Opening Prayer: Good and Gracious Lord, we bow before your presence now and plead with you to give us the words of life. We are hungry, and we are your children, and therefore we plead with you to feed us. We know that you delight to do this and therefore we thank you now for the good food of your word that you have set before us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!
The Church is called to be a different kind of community in this world. We are called to be a heavenly community, the embodiment of the “kingdom come” in this world. A kingdom always means that there is a king, and if there is a king there is a justice to be served. We are called to learn this maturity in our thinking (3:15).
Philippians on the Mind
The entire book of Philippians is concerned with the mind, thinking, remembering, considering, etc. (1:3, 10, 27, 2:2, 3, 5, 19-20, 3:7-8, 15-16, 4:2, 8). Overwhelmingly, Paul exhorts the Philippians to be of the “same” or “one” mind with one another and with Christ (1:27, 2:2, 5, 2:20, 3:15-16, 4:2, 8). We should also notice that this “mind” is not opposed to the body. While Paul struggles with whether to remain in the flesh (1:21ff), it is clear that his hope is in resurrection from the dead (3:10-11). Central to this is the fact that Christians are citizens of heaven (3:20). Heavenly citizenship means hope in the resurrection of our bodies (3:21). The hope of resurrection means both that this life does not matter and that it matters greatly. On the one hand, Paul relegates all of his Jewish righteousness to the landfill (3:5-8), and he is content in all circumstances (4:11-12). On the other hand, Paul is striving for something in this life, to be conformed to the death of Christ (3:10); he is pressing toward a goal (3:14), and it matters how people walk (3:16, 4:2). Notice also Paul’s concern for justice (3:9). Stoics, determinists, evolutionists must ultimately resign themselves to an unjust world. But Paul’s concern for justice is founded in the fact that Jesus is king (2:11ff) and his hope in the resurrection (3:9-10). The resurrection radically alters our conception of justice: if this life is all that we have, then we are tempted to care too much or too little (apathy vs. legalism). But Christ says to bless those who persecute, blessed are those who are persecuted, and give your tunic to whoever requires it of you. When sin and death entered the world, a Deep Justice was introduced to begin to combat it, but the law cannot save us from death. We need a justice that can deliver us from the grave and bring us back into the presence of God. We need the Deeper Justice found in the resurrection of Jesus.
A Grateful Kingdom
The resurrection of Jesus is our sure word that justice will be done. This is why Paul is so full of joy and thanksgiving (1:3, 18, 26, 2:16, 3:1, 4:4, 10, 4:18). Paul can rejoice in prison, when wicked preachers preach out of spite, and in thick and thin because the resurrection is true. The model for this mind is Christ (2:5ff). And Hebrews tells us that Jesus went to the cross for the joy set before him (Heb. 12:2). This “in between” is given to us to teach us to “press on” (3:12), “reach forward” (3:13), “walk” (3:16-17), “eagerly wait” (3:20), “long for” (4:1), and rejoice in all of it (4:4). Paul says that we are to be so full of gratitude that our gentleness is known to all (4:5). We are to be known for gentleness. The word “gentle” means patient, long suffering, fair, equitable, gracious, kind. Gentle doesn’t mean being a wimp. We are to be gentle because we trust in our King. This is why verse 8 is so important. This verse is usually taken as only a prescription, but given the context it would probably fit even better as an explanation of the command to rejoice. Why are we to rejoice? The word translated “meditate” could just as easily be translated “count” or “reckon.” We are to count all the noble things, the just things, the pure things, the lovely things, the good reports, the virtue, the praiseworthy. We are to keep accounts of all the blessings of God. We are to meticulously keep track of them. We are to be so consumed with all of “these things” that we cannot but rejoice. This is the mind of Christ; this is the like-mindedness we are to strive for. And we can only do this in light of the justice of the resurrection and the promise of the kingdom (3:9-11, 20-21).
Conclusions & Applications
Remember the deeper justice: In a church this size there will be numerous opportunities to hold grudges, to be bitter, to keep accounts about what someone said or did or whatever. But remember that you’re still going to die. We put no confidence in the flesh: your PhD, your income bracket, your reputation, your theological prowess, your nice figure or pretty face: it’s all rubbish. You may not say, “I deserve…” That is the justice of the law, but that kind of justice is only damning. You’re still going to die. The resurrection means that now justice is possible, but it’s only possible through Christ and the resurrection.
Remember Paul’s context. He’s writing from jail with the real possibility of execution hanging over him (1:13-14ff). Yet Paul sees nothing but opportunity. The Christian mind looks for excuses to give thanks because it is utterly convinced that God will put it right. Therefore, make your requests to God and do it with thanksgiving (v. 6) and do not worry; do not be anxious. Trust your King. Pray thankfully. And make sure your conversation reflects this kind of thankfulness even while seeking to correct or critique. Do not lie (about the resurrection) to God or your neighbor.
What injustice is there in your life? Have you been mistreated? Is there sickness? Are there divisions in your family? Is it financial, emotional, or physical? Jesus is not dead. He was raised from the dead for our justification. This means that we are called to live now in the joy and confidence of complete vindication and access into the presence of God. Let your gentleness be known to all. Trust in your King. The Lord is near; he is not far away. And he knows what he is doing. Therefore give thanks and rejoice always. He will raise you from the dead.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty and gracious Lord and Judge, in your goodness you have always come to the aid of your people. You always hear them when they pray, you are always near, and you will always fight for us. We rejoice now in the life you have given us, the journey that you have called us to, and for all of the good things you have piled high around us. Guard us and defend us in this in this peace, and may we always bestow this kind of grace and peace and justice upon those around us. We trust in you and believe that you will raise us up from the dead.