Wednesday, July 19, 2017

In the End, Grace

Devotion: Philippians 4:21-23

At last gentle reader we come to the end of our time in Philippians. One of the shortest letters of the New Testament took us just shy of a year to work through. If you have been following the blog weekly, I pray and hope that as we conclude you have been blessed by God's Word. Next week I will begin time in the Old Testament book of Ruth. For now, let's turn attention to the conclusion of this letter.
"Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."-Philippians 4:21-23 ESV
 In the Apostle Paul's day letters typically ended with greetings to/from others and a blessing. The letter to the Philippians has both of these features.
The greetings can be quite lengthy (as they are in Romans) or quite short (as they are here). The greetings fall into three parts. First, Paul greets every saint in Christ Jesus in Philippi. A saint here means one who is being made holy. A saint is one who has been saved by the grace of Christ that the Holy Spirit has set apart for God. The Apostle wants every saint--not merely the movers and the shakers, but them too--to receive his personal greetings. This is a humble act for the Apostle and both an uplifting and humbling act for the church in Philippi.
Second, the Apostle passes along the greetings of those who are with him. This is likely the brothers who have been supporting him during his imprisonment. The third greeting comes from all the saints in Rome, but especially those who are in the household of Caesar. What the Apostle is likely saying is that some of those most closely associated with Caesar (soldiers or slaves) have come to saving faith in Christ Jesus and now add their voice to the greeting. Perhaps even some of the Apostle's own jailers have heard the Gospel and come to believe. At any rate, the Apostle says hi for those who to want to say hi. These greetings show the interconnection of the Church. Though separated by time and space, we are really one in Christ. And so in a few short lines the Apostle revisits two of the letters main themes (humility and unity) before turning to the major Christological theme of the letter.
The Apostle's blessing is for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be with their spirit. To call Jesus 'Lord' is not merely a theological designation (that is, Christ is YHWH), but also a political statement. To call Jesus, "Lord," is to assert that Caesar is not. This is a very bold statement for a man awaiting a hearing before Caesar. Yet it puts into perspective our own understanding of the supremacy of Christ over worldly politics. In the end, it is Christ who will be glorified, not earthly political powers. Yet, we should note, that Christ can employ these earthly powers for his own purposes. The Apostle humbly waits to see what that purpose will be (life or death, you may recall) and be strengthened by the unity of the saints in grace of Christ. In the end, it is Christ's grace that unites us all in one spirit and that should lead us to humility and graciousness. I pray that you will be so filled with Christ's grace that you too are led to follow our humble Lord.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

God's Supply

Editors Note: I am glad to be with you this week after being away for the last two. I spent the week of 6/18 at our General Assembly praying and seeking the Lord's will for the EPC, our denomination. Last week I spent time with 57 youth from here in Omak and around the state at our annual Camp Chelan. Frankly, gentle reader, I am glad to be home writing to you this week. Yet, I should also note next week (the week of 7/9) I will be away again on a short family vacation.

Devotion: Philippians 4:18-20

The Apostle Paul understood the financial support he received from the Philippians via Epaphroditus to be an offering to God and, though it benefited the Apostle, completely for God's glory. As we have traced our way through this letter over the last several months, these ideas should be familiar.
"I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. " -Philippians 4:18-20 ESV
In the end, the Apostle is claiming that God provides. After all, the Apostle can now count among the mighty acts of God in history his own reception of funds crucial to his ongoing survival. Paul realizes that even if the Lord had not provided, he would still give glory to God, just like the three young men about to be tossed into the furnace (see Daniel 3:16-18). Like those three young men, the Apostle had seen Christ with him in his most trying time (in his case, the Christ came in the form of the Philippians generosity). The Apostle sees that God has worked to provide for him through the Philippians and, in the end, this is Christ at work.
Now it may seem that the Apostle then shifts in tone in the following verse. Torn out of context we could mistakenly conclude that Paul is promising the Philippians a reciprocal blessing, giving credence to the heretical prosperity gospel. Yet, this is not the Apostle's point. Paul is giving witness to 'God's provision and in giving witness he is assuring the Philippians that God will also provide for their needs--needs not wants--out his great riches in glory in Christ Jesus. What we need most is relationship with this God, a relationship that is alive, maturing and growing. The Philippians had demonstrated by their generosity that just such a relationship existed and the Apostle is now assuring them that God will provide more of Himself in that relationship to meet the growing need.
And that is how every relationship with God is shaped. As we grow in our relationship with God we come to realize just how dependent we are on God and in realizing this dependence, we already have the provision of the infinite God to meet our growing sense of dependence. God is always more than we could need, yet we need infinitely more of him as we grow in faith.
The Apostle concludes, appropriately enough, with a doxology. We sometimes can read these prayers of praise and not really fit the prayer into the wider context. Here, in this doxology the Apostle is assuring the Philippians that they share the same God and Father, and this one is to receive all the glory. The same God who came to the Apostle's aid through the Philippians is the very same God who can met the Philippians' need through the proclamation of the Gospel by the Apostle Paul. Indeed, a God who can weave together people who can supply the needs of each other is to be glorified forever.
When I return in a week we will conclude our time in Philippians. In the meantime, think how God has supplied for your need and how God, through you, has supplied the needs of others.