throw back to what we saw in the last
chapter when Paul said that there were some who preached Christ out of
selfish ambition, envy, and rivalry.
Anything we do in the service of our Lord can be done out of
wrong motives. Paul lists
two wrong motives here. They
are selfish ambition and vein conceit, both of which have been prevalent
in the church throughout history and has caused great damage to
Christ’s name. Selfishness
is one of the most basic sins of life.
It leads to other sins.
Greek word "kenos" is translated as "vain conceit"
here in verse 3. It means
"vain or empty." There
are always some among us with empty understanding who promotes
themselves to know more than they do.
of selfish ambition and self promotion Paul tells his readers, and us
too, in the last part of verse 3 how we should live.
We are to do all things "in humility, considering others
better than ourselves." To
me this is the mark of a mature Christian.
Your position in the church, any special gifts you may have, or
who you are, means little if you do not consider others better than
yourself. Jesus told us that
the first would be last and that last will be first and that we were
called to serve, not to be served. This
is what Paul is talking about here and will show shortly to be the case
4 continues on with the same thought. We
are not to look towards our "own interests" but to the
"interest of others." Human
nature tells us to seek out our own interests first. Society
and the world around us tell us to do the same.
If you live in the United States one of the most well known
phrases that you would have heard over and over again across the
previous decades is that America must first stand up for its own self
interests, and all that America has done has worked to that end.
The problem with such thinking is that often times standing up
for one’s own self interests interferes with someone else’s
interests, creating conflict.
verse 5 Paul said it very clearly when he said that our attitudes
"should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."
What Paul is now going to show us in the next number of verses is
just what Jesus’ attitude was. Once
we see how Jesus lived and thought while on earth, we can imitate Him in
command found in verse 5 is a command.
It is a present active imperative Greek verb.
This means that right now in real time, you must actively live
the life that Jesus exemplified for us to live.
next few verses are also important because they teach us the very nature
of Jesus, how He left His heavenly home to live on earth and die for the
sins of every human being who has ever lived.
Understanding these verses will go a long way in understanding
the One who Christians claim to serve.
will notice that in most translations the next few verses are in a
poetic style of writing. This
is the case because it is commonly understood that this was a song the
early church sang. This
shows us how the early church, not just Paul, viewed who Jesus is.
I said, these next few verses are important and they begin with the most
important New Testament truth and that is Jesus was found to be "in
the very nature of God." The
word "nature" is translated from the Greek word
word as it applies to Jesus speaks to the very essence of who He is.
The essence of anything is the sum of things that makes that
thing what it is. Paul says
that the very essence, the sum total of who Jesus really is, is God.
This is one Scripture that clearly tells us that Jesus was God in
human flesh while on earth. In
Colossians 2:9 Paul tells us that all of who God is dwells in Jesus.
One of the most fundamental Biblical truths we must both believe
and uphold is that Jesus, while on earth, was God in a human body.
It was for this reason that the Jews had Jesus executed.
Jesus, claiming to be God was blasphemous to the Jews.
understanding that Jesus, while on earth, was God in a human body, leads
us to believe that Jesus was both fully God and fully human.
For the first number of centuries the debate raged over the very
nature of Jesus. As a matter
of fact, even before the first century was over, the church faced
heresies over the nature of Jesus. It
was for this reason why many believe John wrote his gospel account where
he so clearly shows us that Jesus was divine.
debate over who Jesus is has always existed, both within the church and
outside of the church. Christians
must never cave into our culture's demand that claims Jesus to simply be
a historic moral teacher. He
was more than that. He was
God in a human body.
verb tense in the first half of verse 6 is also important.
The Greek verb tense of Jesus, "who being," is a Greek
present active participle. The
present tense would stress that as Paul was writing these words, and
that's after the ascension of Jesus back to Heaven, Jesus was God.
So, right now, as I type these words, we must realize that Jesus
is God. Because this is an
active participle, you might translate this as "Jesus is the God
6 continues by saying that even though Jesus was God, "He did not
consider equality with God something to be grasped at."
The Greek word "harpegmos," translated as
"grasped" means "to forcefully seize."
Jesus was in fact God, but while on earth, He did not forcefully
seize His divinity and make a big deal out of it.
He was secure in knowing who He was.
He knew He was God but He did not seize His divinity.
