Friday, November 30, 2012

Hold Such in High Regard

Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me. (Philippians 2:25-30)
Paul is confident that he will have a good result at his trial in Rome and will be free to come to the Jesus believers at Philippi before long. In the short-term, he plans on sending Timothy, who will minister to them in the same way Paul would. Right now, however, he is sending Epaphroditus: “My brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier.”
  • Paul and Epaphroditus are brothers in Jesus, members together in the family of God. This was no small thing for Paul. Google “brother” in his letters and you will find how important the bond of Christian brotherhood is to him. He is no loner, he always has a team with him. They are not just partners in the ministry, they are brothers in the Lord first.
  • Paul and Epaphroditus are “fellow workers.” The Greek synergos, which is where we get our English word “synergy.” They have been working together in a focused and coordinated fashion toward the common goal of preaching the good news about King Jesus. Paul identifies a number of “fellow workers” in his letters: Priscilla and Aquila, Urbane, Timothy, Apollos, Titus, Clement, Aristarchus, Mark, Justus, Philemon, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke. We can also add Barnabas, who first introduced Paul (then called Saul) to the wary believers at Jerusalem and was his first partner in apostolic ministry. And, of course, there is also Silas, who served with Paul at Philippi and did some jail time with him on the night the jailer there believed on the Lord Jesus.
  • Paul and Epaphroditus are also “fellow soldiers,” serving together on the front lines in advancing the gospel, from Paul’s house prison in Rome. Remember that, earlier, Paul spoke of the “furtherance” of the gospel, and the Greek word he used had a military connotation. Remember also that it has also been a time of growing opposition to the gospel and persecution of those who preach it. It is not an easy life and it requires a well-disciplined focus. As Paul would will later write to Timothy, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Paul is certainly enduring hardship as a “good soldier,” and so is Epaphroditus, as we will see.
That is what Epaphroditus is to Paul. Now Paul reminds the believers at Philippi who Epaphroditus is to them. He is one of their own, a member of their fellowship sent by them to minister to Paul’s needs, supplying on their behalf what they were not able to do in person. And he has been very diligent about it, too diligent perhaps, pushing himself until his health broke. Or maybe he became sick because of the difficulty of the times and the circumstances he has endure. At any rate, he was close to death at one point, and the prospect of losing their brother would certainly have brought great sorrow to Paul and the Philippians. It is with great relief, then, that Paul now sends him back, strong and well, to rejoice with his brothers and sisters in Jesus.

“Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem,” Paul says. Welcome him, rejoice over him, show him honor — he is well worth it. Indeed, all who are like him are to be greatly admired and respected, because they are showing the same sort of faithful, humble service that the Lord Jesus came to show for all our sakes. As we like to say at my home church, Jesus looks good on them.

So, in speaking of Epaphroditus like this, Paul has not departed one bit from the purpose he started with at the beginning of Philippians 2, or from the hymn of divine humility he followed it up with: that they may be of one heart, one mind and one purpose, serving each other and watching out for each other, just as the Lord Jesus came to do for all of us — for all who belong to Jesus belong also to each other.

This is not something that is beyond their ability, for God is at work in them both to desire and to do whatever is needed. And Epaphroditus, one of their own, has very ably demonstrated it in his own self-giving service on their behalf. He has been like the Lord Jesus, who came to serve, even to die, not regarding His own life. All who follow such an example are worthy of great honor.

Focus Questions
  1. Is there someone in your life who has been an example of such self-giving service and humility as Epaphroditus, as well as Jesus, has shown?
  2. Do you believe that it really is possible for you to be such an example yourself?
  3. How do you suppose you can lay hold of God’s desire and ability to do that?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Like-Minded Servants, Tested by Fire

But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly. (Philippians 2:19-24)
Paul longs to be with the Jesus believers at Philippi to encourage them in their faith. However, he is currently under arrest in Rome for preaching the gospel of King Jesus. But he is confident that his trial will go well, that he will be released and will be able to come to them before long. In the meantime, he expects to be able to send Timothy, who is well-known to the Philippians, since he was part of the mission to Philippi at the very beginning. Paul had first met Timothy at Derbe and Lystra, where the believers there spoke well of him (Acts 16:1-2). Impressed with Timothy, Paul decided to bring him on the mission into Macedonia (which began at Philippi). The plan now is to send Timothy to them again — not just yet, though, but soon — with the purpose of encouraging them with news about Paul and how the ministry of the gospel is faring, but also so Paul can himself be encouraged by hearing back how they are doing.

