"God's Grace Plan"; The book of Philippians
December 1, 2012

C. R. Oliver

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December 1, 2012

"God's Grace Plan"
The book of Philippians


          Any study in Philippians must begin with passages from the book of Acts. God's grace heard the cries of the people of Macedonia and birthed a church which would open all Europe to the gospel. Review its beginnings:
Acts 16:6-10
6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.
7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.
8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.
9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."
10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Such a visage of a Macedonian man must have caused Paul to search for him after he arrived from Troas. Paul might have thought he would encounter this fellow and research the prayer request which moved heaven so deeply.

The Spirit of God forbade Paul from going elsewhere. (It should be pointed out that the vision was acted upon immediately [v. 10]. These early church members were accustomed to hearing from God and acting upon their hearing. Paul obeyed God's vision and nothing else mattered. Gone were his plans, agendas, programs and strategies.)

Acts is a book chronicling the phenomenal acts of the Spirit, using a quickly responding people. That's the way the kingdom works ... no time for dallying among the daisies! Grace has a plan of its own. These early disciples looked for signs of the plan to guide their ministry. When grace was shown to be extended to a people, they followed the work of grace. They knew that God's grace trumped kings and kingdoms and took supremacy over nations and cultures. Who would have considered that a humble man's prayer, and a women's prayer meeting, would be the catalyst for the gospel being spread throughout continental Europe? One must never underestimate the power of prayer and the place of praying men and women in Grace's plan.
Acts 16:11-15
Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." So she persuaded us.
Without making too many assumptions, review the scene. Because this was a military city, established as such by the conquering Romans, it lacked a large contingent of Jews as would possibly have populated a commercial site. The faithful met by a river, on the Sabbath day, in order to pray. Paul and Silas joined them, which means there could have been other men present and participating. However, the Scripture focuses on Lydia and how the grace of God provided a response to her prayers and her devotion to God. She was first, among many, to receive salvation through the gospel (She and her entire family, along with others at that prayer meeting, were baptized). The Lord opened her heart. God's grace has an open ear to the sincere prayers of the "yet to be saints." All over the world, even without a formal meeting place, God is sending his servants to answer the pleas of the "yet to be saved ones."

Lydia became the point of provision for the disciples as well. Her generosity and influence gave credence to the message of Paul. From her home came a powerful witness and it became the gathering place for seekers of the truth. Lydia was the local advocate for the gospel, for cultures need "locals" to provide a warm hearth for those seeking truth.

Advocacy is not a shield against tribulation, however. Paul and Silas, working out of Lydia's home and the homes of others, soon found themselves housed in a prison-giving vent to the famous "Philippian jailer's salvation." In their deliverance of an abused girl, Paul and Silas wound up being beaten and castigated by a citizenry that knew nothing of their heavenly status. Soon, the entire city would evidence an earthshaking event, which would show Divine approval for their cause. A trembling jailer, professing his new salvation experience, was replaced by a trembling magistrate, who had ordered Roman citizens to be beaten without a trial.

Such persecution would often characterize the ministry of Paul and those with him. In Acts 20:1, while ministering in Asia, Paul challenged the idol makers, who profited off the worship of the pagan deity, Diana. The riot which ensued also engulfed two Macedonians traveling with Paul.
Acts 19:29
So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul's travel companions.
In the eleven years between Paul's first visit to Philippi and the writing of this epistle, many skirmishes and trials were the lot of Christians. (Ordinary church goers of today [more than likely] would have already abandoned their faith.) One can only surmise the value of their sacrifice when one ponders the multitudes of saints found historically in Europe. It began in Macedonia and concentrate first in Philippi.

Although Paul began the Philippian epistle with his usual salutation, early on, he makes a Grace Confession. He virtually attests that this treatise falls under a single category: "Grace engendered works." Its genesis was born of a vision and its growth was a Grace adventure. So, as the reader continues, he must be aware of the epistle's unfolding revelation under the heading of: "God's Grace-Plan." At this point, Paul inserts a major premise in Christianity: "Those who support the Grace ordained ministries are partakers of its fruit."
Philippians 1:7
... inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.
Not just the two men of the riot, but all of them, were both provision and support. God's Grace planned it all through a vision and a prayer meeting. Participants of the plan were rewarded as they went, even though viewed from prison bars. Every reference in this text is predicated on this premise, "all who participate in God's Grace Plan are rewarded by His Grace.'
Philippians 1:12
But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel,

