(Today’s post by Adam Cooper)
Whenever I read Scripture like Philippians it amazes me. Paul is in chains. He is locked up for defending the Gospel of Christ. In spite of his imprisonment he sees the Gospel spreading and he works tirelessly to continue to support the churches that he has helped start. He knows that he is in God’s hands and he remains dedicated to the cause. I look at myself and wonder what my reactions would be if I were in Paul’s sandals?! I can’t say that I would be as positive and motivated as Paul is. I can’t say that I would be so worried about those outside my predicament. I would like to say that I could respond in a manner similar to Paul’s; none of us know what we would do until we are in that position. There are some that would say that being caught in the world in which we live is similar to being in a prison. As a Christian we are chained to the temptations and empty promises of this world and it is only through our relationship with Christ that we are able to survive without becoming a vile reflection of that which attempts to draw us away every day.
In verses 19-30 of Philippians 2 Paul is speaking to the Philippians through a letter which he plans to send to them by way of Timothy and Epaphroditus. Paul is building Timothy up in the text of this letter so that the Christians in Philippi will receive him and listen to him as they have received and listened to Paul. Through Paul’s support of Timothy it is clear that he values Timothy and loves him like a father would a son. Paul also talks about sending back Epaphroditus, a man that was sent from the church at Philippi to tend to Paul’s needs where he was imprisoned. Epaphroditus is homesick and worried about those who may have heard he had been ill and feared the worse. Paul reassures them that he is fine and tells them how he almost lost his life for the cause of Christ. It is almost as if Paul wants to send him back to spare himself the sadness of his death. Verse 27 Paul says, “to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.”
This portion of Philippians is nothing more than an excerpt from a letter. I don’t know that there is any deep doctrinal nugget that can be taken away from these verses. However, knowing that all Scripture is intended for a purpose I believe the biggest takeaway from these verses is perseverance and selflessness in the cause of Christ. We see Paul’s perseverance to continue lifting up the church and its helpers as he sits in prison, and his selflessness in the way he has given of himself, even to the point of imprisonment, so that others may be saved. We see Timothy’s perseverance to stay with Paul in spite of the danger to his own life since his mentor sits in prison, and we see his selflessness through his dedication to Paul and the churches that have been started. We also see the perseverance of Epaphroditus who almost died but survived to return home to his family, and we see his selflessness in his willingness to face death for the cause of Christ. Another aspect of this small portion of this letter are two small words or phrases that truly indicate the nature of what work for the Gospel entails. In verse 25 Paul refers to Epaphroditus as a “fellow soldier” and in verse Paul uses the phrase “risking his life” to refer to Epaphroditus’ sacrifice. Paul is subtly referring to the cause of Christ as a battle, an analogy that is used elsewhere in Scripture.
Look at the world around you and notice how the church is being minimized and the mission or voice of the church is being challenged everywhere. Look at the morality of the church being challenged and trampled everywhere you turn. Look at the false witness that comes out of churches that bend and twist the Scriptures to fit their beliefs that God and Christ are a way to prosperity, or a way to freedom from oppression. Look at the way doctrinal division does more to separate and alienate believers instead of allowing believers to come together under Christ who is the common bond they all share. We are living in a time when we are in battle and we need to staunchly defend our faith. Paul did and he was imprisoned. This week I challenge everyone who reads The New Normal to step outside of their comfort zone and take a step toward learning how to better defend their faith. Take a step towards breaking down some of those denominational walls by celebrating a big win at another church in Newton County or inviting someone from another denomination to a Bible study you attend. Let’s put Christ back in Christian and stop worrying about the non-doctrinal stances that divide us and prevent us from becoming as strong as we could be.