In our ongoing series examining some of the greatest verses of the New Testament, last week we examined Ephesians 2 and talked about salvation by grace, through faith. We finished up noting that while our works do not save us, Ephesians 2:10 notes “…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That is to say that God did not merely save us from sin, death and hell, but saved us to good works.
It is that notion that leads us into one of my favorite passages Philippians 2, we’ll look at the verses 2:1-18 in (naturally) three parts. And if your getting the feeling that we’ve discussed this before, we did it on 9-10-10. Should this little treatise be insufficiently boring you can also read my earlier notes on Philippians 2 here.
Actually, while you could divide it into three parts its really better in two, or better yet more like a donut (a shape that should be familiar to all Southern Baptists as donuts and coffee prior to Sunday School are as near to a sacrament as we come). By that I mean there is a whole surrounded by the argument Paul makes in 2 parts. (See what I did there?)
The first portion of Philippians 4 (verses 1 to 9) is all about peace. Paul talks a lot about peace and we are going to take his points in reverse order because my mind works from the general or theoretical to the specific or practical.
Verses 8 and 9
Paul says tells us to let our minds dwell on what is true, noble, pure, right, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. What, to your mind, are things that fit that bill? Then he gets really dangerous, he says whatever they have seen him do or heard him teach, they should do those things. Paul was a very brave man.
Some of the more familiar and inspiring verses of the New Testament are in this Chapter. In this most personal of letters this, to me, is the most personal chapter. Paul bares his soul warning the Philippians not to count on the things they do, but on the grace of God for salvation.
He begins by warning them against “those mutilators of the flesh”. He is speaking here, of course, about circumcision but he is using it as a metaphor for merely human attempts to follow the dictates of the Law. He claims that while it was formerly the Jews who could boast of God’s favor, it is now those who “worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh”. He then sets out his qualifications under the law, and they are impressive. A Jew, from a tribe which did not revolt. A member of the sect most strict in following the law and a paragon among them. A man so consumed with the righteousness of his cause that he persecuted the early church. In this way he sets up his potential claims to righteous as greater than any of the Judaizers who may have been causing trouble in the Philippian church.