Saturday 23 September 2017

Phillippians 1 verses 1/11

Paul is writing to the Philippian Church to give encouragement and enable them to live their lives as a sort of heavenly colony amidst an unholy environment in an area we know as Macedonia. This Church was special to Paul in that this was the first Church he founded, and now he is writing to them from a prison cell.

He begins by expressing his gratitude to them and his affection for them, followed by praying their holiness would increase. Along with Timothy he gives the standard greeting of Christians at that time, grace and peace, and calls himself a servant.

Paul found joy in the Church, a theme which runs through the Letter despite the fact that it can be sometimes a heartache; which is the reality of any Church. The Church was his life as it has been mine for many years and I love the Church, and now without having the responsibilities of a parish, I have the added joy of going to so many lovely Churches.

Paul had visited Philippi some years before writing this Letter and had preached the gospel and brought many to faith in Christ Jesus. They had supported him financially and after a period had elapsed, had sent him another gift which caused this response.

We live in a far different world, but the essential doctrines of the Church are the same, which indicates that this Letter speaks clearly to us and we can learn from it what makes Christianity distinctive from other faiths.

The foundation for spiritual growth is to recognise that it is God who calls us, and spiritual progress depends on what God does. God is faithful and promises believers He will be with us until Jesus returns. Paul is confident that God is at work in their Church because He always finishes that which He creates.

There are times in a Church when you feel God at work, but this has to be recognised. Just as some people will go to a building site and see a mass of rubble, others will recognise a building under construction. We have to be conscious of God’s presence and respond.

In verses 7/8 Paul speaks of loving this Church and having it on his heart. He longs to see them and of all the Churches this was his particular one, the one he is most fond of, probably because it was his first founding Church.

I can understand his feelings. I now visit a lot of Churches, and whilst I enjoy going to all of them, there is one I love being placed at above all others. The reception I get probably appeals in a way it shouldn’t, and to be told how the people appreciate traditional Bible preaching makes all the preparation feel worthy, but most of all we believe in the same doctrines of faith.

Paul was passionate about gospel partners. There was a bond, and whilst he could have reminded them of many things, what excited him was their partnership in the gospel. There is one thing in coming to Church, and yet another to let the Church into your heart. Paul is telling us it is a whole hearted commitment to living and telling the truth; to have a 100% commitment to the work of fellowship in the family of the Church, and you give yourself fully.

Paul likened the Church to a body, when one part is hurt it is felt right through one’s system. We feel the same when a member of the Church acts in a way which is detrimental to the faith, for it rebounds on the wider Church. We have seen how one denomination behaves in a way which is contrary to Scripture and receives massive publicity, which is then attached to other more faithful Churches.

There is a call to see one another as a family related in a different way to our biological family. We may not have the same genes, but we have the same grace. We trust in Jesus, and His death on the Cross assures us we are sinners forgiven with a promise of eternal salvation.

In he final verses of this passage Paul tells them he is praying for them and for what is best for them. We should all do this for our own particular Church, and seek God’s will for us and not that of the most vociferous member.

It is difficult at this time with a shortage of preachers. A Church needs a consistent message which it cannot get if it is receiving a variety of preachers. One week there is a preacher with an evangelical message, the next week there is liable to be one with a totally different belief where the connection with Scripture is purely coincidental. This was a weakness Charles Wesley noted with an itinerant ministry and w as against it.

Paul prays for an abounding love which can overflow to others. This does not mean sentimentalism or emotionalism. And also calls for excellence in the Church. A| Church should delight at being known as place where the gospel is boldly and faithfully preached. We should aim to have the kind of life depicted by Paul, and stand out in the world as place which has something special to offer, rather than a community centre with a religious flavour. Most of all we should avoid trying to imitate society and adopt its practices; the first Christians conquered just by being Christians. Unless we observe Biblical conditions we will never experience the blessings.

My God bless you and be with you. Be at Church on Sunday

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