Introducing Philippians

So over the weekend I had the immense privilege of speaking to over 150 university students from York at their annual houseparty weekend. I loved the challenge of the questions and the willingness to be challenged. They also made the whole family feel welcome. I had three main sessions on Philippians and two seminars (one on simplicity & generosity and a Q&A – subjects covered included homosexuality and the church, what is the gospel, church planting and knowing God’s call).

Anyway, I don’t normally blog my talks but I thought that here I’d make an exception and post some of the stuff on Philippians (lightly edited for blog format). Please critique and comment. Below is my introduction to how I approached it and the letter itself.

“Philippi was probably the first church to be established in mainland Europe and was founded amidst a flurry of activity and controversy which you can read about in Acts 16. By the end of the first week Lydia, a wealthy merchant, had been converted and baptised. The gospel had come to the upper classes.

Soon after an annoyed Paul frees a slave girl from demonic oppression. The gospel had come to the lowest classes. This caused an uproar and after a beating Paul & Silas were thrown in jail. After their singing caused an earthquake (sort of), Paul leads the jailer and his family to Christ and baptises them. The gospel had come to the middle classes. And then they leave.

However the Philippians had really taken Paul to heart, they loved him and were hugely committed to his cause giving sacrificially of themselves and their money. Paul praises them to the church in Corinth as an example of generosity and unlike in almost all his other personal letters, Philippians contains very little rebuke and is full of warmth and affection. This is a letter to a church that Paul loved and to a church that loved Paul. It is easily Paul’s letter of joy and as such it should be read with warmth, affection and should encourage, build you up and stir love for Christ in your hearts.

This is more remarkable when you consider the circumstances Paul found himself in as he wrote this letter. He was likely in prison in Rome and had been for some time, his trial was imminent and there was the real possibility of death. Paul’s joy and trust in Christ becomes even more compelling.

It is a Christ-centred letter with some of the most famous verses about Christ in them: ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’, ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…’, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus…’, ‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection…’. We’ll examine the work of God in Christ.

Philippians is also a letter to a church and the church is the bride of Christ and his agent, his new community, his colony here on earth. We’ll look at the work of God in the church.

Of course the church is made up of individuals, disciples of Christ and it contains a vast treasury of riches for the believer: ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praise worthy, think about such things’. We’ll finish with something personal and practical as we look at the work of God in the Christian.

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