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A Personal Letter

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 19, 2022 12:01 am

A Personal Letter

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 19, 2022 12:01 am

Every step of the Christian life is lived by the grace of God. Today, Steven Lawson examines the opening words of the book of Philippians, introducing the grace and peace that God makes available to all His people.

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In Philippians chapter 1, Paul addresses his letter to all the saints in Philippi. That means to all the believers who have burned their bridges behind them, and there's no longer an attachment to the world system, and now living as citizens of the kingdom of God.

That's an amazing reality, isn't it? Believers in Jesus Christ, those who are born again, are saints in God's kingdom. Welcome to the Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm Lee Webb, and this week we are featuring the latest series from Ligonier teaching fellow, Dr. Stephen Lawson. It is an exposition of Paul's letter to the church in Philippi, and today we're going to learn about the grace and peace that is made available to God's saints. All right, I want you to take your Bible and turn with me to the book of Philippians, Philippians chapter 1, and we're going to begin our verse-by-verse journey through this extraordinary book, and we're barely going to be able to put our toe under the water in this session. But I want to begin by reading the first two verses. Paul and Timothy, the bondservants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. You know, it's always an exciting thing to receive a letter from someone whom you admire greatly. I think I still have every letter R.C. Sproul ever sent to me, and I can tell if R.C.

signed it or if Vesta signed it. But those are cherished possessions to me, because R.C. meant so much to me. I have almost every letter that John MacArthur has ever sent me, because he means so much to me as a spiritual leader and mentor. I have a letter that Billy Graham sent to me, and I framed it years ago and would just see it there hanging on the wall.

It was so dear to my heart. And probably the most exciting letter I ever received was from James Montgomery Boyce. I had invited him when I was a young preacher in my early 30s to come preach in my tiny little church, and I could not believe the day that my secretary and two other pastors came walking into my study holding this letter, this envelope up and shaking it and saying it's here. And I looked at it, and there it said 10th Presbyterian Church, and I was scared to open it because I thought maybe he would decline. And I read this letter, and he said that he would come.

I can't tell you how elated I was to have this letter with his signature on it. Well, imagine, as exciting as that is, imagine being the Philippians and receiving a personal letter from none other than the apostle Paul himself. This letter would have been brought from Paul who was in Rome all 800 miles by a man named Epaphroditus to the church, and the church would have all gathered around. And one of the leaders in the church would have stood up with this letter and read the letter to the church.

And you can just imagine their faces of excitement as the apostle Paul is actually calling them by name the church in Philippi. And what he has to say to them as he expresses his deep love and affection for them, they must have been astounded. He remembers us.

He knows all about us. So, as we look at this letter, think of this as a very personal letter. This letter didn't go out to whosoever. This letter had their name written on it, and it was a special correspondence for them. So, let's look at these first two verses as we just kind of begin to work our way into this letter. I have several headings, and I want you to note first the servants. The servants. Paul begins by identifying himself as the author of this book.

Paul, and I can just hear John MacArthur say, now stop right there. We're one word into this letter. In typical fashion in this day, the author of a letter would put his name first.

We have it the total opposite. We put our name last, which makes no sense whatsoever. When someone calls me on the phone, I don't want to chit-chat, and I have no idea who I'm talking to. I want to know who you are before we have this conversation. And that's what Paul is doing here, as was the custom of the day. His Hebrew name was Saul. His Greek name is Paul.

And of course, we know all about Paul. He was the apostle to the Gentiles. He was the author of 13 letters in the New Testament, inspired letters, and he was arguably the greatest Christian who ever lived.

Who could dispute that? He was a missionary, a trailblazer, a church planter, a preacher, a pastor, an itinerant evangelist, a theologian par excellence, a teacher. Paul was a towering figure in the first century church.

And just think about Paul. He's the last person we would expect, because remember, he was a persecutor of the church. And here he is now, writing this letter of joy to the church. He was born a Roman citizen in Tarsus. He was raised as a Pharisee. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, highly skilled in Jewish law and tradition.

He was trained at the feet of Gamaliel and possessed a genius mind and a resolute will. And he was converted on the Damascus Road, and immediately he began to preach Jesus in the Jewish synagogues as the Messiah. He was persecuted by the Jews. He was alone in the Arabian desert, where he was personally discipled by Jesus Christ himself. He returned to Damascus for three years, went to Jerusalem, returned to Tarsus, where he was summoned by Barnabas to come help with the work in Antioch. And he goes to Antioch, and his prowess as a teacher and a preacher was so obvious that he becomes the chief speaker, and Barnabas becomes more of a backup supporter. And the Spirit of God, while he was there at Antioch, set him apart to the work of being a missionary. On his first missionary journey, he went through the region of Galatia, and on his second missionary journey, he comes to Philippi and is the founding pastor of this church. He continues that second missionary journey, goes on a third missionary journey, during which he returns to Philippi, probably twice. He then travels to Jerusalem, where he's arrested and tried before the Sanhedrin and before two Roman governors, and he appeals to the Roman authorities in Rome.