Instead, He submitted to the divine Father and His will.
those with a poorer self image feel the need to go overboard in
self-promotion. They act as
if they are on a higher level than what they are.
They act this way because they themselves feel they are not who
they would like to be. Jesus
did not have to act in this way. Nothing
would change for Him if no one believed He was divine.
He just simply was who He was, and by knowing this He could do
what Paul continues to tell us that Jesus did.
word "equality" in verse 6 is important.
It clearly denoted that Jesus and God were equal, and I suggest,
equal in every aspect. The
Greek word "isos" is translated as "equal," meaning
"to agree." In
short, the very nature of God and the very nature of Jesus were in
agreement because in reality there is only one nature in two forms, God
the Father and Jesus the Son.
verse 7 Paul said that Jesus "made Himself nothing."
Some translations say that He emptied Himself, and for good
reason because the Greek verb word "kenoo" that is translated
as "nothing" here does mean "to empty."
It is important to clarify what Jesus emptied Himself of.
The verb phrase "became nothing" is an aorist verb.
This means that at one particular moment in time Jesus became
nothing, or, emptied Himself. This
moment in time was when He was conceived in Mary's womb by the Holy
Spirit. This is called the
"incarnation of Christ." Jesus
was not incarnated, or, become human when He was born but when He was
what did Jesus empty Himself of? One
thing He did not empty Himself of was His divinity.
If He had emptied Himself of His divinity Paul would not have
just said that He was in fact God in the last verse.
He would not have said such things as all the fullness of who God
is dwells in Jesus (Colossians 2:9).
This means that Jesus did not forgo His divine ability.
If that was the case, then He would not have performed the
miracles that were common to His ministry. Jesus
emptied Himself of all that He was used to in the heavenly world in
which He lived. Remember, at
the cross He could have called upon 10,000 angels for help, but He
didn't. He emptied Himself
of that privilege. He
emptied Himself of the luxuries, if you can say it that way, of Heaven.
Living on earth was no vacation for Jesus.
You can count on that.
way in which Jesus emptied Himself by becoming human is that He could no
longer be everywhere at all times. In
theological terms this means that Jesus was not omni-present.
He was limited to being in one place at a time.
That would be a real big difference.
I don't believe we can begin to understand the change that took
place with Jesus when He was born into humanity.
while on earth was nothing like He was before His incarnation.
We need to understand that Jesus as a human being was born at a
certain place and time in history, but, He existed before He entered
humanity. Like God, He had
no beginning and has no end. He
is eternal. John 1:1 says
that "in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and
the Word was God." Although
there is a distinction between Father and Son, both have the same
attribute of being eternal. To
make it clear, even though there is that distinction between Father and
Son, their essence, the totality of who they are, is the same, is one.
when the "Logos", the Greek word for our English word
"Word," became flesh and lived among men, it was as if He
became nothing in comparison to what He left.
This is what I believe Paul was speaking of here.
From the eternal God, to a lowly baby born in a cave is becoming
a side note, when Jesus returned to Heaven, He returned in what is often
called a glorified human body. It
looked human, but it wasn't really human.
It was, or more properly, it is, spiritual and eternal.
Scripture is kind of vague to what His glorified body is really
like, and really, what our glorified body will be like.
That being said, when Jesus returned to Heaven, He did not return
in the same state He was before His incarnation.
Jesus, out of love for us, changed the outward appearance of who
He is for all of eternity. Again,
that' is something we just can't get our heads around.
Greek word "doulos" is translated as "servant" in
our English Bibles. This is
one of two words in first century Greek that can be translated as
"servant" or "slave" in our English Bibles.
Doulos means a slave or a servant not by constraint but choice.
People often called this a "bond servant."
next part of verse 7 says that Jesus took "the very nature of a
servant." As in verse 6
where we see the word "nature" as it relates to Jesus being in
the very nature of God, here it is used in Jesus being in the very
nature of a servant. In both
instances the Greek word "morphe" is translated as
becoming a man, Jesus became the least of men.
He became a servant, or a slave, and He did this by choice
because the word "servant" here is our Greek word
"doulos" that I just wrote about.
Jesus was a slave by choice, not by constraint.
He came to serve, not to be served, and this is what Paul is in
the midst of telling us to do. Jesus
didn't just take on the duty of a servant.
