Don’t Ask That From Me!
As I have been studying the book of Philippians, I continually ask myself questions about what is going on in the text and how that impacts the receivers of that particular letter from Paul.
Just to give some context for this post, here are some points of detail:
- Paul had visited Philipi during his 2nd missionary journey around 50 A.D.
- He impacted the lives of a wealthy citizen (Lydia), a slave girl, and a jailer. Read Acts 16 for more context.
- Paul most likely visited the Philippians during his 3rd missionary journey during the mid-to-late 50’s A.D.
- Paul was falsely imprisoned in Jerusalem following his 3rd missionary journey.
- He would be kept in chains for 4 years as he faced off with his accusers several times before taking his case to Caesar
- During the trip to Rome he would survive a horrendous storm at sea and subsequent shipwreck
- He wrote the letter to the Philippians during the latter half of his imprisonment from Rome around 61 A.D.
- The church in Philipi has continued to support Paul while he has been imprisoned
There is so much more that you can pull out for yourself if you read Acts 20-28 but that should be enough for this post.
In the opening chapter of Philippians we see three major themes:
- Paul’s affection for the people in the Philippian church.
- Paul reminds them of his present circumstances but highlights that God is in control and is glorified
- Paul’s hope that God will work in them to His glory through their love and circumstances
Let us suppose for a moment that Lydia, the jailer, and the slave girl are all part of the congregation that has received this letter from Paul and that they have stayed current with all that Paul has been through since his last visit to them. Now, try to synchronize your emotions and thoughts with theirs as they read through the letter.
It’s not hard to feel the excitement that they experience with the opening of the letter as they read about the joy and love that Paul is sending to them. And then, as Paul reminds them of his present circumstances, there is probably some deflating of that internal celebration as they feel compassion for him and ponder on the glory that Paul highlights is occurring for God through his current situation. But then they get to a part of the letter where Paul exhorts them with these words:
29For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
“Hold on! Wait a second! Paul, what are you saying? You are in chains and look at all you have been through to get to that point. There are some highly visible people around you and many of them don’t like you. Why would you want us go through the same thing? What happened to the love, brother?”
It is not a hard jump to make to think that those types of thoughts were going through the readers minds after reading that one sentence. I want you to do something here. Pick one of the characters that I mentioned earlier and put yourself into their shoes and think about the impact that sentence has on them.
- Lydia the wealthy merchant who knows comfort and shares her home as the early meeting place for the church. She is respected in her community.
- The jailer. He is a blue-collar, government worker who’s job it has been to put people into chains and watch over them for the crimes they have committed.
- The slave girl. She knows what it means to be in bondage both physically and spiritually.
Which one are you?
How do you respond to Paul’s hope that you suffer as he has?
Take a moment and share with us through a comment what is going through your mind.