So he is sent to Rome, and that is where he is as he is writing this letter. What a life! What a ministry! Nothing compares with the life that is given to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is an adventure every day to be on the cutting edge of ministry. Wherever it is the Lord has placed us, and Paul had that in fullest measure. And we see here that he also has Timothy with him, who was a supporter of Paul, a son in the faith, a travel assistant, a cherished companion.

And it will be to Timothy that Paul will write two inspired letters, 1 and 2 Timothy. Please note how he identifies himself, or themselves, bondservants of Christ Jesus. He identifies the Philippians as saints, but very humbly refers to himself as bondservants.

And you're probably aware that's just really a bad translation into the English Bible. It's the Greek word doulos that means slave. It's not translated slave because of the cultural stigma of slavery in the English-speaking world. But let me just tell you, this is not a bondservant. This is a slave. And there's a world of difference between being a bondservant and being a slave. A bondservant is hired at the beginning of the day.

He can come back tomorrow if he wants. He's got his own life, his own house, his own family. He's a hireling.

But a slave is someone who's been bought with a price. He now is the purchased property of the master. And he spends his time living in the master's house. And he gives his entire life to serve the master. He has no life outside of serving his master. Whatever he needs, his master will provide for him. And he is to live his life in dutiful obedience to his master. A slave, again, has been bought at a great price.

That's how Paul sees himself. That's how you and I must see ourselves. We are slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let me just tell you, no slave ever had a better master than what we have. He bought us at the price of his own shed blood. He redeemed us at the cross. So we no longer belong to ourselves. We belong to Christ. And our whole life now is given to serve our master, the Lord Jesus Christ. And we are under his lordship. And we serve at his bidding. We go where he sends us. We do what he requires of us. And our greatest pleasure is found in pleasing him. That's what it is to be a slave. No longer do we live by our own agenda.

No longer do we live to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, how I want to do it. We now live every moment of every day to serve our master, Jesus Christ. And so this is quite a beginning to this book. Those are the servants, Paul and Timothy, bondservants of the Lord Jesus Christ, slaves. Now second, I want you to note the saints. He goes on to say in verse 1, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi. Every true believer in Jesus Christ is a saint.

The word saint simply means a set apart one, one who has been made holy. And there's both a negative and a positive to this being set apart. We've been set apart from something and set apart unto something. We have been set apart from this evil world system. We're no longer a part of the world. We live in the world.

We're just not of the world. And we have been set apart from Satan's kingdom of darkness. We've been set apart from living a life that was self-consumed, a life in pursuit of the pleasures of sin. We've been set apart from the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life.

We've been set apart unto God and unto the Lord Jesus Christ. That's what it means to be a saint. There's been a saint.

There's been a dramatic break from our past and now a decisive beginning of a whole new life as new creatures in Christ Jesus. So he writes this to all the saints. That means to all the believers who have burned their bridges behind them, and there's no longer an attachment to the world system and now living as citizens of the kingdom of God. Now notice he says these saints, he identifies them spiritually as in Christ. He identifies them geographically as in Philippi. And so this is a way that Paul often describes believers and saints as being in Christ.

We are in union with Christ, therefore we are in communion with Christ. Now these saints are in Philippi. Now Philippi was a very important city in eastern Macedonia, which is in today northeastern Greece. It was strategically placed on one of the most important highways that ran through Asia Minor, and it was a Roman colony. The citizens of Philippi had the same legal status as those who lived in the cities in Italy and in the Roman Empire, so they had special privileges, and the Roman culture was very present there in Philippi, so much so that it was called Little Rome. It had Roman architecture.

They dressed in Roman style of dress. They even spoke Latin, as did many in Rome, along with speaking Greek. And so Paul, on his second missionary journey, came to Philippi. Paul had only so much time, so he went to the major cities in that part of the world to strike a blow for the kingdom of God.

If he can reach a major city, it will send a ripple effect to the entire region. That's why Paul wanted to go to Rome to preach the gospel, which would be the nerve center for the entire Roman Empire. So he comes to Philippi on his second missionary journey, and there he preaches the gospel.

And you know the story. A church is spontaneously, supernaturally, suddenly planted as under the preaching of the gospel. Souls were saved. Lydia, Philippian jailer, both their households, others. In fact, a riot even broke out in town over Paul's preaching. And so the church in Philippi had become very special to Paul, and he had a very endearing relationship with them.

And so as he writes this letter, fond memories he carries in his mind regarding them. Now let's look third at the shepherds. He goes on in verse 1, and he says, including the overseers and deacons. And this gives us some idea of church government in the first century. These overseers were the elders.

You'll notice it's plural. There was a plurality of overseers over this one church in Philippi. The word overseer speaks to their management of ministry.

