Philippians 1:9-11 Abounding Love

Philippians 1:9-11        Abounding Love                               WC McCarter

I have made it my practice in recent years to pray for people when they come to mind.  There is no better time to pray than when you are thinking of someone.  I also receive many text messages, emails, and phone calls with prayer requests.  It is too easy to say that you will pray and then forget about the person or issue.  I have made it my practice to stop what I am doing and pray for that person as soon as I hear the request.  Not only do I pray for individuals when I think of them or receive a prayer request, but I also pray for our church as often as I think to pray.  I cannot give you all of the content of my prayers for the church, but I can say that I thank the Lord for all of you; I thank Him for our leadership; I thank Him for those who serve here; I thank Him for your generosity; I also pray that He would continue to bless us; I ask that He would make us to grow in our knowledge of Him; I ask that He would give us a fruitful ministry, loving hearts, unity, and a continued willingness to minister to the nations with the Good News of Christ.  These are just some of the things that I continually pray for our church.  Let me ask you: Do you pray for us?  What is the content of your prayers for the church here in Rural Hall? 

After stating the context of his prayers for the Philippians and the reasons for thanksgiving, now Paul gives us the content of his prayers for the church.  He will broaden his explanation of what he meant by the “good work” that was started in them.

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Abounding Love (9)
Last week, we discussed Paul’s thankfulness for the Philippians.  They had become wonderful ministry partners.  The apostle was often reminded of their willingness to support him and his Gospel ministry.  Paul said that when he thought of them, he could not help but give thanks.  He told them that he made requests to God for them in prayer, and now he gives them some of the content of those prayers.

When Paul writes a letter to his congregations, he often shares some of the content of his ongoing prayers for them.  This letter is no different.  Here, in verses 9-11 is Paul’s prayer for the Philippians.  In the New Testament, prayer is commanded, assumed, and exemplified.  The Lord Jesus taught the disciples to pray, and Paul is no different.  By his own testimony we learn that he was constantly in prayer for his churches throughout the Empire.

The first part of his prayer is that the Philippians’ love would abound more and more in knowledge and all discernment.  Apparently, love is something that had marked the Philippian church for some time (it is supposed to mark all Christian churches.  Paul is not rebuking them for their lack of love.  Rather, he is encouraging them to love more and more.

Notice that a Christian’s growth in love is a result of his/her growth in knowledge.  So then, Christian love is not mushy or flaky.  It is linked with our spiritual learnedness.  Let me point out a few more things here.  I think that Paul is talking about their capacity for love.  He wants to see their capacity to love abound more and more.  They are already loving, but he wants them to become even more loving.  A Christian’s capacity to love God and people can continue to develop throughout their life.  The question is, How does this growth happen?  The apostle communicates that we become more loving the more we increase in our knowledge of the things of Christ and in spiritual discernment.

Discerning Excellence (10)
The word “excellent” or “best” is the same word used by Jesus in Matt 6:26 and 10:31. These two places give us examples of what Paul means. God can look at sparrows and people and clearly see that people are of much more value. Paul’s prayer is that the Philippians will be able to have the same kind of discernment. Christians ought to be able to look at situations, decisions, even temptations and clearly know what is the more excellent way.

The Philippians (and us) needed an ever-abounding knowledge so that they could know the things that really matter, the things to which they should be devoted (excellent/sincere).  Notice that the apostle makes love something of the mind.  Love abounds where there is knowledge, discernment, approval, and sincerity.  Also, it is not a bad idea to be “without offense till the day of Christ.” Abounding in love, abounding in a thorough knowledge, and approving the things that are excellent will go a long way to helping a believer remain without offense. I think this tells us something about some people. If all they ever do is pick little arguments or make a “big stink” about things that do not matter then they are probably not growing in love or knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord. If you know someone in the church that is sincere about all the wrong things then pray this prayer for them.

