Here is a rough outline of the sermon for this week, to help you follow along.
I. Philippians is a joyful letter!
A. Paul is rejoicing because the Philippians are on track to produce the "harvest of righteousness" that he hopes for.
B. Philippians being this joyful, though, is rather surprising, for two reasons - Paul and the city of Philippi
A. People usually either love Paul or hate him.
B. Paul has one of the best stories around.
1. He was born into a Jewish family, of the tribe of Benjamin and observed the law of Moses.
2. He trained under a prestigious rabbi and became a Pharisee, an elitist group of Jewish leaders who were zealous for the law of Moses.
3. Paul was so zealous for the God of Israel that he persecuted the early Christian Church, thinking it was blasphemous.
4. The resurrected Jesus appeared to him as he went to Damascus to persecute the church and everything changed for Paul.
5. Organizing and supporting churches became his primary work for the rest of his life.
C. Paul is intelligent.
D. Paul can also be argumentative and seem rigid at times.
E. It's surprising that the letter to the Philippians is as joyful as it is because when Paul knows a congregation well in his letters, he's usually addressing problems primarily. (Ex. Galatians and Corinthians.)
F. It's also surprising that Philippians is so joyful because Paul is in prison.
G. Paul is rejoicing, though, because the Philippians are on track to produce the "harvest of righteousness" that he hopes for them.
A. History of the city.
1. Philippi was a greek city, but we don't know much about it for a couple hundred years.
2. It resurfaces after the assassination of Julius Caesar when Caesar Augustus and Marc Antony defeated Julius Caesar's assassins at the battle of Philippi.
3. Augustus settles veterans of his army thereafter the battle and then establishes more colonists and veterans there later.
4. Philippi is a very roman/greek city. Why would they care about a Jewish teacher who was crucified as a threat to the Roman empire and a rabble-rouser?
5. Yet, somehow, there is a thriving church in Philippi that Paul helped organize, based on the truth that Jesus was the Messiah, God had raised him from the dead and Jesus would return and the earth would be restored. This is surprising.
IV. Paul's Vision for Church
A. Paul's joy comes from his vision of the church and him seeing it realized in Philippi, despite the challenges.
B. According to Paul, you didn't go to church because you liked the music, or the preaching, or the service time.
C. In fact, you didn't "go" to church at all. Church wasn't a place. It was a community of people who believed Jesus was the messiah, God had raised Jesus from the dead and Jesus would return to restore the world to God's intent.
D. In Paul's churches, slaves and free people were treated as equals. Male and female were treated as equals. Greeks and Romans and Jews were treated as equals. Through the way participants in Paul's churches treated one another and treated others, they gave the cities they lived in a glimpse at what God's work of restoration, redemption, and reconciliation looks like.
E. This is the source of Paul's joy - the church in Philippi is on track to produce the harvest of righteousness. They are giving the city of Philippi a glimpse into what God's work of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation look like through the way they treat one another and treat each other.
A. Paul's vision of the church should give us joy. However, it could also lead some to sadness, because the church today doesn't seem to reflect Paul's vision well at all.
B. However, while the church has real problems that need to be addressed, if all we focus on is the ways the church isn't living up to Paul's vision, we miss the most important point in Paul's greeting to the Philippian church.
C. Paul is clear - It is God who begins the work of producing the harvest and God who will complete the work of producing the harvest.
D. The same God who was alive and working in Paul's day is alive and working through the church today.
E. We can rejoice because the work rests in God's hands and God will continue to work through our church and countless other churches.
F. So let us rejoice together because God will complete the work begun in us and God will cultivate the church to produce a harvest.