There is no one more “like-minded” (literally, of the “same soul”) with Paul than Timothy, “who will sincerely care for your state.” We can hear in this the echo of Paul’s earlier plea, that the believers at Philippi be of one mind, one heart, one soul (Philippians 2:2). Timothy, like Paul, genuinely cares for them, without any hidden agenda or selfish ambition (compare this with Philippians 2:3). “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus,” Paul says (compare with Philippians 2:4). Timothy is committed to the things that are dear to Jesus the Messiah and is a strong and vibrant example of everything Paul has been exhorting the Philippian believers about.

Paul is very proud of Timothy, who is “as a son with his father.” Elsewhere, Paul calls him, “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:17) and “a true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Timothy has “served with me in the gospel.” They have worked well together, having the same servant heart, mind and soul for the gospel. Recall how this letter began: “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1). In other letters, Paul refers to Timothy as “my fellow worker” (Romans 16:21) and “our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ” (1 Thessalonians 3:2).

Timothy is a man of “proven character.” The Greek word for “proven” often refers to the refiner’s process of “proving” or purifying precious metals such as gold or silver. In other words, Timothy has been tested by fire and has shown his mettle, that he is faithful. This is important because the believers at Philippi have some rough times ahead themselves. They will be tested and tried because of their faith in the Lord Jesus, so it will be encouraging for them to have a brother like Timothy around, who has been through the fire and come out stronger and brighter.

Focus Questions
  1. Is there someone like-minded as you, to whom you could entrust the interests of those you care about?
  2. Who is a faithful servant of the things of Jesus in your life? And to whom are you a faithful servant of the things of Jesus?
  3. When you are going through a difficult time, how valuable is it to have someone with you who has been through the same and come out with a stronger faith?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

“All In” for Each Other

Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:16-18)
Paul concludes the appeal he began at the beginning of Philippians 2, to the Jesus believers at Philippi, that if they bore him any affection, “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind”(Philippians 2:2). He wants to see them shining as lights in the midst of a twisted and self-absorbed generation, holding forth the good news about King Jesus as a beacon in the darkness. He wants to see that he has not “run the race” and come up a loser, that all his labors among them have not been a loss. He would much prefer to see them come to maturity in their faith, following the example of the Lord Jesus, both in His humility and in His being exalted. Then he will be able to “rejoice,” to take pride in the ministry he has been given and not be ashamed on the day He stands before King Jesus. He does not want to come up short in it (nor does he expect to), rather he desires to rejoice with them, both now and when He gives account before the Lord. It was important to him that he give good and faithful to the Lord Jesus and to His body, the church.
  • “Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:4).
  • “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
  • “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Paul is quite happy, then, to give everything that is in him, to be “poured out as a drink offering” for them. The image here is one of sacrifices offered to the Lord. A libation, or “drink offering” (which was usually wine), was poured out over the sacrifice, drenching it as an act of thanksgiving and consecrating it to God. To use a poker term, Paul was “all in” for their sake. Their service was their faithfulness to the Lord, their ministry to each other and bringing the message of the gospel to the world. Their sacrifice was what they endured, and would be enduring, for the sake of King Jesus and His gospel — and each other. And Paul was ready to give his life for their sake.

Paul rejoices about all of this and he wants to rejoice together with them. But he wants it to be mutual. That is, that they also see the value in it and be glad, but also that they share together with him in their rejoicing. He is “all in” for them and what he really wants is for them to be “all in” for each other. Then there will be rejoicing enough to go all around, sharing in the divine humility that leads to divine joy.

