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Discovering Christ In Philippians

Don Fortner | Added: Oct 19, 2022 | Category: Theology


The church at Philippi was very dear to Paul. He looked upon these men and women as his children in the faith. He had begotten them by the gospel. Paul had been called to preach the gospel to them in a very unusual way. A vision appeared to him in the night, and ‘There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us’ (Acts 16:9). 

Paul was only at Philippi for a short time. While he was there he suffered many things and was thrown into prison. But during his brief stay, Lydia and the Philippian jailor were converted, along with many from their respective households. From this small beginning, the church at Philippi had now grown into a large and flourishing congregation.

The believers at Philippi heard that Paul was suffering in prison in Rome. These dear saints took up an offering for him and sent their pastor, Epaphroditus, to visit him. Epaphroditus and Paul had a good visit together; and when Epaphroditus started to leave, Paul sent this letter by him to the saints at Philippi. In the letter he expresses his love and gratitude toward the people of God and gives them some account of his bonds and afflictions for the gospel’s sake, assuring his friends that the hand of God had made even these things useful to him. 

In this epistle, Paul takes the opportunity to minister to the people of God at Philippi and to encourage them to faithfully endure their trials, afflictions, and persecutions for the glory of Christ. He admonished them to cultivate love, and unity, and peace among themselves. And he warned them to beware of those false teachers, who were the enemies of the cross of Christ. Even in those days there were many who tried to mix Christ and Moses, the gospel and the law, grace and works. Paul was gravely concerned that the saints of God at Philippi might be influenced by the evil influence of such teachers.

As in Paul’s day, so it is today. Among preachers and teachers there are some who are ‘the enemies of the cross of Christ’. The vast majority of people are religious. Most profess religion of one sort or another and we may well say there has never been so much religion in the world as there is at this present time, be it Christianity or something else. Religion has become very popular. The biggest business in America is ‘Big Business Religion’. Preachers are found on every street corner. Our radios and televisions broadcast religion twenty-four hours a day. Some are truly God’s servants, but most are not. A very important question arises, a question which should be of great concern to us all. Who are the servants of Christ? The Apostle John tells us, ‘Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1).

I know this, – those who are truly the servants of Jesus Christ are men whom God has set apart and chosen for the work of the gospel. They are called and sent of God. The servants of Jesus Christ are men whom God Himself has put into the ministry. If God puts a man into the ministry, several things will be evident:

1. He will put His grace in that man’s heart. Those who are called of God to the work of the gospel know and love the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. He will give him the message of the gospel. No man is called of God who does not know and preach the gospel, the gospel of substitutionary redemption, the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ.

3. He will give him the gifts of the ministry. If a man is called of God to preach the gospel, he can preach! He has the ability to teach others, to communicate and instruct others in the gospel.

4. He will give him a place to preach. ‘A man’s gift maketh room for him’ (Proverbs 18:16). If God has called a man to preach the gospel, the people of God will give him their attention. Someone will want to hear him.

5. He will give that man a genuine love and concern for the people of God. His desire to preach will not be for personal ambition, for gain, or for position. It will be his desire to serve the people of God. This is what Paul said, ‘We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake’ (2 Corinthians 4:5).

This is what I want you to see, the servants of Jesus Christ are men whose hearts are devoted to the people of God. Our concern is not for ourselves, but for the glory of God. Our dedication is not to ourselves, but to the gospel of the grace of God. We are devoted not to our own welfare, but to the welfare of the people of God.

The greatest blessing God can give to any man, to any church, or to any community is for Him to send one of His servants to preach the gospel among them. The greatest blessing God can ever give you is for Him to send to you one of His pastors, one of the servants of Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 3:15).

Five characteristics

In these opening eleven verses of his letter the Apostle Paul sets before us five characteristics by which you may know those who are the true servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

1. They know their responsibilities and position (v. 1)

If a man is called of God to the work of the gospel, if God puts him into the ministry, he will not need any strings upon him. He knows his position. He knows what his work is, and he willingly performs it. 

Paul speaks of himself and Timothy as the servants of Jesus Christ. Paul was an apostle. Timothy was only a young pastor. But both were the servants of Christ, willingly enslaved to the service of Christ. They supported and honoured one another (Philippians 2:19-22). They were both given for the same purpose and dedicated to the same object (Ephesians 4:8-12).

They were not lords, but servants, not reverends, but servants, not fathers, but servants, not doctors, but servants, not pompous, but lowly servants. These men were dedicated and devoted servants of Christ. They lived to serve Christ, to show forth His glory, to preach His gospel, and to serve His church (Acts 15:26; 20:28).

Paul addressed his letter to the whole church at Philippi. Because he was the Lord’s servant, ordained as an apostle of Christ, he spoke to the whole assembly with divine authority. Because of this divine authority the whole church was obliged to follow his instruction.

His letter was to the saints: those men and women whom God set apart, or sanctified as His own in election, redemption, and calling.

