As I read it, the central theme to the book of Philippians is Paul's exhortation to the congregation to live as Christ would have them live as His people which would set them apart from those who are headed for destruction. In other words, to live as Kingdom people in obedience with no grumbling or complaining; to be humble as Christ was humble in every way; to not follow those who are heading for destruction in any way, especially in the flesh and in disunity, but to live in harmony with everybody; to think on good things not evil things; and to always remember to rejoice in everything knowing that Jesus Christ gave the example of how we should live.
After having been all he has been through, Paul, in Philippians 1:12-26, reminds them that suffering for Jesus Christ is a part of being His people. But in that suffering they need to stay courageous and to find joy in that suffering knowing that he, Paul, and Jesus more so suffered for the good of the people who would follow Him. Yes, all Christians want to be with Jesus in Heaven, which is better, but, if we all were in Heaven with Jesus, who would be left here on Earth to help others find the love and mercy of God? Paul, who is now in prison, chained to a table for proclaiming the Word of God to all who would listen, is showing us that we should rejoice in the fact that we belong to Christ and not Satan.
Yes, to be with Christ is better by far, but to stay here on Earth to reach lost people with the testimonies we have been given by our Creator is much better because the change in us can only be seen by having actually been changed by the blood of Christ. Paul, once a murderer of Christians, became the greatest herald of Jesus Christ we have ever known. If Christ could give Paul joy and contentment in his many sufferings and could use Paul's sufferings for the betterment of the lives of others, then it is better by far that we do the same. I'd rather be chained to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, than to go back a let Satan bind me with his chains of darkness once again. Jesus' chains bring a freedom that Paul says "And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear" (Phil. 1:14/NIV). Proclaiming, or in Paul's case heralding the gospel of Jesus Christ is the best freedom of all.
Comment: "This second theme I believe is more of a warning that they may have to suffer just as Christ did and just as he is now suffering (being imprisoned, probably)."
Author Response: No one likes to suffer, even if there is a reason for it. You and I both know though that suffering brings about a healing that we can't get in any other way. Sure, we weren't too happy about going through the things we had to, but, today, we can both look back and see just how necessary that suffering was. Like Paul, we can look back and say "Thank you, Lord, for showing me that you love me and that I can be free even when I am chained." Jesus never said that life would be fair and that all of our problems go away once we are saved, and I for one am glad that they don't. For if I never suffered, as Paul had learned, I would have never know the depth of the love Jesus has for me. I gladly allow Jesus to be glorified in all that He does in my life, for it is there in His glory that those around me get to see Him through me. I can identify with Paul tremendously in that I can, with a lot of help and strength from Jesus, be content in all circumstances because I know that Jesus is in firm control of them all. For me, suffering is the birth pangs before my entrance into Heaven. I haven't truly been born yet, not until I die here on the earth and rise to be born again in the place Jesus has set aside for us. Then, only then, will life truly begin.
Comment: "Paul presents Christ's decision to give himself voluntarily without expecting any type of compensation in return, and Paul illustrates Christ life as the ultimate example of obedience unto God for the sake of the good news, even unto his death."
Author Response: Jesus set the example for us to follow that we should never expect anything in return for helping others. Sad to say, a lot of Christians don't live this way. They either don't believe in the rewards we will receive in Heaven or they can't wait until then to get them. What they don't realize is that, if they get them down here, then they shouldn't expect to get them up there. If we are looking for the praises of men then that is all we will receive, but if we wait to receive the praises of God, then what we do receive will be far better than anything man can give us. What man gives is only temporary; what God gives will last forever. Paul exemplified Christ's ability to give without wanting anything back. All Paul wanted, as does Jesus, that we except the teachings of Christ and live them out in obedience. The only thing we should expect from others is their own obedience to Jesus when they give their own lives to Him for His glory.
Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.
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