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Philippians 1:1-11
We walked slowly through these 11 verses discussing the impact of the words and their meaning in our hearts and our daily lives.

From verse 1, the idea that our relationship to God should really be more closely described as a “bondservant” or slave who has willingly agreed to submit to a benevolent master was striking. This is one who is solely committed, for life, to this master, willing to go where he commands, do what he demands (or needs us to do), and all the while benefiting from his protection that comes from taking his Name as our own. In verse 2, we discovered how another word complements the slave relationship and that is “the saint” … and by Paul’s use of the word, we are all saints, those of us who have accepted Christ as our savior, we are all positionally covered by the blood of his sacrifice and therefore we are “set apart,” holy, and sacred property. For me, as we talked, I became excited about the change in relationships if we treated our fellow believers as truly sacred… special, something to be protected and lovingly handled. See pre-post for more about the sacred.

koinonia-titleIn the following verses, we investigated further the essence of joy, in particular when dealing with those with whom we are in partnership, or koinonia. Paul prayed with joy for his friends, for those whom he held in his heart and gave thanks for them daily. They were sacred to him. As someone else said, when you might lose something, you realize how precious it really is to you. And so, this koinonia was a good example of a mutually beneficial partnership (which true koinonia must have). Paul received their commitment, their funds, their messengers while he provided them with his knowledge, his love, and his prayers.

Paul was confident that the work he began in Phlippi would be completed because of his confidence in God is always faithful. God began that work and so He would finish it. But of course, we reminded one another, this completing process is in God’s time, not ours. Our role is to continue to seek and trust Him despite the circumstances.

Lastly, we spent some time talking about the beautiful prayer in verses 9-11, the key elements being that their love might abound (for God & others) and so grow in knowledge and insight that they would discern between good and best [choices], they would remain pure and blameless [cleansed] and filled with the fruit [results] of righteousness [right living and doing]. All of this transforming process is for the glory of God.

And so we face a variety of circumstances in our lives to test this prayer. Are we holding our brothers and sisters in our hearts? Are we treating them as sacred? What about our family members? We have the possibility of being in true koinonia but we must take and carry our part of the journey.

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This is actually a “pre-post” to my regular class notes because I wanted to address a question that came up in class while we were discussing the idea of “saints” being “set apart and holy” and therefore, “sacred.” We talked about the difference it would make if we really treated our brothers and sisters in Christ (not to mention our own family members) as “sacred.” How different would our interactions be?

But then, does that mean we would treat non-believers differently?

This morning, as I prayed about this, the Lord clearly reminded me of the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. (Luke 15) We are instructed to seek out that lost one with great diligence and once found, to rejoice! And so, it seems that our treatment of unbelievers is actually similar … not sacred, per se, but very important, still fragile, still unique in God’s eyes, still valuable.

Consider this idea as you go about your daily tasks.

And may your love abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight (to both the believers and unbelievers) that you may know what is best…

You are each in my prayers this day. ib

Our first class was this past Thursday and was well attended with over 14 people with an expectation of 5 more … so we should have a good crowd next week.

With this class, we spent time introducing ourselves to each other and I laid what I consider to be important groundwork for a small group discussion: mutual respect and graceful appreciation of differences. If people do not feel free to say what they really think, particularly if what they have to say may be controversial, our discussions will remain “on the surface.” In my mind, we must willing to ask ourselves the hard questions.

I then gave an very short overview of Philippi of that period, its connection with Rome, historically, and the circumstances that brought Paul to Philippi orginally (Acts 16). The letter to the Philippians is generally accepted as from Paul but the timing and location is disputed, some scholars saying he was in a prison in nearby Ephesus or Corinth while others maintaining that he was in Rome. There is evidence for both but neither affects the overall intent or message of the letter. In any case, it was probably written in the late 50’s or early 60’s A.D.

There are some theories that the Philippian letter may actually be 2 or even 3 separate letters that were pieced together (easily done since the letters of that time period were written on narrow strips of papyrus), but again whether this is true or not does not alter the meaning or thrust of the document as a whole.

General themes of the letter that we’ll be investigating in the study are joy, contentment, fellowship (koinonia), unity and being “in Christ.”

I distributed study questions which we will use as the foundation of our discussion next week on verses 1-11.

Then we did a small exercise that helped each person see their own life balance which often drives our ability to experience true contentment.

We ended our time with small group prayer. If anyone was unable to come to the first class but would like the study questions, please email me at browngood[at sign]gmail.com.