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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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"It Is God Who Works in You" -- Philippians 2:12-30

The Fifth in a Series of Sermons on Paul's Letter to the Philippians

As Paul sees it, the Philippians are in a very difficult situation.  There is tremendous pressure from the Greek and Roman citizens of Philippi for Christians to renounce their faith in Jesus and return to the Roman religion of their friends and neighbors.  It was a dangerous thing, the Romans thought, not to honor the gods.  Those who renounced the traditional Roman gods and now followed Jesus might even anger the gods to the point that calamity would come upon the empire.  Christians must be identified, and pressured to renounce this new and foreign God, Jesus.  Then there was the pressure coming from those who professed faith in Jesus, but added good works as a condition for being saved from the wrath of God on the last day.  These men were known as Judaizers and fully convinced that in addition to believing that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, one must undergo ritual circumcision, keep the Jewish feasts, and follow the Jewish dietary laws and customs.  The Philippian Church has withstood this pressure so far, but Paul exhorts them to stand firm until he or his emissary Timothy can arrive to offer them encouragement.

We are continuing our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  We are working our way through the second half of the second chapter.  As I mentioned last time, the system of chapter and verses is useful to help us find a particular passage in the Bible, but not so helpful when the chapter breaks disrupt the flow of an author’s thought.  This is the case in Philippians chapters 1-2, when, at the end of chapter one (vv. 27-30) Paul exhorts the Philippians to stand firm–an exhortation continuing on well into the second chapter where Paul appeals to the “Hymn to Christ” (the Carmen Christi) of verse 6-11 where Jesus’ humility is set forth as an example for his readers to follow.  As we saw last time, the Christ hymn was composed by Paul or someone else, and was likely sung in the apostolic churches.  Paul appeals to it, because the Philippians were probably familiar with it.  

But Paul’s exhortation actually continues until verse 18 of chapter 2.  The theme of this lengthy exhortation is best summed-up by verse 27 (of chapter 1), “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that . . . I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”  Recall that Paul was instrumental in the founding of the church at Philippi when he proclaimed the gospel of Christ crucified there ten years earlier.  Yet, he now finds himself under house arrest in Rome when composing this very personal letter to a church far way in Greece, many members of which Paul knows quite well.  

One of the key points made by Paul is that in order for the Philippians to stand firm and accomplish the things which the Apostle is admonishing them, the Philippians must adopt the same attitude (mind-set) which Jesus did in his incarnation.  In the Carmen Christi, we read that Jesus “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Though existing eternally in the form of God, Jesus did not use his deity to his advantage after he took to himself a true human nature in the womb of the virgin.  Rather, Jesus humbled himself by taking the form of a servant, becoming obedient unto death so as to accomplish those things necessary for our salvation.  Although the Philippians are to follow the example of Jesus, our Lord’s incarnation is a unique event and cannot be repeated.  Nevertheless, the Philippians are to have the same humble attitude of Jesus, if they are to stand firm in the face of persecution which they were then facing from the Greco-Roman pagans without the church, and from the Judaizers within. 

To read the rest of this sermon:  Click Here

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