READ Phil. 2:16-18. The world defines great men on the basis of their achievements. What were their successes in life? What contributions did they make to our society? Were they great and effective leaders?
The Apostle Paul was a man of greatness even by worldly standards. He wrote 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament. Over half of the words are his. He also established Christ's Church on two continents.
But Paul would never allow himself to be elevated to any level of human greatness. In many of the books he authored he referred to himself as "Paul a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ." He considered himself a "dulos"; a household slave (Grk.). He was a slave laboring for the Lord Jesus.
The instructions that Paul gives the church in Philippi in our text reflect three key truths about Paul. Truths about his true self. These truth's are 1.) his heart, 2.) his humility, and 3.) his joy. These three verses tell us what was his heart, his humility and what brought him joy. It would do us well to compare ourselves to him in these three areas of self.
In v. 16, Paul's heart is summed up in these words, "holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain, or labored in vain." Paul had been commissioned by Christ to preach the saving message of the gospel. For him "laboring in vain" meant that some whom he had brought to Christ, might wander from the truth and ultimately be lost. (Jas. 5:19,20, Heb.6:4-6) Paul's heart was in line with God's heart on this matter. In 2 Pe. 3:9, "For the Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some count slackness, but is longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
Now read 2 Cor. 5:14,15, Paul states his motivation for his ministry. What it was that compelled him. "For the love of Christ compels us." This does not mean that Paul preached because he loved Christ, but rather he preached because Christ loved all people and died for all people. The "love of Christ" is used here the same as it is in Rom. 5:8 where Paul describes "God's own love". Christ's universal love and his death for all men was Paul's motivation for preaching to the lost and ministering to the saved.
But Paul also ministered out of fear. Specifically he feared that some in Philippi might not continue faithfully in Christ. In Rev. 2:10, Jesus tells us it is only those "who are faithful till death" who "will receive a crown of life."
Paul was also very conscious that his own fleshly nature might cause him to stray as well. In 1 Cor. 9:27, "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."
Paul was aware of his own past history. He had persecuted the church, thinking that he was doing God's will. This sobering truth humbled Paul. In 1 Cor. 15:9, "For I am the least of the Apostles....because I persecuted the church of God."
This humility is further revealed to us in Phil. 2:17, "Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith." A drink offering was a secondary offering to God that was merely a complement to the main burnt offering. It was usually a goblet of wine poured onto the main sacrifice as it was fully ablaze.
Paul's language in this verse indicates "present tense", as "his being poured out as a drink offering" was already occurring instead of yet to come. So it is obvious that he is speaking of "his chains", his imprisonment. The total time in which Paul spent imprisoned beginning with his arrest in Jerusalem until his release by Caesar in Rome was five years! Yet humbly, Paul says, "mu sacrifice is secondary to yours."
How could this be? Well, when you look at Phil. 1:28, we are told the Philippians had "adversaries", which they were terrified of. In 1:29, Paul states, "Christ has granted it to you to suffer for His sake." The persecution was already underway in Philippi, and it would worsen. Some of them would be martyrs. Their sacrifice was the "main offering", his was only "the drink offering". Humility, front and center. Paul never thought his suffering to be a big deal. In Rom. 8:18, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
Finally, we see Paul's joy, his rejoicing at the end of v.17 and in v.18. Paul rejoiced that they were suffering. Not because he enjoyed seeing them persecuted, but because he realized they along with him, were sharing in the "fellowship of the sufferings of Christ."
Paul's attitude towards suffering and persecution was always, "Christ suffered, so I want to suffer like Him." Jesus promised His disciples in Jn. 15:20, that they would be persecuted like He had been persecuted. Paul felt like persecution was a fellowship with Christ. Read Phil. 3:7-11. Paul had counted "all things loss for Christ." Still he, just like us desired to one day "know His resurrection"; this is our glorification with Christ. But Paul also wanted something else. In v.10, Paul wanted to "know the fellowship of His sufferings". Paul's joy was always in the context of living, serving, suffering and dying for Christ. Where is your rejoicing?
1. What does the word "bondservant" mean in the Greek language?
2. What two things "compelled" Paul's preaching and ministry?
3. In Paul's heart, what caused him the greatest fear regarding the Philippian brethren?
4. If Paul's sacrifice was only a "drink offering", the Philippians' sacrifice was greater in what sense?
5. What two things mentioned in Phil. 1:28,29, point to a persecution there in Philippi?