Are You a Slave?
To whom are you a #slave?
Philippians 1:1a “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus…”
It was traditional in antiquity for the writer of a letter to introduce himself in the very first few words. Whereas Timothy was not writing this letter with Paul since Paul refers to himself in the letter in first person and refers to Timothy in the third person, Timothy was most likely there with Paul, serving as a secretary of sorts. Paul then introduces them both to his Philippian audience, and the way he does so teaches us much about how we are to view ourselves in relation to Christ. Paul uses the word “servant” or “slave” to describe both himself and Timothy. Literally the word was “bond servant,” which was used to illustrate ones obligatory, subordinate role under the authority of another. Paul unabashedly calls himself a slave to Christ, and even though the connotation of that word often offends, the truth is that we are all slaves to something. Paul wrote in Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one who you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” The question we must ask ourselves is, “To whom am I a slave?” Many people call themselves Christians, but day in and day out they are only slaves to themselves. There is only one Lord and that is not self. So as we begin this study of Philippians together, let us ask ourselves if we are happily enslaved to Christ, our Savior and Bridegroom. Paul was, and he readily identified himself in such a manner.
Study/Meditation: Read Romans 6:15-23. (http://www.esvbible.org/Romans+6/) How does Paul describe being a “slave to righteousness”?
*Father, I am your slave, and I am so privileged to be so. Thank You for Your abounding mercy and love in bringing me into Your kingdom. Amen.
God is God alone, and He is infinitely wise. Herein lies our trust. #trustinGod
Romans 16:27 “To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
As we draw our study of this magnificent letter to a close, how appropriate that we do so with Paul in exclamation of God’s singular existence, His supreme wisdom, and His ultimate glory for eternity. When Paul calls God “the only wise God,” he is not saying that God is the only god who is wise. He has already proclaimed in numerous places that God is God alone. In 1 Timothy 1:17 he wrote, “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 4:6, 1 Timothy 2:5) What Paul is saying is more like, “To God alone who is wise be glory forevermore.” What’s more immediate for us today is knowing why we trust that God will deliver the great biblical promises like Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28. We do so when we believe and know that He is wise. The definition of wisdom is “knowledge of what is true and right coupled with just judgment as to action.” (dictionary.com) We know that everything, including all knowledge, is from God, through God, and to God. (Romans 11:36) He is infinite in knowledge, knowing the end from the beginning, every twist and turn of every life, and He is infinitely wise, which means He justly applies His unlimited knowledge to His decisions and actions. We find strength and peace and joy and security in our God because we are assured by His very nature that He can, He does, and He will do all things that are best for His children. There is nothing that He does not know, and there is nothing that He will not do for our good to His glory. That is why we trust Him, and that is why we give Him all praise. Amen.
Study/Meditation: Read and meditate on the greatness of Paul’s praise to God in Romans 11:33-36. What comfort does this give you today and every day?
*Father, You are everything. I love and adore You. I praise Your name in all creation, and I give You all of me. Amen.
How do we gain strength from a desire to obey God? #obedience
Romans 16:26b, c “(Now to him who is able to strengthen you) according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith…”
Remembering that the point of these last few verses of Paul’s letter to the Romans is to give praise to the glory of God—a doxology, it is wise in these praises for us to continue to ask how God is strengthening us. How do we obtain strength today through God’s command in the Gospel that brings about our obedience? In order to answer that, we must look back to the avenue by which we received justification and salvation. Paul wrote in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Faith, then, through the work of the Holy Spirit, is what brings justification. This is great news, but what evidence do we have that this is true? How do we ultimately gain strength from this otherwise abstract verdict if we see nothing that substantiates its validity in our lives? The answer is what results when this miraculous work is done on our behalf—the obedience of faith. Justification comes “by” faith, but obedience is the result “of” faith. In other words, when we are declared righteous and therefore justified because of our faith in the work and lordship of Christ, our hearts are changed toward a desire for obedience. Obedience is the manifested fruit of the miracle of justification. God changed our hearts so that our desires were for Him, therefore demonstrating that His miraculous work is true. This evidence that we see in our own hearts gives us strength to face the trials of this life, thus once again proving God’s faithfulness to His Word.
