We saw last (from Philippians 1:1-11) that Paul was a man who really knew his Lord. He understood clearly his relationship with God in Christ. He knew himself to be a recipient of grace and his life was dedicated in joyful service to Jesus and his people. He knew that his own identity and security (and that of those to whom he wrote) was grounded in God’s ownership of them. It brought Paul great joy in prayer to be able to thank God for the work God had begun in the Christians at Philippi – the work that God himself would complete when Christ returned. Likewise was Paul deeply grateful for the Philippians “partnership in the Gospel”. Their generosity, practical support and fine example of Christlike service was deeply encouraging to the apostle in his Roman captivity. Paul was like a beaming father to his children in the faith at Philippi whom he could see growing evermore into the spiritual likeness of the Master, Jesus.
This letter is the outflow of Paul’s grateful and joyful heart and his deep love for God and his church.
In verses 12 to 30 of chapter one, Paul reflects on his circumstances. In doing so, he relates his great joy that his imprisonment is actually serving to promote the cause of Christ – both within the circle of his Roman guards and outside the prison walls. The gospel is not chained. More and more people are hearing about Christ because of Paul’s situation and this brings Paul the greatest joy of all. He delights that his inconvenience and hardship brings honour to his Master and salvation to the lost.
In all this, Paul demonstrates a great humility and spiritual maturity. This the greatest challenge to all of us. Would we really rejoice like that in similar straits?
I was privileged a number of years ago to hear the first hand testimony of an Aussie aid worker who had been caught up in the conflict which suddenly engulfed the world following September 11. She became a prisoner in a large gaol filled with female prisoners of all kinds of nationalities and faiths. In that place of fear she discovered the greatest joy and peace (and indeed freedom), to tell the other women about Jesus. She was like a modern day Paul. Like the apostle, the prayers of the saints and the help of the Spirit of Jesus resulted in her eventual freedom.
Paul’s heart for the Gospel is reflected in this wonderful passage. The only thing Paul loves more than the message of his Saviour is the Saviour himself.
Paul longs to go and be with Christ. It reminds us of the passionate love of lover and beloved in the Song of Songs. How many of us really love Jesus as Paul did?
This passage ends with a powerful exhortation to live “lives worthy of the Gospel”. That is powerful indeed. Jesus poured out his very blood onto the earth unto death. He did that for me; he did that for you. How could I ever live a life worthy of that love that Jesus had for me? And yet we are compelled to embrace Christ, to soak up his love and forgiveness like a thirsty sponge – only (like Paul) to be ‘squeezed out’ so that same love gives life and hope to the dying world.
Do we really want that?
That is what Jesus calls us to be. Just like him.
For reflection: What would it mean for me to “live a life worthy of the Gospel”?