QOTD: Carson on Philippians

basicsThe Kindle edition of Don Carson’s book, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Baker Academic), is on a temporary $4 sale.

Here is a good quote from chapter one (worth the price of the $4 Kindle edition alone).

I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please. Not too much— just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted. I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture. I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation. I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races— especially if they smell. I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged. …

Carson, D. A. (1996-04-01). Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Kindle Locations 44-50). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I preached through a large part of Philippians when we were at the Grand Canyon and it sure was a challenging book to say the least!  I think its one that every church needs to go through verse by verse.  It so integral to the life and health of the congregation – what can be more important that building one another up in the faith and promoting unity for the sake of the gospel??  But and However, in order to get to that place, most congregations have a lot of work to do – you know – work out their salvation with fear and trembling.  No, silly, not trying to earn one’s salvation but learn to work out personal differences and setting aside personal agendas and following the model of Christ himself, the humble obedient servant, the one who’s attitude we must emulate if the gospel is going to impact not just our communities and the world, but also our own community of faith and our own hearts.  

That bears repeating – the ONLY WAY the gospel will go forth in our own hearts and in our own communities, really and truly, is for each person and for the whole congregation to take on the attitude of Christ, becoming humble obedient servants – to Christ, to one another, and to the gospel – SO THAT the gospel may go forth.  

St Paul was a man of singular passion – Christ and the gospel – that was it, nothing else mattered.  NOTHING.  

I wonder, is it the same for us?  Don’t tell, show me!  🙂  

Blessings. 

On Philippians

Dave Black writes:

Why Philippians? The Philippian church was riddled with factions and rent by cliques. Unable to get along with each other, they took refuge in the alibi that unity was not really all that important. The fact is, their priority system was faulty. During WW II, our national leaders had a lot to say about “hyphenated Americans,” German-Americans, for example, whose loyalty was divided between Germany and the U.S. Too many churches today have become hyphenated because their loyalty is divided between the Gospel and something else. We talk glibly about “God and country.” Or else our loyalty is first of all to “our church” and then to the universal kingdom of God. We place temporal value on eternal things and eternal value on temporal things, like padded pews and lush carpets. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not calling for perfect Christians. Neither is the apostle Paul (see Phil. 3:12 ff.). There are no perfect Christians, but there can be undivided loyalty. The real message of Philippians is not about joy. It’s about priorities, about what comes first and foremost in our lives. “The only thing that matters,” says Paul, “is that you live together as good citizens of heaven in a way that the Gospel of Christ requires” (1:27).

I agree completely that the oft piped theme of joy isn’t really the theme of Philippians but rather the need for unity in the body for the sake of the gospel!  Thanks Dr Black for sharing!

Dave Black’s Paul, Apostle of Weakness

is now up on Amazon.  Here is a snippet from Chapter 5 that he posted on his blog:

In another vein, Paul can also use the words in several instances in the specific sense of bodily weakness, i.e., physical illness, thus approximating the fundamental usage common to all literature in antiquity. He clearly uses the root for sickness with reference to Epaphroditus (Phil 2:26-27), Timothy (1 Tim 5:23), and Trophimus (2 Tim 4:20), his close companions in the gospel ministry. Paul probably uses the root for sickness with reference to himself when he speaks of an “infirmity of the flesh” as the cause for his initial preaching of the gospel among the Galatians (Gal 4:13).

If we are correct in concluding that Paul is referring to a physical infirmity, we can think of this weakness as a particular disease or ailment, the specific diagnosis of which is, however, a mystery. Cases of illness among Christians in NT times indicate that the apostolic commission to heal (cf. Mark 16:18) could not be effected indiscriminately to heal oneself or one’s friends. Normal means of healing were available for Timothy’s gastric problem, for instance; and even in the company of Paul Trophimus became too ill to travel any further.

