1 – (1:1-8)
Taking the Religion out of Philippians – Christ as Satisfaction
I love to go to these books that are usually presented in a religious way and bring a fresh perspective to them. Usually, the way people talk about Philippians is as if Paul is a pattern of having a “good attitude”. They say, “You need to have a good attitude like Paul. Think about how Paul was in prison. You don’t see him complaining!” This is an example of seeing the effect, the “leaves moving” but not identifying the source – the wind, the life as in John 3 (Jn 3:8).
Paul is full of joy in Philippians, but we need to understand that this is the effect, not the cause or the source. The source is Life. When I say Life, I mean Christ as Life. We just got out of John and we have seen that Christ is the Christian life, and is specifically available to be enjoyed as our satisfaction, even our food and drink (John 4:14; John 7:37-39, John 6:55-56). Philippians also presents Christ as satisfaction. Paul is presented not as a person who is just “thinking happy thoughts” or having a “good attitude” but someone who has been supplied and filled with Christ as satisfaction so that Christ as life is on display in Paul. While John focuses on Christ as the source of satisfaction, Philippians shows us Paul as the pattern of someone who is filled with the enjoyment of Christ.
There is a joy and an enjoyment in Philippians because Paul says, “even if I’m poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice” (Phil 2:17). The drink offering is a reference to the offerings of the priesthood in the old testament. There was the burnt offering the meal offering , the peace offering, the sin offering and the trespass offering. Then there was the drink offering, which was poured on the sacrifices. It was wine, representing (in type) our enjoyment of Christ that is the product of our fellowship with God concerning Christ. Paul said he was being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of their faith. That is how he looked at his upcoming death. It would be the “pouring out” of his enjoyment of Christ as wine. This is Paul hitting the “peak” of what is possible in terms of being transcendent and triumphant in the exaltation of the resurrected Christ within him.
If you read this book and do not focus on Christ, it will just be “ethical encouragement” to have a good attitude. That is not what this book is about at all! It’s about the supply of the Spirit for the magnification of Christ in my body to save me from myself and even bring me into an enjoyment that’s likened to a drink offering, because it comes “wine” in me.
This book is the closest, I believe, that Paul comes to the kind of language we see in John. John takes this and runs with this idea that Christ is my satisfaction, Christ is our supply, Christ is the fountain, Christ is the wine at the wedding feast, Christ is the living water, Christ is the bread. He is everything for our enjoyment in us. Where did John get this language from? That is the “mystery of Christ” that God gave Paul to reveal (Col 1:26-27). John wrote 30 years after Paul’s death. His writing is the maturity of a ministry that is based on this kind of revelation. Philippians seems to really have this emphasis of Christ as satisfaction.
Background for Paul’s Imprisonment
There is so much life in Philippians. When I say Life, I mean Christ as Life. We just got out of John and we have seen that Christ is the Christian life. Philippians is about how Christ is magnified in us as a “present tense” salvation from our very selves. In this salvation, He is put on display in us through the supply of His Spirit. I would say that this is the topic of Philippians – “Christ magnified in my body, saving me from myself by the supply of His Spirit” (Phil 1:19-21).
Christ as satisfaction produces a transcendent living, and this transcendent living is a present tense salvation. I do not know that I could have even understood this a few years ago. You must go through something. I’ve gone through conflict before, I’ve been kicked out of churches and I’ve been accused of this and that, but this is the first time I went through all that where I had learned some things about knowing how to abide in the Lord. He supplied me through it and allowed me to teach through it and fellowship through it and the fellowship got sweeter and sweeter. It is amazing. That is just a “thimble full” of what Paul experienced while he was in prison.
Why was Paul in prison? He said he was in prison because of the word of god, specifically because a little group of Jews who hated him followed throughout his ministry to all the cities where he had raised up churches and they damaged them all. (Acts 13:50;Act 14:2;Acts 17:5-6,Acts 21:27). All the churches in Asia had departed from his ministry (2 Ti 1:15) because of the rumors and the innuendo and the slander and the strife caused by these people who hated him that much. They blamed it on him, so that not only did they cause his problems, but they blamed it all on him and said he was the author of all this sedition and division (Acts 24:5). He was the author of all the unrest. He was the reason why there was division in Israel between those who follows Moses and those who follow the way. In a sense this had some truth, but he was not the only one, and this division is of God. It is called “right division”.