Being Filled (11)
We should want for ourselves, our families, and our church to arrive at the Day of Christ “filled with the fruits of righteousness.” What a marvelous picture! I see a link here with the “fruit of the Spirit” found in Galatians 5:22. I think these two phrases parallel one another because Paul adds the phrase here, “which are by Jesus Christ.” The fruits that Paul wants for the Philippians are “by Christ Jesus” much like the fruit that Paul wanted for the Galatians was “of the Spirit.” The righteous fruits that God desires He also works in the life of the believer. They are by Christ Jesus, of His Spirit which is in our hearts. God has “given us the Spirit in our hearts.” That is why God is found to be most glorious. Paul finishes the passage with the phrase “to the glory and praise of God.”

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) One simple, but helpful, definition given for this kind of love is the “placing of high value on a person.” If you place a high value on someone then you will go out of your way to benefit them. You will go above-and-beyond to comfort, aid, bless, care for, and preserve their life. He is not rebuking them for a lack of love, but prays that God will continue what He started in them.

(2) God is the One who starts the good work in us and He is the One who will complete that work until the Day of Christ. The “fruits of righteousness” that we long to be filled with are “by Christ Jesus…of the Spirit.” We cannot boast. It is not of us that anything good will come. It is by the work of God. It is all to His glory. We must recognize God as most glorious for what He has done and what He will do and respond in praise to Him.

Philippians 1:1-8 Fellowship in the Gospel

Philippians 1:1-8          Fellowship in the Gospel                  WC McCarter

As I thought about an introduction and sharing some background about the Philippian church, I decided that reading several verses from Paul’s trip to Philippi was too good to pass up. Take a look at Acts 16.

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Greetings and the Background (1-2)
Paul follows the standard protocol for the opening of an ancient letter. He names himself along with Timothy as the writers/senders; next, he names the recipients; and lastly, he gives a greeting. This is normal structure, but what he says is far from normal. Let me say something about those three parts.

The letter comes from Paul and Timothy. Paul is an Apostle, and Timothy is his disciple-associate. Paul was made the Apostle to the Gentiles by the Lord Jesus. Thus, Paul traveled all over the Roman Empire spreading the Good News about Christ crucified and raised from the dead. He was planting churches with the help of people like Timothy. The Philippian church had been planted by Paul on his second missionary journey. We are told that Timothy joined up with Paul, Silas, and Luke, and, shortly thereafter, the team went to Philippi, among other places. Ultimately, Paul was forced to leave the city, but he would not forget the Philippians or lose touch with them. They became great missionary partners who supported him financially, in prayer, and with encouragement. Interestingly, when Paul states his name and title here at the beginning of the letter, he does not say what he usually does. He usually identifies himself as an Apostle (which he was), but on this occasion he only states that he and Timothy are slaves of Christ. Why did he leave out his authoritative title? It is most simply understood that Paul had no need to restate his authority. The Philippians respected and honored him as an Apostle with no doubts. The lack of the title demonstrates the warm relationship between Paul and the Philippian church. So, we will see that a key theme in this letter is “joy.” There was lots of joy because of this relationship.

The recipients of this encouraging letter are the saints in Philippi. The word “saints” means “holy ones.” To be a saint is not to be a super-Christian or to be absolutely perfect. To be a saint means that you are “in Christ Jesus.” The Philippians were holy in Christ, and so are you.

When Paul writes this letter, he is not with the Philippians. In fact, he had to leave them before he was ready. Now he is writing back to them, and he finds himself in prison again, but with great encouragement. The Apostle wants to commend his friends for their support. On several occasions the believers in Philippi sent contributions to Paul so that he could continue to devote himself to the teaching of the Gospel. Each time Paul received financial support from the Philippians he not only had needs met, but was also greatly encouraged. A close bond had developed between Paul and the Philippian church. When a collection was being received from all of the churches to take to Jerusalem during a great famine, Paul was not going to ask the Philippians to give. They had already given him much support and were not as financially stable as before. Yet, when they heard of the need, they stepped up and gave beyond what they could really afford. Paul successfully delivered the gift to the church in Jerusalem, but was soon imprisoned because of many Jewish opponents. He was imprisoned for two years waiting his fate. During that time the Philippians longed to help Paul, but were not given the opportunity. Finally, many months later, the Philippians were able once again to help Paul. Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter and had just received the monetary gift from them.

