Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi is loaded with verses that we like to turn into wrist bands, put on coffee mugs, and insert into framed pictures of flowers that hangs in our bathrooms (don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about). What if verses such as “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (1:6), “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (1:21), and “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (4:13) were not just words of warm encouragement, but rather words of extensive empowerment?
Paul most likely writes this letter while in prison around the year 62 A.D. The Philippians were the first European church Paul founded (Acts 16) and were very close to his heart. The apostle is not sure if he will be able to visit the church again because his execution may be in the near future. Therefore, he writes to them with a sense of passion and urgency. Imagine the words of a coach before the championship game, or the last words of a father on his death bed to his family.
Most likely Paul’s last word of pastoral counsel to the church can be boiled down to 3 intertwined themes:
- Living through the gospel of Christ (1:12, 25, 27, 3:12-16, 3:7, 4:4-9)
- Encouragement, comfort, and unity within the community (1:4, 7, 2:1-4, 19-30)
- Empowerment for the mission (1:6, 12-13, 21, 2:12-18, 4:13)
As we end the semester in the book of Phillipians I would encourage you to wrestle through the following questions:
- What did Christ die to save your for?
- How would you define community?
- How are you engaging in community? active member, or passive user?
- What does “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (1:21) mean?
- Is mission temporary or eternal?
- How does mission play through community (Living Rooms) and ministry (VI)?
I pray that over these next few weeks we will come under Paul’s encouragement and empowerment to continue the work God has started in us, continue to be rocked by the gospel, and continue to live in messy, genuine community in Christ.