The classical Pauline passage on illness (2 Cor 12:7-10) is in this respect most striking of all, in that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” remained with the apostle despite even the most intensive prayer for its removal. Paul states three reasons for its existence: to keep him from becoming proud because of his revelations and visions (v. 7); to enable him to experience the power of Christ (v. 9); and to teach him the true purpose of hardships, persecutions, and personal difficulties (v. 10). Indeed, the entire passage is concerned more with the power and grace of the Lord than with the weakness of the apostle. Physical infirmity is evidence that the body “is sown in weakness” (1 Cor 15:43) and is a cogent reminder of the creature’s dependence upon the Creator. In this respect, the case of Paul is remarkably like that of Jacob, who learned to depend totally upon God only after he had been inflicted with a physical injury (Gen 32:24–32).

These instances of illness show that the real issue in the matter of human suffering is our relationship to God rather than our own physical condition, as painful as it may be.

Dave is going through a difficult time right now with his wife Becky being so ill and in the hospital (all this you can read about on his blog)m he doesn’t just write this stuff, he lives it – be lifting them up in prayer and show your support and encouragement to him by buying a book and sharing about it on your own blog!

Dave Black on Philippians 2:12-13

Aug 5th 2012, 9:11 AM I always enjoy and benefit from reading Roger Olson’s blog posts. Since we’re studying Philippians in our Greek 3 class this summer, I was especially glad to see his recent sermon called “Grace Works” Philippians 2:12-13. I partly agree, and partly disagree, with his exegesis. I agree that the term “salvation” (soteria) in 2:12 is not referring to forensic, juridical justification but rather to what Olson calls “life after conversion.” Where I might diverge a bit from Olson is in his definition of “life after conversion”: “maintaining a healthy relationship with God as a converted believer.” This interpretation, in my view, is short-sighted since it begs the question of context and the macrostructure of the book (see my Novum Testamentum essay, The Discourse Structure of Philippians).
What does Paul mean by “work out your own salvation”? As Olson correctly notes, there are too many contextual clues to conclude that Paul is referring to initial justification. The emphasis is on the life of a Christian. But let us take that thought one step further. There are two main imperatives in 2:12-16: “work out your salvation” and “do all things without grumbling and complaining.” Hence 2:12-16 may be analyzed as a continuation of the plea to unity begun in 2:1-4. The theme of 2:12-16 may be stated thus: “I plead for you to obey me and to work at bringing healing to your community. For God is already at work among you to foster mutual good will instead of ill will. Do this in order that one one will be able to find fault in you as you share with others the message of life.” As F. F. Bruce writes (Philippians, 56-57), “In this context Paul is not urging each member of the church to keep working at his or her personal salvation; he is thinking of the health and well-being of the church as a whole. Each of them, and all of them together, must pay attention to this.”
In other words, what many commentators fail to consider is the corporate dimension of Paul’s exhortation in Phil. 2:12-13. Apparently his concern is that the Christians in Philippi, torn apart by dissension and strife, will work to complete the sanctification of the church (and each individual within it) lest the work of the Gospel be hindered. Believers are “co-souled” (2:2), inextricably linked together by the Spirit of God on the basis of their common faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, who is in the process of creating a visible community of faith — a living, breathing organism that knows that its most credible form of witness to the world is its own unity and love. In this light, verse 14 now makes perfect sense: the Philippians must “do all things without grumbling and complaining.” To be saved is to enter into a faith community that grants all of its member the opportunity to experience the depth of Christ’s love. Thus Paul is addressing the matter of unity where it matters most — in the area of interpersonal relationships. Perhaps this explains why his love ethic is so thoroughly eschatological. It is an ethics bound up with the purpose of the church as the New People of God whose citizenship is in heaven and whose ethics are best seen in the virtues of self-abnegation and humility of mind (2:3-4).
From this point of view, “salvation” in 2:12 is not simply a matter of one’s relationship with God. The role of the saints is much broader and deeper. Salvation helps us to structure our congregational life in such a way that we have the greatest potential to be influential witnesses within our families and communities, among whom we shine as stars in the world as we offer them the life-giving message. Hence we must always be praying that our love for one another (and, of course, for God) “might abound yet more and more in knowledge and full discernment” (1:9), simply because lovelessness is one of the main reasons people say they do not want to accept the Christ of Christianity.

