Philippians (#3)

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Back to Philippians this week. But with huge thanks to Janie & Ron for all their work to share what they are learning right now, what they are wrestling with, and how scripture is coming alive to them in the process.
To recap, we began our look at this letter Paul wrote to the community of believers at Philippi back in the beginning of July. When we read letters like this one, we only get part of a larger conversation, we don’t know what they had written to Paul or what they will write in response. We also know that correspondence like this is only part of their relationship - Paul has visited and they have sent people to visit Paul and to supply him. So it’s just one little piece of their relationship.
An overview of the whole letter:
Nijay Gupta’s "rundown” of Paul’s Letter to the Philippian church…
The gospel, despite our assumptions and fears, is unstoppable. It is like a rushing river unimpeded by persecutors, chains, and even the death of human leaders. (Phil 1:1-30) (July 3 and 10, review on August 7)
The story of Jesus Christ guides the way to what it means to live a victorious life that models humility, obedience to God the Father no matter what, and unconditional love for others. It is this kind of life that God honours and rewards. (Phil 2:1-30)
(August 7 and 14)
The gospel demands, not a modification of values and allegiances, but a complete transformation towards cruciformity and Christoformity. True life and resurrection glorification only exist on the far side of conforming to the life- and especially the death - of Christ. (Phil 3:1-21)
(August 21)
The God of the gospel is a God of peace. Many live with anxiety and fear, but Christians ought to be filled with joy, thanksgiving, and hope. Let us come together in partnership and worship to praise the God of good news. (Phil 4:1-23)
(August 28)
Today, we pick up with the end of chapter 1 and the first part of Philippians chapter 2…
READING: Marlene
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[a] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature[b] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[c] of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Whatever happens… that’s quite a way to begin.
What does Paul mean by that exactly? The bulk of chapter 1 is about Paul’s situation and it’s precariousness. He cannot promise he will be released from prison. He cannot promise to come and see them. But he has taken great pains to communicate that their flourishing will not be a result of Paul’s situation resolving itself in a particular way. And so he can say, WHATEVER HAPPENS.
Well, he has referenced the reality that he could be facing death, so even if I die… whatever happens.
People are stirring up trouble. People are preaching the gospel will all sorts of secondary motivations.
Whatever happens, the gospel is unstoppable.
Whatever happens, your model for your public and community ethos is Jesus.
The gospel is unstoppable.
The story of Jesus is our model - especially His death and resurrection.
The gospel will transform us to look like Jesus. (Cruciform)
The transformation will be recognizable: lives filled with peace, joy, thanksgiving and hope.
Lives that are lived in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus are those that are lived with Jesus as the model - especially his death and resurrection.
And so Paul says, Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Live as courageous gospel citizens… standing firm with a single spirit, struggling side by side with one united intent for the faith of the gospel, not intimidated.
You might notice that Paul is using military metaphors here. And Gupta writes:
“This imagery was fitting, because in the Roman world, soldiers were held up in society as models of courage and determination.”
You might also notice that Paul’s words here are not written to individuals who are part of a community, but to the community itself. Fight TOGETHER - with coordination and cooperation - Paul is reminding the Philippians that we all need one another. Even Paul. Even the Philippians. Even us.
How do we do this? How do we stand together, united?
Christ is our model for “humility, obedience to God, justice in the world and personal integrity in all things.”
2:1-4 Let Humility, Unity and Love Guide You
Humility -
- but also in an honour-seeking culture, a countercultural move to consider others as superior, enables the Christian to care for others
“In Roman perspective, there was no such virtue as “humility.” Life’s goal was to demonstrate superiority.”
So the example of Jesus is stunningly countercultural. To Roman culture. And to our own.
“Moving up” is something we also have in modern culture. But Jesus demonstrates that the way up is down. And that the One with the most power is also the One who lays that power down.
2:5 sets up the reader’s orientation to the hymn/ode - not just a song, but also a model
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
PHRONEO - a word which refers to the direction or orientation of one’s thought.
Used in Phil 2:2 make my joy complete by being like-minded
Used in Phil 2:5 same mindset
Used in 3:15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind (phroneo); and if you think (phroneo) differently abut anything, this to God will reveal to you.
Used in 3:19 Their end is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind (phroneo) is set on earthly things.
Used in 4:2 I urge Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mind (phroneo) in the Lord.
So in their relationships with one another they are to find a common orientation of thought… to be likeminded in that they are heading in the same direction.
The Christ Hymn - possibly something Paul is using, possibly something Paul composed. Scholars have a variety of opinions…
2:6 opening scene, not grasping, clinging or for exploitation...
2:7 kenosis - self-emptying - from the heights of heaven and endless glory to human and humble flesh, like a human king becoming a slave,
2:8 but then not only that but death… and death by shameful crucifixion - a “demeaning form of execution”
2:9 BUT then… Jesus self-emptying takes him as low as he can go, and then God raises Him to the highest of heights… and in the end ALL beings will bow down.
So, we are to have the same mindset, the same orientation of thought that Jesus had… and, that means embracing humility…
Humility - not doormat self-esteem, not false humility (humble on the outside, arrogant AF on the inside), low aspirations … but what is it then?
Gupta suggests the following:
The humble know they are not self-sufficient.
The humble recognize that they are very small when compared to the greatness of God.
The humble focus on care and concern for others.
Humility is not about a position, it is a disposition, especially characterized by kindness and grace towards others.
And humility supports unity. If we want to be unified with one another, humility is the starting place.
Review: The Gospel, despite our assumptions and fears, is unstoppable. It is like a rushing river unimpeded by persecutors, chains, and even the death of human leaders. (Phil 1:1-30)
Add: The story of Jesus Christ guides the way to what it means to live a victorious life that models humility, obedience to God the Father no matter what, and unconditional love for others. It is this kind of life that God honours and rewards. (Phil 2:1-30)
Communion - a table where we re-orient ourselves, as individuals yes, but also as a community. This meal is the place where we literally come to our shared centre, where we find acceptance and welcome from Jesus who invites us here, but then also, we are empowered to offer that acceptance and welcome to one another. We find here, in the humble host, the unity the flows from humility.
In another of Paul’s letters, he wrote to the church at Corinth:
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’
In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying,
‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Loving God, we praise and thank you for your love shown to us in Jesus Christ. We thank you for his life and ministry, announcing the good news of your kingdom and demonstrating its power in the lifting of the downtrodden, and the healing of the sick, and the loving of the loveless. We thank you for his sacrificial death upon the cross for the redemption of the world, and for your raising him to life again, as a foretaste of the glory we shall share.
We give you thanks for this bread and wine, symbols of our world and signs of your transforming love.
Send your Holy Spirit, we pray, that we may be renewed into the likeness of Jesus Christ and formed into his Body. This we pray in his name and for his sake. Amen.
SHARING THE BREAD When the minister has broken the bread and placed a portion on each plate, the bread shall be distributed with words such as Take this in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving.
SHARING THE WINE The wine is distributed. If individual glasses are used and the wine is retained to be drunk together, then the minister may say Drink this and remember that Christ’s blood was shed for you and be thankful.
May you go forth with humble hearts, ready to serve your neighbour and a world in need.
And as you go, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The love of God
And the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit
be with you, now and always.
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