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Sunday, November 21 2021

What encourages you and gives you great joy? The gospel message with its love and insight unites Christians and that unity is part of the joy of the Christian life. One way that Christians can all partake of the fruit of the gospel is by giving to missionaries and supporting missionaries in spreading the gospel. Everyone who gives to the mission of making disciples is also participating in making disciples. The epistle to the Philippians demonstrates the joy of the gospel and the church in unity as a great word of encouragement for Christians to take part in the great mission of the church.

The apostle Paul wrote Philippians to “the saints,” the holy ones, in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi “with the overseers and deacons” (Philippians 1:1). The congregation had grown to have mature leaders who were elders and deacons (cf. 1 Timothy 3). Paul continually blessed these saints with grace and peace from God the Father and Christ the Lord (1:2). The apostle Paul expressed, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3–5 ESV). Their partnership with Paul was giving in support of him to spread the gospel. 

Giving in support of the gospel increases thanksgiving to God. Among the first to support Paul in spreading the gospel would have been Lydia and her household and the Philippian jailer and his house (Acts 16). The faithful at Philippi sent Paul financial support before any others to take the message of Jesus’s resurrection further throughout the world (Philippians 4:14–20). For this reason, the apostle encouraged them that he was sure God would complete His work in them on the day of Christ (1:6). For this reason, the apostle carried thanksgiving and joy with him having them “in his heart,” because they were partakers together of God’s grace (1:7).

Christians should have affection for one another because they support and encourage one another’s good works in proclaiming the gospel and sharing God’s love. Paul’s love for the church was increased because he could defend and confirm the gospel while enduring imprisonment (Philippians 1:7). The apostle claimed, “God is my witness,” as he often did, and in this place, he recognized God as the witness of his longing and affection for those Christians (1:8). God is the witness of the affection and love for others among Christians. The church of Philippi demonstrated that love and established that close connection by giving to Paul’s evangelistic works.

Paul built on the fellowship and communion of Christians by urging the church in Philippi to abound in love with knowledge and insight, and so they can approve of what is excellent to be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ (Philippians 1:9–10). Their giving did not replace the need for them to continue to grow in Christ. The apostle cared for the congregation and wanted them to mature and remain true to Christ. He urged these Christians to grow in love and knowledge so by this they will be filled with the fruit of righteousness through Christ (1:11). By abounding in love and knowledge, this was all for the glory and praise of God.

Every Christian can have this same affection by giving in support of the spreading of the gospel and various evangelistic works locally and among missionaries. However, their giving does not replace their own need to grow in knowledge. If you are longing for this kind of faith and affection in a family of faith, Christ provides a community for belonging among the faithful.

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, November 14 2021

The apostle Paul commanded Christians, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10 ESV). Many believers want the strength of God to withstand temptation and evil, yet they also neglect the strength that God gives to withstand temptation. How can Christians be strong in the strength that God gives them?

To be strong in the strength of God, the apostle Paul illustrated God’s strength with a set of armor, “the panoply of God.” The apostle commanded believers to put on the whole armor of God to be strong to withstand the strategies of the devil (Ephesians 6:11). God strengthens believers to battle against the rulers, authorities, world’s powers of darkness, and evil spiritual forces (6:12). To do this, Christians are to put on the whole armor of God and do everything to stand on the evil day (6:13). God has given Christians all that they need. No believer is lacking from God, but every Christian must put on the whole armor to stand.

The armor of God is complete. God’s soldier has a belt of truth that makes him ready to move without restraint in every circumstance (Ephesians 6:14). The Christian is a soldier who has a breastplate protecting his heart with righteousness (6:14). He wears shoes making him ready to carry the gospel of peace (6:15). He has a shield of faith constantly protecting him from flaming arrows from the evil one (6:16). The soldier takes up the helmet of salvation protecting and focusing his head upon hope (6:17; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:8). God’s warrior carries the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (6:17). The writer of Hebrews described the sword as piercing to the division of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The armor of God is glorious as the apostle Paul described this armor as “the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). God was first to wear the armor that He has now given to the faithful to stand (Isaiah 59:16–17; cf. 9:6–7). For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).

Having put on the whole armor of God, the Christian must remain watchful of the enemy and alert by persevering in prayer for all Christians (Ephesians 6:18). The Christian soldier is standing on guard not only to protect oneself but to protect all who serve God with him (6:19). Christians look out for each other by living and proclaiming the gospel boldly while enduring hardships (6:19–20). Many come to lead even serving as ministers, reporting the news of fellow Christians, and encouraging others (6:21–22).

God has given a brotherhood to the faithful. God has also given peace and grace to those who love Christ with incorruptible love and faith (6:23–24). For God has given the faithful all the strength that they need.

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, November 07 2021

How many people do good work only when seen? God always sees what everyone does (Hebrews 4:13). God commands the faithful to work honestly before their employers. Workers are to obey their managers and supervisors. 

Why did Paul command servants to obey their masters with fear trembling (Ephesians 6:5)? Why not tell them to rebel and seek their freedom? Today, many would not describe their boss, manager, or supervisor as their master, but that is what they are to some extent if not in every way. Obeying employers with fear and trembling is in respect of God. Peter instructed Christians to work with humility for those overseeing them and with all respect (1 Peter 2:18–21). Christians are to regard their employers as worthy of honor so that the name of God and the teaching are not reviled (1 Timothy 6:1). The Christian worker should serve with sincerity and without reservation as one would in working for Christ (Ephesians 6:5). This means working not to please the eyes of a supervisor, but always working in the sight of the Lord. This is the will of God (6:6). Whatever Christians do in work and service, they are to do so in service to God and Christ (6:7). This kind of service and work takes faith and trust in God through difficult circumstances because God promises to give good blessings back to the worker (6:8).

Furthermore, God instructs managers, masters, and bosses to do good to their servants without threatening their workers (Ephesians 6:9). Many employers manage workers with a heavy hand and constantly threaten them. Christian managers must not behave in this way. Masters, employers, and supervisors should know that they have the same heavenly Master as the servants and God will render to both impartially (6:9).

Whether a servant or free, all work under their heavenly Master (Ephesians 6:9). The apostle Paul taught, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23–24 ESV). Furthermore, the apostle called for trust in God telling Christians, “For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality” (3:25).

In the Creation, God made man and put him in the garden to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:15). Solomon noted, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2:24–25). Thank God that we can work and serve him. Jesus taught, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” (John 6:27).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email