Philippians 1 and Paul's Defense

This Saturday I sat down and read through Ephesians, Philippians, and parts of Colossians again. Instead of reading through the Scriptures with my normal reading program I determined to immerse myself in some of Paul's thoughts. The last couple years I have primarily been using the NRSV so that will be the text I will be quoting from in this post. 

Defense and Opponents:

In the first chapter of Philippians alone Paul uses the term "defense" twice (vs. 7, 16). He says to "speak the word with greater boldness and without fear." He hoped that he would "not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body." (vs. 20). For Paul "living is Christ and dying is gain." (vs. 21) It was "more necessary" (vs. 24) for Paul to "remain in the flesh" than to go to be with Christ. Instead he remains to "continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith," (vs. 25). He says to "live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ" (vs. 27) and to be " in no way intimidated by your opponents." (vs. 28). 

Communicate Boldly:

For Paul this was significant as he was speaking to other Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians. He encourages them to have boldness when communicating the Gospel. In fact, as believers we are fighting in one accord using weapons that are not of this world (See 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Christians are not to be surprised when opposition arises anywhere the Gospel is preached. Paul tells those at Philippi "And this is God's doing." (vs. 28). For Paul God is the cause of everything and creation evidences God's existence (Romans 1). Paul clearly stated: "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) We are to rely upon God and not fear.

Privilege of Believing and Suffering:

Paul's final words seemingly run contrary to our human nature and in fact the concept that some have of modern Christianity. Notice, "he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—" (vs. 29) For Paul these words were not sterile or just smooth sayings. In fact, for Paul suffering for Christ is the struggle he enjoyed even while writing this letter..."the same struggle"..."that I still have." (vs. 30).


Paul is saying that those who war and struggle against the Gospel evidence their destruction.  For those who seek God this sign also speaks of our salvation. The Psalmist declared something similar: "Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” (Psalms 14:1) The "fools" here are those who have no sense of morality or even social obligations (see Isaiah 32:6, I Samuel 25:25). They are corrupt and spiritually vile. They do not care for their lives and therefore do not seek God. 

Defending Things?

To those who think that believers shouldn't be about defending or giving a "defense" of ones faith this post is for you. It is important that Christian culture does not contract the virus of popular culture, i.e. relativism. This position cannot be sustained but a message of relativism still gets tossed about in popular dialog. While many have not actually committed themselves to absolute relativism somehow this option remains on the table for many people. Where does the Christian culture come in? It is the acceptance of a blind leap of faith. Paul was not comfortable with attributing his Faith to chance or a burning in the bosom. He was so sure that he was willing to give a "defense" and encourages us to not be intimidated by those who would oppose the Gospel.


brian said...

This is really good but what do you mean by absolute relativism?

JN Anderson said...

Brian, good question. The absolute relativist is the person who thinks they can live life as if there were absolutely no absolutes. As you can tell that is a self-defeating statement since that person is arguing for an absolute statement.

Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)