Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Paul in Prison Pt. 2

Throughout Philippians, Paul gives us many reasons why and how we can endure trials and tribulations. Paul wishes to encourage the new Church not just by words but by example as well. While sitting in his cell, chained to the wall he says “even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial alter of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should rejoice with me.” (Phil. 2:17-18). Paul rejoices in his present situation, no matter the agony, the pain, and the unjustness of it all, he is content to endure it for the sake of his follower’s faith, for the sake of the gospel, so as to be an example.

Not only is he enduring it with the contentment and joy that comes only from Christ. But he also considers it an honor. He takes honor and pride in being in prison.In Phil. 1:29-30 he says "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have." Paul is most likely rotting away in a cell with the festering wounds of a whip still unattended upon his back, and yet he considers at an honor that he is sharing in the sufferings of Christ, suffering for the One who gave His life. It is our joy, our pleasure, and honor to suffer for Him who saved us from eternal hell.

Christ was the perfect and only Son of God, greatly cherished and loved. In contrast man was rebellious, ungrateful, and separated from God. We are alienated from the perfect judge of the world, and there is nothing we can do to reconcile ourselves to Him. Yet this perfect Judge gave His most beloved Son in our stead! Jesus Christ had to degrade Himself and take on flesh. He came to earth only to suffer unjustly at the hands of those whom He came to save. He took on all our sins, nailed then to the cross, and endured the wrath of His heavenly Father for our transgressions. Jesus Christ reconciled us back to God, payed our debt, and offers us eternal life with Him and the Father.

It is because of all of this, that Paul rejoices to be able to suffer, but a little, for his Savior. Christ payed the biggest debt we could ever owe, and we have no way of paying Him back. Sharing in His suffering is way of saying our thanks, of showing our gratitude for what Christ and the Father did for us. This is why Paul considers it an honor, and calls all of us to take joy in our suffering. The Savior gave His life, we can but live and suffer for Him!

We as the elect, chosen, and saved, should rejoice in the opportunity to suffer for the sake of Christ. No one promises it will be easy, or without pain and tears, but we are promised to be given the strength of Christ, to make us content in whatever our situation is. We should be honored to suffer for the One who gave His life for us!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Paul in Prison

Many a times the disciples of Christ and the great writers of the New Testament faced whippings, stones, chains, and prison on countless occasions, all for the advancement of the gospel. While in prison in Rome, Paul writes a letter to the believers in Philippi, which is recorded in Philippians.

I have always loved many of the key verses in Philippians, but as I read through the whole book and understood the context, it opened up a whole new meaning for many of those verses. I was able to understand the situation and attitude from which Paul was writing.

In Phil. 1:12-15, Paul writes "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me (being imprisoned) has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the Word, without fear..."

Here is a man who has been thrown in prison unjustly, and the prisons back then mostly consisted of being underground with no light, and no way of letting out the horrid shared your bed of straw with who knows how many other earthly creatures, and yet this is the situational in which he finds himself and he rejoices. Paul sees something positive about it.
He is glad because the advancement of the gospel is taking place. He is content to be there, because Christ is being shard.

Even further on in my reading, Paul confirms this when he says "I am hard pressed between the two (living or dying). My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.." (Phil. 1:23) Paul would love to be united with His Savior, but instead of choosing deliverance, he would rather endure so as to share Christ with the lost and to direct the new found sheep.

Just before saying this, Paul states, "Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If am to live in the flesh that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell." (Phil. 1:20b-22). I have always loved this passage, but knowing it came from a man who is content in prison, gives it a whole new perspective. Paul is showing us that living for Christ can mean many hardships and trails, but it is worth it, as long as you get to share Christ with others. But once we pass from this life there is but more gain and treasure...we have a living hope.

This all also relates to Paul's earlier statement in Phil. 1:6-"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." Paul is encouraging his brethren, while he is in prison! Paul knows that God has given us the treasure of a living hope, the promise of being resurrected and conformed into the perfect image of His Son.

Paul displays someone who is perfectly content in whatever situation he finds himself. But how can he? How can Paul be content and rejoicing in his present situation, sitting in a dingy, dark and smelly cell? He tells us later on in his letter...

Phil. 4:13 says "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Many times we take this passage out of context, interpreting it to mean that we can do anything with Jesus on our side...we can win any battle, or achieve a financial goal, or any goal that we have set for ourselves. But if we look at the context of the passage, it's meaning is that we can be content in whatever situation we are, because of Christ.

Going back two verses it says "For I have learned in whatever situation to be content...I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Paul is content in his cell, because Christ has given him the strength to be so.

It matters not what our situation is, as long as our eyes are fixed on Christ and our strength comes from Him, we can be perfectly content! It was when Peter looked at the waves around him that they started to consume him. But when our eyes are fixed on Christ, the waves are oblivious to us, it's not that they are gone, we just don't notice them because Christ is our all in all, and we are eventually able to conquer the waves because of Christ!

Paul is writing this to all of us while he is in prison. He is content because of Christ's strength. He is rejoicing because the gospel is being shared. No matter our situation, Christ gives us the strength to be content!

More to come....