Theme: Thoughts from the New Testament Epistles – Philippians & Colossians
In This Issue
- “Exhortation to Humble Service” (Phil. 2:1–30) by Hannah & Sarah Crawford
- “Paul’s Response to the Opponents of the Gospel: The True Source of Righteousness” (Phil. 3:1–21) by Randy Sexton
- “The Apostle Paul’s Labor for the Gospel” (Eph. 1:3 – 3:21) by Hannah & Sara Crawford
“Exhortation to Humble Service”
By Hannah & Sarah Crawford
What is humility and service? To some it may mean obeying our parents and not complaining about what we are asked to do. But in order to truly be active in humble service we must understand what God’s expectations are regarding these works. To gain that wisdom, we can read Philippians 2 and learn the many components of these two words. Humility, mentioned in verses 3 and 8, is described as putting away our “selfishness or empty conceit” and instead to “regard one another as more important than ourselves”. We are given the example of Christ’s humility in verse 8 when He sacrificed Himself for our needs. Just as Christ put His fleshly desires away to save us, we must be willing to put our lusts and passions to the side so that we might care for others. The word “willing” is key in these actions because God does not judge us by our outward appearance, but rather by our hearts (1 Sam. 16:7; Heb. 4:12). Humility is a matter of the heart and is not something that people are born with, but a quality that we learn and grow to understand through practice (Matt. 11:29).
Service is a word with many definitions, all of which depend on the context it is used in. We may think of worship services, serving food, or even serving a tennis ball. All of these examples involve a form of action, so we can conclude that service is not something passive that requires little effort on our part. Also, in every instance, service requires more than one person/entity to be involved. It’s not something we can sit in our rooms doing by ourselves. Philippians 2:17, 22, 30 all use the word service in regards to furthering the gospel. Our faith can be used not only as a service to the Lord, but as encouragement and edification to fellow brethren or nonbelievers. Just as our works are meaningless if our heart is not in the right place, faith without works is dead (James 2:17-22). Believing Jesus is Lord and God is our creator means nothing if we do not demonstrate that belief through our actions and lives. In Romans 13:14 we are given the command to “put on Jesus Christ” and by following His examples of humble service we show those of the world how they ought to be living their lives. As Moses condemned the world through his actions, we also condemn the world of their lusts and evil desires through the way we live our lives. We would like to leave the reader with one last command, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,” (Philippians 2:14-15).
“Paul’s Response to the Opponents of the Gospel: The True Source of Righteousness”
By Randy Sexton
The Apostle Paul is one of my heroes. Some of the first sermons that I preached were based upon things that he said. While still a teenager, and while still learning how to stand before a group of people to deliver a message from God’s Word, I developed sermons based on his epistles to various churches. Those passages are some of my very favorite in all of scripture.
Philippians contains many meaningful and touching words. My own sons hear me refer them quite often to the words of this epistle when they are mistreating one another out of selfishness. I remind them of the words, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul expresses the special significance that these saints had to him because of their continued support of him and his ministry. Writing from prison, he wants them to know that he is still in high spirits, because of the gospel. He expresses his desire for them to continue to progress in their spiritual growth.
In chapter 3, Paul begins to deal with those of his day who diluted the message of the gospel, by teaching that Christians had to obey all of the Old Testament ceremonial laws. He says that their motivation for this opposition is their “confidence in the flesh” (v. 3). He contrasts these opponents with the true people of God. Renouncing fleshly privilege for the sake of knowing Christ, he describes his progress in the gospel. Paul concludes this chapter with a call to the Philippians to follow his example of commitment to Jesus. One way to look at the contents of this chapter is under the three headings: Paul’s past (vv.1-11), Paul’s present (vv. 12-16) and Paul’s future (vv. 17-21).
Paul says that righteousness comes through Christ, not from the law. In another place, Paul calls it “letting Christ live in me” (Galatians 2:20). That process of letting Christ live in me is described by Paul in this epistle; he says it comes from God on the basis of faith. In describing all of the earthly privileges that he had willingly given up, he says, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith… “ (verses 7-9).
If my memory is accurate, my very first sermon was “The Four-Fold Secret of Success” based upon the thoughts expressed by Paul in verses 13 – 14 of this chapter, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The four points made in these verses is that righteousness comes from a sense of personal unworthiness, a singleness of purpose, oblivion of the past and having a spirit of progress.
A Sense of Personal Unworthiness
He says, “I do not count myself to have apprehended…” Paul had made much spiritual progress since the day he was baptized into Christ. But he was always acutely aware that it was only because of God’s grace that he was able to be forgiven of his past mistakes. It was through God’s power that he was chosen as an instrument for taking the gospel to the Gentiles. It was not because of the fleshly advantages that he outlines in verses 5 and 6.
Singleness of Purpose
He says, “but one thing I do ….” Paul focused his energies. He did one thing. He “pressed on.” A runner that enters a race undecided as to his purpose and direction never wins. A runner’s actions must be decided and effective. In the Christian race, we must make every step count.
Oblivion of the Past
He says, “forgetting those things which are behind….” Does it really matter what I have done in the past? In terms of my continued spiritual progress it does not. Our past sins and mistakes should keep us humble, but they should never hinder our forward progress in growing and maturing as a Christian.
Spirit of Progress
He says, “…reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul moved constantly forward. He likens the Christian life to running a race in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. His description implies continuous, intense action and movement in one direction – toward the mark. Like a runner, when we reach the mark, we will get the prize. In the Christian race, this prize is eternal life which Paul describes in II Timothy 4:7-8 with these words, “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
We would do well to imitate Paul’s example, as he urged the Philippians, to “keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us … “ and to beware of those who “…walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (vv. 17-19 – ESV). We would do well to remember the final words of the chapter, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” May the Lord bless you in your walk with Him.
“The Apostle Paul’s Labor for the Gospel”
By Hannah & Sarah Crawford
Many teachings have admonished Paul as being a great evangelist suffering for the mission of spreading God’s word. And while this is true, something for all of us to keep in mind is that Paul was a man and had faced sins of his own like we do today. We often look up to Paul without thinking ourselves capable of his perseverance and devotion. However we, just like Timothy, as disciples of God are commanded to “preach the word” in 2 Timothy 4:1-2. People will not always tolerate what we say and we may face persecution and suffering as Paul did, but we are still to spread the word. Where many may disbelieve there may also be one or two that fervently repent and seek the Lord. Are we to turn our backs and withhold the truth from those few just because our neighbors and friends might not like what we have to say? In Gal. 1:10 Paul asks the churches of Galatia “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?” Who are we trying to please with our lives? Matt. 6:24 tells us that “No one can serve two masters” and although the message is directed toward trying to serve God and wealth, we can apply it to our service to God or man. For what reward would we be able to reap by serving man for they cannot grant us eternal life as God can? We must also consider the fact that we are not giving God our best if our devotion is divided.
Through Paul’s example from our passage in Colossians we not only see that he suffered, but that he rejoiced in it. Paul’s attitude in serving God was one of joy. James 1:2-4 tells us to “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” because these trials will test our faith, endurance, and will allow us to fill any deficit of knowledge so that we may be “lacking in nothing”. If we spread God’s word with this attitude then regardless of how people may respond, at the least we will grow in knowledge and understanding that may encourage one another as well. Paul states this as his purpose in Col. 1:28-29 “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ”. True, we are not perfect, but we are capable of striving towards perfection through Christ’s sacrifice that cleanses us of our sins. We are to be encouraged by Paul’s example knowing that the love we have for one another and God will tie our hearts together so that we might labor for the “hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge” through Jesus Christ.