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Paul answers hard questions about suffering

Columbia Biblical Studies: Friday, August 1
Columbia Biblical Studies: Friday, August 1
Anne Lowe

Today’s bible study is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 1:29: For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.

Since most of us were little children, we learned that much has been granted to us through Christ our Lord. Not only has he given us the promise of eternal life and a conduit through which we may pray to God, but also love, hope, goodness, compassion, forgiveness, humility, generosity, and a host of other qualities that help us to follow in his steps. We know only too well how much Christ has given us, and give thanks for it often through our prayers, our songs, and even our momentary glimpses into the beauty of our world.

But are we also charged to suffer for Christ? This is an aspect that many seem to give little thought to. How are we asked to suffer? What must we do for Christ? What must we sacrifice or endure for him? This raises some very interesting questions with some very difficult answers.

In verses 1:27 through 2:18 Paul is speaking of Christian unity. On this very significant section of the letter, Paul urged the church members to dismiss their pride and to live and serve together in unity. Anything less falls short of the gospel’s standards. True unity will be recognized by authentic meekness and selflessness, ultimately exemplified in the earthly life of Jesus. The attitude the church should exhibit was the one Jesus maintained.

Jesus’ self-emptying served as the basis for Paul’s exhortation. Philippians 2:5-11, possibly a quotation from an early hymn in praise of Christ, taught that Jesus’ self-emptying led to his exaltation by the Father. Jesus existed in the very nature of God and made himself nothing, not giving up his duty but his heavenly glory and privileges. He lived a life of humble obedience and humbled himself even to the point of dying for sinners on the cross. He was then gloriously exalted in his ascension and resurrection.

May we, like Jesus, be self-emptying. We need not suffer on a cross, but we can work toward being obedient and humble. Grant us the grace to accept this humility and exemplify, as best we can, our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock and The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur.

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