So, we need to keep this in mind that Paul did not just get “randomly” thrown into jail by the Romans. He had appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:11) but had been shamefully treated and maliciously accused and slandered and lied about by religious zealots who had rejected the truth and hardened their heart in their self-righteousness. In Philippians they are called the “dogs, the evil workers” and the “concision” (Phil 3:1-2). They are called enemies of the cross (Phil 3:18). They are religious people who think they know God but, in their works, show that they do not, and they are “unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16)
They fully manifested their character through their persecution of Paul, which is part of God’s purpose. He shines a spotlight on someone and sometimes uses them as a “bug light” to attract the “bugs” and “zap them.” Paul was like a big bug light and everyone was attracted to him either negatively or positively – (In the end mostly negatively). The point was to expose and deal with them. You cannot come against the New Testament Ministry and not be damaged, not be hardened and exposed. When this happens there is a clear contrast between the nature of those who slander the Ministry and those who truly operate in it. In one corner you had an angry mob railing against Paul and thinking they had a victory over him. However, with Paul you see Christ exalted in the situation and Paul is full of joy.
The Strong Start of The Church
Php 1:1-2 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here the words “bishops and deacons” can really be “elders and deacons.” There was order but elders were not people that lorded it over the flock. They were brothers that were a little more mature and they were recognized for their maturity because they had a shepherding function. They were already encouraging the saints and shepherding them, and the apostles would come to a church and there would be some already helping to strengthen the others and nourish them. The apostles would recognize this by laying hands on them and formally declaring that they are functioning as an elder. This wasn’t because they were “voted in” or “positioned” in a political sense, but because they were already functioning that way. Elders are elders because they function that way. They are godly people who hold the mystery of faith in a good conscience (1 Ti 3:9). They function as an elder. I have met very few real elders that also are called “pastor.” Usually a real elder is not really known but has a group of people he has encouraged, and they have grown somewhat because of him. All he is doing is feeding them the same food he eats.
The Church consisted of the saints “in Christ” at Philippi. We are the church no matter where we are, but the church is “located” where we are. All the saints in Christ in time and space make up the Church. But the Church is manifested locally where you live. That is the only “real” church that can be practical for us. Any expression of a Church that is bigger than a fellowship ultimately is not the church but some kind of organization. We do not have our unity based on that kind of organization. Our unity is based on being in Christ, and then we are to have the fellowship. We will see that this fellowship is manifested as we contend for and defend the gospel.
The reality of the Church is only manifested where the fellowship is, and we will see again that this is where the contending for the gospel is going on. No, it is not about self-appointed authorities that call themselves elders because they have been Christians the longest. If there is elders it is because they shepherd. You know elders not by function but by the fruit. Are there people who have grown because of their ministry?
Php 1:3-4 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
They had an excellent condition. He says, “I’m making my request with joy”. That is not political language. He says that when he is praying, he is confirmed in the spirit with joy. Paul is a person who lived in the spirit and his feelings for them were in the spirit, which we will see. He says that his joy is for their “fellowship in the Gospel” or “Fellowship unto the furtherance of the Gospel.”
Php 1:5-6 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
The Church at Philippi was formed in a miraculous and spectacular way. Paul led Lydia to the Lord and baptized her household (Acts 16:14). Then Paul ended up having to cast a spirit of divination out of a girl which led to a riot and Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned. While they were worshipping the Lord in prison there was an earthquake and their bonds fell off (Acts 16:16-24). Because the jailer was going to kill himself for fear of the Romans, they stayed and led him to the Lord instead! He and his household were saved (Acts 16:25-40). This was the start of the church in Philippi.
The start of the church at Philippi was connected to a dramatic miracle that took place amid persecution after a demon of witchcraft was cast out. The persecution came from a mix of those profiting from the divination and religious Jews. The deliverance of Paul which led to the jailer’s conversion was due to the dramatic miracle that coincided with Paul and Silas’s enjoyment of the Lord in worship under persecution. Therefore, the from the very beginning was strong in contending for the gospel and strong in an understanding of rejoicing in the Lord!
