“...in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”
Paul, The Apostle of Grace
As I have written in previous blogs on Philippians, Paul had experienced much persecution in sharing the good news of God’s grace, just as the Holy Spirit said he would (Acts 20:23-24). This persecution came from both the legalistic wing of Christianity who criticized Paul’s emphasis on grace, as well as unbelievers in the Roman world.
At the time Paul wrote his letter to the Philippian church, AD 61, he was imprisoned in Rome. Paul knew he would one day die for delivering grace to people. As a matter of fact, he faced death every day (2 Corinthians 4:7-14). Now, from his Roman imprisonment, he described his eventually death in a phrase - “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering…”
A drink offering was Paul’s way of describing the possibility of death he faced daily as he encountered conditions that could result in his death, as well as people who wanted him dead. In 2 Timothy 2:4-6, while awaiting his trial before Nero, Paul describes his impending death in this way: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure is near.” Very soon, after penning these words, he was beheaded.
What we discover with Paul in his letters, as well as in Luke’s historical account of Paul’s life in the book of Acts, was his willingness and passion to reach people with the good news of grace, even if it meant death. Paul was willing to pour out his life unto death to reach more and more people with the good news of grace...he was willing to die to deliver grace to people.
Even though Paul knew he would one day die for delivering the good news of God’s grace to people, he rejoiced. He rejoiced that he could sacrifice his life unto death by serving the people of Philippi in teaching them more about grace, which would strengthen their faith in Jesus.
Paul wanted the people of Philippi to rejoice with him, too. They were very concerned for Paul while he was in prison. I am sure they worried about him daily. Paul knew this. So he encouraged the Philippian believers to rejoice with him, rather than worry about him, that the good news of God’s grace was spreading, .
Not only did Paul carry with him each day the possibility of death, he also carried with him a daily concern for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). It was Paul’s heart the churches would survive and then thrive in fulfilling their purpose...which was sharing with the people in their cities the good news of God's grace that he had freely, fully, and forever given to them in Jesus.
Jesus had given Paul the assignment of going into cities all over the Roman Empire and establishing grace-based churches that would communicate to those in their cities all that God had done for people in Jesus (Acts 20:23-24). Paul wanted to see these churches flourish.
However, Paul was concerned these churches would not flourish, but fail. These churches were constantly under external religious attacks, as was the church in Philippi, from those who opposed the good news of grace and our freedom in Christ. These churches also faced internal relational conflicts, as, too, the church in Philippi was facing.
Because of the external religious attacks against the church in Philippi by those who opposed grace, and because of the internal relational problems within the church at Philippi, Paul was concerned for their very survival. He did not want to see the church in Philippi fail, but flourish.
Paul, in looking forward to the return of Jesus - the day of Christ -, wanted to be able to speak highly about the church and the impact they made on the lives of people in the city of Philippi as they shined the light of Jesus into a dark world by holding out the word of life to a dead world.
There are now churches all over the world thanks to Paul and his companions' efforts in establishing grace-based churches early in the first century. Churches, like those of Paul’s generation, have the wonderful opportunity and responsibility of sharing the good news of God’s grace with those in its cities, neighborhoods, communities, and villages, impacting the lives of many, many people.
I want to encourage churches to keep their vision on the mission of sharing God’s grace with people. Do not let internal relational conflicts derail your mission. Do not let external religious attacks by those who oppose grace destroy your mission. And how can churches do this? Churches can do this by staying focused on grace and flourishing in grace!