Bible in a Year, Week 9: Philippians, Colossians

This is the ninth weekly reading in the plan for reading your Bible in one year. The assignment for this week is Philippians and Colossians. It should only take about 5 minutes a day, or about 1-2 chapters a day to complete the assignment.

Here are some comments to help you grow in knowledge and faith as you read Philippians and Colossians:

Background: Philippi had become an important city under King Philip (its namesake) and his son Alexander the Great. As world powers shifted, it also became an important city under the rule of the Roman Empire. Philippi was made a Roman colony and many Roman soldiers retired to that city.

Paul first visited Philippi on his second missionary journey. Acts 16 tells us of the amazing events that took place there, and the great work that God accomplished. He also visited twice on his third missionary journey. It is very clear that Paul was writing this letter while imprisoned. It seems as though he wrote this while under house arrest between 61-63 A.D. He wrote to encourage them to remain steadfast in their faith, and to share with them the great joy that all believes have in their Savior Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1: Paul opens again with the standard form for his letters. Three parts can be identified: 1) Author, 2) Audience, 3) Greeting/Blessing. As a theme for the book of Philippians is joy and rejoicing, Paul had much joy as he considered his brothers and sisters at Philippi. He was very thankful for them, their faith, and their partnership in the work of sharing the good news about Jesus. Now it was his prayer that they would keep it up!

Paul’s tone in this letter certainly could have been sad and downcast. He wrote this letter while in prison. But yet still rejoiced that the message of Christ was being shared with others. On the one hand Paul longed to be in the joys of life in heaven, but on the other hand he knew he still had work to do here in this world. While he was torn over the matter, he knew that God’s will would be done. Regardless of what would finally happen, the Philippians were encouraged to continue steadfast in their faith.

Philippians 2: Living Christian lives of humble love is certainly not easy in a world filled with temptation and sin. But our model and motivation is Christ Jesus. In love he humbled himself to be born into this. In love he suffered and died as the payment for sin. This selfless love is what spurs us on to live with love. It is also the example that we follow. It is what leads us to shine like stars in this world as we share the Word of God with others.

It should also be noted that Philippians 2:6-11 is of great importance. It clearly reveals our Savior Jesus Christ as both true man and true God. It speaks of his life and death in our place. It speaks of his rule and reign over all things. It explains his humiliation and his exaltation. A section worth memorizing!

Philippians 3: In this chapter the Philippians were encouraged not to forsake the truth of the gospel and the freedom that Christ offers for the laws and demands of the laws of Moses. We can have no confidence in our flesh and in what we do. Things of this world are just rubbish when compared to the knowledge of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

Thus, we all can press on toward the goal of heaven. Like a marathon runner plugging along with a purpose and an end in mind, so we also press on toward heaven. Following the example and pattern of those who have gone before us, we can keep our minds on heavenly things–for that is where our citizenship is held!

Philippians 4: The final chapter is one last encouragement to continue to rejoice. Whatever the circumstance that may come our way, we can always rejoice. We might be rich or poor, weak or strong, well fed or hungry. The secret is in remembering that we can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives us strength. His peace will guard our hearts and minds each and every day! Indeed, “To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Background: The ancient city of Colosse was located in Asia Minor. For a time it had been a beautiful and flourishing city. But by the time of Paul, Colosse was in decline. Perhaps this was the reason that Paul did not stop there on one of his missionary journeys. He may have passed through, but he did not stop. As he writes in this letter, they did not know Paul personally.

The pastor of this congregation was a man by the name of Epaphras. Epaphras had shared with Paul that there were a number of troubling false teachings rising in Colosse. One seemed to be an obsession with continuing in the laws of Moses and the Old Testament covenant. Another seemed to be a fascination with other “beings” of power which at the same time went hand-in-hand with doubts about the divinity of Christ. Paul also wrote this letter between 61-63 A.D. while imprisoned in Rome.

Colossians 1: Again Paul uses the standard opening. It includes 1) Author, 2) Audience, 3) Greeting/Blessing. As is often the case, Paul then goes into words of thanks. He is very thankful that God used the truth of the gospel–the good news about Jesus Christ–to create faith in their hearts and to strengthen that faith. Paul’s prayer is that this faith would continue to bear fruit for the Lord.

From these opening thoughts Paul immediately jumps into the heart of the matter. Clearly one of the issues in Colosse was that the divinity of Christ was under attack. Paul makes it very clear immediately that Jesus is not just like God. Jesus is God. He was a part of creation. He rules over all. He reigns over all. As if these verses were not clear enough Paul says, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” The Christ is certainly true man. But at the same time he is fully and truly God.

Colossians 2: Paul builds off the teaching of chapter 1 in chapter 2. He repeats the thought in 2:9, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Everything that is God and is man were combined in one. Because he is true man and true God, Jesus was able to save us from our sins. Through our faith we are connected to Christ and his work.

Baptism is one method through which God washes us and grants or strengthens faith. We see hear plenty of reasons for baptizing children or infants. First, verse 13 reminds us that we all are dead in sinfulness by nature. Next, in verses 9-12 we see a comparison between circumcision and baptism. Circumcision was the means of entry into God’s family in Old Testament times. It was for adults and for children. Most often, of course, it was done to infants. Finally, Paul writes that in baptism we are buried with Christ. All of his work is applied to us when we are baptized. Thus, that washing and forgiveness can and should be applied to all people of all nations of all ages.

Now that we have been freed of our sins through Christ, we are also freed from the demand of following the laws of Moses in order to win salvation. We are no longer under God’s demands for which day of the week we should worship on, what festivals we celebrate, or what we eat or drink. All of those things were just used by God to point forward to Jesus. He is the reality. He is the fulfillment. He is the true way to heaven.

Colossians 3: Since we have such forgiveness and freedom, we are to set our hearts and minds on things above. All of the sinful ways by which we used to walk and live should be put to death with Christ on the cross. Instead, we can clothe ourselves with wonderful fruits of faith such as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We can lives of love and forgiveness. Maybe this seems like a great challenge. But we have one great motivation to do so: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” As Jesus has loved and forgiven us, so we gladly will do the same to one another! This love will show itself in every facet of our lives, whether we are husbands, wives, children, fathers, employers or employees.

Colossians 4: As Paul gives closing words of encouragement and greeting to his brothers and sisters in Christ, he also instructs them to devote themselves to prayer. They were to be ever vigilant in their prayers for one another and for Paul. As they continue to focus on their faith and their relationship with the Lord, God would continually strengthen them with the great power of his Word. May we too be focused on prayer and on the Word of God that he would strengthen and preserve us in the one true faith!

Next Week’s Readings (starting 3/6/11):  1 & 2 Thessalonians

To view or download a copy of the 1-Year Bible Reading Plan (New Testament first), click here.

Posted on March 2, 2011, in Bible in a Year, Church and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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