He became a servant. That
was His life.
attitude and actions were that of one serving others.
He did not appear on earth as one with a great ego.
He was not arrogant. He
was far from
like the leadership of the day who lorded it over others.
Jesus even told His followers that they should not be as the
leaders were in their day who lorded it over their subjects (Luke
22:25). They were to lead by
serving, which in the long run is the most effective way to lead.
People will respond to you better if you serve them instead of
lording it over them, but for most of us that is not an easy task.
last phrase in verse 7 says, "Being made in human likeness."
This was part of the emptying process.
Jesus took on the form of a human being.
word "likeness" is translated from the Greek word
"homooima" which means to become like something else or
actually become something else. The
something else was a human form or a human being. Jesus
no longer was in His heavenly form, whatever that may have looked like,
and, He will never revert back to that form as I have pointed out.
He will for all of eternity live in what we call a glorified
8 says, "Being found in appearance of a man."
This phrase is not actually in most original Greek texts.
What is found in these texts is the point that Jesus humbled
Himself and became obedient unto death.
The incarnation of Jesus was clearly a humbling process for
Jesus. Serving was a
humbling process for Him. In
this humility He obeyed God His Father in every way possible.
He obeyed so much that He gave His life because that was His
Father's will for Him. He
did not simply obey His Father in the easy things, but in all things.
God His Father would have been a humbling process because, as Paul has
already stated, He and God were equal, but now, while Jesus was on earth
Jesus had to obey. In one
real sense of the word, Jesus, while on earth was in a subordinate
last words of verse 8 say, "Even death on a cross."
Jesus just didn’t simply die.
He was executed as a common criminal.
One who had done nothing wrong, neither in the eyes of
death on the cross is significant because in the Law of Moses
(Deuteronomy 21:28, Galatians 3:13) it states that whoever dies by
hanging on a tree is cursed, and, that is exactly the real meaning to
Jesus' death. He was cursed
by God. He was punished for
each and every sin of each and every person who has ever lived.
He was the ultimate offering for sin.
It was for this reason that God, His Father, did not rescue Him
when hanging on the cross.
9 begins with the word "therefore" and as so many preachers
say, "When you see the word 'therefore,' you should look to see why
it’s 'there for'."
God exalted Him to the highest place…"
The fact that Jesus was obedient and humbled Himself to the
lowest of low level of humanity, God exalted Him to the highest of highs
of to both the spiritual and material universe.
Jesus now sits in a place of supreme authority along side God.
As is often stated in the New Testament, Jesus sits at the right
hand of God. The term
"right hand of God" should be understood metaphorically.
In Greek culture this meant that the one who sits at another's
right hand sits in the same place of authority.
Himself, in Matthew 28:18 states that He has been given "all
authority." A close
reading of 1 Corinthians 15 shows that once Jesus, who now has ultimate
authority, puts all things under His fee, including death, He will hand
all things over to His Father. At
that time He will also submit Himself totally to the authority of God
His Father, so God Himself will become the final authority.
Until that day comes, God has placed Jesus in the place of final
next phrase says that God gave Jesus a name that is above every other
name. What name is this?
Is the name Jesus special? Is
there only one man named Jesus? No,
there are many men in the world named Jesus.
There is more to the name of Jesus than just the name Jesus.
Attached to His personal name that was given to Him as a human
baby are His two titles of Lord and Christ.
He is the Lord Jesus Christ, and when you place these two titles
along side of Jesus’ personal name, there is no one else with this
name and these titles.
Revelation 16:19 you see something else that might help explain the name
of Jesus that is above all names. This
verse tells us another name of Jesus, and that is "Lord of lords,
and King of kings." Jesus
is not just any old Lord. He
is the Lord above all Lord’s, and as verse 10 says, all that is in
Heaven, on earth and under the earth, will bow their knees and confess
with their mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord.
These confessions will glorify God the Father, as Paul says at
the end of verse 11.
point we might want to consider about the name of Jesus is that in
Revelation 19:12 we note that Jesus is given a new name, a name that no
one knows but Himself. Just
maybe, this might be the name Paul is speaking about here.