Fellowship in the Gospel
This church had a strong gospel start and continued in the gospel. Their fellowship was in the gospel. What does it mean to have fellowship in the gospel? The Gospel is more than we give it credit for. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 tells us that that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried according to the scriptures and rose on the third day according to the scriptures. The phrase “according the scriptures” represents such a profound unfolding of meaning. What does it mean that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures? There is so much there. I died with Him (2 Cor 5:14). I was circumcised. My old man was put off (Col 2:11). He is no longer expecting anything from me. I died to the law (Gal 2:19). I died to sin (Rom 6:11). I am no longer in Adam, but in Christ. I am transferred out of the authority of darkness (Col 1:13). What does it mean that he rose? Well He transferred me into the kingdom of the Son of His Love (Col 1:13). I am risen with Him (Eph 2:6). I am quickened and made alive together with Him and He dwells in me and is my life (Gal 2:20). I am regenerated and I am a son of God and an heir (Rom 8:17). All those things are the gospel. They are the implications of the death and resurrection of Christ according to the scriptures. To fellowship is a fellow-partaking with the saints in light. We partake of the allotted portion, which is our inheritance. All the things that Christ accomplished, which we call the “Gospel” are our inheritance to enjoy forever. These accomplishments are the reason we are positioned in God. They are the reason God is our Father and we are members of the Body of Christ. They are the reason we have the Spirit, which is the source of the fellowship, our love, our enjoyment and our joy.
So we do not want to have a superficial view of what it means to fellowship in the Gospel! vangelists think that this means they were “sitting around strategizing” their Gospel campaigns. “Okay, we’re going down to Market street and Dave’s going to setup the boom box and I’m going to do some Christian rap! You guys hand out the tracts…” That can be part of it too, but that is not the fellowship. I have met plenty of people who do that but are “dogs”. They work like dogs and they bring strife into those situations. It is not all fellowship.
The Gospel is a realm. Paul said in Romans “God is my witness whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son” (Rom 1:9). It is a realm of faith that my spirit, as the organ of faith, apprehends and believes and sees all the things that Christ is to me and has accomplished for me. It becomes a realm where I enjoy Christ and all that He is to me with others who share the exact same thing. That becomes the fellowship.
We all have a common portion. Christ is our portion. We all have inherited the same thing so that we have that in common. When we fellowship about what Christ has accomplished for us and what He is done for us, that is the fellowship of the Gospel. There is something so precious about that, that if you can get a group of believers around you into that realm which the enemy fights and the flesh fights, it is a rare thing! Nobody knows how to be in that realm automatically. It takes a ministry to unfold the riches of what Christ has accomplished through teaching and then bring everybody in and it produces a fellowship. That is again how you know if there is genuine New Testament ministry going on. There is a fellowship in the Gospel. If there is no fellowship, chances are that you are not dealing with real ministry or the ministry is being attacked. So many YouTube Ministry comment sections consist entirely of accusations and slander and speculations about the rapture date or whether this news article means that today is the rapture, or does this feast date mean that the rapture is coming? Then people talk about how miserable that they are still here, and they can barely take it anymore! That is not fellowship, that is something else.
Paul said, “always in every prayer, making request with joy for you for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now”. They stayed in it. They did not move away from it.
Paul’s Longing In the Inward Parts of Christ
Php 1:6-8 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
This is profound. When he said, “my joy is full when I pray for you”, this was not just nice speaking. He lived as a person in the Spirit. He was an apostle and a representative of Jesus Christ who walked in the Spirit and Christ was magnified in him so that his feelings for them were generated from the humanity of Jesus Christ through the supply of the Spirit. When he says, “my joy, my fellowship”, he means it. He says, “God is my witness!”. This is “Swearing before God” that he “longs after you all in the inward parts of Jesus Christ.” In other words, “My affections for you are from Christ Himself. They are His feelings.”
So when he says that it is fitting for him to be confident that God is working in them, he knows that because his heart has been turned by the Lord so that when he thinks of them and prays for them, he is full of the Lord’s joy and full of the taste of the fellowship they have in the Gospel. He knows they are in the reality of that fellowship. He says he has them in his heart, not because of personal preference, but because even in his afflictions and in his bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel, they are fellow partakers with him of grace.
They had not abandoned him. Many of the churches refused to be associated with him when he was imprisoned. There was such a stigma on Paul that he said to Timothy, “don’t be ashamed of my bonds.” (2 Timothy 1:8;1:16). He admonished people not to be embarrassed of him, the prisoner. It was a “shameful” thing to be associated with Paul because there was so much slander that no one even knew what he taught. To say that this “divisive” person was good would have been difficult when even the churches rejected him! He “created division in the Body! He called all those apostles false! He was not loving! He called out people and corrected them and did not walk in love and now look at him! He’s in jail!” Many people were “ashamed” of him, but Philippi understood the content of his ministry.
Its not that they just like Paul. No, there was a price for associating with him. You would get persecuted for being associated with him, even in the churches. But if you understood his ministry which was evidenced by the fact that they fellowshipped in the Gospel, you would stand by him. They sent Epaphroditus to take care of his need, which we will see. They took care of Paul and continued with him in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel.
