Thursday, April 14, 2011
Tuesday we pondered what it meant that God had granted suffering, that He had given this gift of suffering.
In Philippians 2:1, Paul is taking us back to the main point: what it means to live like a follower of Jesus Christ; what it means to live in a way that fits a life that has been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Through the letter, Paul is encouraging us to live the Christian life – to live in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Or, to put it in his striking phrase, “…to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” We’ll look at five things before we even get into the passage. Let me just give you a framework for this glorious passage.
First, Have you noticed here that Paul is giving you four specific encouragements, or motivations, or incentives to live the Christian life?
And isn’t that glorious? Have you ever noticed that in the Bible God encourages you to do what He requires you to do? Have you ever noticed that in the Bible God doesn’t just say “Do it!” but that He encourages you? He gives you motivations and incentives to do what you ought to do. Paul does not say here, “Be joyful! Now!” He says ‘Let me give you four encouragements as to why you ought to embrace this life of dangerous joy that I’m talking about.’ Because Paul knows that life is hard, and joy doesn’t come easily. And because we have a kind and tender and loving heavenly Father, even when He’s telling you what you ought to do anyway, He gives you reasons for it. Is that not glorious? He’s not treating you as slaves; He’s treating you as His precious children. It’s never “Do this now!” but ‘Let me give you some reasons why you ought to glorify and enjoy Me forever. Let me give you some encouragements, some motivations, some stimulations to doing what I’ve called you to do.’ Isn’t it kind that God does that? And that’s what Paul’s doing here.
Second, Paul is encouraging you here to live life in a way that is worthy of the gospel of Christ, and in so doing he is resuming his original discussion.
Paul knows that we may be so overwhelmed by what he’s just told us about suffering being a gift, that our minds may still be spinning about whether we want that gift of suffering or not! And so Paul is drawing our attention right back to his original concern: that we live lives worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Third, Paul is fighting for the Philippians’ joy. He is fighting for your joy in this passage.
Again, not superficial joy, not shallow joy, but deep gospel joy; a greater joy than can be experienced by any worldling; a greater joy than any good gift that the Father can give us in family, or in vocation, or in esteem, or in status, or in position, or in power and influence, or anything else in this world. A greater, deeper, more lasting joy…he wants you to experience more of that. After all, Jesus said to His disciples, “I have come that your joy may be made full.” And Paul is serious about that! He’s chained up in prison in order to convey that kind of joy to you, and he wants to experience the joy of seeing the Philippians’ joy—and your and my joy. Paul knows that in living as becomes Christians, as living in light of the gospel, we experience joy. That’s why he’s speaking to us in this passage.
Fourth, Paul has in this passage three specific things that he wants to urge on the Philippians.
Paul is deeply concerned for the Philippians’ unity, humility, and mutual helpfulness to one another. His concern for these things is why he gives these four encouragements in verse 1. We will look at those four encouragements next week. Those encouragements are there because he’s headed to an exhortation that we would be united, humble, and mutually helpful. He knows that unity, humility, and mutual helpfulness do not happen automatically in the Christian life, even in the best of us. Even in the most selfless of us, even in the most mature of us, we need encouragements if we’re going to be united, humble, and helpful. And that’s why Paul’s piling up these encouragements in verse 1.
Finally, verses 1-4 are all one sentence, and there is only one main clause in that big sentence that covers four verses: “Complete my joy.” That’s the main clause. Everything else that is going on in that big complex sentence is related to and circling around and emanating out from that main clause, “complete my joy.” Verse 1 leads up to it, gives encouragement, prepares for it. Verse 2 announces it. Then he explains it, then he elaborates it. That’s what’s going on in that marvelous sentence. It’s all one sentence, but the main clause is “complete my joy.”
Notice, by the way, that even in the very careful words that Paul chooses here, he indicates that the Philippians were already a joy to him. When he says “complete my joy” he’s not saying, “Come on, give me some joy here!” He’s acknowledging that these people have already given him deep joy as he has seen the gospel at work in them, but he is not satisfied with the joy that they are experiencing; and as they increase their enjoyment of the joy that God has intended for them, it is going to fulfill, fill out, complete the joy that he already takes in them. No wonder they call this “the letter of joy.”
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 4:43 PM