It appears that Jesus will be given a new name that will be His
will come a time that everyone will fall and worship Jesus as the Lord
of lords. Some will worship
Him in great humility, thanking Him for what He has done for them, while
others who had refused to give their lives to Him will worship Him in
fear and dread for what will soon befall them.
must remember that Jesus never gives glory to Himself.
As all people of all time fall on their knees and confess Jesus
as Lord, all the glory is reflected towards God the Father.
part of Paul's letter is vitally important for the Christian to
understand. It gives us a
bit of a clear picture of whom Jesus is, something that I would say is
very important if we want to develop a relationship with Jesus.
This is really good theology, but a theology that enhances our
relationship with our Saviour.
Jesus' exaltation to the right hand of God as Paul teaches here, I would
like to say the following. In
John 12:32 Jesus said that "if I be lifted up from the earth, I
will draw all men unto myself."
John explains to us that Jesus said this to signify what kind of
death He would die. Over the
years most Evangelical Christians have associated Jesus being lifted up
as being lifted up onto the cross, but that is not what Jesus said.
He used the words "lifted up" in reference to being
lifted up from the earth, not onto the cross.
This would suggest His ascension to the right hand of God.
of the above being said, John did say that Jesus' words signified what
kind of death he would die, so, the lifting up of Jesus had something to
do with His death. That
being said, John's statement of Jesus death has a qualifying factor.
He said the lifting up signifies what "kind" of death
Jesus would die, suggesting that His death was a different kind of
death, which clearly it was. Jesus
descended into Hates, freed the saved souls in order for them to
relocate to Heaven. Jesus'
death had great meaning, beyond any other death.
One of the most important points to Jesus' death is that He rose
from the dead. Beyond that,
He ascended into Heaven, or, as Jesus said, He was lifted up from this
earth, where at some future point; He will draw all men unto Himself, as
Paul says here. All mankind,
whether willingly or unwillingly will confess Jesus being the Lord He
has always been.
2:1 through 5 is an admonition by Paul for the believers in this
community to be unified. From
verses 6 through 11 he shows how Jesus, who being in the form of God
became a servant. He says
this about Jesus in order for the believers to be like Jesus.
That is to say, if they could humble themselves as Jesus humbled
Himself church would become as it was meant to be.
Here in verse 12 Paul picks up on that theme once again. That
is why the word "therefore" begins verse 12.
12 says, "As you have always obeyed, not only in my presence –
but now much more in my absence."
The question can be asked. "What
obedience is Paul speaking about here?"
Is Paul speaking about obeying him?
Since he was not with them, obedience to him would make him very
don’t think Paul is speaking about obeying him.
I believe he is speaking about obeying Jesus, or, obeying the
gospel of Jesus. When Paul
was with these people he would have encouraged them to obey the gospel.
Now that they are in obedience to the gospel he is encouraging
them to keep moving in the right direction.
obedience here is not obedience to an apostle, but obedience to Jesus.
This is important because over the years some have suggested that Paul
is speaking of obedience to apostolic authority.
They teach this so they can gather people under their authority.
that Paul calls these believers friends.
I think this is important. Whether
it's a pastor or an apostle caring for people, they should consider
those they care for their friends. Even
Jesus did this when He told the eleven apostles that He no longer called
them servants but friends. See
John 15:15. The Greek word
"agepolos" is translated as friends here.
You might recognize it from the word "agape," which
means, sacrificial love. The
translators could have easily inserted the word "loved ones"
or "beloved" here instead of friends.
These words might well be a better translation.
goes on to say, "Continue to work out your salvation with fear and
trembling." The word
"continue" means that they have been doing as Paul is
encouraging them to do, but now he wants them to continue in this same
Paul says "Work out your salvation," the pronoun
"your" as well as the word "friends" are both
plural. This either means
one of two things. Either
Paul is encouraging individuals in the church to work out their
salvation or else he is encouraging the church as a whole to work out
their salvation. I think the
first is more common than the second but I don't believe you can rule
out the second, especially since these words are in the plural form.
out your salvation has nothing to do with working for your salvation.
Paul is not talking about becoming a Christian by works.
He is speaking to saved people.
These people got saved solely because they had given their lives
to Jesus. Now they are to
continue to give their lives to Jesus and faith.
Paul is talking about seriously continuing that which the gospel
of salvation says we should become.
A close reading of the book of Galatians, especially Galatians 3,
tells us that just as the Holy Spirit is involved in our conversion, He
must be involved in our growth as a believer.
