Archive for October, 2020

Philippians 1:9-11

In Philippians 1:9-11 Paul continues to talk about his prayers for the church at Philippi. The Philippians had a lot of love, and they showed it to Paul. Yet Paul didn’t hesitate to pray that their love would abound still more and more. It doesn’t matter how much love for others we have; we can still have more!

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

The love Paul wanted to abound in the Philippians was not “blind love.” It was love that had knowledge and all discernment; it was love that could approve the things that are excellent. Paul knew the danger of an undiscerning love. He rebuked the Corinthian church that seemed to glory in their “love” and “openness” which lacked any sense of knowledge and discernment. Being sincere is important, but alone it is not enough. Notorious sinners in the days of Jesus such as tax collectors were sincere, yet they still needed to repent. In this version (ESV) of God’s Word – sincere is being pure.

As well, being without offense before others is important, but alone it is not enough. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were without offense in the opinion of many. We want God to make us both sincere and without offense. In this version they translate the word as blameless rather than without offense. When we approve and receive the things that are excellent, we become sincere (speaking of inner righteousness) and without offense (speaking of outer righteousness that can be seen). Paul wants the church at Philippi to be ready for Christ’s return. Part of being ready is to be pure and blameless.

The work of becoming sincere and without offense is really God’s work within us. It happens as we are filled with the fruits of righteousness. Bearing fruit is always the result of abiding in Jesus. That’s God’s plan for us as Christ Followers. As we abide in Him, we receive the life and nutrients we need to naturally bear fruit to the glory and praise of God. That fruit comes from Jesus, not from our own efforts or work. Clarke explains “Every genuine follower of God has his glory in view by all that he does, says, or intends. He loves to glorify God, and he glorifies him by showing forth in his conversion the glorious working of the glorious power of the Lord.”

Philippians 1:6-8

In Philippians 1:6-8 Paul reminds the church of one of the greatest promises in all of scripture – God’s not done with us yet! “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Because this good work was begun, Paul was confident of its completion. God is a worker who completes His works. Spurgeon wrote “Where is there an instance of God’s beginning any work and leaving it incomplete? Show me for once a world abandoned and thrown aside half formed; show me a universe cast off from the Great Potter’s wheel, with the design in outline, the clay half hardened, and the form unshapely from incompleteness.”

We can depend on God to finish what He started in each of us when we received Christ as Savior and Lord. This work in the believer will not be finally complete until the day of Jesus Christ, which in context has the idea of the second coming of Jesus and our resurrection with Him. Spurgeon explains  “Holy Scripture does not regard a man as perfect when the soul is perfected, it regards his body as being a part of himself; and as the body will not rise again from the grave till the coming of the Lord Jesus, when we shall be revealed in the perfection of our manhood, even as he will be revealed, that day of the second coming is set as the day of the finished work which God hath begun.”

Paul is extremely grateful for the Philippians. His thankfulness, joy, and desire to pray for the Philippians was right because they stood beside him in his trials for the gospel, and they received the same grace he did. “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” Paul was not only a smart guy, but he was also a man with a great heart, and the Philippian Christians were in his heart. They had stood with him while in prison but more importantly as a minister of the gospel.

Paul could even call God as his witness regarding his deep affection for them. He literally loved the people of Philippi and yearned for them. “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Adam Clarke paraphrased Paul’s idea here: “I call God to witness that I have the strongest affection for you, and that I love you with that same kind of tender concern with which Christ loved the world when he gave himself for it.” Paul was a leader at the top of the pack, yet he was willing to be transparent with his love and affection for those who stood with him and empowered his work for the gospel.

Philippians 1:1-5

In Philippians 1:1-5 Paul writes this letter to his close friends, the Christians in Philippi, from his Roman house arrest described at the end of Acts as he waited for his court appearance before Caesar. “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:” The church in Philippi was founded by Paul some eleven years before this letter on his second missionary journey. This was the first church established on the continent of Europe. He addresses three distinct groups:

  1. All the saints – this means all the Christians there in Philippi
  2. Overseers (bishops) – those in leadership positions
  3. Deacons – those with assigned service positions

Paul gave his familiar greeting of grace and peace, recognizing that these come to us only from God our Father and through the Son. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” When Paul remembered what all the Philippians did for him, he was extremely thankful. He was naturally grateful to the Philippians, but more so to God who had worked such kindness through the Philippians. The Philippians were extremely giving towards Paul, both when he was with them and when he was apart from them. In both cases they had supported him generously so Paul was grateful as he remembered them writing this letter.