Philippians 1:18-21
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.
19 To Live Is Christ For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Ending this paragraph with one of the most quoted passages in Philippians, Paul reveals how the Lord has used his persecution and chains for the furtherance of God's Grace-plan. The man who heard God say, "My grace is sufficient," knew it was!
Philippians 1:29-30
29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

Philippians 2:17
Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Philippians 2:25, 30
Epaphroditus ... because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.
Timothy and Epaphroditus, both fellow laborers, were being sent to Macedonia in order to bring unity and restore fellowship within the Philippian church. Both were proven men. Both of them were used in the plan of Grace to provide for Paul and to comfort him in prison. Grace always comes to the rescue.

Paul knew of the division in the church at Philippi (coming through deception) and how most of them were more interested in their own welfare than in carrying out the will of God. He brought matters back into perspective, first, by showing how Christ divested himself of heaven in order to minister to man, and second, how he too was willing to sacrifice everything to facilitate the gospel.
Philippians 3:7-10
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
The great trilogy of verse 10 is a study to itself. Grace allows entrance to these three arenas. "To know Him" is to be intimately in the circle with Him. Those who have His mind abide in His fellowship. To fellowship with Jesus is to "enter in" to the power of His resurrection, which leads to the community of His sufferings. Companionismo is the Spanish synonym for such fellowship. Companionship is far different than tertiary acquaintance. Grace carries us to the place where these three aspects are the primary motivations and focus of our existence.

What part does personal aggrandizement play in verse 10? Where do private interests enter this picture?


Paul passed over to the place where worldly matters were of no significance. He found himself astonished when he encountered the priorities of the Philippi church. (He would be more astonished by entering today's church arena)
Philippians 3:13-20
3 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.
16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.
17 Our Citizenship is in Heaven Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame - who set their mind on earthly things.
20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The universe changes for the believer, as he matures in Christ. Some former interests are just not there and if they are-God is continually challenging them and bringing one to Christ's higher standard. (If you don't see this happening in yourself and in those around you ... it is cause to weep.)

Realizing his chains and possible death, Paul began to issue mandates for life (small fragments of seemingly disconnected thoughts---which are actually highly connected to the deeper walk in Grace). Some of the most quoted passages in Christendom are in these thoughts.
Philippians 4:6-8
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

8 Meditate on These Things Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things.
If the saints will adhere to these principles, most of the pitfalls surrounding personal issues, home, church and business will be avoided. One must train oneself to be "anxious for nothing." (A troubled world increases ones anxieties, but when a man in chains, faced with condemnation from government and society, gives advice---take it.) Lonely hours of dismal confinement required the principles found verse 8.

Hear Paul testify of God's great grace flowing toward him always!
Philippians 4:11-13
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
In order for these oft quoted passages to be understood, one must see the circumstances of their author. The Scripture says, "He learned." Listen to him. "He learned," through experience, that God's Grace is sufficient. Oh, that the vast numbers who attend worship would "learn" to be content. (The very competitiveness of the world's culture demands one to be malcontent, but such is not from God.) Oh, that the cruel future, coming to pass on earth, could be met with verse 12 and 13. (Let us memorize these verses, until they are a part of us, for they are the mind of Christ.)

Now comes verse 10, perhaps, the most quoted of all the Philippian passages:
Philippians 4:15-19
15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.
16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.
17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.
18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.
19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
After commending them on caring for his needs and supporting him in distant fields, Paul demonstrated a restraint little known to the "offering takers" of the church at large. He described the altar of the Old Testament, which received the sacrifices of the people and called their provision "a sweet-smelling sacrifice." It was God who provided for him through their obedience and willing sacrifice. It was God's Grace upon them which urged their participation and netted fruit and wealth to their spiritual account. (Philippian type sacrifice still happens today, though little regarded in many arenas.)

The cyclical nature of such giving is pointed out in verse 19. (The realization that God is our source and supply, transforms us to a place of wonderful freedom. To ruminate on the vastness of His resources is cause célèbre, alongside our connection to Him.)

The end of this year causes us to recount the times He has done exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we could ask or think. We rise to testify, "His Grace is Sufficient."

Until Next month,

Dr. Cosby R. Oliver, PhD.


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