His letter was to the bishops: the pastors, or elders of the church. While Epaphroditus was the one pastor, whose task it was to oversee the church, rule it and govern it, there were many elders who assisted him in the work. Elders are men who are set apart as spiritual guides and teachers under the pastor. And,

His letter was to the deacons: those men who take care of the physical, financial affairs of the congregation (Acts 6:2-4). Deacons are to relieve the pastor of mundane affairs and routine responsibilities so he can give himself exclusively to the ministry of the Word. 

2. They seek the spiritual welfare of God’s people (v. 2)

The servants of Christ desire and seek the blessings of the grace of God upon His people. Every true pastor has one primary concern for his congregation, one thing for which he labours, one thing that drives and motivates him. He seeks the spiritual welfare of God’s people.

Three things must constantly concern my heart, and the hearts of every true pastor. These three great principles must motivate our actions for they are the purpose of our preaching: first, the glory of God in Christ, second, the furtherance of the gospel of Christ, and third, the eternal welfare of God’s elect, chosen people in Christ.

Grace is the saving goodness and power of God toward His people. There can be no peace where there is no grace. Peace comes with the sense, the felt awareness, of divine favour. Peace is the quietness of conscience that comes when grace is established in the heart, peace with God in justification, the peace of God in regeneration, and peace from God among His people. How blessed it is to see the people of God dwelling together in the love, unity, and peace of Christ.

Grace and peace come to us from God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ, as Mediator, is the channel through which all the blessings of God come to His people (Ephesians 1:3, 4).

3. They remember the Lord’s people (vv. 3-6)

When I say that God’s servants remember the Lord’s people, I am saying simply that they always have them in mind. God’s people are always on the hearts of His servants. There is never a time when their cares, their trials, their needs, and their burdens are not on the pastor’s heart.

Paul remembered the Philippians and carried them on his heart. Though they were far apart, he thought of them continually. He rejoiced to speak of them to others and with great joy heard others speak to him of them. The things which he suffered at Philippi were nothing to him in comparison with the joy he felt when he remembered what God had done in that place.

He remembered the Lord’s people in prayer. It was natural for him to pray for them because he carried them on his heart (1 Samuel 12:23, 24). He gave thanks for what the Lord had done among them, giving them fellowship in the gospel. God had graciously preserved them in the faith, and hope, and love of the gospel. The church at Philippi was truly a church, a fellowship of the Lord’s gathered people. They were of one heart and one mind in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

He gave thanks for the confidence he had regarding their future (v. 6). As God had begun the good work of grace in them, He would just as surely bring it to perfection (Psalm 138:8; Isaiah 64:8).

4. They sincerely love the Lord’s people (vv. 7, 8)

In these verses Paul expresses the ardent affection he had for the Lord’s people at Philippi. He had good reason for loving these people. They had been made partakers of the grace of God. They had stood firm in the defence of the gospel. And they had stood by him, even when others denied him.

Paul’s love was genuine and sincere. He calls God for witness of the sincerity of his heart-affection for them. His heart greatly longed for them. With the compassion of Christ, he truly loved these people. He seems to say, ‘Whether you know it or not, God, who knows my heart, knows that I truly love you and want the best for you.’ In his heart he longed for their spiritual welfare.

5. They pray for the Lord’s people (vv. 9-11)

In these verses Paul tells the Philippian believers what he desired for them, and how he prayed to God for them. I think I can honestly say as God’s servant that these are the very things which I pray for and desire from God for those to whom I minister.

I pray that God will make us a loving people. ‘That your love might abound yet more and more.’ May God make us to abound in love. In love for Christ and love toward one another (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

I pray that God will give us knowledge and understanding in the gospel. ‘That your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.’ Let us abound in love. But let that love abound in knowledge and in judgment. It is not enough to have strong passions and zeal. We must also have knowledge and understanding (Romans 10:2).

I pray that God will give us spiritual discernment. ‘That you may approve things that are excellent’, or ‘That you may discern things that differ’. 

I pray the Lord will give us sincerity of heart and purpose. ‘That ye may be sincere.’ Oh, that we may be sincere in our worship, sincere in our motives, sincere in our works, and sincere in our devotion to the glory of Christ and the gospel of the grace of God. God save us from pretence and hypocrisy!

I pray that we will be an inoffensive people, ‘without offence’. We must not be easily offended. We must not be the cause of offence to any. If men and women are offended with us, let their offence be over the gospel.

I pray that we might be a fruitful people (v. 11). ‘Being filled with the fruits of righteousness.’ May we manifest the fruit of the Spirit and be useful in this generation.

In all things, I pray that God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour may be glorified. ‘Unto the glory and praise of God.’ In all things, let us seek the glory of God (1 Peter 4:11; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

While it is a great blessing of God’s grace when He sends one of His servants, it also places men and women under great responsibility (Hebrews 13:7, 17). Those to whom he is sent have a responsibility to remember to pray for God’s servant, to support God’s servant, to follow God’s servant, and to obey God’s servant.