It's this growth Paul has in mind here.
says that these believers must work out their salvation with fear and
trembling. This clearly
means that growing as a Christian, becoming like Jesus as we are meant
to become, is a serious matter. We
don't take it lightly and we certainly don't ignore growing in the Lord
as is so often the case. As
far as I am concerned, the western world church knows very little about
working out its salvation in fear and trembling, whether that's on a
personal level or a community level.
believed in working out our salvation.
Some parts of the church have believed that you get saved by
faith but in order to stay saved you work for your salvation by doing
good works. To re-emphasize,
Paul is not saying this at all. We
are saved by trusting our lives with Jesus and we stay saved by trusting
our lives with Jesus. It's
all about working with Jesus to put into practice the things He wants to
see in our lives.
word "work" is translated from the Greek word "katergazomai."
This is a strong word, and emphatic word meaning "to
do." This implies
effort on our part, but again, as Galatians 3 clearly states, this is
not human effort alone. It
is the Holy Spirit effort that enables us.
It's co-operating with Jesus to have His life made visible in us.
last verse in the book of Mark states that the apostles went forth
preaching the gospel while the Lord worked with them by confirming their
word with miracles. The fact
is that as we grow as Christians, just as this verse in Mark implies, we
work, but we work with Jesus. He
has a part to play in our growth and so do we.
This is exactly what Paul says in verse 13 where he says
"For it is God who works within you."
last part of verse 13 says "To will and to act according to His
good pleasure." It
is God’s will, God’s good pleasure that needs to be seen in our
lives, not our own will or good pleasure.
We have given ourselves to Him for Him to do in us what He wants,
not what we want. This is
yet another important truth that is sadly lacking in today's western
world church. We are too
much into ourselves instead of being into Jesus.
we begin to get down to the nttty gritty gospel.
Verse 14 is not hard to understand.
Paul says, "Do everything without complaining or
arguing," two things that are quite common in church circles.
That’s pretty clear, but human nature tends to do both and that
is one reason why the western world church is not as effective as it
15 tells us why we should not complain and argue.
It is so that we can become "Blameless, pure, and without
fault in a world that is crooked and depraved."
There are two things to note here.
Paul encourages his readers towards a blameless life. That’s
our goal and we shouldn’t think of anything less than that. So
often you hear Christians say, "I’m only human."
Well, we are only human, but most of us use our humanness as an
excuse not to have such a lofty goal of blamelessness.
Besides, we are more than just human.
If we are true Christians, we have the Holy Spirit living within
us. We are a bit more than
other thing to note is that Paul views the world as being crooked and
depraved. This is pure New
Testament thinking. All
first century Christians did not have a positive view of the world.
Peter told those listening to him at Pentecost to save themselves
from this perverse generation. The
first century church viewed the world systems as something to be saved
from, not something to embrace. That
should be our attitude as well, but more often it's not.
It is the love we have for the world that hurts us as Christians.
Paul says that if you live as you should "You will shine as stars
in the universe." Christians
should clearly be distinguishable from those of the world, and, it is
not in the way they dress as I was taught as a child.
It is in the way we live that distinguishes us from those in the
world. If you look around at
the Christian world today, at least in western nations, you do not see a
clear difference between a Christian and a non-Christian.
We are to be honest, loving, caring, obedience to civil laws,
that is, unless they conflict with the laws of God.
We are not to be nasty, argumentative, and proud.
We are to be humble, ready to listen, and, stand up for Biblical
truth no matter the cost.
16 continues the sentence where Paul says that you will shine as stars.
When you shine as stars you "hold out the word of
life." It’s like you
are waving a large flag for everyone to see.
Your flag is the word of life that is clearly seen in your life.
It’s not necessarily the word of God that you preach, but that
you live, although preaching is part of living.
Your life should be an invitation for all you meet to come to
true life in Jesus. In other
words, there should be something appealing about us that others want in
the last part of verse 16 Paul speaks about boasting on the day of
Christ. He did not want to
labour in vain. When Paul
meets Jesus on the last day, and when his works are judged, he wants his
works to survive the fire of God’s judgment.
