Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Partnership in the gospel - part 2

Some more thoughts on Philippians 1:1-11

- Their partnership, or fellowship is more than just tea and coffee - they're striving together with a purpose, but this purpose is important. It's partnership in the gospel. What is it that binds my congregation together? What is it that ties the group within my church that I do most work with together? Is it a similar social background? Is it a shared sense of humour? Is it the sense that an event needs to happen and so we must play our part? Is is that we naturally get along? Or is it that the God who has began a good work in us is working through our united effort to advance the gospel? What makes partnership in the gospel distinctive from partnership in anything else? How do we keep the gospel at the centre? Partnership can continue but cease to be partnership in the gospel. Keep the main thing the main thing!

- Some ways of keeping the gospel centre: pray that God would help us to; talk about how the specific task you are doing is helping gospel work to happen (whether that's preaching a sermon or cleaning a toilet); ask God to help you see your role as gospel work; talk about the fruit of the work; share communion; think about the lost and think about the gospel.

- The work of making disciples and and keeping them into eternity is a past, present and future work. It's God's work, v5 'from the first day until now' and he will v6 'bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ'. What God has started, he will finish.

- How can Paul be so sure of God continuing to work in their lives? He's sure because he's seen, through their partnership in the gospel, that they are truly believers, and so God will stick with them (v6-7). Yes, there are some who will cry 'Lord, Lord' who won't enter the new creation, but a sure test of the genuineness of someone's faith is if they're doing gospel things and making gospel sacrifices. The Philippians, in the middle of great poverty, are committed to seeing the gospel proclaimed and so sacrificially give.He can be confident in a faithful God who won't forget his children, and he can be confident in him being faithful to this particular group because he sees the fruit of their salvation - their partnership in the gospel. Would looking at my life show someone sacrificially committed to seeing the gospel proclaimed? If it would, I too can have confidence that God is at work in me, and will continue to be until his work in me is completed.

- This is a model church to take encouragement from, but what does Paul want for the church? v9-11. Let's take it in reverse.
... His ultimate goal is the glory and praise for God (v11b). This is what it's all about - this great God who has done so much for us and in us deserves to be praised and glorified. How is he glorified?
... He'll be glorified when, at Christ's return we are pure and blameless, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus (v10b-11a). Jesus makes us righteous, he gives us his righteousness, that's where the fruit comes from, that's what enables us to live for him. When we're given that we turn our back on sin, and his righteousness in us overflows into fruit in our lives as we live for him, as we show his mercy, his love, his compassion, as we lead others to know him. That's what will bring Jesus glory when he returns. And so what's Paul's prayer for them, so that they'll bear this fruit which brings glory to God?
...His prayer is verse 9-10a. It's that they'll love more and more - I think that's the vertical and the horizontal love: loving God (which will result in them living for him - bearing fruit) and loving others (which will result in them serving and caring for them - bearing fruit in their own characters and in the way they bless others). How do they love more? They love more by loving more accurately.
...They're filled with knowledge - not intellectual knowledge but as they get to know God/others (relational knowledge). They're filled with discernment - they know the best way to handle situations, and they recognise how to please someone or to rebuke. As they're filled with knowledge and discernment, they're able to approve what is excellent, they make the best decisions about what's best for their decisions, for how they spend their time, for what choices they make, and then for their relationships, for how they encourage/challenge/edify/rebuke their brothers and sisters.
To summarise v9-11: Paul prays that they'd be filled with more love for God and other people and that as they know them (God and people) better they'd know how to live for God more and how to serve other people better. This can all happen because they've been given Jesus' righteousness and it's the fruit of that righteousness. He prays this prayer so that when Jesus comes back this fruit will be evident, and God will be glorified!

- Though they're doing great things in their partnership in the gospel (3-8), Jesus isn't back yet, so Paul wants to see more fruit, to God's glory! So get to know Jesus more and so live for him more! And get to know others more, and so serve them better. Both are the fruit of righteousness.

- Paul prays his prayer yes because he wants God to be glorified, but also because he he has a genuine love for the Christians in Philippi. v8. He loves them as Christ loves them, so he wants them to live for Jesus and bear fruit for him, finding their joy in him. How genuine is our love for other Christians? Do we yearn for other Christians to grow? Or do we just think it would be a nice things? Do we have the same affection for them as Christ has for them: 'I yearn for you with all the affection of Christ'.

That was a very longwinded post - I hope there was something challenging/encouraging somewhere in it!

1 comment:

Lorna's Ark said...

I love phil Paul is so clear on what he is saying!