Monday, September 1, Ephesians Chapter 6
As with the relationship between husband and wife, when we read about children we often stop after the first line: Honor your father and your mother. NIV Paul goes on: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger RSV; Fathers, don’t irritate your children and make them resentful CJB; Fathers, don’t over-correct your children or make it difficult for them to obey the commandment. Phillips We must have the same love for our children that God has for us. That includes mercy.
In verse 5 we should substitute the word employee for slave to make it fit our modern times, though there are an estimated 30 million slaves in the world today with about 60,000 of them in the US. Slavery is illegal in nearly all the world, but the number continues to increase.
While slaves in the Roman world were at the bottom of the social ranks, they were rarely mistreated, always considered equally human, and often given positions of great authority such as keeping the books and money of his owner.
Putting on the armor of God is a popular notion in America today, as it was in 1943 when Peter Marshall delivered a sermon on this passage of Ephesians. But, can we match our enemies in faith? They have a faith in a false God—what about our faith in the true and living God? Can their zeal for anti-Christ be overcome by our indifference to Christ? Can their devotion to their false absolute be matched by our emphasis on a false freedom, which thinks that every appeal for sacrifice is a violation of Constitutional rights, or property rights, of the right to organize or to bargain collectively? We are united so far because we have a common hate—but where is our common love? Shall we be united nations only because we hate the same devil—or because we love the same God? This is important.
The most important thing of all is that we put on the whole armor of God. Victory will be ours only on condition that we seek first the Kingdom of God and turn again to Him in prayer. We must remember that we are not praying as Americans who happen to be Christians, or as Britons who happen to be Christians, but it must be as Christians who happen to be American and British.
In 1948 Irwin Shaw wrote one of the first great novels of WWII, The Young Lions. One of his three main characters, Noah, found himself in a small church in north eastern Briton listening to an old vicar preaching. Here is part of what he wrote.
The enemy is more savage than the tiger, hungrier than the shark, crueler than the wolf; in honor and in defense of our moderate way of life, we stand up to him and combat him, but in doing so we out-tiger him, out-shark the shark, over-wolf the wolf. Will we at the end of all this then pretend to ourselves that the victory is ours?…
I see several soldiers among the congregation and I know they have a right to ask, What is love for a soldier? How does a soldier obey the word of Christ? How does a soldier love his enemy? I say it is this way—to kill sparingly and with a sense of sin and tragedy, sin that is yours equally with the sin of the man who falls at your hand. For was it not your indifference, your weakness of spirit, your greed, your deafness earlier in the day which armed him and drove him into the field to slay you?
Tuesday, September 2, Philippians Chapter 1
There seems to be little doubt that Paul wrote this letter, but the timing is still debated. That he was in prison is not debated, but which prison? Since this letter has much in common with Ephesians, it seems likely that Paul wrote it about the same time, meaning about 60-61 while under house arrest in Rome.
The city of Philippi was named after Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. In Paul’s day it was a Roman city, the citizens were Roman Citizens, many of them retired from the military. Latin was the favored language, though Greek was also spoken. There were few Jews living in the city.
Notice the difference in Paul’s greeting of the Philippians to that of the Corinthians. The church at Philippi is healthy and needs little correction. This is a cheerleader letter like Ephesians.
Paul calls both he and Timothy servants of Christ. The Greek word means just that, but a servant in those days differed from a slave in that he could quit. Otherwise he worked all day, every day, often alongside slaves. In other words, the difference was hard to see.
Several of the translations render episkopos as bishop which is correct, but the meaning of the title changed in the second century when they started to exercise authority over several churches. The episkopos of the first century are more accurately called elders. Generally, an elder was the leaders of a congregation in a time when there were no pastors. Pastors became common by the end of the second century, but even then they received no formal training. They demonstrated a depth of understanding of the Gospel, so were invited to the position, often unpaid.
In verses 7-8 Paul reminds the Philippians that they are always with him, that they experience what he experiences because they are with him in Christ. It is a reminder to us that being in the “the life” gives us a unique view of the world. We can understand what is happening to other Christians we do not even know.
In verse 12 Paul says that his being under arrest is a good thing. As Theodoret wrote about 440 AD: In their great concern for Paul the Philippians had sent the blessed Epaphroditus to help him. For this reason he writes to comfort them in return. He wants to show that the chains that bind him have themselves become the instruments of salvation to many. By the progress of the gospel he means the multitude of believers.
In verses 15-18 Paul may seem to be saying that false teachers are a good thing. No, put the stress on the Gospel of Jesus. If that is what is being preached, it is better than nothing. But the key is that the preaching was intended to get the Emperor so upset with Paul for starting this that he would execute him. Paul was not upset with that plan, the Gospel was being preached.
Verse 21 from The Message: Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose. I am ready to die and join Jesus, but I will stay and help you if God wills it. Verse 27 has, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel, a key idea for Christian living: together.
Wednesday, September 3, Chapter 2
Unity within the Spirit is the theme of this first passage. As usual, the unity is based on love of other people and of God. My every action should take others into account. When we read these verses they ring as un-American. We tend toward the Vince Lombardi motto: Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. He also said: Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser. It is the losers following Jesus who win.
In verses 6-11 Paul reminds us of the loser life Jesus lived, and died.
Paul trusts Timothy more than any other person he has worked with. Timothy has become like a son to Paul. Every time Paul writes about Timothy he includes praise. We know little about Epaphroditus who is mentioned twice in this letter and nowhere else. Clearly, Paul considered him an important worker in the church. We can only wonder at how many people deserved to be named in those early years, but it is a lesson for you and me; neither having our names passed down for centuries nor having them lost to history is anything compared to living with God.
