I’m so excited to get to lead our Fall 2017 study over the book of Philippians. This is such a great, encouraging book and as we dig deep, we’ll be challenged by it too!
You can’t study the book of Philippians without first taking a look at the author of this letter, the apostle Paul. His story is so fascinating and it’s proof that God can and will use ANYBODY, no matter your past, your baggage, your issues or any other excuse you can think of. We’ve got to go over to the book of Acts to remind ourselves what Paul’s story is, otherwise as we read his letter to the church in Philippi, we might begin to think that Paul was perfect and then get overwhelmed with all of his advice for Christian living.
Look at Acts 8:1-3. Keep in mind, our Paul of the New Testament is the same man that is also referred to as Saul in the New Testament. (Now if you read about King Saul in the Old Testament, that is definitely a different character.) So in the New Testament, Paul and Saul are the same guy. Before Paul’s conversion to Christ, he was called Saul and he was an active leader in the persecution of Christians in the Church. He gave approval to the stoning of Stephen and he was well known through the area for his arrest and killing of believers in Jesus, even women! This is why it’s such a shock when in Acts 9:1-19, Saul encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was heading there to persecute more Christians but when he arrived, he had become one himself. It took a while for other followers of Christ to believe that he had truly been converted though. Ananias was hesitant when God spoke to him in a dream and told him to go find Saul and speak some prophetic words over him. Ananias understandably didn’t want to be killed and he didn’t believe Saul had been converted until he saw it for himself. It didn’t take long and Saul’s story of his conversion from persecutor of Christians to follower of Christ had spread throughout the land. Many were just like Ananias – afraid of him! But as they watched him proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ boldly in the synagogues, the believers were amazed at his boldness and the unbelievers began to seek him to imprison and kill him in the same way that he had once imprisoned and killed other Christ followers.
THIS is the guy that wrote the majority of the New Testament Scriptures! This man who gave approval to the death of Christ followers, who dragged men and women to prison because of their faith. God had a big plan for Paul’s life that can only be described as miraculous.
So as you read the book of Philippians, I want you to remember a few important things.
- The Bible is a book about God. This is always number one! Don’t get trapped into believing that the Bible is a book about YOU. All too often we get caught up in the idea that we should read the Bible because it will tell us how to live and what to do and what kind of person we should be. It will show us these things of course, but if that’s all we’re looking for as we read, we are going to miss the most important thing about Scripture – it is a revelation of God’s character! It’s written so that we will KNOW HIM more. Don’t get confused about who the Bible is about.
- The book of Philippians is a letter from Paul to BELIEVERS in the church in Philippi. This book is not written to unbelievers. You cannot take the statements made in this book and apply them to people who don’t follow Jesus Christ. When you read the Bible, you must consider the context of what you’re reading. In this case, we are reading a letter to the Church that was written by Paul while he was in jail. If you are a believer you can safely read this letter as if it were written to you.
- The Gospel is ALL OVER this letter. Look for it. Underline every reference to “the gospel” that Paul makes. Remember that The Gospel is the referring to the good news that Jesus died for our sins, rose again, now sits at the right hand of God the Father and will come back one day. The Gospel is GOOD NEWS.
Read Philippians 1:1-11. These words reveal just how precious the believers in Philippi were to Paul. He had invested a lot in them and he considered them partners in the gospel, which was his LIFE. He longed to see the good news of Jesus spread so that people could be saved.
Speaking of salvation, let’s make sure we get a few things straight before we start. Don’t tune out here! I want you to get the difference between salvation, sanctification and service.
- the work God does for us—salvation
Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
- the work God does in us—sanctification
John 17:17 – “Sanctify them in your truth; your word is truth.”
- the work God does through us—service
John 12:26 – “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
And check out each of those three things – are any of these three things something that YOU do? Does any of it depend on how good YOU are? Does any of it depend on how often you go to church or whether or not you drink or cuss or whether or not your kids follow the Lord or whether or not you follow all the rules? Salvation, sanctification and service are all absolutely dependent upon GOD.
So as you read and study the book of Philippians, do a little self-inspection and decide which of these areas you find yourself in right now. Do you need to be saved? Salvation is a gift from God and I would love to tell you more about it if you’re not sure. All it requires from you is belief in Jesus Christ. The rest is up to Him! Most of us will see ourselves neck deep in sanctification. God is chiseling away at us to make us resemble his Son. He is working in us to make us that new creation he promised he would make us. As you begin to resemble him more and more, he will be able to use you to serve Him. There’s nothing more satisfying than being used by God to fulfill his purposes here on this earth. Look at your life right now and decide where you are and where you want to be. As you read Philippians you’ll be reminded of how God saved you, you’ll start to see all new ways that God wants to sanctify you and you’ll be inspired to allow Him to reach others through your service. It’s a beautiful connection and I hope you’re excited to see it happen in your life!
So in these opening verses of Philippians, what do we learn about the character of God? If we read this letter as if it were written about God, (because it is!), what do we learn about Him? Here are a few things I got from Philippians 1:1-11.
- God is the giver of grace and peace. (1:2)
- God gives us partners in the gospel as gifts to us! (1:3-5)
- God is trustworthy- He will finish the work he started! (1:6)
- God knows our innermost thoughts. (1:8)
- God receives praise and glory when our love abounds, when we have knowledge and discernment, when we are pure and blameless, when we are filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ! (1:9-11)
I challenge you to keep reading Philippians in light of what it teaches us about God, not seeking what it can do for you. I’m convinced that if you keep God at the forefront of your reading, you’ll be strengthened and encouraged in the process. If you’d like a book so that you can follow along as we study, I’ve got a bunch of them in Gonzales or you can order them from amazon here.
Happy studying. 🙂