Our Personal & Corporate Calling (Philippians 4:2-9)

Our Personal & Corporate Calling (Philippians 4:2-9)

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MPS: Our personal and collective calling is to be united together in Christ. We are united in Christ as we rejoice together in the Lord, casting our anxieties upon Him through prayer, and joyfully submit to Him.

I. We are called to unity. (2-3)

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life

Whether or not this disagreement in verse 2 is the primary conflict of Paul’s earlier concern is uncertain. However, the location of which this issue is brought up indicates not only its importance to Paul, but he may also have been concerned that it was something that could cause considerable strife. One commentator suggests that though the dissension may have been isolated, it had the potential of splitting the church into two.

There’s really no room for choosing sides and creating a sectarian environment within God’s local Church. These were two women who clearly had important roles and earned the respect of the Apostle Paul. To divide over matters that should be settled between two sisters in Christ is a discredit upon them, the Church, and worst of all Christ.

Think of two parents who can’t agree on how to raise the kids. Should we spank them? At what time should we eat dinner? When is bedtime? What schools should we enroll them in. The parents get into such a disagreement and instead of working these matters out they divorce. It’s an incredibly ludicrous scenario, however, isn’t that the case within most churches? When we disagree we more often than not fight for a little while in the hope that others might realize how wrong they are and how brilliant we are. Then, when we don’t get our way we divorce ourselves from the local church.

Paul charges the entire church with the responsibility of restoring this fractured relationship. We often misunderstand our individual relationship with the local congregation. We can often think in terms of what we receive or how others can serve us. We are called to serve one another and one such way is to guard one another from the enemy. One way that the enemy takes control of us is through division. He seeks to divide us. He calls us to forsake one another so that we might forsake Christ. 

We need to be united in fellowship. The biblical understanding of fellowship is to hold all things in common (Acts 2:42-47). As such we should be transparents and open to correction from our fellow saints. That means when one of us goes off the reservation or is simply found in unrepentant sin, we are called to restore one another with gentleness (Gal. 6:1).

In fact the last prayer of Jesus before He is arrested, which is found in John 17, is that God would keep His people united to Him and to each other.

II. We are called to rejoice, reasonableness, and prayer. (4-7)

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. 

Christ is central to the joy of a Christian. Do you notice that Paul focuses on rejoicing in the Lord? Why might that be? For one, there is no greater joy than being known and knowing God. If you spend your day in prayer, seeking the Lord, and rejoicing in Him then you don’t have time to lack unity as a Christian. You won’t have the opportunity to walk away from God. You can’t get bitter or upset when you spend your days praising God.

However, one of our greatest problems is our weakness. We spend our days finding ways to deflect our worship of God to other things in this life. We consume our time on trivial matters rather than eternal matters. Imagine a time where after a great football game, fishing trip, or time spent with the family that you spent time reflecting on the goodness of God rather than lusting after how you might consume more of these good gifts. Imagine seeking the Giver of these gifts rather than the gifts themselves. Now that is rejoicing in the Lord.

Paul then calls us to be reasonable. Reasonableness is an unsatisfactory translation for “epieikes”; the full meaning includes gentleness, kind, tolerant, sweetness, and patience. This all inclusive understanding, which we will use the term reasonableness for, is something that is lacking in today’s society as well as in the Church. I won’t go into the details of how many within God’s Church have often been anything but reasonable. But think how important reasonableness is. What if instead of our finding fault with everything and blowing up about inconsequential matters we simply addressed challenges with gentleness, kindness, patience, and sweetness?

Why might Paul prescribe such a medicine for the Church? Because such people are often the ones that Jesus calls peacemakers. We are all called to be peacemakers, seeking to reconcile one another in unity because we have first been reconciled to God by Jesus.  Jesus calls us to a life or crucifixion and that’s an incredibly challenging life to live. It’s almost impossible to live that way when we aren’t reasonable. If Jesus calls us to crucify the flesh then why are we surprised when trouble finds us? Why is our response often to get angry? It is only by the work of Christ and empowerment of the Spirit that we can endure this life with the reasonableness in which we are called.

This life is one in which we will face many trials and tribulations, we should at least as followers of Christ. Yet Jesus also promises us peace. And the way in which the Christian receives the peace of God is through prayer. The peace that Jesus promises is not one in which we don’t come across adversity. We are called to war with the flesh. We go into battle everyday fighting our sinfulness and the fallen nature of this world. You can often find yourself in a spiritual battle as the enemy seeks to devour you.

But God calls us to prayer. He calls us to seek Him in the moments of quiet as well as the hours spent in clamour. In prayer we go to war with our flesh. We commune with God. We seek his presence, grace, and mercy. We might pray for those around us; those who have hurt us and those who are hurting. It is through this time with God that He gives us a peace that surpasses all understanding. 

J.C. Ryle puts the importance of prayer this way, “Faith is to the soul what life is to the body. Prayer is to faith what breath is to the body. How a person can live and not breathe is past my comprehension, and how a person can believe and not pray is past my comprehension too.

III.  We are called to joyful obedience. (8-9)

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

The true measure of honor, loveliness, purity, commendation, excellence, and praiseworthiness is Christ. We are only able to know what is truly honorable, lovely, pure, commendable, and excellent as we know Christ. We know Christ and what He calls good not because we look to see what the world calls good, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20) Paul calls us to, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh,” (Gal. 5:16-17a).

Paul summarizes for us his teaching on how to follow Christ. To follow Christ is walk by the Spirit. When we are walking by the Spirit we learn to despise the evil of this world. We are informed by the Spirit through study and prayer what is truly good and praiseworthy. And what is truly good and praiseworthy? Christ!

It is easy for us to seek the praise of man or to praise others. It’s in our nature, it’s a result of our fractured hearts. We seek to make idols out of everything we can, which is why Paul is calling us to seek Christ, His truth, and the Spirit’s leading. As we lean into Christ and learn to follow Him we are then called to joyfully obey all that He has taught.

Paul capstones all that he has taught doctrinally, which is confirmed with how he has lived his life,  and by assuring that obedience to Christ results in God-given peace. “They show that the work of the law is ywritten on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Rom. 2:15) So what Christ teaches us through the law is written on our hearts. Romans 2:15 informs us that our conscience bears witness to this fact. As we joyfully submit to Christ our conscience is no longer in conflict.

We will never be able to perfectly submit to the Law. No one is righteous, no not one. Only God is perfectly righteous and He displays His glory through Christ. The work of Christ in the Gospel clothes us with Christ’s perfect righteousness so that when our consciences bear witness about our sinful state we are able to still have peace with God, because God declares peace with us through the sacrifice of His Son.

 

 

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