Posted by: Brad Beaman | August 17, 2007

The Start of a New Church, Philippians 1:1-2

The Start of a New Church   

Philippians 1:1-2,  Acts 16:11-40  

Imagine a cold dark prison. You see a prisoner there chained to the guards. This prisoner is unassuming in appearance and for the moment is very quiet. He is hunched over and completely absorbed in a letter he is writing. he is writing a love letter from his prison cell. This love letter is not to his wife or fiancé, but to a church that he loves dearly.

You see this man in prison is the Apostle Paul. He is writing this letter for the church at Philippi. Paul loved the Philippian church very much. He wanted them to know that he was all right. He also wanted to thank them for their faithful gift they had brought to him while there in prison. Paul was conducting a prison ministry. Not a prison ministry like we normally think of in reaching into the prisons. He was inside prison and preaching there. He used his prison like a pulpit to preach the Gospel to all that came into his path.

Paul is writing a letter to the Philippian church to encourage them. You would think it is the one who is in the prison who would need the encouragement. In This situation Paul is in the prison writing a letter of encouragement to the church that he loves so much.

He is writing a thank you note because the church had supported him all throughout his ministry. A Christian Brother, Epaphroditus had brought a gift to him form the church. This brother who brought the gift had become deathly ill. The church had learned of his sever illness and become discouraged.

Just imagine if we had one of our fine young people in our church take a gift to another country to support a missionary there. Could you then imagine we got word back that he was sick and about to die. We would be concerned, worried and probably discouraged. This is what had happened to the church at Philippi. Paul wrote to encourage them that the one who brought the gift was not going to die. He was going to be all right.

Paul had a great emotional tie to this church in Philippi. You can understand the emotional tie Paul had to them when you consider the background of what happened. Paul had been involved in this church at its very beginning and that made his emotions run deep.

I remember sitting on an evangelism committee in Inverness Scotland and talking about ways to reach the Kinmylies community. One of the suggestions was to begin a new work. From that point things began to develop until the work formed as a new Church. They called their own pastor and made their own decisions. I was excited to be a part of that from the very beginning. It was exciting to be one of the first ones to preach there in a little mission church that was growing and meeting the needs of the people. Being at this church start from the beginning gave me an emotional attachment for the believers there.

In seminary I went to Iowa to begin a new work in church planting. We began by knocking on doors. We talked to people about the Lord Jesus and invited them to be part of a new worship. We watched the group develop as people began to meet for Bible study. We started worship services in the community center. This fellowship began to grow and when we left one of the members took on the leadership. I was involved from the beginning and it gave me an emotional tie there.

That is the kind of powerful emotional bond that Paul writes with. Think how much we rejoice with our own mission church. I received a call Friday from the Mission Church pastor that they had won a family to the Lord and this new family is now coming to their church. We rejoice and there is an emotional tie. Paul loved the church in Philippi. He was expressing his love to them through a letter.

The work had flourished and it had been a great work. Turn to Acts 16:12. Before we launch into a series of messages on the book of Philippians it will be helpful to get the background of what took place in Philippi. It was a new mission start filled with evidence of the hand of God and the Gospel went forth in miraculous ways. The Lord was at work.

Let’s consider the Apostle Paul and remember that he was not raised in First Baptist Church Jerusalem. As a matter of fact Paul was known as Saul and he studied Judaism under one of the greatest teachers of all times, Gamaliel. He had learned so much that made him zealous for the Jewish faith. It was this zeal that got him in trouble with the Lord. He was zealous, but his zeal was not grounded in truth.

The Apostle Paul was trying to stamp out Christianity. He was on his way to Damascus when he had his great encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. A light blinded him and he asked, who is that? And the voice came from the Lord Jesus Christ, Saul, Saul why do you persecute me? When he asked who it was the Lord identified himself. It is the Lord Jesus Christ whom you persecute. Here was Saul very religious and very zealous wanting to serve God, but he was having a misguided zeal and actually doing harm for the God he desired to serve.