The word elder speaks of their own maturity, that they are to be those who are advanced in their walk with the Lord. So overseer and elder are all the same, and they are to shepherd the flock. And so that speaks of their ministry. So those three titles, overseer, elder, pastor, all speak of one and the same person. Here the emphasis is upon being an overseer of ministry, meaning a superintendent of the affairs of the church. And they oversaw the church's doctrine. They oversaw the church's ministries. They oversaw the church's finances. And they oversaw the church's direction.

That's what elders do. They oversee the work of the church. That doesn't belong to the congregation. That belongs to the spiritual leaders of the church. And so no church will ever be any stronger than its spiritual leadership. No church will rise any higher in its effectiveness than the spiritually-minded overseers who set the agenda and model godliness in the life of the church. And nothing will hold a church back more than having unqualified overseers giving leadership. And then he adds, and deacons. And so this intentional mention of deacons shows how important their ministry is as well.

Now, they do not oversee in a managerial way. They really come alongside the elders and take care of what we would say more physical matters and duties in the church. Really the word diakonos means like a table waiter or an attendant in what would be like a restaurant for us. They serve the needs of the saints in the church. And sometimes it deals with those who are elderly.

Sometimes it deals with those who are going through difficult time and meeting practical needs. And so, this church in Philippi is already set up and functioning as a church is to be led. The last thing I want you to note is the salutation. That's in verse 2. And Paul now issues this common greeting as he does in almost all of his epistles. He says, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This dual greeting is a request for them that they would know a greater measure of God's grace and a deeper measure of God's peace in their lives.

When he says grace to you, he's not talking about saving grace. They're already saved. By the mere fact in the previous verse he called them saints.

They're already set apart unto the Lord Jesus Christ. They are in union with Christ. So, what does he mean here when he says grace to you and peace? Well, grace refers to divine enablement. Grace refers to God-given ability, strength, empowering to live the Christian life. It refers to sanctifying grace to be more like to be more like Christ. It refers to serving grace to serve Christ.

It refers to strengthening grace to endure for Christ all the way down to dying grace to go be with Christ. I mean, every step of the Christian life is lived by grace and by grace alone, enabling grace, energizing, empowering grace, equipping grace. The Apostle Paul would say in 1 Corinthians 15, 9, and 10, I am what I am by the grace of God.

And you are what you are by the grace of God, the grace that God supplies moment by moment. Jesus said in John 15 verse 5, apart from me, you can do nothing, nothing of any eternal lasting significance. But Paul will go on to say in this letter, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And so, when Paul says grace to you, it is his pastoral heart asking on their behalf that God would pour out greater grace in their life. None of us have arrived, and we all need more grace to live the Christian life. And his grace is all sufficient.

There is nothing to which God will ever call you to do, but that his grace is able to enable you to fulfill that task. And it's so important that this entire book ends in Philippians 4, 23 by Paul saying, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. So, these are the bookends around the whole book of Philippians. Grace to you and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. And everything in between is to be presumed that it is all by grace. Now, he also says, and peace. And peace here refers not to what we call objective peace, which is peace with God.

That has already taken place in the act of justification. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5 verse 1. This is subjective peace. This is the peace of heart.

This is the calmness and the stillness of heart in the midst of the storms of life that only God Himself can give. And he says all this grace and all this peace comes, notice at the end of verse 2, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to say again, all grace and all peace comes exclusively from the Father and the Son.

This world will never give you any peace, and this world will never give you any grace. It comes from another world. It comes from the throne of God above. And when he says from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, this does stress, number one, the deity of Christ, that this comes from both the Father and the Son.

It speaks to their co-equality within the Trinity, and it also speaks of the sufficiency of their grace and peace, that it comes from both persons of the Trinity. It's almost like grace and peace are like oceans of God's supply, and they are mediated to us from the Father through the Son, and it just comes pouring into our lives. So this is what you and I need to experience in our Christian lives, is grace and peace. We need a greater grace as we face life's challenges, and we need a greater peace as we go through adversity.

And His supply far exceeds whatever need you and I will ever have. That's Dr. Stephen Lawson covering just two verses from Paul's letter to the Philippians. We're glad you've joined us today for Renewing Your Mind as we continue Dr. Lawson's series, Rejoice in the Lord. In 24 messages, Dr. Lawson covers every verse in Paul's letter of joy, and we'd like to send you this six-DVD set. Just give a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries when you call us at 800-435-4343.

You can also go online to make your request at renewingyourmind.org. Well, certainly one of the keys to rejoicing in the Lord is remembering that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion. It's not a superficial work that lays on the outside of a person's life. It's down in the depth of the soul. It is down in the interior of a person's spirit. That's where God does His work in us, and He says He will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. I hope you'll join us tomorrow for Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-30 02:49:12 / 2023-04-30 02:57:47 / 9

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