Thursday, June 11, 2015, 6:57 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Songs in The Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philippians 1:1-11 (ESV).
A Partnership (vv. 1-5)
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
What does it mean to be in partnership with someone? It means to be in a relationship of shared (common) interest, participation, contribution and cooperation, though not necessarily on an equal level or with the same roles and responsibilities. For instance, marriage is a partnership, but it is not equal, for the husband is the head of the wife and, although they may share some responsibilities, they will each have their own gifts, talents and areas of expertise and responsibility which they will bring to the partnership. So, it is with us who are in partnership (spiritual fellowship) in the gospel. We don’t add to the gospel, for the gospel of Christ is the rule of order, but we cooperate with it, we participate in it by faith and through living it, and we contribute to it through us sharing it with others.
So, what is the gospel? There are many different ideas about that floating around the church these days. Our foundation for the gospel is Jesus Christ, God the Son – God incarnate – died on the cross for our sins, buried, resurrected from the dead, appeared to many, ascended back to the Father, interceding for the saints, sent his Holy Spirit to indwell the saints, and is coming again one day to judge and to receive his bride to himself forevermore.
When Jesus died, our sins died with him. They were buried with him. When he was resurrected from the dead he rose victorious over sin, death, hell and Satan. By God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, we accept God’s great gift of salvation from sin. That faith, though, is more than just an intellectual assent to what Jesus did in dying for our sins or an emotional decision to invite Jesus Christ into our hearts. If we, by faith, now walk according to the Spirit, we will live, but if we continue to walk (conduct our lives) according to the flesh, we will die. So, the gospel, summed up, is basically that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. That is true grace! By his stripes we are healed!
So, if we are in partnership in the gospel of Christ, it means we die to sin, we are transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and we now live to righteousness – no longer walking according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, who now lives within us. We walk in truth, and daily we put off (put to death), by the Spirit, the deeds of the flesh. We walk in the ways of the Lord and no longer to please ourselves.
A Good Work (v. 6)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
So, what is this “good work” that God/Jesus began in us who are partners in the gospel of Christ? First of all, we were chosen of God before the creation of the world. We were drawn to Christ by the Father in heaven. We heard the gospel of salvation from sin and, by the Spirit, we believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives. We died with Christ to sin, we were transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and we were resurrected with Christ to new lives, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” We were indwelt with the promised Holy Spirit, given eternal life with God, and empowered from on high to live holy lives, pleasing to God, and to be our Lord’s servants and witnesses in sharing the gospel with others. We no longer walk (conduct our lives) according to the flesh, but we now walk (live our lives) according to the Spirit, and by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of our flesh and are growing in the grace of our Lord Jesus.
This “good work” which was begun in us by God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is a spiritual work, of God and by God, and it will be completed by God when Jesus Christ returns for his bride at the end of time. That is why scripture speaks of our salvation as progressive, i.e. that we have been saved (past), we are being saved (present tense – ongoing), and we will be saved (future – when Christ returns). That is also why so many verses which speak of our salvation speak of it in terms of present tense, such as in 1 John 3:16 where it says that whoever is believing has eternal life, and where in Romans 8 it says that the righteous requirements of the law will be fully met in us who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Those who are chosen of God will come to Christ, but it is those who are coming to Christ who will not be cast out, who are also the chosen of God.
So, why make this distinction? Why stress the importance of progressive salvation and that it is only those who are walking according to the Spirit, and who are believing in, and who are coming to Christ who have the hope of eternal life? Doesn’t this seem contradictory to this teaching that says that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion? No, not at all. If we are chosen in Christ, we will come to Christ, and we will not be lost. Yet, many people think they are in Christ when they are not. They think that if they were saved (past), it doesn’t matter what they do from that point on because they, in their thinking, are guaranteed heaven. The Bible teaches differently. It teaches that if we walk (conduct our lives) according to the flesh, we will die. If we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue (ongoing) in sin, we are liars, and we don’t live by the truth. If we don’t obey God, we are not one of his. So, just because we think we are saved, doesn’t make it true.
