The Joy of the Lord Studies in Philippians
Series Goal • To understand the circumstances leading to the composition of Philippians • To study the key themes Philippians • To be encouraged and edified
Today’s Theme: Joy • One of the greatest gifts from God • It is also a gift quite unique to the Christian faith. • It is an eschatological gift (Isa 12.3; 25.9; 55.12) • But it is something that is seldom witnessed • Note Lee Kuan Yew’s comments about Singaporeans: we are champion grumblers! • For our own sakes and for witness
Paul and the Letter Circumstances leading to the composition of the letter
Founding of the Church at Philippi (Acts 16.9-40) • Paul’s 2nd Missionary Journey • The Macedonian Call • Lydia and a women’s prayer meeting • Exorcism of a clairvoyant slave girl • Paul’s arrest • Conversion of the Philippian gaoler • Paul, the Roman citizen
Paul’s Circumstances • Imprisonment • Most probably in Rome • For the gospel’s sake • Outcome uncertain • Letter written in the early 60s (AD 60-62)
Occasion of the Letter • To thank the Philippians for support • To commend Epaphroditus • To give an update on his circumstances • To warn the Philippian Christians of the following: • Incipient division • Ardent Jews who wanted to impose Judaism upon the Christians
The Christian Concept of Joy Joy that triumphs over circumstances
Sayings from sages of the past • ‘The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ (William Shakespeare) • ‘The turbid ebb and flow of human misery’ (Matthew Arnold) • ‘If we have wine this morning, we should drink and be drunk’ (Chinese proverb) • Good times will not last forever, as all good things must come to an end. • Vicissitudes of life are an ever present reality, enjoy life while you can
Yet … • Paul was in prison and wrote about joy: his and the Christians’ • Why and how is it possible?
Prisons in 1st century Rome • Prisons were harsh remand centres • ‘Life’ severely limited • No medical care • Constant fear of mistreatment from inmates or gaolers • What sense does it make to be joyful in such circumstances?
Not only this … • Some Christians were preaching the gospel in order to create more trouble for Paul! • In sum, Paul was bereft of material comforts, threatened with torture and death, and maligned by those whom he regarded as brothers in the Lord. • Yet Paul could and did rejoice in adversity!
Philippians 1.20-21 • 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. • 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Christ, Paul’s life • For Paul, to live is Christ • It is not just that he is living for Christ • Rather, everything about his life is Christ • And to die (in Christ) is gain • This does not mean he hates life • To die is to be with Christ in an unprecedented and unmediated way • Thus, death no longer frightens him
Christ, Paul’s Life • Such statements make no sense unless we know who Christ really is. • Paul did, and Christ meant everything to him.
Christ be magnified • Paul compares his life to a public exhibition, in which passers-by may see the glory of Christ. • However his life pans out and whatever comes his way, he wants Christ to be magnified or exalted. • All this takes immense courage and hence, Paul requests for prayer (v. 19)
Philippians 1.14-18 • 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. • 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. • 16 The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. • 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. • 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Christ is being preached! • Paul’s imprisonment led more Christians to preach Christ boldly, but with two very different motives • Some did it out of goodwill and love, knowing that Paul was in prison for the defence of the gospel. • Others did so out of envy and strife, believing that Paul’s imprisonment was a bad testimony for the gospel. So they preached Christ but vilified Paul. • Paul’s attitude: as long as Christ is preached he will rejoice even if he was maligned.
Philippians 1.12-13 • 12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. • 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
The Gospel is advancing • One astonishing result of Paul’s imprisonment was that the gospel reached places that it would not have normally reached • The Praetorian Guard • Caesar’s household (4.22) • Imprisonment became for Paul an opportunity!
Paul’s Joy in Philippians 1 • To live is Christ and thus Christ must be magnified • Christ is preached • The Gospel is advancing • Joy in spite of adversity
A note from Romans 5.2-5 • A similar notion is found in Romans 5.2-5 • There, Paul says ‘we rejoice in (note: not “in spite of”) our sufferings’ because he knows • The whole process is under the control of God • This will bring about spiritual and eternal good: perseverance, character, hope.
Other Statements of Joy in Philippians • 1.4 Praying with joy • 1.25 Joy in the faith • 2.17 Joy of sacrifice • 2.29 Welcoming with great joy • 3.1; 4.1, 4 Rejoice in the Lord! • 4.10 Joy at someone’s concern
Joy and circumstances • Stoics: meet circumstances by being calm, if necessary, grit your teeth. • Paul: rejoice for God is in control. Adverse circumstances can be used by God for our eternal good • Paul: have the right focus; Christ above our circumstances
Joy in the Lord • Does not depend on outward circumstances • Does not shy away from suffering but confronts it, i.e. never escapist but always realistic • While realistic, it is not bound by present circumstances but sees beyond them • Built on an immoveable and unchanging reality of our eternal relationship with Christ • Focused on eternal values and being assured of the final outcome. • An attitude, with Christ as the focus and centre