Philippians 1:29

reads:

ὅτι ὑμῖν ἐχαρίσθη τὸ ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ, οὐ μόνον τὸ εἰς αὐτὸν πιστεύειν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ πάσχειν,

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…. (NASB)

questions:

yes or no?

and if so, how so?

what would suffering look like for those in affluent societies?

Thanks

on the intertextuality of Philippians 2:14-18

if you are into this kind of stuff, which can be pretty interesting to see how it works, Gordon Fee says its “quite unlike anything else in the Pauline corpus” (241-242).  Here goes from Fee’s Philippians commentary in the NICNT set (a must have commentary):

The abrupt way is ministry is brought into the sentence, with it eschatological focus – also a recurring theme in the letter – is perhaps best explained on the basis of its most striking feature: the sudden and profuse influx of echos from the OT, which is quite unlike anything else in the Pauline corpus.   So unique is this that one scarcely knows what to make of it.  A maximal  view would see it as intentional intertextuality, with distinct language from a series of LXX text that recall the story of Israel from its origins, through the desert, to its eschatological hope.  A minimal view would see it as the outflow of a mind steeped in Scripture and Israel’s story as it has been regularly applied to the new people of God.

The data: It begins with v. 14 with Israel’s “murmuring” (Exod 16:12 et al.): the Philippians are urged not to do so.  The reason for the prohibition is first expressed in the words God spoke to Abraham at the renewal of the covenant in Gen 17:1; as with the father of the covenant, the Philippians are to “become blameless” before God.  This concern is then repeated in the language of Deut 32:5, where in the Song of Moses Israel is judged on account of its rebellion as “blameworthy children, a crooked and perverse generation” (LXX); but for the new covenant people of Philippi all of this is now reversed: by heeding to prohibition against “murmuring,” they become “God’s blameless children,” and the opposition in Philippi the “crooked and perverse generation.”

Finally, in Dan 12:3 Israel’s eschatological hope takes the form: “the wise shall shine as luminaries (phosteres),” with the parallel clause in the Hebrew (MT) adding, “and those who lead many to righteousness as the stars” (for which the LXX has, “those who hold strong to my words“); from the perspective of Paul’s “already/not yet” eschatological framework, the Philippians, as they live out their calling as God’s blameless children, already “shine as stars” as they “hold firm to the word of life.”

The eschatological context of Daniel in turn accounts for Paul’s concluding with a word about the “not yet” side of eschatological realities: the Philippians must persevere (now) in this kind of obedience or Paul will have no “boast” at the end; indeed, he will have “labored in vain” (yet another clause echoing OT language [esp Isa 65:23, “my chosen ones will not labor in vain“]).   Finally, in contrast to that, and now with no specific text in view, he images his ministry and suffering, and their faith and suffering, in terms of the levitical sacrifices (242). 

It’s breathtaking really.  I take the minimalist view on this: Paul was a person who lived and breathed the Old Testament story of God’s people and that this narrative merely reflects that reality.  Fee goes on to share:

But what to do with this phenomenon?  On the one hand,  both its uniqueness in the corpus and the sudden profusion of language not found elsewhere in Paul suggests something more intentional than otherwise; moreover, it seems to “work” too well to be mere chance or coincidence.  On the other hand, this might be just our discovery, with nothing intentional on Paul’s part at all; afterall, he is a man steeped in the story of Israel and is quick to see its application to the people of God newly constituted by Christ at the Spirit.

Perhaps there is a middle way, that this reflects something sermonic or some former teaching (and is thus intentional in that sense), of a kind that Paul can draw on at will, and weave into a single, meaningful sentence that specifies the kind of obedience his is calling them to, while at the same time placing the imparative within the larger biblical framework that assures the Philippians of their place in God’s story (242-243).

Perhaps it’s just me, but I read this some time ago and it has been amazing to me to think about and it comes back to me now and again.

what’s your single passion?

