The letter to the Philippians 3
by Mark Trodd
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To Know Him, the Power of His Resurrection, and the Fellowship of His sufferings
In Chapter One, Paul makes it clear that it is his desire to exalt Christ in his body, whether by life or by death. For him, to live is Christ , but to die is gain.
In Chapter Two, Paul explains to them that to follow Christ means to be like Him – specifically highlighting His humility and servanthood. In anticipation of the objection that such a standard is beyond us, Paul reminds them that God is at work in us both to will and work for His good pleasure. Paul points to Epaphroditus as an example to be followed.
In Chapter Three, Paul makes knowing and pleasing God the primary focus of our life as Christians. Heritage, past achievements and experiences are no substitute for a personal walk with God today. In Philippians 4:13, he encourages them to draw on the strength that is theirs in Christ; he speaks as one who knows firsthand what God can do when we trust Him.
1. Philippians 3:1-6 – A good foundation (heritage)is not enough.
Paul lists his credentials as a devout and learned Jew of the highest calibre, a Pharisee who knew the scriptures and had built his life on the testimonies and teachings of the past. Unfortunately, that was not enough to keep him from becoming a persecutor of the very Messiah or Christ that he had been waiting for. Jesus made it very clear that the scriptures (OT) spoke clearly and copiously about Him as the one who had been sent to redeem His people and remove the enmity between God and humanity. Paul must have been devastated when the Lord said to him, “Why are you persecuting Me?” No wonder he looked back at his past with mixed feelings.
“And they overcame him because of the BLOOD of the LAMB,
2. Philippians 3:7-16 – A good testimony (experiences) is not enough.
Believing the word is a two fold process. Firstly, we hear the testimony of another and make a decision about whether we trust them and/or deem their story to be plausible. Then, we seek out the God they have pointed us to with the purpose of gaining our own testimony.
Paul continues to reflect on his past and the testimony he had had up to the time he met Christ. After the Damascus road experience he came to realize, not that all that had gone before was rubbish but rather, that in comparison with knowing Christ it was all rubbish. There is no substitute for the real thing. We can’t live for long on someone else's testimony. When doubt sets in, we either try to counter it by becoming more zealous like Paul, or we give up.
Paul then emphasizes the importance of a daily walk with God. We can benefit from remembering yesterdays testimony, but we cannot live in the past or live off the past. We should learn from the successes and failures of yesterday, but then we have to set our minds on what lies ahead. Jesus said “Go... and lo, I will be with you even until the end of the age.” Matt 28:20. Walking by faith is about a new testimony every day.
..and because of the WORD of their TESTIMONY,
3. Philippians 3:17-21 – We need to walk by FAITH (relationship) and put GOD FIRST.
No one will make sacrifices for someone or something they don’t really believe in, let alone die for them. The knowledge that Paul talks about in v 10 is no mere information that he learned in a class or from his study of scriptures, it a relationship that he has been experiencing first hand. Faith is the path of risk and the path of blessing. Those who played it safe (stayed in the boat) could not know what those willing to abandon themselves to God (accepted the invitation to get out of the boat) knew.
It is the difference between the knowledge that the Pharisee’s had of Jesus as the stood around the cross and mocked him, and the knowledge that the thief had when he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” The Pharisees were theologians who knew their scripture, but the biblically illiterate thief knew Jesus. Guess who definitely went to paradise?
One of the major deficiencies in every debate between Christians and atheists about the existence of God is the lack of personal testimony. The atheist argues out of his ignorance – I dared God to show Himself to me and He didn’t turn up. He has no testimony so he can easily ignore the philosophical proofs for the existence of God; but a personal testimony cannot be so easily ignored, especially when the person sharing has a reputation for integrity.
We are not called on to give our best arguments for why God must exist, we are called on to give our testimony as to what we know ourselves. What people do with it is up to them. Even powerful testimonies like that of Paul, who actually believed and lived out and demonstrated the stuff he wrote about, fell on deaf ears. What sort of testimony do we have?
…and they DID NOT LOVE THEIR LIFE, even to DEATH.” Revelations 12: 11
1. Do we live lives of DEVOTION (What is right for the Kingdom – Gods strength zone) or EMOTION (What is right for me – My comfort zone)?
2. 1 Corinthians 16:5 speaks of Christians being addicted (devoted) to ministry, while I Corinthians 5:9-13 speaks of so-called brethren being addicted to the pleasures of life.
3. What does Paul exhort the Philippians to set their minds on in contrast to what he calls earthly things?
4. Are people rejecting our testimony because there is a discrepancy between the rhetoric and the lifestyle, or because they don’t want to know?
Final chapter coming soon.
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