The Epistle

Writings on Theology, Scripture, and the Christian Life

Recently at our church, I had the opportunity of participating in “team teaching” through the book of Philippians for the adult Sunday School class. The book was divided up, and each of the six men were given 3–4 passages to teach. I am posting the text of my four lessons on this blog. If you are interested in hearing all the lessons for the whole book they are available here. #Philippians

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So far in this chapter Paul has warned against the Judaizers, and any who would place their confidence in who they are, or what they have done and not the finished work of Christ alone. By way of rebuking this idea, Paul gives his own longs list of “fleshly” qualifications and then discounts them as loss and rubbish in light of the one thing that really matters—knowing Christ (cf. v7–8). By this he does not mean merely having knowledge about Christ. Rather it is to know Christ in that intimate relational way that depends on faith, and that leads to becoming like him in his death so that we may also share in his resurrection. This is the focus—the aim—of the Christian life.

Paul knew that he had not yet attained this perfectly, but he was pressing forward, striving with all that was in him towards that goal. And then he does something which I find surprising. He tells the Philippians to imitate him.

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Recently at our church, I had the opportunity of participating in “team teaching” through the book of Philippians for the adult Sunday School class. The book was divided up, and each of the six men were given 3–4 passages to teach. I am posting the text of my four lessons on this blog. If you are interested in hearing all the lessons for the whole book they are available here. #Philippians

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Opening — Paul’s Prayer

This morning we conclude our look at the opening section of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In verses 1–2, we have the opening salutation which identifies the author, Paul, and with him Timothy—The young man he has mentored. It also identifies the recipients—all the saints at Philippi who along with the overseers and deacons constitute the church of Christ at Philippi.

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Recently at our church, I had the opportunity of participating in “team teaching” through the book of Philippians for the adult Sunday School class. The book was divided up, and each of the six men were given 3–4 passages to teach. I am posting the text of my four lessons on this blog. If you are interested in hearing all the lessons for the whole book they are available here. #Philippians

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Opening: Paul’s Thanksgiving

As we move on this morning in our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we find Paul following his normal pattern of thanksgiving and prayer. This week we will look at his statement of thanksgiving about the Philippians, and next week we will look closely at his prayer for them.

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Recently at our church, I had the opportunity of participating in “team teaching” through the book of Philippians for the adult Sunday School class. The book was divided up, and each of the six men were given 3–4 passages to teach. I am posting the text of my four lessons on this blog. If you are interested in hearing all the lessons for the whole book they are available here. #Philippians

Audio Icon Lesson Audio

Intro to the Study of Philippians

I’ve been given the privilege of teaching the opening weeks of this study through the book of Philippians. Before we get to the text of Philippians I am going to take a few minutes to refresh your memory of the background of the Philippian churches founding from the book of Acts.

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In the last two decades we have seen the rise of the “young restless and reformed” and something of a resurgence of “reformed” theology generally. Whether you think this upsurge is to be lauded or condemned, it is clear that “reformed” has become something of a buzz-word. It shows up in Twitter bios, memes, and in the self-descriptions of celebrity pastors and teachers.

This sudden proclivity for identifying oneself as “reformed” has caused both confusion and controversy. What does it really mean to be reformed? Can anyone simply adopt that term? What about those who say that most of these newly self-declared “reformed” folks aren’t really reformed at all? As someone who has come to identify as reformed in recent years, I’ve given this a good bit of thought. Though I don’t expect to solve the debate for most, if any, I do hope to explain and defend my own use of the term.

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For those who are grieved at being unable to gather as the church on the Lord’s Day because of stay-at-home orders, here is some encouragement from J.C. Ryle.

“The day is coming when there shall be a congregation that shall never break up, and a Sabbath that shall never end, a song of praise that shall never cease, and an assembly that shall never be dispersed. In that assembly shall be found all who have ‘worshipped God in spirit’ upon earth. If we are such, we shall be there.”

Keep a strong grip on this argument, as I do, and let it ever be secure and steadfast in your minds: not only when He blesses, but even when He chastises, God is good and loving. His very chastisements and judgments are the greatest sign of His good-will, the highest form of His gracious providence. Whenever you see famines, plagues, drought, rainstorms, atmospheric disturbances, or anything else that chastens humanity, don't be tormented or downcast. Worship the One who caused these things; be awe-struck at His tender love. He does these things so that in chastening the body, the soul may be healed. “Does God actually do these things?” someone asks. Yes, God does these things! Even if my whole community, indeed the whole universe were my audience, I wouldn’t flinch from saying this. In fact, I wish my voice were more piercing than a trumpet, that I could cry aloud from a mountaintop to everyone: God does these things! This isn’t my own rash opinion; the prophet stands at my side—“There is no evil in the city which the LORD has not done” (Amos 3:6)… We don’t praise a physician only when he leads the patient into gardens, meadows, baths, and water-pools, or spreads before him a well-supplied table. He is just as much a physician when he makes him go without food, weakens him with thirst, forces him to stay in bed, makes his house a prison, deprives him of light, shadows his room with curtains, and when he cuts, cauterizes, and offers bitter-tasting medicines. Why, then, is it acceptable to call him a physician when he does so many “evil” things, yet to blaspheme God, rejecting His providence over all events, if at any time He does one of these things—if He decrees famine or death?

— John Chrysostom Against Those Who Say that Demons Govern Human Affairs 1.4

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14

God’s Story

I always enjoyed listening to the late Paul Harvey on the radio. He had a talent for thoughtful commentary that is, unfortunately, a rarity in modern media. I particularly enjoyed listening to “The Rest of the Story.” Harvey would present some little-know fact or forgotten bit of history in his usual engaging style; then at the end, he would reveal that a key element of the story was tied to some famous person, or event. He always concluded with a variation on the tag line, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

I think that the Christmas story would have made a good candidate for the show. Certainly the Christmas story is very well know in western culture. Most non-Christian are familiar with the story of Jesus laid in a manger, angels visiting shepherds, and wise men bringing gifts. Yet there is a lot more to this story than just what we find in the opening chapters of Matthew, and Luke.

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