Sermon Follow Up- Week 3, 2022
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:1–2, ESV)
We can experience indestructible joy that is produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ displayed in the gospel and in God’s people.
CHRISTIAN JOY OVERVIEW
There are some significant questions about happiness or joy that the Bible answers very differently than our secular culture and every other religion. Like these:
- What is the source of ultimate happiness or joy?
- Does happiness or joy depend on circumstances?
- Is sorrow inconsistent with happiness or joy?
- How do I experience happiness or joy?
We will discover the answer to each of these questions in our series in Philippians. Let’s consider for a moment a helpful definition on Christian Joy that will guide us as we go through this series.
Christian joy is an emotion we experience that is produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ displayed in the gospel and in God’s people.
Few points to observe in this definition. First, joy is an emotion we experience. Joy is not a decision we make nor is it simply agreement with biblical truth. If your relationship with the Lord is only characterized by believing right things about God or doing things for God and not a genuine joy in the Lord, you are missing out. I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty, rather, I want you to know that there is so much more available. There are real emotions of joy and satisfaction that you can experience in your relationship with Christ.
Second, since joy is an emotion, you can not conjure it up when you want., Christian joy must be produced by the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in another one of his letters that joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 5:22-23). The work of the Holy Spirit is significant in Philippians as well. (Phil 1:19; Phil 2:1; Phil 3:3)
Third thing to notice is that Christian joy is rooted in the fixed realities about the beauty of Jesus Christ displayed in the gospel. We cannot experience Christian joy outside the Lord Jesus Christ. Who he is, and all that he has done for us in the gospel. Paul’s greatest joy is seeing, knowing, and relating to Jesus Christ as the source of his highest joy. And through this letter, he wants the Philippians, and us to experience this as well. (Phil 3:1; Phil 4:4)
Finally, and Christian joy is inextricably linked to God’s people. You cannot read this letter without seeing Paul’s joy in the Philippians. This is not something we often think about in our westernized Christianity that is very individualistic. But I think we miss out on the depth of joy that is available in the friendships and relationships we have in the church. (Phil 4:1)
HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF PHILIPPIANS
Who is Paul?
Much of what we learn about Paul is from his other letters in the New Testament and the book of Acts. Paul, also known as Saul, was a strict Pharisee. He was zealous for his Jewish faith that he sought to destroy the early church by persecuting Christians. But something happened one time when he was on his way to persecute Christians - Jesus appears to him radically transforms the life of this ruthless murderer. God intervened in Paul’s life in such a clear and personal way because God had chosen him to declare the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles and to suffer for the name of Christ (Acts 9:15-16). Paul would be on the receiving end of suffering for the rest of his life, even until his death (2 Cor 11:24-28).
- If Paul’s life would be one that is characterized by suffering, why is Paul’s letter to the Philippians overflowing with joy?
Who are the Philippians?
Let’s briefly recount the events surrounding the planting of this church from Acts 16. Paul and Silas start in Jerusalem go through the regions in Galatia to strengthen some of the churches Paul had planted earlier. This is where Paul initially meets Timothy who joins him on their journey. But as they continued, they were prevented by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the gospel in Asia. When they get to Troas, which is at the northern tip of Asia, Paul receives a vision from God in which he sees a man desperately asking them to come preach the gospel in Macedonia. Philippi was an important city in Macedonia, it was a city of military and political power in the Roman empire and Paul and Silas decide to start their ministry here. Paul and Silas were in Philippi only for a few short days, but a lot happened in a short period of time. There was a wealthy woman named Lydia, who is the first person to get saved and then her whole household also gets saved and her home becomes the place where the first Christians in that city initially gathered to worship. By the time Paul and Silas left in Philippi consisted of a diverse group of believers - a wealthy merchant Lydia and her family, maybe a slave girl, and a Roman jailer and his family.
Why did Paul write this letter?
This letter was written by Paul in about 62 A.D. while he was imprisoned in Rome where he awaits his final trial before Caesar, and it is from there that he writes this letter. The Philippians love Paul and when the Philippians hear that Paul is in prison, they sent a representative from their church, Epaphroditus, with a gift from the church – probably some financial and material needs that would help Paul continue his ministry from prison. Epaphroditus also tells Paul about the situation back in Philippi and then returns to the Philippians with this letter.