He also prayed for them continually. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Paul prayed for the Philippians and he did so with joy. This was one way Paul felt he could repay the Philippians for all they did for him. One might simply say that when Paul prayed for the Philippians, he became happy. It is remarkable to see that Paul’s first reference to his own feelings or frame of mind in this letter is that of joy – though he wrote from prison and a possible soon execution.

Morgan explained “This is Paul’s great singing letter. It was at Philippi that he had sung in prison at midnight, in the company of Silas. Now he was again in prison, this time in Rome.”One reason Paul was thankful for the Philippians was that they “partnered” with him in spreading of the gospel through their friendship and financial support, and they did so from the first day until now. They didn’t wait to see if Paul was a “winner” before they supported him. They got behind Paul and his ministry early. So as Paul begins his letter, he’s full of joy and prays continually for his ministry partners and supporters.

Ephesians 6:19b-23

In Ephesians 6:19b-23 Paul continues telling us how to activate the armor we have been provided to stand firm against the enemy. Prayer is the tool to activate God’s power. Paul asked that we pray “…that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Paul told us that spiritual warfare can be waged on behalf of others, so Paul asks his readers to pray for him. Paul could have asked prayer for many things, but he wanted his readers to pray for this. He probably had in mind his upcoming defense before Caesar.

We could imagine Paul asking for many things, such as relief from his imprisonment or for other comforts. But his heart and mind were fixed on his responsibility as an ambassador of the gospel. We are all ambassadors for Jesus, and we need to seek God’s power to make us effective in our efforts to carry the truth of the gospel to those in our patch. He not only asks to speak boldly, but also for the right words. Paul asked for prayer that he might proclaim the gospel both clearly and with a fearless power. It is easy to neglect one or the other. We too need to do exactly the same to those around us.

So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything.” Tychicus was an associate of Paul and seems to have been often used by Paul as a messenger to carry his words to others. Paul wanted Tychicus to comfort the Ephesians (and everyone else who read the letter) about Paul’s condition during his imprisonment in Rome. “I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.” Paul wanted to assure the church that he was doing ok, even in prison.

Paul concluded the letter as he began it, with reference to grace and peace, these two essential cornerstones for the Christian life. “Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.” Our love for the Lord should be undying. Nothing should get in the way of our love for the Lord. Paul ended by pronouncing a blessing, which was his way of helping the Ephesians to walk in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. That blessing flows to us as well – we need to walk in God’s blessing!

Ephesians 6:18-19a

In Ephesians 6:18-19a Paul now gives us the secret to using the armor of God – that which we have (belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace) – and that which we are to take (shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the spirit) – which comes down to prayer. That is the means by which God’s power comes into the battle. “To that end, keep alert with all perseverance.” This translation is not as descriptive as some others which say ‘Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit’. Paul tells the Ephesian church that the armor is necessary but it is prayer that gives it the power to deal with the enemy.

The idea is all that we should use all kinds of prayer or prayer upon prayer. We should use every kind of prayer we can think of. Group prayer, individual prayer, silent prayer, shouting prayer, walking prayer, kneeling prayer, eloquent prayer, groaning prayer, constant prayer, fervent prayer – just pray. We can say that it is through prayer that spiritual strength and the armor of God go to work. In theory, the prayerless Christian can be strong and wearing all the armor; but never accomplishes anything because he fails to goes into battle through prayer. The battle is not ours, but God’s, and prayer is how we bring God into that fight. Otherwise we walk into it in our own strength and will fail.

Often we just don’t pray because we are simply overconfident in our own abilities. Winston Churchill said to Britain in the early days of the Second World War: “I must drop one word of caution, for next to cowardice and treachery, overconfidence leading to neglect and slothfulness, is the worst of wartime crimes.” Paul goes further with his admonition to pray reminding us that we can battle spiritually not only on our own behalf, but also on the behalf of others. The soldier isn’t only concerned for his or her own safety. He feels an instinct to protect and to battle on behalf of others. We are part of the body and need to do battle together, which means we need to be praying for one another.