Paul says, “in my bonds and afflictions, you are fellow partakers of my grace”. This is something special, because he had a grace operating in him. Grace is not just something God does or gives. Grace is a measure of Christ Himself that is given through the supply of the Spirit. He gives gifts for the perfecting of the saints unto the building up of the body of Christ and there is a working of the measure in each one part (Eph 4:11-12). There was a working of the measure of the grace of Christ in Paul’s life that was his ministry. Paul said, “I work more than they all yet not I but the grace of Christ with me (or in me)” (1 Cor 15:10). He is saying, “you guys are partakers with me of that grace through this fellowship that grace, that operation, is operating in you too”. Again, genuine ministry should reproduce itself because it attaches you together in a fellowship.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul said that God has anointed us, and sealed us, and attached us together with you in Christ (2 Cor 1:21). Paul and the apostles did not view ministry as something they did from “on high” through a bureaucracy passing down things down to the people. Paul looked it as, “we’re joints of the rich supply to be attached to you, and this is to bring out the operation of the measure in each one part so that you guys begin to function. We are here to perfect you and bring you into this realm of fellowship” (Eph 4:16). John said, “we write these things to you that you may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Their fellowship drove them to think of the saints and to pray for them and to teach and equip them until they brought them into the realm of the fellowship. Then they all became fellow partakers of the same grace. I believe that these saints were attached to Paul and had a “Pauline” kind of flavor about their ministry because they had received so much from him. They were a reproduction of what God was doing in him so that even though he was in prison his ministry was still operating in the church through all the members that have been perfected by his teaching.
Paul says, “I know that God started to work in you, and I know that He is going to complete it. The reason I know it is because the feelings I have in my heart for you. These do not come from myself and my natural affinities and my flesh because you flatter me and make me feel good. But I long for you in the inward parts of Jesus Christ – the “bowels” of Christ Himself. That is who we are dealing with. He is the “Ambassador of Christ in chains.” We can barely grasp it. He is one with Christ and Christ is one with him. His feelings for the saints in the fellowship are Christ’s feelings!
You must understand that the fellowship produces a love which is not just your love. It is Christ’s love. When you get into a fellowship of people that are full of thanksgiving about Christ, they are full of an acknowledgement of what they have in Christ and are full of an enjoyment, they start saying “This is so good. I am so glad to be resting in this grace and enjoying it with you. I’m praying for you.” That is Christ! That is not you! In my natural flesh, I do not care so much about people. But when I am reading my wall and I see the comments and in fellowship chat, it is the fellowship. It has become sweet and I have got the saints in my heart. Not to the degree that Paul does, but I am sure you can relate. You have saints in your hearts. That is Christ. That is the realm of the fellowship of the Gospel. It is not based on natural affections and trying to be “loving” and someone telling you to love one another. It is based on the realization of who Christ is and what He has accomplished. It has brought you into a rest and into an enjoyment of your inheritance with the saints in the light. You are all partakers together of grace. We also contend together. Paul says “I long for you in the bowels of Jesus Christ. God is my witness.”
Discernment for Approving what God Sets Forth
Php 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
One version that I am familiar with says “that you may approve by testing the things which differ and are more excellent.” The KJV says “approve the things which are more excellent.” This is fine, but even approving the things that are excellent means that you discern them from the things which differ. Paul prays that their love would abound “in discernment”. I have seen a lot of “discernment” ministries that only curse the darkness. I remember when Kanye got saved – and some question that. I tend to believe that he did because I saw a change but I also know that he was surrounded by lord shippers and wolves and it would be a long time before we saw any clarity come from him. So, I do not look to him as a teacher or anything like that. I think he has got a long journey to go on. But I was really disappointed with the way so called “discerning” Christians were responding because instead of hoping he was saved, they were insisting that now he is an “mk ultra” or a “clone” with a manufactured personality or he’s a Nephilim or Illuminati, so there’s no way he could be saved! I would argue that these people might have made the same judgments about Daniel. Daniel would have been walking around in an “illuminati” garb as he was the head of the wisemen, the astrologers that surrounded the king in Babylon. He would have been wearing some kind of fancy robe with the “all seeing eye” on it and all the Babylonian symbols to designate his rank in the mysteries. If you were that kind of “discerning” person, would you have listened to Daniel as a prophet?
