Treasuring Christ in the Midst of Trials: Philippians 3:1-4:1

Over the past few weeks God has brought me to Philippians 3:1-4:1. Reading it as an entire unit, seeing its focus, and knowing what Paul meant to attend to in it has been extremely pleasant to my own soul. I thought in this blog that I would give a quick glance at this church’s circumstances, and the matter that Paul sets before them to strengthen them in the midst of them.
In this letter, one thing becomes apparent: anyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (alright, so that is in 2 Timothy 3:12) – but this is the standard of the Philippian church. They are not perfect as is evident by Paul’s prayer for their sanctification and spiritual progression (1:9-11) and chapter 4. But they are not confronted by the apostle concerning anything close to those problems in Corinth, Colossae, Galatia, etc. They have partnered in the Gospel of Christ, praying, giving, and testifying to the grace of God. They herald Christ as Lord as opposed to Caesar. Because of these things, they have enemies, or opponents (1:28), in the face of whom they are not to tremble but be emboldened. They were a persecuted church precisely because they desired to advance the Gospel at all costs.
In chapter 3, Paul puts a face on their opponents: Judaizers (Jewish Christians who asserted that one had to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses plus believe in Christ to be saved; cf. Acts 15:1, 5), and pleasure-seekers or sensualists (3:17-19). And these two groups remain stumbling blocks to this day – the Judaizers are those divisive legalists in your church who would in any way maintain that Christ is deficient to save; the sensualists are those who belong to the world, or are perhaps those who sit amongst you in corporate worship but beyond the church worlds perceive grace as a license to sin.
Paul means to help them endure suffering – notice, he does not tell them to avoid suffering! He has already mentioned it as a grace of God (1:29) and will soon mention it as a worthy consequence of knowing Jesus Christ (3:7-11). He does not mean for them to aim for temporal comfort, but to give them sustenance that will enable them to endure suffering with joy. And what does he recommend to them? The supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things and above all things! This, he says, rightly considered and taken unto sanctification will help you to live and suffer and die – in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ (1:27). Hence the title that I’ve given to this chapter: Treasuring Christ in the Midst of Trials.
I’ve broken it down into 5 divisions concentrated on the supremacy of Christ and the meditations that come from it that have served to make my soul exceedingly glad. I offer them to you in hopes of the same outcome –

1. The Supremacy of Christ’s Gospel as a meditation on Christ’s absolute sufficiency in salvation (3:2-7).

2. The Supremacy of Knowing Christ as a meditation on the gift of faith and Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed on that basis – and of the supremacy of this satisfying knowledge that enables us to endure the loss of all worldly things (3:2-9).

3. The Supremacy of Christ’s Person and Work as a meditation on counting all things as loss in this material world that we may become less hindered and more intimate in knowing Him – whom by grace we already know, i.e., the sanctifying power of treasuring Christ (3:2-11).

4. The Supremacy of Pursuing Christ Above All Else as a meditation of the ultimate goal of the Christian life and the freeing power inherent in it that enables us to be emboldened with the Gospel and perseverant in persecution (3:2-16).

5. The Supremacy of Christ’s Triumphant Power as a meditation upon the supremacy of Christ’s sovereign kingdom and end as the source of triumphant living in the midst of trials (3:2-4:1).

With these divisions, I would leave you with what has been an encouraging set of brackets around this incredible text: Chapter 3:1 in conjunction with 4:1 provide an awesome tandem of commands to introduce and close Paul’s words. “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord ,” introduces this text and the text explains the command so well – why should we rejoice in the Lord in the midst of suffering? Because Jesus Christ is sovereignly and savingly preeminent in and over all things, strengthening His Church to endure with triumphant joy the experiential pain that comes at the hands of men for the sake of the Gospel. And having expounded the supremacy of Christ and how it prepares us to live and suffer and die well, he concludes with another command of encouragement – “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” “Rejoice” and “stand firm in the Lord” offer us a solid battle cry in view of the supremacy of Jesus Christ.

I hope these provide you with some edifying thoughts. If so, feel free to comment as always.

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