To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me….”.  Paul not only reminds us to pray for each other but also for our leaders in the body. Paul was an amazingly spiritual guy, and yet even he knew that doing battle with the enemy was beyond what any of us can do on our own. So we need to lift one another up, as well as encourage each other to put on the armor of God so we are ready to stand. That means we challenge each other around our intake of God’s Word, our prayer life, the depth of our faith, and all the other facets of wearing the armor of God. It is important that we have brothers and sisters who are fully prepared and equipped, and are seeking God’s power to enable a victory in battle.

Ephesians 6:17

In Ephesians 6:17 Paul continues to equip us with the armor of God. He has told us about the three items we have (vs 14-15):

  1. Belt of truth
  2. Breastplate of righteousness
  3. Shoes shod with the gospel of peace

And began to tell us about the things we must take, beginning with:

  1. Shield of faith

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. And now Paul continues to guide us in two other things we need to take as we put on the armor for battle.

First comes the helmet of salvation. In the ancient world a helmet was usually a leather cap studded with metal for extra strength. Often some kind of plume or decoration was added, perhaps to identify the solider to his regiment. Salvation is pictured as this kind of helmet, protecting an essential part of the body. A soldier would be foolish to go into battle without his helmet.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 speaks of the helmet of salvation in connection to the hope of salvation. The helmet of salvation protects us against discouragement, against the desire to give up, giving us hope not only in knowing that we are saved, but that we will be saved. It is the assurance that God will triumph. Then Paul reveals our only offensive weapon, another that we must take – the sword of the Spirit which is God’s Word.

Guzik writes “To effectively use the sword of the Spirit, we can’t regard the Bible as a book of magic charms or tie one around our neck the way that garlic is said to drive away vampires. we must regard it as the word of God – which is the word of God. If we are not confident in the inspiration of Scripture, that the sword really came from the Spirit, then we will not use it effectively at all.”

But we must also take the sword of the Spirit in the sense of depending that He helps us to use it. Not only did the Spirit give us the Scriptures, but also He makes them alive to us (or us alive to them), and He equips us with the right thrust of the sword at the right time. A soldier must practice using a sword ahead of the actual battle, and if he is a superior fighter and has a great fighting instinct, at the time of battle he will instantly recall which thrust, which position suits the precise moment.

He will never be able to use the thrust in the fight if he has not first practiced it; but he still needs to make the move at the moment. So effectively using the sword takes practice. The greatest example of this was Jesus combating the temptation of Satan in the wilderness. He didn’t deal with Satan except to quote scripture and use God’s Word as His sword in that confrontation. Our only offense is God’s truth. In order to use it, we must practice with it, which means we have to know it and be in His Word regularly so our sword is sharp and ready for battle. Are you preparing your use of the sword?

Ephesians 6:16

In Ephesians 6:16 Paul continues his discussion around the armor of God we are to put on so we can stand firm. He has just finished telling us about the three items we have:

  1. Belt of truth
  2. Breastplace of righteousness
  3. Shoes shod with the gospel of peace

These three things are part of our faith as a Christ Follower – we “have” them already. Paul told us of armor to have. Some of the armor we must wear all the time and have as a standing foundation. Therefore having comes first. We must be rooted in the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the “combat boots” of the gospel. Yet now Paul will deal with aspects of the armor we are to take at the necessary moments of spiritual warfare and opportunity.

Paul shifts his focus to things we must take in addition to those we already have. These are in addition and require us to actively bring them along. “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Faith is represented as a shield, protecting us from the fiery darts of the wicked one, those persistent efforts of demonic foes to weaken us through fear and unbelief.

Guzik explains “The shield Paul describes is not the small round one, but the large, oblong shield that could protect the whole body. In ancient warfare, these fiery darts were launched in great numbers at the beginning of an attack. The idea was not only to injure the enemy, but to shoot at him at all sides with a massive number of arrows, and thus to confuse and panic the enemy.” We need to be prepared for how the enemy will come after us. It is usually not a head on full force attack. Rather it comes in many different ways, all designed to take us off our walk with Christ. Thoughts, feelings, imaginations, fears, and lies – all of these can be hurled at us by Satan as fiery darts. Faith turns them back.