Focus Questions
  1. Can you think of a time in your life when you felt like you had run your race and labored hard to help someone else and it turned about to be all in vain? Or quite successful?
  2. Does someone have to be “all in” for you before you are willing to be “all in” for them?
  3. Who are you willing to be “all in” for?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Feed on the Faithfulness of the LORD

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
(Psalm 37:3-5)
Did your candidates win? Mine didn’t. Almost very candidate and issue I voted for lost. Very disappointing, but no reason to be despondent. The psalm writer says, “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish” (Psalm 146:3-4).

Anyone who was looking to Mitt Romney to lead this country out of trouble was foolish. Likewise, anyone who is trusting in Barak Obama to lead our nation into prosperity. Foolish. Do not put your trust in princes — or in presidents. They cannot help you, not even the best of them.

What, then? We find the answer many places in Scripture. I saw it again this morning in Psalm 37. “Trust in the LORD, and do good. Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.” Regardless of whether you are a Democrat or Republican, or affiliated with a third party or no party, if you belong to the Lord, He has given you a place in this land. Dwell in it and feed on His faithfulness. I emphasize that it is His faithfulness because it is only His faithfulness that will see you through, regardless of whatever happens in our country or our economy or in the world.

Focus yourself on Him to whom you belong. Find your place in Him. Delight yourself in Him and He will fulfill the desires of your heart. No president or congress can guarantee that, no president or congress can prevent it, no president or congress can take it away. The blessing of the Lord, and His prosperity are far greater and they endure forever.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
(Psalm 37:5-6)
Roll everything over onto Him, look to Him for your security and He will bring it to pass. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). He will set things right for you and vindicate you.
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret — it only causes harm.
For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the Lord,
They shall inherit the earth.
(Psalm 37:7-9)
Relax, then, and let not your heart be troubled. Wait for Him, in quietness and patience. He will not be late. Do not be agitated when those who do what is wrong prosper — it will not last.

There are many wicked in the world, and in our own country. There are foolish and deceitful politicians and government leaders enough to go around — in all the parties and non-parties. But their plans will ultimately fail, because they cannot withstand the kingdom of God forever.

However, those who depend upon the Lord receive the kingdom of heaven, and the meek inherit the earth. In the meantime, we simply dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.

Here is a personal confession I have adapted from Psalm 37.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lights in the Darkness

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life. (Philippians 2:14-16)
Paul wants the Jesus believers at Philippi to “work out” their salvation, that is, to let it be demonstrated among them together as a community. What he particularly has in mind here is the expression of unity, the single-hearted, single-minded love and focus that manifests the mind of Jesus the Messiah among them.

Everything is to be done without complaining and disputing. Weymouth’s New Testament in Modern Speech has it as, “Be ever on your guard against a grudging and contentious spirit.” Other versions say:
  • “without grumbling or arguing” (Contemporary English Version)
  • “without murmurings and questionings” (Context Group Version)
  • “without grumbling or questioning” (English Standard Version) – grumbling against and questioning each other.
  • “without kvetching or arguing” (Jewish New Testament)
Wuest, in The New Testament: An Expanded Translation, is a bit wordier but brings out the nature of what Paul is addressing. He renders the key terms here as, “discontented and secret mutterings and grumblings” and “discussions which carry an undertone of suspicion or doubt.” This has everything to do with how we are to relate to one another, that we must not grumble and mutter against each other, or look upon one another with suspicion and doubt, questioning each other’s faith, motives or commitment. Instead, we should become “blameless and harmless, or as Wuest puts it, “guileless in [your] simplicity.” That is, we should be open, honest and straightforward with each other — WYSIWYG, “What You See Is What You Get.”

