Archives for posts with tag: Philippians

Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation;” (2 Peter 3:14–15 NAS95)

Peter is writing here about the Lord’s return and why it appears “delayed” to the saints in his own day.  He tells them to look for these things, meaning, look for the return of the Lord and the end of history when Jesus calls his church to himself.

Peter tells the saints to be prepared, or perhaps we could better write this, be preparing. Our aim is to be found in him spotless and blameless. The word that is translated “be diligent” means “to make every effort to do one’s best.” [CWSB] I like this choice of words from Peter.  It demonstrates that:

  1. We have work to do.  We don’t just sit back and become spotless and blameless by a process of osmosis, we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil 2.12)
  2. We won’t do this work perfectly. Doing one’s best does not imply perfection.  We aren’t perfect yet, and we won’t follow Peter’s admonition perfectly, but that isn’t the point.  The point is to try, to work to be diligent at it.
  3. The work done in our lives comes ultimately from the Spirit of God working within us.  Paul says elsewhere after his own admonition to work out our salvation, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Phil 2.13) What we cannot accomplish in our own strength, God can accomplish with his strength.



We are in Day 60 of our rapid trip through the NLT Chronological Bible, reading it as if it were a novel.  Today we cover several letters.  These are shorter letters from Paul and James which explains why we went through parts of four of them today.

In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul makes an extraordinary statement.  He writes: “For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ.” (Philippians 1:13, NLT) “The whole palace guard” was the Praetorian Guard which was responsible for the safety of Caesar.  This is amazing.  By approximately 64 AD, only 60ish years from the birth of Jesus, the message that he is the Messiah had reached deeply into the upper reaches of the Roman government.

James writes his letter explicitly to Jewish followers of Christ, which is important to understanding his message, especially when it comes to the connection between faith and works.  Paul had come along and emphasized salvation by faith alone.  Jewish people who had come to faith in Christ had been raised to believe that how they lived out their faith was very important.  We know that some people were coming in after Paul and saying that if you were to follow Jesus, then you must also follow the Law of Moses.  Who was correct?  What were these Jewish believers supposed to do?

James balances Paul by pointing out that works and faith can’t be separated.  If someone claims that they are saved and yet have no evidence in their lives of this change, then they are not really saved at all!  James writes: Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works. (James 2:26, NLT)

We call 1 Timothy and Titus, “Pastoral Letters, ” because they are written to individuals and deal mainly with how one leads the churches that had sprung up all over the Roman Empire.  As an example, while writing to Titus, Paul explains a characteristic that an elder (leader in the church) must have: “He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong. (Titus 1:9, NLT)

We see in these letters an early church that is both growing quickly and maturing as they begin to ask the question: “How are we to act as the church of Jesus given our particular situation and the culture in which we live?” The cultures and situations have changed since the time of Paul and James, but the question of how we are to act as a church of Jesus in our particular situation and culture is still a vital one today and these letters help us be both faithful to Jesus and contemporary in reaching our own culture and society for Jesus.

To this present hour we are hungry and thirsty,  poorly clothed,  knocked about, and homeless. (1 Cor 4.11, Mounce NT)

How can the guy (Paul) who wrote this, also write this?

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4.19)

This is a good demonstration of the importance of context. In our verse, Paul is addressing the Corinthian church and specifically responding to those who were lifting up their own reputations and denigrating that of Paul’s. Paul is emphasizing what preaching the gospel had cost him. In the second verse Paul is encouraging the Philippian church in the matter of giving, thanking them for the gift that they sent to support his ministry and promising that God will provide for their needs.

Our verse does, however, have a very good reminder for us. God, for his own wise purposes, sometimes strips everything away from us so that we are left in difficult circumstances. Here Paul and his fellow ministry companions have lacked food and lacked water and are dressed in clothes that are barely passable, indeed they labor for Christ having no permanent home. Did God abandon Paul? By no means. God was with Paul every step of every missionary journey as both the book of Acts and Paul himself tell us. However, God saw fit to bring Paul through terrible trials, in danger from robbers, in danger from wild animals, being shipwrecked, imprisoned and beaten in addition to the above. Why? God only knows. Ours is not to seek out an explanation for the particular situation into which God has placed us. Ours is to trust and be faithful in that situation.

They will be standing firm
Like a flourishing tree planted by God’s design,
Deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss;
Bearing fruit in every season of their lives.
They are never dry, never fainting,
Ever blessed, ever plentiful. Psalms 1:3 [Passion Translation]

This verse is from the Passion TranslationThe Passion Translation says of itself:

The Passion Translation is a groundbreaking attempt to re-introduce the passion and fire of the Bible to the English reader. It doesn’t merely convey the original, literal meaning of words. It expresses God’s passion for people and his world by translating the original, life-changing message of God’s Word for modern readers.

As you can see from Ps. 1.3, they do accomplish their mission of bringing “passion and fire” to the Scriptures.  Here I particularly like: Bearing fruit in every season of their lives.  They are never dry, never fainting.

This is something that God does.  We don’t need to spend a lot of time worrying whether we will bear fruit when we get to an age in which we think we won’t bear fruit.  Our responsibility is to draw ever closer to the Lord, God’s responsibility is to make sure that we bear fruit.  The apostle Paul put it this way:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, ESV)

You are planted by God’s design, dear reader, why would he abandon you to dry up and wilt away?

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” (Romans 13:11, NASB95)

“Salvation is nearer,” writes Paul.  The “nearer” here means nearer in point of time, rather than physically closer.

The Christian concept of time is not circular, as, for instance, the Hindu understanding of time.  God created the world (and time!) and ever since then time has been marching forward towards the cross and subsequently towards the salvation that awaits us at the end of the ages.  Salvation is nearer to we who believe now, than it was to Paul at the time he wrote this statement.

God is the author of time and is sovereign over time and men and nations.  He has a goal in mind: the summing up of all things in Christ and the salvation of his people, or as Paul puts it:

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17, ESV)

This is salvation.  This ushers in the end of history.  This is God’s great aim and purpose of the universe: to draw men to himself so that they will always be with the Lord, and to raise up Christ as the Name above all names:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9–11, ESV)

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73:25, ESV)

The psalmist in a succinct manner summarizes the truth that there is nothing in heaven or in earth that surpasses–or even comes close for that matter–to the excellencies of God the Father.  In all of heaven, God is the only thing worthy of our praise, glory, and honor.  When the earth with all its vast resources is studied carefully, all other things fail in comparison to a relationship with God.  There is truly nothing that we can desire that comes close to God the Father.  Paul will put the New Testament version of this verse in this manner:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8, ESV)

Everything else is rubbish and trash compared to the value of gaining Christ, of “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:14, NLT)

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14, ESV)

The ESV is quite literal here, the only problem being one wonders what “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus is.”  The NLT helps the reader out by giving a more interpretive, less literal translation.  Paul’s goal is to receive the “heavenly prize…through Christ Jesus” which one assumes is the same thing that Paul is speaking about in 1 Cor 9.24:“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.

The moment or event of salvation is not as important in the Scriptures as the means by which we live day to day in such a way that we might glorify God by persevering in the faith to the end of our lives.  This is the race we run and the prize is eternal fellowship with God in heaven.