The enemy wants to knock us off our walk. Bruce explains “Even when such a missile was caught by the shield and did not penetrate to the body, says Livy, it caused panic, because it was thrown when well alight and its motion through the air made it blaze most fiercely, so that the soldier was tempted to get rid of his burning shield and expose himself to the enemy’s spear-thrusts. But the shield of faith not only catches the incendiary devices but extinguishes them.” So the first thing we have to take with us is the shield of faith, which we must bring to the fight so we are able to stand firm. The enemy has a goal of taking us out of our relationship so we are more vulnerable to the attack that is coming. The flaming darts are designed to open us up to further attack, and the shield is our protection from that.

Ephesians 6:14b-15

In Ephesians 6:14b-15 Paul continues to tell us how to put on the armor of God. He began the teaching by talking about the belt of truth, and then moves on to the breastplate of righteousness. “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” A breastplate is the piece of armor which provides essential protection for the most vital organs. We can no better battle against spiritual enemies through our own righteousness than a soldier can effectively fight without his breastplate.

This is not our own earned righteousness, not a feeling of righteousness, but a righteousness received by faith in Jesus. It is His righteousness given to us as part of the armor to stand firm against the enemy. Lloyd-Jones reminds us to “Thank God for experiences, but do not rely on them. You do not put on the ‘breastplate of experiences’, you put on the breastplate of ‘righteousness.’ ”

Guzik explains “We are sometimes tempted to say to the devil, “Look at all I’ve done for the Lord.” But that is shaky ground, though sometimes it feels good. It is shaky because feelings and experiences change quickly. God’s righteousness isn’t. The breastplate of righteousness is your best defense against the sense of spiritual depression and gloom that comes against us.” Righteousness is not about anything I have done or will do – it is all about God’s gift of grace through Christ.

Paul goes on to the next part of the armor that we have – the protective shoes represented by the gospel of peace. No one can fight effectively or even go about his business without this equipment. The gospel provides the footing for everything we do. However powerful the rest of your body is, if you are wounded in your feet you are easy prey for the enemy.

Wood writes “Josephus described them as ‘shoes thickly studded with sharp nails’… so as to ensure a good grip. The military successes both of Alexander the Great and of Julius Caesar were due in large measure to their armies’ being well shod and thus able to undertake long marches at incredible speed over rough terrain.”

The idea of readiness refers to preparation. In order to be successful in battle, we need to be mobile, flexible and ready with the truth. The Gospel is truth. We need to have a stance of readiness and live constantly in that state. We never know when the enemy will choose to attack, so being filled with God’s truth helps us remain ready so we can stand firm and prepared for whatever may come. So in putting on the armor, we have the belt of truth, we have the breastplate of righteousness, and we have the shoes for our feet – the gospel of peace. Next we’ll see what armor we are to take!

Ephesians 6:13-14a

In Ephesians 613-14a Paul continues to prepare Christ Followers for the enemy. Note that he doesn’t begin by telling us to attack. He begins by telling us to prepare for battle. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Paul details the specific items related to the armor of God. In this verse, he simply states what the main purpose of spiritual warfare and the armor of God is. Without the strength of God and the protection of spiritual armor, it is impossible to stand against the attacks of spiritual enemies. We cannot do battle on our own and hope to have any hope of winning. This is God’s fight.

God has given His people a call, a mission, a course to fulfill. Satan will do his best to stop it. When he attacks and intimidates, we are to stand. Not retreat, not attack, but stand. We do the Lord’s work and stand against every hint of spiritual opposition. Guzik explains “God gives the Christian a glorious standing to maintain by faith and spiritual warfare:

  • We stand in grace (Romans 5:2).
  • We stand in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1).
  • We stand in courage and strength (1 Corinthians 16:13).
  • We stand in faith (2 Corinthians 1:24).
  • We stand in Christian liberty (Galatians 5:1).
  • We stand in Christian unity (Philippians 1:27).
  • We stand in the Lord (Philippians 4:1).
  • We should stand perfect and complete in the will of God (Colossians 4:12).         

Again, we should note that our direction is to stand. All in all, there is a lot indicated by that one word, stand.

