Acts 16 continues to inform our introduction to Philippians. Acts 16:22-30 is important to Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul suffered injustice, beating, and imprisonment while he was in Philippi.
When Paul writes to the Philippians the focal point is joy derived from immersion in Christ that enables perseverance in the faith and unity with fellow Christians. A large part of that perseverance is done in the face of persecution. And while Paul was founding the church at Philippi his suffering yielded fruit, a new church. Now when Paul tells the Philippians to persevere as he has done (1:27-30), they will understand.
The United States is a difficult place to suffer, mostly because we can’t tell when we’re suffering and when we should be suffering. The consequences of speaking God’s truth, living under His Word as our ultimate authority, spreading the gospel of Christ as the only Savior and Lord are all things we will be pursecuted for. Do we speak against lying and divorce as well as abortion, gay-marriage? If we are not being pursecuted then we have ample reason to question how rigorous our pursuit of God is. Are we following hard after Jesus Christ? Is our only offense an offense contained in the gospel (as it should be)? Do we read Philippians with a desire and need for the joy in Christ it conveys? Or are we seeking joy from pleasing others and making sure we avoid any pursecution?
As we continue the introduction to our study of Philippians, we look to Acts 16 again.
Acts 16:6-9. Paul travels toward Asia and toward Europe. On this journey the Holy Spirit turns them from Asia and the Spirit of Christ turns them from Bithynia. Using a dream God directs Paul to Macedonia. These few lines testify to God’s sovereignty in salvation and its complexity. God directs Paul to avoid whole regions and instead directs him to a particular city and town, Macedonia and, specifically, Philippi.
God’s sovereign control of salvation is vivid in the Bible. His love acting in patience is the reason any are saved (2 Peter 3:9,15). Yet if God is sovereign, which we know (Romans 9:16), and not all are saved (Matthew 25:46), then God has decreed that some will not be saved (Romans 9:18-22). If this is not true then God is not sovereign.
Just like Acts 16, God sends His gospel to those He’s saving and withholds its power when it is not the right time or not His chosen people. The church at Philippi had to be founded at that time. And God made sure He put obedient Christians there to spread the gospel.
When is the last time you reflected on God’s grace in your salvation? What great and small circumstances did He construct so that you would hear the gospel and believe? Did He organize a worship service or a late-night meeting or a dinner or the placement of a gospel tract? How gracious has God shown Himself when He saved you? And how will He use you to save others? Are you an example of Christian piety? Are you the compassionate one at work/school? Do you love to relate your faith and mention the name of Jesus in any conversation you can? How will God use you to spread the power of His saving gospel?
This study was originally planned to go a little faster. But we had our first child last Saturday (5/9) so that, rightly, delayed it a bit.
For this one I’d like to go through Acts 16 to get the background of Paul’s founding of the church at Philippi.
Acts 16:1-3. Luke tells of Timothy joining Paul on his missionary journey. This is important because Paul begins the letter to the Philippians with, “Paul and Timothy,” which is unusual for Paul. But this church did know Timothy. And as we will see, Paul is eager to keep good examples before the the Philippians, including Christ, himself, Timothy, and Epaphroditus (2:1-2, 19-22, 29, 3:15).
How are we making good use of examples? As we read through Philippians we will come across many topics/themes, characters, and instructions. The most important will be Christ. Great insight is given to help us see Christ. We should use that to better follow his example. Then, as Paul presents other examples, we should compare their actions with Scripture and resolve to follow them as far as they follow the Scripture. So to apply this, who are your examples? How well do you know the Christ of the Bible? Are you being mentored by someone who you are convinced is following hard after Christ so that you can follow them as well (1 Corinthians 11:1)?
I’m going to start a study through Philippians in my Sunday school this week. I thought I’d do several blog posts to meditate through the things I’m learning.
I’m using The New International Greek Testament Commentary by O’Brien. I also have Boice’s Philippians: An Exegetical Commentary along with MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary on Philippians. Calvin’s commentary on Philippians is online so I’ll be using it as well. I hope to also use The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge edited by Jerome H. Smith.
I’ll mainly be using the English Standard and New American Standard Bibles. As I’m trying to continue my studies in Greek I will also include my Greek New Testament and A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG) as much as the school library will let me see it when I’m off of work.