The missing passion
Jim Voisey, Cardiff, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
When Paul asked the Lord what He would have him to do, he meant it, and thereafter his life was totally committed to Him. The Lord Jesus Christ was his abiding passion. He would say, ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’. The love of Christ constrained him. Not his love for Him, but his personal awareness of the Saviour’s love for himself and all mankind. With all his heart he wanted to serve the Lord, and was determined that the glorious gospel of Christ, committed to him, who had been before a blasphemer, and a persecutor and injurious (‘an insulter’ Newberry) would be in every sense, his gospel. His life had been completely changed; now, he counted ‘all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus’.1
Paul’s letter to the Philippians deals with the thoughts and behaviour of Christians, their inward motivation and the character of their faith being manifested to others. We are called to be worthy of our Saviour. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be guided by purely human reasoning, and are unaware of the impression of ourselves we give to others. The problem with the church at Corinth was that so many were ‘yet carnal and walked as men’. We are called to work out our own salvation, that good work which the Saviour began in us when we were saved. The Lord Jesus wants us to abide in Him, and produce the fruit of that relationship with Himself. We are to be like Him, ‘as he is in the world’, and ‘walk even as he walked’.2
Paul surely shames us by his own example of total commitment to Christ. How can we show our love for Him? We are called to ‘grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’, 2 Pet. 3. 18.
All divisions among us are the results of merely thinking as men and are inconsistent with our Lord’s will for us. He prayed that we might be ‘one’ and the early church emphasized and illustrated this. The Philippians were to ‘stand fast in one spirit and one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel’. They were to ‘do all things without murmurings and disputings’. The petty squabble involving Euodias and Syntyche was to be dealt with. These women had laboured with Paul and others in the gospel, but had evidently fallen out, and their own testimonies and the spiritual well-being of the church were being adversely affected. Sometimes men will stoop so low even as to use the preaching of the gospel to attack someone. Paul says, ‘they preach Christ even of envy and strife’. They are ‘contentious’ and ‘insincere’.3
The visible unity of the Lord’s people is a very precious thing. We should not go contrary to His will, nor do anything to defile or corrupt the church. Paul prayed for all the Philippians. They were called to be a light for the Lord in a dark world, so there were to be no disagreements amongst them. Very often the issues that cause trouble between the Lord’s people are due to mere differences of opinion. The Lord never takes sides over these matters, but He expects us to deal with the problems ourselves. He refused to arbitrate between two brothers who disagreed over an earthly inheritance.4
Put others first
Even Christians can be accused of seeking ‘their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s’, and we are exhorted to ‘look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others’. This is the mind of Christ. He ‘made himself of no reputation’ and humbled Himself for us, and all mankind. The cross was an agonizing, bitter thing, but ‘he gave himself for our sins’. He told His disciples, ‘For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many’. Like Paul, every one of us can say, ‘The Son of God . . . loved me, and gave himself for me’.5
The Saviour is our supreme example as to how we may be of service to others, and Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus show they had hearts akin to His.
Paul is willing to be ‘offered upon the sacrifice and service’ of the Philippians’ faith, that is, he is prepared to spend himself for them and their service, literally to be poured out as a drink offering, a subsidiary but important part of the ritual of the offerings. The Philippians were in his heart, as he was in theirs. Let theirs be the service that shines out to others, and Paul is willing to keep to the background. He is prepared to play second fiddle to their lead.
Timothy is another example. He was so like Paul in his ways and teaching that he says of him, ‘I have no man likeminded, who will naturally (or ‘sincerely’ Newberry) care for your state’. There were often others who served for less open and charitable reasons, but Timothy was different. He would always do that which was best for others, and genuinely cared for them. Timothy was a man who could be trusted.
Epaphroditus had been the church’s representative in visiting Paul in prison, bringing a love gift from the church at Philippi. He devoted himself completely to Paul’s needs, and so committed was he to the task given to him by the Philippians, he worked himself to the absolute limit, and made himself ill. Paul says of him, ‘He was nigh unto death, not regarding his life’ to do what needed to be done. Thus, Paul sends him back to Philippi, ‘a brother, and companion in labour, and a fellow-soldier’ and with this wonderful ringing endorsement: ‘Hold such in reputation’, Phil. 2. 17, 20-30.