He was trying to do his service outside Jesus Christ. Paul was a persecutor of Christians. It is noteworthy to consider that when Jesus asked Saul why do you persecute me, Saul had not directly persecuted Jesus. Paul was there and in hearty agreement at the death of Stephen, but he never personally persecuted Jesus Christ. Paul was not involved at the death of Christ. Yet, Jesus spoke these words, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?

We need to remember that as believers we are part of the body of Christ. When Paul persecuted Christians, Jesus says, “You persecute me.” We are a part of the body of Christ and we need to understand that we are the extension of Christ’s ministry. How we live and what we do will make an impact on how others view Jesus Christ.

When Paul returned to visit the new churches after his first missionary journey he had a falling out with Barnabus. This falling out was over taking John Mark back on the journey. So Paul and Barnaubus parted ways and Silas joined Paul as they traveled. They were planning to go to Asia, but the Holy Spirit forbade them. At that time Paul had a vision. He saw a man from Macedonia crying out for help.

This was a supernatural act that would lead Paul to Philippi. Paul answered this call and sailed to Annapolis and then walked to Philippi. When he got there he did what was his practice. He looked for the synagogue to preach the gospel. Wherever Paul went he was looking for someone to give the message of Jesus Christ.

In Philippi there was no synagogue. He went to the river and preached there at the riverside. He went outside the gates where they met for prayer. Paul met a lady named Lydia who was a seller of purple. She must have been wealthy because this purple was considered very valuable. She had already become a covert to Judaism. Paul preached the message to her and she accepted Christ and her household. It was the beginning of one of the great works recorded in the New Testament.

When we think about the Apostle Paul, we think about the books he has written and the influence of his writing. It has been said that Paul’s missionary activity was more influential than his writings. There is a great work that can be done in missions and starting new churches. We too can make a great influence if we are faithful to share the message of Jesus Christ. Paul always took the opportunities to share Christ. Even as he is writing this in prison.

Paul is chained to guards and sharing about Christ to the guards. These guards would come to know Christ and then share their newfound faith in Jesus with others. Sometimes we jokingly refer to this as the “chain reaction” of the Gospel. Paul is chained to the guards and sharing the gospel with them. We too need to be taking every opportunity we have to share the message of Jesus Christ. Paul has this wonderful encounter in Philippi the people are receptive to the Lord. Not every encounter Paul had in Philippi could be categorized in this way.

Paul was preaching the Gospel day in and day out. He met a slave girl who had a spirit that would tell the fortune of people. This evil spirit of this lady made her say, these men are of God.” Paul cast out the spirit that was in that lady. This fortune telling was bringing money to some of the men. Paul suddenly had a group of people against him. Paul had turned this city upside down and he was not welcome to stay there and preach a gospel message that would cause financial problems in the city.

It is amazing when you get into areas where people practice these kind of evil spirit practices. When I was planning my first ministry trip outside the USA to Brazil I was excited. I was reading about all the good things in Brazil. Then I read that part of the preparation material that said that where I was going was the center for Evil Spirit worship in all South Brazil.

This is the kind of opposition that Paul encountered and it still goes on to this day. As we were sharing Christ with the people those who worshiped the evil spirits stood outside playing percussion instruments. We knew that the spiritual battle was real. We also knew that through Christ we are more than conquerors.

When Paul preaches the gospel he comes against opposition. He comes against physical opposition and he comes against spiritual opposition. Paul is in the kind of area where he faces spiritual opposition. If we are going to live on the cutting edge we need to expect to have opposition. We should also expect to overcome any opposition.

They bring charges against Paul because he has thrown the city of Philippi into an uproar. He is stripped beaten and thrown into prison. Here he is in prison with painful wounds. What could be more discouraging than this? Yet that night Paul and Silas were singing spiritual songs to the Lord and the others in the prison are listening to them.