The leaders in the Philippian church are singled out from the whole. The bishops (literally “overseers,” also known in the NT as pastors, shepherds, elders) and deacons are called out from “all the saints…in Philippi.” Paul, undoubtedly, wanted to honor these men for their partnership in the work of the Gospel, but also wanted to recognize them as the ones responsible for the application of the things written by Paul in the letter. The overseers were responsible for ensuring that the teaching of Paul was assimilated into the assemblies. They were responsible for teaching, overseeing, administrating, and caring for the people. We cannot be completely sure of all that deacons did in the early church, but the word itself literally means “to serve.” The NT suggests that the deacons served in many official capacities according to the direction of the overseers.

The third part of the opening verses is the greeting: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” While most letters in the ancient world, and even today, would have had some type of greeting at the beginning, Paul’s is uniquely Christian. Grace has been extended to all who will believe in Christ, that is, undeserved forgiveness and favor. Peace has been made by the precious blood of Christ. Both grace and peace come from “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the Gospel that Paul maintains.

Thanksgiving (3-8)
Do you have someone who has greatly influenced you? Do you have someone who, when you think of them, you have to thank God for him/her? Do you thank God for their gifts, their influence, the blessings, their love? The Philippians were just that for Paul. Every time Paul went to prayer he spoke up in behalf of the Philippians. He wanted God to pour out mercies on them. He wanted great spiritual blessings for them.

The Gospel is our fellowship. It is what unites us. It has brought us together. From the very first day until that present day, joy had filled their hearts and it was centered on the Gospel.

People, pastors, churches do not finish the work that God starts. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He starts and finishes the work of salvation. God will take you all the way to the Day of Christ. What day is that? It is the Last Day. The Lord will get you to the Last Day. He will bring you to the end. It cannot be done another way. There is always grace from God.

It did not matter where Paul was—in prison, out of prison, defending the Gospel—he was supported by the Philippians. They lived life together. They carried out Gospel ministry together. They fellowshipped in the Gospel. They were partakers of grace. We are all partakers of grace. Christians must look at one another through the eyes of grace. None of us are perfect. We are all sinners who are forgiven by grace.

Conclusion and Christian Application
Until “the Day of Christ,” we should:

(1) Be supportive of Gospel ministry. This is what an Apostle rejoices over, and we would be safe to assume that this is what pleases God. The care that the Philippians showed toward their Apostle and evangelist was amazing. They continued to support his Gospel ministry long after he left them, even when it was not easy for them. It is no wonder why Paul was so thankful for the Philippians.

(2) Be charitable toward others and thus motivate thanksgiving. When other believers think of you, what do they think? Is it positive or negative? Are people thankful for you? Now, not everything we do will receive a pat-on-the-back or a thank-you-card in return, but are you being charitable toward others and giving others a reason to be thankful for your presence in their life?

(3) Be thankful for those around you. Be specific when you go to God in prayer. Who has been there for you in the hard times? Who has supported you when you needed it most? Who has gone out of their way to help you? Name them to God, and like I said before, also be one of those people.

