Extreme Conditions For Fellowship
In the first chapter of Philippians, Paul makes some connections that might just freak us out. All 4 of these points of fellowship are a bit extreme. They are radical because of Paul’s current circumstances.
Extreme Conditions For Discipleship
In each of these these sections I’ll try to bridge the gap between the ancient parties and ourselves. I believe that these fellowship and discipleship tie themselves into this passage in a way that makes them inseparable. Therefore in untying one knot, the other must loosen with it.
How then do we relate? We must first make disciples. We must turn all of our life over to God and that includes relationships that are disconnected geographically.
As individuals, we need to learn to ask the Father to knit us together in love. His love is eternal and binding. Do you see a disconnect here?
Let’s question whether we joyfully give thanks in prayer to sovereign God when we are separated like this.
As churches, we should also seek to partner with apostolic figures in their work in order to finish the task Jesus gave us.
Paul and Timothy were most likely in conditions that would make one vomit. Due to the sewage system and jail structures, one would likely pass out from heat exhaustion and fumes of fecal matter into said vomit, especially in the heat of the day.
One is that for most Americans, jail time due to Christianity is a totally fictional concept. We are so far removed that it makes us uncomfortable to even try to imagine, much less empathize, the state of imprisoned or persecuted Jesus followers.
How would we react in imprisonment?
How would we respond and strive to carry on, if our spiritual leadership were imprisoned?
How would those we’ve been discipling act?
Let’s examine why we might not be relating to the recipients of the letter so well.
3. Accosted and Usurped by fellow ministers
Later, Paul mentions people who are preaching Christ just to try to undermine him and his apostolic authority. Of course, you can imagine Paul’s response. It goes hand in hand with the focus of His whole post-conversion life, “Preaching Jesus? Praise God!”
This isn’t even an affront to him. He uses their nasty motives to praise the Philippians for their recognition of his calling and authority in their life.
This also helps to explain the absence of his usual explanation in the greeting. You might usually include something like this, “Paul, called to be an apostle of God by Jesus Christ.”
Another reason we are so far removed is that we don’t often make disciples like Paul did. Now obviously, we aren’t all called with apostolic giftings to missionary frontiers. Most of us will never partake in overseeing any church structures at a governance or ministerial level. BUT…
We have the Holy Spirit inside of us. We have to start recognizing our “sentness” as part of our new identities as adopted children of God.
4. Hosting a fellow brother close to death (in illness) while most likely unable to oversee his health.
They’ve sent Epaphroditus and almost lost him. This boggles my mind. Both sides of the relationship are willing to give beyond what they have.
This is the human emulation of kenosis, the concept of Jesus pouring Himself, emptying Himself which crescendos throughout chapter 2. This is the Holy Spirit working in the church to carry on Jesus’ ministry.
Paul and Timothy are imprisoned and separated, pestered, slandered, and yet here they are worried about nursing their brother to life and making sure he doesn’t leave before his health is stable. Sacrificial stuff!