Monday, September 7 Philippians 1:12-14
“I want you to know . . .”
The Philippians were concerned about Paul’s condition in prison, so his statement that “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” probably came to them as a bit of a surprise. It would have been natural for them to assume that his imprisonment was doing the exact opposite; that it was hindering the spread of the gospel. Such an unusual statement demands an explanation, and Paul provides it in verses 13-14.
Paul explains that the gospel has progressed through his circumstances because it has become clear to everyone, even to the palace guard, that he is in chains “for Christ.” Just as Christ’s suffering advanced God’s redemptive work through the cross, so Paul believes that his suffering for Christ in prison will be used by God to bring about salvation. That it has “become clear” implies that he has had the opportunity to share the gospel with “everyone, even the palace guard” and explain how his suffering echoes that of Christ who suffered for them that their sin may be forgiven and they may be made righteous before God.
Our struggles, Lord, can become a platform for sharing your good news. Amen.
Tuesday, September 8 Philippians 1:15-18a
“Some preach out of jealousy and rivalry”
Paul divides into two groups the Christians whose boldness to speak the gospel has been strengthened by his imprisonment. Both are preaching the true gospel, but while one group expresses their support of Paul while he is in prison and preaches out of good will toward Paul and in support of his ministry, the other group has developed some kind of animosity toward Paul and is using the reality of his current absence from the public sphere to further their own selfish ambition, all the while trying to stir up opposition to Paul. Who precisely either of these two groups is Paul does not tell us, because his concern is not with the groups as such but with the advancement of the gospel.
Ultimately, for Paul, the stance of either group toward him does not matter. Whatever personal happiness he might feel due to the goodwill of the one group or whatever personal anger he might experience due to the hostility of the other group, both are easily overridden by the joy he has that the gospel of Jesus Christ is being preached.
Forgive us, Lord, for jealousies and rivalries between Christians. Amen.
Wednesday, September 9 Philippians 1:18b-20
“I will continue to rejoice”
Paul not only rejoices to see God at work in his present circumstances to advance the gospel, but he “will continue to rejoice” as God’s faithfulness perseveres into whatever circumstances await him in the future. In one way, the outcome of Paul’s imprisonment is not known to him – will he be released, kept in prison indefinitely, or be killed while imprisoned? In another and infinitely more important way, he knows precisely what the outcome is of his current circumstance: with the Spirit’s help he will continue to be bold for Christ, and thus his life will continue to bring honor to his Savior.
Just as Paul has prayed that the Philippians would steadily mature in their faith so that they might be able to discern what is best and arrive at the final day pure and blameless (1:9-11), so Paul believes that God will use the Philippians’ prayers for him while he is in captivity to help him persevere with “sufficient courage” and ultimately stand before God as one of his redeemed people.
I am certain, Lord, that I belong to you and you will not let me go. Amen.
Thursday, September 10 Philippians 1:21-26
“To live is Christ and to die is gain”
Whether he lives or dies, Paul says, he will be with Christ. Paul explains this understanding through a series of contrasts between life and death and the results of each. Thus life is Christ, and death is even more Christ. Living in the flesh means fruitful labor for Christ, including his labor on behalf of the Philippians that will guide and strengthen them in their faith. That his death will put an end to such labor is troublesome to Paul, so while he would love to go to be with Christ for his own sake, he believes it is best that he remain for their sake. Should the Lord agree and allow him to remain, it will give him great joy to continue with them in the faith.
For Paul, life means Christ. Everything that might have usurped the place of Christ in Paul’s life he has considered rubbish that he might grow in his relationship with Christ (3:8). He sees his old, pre-Christ life as being “dead,” for Christ is now the life that energizes him (Galatians 2:20). His life is Christ (Colossians 3:4). Paul’s relationship with Christ was so close that his entire existence derived its meaning from his Lord.
In life and in death, Lord, we belong to you. Amen.
Friday, September 11 2 Corinthians 5:11-15
“We live for Christ”
The hope of the gospel burns brightly for Paul. God is the one who not only judges the world, but also poured out his judgment on his own Son in order to bring a sinful world back to himself. In spite of our sin, we can still be saved! We can be forgiven! We can be set free from sin’s power which is eternal separation from God! We can be considered righteous in God’s sight, not because of anything we have done but because of what God has done for us! This is how Paul views humanity – not who we are in our sin, but who we can be in our Savior.
So, he says, since this is our new reality through Christ, the only way for us to live is for Christ, and we live for Christ by being like Christ. We no longer live for ourselves, as we did in our “old” life, because that kind of life has been “put to death” in Christ. Rather, we live for others, as Christ did, considering how we can love them as Christ loves them. For Paul, that meant being more concerned about the spiritual growth of the Corinthians than his own status or security as an Apostle of Jesus Christ.
To live for you, Lord, is to love others as you love them. Amen.
Saturday, September 12 1 Corinthians 8:4-6
“We live through Christ”
The issue Paul is dealing with in these verses comes out of a difference of opinion in the early church about whether or not it was permissible for Christians to eat food that had been sacrificed to a god. There were occasions in which a Christian might be asked to eat such food. He might be invited by a friend to a special meal at the temple, an event that might have no great religious significance in and of itself but which included meat that had earlier been offered as a sacrifice to that temple’s god. Also, most of the meat sold in the marketplace in Corinth would have come from animal sacrifices, so eating a meal in a friend’s home could easily include meat that had been offered to a god.
Paul takes the side of those who see nothing wrong with eating food offered to idols. Since there is only one God, an idol is not a god. There are those who believe in these so-called gods, but that does not make them real. What is real is Jesus Christ, and it is through Christ that we live. Idols have no influence on our lives.
Only you, Lord, are a real God and my life is lived through you. Amen.