Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: James 1:19

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Honor Christ by life or death - continued

Philippians 1: 19-30

19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.  
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 

This was not Paul's final imprisonment in Rome.  Awaiting trial, he knew he could either be released or executed,.  However, he trusted Christ to work it out for his good ("shall turn to my salvation").  Whether he lived or whether he died, he wanted to be an honor to Christ.  As it turned out , he was released from this imprisonment but arrested again two or three years later.

To those who don't believe in God, life on earth is all there is,  and so it is natural for them to strive for this world's values - money, popularity, power, and prestige.  For Paul, however, life meant developing eternal values and telling others about Christ, who alone can help us see life from an eternal perspective.  Paul's whole purpose in life was to speak out boldly for Christ and to become more like him.  Thus Paul could confidently say that dying would be even better than living because in death he would be spared from the troubles of the world and see Christ face to face (1 John 3:2,3).  If you're not ready to die, then you're not ready to live.  Once you are certain of your eternal destiny, then you're free to serve - devoting your life to what really counts without fear of dying.

22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I know not.  

Living "in the flesh" refers to living in the body (it does not refer to living according to the evil desires of our human nature as in Romans 8:1).

23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better:
24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;
26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.  
27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

Paul encourages the believers to fight side by side, "striving" or contending for the faith.  How sad that much time and effort is lost by fighting against one another in the church instead of uniting against the real opposition!  It takes a courageous church to resist in-fighting and to maintain a common purpose to serve Christ.  

28 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake:

Suffering, in and of itself, is not a privilege.  But when we suffer because we faithfully represent Christ, we know that our message and example are having an effect and that God considers us worthy to represent him (see Ats 5:41).  Suffering has these additional benefits:
  1. It takes our eyes off earthly comforts;
  2. It weeds out superfiial bellievers;
  3. It strengthens the faith of those who endure;
  4. It serves as an example to others who may fallow us. 
Suffering for our faith doesn't mean we have done something wrong.  In fact, the opposite is often true - it verifies that we have been faithful.  

30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. 

Throughout his life Paul suffered for spreading the Good News.  Like the Philippians, we are in conflict with anyone who would discredit the saving message of Christ.  All true believers are in this fight together, uniting against the same enemy for the same cause. 

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