I Thank My God

May the joy of your salvation be manifested in your life today!

As we begin to delve into this wonderful letter of the Apostle Paul, it is important that we seek to gain and understanding of his purpose for writing it.  Generally, Paul has a very ominous reason for the letters he writes.  Apart from the personal letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, the letters he writes to congregations are usually to address issues which have arisen in the church.  When you look at Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians it is easy to read between the lines and discern the false doctrine which is being taught.  Paul is diligent to clarify the Gospel and proclaim salvation by grace through faith to those who are becoming confused.

Philippians is different! When Paul takes pen in hand and begins to write this letter, he is not writing to clarify his teachings.  He is not scolding them for quickly turning to a different Gospel.  Paul is not even addressing conflict in the congregation.  Paul is writing to express his thankfulness and joy for these faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who are in Philippi!

Hear his opening words, I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.  For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6

In this opening statement Paul addresses three things. The first is that he is filled with joy as he prays for the church and all those who are God’s children in that place.  In a world filled with so many false religions, all of which are hostile toward Jesus, and governments which seek to eradicate the name of Christ, to know there are Christians in other parts of the world should move us to pray.  

What is it specifically Paul speaks of which brings him joy?  He is remembering them, and no doubt his time with them as the church began.  He is remembering them as they labored together.  He is remembering them and the relationships which were born in the midst of the struggles.  Paul says it this way, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

What does it mean, this “participation” in the Gospel?  To participate in something together is to share in something.  These Christians in Philippi share something with Paul, and it is more than their history together.  They share in the Gospel.  This is a sharing in what was past, a sharing in what is present, and a sharing in what will come in the future.

Paul shares a history with his readers, at least those who were part of the church during his time of service in Philippi.  Truly, in a sense, he is sharing even with the newer members through his teachings which were entrusted to the leaders of the church.

In the present tense, Paul continues to share with the Philippians the joy of the Gospel ministry.  Wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being made known, there is a fellowship with all others who are engaged in the same work for the Lord.  To know there are churches and Christians down the street who are worshiping God and sharing His message of grace should bring us joy.  In the same way, to know there are Christians in China, Russia, India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Africa, and many other hostile nations who are living for Christ and sharing the Gospel, even to the point of sacrificing their physical lives, should bring us joy.  Jesus is being made known, Light shining into the darkness.

 It is in this light that Paul speaks a heartfelt joy of their participation together because he is writing as one who is imprisoned for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  From his life of captivity, with a Roman guard constantly at his side, Paul speaks of the joy they share in the Gospel.  Paul understands it is very likely that he will be executed because of his faith in Christ and his service to Jesus.  In life or in death the relationship they share in Jesus through the Gospel will not change. Christ has not just joined them together in this life, but for all eternity as the Children of God.

Paul concludes these opening words by saying, For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus.  In this statement Paul reminds them, and us, that our salvation is not our doing. They did not come to Christ, rather Christ came to them and drew them unto Himself.  God by his grace began this good work in them and Paul is confident that God will continue to work in their lives until the day comes that they stand face to face with Jesus.

The key comes in understanding what he means by the statement that God will complete the good work He began.  There are no doubt implications concerning the maturity of faith, and the working out of faith in life as they serve Christ on a daily basis. But under the circumstances of imprisonment and impending death, Paul is more likely addressing the fact that God will keep them in the faith until the day comes that they are together in heaven. Paul is confident that God is able to bring them fully to the point of death in the faith. Is this not the desire of God's heart for every Christian? Is it not God’s desire for everyone who names the name of Christ to hold on to Him through faith until their life in this world is ended. It is only then that the full realization of the joy Paul speaks of can happen. That is when the child of God is restored to the Father and reunited with all who have gone before them. This is the true source of Paul’s joy, and ours!

In Christ,
Pastor Russ

No Comments




no categories