Thursday, September 25, 2014

Joy, Suffering, and Philippians 1

In Sunday's epistle (3-yr series) Paul was comforting the saints in Philippi with assurances that his imprisonment was for the sake of the Gospel.   
In my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.
I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Yes, Paul was acting Christlike, to suffer for preaching the forgiveness of sins to those who are not worthy of it.

Yes, Paul was an example to the other Christians, so that they were emboldened.

But also, he was writing to the church at Philippi.  You remember who was a member of that congregation?  The Philippian jailer.  The guy who'd listened to Paul and Silas singing hymns half the night.  The guy on duty during the earthquake when the Lord opened the prison doors. The guy who was going to kill himself, until Paul stopped him.  The guy whose whole family was baptized, who welcomed the apostle into their home and treated his wounds and fed these missionaries.  The guy who rejoiced (Acts 16:34) in the Gospel.

You want an idea of why Paul could say that his chains are for the furtherance of the Gospel?  And that in his chains, they partake with him of grace?  And why that resonated with the folks at the church in Philippi?  Because they knew, intellectually, emotionally, experientially.  They had lived it.  They knew this fellow who worked at the jail.  They knew his family.  They worshiped with him.  They cared about him.  And this family heard the good news of Jesus' forgiveness because Paul had been unjustly accused, beaten, and imprisoned.  Not fun or comfortable for Paul.  But cause for rejoicing nonetheless, because there is greater joy in heaven (and in the church militant too) over one sinner who repents. 

And there it was again, in Rome: Paul's arrest being a good thing.  (So weird.  An unfair arrest being good?!)  But if anybody would "get it," it'd be the folks at the Philippian church.

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