International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 1, 2010
Scripture Text: Philippians 1:18-29 (NRSV)
Purpose: To examine the ways in which God sustains the faithful in all circumstances and calls them to a life of service to others.
(18)What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, (19)for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will result in my deliverance. (20)It is my eager expectation and hope that I will 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, whether by life or by death.(21)For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. (22)If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. (23)I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; (24)but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. (25)Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, (26)so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
(27) Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, (28)and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. (29)For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
For the next four weeks we will be looking at Paul's letter to the Church at Philippi. You may recall from the Book of Acts, that Philippi was the first European city visited by Paul on his second missionary journey. It was here that miracle of the earthquake occurred, along with the graceful actions of Paul to the Philippian jailer. The Jailer and his families conversion had obviously made a lasting impression on the entire city, along with Lydia.
Philippi was a small market community and its claim to fame, other than being named after Alexander the Greats father, was the famous Roman battle between the forces of Brutus and Cassius against the forces of Anthony and Octavian (later called Caesar Augustus) in 42 B.C. Philippi was a Roman outpost and with that came some Roman privileges.
Paul had always enjoyed a special relationship with the Philippian church, and they were thankful for Paul's ministry and had on a few occasions given him a special offering. Paul was evidently writing this letter in response to one of those offerings, while he was a prisoner in Rome. (Although not all bible scholars agree on where Paul was imprisoned at the writing of this letter) For me the reference in verse 13 about the praetorium or palace guard puts Paul in Rome at the writing.
It appears the Thessalonians had sent Paul an offering by way of a messenger called Epaphroditus, but after delivering the offering to Paul, Epaphroditus became very ill and almost died, and Paul is now sending a healed Epaphroditus back, along with this letter.
Of all of Paul's letters this one contains the most joy and uplifting thoughts, it is really a letter of thanks, but Paul also makes his points about what is expected of a Christ centered Christian.
Our lesson begins with Paul saying basically “all publicity is good” or no matter who is talking, if they are talking about Christ, it does not matter what the motives are. Paul does not know what lies ahead, but live or die, he knows he will be with Christ. And either way Christ will be exalted. I think Paul answers the question, what happens to us, as believers when we die? No talk of soul sleep here, just immediately present with the Lord, later to be joined by our body at the resurrection.
Like a lot of us, Paul thought he could accomplish more alive than dead, but that may not always be the case. Just as Christ had to die, so too it appears Paul's voice became louder after his death. The example for us and the Philippians is to live a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ, standing firm in our beliefs and faithful in all circumstances. Suffering for Christ sake is a privilege, and we should welcome the opportunity to share in the work of Christ, even if it cost us. How are you suffering for the cause of Christ?