Philippians - To Live Is Christ

God's grace be yours as we begin a new journey together. We turn our attention for the foreseeable future to the book of Philippians and we hear the encouraging words the apostle Paul speaks to us.

The city of Philippi has an interesting history. What brought first recognition to this city was the discovery of gold in the surrounding mountains. Philip the second of Macedonia who was Alexander the great's father, capitalized on this discovery to finance his army and his conquests. Following the death of Philip and the ascension of Alexander this city continued to provide the resources necessary to fund the Greek army. The city was rebuilt and named Philippi after Alexander's deceased father.

Forward in history, after Brutus and Cassius murdered Julius Caesar Octavian who was Caesar’s nephew went to war with Brutus. His first encounter was an utter failure an Octavian’s troops had to withdraw. Their second meeting took place near the city of Philippi were Octavian soundly defeated Brutus. History is unclear on the details it was following this battle and the subsequent defeat of Anthony by Octavian, and thus Octavian’s rise to improve that the city of Philippi was made a Roman colony, with all the rights and privileges of a roman city. The Roman rebuilding of this city included an amphitheater that seated over 50,000 people. He became an extremely wealthy center of trade and held a reputation within the empire, even though the gold mines had been exhausted.

It is in Acts chapter 16 when Paul receives a vision in which a man of Macedonia is calling to him to come and help them. This was no doubt the spirit of God directing Paul to travel from Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey, into Greece.  He entered into a new region, and a new mission field, Paul makes his way directly to the city of Philippi which is the major city in that region of the nation.  

Upon arriving in Philippi Paul immediately seeks out the Jewish community where he would preach Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfillment of all god's promises, to the Jews first. Since the Jews were often considered a very unusual sect, they were made to worship outside the city of Philippi. The place where they worshipped was near a river, and it was their place of prayer. Paul's first Sabbath day there he goes to the river and meets with primarily women, which may indicate a very small Jewish community. Lydia, the seller of purple, was one of the first converts and the region.  

It was also here, after many days of preaching, that Paul became annoyed with a demon possessed girl who kept following them around and proclaiming that they were servants of the most high God. Having evidently listened to her long enough, Paul cast the demon out of her. The men who owned her seeing that their profit margin was now taken away had Paul and Silas arrested and thrown in jail. They were beaten and put in stocks. In the middle of the night as they were singing and praying an earthquake shook the jail, opened the doors, and their shackles fell off. The Philippian jailer was about to commit suicide believing he had lost all of his prisoners when Paul and Silas called out that everyone was present and accounted for. The Philippian jailer then became a Christian and he and his whole household were baptized.

It was during these events that the magistrates of the city discovered that Paul was a Roman citizen and trembled with fear having beaten a Roman citizen without a trial. It is because of this Paul has the upper hand for a while.

Paul's journey to Macedonia and the establishment of the church at Philippi took place around the year 50AD.  It was approximately a dozen years later while Paul is imprisoned that he writes the letter we have before us today. It is a letter of encouragement, and one of the few letters where Paul is not addressing problems and issues in the church. This letter will lift up our spirits and encourage us in our faith. May we take the heart the words of Paul.

Paul's opening greeting is typical for his letters. He states who the letter is from, who it is too, and speaks of God's grace and their lives.
Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Philippians 1:1-2

This is the first journey in which Timothy has joined him. Timothy is young and is just beginning his training to serve God with his life. It is probably no mistake that Paul uses the term bond servant to identify himself and Timothy. This is one who serves because he literally belongs to another.  As servants of Jesus Christ Paul would have understood that he belonged to Christ, having been bought and paid for by the bloodshed upon the cross.

He addresses the letter to the Saints in Jesus Christ who were in Philippi. In the same way Paul and Timothy were bought and paid for by the blood of Christ and were now servants, so those who were in Philippi had been redeemed by the same blood and declared wholly unacceptable before God. Thus, Paul declares them to be Saints.

Paul then identifies both the means and the end result, but the blood of Christ brings to an individual's life. First there is The grace of God, that unmerited favor by which the love of God is poured out upon us giving to us what we neither deserve nor could ever earn for ourselves. Because the grace of God is present there is peace. Peace unlike any other available in the world. This is peace in the heart, peace in the conscience, peace with God. This peace stems from the grace of God in Christ.

God is now our Father and Jesus is our Lord.  We have been reconciled to God and we both belong to Him and are blessed by Him.

In Christ,
Pastor Russ

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