He wants what he has done to last into eternity. On that day, all
of our works that are done as Christians will be judged as in a furnace
of fire. Those works that
were done out of wrong motives will be burned and not rewarded, but
those works done out of pure motives will survive the fire and be
rewarded for. Paul wants to
stand before Jesus and be able to say, "See Jesus, there are those
Philippians. They made it to the end.
They stand before you as redeemed people. I did not work with
them for nothing."
suffered greatly in his service for Jesus.
I think he just hated to see his work done for nothing.
Labouring in vain, for Paul, was not acceptable.
He suffered way too much and he did not want this suffering or
his work to come to nothing. I
can certainly understand that.
17 shows us a bit of what Paul is going through as a servant of Jesus. He
suffered a lot as I have just said.
He feels like he is being poured out as a drink offering. That's
a clear Old Testament style phrase.
Jesus felt the same while on the cross, and of course, He should
have because that is exactly what He was.
Jesus was a sacrifice. Jesus
was a living drink offering. He
poured out His very life and soul as a sacrifice to His Father on our
behalf. Paul felt that his
life was being poured out of him as well, but as he continues to say,
"I am glad and rejoice." Paul
rejoices, even though at times he is devastated with troubles and
sorrows. His joy is over the
fact that these people are walking with Jesus, and it was for this
reason that he poured out his life until the day he died at the hands of
a Roman sword. All of what
Paul went through for these people was not wasted.
18 ends this section with Paul telling his readers that they should
rejoice along with him. He
is joyful, so they should be joyful too since all is well with their
souls. I would think that if
these people really appreciated what Paul did for them, they would then
rejoice with him.
Verse 19 begins with the
words “I hope in the Lord”. The
word “hope” is important in Scripture.
We sometimes think that hope is not very spiritual, but more of a
human quality. We then think
faith is the spiritual quality. But
Paul links hope with Jesus in this verse as he does elsewhere.
We should not underestimate the place of hope in the Christian
life. As it is often said,
“the hope of the church is the return of Christ”.
Faith is important, and so is hope.
There is nothing wrong with hoping, especially if we “hope in
Jesus” as Paul does here.
What is Paul hoping for?
He is hoping to send Timothy to
The NIV uses the word
“cheered” in verse 19 while the KJV uses “good comfort”.
This is the picture. When
Paul here’s that these people are doing well in the Lord, he will be
comforted. His heart will be at peace, be comforted and cheered up.
A serious reading of 2 Corinthians will show you how important
this is to Paul. When those
he has led to Jesus are doing well in the Lord he is very comforted, but
when they aren’t he is very disturbed, and sometimes on the brink of
depression. This is one of the major theme’s of Paul’s second letter
to the Corinthians.
In verse 20 we see why
Paul is sending Timothy. It’s
because he has no one else “with a genuine interest” for these
Philippians. Does this mean
that Paul had no one else with genuine concern for the work of the Lord?
Not really. He
doesn’t seem to have anyone who has “genuine concern for the
Philippians, at least for the moment.
In verse 21 Paul states
why Timothy is the only one with this concern.
He says that “everyone looks out for his own interests, not
those of Jesus Christ”. In context the interests of Jesus is the
welfare of the Philippians. What appears to be happening here is that
all the people that are close to Paul at the moment in
In verse 22 Paul is
reminding his readers that Timothy has proved himself to be a good
worker in the Lord. Paul
knows this because he’s been like a son to him.
Timothy has been by Paul’s side in the work of the Lord and has
not let his own interests distract him from the work of the Lord.
What this is saying to us
here is that the work of the Lord is important, especially if one is
called to a specific ministry as these men were.
We know that family is important, and that is part of every
Christian’s ministry, yet at the same time we do need to balance our
lives out with the things Jesus would want us to do that are beyond
family, friends and work. Finding this balance is sometimes hard.
Paul might not be talking
about all Christians in
In verse 23 we see when
Paul will send Timothy. As
soon as Paul knows that things will go well for him in
In verse 24 Paul uses the
word “hope”. In verse 25
he uses the word “confident”. He
hopes to send Timothy, and he is “confident” that things will go
well for him. So we need to
understand that Paul has both hope and confidence in his life.
Hope suggests a desire for things in the future to turn out well.
Confidence suggests a certainly that things will turn out as
expected. Both hope and
confidence are important for the Christian.
Verse 25 speaks of
Epaphroditus. Who is he?