Daniel’s prophecies stirred up the people who had been living for 70 years in Babylon and had started to do pretty well there to go back to Jerusalem, this desolate place, and rebuild. This was a dangerous thing to do because it was perceived that it was a rebellious city. Only about 50,000 people went. A very small portion went back to rebuild. God stirred up their spirits by the words of their prophets, but a lot of people did not receive those words and stayed in Babylon. They even became enemies of the building in some cases, a distraction. Who knows, but maybe Daniel in his illuminati garb was not widely received as a genuine prophet of the Lord.
It is interesting that the Lord will sometimes set up a situation where you must actually have discernment and know his word to “approve that which is more excellent”. Your love must abound. Discernment is not just a matter of seeing all the negative things. Discernment is for you to be able to approve that which is excellent. It produces sincerity and lack of offense. He says, “that you may be sincere and without offense unto the day of Christ.” Now this has to do with what kind of condition we are going to be in when He comes. He is coming for us all, the entirety of the Body. But we know from Thessalonians and from the parables that there will be a group of people who are not watching, are not sober, are not walking in the day, are not wearing the breastplate of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation (1 Thess 5:5-8). They will have taken their armor off, gotten drunk with the world, become offended because of false prophets and false teachers, slander and lies (Mt 24:10-12). They will no longer tolerate sound doctrine but will go after seducing spirits and fables (2 Ti 4:3; 1 Ti 4:1) and become “drunk” and “beat the fellow servants” (Lk 12:45). It all comes down to what you can discern. Are you able to approve of the New Testament ministry?
Think about Paul’s time. People could not discern Paul. He was the “wise master builder,” (1 Cor 3:10) the one who had been given the “dispensation of the grace of God for the Gentiles”, the “Revelation of the mystery” (Eph 3:2-3). He had a unique body of truth that they absolutely had to have to grow in the Christian life. The devil had done everything he could to silence Paul, isolate him, get him in jail and turn the churches away from him. He did this through a group consisting of a mix of false brethren, Judaizing Jews and Christians influenced by Jerusalem and James who wanted everyone to get along and thought that the law for sanctification was a “secondary issue.” This is the same thing we deal with today. PAul was eventually put in prison as an “evil doer” and had the reputation of an “evildoer” because genuine churches were not full of a love that was abounding in discernment. Many were not able to discern, or approve that which is excellent, and they were full of offense and rejected Paul.
The condition of the churches was terrible in Paul’s time because of the offense that was everywhere. Timothy had an ulcer. Timothy was ready to give up because the situation in the church was so bad. Paul told Timothy that he needed to be willing to “suffer hardship as a soldier” (2 Ti 2:3). Who would have thought that you had to wear armor as if you are at war with enemies to minister to the Church? The Church is supposed to be your friends! The Church is supposed to be the family of God. You should be able to take off your armor in the Church! No, if you’re going to be a minister or you want to live godly in Christ, you’re going to suffer persecution. This will even be from the Church, from babes in Christ whose love has not a they have not bounded. They have not grown to be able to discern and test, and approve the things which differ and are more excellent. They are unable to approve of the New Testament ministry. They do not recognize it. Instead, they embrace the slander and they are full of offense. They become the persecutors. Yet, they are saved. What do we do with that? In that case you must bear it. I have people on my wall who say one thing to me and I see them on other walls sometimes saying things about me. They come back and vacillate between clarity and unclarity. This is because they are growing, so I cannot shut them out, I just have to let them be. I must try to encourage them where I can and recognize that they are not the same as a wolf. The wolves you have to shut down and eventually if someone becomes divisive and starts turning people away you have to put up your guard and say “no.” It is a very difficult mixture and you have to have the discernment to know the difference between a hardened enemy of the truth and someone who’s just not grown in their ability to discern.
Thank God at Philippi there was a fellowship that was doing well and was able to approve of that which is excellent. Yet, he still prayed that their love would abound yet more and more because he knew the enemy was busy with accusaitons and slanders There were false prophets and apostles, false prophetic words, letters being written in the name of Paul and being circulated to the point where he had to say, “notice my signature. Don’t receive any other letters not written in this hand.” He knew what was going on and he knows the Judaizes were going to come and attack this church. He told them in Chapter 3 to beware the dogs, beware the evil workers, and beware the evil workers. He said he was telling them even weeping that many were enemies of the cross of Christ. Why did he have to warn them so strongly? He was praying that their discernment will grow, and that they would continue to be able to approve that which is excellent and stand with him. But he was also confident because they were in his heart and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel and in his bonds, they were fellow partakers with him of grace. God was his witness how he longed after them in the inward parts of Christ Jesus, so he knew that God who began a good work in them would complete it to the day of Christ![catlist name=”philippians”]