The Philippian Letter: Chapter 2

philippians

In our last lesson, we started this series in Philippians 1, and we spent some time looking at the dire situation Paul was in while imprisoned in Rome. We saw his joy and gratitude at the proclamation of Christ’s message and how his entire life had become wrapped up in Christ’s mission. Joy and thankfulness — these are possible in Paul’s life because of his complete faith and trust in Christ despite his current troubles.

Working for Unity

This congregation got its start in Acts 16 where Paul found a collection of people praying by the river. There he meets a businesswoman named Lydia. She was a successful woman, and she also had a good heart. She was not a Jew, but she had adapted to Jewish customs. Paul’s message awakened something within her, and she dedicated herself to Christ.

At the other end of the social spectrum, we meet a jailor. Here is one who lives and dies by the order of Roman society, and he makes a major decision when an earthquake comes and opens up the cells he tends. When he sees Paul and Silas still there with the other prisoners, something clicks. He then responds to the message of Christ. Starting with these two individuals — a successful businesswoman and a Roman jailor — a church grows in Philippi.

These two individuals represent the diversity contained in Philippi and should comprise any church of Christ. Philippians chapter 2 calls us to unite in diversity, having the same mind, love, and faith. Paul calls on us to abandon self-interest and hold others above ourselves. When we can do this, we can put aside rivalries and divisions that can upset the unity of Christ’s church. We are all individuals, but we hold each other up so that we can grow into something better.

Humble Like Christ

Philippians 2:5 – 18 then distills the gospel message down to its most basic elements. It’s that we should conduct ourselves as Christ did, that we should be humble as He was humble, that we should do all things without complaint and to the glory of our God. Though Christ had equality with God, He did not covet that position. He gave it up to be like us, and He did so because He put our spiritual needs and the will of the father above Himself.

Because He followed the will of the Father and looked out for our best interests, He is now glorified. He endured pain and suffering to give us hope for eternity. When we face our own periods of helplessness and hopelessness, we should look up to the source of our hope, and we should look out for the interests of others. We can endure as Christ endured when we put others before ourselves and focus first on our Father’s plan for us.

A Personal Salvation

In verse 12, Paul makes it clear that no one can do this for me. I have to have an investment in my own salvation, and that will take effort. This is to God’s glory, and that is why we can keep up our Christian walk without complaint. It is because we know we are doing it for God and not for ourselves. It is because we are focused on something better than this world. It is so easy for negativity to overwhelm us, but we can keep it at bay through our faith and hope in God. This sets us apart and makes us lights to the world.

No matter the challenges we face, we can remain faithful. Even approaching potential death, Paul could remain joyful in the Lord. In prison, Paul could remain thankful. We can follow his example, and we can live the way Christ showed us as lights to the world, looking to God and others before ourselves, and humbling ourselves so that His glory might shine in us.

lesson by Donn Koonce