My Favorite Book Of The Bible
What is my favorite book of the Christian Bible?
Paul's letter to the church at Philippi, The Book Of Philippians. First, Paul's letters are the portions of the Bible that is most immediately, directly addressing 'us' . . . by 'us' I mean New Testament believers, disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, after His coming and atonement. All of the Bible is written to us, and all of it is good and profitable - but Paul's letters speak most deliberately to post-incarnation believers filled with God's own Spirit.
The Bible before and after Jesus
This is important to understand; all men of every age were saved by believing the promise, trusting in the covenant - no one was ever saved by keeping the law or practicing the sacrifices, etc. God's plan of salvation has from the beginning been to provide a Savior who His people would receive through faith . . . the law and the sacrifices, etc, were all pointing the way toward the coming Messiah, the promised Savior. Prior to Jesus' incarnation and atonement people trusted in the covenant, they believed in the promised Savior yet to come - after His incarnation and atonement we trust in the covenant, we believe in the Savior who has come.
All men, in all times, are saved by grace through faith. However, while the Holy Spirit 'visited' men before Jesus accomplished His atonement, now that Jesus' work of atonement has been realized the Holy Spirit reside, fills those who, through faith, have been adopted as God's own people. In Jesus' day and before the Old Testament was informative and convicting and led men to truth, but it wasn't living or life-giving as the Bible is to believers after Jesus' day - because of the indwelling Spirit, the author of the book dwelling within us.
The word of the Spirit and the power of the Spirit
On His last night with His disciples, Jesus spoke enthusiastically about the coming of the Spirit . . . when He announced His time had come and He would no longer be with them, His disciples were fretful and discouraged, but Jesus assured them that it was actually better for them (us) if He left, for only then (after His sacrifice) can the Holy Spirit come to reside permanently in them (us). With wonder Jesus exclaimed ~
"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you . . . I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth"
It is as if Jesus were saying 'I know it seems bad just now, but honestly, wait until you see how things will be once the Holy Spirit fills your heart . . . you will be able to read the very word of God and know and understand it's truth!'. Because His sacrifice was offered and the Father fully accepted it as on our behalf, Jesus' atonement makes us now fit, suitable for God to come and dwell in our hearts . . . our redemption unites us to God, God became man in Jesus so that we might become partakers of His divine nature through the gift of His Holy Spirit. So, now His word lives in us, comes alive, in a manner it couldn't (and doesn't) for those with the Spirit. And, as I suggested earlier, the New Testament letters are specifically addressed to those people, after the incarnation and sacrifice, who trust in the Savior who has already come and accomplished the atonement.
The New Testament letters to the churches
Paul's New Testament letters specifically were written to churches Paul had previously founded as he travelled the Roman Empire preaching the gospel. He would hear news concerning or actually revisit these congregations and write to them correcting some false teaching that had crept in or condemning some wrong practices that were troubling believers. Almost all of Paul's letters deal with some doctrinal error or un-Christian conduct; Galatians sets forth the true gospel of grace as in opposition to their notion of salvation by grace and the requirement of works, the Thessalonian letters address erroneous teachings regarding the second coming, Ephesians corrects wrong teaching regarding the deity of Jesus, etc, etc. Paul's letters are nearly all corrective, sometimes even reprimanding churches he founded, admonishing them with sound doctrine.
Except for Philippians. Paul's letter to the church at Philippi is a greeting to old friends and a word of encouragement, basically, to keep up the good work. It is his only letter addressed to both elders and deacons, which suggests they were following pattern given for New testament congregations . . . and ordained minister to preserve and proclaim the truth of the word and an ordained minister to disciple the congregation in the daily practice of the truth of the word. This is an intimate letter, personal and warm, at one point Paul tells them "I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you". There's no correction or frustration in Paul's communication with this church, it's a love letter to believers who were certainly an encouragement to the old saint.
Even the occasion of Paul writing to them is explained in very personal terms; Paul had heard of the faithfulness of the church at Philippi when they sent a man named Epaphroditus to Paul to assist him in his work, and now Paul was sending this letter to the Philippians by returning Epaphroditus to them, saying ~
"I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious."
The unknown fame of Philippians
And, because of the nature of this letter, Philippians is filled with some of the most powerful and well-loved passages in all of Scripture . . . most folks wouldn't think of Philippians as the place to find so many 'favorite' verses, many would think of Psalms or The Gospel Of John, etc, but look at what even a cursory scan through Philippians yields ~
"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain"
"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant"
"God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father"
"whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord"
"forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus"
"do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus"
"whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things"
"I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me"
. . . and the oft partially quoted ~ "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" . . . too frequently quoted by those under an Arminian sway conveniently leaving off the qualifying second half of the passage ~
"work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure".
My favorite book of the Bible is Philippians
I love to study Romans and Galatians, I love to spend time with Jesus in John and Luke, I love to be reminded of The Acts Of The Apostles, I love to wonder at Genesis, etc, etc, but, I love to simply read Philippians . . . this is Paul, a great servant of Jesus mightily used by God, telling us 'you are on solid ground, others can learn from your example and you are an encouragement to me - now, continue on and, here is the next step . . .'
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