Romans 8:8-14 The Spirit of Easter

Romans 8:8-14             The Spirit of Easter                         WC McCarter

If we were to do a study in the New Testament about the resurrection of Christ, we would quickly see that all the persons of the Triune God—Father, Son, Spirit—all had something to do with raising Jesus from the dead.  For our brief moments in the Scripture this morning, I would like for us to focus on the work of the Holy Spirit.  You will remember that toward the beginning of the Gospel story, the angel Gabriel visited Mary with news that she would conceive and give birth to a son.  The boy would be called Jesus and would reign forever over the house of Jacob.  Mary had never known a man, so she asked how these things would be.  Gabriel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”  At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He went to John the Baptizer at the Jordan River, and the Scripture says, “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.”  The Spirit is the One who drove Christ into the wilderness for tempting.  When He returned and started His ministry, He did so “in the power of the Spirit.”  Jesus said that He cast out demons by the Spirit of God.  He also said that He proclaimed Good News by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit was involved in Jesus’ life and ministry from the beginning to the end—even the very end.

The Scripture also teaches that the Spirit entered the tomb where Jesus had been buried and raised Him to life on the third day.  That is what we have gathered to celebrate today.  I would like to take you to Romans 8 and discuss the Spirit of Easter for just a few minutes.

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The Flesh (8)
There are two categories in which people can function: in the flesh or in the Spirit.  The “flesh” is the way of the world, the way of this present, wicked age.  It is selfish and sinful.  It is called the “Adamic” nature because we have inherited it from our first father, Adam, who sinned in Garden in the beginning.  When we set our minds on the things of this world, we set our minds on things that will soon pass away.  This world and the things of this world do not last forever.  When we pursue the things of this world, they may seem gratifying but only for a brief moment.  There is no lasting joy for you in the things of this age.  There is certainly no approval or blessings from God when you are in the flesh.  You cannot please God in any way.  In fact, those who operate in the flesh, which is most people, have made themselves enemies of God by their own wicked works.  Those who are in the flesh have set themselves up against almighty God.  There is no hope for those who persist in the flesh.

The Spirit (9-10)
Yet, there is hope for those who forsake the flesh, turn to God by faith in Christ, and trust in Christ’s accomplishments on the cross.  Those achievements at Calvary have been approved by God which is seen is the resurrection.  God accepted Christ’s sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world, and He has declared this truth powerfully in the raising of His Son.  God has done all the work.  All we have to do is turn and trust.

When you do put your faith in Christ, you are born-again.  This is not some fundamentalist way of saying that you are obeying some religious system.  Rather, to be born-again is to be born from above.  It is to experience a spiritual rebirth by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  It is to experience a spiritual resurrection because apart from Christ you are dead.  When you are born again, the Spirit comes to dwell in you and you are made alive!  So, here is the thing, if you do not have the Spirit of Christ in you—you have not been born again—and you do not belong to Christ.

Yet, if you have been born again, although your body is dead because of sin, you will be brought to life.  Your spirit has been made alive and your body will also be raised from the dead.  God is the God of resurrection.  He is the God of life.  In fact, Jesus said, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.”

The Spirit of Easter (11)
Now, let’s focus in on verse eleven.  Our spirits have been made alive, and we have the promise that our bodies will be made alive as well.  But, how can we be so sure?  Our confident hope may be based on the Spirit who indwells us.  That same Spirit that raised Jesus to life is the One who indwells us and will also give life to our mortal bodies.  Christ’s resurrection is the firstfruit of ours.  His is the basis of our hope.  His is the forerunner and guarantee of resurrection life for all those who are united with Him.  And the resurrection power that the Spirit wields is not just to resuscitate our regular, ol’ bodies.  His power raises us and transforms us.  We are given bodies that do not die.

Led by the Spirit (12-14)
Not much else needs to be said this Resurrection Sunday.  But look at the last three verses today.  We are called debtors.  What is the debt that we ought to pay?  We should forsake the flesh, which only leads to death anyway, and pursue righteousness.  Our obligation is to live in Spirit-destroying power.  By the Spirit we put to death the sinful deeds of the body.  Our obligation is to live righteously knowing that we have already been saved.

Conclusion: There is Good News.  Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead.  The same Spirit who raised Him from the dead has given us new spiritual birth, indwells us, empowers us for holy living, and guarantees life for our mortal bodies.  Live in the power and promise of the Spirit of Easter!