Monday, 26 December 2016
For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, Philippians 1:29
Paul’s words, though written to the people at Philippi in this instance, are doctrine for the church age. With this in mind, it would be ultra-mega-hyper-fantabulous for Christians to stop tearing verses out of their intended context in order to justify a “prosperity gospel,” and to keep Paul’s writings as the main guide of their church-age doctrine. This is especially so with verses like the one we now come to. How marvelous it would be if professing Christians would set aside the goofy, put away the self-centered, and assimilate truths which are intended to help us through times of trial, not claim our way out of them.
Within the past few days before analyzing this verse, a “prosperity gospel” church in Nigeria collapsed and destroyed 160 lives. They were not able to “claim” their way out of that mess, and they will all stand before God and give an account of what they believed and what doctrine they adhered to.
Paul, speaking to those at Philippi (and thus to us!) says, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ…” The verb is in the aorist indicative passive. It has been given since first belief, and it is a simple statement of fact. And what has been granted is “on behalf of Christ.” In other words, because of the cause of Christ, and/or in a view towards honoring Christ, this has been granted to us as believers. It is not something unexpected or unfavorable. Instead, what he will state is something we are both to expect, and something that we are to feel honored to have occur.
Continuing on, he says, “…not only to believe in Him…” This is a reference to the fact that belief in Christ is a gift and a privilege. God orchestrated the time and circumstances of our lives to give us a chance to believe. He granted this honor to us so that we might in fact believe. When we demonstrate faith in Christ, we are saved. But this is not the end of the honors that we can expect. Paul will next tell us of another great honor and privilege that we are granted on behalf of Christ. Let us try to guess what it is!
Johnny: Is it that we will always be happy and have our path filled with scented flowers?
Susan: Is it that we will be free from troubles and fill out our days in health just as Heretic Hinn implies when he is asking for donations?
Matthew: Is it that we will be rich, just like Pastor Promise told us last Sunday?
Ralph: Is it that we will have power over demons, devils, and physical afflictions so that we can claim healing? This is what Minister Marvelous said at Bible class last week *Oh boy!*
Nice try, but none of these are what Paul will tell us. Rather, he tells us that we are “also to suffer for His sake.” *Sound of crickets chirping*
Paul’s word here are consistent with other passages in the New Testament. Unlike the false teachings described above by our confused class of Christians, none of which are to be found in a proper evaluation of Scripture, Paul tells us directly and – without ambiguity or vagueness – that it is an honor and a privilege to suffer for the name of Christ. In Acts 5, the apostles who were beaten by order of the leading council in Jerusalem left rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. In Colossians 1:24, Paul states –
“I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church…”
Peter tells his audience –
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:12, 13
Elsewhere as well, we are shown that to suffer for Christ and as a Christian is an honorable thing. Not all of these are prescriptive verses, but they are given to highlight that our life in Christ is not to be one which expects wealth, health, prosperity, fancy things, or any such nonsense. Instead, we have been given the high honor of emulating the Lord in His sufferings. Let us take this to heart and remove our ears from the false whisperings of teachers who would promise that the blessings of heaven will open up on us if we simply pass money to them.
Life application: As a Christian, you can expect suffering.
Lord God, Your word directly and without ambiguity promises that believers in Christ have been granted the privilege of suffering for Him. There are no promises of wealth, health, prosperity, or physical healing handed to us as guarantees. But we are guaranteed that we will suffer for His sake. And what a high honor that is. Help us to put away false teachings and to be ready for the times of trial when they come. Help us never to try to claim our way out of (or into) certain circumstances – certainly that is presumptuous and sinful. Instead, grant us wisdom to work hard for that which we want, and strength to endure well through those things which are difficult to face. To the glory of Christ alone may we act in this life that You have granted to us. Amen.