As well, for those who are in Christ, by faith, but who have wandered away from their pure devotion to Jesus Christ, and who have fallen back into sin, God will do what is necessary to bring them back to him in purity of relationship, via some divine discipline, because the plans of God will not be thwarted. Those who are chosen of God in Christ, God will make ready to meet their husband. God is calling out to you who have wandered from him, and he is asking you how much longer you are going to wander in your sin. He is calling you to repent of your sin and to be restored in your relationship with him. Don’t waste most of your life in rebellion against God. Follow him, obey him, and serve him only! He is the only way, truth and life! He is the only one who will ever satisfy the deep longings of your souls. Don’t chase after what will never satisfy. The best life is one which is submissive to God.
A Prayer (vv. 7-11)
It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Paul described these for whom he was praying as those who were all partakers with him of grace, in his imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. It is by God’s grace we are saved, through faith, yet Paul, when he was confronted with a thorn in his flesh, said that God had said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in your weakness.” So, God’s grace to us is not merely in the act of him saving us from sins, but it is in him giving us his strength in weakness, and in empowering us with the Holy Spirit to live godly and holy lives, and to be his servants and witnesses, even in the face of great opposition. His grace is what brings us comfort, healing, courage, hope, etc. God’s grace to us is him giving of himself to us to meet all our needs and to extend to us his many kindnesses, benefits, and spiritual blessings, which are ours in Christ Jesus.
Paul said they were partakers with him of this grace in his hardships, and in the defense of the gospel. So, we can take it that they participated with him in some way in these things he was doing and which he faced, either that they also went through the same kinds of situations, and also experienced God’s grace to them in those times, and/or that they participated with him in what he was going through by extending God’s grace to him during these times by their prayers, by their ministering to his needs, by encouraging him, and by standing with him in support of what he was doing. Whatever the case may be, Paul was encouraged by them and by their walks of faith, and by their partnership with him in sharing the gospel and in the suffering he went through in defense of the gospel.
So, he prayed for them that their love would continue to grow and flourish, with knowledge and all discernment. We need discernment and understanding in knowing how best to love others, and in what ways God would have us minister to their legitimate needs, don’t we? We may choose what we think is good, but it may not be what is best. For example, instead of just handing people “fish,” teach them to fish, if they are able. We may feel great compassion for people but then act foolishly in our attempts to show them love, if we are not wise. Treating people kindly is not always just trying to make them feel good. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is to speak the truth in love to someone. So, that is why we need knowledge and discernment.
Also, if we are not careful, if we try to save someone who is drowning, he or she might pull us under with them, i.e. we might be led into sin. So, we need knowledge and discernment of the Spirit of God so that we remain pure and faultless in how we go about loving others, and in how we conduct our own lives. We can’t be too trusting or too naïve or we might fall into a trap. We may have good intentions, but if they are not coupled with godly wisdom, it might be our downfall. It is best to be in the habit of inquiring of God before we make a move toward doing some act of love toward someone else, because he can warn us of potential dangers, and he can direct our path and give us the wisdom we need. But, praise be to God, the same God whose grace saved us and is saving us from our sins, is the one whose grace is sufficient to meet our every need, to help us to remain pure and faultless, and is able to give us all we need to love wisely, and to live holy lives, pleasing to God.
Songs in the Night / An Original Work / December 18, 2013
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,
And the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 NIV ‘84
Lord, I praise You forevermore.
You, my Savior, I now adore.
Hope in heaven awaiting me,
Because You died at Calvary.
I have been forgiven,
And I’m bound for heaven.
Jesus set me free from
All my sin, I say.
I will praise Him always!
Lord, I love You for all You’ve done:
Overcame death, my vict’ry won!
Jesus saved me, and now I’m free!
I rejoice in His love for me.
I will walk in vict’ry!
My sin is but hist’ry!
I am free to please Him
With my life today.
I will love Him always!
Lord, I thank You for giving me
A new life bought at Calvary.
Loving Jesus, I meet with Him.
Tender mercies now flow within.
Lord, I am so thankful;
Through my Lord, I’m able
To sit at His table;
Fellowship with Him.
I will thank Him always!