Jesus and the Christian
Seven times in 11 verses Paul mentions Jesus Christ. This means something for the church of Philippi. And if you are a Christian, this means something for you too. What can we learn from these references that is basic to the Christian life?
You belong to Jesus.
Paul and Timothy are “servants of Christ Jesus” (v. 1). They belong to him. Paul understood himself to be a slave/servant of Jesus Christ. He and Timothy belonged to Jesus Christ. For Paul, this meant that he didn’t belong to himself. It meant that he was now devoted to the business and interests of his master. It meant that his life was dedicated to the purposes of his master/owner. Christian, this is true of you as well. You belong to Jesus. Your life will find its deepest sense of meaning and purpose and flourishing when you live for the will of your master. You belong to him.
You are united to Jesus.
The saints in Philippi are all “in Christ Jesus” (v. 1). You not only belong to him, but you have also been joined to him. All that was yours—sin, misery, suffering—became his, and all that is his—righteousness, purity, peace and power—is now yours. Your life is “in him” like a branch that finds life and nourishment from the vine it is connected to. You are not joined to him because of anything you ever did that was good or righteous, but because of the grace of God alone through your limping and sometimes little faith. You are united to Jesus Christ. His death was your death. His resurrection life is already evidenced in your faith. You are united to Jesus.
Receive from Jesus.
The church in Philippi will experience grace and peace “from . . . the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 2) through Paul’s writing. We all want to experience grace and peace from the Lord Jesus but we often forget that it comes through the apostolic writings along with the rest of the Bible. You can receive grace and peace from the present and ruling “Lord” Jesus through the inspired writings of Scripture. Five hundred years ago John Calvin wrote, “There is an inseparable link between faith and the Word; they can no more be separated than rays of light from the sun.” One of the primary means of grace and peace from the Lord Jesus are through the word. Don’t hide yourself from the light and warmth of this sun.
Bear fruit because of Jesus.
Paul prays that this church will be filled with fruit “that comes through Jesus Christ” (v. 11). We belong to Jesus. We are united to Jesus. And because of that union we not only receive grace and peace through the word of God but we also experience a kind of present filling from the him. This filling looks like fruitfulness. In v. 11 this is either the fruit that comes from our righteous status having been joined to Jesus by faith or the fruit is simply characterized as righteous in character. It’s biblical and fair to say that both are true. We become fruitful through our faith union with Jesus and this fruit is all the kinds of righteousness that reflect his character. We become more loving, more joyful, more at peace, more patient, more kind, more faithful, more gentle, more self-controlled as we experience a present filling through our union with Jesus. Christian, bear fruit through Jesus.
You are loved by Jesus.
Paul yearns for these people in Philippi with “the affection of Christ Jesus” (v. 8). Paul’s love for this church and every good pastor’s love for the church is an overflow and a shadow of “the affection of Christ Jesus.” Did you know that? If you have ever experienced the patient, loving, care of a shepherd through the gospel, you have tasted “the affection of Christ Jesus.” We under-shepherds are no replacement for the Chief Shepherd himself, but even broken clocks are right twice a day. And when we get it right, when we love and long for and communicate appropriate and fervent affection for the church, it becomes for the church, for you, a conduit of the affection of Jesus himself. He loves you. It is his almighty heart that loves us with an everlasting love. It’s his heart that bursts with affection for weak and wavering sinners like you and me. It’s his heart that is gentle and lowly toward all who would but come to him for rest. The Lord Jesus loves you. The unfaithful pastor cannot diminish the affection Jesus feels for you. The faithful pastor merely displays it.
Wait for Jesus.
The good work that God began in the church won’t be finished until “the day of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). Also, Paul prays that this church would be marked by a purity and blamelessness “for the day of Christ” (v. 10). Your growth and sanctification are leading to a cosmic wedding ceremony where the church, the bride, will be presented in beauty and splendor to the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Wait for Jesus. Aim for that day. Plan for that day. Suffer hard things in light of that day. Everything in your life is leading to the return of Jesus, the “day” of Jesus. Every hard thing you face is preparing you for a day when faith will become sight, tears will be wiped away, sad things will become untrue, and lost things will be found. Paul writes in Romans 8:18:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
It will be a day of joy of such magnitude that the sufferings we face now won’t even move the scale by weight and comparison. Can you believe that?