He was a Philippian sent from Philippi to
Paul calls Epaphroditus
“a fellow worker, fellow soldier, and a brother”. So it is clear
that Paul thought very highly of Epaphroditus. We
also see the great apostle Paul speaking of himself on the same level as
this young man. Paul uses
the word “fellow”, as in “fellow worker”. Paul does not view
himself higher than others.
By using the words
“worker and soldier” we see a little about how Paul views his ministry.
It is work and this work is like a soldier.
When I say it is work, I don’t mean Paul simply views his
ministry as a job. He views
it as hard work. He also
views it similar to being a soldier.
It is clear that to do what Paul did you needed to be very
disciplined as a soldier would be. You’d
have to be willing to be captured by the enemy, as both soldiers would
be and Paul was. You’d
need persistence to keep going and not give up.
A soldier is a good analogy for the work of the Lord except for
the fact that the soldier of Christ uses different weapons than a
military soldier would use.
In verse 26 we see that
Epaphroditus has been “ill” and that in this illness he felt concern
for his friends back in
The other interesting
thing is that this man was ill and in Paul’s presence, a man that had
healed many people in the name of Jesus.
Now Paul is considered a real man of faith, especially by the
Hyper Faith Promoters. Why
was Epaphroditus ill? Was
Epaphroditus weak in faith? I
believe the very fact that this man was sick and especially in the
presence of one of the greatest Christians in history tells me that
hyper faith doesn’t prevent us from getting sick and in fact hyper
faith is not New Testament thinking.
Paul says that
Epaphroditus “longs for” these people in
Yet in verse 27 we see
that Epaphroditus did get better. Paul
attributes this to God, but he did not get better until he almost died.
God does allow people to come close to death.
Also in verse 27 Paul
says that “God had mercy on Epaphroditus”.
God’s mercy was seen in his recovery.
Yet Paul went on to say that God had mercy on him as well so he
wouldn’t have sorrow upon sorrow.
God saw what Paul was going through and he spared Epaphroditus’
life so Paul wouldn’t have exceeding sorrow.
Once again, if you read 2 Corinthians you will see that Paul was
a very emotional man. At
times he was full of sorrow.
In verse 28 we see that
Paul is eager to have Epaphroditus go back home.
Not to get rid of him but so both Epaphroditus and the
Philippians will be full of joy and comforted. I’m sure that Paul
could have benefited from having Epaphroditus with him but he was happy
to give him up if the Philippians were comforted as a result.
Another reason why Paul
is sending him back is so that he “will have less anxiety”.
Does Paul, the man of faith has anxieties?
Apparently so. His anxieties were over the fact that both
Epaphroditus and the Philippians were stressed over Epaphroditus’
illness and if their anxieties could be relieved, so would his be
relieved. So we learn here
that even Paul had his anxious moments.
In verse 29 Paul
encourages the Philippians to welcome Epaphroditus when he returns,
something I’m sure they would do.
But Paul also says to honour such men as this man. Any man that
has the same qualities as Epaphroditus should be honoured.
The qualities that we know Epaphroditus had was genuine concern
for people, a heart of a servant, and a man willing to work hard for and
with Jesus. These things can
be seen in the context and I’m sure there’s more that could be said
that don’t appear in the text.
In verse 30 Paul says
that Epaphroditus “almost died for the work of Christ”.
We don’t know what illness he had, but he got ill because of
his mission to
The chapter ends with
Paul saying that Epaphroditus “risked his life” to make up for the
help that the Philippians couldn’t give Paul.
This simply means that the whole church at
This section concerning Paul, Epaphroditus and the Philippian is circular in nature, and is all about caring for each other. This is what I mean. The Philippian Christians care so much for Paul that they'd all like to come and help Paul but that is not practical so they send Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus got sick while helping Paul and so the Philippians worried about him, and in response Epaphroditus worried about his friends back home because they were worried about him. Then Paul joins in on the worrying, thanking God that Epaphroditus finally got better so his anxiety would be relieved, and so he wouldn't have worry upon worry. The whole point to this is that everyone was caring for everyone else.
And also note, Paul the great apostle is seen here as one who was extremely caring and on an equal level as everyone else. He is not seen as an apostle over his people in a place of great authority as some see the roll of an apostle.