Wednesday 4 September 2013
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Read Philippians 1-4 at Bible Gateway.
The book of Philippians makes its own chiastic structure (if you are unfamiliar with chiastic structures, please see the teaching tools of scripture). I thought the central axis was unusual:
Phi 2:19-28a, Ministers of proven character sent to the church;
Timothy was a minister of proven character, who served with Paul in the gospel as a son serves with his father. Of him, Paul said he had no one else to send, who was like- minded with him, in his care for the church. All the rest, Paul says, seek their own benefit, and not the things of Christ Jesus.
The three ministers of the central axis seek what benefits the church – the things of Christ – at their own expense, if need be. Paul’s life was being poured out as a sacrifice to establish the faith of the church; Timothy does not seek his own benefit, but seeks the things of Christ Jesus, and Epaphroditus, for the work of Christ, came close to death, not regarding his own life. This self- sacrificial love is characteristic of ministers of proven character, and mirrors the self- sacrificial character of Jesus Christ Himself (Phi 2:5-11).
The other characteristic the ministers share, is holding fast to the word of life (1G) and not bowing to the pressure of the popular false doctrine of the day which the “evil workers” (Paul’s words) promoted (2G), which Paul refers to by the key word, “mutilation.” I believe Paul is referring to the same question he spent the book of Galatians explaining. There were false teachers coming into the Gentile churches, teaching that in order to be saved, the Gentiles had to convert to Judaism first. They had to become circumcised in the flesh and obey the Law of Moses first, and then they can have salvation by grace through faith.
The word of life, is that justification or righteousness is of faith and not works, lest any man should boast. The issue is what saves a man, and works of obedience is not it. That is not to say that once saved, the children who are of God now and not the world any longer, are not to obey Him – they are. Their obedience is the second witness that they have been truly converted. But their obedience, or sanctification, does not save them; however it is the fruit of salvation, lest any man should be deceived.
Such men as these ministers are sent to the church as a gift (Eph 4:11-13) from Messiah Himself. According to the central axis, we are to receive such men with gladness, and hold them in esteem – to honor them, to hold them in high value, great regard, and favorable opinion (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary). When we do not, we dishonor, not only the ministers of proven character, but the Giver of the gift of those ministers.
We live in a culture of dishonor. We are not even told to dishonor the evil workers, those who masquerade as ministers of God but who fail the test of proven character, but to be wary of them. Let’s swim against the current today and be a people of honor!