A GOOD START
Lord, thank You for giving me grace and peace, like the Philippians.
Read PHILIPPIANS 1:1–6
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Lord, I face many challenges and pressures in life, but I choose to give thanks to you for…
First impressions matter. In keeping with the conventions of Greco-Roman letter writing, Paul starts by mentioning sender, recipient and then the greeting. No surprises there, but what should grab our attention is how Paul introduces himself. In most of his letters, he refers to himself as an apostle of Christ, but in a few—including Philippians—he calls himself a slave of Christ (“servant” is too weak a translation). Why does he do this? Perhaps he wants to identify with the “slave” (NRSV) status of Christ mentioned in 2:7, showing his readers that he is an imitator of Christ. This would add credibility to his exhortation to the Philippians to imitate Christ. To model what you expect from others is important.
Paul follows his opening with a thanksgiving section (3–11). In Greco-Roman letters, this would typically be a thanksgiving to the gods for personal benefits received. Paul both adopts and adapts. Accepting the letter-writing model of his day, he fills it with Christian content by giving thanks to the one God he knows personally, not for his benefits but for the Philippian church. Paul knew the world and used its conventions to glorify God and serve his purposes.
In verse 10, we get a glimpse of Paul’s desire—that the Philippian believers may be “pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Paul’s aim is not simply to preach the Gospel or even to plant churches. His goal in ministry is to present “blameless” churches to the Lord at his coming. Paul is interested in the moral formation of his Christian communities, and in this letter he will explain what a Christ-like life is supposed to look like.
Much has changed since Paul’s day, but every culture has its customs and conventions. Rather than entirely rejecting or adopting these, we can adapt them meaningfully within a Christian framework.
Lord, allow the work that You began in me at my start to remain unimpeded in my life.
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