Saturday, December 18, 2010

Philippians 1:20-21

C - commands (to obey)
P - promises (to claim)
W - warnings (to heed)
T - truths (about God)

These four things were taught to me by our church when my wife and I took a class called "Body Builders".  They relate to how we read God's Word, what we should look for in each passage.

So, when I read Philippians 1:20-21 recently, I applied these four things to the verses.
"... my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
(Philippians 1:20-21 NASB)

Do not be ashamed of Christ.  Exalt/honor Christ with/in my body.

If I obey these commands, I will not be put to shame before God. 

If I do NOT obey, I will be shamed before God.

To die and go before the face of God is GAIN!

I love my study bible(s).  One of them points out Matthew 10:32 in relation to the shame that Paul speaks of here.
"Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven."
(Matthew 10:32-33 NASB)
 Paul even references this later in one of his letters to his son in the faith, Timothy:
"If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us"
(2 Timothy 2:12 NASB)
So the promise/warning here is that if we are ashamed of Christ, He will 'return the favor' when we stand before God one day.

Now, the part that really fired me up and had me studying (the Word), and reading (commentaries), and listening (to sermons/podcasts) is verse 21:
"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
In a sermon I read on this passage, the pastor says,
"There aren't even any verbs in the Greek: living Christ, dying gain. I live only to serve Him, only to commune with Him, only to love Him. I have no concept of life other than that. 

Now follow this thought: He is saying I am totally wrapped up in Christ, loving Him, knowing Him, preaching Him, serving Him. Christ is the 'raison d'etre', the reason for my being, the reason for my existence. He doesn't mean Christ is the source of his life, though He is. He doesn't mean Christ lives in him, though He does. He doesn't mean Christ controls him, though He does. He doesn't mean that Christ wants him to submit to Him, though He does. 

He simply means living is Christ. Life is summed up as Christ. I'm filled with Christ. I am occupied with Christ. I trust Christ, love Christ, hope in Christ, obey Christ, preach Christ, follow Christ, fellowship with Christ, Christ is the center circumference of my life, it's all Christ. Christ and Christ alone is my inspiration, my direction, my meaning, my purpose...consumed, dominated by Christ."
That helped me to wrap my head around the first part of that verse, but the second is somewhat harder to swallow.  I guess the thing that makes that a little harder to understand is when I think of all of the wonderful blessings with which God has graced my life.  Specifically, I'm thinking of my wife and sons.  Which, of course, brings to mind Luke 14:26:
"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple." 
(Luke 14:26 NASB)

Wow!  Not the first time I'm reading that or anything, but WOW!  In light of my marriage and how much I treasure my wife; in light of holding my son when he was just born and watching him grow this last year... still, My Lord and Savior is reminding me that as much as I love that little boy, He (Christ) has to mean much more!  But the word "hate" here is tripping me up a little... ok, a lot.  Gotta go to the Greek.

The word is μισει (miseō) which is derived from the word μῖσος (misos). 

As far as I can tell, the word really does mean 'hate'.  However, I also need to take into consideration the context in which we find this word.

Looking at Matthew 10:37 where Jesus says pretty much the same thing, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."

The Greek there is ῾Ο φιλῶν πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ and comes out to literally say that "one that has affection for father or mother above me".  That helps... I get the impression that it isn't hate necessarily that's being advocated, but a picture of contrast is being drawn between where I place my affections.

This gets us back to verse 21 in Philippians 1, and "to die is gain".  Gain.  To die, leaving this fallen world, even with its temporal joys, and to enter into intimate, unhindered fellowship with Christ truly is gain.  How joyous that will be!

Now, perhaps there is a question or concern back in your mind about this.  Paul is telling us that while he's living on this earth, his life will be driven and focused only by Christ and preaching His Gospel.  I think it is right to say that by doing so he ultimately is pursuing his greatest joy.  Paul knows that when he dies he will be in the presence of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:6-8), and that hope brings him joy.  