How often do we let our circumstances get us down? Things don’t go right, the way we planned it. We get discouraged because we focus on our circumstances. What an example from Paul. Every circumstance is against him and he is praising, worshipping and singing hymns to God. Here is Paul in the prison singing hymns to God and a great earthquake comes. The chains that held Paul became loose.

The guard comes and sees that the prisoners are about to escape. He takes his sword and prepares to take his own life. Paul says No! None of us has escaped. The guard asks Paul, what must I do to be saved? Paul said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul had an escape from physical prison, but the jailer had an escape from a spiritual prison.

Charles Wesley expressed very poetically just how we escape from a spiritual prison.
Wesley wrote, Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and natures night, my eye diffused a quickening ray, I awoke the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off, my heart was free and I went forth and followed thee.

This is a great image of the release from the spiritual prison. When someone is without Christ in his life he is spiritually a prisoner. Just like a prisoner in a cell the one without Christ is in a spiritual cell of darkness and despair. A prison cell of no knowledge of Christ. When one comes to know Christ there is a light, a flame and he knows then he must go forth and follow Jesus Christ. This jailer in Paul’s prison ministry is wondrously converted along with the jailer’s whole household were immediately baptized.

The next day there was an order for Paul’s release. Paul tells them he is a Roman citizen so they cannot just mistreat him and then release him quietly. After all this happens Paul meets the new believers at Lydia’s house and encourages this new church. This is the church that he loves and has affection for. We want to keep this background in mind all throughout our study of Philippians.

Let’s look at Philippians 1:1-2, see the greeting Paul gives this church. Paul and Timothy,

When we write a letter we normally sign it as the end of the letter. It was the custom then to put the identification at the beginning. That way when someone was reading a letter they would know at the beginning who was writing. Paul puts his name and Timothy. He put Timothy because he was so closely associated with the work of Paul.

And Paul says something very unusual; (Philippians 1:1) “servants of Christ Jesus.”
Your version may say slaves or you may have servants. Often Paul would begin his letter as an Apostle of Jesus. But there is no question of his Apostleship in Philippi. He signs this letter as a servant of Christ. Slaves had no rights and no privileges. Paul is saying I belong to the Lord. There is a complete surrender to Jesus. We need to follow the example of Paul and have complete surrender to Jesus. We need to put aside our own selfish ambitions and give ourselves completely and totally to what Christ would have in our lives.

Paul then mentions his readers, to all the saints in Christ Jesus in Philippi. Now when you think of saints you may think of a person who did a great work and earned the title saint. The Bible does not speak of saints in this way. If you are a Christian then you are a saint. Those who have put our faith in Christ are saints because we have taken on Jesus Christ. God looks at us with the righteousness of Christ. Paul specifically mentions the officers of the church in Philippi, overseers and deacons.

Then Paul uses the term he is famous for, In Christ Jesus. There is an abiding in Christ. When we become Christian we put our lives in union with Jesus. We become one with Christ. He is talking about being bonded and one with Jesus Christ.

He mentions two great themes, grace and peace to you. Grace is a reminder that we have our whole Christian existence only by the goodness of God. Anything that we have done has not earned us our salvation. It is all because of unmerited favor. Paul reminded them that their whole existence as believers is by grace.

He uses the word peace. Here the idea is not an escape from war. A war is a conflict between men. Paul is talking about the peace of a spiritual relationship between God and man. When sin came into the Garden of Eden fellowship with God was broken.

Each one of us has sinned. The Bible says, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. When Paul is talking about Peace he is talking about reconciliation between God and man. It was God’s plan to reconcile man to himself. God’s own son Jesus would pay the penalty and die on the cross. When we experience new life in Christ we have that peace that Paul talks about here.

Paul writes a great love letter to these Philippians. He wants them to know that trusting Christ means peace with God. What happened at Philippi changed lives. God still is changing lives of those who trust him. I hope you would not be satisfied until you know for certain you have a relationship with God that brings you this peace.

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