It is New Year’s Day afterall and I know for many American Football is their one single passion in life! And probably rightly so – though for me it has always been skiing – with either snowskiing or waterskiing.   For many years these two things were pretty much all I lived for (I mostly got away from them more due to lack of access or opportunity more than anything.  Besides, with lift tickets being in the $50 and up range snowskiing is fast becoming a sport for the wealthy only.   I remember the days back in highschool (late 80’s) when we could ski all day for $16!

The Apostle Paul was also a man of single passion.  There was one thing or one person who drove all that he did and how he lived his life – that passion was none other than the person of Jesus Christ.

Regarding Paul’s statements in Philippians 1:12-28 (a passage many struggle with) Gordon Fee writes:

It would be easy to dismiss this passage (vv.12-18a) either as anecdotal narrative or as Paul’s simply putting the best possible face on a bad situation.  But that would be to miss too much.  Paul can write things like this because, first, his theology is in good order.  He has learned by the grace of God to see everything from the divine perspective.  This was not wishfulness but deep conviction – that God had worked out his own divine intentions through the death and resurrection of Christ, and they by his Spirit he is carrying them out in the world through the church, and therefore through both himself and others.  It is not that Paul is too heavenly minded to be in touch with reality, or that he see things through rosy-tinted glasses.  Rather, he sees everything in light of the bigger picture; and in that bigger picture, fully emblazoned on our screen at Calvary, there is nothing that does not fit, even if it means suffering and death on the way to resurrection…. (125).

Here is the part I wanted to get to but felt the last part was equally important:

Second, and related to the first, Paul is a man of a single passion: Christ and the gospel. Everything is to be seen and done in the light of Christ.  For him both life and death mean Christ.  He is the passion of the single minded person who has been “apprehended by Christ,” as he will tell the Philippians in 3:12-14 (125).

Perhaps as we head into a New Year we can reassess our passions and what those are or what it is. For Paul, it was Jesus Christ and the gospel – nothing else.   He was one who had been apprehended by Christ and the gospel – it was all he lived for – it drove everything he did – how he lived, how he though, how he interacted with others.   This of course isn’t to downplay a passion for football or baseball or even hockey.    Aside from that, like the Apostle Paul, is Christ our single passion?  Have we been “apprehended” by him such that in spiritual terms, Christ is our only and single passion?

What is your passion as you head into this New Year?

three “hinges” of Philippians

I had a thought today as I was thinking about the book of Philippians – not going to say it is absolute but given that the book is about how to maintian unity in the body in the midst of hardship, suffering and persecution – I have a thought about what I want to call the three “hinges” of Philippians.  Like many doors have three hinges to hold them up – I think Philippians has three hinges that help us understand what is needed to have unity in the body despite hardships. 

They are:  Humility, Obedience, and Service.  

Like a door needs all three “hinges” to function well, so too, all three “hinges” highlighted in the book of Philippians are needed to maintain unity (the door) in the body of Christ – if any of the hinges are missing, it’s not going to work right, no matter how hard we try to make it work. 

We see these three hinges worked out primarily in the life of Christ, or what is called the Christ hymn.  In this hymn we see Jesus model life for us as a humble, obedient, servant.   This life is modeled as one he wants us to follow. 

Without humilty we find ourselves too proud and doing too much “posturing” as Gordon Fee likes to call it – too much trying to put ourselves ahead of others or using them to our advantage.  Without humility we also tend find ourselves skirting hardship and grumbling when it happens.  This is not what God has called us to. 

Instead, God has called us humble ourselves and become obedient (a willing submissivness) to the cause of the gospel and to his calling to be unified with one another, for the sake of the gospel.   This is accomplished primairly through being servants of one another and servants to the cause of the gospel in whatever context we live in. 

It is only when each one of us individually and as congregations of faith learn to live in humility, obedience and service , will true unity in the body of Christ be acheived. 

So, as the Bible exhorts us to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, let us learn to walk in humility, obedience and service, that we might be unified as a body, for God’s glory, for the sake of the gospel.