Study/Meditation: Read James 2:14-26. How does James further expound on how obedience is the fruit of justification?
*Father, thank You for changing my heart when You justified me. Help me to always see how I can serve You and bring glory to Your name. Amen.
What is it about the Gospel that strengthens believers? #Jesus
Romans 16:25a, b “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ,…”
It is altogether lovely that our King chooses to display His glory by strengthening us, but how is it that we are strengthened by the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? It is emphatically important that we remember exactly what is contained within the Gospel past the rudimentary facts of it. It is in this kind of remembrance that we are strengthened to live in the now as we wait on the forever, because that is the root of it—we have a forever. Jesus Christ, the King of kings, came to this earth clothed in the flesh of mankind, lived a perfect life, was crucified, buried and then was resurrected, at which point He ascended to His rightful place in heaven where He rules and reigns until He returns for what? There it is—until He returns to take us home to forever with Him. For those of us who are “in Christ”—that is those who have accepted Him as their Savior and submitted to His Lordship over their lives—for us “there is therefore now no condemnation.” (Romans 8:1) Jesus took on the punishment that is rightfully ours so that we might be strengthened in the knowledge of the forever He provided. God has graciously given us strength that is rooted in His glory by way of His Son so that no matter what we face in this life, we declare this very truth: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Study/Meditation: Read Romans 8 in its entirety. How are you strengthened by these words?
*Father, thank You for providing for me an eternity in Your presence. Help me remember to live in the strength this knowledge provides. Amen.
God strengthens His children through His glory. #gloryofGod
Romans 16:25a, 27b “Now to him who is able to strengthen you…be glory forevermore.”
Paul ends this most amazing letter with a doxology. Some manuscripts insert verse 24 first which says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” That verse is a benediction. A benediction is a pronouncement of blessing from God onto His people. Verses 25-27 are a doxology—a pronouncement of praise from God’s people onto God. It is a magnificent testimony of how we must view all of our lives and our praise in terms of recognizing and proclaiming God’s glory. Paul correctly knows that this is precisely how he must end his letter to the Romans. However, it is worth noting that the manner in which the apostle chooses to begin this doxology is to state God’s intent, which is to have His glory magnified so that His children will be strengthened. How awesome to worship a King whose intent is to strengthen us through His glory. Earthly kings often seek to keep their power by weakening their subjects, but not our King. When we give God the praise and honor due Him according to His glory, in His love He strengthens us, giving us the will and the wisdom to live in a world that would tell us to seek strength in ourselves. Living in God’s glory brings a strength that does not fade when times get tough or our efforts fail. No, God loves us too much to offer us ourselves. He gives us Himself, and it is His glory that sustains us.
Study/Meditation: How do you think that living in the knowledge and praise of God’s glory strengthens you in your daily walk while living on this earth?
*Father, You are glorious and majestic and mighty to be praised! Amen.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a contingency #gospel.
Romans 16:25-26a “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations.”
The gospel that strengthens us is not a contingency gospel. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was not a plan God put into place in response to sinful man and the consequences of that sin. To believe this kind of scenario would be to believe in a “reactionary God,” and our Lord does not react. Our Lord is the Lord, the God of all things, and all things are both under His dominion as well as under His sovereign plan and will. Paul reminds us here that we can likewise be strengthened in remembering that God’s plan for eternity past has always been that His Son would be the propitiation for our sin and the means of imputation of His righteousness onto us. God was preparing the prophets and His people for two thousand years for the coming of the Messiah, and though the details of this plan remained a mystery to them during that time, God was still preparing them as was evidenced in the prophetic writings. Jesus Christ came to earth as the man-god at precisely the appointed time in history so that His children might live in eternity. He didn’t come to fix our mistakes. He came to fulfill God’s plan. You see, we can be strengthened in knowing that it was never about us or our abilities to cause or thwart this plan. If it had been, there would have been the possibility that we might miss it or even mess it up. This plan was always about God, about displaying His glory through His Son. There is astounding peace and strength available to us when we live in this wonderful truth.
Study/Meditation: How are you strengthened in knowing that God is not a “reactionary God”?
*Father, You are righteous and holy, omnipotent and omniscient. Thank You for willing me into Your kingdom. Amen.