That is very much like the soldiers in any war. In WWII the US had over 16 million men and women in uniform. Of those only about 2 ½ million were in combat. Of those, more than 2 million returned home without any medals for bravery not counting the Purple Heart. Yet Audie Murphy who won more medals than any other American, 28 including the Medal of Honor, could not have done any of that without the other 16 million soldiers and, more importantly, the 100 million factory workers who supplied the armed forces. Incidentally, more factory workers died during the war than soldiers.
Thursday, September 4, Chapter 3
Be on your guard against these curs, these wicked workmen, these would-be mutilators of your bodies! We are, remember, truly circumcised when we worship God by the Spirit, when we find our joy in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in what we are in the flesh. Phillips
We have our version of those people today. They want us to keep our hair at a proper length, wear the prescribed clothing, use only acceptable language. Paul would say none of that has anything to do with living in the Spirit. It is true that once I am living in the Spirit I do not want to make people uncomfortable or turn them off from wanting to follow Jesus.
With verses 4-6 Paul lists his Jewish “rank”. None of the Judaizers could match him, he was a top Jew. But when he met Jesus he realized how wrong he had been to put such faith in that rank. Now he puts his faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit and in God. Paul does not have the ability to save himself, even with his credentials.
When Paul writes, I look upon everything as loss, Phillips he did not intend to tell us that his life before meeting Jesus was a complete waste. What he meant was that he had to use what he had learned in a different way. He had to focus his abilities and experiences on living in Christ. No matter what kind of life we have lived before, we can use that to reach other people. Someone who has lived or still lives in poverty is in the best position to speak to poor people about Jesus. We need to use what we have.
How changed are my ambitions! Paul has turned around. Now he wants to be just like Jesus. Now I long to know Christ and the power shown by his resurrection: now I long to share his sufferings, even to die as he died, so that I may perhaps attain as he did, the resurrection from the dead. Paul is not suggesting that we have to die a martyrs death to be resurrected, only that we should be willing if called upon by God to do so.
Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. Phillips Each of us must consider ourselves to be a work in progress, even if we live to be 100. To quote Vince Lombardi again, Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. That was Paul. Few through the ages have attained the level of excellence of the first Apostles, but striving for it should be our purpose for living.
Let me be your example here, my brothers: let my example be the standard by which you can tell who are the genuine Christians among those about you. Phillips It was not to brag that Paul set himself as an example, it was practicality. It is one thing to say that we should pattern ourselves after Jesus, but we have not seen him. We need to pattern ourselves after those saints we know because they pattered themselves after other saints and it all started with Jesus. Learn all you can about Jesus from the Bible, but watch the saints around you.
Paul said this world is the limit of their horizon Phillips when speaking of those who opposed Jesus. When our thoughts are too long on what we will eat and wear and drive and buy and do, we lose sight of God. We must train ourselves to look to our needs here, then refocus on God, EVERY DAY. Our focus must go beyond this world because we are citizens of Heaven.
Friday, September 5, Chapter 4
Stand firm in the Lord. NIV That sums up the message at the end of chapter 3.
Verse 2 was sufficient for the church at Philippi, but not for us. We know neither who the two woman were nor why they could not get along. Paul also in verse 3 asks someone to help them reconcile. The Greek word used is suzuge which comes from the word suzeugnumi, meaning to be yoked together, as in marriage. Some translations have I ask you also, true yokefellow RSV and some have I also request you, loyal Syzygus, CJB using it as an individual’s name. It makes sense either way.
The message for all of us is to work hard not to allow the personal differences and the irritating mannerisms to overwhelm our love for God and our life in the Spirit. There may be times when the best we can do is to avoid such people until we are strong enough in the Spirit to be near them and work with them for the good of the Kingdom of God.
Dr. Thomas L. Constable explains why we should rejoice.
Rejoicing in Christ is something the apostle had commanded earlier (3:1) and had illustrated abundantly for his readers throughout this epistle. He must have felt that there was a great need for this attitude in Philippi. There were many reasons why the Philippian saints could have felt discouraged. Paul’s imprisonment and the possibility of his death, Epaphroditus’ illness, and the antagonism of unbelievers were a few. The attacks from legalists on the one hand and libertines on the other, plus friction among certain members of the church, contributed to this spirit. To counteract this attitude Paul prescribed rejoicing in the Lord. He repeated this charge in this verse for even greater emphasis.
Paul was not urging us to be unrealistic. He was not saying that we should never feel sad. Even Jesus wept. However, he was advocating focusing on the blessings we have in Christ and being grateful for these regardless of how sad we may feel at any particular time. He had set a good example by singing when he was in prison in Philippi (Acts 16:25).
It is hard to best these words of Paul: you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. MSG Part of our learning is to know what is beautiful.
This is a passage we need to seriously consider: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. It is easy to assume we know poverty because we see it on TV and we read and hear about it. If we have not lived in a cardboard box, eating out of dumpsters, can we say we know poverty? Most of us have only known plenty. I grew up in a lower middle class family and rose to middle-middle class. I do not know what it is to be rich in this world, nor do I know poverty first hand. Yet, I have never missed a meal, with a waistline to prove it, and I know very few Americans who have. We must be careful when we think about the conditions other people live in.
We find in verses 15-18 that the church at Philippi was the first to offer him support in his ministry and that they continue to send him support as he is in prison in Rome. They are faithful.
In closing, verse 22 tells us that there were several Christians living in the palace and working for Caesar, most likely Nero.
Be righteous and do good.