Posts Tagged With: Roman

BONUS: An Introduction to Philippians

Paul is sitting in prison when he writes Philippians and the other Prison Epistles — Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon. Some have suggested this prison was in Ephesus or Caesarea, but the Prison Epistles were most likely written while Paul was under house arrest in Rome and not later when Paul was in the Mamertime dungeon in Rome at the end of his life. The fact that this hopeful letter of joy and contentment was written in such circumstance is, by itself, astounding.

We learn from Acts 16 that the first members of the Philippians church were the businesswoman Lydia in whose house the church may have met at first, a young girl delivered from demons, and a Roman jailer whose very life Paul and Silas had saved.  This church likely had predominantly pagan roots as there wasn’t even a synagogue in Philippi when Paul visited on his second missionary journey.  Philippi was a proud Greco-Roman city, named after Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, and a city in which faithful Roman soldiers had been given land in retirement.

Given the overwhelming positive tone of this letter, we can tell Paul was especially fond of the Christians in Philippi.  They had given him great financial and moral support on his journeys most recently in a love offering sent with Epaphroditus.  At least part of Philippians is simply a thank you letter for their generosity.  Paul also must have sensed that he was closer to the end of his life and ministry than the beginning.  As any “father” would want to do, Paul also takes advantage of the opportunity to warn against false teaching, encourage them to stand firm in hardships, and to find their center for attitude and actions in the example of Jesus.

More than almost any letter in the New Testament, Philippians exudes a confidence about life.  Paul has learned the secret to being content no matter the circumstances (4:11) and wants his children in the faith to know it too.  With it’s 16 uses of some version of the word “joy,” there is no wonder why this short epistle is a favorite of many people.

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Acts 22: I Was One of You

Have a blessed Ash Wednesday!

Christians are called to live in this world, yet not become a part of the world.  That is a hard balancing act.

Twice in today’s reading, we see Paul tell people he is, or at least once was, just like them (22:3-5, 19-20, 25).

Paul disputing with Jews and Greeks (mid-12th century)

A murderous mob of Jews has descended on Paul at the Temple in Jerusalem.  Some have heard he has defiled their sacred space with a unclean Gentile.  Others just hate this traitor and want to see him gone.  Either way they are ready to rip him limb from limb.  Had it not been for the intervention of the low-level Roman tribune, they would have had their way.  Paul uses the opportunity to address his accusers.  The gist of his remarks are that he once was just like them.  A Jew.  A well-trained one.  A law-respecting one.  He too once persecuted Christians.  He gets where they are coming from.  He once was just like them.

As the chapter continues, the tribune himself orders that Paul be flogged so as to expedite his interrogations.  Paul is quick to assert is rights.  He is a Roman citizen from birth.  He is entitled to a trial.  Again, though, we see Paul saying essentially, “I am just like you.”

And yet now Paul is different.  He has discovered there is something more important to God than law.  He has learned that the Messiah has come in the form of Jesus.  He is a Roman, but his ultimate allegiance is to a different Lord than Caesar.

I once was just like you.  Now you can become one like me.

Some will like that message because it brings hope and purpose.  For other it will only be scandalous and the heat will be turned up.

What struck you anew in this chapter?  

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