When we are transparent and non-toxic with each other, we will become “children of God without fault.” Paul is not implying that this is how we become children of God. We already children of God by faith in the Lord Jesus, for “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). But the point here is that we need to conduct ourselves in a way that is “without fault,” a way befitting the children of God that we are, particularly because we are “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” Paul is drawing a sharp contrast here that alludes to Deuteronomy 32:5, a prophecy Moses gave: “They have corrupted themselves; they are not His children, because of their blemish: A perverse and crooked generation.” The believers at Philippi were living in a society that was twisted and contorted and curved in upon itself, a culture that turned away from God (much as we see today). It is precisely for this reason, then, that we must be open and honest with each other. Jesus said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Then we will “shine as lights in the world.”
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1 John 2:8-10)
Light shines in the darkness of the world and the world cannot overcome it. The value of light is that it enables people to see. When we live open, honest and transparent lives with each other, in love and unity, the world can see the True Light, Jesus, shining through us. When light shines in the darkness, it brings hope and life. “Holding fast the word of life,” is how Paul says it (some translations have “holding forth the word of life,” which fits the context better). We become torchbearers so that others may see.

The “word of life” is the good news of the gospel, the announcement about King Jesus. George Lamsa, working from an ancient Aramaic version of the New Testament, translates this as “For you are to them the light of life” (Translation From the Aramaic Peshitta). Paul’s overall concern is that the gospel keeps advancing and that the Lord Jesus be glorified more and more.

Focus Questions
  1. Is there anyone in your circle of relationships about (or against) whom you have secretly muttered or harbored suspicions and doubts?
  2. What can the divine humility of the Lord Jesus teach us about that?
  3. What action can you take that might help to resolve such a situation?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Monday, November 5, 2012

God Working in You

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
The word “therefore” that begins this section connects us back to the previous sections, about the divine humility of Jesus the God-man and how He has been exalted to the place of highest glory and honor. He is our example, whose entire being displays the attitude we should have in all things. It is part of our identity, who He is in us and who we are in Him.

Paul addresses the Jesus believers at Philippi as “my beloved.” In this we see the tender affection he has for them. He has had a very strong relationship with them ever since he first arrived in Macedonia. They have supported his ministry steadily, with prayer and provision and partnership in the gospel. Though he is now under house arrest in Rome, he has every confidence that he will be with them once again, for the increase and joy of their faith. In the meantime, he wants them to continue as if he was right there with them now, and he is confident that they will be all the more diligent because of his present circumstances. What Paul desires (keeping Philippians 2:1-4 in mind) is that they would treat each other as they would him if he were now present among them, with nothing done through selfish ambition or conceit but serving one another with the humility of the Lord Jesus.

“Therefore,” Paul tells them, “work out your own salvation.” There are a couple of things to note here. First, he is not talking about their individual personal destinies. The use of “you” and “your” here are in the plural forms. He is speaking to them as the community of believers. Second, he does not mean that they are to work for their salvation, that is, in order to get saved. Salvation is a gift of God that is at work in them. To “work out” one’s salvation, rather, is to bring forth the outer expression of what is now inherent in their inner being. Salvation is not merely a theory, it produces practical results in the life of the believer. Paul is telling them to manifest outwardly what is already an inward reality, to demonstrate the life of God and the attitude of Jesus that is already at work in them. The Contemporary English Version translates this as, “discover what it really means to be saved.”

Paul adds, “with fear and trembling.” That is a combination he uses a few times elsewhere: about when he first came to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:1-5), about when Paul sent Titus to the Corinthians and how they received him (2 Corinthians 7:-1316), and about how Christian bondservants should live in regard to their earthly masters (Ephesians 6:5-8). It is not about abject fear or terror but about being circumspect, careful, diligent and respectful. J. B. Phillips translates it as having “a proper sense of awe and responsibility” (The New Testament in Modern Speech).

It all comes down to dependence upon God. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible has this as, “It is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” We cannot even work up the desire for these things ourselves, much less fulfill them. But God comes and creates the proper desires in us Himself. The fact that we begin to desire the things of God is evidence of His saving work in us. God enables godly desire within us and along with that gives us the divine ability to do what He desires. This is exactly what He had promised centuries earlier, through the prophet Ezekiel:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
The Spirit of God works in us to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This reflects the character and attitude of the Lord Jesus that Paul wants the believers at Philippi (and indeed, everywhere) to manifest. It is God’s doing through and through, His Spirit, His life, His salvation at work in us to do what we could not otherwise do. Our part is to be diligent and attentive to allow Him to bring it forth into outward expression, in faithful obedience to the Father and self-giving service toward one another.