  • It means that we are going to be attacked.
  • It means that we must not be frightened.
  • It means that we must not droop or slouch; nor be uncertain or half-hearted in the fight (no self-pity is allowed).
  • It means that we are at our position and alert.
  • It means that we do not give even a thought to retreat.”

We can only stand when we are equipped with the armor God has given us in Jesus Christ.

Paul restates the command to stand, but goes on to tell us how. Every aspect of this symbolic armor answers to a specific dynamic within the Christian life that enables us to stand against spiritual attack. He begins by telling us what parts of the armor we are to HAVE. “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” Paul was in the custody of Roman soldiers as he wrote this letter. The order in which the pieces of armor are described is the order in which the soldier would normally put them on.

Paul begins by telling us to fasten on the belt of truth which symbolically is represented as a belt which both protects our abdomen and gathers up our garments so that we can fight effectively. In reality, the belt is not part of the armor, but before the armor can be put on, the garments underneath must be gathered together. In Paul’s time, when a man sat down and was relaxed, he took off his belt. Putting on the belt prepared for action, it freed one for movement, and it put a soldier in a battle frame of mind. The belt of truth puts on the Biblical beliefs of a Christ Follower as a whole, which in other passages is called faith. This is part of the armor to have, which is a foundation to live upon all the time, our understanding of and confidence in the basic doctrines of the faith found in God’s Word. We’ll look at more of the armor in the next section.

Ephesians 6:10

In Ephesians 6:10 Paul transitions to talk about the reality of life – that we are facing a very real enemy who wants to destroy us as believers. Satan (and his legion) have one mission – to kill, steal and destroy. Paul tells us to be ready. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” But most importantly, he tells us that the battle is not our own. This comes at the end of the letter – a letter in which Paul has carefully established our place in Jesus, and then the basics of the Christian walk. This is his last section dealing with that walk. And he is preparing us for battle.

Guzik writes “For Paul to write finally here means that he speaks in light of all he has previously said.

  • In light of all that God has done for you.
  • In light of the glorious standing you have as a child of God.
  • In light of His great plan of the ages that God has made you part of.
  • In light of the plan for Christian maturity and growth He gives to you.
  • In light of the conduct God calls every believer to live.
  • In light of the filling of the Spirit and our walk in the Spirit.
  • In light of all this, there is a battle to fight in the Christian life.”

The detailed teaching of spiritual warfare in this passage presents two essential components:

  1. First, you must be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
  2. Then, you must put on the whole armor of God.

The two components are essential, and much of the teaching on Christian combat neglects the first. If you take a weak man who can barely stand, and put the best armor on him he will still be an ineffective soldier. He will be easily beaten. So equipping for Christian combat must begin with the principle, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. That is the mindset and preparation that gets us ready for battle. Only then should we put on the armor.

Paul also tells us as warriors to ‘be strong….in the strength (power) of His might.

  • Might is inherent power or force. A muscular man’s big muscles display his might, even if he doesn’t use them. It is the reserve of strength. The Lord has unlimited might.
  • Power is the exercise of might. When the muscular man uses his might to bend an iron bar, he uses his power. It means that the reserve of strength is actually in operation.

Guzik explains “God has vast reservoirs of might that can be realized as power in our Christian life. But His might does not work in me as I sit passively. His might works in me as I rely on it, and step out to do the work. I can rely on it and do no work. I can do work without relying on it. But both of these fall short. I must rely on His might and then do the work.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones listed many ways in which he believes Christians waste their strength. It was as if they had received some of the available might of God, but it simply leaked away like water in a bucket that is full of holes. These are some of the things Lloyd-Jones thought sapped the strength of the Christian:

  • Committing to too many spiritual works or things
  • Too much conversation
  • Arguments, debates, wrangling
  • Laziness
  • Too much time in the wrong company
  • Too much foolish talk and joking
  • Love of money and career
  • A desire for respectability and image
  • An unequal yoking with an unbeliever
  • Ungodly entertainment
  • A wrong attitude toward or doubting the Word of God

We have to walk on a knife-edge in these matters; you must not become extreme on one side or the other. But you have to be watchful. And, of course, you can always tell by examining yourself whether your strength is increasing or declining.” (Lloyd-Jones)

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