To pursue our greatest joy is what God commands of us, and our greatest joy is found in Him.  And in this passage of his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul lays out in one sentence the dynamic balance between seeking to be obedient to God and pursuing joy.  They are not exclusive - instead, they are inexorably bound.

Of course, since that moment in Eden when man chose to seek his own joy apart from God, sin has offered up myriad options of lesser joy.  They do not seem to be lesser joys, 
what would be so tempting about sin if it didn't present itself as the joy that we seek.  
"Do you not know this from of old, since man was placed on earth, that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment?"
(Job 20:4-5 ESV)
Someone has put it like this: the world offers 95% joy, but why settle for that when we can have 100% joy in Jesus Christ?!?!  The obvious point Job is making is that joy of the godly is everlasting - forever.

We read in Psalm 16:11, "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."  And fullness of joy is exactly what Jesus wants for us.  Also we see in the following passages the coorelation between obedience and joy.
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.
When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
(John 16:20-24 ESV - emphasis mine)

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
(John 15:9-14 ESV - emphasis mine)

And we're only going to find true, everlasting joy in Him.  That's what this passage says and I believe it's exactly what Paul means when he says it.  A life pursuing Christ will be a life filled with eternal joy, and culminating with an eternity of joyous fellowship with the unending Fountain and Source of joy.

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
(Psalm 32:11 ESV)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

1 Thessalonians 1:7-8

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
(1 Thessalonians 1:1-10)


Verse 7
ὥστε γενέσθαι ὑμᾶς τύπους πᾶσι τοῖς πιστεύουσιν ἐν τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ καὶ τῇ ᾿Αχαϊᾳ.  (GNT)

so that you became models to all the ones believing in  Macedonia and  Achaia.

so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

v7:  continuing from v6, since they (the church in Thessalonica) had become imitators of Paul and those with him, they in turn have become examples for those in Macedonia and Achaia to imitate.  

There is an interesting word picture in here.  Paul says "that you became an example".

The word "example" is τύπους in the Greek.  It has in it the idea of being formed by striking, or by a blow.  Our word, "type", from which we get such ideas as "typewriter", "typeface", and "typeset" is derived from the Late Latin word "typus" (figure; form, type, character) which in turn is derived from the Greek word "tupos", τύπος (type; a die (as struck); a stamp or scar; by analogy, a shape; a statue, style or resemblance; specially, a sampler ('type'); a model (for imitation))

Think of an old typewriter, one that still has the arms that raise up to strike the paper.  This strike leaves an impression in the paper of the letter carried on that arm.  Perhaps it would be fair to say that the church in Thessalonica "left an impression" on "all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia".  Wouldn't it be encouraging to hear that our lives were so marked by the characteristics of Jesus Christ that people near and far saw us as examples of godliness and faithfulness?


Verse 8 

ἀφ᾿ ὑμῶν γὰρ ἐξήχηται ὁ λόγος τοῦ Κυρίου οὐ μόνον ἐν τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ καὶ  ἐν ᾿Αχαϊᾳ, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν παντὶ τόπω ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν ἡ πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν ἐξελήλυθεν,  ὥστε μὴ χρείαν ἡμᾶς ἔχειν λαλεῖν τι (GNT)

[2from 3you 1For 8has resounded 4the 5word 6of the 7Lord], not only in  Macedonia but in Achaia. But also in every place the belief of yours, the one towards  God, has gone forth, so as [3no 4need 1for us 2to have] to say anything. (AB)

For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. (ESV)

They proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ ("the word of the Lord"), and this was being carried "everywhere" from Thessalonica.  Without going into detail, this city was very important to the Macedonian region in terms of trade.  It was on the shore of a gulf, so many people from many different places passed through this city.  Undoubtedly, as the new church in Thessalonica was preaching the Good News, people would take word of this back home with them, and/or carry it on with them as they continued their travels.