Philippians is one of my favorite books in the New Testament. I’ve often gotten a great deal of encouragement and much needed perspective after spending an hour or so studying it. I’ve frequently heard it said that Philippians is “The Joy Epistle”. I don’t want to denigrate that description, but I do think it’s a tad shallow. Although the themes of joy and thanksgiving are certainly present throughout this Pauline letter, there is so much more to it than that. For instance we find some deep theological truths concerning the Person of Jesus Christ explained throughout this Epistle – such as finding the theological basis for the Christological terms kenosis and hypostatic union. The humiliation of Christ is also discussed in detail in this short letter. Reading this Epistle and studying these great truths is certainly exciting, and one cannot walk away from this book without a deeper appreciation for our Savior and a deeper commitment to living a life of holiness while shrouded in righteous humility. With all that being said, I’m going to write thanksgiving as it relates to our interpersonal relationships.
I think it’s necessary to discuss the background of this book prior to the main point of the article. In Acts 16 Paul receives a vision. He discerns that this vision is a direct call from God to take the Gospel message to the Macedonians. Paul and his companions immediately set sail and come first to the Roman settlement of
Through a set of circumstances involving an exorcism performed by Paul (by the way, exorcisms in the Scripture seem to be pretty straightforward and quick affairs), he and Silas end up being arrested. After their mock trial, they are severely beaten. There’s no doubt that the man (or men) who were administering the stripes were very skilled in keeping their victims alive while inflicting as much pain as possible. After the beating, Paul and Silas are tossed into the prison and placed in stocks. Many commentators state that the stocks most commonly used were not mere “ankle bracelets”, but involved the entire body being placed in such an uncomfortable position that sleep would have been difficult even without the added discomfort of a bloody, raw, and beaten body.
This series of events leads to the establishment of this little work in the Macedonian city of
There are a number of things that always strike me as remarkable when I read this short epistle…one of those things is the fact that Paul seems to look on his entire experience surrounding his initial contacts with these dear people of God as something for which to be thankful. This, of course, would include the severe beating and imprisonment that he endured during that initial visit.
I have a handful of people whom I consider to be my dearest friends. Some of them I’ve only known for a couple of years, while some of them have been friends for nearly two decades; some of them I see and speak to on a regular basis, while my visits with others of them are not nearly often enough. Regardless, these dear friends bring me a great deal of joy with every meeting. Every time I think about them or speak to them, I can thank my God for allowing that relationship to be in my life.
It’s a special thing to find a good, likeminded friend, I think. When you’ve found such a friend, you’ve likely found somebody who is as close (or often closer) than family. When reading this first chapter of Philippians and attempting to grasp what the aged Apostle is feeling, I think I understand his thankfulness for these brothers and sisters in