Over the past three Sundays, I have had the opportunity to begin preaching through Paul's letter to the Philippians. What a joy it has been!
Let me back up a bit. In the summer of 2004, while in seminary, I took a class from Dr. David Black on Philippians. This book is one of his specialties. Since he is a master-teacher of Greek, it was a thrill. During the class, we mainly used the English text, but Dr. Black couldn't help but break into the Greek once in a while. That class helped me to see just how wonderful this little letter to the Philippian church really is.
During the 2005-2006 school year, I took a class in expository preaching. Our focus during the first semester was Philippians. We discussed Paul's primary reason for writing the letter, what the main themes are, what the structure of the letter is, how to break it down into preaching segments, and how to preach through it. The entire experience was an excellent one for me.
Now, to have the chance to preach this letter at Chevis Oaks Baptist Church (near Savannah, GA) is a great privilege. It's also a lot of fun.
In looking at chapter one of Philippians, it is interesting to see where Paul's focus lies. After an initial greeting (1:1-2) to the church, Paul discusses his prayers for them and then prays for them. Before anything else in this letter, Paul shows his care for his brothers and sisters in Christ by lifting them up to the Lord (1:3-11).
We clearly see Paul's emphasis on the importance of prayer.
After his prayer, Paul talks about how the gospel is spreading in Rome, in part, because of his imprisonment there. He does not appear to be upset by his sufferings. Instead, he is thrilled to see both the gospel flourishing and the Roman church getting bolder in witnessing (1:12-18).
We clearly see Paul's emphasis on the proclamation of the gospel.
In verses 19-26, Paul discusses his driving force in life. Quite simply but also profoundly, he tells the Philippians and us that Christ is why he does what he does. Verse 21 could almost be a life verse for Paul. I love the literal translation of verse 21; it says, "For to me, to go on living Christ, and to die gain."
We clearly see Paul's emphasis on doing everything we do for Christ.
Verse 27 signals an important transition in the letter. Paul gives his first command. Using political language that the residents of a Roman colony would understand well, he literally tells them to be good citizens of the kingdom of God. Their behavior ought to be worthy of the gospel of Christ. He goes on to tell them that they do this by striving for unity, living courageously, and suffering graciously (1:27-30).
We clearly see Paul's emphasis on the importance of living in a manner that honors the gospel of Christ.
Chapter 2:1-4 is as far as I have preached so far. In these verses, Paul tells the Philippian church how to be united. It's clear based on several parts of this letter that the church was struggling with lack of unity (see 4:2). Paul tells them that if they seek the good of their brothers and sisters in Christ before their own, then they will be united. It is not a difficult concept to comprehend, just a tough one to live out day to day.
We clearly see Paul's emphasis on unity.
I'm very much looking forward to preaching the next section of the letter, the great Christ Hymn of 2:5-11.
What a privilege it is to preach the word! Getting to study and preach through books of the bible is a treasure beyond description.
Let me encourage you to study systematically through books. It will stretch you and make you learn new things all the time.