Focus Questions
  1. What do you think are the present benefits of salvation? How do you live them out?
  2. How do you think of the fear of the Lord? As dread, or delight?
  3. How do you think of the will of God? As something you must resign yourself to, or something that releases you into His desire and pleasure?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Humble God-Man Exalted with the Highest Glory

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
In the previous section, Paul spoke of the humility of the Son of God who came into the world as a man and manifested the servant heart even to the point of a humiliating death on a Roman cross. Now he shows how the greatness of that divine humility has been revealed.

The world has been turned upside down, or rather, right side up. The fallen world system, under the spell of principalities and powers, delights in what it perceives to be power and greatness, yet esteems humility and love to be the exact opposite of such. But God has revealed that greatness is found in humility and power in love, and He has done this by exalting Jesus with the greatest glory. This was not in regard to His divinity, in which He has always been infinitely glorious, but in regard to His humanity, which is what God had always planned for mankind from the beginning, when He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion” (Genesis 1:26). The exaltation of Jesus in His humanity also speaks to us about our own humanity.

Paul details this exaltation in his letter to the Jesus believers at Ephesus, where he prays that they might be given the Spirit of wisdom and revelation from God to know
what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23)
All things in heaven and earth have now been placed under the dominion of Jesus the God-man. The principalities and powers, which were disarmed at the cross (Colossians 2:15), must yield to the authority of His name and all it signifies. Paul also tells us that, as believers in the Lord Jesus, we too have been raised up together with Him and seated together in the heavenlies in Him (Ephesians 2:6).

This news is for all the world, and all the nations are invited to come and participate in Him, to know Him in His humility and to glory in His greatness. Before He ascended to His throne in heaven at the right hand of the Father, He gathered the disciples together and said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

God has exalted Jesus so that “every knew should bow” and “every tongue should confess” that Jesus is Lord. This echoes the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah:
Who has declared this from ancient time?
Who has told it from that time?
Have not I, the LORD?
And there is no other God besides Me,
A just God and a Savior;
There is none besides Me.
Look to Me, and be saved,
All you ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
I have sworn by Myself;
The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness,
And shall not return,
That to Me every knee shall bow,
Every tongue shall take an oath.
(Isaiah 45:21-23)
The Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament that was used by the early church, uses the same words about every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Paul uses in Philippians 2:10-11. What is said of the LORD in the Old Testament, Paul applies to the exalted Lord Jesus in the New.

The language of bowing the knee is not about what is done against one’s will — and it is certainly not to be confused with an enemy having his neck under the foot of his vanquisher. Bowing the knee is honor willingly offered. Likewise, confession is not what must be pulled through one’s teeth. It is freely given, and from the heart. Paul speaks two other times about the confession that Jesus is Lord. In 1 Corinthians 12:3, he tells us that no one can say “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. In Romans 10:9, he says that those who confess “Jesus is Lord,” will be saved.

In the Roman imperial cult of Paul’s day, each Caesar upon his death was considered to have ascended to take his place in the pantheon of Roman gods. This glorification of Caesar to god-like status was called apotheosis, “divinization” or “deification.” Being a Roman citizen, Paul would have known of this belief, as would the Jesus believers at Philippi (remember that Philippi was one of the chief Roman cities in Macedonia). Paul’s words, however, fly very much in the face of it. Where the Romans said, “Caesar is Lord,” Paul boldly declared, not Caesar, but Jesus is Lord. Caesar is not the one who has been exalted to the highest place, but Jesus the Messiah is. Even Caesar himself will bow down in reverence and worship the Lord Jesus. The declaration that Jesus is Lord, which is so central to the message of the gospel, rattled the Roman cages and was one reason why Christians were persecuted as subversives and why evangelism was such a dangerous venture. But it was also a reason for great joy.

Focus Questions
  1. What does the exaltation of Jesus the God-man say about humanity as God intended it?
  2. What do you suppose it means that we are seated with Jesus on His throne in the heavenlies, at the right hand of the Father? Can you see yourself there?
  3. How does the exaltation of Jesus the Son display the glory of the Father?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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