This letter is first and foremost a letter of thanksgiving to the Philippians because of their friendship and support that Paul received from them. But Paul also uses this opportunity to address some of the issues that the church was facing. Epaphroditus lets Paul know that the church was struggling because they were facing opposition from outside the church. Not only that, but there was also internal unrest in the church. There seems to be some conflict between two significant women leaders in the church that was affecting the unity of the church. So, this church was facing adversity, from the outside and from within. And because of this, they had lost their sense of Christian joy and were tempted to abandon their struggle. So, Paul, who is well experienced in suffering of many kinds hopes that through this letter they can once again regain their joy in the Lord in the midst of suffering and trials.
- Paul had a trial looming over his head that had a potential sentence of death. Why do you think he was able to be joyful in the midst of these circumstances
- How do you reconcile the co-existence of suffering and joy in your life?
CAPTIVATED BY JESUS CHRIST (Philippians 1:1-2)
1. We are servants of Christ (Philippians 1:1a)
The word here for servant is doulas which is most appropriately means slave when translated. To think of ourselves as servants or slaves goes against our sense of personal autonomy and freedom that we prize so much. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 7:22-23 that to be a slave of Christ means to understand that we were bought with a price and no longer our own. The gospel has worked in Paul’s life in such a deep way that being considered a slave for Christ is a source of comfort and joy for him. What does the first question of the New City Cathecism say?
Q1: What is our only hope in life and death?
That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.
I know personal autonomy and freedom are very much prized in our culture. Americans especially hate being told what to do – we love our freedoms. But freedom to do whatever we want is not the key to joy and satisfaction in this life. Joy comes by recognizing that we are not our own but have been bought with the costly price of the blood of Christ. And belonging to our good and gracious Master is our only source of joy in life or in death.
- What would it look like for you to see yourself as a servant or slave of Christ?
- How would it impact your personal and family priorities? Your finances?
2. We are saints in Christ (Philippians 1:1b)
Paul wants the Philippians to know that this letter is addressed to all of them in the church, but he also wants to recognize the leaders of the church. Overseers is another term for elders or pastors in the church who are tasked with shepherding, governing, teaching, and caring for the church. Deacons are leaders in the church who assist the elders by caring for physical and practical needs in the church.
What is significant here is that Paul refers to all the Philippians as saints. The word means to be holy, set apart, pure, blameless. Worthy to stand before the presence of God. But how is that possible? How can sinful people like Lydia, the jailer, Paul, Timothy, you and I be called holy, how can we stand in his presence? How can sinful creatures like us survive in the presence of God who is holy!? The answer lies in the qualifying phrase, we are saints, in Christ Jesus. We are not saints because of any good deeds we have done, but because we have been set apart, called holy, blameless because of the one who took the penalty for our sin and gave us his righteousness. In Christ is Paul’s way of saying, that those who trust in Jesus are so tightly bound to Jesus that his obedience, sacrifice and resurrection life become ours.
- Is being a saint in Christ Jesus a source of joy and comfort for you today? How so?
3. We have grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:2)
These words act as a blessing and a prayer that becomes the very means by which he expects the Philippians to experience the tangible reality of grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul expects that the grace that comes to the Philippians through this letter with continue to abide with them as they carry these words with them.
By grace, Paul is referring to the grace that we receive through Jesus – who for our sake laid down his life on our behalf, so that we can be reconciled to God. And the peace Paul is referring to here is the peace that we have with God because of his grace. Our relationship with God is no longer characterized by hostility because of sin, but by peace because of the sacrifice of Jesus that assuages the wrath of God. The Philippians are being reminded that they have already received grace and peace in the gospel. But through this blessing, Paul is also praying that they would experience more grace and more peace from God through this letter. And that would be a source of joy for them. I pray the same for us.
- Is being a slave of Christ and a saint in Christ a source of joy in your life?
- Background, Overview, Outline and Major Themes in Philippians - Dan Wallace
- Joy in the book of Philippians - John Piper
Songs to Encourage:
Listen to the album on the book of Philippians by the musical group Psallos as they provide a journey through Paul’s letter with lyrics that are rich in biblical theology. Here is a review of this album by The Gospel Coalition. I pray that listening to this album over the next several months around the house or while you are driving would serve to cement some of the significant themes of this letter. You can listen to the album on Spotify, YouTube, or on their website.