Dan Delzell: Philippians for Catholics, Protestants and Every Christian

Christianity provides believers with: (1) the certainty of eternal life in heaven; (2) the calling and the power to live a holy life; and (3) the challenge of suffering persecution at the hands of those who oppose the Gospel. The apostle Paul was in the grip of all three of these compelling dynamics when he wrote his epistle to the Philippians while imprisoned for his faith.

The Christians at Philippi were especially close to Paul’s heart, as is evident in this personal letter. It is truly an inspired manual for living a vibrant Christian life, and it continues to deliver holy power and divine insight to Catholics, Protestants, and every Christian who meditates upon it.

Philippians was addressed “to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.” (1:1) A “saint” is a believer in Jesus whose “citizenship is in heaven.” (3:20) Citizens of heaven live on earth for awhile before spending eternity in paradise. No wonder Paul wrote, “We eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.” (3:20,21)

Before becoming a Christian, Paul assumed that his religious deeds were the basis of his righteousness before God. But he was sorely mistaken, in spite of his impressive Jewish pedigree. Paul was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” (3:5,6)

Everything changed for Paul once he met Christ, and he immediately stopped relying upon the law for salvation. “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (3:7-9)

And it was the certainty of his own salvation that led Paul to write, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (1:21) There was no question in Paul’s mind that heaven was his eternal home. And he instructed the saints at Philippi to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (2:12) Some have mistakenly thought this verse teaches that the salvation of believers is never fully secure. In fact, it teaches just the opposite.

You see, a person cannot “work out his salvation” unless he is already saved. Just as you cannot “work out” and exercise physically unless you are alive, you cannot work out your salvation unless you are forgiven, redeemed, born again, justified and saved. Conversion happens on the front end of a person’s relationship with God. Only Christians can work out their salvation, and Christians have already been granted citizenship in heaven through their faith in Christ alone. Believers do not rely upon the law for salvation because “all who rely on observing the law are under a curse.” (Galatians 3:10)

Paul reminded the saints at Philippi that once they arrive in heaven, Jesus “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.” (3:21) Notice that Paul said Jesus “will” bring about this transformation for every believer; not, He “might” do it. Eternity in paradise is a certainty for everyone who knows Christ as Savior. A few verses later Paul referred to those “whose names are in the book of life.” (4:3) And if your name is in the book of life, you are guaranteed to receive an eternal inheritance in heaven. All believers have their name in the book of life, and are therefore saved, redeemed, born again, justified and forgiven of their sins. (See this article I wrote 6 years ago: “Is Your Name in Heaven’s Reservation Book?“)

Now that we have seen how this epistle stresses the certainty of eternal life in heaven for believers, let’s examine how Philippians presents a second element of Christianity; namely, the calling and the power to live a holy life.

As Paul reminded the saints at Philippi, this new life was the result of their “partnership in the Gospel.” (1:5) Paul knew that the Gospel produces good fruit in the lives of those who accept the message of God’s grace into their heart by faith. Paul was also intimately aware of “the obedience that comes from faith.” (Romans 1:5) And this is why Catholics, Protestants and every Christian should be taught what Scripture has to say about salvation and about obedience to Christ.

Paul wrote, “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:9-11)

While conversion is instantaneous, discipleship is a process. Paul wrote to believers at Philippi to encourage “your progress and joy in the faith.” (1:25) Pure doctrine promotes pure living. And Jesus is the author of purity and truth. Therefore, Paul presented this simple instruction to the saints: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” (1:27)

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Source: Christian Post