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.

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